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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.”

Hearts and Diamonds At Risk

Ask Aunt Augusta

Dear Aunt Agatha,
I am a young lady with a dilemma. I think one of my dearest friends is going to propose marriage.

You might ask how I know, but one goes not need to be a Scotland Yard detective to see the signs – a particular look, a request for a private interview, hints made at a jewellers…

Now for some, this would be a delightful proposition, but as much as I am fond of my dear friend, I am not in love with him. So how can I kindly  refuse him without ruining our friendship and causing distress to his family and mine?

And secondly, how does a man disappear with an arm full of diamonds without leaving a trace?

Your faithful reader,
Caro A.

Dear Miss C,
My goodness what a conundrum you have my dear!

Let us address your problems one at a time.

Yes indeed, if everything is as you say, then it would appear that your male friend indeed may be proposing marriage but are you sure who the intended bride will be?

Are there other young ladies in your circle of acquaintance you can confide in to see if they concur with your tell-tale signs.

If they are in agreement, then you must break the news as gently as you can to your poor swain, assuring him that the fault is not is, but rather a woman’s heart is a fickle thing.

Have you asked any of your female friends how they feel about your unintended intended? A little matchmaking to nudge cupid along, might be just thing to help two people who truly do belong together.

As to your second question, I cannot answer for the male sex.

For the female of the species, the answer is two fold. One, to obtain an armful of diamonds, she must inherit or marry very well – preferably several times over. Secondly, a woman with such an armful, shows them off and so does not disappear without a trace.

Indeed, that is a question for Scotland Yard.

I wish you the very best,
Aunt Agatha

About The Thief of Hearts

The Thief Of Hearts. This Christmas is going to be magic!

December 1890. London, England.
Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas. To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.
While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke. He’s the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.
As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.

Available on Amazon

Excerpt

Caro’s butterflies returned as Bertie led her into the jeweller’s.

“Miss Caroline! A pleasure to see you again,” said the jeweller. “I hope you’ve come to tell me that you’ve single-handedly apprehended The Phantom.”

“Alas not, Mr Hargreaves,” she answered, “that is most certainly a job best left for the police. I’m here on a professional matter – your profession.”

Bertie looked up from the glass case in front of him.

“May I see the rings in that tray please?”

Mr Hargreaves was only too happy to oblige.

Bertie fingered row upon row of rings before pulling out two. The first was an oval cut sapphire – from Ceylon, the jeweller informed them – surrounded with round diamonds and mounted in gold. The second gold ring featured a faceted stone that shone pinks, blues and greens – Alexandrite, Caro learned – and that stone was surrounded by tiny seed pearls.

Bertie held them both out to Caro.

“You’re really good at hypotheticals, Caro, so let me try this one on you. If you were going to be surprised with a ring, which one would you prefer?”

Caro quelled her nerves and gave the question serious thought before answering.

“Both rings are absolutely beautiful, but I don’t think it would be much of a surprise if the girl knew she was getting a choice!”

Bertie shook his head with a smile and swept away the fringe that flopped over his brow.

“Seriously? You’re not going to tell me which one I ought to get?”

“I’m not the one proposing – you’re going to have to do that for yourself.” Caro grew serious. “But, this being a purely hypothetical question, let me put it back onto you. When you think of the girl you are planning to surprise, which ring reminds you of her?”

Bertie looked thoughtful for a moment and turned back to Mr Hargreaves.

“Could you put these two rings aside for me for the next few days, while I think about it?”

About the author

Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. 

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English Sea Captain Creates An International Incident!

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

Despatches from Palermo (Part 1)
by Lord William Bentinck, English Ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples

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

It is a season for political misjudgements as I know you will be quick to remind me, but if this matter escalates, I would rather you hear about early and directly from me.

As you know, Sicily recently welcomed the arrival of a new envoy, Sheik Selim Omar, a cousin to the Ottoman emperor. He is keen to know, as we all are, when this bloody war with France will be over.

Last week I agreed to sponsor a party at the request of his Majesty the King of Naples and the University of Palermo and invite the Ottoman envoy as our guest.

It seemed an ideal opportunity to warm relationships between our three nations.

The party was the idea of one of our citizens, a Professor Jonas Fenton from Cambridge who, along  with Professor Giovanni Mazzara from the university here in Palermo wanted to stage a tableaux vivants to show off some Greek and Roman history.

I didn’t see the harm in it, so I agreed.

The two young ladies involved in the tableaux were Jonas Fenton’s English nieces – quite unusual beauties too.

Miss Sophia Green is a raven haired beauty, part-Spanish I was told, and apparently a first rate antiquities student. The other girl, Laura Cappleman is a perfect flower of England, fair hair and fair complexion.

As you may remember from other correspondence, I have cultivated the acquaintance of a young Englishman, Captain Christopher Hardacre who owns a schooner called the Calliope based out of Palermo.

He’s always been a bit of a hot head, but never fails to come back with some interesting intelligence about the Barbary Coast pirates which I have passed on to the Admiralty.

Today, I had to suffer two hours of bluster and threats from the Emir because Hardacre had insulted the envoy in his own language right in front of the tableaux.

You can be assured I called Hardacre to account for his actions and man had the audacity to refuse to apologise either to me or to Sheik Selim Omar. He claims the man had grievously insulted the young ladies but refuses to tell me exactly what was said.

