A Book and Its Movie: Gone With the Wind

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I’m trying something new to bridge the gap between my Historical Romance books and upcoming Civil War Historical Fiction. I am teaming up with Laura Michaela Drone Banse and her Banse’s Book Club for a long-term read of Gone With the Wind, and an eventual movie night. Please come join the Facebook Group for discussion every Sunday.

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A Book and Its Movie: Gone With the Wind
August 21 – January 22

We will read and discuss Gone With the Wind, a chapter or two a week, with new discussions opening every Sunday, culminating in a Sunday afternoon viewing and discussion of the movie on January 22.

To order the book:
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A Quick Jump Across a Narrow Stream

November 19, 1820

While this newspaper always approaches purloined correspondence with suspicion, we wish to assure our loyal readers that this particular missive came into our possession directly from the hand of the recipient. The marchioness so named in her correspondence is at some pains to defend the reputation of her cousin, the Countess of H_____, in the matter of her husband’s death and the unfortunate involvement of the Duke of W_____. She claims the letter shows the late earl’s illnesses, which the countess blames for his untimely demise, were more extensive and long-lasting than has been widely known heretofore. We leave our readers to draw their own conclusions.


August 1819

To Charlotte Marloughe, Marchioness of Firthley
London, England

By the hand of Bella Clewes, Baroness Holsworthy
Aboard the Arabella, flagship of Seventh Sea Shipping

My Dearest Charlotte,

Can it really be fifteen years since we have seen each other? We are only days away from France now; if the winds remain in our favor, we will make landfall in less than a sennight (when I will post this letter). From Paris to London, after so many years of travelling, seems like naught but a quick jump across a narrow stream.

I cannot say how thrilled I am to be so close to the family I left behind in England, though was deeply distraught to hear of your father’s passing. Uncle Howard was the only man in my family to treat me with any respect or dignity, and I am heartbroken I will now never be able to tell him how much that has meant in my adulthood.

Royal-Regard-Cover-Art-Parts-08Lord Holsworthy and I will remain guests of King Louis and the Duke and Duchess d’Angoulême at the Tuileries Palace until they are satisfied with my husband’s report on their investments, and have decided on a course going forward. We hope His Majesty will add another ship to the fleet, as he is second only to the Prince Regent in the returns my husband has accomplished on his behalf. Knowing royalty as I now do, I expect we will either be in London within a fortnight, or I will not see you for another twelvemonth or longer. I know better than most, the whims of the nobility can never be predicted, and the higher the rank, the more capricious they become. (I shudder to think how fifteen years of marriage to a marquess has “improved upon” your youthful impetuosity.)

It is with great sadness and concern that I confess substantial fear for my husband’s wellbeing. His gout continues to progress, the chalkstones increasing in severity and frequency, leaving him feverish and, for days or weeks at a time, unable to perform the most basic shipboard tasks. Added to this constant worry, his lungs have been visited this past year by a chronic complaint, and he begins to suffer a mild loss of hearing, which he is loath to admit.

Bella Clewes, Lady Holsworthy (A Sweet Glance, Émile Vernon)

I hope to persuade Lord Holsworthy to remain in England upon our return, rather than the short sojourn he intends. His advancing years beg rest and comfort, not further travels that can never improve upon his lifetime of adventure. I am not certain I can change his mind, and I pray you ask your husband to quietly speak to any gentlemen at Court who might assist. In correspondence, His Royal Highness seems reluctant to take my part, if only because it will cut into his profits. Until he can see Lord Holsworthy’s decline for himself, I am afraid he will continue to ask too much of a man who has very nearly given his life for the Crown.

I anxiously await our reunion, and look forward, with great pleasure, to meeting my niece and new nephew.

Your loving sister,
Bella, Lady Holsworthy


Learn what happens to the Holsworthys when Charlotte and Bella are reunited in Royal Regard.Royal-Regard-cover-500x750

After fifteen years roaming the globe, the Countess of Huntleigh returns to England with her dying husband. She soon finds herself plagued by terrible troubles: a new title, estate, and sizable fortune; marked attentions from the marriage mart; the long-awaited reunion with her loving family; and a growing friendship with King George IV.

Settling into her new life, this shy-but-not-timid, not-so-young lady faces society’s censure, the Earl’s decline, false friends with wicked agendas, and the singular sufferings of a world-wise wallflower. Guided by her well-meaning husband, subject to interference by a meddlesome monarch, she must now choose the dastardly rogue who says he loves her, the charming French devil with a silver tongue, or the quiet country life she has traveled the world to find.

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Meet Charlotte and Bella as young women in ‘Tis Her Season, a Royal Regard prequel novella.

Charlotte Amberly would rather eat a lump of coal for Christmas dinner than marry the Marquess of Firthley, so when her parents cancel her London Season in favor of a rush to the altar, the feisty debutante takes husband-hunting into her own hands.

Alexander Marloughe, reluctant heir to a marquessate, would rather not spend his holiday dashing through the snow after a flibbertigibbet just out of the schoolroom, but no woman before Charlotte has ever led him such a merry chase.

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New Baroness Sails Away From Family Scandal

As only one of several avid news gatherers at the wedding of Viscount Effingale’s niece, Miss Isabella Smithson, to the Prince of Wales’ pet cit and latest baron, Holsworthy, of Seventh Sea Shipping, this reporter can nevertheless assure you this information is perfectly truthful, accurate, and directly from the source. You see, Readers, I myself am the source.

