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Memoirs of a Spy

spy

My first mission, as commissioned by, King Charles II, sounded simpler than the genuine affair. I wasn’t prepared to put my life in the hands of dastardly expatriates. While I was escorted by two fully armed compatriots they were of little assistance when establishing intimacy in the name of the crown. I had been given the directive to entreat William Scot, a rogue Englishman, to infiltrate the Belgium political corridors and report his discoveries to the King Charles II. In essence, I was to make a double agent of the man. It was with this request and whisper of a financial benefit that I should employ all my feminine wiles to subdue him into submission. I being in all ways, aligned with the King of England and a true patriot, never mind that I was broke, I took my task with fervor, as you are about to see. 

It was a lengthy journey and I had traveled by coach, horseback, and sea, with my two fellow compatriots in search of William Scot. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was an exhaustive journey to say the least. While we were subject to every ill met experience of, sea sickness, fatigue, soured food, and dehydration, nothing prepared us for the alehouse wherein we would find Scot. 


spy

I was told by King Charles II himself, that the likes of William Scot, would be found in Bruges, Belgium. Probably, in a pub, down by the river, where singing and lascivious dancing is practiced. Indeed it was true. The stench of spilled ale, over burnt meat, and bodily oils wafted through ale house as I entered. Immediately, I pulled a scented kerchief to my nose but the overripe smells of the alehouse drained all perfume from my nosegay.

Coughing and sputtering in the stale rancid air I unwittingly drew attention to myself and my companions. Since it was not customary, in Bruges, for reputable women to visit alehouses I garnered the attention of every patron in the building. The dancers stopped in misstep and the singers held their tongue in surprise.

A stinging silence befell the room and I was at a loss to comprehend which of these drunken lords was William Scot. My two companions were silenced to the bone and I was left to my wits and my good graces to scrutinize the crowd of twenty-five, thirty, or possibly fifty inebriated men.

You understand my predicament, I’m sure. But I took the moment at hand and stood tall enough to see the entire room. I spoke gently and I admit only batted my eye’s just enough to get the gentlemen’s attention. I cleared my throat so my best voice would rise to the occasion. I began.

“Dear Sir’s,” was all I managed until the room broke out in loud jags of laughter and hoots of folly. I was startled to the point of laughing myself.

“Ain’t none of Sir’s, woman,” one man shouted above the din.

Understanding my idiocy I made a second plea once the room had started to silence again.

“I am in search of William Scot, might any of you know his whereabouts?” I said. Silence again fill the alehouse. A man moved forward toward me, slowly and distinctly. I admit until this time I had not ever considered that William Scot would be as handsome as the ocean is wide. In an effort to maintain my constancy, I once again pulled my kerchief to my mouth and batted my eyes. I can assure you it was not to entreat him so much as it was to calm my own nerves. 

As he approached me, I could feel my composure slip.

“Who is it, that’s asking for my attention and why?” he asked, expressing a devilish grin.

I couldn’t lie at this point, but my intelligence reminds me that saying too much in front of this crowd may lead me down the wrong path.

“I come bearing news of a private nature, my good sir, and if we have a place to talk then I can express more fully my duty to you,” I said with a slight bend and upward glance.

It wasn’t a moment before the room was again filled with hoots, whistles, and howls of laughter. With a deep breath Scot, held out his arm, and in the most courtly fashion ever displayed. I took his arm and we walked out of the alehouse and embarked on the path by the river. We were followed at some distance, by my two silent companions.

“Now, M’Lady, what news do you bring to me?”

I had to take a moment to clear my head and find the words to entreat him to our political ends.

“”M’Lady, your taking so long to tell me of your plans, I’m afraid I’m under arrest,” he said with his broad smile.

“I am waiting sire, until we are out of earshot of the crowd, this business I have for you is delicate and not meant for all,” I said and couldn’t help but grin.

“Oh, if it’s that important, then your appealing to a man who is half drunk. Are you sure this will get the answer you seek?”

I looked up at him, “We’ll then, I’ll only make my appeal to the sober half of you, if you’re inclined to listen,” I said stopping on the path.

