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A Scandalous Affair

Tongues are wagging this week in the exclusive enclave of Belgravia as news spreads of one of their own caught in the midst of a dishonest deed. I overheard The Countess B relating the details to her good friend Lady J whilst taking tea at the Imperial. With a lightning fast hand, I faithfully recorded their conversation for you, dear readers.

“I swear I am in earnest, Lady J. I heard it from a most reliable source.”

“I cannot believe it to be true. I have always thought Mr T to be most upstanding. His late wife’s family were of an excellent lineage. Why, I even had his delightful daughter, Miss T, to dine only a week past.”

“I, too, have received them and that is what makes the whole situation so distasteful. How could he steal from the very people who have welcomed him and his children into their homes and treated them as equals?”

“This is, without a doubt, the most shocking and outrageous thing I have ever heard. I will be speaking to my husband this evening. I expect he will remove our business from that bank without delay.”

“As will mine, I am sure.”

“It is as I have always feared. When you allow merchants and traders into society, you do not know to whom you open your doors. These people may have money, but they have no breeding. You can put a Saville Row suit on a man, but that does not make him a gentleman. From now on, I will only be admitting into my home those whose pedigree I am confident of. One must learn to draw the line, don’t you think?”

“I completely agree. Would you like to hear what has become of them?”

“I suppose so, if only to be aware of which establishments they frequent so I can be sure to avoid them.”

“They are to immigrate to New Zealand.”

“New Zealand? What fate will befall them in such a place? Particularly Miss T; even with her father’s low birth she, at least, had some hope of an advantageous marriage because of her mother’s connections.”

“And she is so pretty.”

“She’s passable I suppose. But I did find all that curly, red hair most off-putting. Such characteristics are often an indication of wild and unsavoury tendencies in a person.”

“Who do you suppose she will find a match with now?”

“If she is fortunate perhaps a gentleman farmer will take her. I don’t imagine that she will be able to hope for much better.”

“Perhaps she will wed a native with a bone through his nose.”

“Oh, Countess, you are a card. How shocking.”

Excerpt from ‘The Moral Compass’ by K A Servian

Having gathered her few most precious possessions in her reticule and pinned her mother’s brooch to the neck of her dress, Florence peered at Jack sitting astride his Clydesdale. He reached down to her.

“You cannot be serious, you don’t even have a saddle.” Her eyes narrowed. “Why do we not take the cart?”

“Poor old Nellie needs a break from dragging that thing around.” The corners of his mouth lifted. “And I thought I’d be more fun this way. Give us a chance to get to know each other.”

Rolling her eyes, she reluctantly grasped his hand and placed her foot onto his. He hauled her off the ground as if she were weightless. There was only just time to twist her body as she landed sideways with a thump on Nellie’s wide rump.

He peered over his shoulder at her. “You’ll be more secure if you sit astride.”

She shook her head. Despite the fact that her seat was precarious, there was no way that she would sit in such an undignified way and she certainly did not want to be any closer to him than absolutely necessary. At least in this position, she could retain her decorum and keep some distance between them. “I have ridden side saddle since I was a child, I am sure that I will be able to keep my seat, thank you.”

He shrugged. “Suit yourself. You’d better hang on to me. It’s a long way down.”

“No thank you.”

Jack shook his head as he pressed his knees into Nellie’s sides and she lumbered across the grass towards the gravel road.

Florence felt for something to grip onto as her body lurched from side to side. Nellie moved quite differently from the thoroughbreds Florence was used to riding. She eyed the ground. It was a long way down.

“Tell me,” said Jack. “How did you and your brother end up here?”

She frowned. “I’d prefer not to speak about it if you don’t mind.”

“Were you running away from something? Most people I’ve met here in New Zealand are running away from something.”

“As I said, I’d prefer—”

“—not to speak about it.” He shrugged again.

A stream ran across the road and Nellie stepped sideways to avoid a crevice created by the water. They lurched and an involuntary cry escaped Florence’s lips as her backside slid. She scrabbled to hold on and as it seemed inevitable that she would fall, a strong arm wrapped around her waist, catching her just in time.

