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Stolen Missives

Editorial Note: This packet of correspondence came to the Tattler offices when one of our reporters shared drinks with a man at the Bull and Codfish pub. The young man, who seems to be a careless footman in the employ of Mrs. Andrew Mallet of Bedford Square, left it on the table. We of course forwarded the entire packet on to its correct destination.

Mr. Clemens made copies first, but given the involvement of the Foreign Office, he declared they were not to be published. He must have forgotten to lock his desk. Besides, nothing here relates to matters of national interest.

To the Duchess of Sudbury,

Lily, I am in London, but not at home to callers, family excepted of course. Andrew remains in Cambridge, make of that what you will. When I tell you what has happened you will understand my need to live apart. I beg your support.

I know you send private mail to Richard via official couriers and the packet ships. May I ask you to send the enclosed message as soon as it can be arranged? I need his help and my son must be alerted. I trust him to inform his nephew cautiously.

Athena is gone to Italy.

I know that shocks you, but perhaps not is much as it ought. Since the Heyworths’ visit five years ago she has spoken of nothing but Italy, reminding me daily that in Italy there are medical schools that admit women. The desire to study medicine is admirable; you and I would both cheer her on if the girl was, not to mince words, normal. Even if she could cope with strangers…but of course she cannot.

She sailed from Falmouth a week ago. Her brother Archie, who perpetrated this insanity, accompanied her, which would be a saving grace if I thought he could handle her in a crisis. Her father, the wretch, professes to be proud of him. For a scholar Andrew can be remarkably obtuse. I can’t imagine how the poor girl managed the ship to Rome, much less life in a foreign country. I dread the condition we will find her in when she returns.

I discovered this morning that Lochlin assisted Archie as well. I can forgive a young man— they often think with body parts other than their brains—but I can’t forgive her father. I suspect Andrew actually abetted the young fools. He denies it, but I don’t believe him.

Enough! I will tell you all when I see you.

Georgiana

Editorial Note: The young lady in question, Miss Catherine Mallet, known to her family as Athena, is a recluse who shuns society after some unfortunate incidents of panic and hysteria (this paper has reason to know one such incident occurred in the Pembrook’s ballroom). She rarely leaves the family home in Cambridge except to visit close relatives, and is reputed to have an unnatural interest in the anatomy of animals and humans. Rumors about this abound in that shire, where some consider her quite insane, but others merely the oddest member of a notably eccentric family.

The second missive, in the same hand, although entirely concerning a private matter, was sent through official channels to Cairo. One wonders if that is entirely ethical.

The Duke of Sudbury

Her Majesty’s Envoy to the court of Muhammad Ali Pasha, Khedive of Egypt

Cairo

Dearest Richard,

Forgive me for presuming by sending personal mail through the foreign office channels, and troubling you when you are deep into affairs of state—although when are you not?—but time may be of the essence.

To get right to the point, Archie has taken Athena to Rome from where she expects she can be admitted to medical school. I don’t need to outline for you all the reasons why this is nonsensical. Archie, the coward, sent a message from Falmouth saying that once he had her safely settled (as if that might be possible!), he will travel directly to Edinburgh and begin his own studies.

This will grieve Aeneas mightily. He and Archie quarreled on the subject of Athena shortly before he left for Egypt. Archie has the pudding-brained notion she should be encouraged to pursue studies to be a physician. Aeneas, ever the level headed one where his sister is concerned, knows she should be kept close where we can protect her.

I send this in the hope that you will use your connections to ensure our officials in Italy watch out for them. If I can further impose on your kindness, please make Aeneas aware that this has happened. If it should go badly, he needs warning.

With gratitude,

Your loving sister, Georgiana

PS

Since you have a way of discovering things anyway, I will tell you that Andrew and I have separated over this at least for now. Do not chastise me. I suspect Archie acted with his father’s blessing. I am too angry to patch things over.

PPS

Aeneas may be sensible about his sister but not his work. I count on you to keep him from doing something foolish like plunging deep into Africa in pursuit of some previously undiscovered crumb of knowledge. I want him back in one piece.

G.

Editorial Note:  Our readers who pay follow the doings of the haut ton know that there is little the Duke will not manage on behalf of his family, his friends, or the Empire come to that. They will note, however, how unusual it is to have a one of his circle actually ask for help rather than having it thrust upon them.

About the Author

Caroline Warfield writes family centered historical romance, largely set in the Regency and Victorian eras. The saga of the Mallets, their friends, and their family began with Dangerous Works.

About the Dangerous Series

Dangerous Works (The Mallets’ Story)

A little Greek is one thing; the art of love is another. Only Andrew ever tried to teach Georgiana both.

Dangerous Weakness (Sudbury and Lily’s Story)

A marquess who never loses control (until he does) and a very independent woman conflict, until revolution, politics, and pirates force them to work together. (In which Sudbury had not come into his title and was yet the Marquess of Glenaire)

Dangerous Secrets

When Jamie fled to Rome to hide his shame he didn’t expect a vicar’s daughter and her imp of a niece to take over his life, with complications from an interfering nun, a powerful count, and a genial monk.

A Dangerous Nativity

With Christmas coming, can the Earl of Chadbourn repair his sister’s damaged estate, and more damaged family? Dare he hope for love in the bargain? (A free novella—prequel to both series)

The Children of Empire Series: the Scattered

Three cousins (introduced in A Dangerous Nativity) torn apart by lies and deceit work their way back home from the far corners of empire.

The Renegade Wife

A desperate woman on the run with her children finds shelter with a reclusive businessman in the Canadian wilderness. Can he save them all?

