Anne Gracie stops by b2b!



Happy April 1st to you all — Happy Birthday to Melanie, and happy launch day for my book ‘The Winter Bride’. I won’t hog all the celebrations, but I’ll try to entice you with a few snippets from ‘The Winter Bride’.

ag twb

Buy Links: Amazon / B&NIndieBound  / The Book DepositoryUK

The story:  To get his parents and marriage-minded muffins off his back, charming bad-boy rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes pays marriage-shy Damaris Chance to enter into a false engagement. It’s all for show; falling in love was never in the plan . . .

The Cast:

1) The hero and heroine:

          Freddy: He wasn’t contemplating marriage, dammit! Not with anything other than horror.

Damaris: “I have an abhorrence of marriage.” There was a short, shocked silence.

2) Damaris’s ‘aunt’ on Freddy:

Lady Beatrice poked him with her elegant ebony stick. “Been out on the tiles again, young tomcat?”

Freddy gave her a cool, dignified look.

Lady Beatrice grinned. “Thought so. You have that look about you.”

3) Damaris’s employer on Freddy:

          “A tomcat in gentleman’s clothing, that’s what ’e is—a rake through and through. . . Bless you, my dove, you’re too young to recognize a Wicked Seducer when you see one, and I grant you that one is an ’andsome devil, and charmin’ as an oiled snake, I have no doubt!”

She fixed Damaris with a gimlet eye. “But it don’t do for a girl like you to catch the eye of a gentleman, take it from me. He’ll soften you up with sweet words and little gifts and . . . and poetry, and you’ll think ’e’s ever such a nice fellow, then in the twinklin’ of an eye, he’ll ’ave your skirts over your ’ead, and there you’ll be, rooned forever!”

“But Mrs. Jenkins—”

“Rooned forever!” Mrs. Jenkins repeated firmly.

4) Freddy’s mother on Damaris:

          Lady Breckenridge’s pale blue eyes glittered. “Instead, here you are, a girl I’ve never met before, some connection of Lady Beatrice’s but otherwise entirely unknown to English society. And half Italian.” As if Damaris were some mongrel puppy.

5) Freddy’s father on Damaris’s suitability:

          His father hunched over his wine, and after a moment muttered, “Almeria Armthwaite is English and a bruisin’ rider to hounds. You could have had her.”

Freddy smiled. “Anyone can, I believe, as long as they enjoy the whip.”

Anne Gracie again:

I loved writing this book. Freddy is funny and charming, a lighthearted bad-boy rake. He calls Pride and Prejudice a horror story — it’s all about girls finding husbands, you see — and he’s pursued by “muffins” — ie. marriage-minded women. But he slowly reveals himself to be “an utterly to-die-for hero” (so said Mary Jo Putney.) Damaris is serious and quiet, and the secrets of her past make her vulnerable, but underneath her cool exterior she’s really something special — watch her stand up to Freddy’s b*tch of a mother, and I think you’ll love her as much as I do.

poodleCakesHappy Birthday, Melanie and thanks for letting me share it with you.

Dear Bookworms, I’ll give a copy of ‘The Winter Bride’ to someone who leaves a comment: since today is Mel’s birthday, what do you think we should serve at her party? I’m sending these little cup-cakes.

Melanie here:

Anne, I’m so happy you’re here with us today! Thanks for stopping by and helping me celebrate my 57th Birthday. I tell you, it is true, the saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun.’  I look back on my life and wonder at all the Blessings, and thank the good Lord for each of them.


Now, let’s party! Here’s the place we’re all at, but we need some drinks, food and how about some of my favorite ‘book boyfriends’ coming over and lending a hand in the festivities? Too bad James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie can’t travel through stones…but maybe you could send me one of your ‘book boyfriends’? Who will it be?!

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Commenter that sends me the one I choose will get a print or eCopy of one of my all time favorite stories from Anne Gracie, and it’s ‘The Virtuous Widow’ in an anthology titled ‘Gifts of the Season’ with Miranda Jarrett and Lyn Stone.

agAUTHOR INFO: For Anne’s Bio, click on her pick. You’ll love it!

Places to find Anne Gracie:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Tweeter


Closing out 2013 with …

My 2013 Debut Authors are:

As the year ends I look back at the books I’ve read, some new ‘to me’  and some début authors I’ve enjoyed and today I’m giving you heads up on these because I think they’re the ones to watch out for in the years to come.

Please note that they come in no particular order. All are equally good and worthy of my esteem.

TP KWKate Worth and ‘The Promise’

BOOK BLURB: When pastry chef Jane Gray tries to sell her daughter’s locket, she becomes the unlikely subject of a massive police hunt and fodder for London’s tabloid press. Secrets unravel, lies are exposed, and the Duke of Rutledge demands custody of his niece.

Charming and handsome, the duke’s brother Finn spends his leisure time between the sheets of London’s most beautiful, wanton women. The seasoned rake is perplexed by his attraction to demure, virtuous Jane… definitely not his usual type. It soon becomes evident there is more to Jane than meets the eye and Finn longs to possess the passionate woman hidden beneath her modest facade.

When the publicity draws the attention of a madman from Jane’s past and Finn is forced to enter London’s dangerous underworld in a heart-stopping race to save her.

REVIEW: here.

AMAR EPEvelyn Pryce and ‘A Man Above Reproach’

BOOK BLURB: In 1830s London, scandalized whispers surround the pub known as The Sleeping Dove. A hidden bordello, the rumors say, catering to straying nobles eager to shed the trappings of their stations.

