Judging from this missive that went astray and was, er, rescued by The Teatime Tattler, bachelors in Falmouth best beware the designs of matchmakers.
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.
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
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).
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/pennyhampsonauthor
Penny’s blog: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/blog/