Home of the Bluestocking Belles

Because history is fun and love is worth working for

Author: Jude Knight Page 1 of 4

IS DUKE BEHIND ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT?

Sam, did you hear the Earl of Sutton was attacked earlier today? Footpads, they said. About twenty minutes later, a carter lost control of his horses just as his dray was passing Sutton’s children on a schoolroom outing. And you know assailants have had a go at both of Sutton’s sons in the past few days, too.

As an aside, Sutton beat his assailants to a pulp. He’s as tough as his sons, it seems. And the one still in the schoolroom whipped his schoolmates out of the way of the dray. He’ll be another formidable warrior when he grows up.

But that’s not the point, Sam.

I’ve found out who paid for all the attacks, and you’re never going to believe it. I was told in confidence, mind, and if we want the servants inside of Haverford House to keep slipping us bits of news we can’t use it. It’ll be a start to our own investigation, though.

That’s right. Haverford House, and yes, it was the Duke. The Merry Marquis is furious. He’s threatening to have his father locked up. Can he do that, Sam?

***

The Children of the Mountain King

Welcome to Jude Knight’s new series.

In 1812, high Society is rocked by the return of the Earl of Sutton, heir to the dying Duke of Winshire. James Winderfield, Earl of Sutton, Winshire’s third and only surviving son, has long been thought dead, but his reappearance is not nearly such a shock as those he brings with him, the children of his deceased Persian-born wife and fierce armed retainers.

This series begins with a prequel novella telling the love story of James senior and Mahzad (Paradise Regained), then leaps two decades to a series of six novels as the Winderfield offspring and their cousins search for acceptance and love.

To Wed a Proper Lady, the first novel, is on preorder and will be released on 15 April.

Follow the links for more details and for buy links.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt about the assaults from the point of view of the Duchess of Haverford. It appears in Paradise Lost, a novella about the duchess that I’m giving away free with my next newsletter in a couple of days. It tells of how Eleanor Creydon became Eleanor, Duchess of Haverford, a lynchpin character in my Regency and Victorian stories, and also backgrounds the series.

Haverford House, London, July 1812

The Duchess of Haverford took tea in her rooms this quiet Monday afternoon. She was alone for once; even the maid who brought the tray sent off back to the servants’ hall. Her life was such a bustle, and for the most part, that was how she liked it, but just for once, it was nice to have an afternoon to herself. No meetings. No entertainments to attend or offer. Not even any family members—her current companion had gone to visit her mother for her afternoon off, Aldridge was about his own business, her youngest ward was at lessons, and the two older girls had been invited on an outing with a friend.

As to Haverford, who knew where he was? But he would not disturb her here.

The thought had barely crossed her mind when a knock sounded; not the discreet tap of a servant, but a firm rap. Not the duke. He wouldn’t knock. “Enter,” she called.

Aldridge let himself into the room.  He greeted her with his usual aplomb, asked after her day, but she could tell immediately that he was agitated. “What is wrong, my son?”

“I have no easy way to say this, Mama.” He knelt before her and took her hands. “Sutton has been assaulted in the street, and his schoolroom party was also attacked. A runaway brewer’s dray that was not a runaway at all.” He squeezed her hands, pulling her back from her sudden dizziness. “Sutton gave his assailants a drubbing, and the children and their attendants are unhurt, thanks to swift action on the part of their escort.”

Eleanor let out the air she was holding. “Thank goodness! And thank you, my dear, for letting me know before gossip made it so much worse.”

Aldridge frowned slightly. “There is more. I heard of the assault on Sutton before it happened, and arrived with help just after. Mama, my secretary was asked to be the paymaster for the assailants. And guess who gave him the command.”

She knew before her son said it. Breathed the words with him. “His Grace? Surely not. After the assassin at the duel, why would he do something like this again?”

“His Grace.” Aldridge confirmed. He leapt to his feet and paced the room, not able to keep still for a moment, his body expressing the agitation his face refused to display. “He is getting worse, Mama. Whether it would have happened anyway, or whether the arrival of Sutton lit the flame, he lives on the point of explosion.”

