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Matchmaking and Secrets in Falmouth

Judging from this missive that went astray and was, er, rescued by The Teatime Tattler, bachelors in Falmouth best beware the designs of matchmakers.

Falmouth, 1811

My dear Hannah,

I hope you and Reverend Simpson are in good health.

Although I long to see you in person, I’m afraid that yet again I will have to put off my trip to Oxfordshire as Admiral Pridham is still rather tied up with naval business, so this letter will have to suffice. You wouldn’t think that a gentleman who has given up active service would still be embroiled in naval matters, but I suppose I must accept that in dangerous times like these with Napoleon rumoured to be poised to invade, an experienced naval man like my Priddy will be of value to the Admiralty.

But enough of sombre thoughts, let me move to the real purpose of my missive, which is to thank you for sending Sophie Turner to me. I am delighted with her. I simply cannot understand why her erstwhile guardian held her in such poor regard.

A View of Bath

The little that Sophie has shared with me about her past paints a dismal picture of her childhood, as have you when you recommended her to me. Indeed it must have been a blessing for Sophie when you arrived in Crawley and took her under your wing.

Her arrival in Bath did more for me than any amount of taking the waters, it was almost like having dear Kitty with me (who, by the way, is very much enjoying life as a naval officer’s wife in Deptford). Sophie and I attended the Pump Room every morning to join the gossip, I no longer needing to take the waters – ghastly stuff! We visited Bath’s fabric warehouses, which I swear are as good as any in London and I spent a great deal of money. Thank goodness the Admiral has deep pockets.

Despite her reluctance, I insisted on new dresses too for Sophie – the dear child needs to look the part as my companion. The lending libraries on Milsom Street are very good, I recommend them, and we indulged ourselves with all the latest novels.

Falmouth Harbor

As you can see, I am now returned to Falmouth and reunited with my Admiral. Alas, I hardly ever see him, so caught up is he with naval business. I planned to meet with him in Falmouth town for nuncheon this morning and took Sophie with me to show her the sights – would you believe that she has never seen the sea? Alas, just as Pridham arrived, accompanied by a certain Mrs Harris – an overpainted and encroaching creature in my opinion – poor Sophie fainted away. It took a feather from my hat to revive her and once I got her back home a dose of Daffy elixir soon set her to rights, so there is no reason for you to worry.

Between you and I, I am hoping to find a suitable match for Sophie here in Falmouth; there is a single young gentleman friend of my husband – not a naval man – yet I think he will do very nicely. I will write soon and let you know how things go on.

Your dear friend, Emmaline

About the Book:  A Bachelor’s Pledge

The woman who haunts his dreams

Secret agent Phil Cullen is upset when he discovers that the young woman he rescued from Mrs Newbody’s establishment has absconded from his housekeeper’s care without a word. Thinking he has been deceived, he resolves to forget about her… something easier said than done.

The man she wants to forget

Sophia Turner is horrified when she is duped into entering a notorious house of ill-repute. Then a handsome stranger comes to her aid. Desperate that no one learns of this scandalous episode, Sophia flees to the one friend she knows she can trust. With luck, she will never see her mysterious rescuer again.

But fate has other plans…

Months later, Phil is on the trail of an elusive French agent and Sophia is a respectable lady’s companion when fate again intervenes, taking their lives on a collision course.

Traitors, spies, and shameful family secrets – will these bring Sophia and Phil together… or drive them apart?

Heart-warming romance combined with action-filled adventure make this third book in Penny Hampson’s Gentleman Series a must-read for all lovers of classic Regency fiction.

Purchase link: mybook.to/ABachelorsPledge

An Extract~

 After walking for a while longer and stopping in various shops to make some small purchases, Emmaline decided it was time for some refreshment. ‘The respectable tavern I told you about is just along here. I’ll bespeak us a private parlour and ask the landlord to send a boy with a message for the admiral.’

Sophia followed her employer into an old-fashioned but tidy-looking inn. Emmaline was obviously well known in these parts, for the landlord swiftly joined them and led them to a pleasant parlour. ‘My Annie will be with you in a moment, ma’am, and I’ll send my lad Jack to you just as soon as he returns from the stables.’

Before long, the boy Jack was sent off with a message to the admiral, who was visiting the custom house, and Emmaline bespoke them some savoury patties, meat pies, cheese, and bread. At Sophia’s look of surprise – for she was still replete from her breakfast – Emmaline explained.

