Keep Calm and Read This: A Marchioness Below Stairs by Alissa Baxter

Keep Calm and Read This: A Marchioness Below Stairs by Alissa Baxter

I’m so pleased to welcome Alissa Baxter this week. She’s visiting with her latest release, A Marchioness Below Stairs, and sharing some fascinating discoveries she made while researching. If you love traditional Regency romances, you’ve found your next indulgence!

Plus she’s having a giveaway!

Gambols on the River Thames. Feb 1814 by George Cruikshank and Thomas Tegg, Museum of London.

While researching my upcoming release, A Marchioness Below Stairs, I came across some interesting information about the winter of 1813/14, which inspired some of the events of the novel, particularly the Frost Fair on the Thames in 1814.

Between 1600 and 1814, the River Thames could sometimes freeze over for up to two months at time. There were two main reasons for this; the first was that Britain (and the entire of the Northern Hemisphere) was experiencing what is now known as the ‘Little Ice Age’. The other catalyst was the medieval London Bridge and its piers, and specifically how closely spaced together they were. During winter, pieces of ice would get lodged between the piers and effectively dam up the river, meaning it was easier for it to freeze.

Although these harsh winters often brought with them famine and death, the local Londoners decided to make the most of iced-over Thames and set up the Thames Frost Fairs. Between 1607 and 1814 there were a total of seven major fairs, as well as a number of smaller ones.

Shops made out of sail cloths, blankets and oars were set up on the river, along with pubs and ice skating rinks… everything that you would expect in the crowded streets of London – but it was on ice.

The 1814 Frost Fair began in London on 1st February, and lasted four days. An elephant was led across the river below Blackfriars Bridge. George Davis, a printer, published a 124-page book called Frostiana; or a History of the River Thames in a Frozen State. The entire book was type-set and printed in Davis’s printing stall, which had been set up on the frozen Thames. This was the last of the famous Frost Fairs which took place during the Little Ice Age, roughly between 1350 -1850.

As the climate grew milder, the replacement of the old London Bridge in 1831 with a new bridge with wider arches, allowed the tide to flow more freely, and the embanking of stages of the river in the 19th century prevented the river from freezing over again as it did in 1814.

(Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Thames_frost_fairshttp://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25862141http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/The-Thames-Frost-Fairs/)

Escaping from Bath and the news that her former love is about to marry another, Isabel, the young widowed Marchioness of Axbridge, accepts an invitation to her cousin’s house party. Yet, instead of finding respite, she stumbles into a domestic crisis of majestic proportions: The kitchen servants have succumbed to the influenza.

If that weren’t bad enough, her former sweetheart arrives with his fiancée, seeking shelter from the increasingly hazardous snow storm. Trapped inside Chernock Hall with a volatile mix of house guests, including abolitionists and slave owners, Isabel wishes she could hide below stairs for the duration. But, alas, she cannot. While helping in the kitchen, Isabel is cornered by her cousin’s disreputable friend, Marcus Bateman, who challenges and provokes her at every turn.

At last, the storm subsides. However, the avalanche of repercussions cannot be undone. Caught in the grip of the terrible winter of 1813, will Isabel’s greatest threat come from the weather, her abolitionist views, or from falling in love again?

They entered the drawing room, and Lady Kildaren beckoned her imperiously. “Would you care to play the pianoforte, Lady Axbridge? Your mama informs me that you play very well.”

“I’m sadly out of practice, your ladyship.”

“Come, my dear. It will be delightful to listen to some music.”

Isabel smiled and nodded, and sat down at the pianoforte. She spread her fingers over the keys, and started to play from memory, pieces ranging from Mozart to Beethoven to various Scottish and Irish airs. She had just begun a song for the popular stage composed by Dibdin, when the door opened and the gentlemen entered.

She glanced up, then swiftly focused her attention back on the music. She would play for the rest of the evening. It was an excellent way to avoid facing Mr Wetherby, or conversing with Lord Fenmore and Mr Bateman.

She looked at her fingers as she played, but even so, she could see Mr Bateman out of the corner of her eye. He sat beside Miss Wetherby, seemingly absorbed in conversation with her. The young woman giggled. Isabel hit a false note, and grimaced. He had said Miss Wetherby was not in his style at all and yet there he was, gazing at her and looking for all the world as if he found her company enthralling.

And when Captain Wetherby and his son walked over to them a short while later, he laughed and conversed with them, perfectly at ease in their company. Drat the man! How had she ever felt any sympathy for him?

Some Bach was in order. She started hammering out his Military Quintet No. 3 in B flat major, until she sensed someone standing at her shoulder.

“Bach’s Military Quintet?” Mr Bateman asked in a low voice, startling her.

“Yes.”

“You were playing such a cheerful ditty when we entered the room.”

“My mood changed.”

“Ah.”

“I prefer not to play with someone standing behind me. It throws me off.”

“Well, something has certainly thrown you off.”

She dragged in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Fortunately, she knew the piece by heart, so she gave it very little attention, while she contemplated a scathing set-down.

“Scoundrel, reprobate, traitor… will one of those do?”

Isabel’s shoulders stiffened. “Sir, I am unable to converse with you while I am playing the pianoforte.”

“Unable or unwilling?”

“Both!”

He chuckled. “Remind me to talk to your back in future, my lady. It appears to loosen your tongue.”

“There will be very few future conversations between us. Monsieur Martin is all but recovered and the thaw is about to set in.”

“I am living in hope of the thaw setting in.” He moved to stand beside her.

Something in his voice made her look at him, and the warmth of his gaze took her breath away. She returned her focus to the pianoforte, and shook her head. “We will be going our separate ways soon. I think that is, on the whole, a good thing.”

“There may be a few surprises in store for you in that regard. Good evening, my dear.”

He strolled to the other end of the room and engaged her mother in conversation.

Isabel tried to concentrate on her playing, but her mind was far away. What did he mean? Her life was ordered, peaceful and predictable. Surprises did not fit well into that paradigm. His relaxed air of assurance was especially irritating, as he did not appear at all abashed regarding his abominable behaviour – kissing her in the cow shed one evening, and flirting with another lady the next; purporting to care about the abolition of slavery, yet unashamedly socialising with the owners of slaves. He was a riddle of a man, a riddle that would have to remain unsolved, because if she were foolish enough to try to figure him out she could end up with a solution that was only the start of another problem.

With a defiant toss of her head, she played the opening notes of the folk song Lord Bateman. Across the room, her nemesis stiffened. Then his laughing eyes met hers. “Why, your ladyship, I must sing along – this song is my namesake, after all.”

He returned to her side and Isabel blushed at the wicked gleam in his eyes. She had well and truly thrown down the gauntlet now. When would she learn to leave well enough alone?

