Harry Wentworth’s Last Wartime Christmas…

(excerpt from Chapter 62 of Blind Tribute)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
December 25, 1864

Harry - Eakins_selfportraitHarry watched the snowfall outside the front window, the setting sun obscured by a billowing grey fog. The blaze in the parlor fireplace pushed back feebly against the cold seeping through the crack in the glass, so he closed the shabby red brocade curtains.

Pine branches on the mantelpiece had scented the air for days, reminding Harry of the unwelcome smell of pitch, so when Mrs. Boyne left to spend Christmas Day with her daughter and son-in-law, Harry had immediately set them out at the curb, hoping it would put an end to the nightmares chasing him ever since she’d started decorating. She had tried to suggest a Christmas tree, but he’d pointed out that the only place for one would be the parlor, and there wouldn’t be room enough for his business associates and a tree. Still, the odor had lingered, mixed with the vanilla and cinnamon of the dozens of cookies, cakes, and pies Mrs. Boyne had been baking for weeks. He had a plate of fruitcake at hand, which he had no intention of eating, to enjoy with the tea she’d left, stone cold in the pot.

He had been invited to spend the day with at least a dozen of his friends and family, including Fleur and Gil, Jim Calvin, and Dax’s friends at the Vulture’s Roost, who were organizing a poker tournament with men who weren’t much for Christian holidays. John Hoyt had invited him to New York. The Misses Hickman had asked him to the boardinghouse. Mrs. Boyne’s daughter had asked him personally. Even Billy O’Riordan’s mother had sent an invitation, about five minutes after she’d received his note offering to arrange Billy’s attendance at her choice of exclusive private high schools, upon which Harry would be happy to advise.

He’d spent the last few days making the rounds of his friends and acquaintances privately, quietly, regretting the few Society invitations trickling in for the first time since 1860, and avoiding the more casual celebrations of those of lesser means.

He’d bought the finest fountain pens and imported liquor from Europe for his colleagues, filled sacks of gold coins for anyone in need of money, and anonymously provided Christmas groceries for those who would have otherwise made do with scrawny capons instead of goose, beginning with every house on his block. He’d opened an account at a kitchen store for Mrs. Boyne, so she could replace her mismatched pots and pans. For Billy, he’d inscribed a leather-bound dictionary, thesaurus, and atlas, surely making every other copyboy envious about his illustrious mentor, even before they heard about his new school.

He’d seen Fleur and Gil for Christmas Eve supper, at his daughter’s insistence. At first, Harry had declined the invitation, insisting they should enjoy their first holidays together with their friends and the larger part of their family. His attendance had required all of Fleur’s newfound tenacity to accomplish, as he was certain they would be forgoing other entertainments to sit at a lonely, three-person table with him.

He’d finally accepted, a bit too late to be considered gracious, because his throat had been choked with sentiment when he should have spoken. In the ensuing discussion, they’d told Harry that directly following supper, Gil’s family would be coming for the tree-lighting, and they all hoped he would join them. He made no promises, other than to be there for a meal.

Before the festivities, during supper, he presented Fleur with the bronze coffer brought to America with the earliest colonial Wentworth, filled with books Harry had selected from his own library, and the hand-inked seventeen-generation genealogy he’d commissioned with blank space where she could add her own children.

He gave Gil a six-berth pleasure boat and an advance copy of the next Wentworth and Hoyt, noting by next year, he hoped there would be a grandchild upon whom he could shower gifts. He had thought to give Fleur her baby book, hidden away from Anne when he left for Charleston, but decided to wait until she was expecting.

Because Fleur had allowed him no other option, he did join the intimate party afterward, and had brought gifts appropriate to each of Gil’s relatives in attendance. Toward the end of the evening, he’d even arranged for Saint Nicholas to deliver candy and toys to Gil’s nieces and nephews and young cousins. Once the children had been given their gifts, they established with the actor he’d hired that they had all been exceptionally good, and confirmed that this visit wasn’t in place of the one each child hoped for later at their houses. Rushing Old St. Nick out of the house to be on his way, they soon began whining at their parents that they wanted to go home. Harry took his leave during the exodus of a dozen people with whom he’d spent a surprisingly lovely evening.

Today, however, would be a true day of rest, which always required solitude. He knew he needed to consider how to address General Sherman’s despicable show of force, as well as the fact that his family, friends, and colleagues were still spread out across the Confederacy, about to be trampled by the annals of history, if they hadn’t been already. But he was determined to enjoy his day, aside from the usual intrusive ruminations.

He didn’t intend to write. He didn’t intend to answer the felicitations sent by cable, nor the post from readers and associates worldwide. He didn’t even intend to read the newspaper. He would do nothing today but drink the hundred-sixteen-year-old Clos du Griffier Vieux cognac he’d imported as his own Christmas present, and enjoy the silence of an empty house. Long since overdue.

He didn’t intend, as he was about to pour his brandy, to be interrupted by loud banging on the front door.

© 2017 Mari Anne Christie. All Rights Reserved

Blind Tribute


As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Buy in ebook or print at major online retailers.

Keep up with Mari’s new books and other projects:

Amazon Author page
Mari’s Muses Street Team


The Art and Science of Governance (excerpt from Blind Tribute)

Chapter Fifty



by P. H. Wentworth III
National News Editor

April 9, 1864

United States Senate Joint Resolution 16, passed April 8, 1864

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Science and Philosophy are often at loggerheads, but in truth, are natural bedfellows, sharing many commonalities: distrust of accepted wisdom, untidy experimentation, exacting analysis, flashes of brilliance on the back of years of laborious work, the paring away of supposition and half-truth, and a canon on which to build initial reflections into what we call “natural law.”

However: Laws are never natural; they are always man-made.

Long before the discovery of oxygen, human beings were inhaling and exhaling, and no one can argue our need for food and water; either we eat, drink, and breathe, or we die. Presumably, Adam and Eve learned, after their first cold night away from Eden, to shelter against intemperate weather; they surely found a way around their fig leaves to procreate, or humanity itself would not exist. (For those more inclined to Mr. Darwin’s hypotheses, as I am, the same might be said for any ancestor we share with monkeys.)

Killing one another indiscriminately was considered immoral long before the Code of Moses, but even the prohibition against murder is not “natural law,” at least until such time as one is deprived of corporeal existence by an unseen force upon committing such an act. On that day, however, I doubt the entity passing judgment will distinguish soldiers at war, executioners at law, or men upholding their honor.

