Alicia Quigley: Lady, Lover, Smuggler Spy (Giveaway)

It’s exciting to be guest blogging here at Susana’s Parlor on Bastille Day! The storming of the Bastille radically changed the path of French and European history in ways that are integral to the period in which most of my stories are set, the English Regency. One minor (but fun) example is the way in which the heavy full-skirted gowns and immense coiffures and hats of 1788 had completely given way to the simple, slim, “classical” silhouette by 1795.

Photo 1Photo 2

In revolutionary France, this mode of dress was associated with democratic societies such as ancient Greece and the Roman republic.

More important in the long term, the political instability that resulted from the overthrow of the French monarchy also opened the door to the Napoleonic era, and wars that not only extended throughout Europe and into the Middle East, but into North and South America. These military campaigns, and the fear of democratic radicalism crossing the Channel from France, hugely impacted English society at the time, hardening the conservative views of many English aristocrats about the importance of birth and breeding even as the industrial revolution and trade with India created a rapidly growing class of nouveau riche.

Photo 3Only six years after Bastille Day, Napoleon, who was then just 26, and had joined the French Army to promote Republican ideals, had undertaken his first campaign against Austria and Italy after saving the French Directory, the successor to the first revolutionary government. He conquered Italy and became a national hero, and then embarked on an invasion of Egypt that was his launch pad to becoming the ruler of the entire country in 1799 as First Consul.

Napoleon successfully replaced the unstable revolutionary government with a more sustainable populist regime, albeit one that was rather authoritarian. Napoleon is remembered most today for his wars, ill-fated campaign in Russia and eventual defeat, and his government reforms are often ignored. In spite of the Declaration of the Rights of Man by the first revolutionaries, Napoleon was in many ways far more the basis for the modern state that recognizes the rights of the individual than the Revolution itself. The revolutionaries were disorganized, philosophically polarized and devolved into the violence, irrationality and bloodshed of the Terror.

Photo 4Napoleon however, had a positive mania for organization and codification and introduced secular education, replacement of feudalism with modern property law, and the Napoleonic Code that set forth clear civil and criminal law that specified and codified the rules of due process that protect people living in functional states today (as well as numerous other reforms).

Napoleon’s mania for organization was pervasive; he not only set up vast and detailed bureaucracies for military and civil administration, he personally took a hand in facilitating the meetings. One weird manifestation of this was his largely successful effort to control the smuggling trade between England and France for his own benefit. His success was remarkable when one considers the strenuous efforts the English had made for centuries to bring smuggling under control with minimal results.

Napoleon’s job was perhaps easier, because he didn’t want to abolish or heavily tax the trade as the English did, but rather to centralize it and document the comings and goings of the smugglers, at least partially in order to facilitate the smuggling of gold guineas badly needed by his government to pay his troops and prosecute his wars.

This led Napoleon to establish a “ville des smoglers” or city of smugglers, initially located at Dunkirk and later at the more secure city of Gravelines nearby. French authorities received and documented the arriving English smugglers and their transactions with their French counterparts. They actively encouraged smuggling, even allowing the boats to be built there for British crews when the Inland Revenue Service and Royal Navy destroyed boats to prevent it.

I found the story of the City of Smugglers irresistible and a perfect backdrop for Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy the third book of my Arlingbys Regency romance and intrigue series. In this book, Valerie Carlton is the well born but impoverished widow of a soldier who lost his life in the Peninsular Wars, while Sir Tarquin Arlingby conceals his secret spying behind his wealthy gentleman of fashion persona. Their love story stretches from London across the English Channel to the City of Smugglers as they seek to uncover Napoleon’s secrets to support the English troops.

In the excerpt below, our daring duo is about to get their first glance at the fortress of Gravelines and the City of Smugglers.

About Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy

Mrs. Valerie Carlton is the widow of a soldier who died in the Peninsular Wars. Disowned by her family for “marrying down,” she survives working as a governess. When the elder son of the family makes unwelcome advances, Valerie leaves, seeking refuge with a close friend until she can find another position.

Sir Tarquin Arlingby, a wealthy, handsome bachelor on his way home, is staying at the same inn as Valerie and witnesses her being robbed before she can board the coach. He goes to Valerie’s aid and is instantly attracted to her. As her friend’s home is near his estate, he offers to drive her there.

An unfortunate accident forces the pair to spend a night in a village inn. Over dinner, Valerie talks about her experiences during the Spanish campaign against Napoleon and the sense of mission that she felt following the drum, which she misses in her current life. Sir Tarquin, who is secretly spying for the Crown by masquerading as a smuggler to pass information in and out of France, is intrigued by her bravery and his attraction increases. Valerie is also drawn to the handsome baronet.

Tarquin needs a French-speaking woman to pose as a smuggler during a mission to the “City of Smugglers” in Gravelines. When he discovers that Valerie speaks French like a native, he successfully recruits her for the job.

Will the pair survive their dangerous mission? Will they finally acknowledge the depth of their feelings for each other?

Find out in Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy, a Regency romance with intrigue, humor and just the right amount of moderately explicit sex for those readers who enjoy sensuality with their romances.

Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy


Much later, Valerie awoke to Tarquin shaking her shoulder. She looked around in surprise to note the sun just rising over the horizon.

“Madame Carleon, we are approaching the shoreline. You will wish to watch as we arrive,” he said.

Bien sur, Jake,” she replied, gathering her wits. She looked across the water to see the coastline clearly delineated before them. The golden-pink rays of the rising sun imbued the sandy, rolling shoreline with a pearly glow, and wavelets sparkled in the emerging daylight. As the shore grew rapidly closer with the long oar strokes of the rowers, she could see the narrow mouth of a waterway cutting through the beach. They glided into the channel and moved inland as rich green farm fields, dotted with cows and distant villages, scrolled past on either side.

Within an hour they were approaching the fortress of Gravelines. The looming walls, built hundreds of years earlier, reminded Valerie of the fortresses her husband had helped to besiege in Spain, and she shivered a little at the violent memories they awoke in her.

To banish her unwelcome recollections, she looked over at Tarquin. In the daylight she could see he had been correct in saying that a change of clothing and some walnut juice to temporarily brown his skin did much to disguise him. His blonde hair was tousled, his face looked as though work in the sun and wind had tanned it, and a day or two of stubble on his cheeks gave him the appearance of a farmer or deckhand. His billowing cotton shirt was partially covered with a leather vest, and the open collar allowed her to see the strong column of his throat. She acknowledged ruefully that the disguise made him no less attractive. Many a woman would take an interest in Jake West.

But there was little time for daydreams. As they drew up to a pier, the crew sprang into action. Tarquin shipped his oar and stood in one lithe movement, while Valerie grabbed her reticule from its spot atop the tarpaulin covering the golden cargo destined to support Napoleon’s armies. Seconds later, she found herself on the pier with the members of the guinea boat’s crew and other passengers, facing what appeared to be a small army of customs inspectors, coast guards, and police officers.

Unfamiliar with the procedure and somewhat intimidated by the crowd of officials, Valerie stood as close to Tarquin as possible, taking reassurance from his height and strength, while attempting to maintain an outward calm. A hard faced customs official wearing close fitting white breeches and an elaborate green coat crisscrossed with bright white leather straps approached her.

He looked her over briefly. “Qui etes vous, madame?” he barked.

Madame Carleon, une modiste,” she replied, handing over her papers. “I am here to select fabrics, trims and stock for my shop. Ces hommes ne peuvent pas selecter les mieux tissus.” For additional effect, she sniffed and cast a dismissive glance towards Tarquin.

Bien sur, madame,” the inspector said, giving her a more interested look and a smile. He rifled through her papers, pausing a moment to squint at one of them, as Valerie held her breath. “Allez, you may go.” He leered at her, his eyes raking over her figure. “A pity you live in England. France could use a fine woman such as you.”

“You never know,” said Valerie saucily, “I may return. Particularly if there are more strapping men such as you.”

“Not too many like me, but I’m sure I could satisfy you.”

Valerie laughed and moved on, giving him a teasing glance over her shoulder. The inspector, clearly recognizing Tarquin, nodded at him briefly, and he followed in her wake.

When they were out of earshot, Tarquin spoke in a low voice. “You did well there. That was a member of the Douane Imperiale, Napoleon’s elite customs unit. All of its members have served in the Army and they undertake armed missions when necessary.”

“I’m glad I didn’t know that before I spoke with him,” Valerie laughed.

“I’m sure I did not encourage you to flirt with the officials,” observed Tarquin.

“It seemed to be the easiest way to convince him I’m harmless.” She glanced up at him. “Are you jealous?”

“Jake West has no right to be jealous of Madame Carleon’s doings,” responded Tarquin, and she had to be content with that.

She turned away and watched the crowd bustling around them with interest. “What do we do now?”

“Let us go find some bread and coffee first,” he suggested. “Then I will take you to the fabric merchants. We will spend one night here; it takes them some time to count the gold and be sure that all is accounted for, and that the manifest is accurate. There is an inn for the smugglers that is quite decent. Everything here is very well organized.”

Valerie looked about her. Although the walls ran close around it, and the primary language to be heard was French, she thought she could have been in a market town almost anywhere. There were counting houses, and a great many shops, inns, taverns, and other businesses.

“It seems to be,” she agreed. “I’m afraid I had another picture in my head, with dark, narrow streets and people skulking about in the shadows. Instead it is almost disappointingly ordinary.”

Tarquin smiled. “Everything required for the smugglers to conduct their business has been thought of. There is even a shipyard, for in some regions the tidesmen have taken to destroying the guinea boats, so they make them here, and then row them to England to pick up the cargoes.”

“That’s rather shocking,” Valerie replied.

Tarquin shrugged. “I suppose it is. I am doing all I can to improve matters, but that is the reality of the treachery we are contending with.”

Giveaway: Two lucky commenters will receive free copies of Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy. The winners will be randomly chosen one week after this post is published.

About the Author

Alicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high.  She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie.  In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Amazon Author Page

Alicia Quigley: Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy (Giveaway)

A Tale of Two Soldiers: Class in Wellington’s Army

by Alicia Quigley

Social hierarchy was rigid and strict in Regency England, and there were relatively few paths for ambitious sons of the middle classes to work their way in to the gentry. Only three professions offered a nearly certain entrée: the law, the Church, and the military. In the military an ambitious and brave young man could, if he survived and was clever about his career, make a reasonable income, achieve or purchase promotion, and eventually, perhaps even be knighted, or have a title created for him. Some well-known examples from Wellington’s era include General Sir Harry Smith, and General Colin Campbell who was made the 1st Baron Clyde.