Grab your copy of A Marchioness Below Stairs today!

 

 

Alissa Baxter wrote her first Regency romance, The Dashing Debutante, during her long university holidays. After travelling the world, she settled down to write her second Regency romance, Lord Fenmore’s Wager, which was inspired by her time living on a country estate in England. Also the author of two contemporary romances, Send and Receive and The Blog Affair, Alissa currently lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Alissa at her

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Alissa would like to give away two ebooks to a lucky commenter: Lord Fenmore’s Wager (the prequel to A Marchioness Below Stairs) and A Marchioness Below Stairs. Just answer the following question… please tell Alissa about your favourite kind of hero in a Regency novel… Do you prefer the dark, brooding tortured type, or a more light-hearted kind of hero with a witty sense of humour?

The contest will close at 11:59pm Central Standard Time on Sunday, November 19th. The winner will be drawn by random and contacted via email.

Good luck, and remember to always

#ReadARegency!

 

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Keep Calm and Read This: A Secret Scottish Christmas by Regan Walker

Keep Calm and Read This: A Secret Scottish Christmas by Regan Walker

I love it when Regan Walker stops by for a visit. It always means a great new book and some fascinating bit of information gleaned from her research! She has a new release in her Agents of the Crown series, A Secret Scottish Christmas, and beautiful Gordon Setter dogs feature in her story.

The Early Gordon Setters by Regan Walker

A Secret Scottish Christmas, the newest installment in the Agents of the Crown series, is set during the Regency mostly in Scotland. When the Powell twins, Robbie and Nash, first encounter Miss Aileen Stephen, the sister of their Scottish host, they are both taken with her and thereafter compete to win her heart. The first night, as they go down to dinner, they encounter her and her two dogs on the stairs:

This short scene is from Robbie’s point of view:

They began to descend the stairs just as Aileen Stephen came through the front door, her cheeks rosy from the cold. She let her tartan scarf fall to her shoulders, revealing a bounty of bright red hair. A tempting picture to be sure.

Two great black and tan dogs bounded in after her.

“Why, hello,” said Robbie, giving her one of his sincerest smiles. Beside him, Nash tensed, none too pleased at Robbie’s initiative.

His brother smiled at the girl. “What dogs are these?”

She looked up at them, her dogs wagging their long tails, their paws on the steps sniffing at Robbie’s feet. “Goodness and Mercy, a gift from the Duke of Gordon. He raises them on his estate in Moray to the north.”

Robbie stepped down to the entry hall’s stone floor and patted the head of the closest dog, a friendly sort, then returned his attention to the girl.

Nash alighted from the last stair to scratch one of the dogs behind the ear. “How ever did you come up with those names, Miss Stephen?”

“You may call me Ailie. Most everyone here does. You are Robbie and Nash?”

“I am Robbie and this is my brother, Nash,” said Robbie, gesturing first to himself and then to his twin.

Her beautiful face lifted in a one-sided grin as she glanced between them. “’Twill be difficult telling you apart. As for the names of my dogs, do ye nae ken yer Scriptures?”

Robbie exchanged a look with his brother. Neither, he was certain, had a clue as to her meaning, yet she had spoken in the way of the Scots, intentionally deepening her accent. Perhaps she meant to suggest Englishmen might be ignorant of the Good Book’s teachings.

“The twenty-third Psalm ends,” she recited, “‘Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…’ aye?”

“Clever,” said Nash. “I won’t be forgetting their names any time soon.” From the admiring look Nash gave the girl, Robbie surmised his twin wouldn’t be forgetting her either.

Robbie returned his attention to the large lean dogs he decided were setters, but not the black and white speckled ones he was used to. These two were mostly black with small bits of copper and white trim. “I can scarce see a difference between them.”

Her brows lifted. “This from two brothers who are made from the same mold? Really, ’tis easy to tell them apart. Goodness is the male and Mercy is the female.”

So what kind of dogs were these black and tan dogs?

Black and tan setters existed as far back as the 16th century in Scotland and England. But the man credited with developing the breed is Alexander Gordon, the 4th Duke of Gordon, known as the Cock o’ the North, the traditional epithet attached to the chief of the Gordon clan. At the time of my story, 1819, he was breeding setters for hunting at Gordon Castle near Fochabers not far from the River Spey in Scotland.

Alexander Gordon, Fourth Duke of Gordon,
(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.

The dogs Ailie named “Goodness” and “Mercy” were the early Gordon setters. The Gordon setter is an air-scenting breed, developed for the purpose of scenting game birds (mostly grouse) on the heather-covered Scottish moors. The Gordon Castle strain was mostly black, white and tan (a relic of the white can sometimes be seen today in the small white spot on the chest). Ailie’s setters would have been mostly black, as they are today, but marked with more white as well as tan.

In A Secret Scottish Christmas, Ailie’s setters go hunting for the pink-footed geese and stalk deer. Gordon setters are alert and lively, pleasant and exceedingly loyal. They tend to be devoted to members of their household, which you can see in the devotion Goodness and Mercy show the Stephens.

Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my!

Scotland 1819

Twin brothers Nash and Robbie Powell of Powell & Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long frowned upon by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots.

Aileen Stephen, the only daughter of an Aberdeen shipbuilder, had to be clever, devious and determined to gain her place in the family business. She succeeded to become a designer of highly coveted ships. One night, a man’s handsome face appears to her in a dream. When two men having that same face arrive on a ship full of Londoners, Ailie wonders what her second sight is telling her. Is the face she saw a portender of the future, a harbinger of danger, or both? And which of the two Englishmen is the one in her dream?

Older than Nash by a mere five minutes, Robbie has always been protective of his twin. When he realizes Nash is attracted to the sister of their Scottish host, he thinks to help matters along. But Nash wants no help from his brother, not where Ailie Stephen is concerned because Robbie is attracted to the girl himself!

Two brothers vie for the affection of the Scottish lass but only one stirs her passion. Which one will it be? And what will she do when she learns they are spies?

Graby your copy of A Secret Scottish Christmas today!

 

 

Regan Walker is an award-winning, #1 Amazon bestselling author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romances. She writes historically authentic novels with real historical figures along with her fictional characters. Among the awards she has won are the International Book Award for Romance Fiction, the San Diego Book Award for Best Historical Romance, the RONE Award for her medievals and the Illumination Award for The Refuge: An Inspirational Novel of Scotland.