This question of intrinsic, universal human law may also be explicated by the rules of the physical universe. While Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion are integral to our understanding of the physical world, even without him, apples fall from trees. Before we understood the Earth to be round, it was already circling the sun; Copernicus had no influence on the orbit, for all he opened up the Heavens.

By Enlightenment principles, though, the theories of both men might yet be disproven. Gravity might be nothing more than Satan dragging us down to Hell. When we travel to the moon, we may discover it is made of cheese and held up by a puppeteer’s strings. We may one day come across a hidden race of people who would choose service over self-determination, but I think it unlikely, at best.

Nature (God, in some circles) is the arbiter of life and death, not scientists, not philosophers, not governments. The extent of the human imperative is biological. Every other law has been constructed by man to improve our lot and is, accordingly, fallible.

Everything we consider vital to our existence—civilization in general—is a moral imperative, not physiological, and moral imperatives change, day-to-day, year-to-year, generation after generation, between cultures, religions, one person and another. Values—personal and patriotic—are never universal. Never.

Simply put, this misapprehension is why civilizations rise and fall.

Such was the case even in America’s naissance. Whether or not they were responsive on the subject of slavery, the founders of our nation were enlightened men of reflective inquiry, who understood the implications of the march of time. Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and Washington stood on the backs of Locke, Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Rousseau. This is how and why their social constructs emphasized free will, personal autonomy, individual responsibility—the most progressive, self-directed philosophy of governance in history.

They knew they could not decide the course of our nation based on eighteenth-century facts and values. They could not decide the course at all. Only time would bear out their thesis, which, paradoxically, would only prove true after change had become the accepted norm.

So, in their wisdom, the framers imposed frequent and habitual reexamination of our collective morality. They understood that knowledge changes history, and there is never a dearth of new knowledge. It is, therefore, our responsibility—as caretakers of the vision of our forefathers—to reflect upon matters of principle and consider our society’s advances and changing mores.

There is no doubt amending our Constitution is not to be taken lightly. It is an enormous step to change the underpinnings of our government (especially so without the input of half our nation, who will be assimilated back into a society that has made a fundamental shift in priorities, policies, and parity).

However, not only have we made such changes before, we are only clarifying what we have declared all along to be “natural law”: humans (or rather, Americans) have unalienable rights, among them freedom from involuntary servitude.

Is the call to freedom, or is it not, as natural a law as breathing? Is it not at the core of every person born everywhere? True, one can survive without it, demonstrated by countless unfortunates around the globe, but is it not a half-life? Does the futile yearning for self-rule not starve the soul?

A successful system of governance (using longevity as measure) maintains internal stability in the face of external events—economic, social, cultural—but permanence is a balance between past and future that must be maintained in equilibrium. Formal governance is meant to impose social norms, but no widespread edict has ever sprung from the ether fully formed. Every “accepted fact” was accepted first by one person, then a second, a third, and so on. No great sea change is spontaneous.

Though some moral imperatives have proven more pervasive and long lasting than others—commandments set out in religious doctrine tend to have staying power—there cannot ever be a man-made, universal “natural law.” The premise is entirely faulty.

A century ago, when our country was deciding how to govern itself, we only had knowledge of the same six planets as Copernicus in 1543, when his De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium rejected the hypotheses of Ptolemy’s Almagest, by that time “natural law” for almost fourteen hundred years.

Today, a star chart is filled with named planets and moons, more classified each day. We have rejected great swaths of Copernicus’ work, one experiment at a time, even redefined the taxonomy. Our understanding of this fixed force of nature, the night sky, has changed radically during my lifetime, and is yet as impermanent as stardust.

One hundred years hence, we may find there are millions more planets than we can see. If we make such discoveries, it will happen because Newton was dissatisfied with accepted wisdom, so advanced the technology of the telescope. Scientific innovation—theorizing and testing and reframing—changes what we believe possible, again and again.

A century ago, there was little question in America of the rightness of slavery (and precious little question elsewhere)—a few toothless voices drowned out by the rumble of a worldwide financial engine. Now, human servitude is at issue all over the globe, even to the point of full-scale war in America. (Ironically, given the stance of the British Commonwealth, it is only by dint of our hard-won independence that slavery still exists here at all.)

One hundred years hence, perhaps human bondage will be eradicated everywhere on the planet, but first, we must accept this philosophic proposition: human beings are not property, no matter their complexion, desperation, or circumstance, and freedom itself is a natural law. Only in decades to come will our moral code evolve to meet our highest American ideals.

This should not be such a vexing question: without Enlightenment philosophers, without rigorous inquiry, without a document declaring it so, every person on Earth understands—for himself, in any case—it is better to live free than enslaved.

Returning for a moment to Newton, his 1687 Principia defined the “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.” Most applicable here, The First Law of Motion: Inertia. An object at rest will remain so unless acted upon by some catalyst. A moving object will maintain the same speed and trajectory until acted upon by an external force.

The question of Southern secession forced action by the Northern states. The military defense of slavery forced action by people of conscience everywhere. Any manner of external (and internal) forces surrounding our Black population have set into motion this remarkable momentum toward the Thirteenth Amendment, not least, our President and esteemed Senators, to be commended for their courage and resolve.

Bad luck for those who would rail against it; there is no stopping the trajectory now, for freedom is every man’s natural state, and “all men are created equal.”

Even if the South won the war tomorrow, the American Negro will not now stand for anything less than absolute liberty and full citizenship, nor should he. If not imposed by economic sanction, by martial law. If not enforced by Lincoln, by the Crowned Heads of Europe. If not now at the hands of the Federal government, a year from now by armed insurrection. Slavery cannot, will not, stand.

Much as our founding fathers outlined their philosophical treatise using theoretical principles to explain intangible truths—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—Lincoln knows his courage in the short-term will transform our nation’s moral center in the long run, perfecting our most deeply held values.

This is why Lincoln cannot give up the forest for the trees, much like the framers, who knew there would be conditions on “life,” responsibilities to “liberty,” and more definitions of “happiness” than citizens, but still deemed enforcement of “natural law” to be worth the cost in American lives. If their suppositions remain true today, the Thirteenth Amendment and its resultant legal precedent will move our society in the direction of freedom, equality, and brotherhood.

