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: www.SherryEwing.com.]

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.”

11986324_10207953478458294_7646750764487640404_n

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

JOIN US FOR THE FACEBOOK LAUNCH PARTY
November 1, 4-9 pm EDT


This blog post co-written by:

Mariana Gabrielle
http://www.MarianaGabrielle.com

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
http://www.SherryEwing.com

 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: www.BluestockingBelles.com
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest: BellesInBlue
— The Bluestocking Bookshop online storytelling game

Support the Bluestocking Belles’ fundraising campaign for the Malala Fund:
www.classy.org/BluestockingBelles

 

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

JOIN US FOR THE FACEBOOK LAUNCH PARTY
November 1, 4-9 pm EDT


This blog post co-written by:

Mariana Gabrielle
http://www.MarianaGabrielle.com

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
http://www.CarolineWarfield.com

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: www.BluestockingBelles.com
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest: BellesInBlue
— The Bluestocking Bookshop online storytelling game

Support the Bluestocking Belles’ fundraising campaign for the Malala Fund:
www.classy.org/BluestockingBelles

 

Royal Regard meets Encouraging Prudence

Author’s note: In the virtual worlds of historical fiction, authors create whole societies of characters, interacting with real historical events and even real people. But each virtual world sits alone, never touching the worlds of other authors. Until now.


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“Lord Aldridge”

The year is 1801 in Fickleton Wells, Somerset.

The Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, is 21, just down from Oxford. Lord Nicholas Northope, second son of the Duke of Wellbridge has been, at 27, racketing about England unchecked a fair few years without much purpose. And the trajectories of both young lives are about to change.

“The Duke of Wellbridge”

“I don’t fancy hanging so much, myself.” Lord Nicholas Northope observes, rubbing his fingertips along his throat, the iron chains at his wrist clanking as he considered the length of his neck. “I always thought if Prinny ordered it, I’d be drawn and quartered or boiled in oil. I seem to bring out his bloodlust.”

Nick looks out the window. They have been imprisoned in an old Norman tower at the home of the local baron. Fortunately. With the entire town of Fickleton Wells on the rampage, the local gaol would not have been safe. Even from this place of relative safety, he can see angry townspeople keeping watch from beyond the gate.

The two young noblemen are sitting, cramped and freezing, in torn, grimy clothes, awaiting the Prince of Wales’ pleasure after rather an uproar in one of his royal townships. Wrist and ankle shackles clank at each gesture, chains long enough to allow considered movement, but short enough to impede them if they run.

Back to the wall on the cold stone floor, Lord Aldridge, the Merry Marquis, tosses out, casually, “I don’t qualify for silk myself, you know. I’m just using my father’s second title. Hemp for me, same as you,” Nick thinks Aldridge is taking rather a ghoulish interest in the possible mechanics of his death. “Though I did rather fancy Madame La Guillotine if I were ever put to death. There is something so divinely aristocratic about it.”

“It seems one can only play so many pranks on a monarch,” Nick opines, “before one’s neck is stretched.”

“It wasn’t our fault. Those women…” Aldridge shudders. “I can’t have swived more than three or four, surely? We only had them to ourselves for one evening, after all.”

“I can’t possibly have swived all of them. Though perhaps half… There were… how many? Fifteen? Surely not.”

“I don’t remember much after the dancing. They danced beautifully, didn’t they? The rector’s daughters?”

Both men fell into rather a trance for a few minutes, remembering the plump thighs and comely smiles of the rector’s twelve lovely, lonely daughters.

“Nick, we didn’t do anything… dishonorable… Did we? They won’t really hang us? And the prince—he wouldn’t… Hell, Nick, I played with his little brothers and sisters from the time I could toddle.”

Nick shrugged, “And I might have married Sophia. You will do best not to remind him you might have touched his younger sisters with the same hands you used to defile the rector’s daughters. In fact, Aldridge, speaking as a man six years older and wiser, you will not want to mention the princesses—or defiling—at all.”

He can’t keep his chained hands away from his neck.

