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What’s a poor girl to do?

By a special correspondent

The Four-to-One Fancy by Elizabeth Ellen CarterThe Ladies London Observer has sent your reporter up north to the fair city of York to report on events happening outside of London, renowned for the Season. Yes, Season with a capital ‘S’.

For many of us, there is one Season, but for those young women who are not fortunate enough to make their debut and be selected to have their coming out attended by royalty, some of the regional cities of the Kingdom may yield eligible young men – especially if they happen to be short of a dowry.

This is what leads me today to sit in Lady Clune’s salon to observe the young ladies of quality who have come to her notice.

“I take my role as hostess for the season very seriously, indeed,” said Lady Clune. “Before they receive vouchers for various events under my auspices, the young ladies are required to attend an at-home so I can see their comportment.

“I wish to ensure that as many successful matches will be made as possible. What we lack in numbers, we make up for in enthusiasm!”

I look around and see a dozen young ladies at today’s event, there are precious few young men.

Lady Clune sees the direction of my gaze and is keen to reassure me that there will be plenty of young men of quality from the towns outside York – ah yes, the landed gentry. I ask our hostess who she has the most hopes for

She discreetly points to a couple of local beauties who, I have to admit, wouldn’t be out of place in London. My eye is caught by two young ladies in conversation in a small party. They draw my attention because of how very alike they are and not just in physical appearance – willowy and graceful with auburn hair.

Their mannerisms mirrored each other completely – the raise of a hand to take a cup of tea, the slight tilt to the right as they considered their part in the conversation. It was the most remarkable display.

I discreetly took a step closer as I would listen in on the conversation. One would begin a story or an anecdote and the other would take up the story seamlessly, as thought it was being told by one person.

“Ah, I see you have spotted Lady Ivy and Lady Iris Bigglesworth,” said Lady Clune uncertainly. This  particularly piqued my interest.

The good lady inclined her head and silently indicated that I should follow her a discreet distance away.

“There is something you should know about the girls,” she began.

I told her that I had guessed that Lady Ivy and Lady Iris were twins.

“Yes that is true and of all nine sisters, they and their older sister Josefina have the best chances of making a successful match.”

Nine? All from the same family? All hoping to find husbands?

“Oh! No, I should clarify, three of those girls are still in the school room, cared for by late Earl of Seahaven’s fifth and youngest wife, Lady Patience Bigglesworth.”

Six young women – seven if you include the young widow from the same family all in York for the same purpose. The late Earl must have left a substantial dowry.

Lady Clune shook her head sadly. There is barely enough to make a decent dowry for one, she tells me.

“I don’t care to be quoted on this, but the new Earl of Seahaven has been most dreadful to the girls. They were living quite happily in the family holding and there was enough room for them to do so comfortably but he refused,” she said.

“He tossed the girls out and most of them have had to,” Lady Clune drops her voice to a whisper, “work for a living.

“Mind you, Seahaven’s affairs were in the most dreadful shambles. He so expected a son from each woman he married that he never got around to updating his will.”

Excerpt from the Four-to-One Fancy (previously published in Desperate Daughters). This novella will be released as a standalone on 1 May.

Iris watched her sister shift the heavily laden basket onto another arm.

“Here, let me take it for a while,” she said.

Ivy shot her a grateful look and relinquished the basket.

After a moment Iris spoke. “Are you nervous?” she asked.

“What about?”

“I feel the weight of expectation—on you, me, Josefina—to find a husband this season.”

Ivy nodded. “Patience has expended an enormous sum to give us this opportunity, that to go back to Starbrook without an offer…”

“It’s only because our sisters gave up their portion of the dowry that we have an acceptable sum to offer,” Iris added.

“We have our titles, but they mean little,” said Ivy.

“We may not be pretty enough to attract the eye of a suitable gentleman.”  Iris let out a long, dispirited sigh.

Silence fell between them for good long minutes before Ivy asked. “What kind of gentleman would you like to marry?”

Iris considered the question a moment before shrugging a shoulder.

“He must be kind. I’d like him to be handsome. Most of all, he must love family because I would want you to visit me often.”