‘The admiral will want something substantial, no doubt, when he joins us. The man neglects to eat if I do not prompt him. He left quite early this morning, and I daresay he barely broke his fast.’ She settled herself on a bench under the parlour window, which looked out on to the busy street. ‘Come, let us sit here, Sophia, where we can entertain ourselves by watching the world go by while we wait.’

Sophia took off her hat and sat down at the other end of the bench, so that she and Emmaline both had a view of the bustle outside through the salt-encrusted windows. Emmaline commented on the uniforms passing by, pointing out the different ranks to a mystified Sophia.

‘See that gentleman there with an epaulette on each shoulder? He has made post and commands a ship. His companion has also earned his own command but has less seniority. Now, how do I know that, Sophia?’

Sophia watched as the two officers walked past, feeling guilty at making such close and unseemly observations of them. ‘Erm… Oh, I see it now. He only wears an epaulette on his right shoulder.’

‘Very good.’ Emmaline smiled. ‘We shall make a naval wife of you yet, my dear.’

Sophia smiled but said nothing.

The food was brought in, but the ladies ignored it, in order to carry on their observations. Suddenly, Emmaline’s face brightened.

‘Ah, here he is at last.’ Her smile was quickly replaced by a frown. ‘Oh dear, now he will be delayed while he exchanges pleasantries. So inconvenient that she should cross his path just now.’

Sophia looked out to where Admiral Pridham was standing. He was doffing his hat to a smartly dressed female whose broad-brimmed hat obscured her face from view. She was accompanied by a young, dark-skinned maid carrying several bandboxes. There was something in the older woman’s attitude that seemed familiar. Prickles of apprehension ran down Sophia’s spine. The woman turned and Sophia saw her take the admiral’s arm. He pointed to the inn, and they both walked on together. As they drew closer, his companion’s face came into full view. Sophia’s breath caught in her lungs. Dear Lord, it was Mrs Newbody.

Sophia’s eyes lost focus, and her heart was pounding in her chest so loudly she was sure Emmaline would hear it as she clutched the table to stop herself from sliding off the bench.

About The Author

Penny Hampson writes history, mystery, and romance. Her first published novel, The Unquiet Spirit, a ghostly, romantic mystery set in Cornwall, was published by Darkstroke in 2020. Penny has also written a series of Regency romances because, as a historian, there is nothing she likes more than researching her favourite period in history and bringing it to life. She lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).

Website: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/pennyhampsonauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/penny_hampson

Penny’s blog: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/blog/

 

 

Just Between Friends

What’s a bit of gossip between friends… a letter written by Lady Carolina, Dowager Viscountess Solisbury, to her bosom bow Lady Eugenia Springhope, Countess of Colston.

8th of July, 1809, Camberley, Surrey

Dearest Genie,

First and foremost, my apology for not responding to your last letter. As I wrote previously, Charles and I accepted an invitation to join Muriel Weatherington’s house party. We arrived yesterday and have been enjoying the most delightful company. The viscountess does know how to entertain!

I feigned a megrim to escape an afternoon in an apple orchard of all places so I could write of the goings on here. Where do I begin?

The gentlemen! What handsome specimens of English nobility!  Viscount Weatherington, the handsome devil invited his equally as handsome friends from his school days. You know who I mean. The Earl of Moreham, Viscount Sturmbridge, and the Earl of Crossley. All four gentlemen unmarried which has provided delightful entertainment as they attempt to avoid being cornered by the young maids in attendance. It would seem Muriel is determined to find her son a wife. It would also seem Weatherington is on to her scheme. The gentlemen travel in pairs!

The most entertaining guest is Lady Philomena Preston, of course. I’ve never understood how a spinster of her age can continue to be the center of attention at every social gathering. She’s here chaperoning her hellion of a niece, Lady Serena.

Just yesterday, Philly appeared dressed in a mustard-colored muslin day dress with large purple buttons down the center of her dress from her neck to her hem. The pièce de résistance was the garish purple swirl embroidery that graced said hem. While the dress was indeed something to behold, her bonnet upheld her love for the outrageous. A poke bonnet with yards of purple ribbon, yellow and purple flowers. In typical Philly fashion, a trio of the most monstrously long peacock feathers provided the dramatic flair the lady is known to flaunt.

Genie, you may not remember but Weatherington does keep a flock of peafowl. All would have been well if Philly had not joined Lady Muriel for a stroll through the back gardens, the domain of said peafowl. All was well until a rather cantankerous peacock took notice of Philly, or rather of her bonnet. The fowl screamed a hideous screech.