George Scovell in SpainHowever, the military was also viewed as a very good career for the younger sons of aristocrats, and they typically received preferential treatment. The stories of George Scovell, and Lord Fitzroy Somerset, who served on Wellington’s staff at the same time during the Peninsular War are good examples. The Duke of Wellington, who was the younger son of an Irish peer, held strong views about the importance of “family, money and influence” in moving up in the military, and surrounded himself with other scions of the aristocracy as his aides-de-camp whom he referred to as “my boys.” He distrusted the emerging new ‘scientific soldiering’ being introduced, which was particularly important in the case of the artillery, (which was rapidly gaining relevance) but also for all other aspects of soldiering.

In this post, let’s compare the careers of Lord Fitzroy Somerset, a younger son of the Duke of Beaufort, who was born in beautiful Badminton Castle, a privileged younger son of the Duke of Beaufort, and Mr. George Scovell, an ambitious young man with little breeding or money, but great intelligence and ambition.

Scovell GeneralGeorge Scovell attended the recently established Royal Military Academy, learning the methods scientific soldiering and in 1798 purchased a commission as a Cornet in the 4th Queens Own Hussars, a cavalry regiment. A young Winston Churchill started his career as a Cornet in the same regiment 97 years later. The cavalry was the glamour side of the military, and Scovell was tremendously proud of this position. But, as a socially insignificant scientific soldier, promotions were hard to get.

As George also had siblings who needed financial help, he had to sell out of the cavalry and join the infantry, a drop in social status that he felt deeply. He moved to the Quartermaster General’s staff, where he excelled due to his education and diligence, although he had to purchase his promotions to captain and major. His accomplishments included, besides helping improve logistics in the Peninsula, standing up a new unit of Scouts with English, Spanish and Portuguese soldiers, and critically, cracking Napoleon’s Paris Chiffre in his spare time, thus making Napoleon’s plans available to the English.

Scovell was given the opportunity in 1813 to raise and command a new regiment, the Staff Corps of Cavalry, also known as the Staff Dragoons or the Corps of Gendarmerie which was the first recognized unit of military police in the British army. He was knighted and received the Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) and continued his career in the Army, even becoming a colonel in the in the same cavalry regiment he had to sell out of earlier. Later, he was the Lieutenant-Governor and then Governor of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst(1829-1856), where he helped expand scientific soldiering in the British army. He received the Knight Grand Cross in 1860 and retired from the Army as a general. His hard work finally brought him success, but it was a long time in the making.

Fitzroy SomersetLord Fitzroy Somerset also joined the Army in the peninsula as a Cornet, this time in the 4th Light Dragoons, in 1804. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1805, and captain in 1808, presumably by purchase since he transferred to the 43rd Regiment of Foot. He went to Spain in 1808 as one of Wellingtons’s crew of aristocratic aides-de-camp. Somerset’s bravery and gallantry is not in question; he was involved in leading charges in any number major battles in Spain, and was the first over the wall at the bloody storming of Badajoz. He was only twenty-four when he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1812.

Somerset fought in numerous other brutal battles, and served at Waterloo, where he lost his right arm. He also received the KCB in 1815. He went into politics, became Military Secretary, and eventually returned to active duty. He was named Baron Raglan, and eventually Field Marshal. He is famous for being the general on whose watch the Charge of the Light Brigade occurred. As a sidebar on the advantages of being a duke’s son in the army, it is worth noting that Lord Fitzroy’s older brother Lord Robert Somerset, also became an army general!

Somerset_Raglan GeneralTwo soldiers of very different backgrounds, with very different paths to military success. What do you think of this?

In my soon-to-be-released Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy, we have a similar juxtaposition: our hero, Sir Tarquin Arlingby, is a titled gentleman involved in finding smugglers who are running guinea boats to France, and are getting letters back and forth for French spies.

Our heroine, Valerie Carlton, is a military widow, whose husband was more the George Scovell-type soldier. She followed the drum and learned first-hand the adventures, dangers and sense of commitment to something greater than herself that came from the experience. The two are thrown together through a series of odd events and find themselves in quite an exciting—and potentially deadly—adventure.


Note: This book will be up for pre-order soon! The author will choose a random commenter to receive of the first two books in the series, A Collector’s Item and The Contraband Courtship.

Sir Tarquin handed her to a seat in front of the fire, and then took a chair across from her, settling into it comfortably and crossing his elegantly booted ankles. “So, Mrs. Carlton, I find that I am almost vulgarly curious about your past. It is evident that you are a gentlewoman, yet I found you penniless and unescorted at the Angel this morning. How did that come to pass?”

Valerie gazed down at her hands, before looking at him. “I am the oldest daughter of Lord Upleadon and his first wife,” she answered, “and married Robert Carlton, an officer in the Light Division.”

“Upleadon?” exclaimed Sir Tarquin. “You are an Upleadon, yet I found you alone, penniless, and ready to board a mail coach?”

LadyLoverSmugglerSpy_Final-FJM_Kindle_1800x2700 copy“My father did not approve of Mr. Carlton, I fear,” Valerie answered economically.

“That stiff rumped old tartar–” Sir Tarquin suddenly recalled that his listener was not only a lady, but also the daughter of the gentleman he was about to malign, and fell silent.

“Quite so,” Valerie responded with a definite hint of laughter in her voice. “In any event, when I insisted on marrying Mr. Carlton my father cut me off entirely. Even when my husband was among the dead at Sabugal he refused to see me.”

“While I’m not well acquainted with the baron, as he is a good deal older than I am and moves in very different circles, I’m sorry to say that I can easily imagine him lacking remorse. You must have been a mere child. How have you managed since then?”

“When I returned to England, several of my friends had married, and were happy to help me get on my feet. I was mourning my husband, and had no wish to remarry or to be a burden on them, however, so I quickly found a position as a governess.”

“But the Battle of Sabugal was three years since. Have you been a governess all this time?” Sir Tarquin asked.

She nodded. “I had only been with the Forneys for in a few months. When I first became a governess I was in charge of a young lady who needed some polishing before she came out, as her parents were not people of fashion. I enjoyed it very much; the daughter was charming and her mother and father were kind and grateful. Unfortunately the two positions that followed it have been much less satisfactory.”

Valerie fell silent, looking down at her hands, and Sir Tarquin, finding himself appreciating the sight of her blonde curls, fine figure, and aura of calm, didn’t need to stretch his imagination far to imagine the son of the Forney household had been unable to resist the temptation of the pretty governess.

“It makes me angry to think of you being preyed upon,” he said abruptly, much to his own surprise.

“It is a common enough problem, and far worse has befallen others. He did not force me and, while Mrs. Forney was unkind, I left of my own volition,” said Valerie uncomfortably. “My friends have helped me before and will help me now. I would rather spend my time with children, but perhaps I will have to seek employment as a companion to an older lady instead.”

“You do not deserve a life as a drudge to children or as the companion of elderly harridan, who will doubtless have a horrid grandson who will treat you as Mr. Forney did,” Sir Tarquin exclaimed. “You are young, and have given far too much.”

“Whatever do you mean?” she asked.

“You sacrificed a husband and a family to your country, did you not?”

“I suppose you could say so, although it has been three long years since then.” A wistful look came over her face. “It seems so long ago. Thinking of it now, Robert and I were both practically children; it is almost as though it happened to someone else, or was a story someone told to me.”

“Yet you are still all but penniless and without protection as a result, are you not? That is not much of an ending to the story.”

She gazed at him thoughtfully. “It was my decision, though I was far too young to understand the possible consequences. In some ways it was worth it all the same; I loved Robert as much as an eighteen-year-old can love anyone, and perhaps even more, I loved following the drum.”

Sir Tarquin looked startled. “Did you really? Surely it was a very hard life for a gently bred and sheltered young lady?”

Valerie laughed. “Indeed it was! I had no notion that such hardships were ahead of me. Yet the sense of purpose, of being needed and useful, and of having a meaning to my life was so powerful, that it overcame them all. I was always rather bookish, and never truly enjoyed the rounds of parties and balls, to my stepmother’s despair.”

“Even in the tail of the Army with all the camp followers, and rabble you felt so?” Sir Tarquin asked curiously.

“Oh, I rode with the column, Sir Tarquin,” she exclaimed proudly. “I had no children to care for and I was handy with horses even before I went on campaign, for my father’s stables are renowned and I spent a great deal of time in them as a child. I soon learned to kill and stew a chicken, and make sure that there was always something to eat at our billet, so it was not long before many of the other officers were to be found at our table.”

“You rode with the column?” her companion echoed in surprise.

“Except when an engagement was imminent, yes. In many respects it was as safe as being in the tail of the Army, for Robert’s friends would watch out for me. I moved rearward when there was any real danger.”

“But it must have been difficult to be so far ahead without any servants to help you.”

“Oh, my husband engaged a woman for me, a large, rather foul mouthed Scotswoman, who was a match for most of the men! She did much of the heaviest work, although I helped, of course.” Sir Tarquin watched as Valerie’s eyes filled with memories that were clearly dear to her. “His batman was also there, and it never seemed as though things were unmanageable. Difficult yes, but even the worst days were just another challenge to rise to…” Valerie’s voice trailed off, and she gazed into the fire, seeing another place and time.

Sir Tarquin watched her in pensive silence, for a moment and then stood, shaking his head to dispel the thoughts that filled it. “My glass is empty. May I pour you some more punch as well, Mrs. Carlton?”

Valerie shook off her memories, and handed him her empty glass. “Thank you, Sir Tarquin. You have a way with a punchbowl, it seems.” She watched as he walked away, enjoying the wide set of his shoulders, and athleticism of his gait. After some moments he returned and offered her the cup, now full of warm, spicy liquid. Her fingers brushed his slightly as she took it. She looked away, taking a sip.

“I so miss feeling part of something bigger than me,” she murmured. “A governess makes herself useful, I suppose, but it is not the same. Being a paid companion would be even duller, I fear.”

Sir Tarquin, who still stood beside her chair, reached out with one long finger and tipped her chin up, gazing into her face intently.

“You most assuredly must not be a companion to a querulous dowager,” he murmured. “It would be an utter waste.”

