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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/

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

Twitter @CaroWarfield

Email warfieldcaro@gmail.com

 

 

Someone Always Sees

Lady Constance Whittles made her way across the crowded ballroom after finishing a lively dance with none other than the dashing Lord Digby Osgood. She had taken delight with the free time allotted her since she no longer worked at the bookshop. She was more than please with any opportunity to get to know the gentleman further. She might as well take advantage of every moment she could spend in his company before she began her new position at Miss Clemens’s Oxford Street Book Palace & Tea Rooms.

Digby led her over to a chair near a window where a slight breeze blew in through the open balcony doors. “Wine or punch?” he asked once she was seated.

“Punch would be divine,” she said with a parched throat.

“I will be right back. Do you mind if I have a brief conversation with Frederick before I return? I see he just arrived with Margaret?”

“By all means, go right ahead. I shall be fine here watching the dancing until your return.”

He gave a brief bow and disappeared through the crowded room while Constance snapped open her fan to bring relief to her flushed face. She was not sitting alone long before she heard the quiet whisperings of two women behind her in the darkened entryway. She did not mean to overhear their conversations but they made no attempt to quiet their voices. Most likely they thought the music would dim their gossiping from traveling any further than between them.

“How could you not have heard such distressing news, Abigail?”

A loud sigh was heard. “Good heavens, Prudence. You have the latest news on any given hour of the day. How am I supposed to keep up with you on whatever bit of gossip that is none of my business in the first place?”

With a discreet glance behind her, Constance held back the urge to roll her eyes. The Danver sisters… She had met them on several occasions in the bookshop. They were relatively harmless creatures, yet the elder of the two had a penchant for wanting to share whatever tidbit was been bandied about without much thought. Thankfully her younger sibling kept her in check.

“This is not gossip but fact and is regarding the son of our hosts,” Prudence continued.

“Lord Drayton?”

“His brother is too far young to be of much interest… yet. Of course this is about none other than Neville Quinn.” The sound of a small slap was heard. “What was that for? You hurt my arm.”

“You are over exaggerating, I barely touched you. Besides, beware you are not overheard addressing him so informally lest you wish to be the next one people are talking about,” Abigale scolded.

“Pish, posh! I think not. Besides, I would not dare let my reputation be ruined because I was having an affair.”

“Whatever are you talking about, Prudence?

“Honestly, Abigail, do you know nothing of what is going on around you?”

“Apparently not, but I have the distinct feeling you shall fill me in.”

“Lord Drayton is having an affair with a married woman.”

Laughter came from the younger sister. “Is that all? Look inside, sister. Half the men in that room are probably having an affair or have taken a mistress.”

“But Abigail, do you not wish to hear with whom he─”

“No, not really,” Abigail stated. “Let us return to the ball. I am sure we can find something more interesting to converse about.”

“No husband of mine would ever dare have an affair on me,” Prudence muttered.

“If my husband attempted such, I would see him gelded. He would not be much use to anyone after such a fate,” Abigail added with a laugh.

The two women moved on leaving Constance to ponder their words, not that she would be one to spread their tale further. She noticed when Lord Drayton entered the room with two other gentlemen Constance was unfamiliar with. He looked on edge as though he took no pleasure at being in attendance at his parent’s event. He gave a meager smile towards his mother before moving from Constance’s view.

Lord Digby returned with her punch and after a few sips, they moved onto the dance floor. The Danver sister’s conversation still lingered in her mind causing Constance to wonder the fate of the poor woman who must have stolen Lord Drayton’s heart.

This is an original piece by Sherry Ewing for her upcoming release. Nothing But Time: A Family of Worth, Book One is available for pre-order for $2.99. Release date: May 16, 2017. You can learn more about Sherry on her page here with the Bluestocking Belles or on her website at: www.SherryEwing.com.

Blurb:

They will risk everything for their forbidden love…

When Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington is forced to marry a man old enough to be her father, she concludes love will never enter her life. Her husband is a cruel man who blames her for his own failings. Then she meets her brother’s attractive business associate, and all those longings she had thought gone forever suddenly reappear.

