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I Am Crispin

I am Crispin, Chastity Reynolds’ very large, very black cat and, in my humble opinion, central to her story, as you would expect. I am named after the patron saint of shoemakers, which makes sense when you consider my mistress designs ladies’ shoes. However, I have skills of my own. Only my mistress seems to acknowledge my ability to read her moods and identify those lesser creatures with whom she should not willingly associate. I stand guard as any noble cat would.

My life was greatly disrupted when Chastity hauled me off to Brighton to spend the summer with her great-aunt. (Don’t even ask me about the carriage ride from Northampton!) It was in Brighton where I first encountered The Rogue, as Chastity calls him. A man totally unworthy of her. I made clear my dislike for Sir Robert the first time I saw him, hissing and arching my back and placing myself between them, glaring at him with my golden eyes. (I can be quite fierce, you know).

But there came a day, even I had to give the man credit for recognizing my true value. It was the day a viscous dog attacked the fence and quite threw me off my game. I scrambled up a tree as any respectable cat concerned for his safety would. And I had no intention to come down. But my mistress was quite distressed and deigned to allow Sir Robert to assist. He got rid of the menace and carefully retrieved my person from the tree without ruffling my very lustrous fur. Well, after that, I had to give him his due, no matter my mistress called me “Traitor!” and continued to loath the man.

We cats perceive things other miss and I knew my mistress had a fondness for The Rogue. I became rather fond of Sir Robert myself and his very nice boots. I let him know of my new affection by graciously rubbing my body against his boots and meowing loudly. I am certain he was duly impressed as he should be. But still, I feared for the outcome. How could my mistress, a country lass, dubbed The Girl Who Needed Watching, ever hope to win the heart of The Rogue.

Even a spy needs a holiday…

Robert Powell’s work as a spy saves the Cabinet ministers from a gruesome death and wins him accolades from George IV. As a reward, the king grants him a baronetcy and a much-deserved holiday at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton where he thinks to indulge in brandy, cards, good horseflesh and women.

But when Muriel, Dowager Countess of Claremont, learns of Sir Robert’s intended destination, she begs a favor…to watch over an “errant child” who is the grandniece of her good friend living in the resort town. Little does Robbie know that Miss Chastity Reynolds is no child but a beautiful hellion who is seemingly immune to his charms.

Chastity lives in the shadow of her mother and sisters, dark-haired beauties men admire. Her first Season was a failure but, as she will soon come into a family legacy, she has no need to wed. When she first encounters Sir Robert, she dubs him The Rogue, certain he indulges in a profligate lifestyle she wants no part in.

In Brighton, Robbie discovers he is being followed and senses the conspirators who had planned to murder the Cabinet have discovered his identity. Worse, they know the location of Chastity’s residence.   

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Overheard on the Ice

The Teatime Tattler
Special Edition: coming to you from the frozen Thames River
2 February 1814

The third full day of the Frost Fair dawned cold and still this morning. Your humble servant was out on the ice at the earliest possible minute, mixing with the crowds of common, gentle, and even noble folk, listening for any snippets of news that might delight your eyes and ears, Gentle Reader.

Tomorrow is the social event that everyone has been talking about. The charity subscription ball Her Grace of Haverford holds every year will this year be supplemented by a Venetian Breakfast ON THE ICE.

You read that correctly, Gentle Reader. Her Grace and her group of Society ladies have requisitioned a section of the ice, where all–or at least a goodly number–of the great folk of the nation will gather tomorrow for this breakfast.

But, before they can eat, we are to be treated to a basket auction. For those who have not heard of this quaint country custom, the ladies intend to auction the food for the breakfast one basket at a time–and not just the basket, but the company of the fair cook.

We are assured that the sale of a lady’s time is not scandalous when it is for charity, and promoted by the leading ladies of Society. Gentle reader, you may draw your own conclusions, as have we.

Meanwhile, we have heard some other interesting tidbits of gossip that we must share.

The Granite Earl was seen escorting the Ice Princess and her two sisters in a Haverford troika. Will we see a chip in his facade; a thaw in her cold heart? Their conveyance hints that the courtship, if such it is, has her family’s approval, but who can believe that this highly proper gentleman intends an honourable offer to a female of such murky birth?

The shocking Miss C., though shunned by many, has a champion in the Earl of T. Yet, after the confrontation between her and her cousin at the theatre, which your reporter was fortunate enough to witness, many are rethinking their stand. Is the lady innocent? Will she remain innocent, or does the Earl of T. have other plans?

