Home of the Bluestocking Belles

Because history is fun and love is worth working for

Author: Jude Knight Page 1 of 4

Strange Goings on at Haverford

The countryside is abuzz with stories of the latest visitors to Haverford Castle. Everyone knows that, when she is in residence on Mondays, Her Grace welcomes a selected visitor for afternoon tea; sometimes more than one. Rumour suggests that some of these visitors come from far afield.

None of her previous guests have been as strange as those seen entering the castle grounds this week. Monsters, some say; growling monsters with glowing eyes. Others speak of carriages with no horses; still others of strange styles of clothing the most exotic of imaginations could not have created.

Your correspondent cannot claim to know the truth of where they came from or how, but can only report what passed in front of my eyes.

Five couples visited Her Grace. The first pair were on horseback; the second in a buggy, much like that used by country vicars. Their clothing was not at all in the common fashion — the women wore sweeping skirts with waists at the natural level, and the men had long coats and narrow neck ties rather than cravats. But they were nothing to those who followed.

The third couple likewise rode on horseback, but both wore tight pantaloons in a soft blue shade. Yes, gentle reader, the woman, as well as the man, wore pantaloons.

The fourth couple rode some kind of two-wheeled machine, with a light fixed to the front that glowed brighter than a hundred candles. Even more startling than the light, the machine roared like a cotton mill or some other infernal engine. Like the third couple, these two wore blue trousers and calf-high boots, to which they had added black leather jackets. They also covered their heads with shiny head-gear in the shape of a ball.

The fifth couple were perhaps the strangest of all, seated as they were in the vehicle that others called a horseless carriage. It was unlike any carriage I have ever seen, being a low wheeled machine in a shiny red, with a long snout and a short rear, the centre having doors that gave access to the seating where the couple sat.

What they wore, I cannot say, for the doors concealed it. Nor can I begin to suggest where they came from. Beyond a doubt, however, they were invited guests, as where the others, for all were greeted by the Haverford butler and invited inside.

Does Her Grace traffic with the fairies? Or is there a scientific explanation for these odd happenings? The Teatime Tattler hopes someone knows, for we are mystified and Haverford Castle is not answering our questions.

The five couples that so intrigue our Teatime Tattler correspondent are from my New Zealand stories, which you’ll find all together in my new collection, Hearts in the Land of Ferns. The book is coming out on 23 April, and will be a mere 99c in US dollars.

The historicals

Step into the 1860s in All That Glisters, set in Dunedin at the time of the first gold rushes. It was first published in Hand-Turned Tales.

Rose is unhappy in the household of her fanatical uncle. Thomas, a young merchant from Canada, offers a glimpse of another possible life. If she is brave enough to reach for it.

Forged in Fire is set in geothermal country just outside of Rotorua in 1886, and was first published in the Bluestocking Belles’ collection Never Too Late.

Forged in fire, their love will create them anew.

Burned in their youth, neither Tad nor Lottie expected to feel the fires of love. The years have soothed the pain, and each has built a comfortable, if not fully satisfying, life, on paths that intersect and then diverge again.

But then the inferno of a volcanic eruption sears away the lies of the past and frees them to forge a future together.

The contemporaries

These were all previously published in collections by Authors of Main Street.

A Family ChristmasShe’s hiding out. He’s coming home. And there’ll be storms for Christmas.

Kirilee is on the run, in disguise, out of touch, and eating for two. Rural New Zealand has taken this Boston girl some getting used to, but her husband’s family and her new community have accepted her into their hearts. Just as well, since she’s facing Christmas and the birth of her baby without the man who wed her and sent her into hiding. What will he think when he comes home and discovers he’s a father?

Trevor is heading home for Christmas, after three years undercover, investigating a global criminal organization. He hasn’t spoken to his sister and grandfather since the case began. He hasn’t spoken to Kirilee, his target’s sister, since the day nearly nine months ago he married her and helped her escape. Will she want to stay married? And if so, will he?

