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Scandalous Doings in High Places

To the editor, Teatime Tattler

Dear Honoured Sir

It is with the greatest of reluctance that I put pen to paper. I am not, I assure your readers, sir, one to speak ill of my fellows, but I also believe most strongly that we of the highest ranks must set a good example to others.

Sadly, what I have observed with my own eyes leads me to believe that a previous correspondent to your paper has the right of it. One of the highest ladies in the land outside of the Royal Family has, indeed, been led into the most grevious of errors by the kindness of her heart.

Just the other night, I was at the theatre. It was not a memorable occasion to begin with — a very mediocre crowd, and much focused on some actor from the provinces who was making his debut on the London stage. At the interval, however, a vast crowd, all very merry, joined us, which was a great improvement, for what is the point of getting dressed to attend the theatre, if few people see you?

But I digress.

Miss C., a young person (I do not say ‘lady’, though she aspires to such) who currently lives in the household of the great lady I mentioned, was reprimanded — very properly, I might add — by the cousin who is the head of her family, and responded most pertly.

Are these the manners she learns at a ducal table, I ask you?

Perhaps so. You will be shocked — I was shocked, sir — to know that one much closer to the great lady’s heart (though not precisely what a proper gentlewoman would consider family) was also seen behaving scandalously a few days earlier.

I happened to be walking in Hyde Park on one of the first days without snow and fog, and I came across Miss J. G. in the arms of Lord D., who has been heard to wager he will be there to catch the maiden, if maiden she be, when she falls.

Miss J. G., you will know, is said to be the ward of said great lady (though the polite world knows she has no right to be in a ducal household, unless in the most menial — or the most scandalous of positions). It appears she has inherited the appetites of the mother who gave away her virtue to the great lady’s husband.

I interrupted them and they were soon after joined by Miss J. G.’s sister and Lord H. — another scandalous pairing.

Furthermore, the newly minted earl, Lord C., might look to the company that his sister, Lady F., is keeping under the sponsorship of the great lady. As if walking the back alleys of London with only a one-handed footman for protection is not foolish enough, she has now taken up with the Recluse of Cambridge!

Alas. One hears rumours that the great lady’s husband is ailing, and that his ailment is of the type to affect the brain. Perhaps the condition is infectious, for what else can explain such terrible flaws in judgement on the part of a lady we should all look up to.

I am sure you and your readers will join me in my concern over the ruin that encouraging such behaviours will make of public morals. In my own family, moral turpitude had such terrible consequences that my only recourse was to flee my home. Let a public outcry arise before London likewise sinks entirely into the mire.

I remain, most sincerely,

Lady A.

Lady Ashbury, is, of course, having a go at the Duchess of Haverford, patroness of a Ladies’ Society formed to help veterans. She also takes a swipe at the heroines of three of the stories, plus Jessica Grenford, the sister of my heroine, Matilda Grenford.

For more about these stories of love in a time of ice, see our Fire & Frost page, which has blurbs for each story and buy links for most retailers of ebooks. You can also buy Fire & Frost in print from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Lady Asbury appears in my Children of the Mountain King series. She is the wicked sister-in-law of my Earl of Ashbury, the hero of the second book, who is one of the people she is accusing of moral turpitude; safely enough, because he hasn’t ventured from his estate since he recovered from the injury that crippled him to find his wife and brother dead, children sent off to school, and sister-in-law gone.

Keeping Secrets

Julius Caesar Ibbotson, Skating on the Serpentine, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1796, watercolour, pen and grey ink (Eton College Collections)

Lady Prudence Danvers watched her sister Abigail from across the frozen Serpentine. Pouting, she skated her way over to a bench and plopped herself down. Tears blurred her vision. It was so unfair, she fumed. Why did Abigail constantly get the attention of all the eligible men?

She continued watching her sister and her companion skating side by side. Lieutenant Abernathy had all the qualifications of what made for a proper match. Handsome, well-mannered, and obviously he had enough money to attend all of Society’s most popular events despite his military career.

