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Tag: second-chance love

Who is the Intrepid Female Smuggler?

The little Sussex village of Boltwood is in a sorry state indeed—or so I learned during a visit to my mother’s dear friend, Mrs. Ponsonby of Chichester.

I stopped by for tea and found Mrs. Ponsonby already entertaining Lady Ariadne Luttrow, one of the ton’s worst gossips. She never hesitates to tear a character to shreds. Poor Mrs. Ponsonby dislikes backbiting, but she cannot afford to offend the daughter of an earl, so she puts up with Lady Ariadne’s occasional visits.

I, on the other hand, was delighted. As a regular contributor to the Teatime Tattler, I am not in the least averse to listening to gossip, especially the scurrilous sort. After giving Mrs. Ponsonby a sympathetic glance, I prepared to enjoy myself.

“My dears,” Lady Ariadne said, “we are overrun with smugglers.” Her hands fluttered here and there as she spoke. “They have become so bold that one can scarcely sleep at night. Trains of pack ponies pass without hindrance through one’s property. These dreadful criminals even store some of the smuggled brandy in one’s own outbuildings!” She helped herself to one of Mrs. Ponsonby’s delicious drop cakes. I took one in a hurry, for the plate was almost empty.

“Surely,” I said, “your husband can put a stop to that.” Sir William Luttrow is dead set against smuggling—officially, at least, for like everyone on the coast, he gets his brandy from the free traders.

Lady Ariadne took a sip of tea. One restless hand hovered over the last cake on the plate. “Yes, but we are often in London, and meanwhile the servants do their best to aid and abet the smugglers. I suspect that my head groom, a violent sort of man, is actually a member of the gang.” She snatched the cake and devoured it.

“How terrifying!” Mrs. Ponsonby cried.

“The stuff of nightmares,” Lady Ariadne said, but I didn’t believe that for an instant. The smugglers are no threat to her. She was enjoying herself, leading up to something even more shocking.  

She glanced about, as if she feared being overheard, and lowered her voice. “As if that weren’t bad enough, there are rumors that the gang is now led by…a woman!”

“Surely not,” Mrs. Ponsonby bleated, but I rather liked the notion. Women so seldom get to run any sort of enterprise.

“It is a disaster in the making,” Lady Ariadne said with a pout. “This creature, whoever she is, will bring the whole smuggling gang to ruin.”

It was one thing to tell frightening tales to an elderly lady, and another entirely to wax indignant at the possible failure of the local gang. How strange. Why would Lady Ariadne care?

“Surely the arrest of the gang is ‘a consummation devoutly to be wished?’” I asked.

The quotation sailed right over Lady Ariadne’s head, but Mrs. Ponsonby, who adores Shakespeare, said, “Not for the wives and children of the smugglers. It is foolhardy of the men to put their faith in a mere woman.”

What nonsense. “A clever woman is just as capable as a man of running a successful enterprise—legal or illegal,” I said.

Mrs. Ponsonby shook her head. “My dear child, you will never find a husband if you insist on such opinions. We are the weaker sex. Men are naturally superior in every way.”

On this, Mrs. Ponsonby and I will never agree. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to digress, for Lady Ariadne’s conflicting sentiments about the smugglers had aroused my curiosity. However, that talkative lady had already moved to another subject.

“Dear Lord Boltwood, who would have dealt firmly with the smugglers, is not expected to live out the week,” she said.

“Poor Lady Boltwood,” Mrs. Ponsonby said. “She is a close friend of mine.”

“Of mine as well,” Lady Ariadne said soulfully. “She suffers doubly, for while her husband is on his deathbed, her only son, Richard, cavorts in London. If you had heard the tales about him, you would faint on the spot! He’s a dreadful rake and a bitter disappointment to his unfortunate mother.”

With that, we turned to rather more scurrilous gossip. Lady Ariadne moved from drop cakes to macaroons and did her best to shock us, and Mrs. Ponsonby sighed with relief when she finally left.

Well, now. I have met Richard Boltwood. He is a devilishly witty man, and a great favorite with the ladies—and perhaps with females of another sort. But no mother could be disappointed in such a handsome, charming son.

Why, I wondered, does he absent himself from his father’s deathbed? Might there be an estrangement of which society is unaware?

And who is the intrepid female smuggler?

It is clearly my duty to find out.

After escaping the guillotine, Noelle de Vallon takes refuge with her aunt in England. Determined to make her own way, she joins the local smugglers, but when their plans are uncovered, Richard, Lord Boltwood steps out of the shadows to save her. Too bad he’s the last man on earth she ever wanted to see again.

