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Category: Historical Period (Page 1 of 8)

Orphan trains, mail-order brides, mortgages and more — Under a Mulberry Moon

Mr. Clemens, Editor
Tea Time Tattler
Fleet Street, London

Dear Sam,

My news is certain to astonish you, sir. There’s a great deal to tell, some of it I can hardly believe it myself. I composed my thoughts while under a mulberry moon but now take pen in hand to inform you.

Eliza Wells, the millright’s daughter, was whisked off by her uncle Joseph Wells to visit him and her cousins in California after her grandmother suffered a stroke. Eliza doesn’t understand why her grandmother hasn’t responded to any of her letters. Her grandmother, worried because she hasn’t heard from Eliza, is nobody’s fool. She arranged for former railroad detective Kit Halsey to investigate. And a good thing, too, for Joseph has ulterior motives and Eliza is trapped. Can you imagine her dilemma?

Ruby is running from her parents and large family to the unknown of Charlie Ransom. She answered his ad for a mail-order bride and agreed to meet him at Sundown Ranch just outside of Duston, Texas. Hope rose in her heart as she thought of being loved by him and having a house to herself. She wasn’t afraid of work, but she wants it to be for herself and a loving husband. Sick of war, Charlie left Ohio and bought a ranch in Texas. Now Ruby won’t marry him until he can tell her he loves her. Will he find her love worth the wait when four orphans and a tornado of trouble surround him?

Mr. Clemens, don’t you grow sad knowing there are so many orphans in the world? Former orphan train child, now grown, Mercedes “Merry” Murphy Bird, is the successful co-owner of a boardinghouse in Mockingbird Flats, Texas. She sure seems to find rescuing three quirky orphans from the orphan train irresistible even if it isn’t quite legal. Merry is determined to give the children a better life than she endured at the hands of the Nebraska couple who adopted her. I figure there’ll be a family for Merry. Boardinghouse resident and lawyer Blake Woolfe has come to town to take over the law practice of his late uncle. Blake is the eldest of ten children and spent far too much time caring for them and his mother to want anything to do with children now. I’m sure you can sympathize with him.

Children’s Aid Society authorities don’t exactly know that Polly Friday Bird and her sister are single and neither woman is going to volunteer the information. Polly hated the life she and Merry led after they were adopted by a surly Nebraska couple who really wanted free drudges. Polly believes the boardinghouse she and Merry purchased is an ideal place to raise a family for Polly with a large yard, numerous rooms, and a good school nearby. Still, when the authorities appear, she may need a husband in order to keep her children. She is trying to convince Manford “Ford” Daily to marry her and then leave. This is humorous, sir, because Polly’s problem is that Ford won’t go. I must confess I laughed in many spots when I heard her story.

But, I shall move on to a serious part of my news. Poor dear Ada Weathered has only two weeks to pay the mortgage on the land her father left her. In spite of her working two jobs, she simply won’t have the money to pay by the deadline. Donal “Mac” McTiernan chased deserters to Brady City, Texas, and hoped it would be his last duty for the Army. When Ada and the Texas cavalryman met Mac was so taken with that redhead with green eyes that he isn’t sure he can complete his mission and help her save her land.  I’m sure you join me in hoping so.

Prepare yourself because the next tidbit is frightening. Anya Fleming’s son Willie-boy found his father hanged in their barn six months ago. The boy hasn’t spoken a word since and is now gravely ill. Anya is convinced her late husband haunts her son. Anya knows the only person who can help her when in comes a specter, her former love, Yellow Smoke, now a powerful shaman. Yellow Smoke was devastated when Anya married Lewis Fleming but doesn’t know Anya was forced to do so. I hope Yellow Smoke will overcome his resentment and help Willie. I know you’ll join me in my good wishes.

A bit of fun news is that a widow buys a groom. Katherine Parnell needed a husband to help her operate Maggie’s Baked Goods and raise her four-year-old son. She had no intention of remarrying until Jim Sutton landed in the Meadow Creek jail for defending her. He inherited land and was hoping to make this community his home. Jim has demons of his own and doesn’t want to get close to anyone. Join me, Mr. Clemens, in hoping these two can find happiness together.

After delivering his sister to Freedom, Matthew is ready to find Matthew’s freedom. He’s been running from a guilty conscience. Mr. Clemens, you and I know that it’s not possible to outrun our conscience. Brenna is determined to provide for her son—even though he fights her at every step. Jobs are scarce but men are plentiful and marriage may be the only way Brenna can survive. If Brenna and Matthew unite to save her son, will her the boy tear them apart?

