New Historical Romance from Heather King

The Missing Duke

By Heather King

When his father dies, Lord Adam Bateman refuses to succeed to the dukedom which rightly belongs to his missing elder brother. Whilst performing secret and sensitive missions for the Duke of Wellington, he continues his efforts to find his twin. The search has become Adam’s all-consuming passion, leaving no time for affairs of the heart.

Miss Lucy Mercier is also seeking answers. Her father, a tailor, had been used to make hot air balloons for various noble patrons, including Lord Adam’s sire. Believing the deceased Duke of Wardley had been involved in her papa’s failure to return from the Continent, she takes employment in Lord Adam’s household in order to discover the truth. Then she accompanies him on an important commission for the Allied Army, and finds herself having to guard against a growing attraction for a man she knows she can never have.

Are the two disappearances connected and will two heads prove better than one in the pursuit of answers? Will Adam and Lucy find true happiness together or will the past – and their different stations – rise to keep them apart?


Adam urged his hired roan to greater efforts. It was game enough, a little French blood horse of sleek lines and clean limbs, but somewhat one-paced. If only he had his Goliath under him! With a bloodline that traced back to the fleetest racehorse of a generation, Flying Childers, his black stallion would have eaten up the miles with his effortless stride. There was no sense in repining, however. Goliath was safe back in Berkshire and his owner must make the best of what was available.

By the time Gilbert Mercier’s message had reached him at a coffee-house in the Palais Royal, where he had been conducting a further meeting with Mrs. Perkins, the escaped balloon was already flying at speed across the roofs of Paris. Adam was therefore well in advance of the pursuers who had set out from Mousseaux. Nevertheless, the velocity of the globe was so great, due to the swirling gale, mere horsepower was insufficient to keep up with it and the balloon had soon stretched the distance between them.

The roan started to flag, so Adam drew rein for a while and allowed the animal time to recover. Negotiating the narrow streets choked with vehicles and pedestrians had been exhausting and time consuming. He turned on to one of the perimeter boulevards and on reaching an open stretch, the roan’s heaving flanks having lessened, he pushed on again. Above the trees, the balloon was still visible, although considerably smaller, its’ bright colours easily remarked against the angry black sky behind it. Without conscious thought, he pulled the horse up and stared at the receding object of his attention. Was the basket hanging nearer to the forest than it had been? Shaking up the bridle, he took a track into the wood and galloped as fast as he dared.

The balloon was definitely sinking in the sky. Catching glimpses of it now and then between the branches of the canopy – fortunately far thinner than it would have been, but for the war – he saw several flares of orange flame as the aeronaut worked to raise his vessel. It appeared to be having little effect; although now some miles distant, the globe looked to be shrinking. Buffeted by the storm, it swayed and tilted in an alarming fashion, tossing the flimsy wicker boat from side to side. With difficulty, Adam forced himself to remain calm. Panic would not serve either him or the man and woman in the basket. Lucy! He raised his eyes to the broiling heavens and sent up a silent prayer for her not to be harmed. She was everything he had ever dreamed of… although when the recognition of that had come to him, he could not conjecture. She was beautiful; she was intelligent, determined and brave. She had entered into that foolish masquerade with no thought for her safety, and then had allowed him to autocratically oblige her to accompany Madame Grancini and the silver to Paris. How dangerous a position he had put her in. How wrong could it have gone? Thank the Good Lord he had inadvertently provided her with a chaperone! Praise was also due to Captain Ratcliff for the measures he had taken.

Adam took a huge breath and swallowed a mouthful of rainwater. Even within the shelter of the trees, the drops were getting heavier and heavier; a steady veil of rain of the kind which soaked in minutes. The roan’s pink-red hide was turning a red-brown patterned with white foam. Water trickled from Adam’s hat and down the back of his neck. He could barely see for the stream of precipitation driving into his face and had, perforce, to trust to his horse’s instincts.

The roan proved sure-footed and they at last emerged from the relative darkness of the wood. The damp smells of peat moss and sodden earth lingered in his nostrils and he had to blink for a few moments in order to see properly. It took several seconds to find the balloon from this different perspective, and his heart plummeted to the base of his chest. The joyful red and yellow silk stripes had collapsed inwards and the craft was fast descending on the other side of the river.

Almost frantic now, he set spurs to his horse and charged along the road to find a bridge. To his relief, the aeronaut had managed to nurse his vessel to the other side of the Seine’s broad expanse, so at least they would not drown. A wry smile teased his cold lips. He would wring Lucy’s lovely neck for this start… and then kiss her into oblivion. Then, when she fully comprehended how many times he had died on this ride, he would pink both Gilbert and the balloonist on the end of his small-sword for allowing her into the machine in the first place. The time of waiting for her to trust him enough to confide in him was well and truly past.