“My head feels very fuzzy,” Aldridge complains. “Nick, how many hands am I holding up? And what is that elephant doing in the corner?”

“Prinny won’t be fooled by false deliria. I’ve tried it once already and he caught me out by calling a physician.”

Aldridge subsides, grumbling. “Is it not worth trying? And how very like you to steal a man’s alibi before he even has the chance to use it.”

Perhaps Aldridge has a point. “The gin did have rather a sharp taste, to be sure, though. Did you not think?”

Aldridge straightens, clearly prepared to synchronize their stories. “Yes, of course. Assuredly. Quite sharp indeed.”

Nick laughs and shakes his finger. “Do not lie to your sovereign, Aldridge, and if you must, never so poorly as that. The mayor, the rector, and the squire have truth on their side. There can be no doubt of our guilt. I did visit the squire’s wife, and you did enjoy the mayor’s younger sister, no matter what we might or might not remember about the rector’s daughters. We both knew the town was on the prince’s estate—is that not why we were there? To avoid our fathers’ holdings? No, my friend, we’ve been well and truly served up for His Royal Highness’s supper.”

Aldridge utters an expletive, and sinks his head in his hands.

A sound outside the tower room brings them both to their feet. A key turns in the lock.

The Duke of Haverford brushes past the burly guard who opens the door. “Out!” he barks.

Lord Nicholas Northope is no stranger to the ducal disposition and backs into a corner first thing, a tactical error he started making in childhood and has never outgrown. Aldridge, the son of this particular angry duke, stays at rigid attention, which does not avert the ducal fire.

“You miserable, self-indulgent, beef-witted nodcocks! What on earth possessed you? What were you thinking? Don’t answer that. You were not thinking!” Nick and Aldridge shrink, inch by inch, to the size of ten-year-olds. “Northope, I blame you for this mess. Show the boy the town, I said. Give him a good time. Keep him out of trouble. What the hell do you mean by it, eh?”

If Aldridge thinks Nick will step forward to do the honorable thing and admit his part, he has lost his bloody mind.

“Aldridge,” the duke barks as his heir begins to edge to one side. “Stand, boy. I’ll get to you.” The last is uttered in a low steady monotone.

Nick sinks ever-deeper into the corner he should have abandoned when he had the chance.

“Listen to me, and listen well, you buffle-brained nincompoops. You have been banned from Fickleton Wells! Banned! The sons of two of the greatest men in the Commonwealth banned from an English town. How on earth did this happen?”

Nick clears his throat and still manages to squeak, “Patent medicine, Sir, I swear it!” He shoulders his way out of the corner, determined to give his lies confidence. “In the… in the gin… we were… we were poisoned! The brandy, too, I’ll wager. Lucky to be alive… Surely cannot be held responsible for…”

“Rubbish, Northope. Rubbish! I’ll tell you how it happened. You let a pack of women lead you by your willies. Yes, you did. Your father and I have talked to them. And paid them off, the bitches. Because…” he walks right up and taps Nick’s chest as he makes his point. “You. Let. Them. Fool. You.”

Nick’s hand runs around his neck again.

“Your Grace,” Aldridge has suddenly realized that they wouldn’t be banned if they were to be hanged. This has given him an altogether overly optimistic sense of confidence. “They say they are pregnant, Your Grace.” Haverford’s head swivels dangerously in Aldridge’s direction. “It can’t be us, Your Grace. It’s only been a week since we arrived, and surely, virile as we are, we cannot each have impregnated a dozen women in a week? Surely, not even Your Grace could—”

Nick suddenly realizes the benefit of being six years wiser.

Haverford turns all his attention on his son and heir, and Aldridge’s confidence shrinks to a needle point.

“They claim you have been visiting them for months,” Haverford explains, his suddenly gentle tones a sure sign that Aldridge is about to be very, very sorry. And then even sorrier than that.

While Aldridge tries to duck out of sight, Nick moves to a position well away from any more corners. He is a grown man, for heaven’s sake. And there are plenty of places to stand.

