Breach of Promise in the Regency + an Excerpt & Giveaway from MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Miss Austen brings up the issue of “Breach of Promise Suits” as they apply to Lydia and Wickham. This exchange actually occurs after Darcy’s second proposal (chapter 60) when Elizabeth is asking Darcy when he fell in love with her:

“Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement.”

“But I was embarrassed.”

“And so was I.”

“You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.”

“A man who had felt less, might.”

“How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable to admit it! But I wonder how long you would have gone on, if you had been left to yourself. I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect. Too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? for I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do.”

A breach of promise suit could be pursued by both men and women during the Regency, and it may surprise some to learn, more men than women filed for compensation in the ecclesiastical courts. A “promise” to marry had long been looked upon by the church courts as a legal marriage. The promise = the marriage. By the 1600s, this practice became part of common law.

To constitute a breach a promise case in court there first had to be a valid betrothal. Among the aristocracy of the Regency era, one might find the engagement announcement in the newspapers, but not necessarily the wedding announcement. That is because the betrothal was as good as a marriage in the minds of many of the time. But why did the couple not simply go their separate ways when they decided not to marry?

A female often found herself as “damaged goods” when the nuptials were called off. Although premarital sex was deeply frowned upon by society, as a whole, often an engaged couple would consider the betrothal as good as the marriage. If the engagement was broken after sexual intimacies, the “future bride” would be ruined. She could not go to another as anything less than a virgin. Therefore, she was unlikely never to marry. Women of society depended upon a husband to take care of their financial course. If a woman did not marry, she would be a poor relation, depending on the kindness of a brother or a cousin to keep her.

A gentleman might file a suit if he had borrowed money against the dowry he was to receive when he married the lady. He was to become in control of the lady’s fortune once their vows were officially spoken. A break in the promise to marry would leave him at the whims of the moneylenders.

Neither the potential bride or the groom were permitted to enter testimony during the court proceedings. The jury was to award the compensation based upon the actual costs incurred, the loss of reputation, the length of the engagement, and the defendant’s ability to pay, but often the awards were based on “other factors,” for example the most entertaining barrister between the pair representing the plaintiff and the defendant. Jurors would likely award a woman as low as £50 and as high as several thousands, depending upon how comely her countenance might be or how badly she had suffered in the public’s eye. However, just going to court could add insult to injury. The proceedings were often posted in the newspapers.

Ginger Frost in her book Courtship, Class, and Gender in Victorian England speaks to “the myth of breach of promise” in popular literature and culture:

Suits for breach of promise of marriage were well know to the public in Victorian England. From at least the 1830s, a variety of writers recognized the inherent humor and drama of the action and began to fictionalize the cases as they were then brought. The depictions of trials during the century gave a strangely uniform representation of the people who brought such litigation and the outcome of their conflicts. This interpretation built up an idealized myth of breach of promise, one which influenced the perception of the suit far more than actual cases did.

MDF eBook Cover Introducing MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs…

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.

ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, her father’s heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go askew.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” is arrives at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?

In this EXCERPT from Chapter 18 of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs, we hear Darcy’s take on his aunt’s insistence that he marry his cousin Anne De Bourgh, although Anne left him waiting at the altar the first time they were to speak their vows.

“So this is the welcome I am to receive,” her ladyship harrumphed. “Your mother would be ashamed of you, Darcy.” She sat heavily in an armed chair.

Darcy remained standing beside his desk. He spoke in clipped tones. “I was considering something similar as to Lady Anne’s reaction to your poor manners, Aunt. I can guarantee that George Darcy would never have tolerated your ordering his servants about, and neither will I. This is Pemberley, madam, not Rosings Park. I am the master here.”

His aunt snarled, “I see your insolence continues.”

“And I see you still think that the world will bend to your whims,” he countered.

Rather than to fuel their standoff with more inflammatory accusations, Lady Catherine switched tactics, a devise he had observed her employ previously. Darcy had always thought her doing so was an intelligent means for a woman to earn agreement over business matters in a man’s world, but her diversion would not work on him. “Is that girl in this house?” she demanded.

Darcy propped a hip on the corner of his desk and attempted to appear casual when he responded, “I fear Georgiana is not at home at this time. My sister will be sorry to have missed your call.”

