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Whispers in a Closet

Information comes to the Tattler from many sources, whispers among servants being one of the most fruitful…

Mary Fisher went about her business as her mistress directed, even with the house in an uproar and the mistress preoccupied with worry.  The whole staff had more work than usual, what with a wedding the day before. She carried her bucket and rags carefully up the servant stairs to the third level with great care so as not to spill a drop, an effort that proved futile when a hand snaked out, grabbed her free arm, and pulled her into the linen closet. The door slammed shut.

“Ow! You made me slosh water on the floor. Are you trying to cost me my position?”

In the gloom, she could just make out the gleam in Lizzy Smith’s smug expression.  “Pish posh. That countess is too soft-hearted to fire either of us over some spilled water.”

Mary leaned down to wipe up the spill. “Y’ought to be working, not lurking in closets,” she muttered. “You planning to pounce on that green-eyed footman again? That will get you dismissed if you keep it up.”

Lizzy pulled her up. “Don’t be daft. I just want to talk. Did you hear what went on in the Countess’s sitting room? The Family is in a state and that’s the truth.”

“Everyone knows Mister Rand disappeared last night. Rob Portman heard it all serving the breakfast. His bed wasn’t slept in and—”

“But I know what happened in the countess’s sitting room.” There was no mistaking Lizzy’s self-satisfied smirk now. She knew something. No doubt about it.

Duty warred with curiosity in Mary’s heart. Servants oughtn’t to gossip, her mam taught her that early. The family had been good to Mary, though and she hated all the running about and the countess’s worried expression. Curiosity won out. “What’d you hear?”

“Well, you know as how Mr. Rand’s stayed at Cambridge after the duke, his cousin came to down two months ago?”

“’e just come in three days ago, though he was supposed to stand up with the duke. Rob said they never spoke, even yesterday at the wedding. Like somethin’ happened tween the two o’ them as used to be stuck like burrs one to the other.” It distressed Mary to see two young men that always seemed like good folk be against each other that way. “Never saw one without the other ever—”

Lizzy waved a dismissive hand. “So we know there’s bad blood now, but over what I ask you ?”

Mary shrugged. “Young men fight. They’ll come around.”

“Lurking at keyholes, more like,” Mary muttered.

Lizzy ignored the jab. “I heard the countess crying her eyes out, and the earl, he’s trying to comfort her. He says, ‘Cath…’ (did you know he calls her that?) ‘Cath,’ he says, ‘the whole world knows that woman is carrying a baby, except for maybe Charles, the young fool.’”

“He called the duke a fool? He’s ever so smart.”

“A man can be smart about business and a still let a woman pull wool over his eyes.”

Lizzy would know, Mary thought glumly. The import of Lizzy’s other words hit her. “Wait, are you saying the new duchess is pregnant?” Her jaw hung slack.

Lizzy pursed her lips. “Don’t be a slow top. Of course she is. That isn’t the good part.”

Good may not be the word, Mary thought, but she suspected she was about to hear whatever it was.

“The earl said as how it was too bad Mr. Fred didn’t come to the wedding because he could talk some sense into them both, but the countess says something like, ‘Rand had no idea.’ It were kind of muffled like. The earl, he says Mr. Rand couldn’t know nothing since he stayed away and the countess says—listen up Mary!”

“What did she say?” Mary dreaded hearing it, but couldn’t help listening.

Lizzy dropped her voice, “Clear as a bell, she tells the earl Mr. Rand said the duchess is so far along it had to have happened while he was still walking out with her.”

Mary blinked rapidly, trying to understand.

“Don’t be a booby, Mary. The duke got Mr. Rand’s lady with child while she was still supposed to be with Mr. Rand. No wonder those two are at each other’s throats. No man wants his cousin—much less best friend or any other man—poaching on his preserve. Ran off he did. Said he isn’t never coming back.”

Mary shook her head and picked up her bucket without talking.

“Earl said, ‘That woman will make Charles miserable, mark my words,’ and the countess she said, ‘She already heaped misery on all of us,’ and went on back to crying.”