Valerie stared back at him, at a loss to answer. In the quiet and warmth of the private parlor they seemed removed from the world, and she simply waited for him to act. He gave a tiny sigh, and then lowered his mouth to hers, pressing her lips firmly yet gently as he sought the right pressure. Her mouth trembled a little, and he lifted his, only to press it against hers at a slightly different angle before drawing back, to kiss her cheek, and then one of her eyelids, which had fluttered closed, before releasing her chin and stepping away.

About the Author

AQ Twitter AviAlicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high. She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie. In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Amazon Author Page


Alicia Quigley: The Highlander’s Yuletide Love

We all enjoy our family Christmas traditions at this time of year, and for many of us that includes putting our feet up with a nice romance novel in between decorating trees, wrapping presents, baking cookies, and all of the other Christmas fun. When the setting is the Regency period, we need to have a look at how people celebrated the season at the time. Last year I published The Yuletide Countess, and this year’s Christmas release is a sequel, The Highlander’s Yuletide Love. Both take place in Scotland in the late Regency period.



Early 19th century Christmas customs in England differed quite a bit from ours, and those in Scotland still more. For example, the Christmas tree only became common in the Victorian era, although their presence in the German-influenced royal court was documented in the 1700’s. In Scotland, there was an even bigger difference. In much of Scotland, Protestant believers viewed Christmas as a holiday that was far too Catholic, and it was seldom celebrated.

Before the Reformation occurred in 1560, Scotland celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, in much the say way as other European countries. However, the Church of Scotland associated it with Catholicism and frowned on it. In 1640, the Scottish Parliament actually made what were referred to as “Yule vacations” illegal. Even though this was repealed in 1686, the Grinch pretty much stole Christmas in Scotland for the better part of the next 400 years! It only became a public holiday in 1958.

However, all was not cold and dark in Scotland during Yule season. Hogmanay, or New Years, had a long history of celebration including gift giving to family and friends and any number of other local superstitions and traditions. One of the best known is First Footing, or the arrival of the first guest on New Year’s Day.

A tall dark man (much like the hero in The Highlander’s Yuletide Love) bearing gifts as the “first foot” was supposed to be a sign of good luck. Gifts were also given to friends and family members on Hogmanay. Various regions of Scotland also had specific traditions. In The Highlander’s Yuletide Love, the hero hails from the Trossachs, a region near Loch Lomond. Traditionally, the men of this area would march in torchlight procession to the top of the Lomond Hills as midnight approached.

The English custom of Boxing Day, in which gifts were given to servants, tradesmen, etc. on the day after Christmas, also had an analog in Scotland. On the day after New Years day, known in the 19th century as Handsel Day one would give gifts or money to those who had waited on or worked for you during the year. The word “handsel” originates from an Old Saxon word that means, “to deliver into the hand”. During the 19th century, both of these holidays were celebrated on the first weekday after Christmas or Hogmanay, rather than always on the day after as is the present custom.

The Highlander’s Yuletide Love Final-FJM_Kindle_1800x2700 copy


It was the fashionable hour of the promenade, and all around them the cream of London society swirled, the ladies glowing in their finest walking dresses, strolling arm in arm or riding in elegant carriages, while the men tooled their phaetons or rode well-bred horses. They circled one another, now and then stopping to converse, all eager to learn of the latest scandal or fashion.

Isobel tucked her arm through Sophy’s. “I think we shall outshine all the other ladies here this afternoon,” she teased.

Sophy took in Isobel’s elegant appearance in her plumed bonnet and emerald green pelisse worn over a pale yellow muslin gown. “You look fine indeed, but Miss Durand has been acclaimed the beauty of this Season, and I fear we cannot challenge her,” she laughed.

Isobel made a wry face. “That simpering nitwit? I’ve never understood what Society sees in her. Let us enjoy our drive all the same.”

Their carriage moved some ways down the path, the ladies nodding here and there to an acquaintance, and even stopping once or twice to talk briefly. Suddenly Isobel gave a little start.

“There is Colonel Stirling!” she said. “How very surprising. I haven’t seen him for an age. Francis will be delighted to know that he is in Town.”

As it would be bad ton to display her very real pleasure at seeing a friend, she waved rather languidly at a tall gentleman some distance down the path from them. He clearly saw and recognized the occupant of the barouche, and, nodding at the gentleman he was conversing with, made his way towards Isobel’s carriage.

As he drew nearer, Sophy noted the breadth of his shoulders, his narrow waist, and the powerful thighs under his fawn-colored pantaloons. His gait had the ease of an athlete, and she perceived as he reached the barouche that he was very handsome; a strong jaw, straight nose, golden brown eyes, and cropped black hair were set off by the elegant tailoring of his black coat, his perfectly arranged neckcloth, and gold-tasseled Hessians which he appeared to have been born in, so closely did they fit about the ankle.

Despite his attractiveness, Sophy also perceived an aura of arrogance surrounding him, as though he held himself aloof from his fellows, but it was countered by an air of confident masculinity that was extremely appealing. As he sauntered towards them, she was confused by the conflicting impressions that flooded her. She tried to imagine painting such a man; one whose surface was so alluring, yet who also possessed an inner chilliness, and found her mind awash in ways of translating such conflicting impressions into images. As a result, when Colonel Stirling arrived beside the barouche and Isobel introduced him, she found herself in a state of confusion.

“Lady Sophia Learmouth, may I present Colonel Stirling? He is a dear friend of Exencour’s,” she heard Isobel say.

The Colonel bowed elegantly. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lady Sophia. I believe I have encountered your father upon occasion.”

Sophy did her best to bring her thoughts back to the moment. “Oh thank you, Colonel Stirling. I’m delighted to be sure.”

She flushed slightly at her nonsensical response, and saw with a twinge of annoyance that Colonel Stirling, whose face had shown a touch of curiosity, now assumed a look of bland politeness. He had clearly dismissed her as a foolish girl beneath his notice, and the thought stung.

Isobel stepped in, drawing the colonel’s attention. “Have you been long in London? I hadn’t heard from Exencour that you were here, and I feel certain he would have mentioned it if he had encountered you. He speaks often of you, you know.”

A smile glimmered on the colonel’s lips. “No, Lady Exencour, I have missed much of the Season, and I seldom venture to London of late. After the death of my older brother this past year, I decided it would be best to spend some time in Scotland with my father, learning more about the estate. I shall have to sell out, I suppose, if I am to be the next laird.”

“My condolences, Colonel Stirling. You must feel the loss of your brother deeply,” Sophy said gently.

Ranulf switched his gaze from Isobel to her companion, and looked at Sophy closely for the first time. Her charming bonnet made of chip, trimmed with a garland of pink silk roses and matching silk gauze ribbons framed an expressive face, with large blue eyes fringed by dark lashes and a mouth that was full, yet surprisingly firm. Dark curls peeked out from under her hat, emphasizing the slim column of her neck. He raised his eyebrows.

“Why would you think I must necessarily miss my brother, Lady Sophia?” he asked, his voice faintly mocking. “My chief memories are of him teasing me mercilessly when we were boys, and as I embarked on a military career over a dozen years ago, I’ve seen little of him since.”

A spark of annoyance lit Sophy’s eyes. “I was being polite, and attempting to sympathize, Colonel Stirling, as you doubtless know. But I can tell you that I have a brother as well, and, as much as I wish to throttle him from time to time, if he were to suddenly disappear from my life, I would be heartbroken,” she replied, a touch of acid in her voice.

The smile grew broader, and Sophy blinked as the colonel’s handsome face grew even more attractive. “Well said, Lady Sophia. I do indeed miss my brother a great deal, if only because his death makes me take on the responsibilities of the family lands.”

Isobel glanced from Sophy to the colonel, her eyes alight with curiosity. “Colonel Stirling’s father is the Laird of Spaethness,” she said.

Sophy received the information with apparent disinterest. “Are you from the Highlands, then?”

“Yes, Spaethness is in Argyll, hidden away in the Grampians,” he replied. “We are wild Highlanders through and through.”

“No wild man out of the glens has his coats made by Weston, as yours clearly is, or wears boots with a shine such as yours,” said Sophy dryly.

A touch of amusement crept into his sleepy eyes. “I see I shall have to take my tales of kelpies and banshees elsewhere then.”

Sophy gave a gurgle of laughter despite her annoyance. “I may be a lowlander, but you must definitely find a more gullible female to impose upon than me.” She turned toward him and their eyes met and, though she relished the opportunity to give this confident gentleman a bit of a set down, she realized she had not managed to chase away the pull of his personal magnetism.

After a moment he looked away and gave her a careless reply. The conversation turned to the doings of the Season, and particularly of the Exencours’ and Colonel Stirling’s mutual acquaintance, while Sophy listened in silence. After a few minutes Isobel held her hand out to the colonel with a cheerful smile.

“We must not keep you any longer,” she said. “But do call upon us at Strancaster House. Francis will be very pleased to see you again.”

“I am always happy to see Lord Exencour, and his charming wife as well,” said the colonel. He turned to Sophy, and nodded. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Lady Sophia.”

Sophy inclined her head coldly, not failing to note that this caused the colonel’s lips to twitch slightly. She watched, annoyed, as he bowed politely while the barouche pulled away.

About the Author

AQ Twitter Avi copyAlicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high.  She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie.  In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.

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Alicia Quigley: The Contraband Courtship

ContrabandCourtship2Final-FJM_High_Res_1800x2700 copy

I’m happy to be back at Susana’s Parlour! I always enjoy my visits!

My latest book, The Contraband Courtship, came out in July. This is the second book in The Arlingbys series and it deals with Malcolm Arlingby, the Earl of Wroxton, the brother of Rowena Arlingby whose romance with the Earl of Brayleigh was the subject of the first book of the series, A Collectors Item. In that story, Rowena helped solve a murder case a dozen years old, which had resulted in the unjust exile of Malcolm to the Continent when he was falsely accused. In The Contraband Courtship, the Earl of Wroxton has returned to his estates for the first time in all those years to find that smugglers are using his property with impunity to move casks from the coast inland. However, that’s not all he finds.

He meets his headstrong neighbor, Helena Keighley, who is most definitely not impressed with “the Wicked Earl,” as he’s been dubbed. Neither is Malcolm all that fond of Helena. They make the perfect pair, though. Despite Malcolm’s name having been cleared, there are still those in the ton who look upon him as scandalous. Helena, unbeknownst to Malcolm at first, is no less welcome in polite society, having been the subject of a scandal during her Season.

