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Duke Buys Widow

This morning the Teatime Tattler received reports that the Duke of Ravensmere—in an unusual gesture—outbid a salacious rogue for the lunch basket of Lady Samantha Winston, a merry widow, who has captured his interest and his pocketbook for the outrageous sum of one thousand pounds. One gathers it was all for a good cause, but one has to wonder what other plans the noble duke has for this lady? Follow this column for more information tomorrow. Tonight they attend the fancy dress ball where under our reporter will reveal all that transpires under his curious eyes. Is it possible the duke is smitten with the beautiful green-eyed copper-haired lady?

A Later Update:

DukeYour reporter fears that Lady Samantha Winston gazed over the Duke of Ravensmere’s shoulder and caught sight of said reporter leaning against a tree scribbling on my small pad of parchment. She was heard to whisper to a friend,  “Who was he and was he a friend or enemy? If a foe, what evil intent did he have? And who was the victim?”  Forced to move away, I gave up. What indeed happened at the so-called charitable auction? And what will be the outcome?

An excerpt from ONE NIGHT WITH A DUKE

Her attention returned to the Reverend Carlson who stepped to the podium and announced the auction of ladies lunch baskets would begin for the Winston School Foundation’s charitable event. The Reverend read the individual menus and managed to make each sound like a gastronomical feast. One hundred pounds would not be an uncommon sum to be offered and accepted. When it came to Lady Samantha’s turn, she twirled a curl around her finger perhaps to calm her uneasiness.

The Reverend pounded his gavel again and asked for the first bid. Sir Roger Dudley, a well-known libertine, offered one hundred pounds. A silence thundered through the crowd. To the Raven, the Duke of Ravensmere, it appeared a moment of uncertainty crossed Samantha’s sweet face. Their conversation about rakes and disreputable men came to his mind. Her worst fears were now at her doorstep. He gazed upon hands that clutched the handle of her basket with whitened knuckles. Raven took note of this and perceived Samantha as vulnerable. An impossible urge to protect her came over him. She’d placed herself in this position. Damnation.

Anyone who looked as she did in that dress should expect men to offer for her and the picnic lunch. Beautiful and seductive, mere words would be insufficient to compliment her….

Samantha’s wide eyes seemingly implored Raven to help. How could he not come to her rescue?

He raised his walking stick and caught the attention of the minister. He spoke out with deep clarity, “And five pounds, Reverend.”

Lord Dudley peered at the bidder, nodded, and raised his sum to two hundred pounds.

Raven lifted his walking stick. “And five pounds, Reverend.”

Lord Dudley appeared amused and raised the bid to three hundred pounds.

Raven raised his walking stick. “And five pounds, Reverend.” The guests stopped their conversations to watch how the challenge would end.

Lord Dudley raised the bid to five hundred pounds.

The audience gasped at the extravagant sum.

Raven nodded. He stole a glance at Samantha, enjoying the experience. He raised his hand, and silence befell the group.

The Reverend asked, “And five pounds, Your Grace?” with a chuckle.

“No, good Reverend,” answered Raven. He engaged Samantha’s eyes. Her expression was one of blatant terror as her hand lay at her throat. He bestowed a knowing smile to calm her.

The auction appeared over and dreaded silence followed. The Reverend set about to announce the winner until Raven spoke in a resonant tone with the utmost alacrity, “I bid one thousand pounds.”

The hushed assembly looked almost in unison to Lord Dudley, who laughed. “Enough of this

amusement. No damn lunch is worth that kind of money,” he grumbled and walked toward the duke. “I capitulate, Your Grace. Good sport, don’t you think?”

Raven rose from the chair, handed the appropriate bank voucher to the Reverend, and stepped lively to Samantha and her picnic basket. “Shall we?” He extended his arm. Samantha clung to his left arm, and he became cognizant of her quaking. He took her expensive picnic basket in his right hand. “Stay calm. I’m here and you are under my protection. No harm will befall you.” Raven escorted her to a secluded table, which he had prearranged, and his name appeared on a place marker. It adhered to propriety while offering privacy.