Those of us following the two ladies stopped and watched in horror as the massive bird took flight. Have you ever seen a peacock fly? I found it most unsettling to see those wings move through the air. Only Philly can cause such calamity. The bird flew over her head and plucked the three feathers from her bonnet. Philly calmly swatted at the bird, pulled her de-feathered bonnet down on her head and  continued her walk. The woman is truly an eccentric.

Today, much in the demeanor of her aunt, Lady Serena demanded to join the gentlemen for a shooting competition. The young lady brought her own Manton pistols! Weatherington graciously agreed to her participation. To the amazement of all, she was the best shot and won a box of cigars which she promptly handed over to Philly! Do you think that lady smokes cigars?

We have another ten days here. I dare not imagine what the Preston ladies will do next, but I promise to write you at once to share their misbehaviors!

Your dearest friend, Lina

About Book One, Dangerous Pursuit

Lady Serena Preston leads a double life. Not the typical society miss, she dresses and acts the part with perfection, a flawless and unique spy for the Crown. Abandoned by her father and
brother as a ‘useless’ girl, Serena determined she would prove her value and skills of observation and detail. Now highly regarded by her peers, she’s confident she can best any man in a game of
wits…that is until he returns to London. Richard is the only man she’s ever loved, and the memory of his rejection still stings. Now delegated to work with him, she’s determined to show him she’s no longer the young girl he rebuffed. But can she put aside the past, ignore the familiar longing, and trust Richard with her life?

Viscount Richard Weatherington left England four years ago after quite the embarrassing episode with Serena. Now back in London, he expects she is over her infatuation now, perhaps even married. He never thought she’d be working for king’s foremost spymaster, all grown up and using her beauty against French sympathizers. Now thrust together in pursuit of deadly
turncoats, Richard’s respect grows as he watches her pragmatism and dedication to their mission. Daily he fights the incessant pull of attraction he feels for her while, frustratingly, she appears to be unaffected by him. But when she’s captured, her life hanging in the balance, Richard vows to tell her he loves her—if she survives.

Dangerous Pursuit is on Kindle Unlimited or for purchase here

About Book Two, Dangerous Liaison

The Earl of Moreham has no interest in society seasons. Being known as a rake has helped him avoid such unsavory situations such as tedious receiving lines and pinch-faced bluestockings. He prefers the solitude of his work as a dedicated spymaster for the Crown. Unfortunately, his current investigation of a duke suspected of treason lands him in the middle of the upper crust crowd he avoids, complete with wearisome minuets and bothersome misses—one in particular who will not take no for an answer. One who he wishes he wasn’t so drawn to.

Gillian Browning is the perfect definition of a Lady. She has manners and decorum, doing what she should, when she should. But as the niece of the Duke of Whitney, when she learns of a vile conspiracy to convict her uncle of treason, she will stop at nothing to prove his innocence—even insisting she help the arrogant agent search her uncle’s bookroom to verify his lack of guilt. But when they find a coded note, Gillian is forced to admit her uncle is hiding something. Worse, when caught compromisingly alone, they are forced to marry. Now they must work together to find the truth, despite the mutual distrust that battles against their undeniable attraction.

When the note is decrypted, Moreham and Gillian are caught up in a conspiracy of murder, greed, and a secret that puts Gillian in grave danger. Can Moreham save a wife he’s not sure he wanted, but one he’s discovered he loves?

Dangerous Liaison is on Kindle Unlimited or for purchase here

About the Author

Ann Chaney is a nomad. In the last 36 years, she and her husband have moved eleven times. Her professional career included active duty service in the US Army for seven years and working 35 years in Human Resources and University Administration. She attended University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

In 2010, Ann began her writing journey by completing a collection of essays of her childhood memories before venturing into the world of Regency romance. Today, Ann writes historical romance novels set in Regency England in the early 19th century.  A member of Regency Fiction Writers, Ann is proud to support all authors of historical fiction. She enjoys researching the Regency era almost as much as she enjoys writing her characters’ Happily Ever Afters.

In 2018, following the path of her first book, Dangerous Pursuit, Dangerous Liaison finaled in Kiss of Death’s Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery & Suspense. Both books are part of her Lords of Whitehall series where gentlemen put honor and duty first until their world is turned upside down by equally determined and honorable ladies. Dangerous Illusions, the third and final book of the Lords of Whitehall Series will be released in January 2022.

www.annchaney.com

What Happens at The Soho Club?