You can sign up for her newsletter on her website and get the “Readers Extras” there, too. Regan loves to hear from her readers. Connect with Regan here:

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And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

Keep Calm and Read This: Forged in Fire from the Never Too Late Collection by the Bluestocking Belles

Keep Calm and Read This: Forged in Fire from the Never Too Late Collection by the Bluestocking Belles

I love it when Jude Knight stops by for a visit. There’s sure to be fascinating historical research woven into a romantic tale that keeps me spellbound. Forged in Fire, from the new Bluestocking Belles holiday collection, Never Too Late, looks to be another must-read for me! This time Jude is giving us a deeper glimpse into her heroine.

Lives of Quiet Desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau

This quote set me in mind of many of my heroines. Thoreau was writing about men who do work that doesn’t bring them joy, simply because it was expected of them. Throughout history, women—even more than men—have lived lives of quiet desperation, stuck in circumstances not of their choosing, doing their best to survive each day with a minimum of pain and destruction.

Lottie in Forged in Fire is typical of the women I like to write. She retains hope of something better, while doing what she must in the meantime.

Once, long ago, she made a mistake, though not the mistake she was accused of. She lost everything: her home, her family, her chances of marriage or an independent future. For many years, she has been the unpaid companion of a bullying cousin. And she endures.

I don’t write heroines who sit around waiting to be rescued. I’ll have no Perils of Pauline plot arcs, thank you. Often, they can see no way out of their current circumstances, but they are making the best of them, finding humour in small things, counting their blessings, and waiting for an opportunity to escape. Quiet desperation, but not without a small measure of hope.

And my heroes have their own problems, usually from earlier emotional wounds. Any rescuing is going to be completely mutual. My Tad in Forged in Fire was exiled from home as a teenager, also because of a lie. He, too, has lost his home and his family. But men had more options than women in the nineteenth century British colonies. He has built a new, independent life; one he could never have had without his disgrace. He is doing what he loves, and now faces the prospect of giving it up in order to do his duty.

So if my heroes don’t rescue my heroines, what do they do? They offer the motive for the heroine to seize the opportunity, they help her with whatever action she chooses, and they love her for her quiet strength. That’s enough, surely? I like my heroines to reach the point where marrying the hero is a choice they make for love, not simply the better of two unsatisfactory options.

So a lot is going on in the story. My heroine is moving from quiet desperation to hope, inspiring the hero to make the same journey. At the same time, they’re getting to know one another in extreme circumstances because the emotional journey they make is set against a rather dramatic background. In 1886, Mount Tarawera in New Zealand’s Rotorua region erupted along a thirteen kilometre rift, shooting ash, rock and fire thousands of feet in the air, to settle on the surrounding ground and bury villages and people under metres of ash and mud.

Lottie and Tad have survived their families and their society. The volcano could be a bit more of a challenge.

They both fell silent when an explosion attracted their attention to a large inky black cloud that welled up above the mountain beyond the ridge between them and the lake, lit by constant flashes of lighting. Lottie sat up and edged closer to Mr. Berry.

“It’s Tarawera,” he said, leaning in close and shouting to be heard. “It has erupted.”

The shakes continued, as they watched the mountain in awe.

Several men started up the hill from the hotel. Lottie was relieved they followed a path further along than the one she and Mr. Berry had taken. Mr. Berry watched them until they went out of sight around a curve in the path.

“They’ll be going to the old mission station. They’ll get a good view from there.”

A sudden explosive roar, louder than she had ever heard, brought her surging to her knees. A great curtain of fire rose heavenward from three points along the mountain. Another earthquake shook the ground, and Lottie clutched Mr. Berry’s hand as the billowing cloud began to shoot fireballs like rockets, showering down on the lake and the mountain side.

The explosions continued, battering their ears for several minutes at a time, dying to distant rumbles for a long moment, then returning to full force as the earthquakes kept coming. The cloud, now thousands of yards high, began to spread out from the column of fire, rapidly approaching across the sky towards Te Wairoa.

“We need to take cover,” Mr. Berry said. He grabbed her hand, and she followed where he led, stumbling over snags on the bush floor and pushing between ferns. A sudden vicious wind snarled into them, and stones and great dollops of mud began to fall, battering at the arms they held up to protect their heads.

Then, suddenly, they were in a dark space, and just in time, as the deluge thickened, drumming onto whatever protected them from above. When Mr. Berry wrapped his arms around her, Lottie did not object but leant into his comfort.

“It’s an abandoned house,” Mr. Berry said into her ear so he didn’t have to shout to be heard over the racket of the deluge of airborne missiles. “It’s still solid. I hope it’s strong enough to keep us safe.”

As the barrage continued, so did the same pattern of explosions and shakes: periods of sound and fury followed by brief lulls in which they could speak, raising their voices to be heard over the noise of the downfall.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Thompson. I am taking liberties.” Mr. Berry was apologising, but not, Lottie noted, letting go.

“I appreciate the comfort of being held, Mr. Berry. Do you not think you should call me Lottie, since you are taking liberties?”

She could hear the smile in his voice when he replied. “Lottie, then. For Charlotte? And I am Tad.”

Lottie shook her head. “For Otillie. At school, they used to call me Tillie, and I hated it. Is Tad short for Thaddeus?”

Forged in Fire is a novella in Never Too Late, the 2017 box set of the Bluestocking Belles. Eight authors and eight different takes on four dramatic elements selected by our readers—an older heroine, a wise man, a Bible, and a compromising situation that isn’t. Set in a variety of locations around the world over eight centuries, welcome to the romance of the Bluestocking Belles’ 2017 Holiday and More Anthology.

It’s Never Too Late to find love ~ 25% of proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.

1181
The Piper’s Lady by Sherry Ewing
True love binds them. Deceit divides them. Will they choose love?

1354
Her Wounded Heart by Nicole Zoltack
A solitary widow, a landless knight, and a crumbling castle.

1645
A Year Without Christmas by Jessica Cale
An earl and his housekeeper face their feelings for one another in the midst of the English Civil War.

1795
The Night of the Feast by Elizabeth Ellen Carter
One night to risk it all in the midst of the French Revolution.

1814
The Umbrella Chronicles: George & Dorothea’s Story by Amy Quinton
The Umbrella Strikes Again: St. Vincent’s downfall (aka betrothal) is assured.

1814
A Malicious Rumor by Susana Ellis
A harmonious duo is better than two lonely solos for a violinist and a lady gardener.

1886
Forged in Fire by Jude Knight
Forged in volcanic fire, their love will create them anew.

1916
Roses in Picardy by Caroline Warfield
In the darkness of war, hope flickers. In the gardens of Picardy, love catches fire.

Preorder your copy of Never Too Late at any of these online vendors:


 

 

 

 

 

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything. She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

You can connect with Jude at her website or newsletter, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

Keep Calm and Read This: A Chance at Christmas by Beppie Harrison

Keep Calm and Read This: A Chance at Christmas by Beppie Harrison

I’m honored to welcome Beppie Harrison this week, an author whose imagination has been fully and forever captured by the Regency period. She uses that imagination to bring to life vivid characters in stories rich with adventures, societal rules, and heartfelt romance. Beppie is sharing her new holiday novella with us, A Chance at Christmas.