“You did want me to offer, didn’t you?” Raven shook his head and grinned since he now admitted he had every intention of offering for her costly basket. He much wanted to be with the enchantress. Samantha enriched his life in ways he dared not imagine. He couldn’t remember a day he enjoyed more and looked forward to the evening.

Samantha flushed and said in a cool utterance,

“Thank you, Your Grace. You’ve saved me from a horrible fate and I am grateful.”

She lifted the lid of the basket, but he grasped her gloved hand with superb gentleness.

“Allow me. I can’t remember when I have enjoyed the outlay of so much money before. Of a

certain, there are no dull moments when you’re around. I do believe you are a sorceress. I couldn’t allow Lord Dudley to attempt to compromise you in any way.” To protect her at all costs became a necessity to him.

“As you have stated, it’s for a cherished cause, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Your Grace. Congratulations. However, I would remind you, I cannot be purchased with such ease.”

“Perish the thought. I’m well aware of the fact. I bid for a few hours of your time. Don’t read anything into my actions and let it discomfit you. If lunch with me is so distasteful, I am prepared to leave you alone.” He realized he was a bit curt, but it appeared with her, the conversation always held a challenge. Raven rose from the chair…

The gentle hand that restrained him relieved Raven. Samantha removed her gloves and placed them in her reticule. “I fear you might have misunderstood me,” she said with a sly smile. “I’m happy to be with such a handsome man at this event. Because of you, its success has exceeded any expectations. There will be sufficient funds for the school. I owe you a debt of gratitude.”

He made sure to use a soft tone of voice. “For a few hours, can we cease the verbal barbs and enjoy this repast?”

“Is it your intent to call a truce, Raven? We will be the talk of the ton. Harbinger tongues will wag and link our names together. I hope that doesn’t distress you.” She paused and gifted him a smile. “I want to enjoy this special moment with you and gaze into your amazing dark gray eyes. Yes, I would like a truce.” Her reached out to his.

About the Book: ONE NIGHT WITH A DUKE

dukeWhen a spirited woman disrupts the world of a duke who follows the rules, sparks fly, passions ignite and planets collide.

   Reclusive, cold as ice, the politically powerful Raven, Duke of Ravensmere, denies love after the tragic deaths of his duchess and baby. He is bound by his vow never to allow love to enter his heart again. Samantha Winston permits him to seek refuge in her carriage in a time of need, and what started as a kiss in the name of safety, becomes something more pleasurable and not so safe after all. In spite of every caution, his interest escalates into unexpected desire.

   Samantha, a young widow with a secret, irreverent and high-spirited, has constructed impenetrable walls against all men. When she and Raven meet again, strong wills clash. Political intrigues and a dreaded nemesis place his life at risk, and Samantha finds herself in a dire predicament. All the while, passion soars.

   Can Samantha’s barriers fall with more kisses?

   Can Raven be released from his deathbed vow?

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Wild Rose Press  and order direct any of the five books.

About the Author, SANDRA MASTERS

From a humble beginning in Newark, NJ, a short stay at a convent in Morristown, NJ, to the boardrooms of NYC, and a fantastic career for a broadcasting company in Carlsbad, California, to the rural foothills of the Sierras of Yosemite National Park, I have always traveled with pen and notebook. It’s been the journey of ten thousand miles with a few steps left to go. I’ve traded boardrooms for ballrooms, left my corporate world behind and never looked back. It was nothing I expected, but everything I dreamed. My current occupation is Living The Dream.

I am a storyteller. Gather round me, sip some chocolate cocoa, and allow me to transport you to where you never been. I have more yesterdays than tomorrows. I am a woman who has known many things content to look through a lens of make-believe to bring you romance.