Mary stopped listening. She went back to work, her heart heavy. Family oughtn’t to treat one another badly. They ought to come together in time of troubles, that’s for certain, she thought.

_________________

About the Book, The Renegade Wife

Reclusive businessman Rand Wheatly finds his solitude disrupted by a desperate woman running with her children from an ugly past. But even his remote cabin in Upper Canada isn’t safe enough. Meggy Blair may have lied to him, but she and her children have breached the walls of his betrayed heart. Now she’s on the run again. To save them he must return to face his demons and seek help from the family he vowed to never see again.

It is available in Kindle format free with Kindle Unlimited or for purchase as ebook or in print:

Amazon US
Barnes and Noble
BooksAMillion
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon DE
Amazon IT
Amazon FR
Amazon ES
Amazon IN
Amazon AU


The Renegade Wifeis Book 1 in Caroline Warfield’s Children of Empire Series.

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!) Though they all escape to the outposts of The British Empire, they all make their way home to England, facing their past and finding love and the support of women of character and backbone. They are:

  • Randolph Baldwin Wheatly 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. (The Renegade Wife)
  • Captain Frederick Arthur Wheatly, 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. (The Reluctant Wife)
  • Charles, Duke of Murnane, 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, only to face his past there. (The Unexpected Wife)

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. (The Renegade Wife)
  • Clare Armbruster, fiercely independent woman of means, who is determined to make her own way in life, but can’t resist helping a foolish captain sort out his responsibilities. (The Reluctant Wife)
  • Zambak Hayden, eldest child of the Duke of Sudbury, 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. (The Unexpected Wife)

Book 3, The Unexpected Wife, will be released on July 25.

Here’s a short video about it:

https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7/videos/924791187669849/

For more about the series and all of Caroline’s books, look here:

https://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/

About the Author

Caroline Warfield grew up in a peripatetic army family and had a varied career (largely around libraries and technology) before retiring to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, where divides her time between writing Regency and Victorian Romance, and seeking adventures with her grandson and the prince among men she married.

 

 

 

 

A doctor’s letters from the front

From her pocket, she withdrew the note he’d left for her with Doctor Bliss. Mrs. McBride had been scrawled across the front. Was this a farewell? He’d kissed her twice and held her while she cried. Did he care for her the way Major Carlton did? Were his parting words a declaration of his affections?

Turning the letter over, she ran her finger across the bumps and ridges of the blue wax seal. The letters C-P framed a larger letter E. She slid her finger under the edge of the paper careful not to break the wax. Drawing a breath, she unfolded the note. A few, nearly illegible lines had been scribbled across the center of the page.

My grandfather is sending a box from his hotel. When it arrives could you care for the contents? I will write again when I better know my situation.

In disbelief she stared at the note. She read it again, just to see if she’d misunderstood the inked lines, curls, and bumps. Did he mean more than he was saying?

No. There was no other way to interpret the handwriting. After working closely for a month, after life and death, tears and kisses, he wanted her to keep a box?

Her fingers tightened, crinkling the sides of the paper. No goodbye, just a box. She lifted her gaze to the river. A breeze carried in the salty scent of the distant ocean over the river where it blended with the smell of  muck and dead fish.

She sighed. A box. At least he hadn’t declared any amorous affections. She certainly did not want that, but a goodbye would have been nice.

For a moment she wondered what kind of note Charles Ellard would pen if he ever fell in love. Would it be as blunt and socially inept? Did he even know the niceties of courtship?

He removed a blank sheet of paper from his stationery box, picked up his pen and held it poised over the paper.

Taking a deep breath, he wrote—

Dear Gracie McBride,

Frowning, he slashed a line straight through the center of the salutation.

My dearest Grace,

No. Another line.

Dear Mrs. Grace McBride,

Line.

My dear Mrs. William McBride,

No.

My dear friend Gracie…

Dear Mrs. McBride,

I trust you received the box from my grandfather. Thank you for keeping it.

Sincerely,

Charles P. Ellard, Capt.