A long-term romance holds no appeal for Neville Quinn, Earl of Drayton until an unexpected encounter with the sister of the Duke of Hartford. Still, he resists giving his heart to another woman, especially one who belongs to another man.

Chance encounters lead to intimate dinners, until Neville and Gwendolyn flee to Berwyck Castle at Scotland’s border hoping beyond reason their fragile love will survive the vindictive reach of Gwendolyn’s possessive husband. Before their journey is over, Gwendolyn will risk losing the only love she has ever known.

Buy Links:

Amazon US  |  iBooks  |  Kobo

Amazon AU  |  Amazon BR  |  Amazon CA  |  Amazon DE  |  Amazon ES

Amazon FR  |  Amazon IN  |  Amazon MX  |  AmazonNL |  Amazon UK

Bio:

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 online here:

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The Dias Imposter

Fazenda Oliveira, Sao Paulo State, Brazil, 1872

Join me behind the slightly ajar larder door as I spy on two Fazenda Oliveira kitchen maids discussing their new colleague.

The Fazenda

Celina wiped her hands on her apron and glanced over her shoulder toward the kitchen entrance. Thinking they were alone, she turned back and smirked at Estela across the large kitchen worktable. “This new maid is going to be trouble for sure. Have you noticed how all the men simper when she’s around? Where on earth did they find her?”

Estela waggled her eyebrows. “Well, she’s supposed to be old Adriana Dias’s niece raised in the Falkland Islands.”

Celina frowned. “Where?”

“You know. The Islas Malvinas. The Falklands, as the English call the islands now.”

“Uh-huh.” Celina snorted and winked at Estela. “If she’s Adriana’s niece, then I’m Imperador Dom Pedro Segundo’s lady, Princess of the Two Sicilies, Teresa Cristina herself! A red-haired, green-eyed Dias? Such a thing does not exist.”

The Coffee Plantation

“True.” Estela spread her arms in an imitation of grace and poise. “If she’s a Dias, I am Senhora Consuelo, Monarch of Fazenda Oliveira. All must bow to before me.”

Celina lifted her wooden spoon like a scepter. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Senhora.”

“And yours, Imperadora.” Estela’s curtsey dragged the hem of her skirt against the floor.

A serious expression replaced the mirth in Celina’s eyes. “Silliness aside, have you listened to her accent? She doesn’t speak like anyone I’ve ever heard, not even the English gentleman who visited last month. Grew up around the English? I do not think so.”

“Well,” Estela replied, “I heard that she just appeared at Adriana and Ricardo’s house. Popped up out of nowhere. One day it was just the two of them, the next they had a niece. No one seems to know how she got here.”

“Really? She’s a strange one for certain.” Leaning over the table, Celina continued in a whisper, “Have you noticed the way the young master looks at her? She better watch out there.”

“Why?” Estela’s voice held a note of indignation. “Senhor Gustavo is so handsome and rich and nice.”

Celina raised her brow and tilted her head. “He may be beautiful to behold, but be wary. Have you not heard the story of why he was sent away for all those years?” Estela shook her head and stretched closer to Celina, who continued, “Rumor says he got one the maids with child and then killed her out of fear that Old Dragon Lady Consuelo would disinherit him for consorting with a peasant.”

A pink glow crept across Estela’s cheeks. “I can’t believe Senhor Gustavo could do such a terrible thing. He’s always been kind and polite to me.”

“That’s because you look like a cow.” Celina pursed her lips. “Believe me. If you looked like this Maria, you would have much to fear.”

Estela scowled. “As if you look so much better. You’re just a jealous cow yourself. Senhor Gus would not hurt a dog, much less kill someone.”

“So you believe, but what I know is that the girl disappeared. When her family came looking for her, they were sent away under threat from Consuelo.”

“That doesn’t mean the girl’s dead.”

“Perhaps.” Celina straightened up and placed a fist on each hip. “What I know for certain is this. We already have enough Oliveira bastards littering the ground and Senhora Consuelo is determined there will be no more. This Maria will be trouble. You can count on it!”

About the Book

Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War, Confederado do Norte tells the story of Mary Catherine, a child torn from her war devastated home in Georgia and thrust into the primitive Brazilian interior where the young woman she becomes must learn to recreate herself in order to survive.