WEBSITE

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

 

The Family Feud

The family feud between the Earl of Chadbourn’s nephew, the Duke of Murnane, and his cousin, Randolph Wheatly, has caused considerable talk recently. We believe our readers will find two missives that have come into the Tattler’s possession to be of interest. Some would say the conflict is old news. Others might suggest its influence on current events makes for as juicy a story today as it did seven years ago.

 S. Clemens

familyPrivate Pratt,
Y’ asked why mister Rand hates that duke his cousin. No one at the servants table answered cause they all love the duke. I learned as how to rite at the dame school at home so I thot I would rite the answer down. The earls vall-et told me how to spell Private but I dint tell him why I wanted to know.

The duke married the girl Mr. Rand corted and that’s a fact. Both wanted ‘er an one got ‘er. When Mr. Rand found out she was far gone with child already at the wedding, he said as how the duke had his way with her even while she still walked out with Mr. Rand. Bad business that.

No man wants a girl to lift her skirt to some ‘un other. Mr. Rand he got so mad he high tailed it to Canada where you met him. Stayed away seven years. Now th’earl told them to work together and everyone’s walking around like a storm’s brewing.

But no person here wants to beleev the duke would do his cozin such a turn neither. I heared Missus Alberts the cook say quiet like once that she dint think the boy were the duke’s son neither but you codnt tell that from how he dotes on the lad. Hes a good father, is the duke.

I know you admire Mr. Rand and I thot you’d want to know.

Elsie Jones, tweeny


Family

Sketch by Ernest Blaikley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Miss Jones,
Thank you for your kind note. Any soldier knows it is safest to know the lay of the land, and it has been hard enough for me living in a posh household like this one without the folks hiding things from me. Mr. Rand is one of the best men I know, and he has been careful to protect Meggy Blair and her children, folks as are important to me. I cannot think ill of him. He came all the way to London to make sure they are safe, and he won’t back down.

I can’t say I know the duke, but he seems like a solid fellow as well, and he plans to help us so I can’t think ill of him either. He even plans to go after the general’s crooked activity. No, I have to respect him, especially since he helped me sort out the matter of desertion from the army and all.

Whatever the truth of it, they are honorable men. I hope they come to peace because there will be enough fighting if they try to take on the ugly gang of button fakers and thieves as they talked about. Bad doings there, and they will need to watch their backs.

Your words helped me Miss. Maybe when this settles down I’ll be free to ask you to walk out of a Sunday.

Yrs
John Pratt

__________________________________

FamilyAbout the Book, The Renegade Wife: Book 1, Children of Empire

Betrayed by his cousin and the woman he loved, Rand Wheatly fled England, his dreams of a loving family shattered. He clings to his solitude in an isolated cabin in Upper Canada. Returning from a business trip to find a widow and two children squatting in his house, he flies into a rage. He wants her gone, but her children are sick and injured, and his heart is not as hard as he likes to pretend.

Meggy Blair harbors a secret, and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her children safe. She’d hopes to hide with her Ojibwa grandmother, if she can find the woman and her people. She doesn’t expect to find shelter with a quiet, solitary man, a man who lowers his defensive walls enough to let Meggy and her children in.

Their idyllic interlude is shattered when Meggy’s brutal husband appears to claim his children. She isn’t a widow, but a wife, a woman who betrayed the man she was supposed to love, just as Rand’s sweetheart betrayed him. He soon discovers why Meggy is on the run, however, and time is running out. To save them all, Rand must return to England and face his family demons.

~Excerpt~

“I manage. I have no idea about Julia,” Charles said through tight lips.

Rand raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

“I haven’t seen Julia in two years. She hasn’t seen Jonny in longer. I have no idea how she ‘manages.’” He leaned toward Rand. “Don’t look at me like that, Randolph Wheatly. We separated less than a year after we married. It happens. If you had stayed, you might have delighted in my misfortune.”

