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Horror at Hastings Manor

Auckland, New Zealand, 1884
Lady Ermintrude

You don’t mind if I whisper, do you? Hastings Manor is full of ears, and people’s best pastime is gossip. Thank goodness I’m not that type of lady. But I have to speak my mind.

My niece Isabel, the current Duchess of Sussex, has gone mad. She’s accommodating, here in Hastings Manor, street urchins. Street urchins! From Auckland’s rookery!

Good gracious, I need a sherry. These street urchins don’t even have decent names and the youngest one, called Trigger—ptf!—spat on his teaspoon to clean it. The older, the one called Murk, I think he’s a thief or a murderer. Apparently, he can turn himself invisible. Invisible! So inappropriate.

Those dark eyes mean trouble, mark my word, but Isabel thinks he’s charming. Poppycock, I say. I’m sure she’d like to dirty-puzzle with him. Oh, the horror. But does she listen to me? No one is listening to me anymore. A bunch of rebels they are.  Now, where’s my sherry?

The Heart Collector

Auckland, 1884. The Supernaturals are frightened. Despite being able to do extraordinary things like teleporting or lighting a fire with a stare, a serial killer, the Heart Collector, is slaughtering them. He rips their chests open and removes their hearts.

While other aristocratic, nineteen-year-old girls spend time dancing, Isabel trains hard to become an MI7 agent—Military Intelligence Seventh Division, a crime squad run by Supernaturals. The Heart Collector murdered her best friend, and enrolling at MI7 is the best way to help catch the killer.

Isabel senses other people’s feelings as if they were her owns. But MI7’s leader is too worried about Isabel’s safety to let her join the team.

Eager to prove that her power is valuable, Isabel volunteers to meet Murk, a dangerous Supernatural man who can turn himself invisible. MI7 desperately tried to recruit him and failed.

She believes that her power is enough to convince Murk to become an MI7’s agent and help apprehend the Heart Collector. If he wants to attack her, his feelings will broadcast his intention, and she’ll be ready.

What Isabel isn’t ready for is to fall in love with the man who will collect her heart.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Auckland, 1884

One of the perks of being a duchess and the lady of Hastings Manor was that I could make my own decisions.

Most of the time.

I bunched a corner of my long brocade skirt and climbed the sweeping stairs toward Victor’s office. The bustle, heavy with satin ribbons, bounced lightly, tapping on the small of my back.

On the landing, one of the little cleaning machines that roamed the house trotted around, buzzing as its brushes dusted the white marble floor. A puff of steam trailed behind it while its wheels and pistons whirred. I strode on, the star-bright tiles sparkling under my velvet slippers.

The butler bowed stiffly, carrying a tray with tea and cakes that smelled of cinnamon. “Your Grace.” He stepped aside to let me pass.

“Hollom.” My heels’ click-clacking noise died down on the blue rug covering the entrance in front of Victor’s office.

I raised my fist to knock but stopped inches away from the gleaming, polished oak wood, needing a moment to collect myself. Victor had to see reason. Convincing him that my role in the investigation was vital wouldn’t be easy, but I was nineteen and properly trained in combat. More or less. The point was, I could face danger.

My resolve wavered, and I bit the inside of my cheek. On light feet, I turned and slid inside my late father’s personal library. Victor’s supernatural hearing wouldn’t catch me in the room protected by thick walls, and the old leather-bound volumes calmed my nerves.

I cleared my throat before rehashing my speech. “Victor, you’re the leader of Military Intelligence Seven, but as Duchess of Sussex, I have the right to  . . .” I shook my head. This sounded patronizing. I took a deep breath to slow my pounding heart, glad that I wasn’t wearing a corset. Another perk of being a duchess.

I squared my shoulders. A wrong word and Victor would dismiss me. “Victor, I kindly request… would you… I would appreciate if you assign me to the ongoing investigation on the Heart Collector, since I believe my skills can be an asset.” There. Simple, polite, and to the point.

I jutted out my chin and smoothed my bodice. I should’ve worn my dark green dress. It made me look taller and older. This blue gown gave me a childish air with its velvet ribbons and budding roses.

Too late.

After another deep inhalation, I marched toward Victor’s office again and knocked on the door.

