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Tag: novella

The duke’s ungrateful son

Sam, you were right about the story, but you can’t use it. You’ll have two dukes down on you like a ton of bricks. You won’t be able to hide this one in initials and pretend you’re talking about someone else.

I’ve written it up anyway. Maybe it will come in handy when their Graces have gone to their reward — which, if there’s any justice in the afterlife, will involve hot flame and pitchforks. In any case, it will satisfy your curiosity.

Mr Redding, the young man who insisted on seeing the Duke of Sutton, was a gentleman — Perkins could tell a fake a mile off — but almost certainly a younger son, and so of no account. He had an attempt to spruce himself up, but the marks of travel were clear to an experienced butler. Poverty, too.

Perkins thought it unlikely that His Grace would receive Mr Redding, but he was not prepared to take the risk of making the decision for that irascible peer. To interrupt him and his friend the Duke of Haverford at their port might earn him a glass flung at his head. To fail to interrupt him if Mr Redding’s claim of urgency was true would see him on the street, never mind a lifetime’s faithful service.

To Perkin’s surprise, he was ordered to show Mr Redding in immediately. “You’ll be interested in this, Haverford,” His Grace of Winshire told his friend.

Perkins was, too, so he was careful not to completely close the door once he’d ushered Mr Redding inside, so that any conversation would reach the ear he put to the crack.

“Well, Redding,” the duke said. “Where’s my son?” His son? Lord Sutton was probably at his club, Lord Richard had been dead nearly two years, and Lord James, God bless him, had met his end on foreign shores fifteen years ago.

“I’m sorry, Your Grace,” Mr Redding replied. “We weren’t able to persuade him.”

“What!” Even over the duke’s roar, Perkins could hear the crash as he leapt to his feet fast enough to knock his chair over. More crashes followed. He’d be sweeping anything before him off the table. Perkins winced as priceless Italian crystal goblets and fine Chinese porcelain were sacrificed to the duke’s rage.

“You should have abducted him!” the old man shouted. “The Devil knows I gave you a large enough purse to hire an army.”

“We did, Your Grace. We had men at the ready, but we thought to persuade him first. He seemed open to it. Then he asked if he could bring his wife and eight children home, four of them sons.”

The duke’s snort gave all the answer needed.

“Exactly, Your Grace. A native woman and her brats? And him the heir to one of the premier titles in Britain?” Perkins could almost hear Mr Redding shake his head. “We weren’t fool enough to tell him that, but he must have known, because he slipped away in the night, and managed to evade the men we had ready to detain him.”

“That was it? He escaped and you let him go?”

“We chased him, of course, Your Grace.” Mr Redding managed to sound a little hurt. “No catching him. Those horses they breed in Turkmenistan are devilish fast, and you’ve never seen endurance like it. Of course, once he made it into his mountains, and was locked up in that kingdom of his, there was no point in anything but going home. He left a note for you, Your Grace.”

There was silence for a moment, then the duke’s voice, raised again. “Cognizant of your generosity. Must regretfully decline at this time. Will pray for good health and a long life for my nephew. Damn the boy. How dare he!”

Haverford’s voice sounded amused. “Refused you, did he? He always was an ungrateful cub. Never mind, Winshire. Sutton’s whelp seems to be in better health. You don’t need your youngest son. He has clearly gone native, and is unfit for your high position.”

Winshire snapped at his old friend. “You’re just upset because he coveted your wife, Haverford! Four sons! He’s a good breeder, I’ll give him that. I’ll get him home if it’s the last thing I do. Get out, Redding. I don’t want to see your face.” Something smashed on the door, warning Perkins, and he stepped away in time to escape being caught as Mr Redding scurried out of the room, just ahead of another crash.

Perkins, his mind seething with conjecture, conducted Mr Perkins to a small parlour, well away from the salon where the duke still raged. Lady Georgiana, the duke’s daughter, would not be pleased if he let the man leave without consulting her. Besides, Perkins himself wanted to hear news of Lord James, whom all the servants had loved — something that could not be said for the duke or his eldest son.

“Sit yourself down, Mr Perkins. You are fatigued and must be hungry. Let me get you something to eat and perhaps a drink. Do you have somewhere to stay the night? Shall I have them make up a bed?”

He sent a maid scurrying to the kitchen and another to the third floor where an anonymous guest might stay with the duke none the wiser, and hurried upstairs to her ladyship. If he was fortunate, she might permit him to stay and listen when she questioned Mr Perkins.

Paradise Regained

In discovering the mysteries of the East, James has built a new life. Will unveiling the secrets in his wife’s heart destroy it?

James Winderfield yearns to end a long journey in the arms of his loving family. But his father’s agents offer the exiled prodigal forgiveness and a place in Society — if he abandons his foreign-born wife and children to return to England.

With her husband away, Mahzad faces revolt, invasion and betrayal in the mountain kingdom they built together. A queen without her king, she will not allow their dream and their family to be destroyed.

But the greatest threats to their marriage and their lives together is the widening distance between them. To win Paradise, they must face the truths in their hearts.