Years ago, Richard Boltwood’s plan to marry Noelle was foiled when his ruthless father shipped him to the Continent to work in espionage. But with the old man at death’s door, Richard returns to England with one final mission: to catch a spy. And Noelle is the prime suspect.

Noelle needs Richard’s help, but how can she ever trust the man who abandoned her? And how can Richard catch the real culprit while protecting the woman who stole his heart and won’t forgive him for breaking hers?

Released today, 24th July. Buy now on Amazon!

Excerpt:

“Open it, my love,” Richard said. “If you don’t like it, the jeweler will allow us to exchange it for something else.”

Slowly, almost reluctantly, Noelle opened the little box. Nestled inside was a delicate necklace of diamonds and sapphires. “It’s beautiful.” She closed the box and returned it to his hand.

“Take it, sweetheart. It will suit you admirably and as befits my wife.”

She sighed. “As I have told you over and over, I will not marry you.”

He tried to drum up his usual lighthearted retort, but fortunately she forestalled him. “I will accept your gift under one condition,” she said.

He managed a smile. “A condition. How delightful! Do tell me.”

Noelle, his darling, the love of his life, said, “Will you take me as your mistress instead?”

About Barbara Monajem

Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young, then moved on to paranormal mysteries and Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Regency mysteries are next on the agenda.

Barbara loves to cook, especially soups. She used to have two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding (because it was too weird to resist) and to succeed at knitting socks. She managed the first (it was dreadful) but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

Will the orphan thaw her frozen heart?

Ophelia Breckensole linked her elbow with her twin’s as they sauntered into the parlor. “Gabriella, did you see the way the Duke of Sheffield looked at Everleigh last evening?”

“Indeed. Like a man completely awestruck.I didn’t think he was capable of any expression except a scowl.” Chuckling, Gabriella sat on the brocade settee. One finger on her chin, she cocked her  head. “And for once, our dear cousin didn’t turn her frigid glance on another befuddled swain.” Brow arched, she gave a sage nod. “That’s very telling, dearest.”

“It was the child, you know.” Ophelia settled on the cushion beside her sister, pushing a ridiculously frilly pillow aside as she made herself comfortable. “The moment Everleigh picked the little imp up and the child stopped wailing, I could tell she was smitten.”

“Sheffield could too. I had no idea he’d adopted an orphan—one from India, no less,” Gabriella said as she poured their tea.

Setting the silver teapot down, she considered Everleigh beyond the diamond-paned windows. She strolled the lawns with the duke’s ward toddling along beside her, their hands clasped. A moment later, his grace ambled into view.

“I wonder…” Gabriella pulled her brows together in thoughtful contemplation.

Ophelia followed the direction of her sister’s focus. “We could help them along. They’ll both be here for the house party’s duration.”

Gabriella sighed and shook her head. “Everleigh would never permit it. I believe she’s truly sworn off men.” She pressed her mouth into a tense line. “’Tis no wonder, considering the vile creature she was forced to marry. I doubt anyone shed a tear when he met his violent end. I know Everleigh didn’t.”

“True, but she’s still young, and just look how magnificent she is with the little darling.” Ophelia dropped two lumps of sugar into her cup. Slowly stirring her tea, she murmured, “She so wanted children of her own.” She stopped stirring and pulled her spine straight.

Everleigh was laughing at something the duke said. Actually laughing.

And the duke?

Well, he looked about to gobble up their beautiful cousin.

“Gabriella?”

“Yes?” Her twin pulled her attention back inside the cozy parlor.

Angling her head toward the frost outlined windows, Ophelia permitted a self-satisfied smile. “What if we drop a hint or two or three in the duke’s ear on the best way to woo our cousin?”

A December with a Duke

Seductive Scoundrels Book 3

He’s entirely the wrong sort of man. That’s what makes him so utterly right.


After a horrific marriage, widow Everleigh Chatterton is cynical and leery of men. She rarely ventures into society, and when she must, she barely speaks to them. Her one regret for refusing to marry again is that she’ll never bear children. As a favor to a friend, she reluctantly agrees to attend a Christmas house-party. Unfortunately, Griffin, Duke of Sheffield is also in attendance. Even though Everleigh has previously snubbed him, she can’t deny her attraction to the confident, darkly handsome duke.


For almost a year, Griffin has searched for the perfect duchess to help care for the orphan he’s taken on. He sets his sights on the exquisite, but unapproachable widow after her sweet interactions with the child impress him. Everleigh vows she’s not interested in him or any other man. But Griffin is convinced he can thaw her icy exterior and free the warm, passionate woman lurking behind the arctic facade. Only, as he pursues her, it’s his heart that’s transformed.