Is the Duchess of S. aware that her eldest daughter has come out of seclusion to write pamphlets for the good ladies led by the Duchess of H.? Should you wish to read one of them, Lady G. is herself giving them away at a Frost Fair booth. Just look for the banner with the ridiculously long name on it. That pretty debutante, Lady F., is keeping Lady G. company. Are their brothers too busy with affairs of state to keep the ladies out of mischief?

A certain Lieutenant who capitalised on his planned engagement to a wealthy young lady is out in the cold, it seems. Lady C. is once more being escorted by Lord O., and she shows the gentleman a marked preference. Given that he assisted to put up the aforementioned banner, we believe the inclination is returned. Will the military gentleman take his dismissal with grace?

Lady T., sister to the Duke of E., was heard to comment to a friend that her reclusive brother, scars and all, will come to the auction tomorrow, and perhaps even to the ball. He will not be able to resist, she claims, for Lady H. R. has invoked The Umbrella. Are wedding bells on the horizon for the reclusive peer, and if so, will his bride survive the occasion?

The paragraphs above are about events and characters in five of the novellas in coming Bluestocking Belles box set, Fire & Frost. Preorder now, and watch for more news as the Belles share gossip and snippets from their stories.

Scandal in Garden: Bride Caught with Groom’s Brother

Last night, at a dinner party hosted by a prominent member of the ton, the lovely Lady N was caught in the garden in a passionate embrace with a certain captain, the son of the Earl of W. Reportedly, both the captain’s brother, Viscount S, and the lady’s illustrious father, the Duke of C, witnessed the shocking sight.

Even more disturbingly, an engagement announcement between Lady N and Viscount S had been widely anticipated. Although the captain has been decorated for his bravery, his actions last night were certainly far from heroic. Did the heiress’ rumored immense fortune cause the captain to steal his brother’s intended?

Although we here at the Teatime Tattler fully expect that the young man will do his duty by the young lady, we wonder how these two prestigious old families will ever recover from this scandal. Both the Duke of C and the Earl of W must be very ashamed by their children’s behavior. We certainly expected more from a lady and one of country’s most decorated heroes!

EXCERPT – GAMBLING ON THE DUKE’S DAUGHTER

“He’s a disgrace! Honestly, can you believe the nerve! Making a scene and ruining a perfectly lovely ball!” Lady Amelia Lansdowne fluttered her filigreed fan with unusual vigor, an unbecoming flush on her pale cheeks.

“I wouldn’t call this a scene, Amelia. He merely arrived a little late. I’m sure he had a good reason.” Lady Natalia Sinclair sighed with impatience over her companion’s melodrama, but her own fan fluttered a bit faster as she watched Captain Blake chat with Lord Basingstoke.

Captain Dylan Blake, recipient of the Victoria’s Cross.

Natalia knew all about him. She’d read dozens of newspaper articles touting his courage, but she’d never actually met him.

“He’s dreadfully good-looking,” she mused, as she cast a subtle glance in the captain’s direction.

In his scarlet dress uniform, with his confident military bearing and chest full of medals, he stood out in the crowd of somber, black-garbed lords. His thick black hair, caught at his nape with a piece of scarlet ribbon, contrasted sharply with his light blue eyes. His high, chiseled cheekbones, square jaw, and clear, sun-kissed skin stole her breath.

Amelia gave a delicate shudder. “How can you say such a thing? He hasn’t a title nor farthing to his name. He’s been in the military for years, serving with the very dregs of society, and probably doesn’t know the first thing about how to act around civilized people.”

“Surely, the fact that he fought to preserve our way of life gives him the right to a few eccentricities. He’s a hero, Amelia.” Natalia didn’t bother to point out that a man’s wealth had nothing to do with how attractive he was. It wouldn’t do any good. In Amelia’s eyes, money and power did determine a man’s worth.

Unfortunately, Natalia’s father shared Amelia’s opinions, and he would choose her future husband.

Amelia turned up her nose with a condescending sniff. “Well, hero or not, you wouldn’t catch me marrying such a man.”

“No.” Natalia fought to maintain a civil tone. “I don’t suppose so.” Not that a hero like Captain Blake would want to marry a little cat like you anyway.

To her relief, Amelia soon drifted away, obviously in search of someone more inclined to share her narrow-minded opinions. Natalia found herself alone for a few moments, free to daydream about Captain Blake.

She wanted to meet him, even though her father would never permit a man like Captain Blake to court her. It seemed so unfair. What good were wealth and a title, when so many of those who had them lacked even a hint of character?