“Come in.” The thick door muffled his deep voice.

I wiped my sweaty hand on my skirt before turning the handle and stepping into the office that had once belonged to my father. Victor and his younger brother Jamie stood up from their stuffed chairs and bowed.

“Good morning, Victor, Jamie.”

After the dimly lit corridor, the sunlight streaming from the floor-to-ceiling window blinded me, and I squinted, closing the door behind me.

I walked to the desk that occupied almost half of the room, keeping my eyes on Victor’s frowning face. “I need to talk to you.”

Victor stretched out an arm, indicating the empty chairs. His serious expression added wisdom to his five and twenty years. “Of course, Isabel. Please, sit.”

I perched on the very edge of the chair and set my back straight to not crush my bustle. Victor sat at his desk while Jamie settled himself next to the fireplace.

“Is something the matter?” Jamie leaned forward, his blond hair swishing about his cheeks. “You are pale.”

I faced him. “Well, I—” A dark blue bruise marked his chin, his bottom lip was split, and a fresh cut marred his forehead. “What happened to you?”

Jamie clenched and unclenched his fists. “My encounter with one of the Supernaturals we’re trying to recruit didn’t end well.”

I focused on Jamie, unleashed my power, and reached out for his feelings. A rush of energy flooded me, and heat warmed my chest. His anger, annoyance, and humiliation washed over me. Physical pain stabbed him as well. I gently prodded his body with my mental strength. His ribs hurt, and a cut on his back throbbed. His feelings left the sour taste of unripe grapes in my mouth.

I swallowed. “This Supernatural must be particularly strong to hurt you.”

Jamie stroked his bruised skin. A new wave of mortification surged from him. “He is moderately strong.”

Moderately strong? Jamie could bend iron bars with two fingers and lift twenty times his weight. How strong was this Supernatural?

Victor shifted his gaze to me. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“Exactly about this.” I nodded toward Jamie. “This Supernatural you want to recruit for the investigation on the Heart Collector.”

Victor knitted his blond eyebrows in the same way Jamie would. “You don’t have to concern yourself with that. Jamie will soon make another attempt to meet this Supernatural.”

“But.” I paused to read Victor’s feelings. His determination and mild exasperation reached me. It wasn’t a good start, but maybe my speech would convince him. “I would like you to allow me . . . I mean, to assign me to this mission since I request, kindly, I request kindly, that it would be me, myself, to do it.” Damn. So much for rehashing. I clasped my hands in my lap not to show how much they trembled. “I’d like it to be me.” I swallowed. If I weren’t so eager to get the job, I’d laugh at Victor’s scrunched face.

I searched his feelings again. Even without my supernatural empathetic power, the hard set of his jaw and his narrowed icy blue eyes told me he wasn’t pleased. I cleared my throat. “I want to meet this Supernatural.”

“You want what?” Jamie asked, propping an elbow on the mantelpiece.

I ignored him. “What did you say his name was?”

“I didn’t.” Victor straightened the pile of documents on his desk, arranged quills and inkbottles, and loosened his bow tie.

Meet Barbara Russell

I’m an entomologist and a soil biologist, which is a fancy way to say that I dig in the dirt, looking for bugs. Nature and books have always been my passion. I was a kid when I read The Lord Of The Ring and fell in love with fantasy novels.

When I discovered cosy mystery and crime novel, I fell in love with Hercules Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. Then I grew up and . . . Nah, I’m joking. I didn’t grow up. Don’t grow up, folks! It’s a trap.

PS I hate gardening. There, I said it. Sorry fellow Kiwis.

Outrageous Debut!


Mr. S. Clemmons is alarmed to confirm the rumor running rampant for the past week that a certain Miss T*** L***, a young female of such dubious reputation that one hesitates to call her a “lady,” despite her gentle birth, will in fact affront the propriety of Society by entering the Marriage Mart this Season. 

Such a young person would expect to meet with nothing but the Cut Direct she so richly deserves, were it not for the unfortunate circumstance that perhaps the most redoubtable matron in all Society, the Dowager Countess Lady S****, has inexplicably agreed to act as her sponsor.