Another frightening situation occurred when Aurora Cavender went off to Utah in search of her twin brother, Jason, who was reported dead. She didn’t expect to encounter the cad who abandoned her at the altar years ago, Garret Mosely. He insisted he wasn’t Garret though and calls himself Nebraska Joe of the Hell’s-Gate Gang. Aurora knows her twin isn’t dead, but believes he’s injured. Well, I tell you! She was captured by a ruthless gang and had to rely on Garret to help her rescue Jason and escape Robber’s Roost.  The outcome of it all is that the lady lassos an outlaw.

I do so hope you’ve enjoyed my news. Until next time, I remain,

Your faithful correspondent,

Caroline

Only 99 cents for a limited time! Amazon buy link: http://a.co/99Odsch

Excerpt from A FAMILY FOR MERRY:

Tears burned the back of Merry’s eyelids when she surveyed the children. They lined up as if going to slaughter. Some wore hopeful expressions, some fearful, some so downtrodden their eyes were those of old people in young faces. Several in particular tugged at her heartstrings—the ragtags, the unadoptable. What would happen to them?

A scrawny little girl whose nametag said Abigail limped. Problem was, she sometimes changed legs. She hovered around a toddler labeled Tamara. Occasionally, Abigail brushed against Tamara and the baby would cry.

Merry suspected Abigail pinched the baby to make her appear disagreeable. Tamara was a pitiful sight. Mucous drained from her nose and red spots were on her exposed skin. On closer examination, Merry decided the spots were from a paint crayon.

Sorrow and mirth warred inside Merry. What an ingenious child Abigail was. The poor girl must be frantic thinking she’d be parted from Tamara.

A boy whose nametag read Calvin stood with feet braced, arms crossed, and a stubborn expression locked on his face. His age would be around nine. He glared as if he dared anyone to adopt him. No one did.

Merry got Abigail’s attention. “You must be tired from standing on your bad leg while taking care of Tamara. Why don’t you both sit here beside me?”

Abigail pulled at a lock of her disheveled hair. “Both of us? You mean Tammie can stay with me?”

“Yes, that’s what I mean.”

Abigail picked up Tammie and deposited her at Merry’s side then promptly sat beside her so that she and Tammie were mostly obscured by the skirt around the table.

Merry motioned to the boy. “Calvin, I can see you don’t need anyone to look after you, but would you help me by standing beside Abigail to make sure no one bothers her or Tammie?”

He didn’t move for a full minute before he inhaled and released a deep breath. “S’pose I can.” Slowly, he ambled to stand behind Abigail and Tammie, as if daring anyone to touch the girls.

Merry wrote the names of the three children on the list and her name as the person adopting. To mask the fact there was no husband, she wrote her first name and then sort of scribbled her middle and last name in what she hoped passed for a husband’s name. Murphy Bird could be a man’s name.

Beside Merry, Polly whispered, “What are you doing?”

“You know exactly. I am not deserting these children to chance.”

Polly’s eyes sparked fire. “Neither am I. You can put my name down for Evelyn and Noah. You know that no one will adopt a boy who’s mute, at least not for any decent purpose.”

Polly rose and stepped over to the two she’d chosen. “Evelyn, Noah, I’d like you to come live with me.”

Hope sprang into Evelyn’s eyes as she clasped Noah’s hand. “He don’t never talk but he’s good and real smart.”

“I’m sure he is. He won’t have to talk at our house unless he wants to.” She took Noah’s free hand and led the two to the table.

The two children sat on the floor beside Polly’s chair as Abigail and Tammie did at the table’s other end.

When Polly had reclaimed her place, she leaned near Merry. “Can we really get away with this?”

“Proceed as if everything is secure and above board. We can do this, Polly. We can’t let these children suffer as we did just because we don’t have husbands.”

“They’ll each have a wonderful home with us. We’ll love them as if we’d given birth to them.”

“Exactly. And we have the room and a good place for them to live and grow. Aren’t you excited?”