“With a wit like yours I’ll happily listen to your plea. But understand, I’m not the kind to easily sway my beliefs even for the prettiest of maids,” he said.

“Oh dear, it’s been a number of years since I’ve been a maid, your kindness is treasured. But, I have something of a delicate nature to put to you and need your full attention,” I said.

“More delicate than your neck,” he said reaching and touching her just below her right ear.

His touch was more seductive than anticipated and I felt a ripple of heat run the entire length of my body. When I collected myself to the point I could speak he outmaneuvered me again.

“Or is it a subject more delicate than your sweet blushing cheek?” he said and this time ran the back of his hand over my cheek and I could not stop the rising and falling of my breasts.

“Or maybe it’s the fine china of your décolleté  that is the delicate subject upon which you wish to speak,” he said touching my cleavage in the most tempting way. By now, as you can assume I was all a flutter. Hardly able to gasp a breath I was astonished at his boldness and yet, I could see swaying him politically might be simpler than I had assumed.  

“Sire, it is my rouged lips that bring you news directly from King Charles II, himself.

Upon hearing the news that the King had directly sent me on this errand he backed away in suspicion.

“That is a high honor indeed, and here I am thinking you were here to empty my pockets with your feminine charms. Tell me more,” he said.

“It is a high honor he would like to bestow upon you, Sire Scot. I am humbled to bring a request from the King, that you might, sway your intellectual ideals to include the Crown,” I said and waited a moment for him to respond. He was only still and quiet.

“His Highness, has requested to entreat you to bring news of Belgium to Britain,” I said with more misplaced enthusiasm than intended. 

“What is your name?”

spy, Aphra Behn

“Dear Astrea, does your Highness have such a short memory? The Crown had sentenced my father to death only one year ago. Now they ask for my allegiance?” he said in such a harsh tone it was difficult to hear.  

“ I am Astrea,” I said hoping to regain my station.

“That was a matter most regretful. The Crown was only protecting the King, after all your father, good sir, had planned to murder his Highness in the dead of night. Retribution is customary in a case such as that,” I said. 

He stood ponderously looking out at the passing river then turned slowing to face me with eye’s glowing like embers from a fire and he spoke his final words. “If the King could see his way to pardon my father and rename the misdemeanor, then I would consider aligning with the crown once again, but never until the King honors my father. Upon this, I am settled.” He said and walked away.

At this point, I could tell my duties were going to be considerably more difficult than I first understood.

About the Story and the Author

This memoir is based on a fictitious conversation between Aphra Behn and William Scot. Aphra Behn, when she was actually working as a spy for King Charles II went by the name, Astrea, as listed in the story. It is believed she is the first woman to make her living as a writer, as a playwright and novelist. Prior to taking up the pen, she worked as a spy for the King Charles II, among other things. The portrait above is Aphra Behn, painted by Mary Beale (1639-1699).

Daphne Masque writes contemporary romance set in the theatre. Currently she’s giving away an Autographed copy of Haunting Indiscretions, the second book in her series, “Romance at the Empire Theatre”. She plans to begin writing historical fiction.

Daphne has spent a good number of years acting, directing, teaching and writing for the theatre. And she loves romance, what better way to combine her two passions. To signup for her newsletter go to http://www.daphnemasque.com/contest/


Overheard at the Silverpines Inn

By A Concerned Citizen Who Wishes to Remain Anonymous

My lands! As if our dear little town of Silverpines, Oregon hasn’t endured enough calamities in the past year — earthquakes, a mud slide, and a fire that consumed nearly everything in its path between 3rd Avenue and Chinatown! It is salt in the proverbial wound to now be forced to endure the scandal brewing across town at the old Kingsley mansion.

If it weren’t for a certain postmistress taking her dinner at the Silverpines Inn yesterday afternoon, we might never have learned the truth. Sadly, it appears the headmistress of the new Silverpines Finishing School for Young Ladies, Rachel West, is stringing along not one but two beaus. Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs to witness an instructor of social graces carrying on so, but I fear the evidence against her is overwhelming.