“I know, my dear.” She knew better than Aldridge, in fact. Despite the long estrangement between her and her husband, they nonetheless lived in the same house, attended some of the same social gatherings, worked side-by-side for the same political causes. Aldridge kept largely to his own wing when he was under the same roof as his parents, which was increasingly rare. He managed all the vast business of the duchy, but Haverford had long since let go those reins to the extent that his only association with Aldridge tended to be through the bills and notes of hand that arrived regularly to be paid.

Aldridge thumped the mantlepiece. “This latest start… if word gets out that Haverford was behind the attack on Sutton and his family, it will be a disaster. Sutton would be well within his rights to demand Haverford’s trial for attempted murder. This family is no stranger to scandal, Mama, and there’s no doubt in my mind His Grace deserves to be hanged, silken noose or not, but…”

Eleanor’s distress was such she found herself chewing her lip. “Thank God no one was seriously hurt.”

“Thank Sutton and his sons for their warrior-craft, and my secretary for telling me in time to lead a rescue.” Aldridge heaved a deep sigh and took another fast turn around the carpet. “He intended murder, Mama, and when I confronted him with it, he laughed and said he did it for England. He has gone too far, Mama. If he is found out, he puts us all at risk. What if the Regent decides to regard a murder attempt on another peer as treason?”

Eleanor had not considered that possibility. The title could be attained, the lineage considered corrupt. Aldridge had worked for years to rebuild the wealth of the duchy after his father’s mismanagement. He could lose it all, including the title, and the Prince would be delighted to benefit.

Haverford had become more and more erratic as the year progressed. He insulted and alarmed other people at every event he attended, completely ignoring social conventions and saying whatever he thought, often using the foulest of language. Thankfully, he was showing less and less inclination to go into Polite Society. Even so, the duchess frequently needed to use all her considerable tact and diplomacy to soothe ruffled feathers and quiet the gossip that claimed the duke was going mad.

“He is going mad,” she acknowledged to her son, the one person in the world who could be trusted with the knowledge. “It is the French Disease, I am sure. It is rotting his brain.”

“We cannot bring in doctors to examine him, Mama. Who knows what would come of that; what he would say and who they would tell? He cannot be allowed to continue, however.”

Eleanor frowned. It was a conundrum. Who could prevent a duke from doing whatever he pleased?

Aldridge, apparently. “I have made arrangements. He has been persuaded to travel to Haverford Castle. When he arrives, trusted servants know to keep him there. He will be comfortable, Mama. I have arranged for him to be entertained, and have nurses on hand in case he needs them. The disease will kill him in the next year or two, probably, and he is likely to be bedridden long before the end.”

He was brave, her son. He was breaking the laws of God and man in showing such disobedience to his father and a peer of the realm. She was sure God would understand, but the Courts might not. She would not ask about the entertainment Aldridge had provided. Knowing Haverford as she did, she did not want to know details. “He must never be set free,” she concluded. Should anyone find out he was insane, the scandal would be enormous. Worse still for Aldridge.

“I understand that such spells may come and go, so we need to be prepared for him to return to sanity, at least for a time,” Aldridge cautioned. “But if that does not happen, my instructions are to keep him from understanding he is imprisoned for as long as possible. With luck, the confusion in his mind will prevent him from ever working it out. I needed you to know, Mama, for two reasons. First, we need a story for the ton. Second, if he does not recover and if anything happens to me, it will be for you to keep him confined until Jon returns to be heir in my place.”

“I hope dear Jonathan comes home soon, Aldridge. I miss my son. But do not speak of your demise, my dear. I could not bear it.”

Aldridge stopped beside her and bent to kiss her forehead. “You are the strongest woman I know, dearest. Fret not. I am careful, and I intend to live to grow old.”

Eleanor hoped so. She certainly hoped so.

Imposter Attempts Theft of Title

Sam, you made a good call when you sent me to listen to the debate in the Lords. Whoever told you the Duke of Haverford was up to something, didn’t hint at the half of it! Here’s a transcript of what he said.

Your Graces, My Lords, it is with a heavy heart that I come before you today. Not long ago, it was our sad duty to recognise that our esteemed monarch was no longer able to meet his responsibilities and needed to be placed in the care of his loving wife.