“I haven’t finished with you, Northope.”

“Months?” Nick responds, shaking his head, straightening his cuffs. “You’ve been coming here months, Aldridge?”

“Not I, Your Grace. It’s a lie.” Aldridge squeaks.

“I, on the other hand,” Nick offers, “just came to Fickleton Wells for a prize fight. At least that is why your son told me he was bringing me here. If he had another purpose… well… I cannot speak to that…”

Haverford casts his eyes to heaven. “No honor among thieves or scoundrels. Did the Duke of Wellbridge’s wife play him false with the village idiot? Aldridge, if your mother weren’t a saint I would swear you couldn’t be mine.”

Aldridge is casting Nick a look of deep betrayal. “Nick, how could you?”

Nick relents. There is no need to leave all the blame on Aldridge. “Admittedly, Your Grace, we had a bit more gin than two gentlemen should… But I would swear Aldridge and I were both unknown to them. And the gin had quite a sharp taste, rather like… patent medicine. I can’t help but think they are lying.”

“Of course they are lying.” Haverford throws up his hands in despair. “And of course they set out to trap you. And of course they drugged you. And of course you would drink anything put in front of you! Do you think I’m as big a fool as the two of you? But they have the whole town believing them, and the prince half believes them, too.”

“The prince,” Nick gulps. “What is Wales going to do to us?”

Haverford ignores him to continue his version of a fatherly sermon. “I have told you before, Aldridge. And you should listen, too, Northope. Never, ever, indulge yourself with the lower gentry or the middle sort. Servants, yes. Farmers’ wives and such. But never with people who can embarrass me… you. Keep a mistress. Keep ten; your allowance is large enough. Just don’t let your mother know, and stay away from the middle sort. One of our own, if you must, and if she has done her duty by her Lord. But never the middle sort. You have embarrassed me. You have embarrassed Wellbridge. And you have embarrassed the Prince of Wales.”

“On the topic of, er… Wellbridge… Sir?” Nick’s tentative voice demonstrated not an ounce of the Eton/Oxford poise he was so fond of displaying. “Did my, er… father… say what he would do? And Wales? What has he decided?”

“If it were up to me, and if Aldridge weren’t—God help the Haverford name—my heir, you’d both hang. But Prinny is inclined to be generous. I have no idea why.” He fixes Aldridge with another glare. “Your mother may have spoken to him.”

That brought up a very good point.

“Sir, Your Grace,” Nick asks, “might it be possible to bring this up with the Duchess of Wellbridge, not the duke?”

“There will be no discussion of anything with you, Northope. The king discussed it with Prinny, who discussed it with me and Wellbridge; we discussed it with your mothers, and the petty provincials in Fickleton Wells discussed it the length and breadth of England! You are asked not to find yourselves in the royal presence until such time as you are requested. You are further banned, until the general sense of noble fury is abated, from all of Prinny’s estates, his father’s, your father’s, and mine.

“Which. Will. Not. Be. Difficult.” Haverford’s finger drives the point home, “as you are both leaving England. Northope, your father has booked passage and suggests your long-delayed Grand Tour commence immediately on conclusion of this interview. Aldridge will be going to my estate in Outer Strathclyde, to study the wool trade. It is time he took a hand in estate business.”

“But Your Grace, isn’t Outer Strathclyde… didn’t you complain that you can’t seem to keep anyone there under the age of sixty?”

“Outer Strathclyde,” Nick snickers.

Aldridge looks hunted. “Outer Strathclyde,” he whimpers.

“Live to a ripe old age, they do in those parts. Something to do with the fine crisp air. Of course, all the young people have long since gone. But you could learn a lot there, Aldridge.”

“But Your Grace. You said you would never go there because you couldn’t get a woman to…” Aldridge’s voice trails off. Nick thinks he would have been better not to have opened his mouth.