“Will you stop being so damned stubborn and sit astride,” Jack snapped as he hauled her up. He eased Nellie to a stop and slid forward.

Florence scowled at him as she manoeuvred her leg over Nellie’s back whilst grappling with her petticoats in a vain attempt to maintain her modesty. Finally, after a few very undignified moments, she was securely astride.

Jack slid backwards closing the gap between their bodies and Nellie resumed her slow amble. “Hold onto me it gets a bit rough up ahead.”

Florence glared at his back as she wrapped her arms around his waist, gripping the rough linen of his shirt.

“See, that’s not so bad is it?”

“Humph.”

The slow roll of Nellie’s gait combined with Florence’s previously sleepless night had a soporific effect and soon she found her eyes growing heavy. Leaning into the firm warmth of Jack’s body she inhaled the mingled scents of linen and something spicy that reminded her of Christmas. She tightened her grip and snuggled closer as she drifted off to sleep.

About The Moral Compass

The Moral Compass is part one in the Shaking the Tree Series in which several generations of women from one family battle for their independence and learn how to love.

Florence Thackeray has a charmed life. The poverty and filth of Victorian London are beyond her notice as she attends an endless round of balls, suppers and parties.

However, when her father suffers a spectacular fall from grace, Florence’s world comes crashing down around her. Forced to emigrate to the other side of the world leaving behind the man she loves, she faces hardship beyond anything she could have imagined.

Florence becomes a working-class wife when she is given no choice but to marry Jack Cameron who is ‘the wrong sort of man.’ She learns that there is more to life than parties and pretty dresses and that love can sneak up on you when you least expect it.

But a piece of the spoilt little rich girl still remains within Florence and when she is offered the opportunity to escape the drudgery of her daily life, just for a short time, she takes it. However, she soon discovers that the offer is not all it seems. There is a high price attached and she must live with the heart-breaking consequences of her decision.

The Moral Compass is due for release later this year. Sign-up to my newsletter here, check out my blog or like my page on Facebook to keep in touch and be in to receive a free pre-release copy.

Ssshhh! Don’t show this letter to the children

scandalLetter from Quamby House parlour maid Sally Cooper to her older sisters.

Dear Mabel, Agnes and Dorcas,

This is another one of them letters where you’ll have to choose what’s only good and proper to report to the little ‘uns, cos I can tell you that the goings-on at Quamby House between Her Grace and an actor fellow called Mr Ambrose ain’t fit for their innocent ears—notwithstandin’ that I won’t ever criticize my beautiful lady duchess since she gived me her fine spotted muslin from only last season and a tippet wot she said reminded her too tragically of her last lover.

So, here’s the gossip and I can’t see a happy endin’ in sight for either the new house guest Miss Montrose or my beautiful duchess—who must know she’ll burn in hell for runnin’ from her duties attendin’ to the earl’s gouty foot to makin’ secret plans with her new actor fellow, Mr Ambrose in his bedchamber. (Not but that the earl don’t seem to care what she does as long as she’s there to play cribbage when he wants and to lean on her when they go out and about.)

Well! Last week, along came beautiful Miss Montrose for a five-day visit and you could have knocked me down with a feather when I were told that His Grace, the Earl of Quamby’s horrible nephew Mr George Bramley were going to marry ‘er. Me beautiful duchess didn’t like it either, for that’s when she said she were goin’ to get Mr Ambrose to do some sly work and see if Miss Montrose had a sweetheart lurkin’ in the shadows for Miss Montrose—sure as God made little apples—couldn’t want to marry Mr Bramley.

If you ask me, Miss Montrose is madly in love with Mr Bramley’s friend, Mr Patmore, a very kind and charming gentleman wot came here to buy a horse and were ever so generous, givin’ me two shillings for stoking up his fire ‘just as he likes it’, he told me. Ah, but I can see why Miss Montrose would be mad for him, wot with his handsome brown curls and twinking grey eyes, an’ I can’t understand why she refused him. Yes! She refused him for I saw him ask her when I were taking the stable boy his dinner. She wouldn’t let him go down on one knee and be all romantic, and then later I heard her cryin’ in her bedroom.