“That worries me as much as not finding husbands,” Ivy confessed. “What if we do? We would marry and be apart for the first time in our lives.”

The notion caused Iris to stop. She turned to her sister.

“I… I can’t imagine not seeing you every day,” she said.

They remained there on the pavement, each lost in their own thoughts.

“Do you think there may be brothers in attendance?”

“There might,” said Iris, tilting her head. “We would need to see an invitation list to be sure. Why do you ask?”

Ivy raised her chin in firm resolve. “It is the only way forward. By marrying brothers, we would be sure to see each other more often than if we married anyone else. We have to marry brothers. It is the only way.”

Love is in the Air

Take a leap into love…

Dear Reader,

We’ve sent an intrepid reporter to a most interesting gathering in the town of Upper Upton in Sussex. It is not often one sees a Viscount, an Earl, and a Marquess and their ladies gather to attend the wedding of an innkeeper.

However, not only did these esteemed peers attend, but the bride, a young widow of seemingly no importance, was escorted down the aisle on the arm of the marquess.

The whole event had the air of a rowdy country fair. Why, even a houseful of children from a nearby charity home piled into the church and attended the breakfast that followed.

Why? we ask.

It seems that the groom is a military comrade of the valiant peers who fought so bravely in defense of England; further, the bride has a connection with none other than the marchioness, Lady W. who we have written about in this earlier dispatch: Secrets and Lies.

Have no fear, we will report more on this story as soon as we learn more.


A Leap Into Love

Can a gentleman be too charming? The ladies of Upper Upton think so.

And it’s almost Leap Day, when a man who refuses a lady’s proposal of marriage must offer a forfeit.

When the single ladies of the village conspire to teach their charmer a lesson that might bankrupt him, the town’s loveliest young widow steps up to warn him.

His secrets and hers make them a perfect match—and she’s the lady he wants. But she won’t accept his proposal, not even to rescue him.

As Leap Day approaches, the clock is ticking. Can he convince her in time to say yes to his offer and take a leap into love?


When the Ladies’ Society for the Improvement of Village Life gathered, discussions could drag on.

Mrs. Myra Smith stood at a distance, watching the exhalation of so much talk fog the air in the unheated assembly rooms of the Royal George Inn. From her station near the door, she kept an eye on the boy who’d marched off to the far end of the room, away from the ladies.

The Society’s grandiose title always made Myra smile. Stuffy-sounding though it might be, the Ladies’ Society did have a valuable purpose. Village life could be dull, and didn’t she know that well.

It could also be closed-minded, a trap Myra was always dodging. She was here today representing Longview, the nearby children’s home that had brought so many interesting characters to Upper Upton—the teachers, ladies of questionable background like herself, and the children, London’s outcasts, who’d found shelter, and training, and love.

Longview had been generously endowed by the Lords Cathmore, Hackwell, and Wallenford, much as their lordships had endowed this whole village, trying to make the residents of Longview more palatable to the good citizens of Upper Upton. Even this inn had been thoroughly modernized and expanded. Their lordships had even plucked the handsome innkeeper from among their former military comrades.

Thoughts of the man reminded her, she and Barty should be on their way. “The room is quite adequate to your needs,” Myra said. “The children and I shall certainly see to—”

The door to the assembly rooms whooshed open, silencing her.

A wide smile flashed her way, and she caught her breath. “Mr. Grant,” she said with a clipped curtsy, remembering what she was dealing with.

True to his nature, Alexander Grant turned that handsome gaze on the other three ladies and bowed all around. “Such loveliness brightens the dreary aspects of this day.”

His grin widened, and his dark hair sparkled in the light from a tall window. The cold February rain had dampened his coats and breeches and ruddied his cheeks under the dark stubble. Warmth rose in Myra. She shook herself, searching for words.

Buy Link: https://books2read.com/ALeapIntoLove

About the Author

USA Today Bestselling and Award-winning 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 two rescued dogs, a spunky, blonde terrier and a super-friendly chihuahua.

