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Dark Doings

One of your Tattler contributors has cornered a witness to goings-on in Edinburgh:

Dark Doings

“I am talking with Lady Eufemia here, down at the hotel in Edinburgh where THE DARK DUKE is rumored to have taken his bride for their post nuptials. However, they are not the story of the hour any longer, for the new Duchess of Canterbury has been seen having breakfast with the Honorable Hermione and the truly stupendous Countess of York. 

“She wore a stunning confections, as always, her hat in perfect counterpoint, and showing off her pert countenance. In fact, according to our Lady Eufemia, it also showed up her tears as she went running from the dining room in a decidedly unladylike fashion. Tsk tsk. 

“I ask the Lady Eufemia, what do you make of such shenanigans?

“Well, Lady Charissa, I am decidedly not one to gossip, but, I feel there is already a problem in the newlyweds marriage. And I think Lady Sarah may be at the crux of it. The duchess and countess have long been fast friends, but on the morning after the wedding, Lady Sarah slinks to another part of the dining room, only to run off crying a few minutes later? No, I tell you, Duchess Canterbury said something and Lady Sarah tried to compose herself. Then, when the upset just became to great, she left to find privacy to cry in. 

“I am sure that we will see more of this rift back in town for the season.”

“Why, Lady Eufemia, you have the brightest smile when it is so engaged. Good luck with the season. I am telling you, something dark and nefarious is happening here. I just hope we learn the on dits first.”

About the Book

Dark Doings

Dark times fall upon Lady Sarah and her friends as they try to unravel mysteries of who wants them dead.


Barely snagging Lady Lillian out of danger, Lady Sarah finds herself embroiled in some clandestine mischief. It causes her to doubt Lord Archer and her own feelings for him. But this fashion loving countess is not able to give up on her dreams and love for him. She enlists the aid of her two best friends to piece together what might really be happening. For she couldn’t bear it if he was a traitor to the crown.

Lord Archer’s hero in the spy organization he and his family had long been a part of are in Edinburgh to reveal a traitor to the crown. Only, his boss wants him to spy on the woman he loves and the best friend of her and his own sister. Could he have really fallen in love with a traitor? He keeps his own counsel from his boss. death.Upon deciding that there is no way his beloved could be a traitor, he recruits them all to uncover the dark underworld doings which could lead to Queen Victoria’s

While their lives and love are under attack, the two of them work to bring down one of England’s most powerful lords before he can kill the Queen.

Read **FREE** with Kindle Unlimited or buy it at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MDV3T6J/

An excerpt from Darkest Death

Hermione and Lady Lillian laughed. “I said, you’re thinking about women’s rights again, aren’t you? About the battles and the queens?”

A flush stole over her in embarrassment. “Yes,” she mumbled. “Though I do not see how you are always able to tell when such things cross my mind,” she added primly. “One might think you possessed some magical powers if one lived in the dark ages.”

They laughed harder. “It does not take a genius to see the look on your face. After these many years, I have come to learn this look quite well,” Hermione said. “It used to scare me witless, afraid Father would not approve of you and your ways.”

“Your father would not dare to have offended mine,” Sarah said, a little laugh escaping. “They had too many business interests together. How do you think we ended up playing together so much as children?”

Their food came, and the three of them ate and laughed, enjoying being women. Soon enough, Lord Clarence would come and steal Lady Lillian away again, so Lady Sarah would enjoy that morning together before her best friend left to Lord Clarence’s Scottish estates.

She’d have time later to think of her own marriage and other long-lost stories and dreams.

As they finished their meal, Sarah noticed a man having undue interest in their table.

“Hermione, Lillian, I wish to have tea before we all leave. Care to join me in the suite of rooms? I’ll have some sweets brought up. We must plan our next get together, and I find I need to go…” She flicked her napkin, trying to think of a probable story that would not be a lie. She let out a sigh. “I need to check a few things. I will fill you in when I have been able to finalize my thoughts on the matter.” A half-formed plan to stay in Scotland rather than go back for the slowly starting season began to play on her mind. 

“Of course,” Hermione said. “I will be up when I finish this scone. I find I am hungry more and more these days.”

