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Category: Teatime Tattler (Page 2 of 27)

Death in Dallas

Some Juicy Gossip From Vikki McGlory Ward in Dallas

DallasSpring 1964

The day President Kennedy was assassinated, my husband Jack also died mysteriously. They ruled it a drowning—in a Dallas bathtub. But he wasn’t supposed to be in Dallas that day, and he never took baths. Determined to find out who killed Jack, because I wouldn’t accept the Dallas Police’s lame drowning ruling and shutting his case, I went from grieving widow to sleuth—and along the way, fell in love with the bodyguard my godfather hired to protect me. His name is Aldobrandi Po, a Sicilian who looks like Michelangelo chiseled him out of Carrera marble.

My journey as a sleuth brought me to a wide range of venues, from the Dallas County Jail to speak with Jack Ruby to a Plaza Hotel suite to confront a reptile by the name of Gio Bati, a lowlife gangster who just might have murdered my Jack.

I went to his suite with Al and my friend Polly, Bati’s ex. But I couldn’t meet him as Vikki Ward. Because we’d gone there on the pretense of offering him a business venture, I had to take on an assumed name and play a role. I’m no actress, and I could have been the next victim to drown in a bathtub if I blew this, but I did it for Jack.

We approached the double doors of Bati’s suite. Polly rang the doorbell, and I held my breath for the six seconds it took him to answer it. The door opened and there he stood—the bastard who’d plunged me into the agony of grief and changed my life.

He didn’t flaunt a greasy gangster look. His eyes weren’t shifty or beady; his lips weren’t fixed into a sneer. He was clean shaven, his shirt was crisp, his pants creased, his tie silk. Everything about his appearance reflected respectability and breeding. He stepped aside and swept his hand through the air in a welcome gesture.

I tried to keep my hatred in check. It wasn’t easy. This was an acting role in more ways than one.

“Hiya, mon cher,” Polly greeted him and Bati gave her a swat on the ass like an old married couple.

“You’re lookin’ good, vamp.” After a quick scan of Polly’s upper anatomy, he turned to me. “And this is Miz Daisy?” His eyes lingered on my décolletage. I tried not to let it repulse me.

“Right you are, but just plain Daisy to you.” Getting into character, I gracefully placed a cigarette in a diamond-inlaid holder and waited for him to light it. He plucked a lighter from his monogrammed shirt pocket. “Allow me. Hey, you’re one right purty filly, dawlin’.”

Al stepped between us and stuck out his hand. I expected his fist. “Aldobrandi Po. I’ll be a silent partner in our venture.”

Polly stood to leave and I knew we had to get down to business. As I fought down nausea, I silently vowed, I’m doing this for you, Jack.

“So—Ben—I hope this venture will be profitable for all of us. I purchased the personal telephone directory of a retiring Park Avenue madam. I caught some high-powered names in there. If this pans out, I’d like to start a male escort service, too.” Stay in character! I silently urged.

DallasWe clinked glasses and I made a sipping gesture but didn’t drink. He sank into an easy chair and took a sip of his drink, running his tongue over his lips. “Sounds like a noble way to make a living. But I’m hoping to make a hefty profit on this venture without having to do much physical labor.”

“You will,” I assured him. “That’s why Polly looked you up for this venture. Said you’d be a great asset to the business.”

“Well, I always steered business Polly’s way and never asked for a finder’s fee.” He stretched his legs out.

“You’re very generous.”

He looked down. “It’s just the way I’m sitting.”

“No, I mean—not wanting to be compensated.” I took another bogus sip. Al stood within shooting range of Bati’s head.

“So—take a seat, Al, and Daisy, was it? Cute.” He snickered. “Not too original, but cute. So drop the curtain and tell me your real name.”

I swept off the hat, making sure the wig stayed on. “My real name’s Cynthia Van Meegeren.”

Bati stood, reached for my hand, and brought me to my feet. “You’re a living doll.”

Al patted the pistol under his jacket.

I told myself to stay in character! “I wouldn’t kick you out of the boudoir, either, Ben.” I felt around until I touched the reassuring coolness of my .22. “You’d make a good male escort, too, if you’re, uh—up to it.”

“So, what brought you to this field of endeavor?” He refilled his glass.

“Well, I don’t know if Polly told you, but I was a call girl a while back, in Washington, D.C.” I recited my rehearsed lines. “I still maintain some contacts in Washington and entertain them when they come this way. Never did get to meet the Kennedy brothers, though. Isn’t it one of the blackest marks on our country’s history the way Kennedy was killed, right there in the open, with his wife right next to him?” I forced nonchalance into my tone, when in reality the memories tore my heart apart.

“Depends on who you’re askin’.” Bati dropped ice cubes into his glass with tongs.

This segue into Jack’s murder was easier than I’d rehearsed it. I pushed the excruciating memories away. Stay in character! “Jack Ward was far better than that youngster at the anchor desk now. Isn’t it terrible how he drowned?” I sallied forth, in agony reciting these lines. But it’s all for you, Jack.

