Scandalous Scions Book 13.5

Victorian Era Historical Romance Boxed Set

More books by Tracy Cooper-Posey
Click here to read the reviews
Click here to read an excerpt

The final four novels in the beloved historical romance series in one set.

The historical romance series, Scandalous Scions, brings together the members of three great families, to love and play under the gaze of the Victorian era’s moralistic, straight-laced society.

Ashes of Pride
Married in haste, to the wrong man…
Blanche wed Lieutenant Colonel Seymour in search of a hero to replace the French military father she never knew, only to find herself stranded in Northumberland, in a penniless marriage, with no recourse.
Blanche’s cousin, Neil Williams, now a decorated Major, returns from the colonies to rejoin the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers. Her husband, as Neil’s superior officer, makes Neil’s life intolerable, as well as her own.  Blanche learns that the truly courageous are defined by their actions and that Seymour is not one of them, for what he does to Neil defies imagination…

Risk of Ruin
Now she belongs to another, he realizes too late that he wants her.
Lady Annalies is the daughter of the Earl of Innesford, but rejects society.  Instead, she embraces the Bohemian art world, and lives in secret with her patron and lover, Tobias.  The only person who knows the truth is her cousin, Peter, who furiously resents the burden of knowing how she courts disaster for the entire family.
When sales of her paintings diminish, putting her in financial straits, Annalies turns to Peter for help, as he has always helped her in the past.  Peter grasps the chance to involve himself in her life, to head off the catastrophe she flirts with every day.  The entanglements increase when he realizes it is not merely the risk of ruin which draws him to her.

Year of Folly
All Emma wants is to belong…
Emma, the youngest daughter of the great family, cannot find acceptance among the peers of society despite four Seasons of pleasing everyone.  She is banished to Inverness to avoid any scandal her anger might cause.  Even in Inverness, she is an outsider, for her cousins, including staid and boring Morgan Davies, spend all their days working and thinking, for heaven’s sake!
Having survived years of the family’s disasters, Morgan likes his quiet life and routine.  Emma’s excesses and plain speaking disrupt his days.  When Emma discovers politics and adopts as her cause women’s suffrage, the most outrageous scandal the family has yet to produce threatens to turn Morgan’s world inside out…

Queen of Hearts
In America, she met an Indian called River.
Sadie travelled to America when she was nineteen, leaving behind her great family, to learn more about her real parents and how they died.  While traveling in the Columbia River territories, her party is attacked by Indians and saved by a different tribe. Among them is the brave she comes to know as River.
Sadie learns that not only is River an Englishman, he is the son of the Duke of Caldwell. When his family learns he survived his parents’ death when he was an infant, River faces a choice: Leave Sadie and his tribe behind, or let the people of Caldwell suffer at the hands of his indifferent and selfish uncle…

This story is part of the Scandalous Scions series:
0.5 Rose of Ebony
1.0 Soul of Sin
2.0 Valor of Love
3.0 Marriage of Lies

3.5 Scandalous Scions Boxed Set One
4.0 Mask of Nobility
5.0 Law of Attraction
6.0 Veil of Honor

6.5 Scandalous Scions Boxed Set Two
7.0 Season of Denial
8.0 Rules of Engagement
9.0 Degree of Solitude

9.5 Scandalous Scions Boxed Set Three
10.0 Ashes of Pride
11.0 Risk of Ruin

12.0 Year of Folly
13.0 Queen of Hearts

13.5 Scandalous Scions Boxed Set Four
A Sexy Historical Romance Series

This series is also available as a Special Bundle

{Also see: Romance, Historical Romance, Novels}

USD $9.99


Buy from SRP and earn purchase points!

Electronic book, compatible with all reading devices. Book can be read on all devices and apps. [More info]



Submit your review

Create your own review

Scandalous Scions Boxed Set Four
Average rating:  
 5 reviews
 by Susanne Huxhorn

To be able to read four stories about my favourite families in one go- heaven!! There is one thing I like about book bundles- I don´t have to look up the chronological order of the stories. Even if you can read all the books of this series individually, since the main characters will get their HEA, I recommend to read chronologically, because Tracy Cooper- Posey lets you partake in the lifes of all the members of the three families. And if you are like me and don´t want to say good-bye, start reading “Scandalous Families-The Victorians”, a series about the next generation!

 by IngSav
I love this series! Captivating, unforgettable characters and their enthralling romances.

