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Beechingstoke’s List

Gentle Reader,

It has come to our attention, that the eligible Earl of Beechingstoke, who avoids unmarried ladies as much as he avoids scandals, has been seen courting both. According to our confidential sources, Lord Beechingstoke has asked his dear cousin, the indomitable Countess of Redwick, to aid him in finding a wife.

We have heard of the existence of a list of eligible ladies, one of whom could bear the coveted name Countess of Beechingstoke. And who, do you ask, are the ladies on this list? That, dear reader, is something even we cannot discover.

Not all is lost, as we believe we have a lead on the next Countess of Beechingstoke. Of late, we have seen his lordship thrice engaged in conversation and in the company of Miss Stella Denton, the daughter of Viscount Lynd.

If you do not recognize the name, fear not gentle readers, as I suspect it will soon be one known to all. From our information, she is a dear friend of Lady Redwick with artistic talent.

Indeed, the lady was seen engaged in a heated debate with the earl at Lady W’s art exhibition. She was later seen with the earl in his carriage in Hyde Park during the fashionable hour. Dare we suggest Lord Beechingstoke has found his match?

Only time will tell.

About the Book, Caricature of a Countess

He’s drawn to her. She’s drawing him.

Miss Stella Denton is determined to make her mark on the world—in pen and ink. Under the pseudonym Mr. E. Starr, she captures the absurdities of the ton in print for all to see. A heated encounter with Daniel, the Earl of Beechingstoke leaves her breathless… and betrothed.

After years of working to reestablish the Beechingstoke name, Daniel cannot abide even a hint of scandal. To cut off his notorious heir, Daniel enlists the help of friends and family to find him the perfect bride and fast. When they suggest he marry Stella, he doesn’t know if it’s the worst idea, or the best.

A hasty marriage, fueled by passion, burns bright between Stella and Daniel. Yet their love is at risk of fizzling out unless they learn to trust one another before their secrets and scandals are revealed.

Buy Link:

Books2Read.com/caricature

About the Author

Melissa Sawyer has been writing stories since she could form letters. She writes swoon-worthy Regency romances with strong heroines. She resides in Toronto, Canada with her three kids and husband where you can find her exploring the city, parks, libraries, museums and PATH network.

Website: authormelissasawyer.com

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Excerpt from Chapter 1

The contents of the drawer shifted and clattered as Stella yanked at it with such force she nearly pulled it off of its rail. She rummaged through its contents, pulling out a penknife, ponte-crayons, and pencils.

      She sat on a stool at the mahogany drawing board, a large masculine desk that looked out of place in her otherwise feminine room. Stella adjusted the angle of the writing surface, running her hand across the smooth leather, removing anything that would mar the paper she laid atop the desk. She set her materials to her right on the ledge that extended from the right drawer.

      A sharpened pencil in hand, Stella sketched several shapes. Slowly, the light lines of ovals, circles, and triangles altered, changing from shapes to a forehead, eyes, and lips. Strong masculine features escaped her pencil, settling themselves on to the page.

      With a huff of air, Stella set the sheet aside and drew out a fresh one, the previous form being too elegant. It wasn’t the man himself she sought to capture, but his character.

      Her next attempt was better. A lip twisted into a supercilious sneer below an exaggerated nose. The rest of the man was too strong, too handsome, too…

      “Drat!”

      Her pencil danced across the work surface before rolling to a stop beside an inkwell. Stella sat back on the stool and crossed her arms, surveying the drawing with a critical eye.

      A sardonic Lord Beechingstoke smirked back at her.

      “He must have made quite the impression on you.”

      Stella jumped, her hand clutching her chest. She took a deep breath to steady her racing pulse. “Must you sneak up on a person, Laurette?”

      “It’s not sneaking when one is expected.” The door hinges of the clothes press creaked as Laurette, her maid, opened the door. “Are you wearing your pink or your green dress to dinner?”

      A quick glance at the clock had Stella scrambling to tidy her desk. She’d been drawing longer than expected.

      “I’ll wear the green.” Stella surveyed her pencil-smudged hands with a frown. She crossed the room to the pitcher and basin of water. The scent of lavender and roses teased her senses as she worked up a lather to remove all traces of her activities.

      “Who is he?”

      “The Earl of Beechingstoke.” Stella immersed her hands in the water and closed her eyes. If only she could wash away her encounter with him the same way. “He’s someone worth drawing.”

Lady Medway and the Scandal of the Decade

I stopped by B.P. Charles and Co., Stationers, to buy some ink, when the heavens opened, letting out a downpour unprecedented in the history of London.

