Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Miss Kate Woodville, the bluestocking heroine of my latest novella Dashing Through the Snow as we take tea at Miss Clemens’s Oxford Street Book Palace and Tearooms. Her story appears within the Bluestocking Belles’ recently released holiday anthology Holly and Hopeful Hearts.
Amy: Thank you so much for your time, Miss Woodville. I know how busy you are.
Kate: No, thank you for the opportunity, Ms. Bennett. I am very happy to share my story with readers.
Amy: Please, call me Amy.
Kate: And I would be delighted if you called me Kate.
Amy: Now then, perhaps you could tell readers a little bit more about yourself, Kate. They may have already heard that you are a bluestocking and a teacher at Mrs. Brookes’ Academy for Young Ladies in Kensington, but is there anything else in particular you would like them to know…
Kate: Why yes, there is, Amy. Readers may not know that I am a keen supporter of the London-based charity, The Benevolent Society for the Women of Whitechapel. My dear friend and fellow bluestocking, Miss Tessa Penrose (whom I know you are well acquainted with too, Amy) introduced me to the charity about a year ago.
Amy: A most worthy cause. And I believe you have been invited to a certain Yuletide house party hosted by the most gracious Duchess of Haverford. At Hollystone Hall in Buckinghamshire. It’s sure to be a wonderful occasion, especially considering the event will culminate in a New Year’s Eve charity ball!
Kate: Yes… I have been invited… [Kate pauses to sip her tea] Of course, it would be a marvellous opportunity to promote White Church House, the charity lodging house provided by The Benevolent Society and St Mary Matfelon Church. So many destitute women and their children rely on their support. Tessa and I were hoping we could secure funds for repairs to the house and employ a teacher for the children on a permanent basis; at the moment, Tessa and I, and a few other ladies provide lessons when we can…
Amy: If you don’t mind me remarking, you seem a little hesitant about attending the house party.
Kate: Yes. I am concerned that a certain dowager viscountess, her daughter (who is quite delightful, a former student of mine in fact) and her stepson will also be guests. I’m afraid the viscountess and her stepson do not think much of me.
Amy: And this stepson would be Lord Stanton (I think readers might be aware of his name so I hope you don’t mind me sharing it)?
Kate: [Blushes] Yes. Our interactions to date have not been all that amicable. You see, my brother, Freddie Woodville, has developed a rather strong tendre for Lord Stanton’s younger sister, Violet Lockhart. And unfortunately, both Lord Stanton and his step-mother believe a match between them would be most unsuitable. They believe Freddie to be a scoundrel and a fortune hunter. Of course, he is neither of those things.
Amy: For the enlightenment of our readers, I will add that Freddie is a war hero and the heir to a barony in Cumberland.
Kate: He is indeed. But it seems Lord and Lady Stanton have taken it upon themselves to delve into my family’s background. I am worried they will both go to great lengths to stop Freddie’s pursuit of Violet… even if that means ruining my reputation as well.
Amy: I understand your upbringing and family history is a delicate subject so perhaps I should steer the conversation to safer waters for now…. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind me asking, what are you most proud of about your life?
Kate: [Smiles brightly] My charity work of course. And—I hope this doesn’t sound too boastful—my skill as a pianist. My dearly departed mother, even though we could ill-afford it at the time, purchased a pianoforte when I was twelve and I fell in love with playing it. Now that I work at Mrs. Brookes’ exclusive ladies’ academy, I have no need for it so I have donated it to White Church House. There’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing the children’s faces light up when I play songs for them at the end of their music lessons. Music brings such joy into people’s lives, don’t you think?
Amy: I agree wholeheartedly. And I’m sure your mother would be very proud of you, Kate.
Kate: I like to think so too.
Amy: Changing tack again, is there anything about yourself that you would like to change?
Kate: [Laughs] Apart from my unruly red hair and the freckles on my nose? I think my temper can be a little too quick. I sometimes speak my mind when perhaps I shouldn’t and that gets me into trouble.
Amy: Now, I hope you don’t mind if I venture another personal question or two. You are five-and-twenty and many young women about your age, or indeed younger, aspire to marry. Is that one of your aspirations? And if so, what is your idea of a good marriage? Do you think that will happen in your life?
Kate: Oh no. Marriage is not for me. Although I am reluctant to share details, I will say my parents’ union was not a happy one. And, I like my independence. I have a teaching career, and my charity work is most fulfilling. I do not feel that anything is missing from my life. Freddie may believe he has found a love-match with Violet Lockhart, but I do not put much store in such things.
Amy: Yet you blushed when I mentioned Lord Stanton earlier…
Kate: [Blushes again and frowns at the same time] I’m sure it was a flush of anger. That man can be most… vexing. Perhaps you would like more tea, Ms. Bennett. Shall I order a fresh pot? And some of those little ginger cakes and macaroons that were on display?
