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Rumours of a mad rival

Overheard in a London drawing room.
“To be fair, Lady Amelia, many females have run mad over a red coat.” Lady Fenella’s jibe—and Lady Amelia’s blush—reminded the others present of Lady Amelia’s own excesses last Season in pursuit of a certain officer of the Horse Guard.

“One officer might be a mistake,” Mrs Fullerton suggested, “but two seems a little excessive. It certainly sounds as if this poor mad sister of Braxton’s makes a habit of compromising situations with the cavalry.”

“Only one compromising situation, surely,” Lady Eustace Framley protested. “I thought she was the baronet’s widow. One can’t compromise oneself with one’s husband.”

“One can before he is her husband, darling.” Lady Fenella widened her eyes. “Or do you not remember how you came to marry Lord Eustace?”

“Is it true that this mysterious officer stole her from her bedroom in her chemise?” Lady Amelia wondered.

“It would be rather cold,” said Lady Eustace. “It was, after all, more than a month ago, and in the Spring. One would imagine the Cheshire weather would dampen the ardour.”

“Your innocence is so charming,” Lady Fenella said. “Do you practice it in front of the mirror?”

“I do not much like these Braxtons. If I lived with Mrs Braxton, I dare say I should be mad myself,” Lady Amelia declared.

“I would certainly prefer Major Alex Redepenning to Mr Braxton,” said Lady Fenella, watching Mrs Fullerton very closely.

“Anyone would,” Lady Amelia agreed. “At least one would have before he was crippled. Goodness, Fenella, you don’t mean that Alex Redepenning stole Melville’s widow away! But that’s…” Her voice trailed off and she, too, stared speculatively at Mrs Fullerton.

Lady Eustace proved her relative naivety by rushing to make the comment the other two women merely thought. “Melville’s widow? Sir Gervase Melville? Wasn’t he your particular friend once, Mrs Fullerton? Yes, and Major Redepenning, too!”

“Poor dear.” Lady Fenella took Mrs Fullerton’s hand and gave it a warm squeeze. “It can hardly be pleasant to know you are unlikely in love not once, but twice, and both times have lost to the same woman.”

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

Gossip makes the march go faster

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, soldiers’ wives were the army support crew, scavenging for food, mending and washing clothes, nursing the wounded, and even working alongside the men.

“Thought you’d be with the wounded, Maggie,” Becky Watson said, trying but failing to keep the glee from her tone. Maggie Palmer had been lauding her extra income and increased status over the other women since she’d won the coveted nursing position, and Becky was not the only one to rejoice in her downfall.

Maggie glared at the girl who rode her donkey twenty yards in front of them. Fifteen years old, newly married, and taking up the duties of the real doctor, her father, who had collapsed with an apoplexy on the day she married Melville.

Lady Melville didn’t notice Maggie. All her attention was on the cart carrying those fit enough to be dragged along with the regiment to their winter quarters, her father among them. For the moment, she was the closest the regiment had to a regimental surgeon. 

“Wash, wash, wash. And every bucket needing to be carried from the river and heated over the fire. I washed this morning, I told her, and I’ll be damned if I wash again. And changing the sheets every day, and all that rubbish. Thinks she’s so much better than us just because she managed to snare a baronet.”

“Captain Brownlie always makes the nurses wash,” Becky pointed out. She’d been appointed nurse herself until little Freddie was born, but Captain Brownlie wouldn’t have women with children in the hospital quarters.

She hoisted the toddler higher onto her hip and kept trudging. The women had left camp as soon as possible after first light, and had been walking for an hour. They’d be another seven on the road. Becky could do with Lady Melville’s donkey, and that was a fact.

Maggie hadn’t finished complaining. “She isn’t her father. She’s not an officer, or even a proper doctor. She has no right to order me around.”

This charming painting purports to record a moment in history, when a child with a French regiment was put on the tomb of a knight to sleep, out of the way of a fight, covered by his father’s jacket.

Maggie was a fool. As long as the Colonel backed Lady Melville’s commands—as he had when Maggie went bleating to him with her complaints—the lady had every right to order the nurses about.