Today, we face a like task, as one of the foremost peers in the land falls victim to the ravages of time and illness, so that his judgement is impaired and his decisions dangerous for his family, his estates, and the realm.

I refer, dear colleagues, to one of my oldest friends. With the greatest of regret, I must disclose to you that the Duke of Winshire has succumbed to the blandishments of a rogue and the yearnings of his own heart, and has recognised an imposter as his heir.

This man, claiming to be Winshire’s only surviving son, arrived on these shores only days ago. I have reason to believe he is not even English, but comes from the far reaches of Persia, or even further into those godless lands.

My lords, the Duke’s sons are all dead. I, myself, wept with him when the news came from the East of the death of the man this reprobate claims to be.

Moreover, the rogue brings with him six young people whom he claims to be his legitimate children. You and I, my lords, will know how to answer such a ridiculous attempt to lay hands on one of the treasures of England, the duchy of Winshire.

So there it is, Sam. I can’t wait to see what happens next! Fun times to be a reporter, that is for certain.

In 1812, high Society is rocked by the return of the Earl of Sutton, heir to the dying Duke of Winshire. James Winderfield, Earl of Sutton, Winshire’s third and only surviving son, has long been thought dead, but his reappearance is not nearly such a shock as those he brings with him, the children of his deceased Persian-born wife and fierce armed retainers.

This series begins with a prequel novella telling the love story of James senior and Mahzad, then leaps two decades to a series of six novels as the Winderfield offspring and their cousins search for acceptance and love.

To Wed a Proper Lady, the first novel, is on preorder and will be released on 15 April.

Everyone knows James needs a bride with impeccable blood lines. He needs Sophia’s love more.

James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her, he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.

Sophia keeps secret her tendre for James, Lord Elfingham. After all, the whole of Society knows he is pursuing the younger Belvoir sister, not the older one left on the shelf after two failed betrothals.

Find out more and buy the book.

Excerpt

The racing curricles had negotiated the bend without disaster and were now hurtling towards the village. Long habit had James studying the path, looking to make sure the villagers were safely out of the way, and an instant later, he put Seistan at the slope.

It was steep, but nothing to the mountains they had lived in all their lives, he and his horse, and Seistan was as sure-footed as any goat. Straight down by the shortest route they hurtled, for in the path of the thoughtless lackwits and their carriages was a child—a boy, by the trousers—who had just escaped through a gate from the village’s one large house, tripped as he crossed the road, and now lay still.

It would be close. As he cleared one stone fence and then another, he could see the child beginning to sit up, shaking his head. Just winded then, and easier to reach than lying flat, thank all the angels and saints.

Out of sight for a moment as he rounded a cottage, he could hear the carriages drawing closer. Had the child recovered enough to run? No. He was still sitting in the road, mouth open, white-faced, looking as his doom approached. What kind of selfish madmen raced breast to breast, wheel to wheel, into a village?

With hand, body and voice, James set Seistan at the child, and dropped off the saddle, trusting to the horse to sweep past in the right place for James to hoist the child out of harm’s way.

One mighty heave, and they were back in the saddle. James’ shoulders would feel the weight of the boy for days, but Seistan had continued across the road, and just in time. The racers hurtled by so close James could feel the wind of their passing.

They didn’t stop. Didn’t even slow. In moments, they were gone.

The boy shaking in his arms, James turned Seistan with his knees, and walked the horse back to the gates of the big house. A crowd of women waited for them, but only one came forward as he dismounted— a gentlewoman, if her aristocratic bearing and the quality of her fashionable gown were any indication.

“Forgive my temerity in speaking without an introduction, my lady,” he said, “but have you perchance mislaid this child?”

“How can we ever thank you enough, sir?” Her voice confirmed her class. She took the child from him, and handed him off to be scolded and hugged and wept over by a bevy of other females.

The woman lingered, and James too. He could hear his father and the others riding towards them, but he couldn’t take his gaze off her. He was drowning in a pair of brown-gray eyes, like a pond in the deep shelter of a nurturing forest. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit, until now.


