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Attractions in Portsmouth

October 1820

Your correspondent is pleased to reveal Lady Lydia Howick has returned to Town after a series of trips to Portsmouth to help her oldest friend, Mrs. Arnaud Bellingham, neé Sophia Brancelli, settle into the couple’s temporary honeymoon cottage.

Captain B will return to his West African Preventative Squadron within the month aboard his prize ship, HMS Black Condor, once repairs are complete. Sadly, we regret to report, without his longtime surgeon, Dr. Cullen MacCloud.

Lady Lydia confided, in her delightful, non-stop chatter, that the charming doctor, a long-confirmed bachelor, succumbed unexpectedly to the wedded state in a whirlwind courtship followed by late-night nuptials in Portsmouth.

He exchanged vows with Miss Willa Morton, daughter of the late Dr. Andrew Morton, former surgeon aboard the Arethusa whom Dr. MacCloud recently replaced. His new wife will accompany him on the ship’s mission to patrol off Napoleon’s prison island of St. Helena for the next two years.

Lady Lydia was agog at the idea that Mrs. MacCloud will be working side by side with her husband to care for the three-hundred men of the forty-gun frigate’s crew. And she is intrigued to note the surgeon’s wife has managed to accumulate as much medical knowledge as her brother, even though being left back in Edinburgh while her father and sibling sailed the world with the Royal Navy.

Your faithful scribe suspects some sort of havey-cavey circumstances in that the aforementioned MacCloud-Morton nuptials occurred directly after the unexplained disappearance of Miss Morton’s brother, William, from his physician’s assistant duties aboard the Arethusa.

This correspondent also would be remiss not to question all the time Lady Lydia has lately spent in Portsmouth assisting the Bellinghams. One can only suspect what naval attractions might hold her interest for so long away from Howick House on St. James Square. There have been reports of sightings during the Season of said lady in the company of a gentleman wearing the bright red jacket of a Royal Marine officer.

One might worry at what Lady Lydia’s father, Lord Howick, thinks of her long sojourns in Portsmouth. However, we have it on good authority he has been preoccupied with the sad business in the House of Lords over the summer. And then there are the whispers about his preoccupation with the willowy, tall Titania acclaimed in the recent production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Covent Garden.

About the Book

Willa Morton has lived the last ten years of her life as “Wills,” physician’s assistant to her Royal Navy surgeon father. Their subterfuge works well until he collapses and dies of a heart attack.
Dr. Cullen MacCloud resents his latest posting, away from his friends on the African Squadron. Wills, the deceased surgeon’s son, is a sullen sprout, but Cullen’s stuck with him. Since the posting is temporary, what could go wrong? 
What if these two have more in common than they think? Will a thin blanket hung across the middle of a tiny cabin be enough to protect against the desire smoldering between them?

In “Pride of Duty,” live today, follow the further adventures of the dashing Men of the African Squadron and the daring women who love them. Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/37wptLS

And today is the last day to still get the first entry in the series, “Pride of Honor,” for FREE on Amazon, here: https://amzn.to/31vU1cI

Excerpt from Pride of Duty

50º47’56.36”N, 1º5’28.5”W

Portsmouth, England, August 1820

Dr. Cullen MacCloud tipped back the too-dainty chair in the small Portsmouth tea shop and threw a stern look at the sullen young man across from him. He hated having to make do with furniture not built to accommodate his broad shoulders and bulk.

He pushed his feet flat onto the floor and leaned forward to better intimidate William Morton, the most impertinent excuse for a physician’s assistant he’d ever encountered. He could not for the life of him fathom why his predecessor, the recently deceased ship’s surgeon, had importuned the captain to make sure (in writing) the young man would be able to continue to work alongside him in the ship’s surgery.

Cullen had hoped getting away from the ship to a different setting might soften the slight young man’s demeanor. Instead, the damned cod lifted his chin, still belligerent, as if he could challenge Cullen’s words.