October, 1866.
Mary Catherine is devastated when her family emigrates from Georgia to Brazil because her father and maternal uncle refuse to accept the terms of Reconstruction following the Confederacy’s defeat. Shortly after arrival in their new country, she is orphaned, leaving her in Uncle Nathan’s care. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his sister’s death. She despises him because she believes Nathan murdered her father. When Mary Catherine discovers Nathan’s plan to be rid of her as well, she flees into the mountain wilderness filled with jaguars and equally dangerous men. Finding refuge among kind peasants, she grows into a beauty, ultimately attracting the attention of the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. Happiness and security seem within reach until civil unrest brings armed marauders who have an inexplicable connection to Mary Catherine. Recreating herself has protected Mary Catherine in the past, but this new crisis will demand all of the courage, intelligence, and creativity she possesses simply to survive.

Buy it on Amazon

~Excerpt~

I dreamt the dream again last night. In the small hours, I awoke in a tumble of bedclothes and bathed in perspiration despite the howling snowstorm blanketing the city. I rearranged quilts and plumped pillows, but sleep remained elusive. My mind refused to be quiet.

As often happens after such a night, I felt unable to rise at my usual hour and remained abed long after the maids cleared breakfast from the morning room. My daughter-in-law, bless her heart, meant well. I told her it was ridiculous to bring the doctor out on such a frigid day, but apparently the very old, like the very young, are not to be trusted in matters of judgment. After the doctor listened to my chest, a studied sympathy filled his eyes and he gently suggested that perhaps I should get my affairs in order. No doubt he wondered at my smile for he couldn’t have known I have no affairs other than my memories and the emotions they engender.

Unlike most elderly persons, I don’t revel in slogging through the past. It isn’t wrapped in pretty ribbons or surrounded by a golden aura. Instead, its voices haunt my dreams, demanding and accusatory. Until recently, I’ve resisted their intrusion into my waking life, but I now believe the past can no longer remain buried in nocturnal visions. It must be brought out into the light of day. From its earliest moments onward, the past’s substance must be gouged out, pulled apart, and examined bit by bit until its truth is exposed. While total objectivity may not be possible, I have concluded that committing the past to paper is my best hope for sorting facts from imaginings. Perhaps then I will achieve the peace that has so long hidden its face from me.

You see, when I was quite young—only a girl really—I killed four people. Two were dearly beloved, one was a hated enemy, and the last was a dangerous criminal.

About the Author

Linda has been in love with the past for as long as she can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws her in. She supposes it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on her grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into her work.

As for her venture in writing, she has this to say. “Writing has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to herself, ‘Let’s pretend.’ ”

Linda resides in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

“History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Voltaire  

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The Passionate Mr. Gilbert

Your intrepid reporter, Saralee Etter, is here in Yorkshire at the beautiful ancestral castle known as Snowden Hall, speaking with Mr. William S. Gilbert. When he is not (as he is now) a guest at an exclusive country house party, he works for the Department of Education while also preparing for a future career as a barrister.

William Gilbert as an ensign

Mr. Gilbert is over 6 feet tall, slender, and possesses a lounging grace in his movements. You might think him German, because he is fair with tawny mustaches and blue eyes. Quick-tempered and quick-witted, he has an amazing talent for clever wordplay. He places a high value on honor and loyalty. His natural reserve makes him appear almost brusque toward strangers and those he doesn’t like, but no one could be kinder or more generous to his friends.

WSG: (looking over my shoulder) You might want to mention that I’ve written a few play reviews and comic pieces for Fun.

SLE: For fun? Have they been published anywhere?

WSG: Yes, in Fun! Fun magazine. I write a weekly column, accompanied by a half-page drawing. And you might remove the adjectives “amazing” and “clever” from your descriptions above. That’s a bit too too, as the Aesthetic types would say.

SLE: And you also write burlesque plays, I hear. Aren’t they a bit risqué?

