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A Dispatch From the Headstone Gazette

By A Concerned Citizen Who Wishes to Remain Anonymous

Glory be! A body must keep their ears to the ground in this part of the country. Otherwise, an innocent bystander, such as myself, might miss one of the never-ending scandals plaguing our small town — the latest of which is festering over at the Boomtown Mail Order Brides Agency.

Just this evening, one of the brothers (who co-owns the agency) arrived by train with their latest mail-order bride candidate on his very arm. On Jordan Branson’s very arm, dear citizens! According to my sources, her name is Olivia Rothschild, and she’s a shipping heiress from Boston. Now, why in heaven’s name a young woman of her vast wealth would be searching for her perfect match via the mail, is entirely beyond me! But those are the facts, my friends.

After asking a few discreet questions around Headstone, I also learned this stylish young debutante was rumored to be courting the matchmaker, himself, throughout their lengthy journey to Arizona. Oh, the horrors! To the best of my knowledge, all of this occurred without the oversight of a proper chaperone, such as a family member, a widow from church, or the like. Albeit, Miss Rothschild seems to be traveling with quite the entourage, to include no less than four individuals: her man of business, her personal maid, her chef, and a young man purported to be her chef’s younger brother — a groom-in-training or some such nonsense.

To make matters worse, one of our very own — a local rancher’s wife who has requested to remain unnamed — arrived on the same train after an extended visit to her ailing cousin back east. She claims there is a horrid rumor making its way around Boston that a certain Miss Rothschild had no choice but to flee the city or face utter ruin. If the rumor is to be believed, the high-flying debutante was witnessed sharing a kiss with the cousin of a most-eligible marquis. Alas, the two young men are not only known as capital pranksters, but they could also pass as twins. Some suspect that Miss Rothschild and her guardian might, in fact, have been plotting to entrap the marquis into marriage. If such were the case, their plot went seriously awry the moment the marquis’ rakish cousin intercepted her kiss!

Upon further investigation, I learned that Miss Rothschild and Mr. Branson have an “understanding,” one apparently that his own brother, Colt Branson does not approve of. He would have preferred his younger brother to follow agency protocol and match their latest mail-order bride with the next hopeful groom on their waiting list. Oh, the irony! Instead, it looks as if we have a case of a matchmaker falling into one of his own velvet traps.

Be assured, I will keep an eye on this developing story and report back the moment I have another juicy tidbit to share.

About the Book

Olivia Rothschild has made yet another mistake. She tries to follow the advice of her social climbing Aunt Beatrice, but she never quite plays the game of a debutante to her guardian’s satisfaction. This time, she’s kissed the wrong man — in plain view of her biggest rival, no less, who can’t wait to spread the scandalous tale. According to her aunt, she must marry the man with haste or face complete ruin.

Jordan Branson and his brother run a vastly successful mail-order bride business, but sometimes he grows a tad weary of arranging everyone else’s happily-ever-afters and never his own. He’s in just one of those moods when the wealthy heiress, Olivia, wanders into his office, utterly distraught at what her life has become after the loss of her parents. She’s desperate for a fresh start, far from the jaded social whirl of the big city.

After a short interview, he decides any man with red blood running through his veins would be overjoyed to court a woman of her wit, kindheartedness, and beauty. However, he finds himself in no terrible hurry to marry her off to the next would-be groom in line. Perhaps a compromise might be in order — one that requires him to hold off selecting her perfect match until her arrival in Arizona. He takes it a step farther and personally accompanies her since he has business in that direction, never imagining what perils of the heart the gesture would set in motion.

Available in eBook on Amazon + FREE in Kindle Unlimited at
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07YF13Q8Q
Coming soon to paperback!

Excerpt~

“Good. Let us at least shake on it tonight.” Without waiting for a response, Miss Rothschild reached for his hand.

Jordan was so surprised by the feel of her warm fingers curling around his that he acted on pure male instinct. He laced his fingers through hers and brought her hand to his lips. “I give you my word, Miss Rothschild. I’ll get you safely to Arizona. There you will help me renew my search for my sister while I commence a search for your perfect match.”