Lady Catherine’s chin rose in stubbornness. “So that is the way you wish to discuss this matter. Very well. Then I shall be more direct. Did you bring Miss Elizabeth Bennet to Pemberley when you left Matthew Allard’s estate in Scotland?”

Darcy schooled his features. Someone would pay dearly for sharing his business with Lady Catherine. “I am not in the habit of discussing my personal life with anyone, and you of all people should realize I am more Darcy than Fitzwilliam. Your line of questions will not win you my favor.”

“I see you mean to protect this upstart! Are you so enthralled with the woman’s arts and allurements that you cannot see reason? If you fancy her, Darcy, then make her your mistress. Anne will ignore your indiscretions. I will instruct my daughter in the ways of men. Anne can be your wife while this strumpet can suffer your lust.”

His aunt’s description of aristocratic life sickened Darcy. “I have no intention of marrying Anne. You may beg. You may threaten. You may cajole. You may bargain. But I will never change my mind. I permitted you to use the memory of my dear mother to coerce me into agreeing to marry Anne, but Fate had other ideas. Anne was late, and I spoke my vows to another.”

“We both know those vows are not legal,” she drawled in warning tones.

Darcy had heard from his solicitor regarding those first vows exchanged with Elizabeth, and as expected, his first marriage to the woman had proved void. Mr. Jaffray had filed the papers to have the ceremony declared null. “Such knowledge does not change my resolve. I will not marry Anne.”

“Would you prefer that I instruct Anne in suing Miss Bennet for criminal conversation?” she challenged.

“Although neither Anne or I could officially testify in such a suit, the truth would win out. A skilled barrister can make certain all the facts are relayed to the judge. The lady in question could not have claimed my affections away from your daughter, for beyond a fondness between cousins, I never loved Anne.” He would not say that Elizabeth Bennet held his heart in her delicate hands. “Moreover, as I did not hold the lady’s acquaintance until several hours after that morning at St. George, it would be impossible for her to draw me away with her arts and allurements. All such a suit would do would be to bring ruin upon Anne’s head and mar my family name. You would have your vengeance and little else to keep you warm in the winter. No man would ever claim Anne after such a public display, but I suppose that is what you wish. You wish Anne forever to remain under your control.”

“Anne’s dowry of thirty thousand pounds can cover any flaw you name,” Lady Catherine argued.

“Yes, I suppose her dowry and the promise of Rosings Park can conceal all but one of my cousin’s failings: that of possessing an overbearing and controlling mother. Only the most desperate of men would consider aligning his name with Sir Lewis’s daughter. You would turn over Anne’s future to a man of no principles. That fact should surprise me, but it does not,” he said in sad tones. “Such a man would run through every penny of Anne’s inheritance, leaving you and your daughter as Matlock’s poor relations. I suppose that much be my justice.”

“You think me so cold-hearted?” his aunt demanded. “Everything I do, I do for Anne.”

“You may tell yourself these lies,” Darcy cautioned, “but your family and soon society will recognize you as a bitter, vindictive woman.” He sighed heavily. “If you persist in this madness, I will sue Anne for breach of promise. Her fortune will be greatly reduced, for I will win my suit. There were at least two dozen witnesses that can swear to the fact that she left me at the altar. If not for the false exchange of vows, I would have been long gone from the church by the time Anne arrived. You, too, would have been gone, likely looking for your wayward daughter to strangle her, as you attempted to do when she did arrive. Are you willing to tarnish your daughter’s name twice in the court of public notice? Poor Anne who has never had a Season. Who has never been permitted the freedom to form a friendship. Who is poorly educated beyond what her governess provided her. That Anne will be irretrievably ruined.” His tone held the warning of winter’s embrace. “I do not wish to see Anne suffer, but I will not permit you to injure an innocent just to puff up your consequence.”

“An innocent?” his aunt accused in her most implacable voice. “The woman traveled with you to Scotland where she passed herself off as Mrs. Darcy. You see, Mr. and Mrs. Allard were quite pleased to tell my man of your indiscretions. Allard was most displeased that you withdrew your financial support of his latest venture.”

