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Category: Teatime Tattler Page 2 of 95

A Golden Opportunity

She slipped out the side door of the private wing and crossed Mrs Brewster’s personal garden.

At this time of day, the Brewster family were fully occupied with their duties in the inn. No one was present to see their maid — their now former maid –unlock the private gate to the lane with the keys she had lifted from their hook in Mr Brewster’s office.

She would leave them in the lock. By the time they were discovered, she would be far from here, on her way to a position far, far away.

Freddie was waiting in the lane with his family’s gig and pony. It wasn’t elegant, but it would get them to the nearest coaching inn on the highway, 20 miles away inland.

His eyes widened as he took in the picture she made in her new gown and bonnet. One of the outfits she’d acquired for her new life. As she approached the gig, she saw that he’d found the bag and trunk she’d hidden in the stables last night. She hoped no one saw him take them away. Almost, she asked him, but, no, she mustn’t give him any reason to think she doubted him.

She let him lift her up into the gig, and hurry around to the other side.

“You look right pretty today, Miss Alice,” he said, as he took off the brake and gave the reins a shake. “Walk on, gray mare.”

Alice kept scanning the surroundings, to make sure no one saw them leaving. Not that they could stop her. She was the Brewster’s employee, not their slave. Had been the Brewster’s employee. Her resignation letter was hidden in the clutter of papers on Mr Brewster’s desk. He would find it about the time she was due back at work after her day off.

No, they couldn’t stop her, but if they knew what she had been doing and where she was going, they might make her departure difficult. Certainly, Freddie would not be allowed to transport her.

She smiled at him, and tucked her hand into his arm. Dear Freddie. He was a kind soul, and she felt just a little guilty for using him in this way, but needs must. She wasn’t going to settle for a fisherman’s son and spend the rest of her life in Fenwick.

She had new clothes, a job waiting for her, and money jingling in her reticule. She would say goodbye to Freddie at the coaching inn. Perhaps she would even give him a peck on the cheek — some sort of recompense for the trouble he was going to be in when he got back to Fenwick on Sea.

Freddie was chattering away about the men who had arrived at the inn to question all the servants about the source of the reports that had been published in the Teatime Tattler.

Alice smirked. Miss Abney always said that education gave you opportunities. Alice had found an opportunity. She had always been good at listening to people, putting two and two together, telling stories. Writing them was not much different. Sending them to Mr Clemens had been a clever idea, if she did say so herself.

And Miss Abney was right. The first opportunity had given her another. “I can use someone like you,” the letter from Mr Clemens had said. “Someone with the skills to work within a household and the brains to collect the stories I need.”

Alice was off to London to take up a permanent job as a reporter with The Teatime Tattler.

Alice is a character in the stories of Storm & Shelter. See the link for novella blurbs and buy links, and the collection for some of Alice’s Teatime Tattler reports.

Read more Storm & Shelter flash fiction at our blog hop, where our characters try to figure out who the mystery reporter is.

And congratulations to our prizewinners, who read the book, correctly named the reporter, and had their names drawn in the prize draw.

Serious Skulduggery at the Queen’s Barque

Our readers will be aware that, due to the recent storm and floods, a great variety of strangers have been trapped in Fenwick-on-Sea, especially at the Queen’s Barque Inn. Among the rife scandal and gossip, we now have reason to believe, greater skulduggery is afoot..

We recently reported on the startling physical similarity of one shipwrecked guest, Mrs. Simon, to the heiress Miss Letitia Lovell. We can now reveal that Mr. Kent, the heiress’s maternal uncle and guardian, has been seen in the neighborhood of the inn, along with his son, who, in the past, has claimed an “understanding” with his cousin, Miss Lovell.

Is this coincidence? Or are the Kents in pursuit of a runaway? Are the supposed Mr. and Mrs. Simon even married? Has the mysterious Mr. Simon, who was observed enjoying a pint of ale in the company of Mr. Kent, been, in vulgar parlance, “bought off” by the lady’s legal guardian? Is there a tug-of-war for the young lady’s safety and well-being? Or for her fortune?