She followed him as he skated ahead of Abigail who began a conversation with some friends. Her laughter echoed on the wind causing Prudence’s mood to sour. The Lieutenant continued on without Abigail until he came close enough to Lady Constance Whittles to make her teeter on the edges of her skates. Lord Osgood took the lady’s arm to steady her even as the Lieutenant gave her a wicked grin and a tip of his cap. What appeared even more interesting was Lady Constance’s reaction as the lieutenant skated away.

Abigail was too occupied to notice the slight diversion of the Lieutenant’s affection but beamed at him when he rejoined her. The silly fool, Prudence mused even as her eyes narrowed with a devious thought. She began taking off her skates.

This tiny bit of tittle tattle was just the thing Mr. Clemens liked to receive for his Teatime Tattler. Prudence would receive a nice stipend for the information of this possible love triangle and this time she would not have to share the coins with Abigail. Giving no further thought of the disservice she might be doing to her sister, Prudence left the ice and made her way home to pen her missive to the editor.


This is an original piece with minor characters is Belle Sherry Ewing’s A Second Chance At Love that will release in the Belles’ box set, Fire & Frost on February 4th. Read on for the first encounter of Lord Osgood and Lady Constance:

Excerpt:

A rush of air left his lips as though he had been holding his breath while awaiting her answer. He stepped up to the desk and reached for her hand, kissing the air between his lips and her knuckles as any proper gentleman would. “You are very gracious, Constance. I must admit I was afraid you would hate me, considering how I left things between us.”

She gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “I could never hate you, Digby.” A blush rushed to her cheeks at the tone of her voice. They had been on a first name basis two years ago and somehow it seemed right to call him by his given name. My word, she had missed this man.

“Then perhaps you would allow me to escort you to a meeting at the Duchess of Haverford’s residence next week on the third. I understand she is in the process of forming several committees to organize an event for The Ladies’ Society for the Care of the Widows and Orphans of Fallen Heroes and the Children of Wounded Veterans.”

Constance laughed. “You must be joking? Why, you will never get all that on any kind of a banner.”

Digby joined her and laughed. “I would never make up such a tall tale, my lady.”

“No one in their right mind would, although it does sound like a worthy cause.”

“I could not agree more, which is why I have offered my services to the gentleman’s auxiliary, whose responsibilities will include making sure you ladies are able to do your work in this dreadful weather. I knew this was just the sort of event that would be of interest to you.”

“You know me so well. I would be happy to accompany you, Digby.”

“Wonderful,” he replied with a smile. “If your aunt could join us and act as chaperone, then I could pick you both up around noon, if that is acceptable.”

“I will eagerly await next week, my lord.”

Digby took her hand again and bowed over it. “As will I, my lady.”

His gloved hand felt warm in hers. When Digby’s thumb gently caressed the back in a small circular motion, Constance’s heart leapt at the possibility that all was not lost. Her eyes went to his in a long lingering glance as pleasure swept across her entire being. She smiled, and he returned it with a smile of his own. Constance could not remember when she had ever been this happy… until the spell was interrupted. They quickly broke apart.

“I say, Lady Constance, is this gentleman bothering you?” Lieutenant Abernathy bellowed as he left the tearoom and rushed to her side. The few patrons who escaped the fog outside looked up from their books at the disturbance he was causing.

“Not at all and please lower your voice,” Constance advised sternly before remembering her manners. “My apologies. Lieutenant Abernathy may I present Lord Osgood, who is an old friend.”

The two men shook hands but, from the looks they exchanged, neither cared for the other.


A Second Chance At Love in
Fire & Frost: A Bluestocking Belles Collection
Pre-order now for only $0.99!

Can the bittersweet frost of lost love be rekindled into a burning flame?

Viscount Digby Osgood returns to London after a two-year absence, planning to avoid the woman he courted and then left. Surely she has moved on with her life; even married by now. A bit of encouragement from a friend, however, pushes him to seek the lady out. Can she ever forgiven him and give them a second chance at love?

