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Lies, Damned Lies, and Gossip

The Teatime Tattler wishes to go on record as saying that it does not believe the scurrilous rumours currently circulating throughout society regarding the Merry Marquis, the Saint of Mayfair, and other members of the renowned H. and W. families.

Had these rumours been true, you can be sure that your intrepid Teatime Tattler correspondents would long since have uncovered the facts and reported on them. We are pleased to rank ourselves with the two highly respectable families to deny the rubbish that is being printed elsewhere in lesser journals.

To Tame the Wild Rake

The whole world knows Aldridge is a wicked sinner. They used to be right.

The ton has labelled Charlotte a saint for her virtue and good works. They don’t know the ruinous secret she hides.

Then an implacable enemy reveals all. The past that haunts them wounds their nearest relatives and turns any hope of a future to ashes.

Must they choose between family and one another?

Buy Links

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09944JGMR/

Or find other links on Books2Read: https://books2read.com/CMK-ToTame

Excerpt

Her first hint that something was wrong was in the reception line. She smiled a greeting at an acquaintance, who suddenly found it necessary to turn away to speak to someone else. It kept happening, and a space opened up around the three of them—a space surrounded by backs, frowns, and the hum of whispers.

When they reached the reception line, the hostess flushed a deep red. “Lady Charlotte… I did not expect… that is…” She turned to her husband, who spoke to Nate. “Under the circumstances, Lord Bentham, perhaps it would be best if you took—er—the sisters home.”

Nate’s face had turned to granite and his voice was icy. “What circumstances would those be, Lord Fenton?”

The man cast a desperate look around him and stammered, “No smoke without fire, what? Best just to go home.” His wife slipped her hand into his and he pressed her hand to his heart, before pleading, “Look, Bentham, my wife has planned this for weeks. Don’t make a scene.”

Nate stood his ground. “What. Circumstances.”

“Not the place to talk about it,” Fenton insisted. “Ask me tomorrow. Ask anyone. It’s all over town.”

They’ve found out about me and Aldridge. Charlotte touched her brother-in-law’s arm. “Let us leave, Nate. We are not welcome here.”

“I will remember this, Fenton,” Nate commented, his statement all the scarier for its conversational tone.

They left, Charlotte on one of Nate’s arms and Sarah on the other, the crowd separating before them as if afraid of contamination.

Uncle James had not gone out that evening, having shelved his plans to attend the Opera after the altercation with the Duchess of Haverford. He was in his study with Yousef, but called through the open door when they arrived.

Drew was there before them. “Bad evening?” he asked.

“That prat Fenton threw us out,” Nate told him. “Something about ‘circumstances’.”

“Circumstances, eh?” Drew commented. “The manager of my club told me, very politely, that my membership had been temporarily suspended pending investigation of ‘circumstances’.”

“Did the club or Fenton give you any information about these ‘circumstances’?” Uncle James asked. He had poured each of them a brandy, even the twins, and was handing them out.

Another arrival in the hall proved to be Jamie and Sophia.

“Surely you haven’t been shunned, too?” Charlotte asked, as Uncle James poured a brandy for his eldest son and a port for Sophia.

“Oh dear,” Sophia replied. “Has it come to that?”

Uncle James summarised the situation. “Charlotte, Sarah, and Nate were turned away from the Fentons, and Drew’s membership of his club has been suspended. Do you know what this is about?”

Sophia accepted her port. “We came to tell you that the whole town is buzzing with stories, many of them about the Winshires, others about the Haverfords. People have been dredging up history going back to Aldridge’s childhood, and every scandal he has ever been connected with, plus a few I’ve never before heard. Jessica has gone home in tears.”

“And the same with our family,” Jamie added. “Every incident that can be misinterpreted or cast in a bad light, right back to your duel with Haverford when you were a young man, Kaka.”

Yousef swirled his coffee thoughtfully. “It sounds like Wharton, Yakob,” he suggested. “Were not he and his witch of a sister masters of the nasty rumour?”