I sat in the same taproom—heavily veiled, of course—where the three gentlemen in question held their consultation. An invited guest to the wedding, along with the Prince of Wales and Princess Amelia and a sizable handful of lords and ladies who had traveled to Saltash on Seventh Sea’s new flagship to celebrate the wedding and the launch of the Prince’s latest enterprise, in which we are all now heavily invested.

Of course, the royals were not staying at the inn, but rather in the richly appointed quarters on the new ship, but the small village hostelry was packed to the rafters, more than half the bride’s family: the Viscount and Viscountess Effingale and their two sons, Hugh and Guy Amberly; the Marquess and Marchioness of Firthley, Charlotte and Alexander Marloughe; and the bride’s father, Sir Jasper Smithson, 2nd Baronet, and his two sons, John and Jeremy.

The baron stayed his last night as a bachelor at his parents’ cottage, a good walk away, which might have been a mistake, given what I overheard, late at night, on the eve of our latest diplomat’s departure. And not such a strange thing does it seem, now, that the bride’s father and brothers turned up the night before her nuptials, but did not appear for her wedding, for it was these three whom I overheard, discussing deeds of such infamy that I wrote to Bow Street before I wrote this column.

All I can say, Readers, is it is a very good thing Miss Smithson married money and a title and left the country when she did.


Sir Jasper Smithson, 2nd Baronet

Mr. John Smithson slipped to the back of the taproom, kicking his brother’s boot as he passed, to get Jeremy to pull his head off the table, hissing under his breath to pull the attention of his father, Sir Jasper Smithson, from the pot of ale before him.

“We must leave, and now.”

“Leave?” John’s father scoffed. “I haven’t yet spoken to the Prince of Wales about my tin mine.”

“If you speak to him of your tin mine, Father, we will all hang. We must all leave. Effingale and Firthley have been gathering evidence, and you can be sure Bella turned coat. Have you got Holsworthy’s money yet?”

“You know as well as I, we receive the money tomorrow afternoon at his solicitor’s office, after the wedding.” Jasper Smithson’s eyes narrowed. “What has she done?”

AchilleLemot-Autoportrait

Mr. John Smithson

“It will be a trap, Father. They are only waiting until Bella is gone before they take us, and I don’t doubt for a second that is the only reason for the invitation. I, for one, am leaving, with or without the two of you. I do not care to know what Bella might or might not have told them.”

Jeremy got to his feet, swaying a bit. John had fortified himself with gin for the last encounter with Bella, and now wished he hadn’t. In fact, he wished he hadn’t even come to Saltash. Jeremy had taken the same drinks, but in celebration of their good fortune, which wasn’t so very good anymore, and he didn’t have the good sense to realize he would be better off facing what was about to happen sober.

“We cannot stay in Evercreech on Effingale’s land, or the house in Bath, or anywhere else we might be expected to go.” John looked his father and brother both in the eyes to make certain they understood. “We have no money if Holsworthy withholds payment, and there is no reason for him to pay if he knows we will be in Newgate on the morrow. We can go to a big city and lose ourselves in the stews until we can make a plan. What we cannot do is stay here and attend Bella’s wedding and her departure.”

Jasper was suspiciously quiet for a normally bellicose man, accustomed to getting his own way.

Jeremy-Smithson-1stLordLyndhurst

Mr. Jeremy Smithson

“The bitch has given us up, to be sure, and I will find a way that she will pay, I promise you that, perhaps as soon as the morning. But you are right, John. We will hire horses, and you and your brother will ride to London tonight and seek out Smite. He owes me a favor and he can put you to work at his tables. We can travel together as far as Evercreech, and I will meet you in London once I have collected what I need from Brittlestep Manor. It won’t do to leave evidence lying about when there are men on the lookout for it, and it will behoove us to keep track of our insurance.”

Jeremy argued, “It is not a far piece off the same road to the baron’s estate, Father. Angel Bairstowe and her father’s land is better insurance than anything you have hidden.”

John shoved his brother in the shoulder. “You would drag her down with you? Have you not a hint of honor? Leave Miss Bairstowe alone and face the problem at hand. Father is right. Smite can give us work in the gaming hells until we gather enough money to flee to the Continent.” John opened, then closed, then opened his mouth, finally shrugging and saying, “Father, I know I cannot stop whatever you think to do to ruin my sister’s life, but you should leave Bella alone. She has done nothing you would not have done, if it came to your own preservation. She is your daughter. Wish her happy, and bear the consequences of your own actions.”

“Bah. You have no loyalty. And I shall take care of you still, ungrateful wretch, and keep your neck from a rope. I will take care of your sister, too, and hear no more about it. Gather your things, the both of you, and we shall make a stop at the Bairstowe holding on the way. I should like to at least talk to the girl’s father before I allow my heir to be taken in by her.”


Readers, it was at this point, the Smithson gentlemen took their leave—and I use the term “gentlemen” rather more loosely than I might have only days ago—and I took up my pen to contact Bow Street and make careful notes for a story I might write once the law was able to see to the matter. Less than a fortnight later, once the Holsworthy’s ship was well away from England, the news came that Jasper Smithson, 2nd Bt. died at his own hand and his sons had disappeared. Miss Bairstowe remains unmarried and, it is said, has retired to her family’s villa outside Bologne.

