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Hearts and Diamonds At Risk

Ask Aunt Augusta

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

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

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

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

Your faithful reader,
Caro A.

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

Let us address your problems one at a time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed, that is a question for Scotland Yard.

I wish you the very best,
Aunt Agatha

About The Thief of Hearts

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

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

Available on Amazon


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

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

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

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

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

Mr Hargreaves was only too happy to oblige.

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

Bertie held them both out to Caro.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

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An Encounter in the Cyder Cellars

In the basement of 21 Maiden Lane in London, the great metropolis, there is a tavern called the Cyder Cellars, much frequented by writers and artists, and the young men about Town. After curtain in the nearby theatres, it tends to be packed with men desiring supper and some old-fashioned glee-singing. It was there that Mr. Clemens of the Teatime Tattler ran into his flame-haired colleague Mr. William MacNeil from that esteemed Victorian magazine Allan’s Miscellany.

The Great Mac was in a gloomy mood. “I envy you, Mr. Clemens,” he said, staring into his mug of cheap beer. “I do envy you. In your time you don’t yet have to endure the dreadful consequences of Mr. Scott’s medieval flights of fancy in all their full extent. You don’t have to endure your chief artist — well, only artist, really — and your publisher ganging up on you and force you to travel to the Scottish wilderness to attend a [redacted] tournament.”

Mr. Clemens raised a brow. “A tournament?” he asked mildly.

“A tournament.” MacNeil shuddered. “Lord Eglinton’s medieval tomfoolery. With lords of the realm and members of the gentry donning all the impediments of chivalry to joust like knights of old, giving themselves silly names — the Knight of the Swan and the like — and generally making fools of themselves. Old England forever, and all that.”


“Well you may say, ‘Ah,’ but you did not have to travel to Ayrshire on roads crammed full with ten thousands of carriages, totter around a village in desperate search for a room and a bed, where no more beds were to be had for miles and miles. And everybody milling around in the most ridiculous costumes imaginable.”

“I say!” said Mr. Clemens.

“But that wasn’t the worst,” MacNeil continued, his voice becoming even gloomier. “No, the worst was when I sat on that gallery amidst all the chivalric gaiety and had to watch my chief artist and best friend”—he leaned closer as if to divulge a terrible secret—“fall in love.”

“But that is very romantic, is it not?”

MacNeil reared back and cast the other man a baleful glance. “Romantic! What nonsense! As if one ought to take delight in one’s best friend turning into a veritable mooncalf! A detestable spectacle, if I ever saw one.” He drank from his beer. “And on top of everything else,” he muttered, “we had forgotten to take our umbrellas.”

 The Bride Prize: Allan’s Miscellany 1839

A medieval tournament in Victorian Britain,

two unlikely lovers, a very grumpy editor,

& an unfortunate dearth of umbrellas.

It’s 1839, and Lord Eglinton’s tournament in Scotland is the most anticipated event of the year: he and a group of his noble friends will don medieval armor and joust like knights of old.

Does this mean a revival of true chivalry? Miss Florence Marsh thinks it might.

Or is the tournament mere tomfoolery and the greatest folly of the century? Mr. Robert Beaton thinks it is.

But when Flo and Robbie meet at Eglinton Park, they’ll learn that a dash of romance can overcome the greatest differences and that true love might find you in the most unlikely place.

If only Robbie wasn’t working for that scandalous new magazine Allan’s Miscellany! If only Flo’s father didn’t detest the periodical press!

And if only they had remembered to bring an umbrella!


“[T]hese books are dang cute. So freaking cute. You just get happy by reading.”

~ Blodeuedd, Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell


The Bride Prize is free on Amazon US | UK | AUS as well as on B&N | Apple | Kobo

Or download the novella from Instafreebie (until 28 September 2017)


St. John’s Wood, London, 13 July 1839

Charging down the lists towards the wooden dummy on wheels, the noble Knight of the Swan suddenly lost both his balance and the control over his horse. One moment he was a shining star of chivalry, his armor glinting in the sun, and the next he was flying over the head of his horse and landed in the mud in an undignified sprawl.

A groan rippled through the crowd of spectators, then laughter as the Knight of the Swan—the Honorable Mr. Jerningham—heaved himself upright, unhurt, with nary a dent in his fine armor.