It’s a mystery and it don’t make sense she’d want to go ahead and marry that sly, cowardly Mr Bramley when her heart is breaking for noble, brave Mr Patmore who wants to marry her.

But what do I know of love? Just that I’m more determined than ever on bein’ a good girl and not takin’ as my example my beautiful duchess who I overheard Mr Bramley say would turn black and pockmarked with her corruptness—though the whisper is ‘e once ‘ad a passionate affair with her, though he were, in truth—madly in love with her sister, Miss Fanny Brightwell, who rejected his marriage offer.

The last word is that the two sisters—my beautiful duchess and Miss Fanny—are plotting to get Miss Montrose and Mr Patmore together. And when my beautiful duchess hatches a cunning plan, she always succeeds.

Must go and change the bedsheets. There’s more dirty linen in me life than you can shake a stick at; and since there’s nothin’ here you can read to the little ‘uns, just tell ‘em that thanks to Mr Patmore’s generous two shillings, I’ll come home Sunday next with three sugar mice for each of ‘em.

Your loving sister Sally

Devil’s Run, by Beverley Oakley

Beverley is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the RaffleCopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here.

scandalA rigged horse race – and a marriage offer riding on the outcome. When Miss Eliza Montrose unexpectedly becomes legal owner of the horse tipped to win the East Anglia Cup, her future is finally in her hands – but at what cost?

George Bramley, nephew to the Earl of Quamby, will wager anything. Even his future bride.

Miss Eliza Montrose will accept any wager to be reunited with the child she was forced to relinquish after an indiscretion — even if it means marrying a man she does not love.

But when the handsome and charming Rufus Patmore buys a horse from her betrothed, George Bramley, whose household her son visits from the foundling home, her heart is captured and the outcome of the wager is suddenly fraught with peril.

**This is book 3 in the Scandalous Miss Brightwell series, though it can be read as a stand-alone.

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Excerpt:

This excerpt begins after Eliza has just plunged into the lake to rescue three drowning children and their nanny. Having dragged them – and herself – to shore, she makes a shocking discovery.

Chapter Two

Eliza had forgotten what it felt like to enjoy a man’s attention. He’d started to dry her in a vigorous attempt to warm her but then his touch gentled and he simply stared down at her.

The wonder in his eye as he murmured words of praise was a rare sensation. Embarrassed, she turned away. Yes, turned away because she could not afford to be so obviously disquieted by another man when she was affianced to George Bramley who stood a few feet away from her. He was also staring but there was no softness in his countenance.

Hoping to avoid any more gestures of admiration or kindness from Mr Patmore, Eliza politely extricated herself and put out her hand to arrest the progress of the Foundling Home lad whom Nanny Brown was pursuing with a piece of dry linen.

His impish grin reminded her of young Miss Katherine’s, Lady Fenton’s daughter. Clearly the two had had a great adventure unlike Young George who was lying on his stomach upon the grass, shaking with sobs.

“Did you drink a lot of water, Young George?” Eliza asked, looking down at the crying boy but he ignored her. “I said we shouldn’t go out! I said!” He pounded his fists. “No one ever listens to what I say!”

Eliza shared a wry smile with the rather lovely Mr Patmore whom she found still staring at her but, as he looked about to approach her again, she turned her back on him and instead brought the Foundling Home boy to stand in front of her now that she’d succeeded in catching him. Eliza would not have Mr Bramley – or anyone else – accuse her of encouraging the attentions of a man not her betrothed.

“Jack – that’s your name, isn’t it? Well, you’ll have something to tell them back at the Foundling Home.” She’d seen him only from a distance and now, mud bespattered and with his hair matted over his forehead it was difficult to make out his features though she knew from various anecdotes that young Jack distinguished himself for keeping Miss Katherine’s wilfulness in check and peace between Katherine and her cousin, Young George.

Jack stood obediently before her as he started to wring out his threadbare shirt. “Nah, I’m fine, m’lady,” he said, glancing up to reveal a pair of small white teeth in a freckled face. “But thanks for savin’ me, an’ all.”