Assistant Surgeon

69th Pennsylvania, Second Division

Gracie turned the paper over. Blank. Then again, why was she surprised? This brief note, obviously written when he was busy, was just like him—quick, to the point, and dismissive. At least now she knew where to write, to reassure him his box of childhood toys was indeed in her possession. And if she included a few anecdotes about life here at Armory Square, that only meant she was being friendly.

Charles pulled a twig from the bundle of fagots, lit the end, then used it to light the candle which stood in its own wax in the center of the hardtack box they used as a table.

He pulled off his muddy boots and stripped down to his shirt and drawers. After a quick wash, he climbed into bed. Using his haversack as his lap desk, he withdrew paper, pen, and ink. He opened the ink, filled his pen, and set the bottle on the hardtack box between the beds. He wanted to write to Gracie but had no idea what to include in the letter. She’d yet to respond to his last missive. Perhaps she was so busy she thought of him only in passing. Perhaps he thought about her more than she thought about him.

He reached behind him to adjust his pillow. The thin straw mattress crunched beneath his shifting weight. Mail was notoriously slow, he reminded himself. Until he knew for certain that she wasn’t receptive to further communication, she might find news of the President’s review of the army exciting. Except Charles hadn’t gone. After all, what was there to see among a hundred and thirty thousand men?

Women enjoyed talk of fashion, but he had no idea what sort of dress Mrs. Lincoln wore or even what kind of pony their little boy rode.

Weather was generally considered an appropriate topic for conversation with a lady, and it had rained today. Rather a lot lately. However, the weather patterns here no doubt encompassed Washington, which was only fifty miles away. Most likely, Gracie was also being rained upon.

She might find it interesting that he and the rest of the medical department had been busy moving the division hospitals to Potomac Creek near the railroad line. However, by the time she received his letter, she would have more than likely receive at Armory Square, many of the sick and disabled of the division.

He pressed the tip of his pen against the blank sheet of paper. So what should he write? That the regimental surgeon and the whole medical department hated him? That he was lonely? That he was terrified he’d suffer another of his spells? Perhaps he should try harder to focus on other things.

Monday past, thirteen thousand cavalry had moved out, off on some sort of mission. Would she worry if he wrote that now they were all under orders to pack their haversacks with eight days’ rations and leave out their clothes?

No, it would be best not to include maudlin sentiments. After all she was mere woman. Talk of impeding battle might tax her emotions. He would keep the tone of his missive bright and happy.

Dear Mrs. McBride,

“A physican, having written out a prescription, enjoined his patient to swallow the whole of it in the morning. The patient understood him literally, swallowed the written prescription, and got well.”

I understand some people might find the patient’s literal interpretation of the physician’s less than specific instruction to be humorous. That the patient also became well, subsequently made the need for the actual medication moot.

I hope you found the brief anecdote to be amusing.

Surg. Chas. P. Ellard, Captain

69th Pennsylvania

A smile tugged at the corners of Gracie’s mouth. While the joke was mildly amusing, it was the endearing awkwardness of his explanation and his strange need to share it with her that warmed her heart.

She gave her head a shake then refolded the letter and tucked it carefully into one of the inside pockets of her carpet bag.

A Place In Your Heart:

Gracie McBride isn’t looking for love; she’s looking for respect. But in this man’s world of Civil War medicine, Gracie is expected to maintain her place changing beds and writing letters. Her biggest nemesis is the ward surgeon, Doctor Charles Ellard, who seems determined to woo her with arrogant kisses and terrible jokes.

Charles is an excellent surgeon. He assumed he would be well received by an army at war. He was not. Friendless and alone, he struggles to hide the panic attacks that plague him while the only person who understands him is a feisty Irish nurse clearly resolved to keep him at a distance.

But, Charles is sent to the battlefield, and Gracie is left with a wounded soldier, a box of toys, and a mystery which can only be solved by the one man she wishes could love her, both as a woman and a nurse.

Excerpt, rated G

“No. I want you to go home before the death of that ten-year-old boy becomes so ordinary that one day you wake up and realize you no longer have the ability to feel.”