Josephine Grant knows the rumors are true–she plays piano at the Dove, known only as “The Bawdy Bluestocking” to the pub’s faithful. Tales swirl as to her real origin: some patrons claim that she was an orphan prodigy, others go so far as to name her concubine to the King.

The society ladies call the reluctant Duke of Lennox “The Uncatchable,” not that he cares for them or their nicknames. Elias Addison’s estate was thrust upon him when his father died and it has been little else but a burden. He spends his days mired in responsibilities and his nights pursued at endless balls by fortune-hunting debutantes. He is morose, serious, and tense.

When a friend brings him to the Sleeping Dove in an attempt to lighten his mood, the consequences of those good intentions are far greater. When the Duke of Lennox finds himself at the Bawdy Bluestocking’s piano, they begin to play a dangerous melody. Though Elias cannot resist courting Josie, she has a past to protect, a shaky future, and no time for frivolous nobility with soft hands. When the Duke uncovers the truth, will he wish he had never begun the tune?

REVIEW: here.

U ACAnna Cowen and ‘Untamed’

BOOK BLURB: Outspoken and opinionated, Katherine Sutherland is ill at ease amongst the fine ladies of Regency London. She is more familiar with farmers and her blunt opinions and rough manners offend polite society. Yet when she hears the scandalous rumours involving her sister and the seductive Duke of Darlington, the fiercely loyal Katherine vows to save her sister’s marriage – whatever the cost.

Intrigued by Katherine’s interference in his affairs, the manipulative Duke is soon fascinated. He engages in a daring deception and follows her back to her country home. Here, their intense connection shocks them both. But the Duke’s games have dangerous consequences, and the potential to throw both their lives into chaos…

REVIEW: here.

perf5.000x8.000.inddSandra Owens and ‘The Letter’

BOOK BLURB: THE LETTER is a story of a betrayal that wasn’t. Even so, it still tore two lovers apart for eleven years. Michael Jeffres, Earl of Daventry, found his betrothed, the woman who meant as much to him as the air he breathed, in bed with his cousin on the eve of their wedding.

Diana, the daughter of a marquess, remembers nothing of that night. All she knows is she was forced to marry Michael’s cousin, Leo, and then spent the next eleven years in hell.
When the two lovers are brought back together by a letter from Leo a year after his death, they must struggle through all the lies and secrets before they can find a love that far surpasses that of their youth.

REVIEW: here.

TSOLP EQElla Quinn and ‘The Seduction of Lady Phoebe’

BOOK BLURB: Polite society has its rules for marriage. But for Ella Quinn’s eligible bachelors, their brides will show them that rules are for the weak of heart…

Phoebe Stanhope is not a typical Lady. As feisty as she is quick witted, no one can catch her, especially when she is driving her dashing phaeton with its perfectly matched horses. And unlike her peers, experience has guarded her against a growing list of would-be suitors. But when she encounters Marcus Finley, what she fears most burns deep within his blue-eyed gaze…

For Lord Marcus, the spark of recognition is but a moment in the love he has held these many years. Now that he’s returned to England, all the happiness he desires rests on Lady Phoebe never finding out that he was the one who turned her heart so cold and distant. He must work fast to gain the advantage—to convince her what she wants is exactly what she denies—but in order to seduce her into his arms, he must be willing to give up more than he can control…

REVIEW: here.

TDL MCMáire Claremont and ‘The Dark Lady’

BOOK BLURB: Lord Ian Blake has returned from India a broken man. Years ago, he pledged to Lady Eva Carin—his childhood companion and first love—that he would bring her husband back alive. His failure haunts him. But even his jaded soul can’t anticipate the shocking sight of beautiful, independent Eva confined in a madhouse.

Locked in an asylum, forgotten by society, Eva is adrift in both body and mind. For Ian to break her free, they must cross a powerful enemy—and prove her sanity to England’s unforgiving aristocracy. But the biggest danger of all may come when the secrets of Eva’s tragic past are finally unlocked.

REVIEW: here.

The Illicit Love of a CourtesanJane Lark and ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’

BOOK BLURB: Trapped under the reign of a cruel keeper, Ellen Harding longs to be free. Under his oppression, her soul and conscience have died while her body lives on, fulfilling his dissolute desires. She is empty––a vessel––deaf to the voice of morality and blind to shame.

When her eyes are drawn to a beautiful man for no other reason than his looks, she imagines what it would be like to escape her chains for a night by giving her body to him.

But Edward Marlow is kind and gentle when he touches her, and her subconscious whispers, this man could be her salvation. Yet how can he help her when she has secrets which prevent her freedom?

Edward is restless, lonely, and a little angry with his lot in life—it is his only excuse for being drawn to another man’s mistress.  The woman’s dark hair and pale eyes are striking, and he cannot take his gaze off her while she watches him over the top of a fan with an illicit intent in her eyes.

Once he’s known her, he cannot forget her, and once he’s seen the evidence of her supposed benefactor’s brutality, he wants to help her. But how can he when she will not run any more than she will speak of her past?

When a desperate Ellen finally relents and shocks Edward from his sleep, he doesn’t hesitate, he helps her flee He just doesn’t know he’s running headlong into the secrets of her past.

REVIEW: here.

ADI EMErica Monroe  and ‘A Dangerous Invitation’

BOOK BLURB: One fatal mistake cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved, spiraling him toward drunken self-destruction. Now sober, he’ll have to prove he’s innocent of the murder he was accused of two years ago. But pistol-wielding Kate Morgan hasn’t forgiven his sins.

