The Teatime Tattler prides itself on bringing you the latest news. This fascinating conversation about an old scandal resurfacing was overheard by our intrepid reporter.
“It was all her fault.” With a superior smile, Lady Samantha Ridgewater lifted a spoonful of raspberry sorbet and popped it into her mouth.
“No, really?” queried her companion, this season’s toast, Miss Cecile Ambrose. “Are you sure?” The fair Miss Ambrose, twirled her spoon in the vanilla ice she’d ordered.
“As certain as I am that I look better in strong colors, like this sorbet, than in the pastels we young ladies are cursed to wear.”
“That much is
certainly true. Pastels do your complexion no favors. You should have your maid
trim all your outfits in ribbons of dark shades so you still have a strong
color near your face.”
splendid idea. I shall give that a try the moment we get home.”
tell me how it is that Lady Mary Percival Cummins is at fault for the death of
“No one will
know, and I did tell you how to solve your wardrobe problem.”
“You are a
true friend, Cecile. It really is a cautionary tale from which we can all learn
isn’t gossip at all. You’re passing on wisdom to a friend.”
when Lady Mary had her come out three years ago.”
“I was still
in the schoolroom, but my sister Mavis was out and she told me everything. I
don’t recall any mention of Lady Mary or a scandal.”
because Lady Mary, who was bold as brass, never got to London. She disgraced
herself and her family before leaving that backwater where she grew up.”
“She must have done something terrible.”
Lady Samantha leaned forward, “She was found kissing a stable lad shortly after her parents announced her engagement to a local gentleman.”
“Who was the gentleman, and how did this cause her parents deaths?”
“I don’t recall who the man was.” Lady Samantha dismissed him with the wave of a hand. “But her father shot himself the next day.”
“Why in the world would he do that? The shame was his daughter’s.”
“It seems that Lady Mary’s wedding would save the family fortunes which her papa had lost through bad investments. Her mother went into a decline and died a few months later.”
for the death of Lord and Lady Cummins, but their daughter got everything she
deserved. Imagine risking your entire family’s well being for a kiss from some
smelly stable lad.”
the worst of it.”
could she have done?”
father passed, his cousin inherited. The new Lord Cummins refused to have such
a brazen wench in his home. He cut her hair and threatened to have her whipped
at the carts tail if she did not leave. Lady Mary was put out to the road like
so much rubbish with only the clothes on her back and not a pence to her name.”
“This was after
her parents passed?”
mother was ill, but still living. I understand the new Lord Cummins allowed the
woman to remain at the dower house, but because of her daughter’s reputation he
refused to see the mother or speak to her.”
“What happened to Lady Mary?”
knows. At the time speculation had it that she ran off to the former colonies
with the stable lad. Other rumors said she’d gone to Scotland and become a
whore. I only know that she’s never shown her face in London.”
“She wouldn’t dare.”
One would not thinks so, but a friend of a friend says he saw her at the kitchen door of Haverford House.
The above conversation will introduce you to the heroine of my next novella with the Bluestocking Belles. As yet, I have no title for the story, and I am just beginning to discover exactly who Lady Mary Percival Cummins is. By next month, I should know much more about her and the eventual love of her life, Major Lord Arthur Trevor PenRhydderch. Until then, keep reading.
It is a sad day indeed when we are forced to communicate
such news as follows, but it is our duty to bring you even the most scandalous incidents…even
if they involve one of the most highly regarded residents of our region—the
venerated war hero, Colonel Johnathon P. Wescott.
Mrs. Charlotte Tisdale, a well-respected resident of New
Hope reported the following, and we relay it now to you. It seems that an
impromptu gala was thrown together at Lacewood by Colonel Wescott’s men, who
were given leave by their beloved commander to take part in Christmas Eve
festivities. It was late at night before Colonel Wescott left his post on the battlefield,
but he finally appeared at Lacewood, looking as gallant and intrepid as ever
such a highly esteemed man can look.