I’ve written before on the topic of smuggling in the Regency, an issue that plays a huge role in The Contraband Courtship. This time, I’d like to talk about the courtship, not the contraband. Though if Helena hadn’t been part of a scandal years earlier, this courtship would be considered contraband (OK, we’d have to tweak the definition a bit as the word refers to goods, not relationships).

Courtship in the Regency

was a very serious undertaking that came with a fair number of rules. It was, for the woman, a matter of planning for the rest of her life. She wasn’t allowed to take an overt part in the process (baffling, no?) in order to protect her reputation and, in fact, had very little control in the matter other than the ability to refuse an unwanted suitor.

The man looking for a wife bore the responsibility of winning over a prospective bride. While technically powerless, that prospective bride did have some behind-the-scenes ability to influence the outcome. The fine art of flirting or subtler tactics such as seeking introductions while not appearing overly eager are a couple examples. Women had to be very careful, though; if they were seen as taking too much control, they ran the risk of being labeled hoydens.

Of course, the whole process was further complicated by those rules I mentioned. The couple could:

  • Never be alone in a room
  • Never travel in a carriage without a chaperone
  • Never speak privately (though dances were one way of bypassing that one)
  • Not correspond with or give presents to one another
  • Not have any intimate touch, including handshakes (again, dancing helped)
  • Not call each other by their Christian names
  • Not dance more than two dances on a given evening (rumors of an engagement were sure to follow if they did)

Indeed, the allowed form of greeting and leave taking was a curtsy or a slight bow of the head.

How does this impact Malcolm and Helena? In many respects, it gave them a lot more freedom. Plus, they were out in the country and not in ever-watchful London. Though, the social graces were minded in the country, too, there were fewer eyes trained on them. As a man in this situation, Malcolm has more freedom than Helena anyway; however, that’s only increased due to the location and his already somewhat tarnished reputation.

Helena, on the other hand, is in a unique position.

Her scandalous reputation also frees her from many of the usual social strictures of courtship. In her case, the freedom extended to not even considering the issue. After her disgrace, she retired to her family’s estate which she ultimately managed for her minor brother. Marriage was, in her mind, simply no longer an option.

Helena is much luckier than many Fallen Women, as they were known. It was not uncommon in the era for disgraced women to become prostitutes or courtesans. The difference between the two was often the level of companionship and the price. Courtesans offered more than just sex; a man could find companionship and, depending on the courtesan, intellectual entertainment.

Given Helena’s character, I cannot imagine either option would have appealed to her. Fortunately for her, she had an understanding family and the opportunity to return home to tend the estate. I find her to be a woman of great courage in the face of unfortunate circumstances. Such courage, strength of will and intellect make her the perfect woman for Malcolm, the Wicked Earl.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the courtship customs of the era. As always, it’s been a joy for me to share them with you!

About The Counterfeit Courtship

Malcolm Arlingby, Rowena’s headstrong brother from A Collector’s Item, settles into his new life as the Earl of Wroxton. Content to while away his time in the decadence he missed during his exile from England, Malcolm hasn’t been paying attention to the duties that come with the title. A letter from the mistress of a neighboring estate warns of smugglers using Malcolm’s lands for their dastardly deeds and he must finally put aside his entertainments to handle the business of being an Earl.

Helena, the one who sent the letter, is not the sour spinster Malcolm was expecting, however. She is a beautiful, vibrant and equally headstrong woman who is more than ready to take Malcolm to task for ignoring his duties. As the pair becomes embroiled in solving the problem of the smugglers, a strong attraction develops. The smugglers aren’t going without a fight, though.

Will a chance encounter with his new neighbor bring Malcolm all the things he never knew he wanted? Or, will the smugglers destroy it all? Find out in “The Contraband Courtship.”





Malcolm Arlingby, Earl of Wroxton, awoke as the first rays of sun peeked around the edges of the burgundy velvet curtains that hung over the windows of his bedroom. He laid comfortably for a moment, appreciating the fineness of the linens that covered the bed, the luxury of the over-stuffed goose feather pillows, and the enormous size of the carved mahogany bed in which he rested. It was a far cry, he thought, from his life not six months before.

So much had changed, and yet so much had not. He still awoke early, no matter how late he stayed out, and he slept lightly, always with a sense of his surroundings. But this morning was much as the past mornings had been; he was safely ensconced in a luxurious bedroom, servants at his beck and call, the Wroxton fortune at his disposal, no longer having to live by his wits or earn his keep at the gambling table.

He rolled over and lazily eyed the woman who lay next to him. She slept soundly, her dusky hair strewn across the white pillows, one arm thrown over her head, the lace-edged sheet pushed down so one rounded breast peeped above it, its nipple a dusky pink. Malcolm reached out, touching it gently with one finger. Instantly it puckered and elongated, and, with a knowing smile, he lowered his lips, eagerly suckling the pointed tip.

“Mmmm.” The woman stirred, and, without opening her eyes, raised one hand to cradle his head. “What time is it?”

“Early, I think,” responded Malcolm. “Do you wish to go back to sleep?”

“I’m here for you any time, Malcolm,” she answered. Slowly she raised her eyelids to reveal a pair of liquid brown eyes flecked with gold. “Day or night.”

“Well, it’s barely day, but if you have time for me now…” Malcolm pushed the sheet down to cup her other breast in his hand as he moved to straddle her.

“Always,” she answered, her hands moving caressingly over his muscular chest, to follow the arrow of blond hair downward under the soft linen sheets. Malcolm groaned as her clever fingers found their target, and speared his fingers through her hair, as he pressed his mouth to hers, kissing her deeply. When he raised his head, she smiled and repeated, “Any time.” Then with a salacious smile she added “Any way

Much later Malcolm turned away from Estella and rolled onto his back, reaching out for a cigarette. “I can’t imagine what ails your husband, to neglect you so, Estella. You’re beautiful, more than willing, but not demanding, and amusing to converse with. Yet he is almost never at your side.”

“Richard is always pleasant company, when he is about,” she replied. “But he married only to provide an heir for the estates. It’s his duty, and he did it, but not with enthusiasm.”

“So, not much in the petticoat line, it seems,” Malcolm remarked. “Do you suppose he is a man milliner?”

“Oh, I have no notion,” Estella answered. “I am very fond of him you know, and he’s very helpful when it comes to all manner of things; he knows where the best tea is to be had, and the latest modiste, and is always completely correct when it comes to advising one on looking one’s best. But he has his own friends and amusements and really, I am not inclined to trouble him, if he does not trouble me. As long as I bring no cuckoos into the nest, he will not be unhappy.”

She rolled over onto him, propping herself on his chest with her forearms. “But why are we wasting our time discussing my husband? I promise you, he is not spending a moment worrying about me.”

Some hours later Malcolm strode down St. James Street, impeccably clad in dark blue coat of fine wool broadcloth. His cravat was tied in the mathematical knot, and his biscuit-hued pantaloons were tucked into betasseled Hessian boots with a mirror-like polish. He had left Estella sipping chocolate in his bed, well-sated. He knew she was clever enough to be gone by the time he returned; she knew better than to be demanding, and, in return, he indulged all her whims. Never, he thought, had he been more contented.

He strode up the stairs to White’s with a jaunty step. As he entered, a few heads turned, and he greeted their looks with a grin. Taking up a paper, he seated himself in a high-backed leather chair.

“Who’s the dashing fellow who just walked in?” asked one elderly gentleman of the man next to him.

Horace Worth gave him a surprised look. “Haven’t you heard? Oh, I’d forgot you’d been on the Continent these past months. Holmwood. That is the Earl of Wroxton.”

The gentleman turned in surprise. “Wroxton? I thought Felix Arlingby was the current earl.”

Mr. Worth shook his head. “No, that fellow is Malcolm Arlingby, the old earl’s son, returned to take up his birthright. “

The other man gaped. “Not the murderer?”

“No, not the murderer, or so it seems,” said Mr. Worth. “It appears that we were all mistaken. Malcolm Arlingby’s name has been cleared, and he has succeeded to his father’s estate.”

“Well, I’ll be damned. He was gone for twelve years or more, was he not?”

“At least. And now he’s back and has been cutting quite a swathe through Society,” said Mr. Worth with a shrug. “The ladies, of course, cannot resist his looks or his reputation as a bit of a rake, and as for the men—outside of some jealousy among them, there’s nothing not to like. He’s a fine horseman, a pleasant companion, pays his debts of honor, and is generous with his funds.”

As they gazed at Malcolm, an elegant dark haired gentleman entered the room and paused for a moment, obviously searching for someone. His sharp green eyes eventually lit on Malcolm, and he strolled across the room, dropping into the chair across from him. The elderly gentleman drew in his breath.

“Isn’t that Brayleigh?” he asked. “Malcolm Arlingby and the Earl of Brayleigh always loathed each other. I wonder they are sitting across from each other.”

Mr. Worth laughed. You have been gone far too long,” he said. “Brayleigh is married to Wroxton’s sister. They are—well, I will not say they are the best of friends, but they tolerate each other. I understand Lady Brayleigh will brook nothing else.”

“Well, I’ll be,” said his friend, staring openly at the two men. “Brayleigh and Wroxton are being civil to one another? I would never have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes!”

Brayleigh looked around and sighed. “You might as well put down your newspaper, Arlingby, I know you’re aware I’m here,” he said.

Malcolm lowered the offending broadsheet a few inches and peered at Brayleigh over the top of it. “Am I to have no peace?” he asked peevishly.

“None at all,” said Brayleigh with equanimity. “I wonder you can tolerate the attention. Horace has obviously just told the entire story to Rupert Holmwood. He is gaping at us as though we are here solely for his entertainment.”

Malcolm shook his head. “It is always thus. Just when I think everyone knows of it, some damned idiot turns up who must be enlightened.” He folded the paper and tossed it on the table next to him. “I don’t imagine you’re here for the pleasure of my company, Brayleigh. What does my sister want?”

A small smile appeared on Brayleigh’s face. “How well you understand me,” he murmured. “Rowena indeed asked me to find you and bid you wait upon her this afternoon. I gather she has some matters she wishes to discuss with you.”

“Lord help me,” said Malcolm. “What is it now?”

“I apprehend it has something to do with the Wroxton estates,” replied Brayleigh. “That, and your friendship with the lovely Estella Lacey.”

Malcolm groaned. “She has heard of that, has she?”

Brayleigh raised an eyebrow. “All of London has heard of that. Surely you were not under the misapprehension that the pair of you have been discreet?”

