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Scandal in Venice

VeniceThis house is not a brothel.  I Signora Rossi conduct a respectable boarding house—respectable! All Venice knows. And I tell you true. Those English aristos, they bring disgrace on my business. One would expect an earl and his sister to bring renown to an establishment like mine. Instead the Earl of Ambler and that disgraceful sister of his bring me ruin.

When they arrive, I already suspect. His so-called sister comes with no maid, no older lady to, what you call, chaperone. What kind of “lady,” travels with men and no older woman? The clink of their coin sounded more real than their story; I swallowed my misgivings. Perhaps a respectable older woman, delayed along the road, did follow. So far I see no sign of her. The earl, he looks younger so perhaps he really is her brother. She calls herself Lady Charlotte Tyree.

The earl comes in drunk, loud— very late the first night, shouting that he met that English poet Byron, another aristo. A very bad set, that. Me, I try to warn the woman, but the earl? Like most men, he don’t listen. If he visits Venice to study our architecture or take in Tinteretto, I see no sign of it. The few days he doesn’t sleep all day he runs off with that poet to Lazaretto and the Armenians. Only the girl spends time in our many lovely churches. She does the sketching and the studying. Perhaps he plans to pass her work off as his—idiota.

The girl behaves well enough. I began to think her respectable and pity her the company of her spoiled brother. Last week everything changes. Due pescatori still in their fishing clothes and drunk as lords, drop the earl at my door smelling of fish and rotten water. The boy tried to swim Il Canal Grande like his idol, an even bigger fool. He spews canal water—and worse—on my floors. 

VeniceNow scandal in my house. I not bargain for scandal. The medico—the one with the horrid children and nasty mother—he arrives. I stand at my door and before I can blink he comes down my stairs carrying that girl over his shoulder. He dumps her in his ancient gondola and leaves his helper upstairs with the earl. No coin. Not one word to me.

Santa madre di Dio! What is a widow to do?

About the Book: Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil

It’s 1818 and Byron is in Venice. When Lady Charlotte Tyree’s feckless brother attempts to mimic his idol and swim the Grand Canal, putrid fever lays him flat and strands her there. Venice, Christmas, a handsome Italian doctor… her life is about to take an interesting turn.

Pre-order from Amazon or Epub from Smashwords

About the Author

Caroline Warfield, a Bluestocking Belle and regular contributor to The Teatime Tattler, writes historical romance. In addition to her holiday novellas, she writes novels set in the Regency and immediate post-Regency eras.  In her newest series, Children of Empire, three cousins driven apart by lies and deceit, find their way home from the farthest corners of the British Empire—and find love along the way.

Find out more here.

A Pirate, A Lady, and A Lord – Part Five

Captain Pershore served the lovely Lady Annamarie himself. A bit of each of the three fish and a loaf of bread. A pile of vegetables. He laid the plate in front of her and hesitated.

“Would you prefer ale or water?” he asked.

“Oh, no.” She swept to her feet. “Allow me to pour.”

Pleased beyond measure, he watched as she poured his glass first. Ale for him and water for her, he noted.

He quickly threw a few items on his plate and sat.

“Please, enjoy,” he said.

But the lovely vision did not eat her food.

“What is the mater?” he asked.

Despite himself, he was growing angry. He did not wish to be angry. He wanted to feel only love for the lady sitting before him. For years, he had loved her from afar. He wished to have her love in return.

Why would she not eat? Was she rejecting the food or himself?

 

***

 

Annamarie could tell that Pershore was growing upset, and so she quickly took a bite of food. She chewed and swallowed hastily.

A bit too hastily. The fish caught in her throat, and she coughed and coughed.

At once, Perhsore leaped to his feet and rounded the table. He patted her back firmly but not too harshly, and the piece dislodged. Her breathing returned to normal.

“Thank you,” she said, feeling flustered and embarrassed.

To her surprise, Pershore reassumed his seat without touching her more than necessary.

Perhaps he read her shock because he said, “When you wish to be held, I will hold you. When you wish to dance, we will dance. If you wish to sing, I will raise my voice too. Although I must confess I am a terrible singer.”

“I am not much of a dancer,” she whispered. “Or a singer.”

A dark cloud crossed over his features, and her fright returned.

“This fish is delicious,” she rushed to say.

When she was not choking on it.

“Did you catch it yourself?” she continued.

Most of that darkness banished away, but not all of it. Annamarie swallowed hard. She must not forget that Pershore was not a good man. He had kidnapped her. He might be trying to act the part of a gentleman, but he clearly was not one.

Would she be doomed to remain on his ship for forever? Or worse, would he force her to marry him whenever they would reach shore?

 

***

 

Barnet was beside himself. Far too much time was passing them by. Annamarie needed him, and here he was, lost at sea with a Landlubber claiming to know the way when he clearly didn’t.

“Haven’t your friends been answering your lantern signals?” Barnet would ask each morning.

“Soon,” Landlubber would answer each morning. “You’ll be gettin’ to your lass soon.”

“Yes, yes, and you’ll kill Pershore. I know.”

“Do not fret. Frettin’ affects the seas.”

“So does sneezing,” Barnet grumbled.

Landlubber laughed. “I know how you be feelin’. Trust me. I know what I be doin’.”