Find her at:





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Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Alina-K.-Field/e/B00DZHWOKY

Duke’s Daughter Bickers with Stepmother

November 19, 1817

Residence of the Duke of Huntingdon

Mayfair, London

“Must you always be badgering me on this matter, Wife? Alicia is barely one-and-twenty. She and Stanton will settle down one of these days. I daresay they are on the brink of setting a date even as we speak.”

The duke’s young wife crossed her arms in front of her chest.

“So you’ve told me for the last two years. Not only have they not set a date, Lucas, but they rarely even see each other! Alicia has danced more with the Prince Regent than with her own betrothed this past Season!”

The Duke of Huntingdon closed his book and laid his spectacles on top of it. “Has that old lecher been philandering with my girl? I’ll see him in hell first!”

Cheeks flushed, the young duchess clenched her fists. “No, of course not! That’s not the point, and you know it well. What I’ve been trying to tell you is that Alicia and Milton Gardiner show no signs of partiality for each other’s company, and people are beginning to question whether the marriage will ever be accomplished at all!”

Her eyes narrowed. “The Prince danced as many times with me this Season, but you’ve never said a word against him. I believe you care for her more than your own wife!” 

She pulled out a handkerchief and swiped it over her eyes.

The duke rolled his eyes. “Good God, Elise, must you always make a fuss about everything? You know very well that as an unmarried young woman, Alicia’s reputation must be spotless, or no one, not even Stanton, will marry her. She and Stanton have always been the best of friends, Neither has ever spoken a word against their childhood betrothal, and you know Alicia well enough to know that she would certainly do so if she wished to.” He snorted.

“As far as Stanton, he can hardly be expected to dance with the gel when he’s spent most of the Season in Norfolk taking over his father’s duties on the estate. It may be unfashionable for a young man to take his responsibilities seriously, but I say it speaks well of his character.”

Lady Huntingdon glared at him. “And when Blackburn dies, the wedding will be postponed a year at least. Lucas, I must insist that you speak to your daughter immediately and impress upon her the urgency of securing this marriage as soon as may be!”


At the sound of her stepmother’s footsteps moving toward the door, Alicia fled down the hall into the nearest room where she posed in front of the hearth and pretended to be studying a portrait of her late mother. Too late, she thought better of the idea. Elise hated that portrait of her predecessor almost as much as she hated Alicia herself. 

The staccato clicks of her stepmother’s heels on the wooden floor paused when they passed the drawing room where Alicia had taken refuge.

“What are you doing here?” Elise demanded, her voice dripping with suspicion.

Alicia shrugged and smiled innocently. “Why, looking at my mother’s portrait, of course.”

The duchess’s brow furrowed. “Were you eavesdropping on my conversation with your father?”

Alicia’s mouth assumed a slack expression. “Were you having a conversation with my father? About me?”

Her stepmother’s nostrils flared. “You were listening! I knew it!” she snapped. “Did you learn anything interesting?”

“I-I, well…,” Alicia stammered.

“A thousand pardons, Your Grace, but you’re needed in the nursery. Master Gervase is poorly today, and Nurse wishes to call in a physician.”

One of the upstairs maids appeared in the doorway, looking worried. 

“Gervase, my darling child…ill? Oh my, I knew that Nurse should not have taken him out of doors yesterday! Oh, I must go to him immediately!”

She gave Alicia a menacing stare, lifted her skirts, and rushed toward the stairway.

The maid winked at Alicia. “More ’n likely he’s just teething.” Then she took off after her mistress.

Alicia sighed heavily and gazed up at her mother’s beautiful face. It was almost like looking in a mirror, as she had inherited Frances Howland’s dark wavy hair, tawny eyes, and high cheekbones. Her prominent nose and light brown skin that no amount of lemon juice scrubs would lighten had come from her father, who had some French ancestry in his blood.

“Oh Mama! Why did you have to go sailing that day, of all days?”

She pressed her face down against the cool marble surface of the mantel. Three years ago she’d received the devastating news that her mother and Lady Blackburn had drowned when the skiff they’d been sailing had run into a sudden storm and capsized in the Wash a mile off the Norfolk coast. Her life had never been the same since. Particularly not when, after a year of mourning, her father had married a young girl only a few years older than she, who’d had the nerve to bear him the son he’d always wanted fifteen months later.