“We have no reason to be discreet, so I can’t see why anyone should care,” complained Malcolm. “Her husband has no interest in her now that she has given him a son, and it is not as though I have a wife to worry about.”

“And yet, everyone does care, because you are the notorious Malcolm Arlingby,” said Brayleigh. “Really, I would think that at this point you would be beyond being surprised.”

Malcolm shrugged. “It can’t be helped,” he said. He gave Brayleigh a rueful grin. “And a bit of gossip doesn’t matter to me. After all, if I survived the last twelve years, I can survive this.”

“Then you will not mind returning with me to Brayleigh House and explaining it all to Rowena,” said the earl calmly.

“I’d rather go to Almack’s and dance with chits just out of the school room all night, and you know it,” said Malcolm cheerfully. “But I suppose I had better get it out of the way. Rowena is nothing if not persistent.”

“A wise choice.” The earl stood. “The sooner you get this over with, the sooner you can return to the charming Estella.”

Malcolm rose reluctantly. “If Rowena doesn’t have other plans for me,” he said gloomily.

Brayleigh laid a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. “I have no doubt that your sister only has your best interests at heart,” he said.

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” replied Malcolm.

The two men strolled out of the room, leaving Mr. Holmwood gaping after them.

One half hour later Malcolm and the earl entered the library at Brayleigh House, where a woman sat in an overstuffed leather chair, reading a book. She looked up when the two of them entered, and rose to her feet, her dress of figured muslin fluttering around her. Her wide violet eyes sparkled as she ran a few steps and threw herself into Brayleigh’s arms.

“Alaric, you found him,” she said. “How kind of you to help me.”

Brayleigh dropped a kiss on her cheek and slipped one arm around her waist. “It was not difficult, but I’m always happy when I can please you, my dear,” he answered.

“Lord, you two are tiresome,” protested Malcolm, throwing himself into an armchair. His stretched his long legs out in front of him and glared at them. “I think I liked it better when you were quarrelling all the time. At least that was entertaining.”

Brayleigh shook his head and released his wife. “I’m sorry you no longer find us amusing, Wroxton,” he said. “I, on the other hand, find this existence entirely pleasurable.”

He looked at his wife with a satisfied smiled, and she flushed slightly and reached out and took his hand.

“No, don’t start pawing at each other again, I can’t abide it,” said Malcolm. “What did you want to see me about, Rowena?”

With an amused glance at her husband, Rowena sank into the chair across from him, while Brayleigh leaned on the corner of the desk, his arms folded.

“Oh ho, it must be something very serious,” said Malcolm. “I count on you, Brayleigh, to give me your support.”

“Oh, I don’t meddle in Arlingby affairs,” said the earl calmly. “You will have to contend with Rowena in this matter.”

Malcolm groaned. “All right, what is it then?”

Rowena made an exasperated sound. “Malcolm, I know that you missed England and the pleasures of London dreadfully while you were on the Continent,” she said briskly. “But you have been the Earl of Wroxton for eight months now, and you still have not visited the estate.”

“I stay in close contact with the bailiff,” said Malcolm peevishly. “And both Father and Felix took good care of Wroxton. There is no reason for me to interfere in its running. Indeed, I doubt I’d be thanked for poking my nose into it.”

“But surely you wish to visit Wroxton and see how things go on,” said Rowena. “And you did tell me you wished to rebuild the stables.”

“What are you going on about? I have my horses here in London, where I can use them, and I’ve sent several to Wroxton as breeding stock. I don’t know why you’re suddenly so concerned about this,” Malcolm asked. “I think I deserve to enjoy myself a bit after everything that happened.”

“Of course you do, dear,” Rowena assured him. “It is just that—well, that it has been some time, and I wonder if perhaps you need to—well, think of the future a bit more.”

“Is this about Estella?” asked Malcolm suspiciously.

“Well, it is not only about Mrs. Lacey,” said Rowena, looking a bit embarrassed. “But, certainly, I have my concerns about her. She is married, Malcolm, and unlikely to be free to wed you any time soon.”

“Wed me?” Malcolm gave a hoot of laughter. “I should say not!”

“You see?” said Rowena. “I know that you wish to enjoy yourself, and I would never say you did not deserve to, but surely you are aware of the duty you owe your family.”

“Rowena, I have years ahead of me to sire a pack of children, if that’s what I decide needs to be done,” said Malcolm. “But for now, I have no interest in leg shackling myself to one woman. I’ve spent twelve years on the Continent living by my wits, and damn, I want to enjoy myself now. One of Estella’s principal charms—outside of the most obvious ones—is that she cannot importune me to marry her!”

“You are being very vexing,” said Rowena. “It is not that I wish to deny you your pleasures, Malcolm—”

“I should say not! And, sister dear, should you even know about Estella?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Rowena crossly. “All the world knows about the two of you. I’m hardly an innocent. The gossips are only too happy to inform me that half the ladies in London have either succumbed to you since your return or to Alaric prior to our marriage.”

“Only half? Well, you might have taken Brayleigh out of circulation, Rowena, but you can’t force me into such a staid existence.” Malcolm gave his sister a shrewd glance. “There’s more here than you’re telling me. You might as well come out with it.”

Rowena exchanged a glance with Alaric. “Well, if you must know, I have received a letter from Helena Keighley.”

“Who?” asked Malcolm.

“Helena Keighley. The daughter of Sir Douglas.” At Malcolm’s blank look, Rowena sighed. “Really, Malcolm, this is why you must go to Wroxton. Sir Douglas Keighley’s estate marches with Wroxton to the west. You must have met him, and Helena, dozens of times when you were a child.”

“Oh yes, Keighley, I remember the name,” said Malcolm. “Sir Douglas, you say? As I recall, Father said he was a bruising rider to hounds.”

“Yes, Malcolm, I’m sure he was,” said Rowena impatiently. “But this has nothing to do with fox hunting. “

“A pity, I might almost be tempted to leave London for that,” said Malcolm. “What does this Miss Keighley want?”

“I received a letter from Helena a few days ago,” she said, producing a folded piece of paper and waving it at Malcolm. “She would have written to you, but had no idea where to find you, and we are acquainted. She is a year or two older than I am, but we did spend some time together as children, and of course I have met her at assemblies and house parties. Surely you remember her.”

“I can’t be bothered to remember your childhood friends, Rowena,” said Malcolm. “I had other things to attend to. What does this mysterious letter say?” asked Malcolm.

Rowena unfolded the letter and perused it quickly. “Here it is,” she said. “It seems that French brandy is being smuggled in through Kent, and the lack of interest of the Earl of Wroxton in his estate has been taken as a sign that his lands are free to be used for this purpose. While Felix Arlingby was not a strong-minded gentleman, he cared enough to prevent such nonsense, but now landings occur almost nightly. I have no doubt that some of the servants have been bribed to allow this. The whole affair is unsettling; I have no desire to see Keighley lands overrun by ruffians because Wroxton is poorly managed. It is imperative that your brother cease his wastrel ways and take up the responsibilities that come with his birthright. He was ever an irresponsible young man, but surely the circumstances of the past years must have brought him some wisdom, no matter how slight. Please inform him that he is needed immediately at Wroxton.”

“What a termagant!” said Malcolm. “She doesn’t even know me, and she’s calling me a wastrel!”

“You might not remember Helena, but I have no doubt she remembers you,” said Rowena. “You were wont to tease her unmercifully when we were young.”

“Did I?” asked Malcolm. “Well, she no doubt deserved it; she sounds to be remarkably pert. And why isn’t Sir Douglas attending to this? It seems deuced odd to me that Miss Keighley should be meddling.”

“Sir Douglas is elderly and—and not quite right in the head,” said Rowena. “And her brother is only seventeen. Helena has been managing the estate quite successfully for some years.”

“She’s unmarried, I suppose?” asked Malcolm. When Rowena nodded, he shook his head. “I can see her now; a prim and proper spinster, glaring at me from behind spectacles.”

“That is not fair,” protested Rowena. “Helena is really quite lovely.”

“Then why is she unmarried?” retorted Malcolm.

Rowena looked nonplussed. “Really, Malcolm, Miss Keighley’s personal life is not what I wanted to talk to you about. Surely you can see that you must go to Wroxton and take care of this.”

“I don’t see why the bailiff can’t handle it,” said Malcolm. He groaned when Rowena glared at him. “Oh, very well, I will go to Wroxton. You are right; I should have gone months ago. I am the new earl, and it’s time I took charge.”

At Rowena’s look of amazement, he laughed. “I’m not such a wastrel as you and Miss Keighley think, little sister,” he said. “I know I should have visited long ago, but I didn’t want to force cousin Felix to leave hastily, and then, after he moved out—well, then other things happened, and I didn’t care to leave London. But it shouldn’t take long to tidy this up, and I can do the pretty in the county; talk to the gentry, visit the tenants, and be back in no time.”

Rowena blinked. “Thank you, Malcolm.”

He laughed. “You thought it would be much harder to convince me, didn’t you? But some time away from London won’t go amiss—Lady Hartsmoor seems determined that I shall marry that whey-faced daughter of hers, and if I make myself scarce, perhaps some other fool will catch her eye.”

“I’m just pleased you are going, and, to be truthful, I wouldn’t want you marrying Lady Maria; she seems dreadfully dull. I will write to Helena and tell her that you will be visiting Wroxton soon.” She paused. “You won’t take Mrs. Lacey with you, will you? I’m not sure the countryside is ready for her.”

“I doubt she’d go,” said Malcolm cheerfully. “She’s very fond of me, but fonder of her modiste, I’d say. And when I return she’ll be that much happier to see me.”

He stood and dropped a kiss on Rowena’s cheek. “I will try to not disgrace the Arlingby name,” he said teasingly. “But this Miss Keighley sounds terrifying. I only hope I can stand up to her!”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Rowena fondly. “I’m sure you will take care of things quickly, and Helena will be a great help to you. She is very sensible and intelligent.”

Malcolm grinned. “So, not my sort of woman at all,” he laughed. “I’ll leave in a few days, and be back before you know it.” He shook Alaric’s hand and, with a wink at Rowena, sauntered out of the room.

Rowena shook her head as the door closed behind him. Alaric walked over to her and took her in his arms.

“Why did you not tell him about Helena Keighley?” he asked.

Rowena wrinkled her nose. “He was gone when the scandal broke, and does not know of it. There is no reason to spread gossip, particularly when I have no idea what truly happened. Helena never speaks of it, and I know better than most about being compromised! I see no reason to cause her further distress.”