Bati didn’t respond, just unlaced his spit-shined shoes and slid out of them. Like a snake, I kept thinking. A cold-blooded reptile.

“Did you know Jack Ward at all, Ben?” I ventured, going for broke now.

“How would I know him?” Bati glanced at his watch.

“I thought you might’ve traveled in the same circles.”

“They’re pretty big circles. If you ask me, Ward was a nosy sumbitch. Did the world a favor by croaking.” His tone remained detached, like he was talking about some historical figure he’d read about in American Heritage.

I wanted to choke him. Staying in character like this pushed me to the limit of human endurance. “I ask because Ward was one of my best clients. He told me he was onto the JFK plot.”

Bati shot me a quizzical glance. Now he looked interested.

I ventured on, “Ward was on the inside of the whole thing. Do you think he was silenced because of what he knew? Like Dorothy Kilgallen and all those other poor victims?”

“Yeah, so were a few whores with big mouths. I knew a few of ’em personally: Kandi Kane from N’awlins, who threatened to write a book about it, and Theresa Norton, one of Ruby’s gals.” His answer tore through me like a bullet.

On one level, I reveled in self-satisfaction at how well I was pulling this off. On a deeper level, I shuddered in revulsion at who this man actually was. Goosebumps sprouted on my arms. The hairs stood on the back of my neck. Dear God, how did actors do it? Stay in character!

Bati strode up to me and stood so close, I could smell the booze on his breath. “I hope you’re not always all business, Cyn, or sis, or whoever you are.” He bent his head over mine to kiss me. I couldn’t stop him. I tried to push him away, but it was like trying to move a rock.

Al yanked him off me, spun him around, and slugged him in the jaw. Knuckle cracked against bone.

Bati held his jaw with one hand, reaching inside his jacket with the other. Faster than she could blink, he whipped out a gun and aimed it at Al’s heart.

“No, don’t shoot him, please!” I pleaded.

“All right, let’s have it.” His voice grated like steel on concrete. “You might be a whore, but now I know—” He pointed at Al, “—he’s no goddamn pimp. You two and Polly are up to somethin’ no good, and I wanna know what it is.”

The jig is up. “Put the gun down, and I’ll tell you.”

His mirthless laugh made my skin crawl. “Nothin’ doin’. I know you’re both packin’, Bonnie and Clyde. Now tell me what’s goin’ on, and if I don’t believe it, he gets it first, then you.”

“Tell him everything, Vikki,” Al said as Bati raised his gun and aimed it at Al’s heart.

“All right, I’ll tell you!” I shook so hard my jewelry rattled. “Just please don’t shoot him!”

Bati kept a steady aim on Al as I trembled. “Having us followed, shooting at us in New Orleans…” I gulped air. “You killed the detective I hired and you drowned my husband. I had a lot of brushes with death finding out what happened. I want you to spare Al—please—he’s just my bodyguard. But you know what? Right now I don’t give a damn if I die, because I’ll be with Jack again. But first just tell me why you killed him. Tell me!” Hands outstretched, I grasped Bati’s lapels and shook him.

He didn’t make a move to push me away. I opened my palm and smacked him across the face. “You heartless, murdering bastard!”

Bati stared me down without a blink. “What in the holy name of hell are you babbling about, woman?” His voice stayed calm and even.

“My husband, Jack Ward.” I gritted my teeth. “Tell me what happened. For once, just find a shred of decency in that sick mind of yours and tell me why you had to drown Jack!” I raised my fists to pound at him. This time he caught them in one hand and threw them to my sides.

“I didn’t drown your husband, you fruitcake.” His tone was as calm as if he were telling the time.

“Stop denying it, you damn liar!” My breaths came in gasps. “I took a long time to track you down. You followed my husband to Dallas and drowned him in that bathtub. Now, if you kill me, I can accept that. But just tell me why you killed Jack. Why?” So desperate for the truth, I was willing to die for it.

“I don’t know what you’re yip-yappin’ about, and I didn’t drown your husband in no bathtub.” He looked down at me as if I were insane. “I never even met your husband.”

For a crazed instant, I almost believed him. His voice said it all.

“Okay, I’ll tell you.” His voice gentled, but his hand didn’t waver. “Your husband started showing up at JFK rallies and things, and following me and my associates around. I figgered he was onto us. He was a nosy, like I said. Typical vulture reporter. I work for whoever’ll hire me. For the Kennedy hit it was a branch of the CIA in cahoots with the New Orleans mob. I never met your husband, don’t know how the hell he got into a bathtub and drowned or what happened to him, I swear it.” He raised his right hand as if taking an oath on the witness stand.

“Look. Look at me!” Struggling to keep the trembling out of my voice, I tried to get him to take his attention off Al and onto me. Now I shook with fury, not fear. “Don’t you know me? You’ve never seen me before?”

“Nope.”

I yanked off the wig and my hair tumbled to my shoulders. “Now do you recognize me, Jack Ward’s widow? You’ve never seen my picture?”

“You ever pose for Playboy?” He leered, his eyes on my cleavage again.

“Certainly not!”