The anthology UNDER A MULBERRY MOON contents are:

  • A FAMILY FOR MERRY, Caroline Clemmons
  • A FAMILY FOR POLLY, Jacquie Rogers
  • ADA AND THE TEXAS CAVALRYMAN, Carra Copelin
  • COMES A SPECTER, Keta Diablo
  • MATTHEW’S FREEDOM, Cissie Patterson
  • MILLRIGHT’S DAUGHTER, Zina Abbott
  • THE LADY LASSOS AN OUTLAW, Charlene Raddon
  • THE WIDOW BUYS A GROOM, P. A. Estelle
  • WORTH THE WAIT, Patricia Pacjac Carroll

Check out the blog and Facebook page:

http://Facebook.com/UnderAMulberryMoon

http://underamulberrymoon.blogspot.com

Bio for Caroline Clemmons

Through a crazy twist of fate, Caroline Clemmons was not born on a Texas ranch. To make up for this tragic error, she writes about handsome cowboys, feisty ranch women, and scheming villains in a small office her family calls her pink cave. She and her Hero live in North Central Texas cowboy country where they ride herd on their rescued cats and dogs. The books she creates there have made her an Amazon bestselling author and won several awards. Find her on her blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Pinterest.

Click on her Amazon Author Page for a complete list of her books and follow her there.

Follow her on BookBub.

Subscribe to Caroline’s newsletter here to receive a FREE novella of HAPPY IS THE BRIDE, a humorous historical wedding disaster that ends happily—but you knew it would, didn’t you?

Pah-Ute War: in A Long Trail Rolling!

“Oh my goodness, Edith, will you look at this?” Mabel said, as she rushed through the garden gate.

“What is it?” Edith picked up another of her husband’s shirts from the basket and shook it out.

“Wasn’t your sister coming west from St. Joseph by stage?” Mabel’s voice rose as she spoke.

“Yes?” Edith paused, a clothespin in her mouth.

“Says here,” Mabel went on, “the Pah-Utes are on the warpath again.”

Edith swallowed hard and bit her lip. “Do you blame them, after those idiots in Williams took those poor Indian girls captive?”

“Yes, well, you’re one of the only ones feeling sorry for them. No stage’ll be coming this way for awhile—it says nearly every stage and Pony Express station has been attacked, station keepers killed, and stock run off or taken—for nearly a hundred miles!”

“Where?” Edith peered over her friend’s shoulder at the Deseret News. “Which stations are they talking about?”

“Says from Schell Creek nearly to Carson Sink.”

Edith let her breath out. “Oh, thank God for that. That’s west of us. No stage runs west out of Salt Lake.”

“Oh,” Mabel said, visibly deflating. “But it’s still bad news, nonetheless,” she said defensively.

“But bound to happen,” Edith said, her mouth a firm line.


A Long Trail Rolling

Long Trail Rolling

She didn’t expect to become a target…but she is one now.

In the Old West’s Utah Territory of 1860, Aleksandra is trained by her father in the Cossack arts. She finds herself alone, disguised as a Pony Express rider, running to keep her pa’s killer from finding their family’s secret. And that was before she galloped full speed into the middle of the Paiute Indian War.

Xavier isn’t about to let anyone get too close, especially a woman, while he bides his time as a Pony Express Station Manager in the middle of a desert, evading his heritage as the eldest son of an old Spanish Californio family. His history taught him women are not to be trusted. Letting this slip of a stroppy, yet alluring, girl get under his skin is not on the cards.

The villain is coming closer, with his sights set on Aleksandra. Thrown together in an ever-worsening situation, despite their own agendas, can Aleksandra and Xavier overcome their differences before the ever-increasing odds overtake them?

 


Excerpt from A Long Trail Rolling

In A Long Trail Rolling, due to circumstances best left unsaid until you read it, Aleksandra rides the Pony Express—as a boy. Things went from bad to worse and she rode through some of the worst part of the attacks of the Pah-Ute war. Here’s an excerpt from the story. Aleks is just about to leave a Pony station in to the west of Salt Lake City in Utah Territory.

Enjoy!


‘You take care out there through the canyon. Horses and riders don’t just disappear by themselves.’ Peter shook his head, his lips a firm line below his furrowed forehead.

‘I promise.’ Thanking him, she vaulted on and the mare laid back her ears and fairly flew on toward Overland Canyon.

The trail entered the canyon from the flat valley floor, meandering gradually upward in a wavelike fashion, sage-brush and early sprouts of grass growing along the creek next to the trail. Aleksandra was just wondering why everyone thought Overland Canyon was so dangerous when the trail became abruptly steeper and began to twist and turn tightly as the hills closed in. Sitting straighter, the blood beginning to pound in her ears, she picked up her reins and scanned the mountainsides flanking the track as they rose higher and higher, ensnaring the pathway within a narrow gorge of exposed strata and tumbled stone bluffs.

Bluffs just meant for ambuscade, with caves big enough to shield a man.