Christ, but he’d had a hell of a week. First he’d had a hopeless argument with his father. The bastard had used his court influence to get Cullen assigned away from his former Captain Arnaud Bellingham to the current posting. Arnaud was still awaiting final overhaul and crewing of his prize ship, the Black Condor, to return to the West African Squadron, and had moved to Portsmouth with his new wife, Sophie.

Cullen had hoped until the very last moment he could somehow thwart his father’s ambitions, but he’d lost the battle. No one in the Royal Navy fought the Admiralty once a decision had been made. He’d been aboard the HMS Arethusafor a full week, and sharing quarters with the former surgeon’s peevish offspring.

He’d been pleasantly surprised at how well organized and kept the surgery had been on his arrival. Most of the time, he and William had inventoried medical supplies. Cullen had gone over Dr. Andrew Morton’s logs for the last two years to get an idea of the state of the health of the officers and crew.

Young Morton had been very thorough in his accounting of the surgery, and helpful in explaining the ship’s shifts and routines. Cullen had not been surprised at the daily line of crewmen seeking medical assistance. When a ship was in port for provisioning, or re-fit, the men tended toward boredom, which in turn produced a steady stream of “ailments.” Once they were back at sea, and in action, the medical complaints would slow to a trickle.

He leaned closer to the argumentative young man. “Why can ye not see the wisdom in leaving the ship to continue yer studies in Edinburgh? Surely yer late father would want ye to follow in his profession.”

“I’ve been trained thoroughly by my father. Why, I know more than most of the second-year students at Edinburgh Medical School.”

Cullen sat up, re-assessing the rude young twig. “Then why not get at least yer first year so ye can set up a proper practice? What’s keeping ye here?”

He couldn’t see the young man’s neck for the voluminous wrapped neckcloth he affected, but he imagined that part of his anatomy burned as brightly as his boyish face. However, something about the long, sooty lashes framing cool gray eyes nagged and buzzed like an obnoxious fly at the back of Cullen’s brain.

“How old are you? Ye’ve not even the beginnings of a beard. Who are you to tell me ye know so much? I’ve been to Edinburgh. I completed my studies there, and I’ve been serving the King’s Navy ever since.”

William snapped his face away from Cullen’s inspection and stood, staring a long time out a window near their table. He turned suddenly, his face still a shade of scarlet. “I can see you resent my presence in the surgery, Dr. MacCloud. I won’t impose upon you any longer. I’m sure one of my father’s associates would be glad to have my assistance.”

With that, he turned on his heel and headed for the door only to be intercepted by the one of the Arethusa’s marines.

Cullen rose from the table at the look on the marine lieutenant’s face.

“Dr. MacCloud, Mr. Morton. We need you. There’s been an accident. Two men were fighting and fell from the tops.”

Cullen turned to hasten out the door in the wake of the marine and was a little surprised to see young William fall in behind without a sound. The boy’s usually dour face transformed into one of concern, and intent. It was only then he realized the insolent cub hadn’t revealed his age. What was he trying to hide?

About the Author

Andrea K. Stein, the daughter of a trucker and an artist, never knew it would take the hard-work ethic of her father to achieve the light-filled magic of her mother’s art. After helping raise a combined family equaling the Brady bunch without Alice, she retired early from a 30-year career as a newspaper and publishing professional and fled to the mountains. She interspersed a seven-year stint as a Colorado ski patroller with nautical adventures as first mate to a crusty, old British delivery captain, accumulating some 20,000 miles at sea. While delivering yachts up and down the Caribbean, she also earned a USCG offshore captain’s license. Now, she tells award-winning tales of the high seas from her writing room in Colorado. She has nine titles self-published on Amazon since 2014.

Andrea can be found at the following online haunts:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authorandreakstein

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/highseasromance/_saved/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/author_andrea_k_stein/

Twitter – @andreakstein

Website: https://www.andreakstein.com

Does Scandal Taint one of Britain’s Great Families?

Dearest Father,

I write in the hope that you will understand and forgive me for refusing to wed the barbaric Scot you’ve chosen for me. Not even loyalty to you, my king and country, is enough to make me willing to sacrifice my person and my honor. You will have to find another way to compel this Baron MacKai, who is one of the rudest men in creation, to cooperate in your plot with King Edward to overthrow the Scottish monarch. By the time you receive this I will be on my way to a convent where my skills as a horse trainer will be appreciated and useful. I grieves me that I will probably never see you or my brothers again in this life.