A wild, brash idea hit me like lightning. “Then maybe you’ll recognize me from the photo you took out of Jack’s wallet.” With one fluid motion, I ripped my blouse open and thrust out my bared breasts. Buttons flew across the room. “Now do you recognize me?”

He blinked, startled. His eyes bugged out. His mouth fell open.

Al lunged for him and knocked him off his feet with a karate kick. As Al grabbed Bati’s gun, I pulled out my .22, aimed, and fired. The silenced gunshot pierced Bati’s chest. He gurgled and gasped. Blood gushed from the wound. The metallic odor stung my nose and throat.

His lifeless body pitched forward. As he crumpled to the floor, I jumped aside and reached for Al.

“My God, Vikki, you saved my life.” His voice cracked.

“I’m glad you kept your wits about you when I yanked my dress open.” I swept my bra off the floor.

“I’m more of an ass man, myself.”

To this day, I don’t know what made me think to whip off my blouse and bare my breasts to distract that monster. I thought he’d seen a topless photo of me in Jack’s wallet. But I was in such a daze, I don’t think I remembered that, at that instant. We never told a soul, and his murder remains unsolved. But all these years later, as I’m in my 80s now, I told my grandkids about it. They trawl the internet for juicy gossip, and now they’ve heard the most salacious gossip of all, from their own Nana. And they promised not to Tweet about it or post it on Facebook.

By the way, I finally found Jack’s killer and he went to prison for life. But that’s juicy gossip for another day.

An Interview with Our Source, Vikki Ward

Vikki, what is your family like?

A bit crazier than others, mainly because my father was in the rackets in the 1930s and he’s a composer of Broadway show tunes. I had an unforgettable childhood. My father took me to every Broadway musical that came out. We had famous people to the house all the time for dinner and cocktails, and to me, they were just folks, I didn’t care how famous they were, or if their albums played in the background. Dad gave me piano lessons, although it wasn’t my calling the way it was his—I preferred painting, sewing and designing fashions as a creative outlet. I never knew my mom, she died tragically and suddenly when I was an infant. But my father’s second wife Greta treated me like her own daughter. We went everywhere together, museums, hair salons, shopping, for long strolls through Central Park. But in school nobody cared whose kid I was. It was a strict Catholic school and I was in a uniform like everybody else. My family is Roman Catholic and we still have all the saints’ statues in the hallways and backyards

Do you have any hobbies? What do you enjoy doing?

Designing costumes, going for bicycle rides with my husband and kids. I love to sing opera arias, although I’m not trained, and I make sure I’m alone when I do it. Fortunately, Al and I share a lot of interests – opera, painting, fashion—and one that most couples don’t share—guns. We have contests at the shooting range to see who’s the best shot. He also likes to hunt, which I don’t. But I’m good at cooking the venison he brings home

What is your greatest dream?

To write my father’s memoirs with the notes he won’t let me see until, as he says, “I’m planted.”

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

I want to be more introspective, to look within and find my spiritual path. But I’m always out there doing something with the kids—it never ends. I’m too exhausted at night to meditate or do any soul-searching.

DallasAbout The Book   

The third in the New York Saga, The End of Camelot centers on Billy McGlory’s daughter Vikki, whose husband is murdered trying to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Vikki uses her detective skills to trace the conspiracy, from New York to New Orleans to Dallas, and at the same time, tricks her husband’s murderer into a confession. A romance with her bodyguard makes her life complete.

November 22, 1963: The assassination of a president devastates America. But a phone call brings even more tragic news to Vikki Ward—her TV reporter husband was found dead in his Dallas hotel room that morning.

Finding his notes, Vikki realizes her husband was embroiled in the plot to kill JFK—but his mission was to prevent it. When the Dallas police rule his death accidental, Vikki vows to find out who was behind the murders of JFK and her husband. With the help of her father and godfather, she sets out to uncover the truth.

Aldobrandi Po , the bodyguard hired to protect Vikki, falls in love with her almost as soon as he sets eyes on her. But he’s engaged to be married, and she’s still mourning her husband. Can they ever hope to find happiness in the wake of all this tragedy?

An excerpt from The End of Camelot

November 22, 1963

Larchmont, New York

Vikki entered her foyer and dropped her shopping bags on the floor. As she locked the door and kicked off her alligator pumps, the phone rang. She answered it in the kitchen, so she could raid the pastry box while she chatted.

“Vikki, it’s Linc Benjamin.” His ragged voice came over the line. “I have terrible news. Jack is dead.”

“What?” She couldn’t have heard right. “What did you say?”

“Jack was found in the bathtub of his hotel room this morning—”

She dropped the phone and slid down against the wall. Her glasses fell off her face. The room spun. Sunlight glared. She smelled the new coat of wax on the kitchen floor.

“Vikki? Vikki?” came faintly from the dangling receiver. She crawled over and grasped it. He would tell her it was a mistake, they had the wrong man, or it was another of Jack’s practical jokes.

“My Jack?” she whispered.

“Vikki, I’m so sorry,” he sobbed.