Allard’s financial future would be nonexistent when Darcy finished with the man. He would permit no one to bandy about Elizabeth’s name in a vile manner. “We could debate this matter all afternoon,” he announced as he stood. “I believe somewhere within your hard resolve you want what is best for Anne, and I am flattered that you think me a suitable match for my cousin, but I wish to marry in affection, and my feelings for Anne are more brotherly than those of a potential husband.” A profound sadness crept into his tone when Darcy spoke of his cousin’s situation. He should have done more to assist Anne before things had reached this turning point. Like most in the family, he had thought all would change when Anne inherited Sir Lewis’s properties and fortune. He had never considered the fact that Lady Catherine would do all she could to shove Anne out Rosings Park’s door in order to maintain control of all of Sir Lewis’s holdings. “Do you not wish something more for your daughter and your dearest sister’s only son that a marriage of convenience?”

“I wish to see Anne well settled,” she declared in undisguised contempt.

Darcy hesitated briefly before accepting the gauntlet. His aunt would force him to be ruthless. “Then you leave me no choice, madam. If you force me into marrying Anne, I will leave you with little more than a humble cottage and a pair of servants to tend you for the remainder of your days. Anne will be five and twenty in two months. I will postpone the wedding until your daughter inherits Rosings Park per Sir Lewis’s will. All of it will belong to her, and as the estate and the fortune are entailed upon the female line, when we marry, as Anne’s husband, I will have control of it all. I have no intention of bringing Anne to child, so all your manipulations will be for naught. As you say, I will take my lust elsewhere. At Anne’s death, I will sell Rosings Park and all it holds piece-by piece, until nothing remains of Sir Lewis De Bourgh’s legacy. All you hold most dear will be scattered among the households of those with the funds to purchase it. I will destroy everything you have ever loved: Rosings Park and Anne. And each day of your miserable life you will know that I did these things in retribution for your foolish sense of consequence.” Needing to be away from his aunt, Darcy started for the door. “Good day, your ladyship. I will have Mr. Nathan see you out.” With that, he was gone, never looking back to view the look of astonishment upon his aunt’s features.

Now for the GIVEAWAY: I have an eBook copy of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs available. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Wednesday, August 16. Leave a comment below to be in the mix. 


Posted in book excerpts, book release, British history, Church of England, eBooks, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, marriage licenses, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, Regency era, Regency romance, romance, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Celebrating the Release of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs with an Excerpt + Giveaway

In my new book, MR. DARCY’s BRIDEs, by mistake Elizabeth disrupts Mr. Darcy’s marriage to his cousin, Anne De Bourgh. Our daring heroine is in disguise (NOTE: I drape her with a heavy veil attached to her bonnet, which would not be likely in the Regency era, but it was not forbidden. No one can say for certain; therefore, I took some “liberty” in this case because it made a nice plot point.) and does not realize she is at the wrong wedding until it is too late. Afterwards, the legality of the wedding in which she participated with Darcy comes into place. If it is legal, in the Regency, that meant FOREVER unless one wished to seek a annulment. But, in truth, that legal statute was not so easily achieved.

So how did one go about earning an annulment? Annulments were only granted if (1) one or both of the couple were not of age, (2) were too closely related (Remember first cousins could marry, but a man could not marry the sister of his late wife, so “related” was not always as clear cut as we might think in modern times.), (3) the gentleman was impotent at the time of marriage (hard to prove unless the marriage was consummated), (4) one of the pair had committed fraud, (5) one or both could be considered insane at the time of marriage, (6) or one of the pair was already married to another. Even if one of the couple was not of age, if they did not stop living together when they became of age (12 for women and 14 for men), then they were still considered married.

I think it’s worth mentioning that the fraud, force, or lunacy had to have occurred during the wedding ceremony (or before, if it pertained to the permission granted to a minor), NOT after the couple were lawfully wed. One could not claim coercion after he had pronounced his vows. Even wealthy peers were stuck with a spouse if problems arose only after the ceremony. For example, both the 11th Duke of Norfolk and the 4th Earl of Sandwich were stuck in unfortunate marriages when their wives went insane. In the Duke of Norfolk’s case, his wife was locked up before giving him an heir, so that the dukedom eventually passed to his cousin.

In the Regency period, fraud as a means to voiding the marriage rested in the question of parental permission. The fraud was not the type where a person misrepresented himself by saying he owned property that he did not own or held a title that he did not possess. Lying about circumstances was not fraudBeing drunk at the wedding was not a cause as long as one knew what he was doing. And insanity had to previous to the wedding–simplemindedness came under that category as well. 

