The Perils of Travel in Historical Fiction: A Guest Post by Caroline Warfield

18009085_10155113596020833_1125127663_nTravel presents a challenge to any writer of historical fiction. I once asked my brother, a navy veteran, how long it would take to sail from Ostia to Genoa and he said, “That would depend on the ship, the tides, the winds, and the weather.” Not much help! Luckily there are sources that can give approximate times for frequently used routes. 

In writing The Reluctant Wife I discovered that a typical trip home to England from Calcutta took six months by sail. SIX MONTHS?! What on earth was I going to do with characters shipboard for that long, and/or how could I handle a big time gap? I discovered another option. In 1835 the India Mail instituted steamship and overland service from Bombay. Steamers would travel up the Red Sea to Suez. Passengers then disembarked and went overland to Cairo, sail up the Nile and then across on the Mahmoudiyah Canal to Alexandria. From there they embarked on a second steamer to England. It took four months off the journey.

That left me with two teeny-weeny problems. #1 The steamer and overland service from Calcutta didn’t begin until 1841 and #2 My story was set in 1835. There is a reason why they call it fiction. I took the liberty of moving Calcutta service forward six years and apologized afterward. My characters were much happier, particularly a small girl who was dee-lighted to go the way that involved camels. 

 

 18009198_10155113595015833_1116346867_nThe Reluctant Wife

Children of Empire, Book 2

Genre: Pre Victorian, Historical Romance Heat rating: 3 of 5 (two brief -mild- sexual encounters)

ISBN: 978-1-61935-349-9 ASIN: B06Y4BGMX1 Page count: 275 pages

Pub date: April 26, 2017

When all else fails, love succeeds…

Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.

All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn’t know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband. She certainly doesn’t need a great lout of a captain who can’t figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.

Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B06Y4BGMX1/

About Caroline Warfield

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Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows while she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Caroline is a RONE award winner with five star reviews from Readers’ Favorite, Night Owl Reviews, and InD’Tale and an Amazon best-seller. She is also a member of the writers’ co-operative, the Bluestocking Belles. With partners she manages and regularly writes for both The Teatime Tattler and History Imagined.

Website http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Amazon Author http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Warfield/e/B00N9PZZZS/

Good Reads http://bit.ly/1C5blTm

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7

Twitter @CaroWarfield

Email warfieldcaro@gmail.com

Children of Empire

Three cousins, torn apart by lies and deceit and driven to the far reaches of the empire, struggle to find their way home.

Giveaway

Caroline will give a kindle copy of The Renegade Wife, Book 1 in the series, to one person who comments. She is also sponsoring a grand prize in celebration of her release. You can enter it here: http://www.carolinewarfield.com/2017blogtourpackage/

The prequel to this book, A Dangerous Nativity, is always **FREE**. You can get a copy here: http://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/a-dangerous-nativity-1815/

Excerpt 18034863_10155113596610833_468827986_n

I want to take the steamship and camel,” Meghal interrupted.

Ah yes, the camel. Do you plan to ride north along the Silk Road to Istanbul, or merely cross the Punjab into the Kingdom of Kabul and beyond?” Fred asked, unwittingly echoing Clare’s reaction to the shipping agent.

Where is that?” Meghal demanded.

To the west,” he responded.

Meghal turned to Clare. “Is the Nile in the Kingdom of Kabul?”

No. Egypt. It is also west, but farther south”—Clare waved a hand back and forth—“but we’re not taking the steamer route.”

Tell me about this route you aren’t taking. The Nile?” The workings of his daughter’s mind mystified him; Clare’s fascinated him.

Clare briefly explained what she had learned about the inaugural run of a mail steamer to the Suez.

What is the advantage?” he asked.

It cuts four months off the time we would spend cooped up on a ship,” Clare answered.

Camels,” Meghal declared. Her eyes widened as a new idea struck. “And crocodiles.”

The disadvantage?” he asked, barely controlling his laughter.

Goodness, Fred. I would have to disembark with two children, travel overland to Cairo, travel by river barge down the Nile and the Mahmoudiyah Canal to Alexandria before embarking on yet another steamer for Falmouth or Southampton while managing luggage and keeping your daughter from wandering off with the first interesting band of Bedouins she encountered.”