“Linc—no, please. Tell me it wasn’t Jack. Are you sure? There must be a mistake. Not Jack.” Her heart thudded like a hammer. A stabbing pain pierced her chest. She held the receiver away from her ear.

“Vikki, are you there?” His voice came through the earpiece. “If you want, I’ll be right over. I can tell you everything when I get there, or right now, whatever you want.”

“Now!” she demanded.

“The Dallas police found him drowned in his hotel bathtub—”

“Dallas? What was he doing in Dallas? He’s supposed to be in Chicago doing a story on the FBI!” she screeched, beyond rational thought. No, this had to be a mistake!

“I don’t know, Vikki. The maid found him. The Dallas police tried to call you all morning, but you weren’t home, so they called here, at the network. Do you want me to come over and—”

“Wait!” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Now—where is he now?”

“Parkland Hospital. They’re going to bring the bod—er, bring him back to New York after the autopsy.” His voice broke again. “God, Vikki, I’m so sorry. I feel like I lost my brother.”

She went blank, too stunned to think. Her hands shook so much she could hardly hold the phone.

“Vikki, do you want me to come over—”

“No.” She released the receiver. It swung away and banged against the wall. She curled up on the floor as the ticking clock echoed the thudding of her heart.

She wept in unbearable grief. Shutting her eyes tight, she cradled her head in her arms. A jumble of thoughts rendered her helpless.

“Please, God,” she prayed, “Let it be a mistake and Jack will come walking through the door.”

The doorbell rang. “Jack?” She forced her eyes open.

“Vikki!”

Her head throbbed with each pound on the door.

“Vikki! Are you okay? Can you hear me?”

The voice was her father’s, and as much as she wanted him with her, holding her, rocking her, the present was too much to bear. She wanted one last visit to the past with Jack, happy and alive and free from harm.

But the raw truth seared her soul: The past is gone, and so is your beloved Jack!

Too weak to walk, she crawled to the door, reached up, and unlocked it.

Her father rushed in and knelt beside her. “Vikki, honey?”

She collapsed into his arms, heaving gut-wrenching sobs.

“It’s okay, I’m here,” he crooned, like he was singing the songs he wrote for her.

“Dad—Jack…”

“I know.” He nodded. “JFK was shot in the head. The governor of Texas was shot, too.”

“No. My Jack! They found him—” Sobs burst from the depths of her soul.

“Huh? What…your Jack?”

Unable to speak any further, she nodded.

“Something happened to him?” He sat her down on the couch.

She drew in a ragged breath and he grasped her hands.

“Oh, God.” He held her and stroked her hair as she sobbed, her tears staining his scarf. “Okay, Dad’s here, I’ll stay with you. I’m sorry, I thought you were talking about President Kennedy. He just got shot.”

“President Kennedy?” She shook her head in disbelief. “No. Jack’s friend from the network called, and—” She couldn’t go on.

“Don’t talk. I’ll get you a brandy or something.” He glanced over at her liquor cabinet.

She didn’t even want him leaving her for a few seconds. He hung her phone up and it started ringing instantly. She heard spurts of conversation. His voice sounded like an echo in a marble tomb. He finally stopped talking and came back with a brandy bottle, a snifter, and her eyeglasses. “I found your glasses on the floor.” He took her into his arms and rocked her back and forth. “You’ll be okay, you’re strong, you’re my girl,” he murmured, and she wished he’d sing to her.

Instead he explained that President Kennedy had been shot on the motorcade route in Dallas.

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About the Author

Diana Rubino says, “My passion for history has taken me to every setting of my historicals. The “Yorkist Saga” and two time travels are set in England. My contemporary fantasy “Fakin’ It”, set in Manhattan, won a Romantic Times Top Pick award. My Italian vampire romance “A Bloody Good Cruise” is set on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

When I’m not writing, I’m running my engineering business, CostPro Inc., with my husband Chris. I’m a golfer, racquetballer, work out with weights, enjoy bicycling and playing my piano.

I spend as much time as possible just livin’ the dream on my beloved Cape Cod.

Visit Diana:

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A Vauxhall Collaboration: Susana Ellis and Jonathan Tyers

Susana: I’d like to introduce Mr. Jonathan Tyers, the entrepreneur who transformed the “Old and New Spring Gardens” from a disreputable outdoor adult park into the lovely Vauxhall Gardens, popular among all levels of society. Mr. Tyers has graciously agreed to assist me in my quest to bring the gardens back to life for Anglophiles and history lovers everywhere.

Mr. Tyers: Indeed, it is so gratifying to make the acquaintance of someone who shares my passion for bringing back the simpler pleasures of life. I understand that you wish to feature some of my employees in your romantic novels?

Susana: Yes, a series of novellas and short stories, spanning the length and breadth of its existence, from the 1730’s until 1859. I-er-understand that you kept a close vigil on it even after it passed from you to your children and others over the years.

Mr. Tyers [shaking his head]: I did so as long as I could, but toward the end… well, it was too painful. Nothing lasts forever, of course.

Susana: Nonetheless, I would like to highlight the memory of Vauxhall by creating stories about some of the workers and performers who contributed to its success.