With all my love,

Jessamyn

Dear Readers,

This missive was found amongst some obscure parchments by an anonymous researcher who currently assists with cataloguing antique manuscripts at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. The research became intrigued by the defiant tone of the message and has tracked down the source using clues from the missive itself. You—indeed much of the ton—will be interested to learn that the author of this note did not as she states in the letter end up in the convent. She did in fact wed Baron Raeb MacKai in the year 1295. How that came about is a story as yet unlearned. Although marriage lines obtained from Scotland prove that the author is a Lady from an English DuG. family of high renown and influence. One cannot but wonder what other secrets might be revealed were the Earl DuG to permit investigation of that distinguished family’s records. Sadly, such permission is unlikely to be given, as the Earl is among the highest of sticklers for propriety. We wait eagerly to discover if he or his relatives might find this revelatory missive a bit embarrassing. Could the family be hiding a taint of rebelliousness amongst its women? That might explain the current peccadillo’s of Lady J DuG. More on her recent adventures in a future issue of the Teatime Tattler.

Blurb for Knight Defender: Sent alone to Scotland to wed a wild scot and serve the needs of her father and her king, Lady Jessamyn plots to escape the marriage and make the life she wants. In Scotland she finds not the wild boorish monster she imagined but a Knight Defender who would claim her heart, if she will only give up her dreams. — Baron Raeb MacKai is done allowing himself and everyone he loves to live in poverty and despair. His betrothal to a wealthy English heiress will solve a decade of problems. He will do everything necessary to defend his home and his country, but can he defend his heart?

About the Author: When not writing, or enjoying her warm sunny home with her spouse of more than four decades Rue Allyn, Rue travels the world and surfs the internet in search of background material and inspiration for her next heart melting romance. She loves to hear from readers, and you may contact her at Rue@RueAllyn.com.  She can’t wait to hear from you.

Weeksville Fireworks

Item forwarded from the New York Papers:

Well, if this don’t beat all. Sit here with me and see if you don’t agree.

First having Hero Williams return to our little Brooklyn town of Weeksville, successful and philanthropic, was as pleasant an event as I’ve ever experienced. Not that him having either of those two attributes surprised me. Look how his family braved the perils any former slaves had to face to make a new life in the North. Any child reared with that background has to have gumption. As a boy he was always curious, adventurous and dogged. His teacher always remarked how he was first to come to class and the last to leave. I knew in my soul that boy would go far. And as to being generous, again his family never failed to say thank you, never failed to repay a kindness many times over. Why would he be any different?

That he’s successful and freely shares his blessings with others is no surprise. What is a surprise is our intrepid generous millionaire is in love. And not being too subtle with it either. Imagine asking me to hand Adelaide Hanson a note before the festivities started. He insisted I make her read it too. Lord have mercy the look on her face! She knew what the note’s one-line missive meant. I sure didn’t. 

Of course I’d read it. He didn’t seal it so obviously it wasn’t meant to be kept private – or exclusively private. “Let’s light the fire again” is what it said. I couldn’t make head nor tale of it. Naturally since he makes fireworks I thought it might refer to some display or such. Her expression told me otherwise. Whatever fire that note referred too has nothing to do with fireworks. No siree. I’ve been watching the looks they’ve been exchanging since she read it. 

I know longing when I see it. I’ve married enough couples to know when it’s present and when it isn’t. Adelaide’s been courted by Oscar Thompson for almost a year now and I’ve never seen that kind of light in her eyes or his. But when she looks at Hero and he looks at her, it’s there. A fire has been lit again. The fire of love. True love.

But how’s it all going to end up? Hero left Adelaide two years ago with a ruined her reputation until Dr. Shannon’s examination proved her virtue was still intact. Not that that made any difference to Oscar’s mother. No one’s good enough for Emmaline Thompson’s son, least of all an orphan charity case, no matter how talented, hard-working and Christian. 