Lady Constance Whittles has only cared for one man in her life. Even after he broke her heart, it remains fixed on him. Another man tries to replace him, but she soon learns she can never feel for him a shadow of what she still feels for Digby. One brief encounter with Digby confirms it; she is more than willing to forgive him. Can they truly take up where they left off?

Charity projects and a Frost Fair on the Thames bring them together, but another stands in their way. Will he tear them apart?

Buy Links for Fire & Frost:
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About Bluestocking Belle Sherry Ewing:

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. When not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist.

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A chance meeting on purpose

Aldridge looked around the unfamiliar room of a club patronised by the son and heir of the Duke of Sudbury. He soon spotted the distinctive white-blonde head of hair. Glenaire was dining alone at a table set apart from the others. Aldridge strolled over, catching up a chair on his way.

“Good evening, Glenaire. Would company go amiss?” It was a comedy they enacted for the audience. Glenaire had offered this as a meeting place when Aldridge asked for a private conversation.

Glenaire looked up from the pamphlet on which he focused to the neglect of his plate. “It would be my pleasure.” He hooked a finger at a passing footman. “A place setting for Lord Aldridge.”

As the footman hurried away, Glenaire went straight to the point. “Forgive if I’m assuming, Aldridge, but I gather this is about your family matter.”

Aldridge grimaced. “In a sense, Glenaire, though it touches on your particular interests. Let me be blunt. My ‘family matter’ as you call it is out of my hands and into those of men like your esteemed father. I shall need to trust they make the right decision, for what else can I do? Meanwhile, I am doing my best to contain the mischief my own progenitor can cause, as quietly as possible, for my mother’s sake and the sake of the duchy.”

Glenaire’s somber expression deepened. Unlike Aldridge, Glenaire had withdrawn from affairs of the Sudbury duchy and thrown himself into government, becoming highly influential in foreign affairs. His sharp disagreement with the duke his father made working together impossible and, unlike Haverford, the Duke of Sudbury remained very much in control. He understood, however, the frustration of watching his family heritage poorly managed while lacking power to intervene.

The footman arrived to serve a bowl of rich oyster soup. Aldridge thanked him with a smile, and took his first sip while waiting for the man to leave. “With your sister supporting this event my mother is sponsoring, I take it we shall be seeing you at the auction?”

“Of course,” Glenaire agreed. “Chadbourn and I have been working on similar issues for a few years. I will support the ladies’ efforts any way I can.”

“I was somewhat surprised to see your sister at Haverford House and joining in the committee’s activities. My impression has been she prefers to remain in Oxfordshire.”

Glenaire shook his head. “Georgiana is much too much a recluse. One worries. I urged her to come down for a few weeks while our parents are not in town.” A small movement at the corner of his lips hinted at amusement. “Your mother recruited her rather quickly. Now she has moved to Chadbourn House. She and the earl’s sister Lady Flora are partners in this cause.”

Aldridge grinned. “Chadbourn already has a special interest in the Society’s cause. The Chadbourn House servants are an interesting lot.”  (Chadbourn recruited many of his servants from among disabled veterans and war widows.)

The footman finished pouring the wine to go with the soup course, and left. Aldridge leant forward and lowered his voice. “Glenaire, I’ll get straight to the point. It has come to my attention that a certain crime lord in the London slums has smuggling interests, and that the implications may touch on the security of the King’s realm. If… and I pose the question hypothetically… if a prominent Devon landowner gave safe haven to such criminals, and someone presented the government with information about the places and times of meeting, could the landowner’s name be kept out of it? The family would, of course, guarantee to deal with the matter in their own way. Indeed, steps are already being taken.”

Glenaire nodded. “Ah, but the government would have a strong interest in assisting the family in this matter. Confidentially, Aldridge we both know there are smugglers one winks at (your boyhood shows that) and ones that mean us harm. I assume these are the latter and can ensure the full force of the border enforcement—riding officers and military aid if it came to that. Unless, of course, you prefer I keep them out of it.”