But Papa can help with the luggage, and I promise not to follow any—what are Bead-oh-ans?”

Clare’s face registered the shock he felt. Neither one of them had mentioned his plans to his daughters. Clare raised a brow and shrugged, obviously unwilling to rescue him.

You’re on your own, Wheatly, he thought as he tried to put words together while Meghal smiled hopefully at him.

I thought you knew, Meghal. I’m not going with you. You will have to take care of Miss Armbruster for me.” She will like the idea of caring for everyone, he thought, pleased with himself for coming up with that.

His daughter’s instant response disabused him of that notion. “Why?” she demanded, the universal challenge of children everywhere. Before he could think, she stabbed him in the heart and twisted the knife. “Don’t you care for us?”

Of course, I do! Never think that.”

Where will we go? Who will take care of us? Do we have to live with Miss Armbruster?” Meghal colored and turned to Clare. “I’m sorry, Miss Armbruster. Ananya and I like you, but you aren’t family,” she said. “We need family.”

Fred seized on her words. “That’s just it. I’m sending you to family. Your Aunt Catherine and your cousins will be happy to have you come and stay with them while I”—he clenched his teeth—“while I find work so I can send her money for your care.”

Meghal sank back in the chair, outrage still rampant on her face.

Rooting for the Bad Guy

Generally, my heroes are good guys, in the sense that they’ve always been good. They may be a bit stuck up when I pick up their story, or have made a few poor choices here and there (because no one in the real world ever does that… *shifty eyes*…) but for the most part, they’re good. You know they’re the hero within the first few scenes they have on the page. And so you dig out your pom-poms and you cheer for them. Edmund_Blair_Leighton_-_Courtship

But sometimes… Well, sometimes I like to give the bad guy a chance. I know that’s not always something that sits well with prospective readers. We (and I do include myself in this group, sometimes) want to see things in black and white. Frodo, good. Sauron, bad. Ring must be thrown into the fire. (Isildur! NOOOOO!!!) And yet, doesn’t the “bad guy” get to have his shot at redemption?

It’s a thread I’ve noticed running through some of my stories more and more. Someone screws up. Someone screws up badly. And yet, they get their second chance (or maybe it’s their third or fourth or seventeenth chance by the time we run into them.) One of my future releases, The Bride Price, features an antagonist who early readers dislike. Vehemently. Give him a moustache and he’d be twirling it. But down the road, I still plan on giving him his own story, his own shot at fixing his life and trying to make up for past mistakes.

Some people who know I plan on giving him his own redemption story are NOT PLEASED about this. Well, okay. That’s your thing. But it’s interesting how people see villains, how they want to keep them tucked into their little box of evil and not let them out to make something better of themselves.

Is it because we like to keep things clearly delineated? Good is good and bad is bad and never the twain shall meet?

Does the young woman who gives up her child for her sister to raise and takes a large sum of money in return always have to be portrayed as bad, or do we get to revisit her some years down the line, when age and acquired wisdom have perhaps changed her views and made her regret some of her previous choices? (Yes, that character will have her own story down the line, too. Believe me, I have a lot of stories in the planning stage. Probably more than I should.)

Maybe because I’ve grown older (well, slightly older… middle-age older) I like to write characters who are not perfect, who might fit the role of antagonist in one story but work their way to hero or heroine in the next. Maybe because I’ve seen people change over the course of years (and years) that I’m more inclined to reflect those alterations in personality in the fiction I produce. Or maybe I just like messing with people. That could be it, too.

 

 

Taking the Plunge

Years ago (Ten? Eleven? I should know this, but my husband will be the first to tell you that I am terrible with dates) I made some friends. We met on an online forum that had been created to discuss our shared criticisms of a certain fantasy novel/series. But we didn’t really do much in the way of criticism. That gets old. So instead we chatted. About everything. And I mean, everything. And the weeks, and the months, and the years went by. The website and the forum and all of the other things that went with it fell by the wayside. But a tight group of us remained, sharing our life experiences. Marriages, deaths, births, moves, jobs lost and gained, just life and all of its angles.