Further ruminations were abruptly curtailed by the sight of the balloon jerking and leaping in violent parody of a mummer’s dance, before it dropped like the Prussian artillery which had cannonaded the distant palace of Saint-Cloud. Adam leaned forward over the roan’s neck and demanded another burst of effort. The little horse complied with a will and they clattered at full-pelt across a wide, many-arched wooden bridge. The balloon had come down in farmland to the north of the town and the sculptured, terraced gardens of the great château. Turning his back on this splendour without a second thought, Adam careered recklessly down the road bordering the river.

Dodging a cart laden with baskets of squawking poultry, and a peasant straddling a bare-backed nag reminiscent of Rosinante, Adam clapped heels to the roan’s sides and pressed on. The horse being too tired to jump a hedge, Adam was forced to waste precious minutes searching for a gate. By the time he reached the stricken craft in the corner of a field of barley, therefore, Lucy was already sitting on the inverted basket, one hand nursing her temple. The aeronaut was on his hands and knees, attempting to gather up the acres of sodden silk.

“Lucy! I mean, Mademoiselle, are you harmed?”

Her head shot up; her eyes were wide with shock. “Sir—? Lord Adam! How do you come to be—? You know who I am?”

He dismounted and ran to her side, drawing her up to face him. “Foolish girl, of course I know who you are.” Anxiously, he studied her. “Are you harmed?”

“Nothing of moment, my lord,” she answered. She lifted her hand towards her head. “’Tis no more than a graze, I am sure, though I will admit the place is tender. I will not consider it; I am fortunate to have escaped greater injury.”

“Indeed you are!” he said gruffly, to hide his emotion. “I have it in mind to throttle you for indulging in such sport. Whatever possessed you? And you, sir!” he called to the other man. “I should call you out for permitting her to join you in such a perilous enterprise.”

“It was an accident, my lord,” she protested, clutching the sleeve of his waterlogged coat. He could not tell whether she intended to hold him back or support herself.

The balloonist turned around… and Adam died yet another death.

About the author

A confessed romantic and bookworm, Heather King has always made up stories. Discovering Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels began a lifelong love of the era, although she enjoys well-written books from other times too. Heather’s stories are traditional romps – light-hearted and witty, with bags of emotion. You walk with her characters through the world they inhabit. She also writes Paranormal Shape Shifter romance.

Visiting her Dark Side as Vandalia Black, she wrote Vampires Don’t Drink Coffee and Other Stories which includes a novella set during the English Civil War.

When not looking after her two hairy ponies, three cats and boisterous Staffie X, or frowning over keypad or notebook, she likes nothing better than taking long walks and curling up with a good book.




New Historical Fiction from Jude Knight

A Raging Madness

By Jude Knight


Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him. 

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.


17973986_803367466479488_289686069_n17976696_803367609812807_756542353_oAlex poured the coffee, his rinsed shaving mug doing service for Jonno’s portion. Ella sat and sipped while Jonno cleared the table and pushed the serving trolley out of the way. At Alex’s gesture, he sat on the stool again.

“Now, Lady Melville. What trouble are you in, and how can we help?” And should he believe a word she said? She did not act like a lunatic, apart from appearing half-naked in his room in the middle of the night. Apart from the panicked response to her brother-in-law.

That she had taken opium in some form was beyond a doubt. The contracted pupils, the loss of appetite, the shaky hand, the restless shifting in her seat, all spoke to that. Thanks to his injury, Alex had far too close and personal an experience of the symptoms to mistake them. The bruises on her jaw hinted that the drug taking might not have been voluntary, but perhaps her keepers needed to drug her to keep her calm.

Sane or not, Alex hoped he would not need to hand her back to Braxton. Her fear might be irrational, but when she had stood at bay, begging for his help, he had been thrown back ten years. Not that she begged him then. But he left camp on a short trip for supplies, and returned to find Ella married and much changed, her fire banked; her joy extinguished. That time, he had ignored her plight, hardened his heart and left her to the fate she had engineered. And had suffered with her as the consequences quenched her vitality and sucked away the last of her childhood. Suffered, and been powerless to help.

“I have been drugged,” Ella said baldly. “Twice a day. For weeks now. They won’t tell me why. If I refuse, they force me.”

“‘They’ being Braxton and his wife?” Alex prompted.

“And Constance’s dresser.”

“Go on.” He was careful to show no disbelief, no surprise.

“I have been kept in my room. They locked the door. They took all my clothes, my shoes. I saw you out the window and so I came. Will you help me, Alex?”

“I can take you to the rector.” Even as he said it he remembered the plump little man greasing at Braxton’s elbow. Ella would find no help there.

“No!” Her rejection was instant and panicked. “He will give me back and they will send me to that place. No, Alex. You do not know what they plan for me.” She was weeping. Alex had seen her calm under cannon fire, dry-eyed at her father’s funeral, efficient and unemotional in the midst of the carnage of a hospital tent after a battle. He had never seen her weep.

