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Tag: The Golden Redepennings series

The English Captain has a consecutive harem

Cape Town
July 1812

Dear Sister

How lovely our homeland must be now that Summer is here. I regret being so far away, even though I know you have many worries in these troubled times.

We, ourselves, are under the boot of the British, as you know. I have told you that their Governor has freed most of the slaves owned by the Company, and that the British who have come to live here are very unlike us in their ways.

A prime example, dear sister, is the irregular household of Captain Redepenning of the British naval ship the Advantage. It has been distressing the upright citizens of our little community for the past three years. At least the native girl he installed in his house knew her place, and did not venture out among proper wives and their families; at least after she attempted to attend divine services that one time I told you about.

A few words to our dear pastor and his wife ensured that the congregation was not required to tolerate the presence of a woman of her kind. ‘Mrs Redepenning’, she dared call herself, but we all knew she was no more married than the lowest female who markets her body on the waterfront. She is his mistress, of course, or was until she was too ill. Consumption, they say. A likely story! Paying the price of a dissolute life, I say.

You will understand the impudence of the man when I tell you that he hired a nursemaid for his mistress’s brats. As if such children need that kind of care. It came as no surprise to us all when he moved the nursemaid into his bed, which I daresay was his intention all along. At least she had the virtue of being white, even if she was Irish.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. Another female, also calling herself Mrs Redepenning, turned up just a few weeks ago. Her first act was to throw the Irish slut into the street. We all waited for the native harlot to follow, but it seems the woman who claims to be his wife has some compassion for a sick woman.

She has been out walking with the children. She even had the nerve to attend services at the Church of England chapel on Sunday! I’m relieved to say that the English followed our example , and made it clear that misbegotten coloured children were not welcome in the House of God.

That was not the end of it, though! She has had the effrontery to take the children about town with her fancy man, even attending the races and shopping in the emporiums! The latest outrage is that she has been holding dinner parties. You will be as horrified as I am, dearest, when I tell you that people have attended — not just other naval officers, but even one or two wives!

Apparently — though I find it hard to believe — the woman really is the Captain’s wife, and well connected to the English aristocracy. It may be so, but she has put herself beyond the pale by not just tolerating the presence of his native woman and her children, but actually nursing the mistress, and treating the children as if they were her own.

Whatever is the world coming to? I can only say that I yearn for this war to end and the English to go back to where they belong, so we are no longer obliged to meet such people as Captain and Mrs Redepenning.

Unkept Promises

(Book 4 in The Golden Redepennings series)

She wants to negotiate a comfortable marriage; he wants her in his bed

… oaths and anchors equally will drag: naught else abides on fickle earth but unkept promises of joy. Herman Melville

HERMAN MELVILLE

Naval captain Jules Redepenning has spent his adult life away from England, and at war. He rarely thinks of the bride he married for her own protection, and if he does, he remembers the child he left after their wedding seven years ago. He doesn’t expect to find her in his Cape Town home, a woman grown and a lovely one, too.

Mia Redepenning sails to Cape Town to nurse her husband’s dying mistress and adopt his children. She hopes to negotiate a comfortable married life with the man while she’s there. Falling in love is not on her to-do list.

Before they can do more than glimpse a possible future together, their duties force them apart. At home in England, Mia must fight for the safety of Jules’s children. Imprisoned in France, Jules must battle for his self-respect and his life.

Only by vanquishing their foes can they start to make their dreams come true.

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Excerpt

Adiratna’s eyes widened and sparkled. “Presents!” In moments, she was back across the room, tugging on Perdana’s hand. “What has Papa brought me, Dan? You know, I know you do.”

“Lumps of coal, like the Black Peter we saw on St Nicolas Day,” Perdana answered, promptly, “And a switch to beat you with, for you have undoubtedly been a great trouble for Mami and Ibu Mia.”

Adiratna sniffed, and poked her nose in the air. “That shows you know nothing, Dan, for Hannah never lets me be a trouble, do you, Hannah?” She smiled at her new nurse, who had been an instant favourite with both girls for her store of stories and the energy and imagination that allowed her to keep them constantly on the move from one interesting activity to another.

“Brothers tease,” Hannah told her. “I do not know why they do it, but there it is.”

Perdana grinned at her, not in the least perturbed by this set down, but Adiratna wanted the last word. “Papa never beats us, even when we deserve it. So there.”

“Do you deserve it?” Jules spoke from the doorway, his tone one of scientific inquiry. Both girls forgot their brother and their dignity to hurl themselves into his waiting arms. Mia exchanged a glance with Hannah, who gave a satisfied nod. The man’s clear delight in his children had won that stern arbiter’s cautious approval.

Mia, too, found it hard to retain her indignation while watching him listening to their chatter, squatting on the floor with his back against the door jamb, each arm around a daughter on his knee. Adiratna was pouring out two months’ worth of news at full speed, and even Marshanda spoke so fast her words were tumbling over themselves.

Adiratna suddenly remembered that Jules had not yet disgorged his gifts. “Where are my…” she broke off, sneaking a glance at Hannah, who had been impressing the little girls with the unexpected information that they were ladies. Marshanda stuck her nose in the air. “Ladies,” she informed her sister, “do not ask. Ladies wait to be offered.”

Jules frown over her head at Mia. “Who has been telling you that?” he asked.

Adiratna, however, was not to be deflected. “I like presents,” she announced. “It makes me very happy when people give me a present. Ibu Mia brought presents for me and Marsha. I expect she brought presents for you, too, Dan. I do like presents.”

Faced with this flagrant attempt to get around the ‘ladies do not ask’ rule, the adults struggled to maintain their gravity. Even Jules, who was holding onto whatever grudge had blown in with him, couldn’t resist a twinkle. “I happen to have some presents,” he commented.

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.

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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