Mr. Tyers [with a knowing grin]: A capital idea! I like to believe that I had a small part in encouraging suitable matches among my deserving employees.

Susana: I believe I recall that you provided wedding rings and a fabulous dinner at your own home for two happy couples.

Mr. Tyers [chest thrust out]: Yes, indeed. We put on a feast for fifty employees to celebrate the union of two of my bar-men with two bar-maids. Provided transportation all the way to Denbies, in Dorking—more than twenty miles, you know.

Susana: I knew you would be just the one to assist me with my project!

Mr. Tyers [leaning forward]: I shall certainly do what I can, Miss Ellis. What do you wish to know?

Susana: The first story is about a woman who worked as an under-gardener in 1814, and Peter de Luca, a musician.

Mr. Tyers: Ah yes, Alice Crocker. As I recall, Nat Stephens, the head gardener at the time, insisted on hiring her as his assistant even though there were plenty of able-bodied men who could have filled the position. He insisted she could handle the physical labor required as well as anyone, and she had a knack for design like none other. Singular, I thought at the time. But she had no husband to object, and Stephens was pleased with her. A bit of a distraction for the men at first, I noticed.

Susana [grimacing]: Couldn’t keep their minds on their work, eh? She was too pretty or something?

Mr. Tyers: Not pretty. Attractive, I suppose. A Long Meg, solid and strong too. [Chuckles] Gal knew how to handle herself around lecherous men, she did.

Susana: Intriguing. I take it she wasn’t fresh out of the schoolroom, then.

Mr. Tyers [scratching his head]: Don’t know if she went to school, but she was in her caps. Near thirty, I’d guess, when she came.

Susana: I must find out more about her… her family, where she grew up, what she did before she came to work at Vauxhall, and most of all, how she learned to manage men at a time when lone women were considered fair game for predatory men.

Mr. Tyers [stepping backward]: Pray recall, Miss Ellis, that not all men were guilty of such appalling behavior.

Susana [smiling sweetly]: Of course not, Mr. Tyers. I appreciate your constant efforts to prevent such incidents during your tenure as manager of Vauxhall.

Mr. Tyers [nodding]: Indeed I did. We hired watchmen and constables…

Susana: Yes, yes. I am sure no one could have done more. Now tell me what you know of this Peter de Luca. He was a musician, I believe.

Tyers: Played the violin in the orchestra at Drury Lane. I believe Mr. Hook brought him in with several other new players at the time. Most of our musicians worked in theaters during the colder months and came to us in the summer to earn a little extra coin. Not well paid at all, musicians. Passionate about their art, though. I like to think I helped them out a bit, too, as well as entertaining the visitors. Families have to eat, you know.

Orchestra at Drury Lane, 1843

Susana: Of course. About Peter de Luca…

Mr. Tyers: Yes, well, he was Italian—popish, you know. A widower, I believe. Brought his little tyke with him at times, never caused a problem. Quite well-looking, he was. Caught the attention of many a maid. Why even Mrs. Billington fluttered her eyelashes at him…

Susana [gritting her teeth]: A womanizer? That will never do. I cannot have a hero who was a womanizer.

Mr. Tyers [opening and then closing his mouth]: Womanizer? You mean, a philanderer? I really can’t say. I saw no sign of it. Nothing outside of the usual.

Susana [with a deep sigh]: The usual. Hmm, sounds like a double-standard. I shall have to investigate this Peter de Luca more thoroughly before I match him with the excellent Miss Crocker.

Mr. Tyers [narrowing his eyes]: You are a most singular lady, Miss Ellis. Er—is this characteristic of all ladies of the future?

Susana [chuckling]: I wish! No, seriously, I just like to make sure my heroines get a hero capable of giving them their HEA.

Mr. Tyers: HEA?

Susana: Happy-ever-after. You know, the happy couple stays together into their golden years and beyond. A requirement of every genuine romance.

Mr. Tyers [smiling]: Yes, well, that is what we all hope for, do we not? By all means, let us do what we can to make suitable matches among my worthy employees.

Stay tuned for further news about Susana’s and Mr. Tyers’s matchmaking efforts in Susana’s new series, The Vauxhall Vixens.

Intrigued by Vauxhall Gardens? Join Susana on Facebook for daily tidbits about Jonathan Tyers’s successful creation.

https://www.facebook.com/vauxhallgardens/

A former teacher, Susana lives in Toledo, Ohio in the summer and Florida in the winter. She is a member of the Central Florida Romance Writers and the Beau Monde chapters of RWA, Maumee Valley Romance Inc., and is a member of the (in)famous Bluestocking Belles.

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Life in a Nunnery Just Isn’t What I Imagined

Parchment received from Olwen de Belleme, secondary character in My Lord Raven: Knights of the Royal Household

If you’ve read the story of my cousin Catrin and her truelove Sir Bran ap Madog, then you will know I was betrothed to Sir Bran. King Edward gave my hand in marriage to him, a knight of his household, for a job well done. But you will also know events transpired that caused my cousin to change places with me (we favor one another) and then fall in love with “The King’s Raven.

nunneryI, on the other hand, went to live in a convent near to my castle. It was my sanctuary, because, you see, when Catrin and I changed identities, I needed to find a place to hide.