She squared her shoulders and stepped toward him. “Me own husband was a doctor, sir. I’ve birthed babies and stitched wounds. I stood by William’s side during surgeries and passed him instruments. I helped him clean the intestines of a man gored by a bull, before putting it all back inside that man’s belly. Me delicate sensibilities did not send me into a swoon then nor will they here. I thank ye for yer concern, Doctor Ellard, but ’tis who I am. And by the saints, as long as I have breath in me body, I will feel, and I will care.”

Their gazes locked in that moment and something flickered in his icy depths, overshadowing his usual cynicism with what she suspected might be admiration. The harsh lines of his face softened.

“Saint Jude must indeed be watching over you, Mrs. McBride.”

“That he is, Doctor Ellard, that he is.”

He gave her a brisk nod and opened the door. “You’re not going home then, are you?”

She turned. “Ye know us Irish, Doctor Ellard. We don’t know what we want, but we’ll fight to the death to get it.”

A Place In Your Heart is available at Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Place-Your-Heart-Kathy-Otten-ebook/dp/B07CKYZ61M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1528925171&sr=1-1&keywords=Kathy+Otten

Meet Kathy Otten:

Kathy Otten is the published author of multiple historical romance novels, novellas, and short stories. She is also published in contemporary romance and historical fiction. She is a Northwest Houston RWA Lone Star winner and Utah/Salt Lake RWA Hearts of the West finalist. A Place In Your Heart is her fourth full-length novel. Currently, she is putting the finishing touches on a contemporary young adult novel.

She teaches fiction writing online and at a local adult education center, and is a regular presenter at area events. Kathy also does manuscript assessments and editing. She lives in the rolling farmland of western New York where she can often be found walking her dog through the woods and fields. She has been married for thirty-four years and is the mother of three grown children and one grandson.

Kathy can be contacted at kathy@kathyotten.com

Web site https://www.kathyottenauthor.com

Face Book www.facebook.com/kathyottenauthor.com

A Kidnap Threat To The Ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples!

Despatches from Palermo (1810)
by Lord William Bentinck, English Ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples

Lord William Bentinck, pictured here as Captain in a portrait painted by George Romney. William Bentinck was ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples 1812-1816

My dear Lord Chamberlain,
I enclose this letter to you privately, so it will not appear in official correspondence.

I find myself the subject of a most extraordinary plot – one of kidnap on the high seas.

As you know, I have entered delicate negotiations with the Bey of Tunis for the release of more than three hundred Sicilians who were forcibly abducted from their home by the corsairs of the Barbary Coast.

Not only is it a matter of justice, but freeing of these unfortunate souls would also build immeasurable goodwill among the people whose interest I am trying to further with my reforms.

So far, standard diplomatic tactics have proved fruitless with the Bey. I don’t know if you are familiar with this culture but it appears to be the custom for the all the promises in the world to be made but when it comes time to deliver, it is a never ending litany of excuses.

With Napoleon’s Empire at my back in Naples and the Barbary Coast Pirates at my front, it is no easy task set before me. You know of my penchant to follow my intuition and I have done so once again with two young men.

Let’s hope Captain Hardacre can deal with the captured French Frigate in a less spectacular manner.

Captain Christopher Hardacre is an Englishman who runs a merchant vessel out of Palermo. He’s come to me with the most extraordinary tale. It seems one of the pirates has acquired a French frigate and he harbours ambitions to abduct me and my wife and hold us for ransom.

It sounded like a ravings of a mad man – and I have to confess that if was just his testimony alone I’d ignore it, but in Hardacre’s favour is one of his men, an African by the name of Jonathan Afua who I’ve come to learn is a son of one of Ethiopia’s most aristocratic families. He strikes me as being a much more steady character than his captain. It is his grave assessment I’ve learned to trust.

As for the abduction threat, Hardacre has hatched an audacious plan to keep me safe in exchange for the claiming the French frigate for himself as spoils.

Whether Hardacre succeeds or not is immaterial as I have appraised Admiral Freemantle who has agreed that the next meeting with the Bey of Tunis should be done as a show of force so we will be arriving in Tunisia with a fleet that also contains the flagship The Milford.