Her answering smile warmed the darkest, loneliest corners of his heart. He should have recognized it for what it was — the smile of a spoiled, indulged debutante who’d once more gotten her way.

Instead, for the first time in a very long time, he foolishly tasted hope.

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Found Horse and Missing Widow?

Dear gentle readers,

Perhaps it passed your notice that three of our fashionable young ladies, led by the Duchess of Beloin, journeyed from London to Paris this Spring. They told their husbands it was to be a shopping trip, but they added to their numbers the widow Spencer. Is that not curious? And now that they have returned without said widow they have been spreading tales of seeing Mr. C. Bittlesworth’s stolen horse. Have these young misses been attending horse races unattended?

WIDOW

But more, this reporter is wondering what became of the widow Spencer. That lady is known to run with a bit of a fast crowd in London. Did her heart give out from all the shopping? Was she trampled by one of the racehorses? It will certainly sadden the gentlemen of London if the lovely widow never returns. What could she be getting up to in Paris?

It isn’t for this reporter to conjecture, of course. But certainly all the fashionable of Town are led to wonder what could keep a popular woman away for the Season. And what sort of welcome she will receive when she returns.

With fondest regards, dear readers ~ L.D.

About Pheme’s Regret

Can the darkest of betrayals ever be forgiven?

Miriam is known as Lady Spencer among the ton. A charming young widow with a string of admirers. In the London papers she is only known by the initials L.D., the signature given to all the best, and worst, gossip from Town. But she has been harboring her own secrets and will need the Haberdashers to accompany her on a trip to France to retrieve her illegitimate daughter.

Nicolas Baudin has everything in his life precisely as he likes it. Some might find his persnickety ways annoying, but when you’ve had your entire life upended by lies and speculation you prefer routine. That is part of why he enjoys practicing the law. Until a woman from England, his former home, comes to him with an unusual case, and everything he has been trying to forget comes crashing back.

WIDOW

Excerpt:

She heard him sigh and close the door. Biting her lip, she shut her eyes. She didn’t want to be a burden. She would not blubber all over him as though he had any responsibility for her.

But he didn’t ask her any questions. He simply wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to his chest, resting his chin on her head. Comfort. Pure, clean comfort. Bloody hell, but she was going to start blubbering, just not for the reason she originally thought. When had anyone ever thought to comfort her? She’d gone from willful daughter to headstrong wife to independent widow. There had never been room for anyone to treat her this way. No one ever thought she needed it.

“Just remember,” he murmured into her hair. “Sometimes all that’s left is to do the right thing. Ultimately she’ll have to respect that.”

She melted into his embrace and admitted a secret to herself. She was falling in love with Nicolas Baudin, né Jon Bristow. He would be her measure for every other man for the rest of her life, and she was fairly certain they would all be found wanting. Brave, smart, honorable, and compassionate. Yes, she loved him, but it was a hopeless love. He could never forgive what she’d done to him. And just from a practical perspective, her life was in London, while he could never return to England. If she were to move to France it would mean the end of her gossip column and likely make her book publishing too difficult. Not that it mattered. He wouldn’t want to be with her, not the woman who had destroyed the trajectory of his life.

But her heart knew she loved him. And it hungered.

She turned in his arms and pulled him down for a kiss. There was a sweetness to their meeting of lips, teasing and clinging as if they had all the time in the world. When she sighed he pulled her closer, and the sweetness gave way to a burning intensity. His tongue mated with hers in a way that felt primal and necessary. She wished to stay here, like this, forever. If she could have gathered him into her heart to keep with her then she would.

“This has all the adventure, intrigue and romance we love Sue London for providing. Always a few surprises along with the necessary happy ending. Loved every minute of it!” ~ Amazon & Goodreads Reviewer

Universal Link US * Amazon UK * Amazon CA * Amazon AU

Keep up with Sue London online at her author website bysuelondon.com, on Twitter, or at her Facebook page. You can also get behind the scenes info, special excerpts, and other fun goodies on her Patreon.