Also the idea of forcing someone into a marriage changed over the 19th century. At first, force was considered physical force only as more than a reasonable man could withstand. Over the period of time, the courts acknowledged that women were weaker and less physical force was necessary to overpower them. One had to run, literally, away or protest at the ceremony or at the signing of the register or in some other way express one’s denial of acceptance to void a marriage. Witnesses to one’s refusal were required as proof. The court did not take into consideration such things as a threat as being “forced” into a marriage.

Marriages could be annulled if the spouse was a previous in-law or if one was impotent. I know you have seen in numerous romance novels where the man and woman decide not to consummate their marriage so they can later get an annulment and marry another, but non-consummation was not grounds for an annulment. Consummation could strengthen a claim of marriage in Scotland and could throw doubt over a claim of being forced into marriage, but non-consummation was not grounds. The church always assumed that the couple would get around to it sooner or later if they were able.

Impotence and real frigidity, on the other hand, were grounds as was a physical deformity of the necessary parts. An impenetrable hymen was also grounds, though that could be fixed by a surgeon.

Invalid marriages were those by minors by license without proper permission or the situation involved bigamy.

English law did not require consummation. Scottish law used it as proof in clandestine marriages, but only if the other forms were not followed. The Consistory court of the Church of England handled annulments. This was located in London. The Courts within Doctors Commons were very much associated in the public mind with the making and unmaking of marriage from the 17th Century forward. Gradually the London Consistory Court assumed a virtual monopoly in matrimonial suits and became the most important matrimonial court for the whole of the country. It became the court of first instance for most matrimonial cases.

Introducing MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs…

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.

ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, the Longbourn heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go awry.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” is arrives at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?

Excerpt from chapter 1 of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs…

Elizabeth knew she would not be able to see much from behind the veil draping the curve of her bonnet, and she held no doubt that her head would itch from the scraps of a cut up wig she had attached to the straw bonnet. Before she left her childhood home, she had discovered the wig in the attic at Longbourn. Mr. Hill, her father’s man servant, seemed to think it had belonged to her paternal grandfather, a man of “peculiar tendencies,” Mr. Hill had said with diplomacy.

“It does not matter if the wig were nicer,” she had assured her sister. “It will be enough to provide the impression that my hair is blonde, and the veil will cover my face until it is too late for Mama to realize it is not you who has married Mr. Collins. The morning shadows in the church will do the rest. If we are fortunate, it will be cloudy on the day of the ceremony.”

“Are you certain this is best?” Jane pleaded with tears forming in her eyes. “As much as I have no desire to marry the man, neither do I wish you to be attached to Papa’s cousin.”

The fact that Jane had participated willingly in this charade spoke a great deal of her sister’s dismay at their mother’s ultimatum that Jane marry Mr. Bennet’s heir, Mr. Collins, a man none of them knew by countenance.

“I am certain.” Elizabeth squeezed the back of Jane’s hand to comfort her sister’s growing anxiousness. “Even if Mr. Collins would suddenly switch his promise to marry one of the Bennet sisters from you to me, grounds for an annulment would still remain, for I shall take my vows as Jane Bennet. The marriage will be void. You must simply escape to Aunt Gardiner’s relations in Derbyshire. I will stall as long as possible so you may be several hours upon the road before anyone discovers our deception. As only you and I and Aunt Gardiner know of your whereabouts, you should be safe until Mama’s vengeance has wained.”

“More likely, the devil’s disciples will be wearing nothing but their unmentionables before our mother’s ire dissipates.”

Elizabeth agreed, but she would not give voice to her concerns. Jane’s agreement to escape to the northern shires was uncharacteristic enough. “The only thing that worries me is that you will travel so far and alone.”

“I assure you, in these circumstances, I can be as strong as is required, but do not fret of my traveling unchaperoned, for Aunt Gardiner will send a maid with me. But what of Papa? How shall Mr. Bennet react when he discovers what we have done to thwart Mama’s plans?”

After his horse had thrown him during a thunder storm, their father had experienced a long bout of consumption, which had turned into lung fever. Such was the reason Mrs. Bennet had decided that Jane must marry their father’s heir presumptive in order to save the family. It was almost as if their mother had decided that Mr. Bennet would leave them at the mercy of the “odious” Mr. Collins, as Mrs. Bennet was fond of calling the man. As Jane was considered one of the prettiest ladies in the Hertfordshire, their mother had thought that Mr. Collins would accept a comely wife immediately. Their mother assumed that if Mr. Bennet passed from his afflictions, Collins could drive the Bennet family from Longbourn. Therefore, Mrs. Bennet meant to secure Mr. Collins’s patronage by marrying off her eldest daughter to the man.