Aldridge frowned. “It’s a tricky matter, Glenaire. It needs to be handled by someone with a bit of discretion. Yes, running with the smugglers in Devon is almost a rite of passage for Haverford sons. My brother and I both did it when we were schoolboys, and I still know some of the men I met then. They wouldn’t touch these London thugs with an extremely long barge pole.”

He looked down at his soup spoon, but it was clear his mind was far away. “I can’t stand by and let a man’s second childhood, and his resentment of a romantic rivalry from before I was born, put England at risk. But I don’t want — can I be blunt? — I don’t want the fool attained for treason, either.”

“Are we back to a “family” matter?” Glenaire asked.

Aldridge nodded, cautiously. “Hypothetical, again? Imagine a man whose excesses have rotted his brain, and who has always thought he was one step up from God. If he needed to pay a villain for an assassination attempt, and the payment demanded was free use of smuggler sanctuaries, would his conscience bother him, do you think?”

Glenaire leaned forward. “I think it would not bother him one whit.” He bit his lip, choosing words cautiously. “Let’s assume, hypothetically, a prominent individual has so taken leave of his senses as to put his duchy, locale or indeed England at risk. Dear God! He must be stopped.”

“Agreed.” Aldridge spread his lips in a travesty of a grin, as if Glenaire had said something amusing. “At any cost, Glenaire. Any cost. But I’m selfish enough to wish to limit the cost to something I can afford to pay.”

 “Care for the impact of such a thing on a mother and her wards — not to mention the wellbeing of the duchy — is not selfish. No one gains by the scandal of a trial for treason. With the cooperation of close individuals — his heir for example — the man in question might be dealt with quietly. Some sort of confinement could be arranged. Do you anticipate difficulty from his peers? A duke for example, hypothetically?”

Another nod. This one more emphatic. “Indeed. A duke whose own heir might be very close to you.”

“Precisely. I have little influence with my father,” Glenaire acknowledged, “but this… no, I don’t suppose you want him to know about this.”

Aldridge inclined his head. “I am grateful for your understanding. He is not the only man on the panel for the Competence Hearing, so I do not despair of an appropriate outcome. If not — I have servants loyal to me. Something will be contrived.”

“A positive outcome there would make all this easier. You may be sure the Regent will agree with a finding in favour of the truth,” Glenaire assured his fellow heir, then his brows shot up. “One thing, Aldridge. You said, ‘an assassination attempt…’ but you don’t name the victim. Surely not the Regent! A high ranking official? We’ll need to organize protection.”

Aldridge responded with a wry quirk of the eyebrows. “The man in question has his own very efficient protection. You will have heard of the footpad attack more than a year back on the town carriage of a certain duke? Five of twelve scoundrels left dead in the streets? The next two attempts have been kept quiet, but have resulted in a similar body count.”

“Ah,” Glenaire said knowingly. “A man with a private army perhaps?”

A small smile. “No noble is permitted a private army, Glenaire. This personage has only the number of retainers permitted by law. That they are unusually skilled, men and women alike, is to their advantage in this case.  I am not concerned for their safety and wellbeing. Though for all their prowess, if this Devil’s Acre fellow is allowed to continue, he might get lucky.”

Aldridge opened his jacket and pulled a slim package from an inside pocket. “A report from David Wakefield, the investigator. Use it as you need to, Glenaire.”

Glenaire accepted it and put it away in his own jacket. “Thank you for the warning. I’ll send the support the hypothetical heir needs, alert certain influential individuals. Ah yes, and speak to you again at the ladies’ auction. Our sisters will insist on it.”

 Aldridge laughed. “I expect it to cost me a pretty penny, one way and another. My mother tells me it is my duty to purchase the baskets of any lady who may be left behind. I trust I can content myself with driving up the bids of others.”

Glenaire allowed himself a slightly broader smile. “I fear I lack your patience for the latter but I’ll try to do my duty by the first.”