Amy: That sounds wonderful. Thank you, Kate for taking the time to talk with me. I’m sure the readers of the Teatime Tattler will appreciate how candid you’ve been. And like me, they will wish you all the best with promoting your charity at the Duchess of Haverford’s house party.
Kate: [Nods and smiles] No, thank you, Amy. And all the best with Holly and Hopeful Hearts. The Bluestocking Belles have created a delightful collection of stories.
Continue on to read an exclusive excerpt from Dashing Through the Snow. In this scene, Anthony Lockhart, Lord Stanton, and his step-mother have paid an unexpected visit to Mrs. Brookes’ Academy for Young Ladies to see Kate…
He was examining the street through the casement window when she entered but when the door clicked shut he turned and his unnerving gray gaze settled unerringly on her.
At that moment, it felt as if all the air had been sucked from the room as the overwhelming presence of the man struck her to dumbness. She’d forgotten how tall and physically imposing Lord Stanton was. And how distracting his handsome countenance. Even more handsome now that he was sans mask. Indeed, his harshly chiseled features made her think of a Greek or Roman warrior… Or god…
Good heavens, where had that errant thought come from?
Kate blushed and curtsied low to try and hide her discomfiture. This interview wouldn’t go well at all if she was addled from the very start. “Good day, Lord Stanton. Lady Stanton,” she said in a voice that was thankfully steady when she found it. She didn’t add anything else. If they wanted to broach a difficult subject, let them begin.
The viscountess, who was seated upon a shepherdess chair upholstered in pale caramel velvet, sniffed as she looked her up and down. Attired in a superbly cut walking gown and matching spencer in cobalt blue it was clear she thought little of Kate’s plain gray dress.
“You must know why we are here,” the viscountess said at length after she’d completed her perusal. Even though Lady Stanton was as fair-haired as her daughter, her eyes were a cold, pale blue rather than gray. Indeed the shade rather reminded Kate of Arctic ice and it was all she could do not to shiver as the viscountess continued to stare at her.
Kate folded her hands in front of her to stop them from shaking before she responded. “I’m afraid I don’t.”
Lady Stanton arched a flaxen brow. “For a teacher, I must say, you do not seem overly bright.”
“For a viscountess, I must say, you do not seem overly gracious.” Kate bit her lip. Oh dear. Now she’d done it.
“Well I never!” Lady Stanton’s eyes darted blue fire.
“Ladies. Might I intervene?” Lord Stanton stepped forward to take up a position behind the dowager viscountess’s chair. “Miss Woodville, we know your brother has been pursuing Violet against our wishes. And that you have been a party to the subterfuge going on.”
Kate raised her chin. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Do you deny that Violet and your brother met, in secret, at White Church House two days ago and at Miss Clemens’s Book Palace just yesterday?”
“I hardly think a public book shop and a charity lodging house are places one would choose to arrange secret assignations,” Kate retorted. “Besides, I am not my brother’s keeper. Nor am I responsible for your sister’s comings and goings. Your concern is duly noted but I really don’t know why you would bother coming to me about this.”
Lord Stanton drummed his fingers along the back of the shepherdess chair. “Tell your brother he must stop chasing after my sister.”
“Oh, it all becomes clear now. I’m sure he’ll listen.”
Lord Stanton’s wide mouth twitched but whether it was with grudging amusement or anger she really couldn’t tell.
Lady Stanton rose and wandered over to the fireplace. “Tell me about White Church House. You say it is some sort of lodging house. For the poor?”
Kate frowned, confused at the woman’s sudden change of tack. “Yes. It is run by The Benevolent Society for the Women of Whitechapel and St Mary’s Church. It’s a charity that supports destitute women and their children. But surely you are aware of all this considering you knew that Violet arranged a visit.”
“Hmph.” The viscountess ran a gloved fingertip along the marble mantel and then examined her black kid glove for dust. “It all sounds very commendable.” Her gaze flicked back to Kate’s face. “I can see why it would appeal to someone like you, given your background.”
“Whatever do you mean?” Kate’s eyes met Lord Stanton’s and color stained his cheeks. He’s ashamed.
However it was Lady Stanton who spoke. “My stepson has discovered the most interesting things about you and your brother,” she said in a deceptively mild tone. “Your family’s history…”
ABOUT HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS
When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?
****25% of the proceeds from the sale of Holly and Hopeful Hearts will be donated to the Malala Fund****
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ABOUT AMY ROSE BENNETT
You can find out more about Amy Rose Bennett and her books right here, on the Bluestocking Belles’ website.
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