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Tag: Christmas

An Interview with Mrs. Barlow

Susana’s time-traveling Regency lady, Lady Pendleton, came down with a stomach ailment and was unable to travel to Oxfordshire to complete the series of interviews she agreed to before returning to the 21st century. (Prior to that, however, she did manage to interview Jane Livingston the hero’s sister, while they were both enjoying the Little Season in London.) And she somehow contrived to send Mrs. Barlow, Lucy’s mother, to Susana at her winter home in Florida for a brief interview. Susana is determined that someday she’s going to find out how Lady P manages to do these things.

Susana: Welcome to Florida, Mrs. Barlow. I hope you enjoy your stay. May I offer you some refreshments?

Mrs. Barlow: [looking around her in wonder] No thank you, Miss Ellis. My stomach is still a bit queasy from the journey.

Susana: Oh dear, I hope you are not coming down with the same ailment that has sidelined my friend Lady Pendleton.

Mrs. Barlow: Lady Pendleton? Oh yes, the woman who sent me here. She’s a bit-er-eccentric, is she not?

Susana: [hiding a smile] Indeed she is, Mrs. Barlow. But kindhearted and quite harmless, really.

Mrs. Barlow: [looking relieved] I’m glad to hear it, Miss Ellis. This is all quite a shock, you know. She said you wished to inquire about my daughter Lucy?

Susana: Er, yes. It’s research for a story I’m writing. I understand you have five daughters?

Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing] Indeed I do. Five daughters to marry off and no sons.

Susana: And Lucy is the eldest?

Mrs. Barlow: Yes, she is already eight and ten years of age and of an age to make her bow to Society, but unfortunately, her father and I have not the means to stake her. [Shaking her head] A house in London with servants is enormously expensive. We cannot even stand the cost of providing her with a suitable wardrobe. [Sighing] It is very sad, really. Lucy is a delightful girl who would be a splendid wife, but there are few eligible gentlemen here in Charlbury.

Susana: I understand the young man next door recently returned from service in the Peninsula. Livingston, I believe. Andrew Livingston. Could he be a prospect, do you think?

Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing deeply] No, unfortunately he’s betrothed to some London chit. Since before he took up his colors two years ago. I suppose they’ll be marrying posthaste now that he’s returned. A shame really, because Lucy has always had a tendre for him. The Livingstons are an unexceptionable family and quite well-to-heel, and it would be a great thing if Lucy were to be settled so near, but no, he’s never seen Lucy as anything but a child.

Susana: What a conundrum! Are there no other ways for young ladies to meet eligible gentlemen in the country?

Mrs. Barlow: Occasionally, someone’s cousin or nephew comes to town for a visit, but there are few eligibles in that lot. There are assemblies, of course. Oh, that reminds me. [Perking up] There was a quite agreeable viscount at the last assembly who seemed quite taken with Lucy. He danced twice with her. Perhaps he will come to call soon. Oh my, that would be a marvelous thing for my girls! To have their sister a viscountess who can sponsor them in London when the time comes! I must urge Lucy to encourage him!

Susana: Was she equally taken with him, then?

Mrs. Barlow: [shrugging] These things resolve themselves over time. I don’t believe she was repulsed by him. He looked well enough, for an older gentleman, and his manners were unexceptionable. It is said that he was a considerate husband to his late wife, and seems to be devoted to his three daughters.

Susana: Oh, he’s a widower. No doubt looking for a mother for his daughters.

Mrs. Barlow: And an heir, of course. He still needs a son to inherit the title, and Lucy is young enough to manage that.

Susana: [Doubtfully] I suppose so, and yet—one could wish a love match for her.

Mrs. Barlow: [Stiffening] Lucy is a practical girl, and not at all the sort to waste time dreaming of the impossible. She will make a wonderful wife and mother and take great pleasure in using her elevated circumstances to assist her sisters.

Susana: I’m sure she will, Mrs. Barlow. I did not mean to imply otherwise. Please forgive me if I offended you.

Mrs. Barlow: [Relaxing] Of course. I’m afraid this is a topic about which Mr. Barlow and I frequently cross swords. He says Lucy is still young and will find her own way. But he’s never been the most practical man, and I suspect he’d be just as glad to have all of them at home with us forever.

