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Regret is a terrible thing!

Lord Nicholas Lacey heard his wife’s tears even before he reached their bedroom door. Rushing inside, Grace was hunched over on their bed. Her grief more than evident whilst her crying broke his heart.

“My darling…” he murmured before gathering her in his arms. “Whatever has you so distressed?”

“It’s all my fault!” she mumbled against his shoulder while her arms swung around his neck in a fierce embrace.

“Certainly not, Gracie,” he replied as his hands took her cheeks in his palms. He kissed them both before taking a moment to wipe the tears from her face. “Tell me what’s happened.”

“Oh Nicholas!” she replied before picking up the newsprint she had thrown onto the floor. “It’s all here in that dreadful Teatime Tattler.”

He gave a heavy sigh before he took the crumbled paper in his hands. Smoothing it out, he began to read whilst a frown formed on his brow.

Gentle Readers:

This just in from our Faithful Correspondent at the Queen’s Barque in Fenwick on Sea!

Who was the fashionable damsel who entered the inn looking like a drenched field mouse, with no one else to give her countenance but her maid? None other but Miss d.C. 

Dedicated readers of The Teatime Tattler will be familiar with the escapades of this particular young miss. She has been a frequent piece of tittle-tattle in previous editions, barely escaping ruination in the past several years. There is sure to be a bit of excitement while she is stuck here.

Which of the several eligible peers also stranded at the inn will she set her cap on? We will just have to wait and see. Knowing her past, anything is possible. Stay tuned for further developments.

Their eyes met and worry etched itself across Grace’s lovely features. “This is hardly your fault, my dear,” Nicholas said.

“I should have gone with her but I thought Miranda would be fine for the short trip down the coast. She had my maid with her and…” she began.

“…you were unwell,” he reminded her whilst he finished her words.

“But I should have known trouble would follow her whilst she travelled to see her friend.”

“You could hardly predict the weather that caused her delay, my love. Miranda will survive this as surely as she has survived all her past indiscretions.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, her lower lip quivered whilst she attempted to keep her emotions from bubbling over again.

His wife appeared so helpless and he couldn’t stand to see her this way. He gave her a bright smile before kissing her lips. “Trust me, Grace. Miranda has more lives than a cat. She’ll survive this and come out the better for it. Just wait and see.”


This is an original piece by Belle Sherry Ewing. Miss Miranda de Courtenay was previously seen in A Kiss For Charity and The Earl Takes A Wife. She will now get her happily ever after in Before I Found You that is in the Bluestocking Belles’ next box set Storm & Shelter.

Excerpt from Before I Found You: A de Courtenay Novella (Book Three):

“You look as though you belong here, Miranda.” That voice broke into her musings, causing a shiver of pleasure to race throughout her body. His tone was gentle. Might Jasper still care for her? God help me.

She turned to face him and realized he was closer than she thought. Her breath caught in her throat before she finally answered him. “Do I?” she asked hesitantly, before she shrugged. “I never seem to really fit in anywhere.”

“Maybe you’re just looking in all the wrong places.” His solemn expression seemed genuinely concerned. Miranda’s determination to have a titled man as her husband waned in Jasper’s presence. It troubled her, and at the same time she felt guilty. Wasn’t she being untrue to herself?

“Perhaps,” she replied, quietly. She would concede that something inside her was changing. She wasn’t sure if she cared for the changes or not, but she couldn’t stand to see the hurt she might cause this man once again reflected in his eyes.

A few locks of her hair whisked across her face and Jasper reached out to tuck the length behind her ear. “Miranda—”

“I must apologize if my presence has made you uncomfortable, Jasper. I tried to persuade Grace to pick me up after they were done here,” she interrupted. She gestured at the planks beneath her feet. “As you can see, I failed.”

“You are more than welcome onboard. But you’re not remaining in London?” The ship chose that moment to sway and, before Miranda’s stance could falter, Jasper took hold of her elbow to steady her. Her heart betrayed her yet again when he placed her hand into the crook of his arm to offer his support.

“No, I’m afraid not. Nicholas has purchased a cottage on the coast at Cromer in Norfolk. I’m to accompany them and their children while they look the place over and furnish it. It’s part of my punishment for past offenses, I suppose. I’d rather not go into the details.”

“Spending time with your family hardly seems like punishment, Miranda.”