Separator

The events of this vignette happen between Chapters Ten and Eleven of Shipmate, now FREE at book retailers, and mentions characters and situations from all of the books in the Sailing Home series, by Mariana Gabrielle.

Shipmate Front Cover-04The heavy hands and sharp tongues of Bella Smithson’s family have left her almost too timid to converse with a gentleman, much less conduct a husband hunt. Unfortunately, her overbearing aunt and managing cousin are determined to help her escape her black-hearted father and brothers.

Thanks to the Prince of Wales, retiring shipping magnate Myron Clewes has an ever-growing fortune, a fresh-minted peerage, a brand-new flagship, and an impossible set of requirements for a bride. Not least, she must be willing to leave England and everything she knows, possibly for good, in less than two months’ time.

Bella’s Happy-Ever-After in Royal Regard had its origins in a Happier-Than-She-Expected with her first husband, Baron Holsworthy, who gave her the confidence to steady her sea legs, take her life by the helm, and command her own voice, empowering a shy, young girl and unlikely adventurer to grow into one of King George IV’s trusted advisors.

 

The Sailing Home Series

Royal-Regard-cover-500x750Book One: Royal Regard

When Bella Holsworthy returns to England after fifteen years roaming the globe with her husband, an elderly diplomat, she quickly finds herself in a place more perilous than any in her travels—the Court of King George IV. As the newly elevated Earl and Countess settle into an unfamiliar life in London, this shy, not-so-young lady faces wicked agendas, society’s censure, and the realities of a woman soon to be alone in England.

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Tis Her Season cover tempBook Two: ‘Tis Her Season: A Royal Regard Prequel Novella
(available only until March 31, 2016 in Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem; re-release May 8).

Charlotte Amberly returns a Christmas gift from her intended—the ring—then hares off to London to take husband-hunting into her own hands. Will she let herself be caught?

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Shipmate Front Cover-04Book Three: Shipmate: A Royal Regard Prequel Novella

(FREE at all major retailers)

For shy Bella Smithson, landing a husband seems laughable, so when shipping magnate Myron Clewes offers to buy her from her unfeeling family and take her to sea, she is obligated to accept his suit—and a long list of demands she might never be able to meet.

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Rose Renamed cover temp-03Book Four: A Rose Renamed
(coming Fall 2016)

Major John Smythe returns from Waterloo a broken man, determined to stay one step ahead of his former life, but when he meets Rose Allen, the sins of his past must be confronted, for without her, he has no hope for a future.

The Final Fouret

383px-Giovanni_Battista_Gaulli_-_Portrait_of_a_Man_-_Walters_371832

His hands shook as he heated the letter opener over the candle flame and slid it beneath the wax seal. Since the killing had begun in earnest, the Duke of Malbourne’s hands had been shaking more often than was seemly for a man of the nobility, but there was more reason today than most: this letter represented the last hope his one remaining family member was still alive.

Three sisters and their families had already been executed by Madame La Guillotine, twenty-five souls in all, including his newest nephews, twins, born to his third sister not even a half-year ago. He could not imagine an animal as bloodthirsty as the ill-bred, ungrateful, insolent serfs of France.

He had lost one blood relation after another until only his youngest sister was left, and then she was taken by the rabble. Not for a quick, clean, killing, but ransomed by mercenaries more interested in a share of noble wealth than fair-minded principles of equality. Even assuming her abductors hadn’t killed her within hours, any demand was more than the duke could pay, as he had been moving gold, silver, jewels, and valuables overland for several months, preparing to relocate his family and close retainers from France to England. When the letter came, he had only enough gold available for the journey. They would all be safely across the channel by now, living in relative luxury, if Marie had not defied his express command, and taken a walk in the garden.

 

Monseigneur,

I am inconsolable at the loss of your sister. I was not able to secure Mademoiselle Marie’s release. She is gone.

Further word on household activities by usual communiqué.

I am, as ever, your humble servant.

—M—

 

His hand fell to the desk like the letter weighed as much as a brick. He closed his eyes to stave off the rare tears forming. Marie. Le bébé, Marie. His youngest sister, not yet married, the sweetest and kindest of all. The last woman who had been under Adolphe Fouret’s protection, now that his wife was dead and buried these five nights past.

HalifaxGibbetAllenHe could not wait two more days for Michelle’s weekly missive from her husband’s house, the center of the revolutionary elements in Alsace. The other note he had opened this hour, from one Pierre Bouchard, another spy in different circumstances, had warned: Go now. Do not delay. Michelle’s intimate knowledge of the insurrection would do him no good if her bourgeois husband and his ilk dragged their rightful liege lord from the chateau in chains.

Goddamn Michelle! She was to have found a way to remove her former mistress from whatever peasant hovel the kidnappers had hidden her in. He had placed his inamorata, his family’s most faithful servant, in the nest of revolutionary vipers, and paid her well, to meet exactly such a need.

The plan had been to take a coach and collect Michelle on his way out of Alsace with Marie. She had been Marie’s lady’s maid since the age of fourteen, and the duke’s confidante since they were children, and would have retained both positions in exile. But if he looked on her face now, he might kill her outright. Better to leave his lover alive, to imagine he might one day mete out sufficient punishment for such a grand failure as this.