Rumours abound regarding The Soho Club, an establishment so discreet that many members of the ton are unaware its doorways adjoin their own. All we know, dear reader, is that The Soho Club’s membership is expensive, exclusive — and scandalous.

In what manner scandalous, I hear you ask? To begin, both men and women attend the premises. To go on, it’s said this club offers a place where one’s most daring appetites are expected, and certainly encouraged.

The proprietress is rumoured to be a Mrs Skarsgard, about whom no one knows a thing except that she is wealthy, lovely, and of indeterminate age and status. She’s surely a natural-born cousin of a countess, or the like.

There’s only rule at her Soho Club – discretion above all things. What happens in the Soho Club, stays in the Soho Club. It’s only in this atmosphere of secrecy that our Regency lovers are free to indulge themselves in the pursuit of pleasure, desire, and of course, romance. For those who yearn to love outside imposed boundaries, love is always possible.

About the Collection:  Ten tempting Regency romance novellas to tickle your tastebuds, ranging from sweet to spicy

Theresa Fuller, A Headhunter in London:
A curious journalist is on to the story of a lifetime. But is this scoop worth putting her life – and her heart – on the line?

Heidi Wessman Kneale, Just Glimpse
A shy artist needs real experience when it comes to the human form. But how is she to find a willing model without causing scandal?

Beverley Oakley, Hazard’s Daughter
Louisa Stapleton’s life of drudgery is penance for past ‘sins’. A marriage proposal from the unctuous Mr Rivers could seal her fate. The object of her true affections is Felix Evesham, but Felix is distracted by the mysterious (and masked) ‘Miss Valentine’ at The Soho Club.

Renée Dahlia, Love Wasn’t Built in a Day
Businessman Humphrey Dexington’s love for engineer David Mattson will be forever unrequited. Humphrey invites David and his lover to the Soho Club for an evening together, but when David’s lover doesn’t show, it might just give Humphrey the chance he’s always wanted.

Pamela Hart, A Generous Heart
Accessing her own substantial inheritance from conservative trustees is proving impossible for Adeline Edmonds. Her heart is set on creating a charitable school for the poor of London. Viscount Marryam has his heart set on Adeline Edmonds, but the company she keeps could derail his ambitions.

Joanne Austen Brown, Redemption
Two damaged souls find healing and love thanks to Mrs Skarsgard and The Soho Club.

Clyve Rose, The Case of the Black Diamond
Nicknamed ‘the lonely lord’, Alexander Lindsey has spent a decade spying for the King and believes himself immune to surprises – until he meets Miss Ryan. Claire Ryan doesn’t swoon, and doesn’t blush – but when the Regent’s jewel is stolen, Lord Lindsey turns up at The Soho Club, asking questions. Soon, Claire and Alexander are investigating each other.

Linda Rae Sande, The Making of a Mistress
Miss Daisy Albright has volunteered to assist in exposing the man behind a smuggling ring operating in Yorkshire. Her assignment will require she become the mistress of the suspect. Now if only she can convince Alex Bradley to execute her plan. He’s positively appalled at learning what she wants him to do—at first.

Fiona M Marsden, Mine on Thursday
Angelina Delacourt has been engaged to Sebastion Smith-Davenport for five long years, with no sign of nearing the altar. Angelina cares not for gossip. She owes Bastion her life, and she’s prepared to endure a loveless engagement and marriage to protect his reputation. But Angie knows she’s missing out on something, and fellow Soho Club member Jasper DeMello is willing to provide that certain something.

Ebony Oaten, There’s Something About Miss Mary
Miss Mary Callingsbrooke knows there’s something terribly wrong with her. Her body reacts in such an unnatural way when she’s close to a handsome gentleman. Mary meets the mysterious Mister Smith at the Soho Club, who shows Mary that her ‘faults’ are in fact incredibly attractive features. He’s more than happy to marry Mary, but why the haste?

About the Book: Secrets of the Soho Club

Ten Regency novellas for less than $1.

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER:

 

Release Date: 15 July 2021

 

Multiple Authors:

Theresa Fuller

Heidi Wessman Kneale

Beverley Oakley

Renée Dahlia

Pamela Hart

Joanne Austen Brown

Clyve Rose

Linda Rae Sande

Fiona M Marsden

Ebony Oaten

 

Excerpt from The Case of the Black Diamond, by Clyve Rose:

Outside The Soho Club, dark clouds gathered in the afternoon sky. The air thickened, closely heavy in the prelude to a drenching. Claire shivered at the change in temperature, the tensing of mood. She sipped her coffee, watching Xander Lindsey, watching her. His gaze seemed focused rather closely on the rim of her cup, specifically where the fine china met her lips.

