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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.

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

 

Miss Atherton’s Misfortune and Sad Entanglements

A letter from Miss Lucretia Atherton to Mr. Henry Atherton, steward of Viscount Saybrook’s Lincolnshire estate. Brighton, May 1821.

My dear nephew:

If the physician be correct in his prognostications, by the time you read this letter I will be dead. Rejoicing, I trust, along with my Maker, if our Lord can find it in his heart to forgive the mistakes of a woman whose sins lie far in the past. I flatter myself that my keeping of your daughter for all these years—more than ten, now, since the passing of my own dear niece, your wife!—will stand me in good stead as I face my day of judgment.

But now I must return poor Harriot to your care, as it has been her misfortune not to secure herself a husband during these years she has lived with me as my companion. Although the primary purpose in removing her from Lincolnshire was to prevent any unfortunate entanglements with the sons of Lord Saybrook, I did advise you that she would have a far better chance of securing herself a suitable husband if she came to me, rather than stayed with your widowed self. But she has not. Why this should be so, I cannot begin to fathom. She has been taught how to run a small household, and how to best keep its accounts; she has a kind, selfless sort of temperament; and, though not a diamond of the first water, she can be pleasing when she makes a proper effort with her toilette. Surely the demands I placed upon her as my companion could not have so occupied her mind as to it leave it no room for wooing.

Misfortune

Brighton, 1883, complements of Antiquemapsandprints.com

I cannot account it my fault. My political work here in Brighton has often brought us into company with gentlemen of the proper social standing, but Harriot would have none of them. Nor did the sons of any of the local gentry seem to catch her eye, nor she theirs. At least we may be thankful her head was not turned by any in the Prince Regent’s dissolute set, who parade about the town in their ridiculous fashions and dandified airs, preening as if they were peacocks wooing a hen. I do not look kindly on our current King for bringing such a dissolute set to my poor Brighton, even if their patronage has contributed to the economy of the town.

I did think at one time Harriot might harbor a tendre for a young officer whose regiment had been stationed in the town. But despite my continual urging, she failed to bring him to the point, and his regiment left town without his having made the expected declaration. Miss Terpent, Brighton’s most determined gossip, dared to put it about that Harriot had allowed Lieutenant Chamberlayne liberties that no lady ought, but for my part, I cannot believe it of my niece. You can be certain I squashed such ill-bred, groundless rumors as soon as they came to my ears, and no word of such things should follow her home.

I understand from Harriot that you have seen little of the new Lord Saybrook at the estate since the passing of his father. I do hope he continues to spend the bulk of his time in London; it would be a pity to send Harriot away for a decade to avoid an inappropriate entanglement with a boy above her station, only to have the grown man persuade her into a dalliance upon her return. I understand from my friends in the city that your new lord is of a low, dissolute character, particularly in his relations with the gentler sex, and have warned your daughter accordingly.

Although I did think from some remarks Harriot let drop that it was not the heir, but his brother, whom she recalled with some fondness—

Be that as it may. I am at peace, knowing I have done all I could for your child.

I will recommend your soul to your wife when we meet in Heaven, and pray it will be many years before you join us there.

I remain, your dutiful Aunt,

Lucretia Atherton

MisfortuneAbout the Book:  A Lady without a Lord

Book #3 in The Penningtons series

A viscount convinced he’s a failure

For years, Theodosius Pennington has tried to forget his myriad shortcomings by indulging in wine, women, and witty bonhomie. But now that he’s inherited the title of Viscount Saybrook, it’s time to stop ignoring his responsibilities. Finding the perfect husband for his headstrong younger sister seems a good first step. Until, that is, his sister’s dowry goes missing . . .

A lady determined to succeed

Harriot Atherton has a secret: it is she, not her steward father, who maintains the Saybrook account books. But Harry’s precarious balancing act begins to totter when the irresponsible new viscount unexpectedly returns to Lincolnshire, the painfully awkward boy of her childhood now a charming yet vulnerable man. Unfortunately, Theo is also claiming financial malfeasance. Can her father’s wandering wits be responsible for the lost funds? Or is she?

As unlikely attraction flairs between dutiful Harry and playful Theo, each learns there is far more to the other than devoted daughter and happy-go-lucky lord. But if Harry succeeds at protecting her father, discovering the missing money, and keeping all her secrets, will she be in danger of failing at something equally important—finding love?