“He is expecting a dried up spinster,” said Alaric. “I’d say Miss Keighley will be a bit of a surprise.”

Rowena laughed. “Indeed, she will. I suppose it is too much to hope that Malcolm will understand how extraordinary she is.”

“Your brother? He can’t see past the end of his nose,” said Alaric. At Rowena’s cross look, he chuckled. “And now, my dear, I am weary of the subject of the Earl of Wroxton. Perhaps we can find a more congenial way to amuse ourselves.”

With that, he lowered his lips to Rowena’s, and she very soon put Malcolm out of her mind.


Malcolm left Brayleigh House in a thoughtful mood. He knew that Rowena was right, and that he should have traveled to his estates long ago. But he had always found an excellent excuse not to visit; at first he had not wanted to rush the removal of his cousin, who had been named the earl in his absence, and then there had been innumerable amusements to attend and the threads of old friendships to pick up. And Estella, of course. She had blown into his life and into his bed in a matter of days, a situation that he did not regret.

In his more reflective moments, he realized too that he had avoided visiting Wroxton because it made him think of his father and the days before his exile on the continent. He had respected his father, but as a youth had thought him too staid and serious. To a youthful Malcolm it had seemed as though his father’s interest in his estates and his books had kept him from enjoying life to its fullest. Visiting the Wroxton lands as the new earl would mean that it was time for him to take up the responsibilities and duties of his father.

Malcolm ran a hand through his fair hair and frowned. It had to be faced, he supposed. It was not as though he would have to stay long, though. He would nip down to Kent, make sure the local authorities were on the job, spend a week or so placating the neighbors, and see that Miss Keighley was no longer upset. It was a good thing she was a spinster, he thought. He knew the ladies found his dashing ways attractive, and he had little doubt that he would be able to charm her.

His soon arrived home and he entered the hallway with a frown on his face. He started slightly when he saw Estella in the center of the room, looking charming in a lavender-hued muslin morning dress with VanDyked trim. She gazed into the mirror, holding a deep poke bonnet, as though she had just been preparing to nestle it over the abundance of dark brown ringlets that surrounded her piquant face.

She blinked her large hazel eyes at him in the mirror and turned, smiling. “What are you doing back here so quickly?” she asked. “I was just leaving.”

Malcolm paused a moment to admire her fine figure, and then took her hand. “It’s just as well,” he said. “I need to talk to you.”

“What did you need to say to me, Malcolm?” she purred, moving closer to him.

“It’s not that, Estella,” said Malcolm hastily. At the look on her face, he shook his head. “Not that I’d mind at all, but I do want to talk to you for a moment.”

“Talk?” said Estella. “You rarely want to do that.”

“It’s just that I need to go down to Wroxton for a week or so,” he said.

“Whatever for?” asked Estella. “Surely your bailiff can handle matters for you. The countryside at this time of year would be dismal.”

“No doubt,” said Malcolm. “But I’ve avoided it as long as I can, and now there is a matter of smugglers. The neighbors think they’re using my property and want me to put a stop to it.”

“You?” Estella laughed. “You’d be more likely to encourage them, no doubt. I’ve never known you to question where your brandy comes from.”

Malcolm grinned reluctantly. “It’s not that I particularly care about the smugglers. But they’re upsetting the tenants and the neighboring gentry. My sister tells me it is high time I take up my duties as earl.”

Estella pouted charmingly. “Your sister again,” she said. “Why does she feel she needs to meddle in your life?”

“My sister is the reason I’m the Earl of Wroxton, and not dead, or still in exile,” observed Malcolm. “Besides, in this case, she is right.”

“Are you sure she’s not simply trying to get you away from me?” asked Estella.

“Well, I don’t suppose it bothers her that we’ll be apart,” observed Malcolm. “But I don’t think that’s her main concern.”

Estella glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “I could go with you,” she ventured.

Malcolm laughed. “Didn’t you just say the country is dismal at this time of year? I would enjoy your company, but it won’t do to shock the gentry on my first visit home in twelve years. It’s not that I won’t miss you, Estella, but you wouldn’t be happy at Wroxton.”

“So you will simply leave me here alone? I shall grow bored,” she warned.

“Don’t try to make me feel sorry for you; I doubt you’ll miss me for a second,” said Malcolm cheerfully.

“And if I find another man to amuse me?” asked Estella.

“That’s your business, darling,” said Malcolm cheerfully. “I never asked you to be true to me.”

Estella made an exasperated noise. “You might at least pretend you care for me,” she said.

Malcolm chuckled. “If you thought I cared for you, you’d take advantage of me, my dear,” he said. “But I’ll admit that I will miss you, especially at night.”

Estella smiled winningly. “I will miss you, too,” she murmured.

“Then I’ll look forward to my return,” said Malcolm cheerfully. “I’ll wrap up this little problem and take care of Miss Keighley as quick as can be and come back to town before you have time to notice I’ve gone.”

“Miss Keighley?” asked Estella.

“Aye,” said Malcolm. “She’s the daughter of the neighboring estate. It seems she wrote to my sister to complain of the smugglers. I take it she’s a bit of a dragon and will need some soothing.”

“Miss Helena Keighley?” asked Estella.

“Dash it, stop saying her name over and over,” said Malcolm. “Yes, Miss Helena Keighley.”

“Oh,” said Estella, stretching the word out to several syllables.

“Oh, what?” asked Malcolm crossly.

“I think I am acquainted with your Miss Keighley,” said Estella.

“She’s not my Miss Keighley,” responded Malcolm. “She sounds remarkably as though she’s nobody’s Miss Keighley.”

“Well, then I believe I know Miss Helena Keighley,” said Estella. “We are much of an age, and she came out the same year I did.”

“Well, she’s unmarried, so I gather she didn’t make a splash,” said Malcolm.

“Oh, she made a splash,” said Estella, looking a bit smug.

“Damn it, Estella, if you want to tell me something, tell me,” said Malcolm peevishly.

Estella shrugged. “Miss Keighley was quite lovely, if you care for lanky redheads.”

“I prefer petite brunettes, myself,” said Malcolm promptly.

“I suppose I should be glad of that,” Estella said coyly. “As I said, she was quite lovely in her own way, but she didn’t attract many suitors.”

“And why was that?” asked Malcolm.

Estella shrugged. “She seemed to think rather highly of herself,” she ventured. “She was forever expressing her opinion. The gentlemen were rather taken aback.”

Malcolm grinned. “I imagine they were. Rowena has that effect on men, though Brayleigh doesn’t seem to care.”

“Well, I thought her quite tiresome,” said Estella. “I suppose someone may eventually have made her an offer, as her father is wealthy, but then something happened.” She paused dramatically.

“I suppose it must have, as she is unmarried,” said Malcolm unhurriedly.

Estella glowered at him for a moment. “If you are minded to be unpleasant, I won’t go on.”

Malcolm shrugged. “Then don’t,” he said. “I’ve no interest in old scandals.”

“Oh, you are impossible,” laughed Estella. “But I will tell you anyway. “

“I thought you might,” said Malcolm.

“One night, at a rout at Montagu House, she was discovered in a compromising situation with Lord Denby,” said Estella, lowering her voice in a conspiratorial manner. “They were quite alone in a curtained anteroom, and he was holding her in his arms!”

Malcolm wrinkled his nose. “I can’t like Denby,” he observed. “He always seemed to be a bit underbred.”

“That is not the point,” said Estella. “Miss Keighley apparently found him attractive enough! But then something even more shocking happened!”

“Well, I’m not all that shocked by your first revelation,” observed Malcolm. “I know from experience that things aren’t always what they appear.”

“You cannot possibly be defending her,” objected Estella.

“I don’t know the woman, why would I defend her?” said Malcolm. “She’s making my life deuced uncomfortable just now. I only said that things aren’t always what they appear to be.”

“You can be so tiresome at times,” said Estella. She paused, and then leapt back into her story. “As I said, the story became more complicated. Lord Denby proposed, of course, as he was honor bound. And Miss Keighley turned him down!”

“Did she so?” asked Malcolm. “Smart girl. As I said, Denby always makes me a bit uncomfortable.”

“Well, she was kissing him, so I have no idea why she turned him down. She was ruined, of course! No man would have her, as she clearly had no care at all of her virtue!”

Malcolm laughed at that. “Since when do you have such a care of yours, Estella?”

Estella drew herself up. “I am married, and there is no breath of doubt with regard to my son’s parentage,” she replied, offended.

“But you haven’t seen your husband in months,” said Malcolm. “And it’s no secret whose bed you are in each night.”

“Richard doesn’t care. And I am married,” Estella repeated.

“Ah, I see,” said Malcolm. “That makes all the difference.”

“It does indeed,” said Estella. “We all know how these things work. If you mean to say Miss Keighley is much like me, I think I will be very hurt.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’s not like you at all,” said Malcolm.

Estella looked at him closely, wondering whether to be offended. She finally smiled charmingly. “You are such a wretch, Malcolm,” she offered. “I am convinced you are trying to provoke me.”

Malcolm smiled lazily. “Now, why would I want to do that? I am happiest when you are pleased with me, to be sure.”

“If you wish me to be pleased with you, you will no longer compare me to Miss Keighley,” replied Estella.

“If you will forgive me, I am tired of the subject,” said Malcolm. “Surely there is something more interesting we can do than discuss a spinster I do not remember who is doing her best to make my life uncomfortable.”

Estella glanced at him from under her lashes. “I was about to leave,” she said. “But if you wish, I could stay for a bit.”

“A capital idea,” said Malcolm.


One week later Malcolm rode up to Keighley Hall on a well-made dark bay hack. He eyed the timber-framed manor house closely; while it was several centuries old, it was well-kept, and the paths and grounds surrounding it were manicured and verdant. Clearly, whoever was attending to the land had a fine attention to detail.

A footman emerged from the house to take the reins of his horse, and he dismounted gracefully, with a word of thanks.

“Is Sir Douglas at home?” he asked.

“Sir Douglas does not see visitors,” said the manservant. “If it’s about anything to do with the estate, you’d be wanting Miss Keighley.”

Malcolm sighed. He had hoped he might be able to avoid the redoubtable Miss Keighley. But he could recognize when he was defeated.

“Is Miss Keighley available, then?” he asked.

“She’s not in the house,” ventured the man. “She’d be down at the stables. I don’t know how long it will be before she returns.”