Charles glared at Rand, who could think of nothing to say. When the silence became painful, Charles sank back in his chair. “Don’t worry. Though it seems unlikely Jonny will ever be duke, know that he is loved. I love him as if he were my own.” His voice rose when he continued, and an emotion Rand couldn’t identify gave force to his words. “He is my own. Don’t try to say otherwise.”

“What are you implying, Charles? Of course he’s your son. You were eager enough to bed his mother.”

“I didn’t touch Julia until our wedding night. Jonny came into this world six months later. What do you think I’m implying?”

Something uncurled in Rand’s chest. His cousin was many things, some unpleasant, but he wasn’t a liar.

***FREE***with Kindle Unlimited or buy a copy here

About the Series, Children of Empire

Three cousins, who grew up together in the English countryside, have been driven apart by deceit and lies. (You may guess a woman was involved!) They all make their way home, finding love and the support of women of character and backbone along their journeys. They are:

  • Rand who has become a recluse, and lives in isolation in frontier Canada intent on becoming a timber baron, until a desperate woman invades his peace.
  • Fred, an officer in the Bengal army, who enjoys his comfortable life on the fringes until his mistress dies and he’s forced to choose between honor and the army.
  • Charles, Duke of Murnane, who, tied to a miserable marriage, throws himself into government work to escape bad memories. He accepts a commission from the Queen that takes him to Canton and Macau.

Who are their ladies?

  • Meggy Campeau, the daughter of a French trapper and Ojibwe mother who has made mistakes, but is fierce in protecting her children.
  • Clare Armbruster, fiercely independent woman of means, who is determined to make her own way in life, but can’t resist helping a foolish major sort out his responsibilities.
  • Zambak Hayden, eldest child of the Duke of Sudbury, who knows she’d make a better heir than her feckless younger brother, but can’t help protecting the boy to the point of following him to China. She may just try to sort out the Empire’s entangled tea trade–and its ugly underpinning, opium while she’s there.

You can find more here or here

About the Author

Carol Roddy – Author

Caroline Warfield is a Bluestocking Belle and lover of family, history, travel and faith, all of which inform her work. She firmly believes that love is worth the risk to the human heart.

She grew up in a peripatetic army family and had a varied career (largely around libraries and technology) before retiring. Now retired to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, she divides her time between writing and seeking adventures with her grandbuddy and the prince among men she married.

She has works published by Soul Mate Publishing and also independently published works. In addition she has participated in five group anthologies, one not yet published. You can find her here:

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History Imagined

Mrs. Bingham Tries Again

BinghamHalf-Moon Street, London, 27th August, 1813

My dear Celeste,

I trust your esteemed mama improves in health so that you may soon be free to return to Town, for you are missing the Event of the year. You must know that even we married ladies are all aflutter since the arrival of a certain French gentleman in our midst. Monsieur de Montailhac is the brother-in-law of Sir Richard Hartford, and the son of a French marquis and his wife – a Turkish princess, no less. These details I have from Cecilia Hartford, who is only too ready to boast of her handsome guest.

Indeed, Celeste, I have now been present at two events where the gentleman also figured. I feel such pangs of jealousy against Cecilia, who can feast her eyes on this marvel of masculine beauty every day. He casts even Lord Byron into the shade. His hair is raven black, like his eyes. Oh, such fascinating almond eyes, with a constant roguish twinkle. And his smile makes one forget who and where one is! To the advantages of a trim figure, he adds impeccable style and a delicious French accent that charms us all.

Of course, that odious cousin of Cecilia’s, Mrs Bingham, swoops on the poor man, pushing her poor plain little Lydia at him. [The only man who ever notices Lydia is Jack Barrowman and Mrs B considers him a rustic. She would do well to accept the match for her daughter. It is already Lydia’s third season, is it not?]

