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Tag: Paradise Regained

IS DUKE BEHIND ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT?

Sam, did you hear the Earl of Sutton was attacked earlier today? Footpads, they said. About twenty minutes later, a carter lost control of his horses just as his dray was passing Sutton’s children on a schoolroom outing. And you know assailants have had a go at both of Sutton’s sons in the past few days, too.

As an aside, Sutton beat his assailants to a pulp. He’s as tough as his sons, it seems. And the one still in the schoolroom whipped his schoolmates out of the way of the dray. He’ll be another formidable warrior when he grows up.

But that’s not the point, Sam.

I’ve found out who paid for all the attacks, and you’re never going to believe it. I was told in confidence, mind, and if we want the servants inside of Haverford House to keep slipping us bits of news we can’t use it. It’ll be a start to our own investigation, though.

That’s right. Haverford House, and yes, it was the Duke. The Merry Marquis is furious. He’s threatening to have his father locked up. Can he do that, Sam?

***

The Children of the Mountain King

Welcome to Jude Knight’s new series.

In 1812, high Society is rocked by the return of the Earl of Sutton, heir to the dying Duke of Winshire. James Winderfield, Earl of Sutton, Winshire’s third and only surviving son, has long been thought dead, but his reappearance is not nearly such a shock as those he brings with him, the children of his deceased Persian-born wife and fierce armed retainers.

This series begins with a prequel novella telling the love story of James senior and Mahzad (Paradise Regained), then leaps two decades to a series of six novels as the Winderfield offspring and their cousins search for acceptance and love.

To Wed a Proper Lady, the first novel, is on preorder and will be released on 15 April.

Follow the links for more details and for buy links.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt about the assaults from the point of view of the Duchess of Haverford. It appears in Paradise Lost, a novella about the duchess that I’m giving away free with my next newsletter in a couple of days. It tells of how Eleanor Creydon became Eleanor, Duchess of Haverford, a lynchpin character in my Regency and Victorian stories, and also backgrounds the series.

Haverford House, London, July 1812

The Duchess of Haverford took tea in her rooms this quiet Monday afternoon. She was alone for once; even the maid who brought the tray sent off back to the servants’ hall. Her life was such a bustle, and for the most part, that was how she liked it, but just for once, it was nice to have an afternoon to herself. No meetings. No entertainments to attend or offer. Not even any family members—her current companion had gone to visit her mother for her afternoon off, Aldridge was about his own business, her youngest ward was at lessons, and the two older girls had been invited on an outing with a friend.

As to Haverford, who knew where he was? But he would not disturb her here.

The thought had barely crossed her mind when a knock sounded; not the discreet tap of a servant, but a firm rap. Not the duke. He wouldn’t knock. “Enter,” she called.

Aldridge let himself into the room.  He greeted her with his usual aplomb, asked after her day, but she could tell immediately that he was agitated. “What is wrong, my son?”

“I have no easy way to say this, Mama.” He knelt before her and took her hands. “Sutton has been assaulted in the street, and his schoolroom party was also attacked. A runaway brewer’s dray that was not a runaway at all.” He squeezed her hands, pulling her back from her sudden dizziness. “Sutton gave his assailants a drubbing, and the children and their attendants are unhurt, thanks to swift action on the part of their escort.”

Eleanor let out the air she was holding. “Thank goodness! And thank you, my dear, for letting me know before gossip made it so much worse.”

Aldridge frowned slightly. “There is more. I heard of the assault on Sutton before it happened, and arrived with help just after. Mama, my secretary was asked to be the paymaster for the assailants. And guess who gave him the command.”

She knew before her son said it. Breathed the words with him. “His Grace? Surely not. After the assassin at the duel, why would he do something like this again?”

“His Grace.” Aldridge confirmed. He leapt to his feet and paced the room, not able to keep still for a moment, his body expressing the agitation his face refused to display. “He is getting worse, Mama. Whether it would have happened anyway, or whether the arrival of Sutton lit the flame, he lives on the point of explosion.”