“I will wait for Clarence, and he can escort us both to the gardens then to your rooms,” Lillian said, a blush stealing over her cheeks once more. No doubt from calling His Grace by his first name. 

“Then it is settled. I will meet you for tea. Thank you.”

She stood and shook her skirts out in a deliberate manner, trying to see the man from the corner of her eye. Most definitely watched her much too closely. A pillar stood near him. She would make her way around to there and try to listen in on the conversation. Call her paranoid, but after what they’d just gone through with Lady Amber and Lord Jarvis, on top of her ugly valentine, she would take no chances. Rather to feel foolish than feel dead. She nodded her head as she walked, then proceeded to listen.

About the Author

Leona Bushman is a USA Today best selling author. She is a crazy writer taught by dragons and known as Dragon Queen of the North. She loves to write and paint, even when her muse tries to muck things up. She chases after the three out of the five children still at home, and sometimes after the other two and the grandbaby. She has many hobbies like SCA, quilting, sewing, and gardening. Or, as one blogger succinctly put it, Leona Bushman is a whirlwind made of sheer will with a dash of clumsy to keep her grounded.

She can be found solving mysteries, exploring space, making art, and loving dragons and other creatures of the supernatural at these places:
Twitter: @L_Bushman
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLeonaBushman
Facebook artist page: https://www.facebook.com/LeonaBushmanArtisteExtraordinaire/
Website: www.leonajbushman.com
Blog: www.lbushman.blogspot.com and www.lbushman.wordpress.com
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The Passionate Mr. Gilbert

Your intrepid reporter, Saralee Etter, is here in Yorkshire at the beautiful ancestral castle known as Snowden Hall, speaking with Mr. William S. Gilbert. When he is not (as he is now) a guest at an exclusive country house party, he works for the Department of Education while also preparing for a future career as a barrister.

William Gilbert as an ensign

Mr. Gilbert is over 6 feet tall, slender, and possesses a lounging grace in his movements. You might think him German, because he is fair with tawny mustaches and blue eyes. Quick-tempered and quick-witted, he has an amazing talent for clever wordplay. He places a high value on honor and loyalty. His natural reserve makes him appear almost brusque toward strangers and those he doesn’t like, but no one could be kinder or more generous to his friends.

WSG: (looking over my shoulder) You might want to mention that I’ve written a few play reviews and comic pieces for Fun.

SLE: For fun? Have they been published anywhere?

WSG: Yes, in Fun! Fun magazine. I write a weekly column, accompanied by a half-page drawing. And you might remove the adjectives “amazing” and “clever” from your descriptions above. That’s a bit too too, as the Aesthetic types would say.

SLE: And you also write burlesque plays, I hear. Aren’t they a bit risqué?

William S. Gilbert

WSG: My dear lady, you’re thinking of the American burlesque. In England, a burlesque is a comedy based on puns, nonsense and extravagant wordplay, similar to a Christmas pantomime. They are often parodies of well-known operas. I’ve written a dozen of them – you may have heard of my version of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore? I called it Dulcamara! Or the Little Duck and the Big Quack. No? How about Robert the Devil, or the Nun, the Dun, and the Son of a Gun? Well, you are American, after all.

SLE: Tell me what brings you to Snowden Hall, up here in Yorkshire.

WSG: The North Eastern Railway. Very well, I came here because my two sisters, Maude and Florence, were all in a lather to visit the place. Both of them cherish hopes of marrying our host, baronet Sir John Snowden, although I can’t see how they’ll manage it. Generally a fellow is limited to only one wife at a time, and the law prohibits him from marrying sisters one after another. So at least one sister is bound to be disappointed, and most likely both. Furthermore, they aren’t the only young women here who are angling to wed a baronet.

Lucy Turner

SLE: Are you referring to Miss Lucy Turner?

WSG: (laughs) Little Lucy! If anybody could win a fellow over, it’s her. I call her Kitten—she’s an adorable little ball of fluff with a surprising streak of temper and willfulness. People underestimate her. She may be tiny, but like any kitten she can do a lot of damage with those razor-sharp teeth and claws.

SLE: So you think Sir John might ask for Miss Turner’s hand in marriage?