But all the wives knew Maggie was bitter because her former services to Lieutenant Sir Gervase Melville had stopped when he suddenly up and married. And Becky would bet her best iron pot that Maggie did a lot more for him than cooking and cleaning. Mind you, Lieutenant Melville didn’t confine himself to regimental widows like Maggie. He had dipped his toes in a lot of other soldiers’ bedrolls, as well as the local bits of fluff who came out to serve the regiment wherever it camped.

Swiving locals would be frowned on, but tupping the wives of his soldiers was worse. Mind you, it would be the woman who paid if anyone spoke out of turn. She’d be drummed out of the regiment and lucky if she was given the passage home. And the Lieutenant would get a rap on the knuckles.

“I’m going to tell the Lieutenant,” Maggie declared. “He’ll make her take me back.”

Becky stopped to move Freddie to the other hip, then hurried to catch up. “Don’t make trouble for her, Maggie. She has it hard enough. You know what he’s like.”

None of the wives believed the poor girl had suddenly started tripping over tent pegs and bumping into corners. Melville had been horrified when forced to marry the doctor’s daughter, and Melville in a temper was a nasty man.

But Maggie was obdurant. “Serves her right. She made her bed when she seduced him. She’ll just have to lie in it.”

Becky shook her head. No point in arguing. Maggie had her mind made up, but Becky didn’t believe Lady Melville seduced the baronet. Not her. As nice and as ladylike as the Colonel’s wife, who Becky had served as maid back when she first married Watson, while the regiment was still in England.

In any case, anyone with eyes would know it hadn’t been Melville that the doctor’s daughter wanted.

Becky sighed. She was a happily married woman, and a mother. But even she could see the appeal of Captain Alexander Redepenning. It was over now, of course. Lady Melville had made her choice and was stuck with it.

And how it happened, Becky couldn’t fathom.

“Yes. That’ll do. Gervase will help me.” Maggie slid her eyes sideways to see the effect of her use of the baronet’s personal name.

Suddenly sick of the other woman’s nastiness, Becky decided to take a stand. “Watson says the Colonel’s wife has come over to join him in winter quarters. Used to be her maid, I did, and she still has a fondness for me.”

“Not as fond as the Lieutenant is of me,” Maggie smirked.

“Yes, well, that’s the point, isn’t it. The Colonel will want her to check that the camp followers are,” Becky quoted the oft-repeated demand of the regimental regulations: “sober, industrious, and of good character. Don’t worry about it, Maggie Palmer. If they find out what you’ve done with the Lieutenant, you’d likely get your passage home. If the Colonel is in a good mood.”

Maggie frowned. “Are you threatening me?”

Becky shrugged. “Take it how you will. But leave Lady Melville alone.”

 

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

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Miranda makes her move!

A Lady Correspondent had not intended to eavesdrop. Truly. She was just sitting in an alcove catching her breath and, it must be admitted, admiring the two Grenford brothers who were leaning on a pillar just in front of her. She could not help but see Miss de C accost them. She could not help but overhear all that transpired. At one point, she nearly spoke up, as horrified as the target of the brothers’ focused attention, but no. Surely Miss de C would be most embarrassed to know anyone else had witnessed her humiliation. She sank back into the shadows. But was she not planning to write the story for the Teatime Tattler? No. No she was not. However she disguised the name and circumstances, everyone here tonight would recognize the event to which she referred. The brothers had been careful of the silly girl’s reputation. She could not destroy it.

Miss Miranda de Courtenay took one last look into the mirror, adjusted her domino mask, and left her room. There was no turning back now. Her mind made up, she prayed her brother Adrian would not remove her from the ball the moment he set eyes upon her scandalous costume of a Greek goddess. If she were to win her bet with her sister Grace, she needed to make an impression on the man whom she had chosen as her target. She had no desire to lose that wonderful bonnet her brother had brought her from Paris and she already looked forward to winning the bottle of perfume from her sister.

Entering the ballroom, she had a moment of hesitation as her eyes quickly scanned the occupants of the already overflowing room. She took a deep breath, wondering if she could truly pull off an outside appearance of confidence when deep inside she was a nervous wreck. I can do this and must remember my purpose, she thought, whilst her gaze continued to flit across the crowd. Ah ha! There he is. There was no mistaking the handsome form of none other than the Marquis of Aldridge, along with his brother, the equally devastating Lord Jonathan. ‘Gren’, he had asked her to call him, and surely such an intimacy must mean he intended to propose?

