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The Ashmead Assembly

Special to the Teatime Tattler from Eunice Norton and the Monday Tea Circle of Ashmead on Afan.

We gathered as is our habit on Monday afternoon to review the news of the week here in the valley, and ran so far over our time that Bessy Grigg’s husband took umbrage at the delay in his supper. We had much to discuss.

The Benson family put up an entertainment for all and sundry at the Assembly Rooms on Saturday evening to celebrate old Robert’s sixtieth birthday. There were many who thought that appropriate, him being a fixture in the village, but some of us questioned use of the large room over the village offices for a family party, that space having run to shabby and disrepair in recent years, and the Benson family being in possession of a inn with a perfectly fine dining room, but Emma Corbin—she as was Emma Benson—insisted.

Most of us admitted she did the rooms justice. New paint. Waxed floors. Clean windows. Flowers sprucing it up, and greenery too for all it is summer and not Christmas. She even got that Welsh colonel staying at the inn—him who is some engineer they say—to repair the musicians gallery so it was safe to use. They brought some group of players down from Nottingham, too, for the dancing.

As you may expect every man and woman in Ashmead came, and the tenant farmers from round about as well. Some seemed to find children appropriate, notably the Corbins, but most of us don’t approve of little ones where there is drink and dancing. A bigger surprise was the arrival of the Duchess of Glenmoor, Lady Madelyn Caulfield that was. She rarely socializes with common folk and keeps to herself since the old duke she married died.

Of course, most folk came for a glimpse of Wee Robbie Benson himself, the innkeepers wild son gone these many years. Went off to war and came back a baronet. Emma Corbin claims he was a hero at Waterloo, too. Now he’s come to take ownership of Willowbrook, left to him by the old earl. Most folks claim they always knew he was the earl’s get. You only had to look at him to know, but don’t tell old Robert the innkeeper that. Took him as his own and won’t hear otherwise.

The biggest news was the arrival of the Earl of Clarion himself late into the evening. Come up from London straight to the assembly, though no one knows whether it was the only reason he came. Walked in proud as a lord—which of course he is—walked up and congratulated old Robert as bold as you please as if the innkeeper was a peer when everyone knows he started life as a footman at the Hall.

Then Wee Robbie came from the corner he’d been lurking in. When he stood next to the earl and the duchess stood to join them, you could hear a pin drop. Same eyes. Same hair. Same tall frame (though Robbies is a bit, er, sturdier than the earl.) Same proud tilt to the head. Folks in London ought to be aware that the man they know as Sir Robert Benson is naught but an innkeeper’s charity case and the Earl of Clarion’s bastard brother. No question about it. Don’t know what was said, but Sir Robert left right after.

The earl stayed. He even led Emma Corbin out, and she looked like she was going to burst. Then the duchess danced with that Welsh colonel. It was certainly a night to remember.

About the Book

When the Earl of Clarion leaves a will with bequests for all his children, legitimate and not, listing each and their mothers by name, he complicates the lives of many in the village of Ashmead.

One sleepy village. One scandalous will. Four beleaguered heirs.

One is The Wayward Son.

Rob Benson returns to Ashmead reluctantly, determined to stay briefly. He never expects a shocking bequest and a termagant with flashing eyes—and a musket—to bind him to the place. Lucy Whitaker wants what she can’t have, Willowbrook. If she must turn it over to the heir, she can at least make sure he loves it and its people like she does.  His life is London; hers is Ashmead. How can they forge something lasting when they are torn in two directions?

Pre-order link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09484DC1D/

Watch for the duchess and the colonel in The Defiant Daughter in October.

About the Author

Caroline Warfield, proud Bluestocking Belle, has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Beechingstoke’s List

Gentle Reader,

It has come to our attention, that the eligible Earl of Beechingstoke, who avoids unmarried ladies as much as he avoids scandals, has been seen courting both. According to our confidential sources, Lord Beechingstoke has asked his dear cousin, the indomitable Countess of Redwick, to aid him in finding a wife.

We have heard of the existence of a list of eligible ladies, one of whom could bear the coveted name Countess of Beechingstoke. And who, do you ask, are the ladies on this list? That, dear reader, is something even we cannot discover.

Not all is lost, as we believe we have a lead on the next Countess of Beechingstoke. Of late, we have seen his lordship thrice engaged in conversation and in the company of Miss Stella Denton, the daughter of Viscount Lynd.