WSG: I hope not! That is, Kitten’s much too young for me, but I don’t fancy that Sir John as a husband for any young woman I care about. He’s far too slick and ingratiating. The danger is, she might accept him if he offers for her, because of that wretched curate.

SLE: Which wretched curate is that? You don’t mean Rev. Reed Niemand from the Victoria Road Church in Kensington?

WSG: That’s exactly the one. He used to mope and sigh and pant over little Kitten, and then suddenly, poof! One morning, he became another girl’s love-sick boy.

SLE: The curate fell in love with another woman? Who?

WSG: My sisters report that his new love is none other than our host’s sister, Miss Tallullah Snowden. And now they’re all here together at this blasted house party! I don’t envy Mr. Niemand at all. That curate is going to be one sorry fellow when Kitten catches up with him.

SLE: But I heard that Mr. Niemand had not promised to marry Miss Turner.

WSG: That doesn’t matter. Every female in Kensington knew about it and were loud in their pity, so Kitten was as good as jilted. I just hope I can stop her before she does something drastic.

SLE: Thank you for your time. I hope that this country house visit is pleasant and uneventful!

About the Author

Saralee Etter is the author of three traditional Regency romances. She’s presently working on A SHORT SHARP SHOCK, the first novel in a Victorian-set mystery series featuring sleuth Lucy Turner and her friends, William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. You can visit her on the web at www.saraleeetter.com, or check out her blog, A Fine Mystery Indeed, at www.saraleeetter.com/blog1

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Clemens Requests

Gentle Readers and Erstwhile Contributors,
We are filled with Gratitude at the response you have given to our Humble Efforts to bring facts and stories of Interest and Entertainment to the people of London.

The response from people of All Stations has been gratifying to say the least. We hope to continue for many years to come. To that end I wish to announce that our Little Paper has openings for Discerning Contributors of all types. We would welcome new contributors as well as added contributions from those who have joined us in the past. We are always looking for:

  • Purloined letters that may interest the Reading Public
  • Opinion pieces on the Fancies and Foibles of high society
  • News that otherwise might go unreported about the Private Lives of the poor and the prominent.
  • Instructive stories whose morals might serve as admonition to the unwary

As well as (dare I say it) items of a more salacious and titilating nature. Be it noted that those who contribute may also provide our readers with exciting news about their books as well.

Should any of you have an interest in making such a contribution, kindly contact me**. Should you wish instead to seek the advice of our most excellent Aunt Augusta (and receive mention of your book title) there is a form for that as well.

I Remain etc etc

 

 

Samuel Clemens, Printer, of London

**Mr. Clemens had deputized this work to staff. If you wish to participate kindly send three Wednesday dates, your name and writer name, and book title to warfieldcaro@gmail.com

The Teatime Tattler recommends the virtues of Prudence

rolinda-sharples-clifton-assembly-room1The Season is off to an excellent, if early, start. Lady S., daughter-in-law of the Duke of W. must be delighted with the attendance at her soirée, though perhaps less than pleased with the behaviour of some.

While this year’s crop of debutantes has not yet been served up to the marriage mart, those remaining from previous seasons were in eager attendance, every mother hoping to steal a march on all the others in attracting the attention of wealthy or titled bachelors or widowers with a mind to wed, while avoiding fortune hunters and those with more sinister intentions.

In corners of the main reception rooms, the powerful decided the disposition of whatever pawns they controlled: brokering treaties between nations, political parties, trading enterprises, families, or potential marriage partners, depending on the interests of the negotiating parties.

brummellBut the affairs of the great are far from the only business conducted at such an event, and last night was no exception.

In rooms set up for the purpose, gentlemen and ladies with a yen for such things offered up the evening to fate represented by the turn of a card.

In the ballroom, fashionable gentlemen eyed one another in the endless struggle for elevation in the eyes of those they are pleased to call friends, while those more given to energetic pursuits danced or stood in small groups discussing horses or hunting or pugilistic exploits.

Ladies spoke sweet flatteries to one another’s faces and shredded appearances and reputations behind one another’s backs. Maidens sought husbands, wives sought lovers, poor widows sought protectors, and wealthy widows amusement. Everywhere, couples—as they have since the beginning of time—bargained for affection: temporary or bound by vows before a cleric; some under the eyes of stern chaperones and others in less well-lit corners on the dance floor or the chilly terrace.

