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Pity the Duke!

Cairo, 1839

My dear Mr. Clemens,

Our Rambles have taken us to Cairo where we have found  refuge in  Shepheard’s Hotel des Anglais, a tolerable semblance of a civilized hostelry in this exotic outpost. The drinks in the private dining room and outdoor veranda are at least satisfying to the palate and a blessing after heat and sand threaten to choke one.

I digress. As I have throughout our travels, I notice here a tendency of otherwise well-bred English travelers here to throw off the ornaments of their breeding and behave in ways that would shock their peers in London. I am pleased to report that observation does not apply to that illustrious personage, the Duke of Sudbury,  ambassador to the Sultan’s viceroy here. When I observe him arriving and departing Shepheard’s he is always perfectly groomed as befitting and English gentleman.

The duke does strike one as high in the instep, and has haughtily rebuffed attempts to approach him on numerous occasions—but again I digress.

I  have been quite amazed at the number of travelers taking advantage of Waghorn’s Overland Mail to travel from India via Suez. They cross to Cairo via caravan and sail the Nile to embark from Alexandria via steamer. All and sundry pause here at Shepheard’s for a restorative rest. All are generally respectably turned out if dusty from sand and  in need of ablutions.

Imagine my horror this morning when three of Wagner’s latest arrivals  sauntered into the hotel not only in native dress, but filthy. The greater shock, Mr. Clemens, came with recognition. The duke’s own nephew, Richard Mallet was among them. Though  dressed in Arabic garb, and bearing a complexion brown as a native from sun damage, it was he. Piercing blue eyes glared at me from a face so browned by  the  sun as  to  look native. I suspected his identity then. When  he  pulled off his  horrid headdress, the blond  hair, combined with his great  height gave him away.  He  and his companions, one of them a native  woman, were swiftly escorted to  the duke’s suite in  the exclusive upper floor.

Imagine my relief later. My loyal maid has a gift for  befriending local servants, one that has proved valuable at  every stop for gathering information. She tells me that the sister of one of the hotel’s under cooks works in the  home of Doctor Charles Cloutier, the famous French medical director to the viceroy. She recognized Mallet’s companion as Ana Cloutier, the  man’s daughter, and not  some native hussy at all.

My relief was short-lived after some thought. Why would a respectable woman, even a French  one, wear native dress and come to a hotel of this class looking like she had been dragged through the desert for weeks without bathing? Her feet, bare, but for some sort of native shoe, were visible to any man who cared to ogle her ankles.

How, I wondered, could the Duke of Sudbury abide having such a  creature inflicted on his suite?  He must be devistated by his nephew’s disgraceful behavior.

Your devoted correspondent,

Eunice Higgenbloom of Sussex

PS—We have since discovered more peculiar information. My maid’s acquaintance has since discovered that the lady in question cannot possibly be Miss Cloutier for that poor lady is most certainly dead. The reports of her demise come from impeccable sources.

About the Book

Richard Mallet comes to Egypt with dreams of academic glory. He will be the one to unravel the secrets of the ancient Kushite language. Armed with license to dig, he sets out for Meroë, where the Blue Nile meets the White. He has no room in his life for dalliance or entanglements, and he certainly doesn’t expect to face insurrection and unrest.

Analiese Cloutier seeks no glory—only the eradication of disease among the Egyptian women and children of Khartoum. She has no interest whatsoever in romantic nonsense and will not allow notions about a lady’s proper role to interfere with her work. She doesn’t expect to have that work manipulated for political purposes.

Neither expects to be enchanted by the amorous power of moonlight in the ruins of Karnak, or to be forced to marry before they can escape revolution. Will their flight north take them safely to Cairo? If it does, can they build something real out of their shattered dreams?

 

Advertising for a wife? Astonishing!

I hasten to inform you, dear readers, of a most titillating scandal. I am certain many of you have heard of the opening of a very fine (but small and rather shabby) hotel on the Marine Parade in Brighton.

I was there only last week and met with the Lady Proprietor in question. A Viscountess, or once she was, until her dear husband died under mysterious circumstances in Paris. Yes, you grasp about whom I speak, because that man, noble and charming as he was, died while at court of that horrid little Napoleon.

