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!
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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
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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.