He captured her hands, and kept his voice low and soothing. “I do not, Ella. Tell me.”

About the author

10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJude 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.



Historical Fiction Book Tour: The Yankee Years

The Yankee Years Books 1-3

By Dianne Ascroft


After the Allied troops arrived in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland during the Second World War, life in the quiet, rural county would never be the same again.

The Shadow Ally

June 1941: When Ruth Corey finds a letter her journalist beau, Harry Coalter, has written, revealing details of the secret construction of an American flying-boat base, she fears it could destroy America’s neutrality and land him in serious trouble. The letter must not be posted. She enlists the help of attractive Italian-American civilian contractor Frank Long to help her stop Harry. Can Ruth safeguard this military secret and protect her beau?

Acts of Sabotage

December 1941: After the attack on Pearl Harbour, the new American flying-boat base must be ready when the first US troops arrive on Northern Ireland’s shores. But, despite Frank’s best efforts, religious conflict within the workforce and thefts on the construction site threaten to scupper the project. Frank confides his worries to Ruth and the pair devise a plan to catch the thieves. Can they stop these acts of sabotage and then what does the future hold for them?

Keeping Her Pledge

June 1942: Pearl Grainger’s life is much more exciting since the Allied troops arrived but she is unprepared for the harsh reality of war, and her RCAF boyfriend is determined to protect her from it. Can Pearl keep her pledge to do her bit for the war effort without losing the man she loves?

Links for Purchase
Amazon US
Amazon UK

About the author

da-bio-picDianne Ascroft writes historical and contemporary fiction, often with an Irish connection. Her series The Yankee Years is a collection of Short Reads and novels set in World War II Northern Ireland. After the Allied troops arrived in this outlying part of Great Britain, life there would never be the same again. The series brings those heady, fleeting years to life again, in thrilling and romantic tales of the era.Her other writing includes a ghost tale inspired by the famous Coonian ghost, An Unbidden Visitor; a short story collection, Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves, and an historical novel, Hitler and Mars Bars.



Historical Fiction Book Tour: Sedahlia



Cynthia D Toliver

After fleeing post-Civil War Georgia, John Masters, Sr., his wife Virginia Masters, and their rebellious servant Jessie Lindsey have built new lives in Texas ranch country.  Now their offspring, Johnny Masters and Rachel Lindsey, are in love.  On the isolated, sprawling Sedahlia ranch, their youthful dalliances are largely overlooked until Rachel becomes pregnant, forcing Rachel to leave Texas for a freedman’s school in Georgia.

From the insulated Sedahlia ranch to the Jim Crow south, the rails both separate and unite – parting lovers, reuniting family, pushing out the old, bringing in the new.  It is in these settings that the Masters and Lindseys live and love, and their personal needs and mores clash with society.  The repercussions rumble through this family and the surrounding community, tearing them asunder and bringing them together as only love and tragedy will.

Links for Purchase 

About the author

Cynthia D. Toliver is a 1980 graduate of Rice University and a native Texan. She has enjoyed a varied career as an engineer, environmental consultant, educator and author. Sedahlia is her second novel and third book. She has two previously published works, Crown’s Jewel, a historical novel and Come See a Man, an inspirational book. She also hosts a Christian blog, Back to Eden at
Follow Ms. Toliver at


My inspirations come from multiple sources. Sometimes it is a word or title. Other times it may be a thought, observation or dream. From that seed, I will develop my characters and write an outline. The seed for Sedahlia was a dream about disparate lovers. Their story sprouted and grew to the family saga it is today.
I love the creative process, from beginning to end. My books are very much character driven. As a writer, I become invested in the characters and their stories. If I’ve crafted them well, my readers will do the same.
Other Links
Author website
Christian blog, Back to Eden
twitter @ctoliver58



Historical Fiction Book Tour: Before the Darkness

Before The Darkness
Annette Creswell
In pre-World War Two London, Penny works as a maternity nurse at the Royal Women’s Hospital. Happy in her work and with two really good friends and several doctor suitors, little does she realise how her life will be changed by a chance lunch-time encounter. Who is the ruggedly handsome man who helps her? And how will their lives entwine as the war clouds gather?

Book Extract

Read by Emma Calin

Links For Purchase

Amazon US

Amazon UK

About the author
Annette Creswell is the author of Before The Darkness, published 2015. Creswell loves to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Another Cross-Book Vignette from Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem

As part of the blog tour for Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, the holiday box set by the Bluestocking Belles, characters from the novellas will be meeting up outside the covers of the book, appearing on Belles’ blogs throughout the month of October.

[This is Part One of a cross-book blog post. For Part Two, go to Sherry Ewing’s blog at:]

Comment to win a print copy of The Bluestocking Belles’ Guide to a Good Time (random drawing): After reading this vignette, what do you think would happen if Guy and Sophie inhabited the same book?