Well! I tell you, dear readers, that this lovely Viscountess W— has moved to Brighton and opened the only asset her dear husband left her. All else that was in the entail, of course, has gone to her departed husband’s rapscallion cousin. Lady W— was hard put to survive and appreciated that her husband had bequeathed her something tangible. If it’s of value remains however to be seen.

Alas! I am off the subject!

It seems that Lady W— has turned the graceful old mansion into a hotel. Yes! She sees how many wish to frolic along with the Prince Regent and she smartly has refurbished the W— mansion into a hotel! And her first guest is none other than Duke of S—.

Imagine that. He comes in search of a wife, too. And how do I know this? Because I have seen, as have you I do imagine, the advert in the Brighton Chronicle yesterday for a wife. It reads:

To the Ladies

A Wife Wanted

A Gentleman, who has lately arrived from Philadelphia, wishes to settle for life and is therefore anxious to be Married. His connections are reputable, his fortune large and he is thirty-one years of age.

He has no objections to a lady without fortune, provided she is young, sensible and with good disposition. 

Any lady who wishes to contact said advertiser, may send a letter to this publication, care of the editor, Mr. Fawkes.

The Gentelmen will take residence in Lady W—’s hotel on the 20th of June and remains until July first. During that time, he will interview those women of whose letters he approves.

The wedding will occur July second.

Can you imagine wedded bliss from such a procedure? 

I ask you, have we not come to the lowest method of seekiing a spouse?

And in such a pleasant place as Brighton. Astonishing!

***

Who is advertising for a wife?

Lady Winston’s Scandalous Hotel is a new series of Regency romantic comedies starring the lovely widow, Viscountess of Winston. A mysterious fellow who appears to materialize on the Brighton sands one morning becomes her assistant in the arts of love. Yes, he has come from the lamp. Come from Istanbul where the sultan’s vizier condemned him to aid widows and those who seek spouses. He is charming. Lady W is dismayed. Her hotel guests are all made quite happy because they are assisted in their quest for romance! For debut in the near future, THE DUKE’S SURPRISING BRIDE, BOOK 1!

Do see my website for more happy reading! 

A Fall from Grace

Gentle reader,

I have it on good authority, from Lady Merwick, who heard it from her sister, Lady Karstark, that the wedding between the Duke of Wildeforde and Lady Amelia Crofton is off!

Rumor has it that Lady Amelia—the former diamond of the ton, the incomparable—was caught in a compromising position with the son of a footman.

There are conflicting reports as to whether or not the circumstances were more innocent than they appeared, but we all know how strongly opposed to the duke is to scandal. Apparently, he took one look at the half-dressed couple and ended his 15-year long engagement on the spot. Perhaps Lady Amelia should have tried harder to get him down the aisle before now.

Things appear to get be getting even worse for Lady Amelia, as little birdies tell me that her only remaining choice is to marry this Mister Benedict Asterly. Little is known about the other man in the story, except for the fact that he works in a factory. Talk about a fall from grace—from a future duchess to the wife of a man who has to *shudder*undertake manual labor for a living.

It is unlikely we’ll hear more from the former society diamond, for she doesn’t even have a house full of servants for secrets to trickle out from and surely no one of good breeding will visit her now.

About the book

In this whirlwind regency romance, perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, a near-death experience leads to a marriage of convenience for two unsuspecting strangers, but will their unusual meeting lead them to true love?

Lady Amelia was raised to be the perfect duchess, accomplished in embroidery, floral arrangement, and managing a massive household. But when an innocent mistake forces her and the uncouth, untitled Benedict Asterly into a marriage of convenience, all her training appears to be for naught. Even worse, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to this man no finishing school could have prepared her for.

Benedict Asterly never dreamed saving Amelia’s life would lead to him exchanging vows with the hoity society miss. Benedict was taught to distrust the aristocracy at a young age, so when news of his marriage endangers a business deal, Benedict is wary of Amelia’s offer to help. But his quick-witted, elegant bride defies all his expectations . . . and if he’s not careful, she’ll break down the walls around his guarded heart.

Buy links: https://linktr.ee/samaraparish

About the Author

As an Australian army brat in the ‘80s, Samara grew up moving from city to city—always with plenty of book boxes (to the movers’ annoyance). Romance novels have been a big part of her life for years. She used them as her ‘escape’ during the trials and tribulations that are working, dating, and living in your 20s before going on to write them in her 30s.