I’ll write when I have more news,

William

 

Excerpt

Shadow of the Corsairs

Bagrada

Shadow of the Corsairs – out June 26 2018 – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DM9VJ5Z

Jonathan’s stomach soured.

Even though it had been more than a year since his captivity there, the very sound of its name reminded him there was work still to finish, a past that could not draw to a close until he had answers.

“Bagrada. Are you sure?” Elias asked. “We’ve sailed by several times over the past six months and there’s no noteworthy activity there.”

Hardacre looked up from the map of the Tunisian coastline. “Sharrouf is certain.”

Elias snorted and folded his arms. “I think you put too much stock in what that man says. He’s a snake, Kit, and he’s not to be trusted.”

“I never said he was to be trusted. He might very well hate Kaddouri as much as we do. But so long as he is a member of the inner circle, then he is useful to us.”

“Unless Kaddouri is using him to lure us into a trap,” countered the first officer. “We’ve stopped three of his raids over the past twelve months and helped free more than a hundred enslaved souls. He’d be just as keen to see the end of us.”

Jonathan shook his head. Kit and Elias bickered like he and his older brother used to. It was time for him to step in.

“What’s Sharrouf getting in exchange for telling you the location of Kaddouri’s fleet?” he asked.

“Information here and there to help with something.”

“Which is?”

“Kidnapping Lord William Bentinck.”

“You jest!”

Hardacre said nothing for a moment. The upturn of his lip was trouble, Jonathan knew that, and so did Elias who turned away with an exaggerated groan.

“Go on,” said Jonathan. “Tell us the whole thing before you make Elias’ head explode.”

“I might not have been completely honest with Sharrouf,” Hardacre confessed. This time, both ends of his mouth lifted and there was a twinkle of manic glee in his eyes. “I told him Bentinck plans another trip to Tunis to petition for the release of the Sicilian slaves, but I neglected to tell him Bentinck’s going with a show of strength instead of taking one ship with a single escort. Accompanying The Milford will be a dozen heavily-armed ships from the Royal Navy.”

“And both Bentinck and Admiral Fremantle know to expect an attack,” Jonathan concluded. “That’s a good plan. What makes you sure Kaddouri will take the bait?”

“Oh, he will. Sharrouf has told me he’s just managed to acquire a double gunned frigate.”

Elias rocked back on his feet. “How has he managed to get one of those? That would carry almost as much firepower as The Milford.”

A Sister’s Remorse

Lady Gwendolyn, Countess of Drayton entered her older brother’s townhouse and handed her parasol to Edmond’s butler. She should not be out this morning, not in her delicate condition, but she had to ensure her brother’s welfare.

“Is he home, Edgar?” she asked with familiarity. Her brother’s butler had been with the Worthington family for longer than Gwendolyn could even recall.

“He is, my lady, and in his study going over the accounts,” he replied. “If you would follow me…”

“No need, Edgar, but if you could have Mrs. McDaniel’s brew some tea I would be most grateful.”

She did not wait for a reply but made her way towards her brother’s study. She could not wait to gloat over the fact that for once she was not the subject of this morning’s gossip in that horrendous rag, the Teatime Tattler. She had not taken time to read the morning paper herself but instead had hurried across town instead. A smirk of satisfaction turned up the corners of her mouth before she opened the door.

One look at Edmond Worthington, 9th Duke of Hartford and her smile fell as she rushed across the room to his side. His head rose from his desk as she came near. Bloodshot eyes met hers and it was obvious her brother had been far into the half-filled brandy near at hand.

“I have lost her, Gwen,” he slurred before rubbing his hand across his eyes as though that alone would clear his vision. “How shall I get her back?”

All thoughts of teasing her brother left her when she placed her arm around his shoulder and leaned down to kiss his cheek. “By talking to her, of course.”

“She will not give me the time of day. Probably deserve it given what she saw,” he muttered before pointing to the paper upon his desk. “And those damn Danver sisters! Why they cannot find someone else to gossip about is beyond me. They continue to spread their tales hoping to be the center of attention.”

