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Runaways or a Clandestine Tryst?

Molly,

When I visited Ashmead last summer, I am certain you told me the Duchess of Glenmoor was a recluse. You were quite firm that she rarely  left the Clarion Hall dower house. What is she doing barreling on past Birmingham on the coaching road?

We arrived stopped to refresh at  the  Crippled Cock on our way  south and noticed a carriage with the Clarion crest in the yard. I hoped to catch sight of  the Earl of Clarion, but who did we see leaving  the private parlor but the duchess herself. She and her companion made no greeting and departed smartly. A male companion! I saw no sign of a respectable woman with  them.  assisted her into the carriage and road up behind on a fine mount.

An illustration of “The Follies & Fashions of our Grandfathers: 1807” by Andrew W Tuer. Getty Images

The innkeeper proved closed mouthed, but the serving wench talked freely. The duchess claimed the “companion” was her brother. Isn’t the earl her only brother, and him fair of hair and complexion? In all my years visiting Ashmead I’ve never seen a Caulfield with hair as black as this gentleman, if I can call him that.

Do you have any notion who it might have been or why  they were in such urgency to travel east? Write to me as soon as you can to the Thomas’s townhouse in London.

Your devoted etc.

Maudy Flint

About the Series

The Duchess of Glemoor’s flight east takes place in The Defiant Daughter, Book 2 in Caroline Warfield’s The Ashmead Heirs. It will come out in October 2021. She is the sister of  both  the earl  and of  Sir  Robert Benson.

The Wayward Son, Book One is available now.

About the Book, The Wayward Son

Sir Robert Benson’s life is in London. He fled Ashmead the day he discovered the man he thought was his father had lied to him, and the girl he loved was beyond his reach. Only a nameless plea from his sister—his half-sister—brings him back to discover he’s been left an estate with a choice piece of land. He will not allow a ludicrous bequest from the earl who sired him turn him into a mockery of landed gentry. When a feisty little termagant with flashing eyes—and a musket—tries to turn Rob off the land—his land—he’s too amused and intrigued to turn away. But the longer he stays, the tighter the bonds that tie him to Ashmead become, strengthened by the powerful draw of the woman rooted on land he’s determined to sell.

Lucy Whitaker’s life is Willowbrook, its land, its tenants, its prosperity, but she always knew it wasn’t hers, knew the missing heir would come eventually. When a powerful man with military bearing rides up looking as if he wants to come in and count the silver, she turns him away, but her heart sinks. She can’t deny Rob Benson his property; she can only try to make him love the place as she does, for her peoples’ sake. A traitorous corner of her heart wishes Rob would love it for her sake.

His life is London and diplomatic intrigue; hers is Ashmead and the land. How can they forge something lasting when they are torn in two directions?

Available on Kindle Unlimited or for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09484DC1D/

About the Author

Award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Links

Website:   http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

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Regret is a terrible thing!

Lord Nicholas Lacey heard his wife’s tears even before he reached their bedroom door. Rushing inside, Grace was hunched over on their bed. Her grief more than evident whilst her crying broke his heart.

“My darling…” he murmured before gathering her in his arms. “Whatever has you so distressed?”

“It’s all my fault!” she mumbled against his shoulder while her arms swung around his neck in a fierce embrace.

“Certainly not, Gracie,” he replied as his hands took her cheeks in his palms. He kissed them both before taking a moment to wipe the tears from her face. “Tell me what’s happened.”

“Oh Nicholas!” she replied before picking up the newsprint she had thrown onto the floor. “It’s all here in that dreadful Teatime Tattler.”

He gave a heavy sigh before he took the crumbled paper in his hands. Smoothing it out, he began to read whilst a frown formed on his brow.

Gentle Readers:

This just in from our Faithful Correspondent at the Queen’s Barque in Fenwick on Sea!

Who was the fashionable damsel who entered the inn looking like a drenched field mouse, with no one else to give her countenance but her maid? None other but Miss d.C. 

Dedicated readers of The Teatime Tattler will be familiar with the escapades of this particular young miss. She has been a frequent piece of tittle-tattle in previous editions, barely escaping ruination in the past several years. There is sure to be a bit of excitement while she is stuck here.