Aleksandra gulped. Giving the little mare her head, they raced on through the canyon.

She glanced left up the mouth of a small ravine as they surged past it.

Blood Canyon.

She shuddered, remembering its name from stories in the Indian village, glad she didn’t have to ride through that even narrower defile winding its way to the top of Blood Mountain.

The trail finally opened up into rolling sage-brush covered flats, Canyon Station dead ahead.

Feeling faint, Aleksandra gasped for a breath, wondering how long she’d held it through the last gauntlet. Laughing shakily, Aleksandra leaned forward, giving the puffing mare a heartfelt hug, then sat up and mumbled sweet nothings to her, scratching her withers as they trotted slowly into the station.

Aleksandra left there on a gray colt, keen and ready to run. The keeper, his jaw set and a frown deeply embedded in his lined face, hadn’t seen the Eastbound Express rider either.

The trail ran gradually uphill ahead of her along the little creek, then left it, rising up the center of a long, open valley. On her left, two prospectors looked up from working their rocker in the creek to wave at her. She reined in for a moment.

‘Good afternoon gentlemen!’

‘And to you! Safe through Overland, are ye?’ shouted a big bear of a man.

‘Yessir!’ she shouted. ‘You haven’t seen an Eastbound rider in the past few days, have you?’

‘No.’ He turned to the other, who shook his head. ‘No, we haven’t, sorry, lad!’

‘Okay, thanks. Having any luck?’ She smiled at the pair.

‘Luck’s all good, Boy! All good!’ the other one added in a shrill voice.

‘What are these workings, please?’ Aleksandra remembered to lower her voice this time.

‘This here’s Clifton Flat, best gold workin’s in the territory!’ He puffed up his chest. ‘Major Egan found gold here a few years ago and we’re in his employ, workin’ it for him!’

‘Excellent, thank you, enjoy your day!’ she replied with a wave and loosed the reins. The colt, needing little encouragement, shot off like an arrow from a bow.

‘Hold on to your hair!’ The burly prospector bellowed over the wind in her ears, as the horse bolted on up the valley, then over the top of the next ridge.

Hopping off at the top, Aleksandra looked out over the expanse spread out before her in awe. The track arced steeply down the mountainside for several miles, with good visibility in every direction, before coming to rest in a huge, fertile-looking wash that seemed to go on forever. Her papa had called the place by its Indian name, Ibapah.

‘Guess we’d better start down that hill,’ she said to the colt, and began running down the track beside the colt, who snorted and skittered beside her until he became accustomed to trotting alongside her.

The Deep Creek Station keeper had no word of the missing rider either. Feeding her well, he sent her out on a pinto Mustang, who loped across the flat valley floor, heading for Prairie Gate. Only four more stations until she was done for the day.

On a keen horse and free to enjoy the day.

She finally let her mind wander back to Xavier and her heart sank, the only shadow in her day. She wondered how he fared with his family and if he missed her as she missed him.

With a gulp, she realized was time to face it. Ahead was a good three hours of open and clear trail to ride. It was time to work through it.

She took a deep breath to try to dispel the anxiety that immobilized her when she thought too hard about their relationship. Every time they seemed close, it all slipped away. She feared nothing she could do would ever hold it together.

Her thoughts circled throughout the day as they traversed the dry sage-brush flats, passing Prairie Gate and Antelope Springs Stations. She repeatedly gripped the buckskin bag beneath her shirt, desperate for guidance.

In the distance ahead stood the Antelope Range. The pass they needed to traverse wasn’t particularly high, but the rocky divide lined by cedars and piñón pines was still challenging. The fresh scent of the evergreens tingled in her nostrils when she brushed them in passing, clearing her head.

At Spring Valley Station, the worried keeper handed her two thick sourdough muffins filled with salt pork.

‘Hope it don’t spoil yer supper over at Schell, but it’s a long slog over that mountain.’

‘Always enough room for more food,’ she said with a grin.

‘Anyways, I’m givin’ you the best little horse I’ve got, Aleks.’

‘Thanks, Patrick.’ She took a deep breath and looked at the little black Mustang. Her eyes shone with a quiet intelligence. She was evenly muscled and solid, her legs clean.

‘She’s the toughest horse I’ve ever known. She’ll take good care of ye over Shellbourne Pass and get ye to Schell Creek in no time!’ He puffed his chest out as he stroked the mare’s neck.

‘I’m thankful for all the good horses and the men of the stations. They’ve always got a smile for me and a pat for the horses when we ride out.’