Can Everleigh learn to trust and love again? Will Griffin get his Christmas wish and make her his bride? Or, has he underestimated her wounds and fears and be forced to let her go? 

Excerpt

For the second time that night, Everleigh stopped on the last riser.

 He truly didn’t know?

“Yes, my daughter, Meredith.”

She touched the locket again. A lock of wispy, thistle-down soft white hair lay tucked inside. Struggling to wrestle her grief into submission, she focused on the long case clock’s pendulum swinging back and forth.

She paced her breathing with the slow tick-tock for a handful of rhythmic beats.

Did a parent ever recover from the loss of a child?

No. Life just took on a new reality. 

“Tomorrow is the three-year anniversary of her death.”

Why had she shared that?

The Duke of Sheffield did the most startling, the most perfect thing in all the world.

He drew her into his arms and held her. He didn’t offer condolences or advice. He didn’t try to change the subject or pretend he hadn’t heard her at all.

He simply offered her comfort, and it felt so utterly splendid, just allowing someone to hold her. Someone who permitted her to show her grief for a child conceived in the worst sort of violation and violence, but who had been adored nevertheless.

For this brief interlude, Everleigh didn’t have to be strong. Didn’t have to maintain her frigid façade, and it was wonderful to be herself. That almost brought her to tears as well.

What was more astonishing was she wasn’t afraid of his touch.

How long had it been since she didn’t flinch when a man touched her?

They stood chest to chest and thigh to thigh in intimate silence for several moments until the clocked chimed the quarter hour, interrupting the tranquility. They really must join the others for dinner, or God only knew what sort of unsavory tattle might arise.

“Thank you for your kindness, Your Grace.”

She disengaged herself, more aware of him as a man than she’d any business being.

He simply nodded, though the amber starburst in his eyes glowed with a warmth she couldn’t identify.

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Rumours of a mad rival

Overheard in a London drawing room.
“To be fair, Lady Amelia, many females have run mad over a red coat.” Lady Fenella’s jibe—and Lady Amelia’s blush—reminded the others present of Lady Amelia’s own excesses last Season in pursuit of a certain officer of the Horse Guard.

“One officer might be a mistake,” Mrs Fullerton suggested, “but two seems a little excessive. It certainly sounds as if this poor mad sister of Braxton’s makes a habit of compromising situations with the cavalry.”

“Only one compromising situation, surely,” Lady Eustace Framley protested. “I thought she was the baronet’s widow. One can’t compromise oneself with one’s husband.”

“One can before he is her husband, darling.” Lady Fenella widened her eyes. “Or do you not remember how you came to marry Lord Eustace?”

“Is it true that this mysterious officer stole her from her bedroom in her chemise?” Lady Amelia wondered.

“It would be rather cold,” said Lady Eustace. “It was, after all, more than a month ago, and in the Spring. One would imagine the Cheshire weather would dampen the ardour.”

“Your innocence is so charming,” Lady Fenella said. “Do you practice it in front of the mirror?”

“I do not much like these Braxtons. If I lived with Mrs Braxton, I dare say I should be mad myself,” Lady Amelia declared.

“I would certainly prefer Major Alex Redepenning to Mr Braxton,” said Lady Fenella, watching Mrs Fullerton very closely.

“Anyone would,” Lady Amelia agreed. “At least one would have before he was crippled. Goodness, Fenella, you don’t mean that Alex Redepenning stole Melville’s widow away! But that’s…” Her voice trailed off and she, too, stared speculatively at Mrs Fullerton.

Lady Eustace proved her relative naivety by rushing to make the comment the other two women merely thought. “Melville’s widow? Sir Gervase Melville? Wasn’t he your particular friend once, Mrs Fullerton? Yes, and Major Redepenning, too!”

“Poor dear.” Lady Fenella took Mrs Fullerton’s hand and gave it a warm squeeze. “It can hardly be pleasant to know you are unlikely in love not once, but twice, and both times have lost to the same woman.”

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

Sssh, you did not hear it from me, but…

London, England 1817

Word within the ton is that the Duchess of Roxborough, the Wicked Widow, has finally given up her wicked ways, smitten with the Earl of Cumberland. I’ve been told in confidence that she is ready to marry again. Silly woman, she should have done her homework. It’s such a pity because I have it on good authority that the Earl is not the marrying kind…A Love To Remember, August 29th release.

Rose Deverill the Duchess of Roxborough would like to scratch out the gossip-monger’s eyes. The fact the scandalous note bears the hallmark of truth certainly rubs salt in her wounds. Can’t a woman conduct a love affair without half the ton having an opinion?