For one thing, she was overheard having a somewhat heated conversation with the dashing Mr. Finneas Banfield, who I’m delighted to report was wearing the latest in fashion from Boston. Ah, but our small town could use more of his charming Old World manners and British accent. In short, the orphan-widow appeared to be rebuffing the man’s adoring attentions. How heartbreaking!

An hour later, the same young instructor in deportment was seen driving her new, outlandish automobile to the train depot. There she proceeded (without a proper chaperone) to greet a perfect stranger and chauffeur him across town to her finishing school. I wish that was the worst of my news. Alas, there is more.

No one in town has ever laid eyes on the man. I asked around to be certain, and it was confirmed by no less than two other reputable townswomen: Never before has a Black man so much as paid a visit to Silverpines.

Upon further investigation, I learned that Mrs. West posted a letter a few weeks ago for a mail-order groom. And not just any groom! Rumor has it Mr. Boone Cassidy is a bounty hunter. A bounty hunter! I shudder to contemplate the reasons anyone would require the services of such a dark and brooding gunslinger. I can only pray he completes whatever mission he’s been called upon to perform with haste, before the rumors about his budding romance with Mrs. West spin completely beyond my control.

As one of the senior matriarchs in our town, I’ve tried everything within reason to quell the gossip. I truly have. But even a God-fearing, upright citizen like myself cannot easily explain away a public embrace like the one Mrs. West apparently shared this morning with Mr. Cassidy. Be assured, I will keep my ear bent to the ground for more details and report back the moment I can confirm this latest distressing report.

About the Book

Silverpines

Orphan and widow Rachel West is returning home to Oregon after eight years of living with her guardian on the East Coast. Thanks to a lavish inheritance from her great-aunt, she now has the funds to realize her dream of opening the Silverpines Finishing School for Young Ladies.

Unfortunately, a former co-instructor from Boston follows her to Silverpines, claiming a deathbed promise to look after her. Highly suspicious of his intentions, she sends off for a mail-order husband to provide a buffer between them; but she makes it clear in her letter she wishes to court first and only marry if they develop feelings for each other and the “good Lord wills it.”

As a bounty hunter by trade, Boone Cassidy is accustomed to far more dangerous tasks than ridding spoiled debutantes of their unwanted suitors. He fully expects the uppity Mrs. West to send him packing the moment she realizes a Black man has been sent to her aid. After laying eyes on her at the train station, however, he realizes he’s made a great many incorrect assumptions about the lovely headmistress. All of a sudden, thwarting the attentions of her dandified, self-proclaimed beau from Boston becomes a task worthy of his most gallant efforts!

Available in eBook on Amazon + FREE in Kindle Unlimited at
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RKW915S
Coming soon to paperback!

Two Short Excerpts~

RACHEL WEST’S STORY:

November, 1900 — Silverpines, Oregon

Rachel West shivered as she stepped onto the train platform. It wasn’t the chill of the late autumn breeze so much as the feeling of stepping on ghosts that shook her up on the inside. For a moment, she fought the urge to spin around in her designer boots, sprint back to her private cabin on the train, and keep on riding.

She’d been away for eight long years from the one town in the world that felt like home. Or should have…

Squinting against the glare of the morning sun, she turned in a full circle, trying to find one familiar structure or one familiar face from her treasure trove of memories.

And utterly failed.

A spurt of panic gurgled through her mid-section at the sight of the new-looking cafe facing her. A freshly painted butcher’s storefront rested to the left of it, and a post office was located just across a side street from it. They had to be new, because the paint was so bright and un-peeling, and none of their roofs boasted the usual slight ripple of unevenness that so many buildings take on once they’ve had the chance to settle.

Her head swiveled. There was also a book store she didn’t remember standing next to the post office. It was an inviting little building with a big, cheery picture window crowded with books. Normally, she would have tossed all her earthly cares to the winds and made a beeline for the cozy nook for book lovers, but she was too busy pondering the notion that she might have made a horrible mistake at disembarking.
Why, even the depot building squatting behind her looked new! Had she misunderstood the announcement and gotten off at the wrong stop altogether?

“Rachel? Is it really you?”

She jolted at the soft, lilting alto wafting across the train platform. Nothing around her looked familiar, but she’d recognize that voice anywhere.