 

 

Christmas is coming, and Catherine Woodsleigh and her crippled brother John have no hope of celebration until an invitation to spend Christmas with an old friend and her family arrives. But after the holiday, worse misfortune looms before them. Living on the diminishing number of coins drawn from a jar left by their dead father and mother, a dire future seems inevitable. Will this chance to share a wondrous sparkling Christmas not only provide a glorious holiday but a new turn in their futures and the astonishing possibility of romance?

 

There was indeed a man standing close by, his attention fixed on their carriage. There was no one else but them now. He must be the one sent for them.

It was going to be all right.

He was tall, a young man, clearly a gentleman by his elegant dress. His boots shone and his cloak was multi-caped. He looked at her directly, with cool grey eyes and long lashes that would have been spectacular had he been a woman.

“Miss Woodsleigh, I believe?” he asked as she stepped out of the coach. “My sister Katie sent me to fetch you.” His words were as smooth and well-spoken as might be expected of a fashionably-dressed Englishman. Was this then the brother on whom she had pinned her hopes? Elegant he was indeed. Warm-hearted? She hoped he might be.

“I am Viscount de Montjoy,” he said.

She looked into his face as she came out of the carriage, hearing John’s boots thud behind her as he descended the step. Did the man have some of the look of Katie? He did seem courteous, rather than annoyed to be sent on such an errand. A hopeful sign, perhaps. She smiled at him.

Automatically, she reached back to steady John as his left boot landed on the step. Then he shifted balance to his right before stepping, leading again with his left foot, down to the ground. She kept her hand on his elbow as he rocked a bit before standing upright.

Viscount de Montjoy, who had answered Catherine’s smile with one of polite welcome, stared past her to John, clearly taking in his lame leg, twisted arm, and all.

His forehead creased. “Who is he?”

Foreboding plunged from Catherine’s head down to her toes. She took John’s arm.

“My brother.” She did not feel her lips move. She made a valiant effort to keep her smile. She would not let disappointment overwhelm her. Not yet. This was Katie’s brother, after all. The man on whom her fragile hopes rested.

He surveyed John attentively and then nodded. “I see. Does he require assistance to reach my carriage?” He half turned to indicate a neat, well-maintained landau perhaps fifty feet away.

“I do not,” John said for himself just as Catherine began to speak. She folded her lips to cut off words she might have said.

The viscount raised his left eyebrow, as if surprised John could speak.

“My man will take your bags.” He lifted a peremptory finger and a man in livery approached. A footman, perhaps? A coachman? Catherine’s family had never run to menservants, and she was unsure of what his position might be. She would have to pay close attention when they were in Katie’s house to make sure she didn’t make mistakes.

The footman, if such he was, took the heavy bag from Catherine and as John had set down his lighter one, grabbed that one as well. He headed off in the direction of the carriage and the viscount started to walk briskly after him.

He came to a stop almost immediately.

“I am sorry,” he said directly to Catherine. “Is my pace too rapid for your brother?”

Again John spoke up politely but firmly. “I believe I can nearly keep up, sir,” he said. “You will not have to wait long for me.”

The viscount looked at him, the eyebrow raised again. “Indeed.”

Find your very own copy of A Chance at Christmas at one of these online vendors:

 

 

Beppie Harrison lives on Boston’s South Shore close to the ocean in a big white New Englandish house with her husband, a lawyer daughter, and an assortment of dogs and cats. They live a somewhat trans-Atlantic lifestyle. Her husband is an English architect, and they lived in London at the beginning of their marriage, only moving to the States when they had young children. Now the children are grown, they return to old friends and familiar places as frequently as they can. In many ways, England still feels like their second home.

For Beppie, the pull from across the Atlantic comes not only from the dales of Yorkshire and the buzz of London, but from Ireland. Did it start with its literature, its green beauty, or its wonderfully garrulous people? However it happened, both England and Ireland draw her now.

Her first fiction trilogy, the Heart Trilogy, is placed primarily in Ireland during the Regency period. The Grandest Christmas, a companion novella for the holiday season, is a warm and cozy read for Christmastime. Her upcoming quartet of novels is placed again in Regency times, but, as introduced by the novella The Dowager’s Season, introduces four cousins to the excitement and romance of London’s presentations and balls.

Connect with Beppie by signing up for her newsletter, or visiting with her on Facebook or her group blog, Romancing Yesteryear.

And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

Keep Calm and Read This: Wild Lily by Cerise DeLand

Keep Calm and Read This: Wild Lily by Cerise DeLand

I’m so excited to welcome Cerise DeLand this week (and I’m doing no small amount of fangirling because this is the author who introduced the Standhopes to the world!). Her new release is book one of her Victorian series, Those Notorious Americans. It features a spirited and smart heroine, the daughter of a robber baron who is not about to be auctioned off to an impoverished English nobleman. Cerise shares some of the fascinating history she discovered while researching for Wild Lily.

They come as a boon and a blessing to men:
Those American gals with dollars to spend.
Their daddies write checks
That right many wrecks.
But can their husbands love? We’ve no ken.

As American businessmen became extremely wealthy during the late 19th century, aristocrats in Europe who owned vast estates lost their wealth. Rich in land, deep in debt, many noblemen had little understanding or interest in new farming techniques. They had left management of their estates to others and dealt inefficiently with tenants, livestock, crops and decades of bad weather. To pay their debts and shore up their investments in their farms and their businesses, Europeans sought American investment. But they saw them as scoundrels and treated them with veiled disdain.

The American daughters of these “buccaneers” entered high society with the blessing of their rich parents. They hoped they’d snare a husband—and a title. But they paid for that opportunity, some with their father’s millions, others with their own happiness.

While the most famous of those women is Jenny Jerome who married the second son of the Duke of Marlborough (and became the mother of Winston Churchill), hundreds of others found their mates in many foreign countries.

House of Worth, #7 Rue De La Paix, Paris.

Most went to Paris first, as we see in WILD LILY. There, they spent months perfecting their manners and their French language. Many hired French “guides” as we see in the character of Madame la Comtesse de Chaumont. To look their finest, the American girls bought complete wardrobes from Frederick Worth and lingerie, hats, shoes and jewelry from renowned designers. Lily Hanniford’s father Killian spends $40,000 for her Worth wardrobe and an equal amount for Marianne, her cousin.