I was thoroughly enchanted by the variety in each of the stories (all 13 are unique!) and their ability to take unanticipated plot twists.

The lead characters were given very real depth and personality making them interesting, likeable and intense. There was palpable chemistry between the characters of each novel and I delighted in the many pulse pause moments. Simmering tension and fun interactions between characters are my favourite element of a well written novel and these books deliver in spades!

I enjoyed the complete immersion of these Victorian-era love stories written with passion and attention to historical detail.
Tracy Cooper Posey's writing style is so captivating that I look up at the end of the book, surprised that I'm back in modern times!
Her characters, settings and the topical challenges of the times are very insightful and an interesting background to these extraordinary romances.

I would highly recommend this brilliant series and especially that it's read in order to get the benefit of all the backstories and character personalities.

I really enjoy how each novel has a fresh approach to various challenges and situations particular to the Victorian era as highlighted by the experiences of the fascinating characters.

Queen of Hearts is the last book in this series and it is a glorious romantic adventure but also a magnificent finisher to this lovely heart-warming series.

 by Stephany Ezard
Scandalous Scions 4 Collection

The historical romance series, Scandalous Scions, brings together the members of three great families. This is the last 4 books to the series. This series is a must if you love Historical Romances.

 by Marilyn Putman
Simply wonderful

I owned, and had read, all four of these books before I re-read them in this box set. I could easily have told you that this is a fabulous group of novels, a great deal, and you should buy it and read it immediately. I do highly recommend that! But it had been a while since my first reading, and I was more than willing to read them again. I’ve known for some time that re-reading a book from this author is a delight for me, because not only do I enjoy the story over again but, invariably, I see something or learn something new from the second (or sometimes even a third) reading. For me, that’s the mark of an excellent writer. This box set fully lived up to my high expectations. These stories grabbed my imagination the first time I’d put them on my e-reader; this time around I sank even more deeply into the characters and plot, finding greater nuance as I continued reading.

To say that the characters are well-rounded is to give but faint praise; they leap off the pages, fully-formed and very real. The secondary characters are just as richly developed. For someone like me, who has always read voraciously, it’s almost as if I had walked through the Time Tunnel (okay, that dates me) into another era and found myself surrounded by the people in these books. It’s amazing. The places they inhabit are lovingly described — houses, gardens, other surroundings — and it really is as though you are there; I could feel the heat and taste the dust of the parade ground, hear the wind blowing through the forest. The author has the gift of revealing the core qualities of a character, to the degree that you can fully understand why a gently-raised young woman would willingly put herself in a scandalous living situation. It becomes clear why another character would push hard at all her boundaries, while yet another would flee England entirely and stay away for many years. Everything happens organically, inexorably, somewhat relentlessly, and with great feeling. I was pulled into the stories immediately and then was hopelessly involved.

As the book description tells you, these stories are about the children of the Great Family, a intriguing background that ties together the fourteen books in this truly beloved series. The characters in each book are dealing with their own unique problems, serious life problems that sometimes have surfaced as a result of youthful, sometimes impulsive decisions or actions. This is something that is easy to identify with even though we live in a very different time. Each book is entirely unique, no storyline progresses like any other, and this is yet another reason that I truly enjoyed this box set. This series, the Scandalous Scions, has little similarity with other series I’ve read in the past in which the books consist of a small story of what happens to one couple or family before moving on to the next couple (usually connected, but not significantly so) in the series, and often with very similar plots and motivations. This sprawling series drops the reader into one part of the story at a time, to be sure, but it is a magnificently plotted and marvelously detailed tapestry involving many members of the Great Family.

Though this is the conclusion of the Scandalous Scions series, I can’t help but wish for more. Quoting one of my favorite lines (entirely out of context), I have the urge to return to the beginning and read the entire series again, “Once more, with feeling.” I highly recommend this box set and, in fact, recommend the entire series.