Of course, those in attendance at Lacewood included all of
the eligible young ladies from the region who hoped to catch a glimpse—or
perhaps even a dance—with the widowed father.
Dear readers, here is the news of which I warned you. It has
been reported to us by Mrs. Tisdale (and others) that the Colonel danced the
night away—not with one of the highly regarded Southern belles in attendance—but
with the Yankee caretaker of his young daughter!
Yes, friends, if you live in New Hope, you know the sad
story. The poor child was left motherless by the passing of his wife almost a
year ago, and now the sweet darling has been left in the hands of a stranger
whose reputation and character are known to us only by the gossip that trickles
in by attentive neighbors.
However, we know all we need to know. Mrs. Tisdale confirmed
that this woman, this Yankee she-devil, hails from New York and has a brother
in the Union army. Yes, you read that correctly. A brother…In the Union Army.
Wishing to verify these rumors—which are obviously too
absurd and preposterous to be accepted on their face, we discovered that the
news gets even worse. It seems Miss Annie Logan (the caretaker) placed herself
beneath the mistletoe when Colonel Wescott was near, and, of course, being a
Southern gentlemen of the highest order, he felt obligated to satisfy the
tradition that has been handed down for centuries.
My own face reddens at the thought of this conniving kiss. Who
knows what else has transpired between the walls of Lacewood? We can only hope
that it will not stain the character of its occupants for generations to come…
About the Book
Two people trying to escape
their pasts find a connection through an old house—and fulfill a destiny
through the secrets it shares. Part love story, part ghost story, Lacewood is
a timeless novel about trusting in fate, letting of the past, and believing in
things that can’t be seen.
MOVING TO A SMALL TOWN in Virginia is a big
change for New York socialite Katie McCain. But when she stumbles across an
abandoned 200-year-old mansion, she’s enthralled by the enduring beauty of the
neglected estate—and captivated by the haunting portrait of a woman in
Purchasing the property on a whim, Katie attempts to fit in with the colorful characters in the town of New Hope, while trying to unravel the mystery of the “widow of Lacewood.” As she pieces together the previous owner’s heartrending story, Katie uncovers secrets the house has held for centuries, and discovers the key to coming to terms with her own sense of loss.
love is just too powerful for one lifetime…
The past and present converge when hometown
hero Will Durham returns and begins his own healing process by helping the
“city girl” restore the place that holds so many memories. As the mystic web of destiny
is woven, a love story that might have been lost forever is exposed, and a
destiny that has been waiting in the shadows for centuries is fulfilled.
“I think Jon has finally broken away from the ladies,” Luke
said at last. “Here he comes.”
Annie turned and watched with an incredible degree of
composure as Colonel Wescott strode toward her with calm detachment, pinioning
her where she stood with his devouring stare. A strange sensation throbbed
in her then—like the beating of a new heart—and she marveled at its power to
fluster and confuse.
When he reached her he stopped, but his caressing gaze
continued to play across her face. “You are aware of the tradition, I suppose.”
Colonel Wescott’s voice, Annie had learned, could be
penetrating and commanding, or gentle and kind. He could easily silence an
entire roomful of people without yelling or losing control—and could just as
effortlessly melt her heart with the tender tones of a father.
The tenor tonight was both warm and imposing, throwing her
off balance. Her eyes darted around, not understanding his meaning.
He merely gestured to a place over her head, his smile
widening as she took in the swag of mistletoe hanging above her.
Grasping Luke’s ruse that had placed her in this spot, Annie
transferred her gaze to Luke just as he was exchanging a mischievous wink with
his brother. Even Miss Benton was now brimming over with amusement.
“Do you need schooling in the ritual?” Colonel Wescott’s
tone was businesslike, but the sentiment on his face was not. It reflected a
playfulness, a cheerful joviality that was both infatuating and intimidating.