Eliza was about to let him go. Releasing her grip a second later might have changed the course of her life, she thought later that evening, and perhaps it would have been better if she had. Why repeat the trauma she’d already experienced?

But for now she was acting on instinct and instead of letting him go when it would have seemed natural, her grip on his wrist tightened while the air in her lungs disappeared, and she had to open and close her eyes three times before she was ready to believe what she saw.

“Gideon?” There seemed still no air to say his name. A great pressure was building in her head. Finally she was able to gasp in a breath, forcing herself to resist the urge to draw him into her embrace and wail her joy.

And pain.

How many other boys of seven years sported a tiny extra claw on their left hand? Or had been thrust into the cold, unloving world of the Foundling Home, she thought bitterly.

He stopped what he was doing to look at her uncomprehendingly and she added faintly, “Though that’s not what they call you, of course.”

An amused look crossed his face, making him look older and wiser than his seven years. Nearby, the weeping and wailing George was a puling infant. Smiling at her was a little man.

He pushed out his chest and said in a tone that was neither boastful nor self pitying, “There’s some ‘at call me Devil’s Cub, or bastard, but at the manor here they call me Jack.”

Devil’s Cub? The sixth finger accounted for the nickname, of course.

“Miss Montrose?” In the distance, Lady Fenton was calling her. Eliza was suddenly shaking like one suffering the ague. “Jack,” she repeated in a whisper, still staring at him as she clenched her own fists. Was the child tormented by his deformity? It looked as if not much troubled him though Eliza couldn’t remember how many times Eliza had been told the sixth finger was God’s punishment upon her bastard babe.

“Miss Montrose! Come away! Susan is waiting in the house with a warm bath and blankets. You must be chilled to the bone!”

Vaguely, she could hear the sounds of concern all around her but all Eliza could focus on was the impish face before her: that of her lost child.

Other Books in the Series:

Book 1: Rake’s Honour

Book 2: Rogue’s Kiss

Book 3: Devil’s Run

~*~*~*~*~*~

Meet Beverley Oakley

Beverley Oakley was seventeen when she bundled up her first her 500+ page romance and sent it to a publisher. Unfortunately drowning her heroine on the last page was apparently not in line with the expectations of romance readers so Beverley became a journalist.

Twenty-six years later Beverley was delighted to receive her first publishing contract from Robert Hale (UK) for a romance in which she ensured her heroine was saved from drowning in the icy North Sea.

Since 2009 Beverley has written more than thirteen historical romances, mostly set in England during the early nineteenth century. Mystery, intrigue and adventure spill from their pages and if she can pull off a thrilling race to save someone’s honour – or a worthy damsel from the noose – it’s time to celebrate with a good single malt Scotch.

Beverley lives with her husband, two daughters and a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy the size of a pony opposite a picturesque nineteenth century lunatic asylum. She also writes Africa-set adventure-filled romances tarring handsome bush pilot heroes, and historical romances with less steam and more sexual tension, as Beverley Eikli.

You can get in contact with Beverley at:

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A Letter from a Friend

It is less than two weeks before Emily Collicott will find herself on a coach and headed for her first season in London. The prospect of balls, routs, afternoon teas, and well-timed promenades through St. James’s Park are enough to make her catch her breath, but even before she has begun to pack her trunks, the first gossip has already reached her fingertips, by way of a letter from her good friend, Josephine…

My dear Em,

I hope this letter finds you well – and hopefully arrives in your hands before you’ve departed from Cornwall, or else all of these splotches and crossed lines will be for naught! But what news these cramped fingers bring to you! I would wait until you arrive next month, but gossip is such an ephemeral thing I fear that by the time this letter is posted my words will already carry a tinge of staleness at their edges.

Now, to cut through the rest of the tedious salutations and wishes for your health and wellness, I will leap ahead and tell you that a certain Lord Marbley will be making his return to London society within the same week your coach should come trundling up to our doorstep.

Of course, you do not know who Lord Marbley is! Neither did I, until I was informed by no less than three giggling young ladies who swooned and simpered and fluttered their eyelashes over freshly-pinched cheeks as if Marbley himself were about to sweep through the door and propose marriage to one or all of them. Goodness, I thought I would have to administer smelling salts before they had finished their tale.