“You’re right, Yousef,” Jamie agreed. “Let us track the stories to their source and stamp on the snake’s head.”

“Which will not stop people repeating them,” Sarah pointed out, “and how are we to prove they are not true?”

“We cannot,” Charlotte said, slowly, remembering her conversation with the Duchess of Haverford. “We should not. We simply face the scandalmongers down and refuse to bow our heads. We speak not to petty people with evil minds but to those with real power. The Queen will receive Mama, I am sure, and you could talk to the princesses, Sophia. Kaka, you have influence with the Prince Regent. If they will show their support in public, that will help.”

Sophia nodded approvingly. “Yes, Charlotte is quite right. For every rumour we disprove, another will pop up, even worse. Why, they are saying that you seduced your own brother, Charlotte, and that he killed himself as a result. Yes, and that the reason Sarah ran away with Nate was that you and she were disporting with the rakes at one of Richport’s orgies, and Grandfather was threatening to make you each marry one. Also that Charlotte has been Aldridge’s mistress ever since. How can people swallow such rubbish?”

The room swirled around Charlotte. Someone took her hand in a firm grip and advised her to breathe. Sarah. She took a sip from the brandy glass held to her lips and the burn of the alcohol brought her back.

“A kernel of truth,” she croaked, then took the glass from Sarah and sipped again. Her voice steadier, she said again, “A kernel of truth. Richport had an estate next to Applemorn Hall, where Sarah and I were living when Sarah fell in love with Nate. I met Aldridge that summer.” She smiled as her uncle and cousins, without moving, shifted into warrior mode, alert as hawks sighting the rabbit. “He was a perfect gentleman, and kind to a little girl,” she assured them.

She looked around the room. She knew her family loved her, and Yousef was fiercely loyal. But surely, they would look at her differently if she told them the other morsels of truth in that litany of lies. Her brother Elfingham had raped her. She had spent a night with Aldridge.

Sarah squeezed her hand. “I imagine we shall find other morsels of truth buried in some of the other rumours. Although some seem to be made out of whole cloth. I imagine it unlikely in the extreme that Aldridge killed a circus performer who happened to look like the Rose of Frampton in order to allow his mistress to adopt a new identity and marry his friend Lord Overton.”

Drew, Sophia and Jamie each had a rumour to quote, all of them ridiculous.

The attacks on Uncle James and the rest of the family three years ago had been staged to win public sympathy and disguise the fact that Uncle James was an imposter—an Easterner who had known the real son of the deceased duke when he was in prison in Persia. The attacks were real enough, as Charlotte knew. The rest was nonsense.

Aldridge had sold his brother Jonathan to slavers, along with his brother’s wife, Prudence Wakefield, who was a former lover of his. They would be slaves to the Saracens yet, but Prue whored herself to buy her escape. Or Jonathan did. Charlotte had heard Prue speak of how she and Jonathan had been kidnapped from the London docks, and of how they’d escaped into France. So another farrago of lies.

Uncle James and Aunt Eleanor had been lovers in their youth, and had resumed their affair when Uncle James returned to England.

Charlotte spoke again when the chuckles died down. “We need Aunt Eleanor.” She or Mama, but Mama had gone to Leicester to be with Ruth in her confinement.

Sarah started to protest and Uncle James frowned, but Charlotte held up a hand. “No one is better at the politics of Polite Society. And these rumours concern her and her family, so she will be working to combat them. It is better strategy to work together.”

“Charlotte is right,” Sophia said, oblivious to the undercurrents. “A pity that Aunt Grace and Aunt Georgie are both from town. Still, Aunt Eleanor will be able to marshal Society’s dragons on the side of right.”

“Yes, and the Wakefields will know how to track the rumours back to Wharton, wherever he lairs,” Uncle James agreed. “We have a plan, my children. I suggest we sleep on it, and send for the duchess and the Wakefields tomorrow.”

Is the Merry Marquis Making a Return to Debauchery?