In the heart of a storm, two people from different worlds question what divides and what unites them.

Abbie’s WishAbbie’s Christmas wish draws three men to her mother. One of them is a monster.

After too many horrifying experiences, Claudia Westerson has given up on men. She’s done everything possible to exorcise the men in her life, short of changing her name and appearance. They’re unpredictable, controlling and, worst of all, dangerous. Besides, all her energies are devoted to therapy for her daughter, Abbie, who is recovering from a brain injury.

But after Abbie is photographed making a wish for Christmas, Claudia begins receiving anonymous threats, proving her quiet refuge is not nearly hidden enough.

Who can she trust? Three men hope to make her theirs:

  • Jack, the driver from her daughter’s accident
  • Ethan, her daughter’s biological father
  • Rhys, a local school teacher and widower.

They all sound sincere, but which one isn’t?

Beached: The truth will wash away her coastal paradise

Grieving for the grandparents who raised her and still bruised from betrayals in New York City, Nikki Watson returns to her childhood home in Valentine Bay.

Zee Henderson has built a new life in New Zealand: friends, a job he enjoys and respect he earned for himself, without the family name and money he left behind.

The attraction between Nikki and Zee flames into passion, until Zee’s past arrives on their doorstep and washes away their coastal paradise.

Buy links:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Hearts-Land-Ferns-Tales-Zealand-ebook/dp/B07NDT826B

Amazon Aus: https://www.amazon.com.au/Hearts-Land-Ferns-Tales-Zealand-ebook/dp/B07NDT826B/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hearts-Land-Ferns-Tales-Zealand-ebook/dp/B07NDT826B

Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/hearts-in-the-land-of-ferns-love-tales-in-new-zealand/id1451855017?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ww/en/ebook/hearts-in-the-land-of-ferns-love-tales-in-new-zealand

Barnes & Noble Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130533818?ean=2940155970781

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/921843

A Surprise for a Sister

My Fishingham twins spying on their sister’s meetings with the Beast Next Door.

“Why did you stop me telling Charis about the Earl of Wayford?” Matilda demanded, as soon as Charis was out of earshot. “She clearly has no idea…”

Eugenie smirked. “Exactly. She has no idea. Just think what a delightful surprise it will be for her when the Earl actually turns up to claim his bride!”

Matilda frowned, puzzled. She could work absolute magic with a needle, but she sometimes had to have plots explained to her. It was not that she was stupid, it was just that she was straightforward and honest, so Eugenie had to be devious enough for them both. Eugenie didn’t mind; that was, after all, what a twin was for.

Eugenie didn’t exactly mind, either, that Charis, who was two years older than the twins, walked around with her head in one of her books, and ignored the family’s dire straits and the measures needed to save them. That was just Charis. She had always been that way, preferring her own company to playing with the twins, and regarding fashion, gossip, and the twins’ other interests with a kind of bewildered disdain.

She was extremely cross that Mother had accepted a proposal on her behalf.

“Are you not delighted that Charis is the one to find a rich husband to save the family?” Eugenie asked Matilda. “You and I will be much freer to choose. Someone comfortably placed, of course, but how lovely that Mama will be able to depend on Charis!”

Matilda nodded. “Of course I am pleased. But Eugenie, shouldn’t we tell Charis…”

“Definitely not. After what she has put us through this season? Besides, if she had told mother she was meeting someone when she wandered off next door, she might have learned the truth much earlier. Nothing good comes of lying to one’s mother!”

Matilda burst out laughing. “Eugenie Fishingham, you are a complete card. You and I have been lying to Mother ever since we followed Charis weeks ago, and saw whom she was meeting. Not to mention…”

“Let’s not mention,” Eugenie said, hastily. She would be far more prone to falsehoods if she did not fear that Matilda would blurt them out at the first opportunity. She reminded herself that really was lucky to have such an honest twin.