Which of the several eligible peers also stranded at the inn will she set her cap on? We will just have to wait and see. Knowing her past, anything is possible. Stay tuned for further developments.

Their eyes met and worry etched itself across Grace’s lovely features. “This is hardly your fault, my dear,” Nicholas said.

“I should have gone with her but I thought Miranda would be fine for the short trip down the coast. She had my maid with her and…” she began.

“…you were unwell,” he reminded her whilst he finished her words.

“But I should have known trouble would follow her whilst she travelled to see her friend.”

“You could hardly predict the weather that caused her delay, my love. Miranda will survive this as surely as she has survived all her past indiscretions.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, her lower lip quivered whilst she attempted to keep her emotions from bubbling over again.

His wife appeared so helpless and he couldn’t stand to see her this way. He gave her a bright smile before kissing her lips. “Trust me, Grace. Miranda has more lives than a cat. She’ll survive this and come out the better for it. Just wait and see.”


This is an original piece by Belle Sherry Ewing. Miss Miranda de Courtenay was previously seen in A Kiss For Charity and The Earl Takes A Wife. She will now get her happily ever after in Before I Found You that is in the Bluestocking Belles’ next box set Storm & Shelter.

Excerpt from Before I Found You: A de Courtenay Novella (Book Three):

“You look as though you belong here, Miranda.” That voice broke into her musings, causing a shiver of pleasure to race throughout her body. His tone was gentle. Might Jasper still care for her? God help me.

She turned to face him and realized he was closer than she thought. Her breath caught in her throat before she finally answered him. “Do I?” she asked hesitantly, before she shrugged. “I never seem to really fit in anywhere.”

“Maybe you’re just looking in all the wrong places.” His solemn expression seemed genuinely concerned. Miranda’s determination to have a titled man as her husband waned in Jasper’s presence. It troubled her, and at the same time she felt guilty. Wasn’t she being untrue to herself?

“Perhaps,” she replied, quietly. She would concede that something inside her was changing. She wasn’t sure if she cared for the changes or not, but she couldn’t stand to see the hurt she might cause this man once again reflected in his eyes.

A few locks of her hair whisked across her face and Jasper reached out to tuck the length behind her ear. “Miranda—”

“I must apologize if my presence has made you uncomfortable, Jasper. I tried to persuade Grace to pick me up after they were done here,” she interrupted. She gestured at the planks beneath her feet. “As you can see, I failed.”

“You are more than welcome onboard. But you’re not remaining in London?” The ship chose that moment to sway and, before Miranda’s stance could falter, Jasper took hold of her elbow to steady her. Her heart betrayed her yet again when he placed her hand into the crook of his arm to offer his support.

“No, I’m afraid not. Nicholas has purchased a cottage on the coast at Cromer in Norfolk. I’m to accompany them and their children while they look the place over and furnish it. It’s part of my punishment for past offenses, I suppose. I’d rather not go into the details.”

“Spending time with your family hardly seems like punishment, Miranda.”

“I’m glad you haven’t heard the gossip surrounding me the past few years. Elsewise, you’d be like the rest of the ton and stay away from me at all costs. I’m only really accepted among them because of Grace and Adrian.”

He pulled her to face him and lifted her chin. “We may not have known one another for long, but you must know I’m not cut from the same mold as most of society. I’ve lived by my own rules, and, while I try to remain the gentleman my parents raised me to be, I don’t mind taking a risk now and then.”

“Like at the ball?” she asked, trying to keep her nerves calm.

“Yes. I thought you also didn’t mind occasionally dismissing the convention of men and women of their ilk since you decided to dance with me.”

She thought of how a foolish bet with Grace had almost been the ruin of her reputation at Hollystone Hall. A laugh escaped her. “If you only knew…”

“Perhaps one day you shall confide in me. I promise to keep your secrets.” His grin was completely wicked, and another piece of her heart melted.

“I just may hold you to your vow, Jasper,” she teased, her eyes twinkling in merriment while they jested with one another.


Storm & Shelter:
A Bluestocking Belles Collection with Friends

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.

Before I Found You Blurb:

Miss Miranda de Courtenay has only one goal in life: to find a rich husband who can change her status from Miss to My Lady. But when a handsome stranger crosses her path at a Valentine’s Day ball, her obsession with titles dims. Might love be enough?