And some of us write. We wrote back then, but we were baby writers, still figuring out the ins and outs of storytelling (well, we still are…) still trying to figure out the rules before we learned that they’re really only guidelines. That writing is passion and bleeding out onto the page and realizing that each of those words is a tiny piece of your soul. (Horcruxes, man. Horcruxes EVERYWHERE.) And now some of us are published. Now some of us are doing this full-time, because we can’t see ourselves doing anything else.

So after that intro, I’m really just leading up to the announcement that one of those dear friends, someone with whom I talk about cooking and marriage and kids and, again, everything in-between, has taken a huge step.

Today, K.S. Villoso (I call her Kay) is releasing the second two books in her first fantasy trilogy. This is big for her. This is make it or break it big. And I am sitting over here, cheering and praying and hoping that everything goes well. Because she is an amazing writer. I’m not simply saying that because she is a friend. I have friends who aren’t good at things, and I don’t write blog posts talking about things they’re really not good at just to give them a poof of self-esteem. She is an excellent writer. The proverbial diamond in the rough. And she has worked HARD at this. Because writing (like almost everything one is passionate about) can be hard, exhausting, draining work.

So here is her first book. It’s currently free on Amazon (don’t ping me if you find this post some time in the future and it’s back up to full price!)

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It has been years since his brother’s accident. Kefier was only just beginning to live a normal life–at least, as normal as it could get for a mercenary from a run-down town. And then an errand goes wrong and he finds himself holding his friend’s bloody corpse.

Already once branded a murderer, he is pursued by men he once considered friends and stumbles into the midst of a war between two mages. One bears a name long forgotten in legend; the other is young, arrogant Ylir, who takes special interest in making sure Kefier is not killed by his associates. The apex of their rivalry: a terrible creature with one eye, cast from the womb of a witch, with powers so immense whoever possesses it holds the power to bring the continent to its knees.

Now begins a tale with roots reaching beyond the end of another. Here, a father swears vengeance for his slain children; there, a peasant girl struggles to feed her family. A wayward prince finds his way home and a continent is about to be torn asunder. And Kefier is only beginning to understand how it all began the moment he stood on that cliff and watched his brother fall… (Amazon link)

Here is the second book in the trilogy:

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Enosh, apprentice to one of the richest merchants in the Kag, is secretly heir to a broken line of mages. Because of The Empire of Dageis’ quest for sources of the agan–the life-source that mages use for power–his people have been reduced to scavengers, his culture diminished to a speck in the wind. For more than ten years, he has helped raise a conjured beast to use as a weapon against the Dageians. But Enosh’s plans are falling apart. A powerful enemy has escaped and Enosh needs to capture him before he reaches Dageis. His quest is further complicated after he finds himself used as a pawn by Gasparian nobles.

On the other end of the continent, Sume, daughter to a Jin-Sayeng hero, must return to her roots to save her country and bring honour to her father’s name. To do this, she must befriend a prince and understand the terrible, corrupting nature of power and the reason her father was driven to walk away from it all those years ago…

Meanwhile, Kefier, Enosh’s agan-blind brother, is forced back into a life of violence. As he struggles with the notion that hands, once bloodied, never stay clean for long, he finds himself occupied with an unexpected burden: his own brother’s daughter. (Amazon Link)

And, finally, the third:

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The battle at Shi-uin has left scars. The rise of Gorrhen yn Garr to power seems unstoppable. As nations fall, the lines between love and duty become blurred and Kefier, Sume, and Enosh must learn to live with the choices they have made.

The stunning conclusion to the epic fantasy trilogy that crosses champion and spectator, friends and enemies, and hero and foe in a tale of conflict, revenge, and lost kingdoms. Highly-praised for character development and rich worldbuilding, The Agartes Epilogues is a must-read for the discerning epic fantasy fan. (Amazon Link)

So, there you are. The first two are free for a limited time. The third is on sale (again, limited time, so no resting on your laurels). They are good books. Kay is a fantastic author. Grab them. Read them. Review them. Tell others about them. Go on, now. I have to go tell my kids to stop playing in the bathroom (again).