“Penelope Wallace!” she cried joyfully, whirling to face her childhood friend. She was in the right town after all, even if it didn’t look right.

“It’s Cooper now. Penelope Cooper.”

They threw themselves in each other’s arms with squeals of sheer delight, and Rachel experienced a pang of remorse at the knowledge it had been more than two years since they’d last exchanged letters, maybe three. Good heavens, how the time had flown!

To avoid making any awkward excuses for her lack of correspondence, Rachel fell back on her good manners and well of natural charm. “Eight years hasn’t changed you one bit. You don’t look a day older than sixteen.” The moment the words sailed from her mouth, she regretted them; because it was painfully clear that Penelope had indeed changed.

She still looked young and girlish, but the sparkle that had always lurked in her wide, innocent eyes — despite how hard her temperamental, overly controlling mama had tried to extinguish it — was entirely gone. It its place was bone-weariness and the bruising shadows born of hard times. A recent tragedy, if Rachel were to venture a guess.

They were the same kind of shadows she witnessed in her own eyes every time she stood in front of a mirror.

Silverpines


BOONE CASSIDY’S STORY:

…Thank you kindly for your assistance in this unbelievably stressful matter. If you send me a trustworthy bounty hunter, I will be forever grateful.
Yours truly,
Rachel West 

When a knock sounded on the door of his train car, Boone hastily wadded the letter and stuffed it back in his pocket. “Yes?”

A sandy-haired attendant with a mop of flyaway curls popped his head inside and looked surprised to find a Black man in a pin-striped travel suit lounging in the luxury cabin. “I, ah…” He swallowed. “I’m looking for a Mr. Cassidy?”

“Present and accounted for,” Boone answered dryly, wondering if the man would refuse to serve him like the last one had. In anticipation of such discriminatory treatment, he’d brought along a decent sized stash of non-perishable foods and bottled beverages.

“Very well.” The waiter swallowed again and stepped inside the car, looking nervous. “W-would you care to order any dinner?”

“I would.” Boone was afraid to get his hopes up, but his traitorous mouth started to water at the thought of a warm meal. It had been a full two days since his last one. “What’s on the menu?”

“Roasted ham and chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed asparagus, and a fruit salad.”

“Sounds good to me.” More like heaven, actually. He was already imagining himself biting into the steamy, succulent meat entrees.

“What would you like to drink? There’s tea and lemonade, coffee and…never mind. I don’t believe I’m allowed to serve wine and spirits to your kind.”

As a God-fearing Christian the past twenty-eight years, Boone wasn’t all that interested in ordering wine and spirits, but he couldn’t help resenting the jab about his kind. He knew without asking that the man was referring to his rich-as-molasses color, thanks to his half-Nigerian and half-Hispanic roots. “Tea and coffee would be marvelous,” he assured with a wink, hoping to settle the young man’s jumpiness.

He only looked more nervous. His glazed-over gray eyes dropped to the twin holsters slung around Boone’s hips.

Boone held his gaze steadily. “I’m a bounty hunter, heading up to Silverpines, Oregon to help rescue a little schoolmarm from a conman.”

A faint smile tugged at the edges of the waiter’s mouth, and his shoulders relaxed a fraction. “That sounds like quite an adventure.”

Boone shrugged. “Most of what I do is dangerous work, but it pays well.” Come to think of it, he was probably the wealthiest Black man in the Midwest. In the country, for that matter! Another thought struck him, making him shoot a sly glance up at the waiter. “The sooner you arrive back with my dinner, the bigger your tip will be, son.”

The young man gulped and took off so quickly he stumbled over his own feet on his way out the door.

Boone chuckled at his expense and returned to the wildly un-exciting task of pondering the best way to rid the uppity Mrs. West of her unwanted suitor.

About the Author

Jo writes sweet historical and contemporary romance stories — with humor, sass, and happily ever afters.

A typical day finds her with her laptop balanced on her knees, a fizzy beverage within reach, and a cat snoozing on her knees. He takes credit for most of what she does.

When Jo’s not writing stories, she’s reading them. She adores dashing gentlemen, resilient heroines with a sense of adventure, humorous sidekicks, dusty cowboys, bounty hunters, mail order brides…you get the idea.