If you do not recognize the name, fear not gentle readers, as I suspect it will soon be one known to all. From our information, she is a dear friend of Lady Redwick with artistic talent.

Indeed, the lady was seen engaged in a heated debate with the earl at Lady W’s art exhibition. She was later seen with the earl in his carriage in Hyde Park during the fashionable hour. Dare we suggest Lord Beechingstoke has found his match?

Only time will tell.

About the Book, Caricature of a Countess

He’s drawn to her. She’s drawing him.

Miss Stella Denton is determined to make her mark on the world—in pen and ink. Under the pseudonym Mr. E. Starr, she captures the absurdities of the ton in print for all to see. A heated encounter with Daniel, the Earl of Beechingstoke leaves her breathless… and betrothed.

After years of working to reestablish the Beechingstoke name, Daniel cannot abide even a hint of scandal. To cut off his notorious heir, Daniel enlists the help of friends and family to find him the perfect bride and fast. When they suggest he marry Stella, he doesn’t know if it’s the worst idea, or the best.

A hasty marriage, fueled by passion, burns bright between Stella and Daniel. Yet their love is at risk of fizzling out unless they learn to trust one another before their secrets and scandals are revealed.

Buy Link:

Books2Read.com/caricature

About the Author

Melissa Sawyer has been writing stories since she could form letters. She writes swoon-worthy Regency romances with strong heroines. She resides in Toronto, Canada with her three kids and husband where you can find her exploring the city, parks, libraries, museums and PATH network.

Website: authormelissasawyer.com

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Excerpt from Chapter 1

The contents of the drawer shifted and clattered as Stella yanked at it with such force she nearly pulled it off of its rail. She rummaged through its contents, pulling out a penknife, ponte-crayons, and pencils.

      She sat on a stool at the mahogany drawing board, a large masculine desk that looked out of place in her otherwise feminine room. Stella adjusted the angle of the writing surface, running her hand across the smooth leather, removing anything that would mar the paper she laid atop the desk. She set her materials to her right on the ledge that extended from the right drawer.

      A sharpened pencil in hand, Stella sketched several shapes. Slowly, the light lines of ovals, circles, and triangles altered, changing from shapes to a forehead, eyes, and lips. Strong masculine features escaped her pencil, settling themselves on to the page.

      With a huff of air, Stella set the sheet aside and drew out a fresh one, the previous form being too elegant. It wasn’t the man himself she sought to capture, but his character.

      Her next attempt was better. A lip twisted into a supercilious sneer below an exaggerated nose. The rest of the man was too strong, too handsome, too…

      “Drat!”

      Her pencil danced across the work surface before rolling to a stop beside an inkwell. Stella sat back on the stool and crossed her arms, surveying the drawing with a critical eye.

      A sardonic Lord Beechingstoke smirked back at her.

      “He must have made quite the impression on you.”

      Stella jumped, her hand clutching her chest. She took a deep breath to steady her racing pulse. “Must you sneak up on a person, Laurette?”

      “It’s not sneaking when one is expected.” The door hinges of the clothes press creaked as Laurette, her maid, opened the door. “Are you wearing your pink or your green dress to dinner?”

      A quick glance at the clock had Stella scrambling to tidy her desk. She’d been drawing longer than expected.

      “I’ll wear the green.” Stella surveyed her pencil-smudged hands with a frown. She crossed the room to the pitcher and basin of water. The scent of lavender and roses teased her senses as she worked up a lather to remove all traces of her activities.

      “Who is he?”

      “The Earl of Beechingstoke.” Stella immersed her hands in the water and closed her eyes. If only she could wash away her encounter with him the same way. “He’s someone worth drawing.”

The Marquess Loses Control

Gibraltar, November 1818

My dear Mr. Clemens,

We were forced to pause our journey to Madras in this place for repairs, which I must say are taking much longer than they ought. The weather is pleasant, the locals backward, and the monkeys an utter nuisance.

The Respectable English Company is scant. Imagine my delight when the HMS Boreas came into port bearing the Earl of Chadbourn and the Marquess of Glenaire. I was even pleased to have the company of the marquess’s brother-in-law, Mr. Mallet. At least, I would be pleased if we didn’t have to endure the presence of That Woman.