He’d never crossed this line of familiarity with her before—and Annie was
fairly sure he’d not done so with others, even those he considered close
She wanted to pretend an affront, but when faced with his
appealing smile her defenses melted away. Candlelight and music filled the air,
exaggerating and intensifying the intoxication of her senses. Laughter and
conversation blended and blurred until nothing existed but the man before her,
whose smoldering eyes beckoned seductively.
About the Author
Jessica James is an
award-winning author of romantic suspense, historical fiction, and Christian
fiction, who combined all of her favorite things to create Lacewood.
Her new release is a
multi-era, small town, clean, inspirational novel that melds together elements
of mystery, history, and romance.
As someone who lives in a
200-year-old house, Jessica was intrigued when thinking about the generations
of people who occupied the same home. Lacewood
gives readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what took place in an old
neglected Southern mansion before two people from the modern world stumble
across it and into each other. It’s a love story that spans centuries, taking
readers on a journey into the past as the house reveals secrets about a
long-lost love affair.
From the journal of Sophie Hartford – the Tattler has received her PRIVATE Journal from Chateau de Fontanes, the Pyranees, 1818
We returned to the chateau today. I was sorry to say goodbye to my friends in
Ax-les-Thermes but the marquise assures me we’ll go back there soon. For now,
we’re going to spend a quiet few days here in the mountains, and I’m going to
be watching my sister closely. I sense she’s attracted to Joachim. Indeed, who
wouldn’t be, so handsome and warmhearted as he is. With those big brown eyes
and that smile like sunshine, he’s most alluring. But Nell is Nell and she hides
her feelings behind a cool composure. On the other hand, Joachim is making it
plain he likes and admires her.
This afternoon we went down to the stables and the two of them started talking together. I may be four years younger than Nell, but I’m grown up enough to see that Joachim only had eyes for her. So I dawdled around, stroking my horse, petting the stable cat, and then sat down on a bench. Joachim’s lurcher dog, Flocon, came and sat by me. They didn’t notice they were alone as they wandered off down the paddock, talking all the time. At several points they stopped, I could see them waving their arms around as they discussed something. Surely they must be coming to an agreement. Indeed, all the stableboys and grooms found excuses to come out and watch them as well.
My romantic hopes were sadly dashed when
they returned, and I found they’d spent the entire time talking about educating
the poor children of the estate. But tomorrow is another day and I’ll think up
a scheme to bring them together. Why is my 22 year old sister resisting such
29th April. This morning Nell was in the music room, helping a
little boy with his lesson. I casually told Joachim of this and soon I saw him
rush along to the music room. The little boy came out, and I pretended to be
arranging flowers in a vase in the corridor, so as to keep an eye on the door, in
case anyone else tried to go in. Flocon has become attached to me and he sat
watching as I fiddled with the flowers. A rather long time went by and I began
to worry that our kind hostess might come in search of us. So I tiptoed up to
the door, which wasn’t quite shut.
Somehow I stifled a gasp on seeing them
locked in a very passionate embrace
on the windowseat. As I peeped, they
slid down until Joachim was lying almost on top of her. Oh, my stars! What
lightning progress from yesterday’s formal behaviour. But I had to stop them before
they forgot themselves utterly. Suddenly I had a brainwave. I nudged the door a
little further open and pushed Flocon into the room. He started barking and ran
to jump up at his master. I saw Joachim jerk his head up, so I pulled the door
shut again and fled.
This evening. At dinner I
was expecting an Announcement but they both behaved as usual. Such a
disappointment. And later, when we came up to go to bed, Nell didn’t say a word
about her relationship with Joachim. She’s being very sly but tomorrow I shall
tell her that I KNOW!
About the book: TheOutcasts
Joachim is the youngest of the three Montailhac brothers.
Always close to the land, he now manages his father’s estates and
livestock. Athletic and handsome, Joachim seems to have an
ideal existence. But he has a guilty secret and it suddenly reappears to
cause havoc. His life is further complicated by dealing with an accident at the
iron mine on the estate just as visitors arrive, bringing yet more problems.