An American girl had to mind her manners, dress well and be charming. If she was also attractive, that was a boon to her success in society. But an American heiress’ most important asset was her dowry. Most had dowries that today translate to millions of dollars. Jenny Jerome’s dowry, though considered meager by her father-in-law, was 50,000 GBP. Today that sum equals approximately 3 million GBP.

Both her father and her father-in-law argued over the use of that money. Prior to the passage of the British Married Women’s Property Act of 1882, women had no rights to their husband’s property. Therefore, the Duke of Marlborough assumed that whatever dowry Jenny had would be given to her future husband. Leonard Jerome demanded any money he offered be controlled by his daughter.

After haggling over the money for weeks, Jenny’s father agreed to a flat sum of 50,000 pounds. He expected this would produce 2,000 pounds income each year with half of both capital and income going to the husband and half to the wife. This equaled approximately 150,000 pounds per year for the couple to live on. The fact that Jenny had control of her own money was an extraordinary concept in that day and age, one to which Marlborough objected heartily. His argument was that by marrying his son, Jenny would give up her American citizenship and become a British subject. Therefore, she should live as one. Fortunately for her, her father did not agree.

Grand Hall, Palais Garnier Opera House, Paris.

Soon, however, the families agreed on this amount. Jenny and Randolph were married but without the duke and duchess in attendance. Nor was the wedding at the Marlborough estate, or anywhere in England but in Paris at the Hotel Charost, the British Embassy. (The Hotel Charost was once Pauline Bonaparte’s house bought by the British Government for the Duke of Wellington after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. It is still the embassy today.)

Other American girls would fare better than Jenny Jerome. Her two sisters married happily. Dozens more married French, Polish, German and Russian noblemen with varying degrees of happiness. One American heiress, Nancy Astor, became a member of British Parliament. President John Kennedy’s sister married the heir to the duke of Devonshire.

Lady Randolph Spencer-Churchill, née Jennie Jerome, with her sons.

Many young women were very happily married. Others, like Gloria Vanderbilt, grew miserable. Belittled by their in-laws, lonely in their drafty castles, many women wished they had had a say in their futures.

In Those Notorious Americans I draw a picture of the young women who tried to comply with their parents’ wishes to see them marry well. I also portray a society realizing that money can buy anything…except love.

 

Pick up your copy of Wild Lily today!

 

 

 

Cerise DeLand loves to write about dashing heroes and the sassy women they adore. Whether she’s penning historical romances or contemporaries, she’s praised for her poetic elegance and accuracy of detail.

An award-winning author of more than 60 novels, she’s been published since 1990 by Pocket Books, St. Martin’s Press, Kensington and independent presses. Her books have been monthly selections of the Doubleday Book Club, Rhapsody Book Club and the Mystery Guild. Plus she’s won countless 4, 4.5 and 5 star rave reviews from Romantic Times, Affair de Coeur, Publishers Weekly and more.

To research, she’ll dive into the oldest texts and dustiest library shelves. She’ll also travel abroad, trusty notebook and pen in hand, to visit the chateaux and country homes she loves to people with her own imaginary characters.

And at home every day? She loves to cook, hates to dust, lives to travel and go to Jazz class once a week!

Find out more about Cerise, and her other novels, at her website.

 

Keep Calm and Read This: Caroline’s Censure by Zoe Burton

Keep Calm and Read This: Caroline’s Censure by Zoe Burton

It’s my pleasure to welcome Zoe Burton to the blog this week. She’s a devout Janeite who brings us a generous sneak peek into book three of her sweet Jane Austen Fan Fiction series, Darcy Marriage. The title alone will make me purchase this book!

One newly married couple plus one troublemaking best friend’s sister equals a challenge to face.

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have already dealt with plenty of people who object to their marriage. Now they are faced with one more.

Caroline Bingley, Darcy’s best friend’s sister, has always wanted Darcy for herself. Now that he is married and can no longer be hers, she resents the new Mrs. Darcy and will stop at nothing to cause discord between the newly-wedded couple. When she hires someone to make it appear that Darcy is unfaithful, will Elizabeth believe his claims of innocence, or will she turn away from him and live a life of mistrust and heartbreak?

Caroline’s Censure is the third book in Zoe Burton’s Darcy Marriage Series. If you like catty villains, devoted heroes, and sweet romance, you’ll love this Pride and Prejudice novella variation.

Chapter 1

Elizabeth Darcy’s wide eyes sought out her husband’s as they rose to greet the newest visitor to Netherfield Park. The Darcys were newly-married, and had spent the previous few weeks visiting the estate, which was being leased by Fitzwilliam Darcy’s friend, Charles Bingley. Bingley’s sister, Caroline, had just sauntered in, unexpectedly and with derogatory comments to her brother about the house.

Darcy returned his wife’s look with a roll of his eyes. While Elizabeth had never met Bingley’s sister, Darcy had been avoiding her since almost the moment they became acquainted. Her current unpleasantly dramatic entrance, typical behavior on her part, was the reason. That, and the fact that she quite obviously set her cap at him the first time she met him. He wondered why she was here now, given what he knew about her current circumstances. Darcy reached for Elizabeth’s hand, laying it on his arm and squeezing it. If it were not the height of rudeness, he would seat them both; they ought to be comfortable while they enjoyed what was certain to be a spectacular performance from Caroline Bingley.

“Caroline, what are you doing here? Why are you not in Yorkshire?”

“Can a sister not visit her brother? I read your letter describing Netherfield and knew I must see the place for myself.”

“With no warning? How do you know I have a room for you?” Bingley shook his head. “Seriously, Caroline, if this were your home and someone did that, you would be angry. In any event, we will have to discuss it later. Come, greet the Darcys.” He gestured to the group of chairs and couches clustered in the center of the room.

Caroline’s sharp eyes had not missed that her brother’s guests were his friend and his friend’s sister. The other two were unknown to her, but based on her mode of dress, one was probably Georgiana Darcy’s companion. The other, Caroline could not begin to speculate on, but she could not like the way the ugly little thing stood so close to Darcy. Surely that is not his new wife? Why, there is not a fine feature in her face! I will put a stop to that immediately.

“I see them standing there! Mr. Darcy,” Caroline cooed, approaching him with a gleam in her eye as her hands reached out to clasp his unoccupied arm. “It is so good to see you again.”

Disengaging his arm from Caroline’s clutches, Darcy returned her greeting. He turned toward Elizabeth, intending to introduce her to Bingley’s sister, when Caroline interrupted.

“And Miss Darcy! My, how you have grown since last I saw you! I am delighted you are here! We shall have a merry time together!”