“Papa is improving, but he is not yet well enough to bring a halt to Mama’s manipulations, and, in truth, I feared speaking to him of this matter. He would insist upon leaving his bed before Doctor French says it is safe. However, I have recruited Mary to watch over him, and I have made some bit of explanation to our sister. She has promised her silence unless we meet difficulties.”

“You realize our mother will be enraged by our actions?” Jane asked in tentative tones.

“I shall be viewed as the architect of this plan,” Elizabeth said with a shrug of resignation. She often knew her mother’s disfavor. Fanny Bennet rarely had a kind word for her second daughter. “But better Mrs. Bennet’s temper than a lifetime of drudgery with Mr. Collins in a cottage in Kent, bowing and scraping to know the pleasure of his benefactor. Papa calls the man an obvious twit. I am not certain that Mr. Bennet has ever met the man, but Papa considered Mr. Collins’s father a candidate for Bedlam. Naturally, he would transfer his opinion of the late Mr. Collins to his son.”

Now for the Giveaway: I have an eBook copy of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs available for those who comment below. The Giveaway will end at midnight EDST Monday, August 21. Comment below to be in the mix. 

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Church of England, eBooks, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, marriage licenses, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era, Regency romance, Scotland, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Introducing Deanna Browne and “Demon Rising,” Arriving This Month from Black Opal Books

Today we welcome another of my fellow Black Opal Books authors. Deanna Browne is a debut author, whose love for magic is mixed with a strong creative streak. Check out a bit about her and her first book, Demon Rising

Magic Isn’t Dead by DeAnna Browne

I love magic, and it started way before Harry Potter. I love reading about it, dreaming about it, watching movies with magic as the major part of the plot, etc. You name it. Hence, such is the reason why my novel, Demon Rising, centers around magic and demons.

While my novel is pure fiction, I love to find connections to magic in the real world. For example, I researched Solomon and his role in ancient magic for my novel. I also recently found in Chicago that the Newberry Library is calling for the public to help translate 17th Century books on witchcraft and magic. One in particular is called “The Book of Magical Charms.” This book is thought to be written by two witches in the 1600s in England. It contains spells on how to cheat at dice and talk to the spirits.

Whether you’re a believer or not, the history is fascinating, and it sparks my imagination. With so much in this scientific world not yet known, it’s fun to think about what may be.

If you want to journey with me to the “what if” and the unknown, check out my debut novel, Demon Rising, published by Black Opal Books.


Thirty years ago, dark magicians unleashed new power on the earth fueled by demons. Governments toppled, millions died and magicians ended up on top of the food chain.

Twenty-four-year-old Becca survives these dangerous times by relying on her wits, her fists, and the limited goodwill of her boss, a local crime lord. When news comes of a fire back home and the family she left behind dead, she realizes her dark past has finally caught up to her.

On the hunt for her missing sister, she must rely on Darion, a treacherous ex-boyfriend with ties to the local coven for back-up. Problem is he’s a pyromancer that can’t be trusted, especially with her heart. Becca’s forced to navigate a dangerous web of deceit and must decide what’s she’s willing to sacrifice to save her sister.

10918990_1010647088951452_4149776297749903545_n.jpg About the Author

DeAnna Browne graduated from Arizona State University with her BS in Psychology. She finds it helps to corral those voices in her mind and put them to paper. Her debut novel, A DEMON RISING, will be out in August 2017 with Black Opal Books. An avid reader and writer, she has a soft spot for fantasy with a touch of romance. Despite her love for food and traveling, she always finds her way back to Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, children, and pet dog.

To contact her and for free extras check out:

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The Great Valley Road, Setting for My Novel, “The Road to Understanding”

When I began writing The Road to Understanding, I needed a perfect route to take my characters across the mountains between Virginia and Tennessee in the late 1780s.

Colonial_Roads_in_the_South copy2

Who Traveled Across The Great Valley Road?