Nell and Sophie Hartford are cousins of Joachim’s sister-in-law, Olivia [see Scandalous Lady]. In the Spring of 1818 they find themselves outcasts from their officer father’s home in Paris, and are forced to accept Olivia’s assurance that her mother-in-law, the Marquise de Fontanes, will make them welcome. After all, says Olivia, life in the family chateau in the Pyrenees will be a tonic for them. Two unhappy girls struggle to fit into the very different lifestyle of the large and slightly exotic Montailhac family. At the same time, danger threatens from a deranged criminal bent on vengeance against their hosts.
Read an excerpt from The Outcasts
Nell seemed to have grown even prettier while he was away. Joachim joined his family in the Assembly Rooms and gazed appreciatively at her while she exchanged greetings with several of her new friends. Her primrose yellow dress brought out the russet gleams in her hair. She looked elegant and appealing. Glancing towards his mother he found her watching him with a twinkle in her eyes. She raised an eyebrow and he stepped close.
‘Mother, you’ve wrought a miracle. When she first arrived, dressed all in grey, I called her ‘Miss Dismal’ to myself. Now, I wonder if even her own father would recognise her.’
The marquise squeezed his hand. ‘Poor girls. Cast out as they were, no wonder they were so dejected. It is a pleasure to see them thrive here.’ She smiled at the buzz of light hearted chatter coming from the group. ‘Now you can keep an eye on them. I want to talk to my friends for a while.’
‘Hey, Joachim,’ one of the young men greeted him with a horrified air, ‘Did you know what’s in store this evening? Old Deschamps is going to recite one of his endless poems.’
There was a general muttering and some groans.
Nell gave a choke of laughter and looked enquiringly at Joachim.
He crossed his eyes at her, which made her laugh aloud. He sobered suddenly, staring into her green-grey eyes. She really was lovely, especially with that wash of pink colouring her cheeks. He wanted to get her away from the others.
‘Do you play cards? Then we could escape to the card room.’
‘No, neither of us plays.’ She looked round for her sister, but Sophie had disappeared.
‘She doesn’t like poetry recitals, I take it?’ said Joachim, amused.
‘No, but this is rude. I must find her.’
‘I’ll come with you.’ They slipped off towards the other room. ‘Well,’ said Joachim, ‘it seems we don’t care for poetry recitals either.’
She gave him a glance full of mischief, and laughed again, making him want to get her right away from everyone. ‘Let’s hope we don’t find Sophie too quickly, then.’
However, ten minutes later, Sophie was nowhere to be seen and Nell was showing signs of alarm.
‘I’d better see if she’s returned to the recital,’ she decided. They stood in the doorway, peering in. The marquise saw them and beckoned. Nell went to her and sat down. The poet was in full flow, and Joachim shook his head at his mother, who shrugged. He turned back into the card room and came face to face with Sophie. She smiled naughtily.
‘I saw you looking for me,’ she told him. ‘Bertrand spotted me but he didn’t say anything.’
She tossed her head. ‘You had more fun looking for me with Nell than being bored to death in there. Let’s play cards.’ She spun away, towards a table at the back of the room, where Bertrand was shuffling a pack of cards. He rose to his feet and pulled out a chair. Sophie sat down, casting a look of triumph at Joachim.
‘Nell said you don’t play,’ he protested.
She bit her lip, looking shamefaced suddenly. ‘Not really,’ she mumbled, ‘but I can watch you.’
A few of the older players were casting disapproving looks their way, although there were other ladies in the room. It was simply that Sophie was so very young. His mother would give him an earful later but until the poet finished his recitation, they would stay here.
‘Vingt-et-un?’ suggested Bertrand, dealing. The luck went against him for several games. He slammed his cards down. ‘Let’s have a drink. It might turn the luck in my favour.’ He beckoned to a waiter and held up three fingers.
‘Have they still not finished next door?’ he asked. He smiled at Sophie. ‘There’ll be some folk-songs later. You’ll enjoy that.’
