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Attractions in Portsmouth

October 1820

Your correspondent is pleased to reveal Lady Lydia Howick has returned to Town after a series of trips to Portsmouth to help her oldest friend, Mrs. Arnaud Bellingham, neé Sophia Brancelli, settle into the couple’s temporary honeymoon cottage.

Captain B will return to his West African Preventative Squadron within the month aboard his prize ship, HMS Black Condor, once repairs are complete. Sadly, we regret to report, without his longtime surgeon, Dr. Cullen MacCloud.

Lady Lydia confided, in her delightful, non-stop chatter, that the charming doctor, a long-confirmed bachelor, succumbed unexpectedly to the wedded state in a whirlwind courtship followed by late-night nuptials in Portsmouth.

He exchanged vows with Miss Willa Morton, daughter of the late Dr. Andrew Morton, former surgeon aboard the Arethusa whom Dr. MacCloud recently replaced. His new wife will accompany him on the ship’s mission to patrol off Napoleon’s prison island of St. Helena for the next two years.

Lady Lydia was agog at the idea that Mrs. MacCloud will be working side by side with her husband to care for the three-hundred men of the forty-gun frigate’s crew. And she is intrigued to note the surgeon’s wife has managed to accumulate as much medical knowledge as her brother, even though being left back in Edinburgh while her father and sibling sailed the world with the Royal Navy.

Your faithful scribe suspects some sort of havey-cavey circumstances in that the aforementioned MacCloud-Morton nuptials occurred directly after the unexplained disappearance of Miss Morton’s brother, William, from his physician’s assistant duties aboard the Arethusa.

This correspondent also would be remiss not to question all the time Lady Lydia has lately spent in Portsmouth assisting the Bellinghams. One can only suspect what naval attractions might hold her interest for so long away from Howick House on St. James Square. There have been reports of sightings during the Season of said lady in the company of a gentleman wearing the bright red jacket of a Royal Marine officer.

One might worry at what Lady Lydia’s father, Lord Howick, thinks of her long sojourns in Portsmouth. However, we have it on good authority he has been preoccupied with the sad business in the House of Lords over the summer. And then there are the whispers about his preoccupation with the willowy, tall Titania acclaimed in the recent production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Covent Garden.

About the Book

Willa Morton has lived the last ten years of her life as “Wills,” physician’s assistant to her Royal Navy surgeon father. Their subterfuge works well until he collapses and dies of a heart attack.
Dr. Cullen MacCloud resents his latest posting, away from his friends on the African Squadron. Wills, the deceased surgeon’s son, is a sullen sprout, but Cullen’s stuck with him. Since the posting is temporary, what could go wrong? 
What if these two have more in common than they think? Will a thin blanket hung across the middle of a tiny cabin be enough to protect against the desire smoldering between them?

In “Pride of Duty,” live today, follow the further adventures of the dashing Men of the African Squadron and the daring women who love them. Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/37wptLS

And today is the last day to still get the first entry in the series, “Pride of Honor,” for FREE on Amazon, here: https://amzn.to/31vU1cI

Excerpt from Pride of Duty

50º47’56.36”N, 1º5’28.5”W

Portsmouth, England, August 1820

Dr. Cullen MacCloud tipped back the too-dainty chair in the small Portsmouth tea shop and threw a stern look at the sullen young man across from him. He hated having to make do with furniture not built to accommodate his broad shoulders and bulk.

He pushed his feet flat onto the floor and leaned forward to better intimidate William Morton, the most impertinent excuse for a physician’s assistant he’d ever encountered. He could not for the life of him fathom why his predecessor, the recently deceased ship’s surgeon, had importuned the captain to make sure (in writing) the young man would be able to continue to work alongside him in the ship’s surgery.

Cullen had hoped getting away from the ship to a different setting might soften the slight young man’s demeanor. Instead, the damned cod lifted his chin, still belligerent, as if he could challenge Cullen’s words.