And by chance, a little later that day I was in Charters Square in Soho to make a purchase at the showroom of the fine silversmith there, when I espied Monsieur de Montailhac [his name is Arnaut, is it not delightful?] coming out of that very shop, in company with a pretty young lady. They stood and spoke for a time, while I pretended to inspect the goods in the display window. Then he kissed her hand and the smile they exchanged was so intimate, I felt ashamed to be spying on them.

It seems Mrs B is doomed to yet another disappointment over her daughter. But if you wish to see our handsome Frenchman, you should in truth come back soon.

Yr affectionate friend,
Araminta

BinghamAbout the Book

Arnaut de Montailhac’s reputation as a charming rake is well established. Secretly, he longs for a role where he could shine on merit. Perhaps the political events of the summer of 1813 will give him that opportunity.  But when his first official task is to seduce a beautiful young spy, Arnaut suspects he is considered to be nothing more than a charming fribble. However, events quickly turn nasty and he sets off on a quest, determined to prove his true worth. Louise Fauriel, hardworking member of a family of Huguenot silversmiths, is the complete opposite of Arnaut. Linked by the need to smuggle letters from the Bourbon king in exile at Hartwell House to Arnaut’s father, the unlikely pair travel between France and England, with Napoleon’s vengeful agents never more than one step behind. In the desperate race to succeed in this mission, even a rake has no time for love.

Excerpt:       A rake in peril from the ladies

Behind his fixed smile, Arnaut was fuming. He and Richard had taken refuge in the drawing room to settle their plans for the afternoon when Cecilia swept in with a group of ladies. It was evident she was determined to show off her French visitor. Everywhere he looked, he saw ladies nodding and smiling at him. He felt like one of the horses he had seen exhibited at Tattersalls the other day. Servants appeared with tea and cakes. Arnaut was horrified. How could he escape? Yet in less than thirty minutes it would be three o’clock, time for his meeting with Pierre D’Escury in Soho.

He found himself sandwiched between a formidable matron and her shockingly plain daughter. Not for the first time, he regretted his ability to attract ladies. The girl was gazing at him with a sort of dazed intensity, as if he was a rare item in a museum. Arnaut cast an urgent look at Richard, seated in the window alcove beside an elderly lady wearing a monstrous bonnet. Richard met his eye and gave a faint, apologetic smile. No help from him, then.

Now Cecilia came to stand in front of them. ‘How delightful to see you such good friends already with our guest, Cousin Chastity,’ she trilled. ‘I am sure Monsieur de Montailhac is telling you all about the latest Paris fashions.’

In spite of his growing frustration, Arnaut had to swallow a laugh. Nobody could help the name their parents gave them but ‘Chastity’ did not sit well on this large and opulently endowed lady. She turned towards him and beamed. ‘He is making acquaintance with my dear Lydia here. So charming.’

Lydia nodded and wriggled without taking her eyes from his face. Did the girl have any conversation, he wondered, or was she simply her mother’s puppet? He was hemmed in by these three females. He would have felt less threatened among a hostile crowd at a prize fight. Thankfully, someone else addressed Cecilia and she was obliged to move away.

The clock on the mantelpiece struck the hour. Arnaut gave a silent groan. Think, dammit! he told himself. You have to escape without giving offence. He gave an exaggerated start and stood up, pretending to check the time.

‘More tea, Monsieur de Montailhac?’ Cecilia hastened back, blocking his way. This began to seem like a conspiracy. But he was going to escape. He smiled his most charming smile and handed her his cup, still untouched.

‘Thank you, no. I regret, but I am obliged to take my leave,’ he insisted over her shocked protests. ‘In such charming company I had almost forgotten that I’m engaged to spend this afternoon with an elderly friend of my father’s. He is housebound and so you appreciate I cannot disappoint him.’ It was not so far from the truth. He turned and bowed in the grand style his father had taught him. ‘Ladies, I am desolated but I cannot stay.’

He was aware of the sudden silence and the heads turning to follow him. Straight backed, he marched out of the room, letting out a deep breath once the door had closed behind him.