Find buy links at Books2read https://books2read.com/paradiseregained

Paradise Regained takes place in 1794. Eighteen years later, the hero of this novella, now a widower, returns to England with six of his children. The series that tells of the adventures and romances of these children will begin publication around March next year.

Excerpt

James regarded the Russian and the Englishman across the delicately hand-knotted silk and woolen rug. He may have made a tactical error in wearing European clothes. He’d thought to emphasise to Redding and Michaelov that he was English and a duke’s son and to be treated with respect. Instead, they appeared to have taken the message that he was ready to abandon the life he had built here in the Middle East and crawl back to accept whatever crumbs fell from his father’s table.

Their contempt and condescension grew as the interview, if you could call it that when he sat silent and impassive, continued.

At his shoulder, Yousef bristled with anger on his behalf, but he would do nothing without James’s signal.

“You can be sure of the prodigal’s welcome,” Redding said, folding his hands across an incipient paunch with a smug smile. “Your father is prepared to forgive all and to welcome you with the fatted calf.”

Forgive him? For what? For being exiled? For continuing to live after he was imprisoned by the Persians and his father refused to pay the ransom? For certain, Garshasp Khan would have had him beheaded or at least castrated if the man’s mother had not been English and ready to intervene on a fellow countryman’s behalf by pointing out that James had weapons skills that made him valuable to the Khan’s guard.

James inclined his head at Redding’s nonsensical comment, a noncommittal sign but one Michaelov took as agreement.

“And you may yet be duke, Lord James. Lord Sutton has only the one son, and he is a sickly boy. With Lord Edward’s death, you are third in line.”

Time to end this.

“I have four sons,” James told them, “and three daughters.” And another child by now, whose birth he had missed, thanks to the troubles they had encountered and a further delay to meet these idiots. “I take it that my father is willing to accept Lady James and our children with the same enthusiasm?”

Not likely and the expressions on the faces of his father’s men confirmed it.

“Lady James?” Redding said cautiously. “Your native wife, is it?”

His Mahzad, royal in all her bloodlines, every inch a princess and the holder of his heart, though that organ did not appear to be as essential to her as the children and the kingdom they shared. If he were to abandon good sense and his duty to their people and traipse back to England to live on his father’s erratic goodwill, he had very little hope she would come with him.

After that, the meeting broke up fairly quickly. Redding did a good job of hiding his shock that James would put his “native wife” ahead of the supposed advantages of being possible heir to a duke, but Michaelov showed open disdain, and James left before he lost his temper.

“We’ll leave as soon as we can pack, Yousef,” James said as they arrived back in their room.

“Carefully, my lord,” Peter warned. “They have a force of armed men just outside the village.”

James raised his brows. “Good to know. How big a force, and how did you find out?”

“I went to find the black cat I spoke of, my lord. Sure enough, it brought us good luck, though I did not think so when it walked away from me, staying just out of reach until we left the caravanserai and crossed the whole of the village. Then, it dived behind a wall, and when I went after them, I heard them say your name, Winderfield, so I hid and listened.”

“Just as well for us, Peter,” Yousef agreed. “What did you hear?”

Peter explained that the men were itching for action, since they’d been lying in wait for several days. “But Michaelov said you were going to come of your own accord, so they wouldn’t be needed, and they were complaining about having to camp out in the fields in the cold.”

James asked a few more questions about the disposition of the men and the number. “We leave tonight, as quietly as possible, after the caravanserai is asleep,” he decided. “Yousef, let the men know. Once we are out in the desert, no one will catch our horses.” He left Peter to pack up the room and Yousef to organise the men while he wrote a note for Redding to take to the duke a few conciliatory words. If he had to go back to England one day to be duke, as well to leave the door open.

Holly and Hopeful Hearts

Your proprietor, as is well known, is proof against the arrows of the mischievous son of Aphrodite, but sympathetic to those who fall subject to the god’s shafts. Especially when their love seems doomed to disappointment, for who does not like a happy ending against the odds? Today, on behalf of the proprietors, The Teatime Tattler is publishing a special edition to announce a new book from the Bluestocking Belles; one in which no fewer than eight couples are surprised by Cupid’s attentions.

Without further ado, allow your humble servant, Mr. Samuel Clemens, Editor, to present:

hollyhopefulhearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Read about all eight novellas, and find pre-order links, on the Bluestocking Belles Holly & Hopeful Hearts page.

In between the seven main stories in the box set, one chapter at a time, we tell the story of the duchess’s companion, and her search for a meaningful future. Can it be possible for a poor relation to find a suitable husband?

a-suitable-husband-fb

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Perhaps among the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party, she will find a suitable husband?

Marcel Fournier has only one ambition: to save enough from his fees serving in as chef in the houses of the ton to become the proprietor of his own fine restaurant. An affair with the duchess’s dependent would be dangerous. Anything else is impossible. Isn’t it?

An extract from A Suitable Husband

Marcel had disguised himself in a costume found in the attics

Marcel had disguised himself in a costume found in the attics

Mademoiselle Grenford looked up as he approached, tipping her head a little to one side as she waited for him to speak.

“May I have the honor of this dance, fair shepherdess?” he asked.