“I’m glad you haven’t heard the gossip surrounding me the past few years. Elsewise, you’d be like the rest of the ton and stay away from me at all costs. I’m only really accepted among them because of Grace and Adrian.”

He pulled her to face him and lifted her chin. “We may not have known one another for long, but you must know I’m not cut from the same mold as most of society. I’ve lived by my own rules, and, while I try to remain the gentleman my parents raised me to be, I don’t mind taking a risk now and then.”

“Like at the ball?” she asked, trying to keep her nerves calm.

“Yes. I thought you also didn’t mind occasionally dismissing the convention of men and women of their ilk since you decided to dance with me.”

She thought of how a foolish bet with Grace had almost been the ruin of her reputation at Hollystone Hall. A laugh escaped her. “If you only knew…”

“Perhaps one day you shall confide in me. I promise to keep your secrets.” His grin was completely wicked, and another piece of her heart melted.

“I just may hold you to your vow, Jasper,” she teased, her eyes twinkling in merriment while they jested with one another.


Storm & Shelter:
A Bluestocking Belles Collection with Friends

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.

Before I Found You Blurb:

Miss Miranda de Courtenay has only one goal in life: to find a rich husband who can change her status from Miss to My Lady. But when a handsome stranger crosses her path at a Valentine’s Day ball, her obsession with titles dims. Might love be enough?

Captain Jasper Rousseau has no plans to become infatuated during a chance encounter at a ball. He has a new ship to run, passengers to book, and cargo to deliver. But one look into a young lady’s beautiful hazel eyes, and he becomes lost. Does love at first sight really exist?

Their paths continue to cross until they are both stranded in Fenwick on Sea. Their growing connection is hard to dismiss, despite Miranda’s childish quest for a title at all cost. But what if the cost includes love?

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Angus & Robertson

About Sherry Ewing:

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. When not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry and her books on her website where a new adventure awaits you on every page!

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Lord M’s Companion

Dear Readers,

You no doubt read this report from our intrepid Suffolk reporter last month:

The rustic seaside town of Fenwick on Sea is not as sleepy as one might think, especially with the travelers stranded by what might truly be called the Storm of the Century.

A Scotsman has arrived at the Queen’s Barque, his well-made coats soaked and his fine boots caked with mud. A tall, handsome specimen of our northern cousins, he claims the status of gentleman. And yet, dear Reader, he arrived with a local woman, with whom he plans to shelter in the inn’s oldest wing–alone!

Is she, in truth, a titled lady, as some say? She goes about in men’s trousers, is said to be not averse to a midnight sail, and often visits the inn with a tub or two in hand! Though on this occasion, it was her companion thus encumbered, so perhaps he truly is a gentleman after all.

The Teatime Tattler

My dear Lady F

I’m sorry I did not get a chance to bid you farewell before leaving town. My journey north was uneventful, apart from my diversion to Norfolk for my godson’s leave-taking. I just could not deny myself the opportunity to visit my cousin there who has not been well.

I found myself caught in that terrible storm flaying East Anglia, and thus, having broken an axle, stayed several nights at the Blue Boar in Yarmouth. I cannot tell you how surprised I was to see your relation there, young Lord M. Such a handsome and sober young man for a Scotsman. You recall that he attended my soiree with your other relation, Mrs. McB. That was a clever bit of matchmaking we managed there, bringing her back together with Major McB. As for Lord M, I saw him across the crowded inn yard as I was departing, and was about to send my man to fetch him, when he was joined by a boy of about twelve years of age, and, dare I say, a lady? She did appear to be a lady, and I was reliably informed that she was indeed a titled lady, and a quite comely with an air of assurance. You must write at your earliest convenience and tell me if there is news, because I had thoughts of introducing Lord M to my great-niece and must not raise her hopes.

Dear Readers, could this be the Scotsman and titled lady in men’s trousers from the Queen’s Barque? And who is the boy appearing with them?

About the Book: Storm & Shelter

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.

About The Story: Comtesse of Midnight

A Scottish Earl on a quest for the elusive Comtesse de Fontenay rescues a French lady smuggler from the surf during a devastating storm, and takes shelter with her. As the stormy night drags on, he suspects his companion knows the woman he’s seeking, the one who holds the secret to his identity.

Marielle Plessiers may dress like a boy and go out with the local free traders, but she’s really the Comtesse de Fontenay. She trades in spirits, not secrets, but the information she holds will change Malcolm Comyn’s life forever.