She agreed and glanced at the approaching waiter. She stared for a moment and gave a gasp of surprise.
Joachim heard her and looked up. It was that toothy lad, and something was wrong. He saw the boy’s face change as he looked at Sophie. He set the tray down awkwardly, keeping his head bent down.
Bertrand picked up a glass and offered it to Sophie.
‘Er, no, no, sir,’ spluttered the waiter, jerking his hand out, but Sophie had already raised the glass to her lips.
‘Don’t drink,’ said Joachim sharply. Too late.
She set the empty glass down and tossed her head. ‘I’m old enough to drink wine, you know.’ Then the blood drained from her face. She put a hand to her throat. ‘Aargh,’ she croaked.
Both young men were on their feet. Joachim seized Sophie by the arm. ‘Get Nell,’ he shot at Bertrand and pulling Sophie’s arm round his shoulders he half-walked, half-dragged her towards the back door, which was close by.
‘Open it, you,’ he panted.
The rabbit-toothed waiter darted to obey.
They barely made it outside before Sophie began to retch. Joachim pulled out his handkerchief and was turning to look for some water when something struck him on the back of his head. He saw a mighty flash of red and then nothing more.
About the Author
Beth Elliott loves speaking different languages and traveling to out of the way places. A Welsh mother and a Lancashire father mean she has a complicated mix of imagination and practical common sense. After a teaching career in several countries, she settled in the Thames Valley. Settled, that is, except when the traveling bug takes her. An excuse for this is that she has published a number of travel articles, and of course, she can use the settings for her novels.
Her Regency Tales are
stories of intrigue, adventure and romance, with a few real people in among the
cast of characters who find themselves caught up in events that rather upset
their normal lives. She hasn’t yet put Napoleon himself in a story, but he’s on
the waiting list. On the principle of ladies first, especially in the Regency
era, Lady Hester Stanhope played a small but vital role in ‘Scandalous Lady.’
From her own experience of life in Turkey, Beth likes to add a
touch of exotic to some of her stories. But adventure and romance can – and do
– occur just as easily in London, Bath or Brighton as in Constantinople.
For more information, visit her at the following links.
It will be no surprise to you that your grandson, Sir Perran Geoffrey, is once again featured in the street-corner scandal sheets such as that horrid Teatime Tattler. I realize that, living in Cornwall as you do, you like to believe that both situation and distance isolate you from scandal, but as your friend of some years, let me disabuse you of this notion.
It may give some in the drawing rooms of London comfort to think that, simply because the Countess Lieven and the other Patronesses have dubbed Sir Perran and his friends as the “Rogues of St. Just,” those gentlemen now possess the general approval of society.
Just this week I found myself in the position of having to explain to a social-climbing mama that this is not the case. You likely already know that dear Lady Mainwaring is sponsoring her Penrose nieces in their debuts this Season. I can see already that my work will be cut out for me in that quarter, since from your information, the young ladies are already acquainted with the Rogues.
This very evening, I am welcoming a number of select friends
and acquaintances for supper and dancing, and of course have sent Sir Perran
and his friends invitations. Part of the reason for my seeming inconsistency is
that suitable gentlemen are scarce upon the ground this Season. And part, of
course, is that he is your grandson, my dear friend, and I may have news of you
from him. While I myself have not witnessed any questionable behavior on his
part—he is always civil in his dealings with me—I am quite certain that he and
his friends alone could keep the scandalmongers scribbling all Season.
I beg you, dear Ghislaine, to write him a line or two and
urge him to curb his wild inclinations to drink, cards, and ladies such as the
Countess Eaton, with whom his name is linked. It will be difficult for him to
make a good match if he does not. No woman wishes to know for certain that she
is the consolation prize.
About the Book
He is a penniless baronet. She is the wealthy great-granddaughter of a tradesman. Can these childhood friends find their way back to each other when scandal strikes them both?