We have taken rooms at the best hotel, and so were in the entrance preparing for a leisurely ramble about the island when the party arrived, all looking rather the worst for having suffered some sort of ordeal. Coraires wee blamed. (Our captain assured me that reports of the Barbary menace are exaggerated, so really…)

The earl and Mr. Mallet appeared well enough, but Marquess of Glenaire wore a Lieutenant’s tunic, a bit too small, and trousers which could only be described as ragged. When I could not refrain from my natural horror, the marquess subjected me to one of his famous icy stare. Dressed like that!

But I digress. That Woman, who accompanied them, was a shocking sight. She wore some sort of native dress—African or what not—close to rags. In a respectable hotel. I can tell you they were whisked up the stairs and out of sight quickly, but not before the bundle carried by the marquess himself gave out a loud squawk. You will be surprised, good sir, to hear that the Marquess of Glenaire, that bright light of society, known to one an all as the Marble Marquess for perfecttion of his grooming and manners, carried an infant up those stairs.

Never have I seen such scurrying. Bath water went up. Tea went up. Platters of food ascended the stairs. Clothes were procured. I know this because I Iingered on a comfortable divan near the entrance. Eventually the entire party descended, clothed, thank the Almighty, in respectable, if rather unfashionable, Western dress.

I, of course paid my respects to the earl and marquess and begged an introduction. Chadbourn appeared friendly enough. When That Woman was introduced as the Marchioness of Glenaire, my jaw dropped. I was unaware there even was such a person. The marquess demonstrated his famous stare. The word “ice” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Next season’s crop of debutantes will go into decline to know Glenaire is no longer available. And yet one wonders. There was no notice in the papers of any such marriage when we embarked. Yet here they came bearing a baby, and looking like savages. Whispers among the staff were that they had been held prisoners by the Barbary ruffians. A normal woman would have perished at the disgrace, but That Woman appeared to be in robust health for one who so recently gave birth. She looked down at me with every sign of superiority.

There was one other oddity. My maid happened to attending to an errand and saw  them leave the hotel. They went directly to the English church and were seen entering the rectory. One wonders, dear sir. If that infant is a boy, he will be heir to a dukedom in due time. One wouldn’t want questions about his origins to circulate.

Make of that what you will, Mr. Clemens, but leave my name far from the matter. One wouldn’t want to earn the enmity of the marquess.

Lady X

About the Book

If women were as easily managed as the affairs of state—or the recalcitrant Ottoman Empire—Richard Hayden, Marquess of Glenaire, would be a happier man. As it was, the creatures made hash of his well-laid plans and bedeviled him on all sides…

 

So it begins.

Lily Thornton came home from Saint Petersburg in pursuit of marriage. She wants a husband and a partner, not an overbearing, managing man. She may be “the least likely candidate to be Marchioness of Glenaire,” but her problems are her own to fix, even if those problems include both a Russian villain and an interfering Ottoman official.

Given enough facts, Richard can fix anything. But protecting that impossible woman is proving to be almost as hard as protecting his heart, especially when Lily’s problems bring her dangerously close to an Ottoman revolution. As Lily’s personal problems entangle with Richard’s professional ones, and she pits her will against his, he chases her across the pirate-infested Mediterranean. Will she discover surrender isn’t defeat? It might even have its own sweet reward.

As one reviewer said, “There is nothing so  entertaining as watching a man who is always in control, lose that control.” (Night Owl Reviews)

About the Author

Caroline Warfield, traveler, adventurer, lover of owls and other folks’ gardens, writes family centered romance from her lair in the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania. She is a Bluestocking Belle. She is currently  finishing the tale of Glenaire’s nephew and namesake, Richard “Aeneas” Mallet, eager to make his fame in Egypt,  and no more willing to fall in with his uncle’s schemes than his mother or his aunt. Watch for The Price of Glory later this year.

A Grasping Interloper?

Gentle Readers,

Far be it from me, your trusted informant on all matters worth knowing to keep disparaging an honorable gentleman for his youthful foibles, but it would seem the Earl of Bainbridge has succumbed to the lure of face paint and a pair of well-turned ankles once more. Indeed, they are the very same pair that drove him from England’s shores before he ascended to his current title. While his father no doubt applauds his son’s recent endeavors amongst the corps de ballet from beyond the grave, no doubt the present earl’s grandfather takes a considerably dimmer view of recent events and of the lovely Miss Nettie Pomeroy, darling of the Arcadian music hall.