Captain Jasper Rousseau has no plans to become infatuated during a chance encounter at a ball. He has a new ship to run, passengers to book, and cargo to deliver. But one look into a young lady’s beautiful hazel eyes, and he becomes lost. Does love at first sight really exist?

Their paths continue to cross until they are both stranded in Fenwick on Sea. Their growing connection is hard to dismiss, despite Miranda’s childish quest for a title at all cost. But what if the cost includes love?

Buy Links:

Amazon US |  Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Google Books | Kobo

Amazon AU |BR |CA |DE |ES |FR |IN |IT |JP |MX |NL |UK

Angus & Robertson

About Sherry Ewing:

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. When not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry and her books on her website where a new adventure awaits you on every page!

Website & Books: www.SherryEwing.com
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A scandal at every turn!

Miss Miranda de Courtenay sat in the morning room sipping tea in Highgrove Manor remembering the gentleman she had met at the Valentine’s Day Ball. He had been the stuff dreams were made of. His green eyes had held her spellbound when she had dared to dance with him… a waltz of all things. Her breath hitched with the memory of how she had wished to tame those blond locks back into place when the fell across his brow. And to be held in his arms while they made their way through the crowded dance floor… she had wished at the time that the music would never end!

When her sister Grace entered the room, one look upon her face told her much. Miranda was in trouble… again.

“You might as well just tell me what I did now and get it over with, Gracie,” Miranda said with a heavy sigh before pouring her sister a cup of tea. Grace slid a newsprint across the table. The blaring words of The Teatime Tattler blurred before her eyes. “Oh, no!”

“Oh, yes,” Grace answered before taking a sip of her tea as if this alone would make the latest gossip regarding her sister disappear. “Unfortunately, the article is on the second page most likely because the charity ball was held in Bath and most of Society was in attendance.” 

Miranda opened the newspaper to the second page and scanned the lettering for what would obviously condemn her once again. She began to read aloud.

Gentle Readers:

Only days after the Bath Valentine’s Day ball, this reporter learned of a most tantalizing bit of gossip for your reading pleasure! A certain young lady, Miss M.d.C., was in attendance and it’s been learned she has once more begun her search for a titled gentleman for a husband. Yet, despite the obvious rules amongst the Ton, this reporter learned she danced with a gentleman whom she hadn’t been introduced to. The music barely ended before her brother, the earl, had her escorted from the event. We’ll have to wait to see if Miss M.d.C. is allowed at other events in the Season or if she’ll be exiled to the country.

An Anonymous Reporter of
The Teatime Tattler

Miranda closed the newspaper not caring to read anything else that rag might have mentioned. “Well, I suppose it could have been worse,” she said looking across the table at her sister.

“Adrian will be furious,” Grace groaned.

“When is our brother not angry with me over some slight?” Miranda replied taking up her cup and saucer. 

“You need to learn to control these outrageous notions that continue to flit into your head that you think you can get away with, sister,” Grace fumed. “Society will be lenient for only so long before you’re completely ostracized. You’ll never find a husband if you can’t hold your head up within the ton.”

“I can barely move among them as it is now due to my past schemes,” Miranda said sadly. “Honestly, you’d think I was the only one who was prepared to do anything to catch a title.”

“But you tend to get caught, my dear. There’s a difference,” Grace answered reaching over to take Miranda’s hand. “I want you to find love, dearest sister. That is far more important than any title a man might have.”

“You don’t understand what it’s like to be the only one in this family without one,” Miranda huffed on the verge of tears.

“Maybe not but I do know a thing or two about being in love. Love will carry you through every heartache the world may throw at you. Don’t be a fool to only look at the title and not the man whom you wish to wed.”

Grace finished her tea and left Miranda to her thoughts. Marry for love? She scoffed at the idea. Love was for fools…


This is an original piece by Belle Sherry Ewing. Miss Miranda de Courtenay was previously seen in A Kiss For Charity and The Earl Takes A Wife. She will now get her happily ever after in Before I Found You that is in the Bluestocking Belles’ next box set Storm & Shelter.