At a holiday house party, there are always those young people too old for the nursery party (or so they say), but too young to participate in the dancing. At one such occasion, Sophie Templeton, from Under the Mistletoe, a fanciful child who likes to chase butterflies and kiss frogs, hoping one will turn into a handsome prince, meets up with Hugh and Guy Amberly, younger brothers to the heroine of ‘Tis Her Season. The thing about young people of this age, however, is that they are but a few years away from seeking matches of their own. One never knows if a childhood friendship might blossom into romance…

1820-januarySophie Templeton sits on a log beneath a tree watching her puppy, Tulip, frolicking in the snow. The pup gives her a bark, as if asking Sophie to join her, before diving into a snowbank. The puppy begins tunneling her way across the ground, then pokes her head up—a golden-haired snow dog with her tongue hanging out. Sophie gives into the impulse and plops down next to her dog, who begins licking her cheek. There’s nothing better than being outside in the snow, and Sophie begins creating her own snow angel, waving her arms and legs back and forth with a girlish giggle.

A young man appears on the track between the trees, ice skates slung over his shoulder, the puppy suspended by the scruff of his neck. “Is this your dog, Madam?”

Another boy sticks his head out from behind the young man’s shoulder. “Capital pup you have! Chewed a hole through Hugh’s saddlebag and ate everything before we even saw him, then led us a merry chase to get the bag back.” The boy holds up a leather sack, torn to shreds. “Smart dog, that’s certain.”


Sophie Templeton, age 13.

Sophie sees her poor puppy suspended in the air, struggling for her freedom.

“Tulip does not like to be manhandled. Surely you must be speaking of some other misbehaving dog. Please put her down!” She stomps her foot to make her point. It has little effect on the young man holding her beloved Tulip.

Hugh holds the dog out, “A girl dog. No wonder it is a pest.”

“What a mean boy you are!”

Sophie gazes at the other boy, who is attempting to hide his laughter. She motions to the youth still holding Tulip. “Is he always like this?”

Guy rolls his eyes and laughs, “He ‘will be the viscount someday.’ Takes himself seriously, this one.” He grabs the dog and hands it back to its owner. “Guy Amberly. This is my brother, Hugh. We are visiting at the manor house with our parents.” He holds up a pair of skates that has been dangling from his shoulder. “We were going to go skating, but haven’t come across the pond. Are you from near here? Can you point us in the right direction?”

Guy and Hugh Amberly, Ages 12 and 14 - George_and_John_Soane_Jr_Owen

(L to R) Guy and Hugh Amberly, ages 12 and 14, respectively.

Grouchy though he is at the pup having eaten the luncheon in his saddlebags, Hugh is not so mean as to kick the obnoxious dog scampering about, trying to chew on his boot and jump up to bite his fingertips, and manages to get in some petting of its head, as it bounces around. “Who names a dog after a flower? Poor thing will be demoralized all her days.”

“Can she track? Will she be a hunting dog?” Guy asks.

With a sudden start, Hugh draws himself up to full height—not very tall at all. “We had better go, Brother, before this young lady gets designs on me. One cannot be too careful when one is safeguarding a peerage. I’d hate to be compromised and forced to marry someone I’ve hardly met.”

Guy shoves his brother. “You pompous prat. No one wants you to marry their daughter.”

Sophie laughs, gives Tulip a hug, and then sets the pup back down. The dog begins to prance around Guy, before sitting down and barking at her rescuer. “Thank you for returning my dog. I am sorry about your lunch but I am certainly not looking to marry either of you.” Sophie continues to plaster a smile on her face. Hugh would certainly run as fast as his feet would carry him if he learned her father was a vicar!

“My sister and I are also guests at the manor. The pond is out past the garden area, and I know they also have sledding planned. I can show you where it is, unless you are afraid I might be trying to get a parson to wed us.” She laughs again and raises her brow at Hugh… as if she would wish to marry an arrogant boy like him.

“Will you come along to the pond with us, then?” Guy asks, blushing a bit and keeping his face turned away from his brother.

At least the younger boy seems a pleasant sort of chap. “If you do not mind a girl tagging along, it sounds like fun. I am Sophie Templeton, by the way,” she proclaims with a smile. “I have my skates up at the house, and I am certain the cook will be able to provide a lunch, to make up for Tulip’s bad manners.”

Hugh looks down his long nose. “It does seem unwise for a little girl to be roaming about unaccompanied. I will take you under my protection, and under the protection of the viscountcy—temporarily.”

Guy puffs out his chest and steps in front of Miss Templeton. “I will accompany the young lady, Hugh, not you.” He waves his hands at Hugh, trying to chivvy him away, with no success.

“My, my,” Hugh says, smirking.

“He isn’t even a viscount,” Guy grumbles. “Only a courtesy baron.”

“While you have no title at all, Brother.”