The president’s personal interest has, perhaps, been the deciding factor for the passage yesterday of Senate Joint Resolution 16, and rightly so; he has no other honorable choice. His Emancipation Proclamation does not carry the full force of American jurisprudence, and would not withstand a drawn-out test in the courts. As a man of principle, he must make the injustice right, and he has only so long—and so much Congressional currency—to do it.

If Lincoln is to fulfill his promise and leave an end to slavery as his legacy, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution must be passed by the House and ratified without delay. This legislation is far from law and, much like a Presidential proclamation, it only takes a shift in the political wind, a change in milieu, for the House bill to fail, or to invite an amendment to amend this one. The very idea of four million Americans given freedom to have it snatched away is appalling.

As such, President Lincoln is following the example of our learned antecedents, defending his thesis so it might take hold and become part of the American philosophic canon. So freedom might, eventually, come to be thought unalienable for everyone in our borders.

I, personally, am more partial to scientific illumination than philosophical. Perforce, both hold pride of place in our understanding of ourselves, individually and cooperatively, but both also have something weighty in common with American governance: the creative process. At some point, all looks a jumble, maddeningly muddy and indistinct, but by application of rules, systems, context, experience, trial, error, evaluation, and correction, one ends with a masterpiece: a hypothesis or doctrine or piece of legislation changing the trajectory of “natural law.”

© 2017 Mari Anne Christie. All Rights Reserved

Blind Tribute

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Buy in ebook or print at major online retailers.

Keep up with Mari’s new books and other projects:

Amazon Author page
Mari’s Muses Street Team

Reviews – Lucinda Brant’s Roxton Family Saga

As I have added two new reviews to my thoughts on the Roxton Family Saga by Lucinda Brant, I decided to post them all again. If you haven’t read this great series, combining sweeping historical romance with the traditional historical family saga, please pick it up soon.

Mari’s Reviews of The Roxton Family Saga

(In reverse order, starting with the most recent release.)

Satyr’s Son

London, 1786. Lord Henri-Antoine has returned from the Grand Tour to a life of privilege and excess. A vast inheritance allows him every indulgence, free from responsibility. Yet, Henri-Antoine maintains a well-ordered existence, going to great lengths to conceal an affliction few understand and many fear.

Miss Lisa Crisp is a penniless orphan who relies on the charity of relatives to keep her from the poorhouse. Intelligent and unflappable, Lisa will not allow poverty to define her. She leads a useful life working among the sick poor.

Under startling circumstances, Henri-Antoine and Lisa meet. There is instant attraction. When they find themselves attending the same wedding in the country, Henri-Antoine offers Lisa a scandalous proposition, one she should refuse but yearns to accept. Following her heart could ruin them both.


In Satyr’s Son, the two most vibrant and visible children of the entire series, Teddy and Jack, find their happy-ever-after. (A match I predicted a few books ago, if anyone is counting). Teddy, daughter of Lady Mary Cavendish (Proud Mary), and Jack, brother of Deb, Duchess of Roxton (Midnight Marriage), each only had secondary or tertiary billing in past books, but nevertheless stole the scenes in their much-younger years.

However, they are not the central HEA, even though most of this book plays out at their wedding. (As such, I put forth the notion that Teddy and Jack were, in fact, robbed of their own book. I am hopeful these two will appear in the Roxton Family Letters, Volume Two, and would urge Brant to fill in the outlines of their story in a future bonus novella or short.)

Now, as to the actual hero and heroine of Satyr’s Son: Henri-Antoine (Harry), second son of Monseigneur, the former Duke of Roxton (Noble Satyr)—the great love of matriarch Antonia’s life—and brother to Julian, the current duke, is thumped in the head sideways by love of another commoner (following Christopher Bryce from Proud Mary), Miss Lisa Crisp, bosom friend of Teddy, niece to Antonia’s former lady’s maid, and beneficiary of the Duchess of Kinross’s quiet patronage.

The two main characters meet in the throes of the hero’s deepest vulnerability, and she manages to help him mask it from the rest of the world, which sets the stage for as many displays of ducal emotional armor as we ever saw with his father. Harry has been able to manage ill health his entire life with the help and support of enormous wealth, a loving, if intrusive, family, and the innate dignity instilled by Monsiegneur. His noble upset is handled with a different sort of grace than Monseigneur (and Antonia) always displayed, but grace nonetheless. His core fragility, however, is the perfect complement to his heroine’s core competencies.

Also complementary are their plans for each other—at first. As she is not of noble blood, he sees her as a mistress, and she agrees; how else will she spend time with a nobleman she is falling in love with, when he will surely have to marry in his own class? But Teddy, Jack, Antonia, and the rest of the family will not have it.

As his father did before him, he comes to what is left of his senses after Cupid’s assault, but requiring a similar sort of brick to the head as Monseigneur did when Antonia captivated him. Harry is not his father—he is more serious (by necessity), less frivolous, more intellectual, more goal-driven.

But he is similar enough. The haughtiness, the charm, the gloriously handsome physique, the seemingly blithe pursuit of pleasure, force a look backward: if the son invokes the “ducal defense” to cover up his great vulnerability, what then, was the father’s weakness? And in what ways did his heroine help him overcome it? Perhaps Monseigneur himself will be revealed in the next volume of the Roxton Letters.

As this has been billed as the last book in the Roxton Family Saga (barring the forthcoming epistolary Volume Two of the Roxton Letters), we can now bring some things full circle, and review the arc of the saga. There were many, many characters’ stories left unexplored in this series, among the most obvious, Teddy and Jack, and Estée and Vallentine. (Evelyn warrants a spin-off mystery series.) Since this is a specialty of Brant’s—tugging at threads of stories to create new books—one hopes for a “Next Generation” series, or more shorts, or some similar device to keep the Roxtons on the shelves for many years to come.

However, overall, from Noble Satyr to Satyr’s Son, she expertly weaves two genres into a comfortable whole: historical romance, of course, of the most glorious and sweeping sort; but also the traditional historical family saga, leading three generations through trials and tribulations equal to their great wealth and privilege.

Buy Satyr’s Son Here

Proud Mary

1770s Gloucestershire and Hampshire.

Widowed and destitute, Lady Mary Cavendish is left with only her pride. Daughter of an earl and great-granddaughter to a Stuart King, expectations demand she remarry. But not just any man will do; her husband must rank among the nobility. As always, Mary will do her duty and ignore her heart.