Christ, but he’d had a hell of a week. First he’d had a hopeless argument with his father. The bastard had used his court influence to get Cullen assigned away from his former Captain Arnaud Bellingham to the current posting. Arnaud was still awaiting final overhaul and crewing of his prize ship, the Black Condor, to return to the West African Squadron, and had moved to Portsmouth with his new wife, Sophie.

Cullen had hoped until the very last moment he could somehow thwart his father’s ambitions, but he’d lost the battle. No one in the Royal Navy fought the Admiralty once a decision had been made. He’d been aboard the HMS Arethusafor a full week, and sharing quarters with the former surgeon’s peevish offspring.

He’d been pleasantly surprised at how well organized and kept the surgery had been on his arrival. Most of the time, he and William had inventoried medical supplies. Cullen had gone over Dr. Andrew Morton’s logs for the last two years to get an idea of the state of the health of the officers and crew.

Young Morton had been very thorough in his accounting of the surgery, and helpful in explaining the ship’s shifts and routines. Cullen had not been surprised at the daily line of crewmen seeking medical assistance. When a ship was in port for provisioning, or re-fit, the men tended toward boredom, which in turn produced a steady stream of “ailments.” Once they were back at sea, and in action, the medical complaints would slow to a trickle.

He leaned closer to the argumentative young man. “Why can ye not see the wisdom in leaving the ship to continue yer studies in Edinburgh? Surely yer late father would want ye to follow in his profession.”

“I’ve been trained thoroughly by my father. Why, I know more than most of the second-year students at Edinburgh Medical School.”

Cullen sat up, re-assessing the rude young twig. “Then why not get at least yer first year so ye can set up a proper practice? What’s keeping ye here?”

He couldn’t see the young man’s neck for the voluminous wrapped neckcloth he affected, but he imagined that part of his anatomy burned as brightly as his boyish face. However, something about the long, sooty lashes framing cool gray eyes nagged and buzzed like an obnoxious fly at the back of Cullen’s brain.

“How old are you? Ye’ve not even the beginnings of a beard. Who are you to tell me ye know so much? I’ve been to Edinburgh. I completed my studies there, and I’ve been serving the King’s Navy ever since.”

William snapped his face away from Cullen’s inspection and stood, staring a long time out a window near their table. He turned suddenly, his face still a shade of scarlet. “I can see you resent my presence in the surgery, Dr. MacCloud. I won’t impose upon you any longer. I’m sure one of my father’s associates would be glad to have my assistance.”

With that, he turned on his heel and headed for the door only to be intercepted by the one of the Arethusa’s marines.

Cullen rose from the table at the look on the marine lieutenant’s face.

“Dr. MacCloud, Mr. Morton. We need you. There’s been an accident. Two men were fighting and fell from the tops.”

Cullen turned to hasten out the door in the wake of the marine and was a little surprised to see young William fall in behind without a sound. The boy’s usually dour face transformed into one of concern, and intent. It was only then he realized the insolent cub hadn’t revealed his age. What was he trying to hide?

About the Author

Andrea K. Stein, the daughter of a trucker and an artist, never knew it would take the hard-work ethic of her father to achieve the light-filled magic of her mother’s art. After helping raise a combined family equaling the Brady bunch without Alice, she retired early from a 30-year career as a newspaper and publishing professional and fled to the mountains. She interspersed a seven-year stint as a Colorado ski patroller with nautical adventures as first mate to a crusty, old British delivery captain, accumulating some 20,000 miles at sea. While delivering yachts up and down the Caribbean, she also earned a USCG offshore captain’s license. Now, she tells award-winning tales of the high seas from her writing room in Colorado. She has nine titles self-published on Amazon since 2014.

Andrea can be found at the following online haunts:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authorandreakstein

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Website: https://www.andreakstein.com

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1 Comment

  1. I’m looking forward to reading this!

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