She loves to visit with readers in her Cuppa Jo Readers group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/CuppaJoReaders/.

To receive a personal email about each book she publishes, join her New Release Email List at JoGrafford.com or follow her on BookBub at https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jo-grafford.

Plus you can read free chapters of many of her books on http://Wattpad.com/user/JoGrafford.

Will Love Run True?

Dear Teatime Tattler Readers,

I am delighted to inform you that everything is proceeding on schedule in my brother’s courtship of my best friend, Constance Drake. How Samuel fretted when Constance’s father put an end to his suit, but Mr. Drake has seen the error of his ways and now gives permission for Samuel to chart a course toward wedded bliss.

Courtship

It seems the original misunderstanding has been corrected. Since Samuel is an ardent abolitionist and travels frequently on lecture tours, Constance’s father believed that his daughter would risk being widowed. We in the Ohio Abolitionist Society all know the dangers abolitionists face. We have dodged thrown eggs and tomatoes in more than one town. But we are determined to do what we believe is right.

Constance and Samuel will make a wonderful couple!


After seminary, Samuel hopes to be placed at a church in Ohio. His reputation grows with every speaking engagement, so I’m sure he will find the perfect church in which to continue his abolitionist mission.

The only fly in the ointment is Micah Spencer. He and Samuel used to be the best of friends when they attended seminary together, but Micah made some poor choices for his life. He once told me how much he admired Constance, but when Samuel started courting her, Micah bowed out. To make matters worse, Micah turned to slave catching as a way to earn money. Can you imagine?  Micah works directly against Constance. Surely he doesn’t think he has a chance with her now.

I cannot imagine a more perfect union than that of my brother and my best friend. My mother often quotes Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “The course of true love never did run true.”  But surely the way is set for my brother. Micah may pine for Constance, but how could she possibly choose him over Samuel?

About the Book

Ohio promises freedom. Kentucky threatens bondage. Only one thing would entice an escaped slave to take the risk

In 1838, escaping slaves know Ripley, Ohio is a good place to cross into freedom. But slave catchers know it as well. Micah Spencer spends a frozen night silently waiting for runaways, unaware that the next escaping slave will change his life.

Runaway slave Opal knows she’s risking her life and that of her infant by leaving Kentucky and making a desperate journey north. If she is to make it, she’ll have to trust the one person she’s learned to fear.


Constance Drake admires the heroic abolitionists of Ripley but wonders if she has the courage of her convictions. When she’s asked to cross into enemy territory, she’ll have to rely on her faith and every ounce of bravery she has.

Read free with Kindle Unlimited or Buy now!

An excerpt from Freedom River

Constance had been high-spirited during their school days together. Since becoming an adult, she’d adopted a more restrained manner, but that daring spirit still twinkled in her eyes.

The warm memory of their one and only dance made Micah smile. During his last year in college, the town had put on a spring dance. Every maiden in the county had shown up in their best frocks, but Constance had outshone them all.

Micah couldn’t dance worth a lick, but he wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass him by. When the musicians had struck up Annie Laurie, he’d approached Constance from behind and slipped his hand into hers. She’d spun around, obviously surprised, but then she’d smiled.

Oh, that smile. With one daring grin, she’d accepted his invitation and branded his heart.

With his heart pounding and his skin on fire, he’d led her to the edge of the dance floor, set his palm on her waist, and lifted her other hand.

Despite her lacy white glove, her hand on his shoulder felt like a hot coal. She’d followed his dubious lead, all the while smiling into his eyes. At that moment, Micah knew what the hawk felt when it soared above treetops. He would win the girl and make her his own. He would marry her, love her, and care for her until he died.

But his best friend loved her too. Samuel had kept him awake half the night, sighing over Constance. A few weeks later, Samuel began calling on her every Sunday afternoon. Micah had watched and waited, unwilling to surrender his hopes and unable to intervene.

That had been the beginning of the rift between he and Samuel. Samuel Lynton had absorbed every word of Reverend Rankin’s abolitionist teaching. In those days he’d been a zealot for the cause, debating with his fellow students and writing articles for various abolitionist newspapers. He’d risen rapidly in Reverend Rankin’s organization, and he was undoubtedly the teacher’s favorite.