Sir Perran Geoffrey needs a wealthy
bride to repair his family estate and to bring his sister out in Society. But
what woman with money and standing will accept him as a husband—practically
penniless, his title under a cloud thanks to his ne’er-do-well father, with an
estate far away in Cornwall?
Alwyn Penrose and her two sisters
are in London for their first Season. Imagine their surprise when they meet the
heirs of the neighboring estates—gentlemen whom they are barely allowed to
acknowledge. For to be seen with the Rogues of St. Just means the death of
Except that Alwyn is seen. More
than once. And the gossip spreads all the way to the sacred portals of
Almack’s, which close in her face and end her hopes for a good marriage
The ruin of her Season is Perran
Geoffrey’s fault. And when they are both forced to return to Cornwall, only one
thing is clear: One good ruination deserves another.
Henry’s storytelling is nothing short of brilliant—Regency romance that will
sweep you away.” —Regina Scott
Excerpt from The Rogue to Ruin (Rogues of St. Just
#1) by Charlotte Henry
Hyde Park, London, Spring 1816
Sir Perran Geoffrey pulled up his
horse in such surprise that the sensitive animal danced in the path. “By Jove,”
he exclaimed, “isn’t that the Penrose sisters there, coming in at Lancaster
Captain Griffin Teague, formerly
commander of the sloop of war Artemis,
craned his neck, causing his own horse to sidestep. “Easy, boy.” He patted its
withers. “Where? On a fine day in London there are a thousand young ladies
parading about Hyde Park—how is one to tell one lot from another?”
“There.” Perran inclined his head
three degrees to the northwest. “The landau drawn by the pretty matched bays.
It is certainly the Penrose girls from home—bonnets or not, I recognize their
“There you would be mistaken, old
man,” said the third member of their party. Jago Tremayne had probably never
mistaken a lady in his life. Or a bird, or the contents of a letter, or a hand
of cards. His memory was prodigious—as was his entirely undeserved reputation
as a flirt. “Mrs. Penrose died a handful of years ago. That, I suspect, is her
sister, Lady Mainwaring.”
“Help us.” Griffin did not quite
implore the skies for mercy, but he came close. “Have they come up to London
for the Season?”
There was only one answer. Of
course they had. “You know perfectly well we cannot renew the acquaintance.”
Perran spurred his horse down another path toward the Long Water. “Come!”
“Hold up—we cannot escape it now.”
Griffin raised a hand to stop him. “We have been spotted.”
“So? Better to cut a young lady
than ruin her.”
About the Author
Charlotte Henry is the author of 24 novels published by
Harlequin, Warner, and Hachette, and a dozen more published by Moonshell Books,
Inc., her own independent press. As Charlotte, she writes the Rogues of St.
Just series of classic Regency romances. As Shelley Adina, she writes steampunk
adventure, and as Adina Senft, writes Amish women’s fiction. She holds an MFA
in Writing Popular Fiction, and is currently at work on a PhD in Creative
Writing at Lancaster University in the UK. She won the Romance Writers of
America RITA Award® for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, and was a finalist in
2006. When she’s not writing, you can find Charlotte sewing historical dresses,
traveling for research, reading, or enjoying the garden with her flock of rescued
By A Concerned Citizen Who Wishes to Remain Anonymous
My lands! As if our dear little town of
Silverpines, Oregon hasn’t endured enough calamities in the past year —
earthquakes, a mud slide, and a fire that consumed nearly everything in its
path between 3rd Avenue and Chinatown! It is salt in the proverbial wound
to now be forced to endure the scandal brewing across town at the old Kingsley
If it weren’t for a certain postmistress taking her
dinner at the Silverpines Inn yesterday afternoon, we might never have learned
the truth. Sadly, it appears the headmistress of the new Silverpines Finishing
School for Young Ladies, Rachel West, is stringing along not one but two beaus.
Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs to witness an instructor of social graces
carrying on so, but I fear the evidence against her is overwhelming.