She shrugged. Either man would do. She pushed back her shoulders and began advancing toward the two gentlemen, one of whom was leaning upon a pillar looking utterly divine. Neither man had a costume other than their evening attire and the masks placed upon their handsome faces; one white, the other black. Perhaps this is what set these two gentlemen apart from any other within the room, for they needed no other enhancement to draw attention to themselves. She had chosen wisely when she set her cap. Inwardly she sighed, wondering how she would feel once she actually received a proposal of marriage from the man known as the Merry Marquis.

Grace’s warning that she should stay far away from this man in particular flashed through her mind, but she ignored it. She dropped down into a proper curtsey, hoping against hope that the men found her attractive as she knew she appeared.

“Good evening, my lords,” she purred. “Were you perhaps looking for me?” She was unprepared for the smile that made her insides churn in a wave of nervous jitters. Being on the receiving end of the Marquis’s charm was deeply disturbing.

His voice was pitched to carry just as far as her ears. “Why, Miss de Courtenay, how delightful you look. Aphrodite herself come to enthrall us with her beauty.”

Her cheeks flushed with heat causing her to question her own stupidity for wearing such a daring gown. But it obviously had the desired effect and could only serve as one step closer to winning her bet. “You are too kind, my lord,” she said offering her hand.

Gren leaned forward to whisper in her ear. “What a charming blush. I would love to see how much of you it covers, my dear.”

A gasp escaped her. How could it not? For all she pretended to act as if she knew all there was to know about men, she was an innocent at only twenty years of age. Miranda instantly became aware that Grace may have been correct when she warned her about this pair. She could feel the warmth of the man’s breath as he lingered near her ear.

She glanced down at her gown and was shocked at how much of her cleavage was there for his viewing pleasure since he towered above her. Good heavens, she really was a fool to have chosen this costume but the die was cast and she had no one else to pursue in her attempts to win what she was now thinking a silly and foolish bet.

Raising her chin, she took hold of her fan and playfully slapped the gentleman’s arm. “My you are a bold one, are you not?” she teased, all the while wondering how she was going to get herself out of this mess she was in and still save face with her sister.

“As are you, my sweet,” Gren said. “And I admire boldness. Do not you, Aldridge?”

“Indeed. Boldness in a woman is highly desirable,” Aldridge agreed, his lids half closed, his voice husky. “Exactly how bold is she, Gren, do you think?”

Miranda glanced between the pair. This was not exactly how she thought this conversation would be leading. Perhaps, if she could just get the marquis alone for a moment, she might still be able to get him to offer for her. Surely he would be swept away by her beauty and propose on bended knee in no time at all.

She turned her full attention to the gentleman, all but ignoring his brother. Rude, perhaps, but this was a matter of grave importance. “My Lord Aldridge, perhaps you could spare me a moment to have a private word with you, just there, by the alcove?”

“Oh no, my dear,” Aldridge said, lifting one aristocratic eyebrow over twinkling eyes. “We must be more careful of your reputation. I would not for the world risk your good name ─ or your brother’s good health.”

“Fie, Aldridge,” Gren scolded. “How would the child know the way these things are done? She is very young still.”

“It will be my pleasure to school her,” Aldridge murmured, his words for his brother, but his eyes captivating Miranda’s and not letting them go. “Very much my pleasure. And hers, too, of course.”

Eyes wide and turning scarlet, she could barely breathe at the implication of his words. Right here, of all places, on the sideline of the ballroom for any and all to hear. Good heavens!

“My Lord, I─” Her lips snapped shut. Any further response was beyond her, as she felt, not just Aldridge, but his brother as well step closer, one to each side of her. When had this situation become completely out of her control?

“But you will share, Aldridge, will you not?” Gren asked. “After all, Miss de Courtenay’s lures have been as much for me as for you. And we have shared a mistress before”

Aldridge nodded. “It is only fair to the lady. The duties of the duchy will prevent me from giving her the devoted attention I used to be able to pay my lovers.”