You can buy the book here       https://tinyurl.com/yaf6frr3

The Rake and His Honour, Arnaut’s story, is the second book in the Montailhac Family series. The first brother’s story is told in Scandalous Lady.   https://tinyurl.com/y978tol5

About the Author

Beth ElliottMy Welsh side has given me a vivid imagination which tends to overwhelm my practical Lancashire side. From a very young age I made up adventure stories and persuaded my childhood friends to act them out with me. When I had to join the real world I was a Languages teacher in several countries before giving in to the urge to write stories. A lifelong love of Mr Darcy Jane Austen inspired me to set my Regency Tales in the age of Napoleon. As I enjoy travelling around the Mediterranean, my characters tend to do the same. But they also go to London, Bath and Brighton, where adventures befall them, even when they try to live a normal Regency era life.

There are notes and pictures – and more information about the slightly exotic Montailhac family – at www.bethelliott.webs.com

An Ill-Fated Wedding

March 1826

Lady Bleakmore, well-known leader of society, attended the Duke of Murnane’s Wedding to Miss Julia Barrett of Cambridge, on Friday and has graciously sent our beloved newssheet a report of the festivities. 

First let me say that while one hesitates to speak ill of another, particularly in regard to so auspicious an event as a wedding, and one so well attended by the cream of the haut ton, one cannot but choose plain speaking.

In spite of the unseemly rush to the altar, the couple chose a formal church wedding at Saint George’s Hanover Square, rather than the private ceremony one might have expected under the Unfortunate Circumstances (more about that later). Given the bride’s déclassé origins one might have expected something less grand, but of course the wedding of a duke requires the attention of his peers, and Murnane, a young man of kindness and great promise, is much beloved by all.

Saint George’s Hanover Square, John Salmon [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The church, festooned with roses and ribbons, provided as rich a setting as one might want for such an event, although orchids have been known to add a certain panache to other ceremonies. The Rector, Mr. Willers, managed a dignified service and restrained his unfortunate tendency to ramble on for the most part.

 

by Sir John Soanes

The Earl of Chadbourn, the groom’s guardian and uncle, attended him at the altar. One might have expected Randolph Wheatly, his cousin, the younger brother of the countess, to take that role. The other cousin, the wild one, might have stepped in as well, but his regiment posted to India two months ago. Never one to report hearsay, I took a moment to speak with the sacristan about a rather nasty rumor. He confirmed that a loud quarrel tool place during the rehearsal, with the two young men closeted in an office, after which Mr. Wheatly stormed out not to return. Unfortunately my source did not overhear the reason for the conflict. I can only report that the cousin did not attend church, nor was he seen at the breakfast. One speculates about the impact the Unfortunate Circumstances may have had on this conflict.

The earl and his countess hosted a perfectly adequate wedding breakfast at their London town house, a much-admired edifice for all it is overrun by unruly children. Among those in attendance, the Duke and Duchess of Sudbury took precedence. The Duke’s sister (who chooses for reasons that no person of correct thinking understand to be plain Mrs. Mallet) sat along side with her husband, the schoolmaster’s son. The bride’s family, of gentry stock, were surrounded by no fewer than two dukes, four earls, three viscounts, and several barons. One felt sympathy for the people who were quite out of their element, though the manners of the parents were well enough.

Murnane, known to many as Charles—the Wheatlys being an unrepentantly informal family— greeted all guests graciously taking little notice of rank, as is his habit, one learned, no doubt, from his uncle the earl. A graceful and handsome young man, his subdued yet fashionable clothing enhanced his dignity. The repast made up in abundance what it may have lacked in extravagance; the countess can hold her head up. The groom, of course, didn’t notice the lack of finer tidbits, busy as he was sharing champagne and every appearance of joy with all and sundry.

