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Musings of a Motley Meddler: G— St. V—, Part 2

England 1814

Dear Interested Parties,

Today’s topic: The betrothal of G— St . V—, the future M— of S—

In my last post, I outlined the terms of my latest wager: that I would have G— St. V—t, the future M— of S— betrothed in a fortnight to a gel of my choosing.

Alas, we are halfway to this self-imposed deadline and my quarry (both of them) are proving particularly stubborn despite the fact that they were caught in a most compromising situation, which in normal circumstances would spell a special license and a wedding posthaste.

Both parties claim all innocence. Of course.

Society matrons have called for their immediate marriage. As expected.

As for me? I consider myself somewhat of a progressive mind, yet even I blushed upon (accidentally, of course) overhearing their private, albeit muffled, conversation, which I must admit was quite damning.

And that’s saying quite a lot coming from me. Considering the things I’ve seen…the things I’ve done…

…but I digress.

Here are a few of the key statements overheard (the lady speaks first):

“Can I touch it?”

“Please do.”

“Oh, my. It’s really soft, but at the same time, so hard. Like marble, but warmer.”

“Mmm. Yes. I’ve been told that before.”

“I love the way it feels.”

“Me, too.”

“Do you stroke it often?”

“Every day.”

“Won’t that ruin it?”

Mumbling. Perhaps, a groan.

“Try harder, D—.”

See? Quite incriminatory.

Truthfully, I don’t relish winning in this manner. I want to earn my successes… through my own machinations.

Fortunately, my prey seem bent on allowing their reputations to crumble rather than be forced to marry.

Never fear, dear readers, I have prevailed over narrower odds than this before, and I shall do so once again. Despite their reluctance, I proclaim they will be betrothed in a week. Of their own accord. Without pressure from society and questionably compromising situations.

Now that I have you all anxiously anticipating all the juicy particulars—please be aware, I am chronicling everything, and I vow you shall have the full details of this whirlwind courtship available to you before the end of the year.

Lady Harriett Ross
Bloomfield Place
Bath, England

I’m just an old woman with opinions. On everything.

Harriett Ross is a delightful secondary character who appears in every book of Amy Quinton’s Agents of Change series. She is the Marquess of Dansbury’s beloved aunt and is looking to create her own spin-off series of match-making tales. For now, you can find her in any one of the Agents of Change books, including the wildly popular: What the Marquess Sees.

Read more about this and other stories in the Agents of Change series here.

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

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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

Tea at the Reverend’s House

Stantreath is a den of gossips! Poor Sophia and her sister Lucy came here to escape whispers of scandal as Sophia sought to raise her younger sister’s son without a cloud of ignominy following the boy through his life, but it did not take long for the round of gossip to begin again. And now that the boy’s uncle, Lord Haughton has arrived to make himself known to Sophia…

The assembled ladies waited patiently as Mrs. Fenton picked up the teapot, a smile small gracing her mouth as she poured the dark, steaming liquid into the four cups set out before her.

“The cakes are fresh,” she announced, jutting out her chin towards a tray decorated with an array of cream cakes and tarts. “I believe our cook has outdone herself this morning.”

Mrs. Kirkland glanced at Mrs. Runyon, but said nothing. The gall of the woman, to boast about the efforts of a cook, when they both knew very well that she’d never been able to keep on more than a housekeeper and that rheumy fellow who looked after their straggly lawn and horses.

“Lovely!” Mrs. Miller took two cakes for herself and prompted Mrs. Fenton to add a touch more milk to her tea. “And how is Mr. Fenton this morning? Already hard at work on next week’s sermon, no doubt?”

The reverend’s wife pushed her shoulders back, the lace lining the collar of her gown shifting slightly with the movement. “He does take such great care over his work. But, no. Today he has elected to call on Lord Haughton, who has recently arrived here in Stantreath.”

The pronouncement trembled in the air. All of the women present had already been apprised of the news at least a day before, yet to hear of an interaction with a member of the peerage, and with someone so closely connected to themselves… Well, the cream cakes sat forgotten as the ladies waited for Mrs. Fenton to continue.

“Does anyone know what has brought this Lord Haughton here?” Mrs. Miller finally ventured to ask when the silence had continued for a few seconds longer than her patience could stand.