Her new stepmother, the daughter of a baronet whose mother claimed to be a displaced French countess, had been scheming to get rid of Alicia from the first day she’d moved in. Alicia was a constant reminder of her mother, a notorious London beauty. Elise’s skin was the pale porcelain favored by society, but in combination with her gray eyes, small round head and pale blonde hair, she tended to fade into the woodwork. With dark hair in fashion these days, it galled her to appear in public with the stepdaughter who outshone her.

Nor did it help when all the servants showed a pronounced preference for Alicia.

“That’s not my fault,” she said lifting her head to her mother’s face as if to defend her behavior. “I never encouraged them to do that.”

But you never did anything to prevent it, did you, Daughter? You weren’t raised to prevaricate, you know. This type of behavior is beneath you.

A lump formed in Alicia’s throat. It was true. Her mother, at least, had worked very hard to keep her grounded in good Christian values and a healthy respect for others. Alicia knew her mother would have been sorely distressed to see the way she provoked her stepmother, sometimes without half-trying.

Your behavior causes your father much grief, you know. Does he not deserve a peaceful home?

Alicia paled as she recalled the conversation she’d just overheard in her father’s study. Unkind as it was to deliberately provoke her stepmother, it also had the effect of disturbing her father’s domestic life. Which she’d not hesitated to do at first when she’d been furious with her father’s decision to remarry, but now…it seemed rather childish and cruel.

He’s been a good father to you, Alicia. He was a good husband to me as well. Does he not deserve your loyalty?

“Alicia, my dear.”

Lucas Howland, the Duke of Huntingdon, strolled through the doorway toward her. At forty-nine, he was still a fine figure of a man, although his dark hair was now sprinkled with gray and his stomach was beginning to make itself known beneath his olive-green waistcoat.

He sighed as he cupped her shoulders and drew her against his chest as they both gazed up at the portrait of his first wife.

“Aye, she was a marvelous woman. I still miss her too, you know. Many times I wish I had forbidden her to take the boat out that day.”

Tears gathered in Alicia’s eyes. “But she would never have heeded you, Papa. It wasn’t your fault.”

He turned her around and hugged her to his chest. “No, she was a willful one, my Frances. So spirited and full of life…I’m sure it never occurred to her that it could all be lost so quickly and tragically.”

They stood there a moment and reflected on what the loss of the former duchess had brought to their lives. For the duke—a young second wife and the heir he’d always wanted. For Alicia—a new baby brother with whom she’d felt an instant connection, but who came with the inconvenience of an antagonistic stepmother.

“She was my best friend,” Alicia whispered. “I could tell her anything and she would never laugh at me or remonstrate with me. She always told me to forget the past and live each day to the fullest.” 

She lifted her wounded face to her father’s. “But how can I forget her? She was my life and now she’s gone! I feel…lost without her, Papa.”

Her father sighed and kissed her forehead before drawing her head to his shoulder. “I know it well, my dear. I’ve seen you drift aimlessly through two Seasons, and I know well things would have been much different had it been your mother sponsoring you and not your aunt.”

“Aunt Tabitha has been very kind, Papa, but you are correct—it’s not the same.”

Her father’s sister had not got on well with her sister-in-law and it seemed Alicia had inherited too many of her mother’s characteristics to make for an amicable connection between aunt and niece.

The duke turned and, taking her arm, led her to a settee.

“Come and sit with me, Daughter. It’s been a long time since we’ve spoken privately, and I think a chat is quite overdue. Shall I order tea?”

Tea? Alicia forced herself to relax her hands, which had tightened into fists at her father’s request. She knew where this conversation was going.

“No tea, Papa. It will be time for nuncheon soon. I suppose you want to know about how things stand between Milton and me.”

Her father patted her hand. “I don’t wish to push you out of the nest, Alicia, but people are beginning to wonder if you and Stanton mean to marry after all. You’ve had two Seasons and I’ve heard no reports of your forming any other attachments in that time.”

Because everyone knows I’ve been betrothed to Milton forever.

“I had beaux,” she said defensively. “I was never a wallflower, you know. I had any number of escorts to Vauxhall and drives through the park.”