Country squire Christopher Bryce has secretly loved his neighbor Mary for many years. Yet, he is resigned to the cruel reality they are not social equals and thus can never share a future together. Never mind that his scandalous past and a heartbreaking secret make him thoroughly unworthy of such a proud beauty.

But with the help of a family ghost, and the never ordinary members of the Roxton family, Mary and Christopher realize that a happily ever after might just be possible.


One thing Lucinda Brant does particularly well in The Roxton Family Saga, a perennial favorite of mine, is tugging at the strings of stories left hanging to be woven into later books. So, in this case, we get to know Lady Mary Cavendish, whom we have met ever-so-briefly in prior books: the ill-used wife of the obnoxious Gerald Cavendish. Now, however, Mary is a sensible widow in reduced circumstances, ready to do her duty by the Roxtons and her daughter, Teddy, marrying well to meet the demands of her family’s position.

Both Mary and her hero, country squire Christopher Bryce, are a healthy distance from the loftiest heights of the Roxton inner circle (as far away as Antonia ever allows any family member), and provide an earthy, almost-but-not-quite populist balance to earlier books (and, one hopes, new, more rigorous blood—and political philosophy—to the family tree). Mary is the most practical and pragmatic of Brant’s heroines thus far, and Christopher is almost too steady and comfortable to be a hero in a sweeping romantic novel, with an unremitting sense of duty similar to the Duke of Roxton.

The Roxton series is exceptionally good at showcasing the extravagant, over-the-top surroundings of a families of enormous wealth and aristocratic breeding. While characters do appear who are of more limited means or lesser class status (not usually both), the overwhelming majority of characters and settings highlight and glorify the opulence of the Georgian period. In this book, however, we are given a heroine who is of noble blood, but gentry spirit, and a hero with some money, but limited status.

As important as meeting the heroine of this book, we meet her daughter Teddy, whom we have also seen in brief flashes in prior books, but who has intrigued from her first appearance. She is central to her mother’s life, and so must be central to the reader’s attentions. The contrast between the irrepressible, headstrong Teddy and [all but one of] the other children in Brant’s books has always been especially marked, even if brief. Brant includes children—one cannot populate a multi-generational family saga without them. However, with two notable exceptions (I made a prediction months ago about them, which I shall reveal in due course), they are loved deeply by the central characters in the books, but to some degree sidelined in the narrative. This is, in part, the nature of children who have less life experience to draw from; in part, the “arms’ length” Georgian child-rearing system; and in part, the authorial privilege of backgrounding different parts of the story. But because of this shunting aside, when the compelling and arresting Teddy—who will never, ever allow herself to be shunted anywhere—walks onto the stage in Proud Mary, she is in full-color, larger than life. When she is in the proscenium, you will not be able to look away.

While Mary dithers, and Christopher quietly and competently ensures the safety of her family, each of these characters must come to terms in their own way with the fact that Christopher provides a sort of security to Mary and Teddy that cannot be bestowed by a title or instilled by great wealth.

Buy Proud Mary Here

DD-ecover-0180Dair Devil

1770s London and Hampshire.

Alisdair ‘Dair’ Fitzstuart, hero of the American Revolutionary war and heir to an earldom, known by all as a self-centered womanizing rogue. But his dashing and rugged façade hides a vulnerable man with a traumatic past. He will gamble with his life, but never his heart, which remains his own.

Aurora ‘Rory’ Talbot, is a spinster and pineapple fancier who lives on the periphery of Polite Society. An observer but never observed, her fragile beauty hides conviction and a keen intelligence. Ever optimistic, she will not be defined by disability.

One fateful night Dair and Rory collide—the attraction is immediate, the consequences profound. Both will risk everything for love.


Once again, Dair Fitzstuart is a hero I’m not inclined to like. He starts the book as a buffoon, more than anything else, thoughtless, indiscreet. But oh, so very handsome while he does it. My primary problem with Dair is that he too quickly throws off that bad boy image, and shows himself all that is decent and honorable. He lacks the darkness that imbued both Dukes of Roxton, and to a lesser extent, the Duke of Kinross, and that change in tone is a noticeable departure for the series. Dair is an unquestionable good guy. (And I admit, I like my heroes with a dash of villain.)

Rory, while his match in goodness, continues Brant’s tradition of heroines I can adore. She lives with a disability, but the limitations it presents are, in the main, self-imposed, and certainly not a barrier to her happy ending (if the hero has anything to say about it, and he does). She is a gentler, quieter personality than Brant’s other heroines, and is more a bluestocking, but no less opinionated or forceful or engaging.

Both hero and heroine, though, come to the first meeting with baggage, One thing I love about the Roxtons is that Brant never stints on the trials and tribulations, in this case, spying and political intrigue. She is very good at tying her books together by overarching story arcs and by intertwining characters in each other’s stories, so it is highly recommended her series be read in order, but it is by no means required.

Buy Dair Devil Here

EY-ecover-0180Eternally Yours: Roxton Letters Volume One

Previously unpublished letters from the private correspondence of the Roxton family, spanning 1743–1777, with extracts from the diaries of Antonia, 5thDuchess of Roxton and 7th Duchess of Kinross. Includes Roxton’s last letter to Antonia. Volume One complements the early chronology of the award-winning Roxton Family Saga: Noble Satyr, Midnight Marriage, and Autumn Duchess. With a foreword by a late-Victorian descendant, Alice-Victoria, 10th Duchess of Roxton.


I have an inherent bias toward epistolary fiction, as it is among my favorite forms to write, including a forthcoming novel that is about a third correspondence and written commentary. However, because it is an area of particular literary interest, I am very picky about it.

Writing in a character’s written voice is a special skill, especially placed in a different era, where not only the tone was inherently different, but also the rhythms, the conventions, the level of formality. When a letter has to stand in place of hearing a voice or seeing a face, and must span time and distance, how do characters manage the emotional events of lives spent separated from loved ones in a way we, of Skype and email and international airlines, cannot fathom? Done poorly, it can destroy a book. Done well, with a deep understanding of the characters, the situations, and the times, it can add a layer of detail and depth that cannot be found in narrative and dialogue. How a man writes a letter is as distinct as his speech.

Now, consider writing letters not only for one character, but several. Not just an emotional event, but THE emotional events alluded to in the first three Roxton books. Brant is able to bring characters back who have left the Roxton family for one reason or another, and explain the genesis, or end result, of stories left untold in the series.