Oh, very well, it was an ordinary shower, but I write for the Teatime Tattler, so I’m accustomed to exaggerating—to making the best better and worst even worse. While I waited out the rain, I began to write my gossip column: 

It has come to our attention that the Countess of Medway, fondly known amongst the ton (and, I dare say, amongst Britons as a whole) as the Perfect Aristocrat, finds herself faced with a dilemma.

A guffaw startled me, and I knocked the inkpot flying. I clapped a hand to my bosom, as Mr. McBrae, who does etchings for Mr. Charles, set the inkpot down.

“What a piece of nonsense!” He gestured at my deathless prose, still laughing.

 “A trifle exaggerated,” I said, “but Lady Medway is as near perfection as makes no odds.”

He snorted. “Only if you define the perfect aristocrat as rude, ignorant, domineering, and utterly convinced of her superiority.”

I haven’t met her ladyship, but I expect Mr. McBrae has, as he has friends in high places. However, the Tattler can’t afford to offend her. My encomium was taken from sightings of her in the park, where she is effortlessly elegant, composed, and aloof. “You may dislike her, but even you would pity her now. Her daughter, Lady Rosamund, is on the verge of another scandal, and as usual, it’s all Corvus’s fault.”

He chuckled at mention of the infamous artist. “In what way? Lady Rosamund is no longer in London, so Corvus will find another victim to caricature.”

 “Not when he hears this.” I lowered my voice. “Her father, the Earl of Medway, has been invited to a house party at the estate of Sir Alphonse Lewis, that well-known frequenter of theatrical circles—and he wants Lady Rosamund to accompany him!”

“Surely not,” McBrae said. “She’s in mourning.”

“Yes, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Sir Alphonse’s guests are playwrights and actors, inferior persons with whom no high-born lady should associate. What’s more, the hostess is his mistress! I don’t know what Lord Medway was thinking. But there’s worse!” I lowered my voice further. “At a previous party at Sir Alphonse’s estate, there was an orgy!”

McBrae huffed. “Lord Medway won’t allow his daughter to participate in an orgy.”

“No, but Lady Rosamund’s reputation is already scandalous, thanks to Corvus. Her poor mother has two choices: either do nothing and hope word doesn’t spread—”

“Which won’t work, because you intend to spread the word yourself,” McBrae said.

I fear I blushed. “True, but spreading gossip is our raison d’être at the Tattler. What else can we do when such a juicy morsel comes our way?”

McBrae acknowledged this with a rueful shrug. He is a kindly sort of man. He disapproves, but he also understands.

“Her second choice is to send her son hotfoot to the rescue,” I said, “and risk that he, being a young, virile man, will participate in the orgy, too!”

“You have a fertile imagination, ma’am,” he said, “but no orgy is likely to take place.”

“I suppose not,” I said dejectedly, for it would have been an astonishing story. “But the real problem is, what will Corvus make of it all?”

“Something amusing, no doubt.”

“If I were Corvus,” I said, “do you know what I would do? I’d go to Sir Alphonse’s house to see what really happens.”

“Ah, but think what fun for Corvus,” McBrae said, “to just make it all up?”

Fun indeed. All England awaits his next caricature with bated breath, and you may count on the Tattler to inform you of every tidbit of news in what could well prove to be the scandal of the decade!

About the Book

Widowed Lady Rosamund spends the first months of her mourning in the Lake District, where it’s safe and peaceful, and murders are exceedingly rare. Luckily, she is rescued from this tedium by a house party comprised of playwrights, poets, and actors—an immoral set of persons with whom no respectable lady should associate. Even so, she hardly expected to wake in the wee hours to find one of the guests lying dead.

As if that wasn’t troublesome enough, Gilroy McBrae is at the same party, masquerading as a footman to investigate a series of thefts. Was the sudden death an accident—or murder? Almost everyone had reason to loathe their unpleasant fellow guest. Rosie must set aside her confused emotions about McBrae and work with him to find the culprit before an innocent person is accused of the crime.

An Excerpt

The first night at a house party, Lady Rosamund is wakened by a scream…

I sat up in bed, heart battering my chest. By the grey light in my room, I surmised it was almost dawn. Had that shriek been merely a dream? The house seemed enveloped in silence.

And then came more screams, ghastly and chilling, one after another after another. 

I leapt out of bed, crammed my feet into my slippers, donned my wrapper once again, and rushed into the passageway.

It was cloaked in gloom, but faint light from the Great Hall filtered up. It was from there that the screams came, now dissolving into hoarse sobs. A door opened behind me across the passage, but I was first to the stairs.