Miranda’s head swiveled between the pair of brothers. She opened and closed her mouth several times before she was at last able to squeak out some form of a response. “Sh-share?” she stammered. Her hand rose to her throat as if that would cover her embarrassment and heaving bosom.

“I assure you, good sirs, that I am not yours to be,” she quickly looked around so she was not overheard and whispered, “shared between you.”

“Aldridge has grown stuffy,” Gren assured her. “If you were our mistress, my love, I would make sure you never felt neglected.”

“Mistress? Between you?” she cried out in alarm. All thought of trying to squeeze a marriage proposal out of either man was gone as she tried to wrap her thoughts around their outrageous proposition.

Both men frowned, straight eyebrows drawn down over identical hazel eyes. “You would prefer just one of us?” Aldridge asked.

“I suppose that’s fair,” Gren said to his brother. “I dare say she is still an innocent, despite the way she has been pursuing us. She might struggle to meet the needs of us both.” He turned back to the gasping maiden. “You choose then, Miss de Courtenay. Whose mistress would you like to be?”

“I will not be any man’s mistress but a wife,” she huffed, stamping her foot as though that would drive her point home. She looked between the pair and still could not believe they would offer such a proposition as to actually be their mistress. What a fool she had been!

“Grace was right about you,” she whispered gazing directly at Aldridge, as if he were the root of all her problems. She hated to admit she had knowingly brought this whole ghastly situation upon herself with her own sense of arrogance and pride. Humiliation consumed her even as tears welled up in her eyes, both from embarrassment and frustration that she had lost the stupid bet with her sister. At least she still had her virginity intact. God help her if she stayed any longer with this dangerous pair before her.

With tears rushing down her face, she mumbled an apology and dashed from the room, barely even acknowledging Grace when she entered the ballroom. She would have been appalled if she had witnessed her sister’s silent toast with her glass of wine to the gentlemen she had just left.

Aldridge and Gren returned Grace’s salute with a nod and a smile, but Gren’s eyes are clouded. “Poor innocent,” he commented. “I didn’t expect it to upset her so much.”

Aldridge pursed his lips. “She might act like a vixen on the hunt, but she is no more than a foolish kitten. Our agreement with her sister had us honour-bound to offend but not injure.”

Gren grinned. “I kept to my lines, Mr. Propriety. The frown returned to crease his brow. “But I am sorry for the silly chit.”

“Better hurt feelings and pride than ruination,” Aldridge said. “If she’d tried her tricks in London some rogue would have had her out in the garden or off in some secluded library before her brother or sister knew she was on the loose. Yes, and flat on her back with her skirts up whether she wanted or not, with some of the people you and I both know. We have done her a favour, Gren.”

“We’ve won Grace her bet, that’s certain,” Gren concedes. “Though I imagine she is happier to have her sister safe than whatever fribbet they wagered.”

Mission accomplished, the two brothers begin to move through the ballroom, still talking. They were sons of the hostess, and Mama would expect them to mingle.


ABOUT HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

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

Holly and Hopeful Hearts is a Bluestocking Belles Collection is on sale now through December for $0.99.
25% of the sales benefit the Belles’ mutual charity the Malala Fund!

Buy Links:
Amazon US | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords

Amazon AU |  Amazon CA |  Amazon UK


This is an original piece by Bluestocking Belles Sherry Ewing and Jude Knight.

Miranda and the Grenford brothers can be found as secondary characters in the Bluestocking Belles’ 2016 holiday box set entitled, Holly and Hopeful Hearts. Miranda, in particular, is in A Kiss for Charity by Sherry Ewing. Aldridge and Gren are interwoven in several of the novellas and are written by Jude Knight. They also appear in Jude’s latest release, Revealed in Mist. You can learn more about Jude and Sherry and where to find their published work by clicking on their names on this website.

The Teatime Tattler recommends the virtues of Prudence

rolinda-sharples-clifton-assembly-room1The Season is off to an excellent, if early, start. Lady S., daughter-in-law of the Duke of W. must be delighted with the attendance at her soirée, though perhaps less than pleased with the behaviour of some.