William S. Gilbert

WSG: My dear lady, you’re thinking of the American burlesque. In England, a burlesque is a comedy based on puns, nonsense and extravagant wordplay, similar to a Christmas pantomime. They are often parodies of well-known operas. I’ve written a dozen of them – you may have heard of my version of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore? I called it Dulcamara! Or the Little Duck and the Big Quack. No? How about Robert the Devil, or the Nun, the Dun, and the Son of a Gun? Well, you are American, after all.

SLE: Tell me what brings you to Snowden Hall, up here in Yorkshire.

WSG: The North Eastern Railway. Very well, I came here because my two sisters, Maude and Florence, were all in a lather to visit the place. Both of them cherish hopes of marrying our host, baronet Sir John Snowden, although I can’t see how they’ll manage it. Generally a fellow is limited to only one wife at a time, and the law prohibits him from marrying sisters one after another. So at least one sister is bound to be disappointed, and most likely both. Furthermore, they aren’t the only young women here who are angling to wed a baronet.

Lucy Turner

SLE: Are you referring to Miss Lucy Turner?

WSG: (laughs) Little Lucy! If anybody could win a fellow over, it’s her. I call her Kitten—she’s an adorable little ball of fluff with a surprising streak of temper and willfulness. People underestimate her. She may be tiny, but like any kitten she can do a lot of damage with those razor-sharp teeth and claws.

SLE: So you think Sir John might ask for Miss Turner’s hand in marriage?

WSG: I hope not! That is, Kitten’s much too young for me, but I don’t fancy that Sir John as a husband for any young woman I care about. He’s far too slick and ingratiating. The danger is, she might accept him if he offers for her, because of that wretched curate.

SLE: Which wretched curate is that? You don’t mean Rev. Reed Niemand from the Victoria Road Church in Kensington?

WSG: That’s exactly the one. He used to mope and sigh and pant over little Kitten, and then suddenly, poof! One morning, he became another girl’s love-sick boy.

SLE: The curate fell in love with another woman? Who?

WSG: My sisters report that his new love is none other than our host’s sister, Miss Tallullah Snowden. And now they’re all here together at this blasted house party! I don’t envy Mr. Niemand at all. That curate is going to be one sorry fellow when Kitten catches up with him.

SLE: But I heard that Mr. Niemand had not promised to marry Miss Turner.

WSG: That doesn’t matter. Every female in Kensington knew about it and were loud in their pity, so Kitten was as good as jilted. I just hope I can stop her before she does something drastic.

SLE: Thank you for your time. I hope that this country house visit is pleasant and uneventful!

About the Author

Saralee Etter is the author of three traditional Regency romances. She’s presently working on A SHORT SHARP SHOCK, the first novel in a Victorian-set mystery series featuring sleuth Lucy Turner and her friends, William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. You can visit her on the web at www.saraleeetter.com, or check out her blog, A Fine Mystery Indeed, at www.saraleeetter.com/blog1

 

 

 

 

 

Conversation Heard on the Street

Lobster Cove, Maine, September 20, 1851

Well, you asked if there’s anything interesting going on in our little town of Lobster Cove, so I’ll just share a tidbit I heard the other day. I don’t normally gossip. You know me—Bertha Mayer’s a respectable woman. But I don’t feel I have the right to keep something so scandalous to myself.

It’s about that Lisbeth O’Shea—widowed barely a year, her husband lost at sea and his body never found. There was plenty of talk about him before he died. Said he took up with other women including that barmaid over at the Hogshead, the one who already has an illegitimate son. But I always thought Lisbeth a respectable woman. A respectable widow, if you know what I mean. Now she’s gone and given widowhood a bad name.

What’s she done? Only moved in with that handsome blacksmith, Rab Sinclair—the one with the thick Scottish accent and those fine blue eyes—moved right into his bachelor quarters behind the forge, she has. Shameless! Such things just aren’t done in our quiet town. Of course, Rab claims he hasn’t been staying there nights. He says he’s been sleeping down the street at the livery stable. As if anyone believes that.

You know, half the women in Lobster Cove have been chasing him for years but he’s barely looked at any of them. Makes me wonder now. Did Rab have an eye for Lisbeth even back when her husband was still alive? Just what did happen to Declan O’Shea anyhow, when his boat wrecked? People do funny things, especially when the heart’s involved.