What the vicious lady who penned her poison words doesn’t know, is that Philip Flagstaff, the Earl of Cumberland doesn’t have an aversion to her. They have been friends since childhood and lovers for over two years.

Unfortunately, for Rose, who was widowed seven years ago after an unhappy marriage, she became adamant that she would never marry again. She had her son, and her freedom, and so she set about cultivating an unsavory reputation to put off prospective husband hunters after her pedigree and money. She never dreamed Philip would ever become her lover, let alone that she would fall in love with him.

The gossips have painted her in a very unflattering, scandalous light and she is heartbroken to think she has ruined her reputation to the point Philip’s family would not condone a marriage.

Surely Philip does not hold her past against her? He needs to marry. What makes her stomach churn is the fact she’s been waiting two years and still he has not proposed.

Could the gossips be right? Her reputation has ruined her chance at being his wife? Or worse still, maybe he doesn’t love her at all? 

Here’s a snippet from A Love To Remember (book #7 in the Disgraced Lords series):

Wilson,” Philip said when the man entered the room, “please arrange for a bath to be drawn for me in here, and one for Her Grace in her dressing room.”

“Very good, my lord.” Wilson bowed and left.

Rose liked Wilson. The man had been Robert’s valet. After his master’s death he had asked to stay and valet for Philip. He was the soul of discretion and—no matter where he found her—he treated her with genuine respect. He certainly accepted her presence here in Philip’s room.

Philip moved round to her side of the large four-poster bed and held a robe out to her.

“Here, my sweet,” he said. “You’re right. We should be ready and waiting for our guests when they arrive. Cook has planned a light supper in the drawing room as I suspect they will be tired from the journey, and Drake will be eager to see you.”

He escorted her to the door linking his master suite to her rooms. Wherever they stayed, he always gave her rooms connecting with his. He never tried to hide her away, or make her feel ashamed that they were lovers.

He pressed a brief kiss on her lips and then gave her a gentle push into her room. “I’ll be in the study when you are ready. Collect me on the way to the drawing room and we’ll greet our guests together. I promise I’ll be out of my sulk by then. Rose”—he hesitated, then continued—“dearest Rose, I am truly grateful that you’ve come all the way to Scotland to be with me for these weeks. I have missed you.”

Then he stepped back, letting her close the door.

Rose inwardly smiled as she did so, and then called for her maid.

I have missed you.

This was why she stayed with him, even while hoping for more. Philip had always owned a piece of her heart. In moments like this he made her feel like the most special woman in the world.

I have missed you.

Not I love you. He’d never said he loved her. But then she’d never talked of love, either. It didn’t matter. He treated her better than many men treated their wives, or mistresses, and actions spoke louder than any words could.

When the bath was drawn and ready Rose slipped into the soothing heated water. How she wished she were not such a coward. She wished she could tell him what was in her heart, but her years of being the person who ended affairs and tried to ensure no one fell in love with her, had taught her the signs.

Philip didn’t want her love. He wanted her company, her intelligence, her beauty, and her presence in his bed. That was all.

The truth was that one day he would have to marry. He was, after all, an earl. For a moment, alone in her tub, she wanted to weep. But duchesses didn’t weep over hard truths. All she could hope was that, when Philip chose a wife, he chose her. If he didn’t, she hoped her heart was strong enough to become an impenetrable fortress, or her world would crumble to dust.

About A Love To Remember:

A fiercely independent duchess and a brooding, reclusive earl are tested by the demands of desire in this unforgettable romance from the USA Today bestselling author of A Kiss of Lies and A Night of Forever.

For Rose Deverill, one husband was enough. As the wealthy widow of the Duke of Roxborough, she has cultivated an unsavory reputation meant to discourage wife hunters. Thanks to a string of steamy affairs, Rose is perfectly content to be known by polite society as the “Wicked Widow”—until she’s reunited with the man she fell in love with at age fifteen. Their bedroom encounters are scorching, but it breaks Rose’s heart to wonder whether her reckless behavior ruined her for Philip Flagstaff.

The second son of the Earl of Cumberland, Philip never wanted the title. But after Philip’s older brother, Robert, follows him into the Battle of Waterloo, his worst fears come to pass. Now Robert lies in a soldier’s grave, and Philip is determined never to pass on the inheritance to children of his own. Then Rose appears, soothing the pain with her delightful curves and passionate kisses. The notorious Duchess seems to want nothing from him—and yet Philip has never ached to give a woman more.

Buy links: A Love To Remember

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Author Bio:

USA Today bestselling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes. Evans is a three-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand with her dogs Brandy and Duke.