For many years, the exploits of the Merry Marquis of Aldridge enlivened discussion whenever gentlemen gathered over a brandy or a game of cards. Those of a delicate mind might think the ladies above such matters as discussing his activities amongst themselves. One would be wrong. Indeed, much of the gentleman’s success with the fair sex came from word of mouth recommendations from a bored wife to an adventurous widow and vice versa. Indeed, any lady with yen to wander a little experience under her belt used to be able to count on the Merry Marquis as a partner in amorous delights.

In recent times, all that has changed. He has become the stern guardian of his mother’s wards and a model of propriety. Or has he?

For a brief period towards the end of last year, rumours abounded that the merry marquis not only attended that riotous palace of physical gratification known as Heaven and Hell, but absconded therefrom with two of its loveliest Cyprians. Furthermore, there are those who claim to have seen his lordship in his carriage leaving town with those same Drury Lane Vestals.

Christmas came, the marquis did not return, and gossip died away.

But with a new Season come new, and even more titillating, stories. A certain widow and her dearest friend, from whom she is seldom parted, claim to have had an encounter with his lordship in the Heir’s Wing of his father’s London mansion. An encounter that was interrupted by a damsel of such probity that no-one would dare to question her virtue, were there not credible witnesses against her.

Given the propensity of her relatives to reach for their swords, we hesitate to name the damsel in question, even though she was seen entering the Heir’s Wing last night and leaving again this morning.

Has the Sinner conquered the Saint? And if so, will the feud between two of the highest ducal houses in the land erupt once more into fury?

To Claim the Long-Lost Lover

The beauty known as the Winderfield Diamond hides a ruinous secret. Society’s newest viscount holds the key.

Sarah’s beloved abandoned her eight years ago, leaving her to face the anger of her family and worse. And now he is back, more compelling than ever. Sarah is even lovelier than when she was a girl, but what did she know about her father’s revenge on Nate: forcible enlistment into the navy and years of servitude?

Released 30 July

Buy Links

Jude Knight’s book page  https://judeknightauthor.com/books/to-claim-the-long-lost-lover/

Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B096RLJJBZ

Other links on Books2Read: https://books2read.com/CMK-Claim

 

To Tame the Wild Rake

The whole world knows Aldridge is a wicked sinner. They used to be right.

The ton has labelled Charlotte a saint for her virtue and good works. They don’t know the ruinous secret she hides.

Then an implacable enemy reveals all. The past that haunts them wounds their nearest relatives and turns any hope of a future to ashes.

Must they choose between family and one another?

Released 17 September

Buy Links

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09944JGMR

Other links at Books2Read: https://books2read.com/CMK-ToTame

Jude Knight’s book page https://judeknightauthor.com/books/to-tame-the-wild-rake/

Excerpt

In the morning, Anthony showed Charlotte to the door by the duke’s offices and from there the footman Mullins, anonymous in his Haverford livery, escorted her along the facade of the house to the main portico. Anthony had said goodbye in his own private suite, where he was free to give her another of those knee-melting kisses. “I should see you safely to your coach, Cherry, but people might take note and wonder whether you were visiting me and not Jessica.”

“I can walk 100 yards across a private courtyard on my own, Anthony,” she told him, but he said he would worry if she went out into the open alone. “Take a footman, Cherry, to stay with you until your own guard arrives.”

As it happened, her carriage and guard were coming through the gate as she and Mullins reached the front steps. “Thank you, Mullins,” she said to the footman. He stopped to watch as her guard handed her up into the carriage, and she lifted a hand in half a wave—not to Mullins, but to those windows of the duke’s suite of offices that looked out onto the courtyard.

Perhaps Anthony had forgotten about her already. But no. He would be watching. She had underestimated his feelings for her, but last night he had showed her in a thousand ways that he truly cared. His reverent care of her. The private memories he shared. The heat and love in his eyes when she woke from a deep sleep to find him watching her.

Which had prompted a third round of amorous congress before they fell asleep again. They enjoyed one another’s convivial society a fourth time this morning, and Charlotte could feel the effects of the night’s pleasure. Not soreness, exactly. A certain tenderness in the places that were still soft and puffy. And an ache deep within that she now knew was her body yearning for his.