For one thing, she was overheard having a somewhat
heated conversation with the dashing Mr. Finneas Banfield, who I’m delighted to
report was wearing the latest in fashion from Boston. Ah, but our small town
could use more of his charming Old World manners and British accent. In short,
the orphan-widow appeared to be rebuffing the man’s adoring attentions. How
An hour later, the same young instructor in deportment was seen driving her new, outlandish automobile to the train depot. There she proceeded (without a proper chaperone) to greet a perfect stranger and chauffeur him across town to her finishing school. I wish that was the worst of my news. Alas, there is more.
No one in town has ever laid eyes on the man. I
asked around to be certain, and it was confirmed by no less than two other
reputable townswomen: Never before has a Black man so much as paid a visit to
Upon further investigation, I learned that Mrs. West posted a letter a
few weeks ago for a mail-order groom. And not just any groom! Rumor has
it Mr. Boone Cassidy is a bounty hunter. A bounty hunter! I
shudder to contemplate the reasons anyone would require the services of
such a dark and brooding gunslinger. I can only pray he completes
whatever mission he’s been called upon to perform with haste, before the
rumors about his budding romance with Mrs. West spin completely beyond
As one of the senior matriarchs in our town, I’ve
tried everything within reason to quell the gossip. I truly have. But even a
God-fearing, upright citizen like myself cannot easily explain away a public
embrace like the one Mrs. West apparently shared this morning with Mr. Cassidy.
Be assured, I will keep my ear bent to the ground for more details and report
back the moment I can confirm this latest distressing report.
About the Book
Orphan and widow Rachel West is
returning home to Oregon after eight years of living with her guardian on the
East Coast. Thanks to a lavish inheritance from her great-aunt, she now has the
funds to realize her dream of opening the Silverpines Finishing School for
Unfortunately, a former co-instructor
from Boston follows her to Silverpines, claiming a deathbed promise to look
after her. Highly suspicious of his intentions, she sends off for a mail-order
husband to provide a buffer between them; but she makes it clear in her letter
she wishes to court first and only marry if they develop feelings for each
other and the “good Lord wills it.”
As a bounty hunter by trade, Boone
Cassidy is accustomed to far more dangerous tasks than ridding spoiled
debutantes of their unwanted suitors. He fully expects the uppity Mrs. West to
send him packing the moment she realizes a Black man has been sent to her aid.
After laying eyes on her at the train station, however, he realizes he’s made a
great many incorrect assumptions about the lovely headmistress. All of a
sudden, thwarting the attentions of her dandified, self-proclaimed beau from
Boston becomes a task worthy of his most gallant efforts!
Rachel West shivered as she stepped onto the train platform. It
wasn’t the chill of the late autumn breeze so much as the feeling of stepping
on ghosts that shook her up on the inside. For a moment, she fought the urge to
spin around in her designer boots, sprint back to her private cabin on the
train, and keep on riding.
She’d been away for eight long years from the one town in the
world that felt like home. Or should have…
Squinting against the glare of the morning sun, she turned in a
full circle, trying to find one familiar structure or one familiar face from
her treasure trove of memories.
And utterly failed.
A spurt of panic gurgled through her mid-section at the sight of
the new-looking cafe facing her. A freshly painted butcher’s storefront rested
to the left of it, and a post office was located just across a side street from
it. They had to be new, because the paint was so bright and un-peeling, and
none of their roofs boasted the usual slight ripple of unevenness that so many
buildings take on once they’ve had the chance to settle.
Her head swiveled. There was also a book store she didn’t
remember standing next to the post office. It was an inviting little building
with a big, cheery picture window crowded with books. Normally, she would have
tossed all her earthly cares to the winds and made a beeline for the cozy nook
for book lovers, but she was too busy pondering the notion that she might have
made a horrible mistake at disembarking.
Why, even the depot building squatting behind her looked new! Had she
misunderstood the announcement and gotten off at the wrong stop altogether?