Excerpt:

The Scotsman, however, was dead on his feet. She could almost feel sorry for him. He was far from home, and had been traveling for several days. His neckcloth was limp, his cuffs soiled, his coat wrinkled. His boots, well and carefully crafted, if not by Hoby then by some equally fashionable bootmaker in Edinburgh, had not been properly polished in the last few days.

He’d shaved though, probably very early that morning, because a delicious dark stubble had sprouted along his strong jaws.

Did he have a razor in his interesting valise? She wouldn’t molest him, unless he thought to do the same to her. If it came to that, and she prayed that it wouldn’t, she would use her own blade and not some unfamiliar shaving instrument.

“Is this one of your imports?” he asked, swirling the amber liquid. “It’s very good.”

His words stirred her out of her imaginings about handsome young men, and she realized she must manage the conversation else she’d slip into sleep, or perhaps something more inconvenient, without thinking.

The Comte had always succumbed to sleep when they’d conversed, no matter the topic. She must soothe this fine-looking and very fatigued man the same way.

Outside, the thunderstorm had moved on, and the rain pounded in a comforting downpour. With the warm fire, and the heavy blankets, and the sleeping dog, it was quite cozy.

But what to talk about? Most certainly not the free trade. It would be far too diverting to put him to sleep, and besides she had no idea what he would do with the knowledge.

The countryside? She might slip and drop a hint about her home at Bloodmoor Hill.

She thought back to her time on the fringes of a London society that she’d found unbearably dull.

The weather.

“I am glad you are enjoying the brandy,” she said. “But I daresay you are not liking this weather. It is quite the worst storm in many seasons, people are saying. Normally at this time of year the sea has quietened.” A lie, of course, but how would he know?

He sipped his drink, eyeing her over the glass.

Oh. Given that it might remind him of her activities that evening and spark questions, the sea was an inappropriate topic, whether or not one was fudging a weather report. “Winters, however are generally mild.”

He yawned, and she went on, discussing the number of rainstorms in March and going back to February, and then January, and making up the story as she went along, until his eyes drooped and the empty glass fell into his lap and lodged itself next to his fall.

Warmth uncurled in her. His trousers were tight in the usual fashion for gentlemen, outlining masculine endowments that sparked her interest far too much. Retrieving the fallen tumbler was out of the question.

She set down her own glass and fought the urge to join him in slumber.

Storm & Shelter also includes novellas by Jude Knight, Carolyn Warfield, Sherry Ewing, Rue Allyn, Cerise DeLand, Mary Lancaster, and Grace Burrowes.

Buy Links:

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Books2Read: https://books2read.com/u/38Rr8w

About the Author

Award winning and USA Today bestselling author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but prefers the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California, where she shares a midcentury home with her husband and a spunky, blond rescued terrier. She is the author of several Regency romances, including the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner, Rosalyn’s Ring. Though hard at work on her next series of romantic adventures, she loves to hear from readers!

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A Golden Opportunity

She slipped out the side door of the private wing and crossed Mrs Brewster’s personal garden.

At this time of day, the Brewster family were fully occupied with their duties in the inn. No one was present to see their maid — their now former maid –unlock the private gate to the lane with the keys she had lifted from their hook in Mr Brewster’s office.

She would leave them in the lock. By the time they were discovered, she would be far from here, on her way to a position far, far away.

Freddie was waiting in the lane with his family’s gig and pony. It wasn’t elegant, but it would get them to the nearest coaching inn on the highway, 20 miles away inland.

His eyes widened as he took in the picture she made in her new gown and bonnet. One of the outfits she’d acquired for her new life. As she approached the gig, she saw that he’d found the bag and trunk she’d hidden in the stables last night. She hoped no one saw him take them away. Almost, she asked him, but, no, she mustn’t give him any reason to think she doubted him.

She let him lift her up into the gig, and hurry around to the other side.

“You look right pretty today, Miss Alice,” he said, as he took off the brake and gave the reins a shake. “Walk on, gray mare.”

Alice kept scanning the surroundings, to make sure no one saw them leaving. Not that they could stop her. She was the Brewster’s employee, not their slave. Had been the Brewster’s employee. Her resignation letter was hidden in the clutter of papers on Mr Brewster’s desk. He would find it about the time she was due back at work after her day off.