“I suppose we can always tell Charis tomorrow,” Matilda decided. “Shall we go up to our room, dearest? I, for one, do not wish to return to the parlour to hear Mother berating Charis for refusing this wonderful opportunity.

Charis is the heroine of The Beast Next Door, a novella in Valentines from Bath. See our project page for more about the book.

WAS THE LADY RESCUED OR RETRIEVED?

17 July, 1821

Dear Readers,

Ever committed to bringing you the most interesting tidbits of news, our correspondents have uncovered a tantalizing story of mesalliance in one of the most formidable families of the kingdom.

In a past edition we wrote about a certain Lord S, his mistakenly reported death, and the discovery of an illegitimate son.  The last twelvemonth has brought unexpected marriages for Lord S’s heir and youngest son, but the most shocking of all is the latest news!

Several days ago Lord S was reportedly absent from important meetings and preparations for His Majesty’s coronation. Our diligent correspondents at first speculated that illness had overtaken the usually hearty earl, London being hot and overcrowded at this festive season.

But lo, we were wrong! It seems that Lord S departed London quite suddenly for parts unknown, and his return reveals a quite shocking possibility.

Lord S returned in the company of his only daughter, Lady P (a most substantial heiress who has reportedly eschewed the offers of some of the ton’s most eligible gentlemen), and a Mr. F, in past years a portrait artist favored by some of the best families, but absent from town for the last several years.  Upon arrival, the young lady was bundled into the noble townhouse with her limping father, and a surgeon visited shortly thereafter. For what purpose, we were unable to determine.

Further inquiries revealed that Lord S was seen visiting Doctors’ Commons in the company of none other than Mr. F!  Lord S has reserved an hour a week hence at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square.

Dear Reader, is there a hasty wedding in Lady P’s future?

Far be it from this reporter to impugn the name of such a patrician family. Still, one must wonder…was the noble lady rescued or retrieved? And was Mr. F engaged for the wedding portrait—or is he the gentleman she is wedding?

Never fear, dear reader, we will report further on this.

The Counterfeit Lady

Freedom!

Vowing she’ll never submit to an arranged marriage, an earl’s daughter bolts for the remote seaside cottage that should be hers upon marriage.

But instead of a quiet respite from her controlling family, she finds her refuge occupied by the last man she ever wants to see again—an American artist, who’s also a thief.

And quite possibly one of her father’s spies.

This story includes a rebellious heroine, a determined spy, a meddling father, a vicious villain, a cast of free-thinking free-traders and possibly a ghost or two!

Excerpt

“Lady Perpetua.”

Her lungs froze. Fox had opened that door soundlessly.

Chestnut shuddered and shifted around, nostrils sucking in the air that Perry couldn’t seem to find.

She sensed him moving through the dark and mustered a breath. “Go away. I’ll not ride away in my nightclothes.”

His dark form appeared next to her, silent and hulking.

Chestnut looked him over, remembering. She flicked her tail and nosed his hand.

“Traitor,” Perry muttered.

Fox didn’t laugh. His hand, that large hand with its long fingers, slid over the horse, stroking and soothing, the action pulling the warmth through her own flesh, soothing the hair on her neck and the tension behind her eyes.

She straightened her shoulders. “You’ve no doubt come to tell me again how dangerous it is here. How I shouldn’t be out in the stables at night.”

“It is dangerous, my lady.”

His lady. The words stirred her tension into a hot knot of unshed tears. She swallowed them back and made herself snort. “Ah, yes. Dangerous country. Smugglers and such.”

“You shouldn’t make light of it.”

“I don’t. I’m not unprotected. I have my knives and my pistols.”

“Would you use them?”

“I’ve been tempted to use them on you several times this night.”

His hand stopped. “Lady Perpetua, your government is cracking down on smugglers. Desperate men do desperate things. There is but one of you and many of them.”