Brant’s book have made me laugh and cry; I would not read the entire catalog of an author who doesn’t. This book, though, was in a class by itself, emotionally speaking. In this volume, we say goodbye to some series favorites, finally learning the details of their fates, and are given hope for the future. (And there is a future planned for this series!) I am not a weeper, in the main, and am rather cynical, even (some days, especially) about romance novels, but this was a box-of-tissues-by-the-bedside book.

Buy Eternally Yours Here

AD-ecover-0180Autumn Duchess ***SPOILER ALERT***

1770s England: Treat, the ancestral home of the dukes of Roxton.

Antonia, Dowager Duchess of Roxton, has mourned the loss of her duke for three long years. Her grief is all-consuming. Then into her life steps a most unconventional man.

Jonathon Strang, East India merchant and widower, lets nothing stand in the way of success, in business or in pleasure.

On spying Antonia, Jonathon is immediately smitten. He sees a beautiful woman who has not only lost the love of her life, and her exalted position in society, but is bullied, badgered, and totally misunderstood. She needs someone to talk to and a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

Antonia’s opinion of Jonathon is less charitable. Insufferably arrogant. Overbearing. Dangerous. She must keep her distance. Better still, she will ignore him and pretend they had never been introduced.


This book represented a radical change in the series, and as such, I could not review without spoilers. You can go see it on Goodreads at your discretion. 🙂

Buy Autumn Duchess Here

MM-ecover-0180Midnight Marriage

1760s England and France: Based on real events, a hasty midnight marriage establishes a dynasty.

Just twelve years old, and drugged with laudanum to make her compliant, Deborah Cavendish is woken in the middle of the night and married off to a distraught boy not much older than herself.

Years later, Deb stumbles across a wounded duelist in the forest, and it is love at first sight. Deb has no idea the wounded duelist is in truth her noble husband Julian Hesham, Marquess of Alston, returned to England after years in exile to claim his wife.

Remaining incognito, Julian is determined Deb will fall in love with him, not his title, and sets out to woo her before she can be seduced by a persistent suitor with ulterior motives. Their marriage, and the future of the Roxton dukedom depend upon it.


This was the first Roxton book I read, which I count a good thing. Had I been comparing Julian with his father, the Noble Satyr himself, I might not have liked him as a hero. Roxton he is not (yet).

He is another hero who begins as less than attractive. Julian at the age of fifteen is drunken, petulant, and mean, and a few years later, returns from years abroad as a careless, entitled, sometimes-whiny youth, who shows signs of his father’s arrogance and disregard for emotional consequence to others. He is handsome and charming, to be sure, and with a wide streak of kindness, more in the manner of his mother than father, but he does not demonstrate empathy in any great quantity, or at least, he does not value it highly.

Deb is a heroine after Antonia’s heart. Gutsy, snappish, and more concerned with the people she loves than propriety. She is an unlikely heroine for Julian. She seems too spirited for him, too grounded, too honest, for a man who is too young to be jaded. That she has her own mind seems, at times, to be some sort of divine karmic retribution. She is not a lady willing to accept her lot, but who will fight for her happy ending. And win.

Midnight Marriage features another cast of lovable secondary characters, including some young enough to appear in later books in the series, and the return of the duke and duchess, now parents, with different priorities, but the same palpable love that places them always in the center of each other’s world.

Julian could have grown to be a different, much less pleasant, man, without Deb’s influence, and I might have then liked the later books in the series far less. Thankfully, however, she tempers him, humbles him, and reminds him of the depth of his honor.

Buy Midnight Marriage Here

NS-ecover-0180Noble Satyr

1740s France and England—the age of hedonism and enlightenment.

Renard, Duke of Roxton, head of an ancient noble family, is wealthy beyond measure. Arrogant, and self assured, this noble satyr is renowned throughout Europe as the consummate lover of other men’s wives, but Roxton’s heart remains his own.

Beautiful, optimistic, and headstrong, Antonia Moran is determined to flee the Court of Versailles and escape the lascivious attentions of the predatory Comte de Salvan.

Antonia orchestrates her escape with the unwitting assistance of the Duke of Roxton, a man she has been warned against as too dangerous for her to know. Roxton is an unlikely savior—arrogant, promiscuous, and sinister. Antonia’s unquestioning belief in him may just be his salvation, and her undoing.


I admit to a certain bias: I claim the Duke of Roxton as my forevermore book boyfriend. Of course, I mean the man who existed directly before the start of this series, who hadn’t yet fallen in love with his Mignonne, because after that, frankly, he is useless to me (or any other woman). And if there was ever a woman with whom I have no wish to compete, it is Antonia.

Roxton is hard to get to know, both by his author’s design and his own. He is not a simple hero with a pure love for an angelic heroine. He is hardened and arrogant and callous, a jaded courtier who wields his power with as much force and precision as his rapier. One cannot tell, in the earliest stages of the book if we are meeting hero or villain. (I contend the character himself isn’t quite certain.)

By contrast, for all the book is named for him, Antonia immediately takes center stage as the heroine around whom his world will eventually turn. She is a bright light that shines on every page, exactly the kind of heroine I love: smart, spirited, fearless, genuine, with no love for rules or social constraints. When she sets herself on a course, she will not stop until the race is run… rather like her hero, though sweeter and kinder when confronting an obstacle.

There is a significant age difference between the young and sprightly Antonia and the aging roué, though not so much as to frame him as lecherous, and by the way he is written, there is no doubt of his appeal to her, to a wide variety of beauties in the French Court, and to any woman with a pulse who has a penchant for rakish dukes. He is old enough to sleep alone when it suits him, and young, handsome, rich, and virile enough to never need to. She is young enough to romanticize him, but wise enough, after some time in the decadent and permissive French court, to know what she will find in his bedchamber when she goes looking.

Both hero and heroine are charming and intriguing, for exactly opposite reasons. He because he is enigmatic; she because she is forthright. He because he tries so hard to follow the rules (where she is concerned); she because she tries so hard to ignore the fact rules exist. He because he thinks himself unworthy; she because she never doubts his worth, and never loses sight of her own. She is the only person for whom he will change any detail of his life, and she never once asks him to.