In small darkened rooms throughout the mansion, those desiring a tryst found a few moments of privacy. Among them, we are assured, was Lord S. himself and also his son, Lord E., who was seen to absent himself from public places on two separate occasions, each time with a different companion.

Our informants also observed Lady G., the duke’s spinster daughter, meeting with a much younger man who is believed to have been Mr. W., widely rumoured to be the unclaimed and unwanted base-born son of the Duke of H.

One can hardly imagine that a lady of such pristine reputation would be indulging in an amorous encounter, but that leaves only the possibility that she is employing Mr. W. in his capacity of thief-taker. Has her ladyship lost a valuable item, perhaps? Is she acting on behalf of Lady S. to investigate the activities of her brother or nephew? Or both? We will watch developments and keep you informed.

As if that were not enough, Mr. W. and an unidentified woman, possibly one of the army of companions in attendance on various matrons, were involved in the most shocking event of the evening. They combined to effect a rescue of a foolish damsel who allowed herself to be enviegled into one of the aforementioned private rooms.

maidenOne would expect a maiden in her second season to show more sense than to respond to a note from a man, and certainly the girl’s protectors to display more awareness of their charge’s whereabouts. Was the title ‘Earl’ a lure that caused her and her chaperone to cast discretion and rational thought to the wind?

We could have advised the young lady that this particular earl has been known to ruin and abandon foolish young women who go apart in his company. His recent ascent to the title on his father’s death has clearly not changed his character.

Fortunately for the damsel, the man (we hesitate to call him a gentleman) was interrupted in his evil pursuit, and she was delivered intact, having had a salutary scare, to Lady G., a well-known defender of the innocent. And her own family name and fortune mean that any sanctions against her from the arbiters of social standing will be mild.

As for the Earl in question, we are assured that he has been banned from ever entering the household again. And where Lady S. leads can other hostesses be slow to follow?

Yes, the Season is off to an exciting start indeed!

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The Sutton soirée is the scene of the first chapter in Jude’s new historical mystery, Revealed in Mist, currently available on pre-order and to be released early in December. Mr. W. and the unnamed companion appeared in The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, a novella in Hand-Turned Tales, as the rescuers of the blind earl and his countess who were the hero and heroine of that novella. You may also have met them (as David Wakefield and his mysterious woman partner) investigating a crime for the hero of Farewell to Kindness.

Their pasts could bring them together or separate them forever

revealed-in-mist-smallPrue’s job is to uncover secrets, but she hides a few of her own. When she is framed for murder and cast into Newgate, her one-time lover comes to her rescue. Will revealing what she knows help in their hunt for blackmailers, traitors, and murderers? Or threaten all she holds dear?

Enquiry agent David solves problems for the ton, but will never be one of them. When his latest case includes his legitimate half-brothers as well as the woman who left him months ago, he finds the past and the circumstances of his birth difficult to ignore. Danger to Prue makes it impossible.

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Revealed in Mist is on pre-order at most eretailers. Sadly, not on Amazon, since Jude is in Amazon jail for getting the final version of Gingerbread Bride to them two days late, only eight days before release. Circumstances beyond Jude’s control doesn’t cut it with the Amazon guards, so no pre-order. But if you want the book in Kindle format, pre-order from Smashwords, iBooks, or Barnes and Noble, or follow Jude on Amazon for an email the day the book goes live.

Smashwords * iBooks * Barnes and Noble * Follow me on Amazon

About Jude Knight

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

Website and blog * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest * Email

The duke’s by-blow

Gerald Ficklestone-Smythe
Manager of Cowbridge Mine, Llanfair

kitchenThe boy was gone when I got back from the funeral. Little bastard. I told him I’d kick him to next Tuesday if dinner wasn’t on the table, but nothing was prepared, and he was nowhere to be found. And he’d let the fire go out. He’ll come back when he’s hungry, and I’ll have the skin off his back, see if I don’t.