He would travel faster alone. And he had no more time to lose.

The last surviving member of la famille Fouret gave instructions to his few remaining loyal men-at-arms, ordered his horse and weaponry and provisions prepared, and walked, one final time, through the halls of the chateau built by the first noble Fouret in the seventh century.


To discover the fate of Monsieur le duc de Malbourne and his lover, read Royal Regard.

Royal-Regard-cover-500x750After fifteen years roaming the globe, the Countess of Huntleigh returns to England with her dying husband. She soon finds herself plagued by terrible troubles: a new title, estate, and sizable fortune; marked attentions from the marriage mart; the long-awaited reunion with her loving family; and a growing friendship with King George IV.

Settling into her new life, this shy-but-not-timid, not-so-young lady faces society’s censure, the Earl’s decline, false friends with wicked agendas, and the singular sufferings of a world-wise wallflower. Guided by her well-meaning husband, subject to interference by a meddlesome monarch, she must now choose the dastardly rogue who says he loves her, the charming French devil with a silver tongue, or the quiet country life she has traveled the world to find.

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Interrogation of a Paramour

Ferdinand_Tellgmann_Porträt_eines_Kupferstechers_Öl_auf_Leinwand

Source: Ferdinand Tellgman, Portrat eines Kupferstechers (retouched)

“It’s Newgate for sodomites, you know, but I got some questions first.”

“Of course.”

“Might be easier on you if you hadn’t been caught with a viscount in your bed.”

Solomon Peate rubs a hand across his face. Once before he had been caught, prancing about a molly house, but he had been cheap entertainment then, not the paid companion to a lord. The owner of the flash house who had rented him out had just paid off the Watch to look the other way. He certainly hadn’t been taken up by Bow Street, and the newspapers hadn’t followed him. Drew was going to hate him after this. Not to mention stop paying the bills.

“It wasn’t what you think.”

“No? What was it, then?”

WilliamCobbettPrison

Source: Crimes and Punishment Magazine, 1810

The man stares expectantly, not looking for an answer, but rather, the lack of one. Would that Solomon and Drew had established some sort of lie to cover this eventuality. Surely, this man hadn’t heard the rumors screaming through the ton, of the two men sharing the favors of The Black Goddess. He was only a functionary, after all.

“It was just… he needed a place to sleep. There is only one bed. I could hardly let a viscount sleep on the floor.”

“Mm hmm.” The man made a note in a file, the shifting of his beady eyes leaving Solomon feeling, if only for a moment, less pinned to the wall.

“Newry pay your rent, then?”

This was safe territory. Plenty of men were compensated with room and board. Sadly, in this case, it hadn’t been provided in Drew’s servant’s quarters, where a viscount’s title might have provided some measure of safety. Not that living in Drew’s town house in proximity to his staff would have been at all safe.

“He is my employer. I am his secretary. Part of my remuneration is the upkeep of my rooms.”

“In a building filled with nothing but mistresses to wealthy men.”

“I cannot be held responsible for the life choices of my neighbors.” Whether or not the on-dits had reached Bow Street, his options were running out. “In fact, my location is how he met his true mistress, who lives just across the hall from me. Kali Matai, La Déesse Noire? You might have heard of her.”

“Heard you and Newry are sharing her,” the man states baldly, rolling his eyes, “but I also hear that might be a front. Secretary, you say?”

“Yes.”

Another note. “Keep his accounts then?”

“Among other things.”

“It’s the other things that interest me.”

Solomon only just manages not to laugh at the implication; he must be slightly hysterical. None of this was a laughing matter, and suggesting the man would act as voyeur to two catamites was not at all the best idea.

“There are no other things of the type you insinuate. I manage his everyday business affairs. Estate matters and the like.”

“Mm hmm. How many estates does Newry own?”

The interrogator clearly knows, and Solomon hopes he has no specifics in his file, for what Solomon knows of Drew’s business affairs is limited to discussions he has overheard his protector having with other gentlemen, and the monies he spent to keep his companion in cravats.

“Three estates. Four houses, though, if one counts the one here in London. Or rather, three and a half. One burned last year, and is only now being rebuilt.”

Oh, he could tell this little roach of a man that Drew prefers weak tea and almost burnt toast, that he always wears silk shirts and owns one hundred twenty-two watch fobs and thirty-seven snuff boxes. Solomon could easily recall the placement of his birthmark and the exact size of his… thumbs. But the specific nature of the viscountcy’s investments? The cost of the servants’ wages? Problems on his tenant farms? Any of the details a good secretary would know? He hadn’t the least idea.

“Where are his properties?”

“Portslade, Whitney, and Swindon. And the town house on Curzon Street.”

The quill just kept scratching across the foolscap. Such a slight sound to be giving Solomon such a large megrim.

“Primary source of income?”

“Sheep. And mining.” At least those were the investments of which Drew spoke most frequently. “He has started a stud, but it isn’t turning a profit yet.”

666px-Newgate-prison-exercise-yard

Newgate Exercise Yard by Gustave Dore

For the first time, a lecherous grin crosses the man’s face. “Way I see it, started a stud in his own bedchamber. That’s enough, Peate. I can call you back after I’ve spoken to your… paramour. See how your stories hang together.” His laughter barks like a badly loaded musket. “Hang together. That’s funny.”