 by Karen
Scandalous Scions IV

Such a great series
Scandalous Scions Box Four, the final installment of novels by Tracy Cooper-Posey, is a fitting close to this great series. Ashes of Pride, the tenth installment of the Scandalous Scions series, is one of the best in the continuing saga of the Great Family. Blanche, seeking to find man in the image of her late father, elopes with Joshua Seymour, a career military officer. Neil Williams, freshly back from five-years of service in Australia, desires nothing more than to depart from his chosen military career. Illusions becomes delusions, and blindness to the truth creates hardships and heartaches, as Blanche discovers her impulsive decision to marry was only the beginning of the nightmare. As always, Cooper-Posey juxtaposes dichotomous characters with seemingly impossible conundrums that have satisfying conclusions. Additionally, there are two other subplots at work in this story that set the stage, hopefully, for the next volume(s) in this series.
Risk of Ruin is the 11th installment of the Scandalous Scions Story. Once again Cooper-Posey sweeps the reader through the tumultuous life of Annalies, a talented artist desiring the Bohemian life, never considering the societal consequences of such a dire decision. Living a covert life with Tobias, Annalies discovers the vagaries of life when the pursuit of artistic license and temperament collide with the everyday issues of money and existential threat to her lifestyle when Tobias is cut off from all means of support from his family. When confronted with the naked truth of the need to find support, Annalies is forced to turn to her cousin, Peter. Placed in an untenable position of keeping the secret of her deleterious lifestyle from the rest of the Great Family, Peter wrestles with his unrealized love for Annalies and his need to flee from the reality of her living, and sharing a bed, with another man. Cooper-Posey captures the artistic passion and free spirit of a woman struggling to find her own voice in a world that silences nonconformity. The colors and sounds of London compete with the stench of the streets that fill the nostrils, only to be cleansed with the clarity and beauty of Farleigh, a rural retreat where Peter comes to grips with his own life decisions. Close your eyes and the words will paint their own canvas as you sink into the tale.
Year of Folly is the penultimate volume in the Scandalous Scions series. This outing involves Emma, the youngest daughter, banished to Inverness, because of her unfortunate birth status. There, she meets Morgan, the staid man of business, whose enigmatic personality and ways confound her deeply. When a scrivener’s error grants her the right to cast a ballot, in the days when women had no such right, Emma finds herself in the eye of a politic and social storm. Cooper-Posey captures the fervor, hostility, apathy, and ambivalence of the day regarding this important historical moment prior to the equality of voter rights. One of the high points, for me, was when the real significance of the “year of folly” is revealed, and it’s not quite what the reader may have suspected. It was great fun to walk through the self-revelation, maturing process of this young woman, as she’s tossed into a strange place, far from everything familiar. Her personal boundaries are stretched by women operating in a man’s world, and the small impacts the societal norms have on everyday life. Morgan is one of my favorite characters in the series. A well-done addition to the series.
Queen of Hearts, the 13th installment of the Scandalous Scions series, is a fitting conclusion of this great series. This is the story of Sadie and River, strewn across two continents, and fifteen years. It’s a sweeping tale of a love that defies geography and time. Set in America, Sadie encounters River, a white man raised as one of the tribe. Torn apart by the needs of those at the mercy of his uncle back in England, River leaves Sadie to salvage what remains of his estate and those depending on him for their livelihoods. With the passage of time and distance, each marries another, and believe they will never encounter the other again. As always, Cooper-Posey sets up seemingly impossible odds, yet finds a way to resolve everything by the end of the book.
So sorry to see this series conclude.

| Bookmark on Bookbub | Bookmark on Goodreads |

All prices are in USD

Electronic book, compatible with all reading devices. Book can be read on all devices and apps. [More info]

ePub or Mobi format files provided.

You will receive an email from BookFunnel with the download links once your transaction has been processed. (For pre-orders, the download link will be emailed to you on the release date.)

BookFunnel will assist with any download issues.  Click the Need Help? link at the top right of the download page.

| Continue browsing books | Jump back to top of page |



Chapter One

Fenham Barracks, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. July 1872 C.E.

More than the usual amount of fuss ensued at the barracks gates, which was hardly a surprise. It still chaffed, though. Neil had forgotten the formalities maintained by a full regiment at home. Procedures had been more casual in the colonies.

He waited patiently at the gate while the sentries scrounged up someone who could vouch for Neil. His orders were grubby and weather-worn, which had raised their suspicions. The orders had been handed to Neil in Albany, the colony in Australia, which laid seventeen weeks behind him. The single sheet of paper had lived in his inner breast pocket since then.

Finally, word came back to the front gate. The red-faced corporal whispered to the sentry barring Neil’s way. “Sergeant Woodsmith says if you don’t let the man pass, you’re a fool of the first water, sir.” The corporal’s gaze flicked toward Neil. “Says ‘e’s an ‘ero and all.”