Susana: An indulgent father then. [Glances at the clock]. Oh dear, it’s almost time for our visit to end. I wonder if you’d like to take a walk around the park, Mrs. Barlow. It’s such a lovely day, and you might enjoy the flora and fauna here in central Florida. Perhaps we’ll even see an alligator in the lake.

Mrs. Barlow: An alligator! Goodness!

Susana: From a distance, of course. But there are palm trees and snake birds, and plenty of sun to warm you before you go back to chilly England

Mrs. Barlow: [shivering] Chilly indeed! The weather has been exceptionally cold this year. By all means, let us walk a bit in the sunshine.

And so ends the interview. It may interest you to know that the winter of 1813-1814, when A Twelfth Night Tale takes place, was one of the coldest on record, so much so that in February the Thames froze and a frost fair was held for four days, during which an elephant was led across the river under Blackfriars Bridge.

Leah Barlow

Introducing Mrs. Barlow

Mrs. Leah Barlow, mother of five lovely daughters herself, has graciously condescended to provide Susana’s Parlour (see today’s post here) with some of her tasteful advisements on housewifely matters, such as meal planning and the rearing of children, in hopes that our readers will find them informative. Having recently set up a Twitter account where she will be sharing her most treasured household tips, she hopes many of you will follow her: https://twitter.com/lucybarlowsmom

Much of her advice comes from this manual, which she insists should be in every housewife’s possession:

The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, Containing the Most approved Modern Receipts for Making Soups, Gravies, Sauces, Regouts, and All Made-dishes; and for Pies, Puddings, Pickles, and Preserves; Also, for Baking Brewing, Making Home-made Wines, Cordials, &c.

Mrs. Margaret Dods (Christian Isobel Johnstone), Edinburgh, 1826

Available free on Google

About A Twelfth Night Tale

Without dowries or the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. When Lucy, the eldest, attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, she knows she should encourage his attentions, since marriage to a peer will be advantageous to all. The man of her dreams was Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and now he’s betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to accept reality… and Lord Bexley.

Andrew returned from the Peninsular War with a lame arm and emotional scars. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend, “little Lucy”—now a strikingly lovely young woman—who shows him the way out of his melancholy. But with an eligible viscount courting her, Andrew will need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.

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A Woman’s Tears

590px-sir_humphry_davy_bt_by_thomas_phillipsLord Nicholas Lacy waited but an instant in his bedroom until he decided it was in his best interests to follow his wife. Juliette had wasted little time making her way down into the foyer. From the top of the stairs, he watched whilst she linked arms with her sister, Genevieve, and their mother and began ushering them to the door with a hasty comment of joining them shortly in their carriage.

She turned back towards the servant and reached for her gloves, practically snapping them into place in her frustration. She must have sensed his presence on the stairway for her head rose, along with one delicate arched brow. She was miffed at him and he deserved it. This was not the first time that business had taken him away from their plans.

Nicholas descended the stairs and held out a hand to the maid who gladly turned his wife’s pelisse over to him. He placed the garment over her shoulders before turning her to face him. She refused to look at him but it took only a gentle touch of his fingers skimming her cheek until she raised her eyes, brimming with unshed tears. They had always been his downfall.

Placing a kiss upon her forehead, he pulled her into his embrace and held her. Her resolve weakened with a heavy sigh as she, too, wrapped her arms around his waist. “Please come with us, Nicholas,” she begged, resting her head upon his chest.

“I will be just two days behind, my dearest. Surely you can enjoy your sister’s and mother’s company until we are reunited? Such a parting will not be that long,” he murmured breathing in the heavenly scent of roses that lingered in her hair. Since the foyer had become empty, with the exception of the two of them, he began nibbling at her neck. If only he were able to reconsider.

juliette-pauline-de-remusatJuliette lifted her head to stare upon him. “You promised…” she whispered, and it tore at his heart to see his beautiful wife so miserable. Rising on the tips of her toes, she kissed him before he could find a way to answer her when all he really wished to do was carry her back upstairs.

He heard her quiet moan and broke off their kiss before he forgot himself. “Juliette…” Her name passed his lips like a soft caress whilst his heart flipped within his chest.