“One must have patience to be a success with the ladies, Glenaire.” Aldridge smiled warmly at the footman who replaced his soup bowl with a plate of roasted beef and finely cooked vegetables. “Thank you. Will you see the doorman and fetch the bottle I left with him? Glenaire? May I treat you to a fine Italian red?”

***

The event the Duchess of Haverford is organising, and some of the other matters touched on in this discussion between Jude’s Marquis of Aldridge and Caroline’s Marquess of Glenaire, are featured in Fire & Frost, due for publication on 4 February. Click on the link to find out more about five wonderful stories, set in the winter of 1813-14, when the weather was so cold the Thames froze over, and all five stories converge at the Frost Fair.
And come back to check out the tour around the Belles’ blogs on release day your own personal guided tour of five Frost Fair booths, with a large helping of scandal and five micro stories written just for the blog tour. (The link will be added when the tour opens.)

Abigail sets her cap!

Lady Prudence Danver carefully watched her sister as she eyed the Lieutenant take a seat at a vacant table inside the Oxford Street Book Palace and Tearooms.

“If you continue stirring your tea as you are, Abigail, it will grow cold before you even take a sip,” Prudence said.

Abigail sighed. “Is he not handsome? What do you suppose he sees in her?”

“Lady Constance?”

“Of course, Lady Constance! Whom else would I be referring to?” Abigail hissed setting down her spoon.

“It hardly matters if the Lieutenant cares for her or not.”

“It does if I would like to be introduced to him,” Abigail huffed. She stole another glance at the man across the room.

Prudence watched her sister give the stranger a smile. His brief nod could only mean nothing good could come from their possible meeting. “Father would hardly allow you to become involved with an officer,” Prudence declared before reaching over to pat her sister’s hand. “He expects us to marry titled gentlemen, or have you forgotten?”

“As if he or Mother would ever let us forget.” Abigail took a sip of her tea. “Did not Lady Constance set her cap on another peer a couple of years ago?”

Prudence heaved a sigh. “Leave it be, Abigail. No good can come of you meddling in Lady Constance’s life nor Lord Osgood’s and you certainly will not be setting your cap on a man you do not know!”

“That is who it was!” Her eyes sparkled in delight. “Surely a Viscount would be more to Lady Constance’s liking.”

Prudence stood and put on her pelisse. “We are done here and leaving, Abigail, before you make a scene and we end up in the Teatime Tattler. Honestly, I would rather be sending tidbits of gossip to Mr. Clemens than be in his column. Now let’s go!”

As Prudence ushered her sister from the tearoom, she saw Lady Constance pushing a cart full of books around the corner of a shelf. Abigail quickly turned as though to return to the lieutenant but Prudence took her arm and pulled her from the shop. The fog quickly enveloped them and Prudence was thankful for the inclement weather. She would need to get her sister home before Abigail made a fool of herself.

The Danver sister’s make a brief appearance in A Second Chance At Love by Sherry Ewing that is one of the novellas in the Bluestocking Belles’ box set Fire & Frost. It will release February 4, 2020 and is available for preorder for $0.99.

Viscount Digby Osgood returns to London after a two-year absence, planning to avoid the woman he courted and then left. Surely she has moved on with her life; even married by now. A bit of encouragement from a friend, however, pushes him to seek the lady out. Can she ever forgiven him and give them a second chance at love?

Lady Constance Whittles has only cared for one man in her life. Even after he broke her heart, it remains fixed on him. Another man tries to replace him, but she soon learns she can never feel for him a shadow of what she still feels for Digby. One brief encounter with Digby confirms it; she is more than willing to forgive him. Can they truly take up where they left off?

Charity projects and a Frost Fair on the Thames bring them together, but another stands in their way. Will he tear them apart?

Fire & Frost: A Bluestocking Belles Collection
Release Date: February 4, 2020

Pre-order for $0.99

Join the The Ladies’ Society For The Care of the Widows and Orphans of Fallen Heroes and the Children of Wounded Veteransin their pursuit of justice, charity, and soul searing romance.