“Mark and Seal”: A short story

It’s Sunday, the snow is melting, and my brain is busy mulling over the next scene in An Unpracticed Heart, my latest and main work-in-progress. I’ve not much more to report than that. The kids are bopping around, their antics spurred on by too much cabin fever. We’re having sloppy joes and cauliflower (What? I like my cruciferous vegetables) for dinner. Tomorrow is Monday and schoolwork and laundry (ALWAYS LAUNDRY) and shuttling the kids to their extra-curricular activities. The usual suspects.

So to prove that I am actually accomplishing things – occasionally – I finished another short story/scene-let, but instead of werewolves in Victorian-era London, I have a scene that’s been in my head for some time. For those of you who have read The Half Killed, I do intend to write its sequel (at some point… when my children are grown and off to college, most likely). This story takes place about six months after the main events in The Half Killed, and sets up the continuation of Dorothea and Julian’s story in The Sparrow Falls.

It was also brought about because of a story prompt set up by a few author friends of mine, K.S. Villoso (who writes amazing Filipino-inspired, diverse fantasy fiction) being one of them, Julie Midnight (as she’s known on Wattpad) being another. (If they make theirs public at any point, I will link to them here.)

It is a little dark, and there is some mild language. Just getting that much out of the way before we go any further. And if you do proceed, I hope you enjoy it.

“Death has set his mark and seal
On all we are and all we feel,
On all we know and all we fear…” Percy Bysshe ShelleyMarkandSeal

Mark and Seal

The birds close in, black feathers sweeping against a backdrop of white. Footsteps track through the fresh fall of snow, though it’s still pristine in some places, soft mounds and drifts over the horseshit the sweepers have yet to clear away. Nearer to the first of the bodies, the blanket of white devolves into a slurry of muck and slush, and it’s not until Trevor moves nearer that the splatter of blood becomes discernible from the drip and splash of other things.

Continue reading ““Mark and Seal”: A short story”

Another Day, Another Chapter

Today is my book’s birthday!

*insert triumphant cheers and happy dances*

The Crimson Gown has been set loose today, which is all sorts of thrilling and frightening and so on. This one was a bit more under the radar, because something I’ve discovered the more I write and the more kids I have is that the publishing of books (not the writing, mind you… I still give that my all) tends to not be as Big of a Deal. I’ll keep writing books, they’ll – hopefully – continue to be published. But again, it’s the writing of them that keeps me going, the creation of characters and worlds and stories. By the time one of them goes on sale, I’m already knee deep in the next.

But! Like a forgotten middle child, I do want to remember to shine a light on this story. Because I do adore it. It is important to me. Like when one of my children takes his or her first steps, or learns to remove their underpants from their pants before throwing them in the hamper, I’m proud to see this little book wandering out into the wild.

Yesterday I brought you Chapter One of The Crimson Gown. Today, I will give you Chapter Two. (Tomorrow will bring Chapter Three, so be sure to come back!) Also, check it out on Amazon, if you wish.

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Three days later, the first of the house guests arrived.

Lydia did not spy the carriage upon its approach, nor did she witness the man and woman who  descended from it. But the commotion that accompanied their appearance on the grounds echoed through the lower levels of the house, servants running to and fro with orders to heat water, to lay fresh fires in the cleanest of the rooms and to prepare refreshments for the incoming travellers.

The fires would have to be large, Lydia thought, to keep out the chill that refused to dissipate from the upper rooms of the house. The weather was no aid to their task, regularly sending a brutal wind that lashed against the outer walls while a cold drizzle laced with ice scratched at the windows overnight.

Lydia wondered at the timing of the event. House parties were typically hosted in the warmer months, when the weather was more suitable to travel and there would be the assurance of outdoor walks and activities for the assembled guests. But it was only the beginning of February, with the freezing gusts still howling down from the north and the promise of finer days and sunshine as ephemeral as a dream.

Continue reading “Another Day, Another Chapter”

National Library Week!

So here’s the deal: This week is National Library Week! Having been a bookish kid, a homeschooled kid, and a kid who grew up without a lot of resources, the library was always an amazing place to me.

