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A Letter from Town

rogue gossip

My dear Ghislaine,

It will be no surprise to you that your grandson, Sir Perran Geoffrey, is once again featured in the street-corner scandal sheets such as that horrid Teatime Tattler. I realize that, living in Cornwall as you do, you like to believe that both situation and distance isolate you from scandal, but as your friend of some years, let me disabuse you of this notion.

It may give some in the drawing rooms of London comfort to think that, simply because the Countess Lieven and the other Patronesses have dubbed Sir Perran and his friends as the “Rogues of St. Just,” those gentlemen now possess the general approval of society.

Just this week I found myself in the position of having to explain to a social-climbing mama that this is not the case. You likely already know that dear Lady Mainwaring is sponsoring her Penrose nieces in their debuts this Season. I can see already that my work will be cut out for me in that quarter, since from your information, the young ladies are already acquainted with the Rogues.

This very evening, I am welcoming a number of select friends and acquaintances for supper and dancing, and of course have sent Sir Perran and his friends invitations. Part of the reason for my seeming inconsistency is that suitable gentlemen are scarce upon the ground this Season. And part, of course, is that he is your grandson, my dear friend, and I may have news of you from him. While I myself have not witnessed any questionable behavior on his part—he is always civil in his dealings with me—I am quite certain that he and his friends alone could keep the scandalmongers scribbling all Season.

I beg you, dear Ghislaine, to write him a line or two and urge him to curb his wild inclinations to drink, cards, and ladies such as the Countess Eaton, with whom his name is linked. It will be difficult for him to make a good match if he does not. No woman wishes to know for certain that she is the consolation prize.

Your own,

Sally Pennington

About the Book

He is a penniless baronet. She is the wealthy great-granddaughter of a tradesman. Can these childhood friends find their way back to each other when scandal strikes them both?

Sir Perran Geoffrey needs a wealthy bride to repair his family estate and to bring his sister out in Society. But what woman with money and standing will accept him as a husband—practically penniless, his title under a cloud thanks to his ne’er-do-well father, with an estate far away in Cornwall?

Alwyn Penrose and her two sisters are in London for their first Season. Imagine their surprise when they meet the heirs of the neighboring estates—gentlemen whom they are barely allowed to acknowledge. For to be seen with the Rogues of St. Just means the death of one’s reputation.

Except that Alwyn is seen. More than once. And the gossip spreads all the way to the sacred portals of Almack’s, which close in her face and end her hopes for a good marriage forever.

The ruin of her Season is Perran Geoffrey’s fault. And when they are both forced to return to Cornwall, only one thing is clear: One good ruination deserves another.

“Charlotte Henry’s storytelling is nothing short of brilliant—Regency romance that will sweep you away.” —Regina Scott

Rogue

Kindle:  https://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Ruin-classic-Regency-romance-ebook/dp/B07M8P2DZS/

Kobo:   https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-rogue-to-ruin-3

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Nook:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130951615?ean=2940161390931

Excerpt from The Rogue to Ruin (Rogues of St. Just #1) by Charlotte Henry

Hyde Park, London, Spring 1816

Sir Perran Geoffrey pulled up his horse in such surprise that the sensitive animal danced in the path. “By Jove,” he exclaimed, “isn’t that the Penrose sisters there, coming in at Lancaster Gate?”

Captain Griffin Teague, formerly commander of the sloop of war Artemis, craned his neck, causing his own horse to sidestep. “Easy, boy.” He patted its withers. “Where? On a fine day in London there are a thousand young ladies parading about Hyde Park—how is one to tell one lot from another?”

“There.” Perran inclined his head three degrees to the northwest. “The landau drawn by the pretty matched bays. It is certainly the Penrose girls from home—bonnets or not, I recognize their mother’s nose.”

“There you would be mistaken, old man,” said the third member of their party. Jago Tremayne had probably never mistaken a lady in his life. Or a bird, or the contents of a letter, or a hand of cards. His memory was prodigious—as was his entirely undeserved reputation as a flirt. “Mrs. Penrose died a handful of years ago. That, I suspect, is her sister, Lady Mainwaring.”

“Help us.” Griffin did not quite implore the skies for mercy, but he came close. “Have they come up to London for the Season?”

There was only one answer. Of course they had. “You know perfectly well we cannot renew the acquaintance.” Perran spurred his horse down another path toward the Long Water. “Come!”

“Hold up—we cannot escape it now.” Griffin raised a hand to stop him. “We have been spotted.”

“So? Better to cut a young lady than ruin her.”