Catrin has said I “possess a timid disposition.” ’Tis true. I couldn’t abide the thought of marrying such a vicious man as the king’s knight. Often as a child, when Catrin fostered at my castle, she had been the prod, encouraging me to stretch myself beyond my limits. But alas! Was not to be. My temperament is naturally sweet, serene, and pious.

That’s why I thought a life as a bride of Christ would suit me. Yet, I knew that dream to be a fool’s folly. King Edward would never let me take holy vows. Therefore, I hoped for a life inside the convent as a lay sister. Many gentlewomen in my time choose a secluded life as I desired.

nunneryI soon discovered the life of a nun is boring. We are gently born, not accustomed to menial tasks. We need our servants as much as we do in the world. A nunnery is a house of prayer, but it is also a community of domestics and others who depend upon the landholdings of the sacred house.

Many convents during my time may be poor, depending upon their locations, landholdings and finances. A nunnery may face all the temporal hardships of the day: plagues and pestilence, fires and floods, and attacks by Scots or Welsh marauders, lawless neighbors or enemies of the realm. Oft nuns are forced into begging for alms. ’Tis not a pretty sight to see a pious woman so reduced to poverty.

Furthermore, secular life may intrude upon the sacred. We are women, after all, and many enjoy colorful clothes and silken veils. We keep our pet dogs, entertain guests and, with our servants, travel outside the bounds of our cloistered world. I will not mention the depravities of some who stray from their vows. The bishop is always warning against such sins.

Did I say that holy life can be boring? Ah, yes. You see, the routine, the silence, the hardships can be born if you have a vocation for it. Being the pampered only child of a great lord, I soon discovered the communal life was not for me, however devout I had been. So now I await the king’s grace once more. He sends me another husband, a knight to take my father’s place and run the estates I have inherited. Is he sending me a helpmate, like Sir Bran is to my cousin Catrin? Or is he sending me an overlord—someone to rule me with a firm fist?
__________________________________________________

If you are interested in reading more about the medieval life of a nun, take a look at Medieval English Nunneries c. 1275 to 1535, by Eileen Power, Cambridge at the University Press, 1922, found at Amazon.com.

About the Book

nunneryMy Lord Raven:  Knights of the Royal Household

To protect what little family she has left, Lady Catrin Fitzalan switches places with her cousin when King Edward orders the pious girl to wed his royal champion, a vicious knight called the King’s Raven. Rumors abound that this savage is responsible for the deaths of Lady Catrin’s father and brother. How can she allow her sweet cousin to wed a murderer?

Bran ap Madog, bastard son of a Welsh prince, has devoted his life to serving the English king. His badge is the raven, a creature that feeds off rotting spoils, just as Bran feeds off the spoils of war. Now he wants a reward for his service: a wealthy wife and the land and power she can bring him.

But there’s another side to the rapacious black birds Bran has chosen for his badge. Social and family-oriented, ravens mate for life. Which gives them something Bran never had—a family, a sense of belonging, and a rightful place in the world. Bran has fought for everything he’s ever had. But his last battle, with his new wife, may cost him the one thing he isn’t prepared to lose: his heart.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lojQ7S
iBooks: http://apple.co/2kFBLqH
Kobo: http://bit.ly/KoboMLR

About the Author

Jan Scarbrough is the author of two popular Bluegrass series, writing heartwarming contemporary romances about home and family, single moms and children, and if the plot allows, about another passion—horses. Living in the horse country of Kentucky makes it easy for Jan to add small town, Southern charm to her books and the excitement of a Bluegrass horse race or a competitive horse show.
Leaving her contemporary voice behind, Jan has written paranormal gothic romances: Tangled Memories, a Romance Writers of America (RWA) Golden Heart finalist, and Timeless. Her newest book, My Lord Raven is a medieval story of honor and betrayal.

A member of Novelist, Inc., Jan has published with Kensington, Five Star, ImaJinn Books, Resplendence Publishing and Turquoise Morning Press. Today she self-publishes her books with the help of her husband.

 

 

Whispers in a Corner of Cairo

The dining room of the Hotel des Anglais in Cairo hummed with conversation and bustled with activity. Waiters in white saw to every comfort. Gentlemen in formal dress surveyed the diners from their perch near the door, ready to step in if needed. Della Faulkner thought that they well should. A baronet’s granddaughter, she had fine sense of what was due her sort.

Cairo

The Dining Room, Hotel des Anglais, Cairo (later Shepheard’s Hotel)

She huddled at a table in the far corner with two other ladies in perfectly proper English dress, and perfectly proper English bonnets, their faces bright with a sheen brought on by Egypt’s oppressive heat. They lingered over after-dinner cordials, their husbands having departed in search of something more fortifying. After a voyage on the new mail steamer and a harrowing trip across the desert from Suez, they were in great need of civilized comforts.