No, they couldn’t stop her, but if they knew what she had been doing and where she was going, they might make her departure difficult. Certainly, Freddie would not be allowed to transport her.

She smiled at him, and tucked her hand into his arm. Dear Freddie. He was a kind soul, and she felt just a little guilty for using him in this way, but needs must. She wasn’t going to settle for a fisherman’s son and spend the rest of her life in Fenwick.

She had new clothes, a job waiting for her, and money jingling in her reticule. She would say goodbye to Freddie at the coaching inn. Perhaps she would even give him a peck on the cheek — some sort of recompense for the trouble he was going to be in when he got back to Fenwick on Sea.

Freddie was chattering away about the men who had arrived at the inn to question all the servants about the source of the reports that had been published in the Teatime Tattler.

Alice smirked. Miss Abney always said that education gave you opportunities. Alice had found an opportunity. She had always been good at listening to people, putting two and two together, telling stories. Writing them was not much different. Sending them to Mr Clemens had been a clever idea, if she did say so herself.

And Miss Abney was right. The first opportunity had given her another. “I can use someone like you,” the letter from Mr Clemens had said. “Someone with the skills to work within a household and the brains to collect the stories I need.”

Alice was off to London to take up a permanent job as a reporter with The Teatime Tattler.

Alice is a character in the stories of Storm & Shelter. See the link for novella blurbs and buy links, and the collection for some of Alice’s Teatime Tattler reports.

Read more Storm & Shelter flash fiction at our blog hop, where our characters try to figure out who the mystery reporter is.

And congratulations to our prizewinners, who read the book, correctly named the reporter, and had their names drawn in the prize draw.

Serious Skulduggery at the Queen’s Barque

Our readers will be aware that, due to the recent storm and floods, a great variety of strangers have been trapped in Fenwick-on-Sea, especially at the Queen’s Barque Inn. Among the rife scandal and gossip, we now have reason to believe, greater skulduggery is afoot..

We recently reported on the startling physical similarity of one shipwrecked guest, Mrs. Simon, to the heiress Miss Letitia Lovell. We can now reveal that Mr. Kent, the heiress’s maternal uncle and guardian, has been seen in the neighborhood of the inn, along with his son, who, in the past, has claimed an “understanding” with his cousin, Miss Lovell.

Is this coincidence? Or are the Kents in pursuit of a runaway? Are the supposed Mr. and Mrs. Simon even married? Has the mysterious Mr. Simon, who was observed enjoying a pint of ale in the company of Mr. Kent, been, in vulgar parlance, “bought off” by the lady’s legal guardian? Is there a tug-of-war for the young lady’s safety and well-being? Or for her fortune?

All will surely be revealed in the coming days.

Those Bluestocking Belles are investigating our reporter!

Since your Teatime Tattler has been able to report doings in Fenwick on Sea, authors have offered a reward for someone who unmasks our reporter!

Enter to win.

Correctly identify the reporter and be entered to win a $100 gift card and other great prizes. There are details amd instructions for entering here: https://bluestockingbelles.net/belles-joint-projects/storm-shelter/wanted-the-snooping-teatime-tattler-reporter/

About the Book

Eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas, one horrific storm!

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

A Bluestocking Belles and Friends Collection

CLICK for links to various retailers

An Improbable Hero: Mary Lancaster

A runaway heiress, a mysterious stranger.

When Letty’s ship founders in a violent storm, she forges a rare bond with her rescuer.

Simon is a troubled man on a final, deadly mission—until the spirited yet soothing Letty makes him question everything. Hiding in plain sight among the refugees at The Queen’s Barque, Simon is more than capable of protecting them both. But when the floods recede, can either of them say goodbye?

Gossip Spreads Through Fenwick on Sea

Kitty Smothers, youngest and newest of the girls in service at the Queen’s Barque, swung her broom with more enthusiasm than skill. It didn’t much matter. With the inn bursting at the seams and all the paying rooms full of well-off travelers, Mrs. Brewster sent them to clean out the old wing, the one with more cobwebs than heat and more mice than usable furniture. They needed it for all the refugees coming up from the beach, didn’t they?

The storm, the fiercest in all of Kitty’s fourteen years, rattled the windows where there was still glass, where they hadn’t been papered over. She listened wide eyed while Nelly Jones chattered a mile a minute while she swatted at the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and giggled with Annie Burke.