Georgiana Darcy blushed at Caroline’s rudeness, and her fawning. She was not confident enough to say what she liked…that she doubted they would have a good time and she was eager to see Caroline’s face when Elizabeth was introduced…so she simply smiled and nodded. With luck, she will turn her embarrassing attention elsewhere. When it became obvious that Caroline was going to continue speaking instead of asking for introductions to the ladies in the room that she did not know, Georgiana gathered her courage and, blushing, blurted out, “May I introduce you to Mrs. Annesley? She is my companion; she came to me a few months ago.”

Not one to miss the opportunity to ingratiate herself with someone of higher standing, even if it meant acknowledging that person’s servant, Caroline fixed a smile on her face and greeted her newest acquaintance before turning her attention back to Darcy.

“Mr. Darcy,” she began as she settled herself into the nearest sofa. “Come, sit here; tell me how you have been.”

Darcy’s mien, always serious, took on a harsher cast as his anger grew at Caroline’s slight of his wife. He opened his mouth to speak but shut it again when his friend spoke to Caroline.

“I am amazed at your rudeness, Sister. You sit as though there is no one else in the room to whom you need an introduction.” Bingley stepped from his position in the center of the room to stand on the other side of Elizabeth from Darcy. His position was as symbolic as it was practical. He had been out from under his sister’s thumb for months and had found the time apart rather freeing. He had come to realize how often and thoroughly she had run his affairs while they lived in the same house; he did not wish to return to such a situation. He needed her to see that he was his own man, one who knew right from wrong and would act according to his own wishes. “Darcy attempted, when you spoke to him before, to introduce you to Mrs. Darcy. You will stand and allow him to do so.”

Her sour look indicated to all Miss Bingley’s feelings about her brother’s edict, yet rise she did. Silently, she allowed the object of her former—and, if one were honest—current desires to introduce his wife. His wife! Caroline seethed inside, even as she curtseyed and greeted Mrs. Darcy with a weak smile and lukewarm words.

Caroline Bingley was Charles’ youngest sister and the baby of the family. Indulged by her parents, she was unused to being denied what she wanted, and what she wanted, from the first time she laid eyes on him, was Fitzwilliam Darcy. The wealthy and handsome Darcy was everything Caroline ever desired in a husband and was her way to raise her family above their tradesman roots.

Caroline’s father had worked hard to make certain his children had the funds set aside that would allow them to rise above their status and into the world of the landed gentry. It was her mother, however, who impressed upon a young Caroline the importance of moving up in society. Mr. and Mrs. Bingley had passed several years ago, but Caroline could still hear her mother’s voice in her ear, drilling into her the expectations of her parents. Caroline had taken those admonitions to heart and, after Mrs. Bingley passed, vowed to marry as high as possible.

It was not that Caroline had ever loved Darcy. She did not believe in love. Love was for unambitious fools who were satisfied with remaining where they were instead of advancing. She was not a fool. What Caroline had loved was Darcy’s status, and his income. She had found him rather dull as a person; he was always serious and stern and hated the social whirl that she thrived on. She had not been worried about these differences, since she could have worked on him after they were married and changed his feelings about society, thus ensuring she would not have been denied the thing she loved the most.

Caroline had been within reach of her goal, she thought, until this past spring, when she was involved in a public altercation with the daughter of a viscount at one of the premier social events of the season. Now, she was back in the south of England, after spending months in Yorkshire with her sister, brother-in-law, and aunt. She had arrived at her brother’s estate a few minutes ago. She was not impressed. Her brother’s voice as he gestured for her to sit was full of irritation.

“What do you mean by calling Netherfield a hovel? This is a beautiful estate!”

“It sits out in the middle of nowhere, Charles. There is nothing here. Have you seen that crossroads they call a town nearby? I daresay there is nothing fashionable to be found, much less purchased.”

“Well, Sister, it is a ‘country estate.’ Surely you did not expect a large population.” Bingley did his best to rein in his anger at Caroline’s presumption. “Why are you not in Yorkshire with our aunt? And, what about your suitor?”

“My suitor,” Caroline sniffed. “I do not know what Mr. Meade is doing. I could do far better than the likes of him.” Her eyes strayed to Darcy, then to the woman sitting beside him, narrowing to slits as she surveyed the well-dressed nobody. Choking back a sudden flood of tears and knowing she needed time alone to think about things, she suddenly stood. “I should like to refresh myself. I shall see you at dinner. You do serve dinner at the usual hour?”

“I do, but Caroline, I do not want to hear that you have berated my staff if your rooms are not ready for your use. You came here uninvited and unannounced, and made more work for an already very busy household. It is not your place to disrupt things. I should tell you that I have asked Mrs. Darcy to be my hostess and to run my house while she is here. If you remain at Netherfield after the Darcys leave, you are free to take over, but until then, it is my wish for her to continue as she has.”

Caroline kept her face as blank as possible at this news, but inside, she was seething. It was an insult for her brother to choose to allow that woman to remain in control of his house when he had a female relative to take over. Not wishing to cause a scene by speaking her mind in front of everyone, Caroline contented herself with a small smile and a curtsey before walking away.

Chapter 2

Caroline paced her bedroom, back and forth from door to nightstand, over and over again. Never one to suffer fits of nerves, she felt today as though she might come apart at the seams. Her mind was full to overflowing with thoughts and feelings.

Caroline had never been so humiliated as she had been in the spring, when she lost her wits and had a physical altercation with Miss Lavinia Pittman. The contretemps began with some verbal sparring, but deteriorated rapidly, culminating in violence. Caroline shuddered at the thought. The memory was still distressing to her. She maintained, however, that she was not the one who started it, and that she was, and remained, the injured party. The fact was, Caroline had been the first to put her hands to use in the argument. Not that anyone who witnessed it could pinpoint it. The ladies were pulled apart soon enough, and both left the ball. Caroline had removed herself from London soon after, claiming she had become a laughingstock.

She did not know what came over her; the viscount’s daughter had been arrogant, but Caroline knew well how to defend herself from that sort of thing. It was not even that Miss Pittman described Darcy in such glowing and intimate terms. Caroline was used to other ladies speaking of him in such a fashion. What had sent Caroline over the edge of reason was the other woman’s comment that Caroline was too far beneath Darcy to ever receive his notice, or that of any of his friends. To Caroline, those words were akin to waving a red flag before a bull. Before she knew what she was about, she had a handful of Miss Pittman’s hair and a bloody nose. She took herself off to Yorkshire to spend time with her aunt.

My aunt. Caroline sighed. Aunt Augusta had insisted that, since Caroline had made a cake of herself over a gentleman who had not wanted her, it was time she married someone who did. She made the point that if her niece had shamed herself and her family, she would not be able to make a good match in London, anyway. Caroline had finally admitted, reluctantly, that her aunt was probably correct. She definitely did not wish to return to London anytime soon, anyway, and she could not live with relatives forever. So, Aunt Augusta took her around to every local dinner and ball she could wrangle an invitation to, introducing her to all the single gentlemen and wealthy tradesmen she could find. Then, she insisted that Caroline entertain them when they came to call. Though she whined and complained, her aunt would not give way, and Caroline entertained. In the end, the only gentleman she did not drive away was Mr. Meade.