What can one say of the bride? For all the correctness of her parents’ manners (they obviously understood their place) she is a pushing little thing. She flirted shamelessly with Viscount Corkinwall and several of the rakish young men during the wedding breakfast while her new husband appeared not to notice. One was forced to recall rather vile rumors Lady Elsbeth Willknott had from Cambridge regarding the young woman, rumors not to her credit. It appears she had been close to both of the young dukes cousins, one after another, rather too close. I suppose one cannot blame her for nabbing a duchess’s coronet, the cousins being plain misters, but the stories of her behavior lead to Rampant Speculation that breach among the young men resulted directly from her machinations.

Julia

One would like to assume that her behavior might settle and the conflict resolve itself, but for the Unfortunate Circumstances. I warn those of sensitive natures my plain speaking may offend. To say it with no embroidery, the bride appears to anticipate a Happy Event. While it is said this is often the case with rushed weddings, this one appears to be coming sooner rather than later. Coupled with her outrageous flirting and bold behavior, one is forced to fear for the success of this marriage. Pity. The duke is such a charming young man. He, of course, has the support of well-titled relatives and will always be received everywhere.

Lady Eunice Bleakmore

_____________________________________________________

Readers who’ve read The Renegade Wife and The Reluctant Wife will know the fate of Charles’s marriage and the fate of his relationship with his cousins. Those waiting anxiously for Charles to find his own happily-ever-after will be delighted to know the book is finished and on target for its May release. In the meantime, read books 1 and 2 if you haven’t already. A Dangerous Nativity, which is always free, is prequel in which the three heroes appear as boys.  You can find them all here

weddingAbout The Unexpected Wife

Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane, accepts an unofficial fact-finding mission to the East India Company’s enclave in Canton, China on behalf of the queen. He anticipates intrigue, international tensions, and an outlet for his grief over the death of his young son. He isn’t entirely surprised when he also encounters the troublesome offspring of his mentor, the Duke of Sudbury, but the profound love he discovers for the determined young woman is unforeseen and untimely. Charles certainly doesn’t expect to also face his troubled marriage in such an exotic locale. The appearance of his estranged wife in the company of their enemy throws the entire enterprise into conflict, and tensions boil over when the woman he loves is put at risk by his wife’s scheming—and the beginnings of the First Opium War.

Zambak Hayden seethes with frustration. A woman her age has occupied the throne for over a year, yet the Duke of Sudbury’s line of succession still passes over her—his eldest—to land on a son with neither spine nor character. She follows her brother, the East India Company’s newest and least competent clerk, to protect him and to safeguard the family honor—if she also escapes the gossip and intrigues of London and the marriage mart, so much the better. She has no intention of being forced into some sort of dynastic marriage, and she may just refuse to marry at all. The greed and corruption she finds horrifies her, especially when her brother succumbs to the lure of opium. She determines to document the truth and save her brother from falling prey to drugs and sinister forces. When an old family friend arrives she assumes her father sent him. She isn’t about to bend to his dictates nor give up her quest. Her traitorous heart, however, can’t stop yearning for a man she can’t have.

As an epic historical drama unfolds around them, both Charles and Zambak must come to terms with a love that neither expected.

About Caroline Warfield

Family, faith, love of travel, and love of history drive Caroline’s life and writings. You can read about her here.

 

A Famous Artist Asks For Help

Dear Mr. Clemens,

Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun. A self-portrait. The late 18th-early 19th century French portrait painter was one of Marie-Antoinette’s favourite court painters

I am writing to ask if you will lend your considerable influence as one of society’s leading doyen in sponsoring a talented young artist I have taken a liking to.

Miss Laura Cappleman, you may have heard, made a successful debut in the Season of 1814, but the events after that time have been largely tragic.

You might think it quite selfish of me to make light of the poor girl’s misfortune, but it seems to have quite the unexpected outcome.

You see, her experience has made her art one of a kind. When she paints scenes of the Oriental marketplaces of Africa or of life inside the Ottoman harem, one is utterly transported.