The Reluctant Wife

A disgraced Bengal army officer finds himself responsible for two unexpected daughters and a headstrong widow. This time, failure is not an option.

The Unexpected Wife

The Duke of Murnane expects work to heal him. He doesn’t expect to face his past and find his future in China (The heroine is Sudbury’s daughter)

The Children of Empire Series: the Seekers

This series, expected in mid 2020 will pick up with the travels and adventures of Aeneas, Archie, and Athena Mallet as they pursue their own happiness.

The Lascivious Duchess

The Hare and Ewe Public House, Wheatton

July 1834

Rob Wilkens came in acting like a bug on the edge of a hot kettle the morning the duke left the Hall. We all knew it would be thus and had warned him, but he would insist on taking a job in the big old barn that is Eversham Hall. Fancied the footman’s livery, he did.

“His Grace always leaves as soon as he gets wind the duchess is coming back,” we warned him. I warned him. Warren the blacksmith warned him. Peck from up at the Hall warned him. Hell, even his mother warned him. The Duchess of Murnane is a harpy and that’s a fact.

“She left with some Italian count this time,” he had answered, fool that he was. “Maybe she won’t come back. Italy is so far from Wiltshire, she may as be going to the moon,” he said.

That were two years ago, when the duke came back and his cousin Rand married the Indian woman before they returned to Canada. Lots o’ folks took work at the Hall. His Grace always fills the jobs after she leaves, not that he has to. There are always them that are stupid enough to take her coin until she works ’em half to death, gives ’em the sharp edge of her tongue one time too many, or poisons ’em with her lies.

In the case of comely lads like Rob, she does worse, at least worse for the innocent ones. Some of ’em take what she offers and laugh behind her back, strutting around yard like roosters who got one over on their fellows. Danny Sullivan, though, he fancied himself in love with the woman. When she used him and moved on, she fired him for complaining. His father claimed the gun that killed him was an accident from cleaning the thing, but there were those who thought otherwise.

“What are you going to do?” Warren asked Rob that morning.

“What can I do? My mother needs the coin I send,” Rob said glumly. Danny’d been his friend. I hoped that made him think hard about working there.

“I can be wary, but—” he raised his hands looking helpless.

“What can she do if she comes after you and you say no?” One of the farmers asked him.

“She’ll fire him,” Peck said. “He may as well quit first.” Peck would know. Tough old bastard was too much gristle for the lady’s taste, so he stayed on during the comings and goings, trying to keep things up for the duke’s sake.

We all like the duke well enough, but the county could use his attention. Between the duchess’s outrages and his boy’s illness, he don’t pay much attention to the estate, much less the neighborhood. Even when he’s here he hares off to London often enough, with some government work. “Affairs of State,” Peck called it. It wasn’t like the old days when at least Miss Catherine, she who’s now a countess, lived over at Songbird Cottage and Squire Archer across the river.

“You in charge now?” I asked Peck.

“I can’t manage the books and such, but I keep the boys working,” Peck answered, “Them as stay on. His Grace hired another steward. Starts next week before she comes.”

We all stared into our ale for a while after that. She goes after the stewards first. We figured this one wouldn’t last a year.

“So,” Peck said to Rob, “Are you quitting or staying? Old Banks will help you duck out of her attention.” We all knew the butler, Banks, was useless against the duchess. Rob did too. Peck raised his tankard and gave Rob a sly look over the top before he took a sip. “You can just take what she offers. Some do.”

Rob shuddered. “Makes me feel dirty just thinking about being used like that.”

Ellen the barmaid snorted when she slammed down three tankards of ale on our table. “Now you know how the lasses feel when you sniff under their skirts.” She sashayed away with her nose in the air, and Rob’s eyes followed her across the room.

I glanced at Ellen and back at him. “I can use a lad willing to work hard,” I said, though I didn’t know it until that very moment. “I can’t pay the Hall’s wages, but I’ll hire you.”

He stared into his drink a while, then gazed over at Ellen standing in the kitchen door. “Thank you kindly Mr. Doughty. I think I’ll take you up on that.”

___________________________________________________

The Duke of Murnane’s cousin Rand is the hero of Caroline Warfield’s The Renegade Wife. The duchess caused a rift between the two of them in their youth before moving on to other game. The duke appears in that book and also its sequel, The Reluctant Wife, coming in April 2017. The duchess does not, but her pernicious influence permeates both books.

About The Renegade Wife

Desperate and afraid, Meggy Blair will do whatever it takes to protect her children. She’d hoped to find sanctuary from her abusive husband with her Ojibwa grandmother, but can’t locate her. When her children fall ill, she seeks shelter in an isolated cabin in Upper Canada. But when the owner unexpectedly returns, he’s furious to find squatters disrupting his self-imposed solitude.

Reclusive businessman Rand Wheatly had good reason to put an ocean between himself and the cousin that betrayed him. He just wants the intrusive woman gone, but it isn’t long before Meggy and her little ones begin breaking down the defensive walls he’s built. But their fragile interlude is shattered when Meggy’s husband appears to claim his children, threatening to have Rand jailed.

The only way for Meggy to protect Rand is to leave him. But when her husband takes her and the children to England, Meggy discovers he’s far more than an abuser; what he’s involved in endangers all their lives. To rescue the woman who has stolen his heart, Rand must follow her and do what he swore he’d never do: reconcile with his aristocratic family and finally uncover the truth behind all the lies. But time is running out for them all.

Read it for FREE with Kindle Unlimited or buy a copy by clicking here.

 

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