I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. Oscar’s got the respectability and the stability Adelaide’s always wanted, but I don’t know. More than Roman candles are lighting up this Fourth of July. If I were a betting man – and being a minister I most certainly am not – I’d put my money on Hero.

About the Book

One night in 1896 Adelaide Hanson and Hero Williams shared their hopes and dreams. She to be an artist like Edmonia Lewis. He to amass great wealth. Hero went off to start a fireworks business. Adelaide remained in Weeksville hampered by a ruined reputation until a doctor’s examination proved her still a virgin. Two years later Hero, now a self-made millionaire, returns to share his wealth with the community that sheltered his family from the violence of the Post-Reconstruction South. He has also returned hoping to ask Adelaide for her hand. She, however, is anticipating a marriage proposal from the son of one of the Black community’s most prominent families, despite his mother’s disapproval. Hero begs for a chance to change Adelaide’s mind. Although still in love with him, she is unwilling to risk her heart or face societal opprobrium again. Then Hero makes an offer he hopes she won’t refuse: a chance to revive what they shared two years ago by viewing a private fireworks display designed especially to light the fire between them again.

Light the Fire Again is one of seven steamy fireworks-featuring romances in the Fireworks anthology, proceeds from which will go to ProLiteracy, an adult literacy organization. So enjoy some great sex while supporting a great cause.

Buy it here: https://amzn.to/3ktzVH8

Excerpt:

Red and white checkered tablecloths fluttered gently in the warm July breeze. Summer sunlight glinted off glass pitchers brimming with iced tea, lemonade and water. The event attendees had filtered out of the hall and were lining up at the collation tables. Everyone grinned and smacked their lips as the delicious scents of collards, cornbread and fresh baked biscuits, sweet potatoes, and chicken, both baked and fried, filled the air.

Adelaide’s stomach growled. She pressed a fist against her gut to quiet it. She hadn’t had breakfast and regretted offering to help serve.

“Hurry up Adelaide,” Emmaline Thompson barked. “Set those platters beside the others, go back for the last tray then be ready to serve.”

Adelaide bristled, tempted to deliver a tongue lashing of her own but kept silent and complied.

Reverend Johnson, Hero and several clergy and civic leaders headed for a white linen-covered table decked with red, white and blue ribbons set aside for the guest of honor.

Hero glanced her way, catching her eye. He smiled. Not a broad enjoy-your-day smile, but a narrow I-remember-you grin.

She remembered him too.

Her stomach growled again, this time from a different hunger.

She speared chicken on to plate after plate, forcing a smile with every “You’re welcome” she said to each guest served. The letter in her pocket gave her no reason to smile.

Reverend Johnson had given her the envelope in his office. She recognized Hero’s handwriting immediately. If Reverend Johnson hadn’t been present she’d have ripped it up. She’d shoved it in her pocket, planning to do just that when the minister asked her to please open it then and there.

The envelope contained two pieces of paper: one an article from the Brooklyn Eagle announcing the reason for Hero’s return to Weeksville. His family, known for their generosity to causes dedicated to uplifting the Negro race, had several monetary gifts for their former neighborhood. The reporter recounted the family’s harrowing escape from the South then chronicled their rise to wealth. Their most recent success was attributed to the series of fireworks Hero had designed over the last two years. The article ended by quoting Hero.

“Yes, God has blessed us with success, but I’ll be forever grateful to a muse who inspired me late one August night.”

Adelaide re-read the quote several times. Just seeing the words “August night” set her sex pulsing. She laid the article aside and read the second piece of paper. A hot fist of awakening curled low in her belly as she mouthed its simple words.

Let’s light the fire again.