Torn from her privileged existence by her father’s death, Kate Morgan has carved out a new independent life in the Ratcliffe rookery as a fence for stolen goods. Daniel’s invitation to assist him jeopardizes her structured existence. Yet Kate can’t resist his touch, or the wicked desires he stirs within her.

As their renewed passions grow reckless, their investigation takes them through the darkest and most depraved areas of the City. To catch a killer, they’ll have to put secrets behind them and trust only their hearts.

REVIEW: here.

Those are some of the authors that have debuted this year, but I’ve discovered this year ‘new to me’ authors that have been around and they are: Victoria Vane; Sherry Thomas; Julianne Lee, Tracy Grant, Susan King, Elizabeth Chadwick…

There are so many more on my Kindle and still on my TBR so I need to get to them all…eventually.

How was your reading year and have you any recommendations for me?


Holiday TV movies to see this Season…

‘A Princess for Christmas’

starring Sam Heughan & Katie McGrath

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‘On The 2nd Day Of Christmas’

staring Mary Stuart Masterson & Mark Ruffalo

G b2b

‘One Night With a King: Story of Esther’ 

starring Tiffany Dupont & Luke Goss

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‘Christmas Cupid’

starring Christina Milian & Burgess Jenkins

Help save “Copper” on BBCA by Carla Ives


Good Monday my bookworms!

Mel here….

This post is a bit personal for me. I’ve actually never done this before…try to bring back a TV show…but I do feel strongly about it, so here goes.

I really don’t watch TV much. I’d rather read a book However, there are some shows that are worthy of me lighting my tube and “COPPER” is just such a show that I thought was well written and executed.

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when last month, just before the cliffhanger of the second season, I find out the show had been canceled…WTH?! I mean, really?! In the midst of all these reality shows that we’re inundated with, we finally get a decent show that even men like, and BBCA just yanks it off…I don’t get it! Check out these videos and tell me what you think of the show….

Well, I found like minded people on Facebook and they’re not taking this ‘laying down’ and are willing to try and get the show back on the air….so, I thought to give them a spot today to appeal to some of my faithful readers and followers who either saw the show, or would like to see it, once they bring it back. Please help us sign as many people as we can to these groups so we can bring back this show….

Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Carla and her guest post!

It’s 1865. President Lincoln has been assassinated and John Wilkes Booth, the assassin, is dead. Loyal union soldiers Kevin Corcoran and Major Robert Morehouse, along with former slave Dr. Matthew Freeman, did their part to help bring Booth to justice. They’re back in Five Points and Detective Corcoran gets word that he’s wanted to replace the late General Brendan Donovan in Tammany Hall.

Normally, I would be excited over this type of a season ending. Sadly, for fans of the BBCA show “Copper,” it turned out to be a series ender. The network unexpectedly cancelled this very popular show with little to no reason.

“Copper” has a loyal following and they are very disappointed. Fans want the show brought back and are willing to work at it. Groups have been started to try to sway the producers to bring the show back, if not on BBCA then maybe on another network. Rumor has it that a movie is in the works, but diehard “Copper” fans want their weekly fix of the show that details the life of Irish immigrants in the mid-19th century.

If you loved the show, you can help. Get involved! Here are a number of ways you can do just that. Click on the blue links to access the information.

Email: Write to Tom Fontana. He is on the side of the fans and looking at doing the movie. Let him know you want the show back.

Sign: There is a petition at, among others. To sign this petition, click HERE.

Tweet: If you have a Twitter account, follow Save Copper TV HERE.

Facebook and Google +: There are many pages set up to save “Copper.”

Bring Back Copper

Copperholics Anonymous


One of the best things you can do is make a fan video. The video can be as simple as talking about why you love the show and think it should have been renewed. You can do this with your phone, a camera or even by creating a Power Point presentation with voiceover. Upload it to You Tube and then use the link to with your emails and page comments for added emphasis. You can upload the video to You Tube HERE.

If enough of us band together, the producers and powers that be have to take notice. The phrase, “There is strength in numbers,” has never been more applicable. If enough of us care, we can get Corky, Francis, Andrew, Major Morehouse and Dr. Freeman back where they belong!


GIVEAWAY by b2b!

“COPPER” Season One DVD to one commenter who signs up the most names to 

Bring Back Copper Facebook page!

*Make sure your friends mention you when they join the group. 

*Contest open until 10/12/13 


??????????????????????Carla Ives is the owner of the Ms. Atlantic City web site and Facebook page, the ultimate guides to casinos, entertainment, restaurants and hotels in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She is sort of a Jill of All Trades, master of a few.

She’s also a ghostwriter, freelance writer, editor and history lover. You can find her strolling on the Boardwalk, sitting on the beach or over at Ms. Atlantic City madly scribbling away. Please contact her HERE with comments, questions and suggestions.

Kellie & Derek-poetry in motion!

Season 16 WinnersSeason 16 of Dancing With the Stars promised to be a bore with some of the celebrities that were slated to appear on it [I'm not going to even name them, sorry], but my all time favorite pro, ‘little’ man Derek Hough, was still on it, and I only tuned in to watch him and his new partner, Kellie Pickler.