“There’s a riding officer in these parts. There’s a baronet justice of the peace down the road. I will look them up if there is trouble.”

“And if they’re part of the smuggling organization?”

Her mind froze around the idea.

But of course. She was not so naive that she shouldn’t have realized—smuggling corrupted all of the locals. Though in all fairness, the smuggling in these parts had not been on her mind at all when she came here.

Fox pulled both of her hands into his. She dropped her gaze to them. “They won’t bother me. I am the daughter of the powerful Earl of Shaldon.”

He tensed at that and when he spoke his words were a scold. “They could make you disappear and no one would know. You ran away, didn’t you? You left London without telling anyone where you were going.”

“I wasn’t in London. Charley married. I was at his home in Yorkshire.”

“He will be frantic.”

She almost laughed. “You don’t know Charley, do you? And even if he were the type to worry, he thinks I’m visiting a friend.”

“So, you see. No one would know.”

Anger rippled through her and tightened her chest. “You would know, Fox. You would know. Unless you’re also part of it.”

“What if they’d killed me?”

She pulled her hands away. “No. You’re not going to muddle me again. I’m not leaving.”

He moved closer, towering over her. “No matter whose daughter you are, it’s not safe here for a beautiful young woman—”

“Stop.” She slapped his hands away. Chestnut sidestepped, and Perry took a breath. “I am simply one woman. One spinster well on the shelf. Not young, and not beautiful.”

“You are beautiful.” He clipped out the words, harshly, but those strong, long fingers curled over her shoulders, working their artist’s magic, sending tendrils of bright-colored feeling streaming into her, as if he could flick his brush and make her handsomer than God had made her.

She tried to swallow against a sudden dryness. She knew the truth. “Long Meg.” She breathed deeply. “Horse Face. Bluestocking. Ape Lead—”

His lips pressed to hers and for a moment she couldn’t find air. He used that moment, pulled her closer, flattened all of her against hard muscles, wrapped her in his long arms. His hands cradled her, his fingers dancing and doing things to her neck and her back that sent her nerves spinning. She sobbed, caught a breath, opened her mouth against his, and surrendered.

Buy Links

Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/Counterfeit-Lady-Regency-Romance-Sons-ebook/dp/B07BJ39CVV

Kobo:  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-counterfeit-lady-1

Nook:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-counterfeit-lady-alina-k-field/1128249478

iBook:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-counterfeit-lady/id1361801023

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Alina_K_Field_The_Counterfeit_Lady?id=yetTDwAAQBAJ

Author Bio and links:

Award winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but her true passion is the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband, her spunky, blonde, rescued terrier, and the blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

She is the author of several Regency romances, including the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner, Rosalyn’s Ring. She is hard at work on her next series of Regency romances, but loves to hear from readers!

Visit her at:

https://alinakfield.com/

https://www.facebook.com/alinakfield

https://twitter.com/AlinaKField

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7173518.Alina_K_Field

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WIDOW AND VISCOUNT IN GREAT NORTH ROAD SCANDAL

Was a certain widow connected to some of the highest families on the land seen cavorting on the Great North Road with a retired army officer recently ascended to a viscountcy?

Dear Readers, we can assure you that we have eye witness accounts to confirm the shocking truth.

We speak, of course, of Mrs. C., widow of the Laird of G., a captain in our navy who died a hero’s death three years ago, defending the shores of our beloved country. All witnesses confirm that she and the viscount in the case were alone for several days, perhaps as much as a week, sharing the same carriage and staying at the same inns.

What, do you suppose, will her sponsor and godmother, the Duchess of H., make of that?

You will recall, dear Readers, the Vile Viscount whose death late last year came as a relief to all of his creditors and his dependents, not least to his third wife, who lost no time in escaping, with her daughters, from the monster’s lair. Perhaps Mrs. C. believes that the new Lord R. does not share his brother’s foul nature. Let us hope for her sake that she is correct.