His brows drew together and he tried for a smile. ‘You take care out there, won’t you? We don’t want another missing rider.’

‘I’ll see you on the way back. We’ll be fine.’ Aleksandra gripped his hand firmly, then vaulted onto the mare and set off for Schell.

Aleksandra wasn’t sure which of them she was trying to reassure.

Her heart sang as the nimble mare climbed up through the trees to the top of the 7000-foot high pass. As the sun neared the horizon, the air began to cool and she hopped off, jogging down the descent to warm up and get some feeling back into her feet.

As she prepared to mount again, a movement back down on the flats caught her eye. Spinning toward it, she saw only a herd of antelope, now motionless, eyes staring and ears perked to scrutinize her passing. She gave a shaky laugh and the antelope disappeared into the dusk.

Aleksandra swayed and jerked back upright, coming awake from drowsing.

Not a good idea.

A station showed, about a mile away.

Must be Schell Creek. Think about something to stay awake.

Her mind flicked back to Xavier and she cringed.

And stop avoiding the challenge with him. Think it through, focus. Try to resolve something, before we get to Schell.

She shook herself.

It finally clicked. In her impatience, she’d driven him away by asking for more closeness than he could give. The emptiness in the pit of her stomach overwhelmed her, and the thought she might never have a chance to see him again, much less get the opportunity to make, no, let this relationship work.

Life is indeed short in the West.

As they neared the station, her choices suddenly became clear as a mountain lake.

How did I miss them before?

It was as if they were written on a wall before her.

You can’t make someone love you,

you can’t fix anyone,

and there’s nothing you can do to change it.

Fervently she vowed to offer Xavier, and others in her life, the time they needed to learn to trust, fully knowing she might never get the chance to try again with Xavier. Her desolation ran deep and tears poured down her cheeks as she rode into Schell Creek Station.

It might have been the mare that did it, stopping dead in her tracks, nearly dropping Aleksandra over her shoulder, or maybe it was the flies that buzzed around the blood pooling beneath the butchered man in the Express station doorway. Whichever it was, it got her full attention.


I hope you enjoyed that!

Long Trail Rolling

To read more, you can find it here

 

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Pandora’s Box

32 Leicester Square

London

10 April 1806

“There is a young lady to see you, miss. I believe she gave her name as Miss Fallon.”

“Frederica? She must have finished early at the modiste’s, then. I’ll go down, Brown.” Cornelia placed a ribbon in the book she was reading and placed it on the table next to her. “The blue parlor?”

“Yes, miss.” He held the door open for her as she sprang up and dashed through the door before she recalled her mother’s warnings and slowed her pace No need to rush. Ladies carry themselves with dignity and grace at all times. 

Ladylike behavior did not come naturally to her. From the day she was born she was her papa’s favorite, and the two of them had romped and sported together everywhere, even after her brother was born. At least whenever he was home, which wasn’t often, seeing that he was a naval officer. After she turned sixteen, however, her mother had taken her in hand and set about transforming her hoyden daughter into a young lady, and Cornelia complied, reluctantly at first, but with time and maturity, she settled peacefully into young womanhood.

Her descent down the stairs was far from ladylike, however. When she reached the landing, a door opened and her friend rushed to embrace her.

“Cornelia! Wait until you see it! It’s the most beautiful gown that ever was!”

“Did you bring it?” Cornelia glanced around in search of a dress box.

Frederica shook her head. “No, there are minor alterations to be done, but Miss Gill promised it would be delivered tomorrow. It’s white crape over white satin, with rows of pearls on the bodice. You must come over and see me in it. Mama says it becomes me well.” She clutched at Cornelia’s arm. “But what about yours? It came yesterday, did it not?”

Cornelia grinned. “Indeed it did. Come up and I’ll show you. Mine is the very lightest peach color. I wished for coquelicot, but Mama said it was too dark for a girl my age.”

Frederica’s eyes sparkled. “We two shall be the belles of the ball.”

Cornelia smiled. “At our own balls, I should hope. I should not like to be a wallflower at my own presentation ball.”

The two girls made their way upstairs to Cornelia’s bedchamber, and Cornelia opened the door of her wardrobe and sifted through the garments. “That’s odd. It was here this morning. Norton!”

A short time later, her maid appeared. “Yes, Miss Hardcastle?”

“My gown. The peach one? It’s not here.”

“Oh yes. I believe your mother has it. She had some lace and ribbon she wanted to match with it.” Her eyes narrowed. “I laid it out on her bed. But then she had to go out…”

“Very well. Come, Freddy. We shall go there to find it.”