“He is not my paramour, and I sincerely doubt anyone will hang a viscount,” Solomon said, unsmiling. A viscount’s paramour, though, was another thing altogether.

“Mm hmm. Best warn you. Don’t much like gentlemen of the back door in Newgate.”

Solomon felt the blood draining from his face. He had thought nothing could be more injurious to body or soul than his former life—servicing any man with a guinea to keep his bed in a flash house—but even an hour or two imprisoned for this particular charge would be far worse. In Newgate, he wasn’t even worth a guinea.




Find out what happens to Solomon Peate in La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess.

LDN CoverSired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.


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Interrogation of a Lord

portrait-of-baron-schwiter-1827(1).jpg!Large

“I. Am. A. Viscount!”

Andrew Marsham, Lord Newry, had been shouting for at least a quarter-hour, since this… lackey from Bow Street appeared at the door. When told the viscount was Not At Home, the lout forced his way past the butler, calling out through the halls and opening doors like he had a right to be in the house. Eventually, he had found Drew in his study, making himself quietly drunk.

Red face perspiring, veins in his neck and forehead distended and twitching, the viscount insists, at a continued loud volume, “You cannot keep me here! You cannot lock me in my own house and treat me like a criminal!”

“You may as well sit, Newry.”

Lord Newry to you, Sirrah!”

“Call you anything I like, and if you’re lucky I won’t call you a molly.”

“This. Is. Preposterous!”

The man points with his quill to a chair and says, his voice a bit tired, having been awake since the small hours when he dragged Drew and Solomon from a shared bed, “Sit, Newry. This can get a lot worse for you. And it might be preposterous if I hadn’t seen you in bed with a man with my own eyes. Can you explain how you came to be there?”

The volume dropped as he stumbled a bit over his words. “We… we were both… bosky, and there was only one bed. I was hardly going to sleep on the floor, nor ask the room’s resident to vacate his own chamber.” Donning a viscount’s display of indignation, he added, “I cannot imagine why that would necessitate imprisonment.”

“If you had been clothed, I might be more inclined to believe you. The only reason you are here and not in Newgate is the gentleman speaking for you. Marquess of something-or-other. Outranks the earl who—”

“Marquess of what?” he demanded. “Who is speaking on my behalf? And to which earl are you reporting? I am a peer of the realm, Sir, and require you provide me the information without delay!”

“I cannot provide you information I do not have. God’s bollocks! Will you sit, man?”

WilliamCobbettPrison

Source: Crime and Punishment Magazine, 1810

Lord Newry splashes brandy into a glass and downs it quickly, as he has done twice already since the interrogation began. Pouring another, he finally lowers himself into a chair, worry beginning to take its toll. There was no chance he could ask about Solly’s whereabouts, but the thought of him sitting in Newgate, rotting away for who knows how long, is enough to make Drew cast up his accounts. Were he not a disciplined man, he might have done already.

Then, a thought occurs that turns his weak stomach into a strong knot. Solly will surely want nothing to do with him after this, no matter how much Drew pays as a quarterly stipend. He is already distrustful of the nobility, given his prior experiences with gentlemen seeking brief, anonymous paid entertainment with a desperate man, but never, in those encounters, had he been followed by the newspapers and tossed into Newgate. And, it must be said, Sol hadn’t been entirely dependent on them. He hadn’t been forced to trust them, which made this situation much worse.

Sol had no reason to stay; his pocket watch alone—the one Drew had had engraved—would keep him for a year.

Unfortunately, asking about Solly’s whereabouts or his condition was no way to convince this functionary of the innocence of their association. He hopes Sol is suffering only in pride, not person.

“So, you say he’s your secretary.”

“Because he is my secretary.”

“What kind of work does he do, then?”

Lord Newry’s nostrils flare. “The same sort of work as every other secretary in England. Estate matters, correspondence, appointments…”

“Can anyone verify that he’s responded to a letter or scheduled a meeting? Does his writing appear in your dairy?”

“His writing—?” Lord Newry stands again, pacing to the hearth, where he tosses a log into the fire. His observation was slightly less bellicose now: “This is preposterous!”

“Just answer the question, please.”

Drew was well aware Solly’s hand appeared nowhere in his diary, nor in his ledgers or correspondence or estate reports. Solly’s hand appeared nowhere but on Drew’s… well. It was critical this horrid little man not get his hooks into anything in the study or estate office. Especially not the more personal missives Drew would have burned, had they not so heated his blood.

“How am I to know to where he has written every note?”

The man looks up, eyeing Lord Newry with more interest now. “You don’t keep track of your own secretary? What if he should cheat you?”

“He has been in my employ almost three years. If he were going to cheat me, he would have done it and disappeared long before now. And I am hardly the only man in London who doesn’t stand over the shoulder of his man-of-business.”

Making a note in his book, eyes on the paper and ink, the man asks, “You pay his rent?”

If the man knew who paid the rent, it meant he might already have access to the account books. Drew was now unsure in what instances he could lie.

“As part of his remuneration, I pay the lease and maintenance of his rooms. He was in a sorry state when I found him, and it seemed the honorable thing to do. I could hardly have a man representing me in tattered clothes, living in a cheap room in Saffron Hill.”