The Napoleonic Wars have left England with wounded warriors, fatherless children, unemployed veterans, and hungry families. The ladies of London, led by the indomitable Duchess of Haverford plot a campaign to feed the hungry, care for the fallen—and bring the neglectful Parliament to heel. They will use any means at their disposal to convince the gentlemen of their choice to assist.

Their campaign involves strategy, persuasion, and a wee bit of fun. Pamphlets are all well and good, but auctioning a lady’s company along with her basket of delicious treats is bound to get more attention. Their efforts fall amid weeks of fog and weather so cold the Thames freezes over and a festive Frost Fair breaks out right on the river. The ladies take to the ice. What could be better for their purposes than a little Fire and Frost? 

Buy links:
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Amazon US

More about Sherry:

Sherry is proud to be one of the Bluestocking Belles. Sherry picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. When not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. 

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Overheard on the Ice

The Teatime Tattler
Special Edition: coming to you from the frozen Thames River
2 February 1814

The third full day of the Frost Fair dawned cold and still this morning. Your humble servant was out on the ice at the earliest possible minute, mixing with the crowds of common, gentle, and even noble folk, listening for any snippets of news that might delight your eyes and ears, Gentle Reader.

Tomorrow is the social event that everyone has been talking about. The charity subscription ball Her Grace of Haverford holds every year will this year be supplemented by a Venetian Breakfast ON THE ICE.

You read that correctly, Gentle Reader. Her Grace and her group of Society ladies have requisitioned a section of the ice, where all–or at least a goodly number–of the great folk of the nation will gather tomorrow for this breakfast.

But, before they can eat, we are to be treated to a basket auction. For those who have not heard of this quaint country custom, the ladies intend to auction the food for the breakfast one basket at a time–and not just the basket, but the company of the fair cook.

We are assured that the sale of a lady’s time is not scandalous when it is for charity, and promoted by the leading ladies of Society. Gentle reader, you may draw your own conclusions, as have we.

Meanwhile, we have heard some other interesting tidbits of gossip that we must share.

The Granite Earl was seen escorting the Ice Princess and her two sisters in a Haverford troika. Will we see a chip in his facade; a thaw in her cold heart? Their conveyance hints that the courtship, if such it is, has her family’s approval, but who can believe that this highly proper gentleman intends an honourable offer to a female of such murky birth?

The shocking Miss C., though shunned by many, has a champion in the Earl of T. Yet, after the confrontation between her and her cousin at the theatre, which your reporter was fortunate enough to witness, many are rethinking their stand. Is the lady innocent? Will she remain innocent, or does the Earl of T. have other plans?

Is the Duchess of S. aware that her eldest daughter has come out of seclusion to write pamphlets for the good ladies led by the Duchess of H.? Should you wish to read one of them, Lady G. is herself giving them away at a Frost Fair booth. Just look for the banner with the ridiculously long name on it. That pretty debutante, Lady F., is keeping Lady G. company. Are their brothers too busy with affairs of state to keep the ladies out of mischief?

A certain Lieutenant who capitalised on his planned engagement to a wealthy young lady is out in the cold, it seems. Lady C. is once more being escorted by Lord O., and she shows the gentleman a marked preference. Given that he assisted to put up the aforementioned banner, we believe the inclination is returned. Will the military gentleman take his dismissal with grace?

Lady T., sister to the Duke of E., was heard to comment to a friend that her reclusive brother, scars and all, will come to the auction tomorrow, and perhaps even to the ball. He will not be able to resist, she claims, for Lady H. R. has invoked The Umbrella. Are wedding bells on the horizon for the reclusive peer, and if so, will his bride survive the occasion?

The paragraphs above are about events and characters in five of the novellas in coming Bluestocking Belles box set, Fire & Frost. Preorder now, and watch for more news as the Belles share gossip and snippets from their stories.

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