While this year’s crop of debutantes has not yet been served up to the marriage mart, those remaining from previous seasons were in eager attendance, every mother hoping to steal a march on all the others in attracting the attention of wealthy or titled bachelors or widowers with a mind to wed, while avoiding fortune hunters and those with more sinister intentions.

In corners of the main reception rooms, the powerful decided the disposition of whatever pawns they controlled: brokering treaties between nations, political parties, trading enterprises, families, or potential marriage partners, depending on the interests of the negotiating parties.

brummellBut the affairs of the great are far from the only business conducted at such an event, and last night was no exception.

In rooms set up for the purpose, gentlemen and ladies with a yen for such things offered up the evening to fate represented by the turn of a card.

In the ballroom, fashionable gentlemen eyed one another in the endless struggle for elevation in the eyes of those they are pleased to call friends, while those more given to energetic pursuits danced or stood in small groups discussing horses or hunting or pugilistic exploits.

Ladies spoke sweet flatteries to one another’s faces and shredded appearances and reputations behind one another’s backs. Maidens sought husbands, wives sought lovers, poor widows sought protectors, and wealthy widows amusement. Everywhere, couples—as they have since the beginning of time—bargained for affection: temporary or bound by vows before a cleric; some under the eyes of stern chaperones and others in less well-lit corners on the dance floor or the chilly terrace.

In small darkened rooms throughout the mansion, those desiring a tryst found a few moments of privacy. Among them, we are assured, was Lord S. himself and also his son, Lord E., who was seen to absent himself from public places on two separate occasions, each time with a different companion.

Our informants also observed Lady G., the duke’s spinster daughter, meeting with a much younger man who is believed to have been Mr. W., widely rumoured to be the unclaimed and unwanted base-born son of the Duke of H.

One can hardly imagine that a lady of such pristine reputation would be indulging in an amorous encounter, but that leaves only the possibility that she is employing Mr. W. in his capacity of thief-taker. Has her ladyship lost a valuable item, perhaps? Is she acting on behalf of Lady S. to investigate the activities of her brother or nephew? Or both? We will watch developments and keep you informed.

As if that were not enough, Mr. W. and an unidentified woman, possibly one of the army of companions in attendance on various matrons, were involved in the most shocking event of the evening. They combined to effect a rescue of a foolish damsel who allowed herself to be enviegled into one of the aforementioned private rooms.

maidenOne would expect a maiden in her second season to show more sense than to respond to a note from a man, and certainly the girl’s protectors to display more awareness of their charge’s whereabouts. Was the title ‘Earl’ a lure that caused her and her chaperone to cast discretion and rational thought to the wind?

We could have advised the young lady that this particular earl has been known to ruin and abandon foolish young women who go apart in his company. His recent ascent to the title on his father’s death has clearly not changed his character.

Fortunately for the damsel, the man (we hesitate to call him a gentleman) was interrupted in his evil pursuit, and she was delivered intact, having had a salutary scare, to Lady G., a well-known defender of the innocent. And her own family name and fortune mean that any sanctions against her from the arbiters of social standing will be mild.

As for the Earl in question, we are assured that he has been banned from ever entering the household again. And where Lady S. leads can other hostesses be slow to follow?

Yes, the Season is off to an exciting start indeed!

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The Sutton soirée is the scene of the first chapter in Jude’s new historical mystery, Revealed in Mist, currently available on pre-order and to be released early in December. Mr. W. and the unnamed companion appeared in The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, a novella in Hand-Turned Tales, as the rescuers of the blind earl and his countess who were the hero and heroine of that novella. You may also have met them (as David Wakefield and his mysterious woman partner) investigating a crime for the hero of Farewell to Kindness.

Their pasts could bring them together or separate them forever

revealed-in-mist-smallPrue’s job is to uncover secrets, but she hides a few of her own. When she is framed for murder and cast into Newgate, her one-time lover comes to her rescue. Will revealing what she knows help in their hunt for blackmailers, traitors, and murderers? Or threaten all she holds dear?

Enquiry agent David solves problems for the ton, but will never be one of them. When his latest case includes his legitimate half-brothers as well as the woman who left him months ago, he finds the past and the circumstances of his birth difficult to ignore. Danger to Prue makes it impossible.