The Realm of Silence

(Book 3 in the Golden Redepenning series: release date 22 May 2018)

“I like not only to be loved, but also to be told I am loved…  the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.” George Eliot

When Susan Cunningham’s daughter disappears from school, her pleasant life as a fashionable, dashing, and respectable widow is shattered. Amy is reported to be chasing a French spy up the Great North Road, and when Susan sets out in pursuit she is forced to accept help from the last person she wants: her childhood friend and adult nemesis, Gil Rutledge.

Gil Rutledge has loved Susan since she was ten and he a boy of twelve. He is determined to oblige her by rescuing her daughter. And if close proximity allows them to rekindle their old friendship, even better. He has no right to ask for more.

Gil and Susan must overcome danger, mystery, ghosts from the past, and their own pride before their journey is complete.

Preorder links and more information on my website

Excerpt

“Gil, can I trouble you to escort me to the Academy?” Susan continued, and Gil had agreed before he thought about how it might look. He quelled his doubts, but they returned fourfold when he descended from washing in his room just behind two gossipmongers who were quacking about a notorious widow and her escapades on the Great North Road. “She travelled all that way with a Rutledge, dear. Need I say more?”

The other protested. “But not the Vile Viscount, Millie. This is the younger brother. One of Wellington’s war heroes, and a family friend of the Redepennings. It is only natural he would offer his help to the sister of his friend.”

Gil should make his presence known, but a perverse need to hear the worst consumed him, and he stopped just above a turn in the stairs to listen.

“A war hero he may be. I say nothing to that. But a man may be brave, and still be a killer and a villain. They say the Vile Viscount killed his first wife, and perhaps his second—though…” the speaker paused, clearly determined if reluctant to be fair… “she may have died in childbed, I suppose. Certainly, his third must be glad he is dead, poor little thing.”

If Gil had been his unknown sister-in-law, he would have danced on Gideon’s grave out of sheer relief, though running away as she did was a practical step, he supposed.

The second woman was still fighting his corner. “The new Lord Rutledge is accepted everywhere, Millie. You know perfectly well that his brother was barred from all but the lowest of places.”

Millie was not impressed by the argument, her harrumph expressing both scorn and disbelief. “The influence of his friends. And look at what friends, Lettie! The Redepennings! Rakes to a man and a woman. Why Countess Chirbury is a Selby, and they are as bad as the Rutledges. And Renshaw married a madwoman, who killed her first husband. I had it from her own sister! The apple does not fall far from the tree, Lettie. Susan Cunningham may walk very high in the instep, but she is no better than a trollop, travelling alone with a Rutledge.”

“Enough,” Gil said, quietly, making them both jump.

Millie was the first to recover, drawing herself up to her full height, still a full head shorter than Gil, even after he rounded her to stand one stair below, blocking her way to the inn’s next floor. He fixed her with his best Colonel Rock Ledge glare.

“Do I know you, sir?” she demanded, haughtily.

“No, madam, you do not. Nor do you know my friends, although you do appear to have a passing acquaintance with my brother.”

“Then you are interrupting a private conversation,” she informed him, and flapped both hands at him as if he were an importunate chicken that could be scared into a scurried retreat. “Go away. I do not speak with men to whom I have not been introduced.”

“Your name, madam?” He asked the second lady, a hint of command infusing the words so that she had introduced herself as ‘Mrs Robert Fenhaven, and this is my friend, Miss Stenhouse.”

Gil ignored Miss Stenhouse’s hissed protest to her friend and bowed. “I am Rutledge, Mrs Fenhaven, and I have a particular interest in a conversation about myself, in which I and my friends are made the subject of scurrilous and evil lies.”

Mrs Fenhaven paled, and Miss Stenhouse coloured but rallied. “Those who eavesdrop seldom hear good of themselves.”