Mr. Albert Meade was an estate owner, and almost as rich as Darcy. He was older than Darcy, but could not be considered an old man by any stretch of the imagination. He was, Caroline had to admit, a perfectly acceptable match. Except, he was not part of the ton. He did not go to London for the season, ever. He was old money, there was no denying. His property had been in the family for centuries, possibly longer than Pemberley had belonged to the Darcys. But, Mr. Meade chose not to participate in London society, the one thing Caroline craved above all others.

Mr. Meade had proposed recently. Feeling that she had no other real options, as she was not welcome to stay with her sister and brother-in-law, the Hursts, and was not invited to rejoin her brother’s household, Caroline accepted.

Two days later, she ran. Leaving the house in the middle of the night, she walked the mile to the nearest post stop, hauling herself up into the coach without assistance and settling in between an elderly woman carrying a chicken and the hard wall of the conveyance. After three days of nonstop travel, she finally found herself at her brother’s leased home in Hertfordshire in a guest room at the farthest corner of the house.

With nothing to do for half a week but sleep and think, Caroline spent much time in contemplation. She had not left a note behind. She had not thought to. Her entire focus had been on leaving.

Caroline could not say for certain why she left her aunt and her betrothed in such a rush. All she knew was that she felt inside as though she needed to go in order to release the tight feeling in her lungs and calm the pounding of her heart. An animal need to get away had clawed in her and only now could she breathe fully again. She spent much of her time holding back tears, willing herself to remain calm and in control. However, seeing who was here and how Charles intended to treat her, she half-wondered why she bothered.

Mrs. Darcy. Caroline could not get those words out of her head; had not since she first saw the piece in the newssheet. The weeks-old paper her aunt received had contained a notice of Darcy’s marriage, but Caroline had insisted it must have been printed in error. Though she had initially denied it to herself, Caroline had known immediately upon entering Netherfield’s drawing room which unknown woman was she—never before had she seen Darcy so solicitous of any female other than his sister. It was clear to anyone who had an eye for fashion that, while her clothing was made of superior fabrics and excellent in quality, it was rather plain. No self-respecting lady of high society would be caught dead wearing a gown that lacking in embellishments. Her poor taste combined with an astonishing lack of beauty both marked her as below Mr. Darcy’s notice, or so Caroline thought, and beneath Caroline herself. She knew Mrs. Darcy to be a Hertfordshire native from the newspaper report of the marriage. Therefore, Caroline had no compunction in thinking of her in a derogatory fashion, referring to her mentally as that country chit.

Though Caroline railed to herself about the marriage and the unfairness of life, she knew there was nothing to be done. Darcy was lost to her. Her deep disappointment and the resulting tears of anger and despair were not going to help her get him back. As her aunt had stated, upon hearing Caroline’s loud denials of the marriage, once married, only death could separate a couple. Her aunt had warned her to forget Darcy and move on.

Caroline could not do that. While she knew that the couple was married forever, Caroline was determined to make them as miserable as she was, and to cause Darcy to regret his choice. She would quietly observe, she decided, and find things to use to that end. When a small voice in Caroline’s head asked her why she would do such a thing to someone she had only just met, Caroline pushed it away. She did not have to have a reason; she wanted what she wanted, and that was that. She had not been denied anything as a child, and had not denied herself as an adult. I do it because I can.

~~~***~~~

Caroline descended the staircase again just before dinner was announced. Exactly as she had planned, she was quiet much of the time and observant always. When she spoke, it was to inquire of Mrs. Darcy as to her origins, education, accomplishments, and connections. Mental notes were made as to the lady’s comportment and habits. Though Elizabeth appeared on the surface to be perfectly acceptable, Caroline found plenty of ammunition to use to demean her. However, she would not start this night. There was no point in making her brother angry right away. She would continue to gather information and begin her attacks in a day or two.

For the rest of the party, a quiet Caroline was a relief. Though she was tolerated because she was Bingley’s sister, and most of his guests humored her in her desire to be the center of attention, the meal was far more enjoyable when she did not speak.

~~~***~~~

The following afternoon afforded Caroline the chance to meet Elizabeth’s father, and two of her sisters. It was immediately apparent that Charles was smitten with the eldest of the Bennets, Jane. It was equally obvious that the family was not as high as they should be for Darcy to have aligned himself with them. Cynically, Caroline wondered just how Elizabeth Darcy got her husband to propose. She attempted to draw the younger of the sisters, Mary, into conversation, in order to worm out of her information about the circumstances of the Bennet family. Unfortunately for Caroline, Miss Mary found her manner to be arrogant and her questions impertinent and intrusive, and soon stopped replying altogether.

Once the Bennets had made their farewells, Caroline, uncaring that she had an audience, began to interrogate her brother about Jane. Charles, though, was not having any of it, and before she knew it, had whisked her out of the drawing room and down the hall to his study.

Allowing his sister to enter first, then locking the door behind him, Charles did not wait for her to sit before he began to speak. “Caroline, I do not know why you have come to Netherfield, but I must warn you now that my business is my own and I am not required to share it with you. You cannot come to someone’s home, uninvited, and expect the running of the place and all its secrets to be handed to you.”

Bingley strode to his desk, picking up a letter that had come in the morning mail. “I received this from Aunt Augusta. She says that you accepted an offer of marriage, and then disappeared in the night without so much as a note telling her where you had gone. Why? Thankfully for you, my aunt was able to concoct a story to explain your disappearance, or your reputation would be ruined. Again I ask, why? Why would you risk so much to come to a place you obviously do not like?”

“If I have no right to know your business, then you have no right to know mine,” Caroline sniffed, raising her nose in the air and looking past her brother’s head.

“There is where you are wrong, Sister dear. I hold your purse strings. I can supplement your funds, and I can restrict them. And, your betrothed must come to me for permission to marry you, and to gain my approval for your marriage settlement. I have every right to know what is happening with you.”

Caroline paled, not appreciating the reminder of who controlled her money. She opened her mouth, then closed it again, pressing her lips together and flattening them into a thin line. She shrugged, turning her head away from her brother.

“What? You have nothing to say?”

Silence.

“I will ask you directly, then. Why are you here and not in Yorkshire with Mr. Meade?”

More silence.

“Sister, if you do not tell me, I will withhold your funds until the day of your marriage. As a matter of fact, I will withhold all moneys, and you will marry without wedding clothes.”