But Micah’s school days hadn’t been so ideal. When his father had learned of Reverend Rankin’s message, Micah’s tuition had disappeared. Samuel’s father owned one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the state, a legacy Samuel would one day inherit, but Micah’s options were few. He could either return to his family’s farm or find another way to support himself. How could Micah ever hope to compete with Samuel?  Then he’d seen the notices in the Ripley paper. Rewards for the return of runaway slaves would be easy money.

About the Author

Claire Sanders is an award-winning author of inspirational novels. Her attention is always drawn to stories about someone fighting for what’s right in the face of overwhelming resistance. That, and a life-long interest in history, led to an appreciation for the abolitionists who dared to break mankind’s law in order to uphold God’s law.

Claire writes about Christians in conflict. Never one to preach, Claire lets the plot reveal how the characters’ faith sustains them through the struggle.

To find out more about Claire, see an complete list of her novels, and sign up for her newsletter, visit her website –

       www.clairesandersbooks.com.

email:  claire@clairesandersbooks.com

Twitter:  @booksbyclaire

Facebook:  Claire Sanders News

Bookbub:  Claire Sanders

A Widow at the Lighthouse!

Lighthouse

It has come to our attention here at the Teatime Tattler that in a certain town in Maine, there is a widow in charge of the lighthouse. Perhaps the population there is so sparse that they must press ladies into occupations better suited to gentlemen?


We have investigated this untoward circumstance thoroughly, to see if there is some suitable explanation. Perhaps she holds domestic sway while a son does the more — muscular, dare we say, — duties? While there is a son, he is to attend medical school, leaving the widow to attend the lighthouse, her home, and take care of the raising of two younger girls.

Those in town report the widow has taken the duties of lighthouse keeper upon herself. We can only imagine her grief at the loss of her husband has rendered her incapable of understanding her feminine limitations. Why, much mechanical work must be done to keep the lens in order. And much courage is needed to keep the light burning during stormsy weather. Reading the list of instructions for a lighthouse keeper, it becomes clear that only a man is up to the task.


You may suggest that we, who do not live in this town, have no business reporting on their lighthouse keeper. But you forget that the lighthouse is all that prevents ships from foundering in the dark, in the fog, and in stormy seas, where Mother Nature wreaks her bad temper on unlucky sailors. Do we want our sailors coming near a lighthouse where a widow is in charge? We think not.
It has been reported, but we can scarcely credit it ourselves, that the widow had attended the lighthouse well, in all her duties and the town wishes her to remain in place.
If so, we have a suggestion for them: please find that widow a husband, forthwith.

An excerpt…

The sight of her new home stole Betsy’s breath away. The lighthouse perched like an ancient warrior goddess atop the throne of rocks that acted as a bulwark against the relentless surf. The sound and scent and feel of the water permeated through everything, enfolding her in its powerful embrace. She breathed in, closed her eyes—then opened them and carefully picked her path up toward the entrance. 

The front door was constructed of heavy, unpolished wood, as though it had been salvaged directly from the waves. Its austere beauty reminded her of the duke’s ancient manor home, stalwart and secure. The cracks and peels in the dirty white paint around the base of the massive structure became clear as she approached, but they only added to the picture of a home that would stand through a storm and show little damage for it. 

She frowned slightly, looking around. Not that a woman’s hand wasn’t needed here, she was relieved to see. What scrubby grass had managed to pry its way through the stones was left untended. A child’s faded toy ball sat lonely in the center of the footpath, half-deflated. She would make her mark on her new home. Her husband would see that she was a worthwhile addition to his life. 

Betsy paused. She gazed at the sun-bleached, wind-worn outer walls, at the two crumbling steps leading up to a bare stoop. The light above the doorway was clouded with grime. She glanced over her shoulder, but the driver was long gone. All she had left by way of companionship was the lighthouse and the sea. Where was her new family? Why had they not come outside to greet her yet.