“Rachel? Is it really you?”
She jolted at the soft, lilting alto wafting across the train
platform. Nothing around her looked familiar, but she’d recognize that voice
“Penelope Wallace!” she cried joyfully, whirling to face her
childhood friend. She was in the right town after all, even if it didn’t look
“It’s Cooper now. Penelope Cooper.”
They threw themselves in each other’s arms with squeals of sheer
delight, and Rachel experienced a pang of remorse at the knowledge it had been
more than two years since they’d last exchanged letters, maybe three. Good
heavens, how the time had flown!
To avoid making any awkward excuses for her lack of
correspondence, Rachel fell back on her good manners and well of natural charm.
“Eight years hasn’t changed you one bit. You don’t look a day older than
sixteen.” The moment the words sailed from her mouth, she regretted them;
because it was painfully clear that Penelope had indeed changed.
She still looked young and girlish, but the sparkle that had
always lurked in her wide, innocent eyes — despite how hard her temperamental,
overly controlling mama had tried to extinguish it — was entirely gone. It its
place was bone-weariness and the bruising shadows born of hard times. A recent
tragedy, if Rachel were to venture a guess.
They were the same kind of shadows she witnessed in her own eyes
every time she stood in front of a mirror.
BOONE CASSIDY’S STORY:
…Thank you kindly
for your assistance in this unbelievably stressful matter. If you send me a
trustworthy bounty hunter, I will be forever grateful.
When a knock sounded on the door of his train car, Boone hastily
wadded the letter and stuffed it back in his pocket. “Yes?”
A sandy-haired attendant with a mop of flyaway curls popped his
head inside and looked surprised to find a Black man in a pin-striped travel
suit lounging in the luxury cabin. “I, ah…” He swallowed. “I’m looking for a
“Present and accounted for,” Boone answered dryly, wondering if
the man would refuse to serve him like the last one had. In anticipation of
such discriminatory treatment, he’d brought along a decent sized stash of
non-perishable foods and bottled beverages.
“Very well.” The waiter swallowed again and stepped inside the
car, looking nervous. “W-would you care to order any dinner?”
“I would.” Boone was afraid to get his hopes up, but his
traitorous mouth started to water at the thought of a warm meal. It had been a
full two days since his last one. “What’s on the menu?”
“Roasted ham and chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed
asparagus, and a fruit salad.”
“Sounds good to me.” More like heaven, actually. He was already
imagining himself biting into the steamy, succulent meat entrees.
“What would you like to drink? There’s tea and lemonade, coffee
and…never mind. I don’t believe I’m allowed to serve wine and spirits to your
As a God-fearing Christian the past twenty-eight years, Boone
wasn’t all that interested in ordering wine and spirits, but he couldn’t help
resenting the jab about his kind. He knew without asking that the man was
referring to his rich-as-molasses color, thanks to his half-Nigerian and
half-Hispanic roots. “Tea and coffee would be marvelous,” he assured with a
wink, hoping to settle the young man’s jumpiness.
He only looked more nervous. His glazed-over gray eyes dropped
to the twin holsters slung around Boone’s hips.
Boone held his gaze steadily. “I’m a bounty hunter, heading up
to Silverpines, Oregon to help rescue a little schoolmarm from a conman.”
A faint smile tugged at the edges of the waiter’s mouth, and his
shoulders relaxed a fraction. “That sounds like quite an adventure.”
Boone shrugged. “Most of what I do is dangerous work, but it
pays well.” Come to think of it, he was probably the wealthiest Black man in
the Midwest. In the country, for that matter! Another thought struck him,
making him shoot a sly glance up at the waiter. “The sooner you arrive back
with my dinner, the bigger your tip will be, son.”
The young man gulped and took off so quickly he stumbled over
his own feet on his way out the door.
Boone chuckled at his expense and returned to the wildly
un-exciting task of pondering the best way to rid the uppity Mrs. West of her
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.