Haverford, though, just smirks. “Precisely. And so the estate is neglected. But now I have no need to go. My ungrateful son—who could clearly do with fewer women—will represent me instead. And you, Northope…”

Nick knows exactly where he will be going, and if he can go without the ducal blessing, so much the better.

“Hanover, I presume?” he shrugs.

Nick has been recently considering a visit to his old friend, Adolphus, the viceroy, and Prinny will have no objection to Nick causing trouble in his brother’s viceregal Court. Northope second sons have a tradition of travel; it is how the French and Italian titles were acquired, and Nick will be more than delighted to continue the custom. Unexpected, given his brother’s infirmity, but not at all unwelcome. He does hope his father allows him a valet and enough money to eat well.

“Aldridge, you will not disappoint me,” Haverford’s mere tone of voice is a threat to both men… er, boys, who thus comply with the two burly servants come to escort the young lords to their respective transports.

“This is so unfair,” Aldridge hisses to Nick as they are separated. “You are being given the freedom of the globe, while I am being sent into celibate exile in a community of geriatric woollen weavers.”

Nick cannot help but grin. Aldridge is bearing the real punishment for their prank, and Nick is being rewarded with a merry jaunt across the Continent and no way for his father to object to it.

“I’ll remember this day, Northope,” Aldridge calls, as his keepers escort him away. “And I vow my exile will be a short one.”

Nick vows his might last forever.

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Royal Regard meets Encouraging Prudence – Part 3 of 4

Author’s note: In the virtual worlds of historical fiction, authors create whole societies of characters, interacting with real historical events and even real people. But each virtual world sits alone, never touching the worlds of other authors. Until now.

11025188_432122276937344_5770461272420998884_nThe Bluestocking Belles, as part of the launch of our new website for historical romance readers, created a magical coaching inn—fittingly called ‘The Crock and Bull’—a place for characters to meet from all of our books’ worlds and those of our guests.

Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight soon discovered that two of their characters knew one another well. Rather too well, according to all who knew them as young men.

During the course of the party, the Duke of Wellbridge and the Marquis of Aldridge have referred on several occasions to an incident that saw them banned from an entire town, from the Prince of Wales’ presence, and even—for a time—from England. Until now, even the Duchess of Wellbridge hasn’t known the whole truth.

What was that mysterious event? How do Aldridge and Wellbridge know each other? Why has it been so long since they’ve spoken? Are they still keeping secrets?

Now, exclusively for readers of our blogs, Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight have co-written a small bit of backstory shared by a young Lord Nicholas Northope (from Royal Regard) and his protégé in crime, the Merry Marquis of Aldridge (who first appears in Jude Knight’s work-in-progress, Encouraging Prudence).

We will share sections of this scandalous story the week of March 8-13, leading up to the Bluestocking Ball on March 14.


10959826_424216954394543_9016208317182697592_n

“Lord Aldridge”

The year is 1801 in Fickleton Wells, Somerset.

The Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, is 21, just down from Oxford. Lord Nicholas Northope, second son of the Duke of Wellbridge has been, at 27, racketing about England unchecked a fair few years without much purpose. And the trajectories of both young lives are about to change.

“The Duke of Wellbridge”

PART 3

Haverford turns all his attention on his son and heir, and Aldridge’s confidence shrinks to a needle point.

“They claim you have been visiting them for months,” Haverford explains, his suddenly gentle tones a sure sign that Aldridge is about to be very, very sorry. And then even sorrier than that.

While Aldridge tries to duck out of sight, Nick moves to a position well away from any more corners. He is a grown man, for heaven’s sake. And there are plenty of places to stand.

“I haven’t finished with you, Northope.”

“Months?” Nick responds, shaking his head, straightening his cuffs. “You’ve been coming here months, Aldridge?”

“Not I, Your Grace. It’s a lie.” Aldridge squeaks.

“I, on the other hand,” Nick offers, “just came to Fickleton Wells for a prize fight. At least that is why your son told me he was bringing me here. If he had another purpose… well… I cannot speak to that…”

Haverford casts his eyes to heaven. “No honor among thieves or scoundrels. Did the Duke of Wellbridge’s wife play him false with the village idiot? Aldridge, if your mother weren’t a saint I would swear you couldn’t be mine.”