Captain Blake had risked his life to save his men. He’d dashed back into the fray three times before he’d been wounded. The mere thought of his courageous actions sent a shiver down her spine.

Unfortunately, Captain Blake and Lord Basingstoke left the ballroom before she could work up the audacity to arrange an introduction. Disappointed, Natalia forced a smile as the next young man on her dance card claimed her for a mazurka.

Lord Roger Densby was the son of a duke. While undoubtedly her social equal, he was at least two stones overweight and stank of sweat and brandy.

He managed to step on her toes twice before he even got her out on the dance floor and didn’t have a heroic bone in his entire well-fed body.

Densby, or someone like him, was her fate. Still, her entire soul rebelled at the thought of spending her life with a man who wasn’t interested in anything but the next hunt or glittering party.

What she really wanted was someone like Captain Blake—a man with poetry in his face and courage in his heart.

BUY LINK

AUTHOR BIO

All my life, I’ve wanted to a writer. Even as a child, my sister claims all I ever did was sit in my closet and scribble in a notebook. Now, I concede the scribbling part, but not the closet part! Why would I need to sit in my closet when I had a perfectly good desk? In any event, I won my first writing contest when I was seven, and I was hooked!

I married young, and soon had three wonderful little boys running around the house, so writing took a backseat for several years as I worked a variety of jobs that I hated. Once I started seriously pursuing a writing career, I found it was not as easy as I had expected, and I was not the prodigy I had imagined. But I joined a writer’s group and made a ton of writing friends along the way who showed me the error of my ways and unselfishly helped me to get a little better. By the time I sold my first book in 2006, I’d already been at this for over ten years and was about ready to give up. Rejection is hard!!! But holding that first book in my hands made it all worth it!

Now my sons are all grown up, and two of them have babies of their own, and being a grandma rocks! I now have all the time in the world to devote to telling the stories that just won’t let me sleep. I hope you enjoy them!

Website – www.dianabold.com

Reader Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/dianasboldbeauties/ Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/diana-bold

Servants Always Know

You can learn a lot in pubs and cafés. Your Teatime Tattler has long had a policy of lingering in such establishments on the fringe more posh neighborhoods—the sort of places servants might gather on their off days.

The Little Brown Hen Pub has been particularly useful lately. It seems one of our “better” squares, one populated by two earls, a wealthy baron, and a dowager duchess to name a few, has had an abundance of havey-cavey behavior lately—enough to make a debutante blush.

First off an upstairs maid from the Earl of W—’s house and a footman from Mr. M.C.’s both were at pains to tell our man on the spot about strange arrangements in the Earl of C—’s fashionable townhouse—he who came into his title just last summer.

servants

“Y’don’t see them servants here, do ya? They keep to themselves they do. Downright unfriendly,” complained the footman.

“That butler o’thern looks more like a prize fighter than a butler, if you ask me,” the little maid sniffed. “And have you seen that footman missing one ear? His visage has an ugly scar. What kind of earl hires ugly servants?”

They scurried off to fetch more ale when an older woman, dressed in black, and obviously an upper servant shooed them away. She introduced herself as Her Grace’s dresser—that would be the dowager—and insisted on tea. “Only tea,” she said with a sniff. This bird seemed a bit high class for this pub, but then maybe widowed duchesses don’t pay as well as others.

Servants

“If you’re interested in the Earl of C—, I can tell you more interesting things about that house than deformed footmen,” she said, rubbing two fingers together. We’re always willing to spare a few coin for a woman who can use ‘em. We obliged.

“To begin with the man doesn’t live there. He has rooms at the Albany, and God only knows what bachelors get up to there. When the old earl died, the older sister—she who is the Duchess of M— came to look after the younger girl, a flibbertigibbet of the first order, in my opinion.” She drew breath and our man quickly suspected she had many opinions loosened by coin.

“Now the Duke of M— is a fine man, but his wife is a pale shadow of a thing, utterly incapable of minding the hoyden. They must have gotten fed up with her foolish starts and outlandish taking because they up and left. Closed up the house but for a few servants.”

She leaned over and dropped her voice, those fingers moving. Another coin may have slid across the table. “I saw them leave. Saw the carriage pull round, the duchess get in, the duke pull their boy by his collar and toss him in, and then they left.”

Our man waited, and not in vain. “I did not see the younger sister get in that carriage. Nor the one with the maid, valet, and baggage,” she went on. “Neither one. I watched the whole time.” He took her meaning, but to be sure he asked, “Are you telling me the Earl of C—’s young unmarried sister is living on her own in a house that’s supposed to be closed?”