She is now living in Canberra with her husband (a true romance hero) and her menagerie of pets. When she’s not writing, she’s tending to her absurdly large garden, which is a challenge given she historically could not keep a cactus alive.

You can follow her adventures through her newsletter (sign up and you get a free novelette) and on social media.

Website: www.samaraparish.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/samaraparish

Instagram: www.instagram.com/samaraparish

Twitter: @samaraparish

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/samaraparish

An Excerpt from Chapter 1

Benedict Asterly kicked in the door to the Longmans’ empty farmhouse. Despite the crash of splintered wood, the chit slung over his shoulder was as silent as a sack of last season’s grain.

Lady Amelia Bloody Crofton. Half dead, soon to be all dead if he couldn’t warm her up.

He lowered her onto the cold, uneven stone floor before the fireplace.

Damnation. There was no fog of breath, no flicker of pulse, no sign of life at all.

He’d almost ridden past the snow-covered carriage in his effort to get out of the storm. He’d been an idiot for traveling in this kind of weather but apparently not the only idiot on the road.

Why the devil was an earl’s daughter alone in a carriage all the way out here?

He pressed two fingers against her neck. Nothing. He pressed harder.

Th-thump…th-thump. It was faint. It was slow and erratic. But it was there.

Thank God.

He sagged with relief. The ropes around his chest, that had drawn tight the moment he’d seen her pale and unconscious, loosened.

He turned to the hearth and struck flint into the brush with shaking fingers. The scrape, scrape, scrape of steel on stone faint against the howl of the wind.

It caught, and he began the methodical task of building a fire. With each carefully placed stack, his racing heartbeat slowed..

Behind him, Lady Amelia muttered.

“I’m here. I’m with you.” He turned back to the woman who’d previously declined to acknowledge his existence. After all, a man like him was beneath her notice.

He tossed aside the coarse traveling coat he’d thrown over her and removed her gloves and pelisse, struggling with the weight of her ragdoll body.

Bloody hell she was cold.

How long had she been trapped in that broken-down carriage? At least she’d had the good sense not to leave it.

He took her soft hands in his calloused ones, bringing them to his lips, but his breath did little to warm them.

Unbuttoning the cuffs of her sleeves and rolling the fabric up her arms, he exposed as much of her bare skin to the seeping warmth as he could. Her skin was more than pale. It had a blue pallor that caused his heart to skitter.

“Just stay with me. Please.”

In a cupboard by the bed, he found some blankets. He pulled a knife from his boot to cut a piece and wrap the ends of her sodden blond hair. The rest he tucked behind her head and shoulders.

He untied the laces on her ankle boots and pulled the boots off, pausing at the sight of her stockings.

They were cold and damp. They needed to come off too. But a footman’s son had no place touching a lady. And this particular lady? The ice princess would skewer him with the poker if she knew what he was contemplating.

He turned his head aside, giving her all the modesty he could as he reached his hands under her skirts, fumbling with the ribbon of her garter.

“I’m sorry.” She couldn’t hear him, but just saying the words made him feel less of a cad.

He tugged the dark wool off her toes. The skin was red and like wax to touch—but it was only frostnip, not yet frostbite.

“You mustn’t…giant calling.” Her words were so slurred he struggled to understand them.

“I’ll bear that in mind, princess.”

Feeling was slowly returning to his body, if not warmth. He covered Lady Amelia in his coat and then staggered to the bench that ran along the edge of the room. There was a kettle filled with water, sloshy and semi-frozen.

He dumped a small amount of tea inside, grabbed two mugs with his other hand and staggered back to the fire.

The intensifying flame was the best damn thing he’d ever seen.

He hung the kettle from an iron hook and turned back to his biggest problem.

She couldn’t stay on the floor.

There was a large, worn armchair in the corner. He moved it in front of the hearth, as close as he dared. What she needed was heat—and fast—but the fire hadn’t taken a chink out of the bitter shroud of the room.

There was one thing he could do, but damn she was going to flay him alive when she woke. He took off his jacket, pulled his shirt over his head, and picked her up off the floor.

He settled into the armchair, holding her against his naked chest, his bare arms resting along the length of hers. His body heat had to work.

The cold air was whiplike against his skin, and goose bumps covered his arms.