Turning a scorching glare on Charles, Caroline finally gave in, confessing, “I do not know why I am here. I saw the announcement of Mr. Darcy’s marriage in the papers the day Mr. Meade proposed. He had come to visit in the morning, and asked me to marry him; and then in the afternoon, I read the notice. All I could think about was that I had banished myself to the hinterlands and lost my chance at the wealthiest gentleman I know.”

“Darcy would never have married you. I have told you this, many times. Never, under any circumstances. Even had he been disposed to think you a good marriage partner, your altercation with Miss Pittman would have put the notion out of his head.”

Caroline felt a sudden onset of tears, but forcibly kept them at bay. Swallowing hard, she replied, “I know! There is no need to remind me. He is married and as good as dead to me, or at least, to my prospects.”

“I am glad to hear you say this. I need not fear, then, that you intend to try to separate them?”

“Once married, always married; is that not what Aunt Augusta says?”

“She does,” Bingley confirmed. “I am happy you have heard her.” Bingley’s stance softened, and his voice gentled. “I wish for you to be happy, Caroline. I am proud of you for giving Darcy up. Now you need to get back to your life, and that means going back to your aunt’s and preparing for your wedding.”

Caroline nodded. Though she acquiesced to him, she seethed inside. I may not be able to separate Darcy from his legally married wife, but I can make sure they are not happy.

Pick up your copy of Caroline’s Censure right now!

 

 

Books one and two of the Darcy Marriage series are also available by clicking the graphics below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoe Burton first fell in love with Jane Austen’s books in 2010, after seeing the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice on television. While making her purchases of Miss Austen’s novels, she discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction; soon after that she found websites full of JAFF. Her life has never been the same. She began writing her own stories when she ran out of new ones to read.

Zoe lives in a 107-year-old house in the snow-belt of Ohio with her two Boxers. She is a former Special Education Teacher, and has a passion for romance in general, Pride and Prejudice in particular, and NASCAR.

Zoe is a PAN member of the Romance Writers of America, the Northeast Ohio chapter of the RWA, and the Beau Monde chapter of the RWA. She also belongs to the Jane Austen Society of North America, and JASNA’s Ohio North Coast chapter.

Join Zoe’s mailing list here and connect socially with Zoe by clicking the graphics below!

 

 

 

 

And remember to always #ReadaRegency!

 

Keep Calm and Read This: The Reunion by Sara Portman

Keep Calm and Read This: The Reunion by Sara Portman

Sara Portman joins me this week to showcase her award-winning, debut novel. It was chosen a Top Pick by RT Book Reviews. They said, “Portman’s debut is smart, sharp and insightful, ushering readers into a detailed historical setting, and right into the middle of an emotional and utterly rewarding romance. Her heroine’s unwavering strength and refreshing self-confidence make her a perfect match for her wounded but headstrong hero…a must-read.”

An inconvenient engagement turns a marriage of convenience into so much more in this sparkling new series from award-winning author Sara Portman . . .

Lady Emmaline Shaw’s reputation was irreparably damaged when her fiancé, John Brantwood, disappeared immediately after their engagement four years ago. Since then, she’s grown from a shy, uncertain girl to a woman who knows her own mind. And what she knows is that London society holds nothing for her.

Rumor has it that John ran off to war and died in battle. Now, as the new Duke of Worley, his shocking resurrection throws the ton into a tizzy and makes him one of England’s most sought after bachelors—except that he’s already engaged.

John needs a wife capable of smoothing his beloved sister’s introduction into society. But though Emma happily grants him his freedom, her fiery beauty and resilient spirit hold him captive. In fact, John has no intention of letting her go. Her fate is now in his hands, but will her heart be safe there?

“Although…” John shifted closer and gently brushed his hand down her forearm. “It seems a shame not to marry when we’ve only just discovered what a compatible pair we will be.”

Emma looked up, her amber eyes bright with alarm. “The vicar is across the hall.”

He smiled wickedly. “I believe I may want to add a condition.”

He watched her flush deepen as possible conditions tumbled through her mind.

“But you already have a condition.” Her words were hasty and flustered. “You…you want me to help Charlotte.”

He shrugged. “Another condition, then.” He pressed even closer, using up the remaining inches between them.

When she lifted her amber eyes to his, he took her gaze and held it locked with his own, transmitting all the intensity he’d felt since she’d entered his home, and watched her flush from top to bottom. She’d been feeling the same attraction as he throughout their conversation, and, with his stare, he challenged her to admit it.

Her eyes widened, apprehension growing, until she did admit it. She didn’t say it, but for a brief, nearly imperceptible moment her gaze dipped to his mouth, betraying her thoughts.

He broke the moment with a triumphant smile.

“I’d like you to ask me.”

Her shoulders fell with an exasperated exhale of air. She glared. “You want me to ask you to marry me?”

He nodded. “Sweetly. With a kiss.”

“But the vicar is across the hall.”

“You’ve already said that.”

“It bears repeating.”

He laughed at the reprimand in her tone. She needed kissing—an excessive amount—and he rather looked forward to providing it.

“That is my condition.” He made the declaration firmly, but he softened it with a coaxing smile. “Come now, Emma. A chaste kiss shared by an affianced couple won’t scandalize the Betancourts or anyone else.” In truth, if the vicar understood what John would really like to do with his daughter’s dear friend, he should have charged across the hall with a pair of dueling pistols.

Emma swallowed. “Oh, very well.” She exhaled and clasped her hands in front of her before looking up at him. “Will you marry me, please?” She darted quickly forward to place a brief kiss in the air near the general location of his cheek.

He shook his head slowly back and forth as she looked defiantly up at him. “That was, frankly, weak in every respect. Surely you’re braver than that.”

Her eyes narrowed. “My Lord Duke,” she began with venom, “would you do me the very great honor of allowing me to become your wife?”

He waited but she failed to follow her words with action. He leaned in. “Now the kiss, dear.”

 

 

 

Additional Books in the Brides of Beadwell Series:

 

THE OFFER
available October 24, 2017

 

THE CHASE,
available November 21, 2017

 

Sara Portman is an award-winning author of historical romance. Her debut novel, THE REUNION, was named the 2015 winner in the Historical Category of the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest.

A daughter of the Midwest, Sara was born in Illinois, grew up in Michigan, and currently lives in Ohio. In addition to her writing endeavors, Sara is a wife and mother in a large, blended family.

When not reading or dreaming up romantic fiction, Sara works in corporate finance by day and holds a B.B.A. in Accounting from the University of Toledo. As part of her academic experience, Sara spent a semester in London, UK through a study abroad program at Richmond College. Her anglophile tendencies continue today.

Connect with Sara!

 

 

 

 

And remember to always #ReadaRegency!