Excerpt from Before I Found You: A de Courtenay Novella (Book Three):

She was not sure what to expect. Being outside alone with a man she did not know was a bold move. If she needed reinforcements, she could easily call out for help, but that would hardly do her reputation any good. It had barely recovered from her last scheme. Society’s memory was short, remembering scandals only until something new came along for them to gossip about—or until something happened to remind them. She couldn’t afford to give them new fodder to chew on.

She could not resist. Miranda took the remaining few steps until she stood next to him, and he rose to his full height, his hair tousled by the evening breeze. She suppressed the urge to push back the lock of hair across his brow that refused to stay in place. Oh my, but the man was tall!

Miranda did not even realize she offered him her hand until he leaned down and kissed the air between her knuckles. His fingers were warm even through the silk of her gloves. How would they feel if her hand was bare? Good heavens! What was coming over her?

Mademoiselle,” he whispered in a husky French accent, causing goose bumps to rise on her arms. His voice was utterly divine!

“Miranda,” she said offering only her first name. It was hardly appropriate, but she did not wish to see his disinterest when he learned she was a “Miss” and not a “Lady”.

Although it might not matter. Many gentlemen present this evening were on the lookout for a well-dowered heiress to enrich their estate. The man before her could be one of them. Even though she could not attach “lady” to her name, she was still wealthy in her own right… or would be when she finally wed.

Love had nothing to do with what really mattered in life—marriage to a husband within the nobility, one with enough wealth to keep her and her children in luxury. Not for her a boring life as a country matron, with nothing to do or to talk about beyond counting sheets and breeding children. She wanted a glittering life as a Society hostess! It would be an adventure. Or so she had always thought, and she would not allow her heart to rule her head.

She bit her bottom lip before she realized she had done so. The man before her could not know it was an automatic reaction when she was worried. She watched his brow arch in surprise before a grin turned up at the corner of his lips.

“Jasper,” he finally replied in return, examining her reaction to his touch. “The evening has become brighter now that you have joined me for a breath of fresh air. Look how the stars above beam in approval that they may gaze down upon you.”

Miranda’s lips twitched at the compliment. Very nice, though she sensed that he used this phrase often. She realized he still held her fingertips and she reluctantly pulled them away before waving her hand towards the crowd inside.

Storm & Shelter:
A Bluestocking Belles Collection with Friends
Release Date: April 13, 2021
Special Preorder price of only $0.99

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.

Before I Found You Blurb:

Miss Miranda de Courtenay has only one goal in life: to find a rich husband who can change her status from Miss to My Lady. But when a handsome stranger crosses her path at a Valentine’s Day ball, her obsession with titles dims. Might love be enough?

Captain Jasper Rousseau has no plans to become infatuated during a chance encounter at a ball. He has a new ship to run, passengers to book, and cargo to deliver. But one look into a young lady’s beautiful hazel eyes, and he becomes lost. Does love at first sight really exist?

Their paths continue to cross until they are both stranded in Fenwick on Sea. Their growing connection is hard to dismiss, despite Miranda’s childish quest for a title at all cost. But what if the cost includes love?

Buy Links:

Amazon US |  Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Amazon AU |BR |CA |DE |ES |FR |IN |IT |JP |MX |NL |UK
Angus & Robertson

About Sherry Ewing:

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. When not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry and her books on her website where a new adventure awaits you on every page!

Website & Books: www.SherryEwing.com
Bluestocking Belles: http://bluestockingbelles.net/
Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/33xwYhE
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sherry-ewing
Facebook: https://www.Facebook.com/SherryEwingAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomsherry_ewing
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Did Cupid’s Arrow Find Its Mark?

Lady Constance Whittles was unsure of her feeling for the gentleman who had been her escort last night. She wasn’t sure why… or did she? Lieutenant Terrance Abernathy had conducted himself in a gentlemanly manner the entire night. With Aunt Penelope acting as chaperon, the Lieutenant had escorted them to the theater and the play had been lovely. His banter in the carriage and during the intermission had kept them laughing but something was missing that made her want to see him again.

If she searched her heart deep enough, Constance knew the reason. The Lieutenant wasn’t Viscount Digby Osgood. She gave a heavy sigh and the sound echoed in the blue breakfast room where she awaited her aunt. Just thinking about Digby caused her heart to take flight even though he had ended their relationship over two years ago. She had attempted to tell him she would wait for him until his business abroad for his father was over. But he had insisted she move on with her life. If only she could…

Her aunt entered the room followed closely by a maid who pushed a tea trolley and placed the cart next to her aunt once she was seated next to Constance at the table. Aunt Penelope all but tossed a folded newsprint into Constance’s lap.