“Those who spread lies about prominent members of Society seldom prosper,” he countered. “I do not know you, Miss Stenhouse, and I do not care to further the acquaintance. I very much doubt that you are personally known to any of the people whose names you freely malign in an open stairway of a public inn. However, I am confident that Mrs Cunningham and the other ladies of her family can find out all about you, your family, your connections, and any skeletons in your family tree.”

“Are you threatening me?” The stance was still belligerent, but the slight quaver in the voice suggested uncertainty, and Mrs Fenhaven was gabbling apologies as fast as her tongue could wag.

Gil nodded, gravely. “Not a threat, precisely, madam. Consider it, instead, a promise. I have spent my entire adult life defending my country, as Mrs Fenhaven has pointed out. I will defend my friends from any attack, including those by ignorant muckrakers spreading false rumours. I promise you, Miss Stenhouse, you would be wise to keep your ill-informed opinions to yourself.”

Mrs Fenhaven was whispering urgently to Miss Stenhouse, who had deflated like the silly hen she was, her eyes glancing everywhere except at Gil, as if seeking a way to leave the battlefield with dignity.

Gil took pity on the poor friend, and stepped to one side, allowing them to pass, Mrs Fenhaven curtseying slightly and saying, in a harried tone, “So nice to meet you, my lord, at least it would have been… oh dear, oh Millie, how could you.”

In the private parlour Lord Henry had ordered for their meal, the rest of his party was already gathered, but after they had eaten and the nursemaid had taken the children upstairs to get their coats for their outing, he told Lord Henry and Susan about the encounter. Susan was scornful. “I’ve never heard of the woman, and I doubt she knows anyone who matters, Rutledge. She cannot harm me or mine. Though I would have paid pounds for a ringside seat on her dressing down. I am sure she must have been shaking in her shoes.”

Gil was less inclined to be amused. “Unfortunately, I doubt I’ve spiked her guns, and she is only one, besides. We can’t deny that we did travel together, and alone, and though you and I know it was in all innocence, people will believe what they will.”

He cast an anxious glance at Lord Henry. “I am sorry, general.”

“No apology required, my boy. Susan has told me how you looked after her; yes, and found and rescued Amy, too.”

Susan made a small delicate noise of disgust. “Apologies, indeed. Are you sorry you came with me, Rutledge? I was going anyway, as you full well know, and while I am fully conscious of what I owe you, I do not appreciate the suggestion that either you or my father controls my behaviour.”

Gil had to smile at that, a wry twist of the lips. No one controlled his goddess. She was a force of nature. Nonetheless, he could not be as blithe about the rumours as her. “Perhaps I should take the children to see the playing fields, and the General should come with you to the school, Susan. My presence will only add fuel to the fire of the rumours.”

Susan shook her head. “Your absence, when you are known to be in Cambridge, will look like guilt, Gil. Be damned to the rumourmongers. I would appreciate your escort.”

Gil glanced at Lord Henry, who said, “Susan is right. The only way to deal with rumours is to act as if you have done nothing at all of which to be ashamed.”

Susan gave a deep sigh. “There. You have the agreement of the male head of my family. Satisfied, Rutledge?”

Even Gil, who had lived in an almost entirely male world since he was a schoolboy, knew better than to give an honest answer to that. “It shall be as you wish, Susan.”

Some old acquaintance are better forgot


“Cici! Darling!” The tall lady in the fashionable dress turned at her name, and pasted on a smile as a willowy blonde in green hurried across the room to seize her hands and kiss in the vicinity of her cheek.

She returned the salute, the smile still not reaching her eyes. Lady Norton had retired to the country a year ago, perhaps because her husband was ill. And then, a few months ago, she was widowed; not an unexpected occurence with a groom some forty years her senior.

Apparently, she was back. “Vivi, I did not know you were out of mourning.”

Vivi waved at her gown, and laughed, the melodious tinkle that Cici had heard her practice every morning when they shared a room at the select ladies’ academy they had both attended. “As you see, my dear. And Guy says it will be perfectly acceptable for me to attend assemblies and the like, but not to dance.”