About the Author

Charlotte Henry is the author of 24 novels published by Harlequin, Warner, and Hachette, and a dozen more published by Moonshell Books, Inc., her own independent press. As Charlotte, she writes the Rogues of St. Just series of classic Regency romances. As Shelley Adina, she writes steampunk adventure, and as Adina Senft, writes Amish women’s fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, and is currently at work on a PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University in the UK. She won the Romance Writers of America RITA Award® for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, and was a finalist in 2006. When she’s not writing, you can find Charlotte sewing historical dresses, traveling for research, reading, or enjoying the garden with her flock of rescued chickens.

Visit Charlotte at www.charlotte-henry.com, or join her and other readers and authors of Regency novels in Lady Catherine’s Salon on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/LadyCatherinesSalon/

You can also find her in these places:

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Memoirs of a Spy

spy

My first mission, as commissioned by, King Charles II, sounded simpler than the genuine affair. I wasn’t prepared to put my life in the hands of dastardly expatriates. While I was escorted by two fully armed compatriots they were of little assistance when establishing intimacy in the name of the crown. I had been given the directive to entreat William Scot, a rogue Englishman, to infiltrate the Belgium political corridors and report his discoveries to the King Charles II. In essence, I was to make a double agent of the man. It was with this request and whisper of a financial benefit that I should employ all my feminine wiles to subdue him into submission. I being in all ways, aligned with the King of England and a true patriot, never mind that I was broke, I took my task with fervor, as you are about to see. 

It was a lengthy journey and I had traveled by coach, horseback, and sea, with my two fellow compatriots in search of William Scot. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was an exhaustive journey to say the least. While we were subject to every ill met experience of, sea sickness, fatigue, soured food, and dehydration, nothing prepared us for the alehouse wherein we would find Scot. 


spy

I was told by King Charles II himself, that the likes of William Scot, would be found in Bruges, Belgium. Probably, in a pub, down by the river, where singing and lascivious dancing is practiced. Indeed it was true. The stench of spilled ale, over burnt meat, and bodily oils wafted through ale house as I entered. Immediately, I pulled a scented kerchief to my nose but the overripe smells of the alehouse drained all perfume from my nosegay.

Coughing and sputtering in the stale rancid air I unwittingly drew attention to myself and my companions. Since it was not customary, in Bruges, for reputable women to visit alehouses I garnered the attention of every patron in the building. The dancers stopped in misstep and the singers held their tongue in surprise.

A stinging silence befell the room and I was at a loss to comprehend which of these drunken lords was William Scot. My two companions were silenced to the bone and I was left to my wits and my good graces to scrutinize the crowd of twenty-five, thirty, or possibly fifty inebriated men.

You understand my predicament, I’m sure. But I took the moment at hand and stood tall enough to see the entire room. I spoke gently and I admit only batted my eye’s just enough to get the gentlemen’s attention. I cleared my throat so my best voice would rise to the occasion. I began.

“Dear Sir’s,” was all I managed until the room broke out in loud jags of laughter and hoots of folly. I was startled to the point of laughing myself.

“Ain’t none of Sir’s, woman,” one man shouted above the din.

Understanding my idiocy I made a second plea once the room had started to silence again.

“I am in search of William Scot, might any of you know his whereabouts?” I said. Silence again fill the alehouse. A man moved forward toward me, slowly and distinctly. I admit until this time I had not ever considered that William Scot would be as handsome as the ocean is wide. In an effort to maintain my constancy, I once again pulled my kerchief to my mouth and batted my eyes. I can assure you it was not to entreat him so much as it was to calm my own nerves. 

As he approached me, I could feel my composure slip.

“Who is it, that’s asking for my attention and why?” he asked, expressing a devilish grin.

I couldn’t lie at this point, but my intelligence reminds me that saying too much in front of this crowd may lead me down the wrong path.

“I come bearing news of a private nature, my good sir, and if we have a place to talk then I can express more fully my duty to you,” I said with a slight bend and upward glance.

It wasn’t a moment before the room was again filled with hoots, whistles, and howls of laughter. With a deep breath Scot, held out his arm, and in the most courtly fashion ever displayed. I took his arm and we walked out of the alehouse and embarked on the path by the river. We were followed at some distance, by my two silent companions.

“Now, M’Lady, what news do you bring to me?”

I had to take a moment to clear my head and find the words to entreat him to our political ends.

“”M’Lady, your taking so long to tell me of your plans, I’m afraid I’m under arrest,” he said with his broad smile.