The lieutenant’s gaze moved up and down Neil once more. “That so?” He lowered his rifle and took two steps to one side and closer to Neil. “My apologies, sir. Please go ahead. Colonel Hill’s office is—”

“I know where it is, thank you, Lieutenant,” Neil told him. He pointed to his water-stained trunk. “Have someone deliver that to the main office for me.”

The lieutenant’s eyes narrowed.

Neil plucked the orders from the man’s fingers. “In future, when you speak about the regiment, including the names of officers and men, you make sure you are out of earshot of anyone not part of the regiment. Clear?”

The corporal grinned and straightened up to snap off a salute as Neil strode past the pair and into the barracks proper.

Fenham Barracks was large, with many buildings. The Colonel’s office was situated overlooking the parade ground. It would take a few minutes of fast walking through narrow streets of officers’ quarters and enlisted men’s barracks to reach the square. It gave Neil time to dispel his irritation before he presented himself to the commander of the regiment.

Even though it was July, the early morning air was still cool against Neil’s face, and smelled faintly of brine, for the tides reached this far along the Tyne, which ran less than a mile away. He shivered. Five years in Albany and now July felt like winter to him.

The regimental square was filled with units moving through drills and marches. Everyone wore the Undress uniform—the dark gray serge with darker braid across the chest and the red stripes on the legs of their trousers.

The shouts of the sergeant majors, the drum beats, the thud of boots moving in unison, the slap of hands against rifles was so familiar that Neil paused for a moment to absorb the sights. It was utterly unchanged, as if he had never been away.

He frowned as he took in the wagons lined along the far northern edge of the square. Each wagon had at least one man chained to the big wheel, their heads bare and their shoulders wrenched back by the tautness of the chains. The bound men watched the activity in the square with apathetic expressions.

Neil’s chest tightened. The moment of sentimentally evaporated like ice in the Gibson Desert. He turned on his heel and strode toward the big building on the western edge of the square.

When he stepped into the main office building, his shoulders relaxed, for it was warmer in here. A dozen privates and corporals moved between offices on the ground floor and up the sweeping stairs to the next floor, their uniforms pristine and new.

Neil caught the attention of the first non-com to pass by. “Major Williams to speak to Colonel Hill.”

“Yes, sir, Major Williams.” The corporal’s gaze moved over Neil the same way the sentry at the gate had done, measuring him. “This way, sir.”

Neil knew the way to Hill’s big office, but let the man lead him. He would need someone to announce him. He followed the corporal up the stairs, into the wide corridor at the top and along to the left, to the unmarked door at the end. The door stood open, as it always did.

A captain sat at a table in the outer office, his pen scratching across paper. He looked up as they entered and put the pen down, his gaze moving over Neil. Then his eyes widened. “Williams!” He jumped to his feet and moved around the table. “My God, you’re back!” He gripped Neil’s hand and shook it, squeezing hard.

“Captain Long,” Neil acknowledged. “You were a lieutenant when I left.”

“So were you,” Phillip Long replied. He stepped back, his smile broad and warm. “Major. The colonies were good to you. Have you been back in England long?”

“Long enough to jump upon a train, which I stepped off this morning,” Neil said. He glanced at the wide door behind Long’s desk. “Is Colonel Hill in?”

Long nodded. “Dismissed, Corporal,” he told the smiling soldier at the door. The man saluted and marched out of the office. Long moved toward the inner door. “You’ll dine at the mess tonight, yes? Everyone will be pleased to see you.”

Neil smothered the sigh which tried to rise to his lips. “It’s likely I will,” he said, keeping his tone polite. “If you can scare me up some officers’ quarters, that is.”

“I’ll see what I can do. We’re a bit tight on accommodations right now. If I find you a room somewhere near the barracks, would that do?” Long paused with his knuckles lifted toward the door.

Neil frowned. “There are no quarters left at all?” He shook his head. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a thing.”

“You’re not the only man returning to his regimental headquarters,” Long said. “They’re pulling regiments out of Australia, Ceylon, Africa, China, even India. Everyone is returning home. You know about the big stir Cardwell is putting the army through?”

Neil nodded. He had more than a passing knowledge of the reforms, for they had significant personal interest to him. Now was not the time to discuss them, though. He glanced at Long’s hand, still raised, and lifted his brow.

Long knocked against the painted wood. “Yes, for tonight, then,” he said in agreement. He pushed the door open. “Major Williams, sir?”

“Enter!” came the growled response.

Long pushed the door even wider. “Sir,” he said to Neil.

Neil stepped through. “Thank you, Captain.”