“Most peers would have hired a man more suited to the position.”

“Most peers have no compassion for the downtrodden.”

“That is certainly true.” Shuffling through papers, the man asks, “The rooms you pay for… the building is owned by the same woman who owns the Masala Rajah whorehouse. Most of those apartments are rented out to the demimonde.” He laughs as he corrects himself, “The dark-skinned demimonde. Any reason you have your secretary housed in the same building as other men keep their mistresses?”

“I cannot be held responsible for what goes on in every building whose threshold I cross. The rooms were clean and inexpensive.”

My man just raises a brow. Perhaps inexpensive had been a bit too much of a falsehood. “Any truth to the rumor you are keeping the woman across the hall from him?” He checked a note. “Kali Matai? A dancer of some sort?”

Of course! Kali! How could he have forgotten Kali? “Miss Matai and I have… an arrangement.”

“What sort of arrangement?”

“Do you honestly believe me to have so little honor I would give you details of my relations with my mistress?”

The man shrugs and shuts the portfolio of papers before him and stands. Drew looks up, having expected the interrogation to last longer. He had been spinning lies in his head that might have lasted all week.

“You cannot leave the house, New—Lord Newry. There are guards posted. I will return if I have any further questions. Your friends hold more influence than I, and likely, at this moment, more than you. Perhaps they can keep it quiet and out of The Lords. Were I in your shoes, I would trust in them.”




Find out what happens to Lord Newry in La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess.

LDN CoverSired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.


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Old Scandal Comes Home to Roost—and Inherit

December 15, 1803

The last time the Earl of Herrendon’s voice was heard in the confines of England, the Watch was called to the London residence of the Marquess of Firthley, where it was feared the marquess would kill his firstborn son, rather than allow him to marry the woman of his choosing. That circumstance, however, is of ancient vintage, and who can remember back more than a quarter-century?

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Miss Lourdes Andreadis

Lucky for you, dear Readers, Madame Cancanier can.

During the 1775 Season, the featured soprano at the Royal Opera, Miss Lourdes Andreadis, was a dark-eyed, Grecian beauty who had traveled the Continent, performed for the Crowned Heads of Europe, and reportedly taken more than one royal son, in more than one principality, as lover. Inevitably, every British nobleman with the purse to finance a mistress wanted a contract, but she was not a woman for hire. No, she was heiress to a shipping fortune and had made her own money and fame. She chose her paramours for the enjoyment and had no need of a husband, even one with a title.

When the Earl of Herrendon, heir to the Marquess of Firthley, fell in love with her, no one thought there was any question of marriage. Not only was he only one of dozens of men offering her their sincere devotion (by way of worldly goods), but Preston Marloughe was a dutiful son, not given to fancies like love at first sight and midnight elopements. Older, wiser men than he had been ensorcelled by Miss Andreadis, however, and Herrendon was caught up like all the others. Before the end of the Season, they were publicly acknowledged lovers, and she announced she would retire.

JohnVanderlynPortraitOfTheArtist1800

Preston Marloughe, the former Earl of Herrendon

Speculation was rife she was increasing with his by-blow, but still, no hint of a marriage until one morning, in the small hours, the Watch was called to Belgrave Square by the screaming of the marquess’ housekeeper, who ran from the house, shouting about the master killing his only son. News of the earl’s marriage arrived back in London within a fortnight, and announcement of a birth no fewer than three years later, but the Earl of Herrendon was never seen in England again.

Until now.

Readers, I can confirm that the Earl of Herrendon has returned to English soil. The son of Firthley’s prodigal heir and his scandalous opera singer has taken up residence in Belgravia as heir presumptive to his grandfather, the Marquess of Firthley.

So, who is Alexander Marloughe, the new Earl of Herrendon? If the ladies of London are lucky, he is his father’s son, for anyone who remembers Preston Marloughe, does so fondly. He was a kind, funny, honorable young man, and this writer admits to shedding a tear on news of his death by fever some dozen years ago. The noblewomen of England were done a great disservice when Miss Andreadis took him out of the marriage mart, and no less a personage than Lady Sefton has said so.

But will the same be true for the son? For surely, the first order of business for this young bachelor must be securing a bride.

Gabrielle - TisHerSeason - AlexanderMarloughe - William_Thomas_Fry - William_Spence

Alexander Marloughe, the new Earl of Herrendon

He is handsome, it is reported, and a noted businessman in Greece, but after a lifetime in trade in Crete, raised to manage a shipping operation rather than take his seat in the Lords, one wonders if the new earl will have even a loose grasp of the social graces, to say nothing of understanding the social, political, and economic realities of our nation. It is sure he will have but a slim purse, as his mother’s fame and fortune have long since dimmed, his English property has been lying fallow since his father’s desertion, and his mother’s family’s fleet of ships has been requisitioned at gunpoint by Napoleon’s forces, presumably why he has chosen now to make his return and take possession of Herrendon (both the Hall and the courtesy title).

But does any of that matter at all?