“Page seven, half way down,” her aunt said who was clearly upset with whatever she had read. She poured a cup of tea and handed the china to Constance. “You may wish to take a sip before you peruse that rag! I highly doubt we’ll be able to enjoy breakfast this morning.”

Constance took a sip of her tea and then set it down on the table. She unfolded the newsprint. The Teatime Tattler… Good heavens! What had Samuel Clemmons written that had her aunt so upset?

Gentle Reader ~

It has come to this reporter’s attention that Lady C.W. may have finally… finally, dear readers… moved on from her past relationship with a certain Viscount who left her two years ago. Seen at the theater with Lieutenant T.A., could Cupid’s arrow have found its mark with these two potential love birds? Only time will tell! As the details unfold,  you’ll read it here first on the most reliable source of intel for all of London Society.

Submitted by an anonymous reporter
The Teatime Tattler

Reliable?” Constance muttered before folding the newsprint again and tossing it aside. “When did that gossip rag become reliable?”

Aunt Penelope nodded to a servant who made her a plate of food from the sideboard. “You should speak to Miss Amelia. Certainly, she must have a say on what her brother prints.”

“I highly doubt she’ll be able to sway her brother,” Constance replied before quietly thanking the servant who placed a plate in front of her.

“You work for her, Constance! Surely, she would talk to Samuel to ensure her employee’s reputation is not smeared across his newspaper.”

Constance set her fork down. “To be honest, is there really anything that isn’t true? I am trying to move on from Digby and I was at the theater with the Lieutenant. The only thing that was in error was the speculation that I was in love with the man, which I am not.”

“I’d bet my new green bonnet it was those Danvers sisters at it again putting their nose in everyone else’s business,” her aunt fumed.

“It doesn’t matter who tipped Mr. Clemons off and we shouldn’t let this upset us. Now let’s try to enjoy our breakfast and go about our day.”

As Constance put on a bright face for her aunt’s benefit, she refused to let a bit of gossip get the best of her. Let them say whatever they want. As far as she was concerned, Cupid’s arrow had missed her by a long shot where the Lieutenant was concerned!


Belle Sherry Ewing brings you A Second Chance At Love previously published in the Belles’ box set Fire & Frost. It’s now released for individual sale.

Excerpt:

“As I live and breathe, Digby Osgood.” She watched his eyes widen before his spectacles began to fog up as the warm air of the shop hit them. His cheeks were red, probably because of the cold outside, and she hid a smile at her imagination, which almost thought he was blushing because she addressed him so informally. She should not have been so presumptuous and quickly corrected her mistake. “I mean… Lord Osgood.”

Reaching inside his coat, he pulled out a linen handkerchief and began wiping his glasses before placing them back on the bridge of his nose. “Lady Constance,” he said just as formally. He gave her a welcoming smile before removing his hat. “It has been too long.”

Her breathing elevated just seeing Digby again, and she moved behind the desk to try to calm her thoughts. Still… she could not prevent herself from taking in the sight of him. His black hair curling at the edges was slightly damp where his hat had not covered his head from the falling snow. A slight cleft in his chin had always fascinated her whenever they had been together in the past. His face reminded her of the sculptures she had seen in her aunt’s garden; classical and timeless. But it was his vivid blue eyes that were her undoing. He gazed upon her as though asking if he was assuming too much by being here. The silly man.

“Too long indeed. There are not many who would brave such inclement weather to venture outside,” she finally answered.


A Second Chance At Love
A Frost Fair Regency Romance
By Sherry Ewing

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

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

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

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

Buy Links:

Amazon US | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Books2Read

Amazon AU | Amazon BR | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon ES | Amazon FR | Amazon IN | Amazon IT | Amazon JP | Amazon MX | Amazon NL | Amazon UK | Angus & Robertson

About Belle Sherry Ewing:

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. When not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry and her books on her website where a new adventure awaits you on every page!

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Ladies Indulge in Pugilism!