About the Author

Michal Scott is the erotic romance pen name of Anna Taylor Sweringen, a retired United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister. Inspired by the love mystics of Begijn, Audre Lourde and Bell Hooks, Rev. Anna writes erotica and erotic romance with a faith arc, hoping to build a bridge between the sacred and secular, spirituality and sexuality, erotica and Christ, you and a well-written spiritually-stimulating and erotically-arousing story. She uses story settings to give insight into the African American experience in the US. Besides erotic romance, she writes inspirational and sweet romance as Anna Taylor and gothic romance and women’s fiction as Anna M. Taylor. Sign up for Michal’s newsletter so she can keep in touch with you: https://mailchi.mp/106e6b05cdfe/michal-scotts-newsletter

Has the Runaway Bride Returned?

Imagine our surprise, dear reader, at what we saw today on the corner of Milsem and Bond Streets. A certain runaway bride, six months gone from London.

You may remember the scandal we wrote about six months ago; a nobody of a chit, Miss F., who trapped Lord B., the handsome and mysterious earl, into marriage. She was discovered in his bed. Drugged and placed there by her wicked uncle, the earl said. Said we, pull the other one, my lord.

Whoever came up with the ruse, they were wed within days, and a week later the new Lady B. disappeared, run away with a sailor.

Lord B. retired from Society immediately after. Does he know she has returned? And what will he do when he finds out?

‘A Gentleman Honors His Word’ is a bonus short story in the new box set by the Bluestocking Belles, coming out on 15 November. In Holiday Escapes, four runaway brides who first saw their stories told in the Bluestocking Belles’ first box set, long out of publication, are brought together again.

Holidays, relatives, pressure to marry—sometimes it is all too much. Is it any wonder a woman may need to escape? The heroines in this collection of stories aren’t afraid to take matters into their own hands when they’ve had enough.

Holiday Escapes

The Ultimate Escape, by Susana Ellis On the eve of her wedding, Julia needs to take a moment to consider what she is doing, and where better than 100 years in the past? Unfortunately, Oliver finds a way to chase her through time.

Under the Mistletoe, by Sherry Ewing Margaret Templeton will settle for Captain Morledge’s hand in marriage, until she sees the man she once loved at her second-best bridegroom’s Christmas party. 

Gingerbread Bride, by Jude Knight Travelling with her father’s fleet has not prepared Mary Pritchard for London. When she strikes out on her own, she finds adventure, trouble, and her girlhood hero, riding once more to her rescue.

A Dangerous Nativity, by Caroline Warfield With Christmas coming, can the Earl of Chadbourn repair his widowed sister’s damaged estate, and far more damaged family? Dare he hope for love in the bargain? 

These stories are republished here at 20% of the cost of collecting them all from each individual author

But wait, there’s more

Two bonus short stories round out the collection.

The Fugitive Fiancée

What can a penniless orphan do, when faced with a malodorous baron and an authoritarian baroness? She can run, that’s what.

A Gentleman Honors His Word

Dickon marries Letty to save her, but she flees him a week after the wedding, and runs off with a sailor. Now he has until their ship reaches London to give her a good reason to come home.

Order now

Order now from Amazon. Other links coming.

Wexford’s Mistress Abroad

Once again, London is all atwitter.

By all accounts, the 1777 season has been one of the juiciest in decades. Not the least of which is what’s gone on in London outside of the ballrooms. The failed attempt on King George’s life caused the death of one of the most trusted members of his staff. The handsome Atticus Wexford, who set many a heart to flutter among the young ladies of the Ton, was scheduled to leave the employ of the king immediately after the rebellion was quelled. However, he never made it to the end. Then, from the grave, Mr. Wexford continued to raise eyebrows, when he did the unthinkable and left his entire fortune to his mistress!

The mistress in question was none other than Anjanette Shelby, the most prized jewel of the courtesan set. According to reports, after a few drinks at White’s, men began to refer to her as Miss Spectacular Bosom and boasted of the time each had spent with her. Whether true or not, it’s anyone’s guess if these men ever got to see the inside of Miss Shelby’s lodgings, but if even half of the boasts were true, Miss Shelby has been a most busy lady. I know married women all over town are greatly relieved that Miss Shelby has used her new fortune to buy her way out of London. Rumor has it she’s starting a new life in South Africa. Or maybe it’s America. We’ll probably never know for certain which untamed country she fled to, or if she’ll continue to entertain gentlemen in her new location. We only know London has lost one of its most colorful lightskirts. The male population of England is in mourning.