Guy gallantly holds out his elbow for Sophie. “To the kitchens, then? And skating?”

Sophie reaches out to accept Guy’s arm. No boy had ever asked to escort her anywhere, let alone claim he would take her under his protection, no matter that it was temporary. She smiles at Guy, while her cheeks begin to flush. “Thank you for your gallant offer.”

Trying to think of something witty to say, she asks, “Are you a good skater?” as they begin making their way to the manor. “My sister, Margaret, taught me how to skate, although she has not had much time for doing anything fun of late. Too busy helping with all the holiday preparations. She likes to help out wherever she can. Do you have any other brothers or sisters that are here with you? I always wanted another sibling but it is just me and Margaret.” Sophie realizes she is rambling about nothing that would interest two boys older than herself. She blushes again in embarrassment.

“We are here with our parents, the Viscount and Viscountess Effingale, and our sister, Charlotte,” Guy says, “She is older, and will be betrothed soon, so she has no time for games, either. But she isn’t much fun, anyway. Bossy sort.”

“I believe Margaret shares much the same disposition. My father has been meeting with would-be suitors for her. She is not happy, but do not tell her I told you, if you happen to meet her during your stay.”

“At last!” Hugh proclaims, when they arrive at the kitchen. “I am starving.”

Meet Sophie Templeton in Under the Mistletoe, by Sherry Ewing, and Hugh and Guy Amberly in ’Tis Her Season, by Mariana Gabrielle, both available in:

Box-Set-3D-Square-WebMistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem: A Bluestocking Belles Collection
In this collection of novellas, the Bluestocking Belles bring you seven runaway Regency brides resisting and romancing their holiday heroes under the mistletoe. Whether scampering away or dashing toward their destinies, avoiding a rogue or chasing after a scoundrel, these ladies and their gentlemen leave miles of mayhem behind them on the slippery road to a happy-ever-after.

***All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.***

Pre-order for November 1 delivery
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  iTunes Kobo  |  Goodreads Reviews

November 1, 4-9 pm EDT

This blog post co-written by:

Mariana Gabrielle

MarianaGabrielleMariana 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.

Sherry Ewing

 SherrySherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time.

Bluestocking Belles logo-02The Bluestocking Belles Online:
— Website and home of the Teatime Tattler:
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest: BellesInBlue
— The Bluestocking Bookshop online storytelling game

Support the Bluestocking Belles’ fundraising campaign for the Malala Fund:


Win a made-to-order historical romance!

Halloween Hop BannerAs part of the Halloween Facebook Book Hop, I’m giving one lucky winner a made-to-order historical romance!

Here’s how it works: You give me a trope (a common story line or theme, like marriage of convenience or hidden bastard child) and three story elements (characters, settings, or objects), and within a month, I will write you a short story of 2000-5000 words, design a cover, and have it bound and printed at CreateSpace.

The Rules: I write the story any way I like, as long as it includes the three choices and my interpretation of the trope. I retain copyright (and can use the story later either as it is or amended), but you get a printed copy from CreateSpace and I won’t use the story anywhere else until you have had it for at least one calendar month. (Actual delivery time will depend on CreateSpace.)

All you have to do to enter to win is subscribe to my newsletter at Once you do that, you can unlock additional entries by visiting my other social media links. My prize will be announced October 31.To start, go to the Rafflecopter.

If you’re new to the Halloween Book Hop you can start at the event page and hop to all of the 130 authors giving out treats and tricks. Happy Halloween!

A Cross-Book Vignette from Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem

As part of the blog tour for Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, the holiday box set by the Bluestocking Belles, characters from the novellas will be meeting up outside the covers of the book, appearing on Belles’ blogs throughout the month of October.

To see the scene from the opposing point of view, go to Caroline Warfield’s blog.

Comment to win a print copy of The Bluestocking Belles’ Guide to a Good Time (random drawing): After reading this vignette, what do you think would happen if Jeremy and Sylvia inhabited the same book?

Jeremy Smithson - 1stLordLyndhurstJeremy Smithson, of ‘Tis Her Season, is at loose—if a bit desperate—ends. He has been twice thwarted in his honorable pursuit of a lady. The first incident was an unrequited love match, and does not bear description, but in truth, there had never been a serious chance of the second: marrying his cousin, Charlotte Amberly, to lay hands on the money left to her by her father’s mother. If Jeremy’s father had been serious about that prospect, he should have cultivated Charlotte’s father as an ally years ago, not let Aunt Minerva stir up trouble for the Smithsons with her viscount husband.

Two decades ago, his aunt, the daughter of a new baronet, married far above herself to become Viscountess Effingale; now, the viscountess’ daughter will become a marchioness. Jeremy would give anything for a decent scheme to ensure Charlotte became a baronetess, instead, but as yet, there is as much chance of that as finding money in his pocket the next time he looks.