LONDON

A Citizen’s Complaint

April 5, 1919

To the editor of the Conwy Chronicle, Abergele, Wales

When does London plan to act? Kinmel Camp is a tinderbox. We know those troops have been through hell, and now they’re locked up in that sad excuse for a facility as bad as any billet they had in France with nothing to do but scratch for food and scrap with each other. We heard they’re overcrowded, underfed, and falling sick. The Spanish flu is still spreading, and it’ll infect the county, too.

A person could have some sympathy, but if things go haywire they’ll spill out into the county. Those Canadians already rioted once and men died. They kept it in the camp that time, but what about next time? What if they spill out into Bodelwyddan or some other town next time?

Kinmel camp

We all know about the strikes in the port holding up shipping, but the government must act. Those men did their duty; they need to go home; they need to get out of our county. Does the government expect us to just sit and wait for another explosion?

That isn’t all. The longer they are here, the more we have women hanging around claiming to be war brides. They all want passage to North America. I know what I’m talking about. My aunt has an inn in Bodelwyddan, and she’s heard it all. Last week a woman from France turned up. Claimed to be the wife of a Canadian officer. A French woman! The army tossed her right out of the camp, just like the rest of them. Next day she was begging my aunt for a job or a place to stay. Barely speaks English but she wants a job.

Kinmel Camp

Close the camp, I say. The county government should demand it. The war is over now we want them to leave us in peace.

About the Book

Some wars must be fought, some loves must live on hope alone, and some stories must be told. Christmas Hope a wartime romance in four parts, each one ending on Christmas 1916-1919, is one of them.

After two years at war Harry ran out of metaphors for death, synonyms for brown, and images of darkness. When he encountered the floating islands of Amiens and life in the form a widow and her little son, hope ensnared him.

With the war over, and no word from Harry, Rosemarie Legrand searched for him all the way to the Kinmel Camp, only to be thrown out by authorities. She can’t linger; no one will hire her. Now that the Great War is over, will their love be enough?

Pre-order at $.99 from various vendors. https://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/christmas-hope/

About the Author

Award winning author of historical romance usually set in the Regency and Victorian eras, Caroline Warfield 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 world. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart, because love is worth the risk.

Carol Roddy – Author

Local Thief Spots Apparition

Your humble correspondent, journalist for The Teatime Tattler, begs leave to draw notice to Mr. Algernon Cuffy, sometime resident of St. James’s Square, as he describes an alarming encounter with a strange apparition on the night of London’s latest fog.

apparition
Pissarro, Place du Theatre, 1897

“I’m a thief. Write that down, plain and simple. Poverty might have driven some other poor blighters to a life on the hop but I have, you might say, a natural bent.”

Though a bit of a Renaissance man in all the arts of financial misappropriation, Mr. Cuffy likes housebreaking the most.

“Pickpocketing is for children and women—pathetic types who can look sorrowful like Mother Mary or an orphaned lamb. But I got this here,” he said, tracing a finger down a four inch scar running to his left ear, part of which was missing. “Don’t look harmless enough for work at close quarters, now, do I? Anyone with any brains would know to steer clear of me.”

Your humble correspondent backed away as he continued.

“An’ then there’s highway robbery. You’ve got travel and horse fairs and boxing mills and lonely moors—all well and good,” he said, detailing his interests. “But you’d be surprised how few coves are worth getting hung for.”

Your humble correspondent could not but agree.

“The night in question—” your correspondent began, hopeful that Mr. Cuffy would return to ghosts and spirits.

“There’s an art to housebreaking,” Mr. Cuffy continued, warming to his subject. “Liking the name of a street, following a likely looking coach home to its roost… Best to stay clear of the poshest squares. That night, conditions were perfect,” he said, tugging his cap on.

Your humble correspondent dared a question and he obliged with an answer.

“Dark. Dark as coal. An’ fog like soup. I was on the damp roof tiles of Lord Fox’s establishment—”

Readers will imagine an elegant white house in the Georgian style.

“—full to the gills with lacquered snuff boxes and jeweled tie pins, and like most bachelor’s quarters, lax about the housekeeping. I was preparing to ease myself into the empty bedroom of the recently dismissed second footman. That’s when I saw her.”

“What?” your correspondent exclaimed. 