Amazon: http://myBook.to/LwoaL

Barnes & Noble: http://www.anrdoezrs.net/links/8262311/type/dlg/http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-lady-without-a-lord-bliss-bennet/1125511438?ean=2940157235338

Ibooks: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-lady-without-a-a-lord/id1184485124?mt=11&at=1001l5aH

Kobo: http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=TGFtlVejZLM&subid=&offerid=361251.1&type=10&tmpid=9310&RD_PARM1=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.kobo.com%2Fus%2Fen%2Febook%2Fa-lady-without-a-lord

An excerpt in which Theo offers Harry a long-overdue apology

“I know it’s not much,” he said, gesturing to the flowers. “But rue is supposed to symbolize regret, is it not?”

“Yes. But how could I ever regret receiving my first bouquet from a gentleman?”

“What? No flowers, ever? Why, those fops down in Brighton must be slow tops, indeed.”

“Slower than you, certainly,” she answered, a smile in her voice.

An even worse thought entered his head. Theo clasped his hands in front of his heart in exaggerated entreaty. “Please tell me the boys of Lincolnshire weren’t as dilatory. An entire field full of meadow rue wouldn’t come close to conveying my regrets if your very first kiss came from my bumbling adolescent self.”

“Best start gathering ye rue while ye may, then, sir,” she teased. “And your sin was even more reprehensible than that. For I’d been nursing the most painful case of calf-love for your brother Benedict at the time.”

Theo groaned. “And instead you got me, the careless, foolish brother. How utterly demoralizing, both for you and myself. But only say the word and I’ll dash off a missive this moment, inviting Benedict back to the family manse so you can exert your feminine wiles on the boy.”

Yes, a sensible plan, that, masterminding a match between his brother and the daughter of his steward. Why, then, did the idea of Harry kissing Benedict make him so ill at ease? And not only, he feared, because he worried Ben’s attentions were fixed on someone else entirely.

“Please, do not trouble yourself,” Harry said with a laugh. “As an old Friesian general of my great aunt’s acquaintance used to say, ‘calf-love, half-love, old love, cold love.’”

Theo leaned an arm against a hay bale. “Ah, found a better swain in Brighton than old Ben, did you? One who gave you no flowers, the dunderhead. But perhaps a few kisses, to erase the memory of mine?”

A small, secret smile lit her face. “No need to worry, sir. Yours is not the only kiss I’ve ever received.”

“Ah, you did have a love in Brighton,” Theo said, struggling to make his tone as light as his words. “So why did you leave?”

Harry bent over his drab little bouquet as if she expected to find some hidden scent amongst its wilting blooms. When she raised her head, that private smile was gone, replaced by one wider, but far more brittle. “Not every kiss leads to lasting love, sir. As I’m certain you are well aware, if even a tiny portion of the tales of your London escapades are true.”

The false cheer in her voice, the way she turned the subject away from herself and back on to him—was not it just like her, to insist her own feelings were of no matter? But she had been hurt by her faithless swain, of that he was certain. Damn the perfidious cur to hell and back.

“Of course not,” he said. “Some kisses are simply for pleasure. And some are to dissipate tension, or anger. Some can even offer comfort. Like this.”

Cupping her nape in his hand, he set his lips against hers, pressing all the solace he could into the simple touch.

He had meant it to ease her cares, but the warmth and stillness of her beneath him seemed to calm him, too. Almost as if the tranquility of the lavender about which she’d sung resided somehow within her.

After a long, quiet moment, he raised his head. Stroking a thumb over her cheek, he gazed into her wide, wide eyes.

“Whoever he is, Harry, he is not worth your regrets. Not if he let you go without a fight.”

Then, before impetuosity and rising lust drove him to demand more, he scrambled down the ladder and out into the starless night.

About the Author

Misfortune

Bliss Bennet writes smart, edgy novels for readers who love history as much as they love romance. Her Regency-set series The Penningtons has been praised by the Historical Novel Society’s Indie Reviews as “a series well worth following”; its books have been described by USA Today as “savvy, sensual, and engrossing”; by Heroes and Heartbreakers as “captivating,” and by The Reading Wench as having “everything you want in a great historical romance.” The latest book in the series is A Lady without a Lord.

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.

Jude Knight’s book pageSmashwords # iBooks # Barnes and NobleAmazon US

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