But should we encounter this Lord Marbley at any point during your sojourn in town, I am told we are supposed to find ourselves astonished by his handsome visage, that we shall nearly drown in the shadow cast upon us by his height and the breadth of his shoulders, and that should he dare to even smile or glance in our direction, we may not be capable of composing ourselves.

Well! I thought I must tell you all of this in order to prepare you for what you shall encounter while you are here! You must not believe half of what is told to you, and of the other half, you would do well to prune away most of it as pure exaggeration. Then, perhaps, you might find yourself with some small kernel of the truth.

Lord Marbley, I’m sure, will have something to recommend him. A fortune, perhaps, though no doubt nothing like the allusions to Croesus that have been bandied about every time his name comes up in conversation. And will he be handsome? That fact must depend on the fortune, for the greater his wealth, the more pleasing to the eye he will likely be. Heaven help him if he is a pauper, for not a single mother or daughter will deign to give him a second glance!

And I am sure we will discover every detail about his time in France, whether we wish to or not. Rumors have already begun to circulate that it was something scandalous that took him away from England in the first place, but again, I’ve no doubt that the truth is not nearly as fascinating or scurrilous as most everyone would wish it to be, and we shall be left yawning behind our fans, wondering why there was such a commotion surrounding his much-heralded return to our shores.

But here I am, already to the end of the page, so I will leave you with the briefest of farewells and wishes for your good health and safe travels that politeness will allow. Until next month!

Yours, etc.

Josephine

The Bride Price

To save her family from scandal, Emily Collicott must marry.

Ruined in her first season in London, she is given no choice but to wed her father’s pick for a husband, or be cast out from her home. Emily agrees to marry William Hazlitt, a man she hardly knows. But William remembers her. Growing up as a tenant on her father’s estate, he admired her from afar, their lives kept separate first by class, and then by loss.

Emily seeks to begin a new life with this quiet man to whom she finds herself wedded. But the scandal she escaped in London soon finds her again, the very man who destroyed her reputation threatening to tear down the happiness she’s found with her new husband. To keep from losing everything, she must either make a deal with a devil… or learn how to defeat one.

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Meet Quenby Olson

Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she writes, homeschools, glares at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chases the cat off the kitchen counters. After training to be a ballet dancer, she turned towards her love of fiction, penning everything from romance to fantasy, historical to mystery. She spends her days with her husband and children, who do nothing to dampen her love of the outdoors, immersing herself in historical minutiae, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.

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Sssh, you did not hear it from me, but…

London, England 1817

Word within the ton is that the Duchess of Roxborough, the Wicked Widow, has finally given up her wicked ways, smitten with the Earl of Cumberland. I’ve been told in confidence that she is ready to marry again. Silly woman, she should have done her homework. It’s such a pity because I have it on good authority that the Earl is not the marrying kind…A Love To Remember, August 29th release.

Rose Deverill the Duchess of Roxborough would like to scratch out the gossip-monger’s eyes. The fact the scandalous note bears the hallmark of truth certainly rubs salt in her wounds. Can’t a woman conduct a love affair without half the ton having an opinion?

What the vicious lady who penned her poison words doesn’t know, is that Philip Flagstaff, the Earl of Cumberland doesn’t have an aversion to her. They have been friends since childhood and lovers for over two years.

Unfortunately, for Rose, who was widowed seven years ago after an unhappy marriage, she became adamant that she would never marry again. She had her son, and her freedom, and so she set about cultivating an unsavory reputation to put off prospective husband hunters after her pedigree and money. She never dreamed Philip would ever become her lover, let alone that she would fall in love with him.

The gossips have painted her in a very unflattering, scandalous light and she is heartbroken to think she has ruined her reputation to the point Philip’s family would not condone a marriage.

Surely Philip does not hold her past against her? He needs to marry. What makes her stomach churn is the fact she’s been waiting two years and still he has not proposed.

Could the gossips be right? Her reputation has ruined her chance at being his wife? Or worse still, maybe he doesn’t love her at all? 