She furrowed her brows for the briefest of seconds. “I do not dance, sir, but I will find you a partner—”

“Not dance? When your costume is made to swirl on the dance floor, and the music begs—nay, demand—for you to pay homage?” A slip there. He had pronounced homage in the French way.

Her eyes widened, but she said nothing, merely—oh joy—placed her gloved hand in his and allowed herself to be conducted through the doors to join the waltz.

They began slowly, his hands resting tentatively just above her waist, and hers placed lightly on his shoulders. He honoured the respectable distance due to a maiden, but as they began to circle one another in the dance, his legs shifted past hers and could not avoid repeated touching.

Turn, turn, and turn again. The candles of the chandeliers seemed to whirl above them, the other dancers disappeared, and he and Mademoiselle Grenford were alone in the ballroom. She swayed and dipped and twirled with him, light as a feather but far more substantial, a delight to his hands, his arms, and his legs.

Her eyes fixed on his, her face flushed, she murmured, “Monsieur Fournier, what are you doing here?”

It was a dose of cold water, jerking him back to reality. Would she rebuke him? Tell the duchess?

Only Marcel saw beyond the spectacles and the tightly controlled hair.

Only Marcel saw beyond the spectacles and the tightly controlled hair.

“One dance,” he managed, almost begged. “I promised not to importune you, mademoiselle, but I thought… In costume, no one would know if I stole one dance.”

Somehow, his feet kept moving, they kept dancing, round and round and round, their legs shifting past each other’s again and again, their eyes still locked.

She smiled, a benison beyond his deserving. “This dance is not a theft, monsieur, when I give it willingly.”

“Give?”

He was in heaven. He was no longer dancing; he was floating several inches about the ballroom floor. She knows me even in my disguise. She dances with me willingly.

His heart was too full for speech, and she said nothing more as they continued around the floor, oblivious to everything except the music and one another.

Marcel stepped back when the music ended, dropping his hands from her waist to her hands, unable to resist touching her for a moment more. “Thank you, mademoiselle. Thank you more than I can say. I will leave now, but you have given me food for many happy dreams.”

“No.” Mademoiselle Grenford folded her fingers around his and tugged him to follow her. By chance, they had stopped at the most poorly lit end of the ballroom, close to the corner where a door let on to a servant’s passage, and it was to this she marched determinedly, with Marcel bobbing after in her wake.

No. Not that door. She was opening a door onto the terrace, and in moments, they were outside.

“I do not want it to end,” she said. “Will you not consent to sit and talk with me for a little?”

Consent? Did she not know he would consent to the guillotine for her sake?

He would return to his kitchen to dream of that one perfect dance.

He would return to his kitchen to dream of that one perfect dance.

For more of our stories, see our individual blogs:

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight

Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett

 

Scandal at the Masquerade Ball

Gentle readers, I do hope you will not be in too great of an uproar when I tell you this, but I am most certain that there was a great deal of scandalous behavior that occurred at the most recent masquerade ball.

Now, when one wears a mask, the propensity to engage in shocking and outrageous behavior might be tempting, but that does not mean one should give in, and give in I feel certain did happen. Why, I saw several ladies, including one in particular, who spent the entire night talking to a man. Talking and laughing and looking positively too comfortable. This lady had no chaperone with her that I could tell. If her mother only realized the kind of behavior her daughter was engaging in…

But there was another lady too, who, honestly, did not quite seem to fit in. She kept to herself, likewise without a chaperone, but then I spied her dancing with a strapping tall man. They seemed to have eyes for no other, and at one point, I even saw her lift her mask to reveal her face to him!

Now I know just about everyone who is anyone, and I can assuredly tell you, my dear readers, that I did not recognize this lady. My mind continually only goes in one direction—that the lady was no lady at all. But who could she have been?

The man she spent time with seemed beside himself after the lady-who-might-not-be-a-lady left and shortly thereafter departed from the masquerade ball himself. Whether the two will ever cross paths again, I do not know, but I must confess to being disappointed he did not lift his mask as well. I would very much be interested to know who he was, as well as the first lady and her gentleman… friend.

I will be certain to keep an eye open to see if I cannot spy the lady somewhere. I do think it is possible to find love at such a ball—I, myself, in my youth had done the same—but love is not always enough nowadays, it is sad to say.

When, not if, I learn more, I will be sure to share it with you, good readers, do not fret.

 

Your humble servant,

A concerned masquerade attendee

 

The masked man and the lady who reveals her face are the main characters in Masked Love.

MaskedLove1600x2400 MASKED LOVE

Isabelle will do anything for her lady, even accompany her to a masquerade ball. Lady Theodosia needs extra support for tomorrow she will meet the man her par-ents have pledged her to.

Meeting an enchanting young man during the course of the evening makes Isabelle wish for a life she can never have. Imagine her shock when he shows up the next morning, announcing his claim on Lady Thedosia.

Torn between duty and desire, Isabelle hopes for something more this Christmas.

 

Heat: PG

Regency Christmas novella

Series: Beyond Boundaries #1

Price: 0.99

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Nicole is one of the Belles. You can learn more about her here.

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