“Well, I have business with her that can’t wait,” said Malcolm. “I’ll find her for myself.”

“Miss Keighley might prefer that you wait in the house,” said the footman doubtfully. “I could show you in and fetch her for you.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Malcolm. “I know her from when we were children. I doubt she will care.”

Under the lackey’s doubtful gaze, Malcolm stalked off in the direction of the stables. As he walked, he looked around him, absently admiring the tidiness of the grounds. It compared favorably to Wroxton, and he felt a pang of guilt about the neglect his ancestral lands had suffered over the past months. Miss Keighley clearly knew well how to run an estate. He was too accustomed to Rowena’s unconventional behavior to consider that odd, but he nonetheless felt a reluctance to meet her. He had a constitutional dislike of being ordered about, and he feared that Miss Keighley was very much the sort of woman who would feel he needed guidance.

Miss Helena Keighley pushed a lock of auburn hair out of her eyes and sighed, as she felt at the loose bun she had gathered her hair in before coming out to check the horses that morning. Reassured that it was not going to come down completely, she rubbed her hands over the canvas apron that covered her faded blue-grey linsey-woolsey dress, and the equally worn dark blue spencer she wore over it. She looked at the groom and the horse he was holding in the barn aisle.

“Is he lame, Macklin?” she asked.

“Yes, came out of his stall this morning limping, miss,” he replied.

“Poor boy,” Helena crooned to the horse as she reached down to lift his hoof. She felt it carefully, finding a sensitive spot. “You can feel the heat in it. ‘Tis almost certainly an abscess,” she said. “Soak it in Epsom salts, and put a drawing poultice on it. Perhaps we can bring it to the surface, so it will drain.”

“Aye miss, I thought the same. I expect we’ll have a bit of time with him for the next few weeks though. The wet weather in the spring always seems to bring it out in him.”

Helena smiled her agreement, and patted the horse’s neck in sympathy, then blew gently at his soft nose. The smile brought a glow to her face, and lit up her large brown eyes. Framed with thick black lashes despite her auburn hair, and surmounted by finely shaped brows, they typically surveyed the world with a bit of cynicism, but were softened now by her affection for the horse. She had a straight nose, high cheekbones and plush-lipped mouth above a very firm chin. With her fine complexion and delicate color, she presented a rather startling contrast to the decidedly shabby garments she wore. Helena raised her face from the horse, removed her apron and looked at the groom.

“Thank you, Macklin,” she said. “I suppose I will go back to the house now.”

The groom nodded and walked away, leading the limping horse slowly. Helena stood for moment, enjoying the pleasant scent of the hay in the stalls and savoring the time alone. While she was truly devoted to tending the estate that belonged to her father and would pass from him to her brother, at times it seemed as though she never had a moment for herself. If tomorrow were fine, perhaps she would shirk some of her duties and take a book down to the cliffs for a few hours.

Her reverie was interrupted by the sounds of boot heels ringing on the floor of the stables, and a cheerful whistle. She looked up to see a tall, slender gentleman sauntering towards her, dressed very elegantly in a riding coat of a green so dark it was reminiscent of a pine forest at night, buff colored breeches, and white topped riding boots, clearly made to measure and polished to a mirror shine. His pale hair was modishly cut à la Brutus, and his angelic blue eyes were wide set in a face that, while not classically handsome, held a great deal of charm. She drew in her breath slightly. Many years had passed, but she certainly recognized Malcolm Arlingby, despite the tiny lines that now creased the outer edges of his eyelids. It seemed her letter to Rowena had done its work.

She looked down at herself, momentarily dismayed by the shabbiness of the grey dress she was wearing, but then dismissed the thought. If Malcolm had not already heard of her scandalous past, someone was bound to enlighten him soon. It made very little difference what she might look like. She stepped forward into the sunlight that slanted across the stable.

Malcolm stopped, the whistle arrested on his lips. His eyes trailed over Helena’s slender figure and widened.

“I was expecting a groom, or perhaps a stable boy,” he said cheerfully. “But I think you’ll do, my girl.”

Helena’s eyes widened at his impertinent words, and she opened her mouth to give him a sharp set down, but Malcolm continued.

“Where’s your mistress? I have business with her, and was told she was to be found in the stables.”

Helena froze. Clearly, he not only did not recognize her, and had mistaken her for a servant. She glared at him disdainfully.

“You’re a haughty one, ain’t you?” said Malcolm, a laugh in his voice. “Is Lady Helena not about then?”

Aware that her genteel speech would give her away, Helena said nothing.

Malcolm shrugged. “Women,” he said. “Never where you want them to be. But you, on the other hand—well, if I’d remembered the serving girls were so lovely in Kent, I’d have been back before this.”

Before Helena could react, Malcolm had an arm firmly about her shoulders and had pulled her close to his lean body. Helena was startled to realize that, despite her own height, her head just barely overtopped his shoulder. Before she could contemplate that fact any further, however, Malcolm lowered his head to hers and kissed her firmly on the lips. She made an outraged sound.

“Hush,” said Malcolm cheerfully. “It’s not as though you haven’t been kissed before, my girl.”

Helena raised her hands to his chest to push him away, but somehow found herself only pressing her palms against his broad shoulders, as she breathed in the hint of sandalwood and cinnamon scent that must have lingered from his morning ablutions, spiked with the warmth and scent of his skin. It was remarkably appealing, and she breathed in deeply, feeling her lips soften against his. The earl clearly felt her relax, for his hands slid down to her waist, pressing her chest against his. He slanted his head a little and she felt his lips pressing hers open. She felt her bosom swell and tighten, and her lips opened involuntarily and when Malcolm’s tongue touched hers, a bolt of sensation shot downward, and she felt an instant urge to press her hips forward against his. Suddenly, reality intruded on her, and she pushed firmly against Malcolm’s chest, wresting her lips from his. He moved back a half step, and then dropped his head to briefly kiss the side of her neck before straightening.

Malcolm gazed down at her steadily, a hint of perturbation in his eyes. “That was—remarkable,” he said softly. “Some local lad is a lucky fellow, to be sure.”

Helena stepped back, fighting the urge to press her hand to her lips. She had made a grave mistake it seemed, in not informing Malcolm who she was. But that was, nonetheless, no excuse for his behavior. It seemed that his years abroad had not taught him discretion. But, she realized ruefully, hers had been equally lacking. Something about Wroxton’s scent, feel, and presence seemed to call to her on an elemental level.

Malcolm pulled himself together and, fishing in his pocket, produced a guinea, which he pressed into her hand. “I thank you, my dear,” he said. “I did not mean to impose upon you, but your loveliness could not be resisted. I meant to see your mistress, but somehow I cannot regret her absence. Do you know where I might find her?”

Helena paused a moment, and then tilted her chin at him proudly. “I don’t know,” she said, producing her finest Kentish accent. It was imperfect, but the earl did not appear to notice. “But her abigail told me she means to go to the assembly at Folkestone tonight.”

Malcolm groaned. “I can’t abide country dances. So provincial and the refreshments are terrible. Do you think Miss Keighley has returned to the house?”

Helena shook her head firmly. “No, she’s not in the house,” she assured him.

About the Author

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Alicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high. She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie. In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.

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Alicia Quigley: Lady Morgan’s Revenge: Letitia’s Naughty Novella

Experimenting With Books: How Do We Get It “Just Right?”

by Alicia Quigley

Thank you for giving me a chance to be a guest blogger at Susana’s Parlour again!

Today I want to talk a bit about experimenting with our work, and how that is a big part of where I am in my writing. I started writing Regency romances almost twenty years ago, but it was just so hard in those days to get published that although I had a few houses take a second look, I never got a book contracted. So, when I decided that the indie author route was interesting, I had quite a few manuscripts to work with. But, they were kind of dated. They needed some rework, and one of the questions I had was whether I wanted to do sweet traditionals, or handle sex in the more modern “pull up a chair next to the bed and get some popcorn” kind of way. In the end, the answer was “both” as I mentioned in my previous guest post.

What I’ve learned from that experiment so far is that the plot and the characters seem to dictate which stories will sell best in which format. So, in the Bluestocking series, which begins with The Secret Bluestocking (Traditional) and A Lady of Passion (After Dark), and continues with The Yuletide Countess (Traditional, no After Dark version) and most recently An Honest Deception (Traditional)/An Indecent Charade (After Dark) the sweet traditional version of the book has outsold the more modern one. These stories are all driven by the heroine, and her need for independence as well as love and the financial security that marriage was the only real provider of for women in the early 19th century. However, A Collector’s Item (After Dark) far outsold That Infamous Pearl (Traditional) in the first book of the Arlingbys series, which will all include a little suspense or intrigue as well as romance. As a result, there will probably not be a Traditional version of the second book, The Contraband Courtship, which I expect to release in the first half of June. It seems that romantic intrigue/suspense is a lot more interesting to readers when the sexual tension is overt.

Right now, I’m interested in whether there is a “just right” length for a romance as well. In December, I released my first novella, The Yuletide Countess, which was the #1 Historical Fiction book on Amazon in the US and UK for about a week, and a top seller for most of December and January. I wonder if this was related to the length, or just enthusiasm for Christmas-themed books. It definitely seems that shorter format works are growing more and more popular, especially in e-books. This makes sense for a lot of reasons – costs to produce and publish aren’t affected by length in e-books, and readers may find novellas more user-friendly if they are taking their e-reader on a road trip or just want something quick and easy to read on the airplane. They can also be priced well, which gets them a lot of promotion on sites that feature low cost books.

We received some feedback that An Indecent Charade was too long and slow, and that the troubles the heroine’s deceased husband and living male relatives cause her in the story detracted from the love element with the hero. So, as an experiment, we decided to do a third treatment of this book, which is titled Lady Morgan’s Revenge and we are subtitling it Letitia’s Naughty Novella because who doesn’t love alliteration? and some sex scenes that were “left on the cutting room floor” as being perhaps a bit too spicy for Letty’s character, have been included in this one. It comes in at a slim 47,000 words instead of 82,000, like the original book, so it is also an experiment in the shorter format.

We made these decisions after considering what readers said, and thinking that a stronger, more independent, take-charge Letitia might have greater appeal for our After Dark audience. So, we focused entirely on the hero/heroine relationship, as well as putting the “extra spicy” back in the text. We want to make an offer, by the way to any readers of this post who have purchased An Honest Deception or An Indecent Charade, and don’t feel they should have to buy the novella as well in order to enjoy the limited new content: email us at and we will send you a free copy of Lady Morgan’s Revenge.

