Letter from Rohana Shaheen in Visnagar, India, to Mayuri Falodiya in London

08 August 1800

Mayuri Falodiya, Proprietress
Masala Rajah Gentleman’s Retreat
London, England

Miss Rohana Shaheen Visnagar, India

My dearest friend, Mayuri,

It has been so many years since I have seen your face, heard the soft lilt of your voice, the grace of your fingers on the sarangi. I can hardly remember the dances of our youth, the music we once made together, the joy and laughter of our nights with Ramraja, days filled with young women’s silly dreams of love and devotion. It is my fondest hope for you, who once I called my sister, that you found such affection with a lover after your departure from India.

After my disgrace before the Chhatrapati and the tawaifs, I do not forget you were the one woman who came to my defense. You paid dearly for your insistence that the actions of my lover were not my own, that as Ramraja himself offered me up to the Vikanta as a gift, I deserved the protection of the emperor, not his contempt. For your defense of me, you were scarred beyond reckoning and banished with only your jewels to keep you, and I have grieved for the loss of your beauty and your livelihood since that fateful day.

I write at long last with news of my life since your departure for England and to ask the greatest service any woman can ask another. I will not dissemble, my friend, as you must know my years have not been easy, nor the life of comfort we were promised as the most favored tawaifs of the Maratha princes. Indeed, raising two children with no husband or protector has been a daily challenge for more than a decade. Were it not for the Vikanta’s generosity upon his leave-taking, we might have starved, for such is the charity shown by the royal family.

But such children! Both lovely girls: Kali, a graceful, thoughtful young lady who turns thirteen today, showing signs she will grow into an incomparable woman; and Kamala, who is yet a silly miss of almost eleven, and prefers stories of romance to her lessons. Both have a distinct flair for languages—English, French, Hindi, Sanskrit, and Farsi—and both show talent for the arts, Kamala with a special aptitude for the yaal harp, Kali an extraordinary dancer. Both are well-mannered and well-trained to the caste; I have seen to that myself.

This, however, is why I must ask a more important indulgence than I have ever asked anyone, as you will soon be the only hope for my daughters.

My health is failing, death slowly stalking me, as it often does, but I do not have so much time left as young girls dream. Without me, they will be alone in the world with no one to speak for them, to keep them safe, to be the mother they will yet need, both still so young. I believed, ten years ago, the Vikanta’s orders of protection by his soldiers were a boon, but now I see they only aligned my fate with those who would become my country’s enemies, ignoble men disinclined to provide shelter on the orders of a man an ocean away.

I have begged Emperor Shahu to place my girls under the imperial court’s protection, but you know his temperament better than any. I was fortunate to be granted an audience, but only so he could speak of how poorly I have aged and give vent to his long-standing hatred of my former lover. Of my children, he suggested only that they sell themselves to British soldiers, as that is what he considers I have done.

Our shared friend, Nitara, called me aside as I left the palace to say you have opened a kotha in London to train girls to our way of life. It is my dearest hope you will accept Kali and Kamala to study with you—the most talented tawaif of our generation—and help them find their start in life.

I do not ask out of remembrance of our childhood friendship, but rather offer the last of the fortune I was gifted by the Vikanta, not an inconsiderable sum, holding out only what the girls will require to make their way when they are fully grown. There is no other woman in the world to whom I can entrust my greatest treasures and the monies saved to keep them from harm.

As you are in London, you may yet discover the whereabouts of the Vikanta, Sutcliff Knightley, formerly Viscount Asheton and Lieutenant-General of the 29th Regiment of Bengal Sepoys, who will surely by now be the Earl of Birchbright. I cannot provide his direction, but if he can be located and is still the decent man I remember, he will honor his promise to protect our daughters. I beg of you, my friend, help me save my girls from certain ruin.

Namaste, my sister,

Rohana Shaheen


Find out what happens to Kali and Kamala in

La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess.

ldn-cover-500x750

Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends. When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.

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A Book and Its Movie: Gone With the Wind

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

*****

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

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

To order the book:
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New Baroness Sails Away From Family Scandal

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

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

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

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

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


Sir Jasper Smithson, 2nd Baronet

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

“We must leave, and now.”

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

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

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

AchilleLemot-Autoportrait

Mr. John Smithson

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

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

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

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

Jeremy-Smithson-1stLordLyndhurst

Mr. Jeremy Smithson

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

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

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

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


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

Separator

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

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

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

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

 

The Sailing Home Series

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

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

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

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

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

(FREE at all major retailers)

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

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

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

The Final Fouret

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

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

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

 

Monseigneur,

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

Further word on household activities by usual communiqué.

I am, as ever, your humble servant.