“I think Mr. Simon is the handsomest,” Annie said.

“He don’t hold a candle to Captain Rousseau—Jasper,” Nelly sighed dramatically.

“Looks more like a pirate to me, him with that ship stuck out on the shoals,” Annie argued. “Mr. Simon has that mysterious air…”

“Sneaky more like,” Nelly said. “and besides, he’s married.”

“Shows what you know.” Annie dropped her voice and beckoned Nelly closer. Kitty moved nearer to listen. “Those girls Mrs. Fullerton sent over from Morphew Manor told Mags and Alice in the kitchen that there’s folks from London staying at the manor.”

“So what’s that to us?” Nelly said out loud.

Annie shushed her. “Mags told me they’re here for that so-called Mrs. Simon. Says she’s really betrothed to the dandy staying at the Manor. Simon isn’t married at all.”

Kitty tilted her head, puzzled. “But he and Mrs. Simon are sharing a room.”

Annie and Nelly laughed at her. “You think every pair that puts up at an inn claiming to be married really are?”

“How about that Lord Stanton. He’s as handsome as can be,” Kitty said.

“He’s a lord, ain’t he? No point in mooning after a lord,” Annie said. “Besides, have you seen how he looks at his lady? Honeymooning those two—for sure.”

“But you said not every couple who claim to be married…” Kitty still thought he was handsome.

“Some are, you ninny. The real question about those two is what are they doing in Fenwick on Sea? Folks like that go to Paris. Or Brighton. Odd if you ask me,” Nelly said.

“I’ll tell you who’s odd. That Cosistas fellow. Slimy fish. Have you seen how he looks at that Fynlock woman? Gives me the creeps.” Annie shivered just to show them.

“I—” Whatever Kitty would have said was interrupted by an arrival.

“How is this room coming? Can I send in the men with the straw bedding?” Patience Abney, she that teaches at the charity school above town, stood in the door waiting for an answer.

“Will do in a few more minutes, Miss Abney,” Annie said.

Patience smiled at them. “Good. Mr. Somerville the vicar came with word there are more folk on their way. We need every room. Hurry it up.” She swept out.

Nelly made an ugly face after her.

“I like Miss Abney; she’s always kind,” Kitty said. “It’s generous of her to help out.”

“She’s only working here to pay so her boys can stay out in the stables,” Annie said.

“Thinks she’s better than us, her with her fancy school. Peter told me their roof caved in. We’ll see how high and mighty she is now,” Nelly said.

“High enough. I heard talk,” Annie said.

“What do you mean?” Kitty asked, finishing up her sweeping and picking up the dust pan.

“I heard those two high nosed ladies in the big suite on the first floor talking. Patience Abney isn’t what she looks like. She’s an earl’s niece.”

“Gol. Come on hard times for sure, emptying night soil like the rest of us and sweeping up this ruin of a wing,” Nelly said.

“Got that right,” Annie agreed.

The girls finished the room and picked up their rags and brooms to move on. When they squeezed by Patience Abney in the hall directing footmen to bring straw bedding to the room they just finished, Nelly dipped a mocking curtsy behind her back and Annie giggled.

They handed all the dirty rags and dust pan to Kitty, sending her to the kitchen. As Kitty walked away, she heard Nelly’s last pronouncement.

“I’ll tell you what else I heard. Some folks think there’s a reporter from that Teatime Tattler staying here, taking notes on all these folks. What do you think of that?”

Kitty continued downstairs, dumped the dirt and picked up new rags. She nodded greetings to Alice, Mags, and the girls from Morphew Manor who waited tables and worked in the kitchen. On her way out something caught her eye, lying on the work table. It was The Teatime Tattler folded up to a headline, “Storm ravages Great Yarmouth and the coast.”

“Get on with it, Kitty. This isn’t a library,” Mrs. Brewster snapped pointing to the door.

Kitty smiled on her way up the servant stairs. “We’re going to be famous.”

***

A Reporter Snooping Around? We can’t have it. There’s an award for the person that figures out who it is. The answers are buried in Storm & Shelter.

A Bluestocking Belles with Friends Collection

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.

Available on Amazon or various other vendors,

More about each story here.

Join the Hunt

There are three big prizes. Enter the contest!

How to enter

  • Read the book.
  • Send your guess about the identity of person writing the reports for The Teatime Tattler to teatimetattlereditor@yahoo.com

Details are here!

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