Scandal In Ducal Household: Are Twin Beauties Hiding Ruinous Secrets?

Have the Winderfield twins fallen at last from Society’s highest pedestal? Or, were they undeserving of such regard from the first?

Dear reader, your faithful correspondent has known the two beauties since their debut. They have always been the focus of attention, being nieces of the current Duke of Winshire and daughters of the heir to that esteemed title, the current duke’s elder brother, until his untimely death.

Perhaps, like many, you have admired their poise through the many illnesses and tragedies that haunted their young lives and prevented them from enjoying to the full the success destined for two of such high birth and beauty.

Or perhaps, like others, you have wondered why two ladies with so many advantages have turned their faces steadfastly against marriage, that high and holy goal of all proper women.

Let us reprise what is known. They were to make their debut a year late, after a mysterious illness that apparently struck them both and kept them immured in the country when they should have been making their curtsey to the Queen and to Society. However, their brother’s untimely death sent them both into mourning and back into the country.

The following year, even though they were nearly nineteen, they were immediately hailed as the Beauties of the Season. Indeed, Lady Sarah Winderfield was dubbed the Winderfield Diamond. The Earl of Sutton was swamped with applications from prospective suitors, some of them from gentlemen of high rank and great fortune. Alas. The ladies refused all offers, and would not be shifted from their resolve.

The Diamond continued to sparkle at Society’s entertainments, but Lady Charlotte Winderfield’s interests were more philanthropic, and her undertakings won her the sobriquet ‘the Saint’. Perhaps, said the men of Society–for many were desirous of possessing such lovely beings to ornament their lives–they need a year to enjoy themselves before giving themselves into the care of a husband, and settling into motherhood and the loving service of a wife. Certainly, the duke their grandfather made it very clear that he would not tolerate another year of refusals. If they would not choose, he declared to close associates, he would do it for them.

A number of gentlemen resolved to court the lovely ladies (or at least their grandfather) the following year. Their hopes were dashed when their father’s death put them back into mourning.

Which brings us to 1812, when their notorious uncle returned from the mysterious lands north of Persia, where he had apparently married and fathered ten children. With the duke bedridden and dying, it was to the uncle that all suitors applied, only to be told that the ladies were not interested in marriage.

For the past two years, even after becoming duke in his turn, he has continued to support his nieces rebellion against the proper order. Perhaps, some of us speculated, he knew of secrets in their past that had left them unfit for marriage?

And now, it appears, the Diamond has lost her luster, the Saint shows feet of clay.

Let us consider Lady Sarah, first. For the past few days, she has been seen much in the company of Viscount Bentham, heir to the Earl of Sutton. You will remember that Bentham has been lost for seven years and only recently recovered. You may not, however, have had the opportunity to notice the resemblance between Bentham’s little half-sister and the boy that Lady Sarah has taken as her ward. A boy who is believed to be a Winderfield by-blow, and who was born six years ago, around nine months after Bentham’s disappearance and at the time Lady Sarah was in the country with that mysterious illness mentioned above.

Coincidence? We shall see.

As for Lady Charlotte, reputable witnesses saw her visit Aldridge at his home late at night. Yes, dear readers, the Merry Marquis himself. Within half an hour of her arrival, they left in a carriage, and were gone all night. Some say they were carousing in the slums. Certainly, they did not return to the Winshire mansion until after the cock crowed and the sun rose.

How can one put an innocent interpretation on that?

To Claim the Long-Lost Lover

The beauty known as the Winderfield Diamond hides a ruinous secret. Society’s newest viscount holds the key.

Sarah’s beloved abandoned her eight years ago, leaving her to face the anger of her family and worse. And now he is back, more compelling than ever. Sarah is even lovelier than when she was a girl, but what did she know about her father’s revenge on Nate: forcible enlistment into the navy and years of servitude?