—M—

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Interrogation of a Paramour

Ferdinand_Tellgmann_Porträt_eines_Kupferstechers_Öl_auf_Leinwand

Source: Ferdinand Tellgman, Portrat eines Kupferstechers (retouched)

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

“Of course.”

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

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

“It wasn’t what you think.”

“No? What was it, then?”

WilliamCobbettPrison

Source: Crimes and Punishment Magazine, 1810

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

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

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

“Newry pay your rent, then?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

Another note. “Keep his accounts then?”

“Among other things.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are his properties?”

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

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

“Primary source of income?”

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

666px-Newgate-prison-exercise-yard

Newgate Exercise Yard by Gustave Dore

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

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

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

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




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

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

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


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Interrogation of a Lord

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“I. Am. A. Viscount!”

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

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

“You may as well sit, Newry.”

Lord Newry to you, Sirrah!”

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

“This. Is. Preposterous!”

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

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

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

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

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

WilliamCobbettPrison

Source: Crime and Punishment Magazine, 1810

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

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

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

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

“So, you say he’s your secretary.”

“Because he is my secretary.”

“What kind of work does he do, then?”

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

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

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

“Just answer the question, please.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Most peers have no compassion for the downtrodden.”

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

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

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

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

“What sort of arrangement?”

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

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

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




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

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

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


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Old Scandal Comes Home to Roost—and Inherit

December 15, 1803

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

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Lucky for you, dear Readers, this reporter can.

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

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

JohnVanderlynPortraitOfTheArtist1800

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

Until now.

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

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

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

Gabrielle - TisHerSeason - AlexanderMarloughe - William_Thomas_Fry - William_Spence

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

But does any of that matter at all?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Mariana Gabrielle

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

www.MarianaGabrielle.com


New Title Tuesday! Dr. Gloria G. Brame – Different Loving Too

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


Different Loving Too, Dr. Gloria G. Brame
Genre: Sexuality, BDSM, LGBT (Non-fiction)
Release Date: January 2016

dl2smallDifferent Loving has really grown up with its audience. The original volume, cataloging the interests and practices of people within the BDSM scene, was an elegant and vital introduction. But as I learn and grow I find that what is most interesting in kink is not the trappings, but the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects that lead people to kink in the first place.  Different Loving Too focuses on all those things. It references peer-reviewed science, and interviews practitioners on their community, on their ethics, and on their needs. Different Loving Too brings Dr. Brame’s work full-circle, from raw sensation to the subtle beauty of a knowing glance.

—  Joy S. Grape, Moderator, Sex and Gender Lab (FaceBook)

If you think all people who practice BDSM are the same, think again. Different Loving Too illuminates the wide range of motivations, meanings, and practices of kinksters, and offers a fascinating look behind the dungeon (and bedroom) door. No matter how much experience you do or don’t have in the scene, you’re sure to learn something new.

— Rachel Kramer Bussel, Editor, Dirty Dates: Erotic Fantasies for Couples

To Buy: Amazon


Who first encouraged you to write, and how?
I’ve been a bit of a graphomaniac since I was a kid, always scribbling poems and thoughts and revelations into notebooks, always treating life like I was the fly on the wall observing how people behaved.  I knew by age ten that I wanted to be some kind of a writer, thanks to my fourth grade teacher making me write her letters all summer.  The most meaningful source of support for me came from public school teachers and then college professors who encouraged me to keep writing. They made me believe I had talent.

What inspired you to write this book?
This book was a project of the heart.  I always wanted to follow up the original Different Loving, but things changed so quickly over time, that I didn’t know where to begin.  How do you even describe the changes in perceptions that the Internet has brought?   But I finally decided I had to do this before I got too old (I’m 60 now), and somehow, I did find a way to encompass the literal revolution in BDSM/fetish sex.  I focused on the people who lived it, and let their stories tell the real story of how BDSM has changed and, more importantly, how they have maintained healthy, loving relationships despite what all the critics of this lifestyle always claimed.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
Self-discipline in the face of self-hatred, maybe.  Writers can be their own worst enemies, dredging up every anxiety and insecurity in the process of writing, and treating their book like a dysfunctional stepchild.  I’ve known writers who get hives or puke when they write, others who can’t do it without alcohol.  It took me decades to be able, finally, to drown out the insecurities by sticking to a mindless routine of writing every day at the same time.  Treating it like a job leaves less room for self-pity, IMX 🙂


About the Author
DrBrame-38Gloria G. Brame, Ph.D., sexologist, award-winning sex expert, and best-selling author of 8 ground-breaking books about sex, including Different Loving and The Truth About Sex.