Robert Beaton, writer and chief—indeed, only—artist of that hopeful new periodical Allan’s Miscellany scribbled into his notebook, his boyishly round face crunched up in concentration. He added a few lines, a hasty sketch…

Drat, we need somebody to do satirical illustrations, he thought, glancing up to see how the next knight riding against the wooden dummy would fare.

Once again, he was struck by the incongruity of the scene: The gardens of the Eyre Arms had been transformed into a jousting ground, with elevated benches on either side to accommodate the spectators, members of the gentry and the aristocracy. There were several thousand people present this afternoon to watch the chivalric proceedings—and this was merely the final rehearsal before the tournament proper!

There was no question: he needed to get Mac up to Ayrshire next month. All the papers and periodicals would be writing about Lord Eglinton’s medieval spectacle. Unthinkable that Allan’s Miscellany should not!

Down at the grounds, the dummy knight was cleared away and preparations were made for the main event of this rehearsal: the tilting between the Lords Eglinton and Waterford.

Lud! It’s Ivanhoe sprung up to life! Or rather, Astley’s in St. John’s Wood. A circus show with buffoons in sparkling armor, who took their chivalric endeavor very, very seriously indeed. They had even given themselves names—the Knight of the Swan, the Knight of the Dragon; there were a few lions as well—as if they were children playing at dressing up.

Robbie snorted.

Oh, Mac would just love this—he would get that glittering look in his eyes as if he wished nothing more than to level somebody. Or at very least demolish them with words. He was very good at that, Mac was. It had been his sarcastic wit which had made Allan’s Miscellany notorious these past months. Good for making people talk about the magazine, but not necessarily something which would secure them a wider audience. Hence it fell to Robbie to tune down his friend’s more caustic outbursts.

A flourish of trumpets sounded, and amidst the cheering of the crowd, the two noble lords…eh, knights charged at each other. Or rather, trotted towards each other and passed each other with a good few yards in between them. If anybody had expected the thunder of galloping hooves from a historical novel, they would be sorely disappointed.

Robbie chuckled. They should have taken some lessons from the performers at Astley’s!


Award-winning author Sandra Schwab started writing her first novel when she was seven years old. Thirty-odd years later, telling stories is still her greatest passion, even though by now, she has exchanged her pink fountain pen of old for a black computer keyboard. Since the release of her debut novel in 2005, she has enchanted readers worldwide with her unusual historical romances (some of which she now uses to shamelessly fangirl over Punch, her favorite Victorian magazine).

She holds a PhD in English literature, and in autumn 2015, she appeared on the BBC documentary Great Continental Railway Journeys to talk about another favorite topic of hers, the Grimms’ fairy tales (while walking through a rather muddy stretch of the Black Forest) (there were a lot of slugs, too).

She lives in Frankfurt am Main / Germany with a sketchbook, a sewing machine, and an ever-expanding library.

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Harry Townsend Found and Lost Again

Whenever Lily was alone in the workshop, she sat in her father’s chair.

He was out back with the new apprentice, showing him how to split a log into usable planks. From her seat at his desk, the familiar sound of sawing all but drowned out her sisters’ incessant chatter and the noise from the street outside. She leaned back and swung her boots onto the desk, taking up her file and setting to work on the toy in her hand. It was nice out here. The furniture for sale couldn’t tease her or pull her hair. It didn’t cry or scream or ask her for anything.

She could get used to this.

The door swung open and Tommy Henshawe rushed in. His cheeks were pink and he was out of breath, but he was smiling. He set a little cloth sack on the desk in front of her. “I can’t stay long, but I saved you some of these.”

Lily dropped her feet to the floor and leaned forward. “Cinnamon biscuits?”

He shook his head. “Raspberry this time. Grandma Ruta has a bush behind the bakery. I wanted to bring you some before they ate them all back home.” He opened up the sack to reveal half a dozen biscuits sticking to each other in the summer heat. They were golden and flaky and smelled like honey.

Lily snatched one and popped it into her mouth with a moan. “You have the best grandma,” she said between bites. “I thought she lived in the city.”

“She does.” He took a biscuit for himself. “She’s been coming around more to help mum until the baby comes.”