She sighed, hoping that this lonely doorstep wasn’t the beginning of a huge mistake. Then she steeled herself once more, climbed the stairs, and knocked. It was cool in the shadow of the building; she felt a chill run through her. The crazy notion of running away, simply turning and bolting down the long ocean road, flashed through her mind—but right behind it was something Kate had said to her as they parted — the only impossibility is the possibility you fail to see.

The door began to open. In moments, it would be too late to flee.

Betsy squared her shoulders and plastered a smile on her face. Emile Laverdiere was a possibility she must see before she let fear chase her away.

 A wraith of a man stood just inside the threshold, his pale eyes huge in the gaunt frame of his face. Betsy bit her tongue just in time to keep a gasp of surprise from escaping her lips. Though she had not chosen to follow the healer path her mother had taken, with her herbs and potions, she knew this man was gravely ill.

“Betsy Lawton?” he asked in a voice that matched the rest of him—thin, frail, reedy.

“Emile Laverdiere?” She looked into his eyes and saw that he had registered her dismay. No doubt he had been expecting it.

 He smiled, and his cheekbones stood out like mountain ridges underneath his sunken eyes. There was humor there, despite the ravage of illness. “The one and only. We have been counting the minutes until your arrival. Though it may be impolite, we must ask what you think of your new home?” 

Betsy somehow kept her smile in place as she took his offered hand and stepped into the lighthouse. Her soon-to-be-husband’s fingers were cold and bony against hers; she feared that if she squeezed at all, his hand would break. “You have a magnificent landscape at your command,” she answered honestly. He had said nothing of illness in his letters. Nor had those who had attested to his honest character and true desire to wed. Could it be recent? Or had she been duped?

His air of acute attention told her he waited for more. There was an air of patient acceptance in his waiting eyes, as if she could tell him the truth. That she did not want to wed a dying man. Did not know if she truly wanted to immure herself on an isolated jut of rock like Rapunzel in one of the duchess’s favorite fairytales.

But she had come all this way, she would not be her practical mother’s daughter to throw everything away without discovering all she could about this place. Her eyes roamed the interior of the lighthouse’s living space, and she found it plain but comfortable. The rounded room was cozy, softly lit, warmed by a small stone hearth. A spiral staircase formed its centerpiece, climbing up and up through the ceiling. Her eyes could not help following it upward into the unknown. She could hear a slight scraping sound, some rustling, a whispered exchange so low she could almost dismiss it as the sound of the wind.

She looked at her soon-to-be-husband. “What is up there?’ Her eyes swept back upward, toward the sound.

He seemed to approve of her question. “Take a look for yourself, if you like.” He gestured upward. “But forgive me for not accompanying you. I will only slow a young woman like you down. It takes me a while to climb up and down, thought I do it three times a day.”

Of course, Betsy thought. That was why he had not been down to greet her quickly. He had come from the top of the lighthouse. She felt a sympathetic ache in her own healthy joints at what he must endure to do his duty three times a day.

She looked upward, walked to the iron railing, and grasped the cold metal. She began to ascend. On the first landing, she paused at what sounded like sudden whispers, but she saw nothing, so she continued upward.

At the very top, she found her answer. The view that had seemed magnificent when she first arrived, had become almost godlike here, above the sea. She could see for miles. She could pick out the people in the village going about their business, but also the sea life in the ocean. Her breath caught. She leaned closer to look. A whale. She could see a whale in the distance, breaching repeatedly like a child at play.

She was careful not to touch any of the instruments that controlled the light. Emile would teach her to use them, she was certain. She had always been an apt pupil. Living in a duke’s household had exposed her to many lessons not always provided to a governess’s daughter. Living with the Fenster siblings had provided her with lessons that went beyond what was possible even in a duke’s household. She had seen one Fenster sister start a business making beautiful high fashion buttons with a cottager, another become an artist of repute, and one a card sharp that others admired. Kate, her best friend and youngest Fenster sister, had won prizes for the roses she created in her greenhouse.

The gleaming brass of the instruments called to her, but she did not touch, except for one, loving stroke. If she accepted the dying man downstairs as husband, this could be hers.