All will surely be revealed in the coming days.

Those Bluestocking Belles are investigating our reporter!

Since your Teatime Tattler has been able to report doings in Fenwick on Sea, authors have offered a reward for someone who unmasks our reporter!

Enter to win.

Correctly identify the reporter and be entered to win a $100 gift card and other great prizes. There are details amd instructions for entering here: https://bluestockingbelles.net/belles-joint-projects/storm-shelter/wanted-the-snooping-teatime-tattler-reporter/

About the Book

Eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas, one horrific storm!

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

A Bluestocking Belles and Friends Collection

CLICK for links to various retailers

An Improbable Hero: Mary Lancaster

A runaway heiress, a mysterious stranger.

When Letty’s ship founders in a violent storm, she forges a rare bond with her rescuer.

Simon is a troubled man on a final, deadly mission—until the spirited yet soothing Letty makes him question everything. Hiding in plain sight among the refugees at The Queen’s Barque, Simon is more than capable of protecting them both. But when the floods recede, can either of them say goodbye?

Gossip Spreads Through Fenwick on Sea

Kitty Smothers, youngest and newest of the girls in service at the Queen’s Barque, swung her broom with more enthusiasm than skill. It didn’t much matter. With the inn bursting at the seams and all the paying rooms full of well-off travelers, Mrs. Brewster sent them to clean out the old wing, the one with more cobwebs than heat and more mice than usable furniture. They needed it for all the refugees coming up from the beach, didn’t they?

The storm, the fiercest in all of Kitty’s fourteen years, rattled the windows where there was still glass, where they hadn’t been papered over. She listened wide eyed while Nelly Jones chattered a mile a minute while she swatted at the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and giggled with Annie Burke.

“I think Mr. Simon is the handsomest,” Annie said.

“He don’t hold a candle to Captain Rousseau—Jasper,” Nelly sighed dramatically.

“Looks more like a pirate to me, him with that ship stuck out on the shoals,” Annie argued. “Mr. Simon has that mysterious air…”

“Sneaky more like,” Nelly said. “and besides, he’s married.”

“Shows what you know.” Annie dropped her voice and beckoned Nelly closer. Kitty moved nearer to listen. “Those girls Mrs. Fullerton sent over from Morphew Manor told Mags and Alice in the kitchen that there’s folks from London staying at the manor.”

“So what’s that to us?” Nelly said out loud.

Annie shushed her. “Mags told me they’re here for that so-called Mrs. Simon. Says she’s really betrothed to the dandy staying at the Manor. Simon isn’t married at all.”

Kitty tilted her head, puzzled. “But he and Mrs. Simon are sharing a room.”

Annie and Nelly laughed at her. “You think every pair that puts up at an inn claiming to be married really are?”

“How about that Lord Stanton. He’s as handsome as can be,” Kitty said.

“He’s a lord, ain’t he? No point in mooning after a lord,” Annie said. “Besides, have you seen how he looks at his lady? Honeymooning those two—for sure.”

“But you said not every couple who claim to be married…” Kitty still thought he was handsome.

“Some are, you ninny. The real question about those two is what are they doing in Fenwick on Sea? Folks like that go to Paris. Or Brighton. Odd if you ask me,” Nelly said.

“I’ll tell you who’s odd. That Cosistas fellow. Slimy fish. Have you seen how he looks at that Fynlock woman? Gives me the creeps.” Annie shivered just to show them.

“I—” Whatever Kitty would have said was interrupted by an arrival.

“How is this room coming? Can I send in the men with the straw bedding?” Patience Abney, she that teaches at the charity school above town, stood in the door waiting for an answer.

“Will do in a few more minutes, Miss Abney,” Annie said.

Patience smiled at them. “Good. Mr. Somerville the vicar came with word there are more folk on their way. We need every room. Hurry it up.” She swept out.

Nelly made an ugly face after her.