From week one, she took off like a rocket! I loved watching them and they made this season worth watching. They kicked off Week 1 with a cha-cha; Week 2 was a jazz routine; Week 3 was a prom-themed night; Week 4 Rumba; Week 5 foxtrot; Week 6 Stevie Wonder-themed quickstep; Week 7 Latin night samba; Week 8 trio paso doble with Tristan MacManus was amazing and one of the most controversial dances of the season (I could have fallen off my couch when Len had a major meltdown over its content and rated it a 7!);  Week 9 had them do Argentine tango and it was to die for; Week 9 arrived and semi-finals had them do flamenco; and  finally the Finals came and nothing, NOTHING prepared me for their free-style. Their Week 10 free-style overshadowed everything the other finalists have done. While they went all out with the ‘production’ of the free-style, Derek choreographed an amazing dance. It made you jump out and take notice. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Free Style DK

I think they deserved the trophy and then some! Both did the best to entertain their audience from day one and I sure appreciate their efforts. Just an aside, did you know why she cut her beautiful long locks?  Her pixie haircut had people talking and a lot of chicks will now want her hair cut! Apparently, she shaved her head to support cancer awareness and support a friend who was battling the disease. Such a sweetheart!

Fan or no of DWTS, please take a minute to watch their free-style. Everything worked in it, from the music [just listen to the words!] to the choreography, to the raw emotions of the dancers! WOW!


Are you a fan of the show? Have you watched it this season? Who was your favorite couple on it?

GH’s Robert Kelker Kelly Surprise!

Robert Kelker Kelly GH 2013

Well color me surprised times a thousand! Have you seen this coming GH fans?! I sure didn’t, and that might just be that it’s because I stopped watching GH some …oh, I don’t know…three or so years ago, around the time when Emily died.


“General Hospital” was celebrating its 50th Anniversary and I thought to ‘tune in’ and catch up with some of my favorite couples, like Sonny and Carly [no big surprise that she's not with him any more, though], Luke and Tracy [WHAT?! They're not together either?!], Patrick and Robin [OMG! Robin's dead?! How'd that happen?], Jason and Sam [WTF?! He's dead too?! HOW?!]. It looks like I’ve missed a lot and need to play catch-up.

I was surprised to find out Laura, Anna and Duke were back! I just wonder for how long. Those we favored keep coming back to whet our appetite and then they leave just as quickly, and I usually leave with them. But as much as I had fun watching the celebration, it was even more fun to play the game of ‘Who’s behind Lulu’s abduction?’. Helena was my numero uno suspect, but now she’s [and I hope for good this time] dead and that left me with… Stavros Cassadine?!

Stavros and Luke

In the eighties, when I was hooked on GH, Stavros Cassadine, Helena’s spoiled brat of an heir, was obsessed with Laura. He couldn’t have her any other way, so he kidnapped her then made her to marry him. Oh, and he raped her, which is how Nikolas was conceived. Laura escaped him, leaving Nik behind in his Uncle Stefan’s care and we were sure he breathed his last as he tumbled down the stairs while fighting with Luke…No such luck!

Stavros came back to life [the first time!] after eighteen years ‘on ice’ [don’t ask, it’s a long story and my memory is fading about the whole thing, just trust me, k?]. He died again as he and Luke, once again, fought and he fell down the rabbit hole… [HA! Just checking to see if you’re paying attention] bottomless pit.

RKKWell, it looks like he cheated death once more and I’m dying to know how does one stay alive after a fall to a ‘bottomless pit’…It looks like that pit had a bottom and Stavros didn’t hit it hard enough!

They decided to bring back the evil Dude, which meant either get Robert Kelker Kelly or cast someone else. Yesterday, I just jumped out of my seat when I saw him.

Just in case you’re not familiar with this guy, he just about played all the soap’s. I never saw him on ‘Another World‘ as Sam Fowler, but I got to see him as Bo Brady on ‘Days of our Lives‘ and he was better than the original Bo, Peter Reckell.

In 2001 he showed up as Stavros Cassadine on ‘General Hospitalplaying Helena’s twisted son and Nikolas’ father and I thought he did a bang up job at playing ‘evil son’.

Holy shit but he changed! It took me a second to go WOW! He sure is as handsome as ever and I’m hoping he sticks around a bit longer this time…although I’m not sure if I’ll have the patience to watch it regularly. Let’s see if the writers can make this story interesting enough for me to come back to the show…

Are you a fan of GH? Do you have the patience to watch soaps and which one’s are your favorite? Do you remember RKK?

Here are some clips of 50th GH celebration. Enjoy!




Downton Abbey Bummer…

cast of DA

…before I even begin with this post, be warned, there will be spoilers so if you haven’t watched the show at all or haven’t seen the ending of the third season, you may want to skip my post altogether…BUT, if you’ve seen all three seasons of it, I would love it if you’d put your two cents in and possibly walk me off the ledge?

I am an avid PBS supporter and my guilty pleasure has always been Masterpiece Theater, even way back when Alistair Cook was the host. I loved watching The Six Wives of Henry VIIIElizabeth RPoldarkI, ClaudiusUpstairs, Downstairs and The Forsyte Saga. For someone who loves history, PBS was a gold mine and I spent hours watching, absorbing and enjoying those shows and many, many more.

Downton Abbey Family

Couple of years ago they started broadcasting a new series called Downton Abbey and I was hooked! What’s not to like?! There’s aristocracy, domestic help, love, intrigue, passion, humor…and tragedy.