“Pretty young thing. Loose hair, white dress. I dashed near dropped forty feet to the pavement when she rose up out of mist. I could see clear as day that she wasn’t a ghost.”

“She must have been a ghost,” I insisted. “People do not fly.”

Apparition
Russolo, The Solidity of Fog. 1912

“She wasn’t flying,” Mr. Cuffy said, his look quite insulting to the junior correspondent of London’s seventh most popular daily newspaper. “Just sort of floated for a while. Took a good look towards Westminster on the river and another over towards St. Paul’s.”

“And then?” I asked, scribbling hastily.

“Then there was a shout from below and she disappeared into the fog again.”

“Where you drunk?” I asked.

Mr. Cuffy gave no proper answer but resorted to his fists. Thus concluded our interview.

About the Book: Her Caprice

A MOST PRIVATE BATTLE

Since Beatrice Thornton was 13 years old she’s been living with a secret that could ruin her family forever. Her parents are the only ones who know, and now, seven years later, they are forced to put on a sham for Beatrice’s late first Season. The plan, make Beatrice as mousy and ill-clothed as possible so no suitor would consider her. Then they can all escape back to their country home in Dorset to keep the terrible secret safe. But the unthinkable happens… Beatrice meets a man who gives her hope of a normal life, and Beatrice dares to love with horrible consequences.

Captain Henry Gracechurch has resigned his commission after living through the horrors and waste of war. Recently returned from Spain, he is cajoled by his formidable godmother to make an appearance at one of her famous balls. When he sees a young woman abandoned on the dance floor, honour commands him to save the day. Nothing could have prepared him for meeting the person who is a balm to his soul and gives wings to his heart. But winning Beatrice Thornton will take every ounce of courage he has, and this is a war he will win, no matter the cost.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07N9B81QR

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130437723?ean=2940155962496

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/920856

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/her-caprice

Her Caprice, Excerpt:

Beatrice was left alone to take in the whole scene. It was familiar to her, in a way. She had seen illustrations of balloons before, studied them closely from books and newspapers. The flying machine could do what she did, and yet there were reasons for it, purposes, a whole science, explanations of the mechanics.

“It’s magical,” a deep voice intoned at her side. She looked up to find Henry standing next to her as if he had always been there. Beatrice felt the solid ground she stood on almost melt away.

Quarry stone, the involuntary thought flitted through her mind, and she blinked, feeling herself grow heavy and pressed more firmly into the grass. That was strange. It was not as though she had been about to float away at the mere sight of him in the middle of a bustling London crowd. What a silly thing to think. She shook her head and met his eyes.

There was the usual delight she felt each time she saw him that sent her insides spinning, but it was tempered by the knowledge that he had not called. It was the merest chance that brought him here.

“It’s not magic,” she retorted, swallowing deeply. Six days since she’d last seen him. He had no right to look like he hadn’t been wasting away. Drat. “It’s hydrogen. The gas is produced when sulphuric acid is poured over scrap iron. How did you happen across me in this crowd?” she asked, thankful for the cool morning air, which would be a plausible reason for her pink cheeks.

“Magic,” he asserted, offering her an arm, which she took. He did not lead her anywhere but stood, gazing up at the activity on the rise. “Have you been busy these past days?”

Busy? She felt the shame of returning home each afternoon, her eyes hungry for some sign that he had come. “This and that,” she answered, hoping with all her heart that her tone conveyed a calendar too full for waiting and longing.

He looked down at her. “You’ve not been at home,” he stated.

It wasn’t a question. The damp ground at the bottom of the hill began to seep through her slippers, but she would not move for anything. “No. My mother had a sudden enthusiasm to see everything in Town. I am not sure the carriage horses can take much more. You?”

“I passed your door, hoping that—”

“You called?” The surprise of it made her yelp.

“I said I would.”

Beatrice looked up at him. “You left no sign,” she stated while feeling great relief. Forgetting to leave a card—it was endearing, though it had cost her the enjoyment of racing through the maze at Hampton Court, of savouring the ice at Gunter’s.

His head cocked to the side and his brows came down. “But I—” And then his lips shut into a firm line.