Even were he a bricklayer, he will yet become Firthley and take a seat in the House of Lords upon his grandfather’s passing. The marquessate is wealthy and strategically significant, the current Lord Firthley is a hinge vote in his bloc in Parliament, and no one has the least notion of the character or temperament of England’s latest peer. The question uppermost must not be whether Alexander Marloughe will fit in with the beau monde—for his bloodline is irrefutable—but rather, how?

What kind of nobleman will he be, and perhaps more important (certainly more entertaining to contemplate), which of our noble daughters will redeem Preston Marloughe’s betrayal of his class and welcome Herrendon back home?

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Meet Alexander Marloughe, Earl of Herrendon, in ‘Tis Her Season, a Royal Regard prequel novella:

Charlotte Amberly returns a Christmas gift from her intended—the ring—then hares off to London to take husband-hunting into her own hands. Will she let herself be caught?


Tis Her Season_ A Royal Regard Prequel Novella - Mariana GabrielleAvailable FREE during the month of July at Smashwords, with Coupon Code SFREE.

Charlotte Amberly would rather eat a lump of coal for Christmas dinner than marry the Marquess of Firthley, so when her parents cancel her London Season in favor of a rush to the altar, the feisty debutante takes husband-hunting into her own hands.

Alexander Marloughe, reluctant heir to a marquessate, would rather not spend his holiday dashing through the snow after a flibbertigibbet just out of the schoolroom, but no woman before Charlotte has ever led him such a merry chase.

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Mariana Gabrielle

Mari Pic2Mariana Gabrielle is a pen name for Mari Christie, who is not romantic—at all. Therefore, her starry-eyed alter ego lives vicariously through characters who believe in their own happy-ever-afters. And believe they must, as Mariana loves her heroes and heroines, but truly dotes on her villains, and almost all of her characters’ hearts have been bruised, broken, and scarred long before they reach the pages of her books.

www.MarianaGabrielle.com


Ducal Heir Follows in his Rakish Father’s Footsteps

Gentle reader, today’s column concerns a personage no less august than Toad Northope, the Marquess of Abersham, heir to that regular denizen of our newspaper, the Duke of Wellbridge, and his esteemed duchess, Bella, former envoy for the Crown and majority owner of Seventh Sea Shipping, one of England’s largest such concerns.


portraitofalexanderboyd1845April 1838

Spotted, not two hours past in front of the British Museum: Toad Northope, Marquess of Abersham, now sixteen, in London during Eton term time. He was seen in close quarters with the daughter of the Duke of Haverford, Lady Sarah Grenford, who is still in the schoolroom, but has, seemingly, already caught this rogue’s eye. And not only his eye, as he was caressing her face and kissing the back of her neck while two oblivious chaperones overlooked the entire episode.

Will we yet see the joining of these noble houses? Perhaps sooner than later, lest young Abersham find himself on the wrong end of Haverford’s pistol. It might be counted a shame that such a young girl–barely fifteen herself–could be forced to wed a known rake over such a small incident, were the groom not heir to the immense wealth and privilege of the Wellbridge duchy. However, Haverford may yet wish to think twice about joining his daughter to Wellbridge’s spawn.

Upon investigation, it has become plain Abersham has been asked to leave Eton for such crimes as the Teatime Tattler is loath to print, though one wonders if the ducal name (and purse) will mitigate such a sentence. Certainly, few at Eton expect Toad Northope to remain persona non grata permanently. His father is a wealthy duke and intimate of the House of Hanover, and the girl not unwilling. In fact, to his credit, Abersham left her well seated to face the loss of her position and reputation. The girl herself is quite keen for the marquess to return to Berkshire; complaint was made to the administration by a member of her family who did not share the sentiment.

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Clearly, the Abersham apple falls not far from the Wellbridge tree, as anyone who knew the duke before his marriage can attest. The Wellbridges’ good friend, Haverford (Abersham’s godfather, in point of fact), may do well to recall his own ignoble past, and Wellbridge’s, and save his daughter’s virtue from a man who follows the example of their early histories. Young Abersham bids fair to exceed the rakish exploits of his legendary father and godfather. Those who remember their scandalous youth may beg leave to doubt the possibility, but this correspondent would remind those souls that the two dukes were considerably older than Abersham when banished from England by their own fathers (and the Prince of Wales). Given a decade, we submit, Toad Northope will put his father’s legend to rest.

Meanwhile, we are told the duke has made inquiries about entrance exams at Oxford, Trinity, and Cambridge. Perhaps a change of locale will solve the problem, but we caution His Grace that there are ladies strewn across England and the Continent, and anywhere else he might send the young marquess, and no shortage of ones willing to entertain a nobleman without benefit of clergy. It might be better to warn the boy of the dangers of the pox and the dignity due a noble title, admonish him not to follow his father’s poor example, and send him back to Eton to grow up.


Toad and Sal Wattpad Cover draft5Never Kiss a Toad, by Jude Knight and Mariana Gabrielle

David “Toad” Northope is heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and a rogue in the mold of his infamous father. Despite his reputation, he knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

(A Victorian romance continuing family stories begun in the various Regency romances of Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight.)