While one would never have the temerity to question the decision of this formidable lady (or wish to risk incurring her censure,) we believe that responsible members of Society (and certainly matrons with innocent daughters to protect) will find a discrete but effective way to avoid interacting with this Infamous Personage. After sufficient discouragement, we trust that this unsuitable female will soon remove herself from the company of respectable members of Society.

Respectfully submitted, Mr. S. Clemmons

About the Book

Angered by Society’s treatment of her mother and unfounded suspicions about her character, Temperance Lattimar dreams of exploring the world, gathering treasures for her father.  Hiding a dark secret, she’s determined never to marry—until her father’s restrictions on her fortune induce her to suggest a marriage of convenience to her brother’s rakish best friend, Gifford Newell.  If he’ll allow her to travel as she wishes, he can use her money to further his career in Parliament. 


Then a tragic accident turns this “mister” into an earl, upsetting the comfortable terms of their “marriage blanche.”  Temper knows an earl needs an heir, while Gifford finds himself increasingly tempted to renegotiate their bargain of a marriage in name only–for the hoyden he once knew has become a seductively beguiling woman…

Amazon:   https://amzn.to/2LtnNpC

B&N:  https://bit.ly/2QKq6dK

Kobo:  https://bit.ly/2BxwQRx

Google play:  https://bit.ly/2PUz5Dz

~Excerpt~

London, early April, 1833

            “You’re certain you won’t come with me?” Temperance Lattimar’s twin sister asked as she looked up from the trunk into which she’d just laid the last tissue-wrapped gown.  “I know Bath isn’t the center of Society it used to be, but there will be balls and musicales and soirées to attend.  And, with luck, attend without whispers of Mama’s latest escapade following us everywhere.”

            Temperance jumped up from the window seat overlooking the tiny garden of Lord Vraux’s Brook Street townhouse and walked over to give Prudence a hug.  “Much as I will miss you, darling Pru, I have no intention of leaving London.  I won’t let the rumor mongers chase me away.  But I do very much hope that Bath will treat you kindly—“ though I doubt it, London gossips being sure to keep their Bath counterparts updated about the latest scandal—“and that you will find that gentleman to love you and give you the normal family you’ve always wanted.”  Letting her sister go, Temper laughed.  “Although, growing up in this family, I’m not sure you’ll recognize ‘normal’ even if you find it.”

            “You mean,” Prudence asked, irony—and anger—in her voice, “not everyone grows up with a father who won’t touch them, a mother with lovers tripping up and down the stairs every day, and rumors that only their oldest brother is really the son of their father?”

            “Remember when we were little—how much we enjoyed having all those handsome young men bring us hair ribbons and sweets?” Temper said, trying to tease her sister out of her pique.

            Pru stopped folding the tissue paper she was inserting to cushion the gowns and sent Temper a look her twin had no trouble interpreting.

            “I suppose it’s only us, the lucky ‘Vraux Miscellany,’ who fit that sorry description,” Temper said, changing tacks, torn between sympathy for the distress of her twin and a smoldering anger for the way Society had treated their mother.  “Gregory, the anointed heir, then you and me and Christopher, the…add-ons.  Heavens, what would Papa have done, had Gregory not survived?  He might have had to go near Mama again.”

            “Maybe if he had, they’d have reconciled—whatever difficulty lay between them, and we would have ended up being a normal family.”

            Temper sighed.  “Is there such a thing?  Although, to be fair, you have to admit that Mama has fulfilled the promise she made to us on our sixteenth birthday.  She’s conducted herself with much more restraint these last six years.”

“Maybe so, but by then, the damage was already done,” Pru said bitterly.  “How wonderful, at your first event with your hair up and your skirts down, to walk into the drawing room and hear someone whisper, ‘There they are–the Scandal Sisters.’  Besides, as this latest incident shows, Mama’s reputation is such that she doesn’t have to do anything now to create a furor.”

“Not when there are always block-headed men around to do it for her,” Temper said acidly.  “Well, nothing we can do about that.” 

After helping her twin hold down the lid of the trunk and latch it, she gave Pru another hug.  “Done, then! Aunt Gussie collects you this morning, doesn’t she?  So take yourself off to Bath, find that worthy gentleman, and create the warm, happy, normal family you so desire.  No one could be more deserving of a happy ending than you, my sweet sister!”