Here is a great video from PBS that tells the two first seasons of Downton Abbey in five minutes. If you’ve never seen it, I think this will hook you good…oh, and no spoilers…yet…

*Do NOT continue unless you like the spoilers*

This past Sunday we’ve come to the end of the third season and after three days, I’m still grieving…

I’ve yet to get over the shock of Sybil’s passing, for crying out loud [literally, crying out LOUD!]. Every time I see little Syb and Tom, I get all choked up. I honestly didn’t see that one coming! Watching her parents cope with her sudden death was heart wrenching. Both were left blaming Robert, until the good doctor stepped in with an honest assessment of the situation. And that wouldn’t have happened without the Old Bird’s [the Dowager] interference.

Speaking of, I always loved Maggie Smith [and not only because she’s the mother of one of the best actors to walk the Earth, Toby Stephens] because she not just acts…she embodies the characters she plays to such a degree that you don’t see an actress in a role, but a character that is real, flesh and blood and bone. Someone that reaches out to you and makes you a part of whatever she becomes. Every scene she’s in, it becomes a living, breathing entity that pulls you deeper and deeper into the spell…

The scene in which she grieves her youngest granddaughters death is heart breaking because she’s trying so hard to stay strong for her son and her daughter in law. Priceless, I tell you!

Anyways, I digress. On top of dealing with one loss, now I had to gird my loins for another. That of a beloved main character and a hero…Damn but it hurt to see him like this!

Matthew dies in a car crash

Yes, I knew it was coming because I read even before the season began what its creator Julian Fellowes said about the actor’s abrupt exit, it’s just that I didn’t know how the end would be brought about…and then my last glimpse of  him was just shocking… I just broke down and cried…

Matthew dies

Just when all was going well for this couple… just when they reached that point in their lives when their dream comes true, he gets killed in a car crash! THE END! My last glimpse of him was very disturbing. It will take me a while to get over it and accept his death [I’ve already come to terms of Dan Stevens’ departure and truly wish him the best], but not seeing his smile… his deep, blue eyes… [sigh]…

Dan S Blue eyes

The theme song “Did I Make the Most of Loving You?” is so right after the ending of this season… so haunting…tells the love story of Mary and Mathew…just listen to the words…

The fourth season will open six months after the tragedy and I wonder how Lady Mary is going to deal with his death…I keep picturing her keeping it all in, postponing her grief for the sake of their little boy, which is yet to be named. Or, maybe she has a complete personality change and is trying to embrace everything life has to offer by partying too hard? Or will she take over the Downton project that Mathew never had a chance to finish and see his vision through for their son’s sake?

Oh, and the next suitor for her affections better be someone I approve of!

Merry Christmas!

Peace on Earth

Today we celebrate the birth of Our Savior and one birthday unlike any other in the whole universe…

Wishing you a very merry and peaceful Christmas Day and this whole holiday season.

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Luke 2:11

For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!




The First Thanksgiving by Jean Louis Gerome


Hey my bookworms!

Just a quick stop to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!

As all of you, I too am counting my Blessings and naming things I am thankful for. 

May your day be filled with happy memories, good food and better wine, football and parades.  But if your family is as mine, that just might go the way of noise, too many chefs in the kitchen, and a few arguments that will be made up as soon as we’re done with the last bottle of whatever is left to drink.



‘Wedded in Scandal’ by Jade Lee

BOOK BLURB: The dazzling wedding of fashions of A Lady’s Favor dress shop are guaranteed to make any girl the talk of the ton. But the brides aren’t the only ones falling in love….

Lady Helaine’s father was cast out of society as a liar and a thief—a scandal which renders her unfit for marriage. In order to provide for herself and her mother, she adopts an assumed name and runs a dressmaker’s shop that specializes in bridal wear for ladies of high society. Helaine is happiest immersed in silk and satin, but she lives in terror that someone will learn her true identity and she will lose everything…again.

Robert Percy, Viscount Redhill, is entranced with the mysterious Helaine and weaves a web of seduction sure to ensnare the delectable dress designer. Yet too late he learns the heartbreaking truth about who she used to be. Now he must find a way to overcome the past to claim Helaine as his own. But what chance has love when a secret mistress becomes a scandalous wife?


Robert Percy, Viscount Redhill, already had the bottle of brandy in hand when there was yet another knock on the library door. It was barely three in the afternoon, but after a morning such as today, brandy was the only choice to combat the headache growing behind his right eye.

“My lord?” asked Dribbs as he pushed open the library door unbidden.

“No, Dribbs,” Robert said quite firmly.

“Well, yes, my lord. There is a visitor.”

“No, Dribbs, there is not.”

“But she is most insistent.”

“No, Dribbs, she is not. Because there is not a visitor to see me.” To further make the point, he dispensed with the swirling and airing of the alcohol and took a healthy swig straight from the bottle. It was almost gone anyway.

“Well, yes, my lord, there is.”

“No, Dribbs, there cannot be. My father has already been here today, so he cannot have purchased another mine or an interest in a gold venture in Antarctica or discovered the secret to stuffing genies into bottles to grant his every whim.”

“No, sir, it is not the earl.”

Robert exhaled in relief. “Thank God—”

“It is a woman.”

“No, Dribbs, it most certainly cannot be a woman. Because, you see, I have already spoken with Gwen about her upcoming nuptials just this morning. My mother is in bed where she always is at this hour. And as for all those future in-law women who have let the house next door, I have just this moment escaped from the upstairs salon where the baroness and her sister were rearranging Mama’s figurines. They were arguing about whether sunlight was bad for a porcelain shepherdess. Porcelain, Dribbs. Why would anyone ever be concerned about a porcelain complexion? Especially since the damned thing has a bonnet!”