“You are staying with your brother?” Guy Kitteridge had been a suitor for Cecily’s hand. Thank goodness she had had the sense to select dear Thornley instead. And Thornley had chosen her instead of being distracted by Vivi’s obvious and openly proffered charms.

Girls were protected from the very knowledge that would keep them safe, but since her marriage she had learned that Kitteridge was vicious as well as rather stupid. Somewhat like his sister, in fact.

“With my aunt, though I have just come from meeting Guy. Cici, you will never guess who Guy and I ran into today. Candle Avery! Lord Avery, I suppose I should call him now, since his father died. Such a tragic accident. And his mother will never walk again, or so I hear.” She smiled, as if this news was particularly delightful. “I suppose it must be true, since he was at a business meeting with a designer of invalid chairs. He must be buying one for his mother, do you not suppose?”

“How sweet,” Cecily said. “He always was a very nice man.”

Vivi dismissed the comment. “I suppose. Odd-looking though. So tall and skinny, and his hair such a bright shade of red. No wonder his schoolfriends called him Candle!”

Not friends at all, from what Cecily had heard, but bullies led by Vivi’s own brother.

“Still,” Vivi was pursuing her own line of thought. “He is a viscount, and one can put up with a lot for a title. And he has inherited a fortune, as well, which is a thing I could do with, for Norton’s guardian is difficult about allowances.” She flicked impatiently at her gown, which was of the finest silk and bore the unmistakeable look of a London modiste. The new Lord Norton was in the custody of his much older cousin, who was known to heartily dislike his aunt-by-marriage. Cecily noted that Vivi’s only mention of her son so far was in relation to money for gowns.

“I could have had him three years ago, but he was poor then, and untitled,” Vivi continued. She nodded, decisively. “It is a good idea, I think.”

“Three years ago,” Cecily reminded the silly cat, “Candle Avery was courting Minerva Bradshaw. He wouldn’t have noticed you if you had appeared in his bed naked.”

Vivi laughed again. “Darling, a dead man would notice if I appeared in his bed naked, but so funny that you should mention little Minnie! Guess who Candle has hired to make his mother an invalid’s chair!”

Ah. Cecily had heard that the Bradshaw Carriage Makers, Minerva’s family business, also produced chairs for the many invalids of Bath. “The Bradshaws?” She said, since Vivi was clearly not going to go away until she had said whatever she had come to say.

“Close, darling, but not quite. Little Minnie herself! Not just from the shop, darling. She is an actual tradeswoman. How shocking, do you not think? Of course, Candle will never look at her now.”

Ah. Here came Thornley. Thank goodness. He smiled at his wife, and bowed coldly to Lady Norton. “You must excuse us, Lady Norton. My wife and I have an engagement.

Cecily took his arm and waved goodbye, hoping her relief was not apparent.

Though Thornley noticed, of course, saying once they were out in the road, “Really, my sweet widgeon, why do you talk to that fluff-headed she-cat? You do not even like her!”

“I haven’t talked to her in a year, Thornley,” she protested, but he informed her from his superior height that Lady Norton had been in the country for a year. “And I wish she had stayed there,” he added. “I tell you, Cecily, if you invite her to our house, I shall beat you.”

Cecily, who knew precisely the weight to put on such threats said, “You know that you will not, Thornley.”

“No, because I love you to distraction,” he agreed. “But really, my dear, will you not cut the connection? I know she was your friend at school, but I can do without being propositioned under the very eye of my own wife.”

Cecily pulled to a stop, tugging on his arm until he faced her. “She didn’t! She did!” She dropped his arm, and turned on her heel to march back down the hill.

“Wait!” Thornley caught up and stood in front of her. “It was a year ago, darling, and I had a word with her husband. That’s why he took her home to his country estate. Of course, then he died, but I thought she’d be out of circulation for at least another six months.”