“Well I know I didn’t see her leave with ‘em, and more.” She leaned in again. “I’ve been watching a girl her size wearing the clothes of a scullery maid but walking with the bearing of a countess coming and going through the tradesmen’s door. That chit is up to something, no doubt about it, and heading for ruin.”

“Is that it?”

“Well. The Earl of C— feeds anyone who come to his kitchen. Her Grace has complained mightily that it attracts all sorts of unsavory types. This very morning I saw a particularly horrid specimen—a filthy one-armed ruffian—parade through their garden as free as you please, and get taken in. Taken in and that girl in residence! Not an hour later he was out on the street. Did they toss him on his fundament? No! One of those deformed footmen was giving him directions. I ask you, is that how a respectable household conducts itself?”

________________

The Earl of Chadbourn makes it a policy to hire as many veterans in need of work as he can. The result has been a rather unusual collection of servants. As to his sister, perhaps he wasn’t watching as closely as he should.

Watch for Lord Ethan’s Honor in Fire & Frost: a Bluestocking Belles Collection

When a young woman marches into an alley full of homeless former soldiers, Ethan Alcott feels something he thought dead stir to life: his sense of honor. Effort at charity put the chit in danger; someone needs to take her in hand.

Lady Flora Landrum discovers that the mysterious one-armed ruffian she encountered in a back alley is Lord Ethan Alcott, son of the Marquess of Welbrook; her astonishment gives way to determination. As Ethan comes to admire Flora’s courage, perhaps he can reclaim his own.

About Fire & Frost

Join The Ladies’ Society For The Care of the Widows and Orphans of Fallen Heroes and the Children of Wounded Veterans in their pursuit of justice, charity, and soul-searing romance.

The Napoleonic Wars have left England with wounded warriors, fatherless children, unemployed veterans, and hungry families. The ladies of London, led by the indomitable Duchess of Haverford plot a campaign to feed the hungry, care for the fallen—and bring the neglectful Parliament to heel. They will use any means at their disposal to convince the gentlemen of their choice to assist.

Their campaign involves strategy, persuasion, and a wee bit of fun. Pamphlets are all well and good, but auctioning a lady’s company along with her basket of delicious treats is bound to get more attention. Their efforts fall amid weeks of fog and weather so cold the Thames freezes over and a festive Frost Fair breaks out right on the river. The ladies take to the ice. What could be better for their purposes than a little Fire and Frost?

Celebrate Valentine’s Day 2020 with six interconnected Regency romances from the Bluestocking Belles.

Caroline Warfield is a Belle. You can learn about her and her writing here: https://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Guilty or Not?

Dear readers,

The landlord’s wife saw it all. What do you make of this? Is she guilty? I rather think she is.

Overheard in the Ferry Inn, Flushing August 15th 1796.

‘Honest to God, it’s the absolute truth.’

     ‘Slower, please. Start from the beginning. They entered together? What time was this?’

    ‘Must have been about ten. She came in first – not even a backward glance. Went straight to the table near the door. The place was laid like I was told to lay it, and she just sat there with her baskets in front of her. Straight away I could tell it weren’t right. Not at all.’

    ‘In what way wasn’t it right?’

     ‘She kept her cloak tight around her – tight like she was cold – an’ it was that hot in there. An’ then I saw why. She was one of them Society of Friends – the ones that visit prisoners.  Now, you tell me, what would she be doing waiting for a man at that time of night?’

Cornish Lady

      ‘Describe her, please.’

       ‘Brown hair, high cheek bones. Couldn’t see much under her wide-brimmed bonnet. Black cloak. Softly spoken – local accent.’

       ‘She sat at the table and you gave her a meal – one that had been ordered by a man the night before?’

        ‘Yes, as God’s my witness. My best rabbit pie it was. Yet she didn’t eat it. Just sat there waiting for the man to come.’

         ‘She was definitely waiting for a man?’

         ‘Yes. He left a message – I was to tell her he’d be along later.’

        ‘And the man who came in with her, or rather, just after her – the one she left with? Describe him for me.’

        ‘Tall, handsome, fine-boned in a gentlemanly sort of way. And polite, yes, very polite. I’d say he was definitely a gentleman, though he was wearing working clothes – a coachman’s coat an’ hat. Pulled so low ye couldn’t really see his face.’

          ‘And he sat separately?’

           ‘Yes. He was sat by the back door – watchin’ out for her. But I can tell you one thing. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.  Kept staring at her when she weren’t looking. Even in the dark I could see the love in his eyes.’

          ‘And you can swear, on oath, that they showed signs of surprise when the fire was sighted?’