Robert forced himself to take another swig of brandy. When had his life become so dashed ridiculous?

“Very true, my lord. Most odd. But the woman who wishes to see you is not destined to be your relation.”

“Thank heaven.” He dropped down behind his desk, pushed aside the mountain of papers to set the bottle down, then looked up in confusion when Dribbs had still not disappeared. “You can go now.”

“Well, no, sir, I cannot.”

“Of course you can. Just step backward and shut the door.”

“Well, yes, I could do that, my lord, but if I were to do such a thing, you would damn me for it in a day’s time. Perhaps even sooner.”

“Perhaps. But at least you wouldn’t be damned right now.”

“Excellent point, my lord. But you see, the lady in question is a Mrs. Mortimer. And she has a trifling matter for you to deal with.”

Robert snorted. In his opinion, all female matters were trifling. But that didn’t stop them from plaguing him with their nonsense day and night. Still, something about the name tickled the back of his brain. He knew that name, but from where?

“She is the dressmaker for your sister’s wedding,” supplied the butler.

Ah! There it was! Gwen had been waxing eloquent on the lady’s dressmaking skill just this morning. The woman had done this and that, tucked something in or let something out. And then Gwen had blushed a deep pink. That was what stuck in Robert’s mind: that his sister had blushed a deep, embarrassed pink. Because the dress made her look more attractive. In a sexual kind of way. And dashed if that was something he absolutely did not want to know about his sister.

He took another swig from the brandy bottle, only to discover that it was empty.

“I shall find you another bottle directly, my lord.”

“Good man.”

“But first you must speak with Mrs. Mortimer.”

“No, Dribbs. I must not.”

“But if you don’t, she will inevitably tell your sister that she was denied your presence. And then your sister will commence quietly sobbing in her bedroom because this wedding is already more than she expected and you will of course hear her or notice her red eyes. And then you will find out the reason for her tears and be furious with yourself for being such a callous brother. And then, my lord, you will instruct me most specifically to not allow you to say no to visitors anymore.”

“I would never say such a thing!” he said indignantly.

“You did say such a thing just last week when your mother was distraught over a lost delivery of perfumes.”

“I most certainly . . .” His voice trailed away. Damnation. He most certainly had. “Bloody hell.”

“It is a trifling matter, my lord. Best deal with it now and be done. Then no more tears, and you can have your brandy straight away after it is finished.”

Robert released a heavy sigh. “Damnation, Dribbs, I don’t know whether to sack you or double your pay.”

“Double my pay, sir. Indeed I believe you promised me that last week.”

“I most certainly did not! That I would remember.”

Dribbs paused a rather telling moment. Then he tilted his head. “Are you sure, my lord? Are you absolutely sure you would remember?”

“Yes. I most certainly am.”

Dribbs released a dramatic sigh. “Yes, I am afraid you would.” Then the man straightened to his full height, stepped backward into the hallway, and pulled the library door wide. “Mrs. Mortimer to see you, my lord. She will not take more than ten minutes of your time.”

That last was added with a stern look to the lady in question. The lady of course nodded sweetly in acknowledgment, but Robert saw the martial gleam in her eyes. He also saw her full cleavage, her sweetly rounded hips, and the dark red lips of a woman who obviously wanted to be kissed.

Good Lord, what had he just been thinking? She was a dressmaker, for God’s sake. Who would want to kiss a dressmaker? That would be like fondling the bootblack. True, it was often done, but not by him! And yet here he was thinking of just where he would fondle her.

“My lord?”

Robert came back to himself with a start. “I beg your pardon?”

“No, I beg your pardon,” she said. “You sounded as if you were choking.”

“No. No. Just . . . um . . . mourning the loss of the brandy. Empty bottle, you know.” He lifted the bottle and shook it about as proof. Then he sheepishly set it back down again. Really, what was he doing? One did not discuss empty brandy bottles with servants. Unless it was the servant’s job, which it was definitely not for her. Damnation, he was addled! “I believe you wanted something?”

“Yes, my lord. I am afraid I require payment.”

“You’re afraid of payment? Well, if that’s a problem for you, you needn’t bother visiting.”

She paused a moment, her brows lifting in surprise. Then a glimmer of a smile skated across her lips. “Er, no, my lord. I apologize deeply. I misspoke. I have no fear at all in me, and thus I am here at your door asking for payment. Now, if you please.”

He sighed. Dribbs was right. Best to be done with it. The thing was, what with his father’s recent investment whims and his sister’s trousseau, he was rather tight on ready cash. The repairs and like at the mine alone had depleted the earldom to the point where they all must economize. Add in a bride’s trousseau, and he had no idea where the funds would come from.

“Really, Mrs. Mortimer, there is a process for this. I have a man who brings the bills directly to me. You need not come visiting—”

“I have already spoken to Mr. Starkweather. He said I should speak directly to you.”

He frowned. “The devil you say. Can’t imagine Starkweather doing such a thing. He is usually most officious about his place. Likes to keep the riffraff away from me, he says. Good man, that Starkweather.” Robert smiled at the empty brandy bottle and wondered when ten minutes would expire. Soon, he hoped. Though he did like the view of Mrs. Mortimer’s bosom, especially when seen through the exaggerating distortion of his empty brandy glass.

Then he had cause to look up from this glass. Was the woman blushing? Enough that her cleavage had turned a rosy pink? Why, she most certainly was! Extraordinary. Especially since with her figure she must be used to being ogled, and not just through a brandy glass.