Aldridge is casting Nick a look of deep betrayal. “Nick, how could you?”

Nick relents. There is no need to leave all the blame on Aldridge. “Admittedly, Your Grace, we had a bit more gin than two gentlemen should… But I would swear Aldridge and I were both unknown to them. And the gin had quite a sharp taste, rather like… patent medicine. I can’t help but think they are lying.”

“Of course they are lying.” Haverford throws up his hands in despair. “And of course they set out to trap you. And of course they drugged you. And of course you would drink anything put in front of you! Do you think I’m as big a fool as the two of you? But they have the whole town believing them, and the prince half believes them too.”

“The prince,” Nick gulps. “What is Wales going to do to us?”

Haverford ignores him to continue his version of a fatherly sermon. “I have told you before, Aldridge. And you should listen, too, Northope. Never, ever, indulge yourself with the lower gentry or the middle sort. Servants, yes. Farmers’ wives and such. But never with people who can embarrass me… you. Keep a mistress. Keep ten; your allowance is large enough. Just don’t let your mother know, and stay away from the middle sort. One of our own, if you must, and if she has done her duty by her Lord. But never the middle sort. You have embarrassed me. You have embarrassed Wellbridge. And you have embarrassed the Prince of Wales.”


To find out whether Aldridge will be blamed for twelve (or is it fifteen) pregnancies, come back here or go to Jude Knight’s blog March 13, 2015 for the conclusion to the story.

To attend the Bluestocking Ball with Aldridge, Nick (who is now, himself, the Duke of Wellbridge, at the wise old age of fifty), and dozens of other historical romance characters, go to the Bluestocking Belles’ Housewarming Party, March 14, 12 noon – 8 pm EDT.

Facebook Housewarming Party (The Bluestocking Ball)
Twitter Chat: Follow @BellesInBlue #BellesInBlue
Web Chat on the Bluestocking Belles Website

Royal Regard meets Encouraging Prudence – Part 1 of 4

Author’s note: In the virtual worlds of historical fiction, authors create whole societies of characters, interacting with real historical events and even real people. But each virtual world sits alone, never touching the worlds of other authors. Until now.

11025188_432122276937344_5770461272420998884_nThe Bluestocking Belles, as part of the launch of our new website for historical romance readers, created a magical coaching inn—fittingly called ‘The Crock and Bull’—a place for characters to meet from all of our books’ worlds and those of our guests.

Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight soon discovered that two of their characters knew one another well. Rather too well, according to all who knew them as young men.

During the course of the party, the Duke of Wellbridge and the Marquis of Aldridge have referred on several occasions to an incident that saw them banned from an entire town, from the Prince of Wales’ presence, and even—for a time—from England. Until now, even the Duchess of Wellbridge hasn’t known the whole truth.

What was that mysterious event? How do Aldridge and Wellbridge know each other? Why has it been so long since they’ve spoken? Are they still keeping secrets?

Now, exclusively for readers of our blogs, Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight have co-written a small bit of backstory shared by a young Lord Nicholas Northope (from Royal Regard) and his protégé in crime, the Merry Marquis of Aldridge (who first appears in Jude Knight’s work-in-progress, Encouraging Prudence).

We will share sections of this scandalous story the week of March 8-13, leading up to the Bluestocking Ball on March 14.


10959826_424216954394543_9016208317182697592_n

“Lord Aldridge”

The year is 1801 in Fickleton Wells, Somerset.

The Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, is 21, just down from Oxford. Lord Nicholas Northope, second son of the Duke of Wellbridge has been, at 27, racketing about England unchecked a fair few years without much purpose. And the trajectories of both young lives are about to change.

“The Duke of Wellbridge”

PART 1

“I don’t fancy hanging so much, myself.” Lord Nicholas Northope observes, rubbing his fingertips along his throat, the iron chains at his wrist clanking as he considered the length of his neck. “I always thought if Prinny ordered it, I’d be drawn and quartered or boiled in oil. I seem to bring out his bloodlust.”