Here’s a snippet from A Love To Remember (book #7 in the Disgraced Lords series):

Wilson,” Philip said when the man entered the room, “please arrange for a bath to be drawn for me in here, and one for Her Grace in her dressing room.”

“Very good, my lord.” Wilson bowed and left.

Rose liked Wilson. The man had been Robert’s valet. After his master’s death he had asked to stay and valet for Philip. He was the soul of discretion and—no matter where he found her—he treated her with genuine respect. He certainly accepted her presence here in Philip’s room.

Philip moved round to her side of the large four-poster bed and held a robe out to her.

“Here, my sweet,” he said. “You’re right. We should be ready and waiting for our guests when they arrive. Cook has planned a light supper in the drawing room as I suspect they will be tired from the journey, and Drake will be eager to see you.”

He escorted her to the door linking his master suite to her rooms. Wherever they stayed, he always gave her rooms connecting with his. He never tried to hide her away, or make her feel ashamed that they were lovers.

He pressed a brief kiss on her lips and then gave her a gentle push into her room. “I’ll be in the study when you are ready. Collect me on the way to the drawing room and we’ll greet our guests together. I promise I’ll be out of my sulk by then. Rose”—he hesitated, then continued—“dearest Rose, I am truly grateful that you’ve come all the way to Scotland to be with me for these weeks. I have missed you.”

Then he stepped back, letting her close the door.

Rose inwardly smiled as she did so, and then called for her maid.

I have missed you.

This was why she stayed with him, even while hoping for more. Philip had always owned a piece of her heart. In moments like this he made her feel like the most special woman in the world.

I have missed you.

Not I love you. He’d never said he loved her. But then she’d never talked of love, either. It didn’t matter. He treated her better than many men treated their wives, or mistresses, and actions spoke louder than any words could.

When the bath was drawn and ready Rose slipped into the soothing heated water. How she wished she were not such a coward. She wished she could tell him what was in her heart, but her years of being the person who ended affairs and tried to ensure no one fell in love with her, had taught her the signs.

Philip didn’t want her love. He wanted her company, her intelligence, her beauty, and her presence in his bed. That was all.

The truth was that one day he would have to marry. He was, after all, an earl. For a moment, alone in her tub, she wanted to weep. But duchesses didn’t weep over hard truths. All she could hope was that, when Philip chose a wife, he chose her. If he didn’t, she hoped her heart was strong enough to become an impenetrable fortress, or her world would crumble to dust.

About A Love To Remember:

A fiercely independent duchess and a brooding, reclusive earl are tested by the demands of desire in this unforgettable romance from the USA Today bestselling author of A Kiss of Lies and A Night of Forever.

For Rose Deverill, one husband was enough. As the wealthy widow of the Duke of Roxborough, she has cultivated an unsavory reputation meant to discourage wife hunters. Thanks to a string of steamy affairs, Rose is perfectly content to be known by polite society as the “Wicked Widow”—until she’s reunited with the man she fell in love with at age fifteen. Their bedroom encounters are scorching, but it breaks Rose’s heart to wonder whether her reckless behavior ruined her for Philip Flagstaff.

The second son of the Earl of Cumberland, Philip never wanted the title. But after Philip’s older brother, Robert, follows him into the Battle of Waterloo, his worst fears come to pass. Now Robert lies in a soldier’s grave, and Philip is determined never to pass on the inheritance to children of his own. Then Rose appears, soothing the pain with her delightful curves and passionate kisses. The notorious Duchess seems to want nothing from him—and yet Philip has never ached to give a woman more.

Buy links: A Love To Remember

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Author Bio:

USA Today bestselling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Evans is a three-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand with her dogs Brandy and Duke.

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The Burgundy Highwayman Reappears

Devon HighwaymanWord reaches us from Devonshire that the Burgundy Highwayman has reappeared in that county. We need hardly remind our readers of the toll this rogue took on the purses of the wealthiest London-bound travelers, and on the hearts of their fainting daughters, before disappearing last Yuletide.

highwaymanIn truth, there was a time when many of our more sentimentally-inclined belles rather looked forward to being accosted by the highwayman, taking needless carriage rides to the outskirts of town in hopes of being treated to his gallant manner, his flashing eyes, and his gentle touch as he relieved them of their baubles.