He frowned. Obviously, he was missing something significant, but for the life of him he couldn’t quite grasp what. He set his glass down, pulled in his feet so that he sat straight in his chair despite the way that made his temple throb, and forced himself to be serious.

“I have had a most trying morning, Mrs. Mortimer. Please tell me why I should talk with you and not with Mr. Starkweather?”

“Because I am not riffraff, my lord, and never have been.” Her voice was clipped and cold despite the blush that still pinked her skin.

He blinked. Had he said that? Oh, yes, he supposed he had implied it at the very least. And yet, some devil in him could not resist tweaking her.

“Ah, well, you certainly don’t appear to be riffraff, Mrs. Mortimer, but you are a bill collector attempting to circumvent my man Starkweather. At a minimum, that suggests you are Riff, if not exactly Raff.”

Far from deepening her blush, it actually caused her color to cool and her eyebrows to arch. “I can see you have a love of the ridiculous, my lord.”

“Well, I certainly love my family, and if that is not a love of the ridiculous, then I don’t know what is.”

She had no answer to that. Good thing, because he really ought not to say this sort of thing to a stranger, servant or not.

He relaxed backward in his seat, trying to decide exactly what he should do with the lady. Any other day, he would have already paid her just to be rid of her. But he found himself smiling at her in an absent sort of way. She was lovely to look at, and she sat there all prim while he spouted all manner of nonsense. It was really quite fun. Until she spoke, her voice low, her manner almost soothing unless one actually listened to her words.

“Do you know how humiliating it is to come begging for honest payment, my lord? To stand hat in hand before some clerk on a high stool who curls his lip at one merely because one’s birth is not as exalted as yours?”

He blinked, startled by what she said. “Starkweather does not sit on a high stool.” Then he frowned. That was not at all what he meant. As far as he knew, Starkweather was a fair and honest man, but of course, he did not know that for certain. Neither did he know if the man ever curled his lip at honest tradesmen. All he knew was that the man sat at a desk like a normal person. And so that was what blathered out of his mouth.

Naturally, she took his statement as the stupidity it was. “I was speaking metaphorically, my lord.”

“Were you?” he wondered aloud. “Nevertheless, it’s not quite the thing to accuse a man of being high in the instep if he was not actually on a high stool. Makes me wonder if you were speaking of Starkweather at all.”

Ah, he had her there! He could tell by the way her gaze canted aside and the color in her bosom flushed again. Most beautiful, he decided. And rather distracting. Thankfully, he was spared more of this odd discussion by a firm knock on the door. He didn’t even need to say a word because he knew who it was. Ten minutes was up and Dribbs was pushing open the door.

“My apologies for the interruption, my lord,” said Dribbs with a faint smile. “But your next visitor has arrived.” He lifted the bottle of brandy into the air.

“Excellent,” Robert said with a grin. “I am sorry, Mrs. Mortimer, but I am afraid I leave all matters of bill payment to Mr. Starkweather.”

The lady pushed to her feet, but not to leave the room. Instead, she stepped forward to confront him across his desk. “No, my lord, you shall not. Do you think I cannot see the bottle of brandy in his hand?”

Robert raised his eyebrows in surprise. Her back was to the door, so how could she see anything that was in Dribbs’s hand?

She snorted. “The reflection, my lord.” She waved airily at the polished black marble of his fireplace. From her angle, it would provide the perfect reflection of Dribbs.

“Ah. Most clever of you.”

“I am not clever, my lord. Just stubborn. It will take the work of a moment for you to write me a bank draft. I insist you do so. Unless you wish it to be known that the Viscount Redhill does not pay his debts.”

Now that was a serious allegation. “You would not say such a thing, Mrs. Mortimer, because I would have you ruined in a heartbeat. I pay my bills.”

“Then pay this one.” She stepped forward and slapped a paper down on his desk. It was a bill, neatly itemized and tabulated in a fair hand.

He picked it up with a frown, perusing the list to the best of his ability. It was his sister’s trousseau, he supposed. Dresses, ribbons, underclothing, and the like. He even doubled-checked the math on the list and found it to be accurate. But such a total! The sum was exorbitant!

“This cannot be right,” he murmured.

“I assure you it is. Would you care to summon your sister to verify it?”

God, no. He had no wish to engage Gwen in yet another discussion of clothing. And from the look of triumph in her eyes, she knew it. What was more, she chose that moment to shift into a beautiful smile. It was warm and winning, and it transformed her face from merely lovely to one of sweet seduction.

“Come now, my lord. Merely write the draft and then I shall personally pour you that glass of brandy. Mr. Dribbs’s arm must be getting very tired holding that heavy bottle aloft.”

My God, what a potent woman! He was already reaching for his bank book when reason grabbed hold of him and stopped his hand. Something was very wrong about this situation. As far as he knew, Starkweather would never refuse an honest bill. And this woman was using all her wiles to get him to pay an exorbitant tab.

He looked back at the paper, his mind searching for the elusive clue. What was it he was missing? What . . .

“My lord?” Her voice was a distraction, a low siren song of seduction. “Your brandy awaits.”

“Describe to me this dress,” he said by way of stalling. “What does it look like?” He pointed at random to the most expensive single item on the list. A ball gown with pearl buttons.

She frowned. “Truly, my lord? Why ever would you wish to—”

“Humor me,” he said as he folded his arms across his chest. Then, to save poor Dribbs, whose arm did appear to be shaking most dreadfully, he motioned to the sideboard. “Set it there, Dribbs. I find that Mrs. Mortimer and I have a bit more to discuss.”