“Forget about them, Edmond. No one will believe whatever malicious gossip they are spreading this week. Who reads such nonsense anyway?”

His brow rose at the implication, his ducal stare just as unnerving as always despite being well into his cups at such an ungodly hour of the morn. “Everyone who is anyone, Gwen. You know that first hand,” he whispered, reaching for the decanter.

She pushed the crystal away and scooped up the paper but not before pursing the few lines open for her to read.

This reporter has learned from the “D” sisters that a certain Duke of H has been caught in a compromising situation by his fiancé at a recent house party. This would hardly be of much interest except the lady who was found sprawled in his lap was none other than his ex-mistress – or is she really an “ex”? Inquiring minds will eagerly await news of how the rest of this story unfolds…

Remorse filled her at her early thoughts to rub whatever news focused on Edmond today in his face. She threw the paper into the hearth and enjoyed a moment of satisfaction whilst she watched it burned. She then went and pulled the bell cord.

When a maid entered, she went towards her brother to help him rise. “Send for my brother’s valet and have food sent up to His Grace’s bedroom,” she ordered. It was time for her brother to pull himself together.

Coming this summer… One Moment in Time: A Family of Worth, Book Two

In the meantime, dive into Gwendolyn’s story in Nothing But Time: A Family of Worth, Book One, currently #FREE at online retailers.

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.

Excerpt:

Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington strode across the floor of her brother’s study, carelessly threw her bonnet onto a high backed leather chair, and crossed her arms. The missive she held in her hand had driven all thoughts of a trip to the milliner with her friend Lady Calliope out of her head. Her shoe tapped a rapid staccato on the wooden floorboards. Her brother remained indifferent to her demand for his attention whilst he continued writing. The insufferable lout did not even have the decency to acknowledge her presence in his pursuit to finish his correspondence. She cleared her throat, hoping to gain his notice.

He continued whatever business he was attending to without a pause, except to say, in a barely civil and flat monotone, “You did not knock.” His disinterest in her presence served as a reminder of his place within his household, as if she could ever forget she was subject to his directives.

Her brother had had the arrogance to send a servant to deliver his note to her bedroom. He should have come there himself to speak with her, given the news he wished to impart. She tossed the crumbled parchment onto his desk. He, in turn, swatted it aside like it was nothing but a pesky insect.

“You have been given your instructions, Gwendolyn. We have nothing further to discuss.”

“Do not take that tone with me, Edmond. You may hold our father’s title, but that in no way gives you leave to treat me as if I must comply with demands such as these,” she fumed. Where had her carefree older brother of years past gone? Surely some measure of the young man she had adored in their youth lurked behind the expressionless mask of this unfeeling cad before her?

Edmond Gerard Worthington, 9th Duke of Hartford, set his quill down. The blue eyes he at last bothered to turn upon her were just as cold as his voice. Since he had inherited his rightful title of duke after their father’s passing, along with all the responsibilities such a position held, Gwendolyn hardly recognized her brother. She swallowed hard, knowing she could not easily sway this uncaring man. Still, she had to try.

“Mother will hear of this,” she warned. “She will not allow her only daughter to be wed to a man in order to fulfill some business deal made years ago.”

“Mother is fully aware of the obligations that must be met. I should not have to explain how things of this nature are done, sister. Arranged marriages happen every day within the ton. Yours will be no exception.”

“Brandon, then. Surely my younger brother cares what happens to his sister since you have made it painfully obvious you do not,” Gwendolyn retorted sharply.

“He is my brother, too, if you would care to remember.” Edmond sighed heavily. “Both mother and Brandon have been summoned to return to London immediately. The marriage contract was agreed years ago and bears the signatures of all parties, including your own. You would have already been wed, had it not been for father’s death.” Edmond leaned his elbows upon his desk, fingers forming a steeple as if contemplating his next counter to whatever argument she could muster.

She quickly thought of the first excuse that crossed her mind. “I am still in mourning,” Gwendolyn declared through clenched lips.