“How much longer?” Lily pinched another biscuit.

“Another month or two, I think.” He noticed the file and her half-finished project. “What are you working on?”

“I’m making a present for the baby. It’s a dagger.”

Tommy cocked his head. “I don’t know if babies are supposed to have daggers. They can hurt themselves.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “That’s why it’s wood,” she explained like he was stupid. “Mum and the girls are making blankets and clothes for it. Don’t tell your mum, I think it’s meant to be a surprise.”

Tommy grinned. “She’ll like that. Your mum’s so good at that. I haven’t been cold once since she patched my trousers. Are you going to learn to sew, too?”

“God, no.” Lily shuddered. “I’m going to grow up to be like my daddy.”

He nodded solemnly. “Me, too.”

The door opened again and a man stepped inside, looking lost. He was her mum’s age and dressed like a curate. He approached the desk slowly, no doubt surprised to find the shop being kept by a little girl. “Erm…good afternoon. Does Mark Virtue live here?”

Lily crossed her arms and looked him up and down. He was either a vicar or a lawyer, and she couldn’t think what either would want with her dad. “Who’s asking?”

“Eli Hartford,” he introduced himself. “I have a letter for him.”

He held the letter in one hand and his hat in the other. She had never seen such clean hands in her life. She didn’t trust him. “Why are your hands so clean?” She blurted.

He blinked at her, surprised by the line of questioning. “I work with lepers. Everything is clean.”

She nodded sagely, though she wasn’t quite sure what that meant. She got up and stuck her head out the back door. “Daddy! There’s a leper here to see you!”

Mark stopped dead in his tracks, the saw halfway through a log. “What?”

“I’m not a leper–” the man protested.

Lily shot him an impatient look over her shoulder.

Mark wiped the sweat from his face and pulled his shirt back on. He told the apprentice to take a break and strolled into the workshop. He looked relieved when he saw the man. “Lily, he’s not a leper, he’s a curate.” He shook his head. “How can I help?”

The man let out a sigh of relief and held out the letter to her father. The paper was thin and battered, as though it had traveled a very long way. “My name is Eli Hartford,” the non-leper repeated. “My sister Maude is indentured in the Carolinas and this was included in her last letter. She asked me to be sure you received it.”

The color drained from her father’s face. He seemed to know what it was. “Thank you, Mr Hartford. Do you know what it is? Is your sister well?”

“She’s well. She mentioned some trouble earlier in the year and that she believed you were looking for someone. That is all I know.”

Mark shook his hand. “I can’t thank you enough. Can I offer you a cup of coffee?”

The man shook his head. “My thanks, sir, but I must be on my way. I hope you find who you’re looking for.”

After the man had left, Mark all but ran to the house, tearing the letter open as he went. “Jane! Jane!”

Lily ran after him, and Tommy followed close behind. Her mother appeared at the door with the baby on her hip. “What is it?”

“Word from the Carolinas.”

Jane’s eyes widened and she met him in the garden. “Harry?”

“It has to be.” His family gathering around him, he read aloud. “Dear Mr. Virtue, We have received your letters. My master burns them. I am forbidden from replying, but I write to you to repay the kindness Mr. Townsend showed me during his time here.”

Jane swallowed, the hope on her face fading.

“Mr. Townsend worked here for four years. He was treated very poorly and my master kept your letters from him. I saved one from the fire and read it to him.”

“Are we sure it’s the same Harry?” Jane asked. “It’s not an uncommon name.”

“He robbed my master, seduced his wife, and incited a riot the likes of which has not been seen since Virginia in ’76. Servants and slaves have escaped and a number of farms have been burned to the ground.” Mark grinned. “It’s him.”

Jane gaped, but she didn’t look unhappy. “Good lord, Harry.”

“My master has sworn vengeance and hunts him to this day. If he finds him, he’ll be shot. I am loathe to bear this tragic news, and I pray Mr. Townsend finds his way back to God.” Mark punched the air in triumph. “He’s fine.”

Jane laughed. “What do you mean, he’s fine? It sounds like he’s in trouble.”

“Nah.” Mark shrugged. “He’s found his way out of worse.”


You can read more about Harry, the Virtues, the Henshawes, and the other residents of Southwark in Jessica Cale’s The Southwark Saga, out now.  Mark and Jane’s book is Virtue’s Lady:

Virtue’s Lady

Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.