Where else is he going to go? London? To the duchess? He is stupid if he thinks she’s going to want her husband’s by-blow, and so I told him when I took the money for his trip. I had a right to it, didn’t I? I took his mother back after the duke had finished with her. I gave her a home. I even let her keep the boy.

The duke owed me that money. Yes, and more. Made a harlot out of my daughter, and turned her off with a measly few hundred pounds. Then wouldn’t pay more when that ran out. Then, when my daughter lay dying and couldn’t keep house for me any more, that pernicious swine sent his wife to steal the boy I raised, promising him I don’t know what.

The boy said he’d stay till his mother died, and the duchess returned to London without him. And now my slut of a daughter is dead, and the boy can’t be found, but where could he have gone? He has no money for the coach fare, and it’s a long walk to London, especially with winter coming on, and the Black Mountains between here and England.

He’s no fool, the boy. He’ll be back.

 

Jeremiah Penchsnith
Captain of the Merry Molly, Bristol

320px-steep_holme_looking_over_the_bristol_channelWe didn’t find the lad till we was near Avonmouth. ‘E was hid in the coal, but we saw ‘im when ‘e tried to escape over the side. ‘E fair wriggled when we caught ‘im, begged us to let ‘im go. But ‘e owed us ‘is passage, and so I told him.

If we let away every lad who wanted a free trip over the Bristol Channel, we might as well set up as a ferry, and that’s what I said.

Give the lad credit, ‘e worked ‘ard. Four trips ‘e did wiv us, not counting the first. And then he left us in Bristol. I’d’ve kept ‘im on, I would. Good worker, that lad. I ‘ope ‘e gets where ‘e’s going.”

 

Maggie Wakefield
Farmer’s wife, Ditchford Frary, East Cotswolds

cotswold_sheepHe was a mystery, young David. Turned up in a snow storm, he did. Bessie the dog found him when Matthew went out after the sheep, huddled up in the midst of the flock where they’d taken shelter in the lee of the old stone wall.

Matthew brought them all home: boy and sheep, the boy limping along on a stick because his ankle was swollen to twice its size. “I’ve a lamb for you to warm by the fire, mother,” Matthew said, and then stood aside. Just a sprain, it turned out to be, but a bad one. I would not turn man or beast out in weather like that, let alone a boy, and no more would Matthew, so of course we let David stay.

Where did he come from in that awful weather? Wales, he said, but that couldn’t be, could it? Wales is a long way away, across the wolds and then the water. And mountains, too, they say.

David was a good boy, so perhaps he was telling the truth. He made himself useful until he could walk again. He was a good hand in the kitchen, and he read to me and Matthew at night, which was a great blessing, for our eyes are not what they were. Not that I’ve ever read more than enough to piece together a few verses from the Bible. Not like David. It was a treat to listen to him, and I was sorry when he left.

But he had people waiting for him, he said, so off he went, off to London. We got him a lift as far as Oxford with Jem Carter. I hope he made it to his people. A fine boy like that? They would have been missing him, I’m sure.

 

Sir Philip Westmacott
Gentleman, London

curriaMy tiger? He’s taken off. Ungrateful brat. Good boy with the horses, too. But there you go. That’s what I get for taking a boy off the streets. I found him in Oxford, you know. Oh yes, I told you before, didn’t I. He made sure I got back to my inn after a rather exciting evening. Didn’t rob me, either, though he could have. I was somewhat—er—elevated.

I told him to come back in the morning for his reward, and he was waiting outside in the stable yard when I woke. And all he wanted was to come to London with me. I bought him a suit of clothing, of course. Couldn’t be seen with him in the rags he had. Not livery. Not in Oxford. But I thought silver blue, to set off his dark hair. It would have looked stunning against my matched blacks.

We arrived last night, and this morning he was gone. Ungrateful brat.

 

Henry Bartlett
Gatekeeper, Haverford House, London

Of course I didn’t let him in. A boy like that? Tidily dressed enough, and nicely spoken, but what child of substance is allowed to walk around the streets? But he wasn’t a street urchin, either. He asked if he could send a note, and he wrote it right there on a piece of paper I found him. Never was a street urchin that could read and write.

Anyway, I sent it in to the duchess. Told him he’d have to wait, but it wasn’t but an hour before Her Grace’s own maid came down to fetch him, and the next thing I knew, he was part of the household.

