This heavily perfumed missive from Miss Mary Carlton to Lady Elsbeth Willknott has gone astray and finds itself in the Tattler

gerard_ter_borch_d-_j-_001Cambridgeshire, 1826

My dear Elsbeth,

How I wish you were here for a heart to heart talk. Who else can I confide in? Do tell me you will return soon. Mother refuses to see what is beneath her nose, and father—well, he’s as blind as the rest of the men.

Why are gentlemen unable to see what is obvious to the supposed weaker half of the population? Well, we know why. Where Certain Women are concerned, they do not always make use of their minds.  A woman may make herself look delicate and helpless, bat her eyes, and lean on a man’s arm, and men assume she is what she wishes to appear. They do not see the artifice, catch the avid gleam in the eye, or hear the nasty undertone when she speaks with those of her own sex.

emma_hart_later_lady_hamilton_george_romney_rothschild_collection_mfa_bostonYou and I both know Miss Julia Barrett, the squire’s daughter, for the harpy she is, while the men see only her delicate figure, blond hair, and adoring blue eyes.  They do not hear how she mocks them to other women. They do not see her forward behavior. I believe, dear one, that she is no better than she should be.

Julia fluttered, blushed, and swooned into the arms of Mr. Rand Wheatly, oozing sweetness, until that poor lovesick gentleman lost all reason. He has hung on her lisping speech and adoring gaze for weeks, solicitous to each spoken or unspoken need. He praises her as a delicate flower of English womanhood. Behind his back she laughs at his goodness.

The poor fool made the mistake of introducing her to his cousin. True to her nature, she turned her attention to Charles Wheatly who, after all, is a duke, while Rand Wheatly is simply mister. I have watched her keep both on the end of her silken tether, flirting shamelessly with whichever one is in front of her behind the back of whichever is absent.

Today I happened upon Mr. Rand Wheatly in front of the millinery shop. He looked so rapt in thought that I followed his eyes to see what had his attention. Less than a block away Julia Barrett clung to His Grace’s arm, leaning her bosoms against it in a most shocking manner while staring into his eyes. Mr. Rand Wheatly looked as if he had been slapped. Mark my words. She will bring the duke up to scratch and soon.

Neither Mr. Wheatly nor his ducal cousin seems aware of her shamelessly forward behavior when men from the King’s regiment garrisoned nearby attend assemblies. I know for fact she has evaded all chaperonage for assignations with more than one of them. My brother mentioned seeing her near their quarters. Did Ralph express disapproval of that? No! He said he envied the officers.

I long, dear Elsbeth, for tea and a cozy talk. Do come home soon.

Your friend,

A horrid thought wormed its way into my brain. Isn’t Rand Wheatly’s brother an officer garrisoned nearby? What if Julia has thrown herself at all three of them? She’ll make trouble in that family. Mark my words.

CRITICALTheRenegadeWifeJulia does indeed make trouble for the cousins.

The Renegade Wife
Betrayed by his cousin and the woman he loved, reclusive Rand Wheatly flees England, his dreams of a loving family shattered. He clings to his solitude in an isolated cabin in Upper Canada. Returning from a business trip to find a widow and two children squatting in his house, he flies into a rage. He wants her gone, but her children are sick and injured, and his heart is not as hard as he likes to pretend.

Meggy Blair harbors a secret, and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her children safe. She’d hopes to hide with her Ojibwa grandmother, if she can find the woman and her people. She doesn’t expect to find shelter with a quiet, solitary man, a man who lowers his defensive walls enough to let Meggy and her children in.

Their idyllic interlude is shattered when Meggy’s brutal husband appears to claim his children. She isn’t a widow, but a wife, a woman who betrayed the man she was supposed to love, just as Rand’s sweetheart betrayed him. He soon discovers why Meggy is on the run, but time is running out. To save them all, Rand must return and face his demons.

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Caroline Warfield is a Bluestocking Belle. You can learn more about her here or visit her website.