Loyal readers will remember the stir Miss Pomeroy created several years ago when, as one Miss Venetia Crawley, the natural daughter of the former Duke of Graydon, she brazenly attended Lord and Lady Esterly’s ball on the arm of young Bainbridge (then Viscount Dutton). Rumor had it that without the swift intervention of his closest friend, the current Duke of Graydon and Miss Pomeroy’s half-brother, her duplicity would have escaped detection and the Bainbridge earldom would have discovered a veritable cuckoo in its nest. Thankfully, she was routed in time and disappeared to parts unknown at the time of this printing.

While it is understandable how a young man can easily be led astray by a pretty face one would think that an older, more experienced man should have grown immune to that same face. Sadly, that has not been the case with Lord Bainbridge. How must the current Duke of Graydon be feeling about having this blight on his family turn up after believing himself well-shed of the grasping interloper? One must also ask about the mysterious goings on at the Arcadian as well and the sinister dealings of her owner, Morgan O’Banyon. Just what is the truth about his relationship with the fair Miss Pomeroy?

Never fear dear readers! Your intrepid informer shall keep you apprised as I uncover the answers to all your questions.

Humbly Yours,

S. Clemens, Esq.

About the Book

Caelan Hennesy meets the young woman of his dreams in a Paris museum. She is educated, beautiful and refined – everything his family and society require of his bride.
Venetia believes she has found her prince, and she is certain that their love is strong enough to overcome the scandal of her birth. Venetia is the lovechild of a duke and his commoner mistress. When her half-truths and lies of omission are exposed, a disillusioned Caelan walks away, leaving Venetia at the mercy of a ruthless enemy.
Nine years later Caelan, now the Earl of Bainbridge, discovers Venetia is now a dazzling music hall dancer named Nettie Pomeroy. Nettie wants nothing to do with the man who walked away from her. Still, neither one of them can deny the passion or the love that continues to bind them together. As Nettie and Cal continue fighting their feelings, an enemy draws closer determined to bring harm to people Caelan cares about. Will Caelan be able to protect the one woman he refuses to surrender again, and will Nettie trust him enough to open her heart for a second chance at love?

~Excerpt~

FranceWinter, 1856

It was hot and difficult to breath stuffed halfway into the heavy, canvas sack. Her legs and feet remained cold though, because she still wore her gauzy costume from tonight’s performance. Venetia had fought the men who’d abducted her, kicking and screaming for help only to have a large, meaty hand clamp over her mouth, and then came the sack. She’d had a short burst of satisfaction when the wooden block in one of her toe shoes connected squarely with the twig and berries belonging to the other one of her captors. He’d threatened to hurl her against the wall, but the man with the meaty hands threatened him with far worse if he harmed her. Now she lay in the back of a cart where they’d tossed her hours ago, her arms and legs bound tightly together, a foul-tasting gag in her mouth, sick with fright.

There was no question in her mind that the new Duke of Graydon had found her. She’d thought taking a stage name would offer enough protection, but clearly, she’d been wrong. The luck Venetia found on her arrival in Paris had completely deserted her today. First, her grand debut in the lead role for tonight’s performance of ‘Giselle,’ hadn’t been good enough to secure a permanent place outside the corps de ballet, shattering her dreams of one day becoming a premiere danseuse, and now Graydon and his mother had hired these two ruffians to abduct her. She would likely be killed and her body thrown into the sea.

After an eternity, the cart came to a stop and Venetia found herself being lifted and carried with extraordinary gentleness. She struggled in the arms holding her, earning a harsh obscenity from the man she’d previously kicked, but the ruffian carrying her merely leaned closely and whispered to her. “Don’t thrash around now, little blossom. Ye might do yourself an injury.” She heard the sounds of raucous laughter and cheers, of tankards being clashed together along with the smells of ale and wine. She was transferred to the other man who roughly threw her over his shoulder before climbing a set of stairs. A door creaked open and suddenly Venetia felt herself fly through the air and abruptly land on a bed.

“Why’d ye go and do that, Jeb? You could a hurt her!” The gentler of her captors eased her into a sitting position inside the stifling darkness of her sack. “Don’t you worry,” his disembodied voice assured her. “Won’t nobody here hurt ye.”

“Are you so certain of that, Luther?” came a cold, low voice from across the room, and Venetia’s throat contracted painfully around a hard lump of absolute terror at the sound of it.