Book 3 of The Return of the Mountain King

New release

Buy Links

Amazon US  * Other links on Books2Read  *  Jude Knight’s book page

 

To Tame the Wild Rake

The whole world knows Aldridge is a wicked sinner. They used to be right.

The ton has labelled Charlotte a saint for her virtue and good works. They don’t know the ruinous secret she hides.

Then an implacable enemy reveals all. The past that haunts them wounds their nearest relatives and turns any hope of a future to ashes.

Must they choose between family and one another?

Book 4 of The Return of the Mountain King

Released 17 September

Buy Links

Amazon US * Other links at Books2Read *  Jude Knight’s book page

Scandalous Ducal Family Continues to Shock

As the Little Season draws to an end, one question is on every person’s lips. “Who is Elias W.?”

We understand from reliable sources that this young boy was found, dear reader, in a workhouse! A child of the gutter, we might be forgiven for assuming, and of no possible interest to proper families. However, his reception into one of the highest households in the land suggests that at least one of his parents was of very high birth, indeed.

All over London, people are wondering who it was. The W. family, despite their high estate, have had their share of scandal–generation after generation of rakes, at least two of whom (now sadly no longer with us) might have sired the boy. Since one was the father and one the brother of the lovely lady who has taken the boy home with her, perhaps all is explained.

And now, or so it is said, the lady is looking for a husband, after years of refusing all offers. Is it for the boy’s sake? Beyond a doubt, she will find one. She is no longer in the first flush of her youth, but she is still one of the great Diamonds of the ton. And the loveliness of her person pales in comparison to the loveliness of her dowry.

Still, should it prove (as some have whispered) that the link between Elias and the W. family is on the maternal rather than the paternal side, any gentleman might think twice about the cost of bringing such a scandal under his roof. Even the new Viscount B., who has been seen much in the lady’s company.

Like Elias, Lord B. has been sprung on Society without warning, when all believed that Lord L., his father, had male offspring. He has, by all accounts, been practicing medicine in the Royal Navy. An odd pass time for a future earl, it is true, but not as odd as continuing to work as a doctor in one of London’s worst slums.

Still, a man who does not turn up his nose at providing treatment to thieves and prostitutes might tolerate a workhouse brat as a ward for the sake of beauty, whether of the lady or her delightful money. Perhaps, after all, the Diamond and the Doctor are made for one another.

To Claim the Long-Lost Lover

Novel 3 of The Return of the Mountain King

Sarah Winderfield has refused every offer of marriage she has received since Nathaniel Beauclair convinced her to run away with him seven years ago, and then disappeared without a word or a trace. But now she needs a husband. She has a child to love and to protect, and the child needs a father.

She does not expect to meet Nate also on the marriage mart. Should she let him explain? Can she believe him?

Dragged back to England to feed his father’s pride in family, Nate refuses to give into the man’s demands that he take a wife. The only woman he will ever love is lost to him, married to a husband chosen by her father—or so his abducters said seven years ago, while they were beating him.

But when Nate finds that Sarah is still single, he rushes to London. Surely, they can find again the promise they believed in when they were young?

Through a labyrinth of old rumours and new enemies, two long-lost lovers must decide whether or not to claim one another, and win the bright future they both desire.

Preorder links (releases 30 July)

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B096RLJJBZ

Links to other retailers: Books2Read: https://books2read.com/CMK-Claim

Excerpt

“You look lovely this evening,” Nate told Libby, as she joined him in the foyer.

His father’s wife glowed with pleasure. “And you look very fine yourself, Bentham,” she replied.

He bowed and offered his elbow. “Madam, your carriage awaits.”

“I am so looking forward to this evening, Nate. Perhaps tonight you might meet the young lady who will be your wife!”

Nate smiled and nodded, keeping his reservations to himself. Not unless my Sarah is present. But she is not yet in town, so it won’t be tonight. And even if she was in town, she would surely not be visiting the Hamners. Lady Hamner had been a ward of the Duchess of Haverford, and—according to Libby—the Dukes of Haverford and Winshire had been feuding since Winshire arrived back in the country with a whole quiverful of foreign-born children.