She sipped her brew again. “If you’re intent on seduction, you should know I am not my sister.”

His gaze lifted to her face, steady, focused, powerfully intent. “I have never seduced your sister. I am no rake, Claire.” His voice remained sure, strong, and deeply tempting.

“So it’s a ruse?” She guessed.

He inclined his head, his “mmmm,” resonating low in his throat, like a throb. “We can’t all mask our clandestine activities with scent.” His tone turned husky, intensity sharpening like a honed blade.

“I am not in the habit of short term liaisons,” Claire spoke carefully. “I am not in the habit of being seduced, either.”

“There’s a remedy for that,” he said quietly, suggestively. Did his voice deepen further? How deep does he—stop it.

As though he’d heard her, Xander set down his cup. He walked slowly towards her, the way one might approach a rare and dangerous object.

“Tell me, Claire Ryan, are you armed?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Because I should like to kiss you. If I halt here, you may blade my heart open instead,” he stopped halfway across the chequered floor, arms by his sides like a supplicant. A supplicant with warm brown eyes, and a devastating dimple.

Claire affected a study of the distance between them, lifted her head, locking her gaze to his.

“Three steps back gives you a sporting chance, Xander Lindsey.”

“Indeed?” The resonance from his baritone rippled through her. Nevertheless, he held his ground and Claire lifted a brow, gaze travelling brazenly over his planed face. He stared right back, smiling, offering that dimple where she lingered before studying the cleft in his chin, his corded neck muscles, those powerful shoulders of defined shape. Her gaze dropped lower, taking in his broad torso, narrow waist, and the shapely front of his trousers. She smiled then, wide and joyous, walking slowly towards him, slower than ever, as though she may never reach him, never touch him. Time stretched out, thinning, heating, bringing her closer to the heft of breath beneath flesh, her pulse beating faster with each step until her skin throbbed with the thought of his lips beneath hers, his surrender within her body.

“Something to savour,” she murmured, watching his answering smile. His tongue darted out, licking his lips and she let out a small laugh, not blinking at all. Not missing a moment of Xander Lindsey standing before her, arms at his sides, gaze locked on hers with an impulse she felt in every nerve and muscle. Claire touched his cheek, stroking him gently before leaning forward, lips positioned inches from his. Reaching up, she slipped her other hand beneath his jacket, sliding her palm over his shirt, feeling his breath shorten, his weight shift…until she located his hidden jacket seam. Keeping her gaze on his, she extracted his pistol as smoothly as possible, stroking the barrel along firm muscle as she withdrew. She kept his barrel there, smoothing it lightly back and forth against his shirt, teasing him with danger, with steel, with her unbroken gaze.

“Is it cocked, my lord?”

A Fall from Grace

Gentle reader,

I have it on good authority, from Lady Merwick, who heard it from her sister, Lady Karstark, that the wedding between the Duke of Wildeforde and Lady Amelia Crofton is off!

Rumor has it that Lady Amelia—the former diamond of the ton, the incomparable—was caught in a compromising position with the son of a footman.

There are conflicting reports as to whether or not the circumstances were more innocent than they appeared, but we all know how strongly opposed to the duke is to scandal. Apparently, he took one look at the half-dressed couple and ended his 15-year long engagement on the spot. Perhaps Lady Amelia should have tried harder to get him down the aisle before now.

Things appear to get be getting even worse for Lady Amelia, as little birdies tell me that her only remaining choice is to marry this Mister Benedict Asterly. Little is known about the other man in the story, except for the fact that he works in a factory. Talk about a fall from grace—from a future duchess to the wife of a man who has to *shudder*undertake manual labor for a living.

It is unlikely we’ll hear more from the former society diamond, for she doesn’t even have a house full of servants for secrets to trickle out from and surely no one of good breeding will visit her now.

About the book

In this whirlwind regency romance, perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, a near-death experience leads to a marriage of convenience for two unsuspecting strangers, but will their unusual meeting lead them to true love?

Lady Amelia was raised to be the perfect duchess, accomplished in embroidery, floral arrangement, and managing a massive household. But when an innocent mistake forces her and the uncouth, untitled Benedict Asterly into a marriage of convenience, all her training appears to be for naught. Even worse, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to this man no finishing school could have prepared her for.