Mrs. Kirkland cleared her throat as she picked imaginary crumbs from the napkin spread across her lap. “His carriage was seen outside of Lady Rutledge’s cottage,” she said, delivering the news with the elocution of a governess.

“Mrs. Brixton?” Mrs. Miller paused with her cup an inch from her lips, the milky tea nearly spilling over the delicate rim. “Does he know her?”

“‘Mrs.’ indeed!” Mrs. Kirkland sniffed. “There’s always been something… untoward about Mrs. Sophia Brixton, if indeed she ever possessed a husband. And I wasn’t at all surprised to hear of her younger sister’s disappearance. Such a forward, flighty girl. I must say, I’m pleased to see her gone from Stantreath and away from the eyes of our impressionable young men.”

The other women nodded their agreement, lace and ribbons bouncing around caps and fussy fichus.

“Though…” Mrs. Runyon spoke up for the first time, her already florid cheeks gaining more color as she peered over the edge of her wire-rimmed spectacles at their host. “I had witnessed some special attention paid to Mrs. Brixton by your own son. Unless, that is, I was mistaken in his behavior towards her.”

The tips of Mrs. Fenton’s fingers turned from pink to white as she returned her cup to the tray. “I’m not sure I know to what you’re insinuating,” she said, her lips barely moving as she spoke. “Josiah can sometimes overstep the boundaries of decorum in his efforts to appear… helpful and welcoming to others. But it does not signify as he’ll be leaving for London at the end of the summer, in order to prepare himself for taking on a post such as his father’s before him.”

Another glance passed between a few of the ladies as Mrs. Fenton bustled with the tea things, her agitation at the turn the conversation had taken showing in the tightness of her jaw, along with the clatter of the fine porcelain against the silver tea service.

“But what of this Lord Haughton?” Mrs. Miller pressed. “Does he intend to stay? Perhaps he’s looking to acquire one of the larger houses, or—”

“The only estate around here is Lady Rutledge’s crumbling pile of stones,” Mrs. Kirkland put in sharply. “And he’d do better to raze it to the ground before attempting to live in that dreary heap.”

One of the women tittered behind her hand, while Mrs. Fenton regained some measure of her former composure as she refilled cups and offered a second helping of cakes to her guests. “My husband will make his introductions to Lord Haughton, and also advise him to keep clear of some of the less savory inhabitants of our village. I’m sure Lord Haughton will see what true quality is once he makes Mr. Fenton’s acquaintance, and I promise each and every one of you an invitation to my table once Lord Haughton accepts my request to join us here for dinner.”

The other three ladies oohed and aahed over their cups and dabbed crumbs from their lips. Mrs. Fenton raised her chin an inch and surveyed the scene before her as she thought of an evening with Lord Haughton as one of her guests, and how differently everyone would treat her once word had spread that a member of the peerage had supped at her table.

“Now,” Mrs. Kirkland began, her spoon tinkling quietly against the inside of her cup as she stirred an extra bit of sugar into her tea. “Did you see Miss Wing’s bonnet yesterday? Such a garish creation! I’m surprised her mother let her wear it outside the house!”

***

Meet Quenby Olsen

Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she writes, homeschools, glares at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chases the cat off the kitchen counters. After training to be a ballet dancer, she turned towards her love of fiction, penning everything from romance to fantasy, historical to mystery. She spends her days with her husband and children, who do nothing to dampen her love of the outdoors, immersing herself in historical minutiae, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.

***

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Word from Southwark, Suspicions Confirmed

Theodoor Verstraete, High Tide

May 13th, 1679

The Hague

It was late afternoon and dark as dusk, with rain pelting the window again. It was unseasonably cold for May and the rain had barely stopped since March. As each dreary day rolled in off the sea, Alice’s dread deepened. It had been months since she’d had word of her family, and the local tea merchant who had last reported her sister missing had proved maddeningly difficult to find.

They had never gone so long without a letter from home before. By her estimation, Jane should have given birth again in late January, and Mark had never let such an occasion pass without writing. She filled the silence with an endless procession of nightmare scenarios, each of them ending in the death or injury of someone she loved.

Was Jane alive?

Where was Meg Henshawe?

How had a Jewish prizefighter come to own her childhood home and her family’s business?

This last question tied her mind in knots. Jack’s tailor was Jewish with family in London, and he had informed her that although his people had been formally readmitted to England, they were still not permitted to own property there.

How had he managed it? Was there a chance the tea merchant could be mistaken?