Nick looks out the window. They have been imprisoned in an old Norman tower at the home of the local baron. Fortunately. With the entire town of Fickleton Wells on the rampage, the local gaol would not have been safe. Even from this place of relative safety, he can see angry townspeople keeping watch from beyond the gate.

The two young noblemen are sitting, cramped and freezing, in torn, grimy clothes, awaiting the Prince of Wales’ pleasure after rather an uproar in one of his royal townships. Wrist and ankle shackles clank at each gesture, chains long enough to allow considered movement, but short enough to impede them if they run.

Back to the wall on the cold stone floor, Lord Aldridge, the Merry Marquis, tosses out, casually, “I don’t qualify for silk myself, you know. I’m just using my father’s second title. Hemp for me, same as you,” Nick thinks Aldridge is taking rather a ghoulish interest in the possible mechanics of his death. “Though I did rather fancy Madame La Guillotine if I were ever put to death. There is something so divinely aristocratic about it.”

“It seems one can only play so many pranks on a monarch,” Nick opines, “before one’s neck is stretched.”

“It wasn’t our fault. Those women…” Aldridge shudders. “I can’t have swived more than three or four, surely? We only had them to ourselves for one evening, after all.”

“I can’t possibly have swived all of them. Though perhaps half… There were… how many? Fifteen? Surely not.”

“I don’t remember much after the dancing. They danced beautifully, didn’t they? The rector’s daughters?”

Both men fell into rather a trance for a few minutes, remembering the plump thighs and comely smiles of the rector’s twelve lovely, lonely daughters.

“Nick, we didn’t do anything… dishonorable… Did we? They won’t really hang us? And the prince—he wouldn’t… Hell, Nick, I played with his little brothers and sisters from the time I could toddle.”

Nick shrugged, “And I might have married Sophia. You will do best not to remind him you might have touched his younger sisters with the same hands you used to defile the rector’s daughters. In fact, Aldridge, speaking as a man six years older and wiser, you will not want to mention the princesses—or defiling—at all.”

He can’t keep his chained hands away from his neck.

“My head feels very fuzzy,” Aldridge complains. “Nick, how many hands am I holding up? And what is that elephant doing in the corner?”

“Prinny won’t be fooled by false deliria. I’ve tried it once already and he caught me out by calling a physician.”

Aldridge subsides, grumbling. “Is it not worth trying? And how very like you to steal a man’s alibi before he even has the chance to use it.”

Perhaps Aldridge has a point. “The gin did have rather a sharp taste, to be sure, though. Did you not think?”

Aldridge straightens, clearly prepared to synchronize their stories. “Yes, of course. Assuredly. Quite sharp indeed.”

Nick laughs and shakes his finger. “Do not lie to your sovereign, Aldridge, and if you must, never so poorly as that. The mayor, the rector, and the squire have truth on their side. There can be no doubt of our guilt. I did visit the squire’s wife, and you did enjoy the mayor’s younger sister, no matter what we might or might not remember about the rector’s daughters. We both knew the town was on the prince’s estate—is that not why we were there? To avoid our fathers’ holdings? No, my friend, we’ve been well and truly served up for His Royal Highness’s supper.”

Aldridge utters an expletive, and sinks his head in his hands.


To find out whether Prinny has them served broiled, fried, or fricasseed, go to Jude Knight’s blog tomorrow, March 10, 2015.

To attend the Bluestocking Ball with Aldridge, Nick (who is now, himself, the Duke of Wellbridge, at the wise old age of fifty), and dozens of other historical romance characters, go to the Bluestocking Belles’ Housewarming Party, March 14, 12 noon – 8 pm EDT.

Facebook Housewarming Party (The Bluestocking Ball)
Twitter Chat: Follow @BellesInBlue #BellesInBlue
Web Chat on the Bluestocking Belles Website