His eyes roamed down the length of her pink floral gown and his brows rose in unsuppressed amusement. “Your mourning period is long since over, as your garments surely attest. Resign yourself to wedding Lord Sandhurst.”

She stomped her foot in frustration. “Bernard Sandhurst is a lecherous old man and ancient enough to be my father.” She barely held back a cry of despair. “How can you condemn me to a life with that horrible person, however long the vermin will still remain on this earth?”

“I am doing the best I can to save this family from financial ruin. You should be grateful Sandhurst will still have you, given the limited amount I could spare for your dowry. I will not be swayed in my decision, Gwendolyn, and Sandhurst can no longer be put off. He has all but stated his time waiting for you is over. He has been as patient as one could ask of a man getting on in years. You are now twenty years of age and should have been wed with children of your own by now.”

Thoughts of being intimate with a man who repulsed Gwendolyn made her shudder. The few times she had had the displeasure of being alone in the same room with Lord Bernard Sandhurst, he had mauled her with his cool clammy hands. He reminded her of a fish, and an unappealing one at that.

“Edmond─”

Her brother cut her off with a wave of his hand. “Father made this decision and you must abide by it, along with the rest of us.” Edmond picked up his quill and examined the tip before dipping it into the inkwell.

“You are a duke, Edmond. Surely you can pay the man off so I can find a worthy man to love.” She silently pleaded with him, and, for the briefest instant, she held the smallest measure of hope he would accede to her wishes.

His piercing blue eyes leveled on her but briefly. “Love is for fools. Better to marry for wealth and a decent position in society than to lose your heart to such a frivolous emotion as love.” Edmond returned to his work, the quill scratching across the parchment. The sound echoed in her head as though the missive sealed her fate. “Resign yourself to your marriage Gwendolyn. Sandhurst has made arrangements for the wedding to take place two weeks hence.”

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Bio:

Sherry Ewing is proud to be one of the Bluestocking Belles. Sherry picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. When not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist.

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Heard From Behind a Potted Fern

Eavesdropping“But Maud, all men have their bit of muslin on the side. My sister told me she knows from experience.”

The woman attempted to sound worldly, but in Harold Wagner’s opinion, her breathless tone sounded more naively thrilled. He leaned one shoulder against the wall behind the potted fern, tilted his head toward the conversation, and pulled out a notebook. Sam Clemens paid well for tittle-tattle and this might yield some sellable gems. The fourth son of a miserly earl needed funds in any way he could get them. If it shocked one over-ripe daughter of the haut-ton, it would probably sell.

“Oh, who cares what a captain gets up to in his bedroom in some heathenish country, Eunice,” the other woman retorted.

EavesdroppingHarold Wagner might, if what the man got up to was exotic enough. Unfortunately, this Maud creature hadn’t much imagination.

“What I heard is worse,” the one named Maud continued.

Worse? Now he found it interesting. He poised a pencil over his notebook.

“There were children!”

Harold’s pencil dropped. Good grief! Of course, there were children.

“Isn’t that always the way? My sister explained—”

“I can guess what sort of nonsense your sister Hortensia told you, Eunice, but listen to me. The mistress was—” She dropped her voice for dramatic effect. “—black.”

Eunice must have looked puzzled because Maud sounded disgusted when she didn’t get the reaction she expected. “You know. Native. Bengali.”

“I don’t see—”

“Think about it, Eunice. The children…”

It took several moments, but Eunice caught Maud’s meaning. “Oh! You mean they are native, or half.”

Another one back from India, leaving his cast-offs behind, Harold thought. He shrugged and recorded it. Sam still might buy it if he had a name to go with it.

“The worst of it is, I heard he flaunts them,” Maud went on, warming to the story. “He sailed to Suez on The Pharaoh before taking the Overland Route My friend Miriam said Captain Wheatly gave them the run of the ship. She called them cunning and encroaching little girls. The older one had her nose in everything.”

Wheatly rung a bell. Harold searched his memory for the family.

“What about the mistress, Maud?” Eunice asked. She managed to make “mistress” sound like something disgusting found on the bottom of her dancing slipper.