“Tell me exactly what you heard Mr. Badawi say,” Della demanded for the second time. As the eldest and, in her opinion, highest ranking of their number, she assumed the right to demand. Frustration that she had missed a confrontation between the Egyptian manager for the Nile and Oriental Company, their local contact, with a scandalous fellow passenger gave her voice more force than normal.

Alice Fuller, the nervous woman next to her, jumped at the sound. A tiny woman, she blinked several times while she babbled, “He said, ‘if you are not married.’ I heard that distinctly, didn’t you Bertha? ‘If’ he said.”

Cairo

The Lobby, Hotel des Anglais, Cairo (later Shepheard’s Hotel)

The third woman, a sour-faced matron of indeterminable years glowered at Alice and sighed deeply. “We weren’t eavesdropping, mind, but when we saw Captain Wheatly conversing with Mr. Badawi in the lobby, we feared yet more difficulties and moved closer. This entire journey has been a nightmare. I so regret letting Albert talk me into the overland route.”

Della brushed that aside. “Yes, yes, but what did you hear?”

“He all but accused Wheatly of lying to him, but I did not hear the proof.”

“Tell me ladies, did the couple act as if they were married when aboard ship?” The speaker, the lone man in their company, leaned forward. Della detected an unattractive eagerness behind his air of unconcern. Egbert Weaver appeared encroaching to her, though the others professed to find his quiet manner charming. Quiet he may be, but the man didn’t miss much that went on, always hovering nearby listening.

“Well, the way they carried on on deck, they should be married,” Alice giggled. “Remember Bertha? Right there in front of us?”

Della sniffed. “No better than she ought to be if you ask me, latching on to an officer and pretending to care for those children of his.” She shuddered.

“Is there something odd about his children?” Weaver asked, his face a mask of sympathy.

Alice leaned toward him to whisper, “They are dark. Indian, no doubt. His but not hers—you know…” She raised her eyebrows.

“Oh say the word, Alice! Bastards, Mr. Weaver. I would bet my bonnet on it,” Della proclaimed. “And if he isn’t married to the woman traveling with them—well!”

“We don’t know that, Della. He told me he was widowed. As to his current companion, they had two cabins, as I recall,” Bertha pointed out.

cairo steamship

Della rolled her eyes. “You are too softhearted, Bertha. None of that means squat and you know it. Who slept in which bed and why, I should like to know,” she hissed under her breath.
“Are you saying they are married, but slept apart,” Weaver began, “Or—”

“Look!” Alice said bouncing in her seat and wagging her head toward the door. All eyes followed her direction. The subject of their little talk, Captain Frederick Wheatly, led his “wife,” Clare into the dinning room. Two dark-skinned girls followed, gazing around at the room and the diners.

“Who is that young man who stood up to greet them?” Alice whispered, when the boy seated the two little girls as if they were grand ladies.

“I don’t know, but the fool acts like they belong here.”

All four pairs of eyes watched the tableau on the far side of the room, as if trying to ferret out the truth. Moments later, an older man with the air of great consequence entered accompanied by an outburst of excessive bowing and fussing on the part of staff. He stood well over six feet tall, his white-blond hair reflecting candlelight. He walked directly to the Wheatlys’ table, and the diners rose to greet him.

Della gasped.

“What is it?” Bertha asked anxiously.

“Not what. Who. Wheatly just introduced that woman to the Duke of Sudbury. I believe that young man dining with them is his nephew, Richard Mallet.”

Alice covered her mouth with her serviette, eyes wide, unable to speak. Bertha, too, stared back at the group. Before their fascinated eyes, the duke smiled at the children, spoke briefly with Wheatly and his companion, and left, taking the captain with him.

“Well!” Della declared. “I should like to hear that conversation.” She turned her attention back to her companions only to sigh with an irritation she didn’t attempt to disguise. “Mr. Weaver, what are you scribbling?” The little man bent over a small notebook writing rapidly.

“Merely taking a few notes, ladies,” he said ,snapping the notebook shut and rising to his feet. “If you will excuse me, I think I’ll have a chat with Badawi before I turn in to catch up on my correspondence.”

“Correspondence with whom, Mr. Weaver?” Della demanded.

A slow smile lit his face. “Why, with my friend Mr. Clemens, editor of The Teatime Tattler. He will love what I have to share.” With a tip of his hat, he left them.

cairo empire reluctant About the Book

The Reluctant Wife:  Children of Empire, Book 2

When all else fails, love succeeds…

Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.

All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn’t know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband. She certainly doesn’t need a great lout of a captain who can’t figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.

Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B06XYRRR1R/

Children of Empire: Three cousins, torn apart by lies and deceit and driven to the far reaches of the empire, struggle to find their way home. The first book is The Renegade Wife

About Caroline Warfield

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—Caroline Warfield has been many things, but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows while she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Caroline is of course, a Bluestocking Belles. In addition to  The Teatime Tattler, she regularly writes for  History Imagined.