1818, London

Despite the dubious legality of the noble and quintessentially English pursuit of pugilism, matches, or set-tos still happen with utmost regularity under our very noses. Why, there is word amongst the Fancy that the notable and invincible London championess, Miss Bess Abbott has a set-to for the ages scheduled at two months hence. One may recall her sponsor, the late Lord D—, who paraded her about last year. This female pugilist is also connected since childhood to the social climber with a Midas touch, Mr. A—, who has lately found matrimonial attachment with a respectable family, no doubt to the chagrin of Lord L—, whose daughter made such a sacrifice as to tie herself to the former prizefighter.

Should we exalt the athletic prowess of Miss Abbott, and call her one of our own, for her record is as yet unblemished? She may not possess the refinements of a lady, for she is not one. But her opponent in this set-to is heralded as the championess of Ireland. No one has found record of the Irish bruiser’s matches, but is that a surprise? No, I urge the dear readers to throw their support behind our own! We must give Miss Abbott her due in the ring, for such a woman has very little outside of it. I fear for her prospects should she retire from her sport.

An excerpt from the advertisements shows  the strength of character:

I, Bess Abbott, am not known for my fine features. And knowing such a mug as mine with intimacy, I pledge to remake Miss Kelly in my own image. If you have seen my nose, then you know it’s uneven features, which would be beguiling replacement seated amidst Miss Kelly’s delicate visage. Place your blunt on my fists, dear Fancy, and I promise to return your investment in a hail of blows unseen in any match yet in London.

 Excerpt

The empty apple boxes clattered as the men shifted their weight and stood, their boots heavy as they hit the ground.

The lamplighters were still some way off. Bess sighed and turned, hoping the men would see her better as the meager gaslight spilled down the thoroughfare. This usually put off any would-be brawlers. “I said, go home, lads.” Bess planted her feet and put down the bottle.

“Cor, not a beaut by any measure,” one of them said as he stalked closer.

“What’s with yer nose, pretty?” The men chuckled.

Bess took the insults without blinking. These jabs didn’t hurt, but she steadied her breathing, readying for the moment to come.

“Jeezus, Harry, look at her ears!” another said.

Bess had tried to take pride in the uneven scarring of her cauliflower ears. Male pugilists were proud of this physical sign of their profession, but somehow, Bess didn’t care for it, despite her status as a fighter being apparent in so many other ways.

“Eh,” said the one who was probably Harry. “Put a sack over ’er head.”

“You should be grateful some blokes want to have a bit o’ fun with you,” one insisted.

“Such a compliment,” another said, daring to pluck at her sleeve.

It was the sleeve that pushed her over the edge. She kicked the man closest to her and went after the one who had touched her. A quick right cross followed by a left uppercut and right kidney shot put him on the ground.

She pivoted to survey the other three. The man she’d kicked had stumbled but was on his feet. “Go home, lads,” she said, her hands still ready. She wasn’t above running, but with a group like this, it would be easy for them to overcome her if her back was turned.

They didn’t speak for a moment, still unable to understand how their chum had ended up on the ground.

“Let’s go, Mickey,” urged the one who had been kicked.

The silhouettes faded into the darkness of the streets. Bess sighed and scooped up the bottle, inspecting it for damage. Suddenly, Bess heard clapping from behind her. She spun towards the noise, her heart ticking faster just as it had begun to slow down.

“Well done,” a low voice boomed.

Searching the dark shadows of the storefronts, Bess felt the voice almost in her bones. “Show yourself,” she said.

A large man with dark skin stepped out of the shadows and into the light. He was at least two hands taller than Bess, and twice as wide. In his hand, he carried a blacksmith’s hammer.

“I’d prefer if you put down the weapon,” Bess said. Again her nerves prickled, but this time in a way she could not identify. The man was powerfully built, but likely slow on his feet. If nothing else, she could slide in a few hits and then run. The hammer swing would be slow enough to dodge, but a mistake would be fatal.

He chuckled, another low noise that sounded more like the shifting starts of an iron locomotive. She felt it in her ribs, and it made an ache bloom almost as if she had been knocked by a belly-go-firster.

He put up one of his massive paws as a show of peace. “I’d not raise a weapon to the great Bess Abbott,” he said, lowering the hammer to rest on the ground.

“You have me at a disadvantage,” she said, still not abandoning her defensive stance but no longer thinking about running. The ache in her chest eased, and she was distracted by the roping power in his bare forearms, the low light etching him in silver and gold.