Benedict Asterly never dreamed saving Amelia’s life would lead to him exchanging vows with the hoity society miss. Benedict was taught to distrust the aristocracy at a young age, so when news of his marriage endangers a business deal, Benedict is wary of Amelia’s offer to help. But his quick-witted, elegant bride defies all his expectations . . . and if he’s not careful, she’ll break down the walls around his guarded heart.

Buy links: https://linktr.ee/samaraparish

About the Author

As an Australian army brat in the ‘80s, Samara grew up moving from city to city—always with plenty of book boxes (to the movers’ annoyance). Romance novels have been a big part of her life for years. She used them as her ‘escape’ during the trials and tribulations that are working, dating, and living in your 20s before going on to write them in her 30s.

She is now living in Canberra with her husband (a true romance hero) and her menagerie of pets. When she’s not writing, she’s tending to her absurdly large garden, which is a challenge given she historically could not keep a cactus alive.

You can follow her adventures through her newsletter (sign up and you get a free novelette) and on social media.

Website: www.samaraparish.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/samaraparish

Instagram: www.instagram.com/samaraparish

Twitter: @samaraparish

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/samaraparish

An Excerpt from Chapter 1

Benedict Asterly kicked in the door to the Longmans’ empty farmhouse. Despite the crash of splintered wood, the chit slung over his shoulder was as silent as a sack of last season’s grain.

Lady Amelia Bloody Crofton. Half dead, soon to be all dead if he couldn’t warm her up.

He lowered her onto the cold, uneven stone floor before the fireplace.

Damnation. There was no fog of breath, no flicker of pulse, no sign of life at all.

He’d almost ridden past the snow-covered carriage in his effort to get out of the storm. He’d been an idiot for traveling in this kind of weather but apparently not the only idiot on the road.

Why the devil was an earl’s daughter alone in a carriage all the way out here?

He pressed two fingers against her neck. Nothing. He pressed harder.

Th-thump…th-thump. It was faint. It was slow and erratic. But it was there.

Thank God.

He sagged with relief. The ropes around his chest, that had drawn tight the moment he’d seen her pale and unconscious, loosened.

He turned to the hearth and struck flint into the brush with shaking fingers. The scrape, scrape, scrape of steel on stone faint against the howl of the wind.

It caught, and he began the methodical task of building a fire. With each carefully placed stack, his racing heartbeat slowed..

Behind him, Lady Amelia muttered.

“I’m here. I’m with you.” He turned back to the woman who’d previously declined to acknowledge his existence. After all, a man like him was beneath her notice.

He tossed aside the coarse traveling coat he’d thrown over her and removed her gloves and pelisse, struggling with the weight of her ragdoll body.

Bloody hell she was cold.

How long had she been trapped in that broken-down carriage? At least she’d had the good sense not to leave it.

He took her soft hands in his calloused ones, bringing them to his lips, but his breath did little to warm them.

Unbuttoning the cuffs of her sleeves and rolling the fabric up her arms, he exposed as much of her bare skin to the seeping warmth as he could. Her skin was more than pale. It had a blue pallor that caused his heart to skitter.

“Just stay with me. Please.”

In a cupboard by the bed, he found some blankets. He pulled a knife from his boot to cut a piece and wrap the ends of her sodden blond hair. The rest he tucked behind her head and shoulders.

He untied the laces on her ankle boots and pulled the boots off, pausing at the sight of her stockings.

They were cold and damp. They needed to come off too. But a footman’s son had no place touching a lady. And this particular lady? The ice princess would skewer him with the poker if she knew what he was contemplating.

He turned his head aside, giving her all the modesty he could as he reached his hands under her skirts, fumbling with the ribbon of her garter.

“I’m sorry.” She couldn’t hear him, but just saying the words made him feel less of a cad.

He tugged the dark wool off her toes. The skin was red and like wax to touch—but it was only frostnip, not yet frostbite.

“You mustn’t…giant calling.” Her words were so slurred he struggled to understand them.

“I’ll bear that in mind, princess.”

Feeling was slowly returning to his body, if not warmth. He covered Lady Amelia in his coat and then staggered to the bench that ran along the edge of the room. There was a kettle filled with water, sloshy and semi-frozen.

He dumped a small amount of tea inside, grabbed two mugs with his other hand and staggered back to the fire.

The intensifying flame was the best damn thing he’d ever seen.

He hung the kettle from an iron hook and turned back to his biggest problem.

She couldn’t stay on the floor.

There was a large, worn armchair in the corner. He moved it in front of the hearth, as close as he dared. What she needed was heat—and fast—but the fire hadn’t taken a chink out of the bitter shroud of the room.