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Gossip makes the march go faster

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, soldiers’ wives were the army support crew, scavenging for food, mending and washing clothes, nursing the wounded, and even working alongside the men.

“Thought you’d be with the wounded, Maggie,” Becky Watson said, trying but failing to keep the glee from her tone. Maggie Palmer had been lauding her extra income and increased status over the other women since she’d won the coveted nursing position, and Becky was not the only one to rejoice in her downfall.

Maggie glared at the girl who rode her donkey twenty yards in front of them. Fifteen years old, newly married, and taking up the duties of the real doctor, her father, who had collapsed with an apoplexy on the day she married Melville.

Lady Melville didn’t notice Maggie. All her attention was on the cart carrying those fit enough to be dragged along with the regiment to their winter quarters, her father among them. For the moment, she was the closest the regiment had to a regimental surgeon. 

“Wash, wash, wash. And every bucket needing to be carried from the river and heated over the fire. I washed this morning, I told her, and I’ll be damned if I wash again. And changing the sheets every day, and all that rubbish. Thinks she’s so much better than us just because she managed to snare a baronet.”

“Captain Brownlie always makes the nurses wash,” Becky pointed out. She’d been appointed nurse herself until little Freddie was born, but Captain Brownlie wouldn’t have women with children in the hospital quarters.

She hoisted the toddler higher onto her hip and kept trudging. The women had left camp as soon as possible after first light, and had been walking for an hour. They’d be another seven on the road. Becky could do with Lady Melville’s donkey, and that was a fact.

Maggie hadn’t finished complaining. “She isn’t her father. She’s not an officer, or even a proper doctor. She has no right to order me around.”

This charming painting purports to record a moment in history, when a child with a French regiment was put on the tomb of a knight to sleep, out of the way of a fight, covered by his father’s jacket.

Maggie was a fool. As long as the Colonel backed Lady Melville’s commands—as he had when Maggie went bleating to him with her complaints—the lady had every right to order the nurses about.

But all the wives knew Maggie was bitter because her former services to Lieutenant Sir Gervase Melville had stopped when he suddenly up and married. And Becky would bet her best iron pot that Maggie did a lot more for him than cooking and cleaning. Mind you, Lieutenant Melville didn’t confine himself to regimental widows like Maggie. He had dipped his toes in a lot of other soldiers’ bedrolls, as well as the local bits of fluff who came out to serve the regiment wherever it camped.

Swiving locals would be frowned on, but tupping the wives of his soldiers was worse. Mind you, it would be the woman who paid if anyone spoke out of turn. She’d be drummed out of the regiment and lucky if she was given the passage home. And the Lieutenant would get a rap on the knuckles.

“I’m going to tell the Lieutenant,” Maggie declared. “He’ll make her take me back.”

Becky stopped to move Freddie to the other hip, then hurried to catch up. “Don’t make trouble for her, Maggie. She has it hard enough. You know what he’s like.”

None of the wives believed the poor girl had suddenly started tripping over tent pegs and bumping into corners. Melville had been horrified when forced to marry the doctor’s daughter, and Melville in a temper was a nasty man.

But Maggie was obdurant. “Serves her right. She made her bed when she seduced him. She’ll just have to lie in it.”

Becky shook her head. No point in arguing. Maggie had her mind made up, but Becky didn’t believe Lady Melville seduced the baronet. Not her. As nice and as ladylike as the Colonel’s wife, who Becky had served as maid back when she first married Watson, while the regiment was still in England.

In any case, anyone with eyes would know it hadn’t been Melville that the doctor’s daughter wanted.

Becky sighed. She was a happily married woman, and a mother. But even she could see the appeal of Captain Alexander Redepenning. It was over now, of course. Lady Melville had made her choice and was stuck with it.

And how it happened, Becky couldn’t fathom.

“Yes. That’ll do. Gervase will help me.” Maggie slid her eyes sideways to see the effect of her use of the baronet’s personal name.

Suddenly sick of the other woman’s nastiness, Becky decided to take a stand. “Watson says the Colonel’s wife has come over to join him in winter quarters. Used to be her maid, I did, and she still has a fondness for me.”

“Not as fond as the Lieutenant is of me,” Maggie smirked.

“Yes, well, that’s the point, isn’t it. The Colonel will want her to check that the camp followers are,” Becky quoted the oft-repeated demand of the regimental regulations: “sober, industrious, and of good character. Don’t worry about it, Maggie Palmer. If they find out what you’ve done with the Lieutenant, you’d likely get your passage home. If the Colonel is in a good mood.”

Maggie frowned. “Are you threatening me?”

Becky shrugged. “Take it how you will. But leave Lady Melville alone.”

 

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

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