About the Book: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Bride

At long last, Book 8 in the Once Upon a Wedding series has arrived

Lighthouse Keeper

Raised almost as a sister in a duke’s household, Betsy Lawton has let the duchess’ love of fairytale endings lead her to believe she has a chance at true love with a man far above her station.

Betsy Lawton, the governess’ daughter, dares to give her heart to an earl. When he crushes it under his heel to marry according to his family’s expectations, she turns her back on England and departs for America, where rank and station are no impediment to her dreams. Not that Betsy desires true love any longer. Instead she will be the mail order bride of a lighthouse keeper. It is the lighthouse she will love, she vows.


Matthew Thigpen, Earl of Battingston, had always regretted not fighting hard enough to marry the woman he loved, despite her lack of rank and family. But now he needs to find her. The woman he jilted is the only woman who will understand his predicament and keep his daughter safe.

Now a widow, Betsy must marry again to keep her job at her beloved lighthouse. Matthew offers her a devil’s bargain that will allow her to keep her job at the lighthouse she loves and keep his daughter safe as well. But is his bargain worth the lighthouse, if he breaks her heart all over again?

Find buy links here: https://kellymcclymerbooks.com/book/lighthouse-keepers-bride/

About the Author

Kelly McClymer fell in love with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White as a child. Her most prized possession is her copy of The Complete Tales of the Brothers Grimm. These are the stories which gripped our ancestors as they huddled around the fire at night, which taught countless children to persevere through hardship and succeed against the odds. Her favorite fairytale remains “The Six Swans” — where a young sister must not speak a word for six years in order to save her brothers from their stepmother’s evil spell.

He is awful! But we like him.

Lucinda! Dare I tell you what I heard the other day at my sister’s tea?

I shouldn’t spread such dastardly tales, but the news scarcely bears credence!

I know. I know. Come closer. We’ll sit in this corner near the doors to the garden and I will tell you. We don’t want everyone here to listen in. Why, I’d never forgive myself if such words got out and I was referenced as the one to have told the story!

Well, yes. Settled? No one around us. Hmm. So, here is the tale.

You’ve heard, I am certain, that the Marquess of Ridgemont has had a liaison for the past few months with a certain duchess. Yes, you have? Hmm. And that she is soon to be indisposed for the next six months? Yes. The duke is furious. But he knows not who to blame! Is it Ridgemont? Or perhaps Wales himself? Dastardly choice, isn’t it?

And now there is another problem. Ridgemont is to wed.

Well, yes, yes, everyone knows that. His mama and papa are quite insistent that he do. Finally, he must wed. But he tarries.

Oh, pardon me. I titter! He tarries and dallies, doesn’t he?

I mustn’t snort. So unladylike. Well! Onward with my tale!

Ridgemont is to wed. One of those American gels. The haughty sort. More money than any foolish woman should have. I must throw myself into the nearest ha-ha with outrage…but it is true. Glorious dark-haired, superbly sculpted Ridgemont must wed and get the American dollars he desperately needs.

I hear your question. Which girl, eh?

I do believe it is—

Oh, my! Why, Lord Ridgemont, I did not know you were here! How wonderful to see you!

The garden? With me? You’d like to walk among the roses?

Well. My, my. Let me open my fan. It is so stifling in this drawing room, isn’t it?

You won’t mind, Lucinda, will you, dearest, if I admire the roses with Ridgemont?

No, no, I won’t be but a few minutes.

What’s that, you say, my lord?

More than a few?

Ten, a least?

I say! How flattering and very exciting. Of  course, I will take your arm.

I’ll see you later, Lucinda. Don’t whisper a word of this, will you, my dear?

Thank you, thank you.

I am all yours, my dear Ridgemont!

For more about this spicy tidbit, do read SCANDALOUS HEIRESS, THOSE NOTORIOUS AMERICANS, Book 4, by Cerise DeLand.

For more about this spicy tidbit, do read SCANDALOUS HEIRESS, THOSE NOTORIOUS AMERICANS, Book 4, by Cerise DeLand.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07LB9KFM9/

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/scandalous-heiress-cerise-deland/1130406401?ean=2940161284896 

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/scandalous-heiress-4

And do follow Cerise DeLand on Amazon and BookBub!

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