After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.

Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.

When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark–and to herself–that there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Read Now on Kindle Unlimited

The mistress and the wife

“Have you heard the way the master’s wife snaps at Katarina?” Sara asked. “Katarina not only has to listen to her complaints, she has to do all sorts of senseless chores.”

Anna set two mugs on the table in the kitchen of the workers’ house. “I just made some tea. Set yourself a moment.”

Sara crumpled up her soiled apron, threw it in the basket and joined Anna on the bench. “Katarina is not coping well at all. She usually enjoys the run of the house. Who would have thought that Herr Tucher would allow his wife to come out to the farm for such a long stay?”

Anna slid a wooden plate with fresh-baked honey cakes in between the two of them. “The last time Frau Tucher came to visit, she hopped right back into that coach of hers and ordered the driver back to Nuremberg. The fine lady would never live in the country.”

“Tanner said Nuremberg is much too dangerous for her and the children. The city is full of all sorts escaping the war. That’s where she really wants to be.”

“Have you heard the tone the two take when they speak to each other?” Anna asked. “I thought Frau Tucher was sharp with Katarina, but she’s worse with Herr Tucher!”

Sara took a sip of tea. “My husband would never talk to me like that.”

“Tanner’s father says she never wanted to marry Herr Tucher,” Anna said. “He says the only reason she married him was because her father forced her, to secure business ties. She wanted someone with a bit more status, not this dreamer who lives on a farm.”

“Well, Herr Tucher was also a bit of a carouser when he was younger,” Sara said. “When Tanner and I lived in Nuremberg, he was always in the Stork’s Nest tavern. Likes his drink, that one. And, Katarina was the barmaid there. Herr Tucher won her in a dice throw.”

“That’s not what Katarina says,” Anna said. “Katarina acts like they were truly in love. She says they had a proper courtship. I say she forgets who she is. Herr Tucher is a married man!”

“Herr Tucher was always smitten with Katarina,” Sara said. “He hated the way her fiancée treated her.”

“Bjarne said Herr Tucher had the man killed so he could have Katarina.”

Sara laughed and shook her head. “He wished him dead but that’s not how it happened. Don’t listen to Bjarne.”

“Well, Katarina should remember her place here.” Anna poured the rest of the tea. “She’s his maid. She must do what the master’s wife says. Frau Tucher could make her life hell.”

“Katarina knows she’s only his maid but she has been too comfortable,” Sara said. “He gives her too much freedom to speak her mind…”

Sshh! someone’s coming….”

Excerpt from The Soldier’s Return:

“I hate that boy!” Isabeau said, stormed into the kitchen of the workers’ house and shoved the door closed with a fury.

Katarina managed to stop the door with her foot before it hit her in the face. “Isabeau, you almost knocked me over!”

Water spilled out of Katarina’s buckets and onto the front step outside. She kicked the door and it swung open, banging against a chair. Sara and Anna sat at the table, heads together. They stopped their whispering abruptly and looked at Katarina. They had obviously spoken about her.

It had been two weeks since Frau Tucher arrived with the children. Over the years, Isabeau had always been patient with the spoiled Christoph Tucher, who was only a few months younger than she was. When Christoph stayed on the farm without his mother, he was a cordial boy. But Frau Tucher’s influence and the intrusion her indefinite stay posed on Katarina and Isabeau was now apparent. Isabeau was used to being Herr Tucher’s little girl and had all of his attention. She was not coping with her displacement out of Herr Tucher’s daily life any better than Katarina was.

“Would you mind…” Katarina huffed and glared at Isabeau.

“He’s horrible,” Isabeau ranted on. “He spilled wine all over the kitchen floor and when that thin horse woman came in, he blamed it on me!”

“Then stay away from the main house,” Katarina yelled back.

“Herr Tucher called me in,” Isabeau said. “He had a book for me. But his wife took it away and gave it to Christoph. Then they left and Christoph spilled the wine. Not me. Then that thin horse woman came in. I would have gotten the whip if Herr Tucher hadn’t come back down and stopped her.”

“Just stay away from them altogether,” Katarina said and sat down on the bench.