A chance meeting on purpose

Aldridge looked around the unfamiliar room of a club patronised by the son and heir of the Duke of Sudbury. He soon spotted the distinctive white-blonde head of hair. Glenaire was dining alone at a table set apart from the others. Aldridge strolled over, catching up a chair on his way.

“Good evening, Glenaire. Would company go amiss?” It was a comedy they enacted for the audience. Glenaire had offered this as a meeting place when Aldridge asked for a private conversation.

Glenaire looked up from the pamphlet on which he focused to the neglect of his plate. “It would be my pleasure.” He hooked a finger at a passing footman. “A place setting for Lord Aldridge.”

As the footman hurried away, Glenaire went straight to the point. “Forgive if I’m assuming, Aldridge, but I gather this is about your family matter.”

Aldridge grimaced. “In a sense, Glenaire, though it touches on your particular interests. Let me be blunt. My ‘family matter’ as you call it is out of my hands and into those of men like your esteemed father. I shall need to trust they make the right decision, for what else can I do? Meanwhile, I am doing my best to contain the mischief my own progenitor can cause, as quietly as possible, for my mother’s sake and the sake of the duchy.”

Glenaire’s somber expression deepened. Unlike Aldridge, Glenaire had withdrawn from affairs of the Sudbury duchy and thrown himself into government, becoming highly influential in foreign affairs. His sharp disagreement with the duke his father made working together impossible and, unlike Haverford, the Duke of Sudbury remained very much in control. He understood, however, the frustration of watching his family heritage poorly managed while lacking power to intervene.

The footman arrived to serve a bowl of rich oyster soup. Aldridge thanked him with a smile, and took his first sip while waiting for the man to leave. “With your sister supporting this event my mother is sponsoring, I take it we shall be seeing you at the auction?”

“Of course,” Glenaire agreed. “Chadbourn and I have been working on similar issues for a few years. I will support the ladies’ efforts any way I can.”

“I was somewhat surprised to see your sister at Haverford House and joining in the committee’s activities. My impression has been she prefers to remain in Oxfordshire.”

Glenaire shook his head. “Georgiana is much too much a recluse. One worries. I urged her to come down for a few weeks while our parents are not in town.” A small movement at the corner of his lips hinted at amusement. “Your mother recruited her rather quickly. Now she has moved to Chadbourn House. She and the earl’s sister Lady Flora are partners in this cause.”

Aldridge grinned. “Chadbourn already has a special interest in the Society’s cause. The Chadbourn House servants are an interesting lot.”  (Chadbourn recruited many of his servants from among disabled veterans and war widows.)

The footman finished pouring the wine to go with the soup course, and left. Aldridge leant forward and lowered his voice. “Glenaire, I’ll get straight to the point. It has come to my attention that a certain crime lord in the London slums has smuggling interests, and that the implications may touch on the security of the King’s realm. If… and I pose the question hypothetically… if a prominent Devon landowner gave safe haven to such criminals, and someone presented the government with information about the places and times of meeting, could the landowner’s name be kept out of it? The family would, of course, guarantee to deal with the matter in their own way. Indeed, steps are already being taken.”

Glenaire nodded. “Ah, but the government would have a strong interest in assisting the family in this matter. Confidentially, Aldridge we both know there are smugglers one winks at (your boyhood shows that) and ones that mean us harm. I assume these are the latter and can ensure the full force of the border enforcement—riding officers and military aid if it came to that. Unless, of course, you prefer I keep them out of it.”

Aldridge frowned. “It’s a tricky matter, Glenaire. It needs to be handled by someone with a bit of discretion. Yes, running with the smugglers in Devon is almost a rite of passage for Haverford sons. My brother and I both did it when we were schoolboys, and I still know some of the men I met then. They wouldn’t touch these London thugs with an extremely long barge pole.”

He looked down at his soup spoon, but it was clear his mind was far away. “I can’t stand by and let a man’s second childhood, and his resentment of a romantic rivalry from before I was born, put England at risk. But I don’t want — can I be blunt? — I don’t want the fool attained for treason, either.”

“Are we back to a “family” matter?” Glenaire asked.