Because I am a sucker for a good villain, it must be said that along with wonderful secondary characters, Brant brings us three villains, all working at mutual or cross purposes at different points in the book. Between them, Brant covers nearly all of the seven deadly sins (and more): le comte de Salvan is a villian by greed and lust; le viscomte d’Ambert by cowardice and sloth; and the Countess Strathsay by carelessness and envy. And none of these have such weak teeth that they can be overcome by a show of ducal force. They attack and fall back in turn, nipping at the heels of the hero and heroine even to the bitter end of the book.

Set in the lush locale of Louis XV’s Versailles and the England of George II and III, Brant brings us into the 18th century by grasping our senses—the smell of the streets of Paris, the sound of carriage wheels in the courtyard of a noble hôtel, the taste of brandy choked down to deaden pain, and of course, rich descriptions of the rooms, the clothes, the sumptuous life lived in (arguably) the historical cradle of Western hedonism. With an equally deft hand, we are placed in the center of tense political intrigues endemic to royal courts through history, with players particularly suited to survive that cutthroat world.

Throughout the Roxton series, Lucinda, again and again, shows the highest levels to which historical romance can be taken. These are not “pulp” books, but smart literature in the vein of earlier generations of female novelists, who no one would now call “romance writers,” because they are studied in the canon, but who offered the same fictional escape to her female readers in the Georgian era as Brant does now.

Lucinda Brant’s books exemplify the historical romance genre for me. As a writer, I hope to emulate her excellent prose, as a reader, I just want her to write more books, so I can move on from reading these again and again.

Buy Noble Satyr Here

About the Author
Lucinda-Brant-Author-picLucinda Brant is a NY Times & USA Today Bestselling author of Georgian historical romances & mysteries. “Quizzing glass & quill, into my sedan chair & away! The 1700s rock!”

Buy Lucinda’s Books Here

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A New Anthology from the Speakeasy Scribes (with Blind Tribute backstory)!


I’m delighted to announce a novelette forthcoming in the new anthology by the Speakeasy Scribes, Rejoice and Resist.

In The Press Wrestles with the President, I’ve created a short snapshot of Blind Tribute backstory, bringing you into Harry Wentworth’s last interaction with President Lincoln, in the back room of the Final Draft Tavern a few weeks after the start of the Civil War, before Harry moves back to Charleston.

Join our Facebook party, October 16, 3 PM – 11:30 PM PDT

Pre-order now at Amazon for a special pre-order price of $0.99

Excerpt from The Press Wrestles with the President

Palmer Harrold Wentworth III, Executive Editor of the Philadelphia Daily Standard—at least for the next fortnight—looked over the top of last night’s Washington Evening Star for the fourteenth time. The back door to the Final Draft Tavern still hadn’t moved, and until it did, nor would Harry.

He had never before visited this establishment—had never before heard of it—which was more of a shock than the odd patrons and taciturn proprietor. Harry thought he knew every hidey-hole in the capitol where politicians might try to escape notice. Especially hiding places that courted writers and readers—so, thinkers—evidenced by the bookshop above the tavern and the wide price range of their whiskey. Most certainly, the place catered to radicals, judging from the fervor of the Abolitionist sentiment wafting in from the barroom. Not even three weeks since the War Between the States had begun, and already the rhetoric was hotter than spent cannon.

“Burn it to the ground!” he heard as he turned the page.

“Yes,” he muttered, “destroy the nation’s agricultural output in one fell swoop, beggar half our white citizens, and add four million starving, illiterate black laborers to our workforce without any jobs to feed themselves. That will do nicely.” He snorted and turned back to the paper. While he would defend the man’s right to say anything he liked about government, at the top of his voice if need be, he was under no obligation to listen to the ranting.

Rejoice and Resist: Timely Tales of the Final Draft Tavern

Come share a drink with the Speakeasy Scribes at the Final Draft Tavern, where for nearly a millennium, the Marchand family and their cat, Whiskey, have led travelers through time and space: rebels and dissenters, heroes and villains, artists and lovers. These seven novelettes feature characters united through the ages by resistance to tyranny, and celebrating the right to speak truth to power. Rejoice and Resist will amuse and entertain, but also inspire you to call out oppression, demand human rights, question the status quo, and stand up to be counted.

Travel backward and forward in time with multiple authors and genres. Shoot through the lens of a photographer or the pistol of a brigand; meet death with a ghost-writer, or a president and his cabinet with a deck of cards; brave life in a new country, or in a new era of civil rights; or conceal yourself in time with an orphan of the apocalypse.

However you struggle toward justice, step through a secret passageway and pull up a barstool, let the closest Marchand pour you a libation, and celebrate the holiday season with the Speakeasy Scribes.

Pre-order now at Amazon for a special pre-order price of $0.99.

Keep up with the Speakeasy Scribes:


Blind Tribute

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Buy in ebook or print at major online retailers.

Keep up with Mari’s new books and other projects:

Amazon Author page
Mari’s Muses Street Team

The Press and a (former) President

In Blind Tribute, and in the forthcoming novelette about its characters, The Press Wrestles with the President, Harry Wentworth’s relationships in Lincoln’s cabinet are clearly defined, other than the president himself. It is implied on several occasions that the two men do not see eye to eye, but this, in fact, has nothing to do with slavery or the war itself, but rather Lincoln’s fairly despotic actions toward the free press.

There are few politicians in American history as well-versed and effective at manipulating the news media than “Honest Abe” Lincoln. While he is to be lauded for many stellar achievements, not least the Emancipation Proclamation and the ratification of the 13th Amendment (which tenets are subject to rigorous and necessary debate in other forums), less well-known was his lifelong relationship with the news media of the time, and his use of the popular press to further his agenda.

Lincoln engaged in remarkably little campaigning for the presidency, in comparison to his fellows; instead, the Republican Party, under his leadership, masterfully harnessed the power of the press to take his message to more voters with less effort and less cost than his opponents (both the literal printing press, in the form of pamphlets and leaflets, and the metaphorical press, the media of the time, through relationships with newspapers and newsmen). Lincoln, in fact, quietly owned a German-language newspaper for many years, despite not speaking the language, precisely to move members of that community toward (Whig, turned to) Republican values.

In line with his understanding of the power of the press, were some of Lincoln’s actions in the first weeks of the war to influence (indeed, intimidate) members of the press and, in some wise, take control of the media message wholesale.