Frederica hesitated. “She won’t mind?”

Already out the door, Cornelia threw back. “Of course not. I do it all the time.”

Well, that wasn’t strictly true. She might be sent to her mother’s room to fetch something, but she didn’t usually go in there by herself when her mother was not present. But her mama wasn’t the sort to take exception to such things, and seeing as it was Cornelia’s own gown they wished to see, it seemed only natural that they go there to find it.

The gown was a peach crape robe over white satin, with long sleeves ornamented with simple bows of ribbon and pearls crossing the bodice. 

Freddie’s mouth formed an O. 

“You must see it on. It truly does become me. Undo my dress, if you please.”

Cornelia turned her back, and soon the two of them had her day dress off and began to slide the elegant gown over her head. But before the operation was completed, there were footsteps down the hall and Freddie jerked at just the wrong time, sending Cornelia crashing into her mother’s nightstand. 

The footsteps continued on past.

“The dress!”

Freddie rushed to pull it off so they could assess the damage. Other than a few wrinkles, it appeared to be unharmed. Cornelia let out a huge breath, and turned to right the nightstand that had been knocked over in the shuffle and replace the items that had spilled out from the drawer. Her eyes lit on the pages of a small brown book that had opened. The writing was her mother’s, and it was dated about the time her parents had met, when her father’s ship had taken on French royalists being pursued by the vicious Republican army, and they had fallen in love at first sight. 

“What is that?”

Cornelia picked it up and turned the pages. “My mother’s journal. I never knew she had one.”

A pale Freddie made a move to take it from her, but Cornelia waved her away. “I know. I should not read it. But I’ve always been curious… Was it fate that they met, or mere coincidence? I should like to know more. Mama doesn’t talk about that time much, at least not before they were married.”

Freddie shook her head. “There must be a reason for that, Cornelia. Put the journal back in the drawer and let’s get out of this place. I have a bad feeling about it. And your mother could return at any moment.”

Cornelia grimaced and reluctantly returned the book to the drawer. 

But she couldn’t stop thinking about it. It haunted her thoughts for several days until she couldn’t bear it any longer. She had to read that book. And as soon as the opportunity presented itself, she did.

And that’s when her world exploded. If only she had not read the journal. But now that she had… nothing would ever be the same.

About The Marriage Obligation

Confirmed spinster meets thrill-seeking former British spy. A match made in heaven?

At eighteen years old, Cornelia Hardcastle discovered an ugly family secret that caused her to decide against ever marrying. Now that she’s reached the age of twenty-four, her parents have decided it’s time for her to marry. The sooner the better.
The second son of a viscount, Preston Warrington has always been content to leave the estate business to his older brother so that he could follow his penchant for adventure. Now that he has returned home from his service to the Crown as a spy, however, his family has decreed that he must marry and settle down.
The notorious Marriage Maker suggests that these two marriage-averse individuals should marry each other, and after the initial shock, it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Little does anyone know that their whirlwind courtship and marriage is not what it seems.
The book releases July 31st. Pre-order available now.

A Kidnap Threat To The Ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples!

Despatches from Palermo (1810)
by Lord William Bentinck, English Ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples

Lord William Bentinck, pictured here as Captain in a portrait painted by George Romney. William Bentinck was ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples 1812-1816

My dear Lord Chamberlain,
I enclose this letter to you privately, so it will not appear in official correspondence.

I find myself the subject of a most extraordinary plot – one of kidnap on the high seas.

As you know, I have entered delicate negotiations with the Bey of Tunis for the release of more than three hundred Sicilians who were forcibly abducted from their home by the corsairs of the Barbary Coast.

Not only is it a matter of justice, but freeing of these unfortunate souls would also build immeasurable goodwill among the people whose interest I am trying to further with my reforms.

So far, standard diplomatic tactics have proved fruitless with the Bey. I don’t know if you are familiar with this culture but it appears to be the custom for the all the promises in the world to be made but when it comes time to deliver, it is a never ending litany of excuses.

With Napoleon’s Empire at my back in Naples and the Barbary Coast Pirates at my front, it is no easy task set before me. You know of my penchant to follow my intuition and I have done so once again with two young men.

Let’s hope Captain Hardacre can deal with the captured French Frigate in a less spectacular manner.

Captain Christopher Hardacre is an Englishman who runs a merchant vessel out of Palermo. He’s come to me with the most extraordinary tale. It seems one of the pirates has acquired a French frigate and he harbours ambitions to abduct me and my wife and hold us for ransom.