What he does have is a fresh horse and a stack of IOUs in the name of the dead Duke of Murnane (from Caroline Warfield’s A Dangerous Nativity), who has left a widow, a young son, and—hopefully—enough money to make good his vowels. The man’s solicitor refers Jeremy to an executor and steward at the country estate, which is, as it happens, on the road to a house party where he will find enough games of chance to tide him over until the Little Season. But he has barely the cost of coach fare, much less the more stylish transport required to spend a fortnight with a wealthy baron one knew from White’s. He will make a stop in Wheatton, pay a call at Eversham Hall. If things go in his favor, the executor will open a strongbox, count out five hundred guineas, and Jeremy will be on his way. If worse comes to worst, there are always baubles in houses that size that can be pocketed and sold.

11988372_10153567034265833_8915374228152316645_n“Your Grace,” Mr. Smithson says, looking over his shoulder to nod his thanks to the butler, who has been more than accommodating, in return for a small consideration. He bows elegantly over the hand of the woman he has come upon, who could only be the widow, in bombazine from head to toe.

“I am all but a broken man, hearing of your recent bereavement, and came with all due haste to pay my respects to you and, of course, Murnane’s heir. The late duke was a fine man who will be missed greatly.”

The duchess blinks rapidly and seems to shudder at the very sight of him, looking around as if expecting a ghost. Her hand scrabbles at her skirt as her eyes roam the room. “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name,” she says at last, a quiver in her voice.

“Smithson, Your Grace. Jeremy Smithson. And entirely your servant.”

She seems confused by his presence, but not enough so to question him, nor sound an alarm. She only grimaces in the time-honored style of a political wife. She is well trained. “I am honored, Mr. Smithson.”

Jeremy peers around the room. The appointments are not lavish, nor cheap. He would not even have to sell a few of the widow’s accouterments in this room to clear the debt he was owed. But she was still young, and not unattractive. And biddable, if the duke’s drunken ramblings were to be believed. There might be more opportunity on the table than the price of a silver hairbrush and the ear bobs lying out on the sideboard.

Laudanum_poison_100ml_flasche Following the direction of her eye, he spies a bottle on a nearby table. “May I be of service?” He picks up the bottle and brings it to her. “I hope I do not find you ill, Your Grace. Your late husband would think me no kind of gentleman, were I to allow you to languish in misery. Have you had a physician?”

Her shoulders shake at the word, as does her voice. She reminds him of a gin drunk with no money to fill his glass. “Y-yes. He, ah, told me I—” she eyes the bottle longingly. “I suffer a weakness of the nerves, Mr. Smithson. And grief, of course.”

He shakes the bottle minutely.

“Please. My tonic. If you could just put few drops in some lemon water. There—on the table.”

Not much left. He pours a glass of lemon water and adds a few drops of laudanum. “Of course, I shall not keep you from your medicine. Tell me, what is the dosage?” Her eyes are already a bit vacant, and she wants more. Biddable, indeed.

“Thank you, Mr. Smithson. Uh, why did you say you were here again?”

He adds one drop after another to the water, reading the required dosage in her eyes. When her shoulders relax, he hands over the glass with a flourish. “Why, Your Grace, it is as I said. I merely wished to assure myself of your safety and well-being. I would hate to see you fall into trouble… a woman alone.”

12067244_10153622395565833_717004058_nHe slides into the chair next to hers and picks up the book she had been reading—or more likely, pretending to read, for he would not be convinced her eyes can focus long enough to parse a sentence. He raises an eyebrow at the title, now certain she hadn’t been reading. Murnane wouldn’t have allowed this trash in his house, much less in the hands of his wife, if there were any chance she would comprehend it.

“Do you often read Wollstonecroft, Your Grace?”

“Wollstonecraft?” She struggles to keep her attention on the book in his hand. “I don’t think so. Chadbourn thought that one would amuse me.”

“Chadbourn, Your Grace?”

“My brother. He, he is managing Emery’s estate. He’s only here for a while.”

A brother. Damn.

“I see.”

Lady-LilithJeremy sets the book aside, well out of her reach. “I do hope he is seeing to your amusement, Your Grace. It would not do for you to be crushed under the weight of your grief. While I do understand there must be no hint of impropriety, I will be staying in the village for a time, and would welcome the opportunity to entertain. Perhaps… if it can be managed without fanfare, of course… perhaps we might make a picnic?”

He reaches out and traces the back of her hand with one fingertip. It is a risk, to be sure, but there is every chance she won’t even feel it, and if she does… well… after her marriage to Murnane, the dolt, she might be susceptible to a bit of tenderness. Jeremy can feign tenderness as well as the next man.

The duchess closes her eyes and leans into his touch.

Her eyes flew open. “I don’t like what happens next.”

No, Jeremy wouldn’t have liked bedding Murnane, either, but was starting to see the appeal of the man’s wife. “Next, Your Grace?”