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Now is my chance to help give back (and to one of the libraries I frequented the most while growing up, and that I still take my kids to today). For the next week, all proceeds from the sales of my books, paperbacks or ebooks, will be donated to the Juniata County Library. I didthis once before and raised a whopping $12.80! (Yeah, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but all of my books were on sale that week, which lowers the royalty rate to nickels and dimes.) I’d love to double that amount this week, and should I triple that amount – total pie in the sky, I know – I’ll even match what is raised and donate that portion to the Marysville-Rye Library here in my town!

I’ll post all important links below, and I’ll be a real irritant and post about this every day this week.

Thanks in advance to anyone who helps this cause. I love my local libraries, my kids love the library, and I want to do everything I can to help them!

The Half Killed ebook
(Amazon): http://www.amazon.com/Half-Killed-Quenby-Olson-ebook/dp/B00YWLVX4K
(Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-half-killed-quenby-olson/1122532399?ean=2940152797008
(itunes): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1087871546
(Kobo): https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-half-killed

The Half Killed paperback
(Amazon): http://www.amazon.com/Half-Killed-Quenby-Olson/dp/0989446069
(Barnes and Noble): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-half-killed-quenby-olson/1122532399

Knotted ebook: http://www.amazon.com/Knotted-Quenby-Olson-ebook/dp/B00DBT0MQE

Knotted paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Knotted-Quenby-Olson/dp/098944600X

“The Firstborn” – Yet Another Excerpt

To those who have been reading my blog lately, you’ll know I’m fighting with the last chapter or so of my next book, The Firstborn. It’s a charming (hopefully?) Regency romance about two “firstborn” people from separate families (Lord Finnian Haughton and Mrs. Sophia Brixton) who spend all of their free time cleaning up after their younger, more scandal-prone siblings.

Today, I’m sharing a large chunk of the first chapter with you, in which we’re introduced to Finnian and – through conversation – Sophia.

And here’s hoping that my next post is a huge, celebratory affair about how I finally finished this bugger of a book!

(Oh, and if you’re interested? My inspiration for Finnian, just wandering around, contemplating life before he crushes said existence out of a lovely flower.)

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There were too many letters. An inordinate amount of them, spilling out of crevices and sliding out of their well-organized stacks. Most were invitations, a fact that irritated Lord Finnian Haughton to no end. Invitations to balls, to routs, to garden parties and afternoon teas, where he would be expected to deal with the attentions of no small number of simpering females. And all of them with their eyelashes fluttering while a mere turn and snap of their fans spoke a language he would never be able to decipher.

This morning’s stack of cards sat on his desk, the light spilling in through the window, sending a solitary beam across the topmost letter. A glance at the direction told him more than he needed to know. The lettering was too fine and flowery, a woman’s hand, and a noticeable aroma emanated from the paper, as if it had been glazed with rose water before being sent round to his townhouse.

He understood their interest in him, and his position in polite society. He was a man. A gentleman. A titled gentleman with a rather large fortune. And, most bothersome of all, a titled gentleman, possessed of a large fortune, who—according to that polite society which insisted on tossing flowery cards and invitations at him as if they were tossing bread crumbs to a duck in a pond—had decided to remain stubbornly ensconced in his current life as a bachelor.

He gave the corner of his newspaper a shake and reached out for his cup of tea. From another part of the house, he heard a knock on the front door, followed by the measured step of Gleeson showing no haste in his effort to answer it. Haughton waited, his eyes gazing at a vague point beyond the edge of the newspaper as the butler’s steps made their way towards his study. Another knock, this one on his own door, and a grey, tonsured head bowed itself into the room.

“It’s Mr. Winston, my lord. Shall I…?”

Haughton nodded in reply to the unfinished query. Gleeson disappeared, the steps receded, and he folded his newspaper into a stiff rectangle that landed with an audible smack on top of the pile of invitations.

“Finn?”

Haughton glanced up at the door as another man, this one dressed in a coat and trousers of a dull, forgettable color, entered the sunlit room.

“Winston.” Haughton sat up in his own chair and indicated the one opposite him with a wave of his hand. “I didn’t expect to see you again so soon.”