Available through Amazon Kindle and print

About the Author

Stephanie Patterson began her writing career at age three by designing her own symbol alphabet to represent words and emotions. Writing has always been her first love, which prompted her to begin her first novel, a civil war epic at the age of eight. Her debut romance, “Playing for Keeps,” was published under the pen name, Stephanie Salinas. “The Woman in Question,” a contemporary romantic thriller published under her own name, followed a couple of years later.

Patterson’s series, “Season of the Furies,” a Victorian romance trilogy about three, beautiful debutants who must atone for a despicable act, is now complete. 2020 saw the publication of the first book in her new series, “Tales from the Arcadian,” which follows the performers of a London music hall in 1862. Book one, “Bobby Dazzler,” is currently available in both e-book and print editions.


Patterson is a resident of northern Oregon and comes from a criminal defense background where she worked on all types of cases from petty theft to capital murder and murder for hire in both the state and federal criminal systems. When not writing, she practices and teaches the ancient divination art of cartomancy – a fancy way of saying tarot reading, as well as works on her community’s month-long Halloween festival, ‘Spirit of Halloweentown.’™  

EMAIL: stephaniepattersonwriter@yahoo.com

WEBSITE:  www.stephaniepattersonauthor.com

FaceBook Page: Stephanie Patterson Writes Books

Scandal in Venice

Baden, Baden 1818

My Dear Mr. Clemens,

I have another tidbit that may be of interest, you darling man. This one is a bit more explosive than some of the other bits I’ve gathered in my travels. I count on you to mask the lady’s name when you publish in your delicious newssheet, for she is young and may yet require the tattered remnants of her reputation.

I reached Geneva in September and to my delight encountered my dear friend Lady Florence Tyree. She fell on me, relieved to have a sensible companion in which to confide. The poor woman had been dragooned into accompanying her niece, Lady Charlotte Tyree when the girl imposed herself on her brother, the Earl of Ambler who by rights ought to be completing his Grand Tour accompanied only by his tutor free to do whatever it is young men get up to on the continent (I don’t need to be explicit with you, dear friend!).

Lady Florence had reached utter weariness with the boy’s behavior, it being as wild as may be expected, abetted by his tutor no doubt. The dear woman fears for the girl who seems to have attempted to absorb every work of art or culture to be found on the continent, in an excess of learning that we all know can only bring feverish distress to a young lady’s mind, causing who knows what enfeeblement of her faculties.

No amount of begging on the part of dear Lady Florence convinced the girl to take her ease at some of the more pleasant gardens or porticoes of the city. When the young people announced they were preparing to move on over those daunting mountains into Italy, Florence reached the end of her patience. She and I decided we needed the restorative spa at Baden, which we are entirely in agreement is precisely what Lady Charlotte needs.

Alas the young woman prove intractable in this matter as well. When Lady Florence forbade her Italy and announce she herself would accompany me to Baden, Lady Charlotte informed her she would leave for Venice with her brother.

Venice! I need not tell you Bryon himself is there. Who knows what sort of immorality goes on, and the young woman insisted she would travel there without a chaperone. Lady Florence declared she would report this to the guardians of this pair of young people who would undoubtedly demand she return to London (leaving the boy on his own to continue his tour, of course). What did Lady Charlotte declare but that she didn’t care. By the time any such demands from the guardians reached her she would be in Rome at last. She has some notion that her life will be poorer forever if she doesn’t see Rome.

I tremble to tell you, good sir, that the following morning we awoke to find the young people gone. My beloved Lady Florence was prostrate. She came to this lovely spa with me to recover. Word reached us yesterday via friends traveling north from there that Lady Charlotte is indeed in Venice, and that the young earl is running with the wildest of crowds exposing his sister to no end of debauchery. We disregarded hints she has taken residence with an Italian gentleman.

Be kind in your publication. She is young.

Your good friend and supporter, Lady Horsham

About the Book: Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil

Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a handsome physician.

Lady Charlotte clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.
As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.
But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect.

https://www.amazon.com/Charlottes-Christmas-Vigil-Caroline-Warfield-ebook/dp/B0758NLYV2/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lady-charlottes-christmas-vigil-caroline-warfield/1127062287

and for other formats:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/745607

About the Author

Award winning author of family centered romance set in the Regency and Victorian eras, Caroline Warfield has been many things—including a Bluestocking Belle. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Find her here:

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