         ‘Yes, I’d say so. But maybe more anger than anything.’

          ‘And yet that could have been fabricated?’

          ‘I’m sorry, sir. What do ye mean by that?’

       ‘Their surprise and anger might have been made up. In other words they might have pretended to be surprised. To fool you. To make you swear, on oath, that they were innocent, when really they were guilty?’

         ‘Well, I don’t know about that.’

        ‘No. Well, never mind. Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.’

About the Book

The Cornish Lady

Educated, beautiful and the daughter of a prosperous merchant, Angelica Lilly has been invited to spend the summer in high society. Her father’s wealth is opening doors, and attracting marriage proposals, but Angelica still feels like an imposter among the aristocrats of Cornwall.

When her brother returns home, ill and under the influence of a dangerous man, Angelica’s loyalties are tested to the limit. Her one hope lies with coachman Henry Trevelyan, a softly spoken, educated man with kind eyes. But when Henry seemingly betrays Angelica, she has no one to turn to. Who is Henry, and what does he want? And can Angelica save her brother from a terrible plot that threatens to ruin her entire family?

The fourth novel in a stunning series set in eighteenth-century Cornwall, perfect for fans of Poldark.

https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/the-cornish-lady

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-cornish-lady/nicola-pryce/9781786493859

https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/the-cornish-lady-cornish-saga-main/9781786493859

An Excerpt

Henry stood against the taproom bar, nodding to the man beside him. The landlord was red-faced and bald-headed, drying a pewter tankard with a cloth, turning the tap on the barrel. The men who had stared at my arrival turned back to their ale and I settled against the hard wooden bench, trying to stop my heart from hammering. A woman in a tight bodice and large mobcap saw me and smiled. She made her way towards me, holding aloft a plate and jug of wine.

      ‘Pie an’ wine fer ye, my love,’ she said, wiping her brow with the cloth hanging from her apron. ‘’Tis that hot in here, but he likes it like that fer they drink more. Yer friend left a message – said he’d be along soon. Ye just sit tight an’ enjoy that rabbit.’ She smiled and turned and I stared down at the huge crust of pie with carrots and cabbage spilling from the plate.

     Henry must have ordered food. He made his way round the tables, sitting nearest the back door. His hat and coat made him merge with the crowd but even so, he looked out of place. He was sitting slumped forward, his arms on the table, his elbows wide, but there was no hiding his manners. No hiding the charm with which he thanked the landlord’s wife, the elegant way he unfolded his napkin, the shy nod to his fellow diners as he began his meal and I looked away. I glanced back. He seemed somehow vulnerable, a rather charming man doing the wrong job.

    Any other circumstances – any other time or place – and I would have enjoyed his company. I would have enjoyed dining with him, enjoyed discussing his choice of poetry, asked him what he had done in America, how his mother was…which of my plays he had liked the most. I pushed my plate away untouched. He was my brother’s gaoler, yet no man drew me so completely. It was as if I became alive in his presence. The touch of his hand on my cheek making my heart beat faster.

    Sweat trickled down my back, the tight wig making my hair itch. I wanted to take off my cloak, but no woman would sit in a tavern in a prudish grey gown with stiff white collar and cuffs and I pulled the cloak tighter. Henry had finished his meal and was stretching back against the hard bench, cradling his jar of ale in both hands. He was staring straight ahead as if too tired to talk, yet the moment the man took my baskets, he would clasp him in handcuffs.

    The tavern slowly emptied, only a number of men left scattered among the tables. Thin curls of smoke coiled from the guttering candles, the room growing darker. Two men had fallen asleep on their folded arms, two others staring moodily into their empty pint pots. Martha Selwyn had said the man could keep her waiting for hours; it must only have been an hour, yet it seemed so much longer. I glanced at Henry and caught my breath. He was staring at me so intently, the ferocity in his eyes making my heart jolt. I had never been looked at like that before. It felt like pain. Like my body was on fire.

Cornish Lady

About the Author

Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She loves both literature and history and has an Open University degree in Humanities. She’s a qualified adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. She and her husband love sailing and together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure. If she’s not writing or gardening, you’ll find her scrubbing decks.

‘Pengelly’s Daughter’ is her first novel, ‘The Captain’s Girl’ second, ‘The Cornish Dressmaker’ third, and The Cornish Lady comes next. Her fifth novel will be published next summer.

Nicola is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Historical Writers Association. You can find her at https://www.nicolapryce.co.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/nicolaprycebooks/ and https://twitter.com/npryce_author

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nicolapryceauth/

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