“I like Miss Abney; she’s always kind,” Kitty said. “It’s generous of her to help out.”

“She’s only working here to pay so her boys can stay out in the stables,” Annie said.

“Thinks she’s better than us, her with her fancy school. Peter told me their roof caved in. We’ll see how high and mighty she is now,” Nelly said.

“High enough. I heard talk,” Annie said.

“What do you mean?” Kitty asked, finishing up her sweeping and picking up the dust pan.

“I heard those two high nosed ladies in the big suite on the first floor talking. Patience Abney isn’t what she looks like. She’s an earl’s niece.”

“Gol. Come on hard times for sure, emptying night soil like the rest of us and sweeping up this ruin of a wing,” Nelly said.

“Got that right,” Annie agreed.

The girls finished the room and picked up their rags and brooms to move on. When they squeezed by Patience Abney in the hall directing footmen to bring straw bedding to the room they just finished, Nelly dipped a mocking curtsy behind her back and Annie giggled.

They handed all the dirty rags and dust pan to Kitty, sending her to the kitchen. As Kitty walked away, she heard Nelly’s last pronouncement.

“I’ll tell you what else I heard. Some folks think there’s a reporter from that Teatime Tattler staying here, taking notes on all these folks. What do you think of that?”

Kitty continued downstairs, dumped the dirt and picked up new rags. She nodded greetings to Alice, Mags, and the girls from Morphew Manor who waited tables and worked in the kitchen. On her way out something caught her eye, lying on the work table. It was The Teatime Tattler folded up to a headline, “Storm ravages Great Yarmouth and the coast.”

“Get on with it, Kitty. This isn’t a library,” Mrs. Brewster snapped pointing to the door.

Kitty smiled on her way up the servant stairs. “We’re going to be famous.”

***

A Reporter Snooping Around? We can’t have it. There’s an award for the person that figures out who it is. The answers are buried in Storm & Shelter.

A Bluestocking Belles with Friends Collection

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.

Available on Amazon or various other vendors,

More about each story here.

Join the Hunt

There are three big prizes. Enter the contest!

How to enter

  • Read the book.
  • Send your guess about the identity of person writing the reports for The Teatime Tattler to teatimetattlereditor@yahoo.com

Details are here!

There Are Odd Folks in Some Villages

London, Saturday Last

Dearest Catherine,

Although I was thrilled to receive your letter now that you are settled in, I find your new situation most tenuous and upsetting! One can hardly believe that you have no decent milliner in that little town of Clun that you and Randall have moved to, but to also know that a young woman serves by choice to be the town’s layer-out of the dead is most disturbing. I found myself in need of respite after reading your letter the first time through. I cannot imagine the dire straits you find yourself in. Does anyone in that little town serve as your equal? I dare hazard a guess that there is none amongst them worthy of sitting in the same parlor as you.

I do hope Randall understands your sacrifice. While I know he has business interests in the area and hopes to expand into milling and manufacturing, he cannot expect you to reside there forever, does he? Men. Our husbands have no understanding of the sacrifices we make do they?

It is not the same here in London without you. I find I must take tea with the Chatsworth sisters more often now, and I find them much less entertaining without you. They are in need of advice as their daughters are coming of age and shall debut next fall. I do not hold much hope for either of them. Both seem too mousy and indelicate in features and personality. I have forgotten twice now that they were in the same room with us upon meeting with them. Can you even imagine being so forgettable?

As you expected, the snow is beautiful and banked deeply along the Thames as our winter has been a cold one so far. Ms. Starling sends her well wishes and has promised to make you a special hat for me to bring to you, since you have no milliner worthy and equal to her skill in your quaint little town. I shall ask her to use some of that lovely blue fabric you commented on during your last visit.

Please do come and stay with us. You need never wait for an invitation. When you come you must tell me all about this scandalous woman who deals with the dead. Despite my efforts to be only appalled at the thought of it, I find myself quite curious as to what such a woman would look like and act like.