Je t’aime, Nicholas.” Her soft French accent rushed across his soul causing him to shiver in delight to hear his own name and words of love pour from her delectable mouth like the sweetest of wines.

“And I love you, ma chère,” he responded, pressing another kiss upon her parted lips. He placed her hand in the crook of his elbow and began escorting her towards the door. “You shall have two days of shopping to your heart’s content without me getting in the way. Surely, that will make you happy?”

“Shopping is not what makes me happy, Nicolas, and you know it. I would rather an hour in your company than two days spent purchasing a bunch of things that truly hold no meaning.”

“Do not be cross with me, Juliette. Before you know it, I will be right by your side so you may once more enjoy my sparkling wit and conversation.”

Juliette pulled on his arm to halt their progress before she thrust two fingers towards his face. “Two days, Nicolas, and not a day more, or I will return here to the countryside and retrieve you myself.”

Nicholas chuckled. “Of course, my dear,” he agreed.


They made their way outside whilst their daughter, Blanche, climbed down from the carriage after giving her aunt and grandmother hugs. After Juliette made herself comfortable in the carriage, Nicholas and his daughter wished them all safe travels and waved goodbye. The vision of his wife blowing them a kiss through the window would haunt Nicholas for many years to come. Regret was a terrible thing to have to live with.


This is an original piece and prequel to A Kiss for Charity, a Regency novella within the Bluestocking Belles upcoming box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts, to be released November 8, 2016. It is available for pre-order for $2.99 at online retailers. 25% of the proceeds benefit the Belles’ mutual charity the Malala Fund.

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Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical & time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. Always wanting to write a novel but busy raising her children, she finally took the plunge in 2008 and wrote her first Regency. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Beau Monde & the Bluestocking Belles. Sherry is currently working on her next novel and when not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry’s work here on her page with the Bluestocking Belles or on the following social media outlets:

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Holly and Hopeful Hearts

Your proprietor, as is well known, is proof against the arrows of the mischievous son of Aphrodite, but sympathetic to those who fall subject to the god’s shafts. Especially when their love seems doomed to disappointment, for who does not like a happy ending against the odds? Today, on behalf of the proprietors, The Teatime Tattler is publishing a special edition to announce a new book from the Bluestocking Belles; one in which no fewer than eight couples are surprised by Cupid’s attentions.

Without further ado, allow your humble servant, Mr. Samuel Clemens, Editor, to present:


When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Read about all eight novellas, and find pre-order links, on the Bluestocking Belles Holly & Hopeful Hearts page.

In between the seven main stories in the box set, one chapter at a time, we tell the story of the duchess’s companion, and her search for a meaningful future. Can it be possible for a poor relation to find a suitable husband?


As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Perhaps among the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party, she will find a suitable husband?

Marcel Fournier has only one ambition: to save enough from his fees serving in as chef in the houses of the ton to become the proprietor of his own fine restaurant. An affair with the duchess’s dependent would be dangerous. Anything else is impossible. Isn’t it?

An extract from A Suitable Husband

Marcel had disguised himself in a costume found in the attics

Marcel had disguised himself in a costume found in the attics

Mademoiselle Grenford looked up as he approached, tipping her head a little to one side as she waited for him to speak.

“May I have the honor of this dance, fair shepherdess?” he asked.

She furrowed her brows for the briefest of seconds. “I do not dance, sir, but I will find you a partner—”

“Not dance? When your costume is made to swirl on the dance floor, and the music begs—nay, demand—for you to pay homage?” A slip there. He had pronounced homage in the French way.

Her eyes widened, but she said nothing, merely—oh joy—placed her gloved hand in his and allowed herself to be conducted through the doors to join the waltz.

They began slowly, his hands resting tentatively just above her waist, and hers placed lightly on his shoulders. He honoured the respectable distance due to a maiden, but as they began to circle one another in the dance, his legs shifted past hers and could not avoid repeated touching.

Turn, turn, and turn again. The candles of the chandeliers seemed to whirl above them, the other dancers disappeared, and he and Mademoiselle Grenford were alone in the ballroom. She swayed and dipped and twirled with him, light as a feather but far more substantial, a delight to his hands, his arms, and his legs.