Alice’s heart leapt as the door slammed on the ground level. The noise was followed by heavy steps as someone thundered up the stairs.

“Your father’s home,” she whispered to her infant son, sleeping with his angelic face pressed into her shoulder. He had begun to fall asleep on her following his afternoon feeding, but Alice never had the heart to put him in his bed. He would be grown soon enough. Instead, she relaxed into her chair by the window and let him sleep.

Jack rarely made a sound as he returned home every day, light as the thief he had once been. Some things never changed. That she could hear him at all troubled her. Either something had happened, or he was being chased.

He flung open the door, out of breath. Immediately, he noticed Achilles in her arms. He flung up his hands in contrition, an opened letter clutched in one. “Sorry,” he whispered and closed the door behind himself.

“What is it?” she asked, her voice low.

Achilles yawned and slept on.

Jack’s face lit up. “A letter from Mark!”

Relief warred with excitement in her chest. Achilles felt it and shifted. “Is Jane well? What of my sisters?”

“Everyone’s well, by the sound of things. He had sent the letter to Paris and Achille had it forwarded to us when he returned from Versailles, that’s what’s caused the delay.”

He sat in the chair across from hers and passed her the letter. She shifted the baby’s weight more fully onto her shoulder and flipped it open with her left hand.

He leaned forward on his knees, watching her reaction. “You were right.”

Dear Jack,

Happy Christmas! I hope you and Alice and your little soldier are enjoying a nice quiet one. I have given up on ever having a good night’s sleep again and I find I am happier for it. There’s no use in wishing for the impossible, now more than ever. Jane gave birth to a healthy boy on Christmas Eve. We’re calling him John. He’s thriving and does not often cry, but the rest of the children make such a fuss over him it’s noisy as a lark’s nest. I nodded off at work on Meg’s kitchen this week and woke to her foot between my ribs. Married life has made her sweeter, but her toes are still sharp as anything.

I don’t expect she’s written, so I’ll be the first to tell you. Meg’s married Jake Cohen and now she refuses to make pork pies. The notion had my full support until she told me in no uncertain terms my pies are gone for good. I won’t half miss them, I can tell you! I suppose it’s worth it to see her so happy. Happiness on Meg is the strangest thing — she’s unrecognizable these days. More beautiful, if you can believe it. She wears her hair differently and when folks come looking for Meg Henshawe, she tells them she’s dead. I couldn’t be gladder for the both of them, but the whole ordeal has been rather humbling. If this is what happy looks like on Meg, I don’t recall seeing it before this month. Jake’s a right decent sort, but it would seem he’s a magician as well.

We’re on better terms with Meg now. Jane had some trouble with this last birth and Meg was able to help her, to my everlasting gratitude. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say Jane would not be alive if not for Meg, and I’ll never forget it.

Everyone else is alive and well. Alice’s sisters are selling cosmetics out of the inn and business appears to be picking up. Nothing like a pretty face to sell complexion tonic, except perhaps four of them. When you return you will find things roughly where you left them, but improved, as so few things are, with time.

Give my love to Alice and your boy.

Affectionately,

Mark Virtue

P.S. No word yet from Harry. He was last seen in the Carolinas, and I sent another letter there this week. Hugo is well and very excited to have another boy to play with at last.

Alice took a moment to catch her breath. “I was right,” she whispered. “Meg’s married Jake Cohen.”

Jack nodded. “I barely remember him. Was he the one with the unusual fighting style?”

Alice shrugged. “I never saw him fight, all I remember is Meg’s description.”

“And?”

“He’s built like a coach and four and handsome as the devil himself,” she mimicked her sister’s voice. “Those eyes, that punch…that back. God’s teeth, Bel, I could stare at him all night.”

Jack’s laugh was pure glee. “Sounds like she gets to now. Never thought I’d see the day.”

“You’re not the only one,” Alice sighed, feeling as though a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “Meg. Married.”

Jack kneeled before her and took her hands in his. “You must be so relieved. I know you’ve been worried about your sisters.”

She nodded. “I’m sorry about Harry.”

His face fell almost imperceptibly, but she noticed.

“We’ll find him,” she assured him with more certainty that she had. “Or he’ll find his way back, just you see.”

Broken Things

Out Now

Content notes: contains profanity, violence, graphic sex, and references to domestic violence.

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

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