He allowed day dreams about their next meeting to while away the carriage ride and the wait in the street for other carriages to move out of the way. Libby continued to chatter, but she seldom required a response beyond ‘Is that right’ and ‘If you say so’.

It must have been a good thirty minutes before they were announced by Lord and Lady Hamner’s butler. Libby led him over to the Hamners to be introduced, and Nate looked around as he crossed the room.

A profile caught his eye. He shrugged it off. He had seen Sarah wherever he went for the past seven years, and a closer look always disclosed a stranger. This stranger turned towards him, and he stopped in his tracks, cataloguing changes. The fair hair was slightly darker. The heart-shaped face he remembered had matured into a perfect oval. The slender body of the long-remembered girl had ripened to fulfil its promise. But, beyond any doubt, Lady Sarah Winderfield stood on the other side of the drawing room, a smile on her lips as she talked with her friends.

Her gaze turned toward him just as Libby tugged on his arm. “Bentham! Are you well?” He let her pull him along, and Sarah’s gaze drifted away. He wanted to cross the room to her; accost her; demand that she recognise him and all they’d once meant to one another.

Some modicum of sense kept him stumbling after his step-mother. Men change between seventeen and twenty-four, he reminded himself. And people who have been through experiences like mine more than most.

Still, of all the meetings he’d imagined, he’d never envisaged one in which she didn’t know him.

More Scandal for Scandal-Prone Noble Family

Sam, you mentioned when we met several weeks ago that if I came across something interesting there might be a guinea in it. I’m on the track of something now. I’m writing to check that the deal is still on.

I was at my club last night — that’s what you wanted me for, was it not, Sam? The fact that I’m still welcome in Society even though my pockets are to let?

As I was saying. I was at my club last night and I witnessed a confrontation between a peer and another gentleman. I don’t wish to name them just now. You understand, I’m sure. I trust your word, Sam, but my rent is due.

I can tell you that one is a very proper gentleman indeed, which is why it was odd to hear him championing a maiden who, it appeared, was at risk of losing that status. In his hand he held a page torn from the betting book! Have you ever heard of a person doing such a thing? But when he explained to the major domo of the club it included a wager on taking a lady’s virtue, his action received that eminence’s approval

The second person insisted that women of low birth have no virtue — he was in a gentlemen’s club so he must, ipso facto, be a gentlemen, yet I hesitate to ascribe the status to him, given that he was the originator of the wager and intended to be the instrument of its success.

At that, the peer, for the gallant knight was a peer, threatened to rearrange his face, and his dastardly opponent threw oil on the fire by shouting a comparison between the young lady in question and her sister. Whereupon, the gentlemen hit him, and a wisty castor it was, too.

The thing is, Sam, I know both men. The cavalier has been adamant in ignoring one of a pair of sisters, and the cad has been equally diligent in pursuing the other. And here’s the thing. Though they have been raised in a noble house, everyone knows that they are the daughters of its head, but not of his gracious wife.

There are so many ways this could develop. A ruination? A mesalliance? A duel? I’ll keep watching, Sam. Just let me know whether it is worth that guinea.

Melting Matilda

Fire smolders under the frost between them.

Can the Ice Maiden Soften the Granite Earl?

Her scandalous birth prevents Matilda Grenford from being fully acceptable to Society, even though she has been a ward of the Duchess of Haverford since she was a few weeks old. Matilda does not expect to be wooed by a worthy gentleman. The only man who has ever interested her gave her an outrageous kiss a year ago and has avoided her ever since.

Can the Granite Earl Melt the Ice Maiden?

Charles, the Earl of Hamner is honour bound to ignore his attraction to Matilda Grenford. She is an innocent and a lady, and in every way worthy of his respect—but she is base-born. His ancestors would rise screaming from their graves if he made her his countess. But he cannot forget the kiss they once shared.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08YS4DHMJ

For Amazon in other countries and for other book retailers, see: Books2Read: https://books2read.com/MeltingMatilda

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