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New Title Tuesday! A.E. Snow – Meadow Perkins, Trusty Sidekick

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


Meadow Perkins, Trusty Sidekick, A.E. Snow
Genre: YA Contemporary, YA Romance
Release Date: December 9, 2015

Meadow-Perkins,-Trusty-Sidekick_500x750 (1)Meadow has always been someone’s sidekick. It stinks, but it has always kept her safe. On the last day of school, Emilia, her so-called best friend, deals her a blow in the form of public humiliation and her spot in a prestigious art school is compromised. Meadow is knocked out of her sleepy existence and realizes she needs to make some big changes, starting with Emilia.

When Isla moves in across the street, she inspires Meadow to take charge of her own life and her own heart. Her heart just won’t shut up about the brooding Alejandro, or about Jack, who is tall and funny and totally gets her.

Being caught between two boys isn’t all bad, but after Meadow makes a shocking discovery, she realizes that she must stand on her own two feet and fix the mess she’s made. Will her new friendship survive and can Meadow win back the boy she like likes?

To Buy: Amazon


Who first encouraged you to write, and how?
I had some great English teachers who were very encouraging. But my mother was the most encouraging. She is still my biggest supporter.

What inspired you to write this book?
About five years ago, I had this idea for a book. It’s been so long, I don’t quite remember the initial inspiration. I just loved the characters and I wanted to get to know them more. I had a new baby and I needed a little escape from those difficult infant days. I also knew that plus-sized characters were underrepresented in YA and I wanted to see more of that. In the end, I just wrote what I wanted to read.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
Discipline. I don’t write every single day, but I do when I’m working on something. The discipline to keep writing even when it’s the last thing you want to do. That’s why it took me more than two years to write Meadow Perkins, Trusty Sidekick. These days, it’s easier to commit to and finish projects.


About the Author
authorphotoA.E. Snow is a writer, mother, pet wrangler, and lives for books. She lives in a tiny mountain town with her husband, two children, three cats, a dog, and a partridge in a pear tree.

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New Title Tuesday! Suzie Jay – Merry Christmas, Eve

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


Merry Christmas, Eve, Suzie Jay
Genre: Chick-Lit/Romance
Release Date: November 30, 2015

final kindle versionEve Taylor, a self-confessed Christmas addict, should be at home decorating her tree and baking cookies for Santa. Instead she’s stuck in a snowed in airport the night before Christmas Eve. Another lonely Christmas seems inevitable until Grayson Parker and his two small children come barging into her life. Will Grayson be able to melt Eve’s heart in time for a Merry Christmas or will events conspire to pull them apart?

To Buy: Amazon


Who first encouraged you to write, and how?
My entire life I had people telling me to write. My mother when I was writing 20 page stories at the age of 4, every teacher I ever had at school, friends, family and pretty much most people that knew me. It never struck me to make it a career though. It was just something I loved doing. I would use writing to get me out of trouble for not doing the work I should have been doing at university and at school. I would just dazzle them with bullshit and hope for the best. It usually worked so how could you not love that? I became a school teacher and spent my days forcing kids to read and write and be creative. Most of them hated it, the few that loved it made it worthwhile. Then I realized I wanted to write the stories instead of forcing students who didn’t want to.

What inspired you to write this book?
My entire life has been me training for this event. I love Christmas, I’m a grumpy bitch most of the year but come the festive season, I turn into one of those annoying Christmas caroling, hallmark movie watching, and cookie baking Christmas machine. I have a heap of Christmas traditions that I force my family to follow and partake in and I’m a bundle of irritating cheer. I needed to write a Christmas book, if I could make a movie, I’d do that too.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?

Well I’m not particularly successful at this time so I’m probably not the person that should be preaching the top ten steps to success. I am however having a ball. This writing gig is the best time of my life and I enjoy every minute of it. If I had to give you something I would say that yes it’s important to learn the writing rules and just as important to disregard them at times, get a good editor, tell the story your way but most importantly, take the business seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun, make friends surround yourself with people you can bitch too and laugh with and have a go. Wait… did I actually answer the question?


About the Author
11079132_10153114656668930_446310047_nSuzie Jay is a writer of Romance and Chick Lit novels. She lives in Australia with her husband, children, and half a zoo of pets.

She has a teaching background (please don’t hold that against her.) but needed to escape.

Suzie is a massive foodie and used to own a business baking and decorating cupcakes and birthday cakes (How can that even be considered a job right?). Most of her books mention food, recipes, cooking, eating and some even include recipes. She just can’t help herself.

She is also a reality TV junkie and a movie buff. She claims it’s a side effect from working with teenagers for the last 10 years. She loves to read but mostly Chick Lit (romantic comedies), biographies, true stories and a little bit of romance.

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