Website http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Amazon Author http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Warfield/e/B00N9PZZZS/

Good Reads http://bit.ly/1C5blTm

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7

Twitter @CaroWarfield

Email warfieldcaro@gmail.com

 

 

Hearts and Hope at Hollystone Hall

Sam Clemens, proprietor of The Teatime Tattler, bought the stablemaster another mug of dark bitter, his fifth by Sam’s count. It was a powerful brew, and Sam was still nursing his second. He wanted to keep his own wits, and befuddle those of his companion. Bellowes must have a head of pure oak, for he was still upright and coherent, though he was speaking a bit more loudly and gesturing wildly to punctuate his points.

“Not a beauty, not by our measure,” he was saying. “The head was too small and the back too long. But a magnificent beast, for all that. And what that there viscount could do with him! You’d not believe it, and that’s a fact.”

Viscount? The matter was in some dispute, since the man in question was the offspring of a ducal heir and a foreign woman, the marriage (if it happened at all) taking place in some place high in the mountains at the rear end of the Persian empire.

Bellowes would be of little use if he could not be persuaded to talk about anything but horses.

“I’m surprised the Haverfords invited Lord Elfingham,” Sam said. “It’s no secret that His Grace is behind the move to have his father’s marriage declared invalid.”

“As to that, he arrived unexpected,” Bellowes declared. “His horse came up lame, he said. Good trick that. He was courting one of the Belvoir ladies, and that’s the truth. Clever horse, like I told you.”

Not back to the horse again! Sam thought quickly. “He wasn’t the only unexpected arrival, I heard. You’d see them all, in the stables.”

“That I do. That I do. Let me see. There was the young Hebrew. Nice fellow. Turned up bright and early on one post horse, leading another. He came a courting too, by all accounts. Them up at the house say he’d been on a mission for the Duke of Wellington himself! Think of that. Well, he had his own mission at Hollystone Hall.”

Yes, Sam had heard about that. Some relative of Baumann the banker, and Baumann’s daughter was a guest at the party.

“And young Lord Jonathan, of course. He was only here for a couple of days, though, and then he and Lord Aldridge ordered the carriage, and took off for London. And Lady Sophia Belvoir went with them! A nice lady like that. Who’d have thought it.”

“House parties can be scandalous places,” Sam suggested, hoping Bellowes would confirm with some more gossip.

But Bellowes shook his head, saying staunchly, “Not parties run by the duchess. A lot of billing and cooing, mind you. But no hanky-panky. Let me see. We had Lord Nicholas Lacey exchanging a kiss for a big donation to Her Grace’s charity. That’s what the party was for, you understand. To raise money for education.” He shook his head again, more slowly this time. “Though what women need with an education I don’t know.”

Sam responded with a neutral sound that Bellowes could take as he liked, and Bellowes continued.

“His brother-in-law, too. Mr Durand was here with his betrothed, and they seemed like a fine couple. I got to know the young ladies a little, Lord Lacey’s daughter and Mr Durand’s. They used to come down with the other schoolroom chits to feed the horses. That oriental? Gentle as a lamb.”

Sam leapt in before Bellowes could return to the horse. “You had a wedding, I’m told.”

“That we did. An earl and an actress, if you can believe it!”

Sam, who had seen Miss Halfpenny on the stage, could easily believe that the reclusive Earl of Somerton was besotted, but marriage? Society was shocked, but rumour had it that the two most concerned were blissfully happy.

“His cousin wasn’t best pleased. Took off early, he did. Just as well, too, because we’d not have had room for the Woodville coach or Lord Stanton. They arrived just in time for the ball on the last night, though they’d been expected right at the beginning.”

Sam could smell a story, could all but taste it, but no one was talking. Lord Stanton, his sister Miss Lockhart, and his stepmother had left London together, as had Miss Woodville and her brother. Lady Stanton had arrived at the party at the beginning, Lord Stanton had later appeared on his own. Miss Lockhart had not only come with the Woodvilles, she was actually married to Mr Woodville. He would keep digging. Someone must know what had happened.

“Two weeks of romance,” he commented.

Bellowes eyes were drooping, but he opened them again. “That they were, and the servants’ hall abuzz with our own.” He chuckled. “The French chef and the duchess’s cousin. Who’d have thought it?” With that, he toppled forward onto the table, and in moments was snoring. Sam would get no more out of him tonight.

Mr Bellowes is talking about characters and stories from the anthology Holly and Hopeful Hearts. You can read the blurbs for each story here, and get the buy links. Furthermore, the collection is on special this month for only 99c, which is pretty good for 680 pages of fiction!

•*☆Holly & Hopeful Hearts is a RONE nominee☆*•

PLEASE VOTE!!
The Bluestocking Belles were thrilled to learn Holly and Hopeful Hearts became a RONE nominee with InD’Tale Magazine. Voting begins for the Anthology category from April 24th – April 30th but you have to be signed in to the website to vote at www.indtale.com. It is easy to register, and you won’t be sorry—it is a great little magazine.

The Bluestocking Belles would sincerely appreciate your support by voting for our box set since this round is reader based. Starting Monday after you sign in you can vote here: http://www.indtale.com/2017-rone-awards-week-two

Thank you for your support from the Bluestocking Belles.

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