“And when did you plan to tell me,” Cecily demanded.

“I didn’t. The barbarian in me delights in the idea of your scratching the nasty cat’s eyes out.” He heaved large sigh. “But I know you are too much of a lady to descend to her level. So it seemed pointless to upset you, especially when you were so fretf— so impatiently waiting for the arrival of our son.”

Cecily thought about this and decided the excuse could be accepted.

“Very well, Thornley, but do not think to keep such secrets from me again,” she said sternly. Her husband hung his head and did his best to look contrite, though his eyes twinkled so that she relented and told him, “And I will cut the connection.

Can a viscount and a carriage maker’s daughter find love?

Randal Avery, known as Candle, comes to buy an invalid chair for his mother, and finds the woman who has been haunting his dreams for three years. He has until she finishes the chair for his mother to convince her to marry him. If he says it with flowers, will she understand?

Minerva Bradshaw, educated beyond her station, once dreamed of stepping into the fairy tale world of the ton, only to have her dreams crushed. Now the man she cannot forget is back, and he seems determined to raise those false hopes all over again. But she only has to resist until Christmas.

Buy links on my website at http://judeknightauthor.com/books/candles-christmas-chair/

Excerpt

“Tha’ wants to talk to Min about they chairs,” said the man in the office, and directed Candle Avery to the far corner of the carriage-maker’s yard.

Candle strode through the light rain, dodging or leaping the worst of the mud and puddles. Min. Short for Benjamin, perhaps? Or Dominic?

No, he concluded, as his eyes adjusted to the light inside the shed. The delightful posterior presented to his eyes belonged to neither a Benjamin nor a Dominic. The overalls were masculine, but the curves they covered were not.

She was on a ladder, leaning so far into a bank of shelves that lined the wall opposite the door that her upper half was hidden, but he had no objection to the current view—said delightful posterior at his eye level and neatly outlined as she stretched, a pair of trim ankles showing between the tops of her sensible half boots and the hems of the overalls.

“Botheration.” Whatever she was reaching for up there, it was not obliging her by coming to her hand. Perhaps his lofty height might be of service?

“May I help, Ma’am?” he asked.

There was a crash as she jerked upright at the sound of his voice, and hit her head on the shelf above. As she flinched backward from the collision, the ladder tipped sideways, spilling its occupant into Candle’s hastily outstretched arms.

The curves were everything he thought, and the face lived up to them. A Venus in miniature, black curls spilling from the kerchief that held them away from the heart-shaped face, that quintessentially English complexion known as peaches and cream, grey eyes fringed with dark lashes.

Grey eyes that had haunted his dreams for three long years, ever since she’d led him on at a house party for the amusement of her friends, and then left without saying goodbye.

Grey eyes that turned stormy as he held her a moment too long. He hastily set her down.

“Miss Bradshaw.”

“Captain Avery. No, it is Lord Avery, now, is it not? My condolences on the death of your father.”

He bowed his acknowledgement, his mind racing. Bradshaw Carriages. He hadn’t made the connection. Had he known when he was courting her that she was a carriage-maker’s daughter? He didn’t remember anyone mentioning it.

But he did remember that her friends called her Minnie. Miss Minerva Bradshaw. Min.

Lord Avery was broader than she remembered. He’d been little more than a boy at that horrid house party, but even then the tallest man she had ever met. Isolated and nervous in that crowd of scheming cats who had only invited her to humiliate her, she’d believed him when he claimed to care. She’d been thrilled when he called her a little goddess, and asked for leave to worship her.

With him at her side, she’d braved the crush at the ball. Short as she was, she usually found such occasions overwhelming. People looked over her, bumped into her, ignored her. But Lord Avery—Captain Avery he’d been then—kept her safe. She’d even, for the first time in her life, been enjoying herself at a ball. Right up until she overheard his best friend talking to him, and it became clear that Lord Avery despised her common origins and was only courting her for her money.

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