It sounded like a ravings of a mad man – and I have to confess that if was just his testimony alone I’d ignore it, but in Hardacre’s favour is one of his men, an African by the name of Jonathan Afua who I’ve come to learn is a son of one of Ethiopia’s most aristocratic families. He strikes me as being a much more steady character than his captain. It is his grave assessment I’ve learned to trust.

As for the abduction threat, Hardacre has hatched an audacious plan to keep me safe in exchange for the claiming the French frigate for himself as spoils.

Whether Hardacre succeeds or not is immaterial as I have appraised Admiral Freemantle who has agreed that the next meeting with the Bey of Tunis should be done as a show of force so we will be arriving in Tunisia with a fleet that also contains the flagship The Milford.

I’ll write when I have more news,

William

 

Excerpt

Shadow of the Corsairs

Bagrada

Shadow of the Corsairs – out June 26 2018 – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DM9VJ5Z

Jonathan’s stomach soured.

Even though it had been more than a year since his captivity there, the very sound of its name reminded him there was work still to finish, a past that could not draw to a close until he had answers.

“Bagrada. Are you sure?” Elias asked. “We’ve sailed by several times over the past six months and there’s no noteworthy activity there.”

Hardacre looked up from the map of the Tunisian coastline. “Sharrouf is certain.”

Elias snorted and folded his arms. “I think you put too much stock in what that man says. He’s a snake, Kit, and he’s not to be trusted.”

“I never said he was to be trusted. He might very well hate Kaddouri as much as we do. But so long as he is a member of the inner circle, then he is useful to us.”

“Unless Kaddouri is using him to lure us into a trap,” countered the first officer. “We’ve stopped three of his raids over the past twelve months and helped free more than a hundred enslaved souls. He’d be just as keen to see the end of us.”

Jonathan shook his head. Kit and Elias bickered like he and his older brother used to. It was time for him to step in.

“What’s Sharrouf getting in exchange for telling you the location of Kaddouri’s fleet?” he asked.

“Information here and there to help with something.”

“Which is?”

“Kidnapping Lord William Bentinck.”

“You jest!”

Hardacre said nothing for a moment. The upturn of his lip was trouble, Jonathan knew that, and so did Elias who turned away with an exaggerated groan.

“Go on,” said Jonathan. “Tell us the whole thing before you make Elias’ head explode.”

“I might not have been completely honest with Sharrouf,” Hardacre confessed. This time, both ends of his mouth lifted and there was a twinkle of manic glee in his eyes. “I told him Bentinck plans another trip to Tunis to petition for the release of the Sicilian slaves, but I neglected to tell him Bentinck’s going with a show of strength instead of taking one ship with a single escort. Accompanying The Milford will be a dozen heavily-armed ships from the Royal Navy.”

“And both Bentinck and Admiral Fremantle know to expect an attack,” Jonathan concluded. “That’s a good plan. What makes you sure Kaddouri will take the bait?”

“Oh, he will. Sharrouf has told me he’s just managed to acquire a double gunned frigate.”

Elias rocked back on his feet. “How has he managed to get one of those? That would carry almost as much firepower as The Milford.”

I only sought a lady’s maid… and now this…

Such goings-on in the manor of Lord and Lady M–!

I had it from Lady M– herself!

A faint rapping came upon the door. The soft voice of Emma, the parlour maid, followed. “My Lady?”

“Enter,” I called.

Emma entered and curtsied to me. “Pardon me, My Lady, but the young woman is here about the position. Would you like to see her in the morning room?”

“Yes, thank you. I’ll be there presently.” With a sigh, I stood from my seat at the desk and stretched, glancing around my bedroom with a wince. Dresses, chemises, ribbons seemed to have strewn themselves over every available surface. I was sorry for Hannah, my maid, but she truly was not well, and the trip away with her daughter would do her the world of good. I desperately needed a lady’s maid.

Never mind, perhaps this one will be suitable.

I straightened my bodice and patted my hair back into position. Earlier this morning, Emma had tried her best with my coiffure, but she had never been trained as a lady’s maid.

C’est la vie.

My husband Lord M—’s ancestors frowned down from their portraits at the picture I must make with my less than salubrious attire, but I was, indeed, trying to remedy that situation this morning.

Emma stood beside the closed door to the morning room, curtsied and opened it. I entered, and the portal clicked closed behind me.

The girl, dressed in a tidy shirt and skirt, stood beside the fire in the grate, her pelisse over her arm. She curtsied, then looked directly at me, which I found refreshing.