“I am waiting sire, until we are out of earshot of the crowd, this business I have for you is delicate and not meant for all,” I said and couldn’t help but grin.

“Oh, if it’s that important, then your appealing to a man who is half drunk. Are you sure this will get the answer you seek?”

I looked up at him, “We’ll then, I’ll only make my appeal to the sober half of you, if you’re inclined to listen,” I said stopping on the path.

“With a wit like yours I’ll happily listen to your plea. But understand, I’m not the kind to easily sway my beliefs even for the prettiest of maids,” he said.

“Oh dear, it’s been a number of years since I’ve been a maid, your kindness is treasured. But, I have something of a delicate nature to put to you and need your full attention,” I said.

“More delicate than your neck,” he said reaching and touching her just below her right ear.

His touch was more seductive than anticipated and I felt a ripple of heat run the entire length of my body. When I collected myself to the point I could speak he outmaneuvered me again.

“Or is it a subject more delicate than your sweet blushing cheek?” he said and this time ran the back of his hand over my cheek and I could not stop the rising and falling of my breasts.

“Or maybe it’s the fine china of your décolleté  that is the delicate subject upon which you wish to speak,” he said touching my cleavage in the most tempting way. By now, as you can assume I was all a flutter. Hardly able to gasp a breath I was astonished at his boldness and yet, I could see swaying him politically might be simpler than I had assumed.  

“Sire, it is my rouged lips that bring you news directly from King Charles II, himself.

Upon hearing the news that the King had directly sent me on this errand he backed away in suspicion.

“That is a high honor indeed, and here I am thinking you were here to empty my pockets with your feminine charms. Tell me more,” he said.

“It is a high honor he would like to bestow upon you, Sire Scot. I am humbled to bring a request from the King, that you might, sway your intellectual ideals to include the Crown,” I said and waited a moment for him to respond. He was only still and quiet.

“His Highness, has requested to entreat you to bring news of Belgium to Britain,” I said with more misplaced enthusiasm than intended. 

“What is your name?”

spy, Aphra Behn

“Dear Astrea, does your Highness have such a short memory? The Crown had sentenced my father to death only one year ago. Now they ask for my allegiance?” he said in such a harsh tone it was difficult to hear.  

“ I am Astrea,” I said hoping to regain my station.

“That was a matter most regretful. The Crown was only protecting the King, after all your father, good sir, had planned to murder his Highness in the dead of night. Retribution is customary in a case such as that,” I said. 

He stood ponderously looking out at the passing river then turned slowing to face me with eye’s glowing like embers from a fire and he spoke his final words. “If the King could see his way to pardon my father and rename the misdemeanor, then I would consider aligning with the crown once again, but never until the King honors my father. Upon this, I am settled.” He said and walked away.

At this point, I could tell my duties were going to be considerably more difficult than I first understood.

About the Story and the Author

This memoir is based on a fictitious conversation between Aphra Behn and William Scot. Aphra Behn, when she was actually working as a spy for King Charles II went by the name, Astrea, as listed in the story. It is believed she is the first woman to make her living as a writer, as a playwright and novelist. Prior to taking up the pen, she worked as a spy for the King Charles II, among other things. The portrait above is Aphra Behn, painted by Mary Beale (1639-1699).

Daphne Masque writes contemporary romance set in the theatre. Currently she’s giving away an Autographed copy of Haunting Indiscretions, the second book in her series, “Romance at the Empire Theatre”. She plans to begin writing historical fiction.

Daphne has spent a good number of years acting, directing, teaching and writing for the theatre. And she loves romance, what better way to combine her two passions. To signup for her newsletter go to http://www.daphnemasque.com/contest/


A Gothic Twist

“I’m so glad you could come. Sit please; they’ll bring tea shortly.”

“You have an odd look in your eyes.”

“Please don’t argue. Is it because they say I’m mad? She doesn’t say it—not out loud—that woman on whom my guardian lavishes attention, that Claire Albright chit, who pretends she can ‘cure’ me but who really wants to take him away and silence the church bells in my voice. I’ll show her the limits of her power.

“When I sing, I look into the sky and see my brother bat away the clouds. He smiles down, and I tell him with my holy song that I will keep him from starvation, and he’ll have wine, food, blankets, hay for the horses, too—it’s all in the tower. I’ve collected it all for him, for my brother in the afterlife.

“When I sing, I look into the sky and see my brother bat away the clouds. He smiles down, and I tell him with my holy song that I will keep him from starvation, and he’ll have wine, food, blankets, hay for the horses, too—it’s all in the tower. I’ve collected it all for him, for my brother in the afterlife.