What choice did Barnet have but to trust him?

Hold on, Annamarie. We’ll save you. I promise we won’t be too late.

Barnet just hoped that promise would not prove to be a lie.

 

To be continued…

Read Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three here, and Part Four here.

Taken from the notes of one Lady Anna Wycliff

Lady Anna is the heroine in Christmas Kisses, which had been a part of the Bluestocking Belles’ boxed set Holly and Hopeful Hearts and now contains a bonus end scene.

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter, wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. She suffered through trials to find love herself.

Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke. Her mother insists on Anna befriending a marquess’s son, a man Anna finds far too rude. Can either man be the right one for Anna?

Buy CHRISTMAS KISSES here!

 

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.

The Burgundy Highwayman Reappears

Devon HighwaymanWord reaches us from Devonshire that the Burgundy Highwayman has reappeared in that county. We need hardly remind our readers of the toll this rogue took on the purses of the wealthiest London-bound travelers, and on the hearts of their fainting daughters, before disappearing last Yuletide.

highwaymanIn truth, there was a time when many of our more sentimentally-inclined belles rather looked forward to being accosted by the highwayman, taking needless carriage rides to the outskirts of town in hopes of being treated to his gallant manner, his flashing eyes, and his gentle touch as he relieved them of their baubles.

Many were taken in by the romantic aura he had created for himself, carrying on the pretense of a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing only from rich nobles and giving half his take to London’s poor. The fact that he and his gang eschewed violence when at all possible, and had never killed a soul, only added to this mystique. By the time of his departure, the rogue was so popular that many a Burgundy Highwayman could be seen at London’s masked ball.

HighwaymanUnfortunately, life is no masquerade, and the highwayman’s identity must remain a mystery until his capture. But we can glean a few clues in his behavior as reported by his victims. That he is of genteel birth and breeding there can be no doubt, judging by his manner and address. Where one would expect an outlaw of this sort to possess an imposing physical stature, the Burgundy Highwayman is average of height and slight of frame; his voice, far from low and gruff, is of a middling timbre, though still managing a tone of command.

One correspondent even reports that the highwayman reminded her of no one more than Dora Jordan, in the breeches role of Ganymede. Could the highwayman be a woman in disguise? Only the rogue’s capture will tell.

Whoever he is, the highwayman’s removal to Devonshire has caused a change in his (or her!) behavior toward the fair sex. It seems the villain was so taken by the charms of a country miss – a vicar’s daughter, no less – that he (she?!) abandoned propriety and stole a kiss along with a necklace. And this in the presence not only of her lady’s companion but also of Anthony, Lord Burnside, with whom this daughter of a vicar is rumored to have formed an unlikely connection.

This tantalizing tableau has given us a delicious frisson, and we look forward to more news from the west country.

Until then, I remain your faithful correspondent,

Jules Plume de Paon

* * *

HighwaymanAbout the Book

Twenty-year-old Elizabeth Collington, the proper and obedient daughter of a Devonshire clergyman, believes herself beyond girlish romances. But when a highwayman steals a kiss, along with her departed mother’s necklace, Elizabeth experiences feelings of which her father would never approve. Soon after this unsettling event, a young widow arrives in the village, catching Elizabeth by surprise as their friendship advances quickly to the deepest intimacy she has ever known. Yet the highwayman will not leave her alone, filling her mind with ideas of revolution and her body with sensations of the greatest impropriety. Amidst this swirl of conflicting feelings, Elizabeth hardly has time to consider Anthony, son of the neighboring Earl, whose halting courtship holds out her one slim chance at an establishment in life. Will Elizabeth choose the conventional path, honoring her duty to her father and safeguarding her reputation? Or will she follow the demands of her heart, pursuing a love even less proper than that for a highwayman?

A comedy of manners wrapped around a Gothic tale, a mashup of Jane Austen, Alfred Noyes’ poem “The Highwayman,” Ellen Kushner’s Riverside series, and Robin Hood, Daring and Decorum makes a passionate case for the freedom to love whom one chooses. You might call it, “Racier than Jane Austen, better-written than Fifty Shades of Grey.” Or maybe, “Regency Romance, minus the hunky, shirtless lords.” (What’s left, you ask? Let Elizabeth show you! )

Buy Links for Daring and Decorum:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Website | Smashwords

About Lawrence Hogue

Lawrence Hogue’s writing is all over the place and all over time. He started out in nonfiction/nature writing with a personal narrative/environmental history of the Anza-Borrego Desert called All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journeys in a Desert Landscape. After moving to Michigan, he switched to writing fiction, including contemporary stories set in the desert and fanfiction based on the videogame Skyrim. He’s a fan of folk music, and got the idea for Daring and Decorum while listening to Loreena McKennitt’s outstanding adaptation of Alfred Noyes’ poem, The Highwayman. When not speaking a word for nature or for forgotten LGBT people of history, he spends his white-knighting, gender-betraying energies on Twitter and Facebook, and sometimes on the streets of Lansing, MI, and Washington DC. He’s been called a Social Justice Warrior, but prefers Social Justice Wizard or perhaps Social Justice Lawful Neutral Rogue.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Amazon

 

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

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