About the Book

She was running from a past and the many men she’d been a mistress to.

He was deeply involved in The Revolutionary War, a jealous mistress, leaving him no time for any woman.

When Anjanette Shelby, now answering to the name Liberty Wexford, and half French/half Passamaquoddy native American Hawk Gentry literally run into each other on the unruly streets of Boston, they begin a tentative friendship. Despite their mutual decisions not to involve themselves with others, the sparks they set off in each other cannot be denied.

When Libby’s past is exposed before she’s had time to explain her life choices to Hawk, she realizes she has not run fast enough or far enough. Will Hawk be man enough to forgive her past, or will his distaste for women of her prior profession taint his impression of Libby? Will the Revolutionary War overtake any hope of a future for them?

Buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08KQCY1K5

An excerpt

Anjanette’s body finally unclenched after six weeks aboard ship. She took a long, cleansing breath as the last of the first-class passengers departed the ship. It would soon be her turn to leave. She’d kept a low profile during the entire voyage and successfully traversed the Atlantic without her identity being uncovered. Her dresses, though well made, were modest and serviceable. She kept her hair in a chignon with no adornments. If anything, she had become a chameleon, imitating the other second-class passengers to better blend in.

She gathered her possessions and placed them back into her satchel. She fingered her favorite necklace, the last piece of jewelry her final benefactor, Atticus Wexford, had given her.

“Thank you, darling, for giving me the gift of my freedom.” She wiped the tears from her cheeks and took a deep breath. Atticus had given her far more than a necklace. He had given her the ability to reset her life. To begin anew. They’d been making plans to leave England behind, just as soon as he completed his final mission for the government. Neither ever imagined his final mission would be his last, ever. Fortunately, he had revised his will, leaving her his entire fortune. She wiped her final tears away.

She packed away the necklace along with her old identity. Anjanette Shelby, the most coveted courtesan in all of London, was no more. Liberty Wexford was about to disembark and live out the rest of her days in colonial America. Suddenly, the cabin was too confining, the ship was too small. She needed to breathe in the free air of America.

The ship steward stood next to the ramp, ticking the names of the passengers off the manifest. He glanced at her and smiled. “Miss Shelby, I didn’t see much of you during the voyage. Did you fare well, or were you suffering from seasickness?”

She returned his smile. This steward had been kind to her during her trip. “Some, at the beginning of the voyage, but I had a lot of reading to do. Thank you for asking, James.”

“Well, you’re free to go. Enjoy your stay in Boston, Miss Shelby.”

Free to go.

She glanced at the steward. “Can you recommend some accommodations?”

“Yes, there’s a really nice hotel, The Hartford, just up the street a few blocks.” He motioned to the cobblestoned street leading away from the busy dock. “I can arrange to have your trunks delivered there.”

“That would be wonderful. Thank you.” This young man had done his best to assure she had a good trip. She poked her fingers into her reticule and brought forth some bills, which she handed to him. His smile grew even larger.

He called after her. “Goodbye, Miss Shelby.”

She glanced back at him and waved as she whispered, “It’s no longer Miss Shelby. I’m Liberty Wexford now.”

Her steps were light as she touched the cobblestones, although it took her a few minutes to adjust to being on land again. Were it not for the spectacle she would cause, she’d fall to her knees and kiss the street. Even though the cobblestoned streets and the buildings hugging the sides of the road gave the appearance of any of a number of cities in England, this was America. She had a clean slate here. She straightened her hat, shifted her bag from one hand to the other, and set off for the hotel the steward had suggested. After she found lodging, she’d find a job. Boston should look out. Libby Wexford just landed.

About the Author

Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the United States in search of great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love amid the backdrop of a great setting. Her Cotillion Ball Series features the nine children from an upscale New York family prior to and during the Civil War. A regular contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After section, her books have been featured in the column on ten separate occasions. Becky and her rescue dog, Mary, love to hear from readers at beckylowerauthor@gmail.com. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com .

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