Aldridge nodded, cautiously. “Hypothetical, again? Imagine a man whose excesses have rotted his brain, and who has always thought he was one step up from God. If he needed to pay a villain for an assassination attempt, and the payment demanded was free use of smuggler sanctuaries, would his conscience bother him, do you think?”

Glenaire leaned forward. “I think it would not bother him one whit.” He bit his lip, choosing words cautiously. “Let’s assume, hypothetically, a prominent individual has so taken leave of his senses as to put his duchy, locale or indeed England at risk. Dear God! He must be stopped.”

“Agreed.” Aldridge spread his lips in a travesty of a grin, as if Glenaire had said something amusing. “At any cost, Glenaire. Any cost. But I’m selfish enough to wish to limit the cost to something I can afford to pay.”

 “Care for the impact of such a thing on a mother and her wards — not to mention the wellbeing of the duchy — is not selfish. No one gains by the scandal of a trial for treason. With the cooperation of close individuals — his heir for example — the man in question might be dealt with quietly. Some sort of confinement could be arranged. Do you anticipate difficulty from his peers? A duke for example, hypothetically?”

Another nod. This one more emphatic. “Indeed. A duke whose own heir might be very close to you.”

“Precisely. I have little influence with my father,” Glenaire acknowledged, “but this… no, I don’t suppose you want him to know about this.”

Aldridge inclined his head. “I am grateful for your understanding. He is not the only man on the panel for the Competence Hearing, so I do not despair of an appropriate outcome. If not — I have servants loyal to me. Something will be contrived.”

“A positive outcome there would make all this easier. You may be sure the Regent will agree with a finding in favour of the truth,” Glenaire assured his fellow heir, then his brows shot up. “One thing, Aldridge. You said, ‘an assassination attempt…’ but you don’t name the victim. Surely not the Regent! A high ranking official? We’ll need to organize protection.”

Aldridge responded with a wry quirk of the eyebrows. “The man in question has his own very efficient protection. You will have heard of the footpad attack more than a year back on the town carriage of a certain duke? Five of twelve scoundrels left dead in the streets? The next two attempts have been kept quiet, but have resulted in a similar body count.”

“Ah,” Glenaire said knowingly. “A man with a private army perhaps?”

A small smile. “No noble is permitted a private army, Glenaire. This personage has only the number of retainers permitted by law. That they are unusually skilled, men and women alike, is to their advantage in this case.  I am not concerned for their safety and wellbeing. Though for all their prowess, if this Devil’s Acre fellow is allowed to continue, he might get lucky.”

Aldridge opened his jacket and pulled a slim package from an inside pocket. “A report from David Wakefield, the investigator. Use it as you need to, Glenaire.”

Glenaire accepted it and put it away in his own jacket. “Thank you for the warning. I’ll send the support the hypothetical heir needs, alert certain influential individuals. Ah yes, and speak to you again at the ladies’ auction. Our sisters will insist on it.”

 Aldridge laughed. “I expect it to cost me a pretty penny, one way and another. My mother tells me it is my duty to purchase the baskets of any lady who may be left behind. I trust I can content myself with driving up the bids of others.”

Glenaire allowed himself a slightly broader smile. “I fear I lack your patience for the latter but I’ll try to do my duty by the first.”

“One must have patience to be a success with the ladies, Glenaire.” Aldridge smiled warmly at the footman who replaced his soup bowl with a plate of roasted beef and finely cooked vegetables. “Thank you. Will you see the doorman and fetch the bottle I left with him? Glenaire? May I treat you to a fine Italian red?”

***

The event the Duchess of Haverford is organising, and some of the other matters touched on in this discussion between Jude’s Marquis of Aldridge and Caroline’s Marquess of Glenaire, are featured in Fire & Frost, due for publication on 4 February. Click on the link to find out more about five wonderful stories, set in the winter of 1813-14, when the weather was so cold the Thames froze over, and all five stories converge at the Frost Fair.
And come back to check out the tour around the Belles’ blogs on release day your own personal guided tour of five Frost Fair booths, with a large helping of scandal and five micro stories written just for the blog tour. (The link will be added when the tour opens.)

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.

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