Long closed the door behind him and Neil turned to face the big table and the commander of the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers Regiment of Foot. “Major Williams reporting for duty, Colonel Hill.” He saluted.

Hill got to his feet. “Neil Williams,” he said in his deep and scratchy voice. He came around the table, his hand out. “We weren’t expecting you for another week.”

“My orders said as soon as possible, sir.”

Colonel Edward Roley Hill shook Neil’s hand. Hill was a career soldier, in his late seventies. He had silver hair and a thick, silver beard and magnificent mustache. He was still hale and hearty. His high forehead was lined, but his eyes were youthful. Colonel Hill had taken command of the regiment the year after Neil had left for the Swan River colony. Neil had heard much about the high quality of Hill’s previous commands.

“Let me see your orders, Williams,” Hill said, as he returned to his desk.

Neil took out the crumpled sheet, unfolded it and placed it on the table, then stepped back. “I apologize for my incorrect dress, sir. The uniform has changed since I left. I will arrange for new uniforms the first chance I get.”

Hill waved his hand, dismissing the issue, then picked up the orders. “There are dozens of tailors in Newcastle willing to take your coin. They are familiar with the new uniform. As soon as you can is good enough.” He read the sheet.

Neil peered through the big windows while Hill read. From here, most of the square was visible, including the wagons with their bound men.

Hill put the page down, then reached for a folio and unwound the string. “Returned with merit. You did well in Albany, Williams. I expected nothing less of a Fifth man.”

“Yes, sir.”

Hill pulled out a small pile of clean, white and uncrumpled pages. The ink was still fresh and dark on those pages. He put them in front of him and frowned at the script. “You’re aware of the changes Parliament has decreed, Williams?”

“Yes, sir.” Neil brought his teeth together and said nothing more.

Hill looked up at him. “Under the new terms, you’re one of the men who has been in service long enough to leave, if you want. You signed up for twenty-one years, only it has all changed, now. Have you changed, Williams? Or are you still willing to protect Queen and country?”

Neil’s chest tightened. “I would like to leave, sir.”

Hill’s eyes narrowed. The lined forehead creased. “That’s not the answer I expected from you, given your record.”

“I know, sir.”

Hill’s gaze didn’t shift. “There are too many fine men being given their marching orders. I could use a good officer, Williams. You’re one of the best. I think you know that. You’ve earned accolades and praise, promotions and medals. You thought you were in the army for life. Why not serve your time as you first intended?”

Neil drew in a breath and hesitated. How could he explain what was indescribable? The heat, the horrors, the desperate convicts he had been forced to oversee. The squalid conditions of a colony just barely established. The strange food, the indifferent senior officers and their lack of empathy for colonists and the natives, and their cruelty toward the convicts.

He could speak of none of that because Hill would not understand. He was an old-school army man, who stood by his fellow officers no matter what they did.

Instead, Neil said, “I’ve done enough fighting, sir.”

“England hasn’t been at war for decades, boy.”

“Yet the battles never cease.”

Colonel Hill harrumphed. “What do you think you’ll do as a civilian? You’re fit for nothing but this.”

“I don’t know, sir,” Neil said truthfully.

Hill scowled at him. “Running away, are you?”

The mild insult was meant to nudge him into reconsidering. Only, Neil had spent fifteen weeks in a swaying hammock aboard the City of Adelaide, with nothing to do but contemplate his future. He shook his head. “I just want a quiet life, Colonel. I believe I have earned that.”

Hill sighed and stacked the pages back together again. He stuffed them into the portfolio, crumpling them. “Very well.” His tone was gruff. “I’ll have your severance processed. Be warned, Williams, it will not happen overnight. There’s more than a few of you taking the option to leave. London is awash in red tape. It will take weeks, possibly months, for the release orders to come through.”

Hill would delay Neil’s release in any small way he could. Neil nodded. “I expected that, sir. Thank you.”

Hill laced his fingers together. “Get yourself settled for today. Come and see me tomorrow. I’ll have an assignment for you by then.”

Neil saluted him once more. “Colonel.” He wheeled toward the door and paused, his gaze on the window once more. “I saw the men tied to the wagons, sir. Why is that?”

Hill glanced at the glass and frowned. “They call it Field Punishment Number One, now—part of the reforms and all that. Lieutenant Colonel Seymour runs a tight ship. Dismissed, Williams.”