The duke heaved a sigh. “Of course, you did. I never meant to imply otherwise. But of all of them, did none appeal to you as a better choice for husband than young Stanton?”

“No, nothing like that.” Well, there was Lord Hadley, the handsome young viscount who made all the young ladies’ hearts flutter, but he’d gone off on his Grand Tour last year and showed no sign of returning any time soon.

“As far as I know, Papa, Milton and I still plan to be married. I haven’t heard from him lately, since he’s been so busy at Blackburn, but I’m sure we’ll discuss it after our return to Huntingdon.”

Her father grimaced. “I don’t mean to pressure you, my dear, but with Blackburn’s illness, you might want to set an early date. I’m sure it would give him great pleasure to see his son wed before… well, there’s no way to avoid the fact that his days are numbered.”

“And once he’s gone, there will be a year of mourning. I do realize that, Papa. I’m sure Elise will be no end of piqued to have me on your hands for another year.”

Her father flinched. “It’s not that, Alicia. It’s just that… it’s obvious you’re not happy with us, and we think it’s time you settled down and started your own family. With Stanton, if he’s your choice. No one wishes to force you out, least of all your stepmother.”

Alicia snorted. Did her father really think she would believe that? She’d have known it to be an untruth even if she had not overheard their recent conversation.

“Of course not. I’m sure Elise is eager to become a grandmother.” 

Her father tried to hide his grin, and Alicia turned and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

“I’ll discuss it with Milton, Papa. He has a lot on his mind these days. When his father dies, he’ll be alone in the world. At least I still have a father left.”

Her father let out a huge breath. “Thank you, my dear.”

He stood and started to leave, then turned and looked at her with a twinkle in his eye.

“I can’t speak for Elise, of course, but I for one am looking forward to becoming a grandfather with great anticipation. And I’m sure Gervase will be in alt to have a little niece or nephew to play with.”

Alicia blushed. “Really, Papa!”

Baby Gervase an uncle? An amusing image, but it all seemed so premature. She’d been betrothed to Milton for so long, but the actual marriage had seemed far off. In all that time, she’d never actually thought much about being Milton’s wife and having his children. Now that the time seemed imminent, she felt a growing feeling of panic. Bridal nerves, of course. All brides had them. It would all turn out well in the end, she assured herself.


All I Want For Christmas is You is part of the Bluestocking Belles’ latest Christmas collection, Christmastide Kisses.


About Susana Ellis

Susana Ellis is a retired teacher, part-time caregiver, sewist, cook, and fashion print collector. Lifelong reading and a fascination with history led her to writing historical romances. She is one of the original Bluestocking Belles and a member of Regency Fiction Writers and the Maumee Valley Romance Authors Inc.

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Who did the young earl marry? And what happened to the other bride?

Your tip was a good one, Sam, though none of the villagers of Rorrington will admit to sending it. They had a front-seat row to the goings on at Thorn Abbey, and you’ll be pleased to know that even out here, they’ve all heard about the scandal of the Earl of Spenhurst and his bride. Indeed, since the wedding was at their own Thorn Abbey, and some of the main actors stayed at the village inn at the time in question, they feel quite a sense of ownership.

Rorrington is a tiny village in the wilds of Shropshire, with the border of Wales so close in two directions that, or so the local joke goes, if your cow runs away, you have to go to another country to get it back.

They keep their own counsel, here. Certainly, the lord that owns Thorn Abbey heard nothing of what I am about to relate to you, for nobody can appear less intelligent than a countryman of Shropshire who doesn’t want to answer a question.

But the Teatime Tattler’s sympathetic treatment of the earl and countess had acted as my introduction, and so I am hopeful that, by the end of my visit here, I’ll have as much of the story as these people know.

It seems that the Earl of Yarverton used to be the owner of Thorn Abbey. The ownership was to pass to the Marquess of Deerhaven as part of the marriage agreement between their children, but I don’t know what will happen to it now. But I get ahead of myself.

What I can tell you so far is that Deerhaven’s son was delivered to Thorn Abbey in chains and Yarverton and Deerhaven arranged for the local vicar to perform a marriage ceremony between him and Yarverton’s daughter.