Beatrice waited for him to finish and then, finally, when it was clear he would say no more, the wheels in her mind began to turn. She looked up the hill again to where the balloonist had given Penny a small parcel, some silk fabric full of hydrogen. Her sister let it go and, as it drifted up and up, it moved in easy state, tossed lightly by sudden currents of wind. The crowd let out a great cheer, and in that clamour, Beatrice whispered, “You did leave a card, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

Penny waved to her as she dashed down the hill and away toward the carriage.

Beatrice lowered her brows. She might have missed the card in her meticulous search of the entry hall, when she had turned each paper over and over, upending the tray and running her fingers along the back of the table, and then closely questioned the townhouse staff. It would not be so amazing if she lost— “Just the one?”

“One each time I visited.”

“Each? What do you mean? How many times was it?” she asked, her words tripping over themselves.

His look was keen. “Seven,” he answered and then his mouth lifted. “I’m almost out of cards.”

She answered quickly. “But it’s been six days.”

“Exactly six? Has it?” he asked, his eyes narrowing like a cat on the trail of a limping mouse. “How clever you are to know the precise number. I came twice on Wednesday.”

Beatrice put a hand to her pelisse, fastening and unfastening the button. Seven cards. Seven messages scrawled on the back. Seven times he had come. Seven times. She couldn’t let the number go. A girl might have her head turned by a thing like that.

Henry didn’t say another word, and merely waited for her to work it out—though the way his eyes studied her face wasn’t helping her concentration at all. It set her blood to warming and her mind to wondering if the world really would come crashing to an end if she leaned up on her tiptoes and kissed him on those firm lips.

About the Author

Keira Dominguez graduated from BYU with a B.A. in Humanities and lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. When she is not busy avoiding volunteerism at her kids’ schools like it is the literal plague, she writes sweet romance novels.

https://www.keiradominguez.com/

Servants Shock the Neighborhood

Number 50, Dudley Crescent, London

July 15, 1821

Dearest Lucinda,

I write to you today to share my outrage at occurrences in Dudley Crescent. I simply cannot abide the recent changes and must have your advice.

Servants Shock

Two years ago, a murder occurred at Number 10. The horrid matter was quickly resolved when the culprit was identified and put away from fine society.  But the greater scandal was that the widowed lady of the house had intimate relations with her butler! Then last year, a noted member of society hired a young woman as ward to his child…and later, did marry the woman! She was far below his station, though, I do understand, an heiress of considerable worth. I must tell you the man is one of our finest gentlemen with a spotless reputation and high military honors. Yet, I worry.

Another event occurring last week causes me to question my presence here!

I understand that one noble gentleman has paid attentions to one of his servants! This time, said woman is not a governess. No, indeed, she is his maid-of-all-work! Can you imagine? I’ve been inconsolable, riddled with a nervous stomach and headaches. My usual little dose of laudanum is simply not enough to calm me.

This causes me to ask you if you think I should move to a better part of town. Is there a curse on the Crescent? Must I expect more servants who will climb above their station to enthrall their masters or mistresses? Worse, will such an affliction affect my own house? I must tell you, quite confidentially, that my only daughter, Lady Mary, seems far too taken with one of our own servants. The new…dear me, I can barely write this…stable boy. Yes! He is most definitely not a boy. Not by any means. He is thirty years of age or more. Tall, taller than my dear departed husband. And devilishly handsome with hair the color of coal and eyes like lavender. He is quite ethereal.

I do rattle on!

Advise me, please!

Most sincerely,

Catherine, the Viscountess of Trelawny

Dudley Crescent is a verdant parcel of land in London, granted by King Charles II to the Earl of Dudley who was one of his staunchest supporters. With gold he’d stolen as a highwayman during Charles’s exile on the Continent, Dudley put his ill-gotten gains to good use and built the finest town homes in the capital. Renting the land in perpetuity to certain Royalist friends quadrupled his fortune.

Today, those who have townhomes surrounding the verdant park are a few of the wealthiest and most influential lords and ladies in the kingdom. But scandals abound on Dudley Crescent. You can find them here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cerise-DeLand/e/B0089DS2N2/

Or here: http://cerisedeland.com/delightful-doings-in-dudley-crescent/

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