Which you no doubt think was foolish of me, but I couldn’t help myself. Although I have had many small brushes with supposed insanity, I’m not a complete idiot. I peered over the banister before starting down.

Below me, flat on the floor, was a man. All I could discern was his head and feet, for something huge and unidentifiable lay atop him. As I stared, a woman appeared and glanced about. She bent over the huge something, grunting…and then with a swish of skirts, she vanished.

Meanwhile, a sobbing girl stumbled up the stairs toward me. She tripped on her gown and fell, crying out, and I helped her up. “What happened? What’s wrong?”

“He’s dead.” She swayed. “Oh God, he’s dead. He murdered him!”

I feared she would faint, so I kept a firm hold on her. “Who?” A stupid question, I realized. In the first place, I didn’t specify whether I was asking for the identity of the victim or the murderer. In the second place, she was hysterical and unable to speak coherently. I could very well go see for myself, once I got rid of her.

“It’s all my fault,” she whispered, clutching my arm. “I wish I had never come to this horrid place.”

An understandable sentiment, but she couldn’t have predicted this…could she?

“Helen! Miss Gardner, that is.” Mr. Powers hurried up, clad only in shirt and breeches. This utter disregard of the proprieties, coupled with his use of her Christian name, seemed to indicate that his relationship with the young woman might be as close as Harold Bellevue feared. “What happened?”

“He’s dead!” she wailed, and cast herself upon his breast.

“Hush,” he said. “Who’s dead?”

“How could you?” she cried, and sobbed into his shirt. She, at least, was fully dressed, making the embrace less improper than it otherwise might have been.

I left them to it and hastened down to see the body for myself. Obviously, it behooved me to determine first of all whether the man on the floor was indeed dead.

It was the unpleasant Mr. Fence, but looking unlike himself—tranquil and at peace. With a shudder of revulsion, I realized that what lay atop him was a huge rack of antlers. I glanced up at the wall of the landing: sure enough, the largest stag’s head I’d seen there last evening was gone.

I knelt beside him and felt for his pulse—a waste of time, for even if he still lived, he wouldn’t for long. Two prongs of the antlers had pierced his chest.

There was not even a flutter of heartbeat.

I stood and took a deep breath, trying to shove away the thought that ran over and over through my mind: you wanted a corpse, and you got one.

Amazon links. Additional vendors are pending.

Amazon US   https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Rosamund-Horned-God-Regency-ebook/dp/B0913LPHMC/

Canada   https://www.amazon.ca/Lady-Rosamund-Horned-God-Regency-ebook/dp/B0913LPHMC/

UK  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lady-Rosamund-Horned-God-Regency-ebook/dp/B0913LPHMC/

Australia  https://www.amazon.com.au/Lady-Rosamund-Horned-God-Regency-ebook/dp/B0913LPHMC/

About the Author

Rumor has it that Barbara Monajem is descended from English aristocrats. If one keeps to verifiable claims, however, her ancestors include London shopkeepers and hardy Canadian pioneers. As far as personal attributes go, she suffers from an annoying tendency to check and recheck anything and everything, usually for no good reason. Hopefully all this helps to explain her decision to write from the point of view of a compulsive English lady with a lot to learn about how the other ninety-nine percent lived in 1811 or so.

As for qualifications, Barbara is the author of over twenty historical romances and a few mysteries, for which she has won several awards. On the other hand, she has no artistic talent and therefore is really stretching it to write about an artist who draws wickedly good caricatures. But she’s doing it anyway, because he’s irresistible. To her, anyway. Not so much to the aristocratic lady. Or at least not yet.

Social media links:

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A Golden Opportunity

She slipped out the side door of the private wing and crossed Mrs Brewster’s personal garden.

At this time of day, the Brewster family were fully occupied with their duties in the inn. No one was present to see their maid — their now former maid –unlock the private gate to the lane with the keys she had lifted from their hook in Mr Brewster’s office.

She would leave them in the lock. By the time they were discovered, she would be far from here, on her way to a position far, far away.

Freddie was waiting in the lane with his family’s gig and pony. It wasn’t elegant, but it would get them to the nearest coaching inn on the highway, 20 miles away inland.

His eyes widened as he took in the picture she made in her new gown and bonnet. One of the outfits she’d acquired for her new life. As she approached the gig, she saw that he’d found the bag and trunk she’d hidden in the stables last night. She hoped no one saw him take them away. Almost, she asked him, but, no, she mustn’t give him any reason to think she doubted him.