Dribbs did as he was told. And while the butler was setting the bottle far out of reach, Robert turned his attention back to the woman across from him.

“Do you know anything of my father, Mrs. Mortimer?” he asked.

The woman shook her head and a tendril of honey fine hair slipped from her chignon to dance about her pert chin. Adorable, he thought.

“I am not acquainted with the Earl of Willington,” she said.

“Well, he is a charming fellow. Loves a good bit of brandy, a cigar, and his friends. Some say I resemble him in looks.” He gestured to his hair. “Brown hair, broad forehead, and we are nearly the same height.”

She nodded, obviously confused by his wandering thoughts. “Then your father must be a handsome man.”

He took the compliment as his due. Many thought his entire family had been inappropriately blessed in their looks. “Yes, well, there is something else about my father that everyone knows.” He waited a moment for her to ask the obvious question. She did so with a touch of irritation.

“I am simply breathless with wonder, my lord. What could it be that everyone knows?”

“That my father is the greatest gull on earth. Yes, truly, the man could be snookered by a mentally deficient bootblack. In fact, I believe he was, just last year. Bought some magic blacking cloth, I believe. Thought he’d make a fortune with it.”

A spark of interest did indeed light in Mrs. Mortimer’s eyes. “Magic blacking cloth?”

“Yes. I believe it was cheesecloth soaked in the boy’s spit.”

She gasped. “You cannot be serious!”

“I most certainly am. My father bought it for a shilling.” Then he sighed. “To be fair, the boy had been chewing tobacco and so the cloth was rather thick and black. It did look like a blacking cloth.”

She laughed. Not a full laugh. Indeed, because she suppressed it, it sounded more like a horse’s snort than a lady’s laugh.

“That story cannot be true.”

“I assure you it is.”

Then she tilted her head while her eyes danced in merriment. “I cry foul, my lord. I believe you are lying to me. And I believe I shall prove it to you.”

“Really? Pray, how?”

“I shall make a wager with you, my lord. If I can prove that you are lying, then you will pay my bill. If not, then I shall leave without further ado.”

He wasn’t so sure he wanted her to leave just yet, but he was a gentleman and so he nodded. “Very well. If the bill is honest, then you shall be paid immediately.”

She nodded slowly, obviously taking that as the best bargain she could make. “Very well, my lord. You say the story is true, that it happened exactly as you said.”

“I do.”

“Well, then, I submit to you that either the bootblack was not mentally deficient in that he gulled an earl. Or that the earl was aware of the true nature of the magic cloth and was merely being kind to a handicapped boy.”

Robert frowned, wondering which could be true. Given that his father had been quite proud of his purchase, he thought it more likely that the bootblack was not nearly as deficient as he claimed. Nor, he supposed, did the boy have an ailing mother and four younger siblings to feed. Thankfully, he did not oversee his father’s staff, as the man lived in rooms at his club. So long as the earl kept within his quarterly allowance, Robert didn’t care if he purchased a dozen magic blacking cloths.

“Have I won our bargain, my lord?”

He smiled. “Yes, I suppose you have.”

“Excellent,” she said with a grin. “Then if you would—”

“I said if the bill was honest, Mrs. Mortimer. You have yet to describe this ball gown to me. Unless, of course, there is some reason why you would not.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I will describe it.”

He smiled and shot her own words right back. “I am simply breathless with wonder.”

She grimaced, her nose wrinkling in a delightful manner. “It is blue, my lord, with Belgium lace crisscrossed over the bodice. Shoulders bare, as she will be a married woman by then and can reveal a great deal more than before, and with a shawl of gauze such as will preserve her modesty if she wants or that can be draped in a variety of tantalizing poses should she not.”

He blinked. My God, did she think he wished to know of his sister in tantalizing poses? “You are speaking of my baby sister,” he said in irritation. “The one who wore pigtails and sported ink stains on her nose.”

“No, my lord,” she said gently. “I am speaking of your fully grown sister who will be a married woman within a month. And quite possibly increasing soon after that.”

He shuddered at that. His baby sister with a babe of her own. He knew it was possible. Probable, even. That is what married women did, was it not? But in his mind, she was still so young.

“It is the way of young girls, you know. They grow up and start families of their own.” Then Mrs. Mortimer did something wholly unexpected. She rose in a single lithe movement and crossed to the brandy snifter. Then she poured him a glass, swirling it for him just as it ought to be done, and brought it to him. But she didn’t just cross to his side, she set it in his hand, then sank to the floor before him. She looked up at him just as his sister had once done, back when she was still a hoyden running wild throughout the house. And Mrs. Mortimer smiled up at him in exactly the same way.

“Change is hard, especially when it is inevitable. But you should be proud of the woman she has become, my lord. Not fighting the purchase of her trousseau.”

He swallowed. She was right. And when she sat like that before him, he could deny her nothing. Except for one thing.

“Mrs. Mortimer,” he said as he reached out and stroked her cheek just as he had done with Gwen so many years ago. “I cry foul.”

She blinked. “What?”

“Gwen does not have a ball gown such as you describe. It has not been made and you and your bill are false.” She made to leap to her feet, but he was faster than she. Within a second, he had clamped a hand down on her arm, preventing her escape. “Oh, do remain right where you are, Mrs. Mortimer. It will no doubt take a few moments for the constable to arrive.”


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