“After, you know. And Emery always did.” Her voice trails off, confused. “Emery gave me my tonic. Chadbourn takes it away. I like to dance when I…”

Jeremy watches her mind meander with increasing delight. She is really not all there. A quick marriage will leave Jeremy in control of everything of the late duke’s that isn’t entailed, and anything in trust for his wife and son. Lock her up in Bedlam for her own good—just look at her—send Murnane’s brat off to Eton for the next ten years, and Jeremy could do whatever he pleased with a duchy.

He leans in closer. “You like to dance, you say?”

Her face turns so quickly, their lips nearly touch. “I love to dance, but Emery won’t let me. I like flowers, too. Do you like flowers?” Her eyes might as well be made of glass, and he would wager all Murnane’s vowels, she has no memory of him walking through the door.

12085178_10153622396055833_1275783763_o“I love flowers, my sweet. We can pick bouquets on our picnic, and while I know Murnane preferred not to dance, I do not share his distaste. I will partner you in any figure you like.” He leaves the whisper of a kiss behind her ear.

“I do enjoy a picnic,” she murmurs, leaning toward the kiss. “Isn’t it a lovely day?” The dim sitting room, drapes drawn and windows firmly shut, looks nothing like a picnic venue—except perhaps in her drug-addled imagination.

“Glorious,” he croons, letting his breath trail against her lobe and the back of her neck, his eyes following his fingertip, tracing the edge of black lace on her mourning gown from her shoulder to her collarbone. She tries to rise, and he tests his influence and her sobriety, keeping her seated by the lightest touch of his hand.

Jeremy does have a partiality for girls who will fight back—briefly—but there is something intriguing about one who cannot conceive of making an argument. He wonders, idly, what other things Emery might have trained her to do without squabbling. It might be worth keeping her for a while to find out, before handing her over to Bedlam.

Sylvia blinks up at him with a flash of lucidity. “Emery? You’re not Emery. What do you want from me?”

Jeremy slides into a chair right next to her and takes her hand in both of his, stroking her fingers, turning her hand to touch the wrist, massage the palm with his thumb, holding her blank eyes with his sharper, more knowing ones.

“I wish only to assure myself of your happiness, Your Grace. And I am Jeremy. I hope you will call me Jeremy.”

“Jeremy.” She nods. “Do you—I mean, did you know Emery?”

“I know Murnane well enough to concern myself with his widow, my dear. I am heir to a baronetcy; I am not unknown in court circles; and we have… done business in the past, your late husband and I.”

The man died owing Jeremy five hundred guineas the Smithson men had worked hard to steal, but the lady would do, in lieu of payment.

12067163_10153622032355833_51831040_nThe door is flung wide by a land steward of some sort, judging by his clothes and muddy boots. The man with whom, presumably, Jeremy will have to do business. Perhaps, though, the brother, considering the look of indignation at finding him alone with the duchess. Jeremy inserts himself in front of her, holding an arm out, as though to protect her from the intruder’s wrath.

“Who are you, and what are you doing with my sister?”

Chadbourn, then. Jeremy smoothly steps to one side, not impeding access to the duchess, but distracting the man from questioning her more closely.

“Jeremy Smithson, Sir. I came to settle a bit of business with the late duke, and found Her Grace… well… she seems unwell. I feel quite sure Murnane would be upset to think his wife ill-treated.”

Chadbourn’s eyes narrow, and Jeremy sees the moment he recalls some rumor or innuendo about the Smithsons. The accursed man steps closer to his sister.

“I find myself wholly motivated to ensure her safety and wellbeing,” Jeremy continues, “and if you are her brother, in Murnane’s absence, it beseems you are the man responsible for her condition.”

Chadbourn pushes his body between Jeremy and his prey. Every muscle on alert, he leans toward the intruder. “And you, Sir, have no right whatsoever to intrude on Her Grace’s privacy. I will thank you to leave.”

Straightening his cuffs, Jeremy sniffs, “Perhaps it is not such a bad thing someone has intruded.” He looks over at the duchess’s vacant expression and feigns great sadness, furrowing his brows, pursing his lips, tut-tutting. “She is clearly not adjusting well.”

He turns his shoulder on Chadbourn, takes up her hand and bends over it, kissing the fingertips. “Your Grace, I will remain in the village a few nights more. Should you have need of anything, you must only ask. I place myself entirely at your service.”

Chadbourn glares daggers. “Take your leave, Sir, before I feel obliged to help you do it.”

Jeremy can spend another few days in this country village to suss out what use Chadbourn has for the duchess—if any—and how the man intends to settle the debts of his brother-by-marriage. “My thanks, Your Grace, for your company.”

