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Servants Always Know

You can learn a lot in pubs and cafés. Your Teatime Tattler has long had a policy of lingering in such establishments on the fringe more posh neighborhoods—the sort of places servants might gather on their off days.

The Little Brown Hen Pub has been particularly useful lately. It seems one of our “better” squares, one populated by two earls, a wealthy baron, and a dowager duchess to name a few, has had an abundance of havey-cavey behavior lately—enough to make a debutante blush.

First off an upstairs maid from the Earl of W—’s house and a footman from Mr. M.C.’s both were at pains to tell our man on the spot about strange arrangements in the Earl of C—’s fashionable townhouse—he who came into his title just last summer.

servants

“Y’don’t see them servants here, do ya? They keep to themselves they do. Downright unfriendly,” complained the footman.

“That butler o’thern looks more like a prize fighter than a butler, if you ask me,” the little maid sniffed. “And have you seen that footman missing one ear? His visage has an ugly scar. What kind of earl hires ugly servants?”

They scurried off to fetch more ale when an older woman, dressed in black, and obviously an upper servant shooed them away. She introduced herself as Her Grace’s dresser—that would be the dowager—and insisted on tea. “Only tea,” she said with a sniff. This bird seemed a bit high class for this pub, but then maybe widowed duchesses don’t pay as well as others.

Servants

“If you’re interested in the Earl of C—, I can tell you more interesting things about that house than deformed footmen,” she said, rubbing two fingers together. We’re always willing to spare a few coin for a woman who can use ‘em. We obliged.

“To begin with the man doesn’t live there. He has rooms at the Albany, and God only knows what bachelors get up to there. When the old earl died, the older sister—she who is the Duchess of M— came to look after the younger girl, a flibbertigibbet of the first order, in my opinion.” She drew breath and our man quickly suspected she had many opinions loosened by coin.

“Now the Duke of M— is a fine man, but his wife is a pale shadow of a thing, utterly incapable of minding the hoyden. They must have gotten fed up with her foolish starts and outlandish taking because they up and left. Closed up the house but for a few servants.”

She leaned over and dropped her voice, those fingers moving. Another coin may have slid across the table. “I saw them leave. Saw the carriage pull round, the duchess get in, the duke pull their boy by his collar and toss him in, and then they left.”

Our man waited, and not in vain. “I did not see the younger sister get in that carriage. Nor the one with the maid, valet, and baggage,” she went on. “Neither one. I watched the whole time.” He took her meaning, but to be sure he asked, “Are you telling me the Earl of C—’s young unmarried sister is living on her own in a house that’s supposed to be closed?”

“Well I know I didn’t see her leave with ‘em, and more.” She leaned in again. “I’ve been watching a girl her size wearing the clothes of a scullery maid but walking with the bearing of a countess coming and going through the tradesmen’s door. That chit is up to something, no doubt about it, and heading for ruin.”

“Is that it?”

“Well. The Earl of C— feeds anyone who come to his kitchen. Her Grace has complained mightily that it attracts all sorts of unsavory types. This very morning I saw a particularly horrid specimen—a filthy one-armed ruffian—parade through their garden as free as you please, and get taken in. Taken in and that girl in residence! Not an hour later he was out on the street. Did they toss him on his fundament? No! One of those deformed footmen was giving him directions. I ask you, is that how a respectable household conducts itself?”

________________

The Earl of Chadbourn makes it a policy to hire as many veterans in need of work as he can. The result has been a rather unusual collection of servants. As to his sister, perhaps he wasn’t watching as closely as he should.

Watch for Lord Ethan’s Honor in Fire & Frost: a Bluestocking Belles Collection

When a young woman marches into an alley full of homeless former soldiers, Ethan Alcott feels something he thought dead stir to life: his sense of honor. Effort at charity put the chit in danger; someone needs to take her in hand.

Lady Flora Landrum discovers that the mysterious one-armed ruffian she encountered in a back alley is Lord Ethan Alcott, son of the Marquess of Welbrook; her astonishment gives way to determination. As Ethan comes to admire Flora’s courage, perhaps he can reclaim his own.

About Fire & Frost

Join The Ladies’ Society For The Care of the Widows and Orphans of Fallen Heroes and the Children of Wounded Veterans in their pursuit of justice, charity, and soul-searing romance.

The Napoleonic Wars have left England with wounded warriors, fatherless children, unemployed veterans, and hungry families. The ladies of London, led by the indomitable Duchess of Haverford plot a campaign to feed the hungry, care for the fallen—and bring the neglectful Parliament to heel. They will use any means at their disposal to convince the gentlemen of their choice to assist.

Their campaign involves strategy, persuasion, and a wee bit of fun. Pamphlets are all well and good, but auctioning a lady’s company along with her basket of delicious treats is bound to get more attention. Their efforts fall amid weeks of fog and weather so cold the Thames freezes over and a festive Frost Fair breaks out right on the river. The ladies take to the ice. What could be better for their purposes than a little Fire and Frost?