There was one thing he could do, but damn she was going to flay him alive when she woke. He took off his jacket, pulled his shirt over his head, and picked her up off the floor.

He settled into the armchair, holding her against his naked chest, his bare arms resting along the length of hers. His body heat had to work.

The cold air was whiplike against his skin, and goose bumps covered his arms.

Think warm thoughts. A steam engine furnace. A hot bath. A warm brick under his bed sheets. A warm woman under his bed sheets…

He looked down at the chit on his lap. Lady Amelia Crofton. Diamond of the ton. Leader of the fashionable set. Cold as the ice shards on the window. And Wildeforde’s bloody fiancée. Damn, this was a mess.

Lady Medway and the Scandal of the Decade

I stopped by B.P. Charles and Co., Stationers, to buy some ink, when the heavens opened, letting out a downpour unprecedented in the history of London.

Oh, very well, it was an ordinary shower, but I write for the Teatime Tattler, so I’m accustomed to exaggerating—to making the best better and worst even worse. While I waited out the rain, I began to write my gossip column: 

It has come to our attention that the Countess of Medway, fondly known amongst the ton (and, I dare say, amongst Britons as a whole) as the Perfect Aristocrat, finds herself faced with a dilemma.

A guffaw startled me, and I knocked the inkpot flying. I clapped a hand to my bosom, as Mr. McBrae, who does etchings for Mr. Charles, set the inkpot down.

“What a piece of nonsense!” He gestured at my deathless prose, still laughing.

 “A trifle exaggerated,” I said, “but Lady Medway is as near perfection as makes no odds.”

He snorted. “Only if you define the perfect aristocrat as rude, ignorant, domineering, and utterly convinced of her superiority.”

I haven’t met her ladyship, but I expect Mr. McBrae has, as he has friends in high places. However, the Tattler can’t afford to offend her. My encomium was taken from sightings of her in the park, where she is effortlessly elegant, composed, and aloof. “You may dislike her, but even you would pity her now. Her daughter, Lady Rosamund, is on the verge of another scandal, and as usual, it’s all Corvus’s fault.”

He chuckled at mention of the infamous artist. “In what way? Lady Rosamund is no longer in London, so Corvus will find another victim to caricature.”

 “Not when he hears this.” I lowered my voice. “Her father, the Earl of Medway, has been invited to a house party at the estate of Sir Alphonse Lewis, that well-known frequenter of theatrical circles—and he wants Lady Rosamund to accompany him!”

“Surely not,” McBrae said. “She’s in mourning.”

“Yes, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Sir Alphonse’s guests are playwrights and actors, inferior persons with whom no high-born lady should associate. What’s more, the hostess is his mistress! I don’t know what Lord Medway was thinking. But there’s worse!” I lowered my voice further. “At a previous party at Sir Alphonse’s estate, there was an orgy!”

McBrae huffed. “Lord Medway won’t allow his daughter to participate in an orgy.”

“No, but Lady Rosamund’s reputation is already scandalous, thanks to Corvus. Her poor mother has two choices: either do nothing and hope word doesn’t spread—”

“Which won’t work, because you intend to spread the word yourself,” McBrae said.

I fear I blushed. “True, but spreading gossip is our raison d’être at the Tattler. What else can we do when such a juicy morsel comes our way?”

McBrae acknowledged this with a rueful shrug. He is a kindly sort of man. He disapproves, but he also understands.

“Her second choice is to send her son hotfoot to the rescue,” I said, “and risk that he, being a young, virile man, will participate in the orgy, too!”

“You have a fertile imagination, ma’am,” he said, “but no orgy is likely to take place.”

“I suppose not,” I said dejectedly, for it would have been an astonishing story. “But the real problem is, what will Corvus make of it all?”

“Something amusing, no doubt.”

“If I were Corvus,” I said, “do you know what I would do? I’d go to Sir Alphonse’s house to see what really happens.”

“Ah, but think what fun for Corvus,” McBrae said, “to just make it all up?”

Fun indeed. All England awaits his next caricature with bated breath, and you may count on the Tattler to inform you of every tidbit of news in what could well prove to be the scandal of the decade!

About the Book

Widowed Lady Rosamund spends the first months of her mourning in the Lake District, where it’s safe and peaceful, and murders are exceedingly rare. Luckily, she is rescued from this tedium by a house party comprised of playwrights, poets, and actors—an immoral set of persons with whom no respectable lady should associate. Even so, she hardly expected to wake in the wee hours to find one of the guests lying dead.