Traditional publishers are finding that their business model, which doesn’t always serve authors or readers that well, but does seem to serve highly paid editors and executives with lovely offices in expensive cities very nicely, is being disrupted. Indie and small press authors are inventing a new business model, and I am all in favor of using the speed and lack of friction in e-book platforms to understand better what readers enjoy, what suits the amount of time they have in their lives to devote to books and to experiment with providing them those things.

To that end, I invite your readers (and their friends) to take the following survey. Their answers will be very valuable in helping me plot out (no pun intended) the course of my books for this year and beyond. As a thank you for participating, I’ll be randomly selecting five (5) survey takers and sending them a free copy of The Contraband Courtship when it launches in June. Thank you in advance and have a lovely summer!

Click here for the survey!

About Lady Morgan’s Revenge: Letitia’s Naughty Novella

Author’s Note: This version of the story is a “modified” version of An Indecent Charade. You spoke, we listened: you said that An Indecent Charade was too long and that Letty’s interfering male relatives bogged down the story. We agree! We want to present you with Lady Morgan’s Revenge: Letitia’s Naughty Novella, in which the bumbling idiot relatives have been removed, the hot sex scenes kept (one even extended!) and the inclusion of a very hot scene that was left on the cutting-room floor.

If you want the Traditional, no sex version, please see An Honest Deception: Letitia’s Traditional Regency Romance.

Lady Morgan's Revenge Cover copyWill passion purge her long-suffering heart of the sorrow from her previous marriage?

After the death of her wastrel husband, Alfred, Lady Letitia Morgan wants nothing more than to settle into the peaceful life of a widow. Her limited finances are enough to provide Letty and her two children that simple life.

Phillip Masham, Marquess of Eynsford and long-time friend of Francis, Lord Exencour, finds himself very much interested in Letty. Unfortunately for him, Letty’s opinion of men of the ton was quite soured by the late Baron Morgan. Not one to give up, the creative marquess becomes Mr. Phillip Markham, a solicitor in the Inner Temple, in hopes that Letty will get to know him for who his is, beyond his title. Letty and Phillip embark upon an affair that may deepen into love, but will it survive the truth?

More importantly, will Letty’s revenge for Phillip’s deception satisfy her and open her heart to happily ever after?

Find out in the latest by Alicia Quigley, chart-topping author of The Yuletide Countess and The Secret Bluestocking.



Letty turned away, tears welling up in her eyes. “I have tried to tell you that I am too recently widowed, and that Alfred’s behavior and your deception make it impossible for me to know my true feelings toward you, but you will not listen to me!” she cried. “These past moments are the some of the first we have spent together since I became aware of the truth, and – and – and this what happened! I know no more about you than I did an hour ago, but I have learned I cannot trust myself near you. If you cannot wait for me, perhaps I am better off without you.”

“This happens” Phillip growled, “Because we love each other, even though you will not admit it.”

Letty gazed speculatively at Phillip. “So, you think I should simply forgive you for your deception,” she snapped.

He faced her squarely. “Yes, I do. I acknowledge my faults in pursuing your acquaintance before you were ready, and lying to you about my name and occupation, but I am in earnest when I say I love you and want your forgiveness.”

“What if I am not in the mood to just let bygones be bygones?” she asked, arching a brow at him enquiringly.

“Take some revenge on me then,” he exclaimed. “I hurt and disappointed you; what would make you in turn feel that the score is settled between us?”

Letitia pondered his words.   Her body still felt a lingering arousal from the lovemaking they had shared, and a pulse beat in her breasts and between her legs, a drumbeat reminding her of the desire his caresses always provoked in her. There was no denying that she missed Phillip’s company in bed as much as his conversation, and that she wished for a permanent break from their relationship as little as he professed to. So what might effectively banish the specter of his betrayal?

“What punishment would fit your crime?” she wondered aloud. Phillip eyed her from under his lashes.   How daring might his delightful Letitia be, he wondered.   As memories of her enthusiasm during their trysts ran through his thoughts, it occurred to him that she might be quite inventive, if given enough encouragement.

“I have gravely insulted you, Lady Morgan,” he responded. “You may need to discipline me rather, ah, severely.”

Letty looked somewhat surprised as he answered her, but she noted a bit of smirk on his handsome face, and a sudden recollection of her cousin’s complaints about discipline at his boarding school arose in her mind. “Indeed I may,” she answered coolly, allowing herself to look him slowly up and down, with a considering gaze.

Her insolent inspection sent a frisson of arousal through Phillip, and he felt himself begin to harden again as he waited, silent and impassive, for her to speak. Letty, who had noted his excitement, allowed her eyes to linger on his crotch just long enough to make him even more uncomfortable, before looking up at him.

“Very well,” she said imperiously. “You may present yourself at my house for your punishment in the afternoon, two days hence. Do not attempt to contact me before we meet.” She turned her back on him and walked out of the little passage, closing the door behind her. Phillip stood looking after her, astonished at the way their conversation had ended.

About the Author

AQ Twitter Avi copyAlicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high.  She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed Regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie.  In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.


Alicia Quigley: An Honest Deception/An Indecent Charade

All About Alicia Quigley

The first thing that readers may want to know about me, is that “I” am a pseudonym for two sisters living in central Michigan who find writing to be the thing they most enjoy doing together. We actually started writing together quite a long time ago, but since the road to publication for authors mired in a “flyover” state was long and difficult at the time, our work was never published. With the advent of e-books and indie publishing, we decided recently that the time had come to try again, and we published our first pair of books, A Duchess Enraged and A Most Unusual Situation, almost exactly a year ago. We’ve been thrilled with the good reception our books have gotten, so this guest blog post is a chance to celebrate our first year as authors, as well as discuss our newest pair of books, An Honest Deception and An Indecent Charade.

Why do I say, “pair of books”? Well, in most cases we publish two versions of each book! One version we refer to as a Traditional (close those bedroom doors!) version, and the other as an After Dark (take the bedroom doors off the hinges!) version. We decided to do this because we enjoy writers like Georgette Heyer, who barely even hinted that characters had a sex life, as well as the work of authors such as Lisa Kleypas, Jo Beverley and Madeleine Hunter, who make it very clear that they do. This made us feel that we’d like to offer something to readers of both types!

We have released three pairs of books as well as a Christmas novella, The Yuletide Countess, that was written as a Traditional only, and a full length novel, Sense and Sensuality, which is only After Dark. These books are both sequels: The Yuletide Countess to The Secret Bluestocking/A Lady of Passion and Sense and Sensuality to A Duchess Enraged/A Most Unusual Situation. In these books, the decision to do only one version was driven by the personality of the characters, their motivations and the decision to include descriptions of sexual encounters or not (Harriet, the heroine of The Yuletide Countess, would have fainted from embarrassment if we wrote her into a sex scene, poor dear!).

An Honest Deception/An Indecent Charade are also sequels to The Secret Bluestocking/A Lady of Passion. Like these two books and The Yuletide Countess, the plot is driven by the way societal constraints on women’s actions and their personalities and life situations affect their ability to control their own lives. In it, a secondary character Letitia, Lady Morgan, has been newly widowed when her wastrel husband dies in a riding accident. To reach her own HEA, she struggles to overcome the very difficult financial straits that this leaves her in, along with the efforts of her relations to push her into a distasteful second marriage. I find Letitia a very sympathetic heroine; she has a sweet personality, but is smart and fun. She’s the kind of girlfriend you’d enjoy having a coffee with and you want her to win out!

I think that acknowledging and respecting the heavy limitations on women that are a fact of history while creating a plot and characters that the modern reader will enjoy is one of the major challenges in writing a historical romance. We try to look at the legal, historical and cultural framework to find actual events, social trends, writers and other period-relevant situations that allow characters and plots that are appealing today to be realistic as well. For example, the works of Mary Wollstonecraft play a large role in the decision of the unmarried heroine of A Lady of Passion to have an affair. But widows like Caroline, the heroine of Sense and Sensuality, or Letitia in An Indecent Charade were considered at the time to be relatively free to do the same without risk of scandal. Given such a breath of freedom, I enjoy watching both women find themselves and their power (as well as some very entertaining sex).

About An Honest Deception

Will love rescue her long-suffering heart or will she be doomed to a loveless arranged marriage?

After the death of her wastrel husband, Alfred, Lady Letitia Morgan wants nothing more than to settle into the peaceful life of a widow. Her limited finances are enough to provide Letty and her two children that simple life.

However, her well-meaning cousin demands that she remarry as soon as is proper; indeed, he feels it to be her duty as a woman and to her family. To that end, he moves to arrange her marriage to the Bishop of Mainwaring, someone for whom Letty has no feelings whatsoever.

In the meantime, Phillip Masham, Marquess of Eynsford and long-time friend of Francis, Lord Exencour, has found himself very much interested in Letty. Unfortunately for him, Letty’s opinion of titled gentry was quite soured by the late Baron Morgan. Not one to give up, the creative Marquess becomes Mr. Phillip Markham, a solicitor in the Inner Temple, in hopes that Letty will get to know him for who his is, beyond his title.

The two form a friendship that may deepen into love, but will it survive the truth?

Letty Trad v2 copy


About An Indecent Charade: Letitia’s After Dark Regency Romance

Will passion revive her long-suffering heart or will she be doomed to a loveless arranged marriage?

After the death of her wastrel husband, Alfred, Lady Letitia Morgan wants nothing more than to settle into the peaceful life of a widow. Her limited finances are enough to provide Letty and her two children that simple life.

Phillip Masham, Marquess of Eynsford and long-time friend of Francis, Lord Exencour, finds himself very much interested in Letty. Unfortunately for him, Letty’s opinion of titled gentry was quite soured by the late Baron Morgan. Not one to give up, the creative Marquess becomes Mr. Phillip Markham, a solicitor in the Inner Temple, in hopes that Letty will get to know him for who his is, beyond his title.

However, her well-meaning cousin demands that she remarry as soon as is proper; indeed, he feels it to be her duty as a woman and to her family. To that end, he moves to arrange her marriage to the Bishop of Mainwaring, someone for whom Letty has no feelings whatsoever.

Letty and Phillip embark upon an affair that may deepen into love, but will it survive the truth?

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About the Author

I am a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high.  I made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for my Barbie.  In spite of a terrible science and engineering addiction, I remain a devotee of the romance, and enjoy turning hand to their production as well as their consumption.

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