Celebrate Valentine’s Day 2020 with six interconnected Regency romances from the Bluestocking Belles.

Caroline Warfield is a Belle. You can learn about her and her writing here: https://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Guilty or Not?

Dear readers,

The landlord’s wife saw it all. What do you make of this? Is she guilty? I rather think she is.

Overheard in the Ferry Inn, Flushing August 15th 1796.

‘Honest to God, it’s the absolute truth.’

     ‘Slower, please. Start from the beginning. They entered together? What time was this?’

    ‘Must have been about ten. She came in first – not even a backward glance. Went straight to the table near the door. The place was laid like I was told to lay it, and she just sat there with her baskets in front of her. Straight away I could tell it weren’t right. Not at all.’

    ‘In what way wasn’t it right?’

     ‘She kept her cloak tight around her – tight like she was cold – an’ it was that hot in there. An’ then I saw why. She was one of them Society of Friends – the ones that visit prisoners.  Now, you tell me, what would she be doing waiting for a man at that time of night?’

Cornish Lady

      ‘Describe her, please.’

       ‘Brown hair, high cheek bones. Couldn’t see much under her wide-brimmed bonnet. Black cloak. Softly spoken – local accent.’

       ‘She sat at the table and you gave her a meal – one that had been ordered by a man the night before?’

        ‘Yes, as God’s my witness. My best rabbit pie it was. Yet she didn’t eat it. Just sat there waiting for the man to come.’

         ‘She was definitely waiting for a man?’

         ‘Yes. He left a message – I was to tell her he’d be along later.’

        ‘And the man who came in with her, or rather, just after her – the one she left with? Describe him for me.’

        ‘Tall, handsome, fine-boned in a gentlemanly sort of way. And polite, yes, very polite. I’d say he was definitely a gentleman, though he was wearing working clothes – a coachman’s coat an’ hat. Pulled so low ye couldn’t really see his face.’

          ‘And he sat separately?’

           ‘Yes. He was sat by the back door – watchin’ out for her. But I can tell you one thing. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.  Kept staring at her when she weren’t looking. Even in the dark I could see the love in his eyes.’

          ‘And you can swear, on oath, that they showed signs of surprise when the fire was sighted?’

         ‘Yes, I’d say so. But maybe more anger than anything.’

          ‘And yet that could have been fabricated?’

          ‘I’m sorry, sir. What do ye mean by that?’

       ‘Their surprise and anger might have been made up. In other words they might have pretended to be surprised. To fool you. To make you swear, on oath, that they were innocent, when really they were guilty?’

         ‘Well, I don’t know about that.’

        ‘No. Well, never mind. Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.’

About the Book

The Cornish Lady

Educated, beautiful and the daughter of a prosperous merchant, Angelica Lilly has been invited to spend the summer in high society. Her father’s wealth is opening doors, and attracting marriage proposals, but Angelica still feels like an imposter among the aristocrats of Cornwall.

When her brother returns home, ill and under the influence of a dangerous man, Angelica’s loyalties are tested to the limit. Her one hope lies with coachman Henry Trevelyan, a softly spoken, educated man with kind eyes. But when Henry seemingly betrays Angelica, she has no one to turn to. Who is Henry, and what does he want? And can Angelica save her brother from a terrible plot that threatens to ruin her entire family?

The fourth novel in a stunning series set in eighteenth-century Cornwall, perfect for fans of Poldark.

https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/the-cornish-lady

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-cornish-lady/nicola-pryce/9781786493859

https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/the-cornish-lady-cornish-saga-main/9781786493859

An Excerpt

Henry stood against the taproom bar, nodding to the man beside him. The landlord was red-faced and bald-headed, drying a pewter tankard with a cloth, turning the tap on the barrel. The men who had stared at my arrival turned back to their ale and I settled against the hard wooden bench, trying to stop my heart from hammering. A woman in a tight bodice and large mobcap saw me and smiled. She made her way towards me, holding aloft a plate and jug of wine.

      ‘Pie an’ wine fer ye, my love,’ she said, wiping her brow with the cloth hanging from her apron. ‘’Tis that hot in here, but he likes it like that fer they drink more. Yer friend left a message – said he’d be along soon. Ye just sit tight an’ enjoy that rabbit.’ She smiled and turned and I stared down at the huge crust of pie with carrots and cabbage spilling from the plate.

     Henry must have ordered food. He made his way round the tables, sitting nearest the back door. His hat and coat made him merge with the crowd but even so, he looked out of place. He was sitting slumped forward, his arms on the table, his elbows wide, but there was no hiding his manners. No hiding the charm with which he thanked the landlord’s wife, the elegant way he unfolded his napkin, the shy nod to his fellow diners as he began his meal and I looked away. I glanced back. He seemed somehow vulnerable, a rather charming man doing the wrong job.