Never Kiss a Toad is serialized for free on Wattpad weekly, alternating between both authors’ accounts. To read the ongoing love story of Toad Northope and Lady Sarah Grenford, you can follow:

Mariana Gabrielle on Wattpad

Jude Knight on Wattpad

A Toadstone for the King

The latest peerage to be created by our beloved monarch is a Toad. Yes, my dears, you heard correctly. A Toad, or so says the King, and who is Madame Cancanier to gainsay such an esteemed prince? His Majesty has seen fit to bestow a barony on the infant son of none other than the Duke of W (once a regular source of scandal, but now—so we are told—reformed). A source close to the palace has given your faithful correspondent the true tale of the amphibious appellation our newest baron shall undoubtedly bear from this day forth. I trust he will be suitably grateful to His Majesty upon reaching his majority.


454px-Thérèse_Schwartze_012Prinny dandled his godson, the young Marquess of Abersham, on his knee with a bit more abandon than comfortable for the boy’s father, the Duke of Wellbridge. The duke’s hands seemed to try to hold the four-year-old boy aloft, even from across the card table. There was no chance of removing him from the king’s lap, however, as Prinny had won three rounds easily with his “Lucky Piece” at hand.

“Draw a card, Abersham, my boy,” the king said, offering the deck.

Davey took a card from the top and threw it on the table, face-down. A slight grin on the king’s face showed that his good-luck charm had proven effective once again, and the duke let out an almost imperceptible sigh of relief. If anyone knew the limits of royal regard, it was the Duke of Wellbridge, who had fought his way back into Prinny’s good graces only by the skin of his teeth. In part, because he was highly skilled at purposefully losing money to the king, a game made more difficult with his heir in the middle of things. He wished Davey’s sniffles had remained, so he would have had an excuse to keep the boy from his royal godfather’s presence. He wished he had gone along with the duchess’s suggestion that they remove to the countryside, rather than remaining in London.

Thankfully, once more, Prinny held winning cards. Wellbridge was another thousand guineas down, but he was in need of the magnanimous side of his sovereign’s nature. And it seemed he was on the right track. When Davey began wiggling and climbing on the king’s lap, he was indulged, even as he crawled halfway onto the table to grab at the royal plate of foodstuffs.

“Davey! That is not yours!” Nick snapped, but Prinny corrected the duke, not the child.

“Let him have it. I am not hungry.”

King George IV CoronationPrinny seated Davey on the edge of the table, and the boy grabbed handfuls of whatever was on the plate, but none of it found favor, and to his father’s horror, he threw it on the floor, where one of His Majesty’s pugs rid the world of excess mushroom tart. Rubbing his hand over his face, Nick said, “Truly, it is time for Master David to be in bed. To say nothing of his mother’s opinion of him being engaged in gambling.”

Prinny chuckled, “I do not envy you the sharp tongue of your wife, Wellbridge, through her sharp mind holds great appeal.”

“I cannot say I disagree with your assessment, Sire.”

Davey continued to throw mushroom tart at the dog, with the king offering up commentary on his aim, and the dog continued to make a meal of his master’s supper. Until, suddenly, it began choking, frothing at the mouth, and fell to its tiny knees.

At a glance, Nick swept around the table to pick up his son and shield him from the sight he had already seen and clean his hands and face of any trace of poison. Prinny sat staring in shock at the dog, dead not three minutes after eating from the king’s plate, while Nick tried to keep Davey from wiggling his way out of his father’s arms. With one word from Nick at the door, guards came in and removed Prinny and the dead animal, and began detaining everyone else currently in the castle. At the top of the list, the two gentlemen who had been closeted with His Majesty for two hours before the attempted poisoning: the Duke of Wellbridge and his heir.

It was the next morning, and many hours of questioning by men who should know better, before they were allowed to leave the palace. First, though, Wellbridge and his tired, cranky, frightened son were escorted to the king’s chambers, where Prinny made much of Davey, calling him, “my own toadstone,” feeding him from his tray, and casually giving him the Barony of Harburn, which included a manor house Prinny renamed Toadstone Hall, in recognition of the service Davey had unknowingly provided by virtue of poor manners.

His father’s courtesy title was rendered unnecessary, he now a peer in his own right, as well as heir to all of his father’s titles. But the whispers through Court didn’t now call him Harburn, but rather, they called the little boy “the king’s toadstone.” Within a week, Davey was called “The Toadstone” in his father’s presence; in a month, he was “Toad” to anyone who knew, or knew of, him. Within a half-year, it was obvious: he would remain “Toad Northope, Wellbridge’s boy,” the rest of his days.

His mother has sworn never to forgive His Majesty.


Meet the Duke and Duchess of Wellbridge, and read about their tense relationship with the monarch, in Royal Regard, by Mariana Gabrielle. Meet Toad Northope as a young man about town  in Never Kiss a Toad, by Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight, serialized for free on Wattpad.

Royal-Regard-cover-500x750After fifteen years roaming the globe, the Countess of Huntleigh returns to England with her dying husband. She soon finds herself plagued by terrible troubles: a new title, estate, and sizable fortune; marked attentions from the marriage mart; the long-awaited reunion with her loving family; and a growing friendship with King George IV.

Settling into her new life, this shy-but-not-timid, not-so-young lady faces society’s censure, the Earl’s decline, false friends with wicked agendas, and the singular sufferings of a world-wise wallflower. Guided by her well-meaning husband, subject to interference by a meddlesome monarch, she must now choose the dastardly rogue who says he loves her, the charming French devil with a silver tongue, or the quiet country life she has traveled the world to find.

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