With all my love,

Ophelia

About the Book, Lovely Digits

When two murders strike the sleepy Victorian town of Clun, England, an unlikely partnership forms. But can the killer be found before there is a third?

Lovely Digits is the town oddity…

But quirky spinster Lucy Wycliffe prefers to ignore gossip and embrace her position as the town’s layer out of the dead, despite how her parents’ deaths thrust her into such unlikely work. Lovely Digits, as she’s known to the local townspeople, no longer dreams of marriage, but takes pride in providing dignity to the dead. Desperate to hold on to her family’s cottage and support her widowed sister and young niece, an unexpected offer of employment as assistant to the constable arrives at the perfect time.

Former sailor John Brodie is the mysterious new constable…

But John Brodie is far from a stranger to Clun or the events of its past. Accepting the position as constable in the small town is a double edged sword meant to heal his past and redeem his future, but falling for the beautiful and intelligent Lucy Wycliffe was never part of his plan. As the killer closes in, will John reveal his secret and risk losing everything to save Lucy’s life?

Excerpt

Clun, England

February, 1839

Old Man Codger’s frozen toe rolled across the floor toward the door.

“Lord above. Mind the corner, sister,” Lucy muttered. She blew an errant curl from her cheek as they swung the man’s stiff body onto the scarred wooden table in front of the hearth. The body landed with a thud.

Blast. Lucy scanned the floor. Nothing. Where had it gone? She lifted her skirts.

“There you are,” she grumbled. The rogue digit rested between the scuffed heels of her old brown boots. Using the edge of one of the sleeves of her faded blue blouse, she leaned down and clutched the rather putrid, large hairy toe and placed it on the man’s chest. Now she’d have to sew on a toe, too. A frozen toe.

Perfect.

Priscilla covered her mouth with the back of her hand and yielded a dry retch. Plugging her nose, she rolled her eyes. “There has to be another way.”

Lucy eyed her pert younger sister and sighed. At thirteen, Cil was on the cusp of womanhood. There were so many things she would miss from their parents not being there to guide her. The guilt over the death of Mother and Father a month past stung like a barb under Lucy’s skin. If only she’d arrived home at the cottage sooner instead of lingering about the forest to find her pet starling. She banished the thought away.

After tying back her hair, Lucy pushed up her sleeves to the elbow. “If there had been any other option, we’d have done it. It’s either prep him for burial or starve. It’s just us now, Cil.”

The old man’s time in the woods had not been kind to him, but at least the extreme cold had kept the insects at bay. A white milky maggot dropped from his nose to the table. Lucy shuddered. Most of them. She loathed insects, especially worms. Things that could move without legs weren’t natural.

“Hand me the needle and thread.” Lucy rested her hands on her hips. “I need to get this toe sewn back on when he thaws. I’ll not be docked pay for him missing parts.”

Care to read more of Lovely Digits? Here are the Buy Links: 

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Lovely-Digits-Jeanine-Englert-ebook/dp/B07SB6HJMW/

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lovely-digits-jeanine-englert/1133788922

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/search?id=7694523126087&query=lovely+digits&filter=

About the Author:

Jeanine Englert is a Golden Heart ® Finalist, Silver Falchion Award Winner, and Daphne du Maurier Award Winner in historical romantic suspense. After years of writing in secret, she joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers in 2013 and has been an active member ever since. She writes Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels.

When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved pups, and of course mysteries with other readers on Twitter @JeanineWrites, Facebook, or at her website www.jeaninewrites.com.

Her debut novel, Lovely Digits, released in June of 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing, is a Victorian romantic suspense that won the 2020 Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery and the 2020 Maggie Award for Best Romantic Suspense. It also won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award and was named a 2018 Golden Heart ® Finalist for best unpublished romantic suspense. Her latest novel, The Highlander’s Secret Son, will be released in May of 2021 by Harlequin Historical.