As if that wasn’t troublesome enough, Gilroy McBrae is at the same party, masquerading as a footman to investigate a series of thefts. Was the sudden death an accident—or murder? Almost everyone had reason to loathe their unpleasant fellow guest. Rosie must set aside her confused emotions about McBrae and work with him to find the culprit before an innocent person is accused of the crime.

An Excerpt

The first night at a house party, Lady Rosamund is wakened by a scream…

I sat up in bed, heart battering my chest. By the grey light in my room, I surmised it was almost dawn. Had that shriek been merely a dream? The house seemed enveloped in silence.

And then came more screams, ghastly and chilling, one after another after another. 

I leapt out of bed, crammed my feet into my slippers, donned my wrapper once again, and rushed into the passageway.

It was cloaked in gloom, but faint light from the Great Hall filtered up. It was from there that the screams came, now dissolving into hoarse sobs. A door opened behind me across the passage, but I was first to the stairs.

Which you no doubt think was foolish of me, but I couldn’t help myself. Although I have had many small brushes with supposed insanity, I’m not a complete idiot. I peered over the banister before starting down.

Below me, flat on the floor, was a man. All I could discern was his head and feet, for something huge and unidentifiable lay atop him. As I stared, a woman appeared and glanced about. She bent over the huge something, grunting…and then with a swish of skirts, she vanished.

Meanwhile, a sobbing girl stumbled up the stairs toward me. She tripped on her gown and fell, crying out, and I helped her up. “What happened? What’s wrong?”

“He’s dead.” She swayed. “Oh God, he’s dead. He murdered him!”

I feared she would faint, so I kept a firm hold on her. “Who?” A stupid question, I realized. In the first place, I didn’t specify whether I was asking for the identity of the victim or the murderer. In the second place, she was hysterical and unable to speak coherently. I could very well go see for myself, once I got rid of her.

“It’s all my fault,” she whispered, clutching my arm. “I wish I had never come to this horrid place.”

An understandable sentiment, but she couldn’t have predicted this…could she?

“Helen! Miss Gardner, that is.” Mr. Powers hurried up, clad only in shirt and breeches. This utter disregard of the proprieties, coupled with his use of her Christian name, seemed to indicate that his relationship with the young woman might be as close as Harold Bellevue feared. “What happened?”

“He’s dead!” she wailed, and cast herself upon his breast.

“Hush,” he said. “Who’s dead?”

“How could you?” she cried, and sobbed into his shirt. She, at least, was fully dressed, making the embrace less improper than it otherwise might have been.

I left them to it and hastened down to see the body for myself. Obviously, it behooved me to determine first of all whether the man on the floor was indeed dead.

It was the unpleasant Mr. Fence, but looking unlike himself—tranquil and at peace. With a shudder of revulsion, I realized that what lay atop him was a huge rack of antlers. I glanced up at the wall of the landing: sure enough, the largest stag’s head I’d seen there last evening was gone.

I knelt beside him and felt for his pulse—a waste of time, for even if he still lived, he wouldn’t for long. Two prongs of the antlers had pierced his chest.

There was not even a flutter of heartbeat.

I stood and took a deep breath, trying to shove away the thought that ran over and over through my mind: you wanted a corpse, and you got one.

Amazon links. Additional vendors are pending.

Amazon US   https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Rosamund-Horned-God-Regency-ebook/dp/B0913LPHMC/

Canada   https://www.amazon.ca/Lady-Rosamund-Horned-God-Regency-ebook/dp/B0913LPHMC/

UK  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lady-Rosamund-Horned-God-Regency-ebook/dp/B0913LPHMC/

Australia  https://www.amazon.com.au/Lady-Rosamund-Horned-God-Regency-ebook/dp/B0913LPHMC/

About the Author

Rumor has it that Barbara Monajem is descended from English aristocrats. If one keeps to verifiable claims, however, her ancestors include London shopkeepers and hardy Canadian pioneers. As far as personal attributes go, she suffers from an annoying tendency to check and recheck anything and everything, usually for no good reason. Hopefully all this helps to explain her decision to write from the point of view of a compulsive English lady with a lot to learn about how the other ninety-nine percent lived in 1811 or so.

As for qualifications, Barbara is the author of over twenty historical romances and a few mysteries, for which she has won several awards. On the other hand, she has no artistic talent and therefore is really stretching it to write about an artist who draws wickedly good caricatures. But she’s doing it anyway, because he’s irresistible. To her, anyway. Not so much to the aristocratic lady. Or at least not yet.

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