    Any other circumstances – any other time or place – and I would have enjoyed his company. I would have enjoyed dining with him, enjoyed discussing his choice of poetry, asked him what he had done in America, how his mother was…which of my plays he had liked the most. I pushed my plate away untouched. He was my brother’s gaoler, yet no man drew me so completely. It was as if I became alive in his presence. The touch of his hand on my cheek making my heart beat faster.

    Sweat trickled down my back, the tight wig making my hair itch. I wanted to take off my cloak, but no woman would sit in a tavern in a prudish grey gown with stiff white collar and cuffs and I pulled the cloak tighter. Henry had finished his meal and was stretching back against the hard bench, cradling his jar of ale in both hands. He was staring straight ahead as if too tired to talk, yet the moment the man took my baskets, he would clasp him in handcuffs.

    The tavern slowly emptied, only a number of men left scattered among the tables. Thin curls of smoke coiled from the guttering candles, the room growing darker. Two men had fallen asleep on their folded arms, two others staring moodily into their empty pint pots. Martha Selwyn had said the man could keep her waiting for hours; it must only have been an hour, yet it seemed so much longer. I glanced at Henry and caught my breath. He was staring at me so intently, the ferocity in his eyes making my heart jolt. I had never been looked at like that before. It felt like pain. Like my body was on fire.

Cornish Lady

About the Author

Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She loves both literature and history and has an Open University degree in Humanities. She’s a qualified adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. She and her husband love sailing and together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure. If she’s not writing or gardening, you’ll find her scrubbing decks.

‘Pengelly’s Daughter’ is her first novel, ‘The Captain’s Girl’ second, ‘The Cornish Dressmaker’ third, and The Cornish Lady comes next. Her fifth novel will be published next summer.

Nicola is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Historical Writers Association. You can find her at https://www.nicolapryce.co.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/nicolaprycebooks/ and https://twitter.com/npryce_author

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nicolapryceauth/

A Report of a Haunting in Yorkshire

Dear Readers,

I’ve been given permission to share a most interesting letter received by a dear friend from a lady in York regarding a topic most appropriate as we approach the Eve of All Hallows. Without further ado, I include the letter in its entirety.

Haunting

My dear Lady S,

We’ve excitement in these parts–an actual haunting! My dear husband is beside himself, wishing to cast off his responsibilities and rush to the coast because of news received from the esteemed Reverend N. F.—pardon me, he is now Sir N. F.! Do you remember the dear man? He is at present compiling an encyclopedia of northern folklore. You were visiting us when he came through York with his daughter, Miss M.F., on his way to the manor he inherited.

Oh, but now I recall, you were unable to join us for dinner that night, and you would so have enjoyed such amiable guests. Miss F. is rather a great galloping spinster, hopelessly on the shelf, and shamelessly skeptical of her father’s inquiries, but entirely delightful. Sir N. is blessed to have her to care for him in his old age, and she’ll inherit the manor, as there isn’t an entail. The possibility of wealth (if the enterprise can be made profitable as he hopes) might increase the poor dear’s chance at marriage (though whether any worthy man can be found in that part of the county is questionable).

But I digress from the most exciting news. My husband has always believed that the Manor’s legendary ghostly guest is a Popish priest enclosed within the walls. However, Sir N has written that the general speculation of the villagers is that the culprit is the late Squire, who was a scandalous fiend. Sir N. inquired whether we might assist with finding servants willing to relocate to the wilds of Yorkshire, and unafraid of the resident ghost.

Haunting

For indeed, there does appear to be a ghost! The priest it might be, but more than likely the villagers have the right of it—oh, you have heard the story, have you not? The last Baron, Sir N’s distant cousin, died there terribly. Of course, there’s also a very old rumor about bigamy and a stolen inheritance—a generational curse, as it were, but I cannot quite remember the details of that story.

I can only imagine that Miss F is beside herself, what with needing reliable staff. A more practical and grounded woman…a confirmed spinster, you know…could not be found. She must be such a great help to her father as he tromps about chasing goblins for his book. And yet, even while researching the supernatural, one needs the comforts of a good cook and a few maids.

I shall write more as I Iearn of it. My love to the children.

Does that not whet your appetite to learn more, dear readers? Read on!

About the Book

Haunting Miss Fenwick

Thrilled to finally have a permanent home, a Squire’s daughter won’t let a supernatural creature scare her away. While hunting the ghost she doesn’t believe in, she stumbles upon a mysterious flesh and blood man who might be the key to all of her problems.

When the new Squire moves into Fenwick Manor, an ex-army officer secretly searching the sprawling medieval wreck devises a plan. First, the manor’s legendary ghost will chase servants away. Then, he’ll convince the new residents to leave.

But the Squire’s spirited daughter soon has him wondering if he might have found a perfect comrade in arms to help battle old enemies and find the proof that will clear his family name.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Kobo

Nook

Apple Books

About the Author

Award winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but she prefers the much happier world of romance. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband, her spunky, blonde, rescued terrier, and the blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

She is the author of several Regency romances, including the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner, Rosalyn’s Ring. She is hard at work on her next series of Regency romances, but loves to hear from readers!

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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

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