One can feel the beating heat of the sun, smell the pungent aroma of the spices, shudder the menace of the large eunuchs and their scimitars, be awe-struck by the opulence inside these pleasure palaces.

Miss Cappleman knows these places first hand. If her name didn’t ring a bell when I first mentioned it, I’m sure you remember hearing about her abduction in August of 1814 at the hands of white slavers. It was covered in The Times.

The story of her rescue two years later is one of the most remarkable tales I’ve heard. I’m trying to persuade her to draw on her experience more to create great art for the world to see.

The Royal Academy summer exhibition is the perfect opportunity for this young lady to make a debut of another sort – a launch into the artworld which is her due.

A word in the ear of the Royal Academy directors and sponsors to consider this impressive young artist would be considered a personal favour.

Yours,
Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Revenge of the Corsairs

Madame Vigée-Le Brun stood in front of the still life. She pulled a small pince-nez from her reticule to take a close look. After a minute or two, the great French artist left that painting without comment and examined the portrait of Victoria.

Pull yourself together, Laura! If she were to enter the Royal Academy’s exhibition, her works would be judged worthy or wanting in a heartbeat. If she were to exhibit at all, many people would be staring at her work. Yet this somehow, seemed different.

After a length of time, the French woman looked up from the portrait and spoke. “I understand from your sister-in-law that you have returned to England only recently.”

“Yes. I spent time abroad.”

“Did you do anything? Did you see anything?”

Laura’s mouth dried. “I, ah, I mean, I spent time in Sicily and…”

The artist removed the glasses. “And you experienced nothing?”

“I beg your pardon?”

The older woman let out a long, put-upon sigh. “All I see is practiced technique, adequate color choice, and a schoolgirl’s sensibilities.”

Laura couldn’t help the gasp that escaped her mouth.

“I’m sure you are a delight to your friends and family, who no doubt praise you endlessly, but I am not here to coddle or to give you false flattery. I do not see the soul of an artist in these paintings.”

Laura fought a trembling of shame, and fear, and disappointment. It was a small miracle she was able to reply, “Then I am sorry to have wasted your time, Madame.”

The woman shrugged. “I said I would look at your works and I will.”

The third painting, she studied for a few seconds; the fourth, the landscape, received nothing more than a cursory glance. “I spent three years in Rome, I was inducted into the Accademia di San Luca,” she continued conversationally, either unaware or unconcerned Laura’s hope had turned to dust.

“How very nice for you,” replied Laura, bitterness dripping from each word.

“What I am trying to say to you, ma fille, is your work seems utterly unmarked by your time abroad. That, I fear, makes you a dabbler, someone who pretends to be an artist. If you can live on La Méditerranée and not be influenced by such histoire, people, and surroundings, then I’m afraid you will be nothing more than a very little talent.”

Laura looked down. Her knuckles were white, but her face, she was sure, was puce. Her disappointment of a few moments ago was now a rage. How dare that woman say she was unmarked!

“How dare you?” she repeated out loud, unaware Madame Vigée-Le Brun had approached her final painting.

“You have no idea what happened to me there. No idea! I have been scarred to the depths of my soul. I was seized and imprisoned for nearly two years in an Ottoman harem. I was violated repeatedly by a man who had the power of life and death over me. The only good thing I have left is painting. Can you blame me for not wanting it tainted?”

When she looked up, Madame Vigée-Le Brun was not looking at her; she peered instead at the last painting, the Tunisian market scene. “La! That is it – c’est de cela que je parlais!”

Her face animated, the woman turned the easel around so the canvas faced them both. Laura could feel the desert heat of its colors from where she stood.

“You are afraid of this beast that is locked in your breast? Let it out, my dear! You cannot hide from it! I see hints of it in this painting here. In this work, I begin to see the world as you see it.”

Revenge of the Corsairs out now exclusive to Amazon

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