Neil left, trying to fit a Captain Seymour into the officers of the regiment he had known before being reassigned to the 72nd Regiment of Foot, and leaving for Albany. The name was familiar, yet he could not put a face to the name or any military history, either.

He had done nothing but recall old facts, names and faces, dusty with disuse, since he had arrived in London two days ago. He’d remember who Seymour was, eventually.

When Blanche heard the clop of hooves and the creak of a carriage coming to a halt in front of the little house, her heart pattered, even as something sank in her middle. She ignored the sensation, put her sewing aside and moved to the front door. There was no front hall. The door opened upon the one public room of the house, which was both a dining room and a drawing room, and also her morning room. The single short shelf of books over the fireplace made it a library, too.

She heard Joshua’s voice, speaking to the cab driver. Then the click of a tongue, and the clop of the horses as the cab pulled away.

Blanche opened the door as Joshua approached the house. No garden separated the house from the street. Broad cobblestones spread from the front door, across the road to the houses on the other side. In the late afternoon sunlight, the cobbles were bleached, heated stones. Blanche had put two large pots on either side of the doorway and planted petunias. They had grown and flowered but were ailing in the heat of this torrid summer.

Joshua looked very fine in his dark gray Undressed uniform. Blanche preferred the formal uniform with the red coat and the high boots, although the dark braid running across the front of this uniform in horizontal bars did give it an elegant touch. His sword slapped his leg as he came to a stop in front of her.

“You’re home.” He sounded surprised.

“Come in. Dinner is waiting for you. Did you have a good day, my husband?” She reached for his arm, while holding her skirts out of the way so he could step through the door.

Joshua moved around her, causing her fingers to slide away from the serge and drop. “It was a foul day from start to finish,” he growled, unbuckling his sword.

She closed the door behind him. “Here, let me take that.” She held her hand out for the belt.

He dropped his cap onto her palm, then looped the belt over the top and ruffled his white blond hair, which was damp with perspiration. “Please tell me there is some of that lemonade you made yesterday? I am absolutely parched.”

Blanche frowned as she hung the cap on a hook by the door and the sword belt over the secondary hook beneath. “There is no ice left,” she said carefully. It was too hot for ice to last long, even in the straw-lined box in the floor of the kitchen. “I could make a pot of tea, if you like?” She was at least good at making tea. It was one of the first skills she had acquired after the wedding. It had not been the last she had learned, by a large score.

“God, no,” Joshua said. “Don’t be stupid. It is far too hot for that. What is for dinner?” He turned to the table expectantly.

Her heart hurrying, Blanche moved over to the table and uncovered the plates. She had made the tourtière and simple salad by herself. Not even one edge of the pie was burned. A simple thing, yet she was inordinately pleased about it, and had gushed about her accomplishment in her daily letter to her sister, Emma.

Joshua scowled down at the plates and the pretty petunia petals floating in a bowl of water, between them. “Cold pie?” His tone was withering.

“It is meant to be eaten cold,” Blanche said. “It is tourtière.”

“Frog food?” He pushed the plate away. “Warm it up. I won’t eat it, otherwise.”

Blanche picked up his plate, the roiling in her belly increasing. No fire had burned in the stove since early that morning. It would take time to bring it to a heat which would warm the pie. She said nothing, though. If she had thought this through properly, she would have anticipated he would want his food warm. Why had she thought tourtière would be welcomed?

“Some of the fruitcake my mother sent me remains. Cream, too,” Blanche said, instead. “Would you like to eat it while this is warming?”

He scowled and sat at the empty place. “I am hungry,” he muttered.

She pushed the kitchen door open with her foot and put the plate on the old, scratched wooden counter, then got the fire going beneath the oven. When the slice of pie sat upon the metal dish in the oven to warm, she put the last slice of fruitcake on a dinner plate, instead of a dessert plate, poured the cream into a serving pitcher and took both out to the table.

A nearly empty glass of brandy sat in front of Joshua. He smoked a cigarette moodily, even though Blanche had asked him not to smoke in the house, for the smoke irritated her lungs and made her cough.

She held her tongue and smiled at him as she placed the fruitcake in front of him. She settled on the chair beside his and stroked his hand, where it laid on the tablecloth. “Why was your day so foul, dearest?”

He snorted, as he pulled his hand away from her fingers. “Because there is not one man in the regiment who understands what discipline means.” He crushed the cigarette on the bread plate by his elbow and reached for the brandy, ignoring the cake. “Why are you here, anyway?”