But I have to say, just between you and me…if a woman, even a respectable widow, were to throw caution to the winds it just might be for the sake of a man like Rab Sinclair. Now, promise you won’t repeat that to anyone!

About the Book

When the trawler White Gull was lost in a storm off the coast of Lobster Cove, Lisbeth O’Shea’s husband, Declan, was lost along with it. At least that’s what Lisbeth believes until, a year later, she hears Declan’s voice in the night and sees him haunting the shore near their tiny cottage. Then she wonders… Has grief affected her mind? Or is someone playing a cruel trick?

Town blacksmith Rab Sinclair has loved Lisbeth ever since he arrived in Lobster Cove. Lisbeth has never had eyes for anyone other than the charming, feckless Declan O’Shea, but Rab knows Declan was not faithful to Lisbeth. How can he convince the grieving widow she’s pinned her heart on the wrong man? And when dangerous secrets come to light, how can Rab protect the woman who means more to him than his own life?

Buy link for The White Gull: http://amzn.to/2jdpyLm

~Excerpt~

Lightning flashed once more, flooding her eyes with brightness. In the doorway of the bedroom stood a figure wearing dripping oilskins with only the sou’wester missing from his bare head.

Declan.

In the sudden darkness that followed the lightning she moaned his name and then shouted it.

“Declan? Declan, Declan!” She heard movement, the scrape of a boot on the floorboards, the flap of his coat as he turned and left the doorway. With a sob, she followed. Hands stretched before her like a blind woman, she felt for him, stubbed her bare toe on the leg of the bedstead and faltered. She blundered from the room in his wake.

The cottage boasted but three rooms: this bedroom they had shared, another smaller bedroom she’d dreamed of someday using as a nursery for her children and the main room which combined parlor and kitchen. The darkness of the main room enfolded Lisbeth like black velvet. She had but a glimpse of paler darkness as the front door opened and closed again.

“Declan!”

She followed after him, her heart torn between gladness and pain. He was here! But if he truly were here, returned by some miracle from the same sea that had stolen him, why would he go from her? She reached the door, tore it open and stared out into the storm. Waves and salt spray poured over the stones in front of the cottage. Static filled the air and lightning arced overhead, the thunder competing for dominance with the crash of the rain. Wearing only her nightgown, Lisbeth was immediately soaked to the skin. The wind tore at her hair as she strained to catch sight of the figure she had glimpsed in the doorway.

From the cottage, as well she knew, a path led either north to a narrow strip of shingle or south towards Lobster Cove. Which way might he have gone? She could see nothing but storm, the raging elements that matched the furor now in her heart. Would he head down to the sea? Most this coast consisted of sheer rock but the O’Sheas possessed that stony beach where they had hauled up their boats and readied their lobster traps.

The boats were all gone; the White Gull lay in pieces. Why would Declan go there? Having come home to her, why would he leave at all?

She walked barefoot to a break in the rocks where the sea poured in like a gray beast, alive and wild. No one but a madman would be down on that strip of shingle now.

She turned her head toward the track but saw nothing. The thought came to her: maybe I imagined it. But she had heard the scrape of his boots on the floor. She had seen his hair ruffled by the force of the storm.

A dream, then. She’d had them before, yes, but never, never so real. She returned to the cottage where she shut the door and hurried to the fireplace. With clumsy hands, she searched for matches and the stub of a candle. Her fingers shook so violently it took her three attempts to put flame to the wick.

The light took hold slowly and seemed pitifully inadequate. Thrusting it aloft, Lisbeth retraced her steps to the door of her room, careful to keep her now-sodden garments swept back, her eyes on the floor.

A trail of wet led its way to the bedroom door and culminated on the threshold.

The very place where he had stood.

The candle tumbled from her suddenly numb fingers and the flame went out.

About the Author

Award-winning author Laura Strickland delights in time traveling to the past and searching out settings for her books, be they Historical Romance, Steampunk or something in between. Born and raised in Western New York, she’s pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Though she’s made pilgrimages to both Newfoundland and Scotland in the company of her daughter, she’s usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario with her husband and her “fur” child, a rescue dog.

Author Web Site: http://www.laurastricklandbooks.com

 

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