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We had the singular pleasure of attending Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey Barton’s garden party. It was an event long anticipated and the grounds were quite perfection with fountains, flowers and trees shaped as elephants.
However, to everyone’s surprise, all attention was rivetted on Mr. Barton’s younger sister, Miss Lettuce Barton. Miss Barton has seldom attracted our attention. She is a quiet individual more likely to nod off than to utter a witticism. Indeed, her chief accomplishment was at the time of her birth when she curried favour with her namesake, an elderly relative of considerable means.
However, we digress. Miss Barton arrived, wearing a gray ensemble and was greeted by her mother. The elder Mrs. Barton favours more brilliant hues and we have heard rumours that she is understandably distressed by her daughter’s eccentricities. (Indeed, we have it on excellent authority that Miss Barton has purchased a house and lives alone with only servants.) Such a crushing blow must have greatly distressed her mother and we feel for dear Mrs. Barton from the very depth of our maternal heart.
But again, we digress. Almost immediately after Miss Barton’s arrival at the aforementioned garden party, Lady Elsie Beauchamp collapsed. It is rumoured that Lady Beauchamp is in a delicate condition. This apparently (and surprisingly) spurred Miss Barton into action. She almost sprinted across the lawn and then barked orders to all and sundry, in a manner more suited to a military leader than a gentlewoman of good breeding.
By the by, ‘all and sundry’ also included Lady Beauchamp’s brother, the reclusive and heroic Lord Anthony Ashcroft. For those readers who have been living under a rock, Lord Anthony was recently wounded in the Napoleonic wars. He is seldom seen in public and we feel honoured to have made his acquaintance.
But back to the garden party- dear Lady Beauchamp regained consciousness and was able to walk. In this, she was assisted by Miss Barton and Lord Anthony. Indeed, Miss Barton again assumed peculiar control in a fashion quite unbecoming to a lady.
While their departure quite put a damper on the festivities, we find that our curiosity is piqued. What motivated the quiet Miss Barton to behave in such a fashion? Was it an attempt to gain the attention of the reclusive Lord Anthony? If so, his stony countenance suggested no approbation. Or did she do so to irk her long suffering mother? If so, our observations would suggest that she had succeeded to a considerable degree.
Or is there some other reason? Are there depths hidden under that demure exterior? Or secrets not yet fully disclosed?
Rest assured, that should this writer discover any additional information, we shall immediately disclose the details within this missive.
A Debutante in Disguise
A society lady
…with a secret!
Determined to help people, Letty Barton has a double life – she’s a trained doctor! No-one must know ‘Dr Hatfield’ is actually a woman. Called to an emergency, she comes face to face with her patient’s brother, Lord Anthony Ashcroft… They’d once shared a spark-filled flirtation – now he’s a brooding, scarred war-hero. But how long will it be before he recognizes her, beneath her disguise, and the sparks begin to fly once more…?
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Debutante-Disguise-Mills-Boon-Historical-ebook/dp/B07KLF1NKY/ref=sr_1_1?crid=LEIO90SSEW86&keywords=eleanor+webster&qid=1559513521&s=gateway&sprefix=elesnor+webster%2Caps%2C213&sr=8-1
Mills & Boone (UK): https://www.millsandboon.co.uk/p57814/a-debutante-in-disguise.htm
Whom Colonel Thoroton will marry has been as prolific a topic in the receiving room of every marriageable miss’s mother as it has in the betting books. After all, it’s not everyday that a man comes into possession of an estate as grand as Flintham Hall at only four-and-twenty.
But no purported wager could possibly be more ludicrous than the one rumored to have begun at White’s: Mr. Paling will learn to ride side-saddle before the Colonel becomes engaged.
Whatever shall they think of next?
Mr. Paling would do better if he turned his attention to pursuing females rather than learning to ride like them. Why, it has been years since he has been spotted dancing, in spite of his frequent attendance at Almack’s. A disgrace, if you ask me, his immaculately-tied cravat notwithstanding. And this is the gentleman sent to Nottinghamshire to force Colonel Thoroton out of mourning and into the marriage-mart where he belongs? Let us hope, for all our sakes, that Mr. Paling loses his bet and they both end up engaged before the year’s end.