She let him lift her up into the gig, and hurry around to the other side.

“You look right pretty today, Miss Alice,” he said, as he took off the brake and gave the reins a shake. “Walk on, gray mare.”

Alice kept scanning the surroundings, to make sure no one saw them leaving. Not that they could stop her. She was the Brewster’s employee, not their slave. Had been the Brewster’s employee. Her resignation letter was hidden in the clutter of papers on Mr Brewster’s desk. He would find it about the time she was due back at work after her day off.

No, they couldn’t stop her, but if they knew what she had been doing and where she was going, they might make her departure difficult. Certainly, Freddie would not be allowed to transport her.

She smiled at him, and tucked her hand into his arm. Dear Freddie. He was a kind soul, and she felt just a little guilty for using him in this way, but needs must. She wasn’t going to settle for a fisherman’s son and spend the rest of her life in Fenwick.

She had new clothes, a job waiting for her, and money jingling in her reticule. She would say goodbye to Freddie at the coaching inn. Perhaps she would even give him a peck on the cheek — some sort of recompense for the trouble he was going to be in when he got back to Fenwick on Sea.

Freddie was chattering away about the men who had arrived at the inn to question all the servants about the source of the reports that had been published in the Teatime Tattler.

Alice smirked. Miss Abney always said that education gave you opportunities. Alice had found an opportunity. She had always been good at listening to people, putting two and two together, telling stories. Writing them was not much different. Sending them to Mr Clemens had been a clever idea, if she did say so herself.

And Miss Abney was right. The first opportunity had given her another. “I can use someone like you,” the letter from Mr Clemens had said. “Someone with the skills to work within a household and the brains to collect the stories I need.”

Alice was off to London to take up a permanent job as a reporter with The Teatime Tattler.

Alice is a character in the stories of Storm & Shelter. See the link for novella blurbs and buy links, and the collection for some of Alice’s Teatime Tattler reports.

Read more Storm & Shelter flash fiction at our blog hop, where our characters try to figure out who the mystery reporter is.

And congratulations to our prizewinners, who read the book, correctly named the reporter, and had their names drawn in the prize draw.

Serious Skulduggery at the Queen’s Barque

Our readers will be aware that, due to the recent storm and floods, a great variety of strangers have been trapped in Fenwick-on-Sea, especially at the Queen’s Barque Inn. Among the rife scandal and gossip, we now have reason to believe, greater skulduggery is afoot..

We recently reported on the startling physical similarity of one shipwrecked guest, Mrs. Simon, to the heiress Miss Letitia Lovell. We can now reveal that Mr. Kent, the heiress’s maternal uncle and guardian, has been seen in the neighborhood of the inn, along with his son, who, in the past, has claimed an “understanding” with his cousin, Miss Lovell.

Is this coincidence? Or are the Kents in pursuit of a runaway? Are the supposed Mr. and Mrs. Simon even married? Has the mysterious Mr. Simon, who was observed enjoying a pint of ale in the company of Mr. Kent, been, in vulgar parlance, “bought off” by the lady’s legal guardian? Is there a tug-of-war for the young lady’s safety and well-being? Or for her fortune?

All will surely be revealed in the coming days.

Those Bluestocking Belles are investigating our reporter!

Since your Teatime Tattler has been able to report doings in Fenwick on Sea, authors have offered a reward for someone who unmasks our reporter!

Enter to win.

Correctly identify the reporter and be entered to win a $100 gift card and other great prizes. There are details amd instructions for entering here: https://bluestockingbelles.net/belles-joint-projects/storm-shelter/wanted-the-snooping-teatime-tattler-reporter/

About the Book

Eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas, one horrific storm!

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

A Bluestocking Belles and Friends Collection

CLICK for links to various retailers

An Improbable Hero: Mary Lancaster

A runaway heiress, a mysterious stranger.

When Letty’s ship founders in a violent storm, she forges a rare bond with her rescuer.

Simon is a troubled man on a final, deadly mission—until the spirited yet soothing Letty makes him question everything. Hiding in plain sight among the refugees at The Queen’s Barque, Simon is more than capable of protecting them both. But when the floods recede, can either of them say goodbye?

Eyebrows Raised in Staffordshire

My Dearest Readers:

If your chaise-longue requires fresh feathers, I must recommend you send for the upholsterer before reading this any further. Once you have been assured that your preferred furniture will not cause injuries should you feel the inevitable urge to faint, you may proceed.

I fear a dreadful scandal has occurred in Staffordshire. I sympathize with the utter unrest you are most certainly feeling at this unexpected news. We associate scandals with London and Brighton, but never Staffordshire, home of an abundance of ceramics and grazing grounds for livestock.