Upon his suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus in April 1861, clearing the way for martial law, he either ordered or tacitly approved military action taken against editors who wrote in support of the Confederacy—shutting down their papers, arresting them for “disloyalty,” denying them access to the public mails. Further, after the first Battle of Harper’s Ferry, when the Union lost control of telegraphic communications, Lincoln ordered the seizing of all telegraph lines in and around Washington, DC, to reorganize them into the Military Telegraph Corps. This action, naturally, limited access to news of current events, and gave the Administration (at least temporarily) the near-exclusive right to craft the story told in newspapers in Union-held territory. Throughout the war, the First Amendment was a frequent casualty.

There are arguments to be made that Lincoln’s “media-savvy” is the reason he won not only two terms as president, but also his political seats before that. But more important to this discussion, a president took office in 1861 whose platform, while essentially centrist and conciliatory, still promoted Abolition of slavery. This promise of economic hardship (read: FEDERALIST TYRANNY!) to slave states was embodied in a man who had made something of a lightning rod of himself in the press by ginning up partisan fervor to secure votes.

When combined with a media willing and expected to take sides, and which made the majority of its money and secured most of its influence through political party affiliations and alliances, the Fourth Estate fanned the flames of a simmering conflict, making overt hostilities a high probability. When Lincoln won the presidency, and the threat to the Southern economic system coalesced in the form of a highly visible leader with views antithetical to the fledgling Confederacy, rapid secession and outright war became an inevitability.


Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. Simon and Schuster, 1996.
Holzer, Harold. Lincoln and the Power of the Press. Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Blind Tribute

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Buy in ebook or print at major online retailers.

Keep up with Mari’s new books and other projects:

Amazon Author page
Mari’s Muses Street Team

When the American news media could be trusted…

“A gruesome clash between North and South is inevitable—
if only because newspapermen are screaming about it.”

— Blind Tribute

America is a country divided; it cannot be argued. Perhaps more so than any time in our history, barring only the Civil War of 1861-65. And the environment now is beginning to look remarkably similar to 1860.

While it seems logical to say that, as Americans, we have more in common than not, myriad forces continue to tell us we are wrong, chief among them, that broad, varied and variable category, “The Press.” Whether “fake news” or “Russian partisan propaganda” or “opening up the libel laws” or the role of comedic satire or the need for (or advisability of) “Woodward-and-Bernstein-style” exposés, all we seem to hear about on the news is… the news.

Conventional wisdom says the media environment wasn’t so hyper-partisan before President Reagan pressured the FCC to abolish the Fairness Doctrine, which mandated balanced reporting in broadcast journalism, requiring broadcasters to discuss controversial matters of public interest and air opposing views. Back then, the story goes, the press existed to provide a service, to act as part of the systems of checks and balances—the “Fourth Estate” in the triumvirate of American checks and balances. Reporters acted with integrity and forethought, exposed corruption, spent more time informing than imposing electoral dogma. The news business used to be trustworthy. Right?

Not exactly.

The Fairness Doctrine, when instituted, was sorely needed. The ethics the Fairness Doctrine meant to codify in the face of new broadcasting technologies were still quite young in 1949. They weren’t even industry norms until the early 20th century. (It should be noted that, even now, media ethics are entirely voluntary and, ironically, unenforceable by virtue of the First Amendment.) While the question of ethics and values in this industry goes back to the 17th century in Europe, the answers, in America at least, are much more recent. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), arguably the modern keeper of this canon of ethics, was not formed until 1909 (then—and until 1960—a men’s fraternity called Sigma Delta Chi). The American Society of Newspaper Editors (as of 2009, the American Society of News Editors) (ASNE) was formed in 1922 for the express purpose of developing and codifying norms and ethics for the industry, which were set in type the following year. The SPJ borrowed this code in 1926, and these remained their central tenets until 1973.

However, if we travel further back, sixty or so years before the ASNE and SPJ began their work to make the news business honest, trustworthy, and accountable, we reach the beginnings of the Civil War, when the glorious olden days of media integrity didn’t exist. Not only that, just about any reporter, if presented with the concept of “fair and balanced,” would have either given you a blank stare or laughed at you outright.

On the question of partisanship, our modern media has nothing on the early 19th century.

So, back to the Civil War: the current president asks, “Why couldn’t we just work that out?” Of course, the thought process is reductive; in short, it couldn’t be worked out because slavery could not, should not, and would not stand. But as to why emotions ran to such a fever pitch at just that moment in history? Perhaps because newspapermen were screaming about it.

Even given the risk inherent in trying to separate a man from his money (even when that “money” is invested in ownership of other humans); and given the (pseudo)religious and (im)moral justifications for slavery, and their opposite refrains in the Abolitionist movement; and given the innate tension between federalism and community sovereignty that threads through our entire democratic history; and given that Europe would quite possibly have used slavery (in due course) as a pretext for embargo or another war; and given, finally, that an armed black uprising probably would have eventually succeeded, why did the rhetoric heat to a boil then? Why did we end with a conflagration then?

At the risk of also becoming reductive (probably inevitable when discussing the causes of the Civil War):

It might have had something to do with the fact that nearly every newspaper in America was associated with one political party or another, and no political party was without its conjoined newspapers. Not only was this the norm and accepted practice, it wasn’t even considered unethical. If a man (and, of course, it was always men) was smart enough to own a printing press, erudite enough to make his opinions matter to his readership, and wealthy enough to expand his newspaper’s reach, why would he not use it to trumpet his own views? If he had once held elected office or planned to in the future, would that not just make him better informed about the issues of the day? And why would he not affiliate with the politicians who agreed with him, to expand his circulation, lend weight to his message, and defray his costs? It is capitalism in action. The American Way. (For both Americas—freedom of the press was enshrined in both Constitutions, and the norms of the burgeoning industry crossed the Mason-Dixon line.)

Thus, a partisan, vocal, and influential news media (in part) drove conflict into war, and now, it seems, we have forgotten the lessons of the past. To provide a bit of necessary perspective, it should be noted that without the constraints of the Fairness Doctrine, and owing, in part, to the expanded technological landscape, partisanship in the news business is once again the norm, as are the use of political relationships and affiliations for purposes of profit and influence. The primary differences between the media now and in 1860 are: the increased speed with which news travels and the expanded breadth of its reach.