“Good morning, and you would be Rachael,” I said, as I seated myself in one of the comfortable French chairs.

“Yes, My Lady. Good morning to you. Thank you for seeing me today.”

“Mmm. You understand I seek a lady’s maid. Have you a character?”

She handed over the single sheet of paper, folded and sealed. I glanced at the seal. Sutherland, no less.

“And what was your position at Sutherland’s?”

“If it pleases you, My Lady, I was a parlour maid there, but me mum trained me to be a lady’s maid since I was young.” She dropped her eyes to her wool-lined pelisse and the fingers of one hand crushed her carefully pleated skirt as she stood waiting for my next question.

“And you do not wish to continue as a parlour maid?”

She swallowed hard and looked back at me. “No, if it pleases you. I wish to better myself, to honour the memory of my mother.”

“You’re well-spoken. Your mother’s doing?”

She nodded. “Yes, My Lady.”

“And why do you wish to leave the employ of the Sutherlands?”

She took a deep breath and tightened her jaw. She finally answered. “Do you wish to hear the acceptable answer to that question or the truth?”

I smiled at her. The girl had gumption. “I appreciate being given the choice,” I said, with a wry grin. “The truth, please. Always.”

“It’s to be the truth, then.” She tightened her jaw for a moment. “I’d aspired to the position of lady’s maid there, but one young Master Sutherland… he was a bit free with his hands on more than one occasion, and… well, luckily, I was blessed to be holding a hot warming pan in mine, and… no one was injured, but the noise was tremendous.” Her lips twitched, but she kept a straight face. “Several other servants rushed to the room. I escaped and stayed as far away as possible from the young master. Fortunately, or unfortunately,” the girl looked down at me with a grimace, “on the same day, a young girl from the estate, Sofia, came into service as a tweenie.” She looked at me again, her brow wrinkled.

“Go on, please,” I said.

“Not only has her whole family been sent out to the coast in the Clearances, but Sofia was waiting for her young Robert, the son of the old Tacksman, and the love of her life, to return from his military service, but, well, things have gone badly for the young miss. Very badly. I know it is just a matter of time before…. well, before she is dismissed… and then his attentions could return to me. I’m a good girl and don’t want to go that way, if it pleases you, My Lady.”

I frowned at the character in my hands, as yet unopened.

Was there any point opening it?

 

Author’s note:

For those of you who have read the first book in The Long Trails series, A Long Trail Rolling, this is the first of Scotty’s stories. As you may remember, Scotty is the trading post proprietor in A Long Trail Rolling, my award winning debut novel. Scotty’s real name is Robert, not Scotty, but you’ll have to read the as-yet unwritten books to find out the reasons he changed his name!

I invite you to wait to hear the rest of Scotty and Sophia’s story in the boxed set by the Bluestocking Belles, coming later this year!

Meanwhile, check out my other books on my website!

Thanks so much for coming by today!

xx

Lizzi Tremayne

 

About Lizzi

Lizzi is one of the newest Bluestocking Belles!

Lizzi grew up riding wild in the Santa Cruz Mountain redwoods, became an equine veterinarian at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and practiced in the Gold and Pony Express Country of California before emigrating to New Zealand.

Busy raising two boys, farming, and running her own equine veterinary practice, she never thought she’d sit down long enough to write more than an article. A serious injury, however, changed all that, and planted her in one place long enough to jump-start her new career as an author!

With Lizzi’s debut historical romance, A Long Trail Rolling, she was: Finalist 2013 RWNZ Great Beginnings; Winner 2014 RWNZ Pacific Hearts Award for the best unpublished full manuscript; Winner 2015 RWNZ Koru Award for Best First Novel and third in the 2015 RWNZ Koru Long Novel section; and Finalist, 2015 Best Indie Book Award. Her newest novels and novellas, all released in 2017, are currently entered in more contests, and she’s working on her next novel!

When she’s not writing, she’s swinging a rapier or shooting a bow in medieval garb, riding or driving a carriage, playing in the garden on her hobby farm, singing, cooking, practicing as an equine veterinarian or teaching high school science. She is multiply published and awarded in special interest magazines and veterinary periodicals.

Lizzi is new to the Belles, but she’s loving the friendships she’s already developing with the rest of the ladies. She adores how they’re so progressive, organized, and fun. Best of all, they are all willing to put themselves out there, together, to achieve more, create more, than would be possible going it alone.

Lizzi loves to connect with her readers!

You can learn more about Lizzi and her books here or on these social media sites:

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