Teatime Tattler Guest Correspondent
An Engagement of Sorts
Much to her mother’s dismay, spirited Anne Fletcher is more comfortable in breeches than ball gowns. But when she finds herself facing marriage to a man she does not love, Anne grasps at her last vestige of independence, setting in motion a desperate plan. Now all she needs is a man willing to masquerade as her fiancé.
My freedom was short-lived, for though I had been able to stretch my knees and ankles in the carriage, my hips had remained at the same angle for far too long; they were less enthusiastic to be put to sudden use. They buckled, causing me to fall face-first into what had once been a gentleman’s carefully tied black cravat.
A rather ungentlemanly voice released an oath. “Sakes alive, hussy, watch what you are about.” The uncouth man had reacted to my assault by bringing both hands to my shoulders and pushing me back until my chest rested over my own torso rather than on his. “If I had a pound for every woman who threw herself at me, I could make my own fortune.” He unhanded me like I might have lice. I looked upward into the gentleman’s—no, Colonel Thoroton’s—scowl.
His frosty look could have frozen the sun, but it flamed my pride. And unlike last time, the threat of Mother’s censure could not protect him from my wrath. “Firstly, I would never throw myself at a gentleman—obviously in name only—who is incapable of coming to my aid and instead treats me like a flea-bitten cur.” I ticked one gloved finger out at him. “Secondly, if I had thrown myself at you, I would have broken your nose rather than crumpling your oriental, which would have served you right as your nose seems bent out of shape for naught. Thirdly—”
Raucous laughter cut off my diatribe. Mr. Paling stood near, cloaked in his usual persona of gaiety and nonchalance.
In strict contrast, the colonel’s tone grew menacing as he spit out each word. “It was a mathematical, not an oriental.”
“Yes, well.” I tried to re-enact his rude turn of voice; I didn’t care if he was the emperor of China. No one spoke to me like this. “I am a lady, not a hussy. Yours was the greater blunder.”
Meet Alene Wecker
Debut novelist Alene Wecker stumbled into the profession quite by accident; she had only meant to entertain herself during a banal bout of bedrest. But the characters in her head wouldn’t leave her alone until she gave them space on the page. She hopes you will be as entertained by her characters’ antics as she was.
As a mother, voice teacher, and opera singer, she must have a penchant for fun but poorly-paid professions. She likes to pretend that her experience and master’s degree in vocal performance come in handy as she describes debutantes who, like herself, speak several languages and are frequently forced to display their mediocre skills at the pianoforte.
I must report to you a shocking set of events that has the polite world reeling and convey to you my deepest regrets that, if all is proven true, a stalwart fixture of society will no longer be received.
Lady Witherspoon, who rarely misses an event of importance, was a guest at Miss Jocelyn Stafford’s birthday ball. While the guest of honor seemed to comport herself with the refinement one has come to expect from a gently-bred maiden, Lady Witherspoon sensed something was amiss and made a point of seating herself at the young lady’s table when the buffet was set out.
Her guardian, Lord Ralston, never left her side and answered most of the questions put to the girl. When Lady Witherspoon peered into Miss Stafford’s face, she detected a tan. A tan! Miss Stafford never leaves home without her bonnet and was as pale as a ghost just last week. When she remarked on it, Ralston said Miss Stafford had taken up strolling in her mother’s garden without her head covering. Not only that, the girl’s spoken words seemed to have odd inflections.
Could this be an imposter?
Rumors, spread by servants who should know not to speak of their betters (and of course, we never listen to such gossip), have speculated that a guest spirited into Lady Siltsbury’s house two days ago late at night is not a widowed relation seeking total privacy, but another daughter who closely resembles Miss Jocelyn. Could Jocelyn have a sister? Surely not a twin.
I shudder to think of how this could be true as Lord Siltsbury departed these shores and hied off to the colonies years ago and has never returned. Of course he was a mere second son at the time. He generously allowed his wife, who is terrified of sea travel, to remain.
I will leave this with you, dear reader. If indeed Lady Siltsbury has tried to fool polite society by foisting an imposter on the ton, then shame on her. And if it is true (and I sincerely hope for the sake of all involved it is not) who is this mysterious look-alike and where is Jocelyn?
Ah, these mysteries are enough to still my faint heart. I must ring for my vinaigrette before penning my next report.