Anna quieted Elsbeth’s fussing baby by putting her finger in the baby’s mouth. “Just keep your head down, do what they say,” she said to Isabeau.

Elsbeth’s girl Hannah sat at the table and sucked her thumb, her face lethargic, gray and sunken. Sara poured Katarina a mug of tea and turned away.

“Yesterday Christoph wanted to play Executioner again,” Isabeau said. “He wants me to kneel down and beg for my soul. He says he’s Meister Franz. He said I’m no better than a dirty wench.”

Sara fingered the white cap on the table, her face almost pitying. She set the cap on her head and pushed a few of the loose strands of hair back under it. Suddenly her face sparked up as she got an idea.

“Katarina, it’s going to be a lovely day.” Sara pushed one of the baskets on the table towards Katarina. “Bjarne needs help with the sheep up at the pasture beyond the North Hill. And he needs his lunch. He could use some company, too. Take his bread to him for me. And a bit of meat, too. Get out and get some air.”

Sara stood, grabbed a huge knife and sliced a hunk of bread from the round loaf. “Isabeau will stay here. She can go with Albin and help him find some tinder.”

“I want to go out with my horse!” Isabeau said, her face red and shiny.

“You have work to do, young lady,” Sara said.

Isabeau tried to stomp away but Sara caught her by the elbow and spun her around. Dragging Isabeau behind her, she opened the door and whistled. Albin appeared within a moment. She grabbed the other basket from the table, handed it to Albin, whispered to the two and they ran off.

“That settles that!” Sara smiled, satisfied with herself.

Sara set a thin slab of dried meat on the table and Katarina packed that and the bread into the basket. She filled a jug with beer and Katarina packed that as well. Anna, still holding the baby, grabbed Hannah by the hand and disappeared behind the wood stove into Sara’s room. Katarina lifted the basket and headed for the door. She looked back at Sara, who absently brushed some bread crumbs from the table into her hand. Sara’s smile was gone and the pitying expression was on her face again. Katarina felt an instant pang of anger.

“What’s that look supposed to mean?” Katarina moved back to the table.

“Oh, I’m just so sorry. I know you’re upset.”

“I can’t believe he’s doing this to me.”

“But she’s his wife,” Sara said. “You’ve always known this could happen.”

“But why now?” Katarina said. “After all these years.”

“Don’t act so surprised. You…”

“But that’s my house!”

“It is not,” Sara said. “You’re just his…”

“Say it.” Katarina slammed the basket on the table. “Just say it. I’m his mistress. I’m his whore. What else do you think I am?”

“You’re his maid, Katarina!”

Katarina closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Do you love him?” Sara said.

“Hmpff,” Katarina said.

“Do you?” Sara said.

“Do you love Tanner?”

“Of course, I do. He’s the father of my children. He’s my husband!”

Katarina grabbed the basket. She walked back to the open doorway and hesitated. She turned back to Sara, wishing Sara would make this all right again, the way she settled fights between children. Sara just whispered an apology and turned away.

Katarina made towards the North Hill, taking the time she normally didn’t have to appreciate the spring day. She had no reason to rush. No one was waiting for her. The day was cool and the birds were twittering and flying about. Pale blue sky struggled to show itself from behind stubborn clouds. Katarina strolled along the path up the North Hill observing the changes spring had made. Tiny green shoots peeked through the compressed earth. She picked a twig from a willow tree and rubbed the furry catkin on her cheek. A slight breeze fluttered through the dried leaves that had refused to fall from the trees.

Her heart pounded empty, heavy beats. Of course Katarina loved him! She loved him more than she could allow herself to feel. Her love for him encompassed her and overwhelmed her and the thought of being away from him even for the afternoon made her sick. Now she wanted to wretch. She felt like her best friend had died. Maybe, in a way, he had.

The Soldier’s Return Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/XZ_lVzMYqXE

The Soldier’s Return is book 2 in the Heaven’s Pond trilogy.

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The unwanted child

In a Teatime Tattler exclusive, our staff has learned of a most unusual tale. It seems, Levison Davids, the 17th Earl of Remmington, of Tegen Castle, Yorkshire, has been summoned home from his duties with the Home Office on the Continent to assume the guardianship of an Irish baron’s, one Lord Kavanagh’s, six-year-old daughter. Speculation has always surrounded the birth of the child, as Lord Kavanagh’s marriage to Miss Delia Phillips took place before anyone even knew they were courting. Moreover, our sources in Dublin say although the child was declared full term by the midwife, the baron and his baroness declared that Lady Kavanagh delivered the babe early.

“The child’s mother had the worst of the agreement between her and Lord Kavanagh,” a source close to the family, but who wishes to remain anonymous, shared. “The baron used his wife as a brood mare until a son and heir to the barony was safely delivered. The lady bore his lordship four children in a little over six years. Those within the baron’s household speak of how often he would beat his wife and call her vile name for her delivering only female children. We all grieved for the abuse Lady Kavanagh suffered, but legally there was little any of us could do, other than to issue a caution to his lordship. At length, the former Miss Phillips delivered forth a son. Only then did she know any surcease. But her gains were never celebrated, for unfortunately, the lady survived the last of her children’s births by only some three weeks.”

“Poor Miss Phillips,” the housekeeper at Phillips Hall lamented when we spoke to her last week. “Viscount Phillips’s daughter swore that the father of her first child was none other than her long-time beau, Mr. Levison Davids. The young miss and Mr. Davids held an understanding that he would marry her after his service with Wellington was complete. I don’t know how it come about that Miss Phillips and Mr. Davids knew…. I shan’t say the words. You know perfectly well what occurred without my explaining it. All I know is that the old earl, Lord Morland Davids, refused to believe that Miss Phillips carried his second son’s child, and so Viscount Phillips had no other choice but to arrange a marriage with Lord Kavanagh. Terrible situation, for Lord Kavanagh refused both Viscount and Viscountess Phillips contact with their only child and their grandchildren. His lordship sold Phillips Hall to some man none of us have ever seen, but Lord Phillips had no choice. He and the viscountess required the money from the sale of all their unentailed lands that were associated with his title to convince Lord Kavanagh to claim another man’s child as his own.”

One of Lord Remmington’s associates with the Home Office, Sir Alexander Chandler, one of the most powerful men in England, has declared, “I know Remmington’s character. He was more than a bit upset to learn that Miss Phillips had chosen to marry elsewhere. My younger brother sent me word of the arrangement when Remmington and I were serving upon the Spanish front with the English forces. It was I who delivered the news to his lordship. And as the earl and I were up to our waists with Froggies charging us left and right for months before Remmington learned of Miss Phillips’s defection, there was no means for him to be the child’s father.”

When cornered by one of our reporters, Lord Remmington said, “Despite the child and I having the same colored eyes, I am not Miss Deirdre’s father. Even so, unlike Lord Kavanagh, who labeled his firstborn with the most derogatory of terms possible, I will not abandon the child, who is not at fault in this matter. I can afford to assume the girl’s guardianship and to keep her off the parish roles. Miss Deirdre will have a home in Northumberland with my mother, the Countess of Remmington.”

So, we at Teatime Tattler wonder, if Lord Remmington and Sir Alexander are to be believed (and who would not believe two such illustrious gentlemen, certainly King George IV names them both as honorable), then who did sire the child? How did Miss Dierdre Kavanagh manage to possess the same silver-gray eyes (a most unusual shade, to be certain) as does Lord Remmington? Even his lordship would agree that he has the look of his maternal grandfather; therefore, neither Lord Remmington’s late brother nor his cousin and heir presumptive Lord Howard can be the child’s father.

As always, we at Teatime Tattler will stay on the trail and bring you more details as they come in.


The Earl Claims His Comfort

Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books — a 2016 Hot Prospects finalist in Romantic Suspense

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how a stranger’s life parallels his, while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon a road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

Amazon preorder link


Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy

-a 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense finalist

-a SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Award finalist for Historical Romance

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

The story is charming, with interesting and realistic characters, a complex plot with plenty of surprises, and a sweet romance woven through it all. The author has a good command of what it was like to be a woman in nineteenth-century England–almost as if she had been there. She really did her research for this one. ~ Suspended Reality Reviews

If you enjoy a romance with plenty of murder and mayhem and one with delightful characters and a villain that you will never guess, then you will love Angel Comes to Devil’s Keep.  ~ Vikki Vaught

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