Think warm thoughts. A steam engine furnace. A hot bath. A warm brick under his bed sheets. A warm woman under his bed sheets…

He looked down at the chit on his lap. Lady Amelia Crofton. Diamond of the ton. Leader of the fashionable set. Cold as the ice shards on the window. And Wildeforde’s bloody fiancée. Damn, this was a mess.

Eyebrows Raised in Staffordshire

My Dearest Readers:

If your chaise-longue requires fresh feathers, I must recommend you send for the upholsterer before reading this any further. Once you have been assured that your preferred furniture will not cause injuries should you feel the inevitable urge to faint, you may proceed.

I fear a dreadful scandal has occurred in Staffordshire. I sympathize with the utter unrest you are most certainly feeling at this unexpected news. We associate scandals with London and Brighton, but never Staffordshire, home of an abundance of ceramics and grazing grounds for livestock.

Mrs. Blythe has been recording the events that have been happening at Laventhorpe Castle, near the Staffordshire Moors. We do not like to ponder her expenses for smelling salts.

As I am certain you are well aware, the Duke of Framingham recently became betrothed to Princess Aria Eleonora Ingrid Petronella of Sweden. Though the wedding announcement caused our eyebrows to reach a higher than customary perch, we were naturally pleased for them, even if we wondered at the wisdom of the match. After all, the aged duke’s unpleasant visage cannot compensate for his brash, equally unpleasant personality, and the princess is so wealthy, we doubted even the duke’s vast estate held much temptation to her.

It seems though that shortly after the wedding, the princess absconded with the duke’s younger cousin. Quel horreur! There are rumors that he kidnapped her and her pet dog, Galileo, though that is no excuse, naturally, for a woman to abandon her marital bed on her wedding night. They are even now hurrying through Staffordshire, though I am assured that the duke and his men are pursuing them.

Mrs. Blythe’s new book, The Truth about Princesses and Dukes, details these events at length. I hope, dearest readers, that you should not feel the urge to behave in equally outrageous manners.

About the Book: The Truth about Princesses and Dukes

Princess Aria Eleonora Ingrid Petronella of Sweden has been exchanging letters with the most marvelous man in the world. Perhaps her true love is somewhat aged, and perhaps butterflies don’t swarm inside her chest when they meet briefly at a ball, but she is certain no man equals the Duke of Framingham in magnificence. When he proposes marriage in a letter, she eagerly accepts.

Rupert Andrews doesn’t expect to enjoy writing letters on behalf of his elderly cousin. But when the Duke of Framingham informs Rupert that he’s fallen in love with a beautiful woman and needs someone to write letters on his behalf, Rupert reluctantly agrees. After all, the cottage he inherited after his mother’s death is heavily mortgaged, and the duke has kindly let him take longer to repay the debt. On the duke’s wedding day, Rupert overhears the duke tell his mistress that he plans to toss his new bride off his balcony so they can marry. The duke merely desires the princess’s money, and Rupert knows one thing: he has to rescue her. 

Princess Aria is astonished when a young, spectacle-wearing man kidnaps her. She’s in love with the duke—after all, he’s sent her such wonderful letters for weeks. Soon though, she’s on the run with Rupert to London. If only Rupert had sent her such lovely letters. . .

Amazon

Excerpt

Blast.

Rupert marched through the room and opened various drawers. There must be another key. He scrummaged through the duke’s attire, then crawled under the bed.

Nothing.

Finally, he glanced toward the window.

He rather wished the first Duke of Framingham had decided to put his bedroom on the ground floor. If only that duke had had a premonition of the viciousness of one of his descendants and his propensity to go about locking relatives in bedrooms. Evidently, the duke’s success at fighting the French so many centuries ago had not translated into an equal ability to foretell the future.

Rupert attempted to open the balcony door, but it was locked. He scowled, before hastily moving to the window.

Rupert unlocked the hinge on the window and pushed it open. A brisk wind met him. Birds chirped merrily, and the sun was in full force. He squinted into the light. Then he lowered himself carefully from the window until his feet touched the battlement.

The birds jerked their heads toward him from their perches on the parapet, before flying away. A few servants were outside, marching to the chapel with flowers.

Where was the princess?

Would she be in the chapel now? In the drawing room? Still touring the castle?

Her dressing room.