—An Anonymous Correspondent
Jane Stafford, raised in America, is shocked to learn she is a wealthy heiress, her late father was an earl, and her English mother is alive. Anxious to meet the woman she long-thought dead, she travels to London, only to be whisked away by her sinfully handsome guardian to a remote estate to be “schooled” in the ways of the ton.
Gilbert Carmichael, Lord Ralston, chafes at having to make a rebellious young heiress acceptable to society, especially one who is impetuous and blatantly democratic. Because the instruction she needs is more than deportment and dancing. It’s also about how to spot a rake who might woo her for her fortune.
When Ralston learns his ward is to be used as a pawn in an elaborate scheme involving a secret impersonation, he will move heaven and earth to keep her safe. Because proximity has brought the uncomfortable knowledge that his interest may be more than duty—it just might be love.
Jane lowered her head as she entered Papa’s room, loathe to gaze on her father in his pale, weakened state. The darkened room smelled of camphor and some other sickly-sweet substance she couldn’t place. She dragged a wooden chair to the side of the bed and sat, her hands clasped firmly in her lap.
Papa turned his head to face her. “My dear.”
She leaned closer to hear what he had to say, her throat tightening once again.
“I’m here.” She swallowed and forced herself to look into the feverish eyes.
“You will be amply provided for. Hornsby has the details.”
“I know, Papa. I’m not worried about my future.”
He smiled and her breath caught. “After…after my funeral, he has instructions to purchase passage for you on a ship bound for England.”
Jane leaned further forward, not sure she heard correctly. “England? I shall stay here in Maryland. I do not know anyone in England.”
He turned his face away, his breaths coming faster. The doctor rose from his chair by the fire and peered into his patient’s face. “You need to rest, Mathew. Speaking is taking your energy.”
“No. I have to tell her.”
Jane picked up his cold hand, a chill skipping along her spine despite the heat in the room. “Tell me what?”
He turned back to her. “You have relatives in England who will care for you.”
She hunched her shoulders and bent closer, astonished by her father’s words. “Who?”
He closed his eyes, as if gaining strength, then opened them.
Jane squeezed his hand and shook her head. Poor Papa. How cruel for such a brilliant man to be delusional at the end. Her mother was dead. Died in childbed. She’d been told as soon as she was old enough to ask.
“I’ve written to her,” he whispered. “She’s expecting you.”
He lapsed into a coughing fit, the doctor by his side. Janie rose and moved away, her brain unable to process what she’d been told. His mind was tricking him. It must be the pain.
Maddie, standing by the door, hurried in and led Jane out of the room, seating her in a chair in the hall. She handed her the glass she still carried and told Jane to sip slowly. “You need this, child.”
Trying to process Papa’s words, Jane took the glass and held it in both hands, mesmerized by the candlelight playing on the facets of the crystal.
England. Your mother. I’ve written to her.
How odd for him to say such a thing.
She sipped from the glass and handed it back. “Maddie? Wasn’t I born in this house? You were here, weren’t you?”
“You were nearly a year old when your Papa offered me the position of both housekeeper and nanny. It was difficult for me to care for a house and a child, but he paid well so I accepted. I’ve never regretted it.”
You have relatives in England.
“Did you ever ask about my mother?”
“It wasn’t my place. I assumed she must be dead, although I found it odd he never spoke of her.”
“I assumed the same. Whenever I asked about her, he said it was too painful to discuss. So I stopped.” She stared at her tightly clasped hands. “You heard what he said?”
“I did and I have to tell you I’m bewildered.”
The door opened and the doctor came out. A long-time friend of Papa’s, Dr. Hadley shook his head. “He’s gone. I’m sorry.”
Maddie shrieked, her hand covering her mouth. Jane sat silently in the chair, cold to the core, chilled by an ugly premonition.
Her life was about to undergo a momentous change.
And not for the better.
Meet Pamela Gibson
Author of eight books on California history and seventeen romance novels, Pamela Gibson is a former City Manager who lives in the Nevada desert. Having spent the last three years messing about in boats, a hobby that included a five-thousand-mile trip in a 32-foot Nordic Tug, she now spends most of her time indoors happily reading, writing, cooking and keeping up with the antics of Ralph, the Rescue Cat. If you want to learn more about her activities go to https://www.pamelagibsonwrites.com and sign up for her quarterly newsletter and occasional blog. Or follow her in these places: