As happens on occasion, The Tattler has received a cache of letters
and documents exchanged between two cousins relating to historical events of
the late 17th century. Whenever such papers cast light on affairs of the past
that may now affect the present we feel it our duty to publish such information
as may be found therein. I will not editorialize upon the contents of the
letter published below except to say that any thinking person may well draw the
connecting lines between the events referred to in the letter and the events
now occuring on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean. Our soldiers are giving
their lives to regain the lands which England settled, but the cause of that
original revolt and the present difficulties without a doubt lies in free and
easy access to armaments. Armaments which, as I understand it, are still being
supplied to our enemies by men who dare to call themselves English, all in the
name of filty lucre.
My dearest Maude,
I have very little hope that this letter will produce any
change in the devestating circumstances occurring here in Plymouth colony and
elsewhere throughout English territories here. However, having received
information to the detriment of our people and our government representatives throughout
the colonies, I am morally compelled to share that information and my outrage
at the deceptions being practiced in the name of England.
I refer, my dearest cousin, to the illegal and immoral trade
in weapons between a majority of English colonists and the indigenous peoples
who share our marvelous new world colonies. I have received word from relatives
and friends–in particular one Wm. Bradford that their lives and homes are
threatened by the insidious trade in guns made with the local natives.
And I quote “Base covetousness hat got such a sway, as
our own safety we ourselves betray; For these fierce natives, they are now so
fill’d, with guns and muskets and in them so skill’d, as they may keep the
English in awe . . .” And from a friend who experienced the very disasters
so portended by Mr. Bradford “The trees stood like sentinels and bullets
flew, from every bush (a shelter for their cre)/Hence came our wounds and
deaths from every side, While skulking enemies squat undescried.”
As you know I reside in Boston, but I live in fear daily,
The streets are crowded with survivors of the depredations of natives who seem
to have taken innocent farmers in hatred with little cause. My husband assures
me that there is cause enough for our new Governor has attempted to halt the
illegal trade in firearms and the natives strongly object. Those objections
take the form of retribution hailed in bullets upon all and sundry English.
The crux of the matter is that it is we ourselves who are to
blame for this dire circumstance. Had we not initiated the trade in guns, shot,
and powder, there would exist no threat to our citizens.
I write in hope that you will encourage your spouse, who
stands to parliament will act to intervene in this disaster. I also wish to inform
you that we will be leaving Boston to return to England within the next six
months. It is entirely too dangerous here.
Most sincerely, your beloved cousin
Readers: The above letter is an imagined correspondence
between two fictional women based on my reading of Thundersticks by David L. Silverman. Mr.
Silverman’s text published in 2016 sheds interesting light on the impact of
guns and the gun trade on the lives of Native Americans between roughly 1600
and 1900. If you’d like more information about this book please click on the cover
Where, oh where, is the Duke of
Reddington? Since the 23-year-old Viscount Tisdale acceded to the dukedom upon
the death of his father last month, he seems to have disappeared. A certain
housemaid in the Half Moon Street residence of the volatile beauty known as La
Fantasia (with whom, readers may recall, the viscount has for some time enjoyed
an intimate acquaintance) informs the Tattler that the young duke
returned to Town after the funeral only to quarrel violently with his
inamorata, at last being driven from the beauty’s abode by means of vases,
figurines, and sundry other bric-a-brac hurled at his head.
When questioned as to the duke’s
whereabouts, Sir Ethan Brundy will only say that the duke is seeing to one of
the several estates that came to the young man along with his ducal title. Pressed
for particulars, he declined to specify which estate, claiming that the duke
controls so many he cannot keep them all straight. Given that the late duke had
sufficient confidence in Sir Ethan’s intelligence to name him executor of his
will, we at the Tattler suspect his professed ignorance is, in fact,
false modesty. Readers will remember that Sir Ethan is the brother-in-law of
the young duke (having married the duke’s sister four years ago in what at that
time was called the mésalliance of the century) as well as the political
rival of Sir Valerian Wadsworth, both men currently standing for the same seat
in the House of Commons.
Adding to the mystery, a young
man fitting the duke’s description has been sighted in a Lancashire village
near Manchester—specifically, at what was formerly the home of the late Mr.
Henry Drinkard, now converted to a boardinghouse run by his widow and daughter,
Daphne, the latter being a promising young poetess whose work the Tattler
has had the honour to publish.
But what’s this? An examination
of public records by one of our intrepid reporters indicates that none of the
duke’s holdings are located in Lancashire; however, that northwestern county is
the location of a thriving cotton mill owned by none other than Sir Ethan
Brundy himself. Can it be that Sir Ethan knows more than he is telling? And
where do Mrs. Drinkard and Miss Drinkard fit into the puzzle?
We are pleased to assure readers that our intrepid reporter is on the case, and we hope to have an answer very soon to the Mystery of the Disappearing Duke.
“Truth to tell, Ethan, I’m deuced glad you’re
here” Theo confessed. “I’d be obliged to you if you can advance me something on
my inheritance—just enough to tide me over until the will is probated, you
Sir Ethan shook his head. “Much as I’d like to
oblige you, I can’t.”
But—well, but dash it, Ethan! You’re the executor, aren’t you?”
“Aye, I am.”
“Theodore, all that means is that I’m charged
with making sure the terms of your father’s will are carried out the way ’e
intended—and that includes seeing to it that everything is done open and
“But it’s my own money, dash it!” Theodore
Sir Ethan nodded. “And you’ll get it, all in
“Good time for you, maybe!”
“Aye, and for you. After all, you’d not like it
if I started doling out legacies to your father’s valet, or housekeeper, or
butler, would you?”
“But the money’s rightfully theirs,” he added
with a look of bland innocence in his brown eyes. “It says so in the will.”
“It’s not at all the same thing!”
“It is so far as the law is concerned. If I
were to distribute so much as a farthing from your father’s estate before
probate is granted, I’d open meself up to legal action.”
would be the logical one to bring any such action against you, and it’s not
like I’m going to prefer charges against you for giving my money to me!”
might not do so, but your father’s lawyer might,” his brother pointed out. “
’e’d be within ’is rights, too. In fact, ’e might even consider it an
obligation to ’is grace.”
“Crumpton is my lawyer now—and he’d do well to remember it!”
“Aye, that ’e is. And if you know ’e can’t be
trusted to look out for your father’s interests, ’ow can you trust ’im to look
after yours?” Seeing this observation had deprived his young relation of
speech, Sir Ethan added gently, “What’s the matter, you young fool? Surely you
’aven’t got yourself rolled up within a se’ennight of in’eriting the title?”
“I’m not ‘rolled up,’ ” Theodore protested.
“I’ve got plenty of money—or I will have, as soon as it comes into my
“Is it that little ladybird you’ve ’ad in
“No—that is, not entirely, but—dash it, Ethan,
she expected me to marry her! I may have been green, but I’m not such a flat as
all that! And when she saw I couldn’t
be persuaded, or seduced, or coerced into it—” He broke off, shuddering at the
“Didn’t take it well, did she?” Sir Ethan
Theodore gave him a rather sheepish grin.
“Lord, you never saw such a shrew! It made me think that perhaps I’m well out
of a bad business. But I couldn’t let it get about that she’d ditched me, so I
went to Rundell and Bridge and bought her the most expensive thing they had.”
Sir Ethan, who had bestowed upon his wife more
than one bauble from this establishment and thus had a very good idea of the
prices to be found therein, gave a long, low whistle.
“And then,” Theodore continued, “I went to
White’s and—well, I just wanted to forget about it, just for a little while—not
just Fanny, but all of it: the dukedom, and the steward and his blasted
‘improvements,’ and the House of Lords, where I’ll no doubt be expected to take
my seat, and—oh, you don’t understand!”
“Actually, I do,” said his brother with a
faraway look in his eyes.
Theodore, intent on his own troubles, paid no
heed to the interruption. “And I can’t let it get out that the Duke of
Reddington don’t pay his debts, for we’ve had quite enough of that in the
family already! But I don’t have to tell you
that—God knows you shelled out enough blunt, towing Papa out of the River
Tick.” At this recollection, a new possibility occurred to him. “I say, Ethan,
I don’t suppose you would be willing to lend me the ready? Just until the will
is probated, you know, and at any interest rate you care to name,” he added
hastily, lest his brother-in-law balk at agreeing to this proposal.
Sir Ethan gave him an appraising look, and
asked, “ ’ow much do you need?”
Theodore told him.
“You’ve managed to run through that much in
less than a fortnight?” demanded his brother-in-law.
“No!” Theodore said, bristling. “That is, I’ll
admit I’ve spent more than I should, but old Crumpton says the will could take
months! A fellow has to have something to live on in the meantime.”
This figure, while high, seemed quite
reasonable compared to the sum Theodore had felt necessary to sustain him for
the few months it might take for the will to go through probate.
“All right, then,” pronounced Sir Ethan. “It’s
Theodore was moved to seize his brother’s hand
and wring it gratefully. “I say, Ethan, you’re a great gun! You’ll have every
penny of it back, I promise—and, as I said, at any rate of interest you care to
Sir Ethan shook his head. “There’ll be no
interest. As for paying me back, you don’t ’ave to do that—at least, not in
pounds, shillings, and pence.”
This assurance left Theodore more than a little
puzzled. “What do you want, then?”
“You’ll pay me back by working it off.” In case
further explanation was needed, he added, “In the mill.”
About the Book
When 23-year-old Theodore becomes Duke of Reddington after his father dies, his new responsibilities are enough to send him off in a blind panic. Within days, he’s amassed a pile of debts, which his brother-in-law, mill owner Ethan Brundy, agrees to pay—provided Theo works in the mill until his father’s will is probated. In the meantime, Theo has a lot to learn about how the other half lives—and there’s no one better qualified to teach him than Daphne Drinkard, forced to take in boarders since the death of her father has left her and her mother penniless.
About the Author
Sheri Cobb South is the bestselling author of the John
Pickett mysteries (now an award-winning audiobook series!) as well as Regency
romances, including the critically acclaimed The Weaver Takes a Wife and
its sequel The Desperate Duke, winner of the 2019 Colorado Authors
League Award for Best Romance Novel.
While perusing the dusty records of St. Ignatius All Angels Church, our humble reporter, discovered a pair of cryptic letters between the parish vicar and a benighted parishioner. If only we knew the story behind these letters. What a tale that would be!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
15 November 1816
The Reverend Albion Stern, St. Ignatius All Angels Church, 18 Clappersgate, Oxford
Dearest Mr. Stern,
As a constituent of your parish in good standing with God Almighty
and the Church of England, I feel it my duty, nay, my righteous obligation to
inform you of a most unseemly affair involving two misguided members of your flock.
I wish not to gossip, but my conscience compels me to share the sordid details
if only to protect the tender sensibilities of our impressionable youth.
As you know, the families of Mr. Adam Ashford and Miss Jane
Hancock have been engaged in a distasteful feud for nigh on seven decades. Some
two months ago, both families fell under a financial cloud that drew them to
the brink of shameful bankruptcy. Rather than facing the appropriate
consequences, Mr. Ashford and Miss Hancock absconded on a fool’s errand to the
nether realms of England – together, and with only the merest of chaperones.
While this news is indeed shocking, the events of their subsequent journey
serve to mortify.
I have it on good faith from a reputable source that while
gallivanting about the country these foolish youngsters fell into the company
of sailors, drunks, rabble, poets, lawyers, and all other manner of low folk.
They rode swine wagons in one another’s company, broke into a garrisoned
fortress through subterfuge, and communed with druids. They slept on floors, in
fields, and in public places as if common vagrants. They traipsed through
church graveyards with fanciful tales of giants and no respect for the dead.
They dug through any number of ruins, hollows, and holes in the ground in
search of unholy treasure. It was said even that they walked with Beelzebub.
All the while, they engaged in very public acts of congress, including the
holding of hands and, yes, the impassioned locking of lips.
As a humble parishioner, I believe it only appropriate to
bring this ignoble matter to your venerable attention. These events leave me
deeply disturbed. Your swift condemnation of Mr. Ashford and Miss Hancock would
put my heart at ease and my soul at rest.
Phineas T. Lilywhite
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
19 November 1816
Mr. Phineas T. Lilywhite, Number 5 Grapevine Way, Oxford
Dear Mr. Lilywhite,
You have my deepest gratitude for bringing this matter to my
attention. I wholeheartedly agree. You are indeed deeply disturbed. For this
malady, I will offer heartfelt prayers of intercession on your behalf.
Regarding the rumors, I can confirm their veracity. Your
source relayed the events of the affair between Mr. Ashford and Miss Hancock
with a commendable degree of accuracy and detail. However, as your vicar, I
consider it my obligation to instruct you spiritually in this matter. I will do
so by referencing two holy scriptures. First, consider Matthew 5:44, where the Good
Lord admonishes us to love our enemies. Mr. Ashford and Miss Hancock have
practiced this particular teaching far beyond anything I have witnessed before.
My heart swells with pride.
Second, consider Proverbs 26:3 – “You must whip a horse, you
must bridle a mule, and you must beat a fool.” For the sake of your physical
health, I pray that you will take less interest in the affairs of others and
more interest in maintaining open eyelids during my sermons. Perhaps then you
would have heard my reading of the banns these past two Sundays and recognized
the names of a particular young couple. Furthermore, you would have known that
Beelzebub will be in attendance at the wedding and that you should therefore
take appropriate precautions.
Grace and Peace to You, sir, and give my regards to your
poor, miserable wife.
Mr. Albion Stern, St. Ignatius All Angels Church
About the Book
The Hancocks and Ashfords have had a long-standing feud between their families long before Miss Jane Hancock couldn’t stand the sight of gentleman farmer Adam Ashford. But after both families fall on hard times and an unscrupulous creditor forces Jane and Adam to sign a devil’s bargain, they’ll finally understand the true meaning of keeping your enemies close at hand.
The terms of this bargain? Locate a lost treasure shrouded in deception and mystery.
The catch? Only one can claim it to win…the loser is left to ruin.
As Jane and Adam embark on a trek throughout England they plan to hate their adversary, no matter how attractive, generous, and kind they are.
Sometimes, plans change…
About the Author
After self-publishing science fiction novels over a period of years, I made the truly odd move into historical romance. Although romance is a strong thread in nearly all my works, I came to straight-up, nothing-but-romance only after turning fifty. Since then, I am plagued by the question, “What took me so long?” My awakening began rather innocuously when I casually watched the 2015 version of Poldark. Before I knew, I was falling headlong into the abyss of historical romance and read fifteen such novels over a three-month span. However, no number could sufficiently scratch my itch for more, so I did what any writer would do and began constructing stories of my own. In April of 2019, I received my first contract with Entangled Publishing.
It is with the greatest of reluctance that I put pen to paper. I am not, I assure your readers, sir, one to speak ill of my fellows, but I also believe most strongly that we of the highest ranks must set a good example to others.
Sadly, what I have observed with my own eyes leads me to believe that a previous correspondent to your paper has the right of it. One of the highest ladies in the land outside of the Royal Family has, indeed, been led into the most grevious of errors by the kindness of her heart.
Just the other night, I was at the theatre. It was not a memorable occasion to begin with — a very mediocre crowd, and much focused on some actor from the provinces who was making his debut on the London stage. At the interval, however, a vast crowd, all very merry, joined us, which was a great improvement, for what is the point of getting dressed to attend the theatre, if few people see you?
But I digress.
Miss C., a young person (I do not say ‘lady’, though she aspires to such) who currently lives in the household of the great lady I mentioned, was reprimanded — very properly, I might add — by the cousin who is the head of her family, and responded most pertly.
Are these the manners she learns at a ducal table, I ask you?
Perhaps so. You will be shocked — I was shocked, sir — to know that one much closer to the great lady’s heart (though not precisely what a proper gentlewoman would consider family) was also seen behaving scandalously a few days earlier.
I happened to be walking in Hyde Park on one of the first days without snow and fog, and I came across Miss J. G. in the arms of Lord D., who has been heard to wager he will be there to catch the maiden, if maiden she be, when she falls.
Miss J. G., you will know, is said to be the ward of said great lady (though the polite world knows she has no right to be in a ducal household, unless in the most menial — or the most scandalous of positions). It appears she has inherited the appetites of the mother who gave away her virtue to the great lady’s husband.
I interrupted them and they were soon after joined by Miss J. G.’s sister and Lord H. — another scandalous pairing.
Furthermore, the newly minted earl, Lord C., might look to the company that his sister, Lady F., is keeping under the sponsorship of the great lady. As if walking the back alleys of London with only a one-handed footman for protection is not foolish enough, she has now taken up with the Recluse of Cambridge!
Alas. One hears rumours that the great lady’s husband is ailing, and that his ailment is of the type to affect the brain. Perhaps the condition is infectious, for what else can explain such terrible flaws in judgement on the part of a lady we should all look up to.
I am sure you and your readers will join me in my concern over the ruin that encouraging such behaviours will make of public morals. In my own family, moral turpitude had such terrible consequences that my only recourse was to flee my home. Let a public outcry arise before London likewise sinks entirely into the mire.
I remain, most sincerely,
Lady Ashbury, is, of course, having a go at the Duchess of Haverford, patroness of a Ladies’ Society formed to help veterans. She also takes a swipe at the heroines of three of the stories, plus Jessica Grenford, the sister of my heroine, Matilda Grenford.
For more about these stories of love in a time of ice, see our Fire & Frost page, which has blurbs for each story and buy links for most retailers of ebooks. You can also buy Fire & Frost in print from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Lady Asbury appears in my Children of the Mountain King series. She is the wicked sister-in-law of my Earl of Ashbury, the hero of the second book, who is one of the people she is accusing of moral turpitude; safely enough, because he hasn’t ventured from his estate since he recovered from the injury that crippled him to find his wife and brother dead, children sent off to school, and sister-in-law gone.
Mr. Clemens: Today we welcome Evan Irving,
owner and editor of the Howard City
Journal in Howard City, Wyoming.
Mr. Irving: Thank you for having me as
your guest. I’m honored to meet you.
Mr. C: Always nice to meet another
newspaper man and writer. However, I’m interested in learning about these
people, Maeve and Luke Sullivan. Can you tell me how you met?
Mr. I: Luke and I met when he came to
Howard City about three years ago. He hired on as a deputy sheriff. Everyone
was impressed with his dedication to duty. He proved himself when the bank was
held up and he helped our sheriff apprehend the robbers. When the sheriff
decided to retire, Luke was the obvious choice to take over.
Mr. C: What about his wife?
Mr. I: She was a proxy bride arranged by
his aunt and his mother, who are sisters. Luke had already sent for his mother,
who worked as a cook at the Sunshine Boarding House. I can tell you, the food
has made remarkable improvement since she’s been here. I digress.
After his uncle’s death in Boston, Luke
and his mother wanted to bring the aunt here to live. Now Luke’s dad isn’t dead, he’s an officer on
a sailing ship dealing in imports and exports. He sends home most of his wages
for the mother to save for their retirement. In a couple of years they plan to
buy a nice cottage with a plot for a garden.
Mr. C: You’re digressing again.
Mr. I: Oh, yes, sorry. Maeve worked with
the aunt in a laundry. She’d come from Ireland hoping for a better life. Did not
find it. The aunt and Luke’s mother conspired to marry Maeve and Luke by proxy.
Was he ever mad when he found out he had a bride on the way. Worse, Maeve’s
fare was paid for by none other than his own mother from her retirement savings.
He’s a good man, though, and consented to keep up his end.
Mr. C: They got their happy ever after,
Mr. I: Eventually, you see both of them
are strong people used to ruling their own lives. That made for some interesting
conversations. Maeve helped him capture a wanted man so she received enough
reward to repay her mother-in-law. Then, there were the threats.
Mr. C: Don’t stop there. What kind of
Mr. I: The railway and the miners were
about to have an explosive situation. I couldn’t see how it could be resolved
without violence. Howard County and Howard City don’t have strong leadership.
Solving the problem was up to Luke—although many of us were backing him. I
suggest you read A BRIDE FOR LUKE to learn more.
Mr. C: Well, ahem, I don’t have a lot of
time, you know, with all my correspondence and my own writing. I suppose I can
make an effort this time. Thank you for coming, Mr. Irving.
Mr. I: My pleasure, Mr. Clemens.
A Bride for Luke
Each is struggling to
build a better life . . .
Two strong-willed people
are bound to clash . . .
Danger forces them to
focus on what is at stake . . .
Maeve Kelly came to America for a better
life but found only signs that said No
Irish Need Apply. When the cousin with whom she is staying leaves Boston,
Maeve is left desperate. Her job at the laundry doesn’t pay enough for her to
survive alone. Her friend suggests a way out, Maeve resists but finally
accepts. What else can she do?
Sheriff Luke Sullivan is proud of his
accomplishments. Known for his strong principles, he is admired and
well-respected in the community. When he learns his mother and aunt have
schemed to get him a proxy bride he’s furious. If he’d wanted a wife he would
have found one. He respects and loves his mother and finally agrees to the
marriage. Before he and his bride can adjust to one another, Luke is caught in
the middle of an explosive situation between striking miners and the
against Luke by each side have him fearing for the safety of his wife, mother,
and aunt. He must resolve the strike to protect his family and many others.
Will he succeed in time to save lives?
He pushed back
from the table. “How can I keep you safe if you don’t follow orders? Do you
She put her hands
on her hips. “Oh, so it’s orders you’re giving me, is it? Weel, Lucas Brady
Sullivan, I take orders from no man. Do you understand?”
making something from nothing.” He tapped his chest. “I’m your husband. You
promised to obey me when we wed.”
That brought her
temper down a notch. She had promised and Father Patrick had lectured her on
the husband being the head of the household. “Mayhap I did, but not high-handed
“And what would
you consider obeying? You want a written invitation to remain home? Shall I
show you the other wanted poster and suggest you avoid that man? You’ve no idea
what these other men look like so how would you know if they were walking down
the street or shopping in the Mercantile? How can you know who’s an upstanding
citizen and who’s a stranger in town? You were in front of the Mercantile when
Higgins accosted you.”
She turned toward
the sink, hands on her face to hide her shame. “Aye, ‘tis sorry I am. The worry
of what’s going to happen has me in bits. I can’t get out of my mind the fact
someone may shoot at you from an ambush.”
He wrapped his
arms around her. “Don’t fret, honey. I’m doing my best to keep this situation
from becoming violent. I can’t focus on my job if I’m worried about where you
are and what you’re doing and who’s around you.”
She leaned her
head against his broad chest. His strong heartbeat reassured her. “I see the
way I was wrong. ‘Twas my mistake and ‘tis sorry I am.”
She looked up at
him. “But, for us to have a peaceful marriage you’d best consider making
requests instead of giving orders.”
About the Author
a crazy twist of fate, Caroline Clemmons was not born on a Texas ranch. To compensate for this illogical error,
she writes about handsome cowboys, feisty ranch women, and scheming villains in
a tiny office her family calls her pink cave. She and her Hero live in North
Central Texas cowboy country where they ride herd on their three rescued indoor
cats and dog as well as providing nourishment outdoors for squirrels, birds,
and other critters.
books she creates in her pink cave have made her a bestselling author and won
awards. She writes sweet to sensual romances about the West, both historical
and contemporary as well as time travel and mystery. Her series include the
Kincaids, McClintocks, Stone Mountain Texas, Bride Brigade, Texas Time Travel,
Texas Caprock Tales, Pearson Grove, and Loving A Rancher as well as numerous
single titles and contributions to multi-author sets. When she’s not writing,
she loves spending time with her family, reading her friends’ books, lunching
with friends, browsing antique malls, checking Facebook, and taking the
occasional nap. Find her on her blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Pinterest.
her and other readers at Caroline’s
Cuties, a Facebook readers group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/277082053015947/ for
special excerpts, exchanging ideas, contests, giveaways, recipes, and talking
to like-minded people about books and other fun things.
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disaster that ends happily—but you knew it would, didn’t you?