Mrs. Blythe has been recording the events that have been happening at Laventhorpe Castle, near the Staffordshire Moors. We do not like to ponder her expenses for smelling salts.

As I am certain you are well aware, the Duke of Framingham recently became betrothed to Princess Aria Eleonora Ingrid Petronella of Sweden. Though the wedding announcement caused our eyebrows to reach a higher than customary perch, we were naturally pleased for them, even if we wondered at the wisdom of the match. After all, the aged duke’s unpleasant visage cannot compensate for his brash, equally unpleasant personality, and the princess is so wealthy, we doubted even the duke’s vast estate held much temptation to her.

It seems though that shortly after the wedding, the princess absconded with the duke’s younger cousin. Quel horreur! There are rumors that he kidnapped her and her pet dog, Galileo, though that is no excuse, naturally, for a woman to abandon her marital bed on her wedding night. They are even now hurrying through Staffordshire, though I am assured that the duke and his men are pursuing them.

Mrs. Blythe’s new book, The Truth about Princesses and Dukes, details these events at length. I hope, dearest readers, that you should not feel the urge to behave in equally outrageous manners.

About the Book: The Truth about Princesses and Dukes

Princess Aria Eleonora Ingrid Petronella of Sweden has been exchanging letters with the most marvelous man in the world. Perhaps her true love is somewhat aged, and perhaps butterflies don’t swarm inside her chest when they meet briefly at a ball, but she is certain no man equals the Duke of Framingham in magnificence. When he proposes marriage in a letter, she eagerly accepts.

Rupert Andrews doesn’t expect to enjoy writing letters on behalf of his elderly cousin. But when the Duke of Framingham informs Rupert that he’s fallen in love with a beautiful woman and needs someone to write letters on his behalf, Rupert reluctantly agrees. After all, the cottage he inherited after his mother’s death is heavily mortgaged, and the duke has kindly let him take longer to repay the debt. On the duke’s wedding day, Rupert overhears the duke tell his mistress that he plans to toss his new bride off his balcony so they can marry. The duke merely desires the princess’s money, and Rupert knows one thing: he has to rescue her. 

Princess Aria is astonished when a young, spectacle-wearing man kidnaps her. She’s in love with the duke—after all, he’s sent her such wonderful letters for weeks. Soon though, she’s on the run with Rupert to London. If only Rupert had sent her such lovely letters. . .

Amazon

Excerpt

Blast.

Rupert marched through the room and opened various drawers. There must be another key. He scrummaged through the duke’s attire, then crawled under the bed.

Nothing.

Finally, he glanced toward the window.

He rather wished the first Duke of Framingham had decided to put his bedroom on the ground floor. If only that duke had had a premonition of the viciousness of one of his descendants and his propensity to go about locking relatives in bedrooms. Evidently, the duke’s success at fighting the French so many centuries ago had not translated into an equal ability to foretell the future.

Rupert attempted to open the balcony door, but it was locked. He scowled, before hastily moving to the window.

Rupert unlocked the hinge on the window and pushed it open. A brisk wind met him. Birds chirped merrily, and the sun was in full force. He squinted into the light. Then he lowered himself carefully from the window until his feet touched the battlement.

The birds jerked their heads toward him from their perches on the parapet, before flying away. A few servants were outside, marching to the chapel with flowers.

Where was the princess?

Would she be in the chapel now? In the drawing room? Still touring the castle?

Her dressing room.

Rupert lowered himself down and hurried to the other wing, crawling along the crenellations. He wasn’t certain which room she’d been placed in, but he assumed it was the best one. The wind brushed against him, as if urging him to reenter the house. A few leaves, which had no doubt laid in the battlements for months, flew into his face. He pushed them away, and they crunched against his fingers.

Damnation.

Why was the castle so large? Evidently, no one had calculated the utter inconvenience the large size would be when someone was forced to circumvent it on one’s stomach.

The chapel bells rang, and Rupert scurried forward.

About the Author

Born in Texas, Bianca Blythe spent four years in England. She worked in a fifteenth-century castle, though sadly that didn’t actually involve spotting dukes and earls strutting about in Hessians.

She credits British weather for forcing her into a library, where she discovered her first Julia Quinn novel. She remains deeply grateful for blustery downpours.

After meeting her husband in another library, she moved with him to sunny California, though on occasion she still dreams of the English seaside, scones with clotted cream, and sheep-filled pastures. For now, she visits them in her books.

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