Blanche did not understand the question. “There is somewhere else I should be, instead of here with you?”

His scowl grew even deeper. “Colonel Hill’s wife is having one of those afternoon tea dinners of hers. Every blasted officer was talking about eating at the officers’ mess tonight.”

Except for Joshua.

Blanche’s heart squeezed. This was her fault. Mrs. Mary Hill, Colonel Hill’s wife, held her famous and eagerly anticipated afternoon tea dinners every month. All the wives were invited to arrive for afternoon tea, then linger to eat an early dinner, while gossiping and passing time with other ladies who understood what it was like to be married to a military man.

Blanche had attended precisely one of those occasions.

No one had said anything to her directly. In that regard, the social circle of Newcastle was just as subtle as those in London. Nothing was ever said aloud or directly to the subject of the gossip, while wholesale cattiness and plotting took place while their back was turned.

Somehow, in some way which Blanche could not begin to guess, she had become a pariah among the military wives. True, on the first occasion, one of the women had heard Blanche’s name and sniffed and drawled, “French?”

Certainement,” Blanche had replied with a smile. “My father died fighting the Prussians during the Siege of Paris.”

Had that fact condemned her? She had thought the wives of military officers would welcome the daughter of another military hero, no matter who he fought for. Blanche would never know, for she had not received a single other invitation from any of the wives, not in the many months they had been here in Newcastle.

Had Joshua only just noticed that?

To be fair, he was preoccupied with his troublesome work. The battalion he commanded had been lax and undisciplined when he first took charge. The men still resisted his efforts to inculcate in them a sense of cohesion and fighting spirit.

Blanche understood his desire to make his battalion the best in the regiment. She applauded his efforts. It was Joshua’s determination to be the best officer possible which had first drawn her admiration. That, and his French mother, of course. Their French lineage had brought them together.

Blanche reached to brush the fine hair from Joshua’s forehead. “My poor husband,” she murmured.

Joshua jerked back from her fingers. “Don’t do that.”

Blanche dropped her hand.

“How much longer will the pie take?” He drained the brandy.

“A while,” she admitted.

Joshua scowled, the fine mustache over his lip working. She had never seen Joshua without the pale mustache. Despite him not shaving it, the mustache never seemed to grow into the luxurious affair other officers cultivated.

“Damn it, I’m hungry.” He got to his feet. “I’ll eat at the officer’s mess.”

Disappointment touched her, along with a swell of frustration. “I thought we could spend the evening together. Lisa Grace sent me a new book—”

“A book?” He laughed. “You intend to read to me?”

Blanche held herself still, adjusting to the idea that her plans were in ruins. The book Lisa Grace had sent her was a salacious one, full of lusty descriptions and wickedness. Blanche had intended to let Joshua read the book for himself while she sewed, and let his natural response to the story take care of matters after that. Blanche wasn’t sure she could actually read the bawdy passages aloud, although if she needed to do so in order to bring the evening to the conclusion she desperately sought, then she would.

Now she could do neither. She let none of her disappointment show, for Joshua resented any display of strong emotions. They were, in his opinion, weak and non-military.

So many things were non-military, in his mind. The expectation that servants cook and clean for them, instead of turning her own perfectly capable hands to the work, was one. Ostentatious housing. Lace at windows. Cushions on chairs. Embellishments on dresses. The latest fashions. Novels. Cab fares.

“I’ll get your cap and sword,” Blanche said, keeping her voice even. She moved toward the door.

As she passed him, Blanche caught the tiny widening of Joshua’s eyes. She had surprised him with her meekness.

“Why don’t you come with me?”

Blanche whirled, her heart leaping. “To the mess?”

He shrugged. “The dining room is open to civilians and there is a ladies’ lounge beside the mess where you can wait, afterwards.”

Blanche barely hesitated. It would help Joshua’s career to mingle with the other officers. She never discouraged him from doing so and she would not now. Only…to spend even the hour the meal would take in his company!

Blanche smiled. “That would be lovely! Oh, how sweet of you to offer!” She grabbed the cap and sword and thrust them toward him. “Let me just run upstairs and get my things. Oh, a night out! How wonderful!”

Joshua smiled indulgently, as she ran to change her gown and collect her reticule. She took the pie out of the oven and spread the embers, all while chattering about the evening ahead. Her gratitude seemed to please him, for Joshua waited patiently.

Blanche didn’t care what Joshua might be feeling. Not at that moment. She was going out!

Go to Top