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Revealed in Mist is on pre-order at most eretailers. Sadly, not on Amazon, since Jude is in Amazon jail for getting the final version of Gingerbread Bride to them two days late, only eight days before release. Circumstances beyond Jude’s control doesn’t cut it with the Amazon guards, so no pre-order. But if you want the book in Kindle format, pre-order from Smashwords, iBooks, or Barnes and Noble, or follow Jude on Amazon for an email the day the book goes live.

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About Jude Knight

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

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Gossip from a Taproom Vagrant

jan_baptist_lambrechts_attr-_-_at_the_tavernI can only say that it is a good thing Mr. Clemens located a prime investigator inside the Duchess of Haverford’s Hopeful Hearts house party because I, intrepid reporter, find myself a marooned at a third rate inn along a road that has become impassible with mud and rutted beyond use. My post chaise broke an axel in the stuff. Here I sit. Tomorrow being Christmas I will go no further for now.

The ale here is poor but abundant, and, with naught else to do, I have stationed myself in the taproom to pick up what miserable crumbs I might. I have not come up empty handed.

I no more ordered my third pint when a horseman swept in, grimaced over a mug of rancid cider, and left. Folks on horseback may travel as they will, but carriage traffic has all but disappeared. I tried to hire a horse with the pittance Clemens gives me for expenses and could not. (More about that later) This man’s horse, a peculiar specimen, stood in the courtyard looking so cool I would have thought it a fresh mount, not one that had been given water and sent on its way again.

The innkeeper acted in awe of the man who stood well over the common height and possessed both dark skin as well as hair. Unlike the innkeeper, I knew the man: he who pretends to be Elfingham, heir in waiting to the Duke of Winshire. He chases the Belvoir chit no doubt, or her brother’s consequence rather, his own being not worth a pittance. Everyone knows he is after her in hopes to shore up the family’s pretense of legitimacy. He swept from the place like the furies pursued him, dark robe flapping in the wind.

Not three hours passed when a groom came in to say a carriage lumbered up the road putting a lie to everyone’s belief that none might make it through. The greedy publican hastened to the door and the rest of the room to the windows to see who had made it so far. I watched it go by with my own eyes, a top of the trees equipage if ever I saw one. I saw the ducal crest as well: The Duke of Haverford. I doubt the old duke bothered to attend his wife’s do. Aldridge, on the other hand, can never resist a party full of beautiful women. It was he, I am certain, and there will be delicious stories to uncover, if only I can get to the Hall and insinuate myself through the kitchen.

Just when the taproom began to settle for the night, yet another carriage arrived, this one less well fated, and obviously unable to go further. A frantic young man, a cit as I live and breathe and a Hebrew—one with a French accent at that— began to berate the innkeeper, obviously desperate to get to Hollystone Hall. Why, I don’t know. No young woman of gentle enough birth to attend a duchess’s house party would entertain such a one as a suitor. I did hear him mention Baumann, the banker. Perhaps he has business with the duchess or with Aldridge. That must be it. Our readers might like to know what.

Here is the odd part. He demanded a horse, and I knew well there were none. Had the innkeeper not refused to hire one out to me? Money talks. Horses were found. Before too long he left with two nags, one a miserable hack and the other, obviously a carriage horse, with his bags loaded on it. Off he went, while I, good Christian citizen of His Majesty’s fair land that I am, remained here with naught but a bench to sleep upon.

franz_adam_-_the_stable_lad

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What happened to these holiday travelers? Find out in Holly and Hopeful Hearts, available now from various retailers. 25% of proceeds will go to the Malala Fund.

hollyhopefulheartsAbout the Book

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

 

 

About the Stories

A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below.

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight

James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.

Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts.

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?

Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett

Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love…

 

BUY LINKS for HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

Amazon UShttp://ow.ly/INwa3049Ey3
Amazon UK: http://ow.ly/ZMuH3049ELM
Amazon Australiahttp://ow.ly/TczG3049EQ2
Amazon Canadahttp://ow.ly/IERm3049EYM
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/664559
Kobo: http://ow.ly/Vx1n304jGzj
Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/LqCI304jGuS
iBooks: http://ow.ly/JcSI304jGWE

 

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