Where you can find me:

Website: https://www.jeaninewrites.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JeanineWrites

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46222432-lovely-digits

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeanineWrites

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jeanine-englert?list=about

Overheard in a Parlor

Dateline late March

Gentle Readers,

To protect our reporter from reprisals, we dare not reveal the source of the conversation related below. However, we can tell you that our intrepid employee is safely away from Stonegreave Priory, where the conversation occurred and is hot on the trail of the nefarious person under the protection of Her Grace of S.

“My dear Marielle, you cannot possibly expect me to chaperone a person you yourself suspect of underhanded dealings and lax morality.” Miss Verity Walford protested.

“Verity, I understand your reluctance.” Her Grace handed her friend and protégé a cup of tea. “However, I owe this young woman a debt of gratitude. Her quick thinking saved my life and others when Richard and I were at Fontainbleau last April to rescue my cousin.” The duchess grimaced and pressed a hand to her swollen belly.

Verity put her tea aside. “Are you well? Should I call for the doctor? Richard?”

“No, thank you.” Her Grace released a long breath. “It is just the baby kicking. He or she delights in disturbing my peace at every opportunity, and I understand this is just the beginning. Disturbed peace is normal, I hear, when a household includes children.”

“If you say all is well, I believe you. You’ve never been a fool about your health.” Verity sipped her tea. “As for children and lack of peace, being an only child and a spinster, I could not say.”

“And I would not expect it of you, although I do hope someday you will find the kind of love Richard and I have.”

“The two of you are to be envied.”

Her Grace of S.

Her Grace picked up her cup and took a cautious sip. “Quite possibly, but we owe our lives and our happiness to the young woman I wish you to chaperone. Esme is quite unusual, and I suspect you would be best off not to question her too deeply about her actions or her background.”

“Such a warning makes me even more reluctant to do this little favor for you.”

The duchess leaned forward and took Verity’s hand. “You must. It is obvious that in my condition I cannot, and were I not enceinte, I would not cause Richard to worry by attempting to aid Esme. If you cannot, I will have to hire a stranger, whom I could not possibly trust as much as you.”

“Very well, since I’ve nothing of import on my calendar for the next two months, I will help you.”

“Excellent.” Her Grace’s face glowed. “She’ll be traveling under the name Eugenia Fynlock and will meet you at The Queen’s Barque Inn of Fenwick on Sea.”

The Queen’s Barque Inn

Verity’s brows rose. “Why such a backwater? Won’t two strange women draw attention in such a place?”

“I cannot say why that particular inn and town were chosen, but that is the information I received. I will cover your expenses, of course, and provide you with transport both to and from Fenwick on Sea. You’ll be bringing Esme back to me for a visit.”

“Then I hope I like this unusual young woman. Sharing a room with a stranger for three or four days is stressful enough. Add in a journey of the time from here to the coast, and we would both be miserable, if we cannot become friends.”

“Even if you cannot like her tremendously as I do,” the duchess said. “You will find her highly entertaining. Now ring for a maid, please. I find I tire easily and need a nap before dinner.”

“Certainly.” Miss Walford put action to words then returned to her seat. “When do you think I should leave for Fenwick on Sea?”

“Within the week. As long as the winds are favorable, Esme expects to arrive at the village no later than March 31st.”

“Favorable winds? Is she arriving by sea?”

“Oh dear. Please forget I said that. The less you know about Esme, the better.”

At which point our reporter was compelled to depart the premises, having learned all that could be learned about the mysterious Miss Eugenia Fynlock—or whatever the woman’s name might be. We can only speculate at this time what sort of person might have a duchess in her debt and be visiting an out of the way corner of England such as Fenwick on Sea let alone be in need of a chaperone.

Dear readers, look for more information on this intriguing tidbit. Our reporter will be writing from Fenwick on Sea and dishing out all the dirt—so to speak—that may be found in such a place.

About Storm & Shelter: When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel. One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.

Buy Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3kgRmLG

Apple Books: https://apple.co/3lZYHja

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3o0z977

Books2Read: https://books2read.com/u/b5k2pO

International:

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