“Did I unnerve you? Don’t go.”

“Ahh, here’s the tea.” (She sits at the pianoforte and sings; ‘He took a stick down off the rack, fall al lal lal lal li-do, and on the back went rickety-rack, of Ruggleton’s daughter of Iero.’) Her eyes glitter, as she throws her head back and laughs, then abruptly stops. “Lady Claire and her potions—chamomile, St. John’s wort, willow bark, and morphine—they disturb my singing—make my brother’s clouds clog my voice, blur my vision. But I am not mad, and my guardian will never put me in an asylum because he loves me. And soon, I will show her to whom he belongs…

The Secret Life of Lords

If Lady Claire Albright had one wish, it would be to forget brooding, powerful Lord Flavian Monroe. But even after two years of bewildering silence, she yearns to touch his sinuous arms and feel his calloused hands upon her cheeks. Then, on the brink of her come out, they accidently meet. His ward is ill, and he begs her to use her knowledge of healing to help the girl. But this patient is sick in a way that’s far different from what Claire expected—dangerously different. And, as she struggles to find a cure, Flavian resists rekindling their love. Is it the ward’s illness that keeps him cold and distant, or a dark and terrible secret?

The thought of Claire in the arms of another man is unbearable, but in his heart Flavian knows he mustn’t ask her to share the consequences of his mistake. Nor should he have brought her to his home and exposed her to his ward’s sickness. Yet he lacks the strength to send her away. Each time he looks into Claire’s eyes, the urge to feel her body pressed against his consumes all reason, and he is left unable to utter the word, ‘goodbye.’

Meet Elf Ahearn

Elf Ahearn, yes, that is her real name, lives in New York with her wonderful husband and a pesky (yet irresistible) cat. Before becoming a novelist, she spent 20 years in Manhattan working as an actress in nearly 100 productions (yet rarely getting paid for any of them). From that lucrative career, she jumped to journalism, and then to corporate communications where she garnered multiple awards for a newsletter she wrote and edited. Her novel, A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing hit #1 in its genre on Amazon this September, and bless its electronic and paper heart, has been consistently selling for over three years. The Secret Life of Lords is the second in the Albright Sisters series.

Website: www.elfahearn.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elf.ahearn?fref=ts

Newsletter: email elfahearn@hotmail.com to subscribe

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Excerpt

In a storeroom at the back of a thatched cottage on the outskirts of Exeter, Lady Claire Albright separated valerian stalks from a wheelbarrow piled high with freshly-picked herbs. Quickly binding the ends with string, she hung the bouquet upside down from a nail in the rafter. As she reached for the next bunch, a deep, rumbly male voice filtered through the wall, and instantly her breath caught and her throat constricted. She knew that voice; had listened for it for two pain-filled years, had longed for it, had fretted about it, had torn through every word it had spoken trying to understand what she’d done wrong. And here it was—so sonorous and wise, laced with a gentleness she now knew she should never have trusted.

“We’ve got fresh chamomile in back,” said Jenny Martin, the proprietress of the odd little establishment: part dwelling, part apothecary shop, and part medical clinic.

Had he married? Claire wondered. Was his wife unable to rest, so he’d travelled all this way for a sleeping potion?

“My lady,” Mrs. Martin called, “Could you bring three bunches of calming herbs?”

Claire’s heart broke into a gallop and she pressed her knuckles to her mouth, frantically wishing there were a hole to dive into. Go out there and see him? Oh, no. No. As if it were on fire, she hurled the herbs back into the wheelbarrow then froze like a rabbit.

“Could you go back yourself, my lord? This brew depends on constant stirring.”

My God, where to hide!

“Which would be the chamomile?” he asked, voice as musical as a bass fiddle.

“The stuff with yellow buds like daisies.”

Yellow buds, yellow buds. Claire dashed behind a multi-tiered rack of dangling lavender, as purple as purple could be. There, she stood absolutely still.

His footsteps approached. She shut her eyes, and in the darkness the volume of his steps roared in her ears. By the sound of it, he’d stopped at the threshold. A few tentative steps further into the room, and the rustle of dried foliage sounded as if he were moving toward the St. John’s wort. A confused exhalation and more movement… closer. Closer.

She sensed him, felt his nearness, the electricity of his body, the heat from him. Had he halted at the lavender? Unable to bear not knowing, she opened her eyes.

In that instant, he parted two bunches of the purple flowers and looked straight at her. “Lady Claire?” he said, startled.

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:

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