For what information might be of use, Hardacre tells me that there is to be a gathering of Barbary pirates in Tunisia before the end of summer. His source tells him they are to met with a wealthy patron.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that Hardacre thinks Selim Omar is the man they are waiting for but he offers no proof.

I’ll write when I have more news,

William

Excerpt

“I had an official complaint this morning from the Ottoman envoy over your behavior at the reception.”

Kit allowed his contempt to show. “And he was so overcome by my rudeness it took him three days to lodge his complaint? The man’s an arse.”

“He might be an arse, but he’s close to his cousin, who, need I remind you, is the Sultan of the entire bloody Ottoman Empire! If Turkey switches sides to France, once more, then we’re really screwed.”

While Bentinck raged, he raised his eyes to stare at the portrait of the Prince Regent hung on the wall behind the desk. Kit had weathered greater storms than this one. And like the ones he’d sailed in the Atlantic, this, too, would blow itself out. It did with a long, put-upon sigh.

“Pour us some of that sherry you brought me back from Spain, and tell me the news from the African coast.”

Kit bit back another smart retort, swallowed his indignation and poured the amber liquid into two dainty twist-stemmed glasses.

“It’s been quiet.”

“That would suit us all.” Bentinck raised his glass and saluted Kit. “We’re bloody tired of this war with Napoleon. At least our navy can concentrate fighting the Frenchies instead of fighting a war on two fronts with those Barbary pirates nipping at our heels.”

“Unfortunately, it’s not going to stay quiet for long. My contact tells me Kaddouri has a powerful and influential ally who has helped finance a stronghold on the Tunisian coast.”

“Ah yes, Kaddouri. You never did explain your particular obsession with that man.” Bentinck waited for a justification Kit knew he would never give. His reasons were his own – as was the vengeance he planned. After a moment of silence, Bentinck tried a different question.

“Where on the Tunisian coast?”

Kit shook his head and lied. “That I’ve yet to determine. The Calliope will be in the area again in a few weeks. If we see anything, we’ll let you know.”

Bentinck’s look was unwavering; he seemed to know he was not being told the truth. But with no other explanation forthcoming, the ambassador picked up his pen and waved at the mounds of correspondence on his table. “Well then, if that’s all you have to report, then go. I have work to do. Stay out of trouble and don’t harass His Majesty’s foreign guests.”

That was just a dig too far.

“I don’t trust Selim Omar and I suggest you don’t either.”

Bentinck set the quill back into its holder. “Why? Because you thought he and his party were rude to Jonas Fenton’s nieces? I never saw you as a gallant.”

“The Ottomans ravage the coastlines of Europe, plunder villages, put men in chains, and work them to death. The depraved savagery you hear of is nothing until you’ve witnessed it yourself. Consider yourself lucky you and your good lady wife are childless, for what they do to daughters—”

Bentinck rose to his feet.

“—You’ve made your feelings amply clear on the matter, but unless you have something His Majesty’s government can act upon, keep your opinions to yourself. Stay out of the man’s way if he bothers you so much.”

Blurb

Bluestocking Sophia Green’s future is uncertain. Orphaned as a child and raised by the wealthy Cappleman family, she has become the companion to her attractive younger cousin, Laura, while harboring to her breast an unrequited love for Laura’s diffident brother.

Sea captain Kit Hardacre’s past is a mystery – even to him. Kidnapped by Barbary Coast pirates at the age of 10, he does not remember his parents or even his real name. All he recalls are things he would rather forget.

When Laura’s reputation is threatened by a scandal, Sophia suggests weathering the storm in Sicily with their elderly uncle, a prominent archaeologist.

Their passage to Palermo is aboard Hardacre’s ship, but the Calliope, like its captain, is not all it seems. Both have only one mission – to rid the world of the evil pirate slaver Kaddouri or die in the attempt.

Initially disdainful of the captain’s devil-may-care attitude, Sophia can’t deny a growing attraction. And Kit begins to see in her a woman who could help him forget the horrors of his past.

Sophia allows herself to be drawn into the shallows of Kit’s world, but when the naive misjudgment of her cousins sees Laura abducted, Sophia is dragged into dangerous depths that could cost her life or her sanity in a living hell.

Pre-orders

Captive of the Corsairs is available to pre-order for 99c on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0721NSPJ6

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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Mr. Clemens Requests

Gentle Readers and Erstwhile Contributors,
We are filled with Gratitude at the response you have given to our Humble Efforts to bring facts and stories of Interest and Entertainment to the people of London.

The response from people of All Stations has been gratifying to say the least. We hope to continue for many years to come. To that end I wish to announce that our Little Paper has openings for Discerning Contributors of all types. We would welcome new contributors as well as added contributions from those who have joined us in the past. We are always looking for:

  • Purloined letters that may interest the Reading Public
  • Opinion pieces on the Fancies and Foibles of high society
  • News that otherwise might go unreported about the Private Lives of the poor and the prominent.
  • Instructive stories whose morals might serve as admonition to the unwary

As well as (dare I say it) items of a more salacious and titilating nature. Be it noted that those who contribute may also provide our readers with exciting news about their books as well.

Should any of you have an interest in making such a contribution, kindly contact me**. Should you wish instead to seek the advice of our most excellent Aunt Augusta (and receive mention of your book title) there is a form for that as well.

I Remain etc etc

 

 

Samuel Clemens, Printer, of London

**Mr. Clemens had deputized this work to staff. If you wish to participate kindly send three Wednesday dates, your name and writer name, and book title to warfieldcaro@gmail.com

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