Winston strolled forward, his hands clasped around both hat and gloves, neither of which had managed to be relinquished to the butler upon his arrival. He let out a sigh as he lowered himself into his seat, scratched his chin, and ran a bare hand over his neatly trimmed brown hair.

“Have you breakfasted?” Haughton asked, his eyes taking in the obvious wear on the man’s suit and the scuffs on his boots.

“Yes, early.” Those two words revealed an accent that held no connection to any town or borough within fifty miles of London. Haughton had never inquired after Winston’s origins, and Winston had never made any move to volunteer the information.

“So.” Haughton cleared his throat. “Since you’re not here to dine with me, I take it you’ve…”

“I’ve found her.”

Haughton looked up from his cup. The dregs of his tea slid down his throat, leaving a bitter aftertaste that threatened to linger on his tongue for some time. “And the child?”

Winston nodded, his chin dipping down to touch the simple folds of his neckcloth. “A bouncing, blustering specimen of childhood. Quite a healthy thing, he looks to be.”

A breath slid out of Haughton’s lungs as he allowed his own head to tip back. He found himself staring up at a ceiling painted with all manner of cherubs and pudgy, angelic creatures, their grotesque smiles having beamed down on his own head, and his father’s before him, since his mother had commissioned the ghastly artwork some three decades before.

“The woman.” Haughton shut his eyes. He would have to paint over that damned ceiling one of these days, perhaps once this latest mess was cleared away. “What was her name? Susan?”

“Sophia,” Winston provided. “Sophia Brixton.”

“Sophia…” An image of a young woman appeared in his mind: short and curved, with dark hair and fair skin beneath rouged cheeks and rouged nipples and anything else that it was fashion to have rouged. It was a type, he realized. His brother’s type, and never had David dared to deviate from the original template. “What have you learned about her?”

“Currently lives in Stantreath,” Winston said, as he sat up in the chair and reached inside his coat for a small pad of paper. A brush of his thumb across his tongue and he began to flick through the pages. “Up in Northumberland, right near to the coast. She’s got herself a tidy little cottage that she shares with one sister.” He licked his thumb again and turned another page. “Parents are gone. Father was a tradesman, ran a rag and bottle shop of some sort. The younger sister, that would be one Lucy Penrose, has no fortune of her own. Mrs. Brixton possesses an annuity of a mere fifty pounds per annum.”

“Wait.” Haughton held up one hand as one of the details finally wriggled its way to the forefront of his thoughts. “Mrs. Brixton? She is married?”

“A widow, as far as the gossip travels. But I was unable to discover any proof a previous marriage or of the prior existence of a Mr. Brixton.”

Haughton raised one eyebrow. “You believe she’s lying?”

Winston tilted his head to one side. “You know I’m not one for guesses and conjecture. But I would not rule out a false marriage in order to pass off the child as legitimate.”

“Of course.” Haughton grumbled under his breath and pushed himself out of his chair. He shook his head, pushed his fingers through his own dark hair, and moved to stand in front of the window. “Go on,” he prompted after a moment. “I want to know everything.”

“Well…” Another lick of the thumb, another turn of the page. “There’s Stantreath… cottage… Ah, yes, here we are. There’s no maid in the household, but there is a hired girl who helps out several times a week. Ah… She attends services regularly, rarely leaves the child at home, um… dresses modestly, above average height, red hair…”

“What was that?” Haughton spun on his heel as he turned away from the window. “That last bit? What did you say?”

“Erm… red hair?”

“No.” Haughton shook his head. “That cannot be right. My brother abhors red hair, especially when it comes to the fairer sex.”

Winston raised one shoulder as he tipped his head to one side. “Perhaps the boy has had a change of heart.”

“Or perhaps he succumbed to a moment of uncharacteristic desperation.”

Winston’s eyebrows pushed upwards into his forehead. “Or… perhaps this Mrs. Brixton possesses some other charm, something beyond a mere head of hair.”

Haughton sniffed. “You know as well as I, my brother is incapable of looking beyond anything but the most superficial of charms.”

“Which means…?”

“Which means that he was probably so inebriated at the time that he wouldn’t have known whether he was making love to a real, warm-blooded woman or a freshly plumped cushion.”

***