Rupert lowered himself down and hurried to the other wing, crawling along the crenellations. He wasn’t certain which room she’d been placed in, but he assumed it was the best one. The wind brushed against him, as if urging him to reenter the house. A few leaves, which had no doubt laid in the battlements for months, flew into his face. He pushed them away, and they crunched against his fingers.

Damnation.

Why was the castle so large? Evidently, no one had calculated the utter inconvenience the large size would be when someone was forced to circumvent it on one’s stomach.

The chapel bells rang, and Rupert scurried forward.

About the Author

Born in Texas, Bianca Blythe spent four years in England. She worked in a fifteenth-century castle, though sadly that didn’t actually involve spotting dukes and earls strutting about in Hessians.

She credits British weather for forcing her into a library, where she discovered her first Julia Quinn novel. She remains deeply grateful for blustery downpours.

After meeting her husband in another library, she moved with him to sunny California, though on occasion she still dreams of the English seaside, scones with clotted cream, and sheep-filled pastures. For now, she visits them in her books.

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Is the Duke’s Daughter a Dark Horse?

This particular duke’s daughter does not often come before the readers of Society pages. Indeed, this reporter has never had cause to mention her since her underwhelming come-out some years ago. It is generally believed she has always been eclipsed by the dazzling beauty and brilliant marriages of her older sisters, and by the important work of her older brothers.

However, after years of silence, this youngest and as yet unmarried daughter of a most influential ducal family has come to our notice not once but twice!

Firstly, though his grace’s influence has kept the story out of most other newspapers, it is rumoured that the maid whose murdered body was discovered near Covent Garden, belonged to this same ducal household, and that the body was found by none other than our Society-shy lady.

Secondly, I can reveal that with my own eyes I clearly saw this same lady in a closed carriage, in company with an extremely handsome gentleman. His identity remains a mystery to this reporter, who is left wondering if there is any connection between the two unusual events. It is certainly difficult to imagine what such a connection might be. Nevertheless, it seems that the shy Lady G. might indeed be a dark horse.

Watch this space for new developments.

Mysterious Lover (Crime and Passion, Book 1)

mybook.to/mysteriouslover

About the Book

Mary Lancaster’s thrilling new series “Crime & Passion” from USA Today Bestselling Author Mary Lancaster.

London, 1851

In the shadow of the Great Exhibition, poverty and crime stalk the meaner backstreets of the city. But sin is not confined to the underworld. One couple passes seamlessly between the neighboring worlds of privilege and privation, solving crimes and enabling love to bloom.

Mysterious Lover, Book 1

An unforgettable night at the opera…

When she accompanies her family to Covent Garden, Lady Grizelda Niven does not expect to be discovered in a nearby back street, clutching a dagger over the dead body of her maid. However, she is even more surprised when the police arrest not her but the devastatingly handsome young man who found her. Clearly, it behoves her to have him released and to enlist his alliance in discovering who truly killed Nancy.

Dragan Tizsa, a Hungarian refugee doctor, revolutionary, and soldier, lives constantly with the anguish of loss. The death of one more acquaintance makes little difference to him, except that it brings the vital and eccentric Griz into his life. He is a man who likes puzzles, and the mystery that is Griz soon assumes as much importance as that of the murder.

As they work together to unravel the layers of Nancy’s life and discover why she died, friendship and attraction blossom, much to her family’s unease. From the danger of London’s underworld, to the glittering salons of her married sister, Griz and Dragan look out for each other. But is she right to believe in her new friend when the evidence begins to tell against him?

And as she comes face to face with the killer at last, is love and happiness forever beyond her reach?

Crime & Passion
Mysterious Lover
Letters to a Lover
Dangerous Lover

About the Author

Mary Lancaster lives in Scotland with her husband, three mostly grown-up kids and a small, crazy dog. 

Her first literary love was historical fiction, a genre which she relishes mixing up with romance and adventure in her own writing. Several of her novels feature actual historical characters as diverse as Hungarian revolutionaries, medieval English outlaws, and a family of eternally rebellious royal Scots. To say nothing of Vlad the Impaler.

Her most recent books are light, fun Regency romances written for Dragonblade Publishing: The Imperial Season series set at the Congress of Vienna; and the popular Blackhaven Brides series, which is set in a fashionable English spa town frequented by the great and the bad of Regency society.

Connect with Mary on-line:
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