The man shook his head. He had no hair, and the dark skin of his bare pate gleamed. “I don’t believe you could have a disadvantage. You’re too quick.”

She watched him a minute more, waiting for something else to happen: an insult, a shout, or even for him to slide back into the shadows. Instead he smiled at her, which made her suspicious.

“You’re my favorite fighter,” he said, leaning back against the building. His accent was strange. The lilting sounds of the West Indies came through, tempered by what sounded Northern, maybe a Manchester accent. The odd mix was pleasing to hear.

It sounded so wrong to hear, it almost struck her as a joke. She shook her head and walked over to where he stood. The hammer leaned against the wall next to him, the handle coming near to her waist. It was no ordinary tool. Suddenly, she forgot how to breathe, being this close to a man that wasn’t trying to train with her. “Then I thank you,” she said, gasping for no reason. “You a smug?”

“My foundry is up there,” he said, gesturing with his chin back toward Edgeware Road.

Bess frowned. “Isn’t that Barnsworth’s?”

“Took it over when he died. It’s been mine for a little over a year now,” the blacksmith said, shifting his weight to better look at her.

“I didn’t hear.” So many people from her childhood were passing that she could barely keep track of the old neighborhood anymore. The foundry was a landmark in everyone’s mind, a place of perpetual fire, the sound of metal on metal at all hours.

He lifted his massive shoulder and let it fall. The motion only showed how much power was poised inside of him. If he’d an inclination, there’d be plenty of money to be found in the ring.

She felt him weighing her, taking in all these odd pieces. It was only a matter of time before he ran away, having identified her for what she was. Unnatural. Strange. She braced for the impact of his judgment.

“I’ve always wanted to tell you that I like your ears,” he said. “I thought if I met you someday, on the street, I would tell you that.”

Heat flushed Bess’s face. Without thinking, her hand went to cover the telltale scarring. “It makes me ugly.” She pulled her cap down lower, covering the dirty-dishwater color of her unwomanly short hair.

He lifted his dark eyebrows, the whites of his eyes near glowing. “It makes you powerful,” he said, picking up the heavy blacksmith’s hammer with ease.

“I never got your name,” Bess said, reaching out with her hand before she thought better of it.

“Come by the shop and I’ll tell you,” he said before he slung the hammer over his shoulder and sauntered away.

Bess stared at his receding figure before remembering the empty bottle in her hand. The glass was warm from where she clutched it. Talking to the blacksmith had been so distracting she had almost forgotten if she was coming or going.

Turning to finally head down to Tuck’s, Bess kept looking back at him, this blacksmith who liked her ears.

About  the Book

Can London’s lady champion fight for love?

As London’s undefeated women’s boxer, Bess Abbott has the scars-both inside and out-to prove it. But when one of her boxing students, Violet, needs protection, Bess Abbott’s rock hard heart cracks open. And when a handsome blacksmith comes along, giving her compliments and treating her, well, like a woman, Bess doesn’t know what to do. She’s on the ropes in the face of love.

Os Worley was a child when he became an accidental stow-away. He grew up not knowing the family or the island that inflected his accent. His only memory of his mother is a head bent, hands working a stitch, a voice humming a melody. Now that he has his own foundry, and his own apprentice, he’s come to London to find the woman attached to this memory. His heart is already tempered and quenched, focused on his goal-but a lady boxer threatens to recast his love in her own image.

As Os and Bess face off, will they toe the line or retreat to their corners?

Buy Links:

A Lady’s Revenge https://books2read.com/u/38EojZ

The Boxer and the Blacksmith https://books2read.com/u/3JXDEJ

About the Author

Edie Cay writes Feminist Regency Romance. Her debut, A LADY’S REVENGE won the Golden Leaf Best First Book in 2020. The next in her series, THE BOXER AND THE BLACKSMITH won the Hearts Through History Legends Award as an unpublished manuscript in 2019. She obtained dual BAs in Creative Writing and in Music, and her MFA in Creative Writing from University of Alaska Anchorage. She is a member of RWA, The Beau Monde, the Historical Novel Society, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. Follow her on social media for pictures of the latest baking project with her toddler @authorEdieCay.

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