            “Thank you, Temper,” Pru said as her sister crossed to the door.  “I shall certainly try my hardest to make it so.  But…are you still so determined not to marry?  I know you’ve insisted that practically since we were sixteen, but…
            The dark memories struggled to surface, and Temper forced them down.  “You really think I would give up my freedom, put myself legally and financially under the thumb of some man who can ignore me or beat me or spend my entire dowry without my being able to do a thing to prevent it?”

            “I know we haven’t been witness to a…very hopeful example, but not all marriages are disasters.  Look at Christopher and Ellie.”

            “They are fortunate.”

            “Christopher’s friends seem to be equally fortunate—Lyndlington with his Maggie, David Smith with his duchess, Ben Tawny with Lady Alyssa,” Pru pointed out.

            Temper shifted uncomfortably.  If she were truly honest, she had to admit a niggle of envy for the sort of radiant happiness her brother Christopher and his friends had found with the women they’d chosen as wives.

            “Besides,” Pru pressed her point, “it’s the character of the husband that will determine how fairly and kindly the wife is treated.  And we both know there are fair, kind, admirable men in London.  Look at Gregory—or Gifford!”

            Gifford Newell.  Her brother’s best friend and carousing buddy, who’d acted as another older brother, tease, nag and friend since she was in leading strings.  Although lately, something seemed to have shifted between them…some sort of wordless tension that telegraphed between them when they were together, edgy, exciting…and threatening.

            She might be inexperienced, but with a mother like theirs, Temper knew where that sort of tension led.  And she wanted none of it.

            “Very well, I grant you that there are some upstanding gentlemen in England, and some of them actually find the happy unions they deserve.  I…I just don’t think marriage is for me. “ Squeezing her sister’s hand, she crossed to the doorway.  “Don’t forget to come say good-bye before you leave!  Now, you’d better find where your maid has disappeared with the rest of your bonnets before Aunt Gussie arrives.  You know she hates to be kept waiting.”

            Pru gave her a troubled look, but to Temper’s relief, did not question her any further.  She kept very few secrets from her sister, but this one she simply couldn’t share.

Tacitly accepting Temper’s change of subject, Pru said, “Of course I’ll bid everyone goodbye.  And you’re correct, Aunt Gussie will be anxious to get started.  She’s hoping to travel most of the way to Bath today, so we might arrive in good time tomorrow.  Anyway, since you can’t be presented this year, what do you mean to do in London?”

            “Oh, I don’t know,” Temper replied, looking back at her from the doorway. “Maybe I’ll create some scandals of my own!”

About the Author

Award-winning historical romance author Julia Justiss has written more than thirty novels and novellas set in the English Regency and the American West.

A voracious reader who began jotting down plot ideas for Nancy Drew novels in her third grade spiral, Julia has published poetry and worked as a business journalist.

She and her husband live in East Texas, where she continues to craft the stories she loves. Check her website for details about her books, chat with her on social media, and follow her on Bookbub and Amazon to receive notices about her latest releases. For special subscriber giveaways, discounted books, character sketches and more, sign up for her newsletter at:

www.juliajustiss.com

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What is His Wife Up To?

Stonehurst’s eyes shone with mischief. “Your wife came to my establishment earlier. She offered me five guineas to f**k her.”

Deanswood spluttered and almost spat out his brandy. “She did what?”

Stonehurst leaned back and savored a second sip of his wine. “Do you want me to repeat it? After you’ve drawn everyone’s gaze? I didn’t take her money or screw her, of course. Let’s find somewhere to talk.”

Anger turned Deanswood’s features haughty and harsh. Fists curled, he glowered at his friend. Make that former friend. He’d rather beat Stonehurst senseless than talk. “You keep your bloody hands off her.”

All Deanswood had wanted was an heir and a spare. Instead, his wife barred him from her bed—unless a quick screw with no foreplay or kisses once a month counted. He’d rather have stayed single.

He’d dreamed of a wife with a warm smile and sweet nature. Curves that made his mouth water and his palms twitch would be a bonus. Leg-shackling himself to Alethea Allerton was the biggest mistake he’d ever made.