Many were taken in by the romantic aura he had created for himself, carrying on the pretense of a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing only from rich nobles and giving half his take to London’s poor. The fact that he and his gang eschewed violence when at all possible, and had never killed a soul, only added to this mystique. By the time of his departure, the rogue was so popular that many a Burgundy Highwayman could be seen at London’s masked ball.

HighwaymanUnfortunately, life is no masquerade, and the highwayman’s identity must remain a mystery until his capture. But we can glean a few clues in his behavior as reported by his victims. That he is of genteel birth and breeding there can be no doubt, judging by his manner and address. Where one would expect an outlaw of this sort to possess an imposing physical stature, the Burgundy Highwayman is average of height and slight of frame; his voice, far from low and gruff, is of a middling timbre, though still managing a tone of command.

One correspondent even reports that the highwayman reminded her of no one more than Dora Jordan, in the breeches role of Ganymede. Could the highwayman be a woman in disguise? Only the rogue’s capture will tell.

Whoever he is, the highwayman’s removal to Devonshire has caused a change in his (or her!) behavior toward the fair sex. It seems the villain was so taken by the charms of a country miss – a vicar’s daughter, no less – that he (she?!) abandoned propriety and stole a kiss along with a necklace. And this in the presence not only of her lady’s companion but also of Anthony, Lord Burnside, with whom this daughter of a vicar is rumored to have formed an unlikely connection.

This tantalizing tableau has given us a delicious frisson, and we look forward to more news from the west country.

Until then, I remain your faithful correspondent,

Jules Plume de Paon

* * *

HighwaymanAbout the Book

Twenty-year-old Elizabeth Collington, the proper and obedient daughter of a Devonshire clergyman, believes herself beyond girlish romances. But when a highwayman steals a kiss, along with her departed mother’s necklace, Elizabeth experiences feelings of which her father would never approve. Soon after this unsettling event, a young widow arrives in the village, catching Elizabeth by surprise as their friendship advances quickly to the deepest intimacy she has ever known. Yet the highwayman will not leave her alone, filling her mind with ideas of revolution and her body with sensations of the greatest impropriety. Amidst this swirl of conflicting feelings, Elizabeth hardly has time to consider Anthony, son of the neighboring Earl, whose halting courtship holds out her one slim chance at an establishment in life. Will Elizabeth choose the conventional path, honoring her duty to her father and safeguarding her reputation? Or will she follow the demands of her heart, pursuing a love even less proper than that for a highwayman?

A comedy of manners wrapped around a Gothic tale, a mashup of Jane Austen, Alfred Noyes’ poem “The Highwayman,” Ellen Kushner’s Riverside series, and Robin Hood, Daring and Decorum makes a passionate case for the freedom to love whom one chooses. You might call it, “Racier than Jane Austen, better-written than Fifty Shades of Grey.” Or maybe, “Regency Romance, minus the hunky, shirtless lords.” (What’s left, you ask? Let Elizabeth show you! )

Buy Links for Daring and Decorum:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Website | Smashwords

About Lawrence Hogue

Lawrence Hogue’s writing is all over the place and all over time. He started out in nonfiction/nature writing with a personal narrative/environmental history of the Anza-Borrego Desert called All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journeys in a Desert Landscape. After moving to Michigan, he switched to writing fiction, including contemporary stories set in the desert and fanfiction based on the videogame Skyrim. He’s a fan of folk music, and got the idea for Daring and Decorum while listening to Loreena McKennitt’s outstanding adaptation of Alfred Noyes’ poem, The Highwayman. When not speaking a word for nature or for forgotten LGBT people of history, he spends his white-knighting, gender-betraying energies on Twitter and Facebook, and sometimes on the streets of Lansing, MI, and Washington DC. He’s been called a Social Justice Warrior, but prefers Social Justice Wizard or perhaps Social Justice Lawful Neutral Rogue.

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