He seems a pleasant enough lad; always polite. But it just doesn’t seem right, raising the duke’s bastard under the same roof as his legal sons. The duke agrees, or so goes the talk in the servant’s hall. But the duchess got her way, this time. And we’re all to treat the boy as if he were gentleman. Her Grace has hired him a tutor, and word is he’s off to Eton in the autumn. And the little Marquis follows him around like a puppy dog.

What will be the end of it, do you suppose?

Revealed in Mist

revealed-in-mistLast time spy Prudence Virtue and thief-taker David Wakefield worked together on a case, they parted in bitterness. When different employers send them to investigate a spying ring that blackmails aristocrats for access to secrets, they need to decide whether to combine forces.

Are they allies? Or opponents?

With friends and families too close to the investigation for comfort, they need to co-operate to find the blackmailer and the spy behind him.

They are professionals. They can work together without becoming entangled. But David and Prue find that murder, secrets from the past, and love can foil the most determined of plans.

Revealed in Mist is in final editing, and I’ll soon be announcing the release date. Keep an eye on my book pages to find out more.

An excerpt from Revealed in Mist

David frowned at the fire in the small hearth. The private parlour he had hired was small and shabby, but at least its size made it easy to heat. And it was neutral ground, which mattered. David hadn’t had a prolonged conversation with his expected guest in a decade and a half.

He must have been seventeen or eighteen on the last occasion, staying at Haverford Castle in Kent between the end of the school term and his first term at university. The Duke of Haverford’s son and heir, the Marquis of Aldridge, would have been 12. The day had begun happily enough with the boy tagging along while David went out after small game with a gun. It had ended with David beaten and driven from the property.

Aldridge had tripped and knocked himself out, and Haverford, finding David leaning over his unconscious heir, had not waited for explanations.

Once the young marquis left school and entered Society, they met from time to time, usually when the Duchess of Haverford insisted on David coming to one of her entertainments. Her husband, the duke, was almost always engaged elsewhere, but her sons often attended. They paid their mother the courtesy of not being rude to her protégé, and he responded with the same polite reserve.

He was expecting Aldridge now. Older brother to one of the courtesan’s lovers. David’s despised father’s oldest legitimate son. His half-brother.

A knock on the door heralded Aldridge’s arrival. A maid showed him into the private parlour. He’d clearly been treating her to a display of his facile charm; she was dimpling, blushing, and preening.

David examined him as he gave the girl a coin “and a kiss for your trouble, my darling.” The beautiful child had grown into a handsome man. David had heard him described as ‘well-put together, and all over, if you know what I mean.’ The white-blonde hair of childhood had darkened to a guinea gold, and he had his mother’s hazel eyes under a thick arch of brow he and David had both inherited from their father.

Aldridge navigated the shoals of the marriage market with practiced ease, holding the mothers and their daughters off, but still not offending them, and carrying out a gentleman’s role in the ballroom with every evidence of enjoyment.

But his real success, by all accounts, was with bored widows and wives, where he performed in the bedroom with equal charm, and perhaps more pleasure. Society was littered with former lovers of the Merry Marquis, though he had the enviable ability to end an affair and retain the friendship.

Aldridge ushered the laughing maid out of the room and closed the door behind her, acknowledging David’s appraisal with a wry nod.

“Wakefield. You summoned me. I am here.”

David ignored the thread of irritation in the young aristocrat’s voice, and took a shot in the dark. Lord Jonathan was unlikely to be the blackmailer, Lady Georgiana thought, but was probably also being blackmailed. Would he have confided in Aldridge?

“I have some questions I wish to ask about the blackmail.”

Aldridge arched a brow, a trick they had both picked up from the duke. “Tolliver has engaged you?”

David hid his surprise at the spymaster’s name. “What is your brother paying blackmail for?”

Uninvited, Aldridge grabbed a chair and straddled it, resting his chin on his forearms. “Our brother,” he said, flatly.

“That won’t prevent me from turning him in if he is a traitor,” David said.

“He isn’t. He’s young. He’s an idiot. But he isn’t a traitor.” Aldridge met David’s eyes with an uncompromising glare of his own.

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