Her eyes fixed on his, her face flushed, she murmured, “Monsieur Fournier, what are you doing here?”

It was a dose of cold water, jerking him back to reality. Would she rebuke him? Tell the duchess?

Only Marcel saw beyond the spectacles and the tightly controlled hair.

Only Marcel saw beyond the spectacles and the tightly controlled hair.

“One dance,” he managed, almost begged. “I promised not to importune you, mademoiselle, but I thought… In costume, no one would know if I stole one dance.”

Somehow, his feet kept moving, they kept dancing, round and round and round, their legs shifting past each other’s again and again, their eyes still locked.

She smiled, a benison beyond his deserving. “This dance is not a theft, monsieur, when I give it willingly.”


He was in heaven. He was no longer dancing; he was floating several inches about the ballroom floor. She knows me even in my disguise. She dances with me willingly.

His heart was too full for speech, and she said nothing more as they continued around the floor, oblivious to everything except the music and one another.

Marcel stepped back when the music ended, dropping his hands from her waist to her hands, unable to resist touching her for a moment more. “Thank you, mademoiselle. Thank you more than I can say. I will leave now, but you have given me food for many happy dreams.”

“No.” Mademoiselle Grenford folded her fingers around his and tugged him to follow her. By chance, they had stopped at the most poorly lit end of the ballroom, close to the corner where a door let on to a servant’s passage, and it was to this she marched determinedly, with Marcel bobbing after in her wake.

No. Not that door. She was opening a door onto the terrace, and in moments, they were outside.

“I do not want it to end,” she said. “Will you not consent to sit and talk with me for a little?”

Consent? Did she not know he would consent to the guillotine for her sake?

He would return to his kitchen to dream of that one perfect dance.

He would return to his kitchen to dream of that one perfect dance.

For more of our stories, see our individual blogs:

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight

Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett


Scandal at the Masquerade Ball

Gentle readers, I do hope you will not be in too great of an uproar when I tell you this, but I am most certain that there was a great deal of scandalous behavior that occurred at the most recent masquerade ball.

Now, when one wears a mask, the propensity to engage in shocking and outrageous behavior might be tempting, but that does not mean one should give in, and give in I feel certain did happen. Why, I saw several ladies, including one in particular, who spent the entire night talking to a man. Talking and laughing and looking positively too comfortable. This lady had no chaperone with her that I could tell. If her mother only realized the kind of behavior her daughter was engaging in…

But there was another lady too, who, honestly, did not quite seem to fit in. She kept to herself, likewise without a chaperone, but then I spied her dancing with a strapping tall man. They seemed to have eyes for no other, and at one point, I even saw her lift her mask to reveal her face to him!

Now I know just about everyone who is anyone, and I can assuredly tell you, my dear readers, that I did not recognize this lady. My mind continually only goes in one direction—that the lady was no lady at all. But who could she have been?

The man she spent time with seemed beside himself after the lady-who-might-not-be-a-lady left and shortly thereafter departed from the masquerade ball himself. Whether the two will ever cross paths again, I do not know, but I must confess to being disappointed he did not lift his mask as well. I would very much be interested to know who he was, as well as the first lady and her gentleman… friend.

I will be certain to keep an eye open to see if I cannot spy the lady somewhere. I do think it is possible to find love at such a ball—I, myself, in my youth had done the same—but love is not always enough nowadays, it is sad to say.

When, not if, I learn more, I will be sure to share it with you, good readers, do not fret.


Your humble servant,

A concerned masquerade attendee


The masked man and the lady who reveals her face are the main characters in Masked Love.

MaskedLove1600x2400 MASKED LOVE

Isabelle will do anything for her lady, even accompany her to a masquerade ball. Lady Theodosia needs extra support for tomorrow she will meet the man her par-ents have pledged her to.

Meeting an enchanting young man during the course of the evening makes Isabelle wish for a life she can never have. Imagine her shock when he shows up the next morning, announcing his claim on Lady Thedosia.

Torn between duty and desire, Isabelle hopes for something more this Christmas.


Heat: PG

Regency Christmas novella

Series: Beyond Boundaries #1

Price: 0.99

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Nicole is one of the Belles. You can learn more about her here.

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