Young Spenhurst dug his toes in and said he would marry Miss Miller or no one. He wouldn’t consent to the marriage, and the good vicar refused to go ahead with the ceremony. Apparently, after he left the mansion, Yarverton beat the poor young man so badly that one of Deerhaven’s guards had to intervene to stop the assault from becoming a murder.

Remember, that the boy was chained!

What happened after that? I hope to know more tomorrow, when I meet with a fellow who was a footman at the Abbey at the time. But I have been able to confirm that there was a wedding a few weeks later, that the two fathers left the Abbey satisfied that the marriage had been consummated, and that the young couple left a few days later. Looking happy, say those who saw the carriage on its way.

The bride must have been Yarverton’s daughter, surely. So what happened to Miss Miller? And who were the couple seen recently in Leicestershire?


For the solution to the mystery, read Weave Me a Rope, currently on preorder and released on 26th January. Weave Me a Rope is Book 5 in A Twist Upon a Regency Tale, and is inspired by Rapunzel.

Weave Me a Rope

By Jude Knight

When the Earl of Spenhurst declares his love for a merchant’s niece, he is locked away in a tower. Spen won’t get out, the marquess, his father says, until he agrees to an arranged marriage.

After the marquess unceremoniously ejects Cordelia Milton from his country mansion, she is determined to rescue her beloved, but it all goes horribly wrong.

She needs time to recover from her injuries, and Spen has been moved across the country under heavy guard. It seems impossible for two young lovers to overcome the selfish plans of two powerful peers, but they won’t give up.

Click below to buy.

News of a Rushed Wedding

Dear Reader,

Most interesting news has arrived. A wedding apparently has taken place officiated by a very high-ranking clergyman. I herewith share a partial letter I received from our local correspondent:

My Dear Mr. Clemens,

I hasten to send you this news, though I daresay given the state of the roads it won’t reach you before the event I report has occurred. Wet, wetter, and wettest; that is how this weather has been. I only pray that my report reaches you safely, for it is a—dare I say—juicy revelation.

To begin at the beginning, the esteemed and ancient Episcopal See which I will refrain from naming is to be the sight of a wedding—a rather rushed wedding to be officiated by no less than a bishop–between a high-ranking young clergyman and a local woman, the hired companion of one of the prosperous parishioners.

As to how this came about, you must have heard in town about the abysmal snowstorm that struck locally on Twelfth Night. The soon to be happy pair (or already happy, if this letter is delayed) found themselves on an improvident—dare I say imprudent—social call and snowbound. Sheltering together in a vacant cottage, they spent an entire night alone together before returning and announcing their engagement.

If it would not be indelicate, I might add that one would hardly doubt what went on that night. Those acquainted with the happy groom found the affair shocking. Parishioners had thought him to be upright and sober. (Though there were, of course, others who found his probity veering toward the pompous.)

Ah, but the next piece of news will explain everything. Concerning the bride     


Dear Readers,

The roads must have been wet indeed, for the rest of this letter has been soaked beyond my ability to trace the letters.

I shall endeavor to find out more of this interesting story for you in my next edition.

Or, you can find out more in Twelfth Night Treasure, by Alina K. Field, in Christmastide Kisses, a Bluestocking Belles Collection with Friends

The Bluestocking Belles and Friends brighten your holidays with:

  • A beleaguered uncle whose wards have run off every governess–what he needs is a wife, if only he can persuade the latest applicant
  • A country solicitor who becomes an earl and then finds a secret that changes everything
  • A very proper clergyman who battles very improper urges when he and a lady with a murky past find themselves snowbound
  • A viscount whose search to unearth generations-old family secrets kindles the fire of love for his lovely search partner
  • A former army captain who wonders if the best friend of his ex-fiancee is the woman he should have married
  • A vicar with a misspent youth and the duke’s daughter who brings out the best in him

Six gentlemen and the ladies with whom they discover the power of a Christmastide Kiss.

Release date: December 26, 2023

Pre-order your copy for only 99 cents:

Amazon US

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Amazon Australia



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