“I know, my dear.” She knew better than Aldridge, in fact. Despite the long estrangement between her and her husband, they nonetheless lived in the same house, attended some of the same social gatherings, worked side-by-side for the same political causes. Aldridge kept largely to his own wing when he was under the same roof as his parents, which was increasingly rare. He managed all the vast business of the duchy, but Haverford had long since let go those reins to the extent that his only association with Aldridge tended to be through the bills and notes of hand that arrived regularly to be paid.

Aldridge thumped the mantlepiece. “This latest start… if word gets out that Haverford was behind the attack on Sutton and his family, it will be a disaster. Sutton would be well within his rights to demand Haverford’s trial for attempted murder. This family is no stranger to scandal, Mama, and there’s no doubt in my mind His Grace deserves to be hanged, silken noose or not, but…”

Eleanor’s distress was such she found herself chewing her lip. “Thank God no one was seriously hurt.”

“Thank Sutton and his sons for their warrior-craft, and my secretary for telling me in time to lead a rescue.” Aldridge heaved a deep sigh and took another fast turn around the carpet. “He intended murder, Mama, and when I confronted him with it, he laughed and said he did it for England. He has gone too far, Mama. If he is found out, he puts us all at risk. What if the Regent decides to regard a murder attempt on another peer as treason?”

Eleanor had not considered that possibility. The title could be attained, the lineage considered corrupt. Aldridge had worked for years to rebuild the wealth of the duchy after his father’s mismanagement. He could lose it all, including the title, and the Prince would be delighted to benefit.

Haverford had become more and more erratic as the year progressed. He insulted and alarmed other people at every event he attended, completely ignoring social conventions and saying whatever he thought, often using the foulest of language. Thankfully, he was showing less and less inclination to go into Polite Society. Even so, the duchess frequently needed to use all her considerable tact and diplomacy to soothe ruffled feathers and quiet the gossip that claimed the duke was going mad.

“He is going mad,” she acknowledged to her son, the one person in the world who could be trusted with the knowledge. “It is the French Disease, I am sure. It is rotting his brain.”

“We cannot bring in doctors to examine him, Mama. Who knows what would come of that; what he would say and who they would tell? He cannot be allowed to continue, however.”

Eleanor frowned. It was a conundrum. Who could prevent a duke from doing whatever he pleased?

Aldridge, apparently. “I have made arrangements. He has been persuaded to travel to Haverford Castle. When he arrives, trusted servants know to keep him there. He will be comfortable, Mama. I have arranged for him to be entertained, and have nurses on hand in case he needs them. The disease will kill him in the next year or two, probably, and he is likely to be bedridden long before the end.”

He was brave, her son. He was breaking the laws of God and man in showing such disobedience to his father and a peer of the realm. She was sure God would understand, but the Courts might not. She would not ask about the entertainment Aldridge had provided. Knowing Haverford as she did, she did not want to know details. “He must never be set free,” she concluded. Should anyone find out he was insane, the scandal would be enormous. Worse still for Aldridge.

“I understand that such spells may come and go, so we need to be prepared for him to return to sanity, at least for a time,” Aldridge cautioned. “But if that does not happen, my instructions are to keep him from understanding he is imprisoned for as long as possible. With luck, the confusion in his mind will prevent him from ever working it out. I needed you to know, Mama, for two reasons. First, we need a story for the ton. Second, if he does not recover and if anything happens to me, it will be for you to keep him confined until Jon returns to be heir in my place.”

“I hope dear Jonathan comes home soon, Aldridge. I miss my son. But do not speak of your demise, my dear. I could not bear it.”

Aldridge stopped beside her and bent to kiss her forehead. “You are the strongest woman I know, dearest. Fret not. I am careful, and I intend to live to grow old.”

Eleanor hoped so. She certainly hoped so.

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.

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