He should have made it clear that he expected to bear his children and submit to the occasional spanking. In return, he’d teach her about passion, bondage, and obedience. Until his mother-in-law collared him in the library, he’d been looking forward to his wedding night. His mother-in-law’s words had kyboshed that.

Stonehurst struggled to contain his laughter. “So, what really happened on your wedding night?”

“It’s none of your business,” Deanswood snapped.

Unabashed, Stonehurst grinned. “Your wife made it my business. Her dress sense is shocking. Is that why you couldn’t perform last night?”

Stonehurst was right. Alethea had involved him in the tangled mess of her marriage. “Did Alethea say I couldn’t… Of course, I could… Damn it, I don’t have to explain myself to you.”

“It might help to talk about it,” Stonehurst suggested.

Deanswood sighed. “Nothing else seems to. After I’d thrown Lady Babs out, my new mother-in-law collared me in the library. She read me an endless lecture on the sins of marital sex. I’d rather take a dressing down from Wellington than endure that again.”

Inwardly, Deanswood fumed. Why the hell had his wife waited until after the ceremony to send her mother to tell him she didn’t want sex? He supposed she was eager to get her grasping hands on his fortune.

When he learned his wife planned to cuckold him, his eyes narrowed and lips thinned in anger. A trip to Gentleman Jackson’s boxing salon beckoned. Going a few rounds with the champion might calm his soul.

Stonehurst’s teasing manner vanished, and he held up both hands, palm out. “I never touched her. We’re attracting too much attention. Walk with me.”

Deanswood had fought alongside Stonehurst in the Peninsular War and again at Waterloo. They’d shared too much to fall out over a woman. That said, Stonehurst enjoyed the earl’s discomfort far too much.

His Innocent Bride

Going about her mundane life in a small fishing village, Alethea never dreamed she would end up with a man like the Earl of Deanswood, yet when she caught the handsome gentleman’s eye he wasted no time in making her his wife. Unbeknownst to Alethea, however, her conniving mother has convinced Deanswood that she has no interest in the marital bed. Devastated by his seeming disinterest, Alethea searches for someone to instruct her in the ways of enticing a man.

When a friend informs Deanswood of Alethea’s plans, he decides to train his new bride himself. Soon enough, Alethea finds herself naked, blindfolded, and helplessly bound as she is thoroughly spanked and then brought to one blushing, quivering climax after another. But when Alethea’s life is threatened by her mother’s vicious scheming, can Deanswood protect his innocent bride?

Publisher’s Note: His Innocent Bride is a stand-alone novel which shares the Regency-era setting of Wickedly Used. It includes spankings and sexual scenes. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.

More about Kryssie Fortune.

Kryssie reads everything and anything, from literary fiction to sizzling romance. Her earliest memory is going to the library with her mother. She can’t have been more than two at the time. Reading, especially when a book’s hot and explicit, is more than a guilty pleasure. It’s an obsession.

Kryssie loves to visit historic sites, from Hadrian’s wall to Regency Bath. The first book she fell in love with was Georgette Heyer’s The Unknown Ajax. After that, she devoured every regency book she could. After a while, they went out of fashion, but part of Kryssie’s psyche lives in in in Regency London. She longs to dance quadrilles and flirt behind fans. Of course, Kryssie’s heroines do far more than flirt.

Kryssie lives in Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast –about thirty miles from Whitby, where Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. She enjoys gardening, travel, and socializing with her author friends. You’d be surprised how many erotic romance authors live in the North of England.

He is awful! But we like him.

Lucinda! Dare I tell you what I heard the other day at my sister’s tea?

I shouldn’t spread such dastardly tales, but the news scarcely bears credence!

I know. I know. Come closer. We’ll sit in this corner near the doors to the garden and I will tell you. We don’t want everyone here to listen in. Why, I’d never forgive myself if such words got out and I was referenced as the one to have told the story!

Well, yes. Settled? No one around us. Hmm. So, here is the tale.

You’ve heard, I am certain, that the Marquess of Ridgemont has had a liaison for the past few months with a certain duchess. Yes, you have? Hmm. And that she is soon to be indisposed for the next six months? Yes. The duke is furious. But he knows not who to blame! Is it Ridgemont? Or perhaps Wales himself? Dastardly choice, isn’t it?