“You mean the native one? Miriam says he left her or she died. Must have died because he only brought the girls. No, Fred Wheatly traveled with some other woman, as white as you and I. Miriam says the way she fawned over the girls, he must pay her well.”

Harold scribbled it down, “traveled with a woman…”

Maud barely stopped for breath. “He established them in his cousin’s house, as bold as you please. I don’t care if his cousin is a duke, if he tries to bring them near decent people in London, I for one will give him the cut direct.”

Duke? That was it, of course. Wheatly is the family name of the Duke of Murnane. Harold placed him now. Fred Wheatly was always in trouble. He vaguely remembered him running off to India after some scrape. Related to the Earl of Chadbourn too, if Harold remembered right. Sam Clemens would pay for this little on-dit.

“Me too, Maud. Cut direct. I’ll lift my skirt if I see them on the street,” Eunice responded. “You don’t think he’d be seen in the city with his mistress do you?” she asked. “Wouldn’t that be delicious?”

One thought troubled Harold. Sam never published gossip about children. It was one of the bast—, er, the rogue’s few scruples. He brushed the concern aside. Oh yes. Sam would like this one, at least the mistress part. It won’t even take much embellishing.

~An excerpt from The Reluctant Wife~

Eavesdropping

Fred hated the fear in her eyes. My little warrior should never feel fear. He smoothed a hand over her head. “You managed quite well—too well to suit me—in Calcutta. The village is tiny, and Emma and Mary will be with you.”

“Everyone is different here. I don’t look like them. What if they stare at me?”

Ah. One thing he couldn’t prevent. She managed the horrid headmistress in Calcutta, didn’t she? Fred swallowed hard. He wanted to scream, “Chase them away. Shout at them,” but he kept that to himself. He could think of nothing constructive to tell her.

Mary answered when he failed to. “Easy. We know how to outstare anyone, don’t we, Emma?”

Meghal, intrigued, turned toward her cousin, and Mary babbled on. “First we pretend we don’t see them. Then we raise our chin, thus.” She demonstrated a perfect aristocratic pose, causing Meghal to giggle.

“Then—and this is the good part—we stare at them as if we can see right through them and they aren’t even there. Emma taught me. They don’t exist until we want them to, right, Emma?”

Emma’s lips twitched. “That is precisely how it is done. However, you must remember that this weapon is powerful. It must only be used when someone is very, very rude, but never—well perhaps rarely, I can think of exceptions—on a married lady or an older person.”

Fred watched the girls with growing amusement. His nieces would turn his daughters into formidable young women. They don’t need me.

About the Book

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, and with 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?

It is available in Kindle format free with Kindle Unlimited or for purchase as ebook or in print:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
BooksAMillion

The Reluctant Wife is Book 2 in Caroline Warfield’s Children of Empire Series.

8

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!) Though they all escape to the outposts of The British Empire, they all make their way home to England, facing their demons and finding love and the support of women of character and backbone. They are

  • Randolph Baldwin Wheatly 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. (The Renegade Wife)
  • Captain Frederick Arthur Wheatly, 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. (The Reluctant Wife)
  • Charles, Duke of Murnane, 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, only to face his past there. (The Unexpected Wife)

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. (The Renegade Wife)
  • Clare Armbruster, fiercely independent woman of means, who is determined to make her own way in life, but can’t resist helping a foolish captain sort out his responsibilities. (The Reluctant Wife)
  • Zambak Hayden, the eldest child of the Duke of Sudbury, knows she’d make a better heir than her feckless younger brother, but can’t help but try to protect 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. (The Unexpected Wife)

Book 3, The Unexpected Wife, will be released on July 25.

Here’s a short video about it:
https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7/videos/924791187669849/

For more about the series and all of Caroline’s books, look here:
https://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/

Caroline Warfield

About the Author

Caroline Warfield grew up in a peripatetic army family and had a varied career (largely around libraries and technology) before retiring to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, where divides her time between writing Regency and Victorian Romance, and seeking adventures with her grandson and the prince among men she married.

 

 

 

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