Meet Sylvia, Her Grace of Murnane, and the Earl of Chadbourn in A Dangerous Nativity, by Caroline Warfield, and Jeremy Smithson in ’Tis Her Season, by Mariana Gabrielle, both available in:

Box-Set-3D-Square-WebMistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem: A Bluestocking Belles Collection
In this collection of novellas, the Bluestocking Belles bring you seven runaway Regency brides resisting and romancing their holiday heroes under the mistletoe. Whether scampering away or dashing toward their destinies, avoiding a rogue or chasing after a scoundrel, these ladies and their gentlemen leave miles of mayhem behind them on the slippery road to a happy-ever-after.

***All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.***

Pre-order for November 1 delivery
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  iTunes Kobo  |  Goodreads Reviews

November 1, 4-9 pm EDT

This blog post co-written by:

Mariana Gabrielle

MarianaGabrielleMariana 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.

Caroline Warfield

Caroline Warfield grew up in a perapatetic army family and had a varied career (largely centered on libraries and technology) before retiring to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania. She is ever a traveler and adventurer, enamored of owls, books, history, and beautiful gardens (but not the act of gardening). She is married to a prince among men.

Bluestocking Belles logo-02The Bluestocking Belles Online:
— Website and home of the Teatime Tattler:
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest: BellesInBlue
— The Bluestocking Bookshop online storytelling game

Support the Bluestocking Belles’ fundraising campaign for the Malala Fund:


Snippet from La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess

logo book hooksBook Hooks allows authors to provide book snippets as part of a Wednesday blog hop. Also check out the authors at the link below.

La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess
by Mariana Gabrielle

Very quietly, almost under her breath, she said, “Many married gentlemen keep a mistress. I’ve no objection.”

Shoulders twitching under his linen shirt, fingers worrying a waistcoat button, he replied, in as kindly a manner as he could muster, “You know I will not, sweeting.” Fitz finally wrapped his arms around her shoulders, pulling her tight, but she only stiffened. “We’ve spoken of this.”

She nodded, but the motion was sharp, jerking her out of his arms. With a suspicious rasp, she retorted, “If you must marry that woman, so be it. As I’ve said, it is folly—you’ll not be happy one moment the rest of your life—but far be it from me to advise you about women, a topic on which I am expert.” For the first time today, the first time in months, she snarled. “And you, clearly, are not.”

“My sweet, it is only she—”

“She comes with ten thousand a year and her father will ease your way in Parliament. Yes, you’ve said. She is also—”

“A harridan, and ugly besides. ‘No joy to bed on my wedding night.’ You’ve made yourself known on that score.” His voice began to take on volume, and he pulled away from her, straightening his cuffs to keep his anger in check. Right away, he discovered the sleeves could be torn from the shoulders before that would happen. “As though I haven’t eyes or ears of my own! I don’t want to marry her, Kali! You act as if I have a choice!”

LDN Book Release Excerpt Meme 3

Pre-order now for a special $0.99 price at:

Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
All Romance eBooks

LDN CoverKali Matai, London’s most famed Indian dancer and courtesan, harbors a lifetime of secrets, as more lives than hers depend on it.

 Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, she 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.

Pre-order now for June 10 release:

Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
All Romance eBooks

Check out the other authors on this hop at: Click here

Blog Tour Schedule for La Déesse Noire

This tour is quite exciting, filled with interviews, excerpts, and a whole lot of original writing related to the book, which you may only ever see on these blogs.

Many thanks to all of the wonderful authors and bloggers who will host me on this tour. I hope you will go take a look at their sites and leave a comment while you are there. In most cases, you can be entered to win a free copy of the book just for commenting.

May 1
The Snarkology: Those Dastardly Villains

May 4 and 6
Karen’s Book Bench

May 16
Eileen Richards

May 18
Hello Romance
Sherry Ewing: Awakening the Soul One Heart at a Time

May 20
Reviews by Crystal

May 21
10 Minute Novelists
Christina Tetreault: Happily Ever After

May 22
Susan R. Hughes, Romance Author

May 23
Jill Hughey

May 26
Helena Fairfax

May 27
Jessica Cale

May 28
Coffee Time Romance

May 29
Jessie Clever

May 30
The Bluestocking Belles’ Teatime Tattler (Part 1)
Nicole Zoltack: Where Fantasy and Love Take Flight

May 30
Renee Reynolds: Obstinate Headstrong Girl

June 1
Janie Franz: Anasazi Dreams

June 2
Ute Carbone: Happiness is a Good Book

June 3
Susana’s Parlour

June 4
A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life

June 5
Sherry Ewing: Awakening the Soul One Heart at a Time

June 6
The Bluestocking Belles’ Teatime Tattler (Part 2)
Exquisite Quills
Caroline Warfield: Love is Worth the Risk

June 7
Jude Knight

June 8
Amy Rose Bennett

June 17
Anna Markland: Passionate about Historical Romance

July 2
Kryssie Fortune

July 9
Iris Blobel: Dare to Live your Dream