And now there is another problem. Ridgemont is to wed.

Well, yes, yes, everyone knows that. His mama and papa are quite insistent that he do. Finally, he must wed. But he tarries.

Oh, pardon me. I titter! He tarries and dallies, doesn’t he?

I mustn’t snort. So unladylike. Well! Onward with my tale!

Ridgemont is to wed. One of those American gels. The haughty sort. More money than any foolish woman should have. I must throw myself into the nearest ha-ha with outrage…but it is true. Glorious dark-haired, superbly sculpted Ridgemont must wed and get the American dollars he desperately needs.

I hear your question. Which girl, eh?

I do believe it is—

Oh, my! Why, Lord Ridgemont, I did not know you were here! How wonderful to see you!

The garden? With me? You’d like to walk among the roses?

Well. My, my. Let me open my fan. It is so stifling in this drawing room, isn’t it?

You won’t mind, Lucinda, will you, dearest, if I admire the roses with Ridgemont?

No, no, I won’t be but a few minutes.

What’s that, you say, my lord?

More than a few?

Ten, a least?

I say! How flattering and very exciting. Of  course, I will take your arm.

I’ll see you later, Lucinda. Don’t whisper a word of this, will you, my dear?

Thank you, thank you.

I am all yours, my dear Ridgemont!

For more about this spicy tidbit, do read SCANDALOUS HEIRESS, THOSE NOTORIOUS AMERICANS, Book 4, by Cerise DeLand.

For more about this spicy tidbit, do read SCANDALOUS HEIRESS, THOSE NOTORIOUS AMERICANS, Book 4, by Cerise DeLand.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07LB9KFM9/

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/scandalous-heiress-cerise-deland/1130406401?ean=2940161284896 

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/scandalous-heiress-4

And do follow Cerise DeLand on Amazon and BookBub!

Best intentions can end in folly

Folly indeed! Not to worry dear reader for this correspondent will sort it out for you. The folly begins when Lady Cordelia “Delia” Rutledge and her family visit Sausmarez Manor on Guernsey Island in the fall of 1801. And why not? It’s the perfect stopover on their way to the continent for reasons that can only be discussed in confidence, but don’t worry. Secrets are safe inside Folly at Sausmarez Manor.

Lord Marshall Compton, Marquess of Daventry and archeologist extraordinaire, certainly isn’t aware of their visit until he offers to escort Lady Delia to see prehistoric ruins on the island. Even the best intentions can sometimes end in folly. This piece of chivalry is sure land him a fiancée he may not want, in-laws he can do without, and run-ins with the Russians. Or are they pirates? Another answer to be revealed in strictest confidence. One thing is sure. Marshall’s plans for an Indian expedition are definitely lost. Maybe.

Sausmarez Manor is home to Admiral James Saumarez, 1st Baron de Saumarez. It’s a little-known secret that Lady Delia’s father, the Earl of Deloraine, was put in charge of Nelson’s Band of Brothers. Ahem. Maybe that tiny on dit should be kept quiet. We certainly can’t have Little Boney getting wind of it.

Admiral Saumarez, Captain of the HMS Orion, has plenty of responsibilities with the naval activities and privateering going on in the region.

Not to worry on that account, dear reader. He’ll protect his home at any cost and Deloraine knows it. Saumarez’s Scandinavian ancestors have lived at Sausmarez since the 12th Century. In fact, it was only just repurchased back in 1748 using money from the capture of the world’s richest treasure ship to date. Hang on to your bonnets! That is an adventure on the high seas this correspondent will ferret out in due time. Saumarez will not lose his home again to the French, or anyone. After all, Sausmarez Manor is among the finest examples of Queen Anne Colonial architecture in all of Britain thanks to Sir Edmond Andros and his renovations.

All questions about the Folly at Sausmarez Manor are easily ascertained by following the links below. As for Deloraine and the admiral, they have work to do and thankfully for the admiral, the Rutledge girls and their mama are only there for a few weeks while they face tombs, witches, fairies, and pirates. Maybe.

A full account of the folly can be found here: Amazon   Kobo   BN   Google   iBooks

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