“American Society of Newspaper Editors Code of Ethics or Canons of Journalism.” (1923) Illinois Institute of Technology Ethics Codes Collection, 10 Nov. 2016, http://ethics.iit.edu/ecodes/node/4457.

“American Society of Newspaper Editors: History.” (2014) ASNE website, 10 Nov. 2016, http://asne.org/content.asp?contentid=83.

“American Society of Newspaper Editors: Statement of Principles.” (2014) ASNE website, 10 Nov. 2016, http://asne.org/content.asp?contentid=171.

“Society of Professional Journalists: Code of Ethics [2014].” SPJ website, 10 Nov. 2016, https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp.

“Society of Professional Journalists: History of the Society.” SPJ website, 10 Nov. 2016, https://www.spj.org/spjhistory.asp.

Blind Tribute

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Buy in ebook or print at major online retailers.

Keep up with Mari’s new books and other projects:

Amazon Author page
Mari’s Muses Street Team

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.





Just letting y’all know that with my new website, I’ve added a Contests page, which (ideally) will *always* have some sort of giveaway going on, and right now, there are two! You can go to the Contests page to check them out!

Blind Tribute Goodreads Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win a signed print copy of Blind Tribute by Mari Anne Christie.
As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Sailing Home Series Giveaway


When Isabella, the Countess of Huntleigh, returns to England after fifteen years roaming the globe with her husband, an elderly diplomat, she finds herself in a locale 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.

Unaccustomed to the ways of the beau monde, she is disarmed and deceived by a dissolute duke and a noble French émigré with a silver tongue. Hindered by the meddling of her dying husband, not to mention the King himself, Bella must decide whether to choose one of her fascinating new suitors or the quiet country life she has searched the world to find.



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.



The 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.


10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me


I was almost an actor and singer. I spent my entire childhood and most of my teen years in voice training and acting lessons (I could never dance). When I was nineteen, my music professors pushed me to audition for the National Theater Conservatory, at the same time my English professors were helping me secure an internship at the Denver Post. I decided writing was a more stable career path (I was right), so I set out to learn to write anything. I’ve been a business and technical writer since then, in any number of different guises.


I am also an award-winning graphic designer. I’ve been using graphic design software since Quark 1.0 (on a teeny-weeny Mac Classic), and Photoshop since before it was owned by Adobe. I started using Microsoft office on Windows 3.1 (after using WordPerfect in DOS for a few years) and am now an expert in Word and the Adobe Creative Suite.


Due to my formative years singing show tunes, I love musicals. I am all but tone deaf now, after all these years, and I have long since forgotten how to read music, but I sing along (badly) at the top of my lungs in my car to any musical I know (and I know a lot of them). I am also a total Gleek (about the TV show, not whatever other nonsense is in Urban Dictionary).


And on the topic of g[l]eekiness, I am a Harry Potter freak, and have a fairly sizable collection of books, movies, and companion volumes. (The Harry in my latest book is not, however, named after Potter. 😉) I can pretty much beat any Potter trivia game, whether about the books or the movies. I have a massive crush on Lucius Malfoy, both the literary and cinematic versions. (I have a thing for villains. What can I say?)


I have both a high school diploma and a GED, after graduating a year early from an alternative high school. I also have a Bachelor’s degree in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, and maintained a 4.0 GPA (during my second attempt at college in my 30s). My minors were in Creative Writing (Creative Non-Fiction) and Sociology (Religion). My Bachelor’s Honors Thesis, on the topic of religious conversion, took two years of primary research to complete, was 92 pages when finished, and satisfied requirements in both the English and Sociology Departments.


I took [the equivalent of] College Algebra eight times in high school and college, and failed eight times. If it had been a requirement for my degree, I would not have applied to go back to school. I cannot be relied on to do any math, ever, at any level, under any circumstances. I’ve taken the same four consecutive French classes at least four times and passed every time, starting in middle school. I still do not know enough French to make my way around Paris.


I can trace my maternal line back past the Battle of Hastings in 1066, to the Norman ancestor who was granted Baynard Castle in London. Another of my ancestors signed Charles I’s death warrant. I am related to the Count of Pappenheim, Germany, a title that dates back to 1628 (1030 as a Lordship) and is still in existence. Another of my ancestors was secretary to the Lords Proprietors, responsible for the initial disposition of land grants in South Carolina in the 1600s, who was granted an island off the coast of Charleston where members of my family lived until 1964.

Pappenheim Castle – 1140

Pappenhein Castle – 1593

Pappenheim Castle – current


My great-great uncle, Percival Whaley, the model for the main character in my last historical fiction novel, ran the first business newsletter in the US, which preceded the Kiplinger Letter. Whaley-Eaton Business Service opened in 1918 with the American Letter and Foreign Letter, and published various publications into the 1960s. In addition to adapting Percy Whaley, I’ve fictionalized Whaley-Eaton as Wentworth and Hoyt Business Service in Blind Tribute (including moving the entire enterprise to a different time period). Whaley-Eaton has largely disappeared from the history books, but I’ve just recently connected with the grandson of Henry Eaton, and we are going to try to help place the Whaley-Eaton name in its proper place in the history of American journalism and American business.


I have written about ten books (published six). I’ve published one book of poetry, two novels, two novellas, and a novelette in historical romance, and currently have two more in that genre mid-draft (all Regency-adjacent), and am serializing another historical romance (Victorian) with co-writer Jude Knight. I’ve also just released Blind Tribute, which is mainstream historical (with literary overtones). None of these, however, are my next series, The Lion’s Club, which is mainstream historical fiction, with nine books outlined and roughly drafted, based on my paternal grandmother’s childhood in Brooklyn, New York at the turn of the century.


I share a name with a town, Estancia Mari Christie, in the Boquerón region of Paraguay, at coordinates 21° 22′ 54″ South, and 61° 15′ 26″ West. No one planned this, least of all me.

Gray Location Map of Estancia Mari Christie
Gray Location Map of Estancia Mari Christie

To find out more about me or my books, you can go check out my brand-new website at http://www.MariAnneChristie.com.

Cover Reveal!


An Eastside Brewery Book

Publisher: Loveswept
Release Date: March 13, 2018

PRE-ORDER LINK (all retailers)

Award-winning author Mia Hopkins writes lush romances starring fun, sexy characters who love to get down and dirty. She’s a sucker for working class heroes, brainy heroines and wisecracking best friends. She lives in Los Angeles with her roguish husband and waggish dog.

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