The majority of the settlers in the area were of German extraction. They settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. They were known for their “isolationism” for their
farms were situated close to their church and school. These settlers ventured into
the towns of New Market, Luray, Woodstock, or Harrisonburg only to trade. According on an article on “…about 57 percent of the population of Shenandoah and Rockingham Counties and about 33 percent in Page and Frederick counties were of German stock.

Next came large numbers of the Scots-Irish, who were driven from their Ulster homeland by the 1717 drought and who sought economic opportunities in America. 
“Entire families ‘bumped over the Philadelphia road in big-wheeled Conestoga wagons, trailing cattle and dogs. Nearly all were Presbyterians, once employed in
the Irish linen and wool trades. Half were so poor that the indentured themselves to obtain passage. By-passing theGermans, the Scots-Irish settled in numbers in Augusta, Rockbridge, Highland, Bath, and southward. Unversed in farming, they frequently chose rocky, hardscrabble land and later moved.’ By 1730 they established Winchester, and six years later Staunton. Then came Lexington, Fincastle, Big
Lick (Roanoke), Draper’s Meadows (Blacksburg), Augusta and Rockbridge. (Parke Rouse, Planters and Pioneers; Life in Colonial Virginia; the Story in Pictures and Text of the People who Settled England’s First Successful Colony from its Planting in 1607 to the Birth of the United States in 1789. New York: Hastings House. 1968.)


Horse Drawn Stagecoach Newspaper ad for the Elizabeth Town stagecoach to Philadelphia, 1781. Stock Image

Around 1750, newspaper advertisements began touting John Butler’s Philadelphia stage wagon, a coach with places for five passengers and a “boot” for mail replaced the canvas-covered wagon by 1780. “The name ‘stage’ came from the fact that the horses were changed at ‘stages’ along the way, usually at taverns. By 1800, the stage
traffic between Philadelphia and Lancaster, PA averaged one tavern per mile.
In addition to the human traffic on the Great Valley Road, the driving of cattle and hogs continued. About 120 cattle formed a drove, with a manager directing the movement from horseback and two footmen assisting. Pigs moved in droves numbering as many as 5000, driven by a swineherd.

“The road began as a buffalo trail, and was followed by Indians as the Great Warrior Path from New York to the Carolinas. At Salisbury, NC, it was joined by their Great
Trading Path. As a road for pioneer settlers, it bore many names. Since the road progressed through the Shenandoah Valley, it came to be called both the Great Valley Road and the Shenandoah Valley Road. The link by the early 1740s from the Pennsylvania communities of Lancaster, York, and Gettysburg became known as the Philadelphia Wagon Road. This portion was also referred to as the Lancaster Pike, and its 63 miles was the most heavily traveled portion of the entire road. Another link, by 1746, was the Pioneer’s Road from Alexandria to Winchester. The section of the Great Valley Road near Fincastle and present-day Roanoke, VA, was known locally as the Harshbarger Road. By the early 1750s, the southwestern end of the road at Big Lick (Roanoke) was extended. Travelers could continue South into North Carolina, or head Southwest into eastern Tennessee.

“Some historical maps will show the road breaking off at Big Lick to go south to Salisbury and Charlotte, NC, and on to Augusta, GA. Still another route went to Savannah, GA. Some historians choose to include the Wilderness Road within the route of the Great Valley Road since early pioneers often used the entire set of trails to move from into Kentucky and the Ohio Valley. The Wilderness Road widened for wagon traffic, but it dates back to the discovery of the Cumberland Gap in 1750 and Daniel Boone’s blazing of the trail in 1775. Since the Shenandoah River formed the geography of the Valley, directions are reckoned by the river’s flow. Therefore, in the Valley, people say ‘up’ meaning ‘south’ and ‘down’ meaning ‘north’ because the flow of the river is from south to north. One goes up to Staunton and down to Martinsburg! The mountain ranges to the West of the Valley are the Alleghenies, and the ones to the east constitute the Blue Ridge chain.The general route of the Great Valley Road today is Interstate 81 or U.S. Highway 11.” (The Great Valley Road

ATOV Cover DARIUS FITZWILLIAM’s life is planned down to who he will marry and where he will live, but life has a way of saying, “You don’t get to choose.” When his marriage to his long-time betrothed Caroline Bradford falls through, Darius is forced to take a step back and to look upon a woman who enflames his blood with desire, but also engenders disbelief. Eliza Harris is everything that Darius never realized he wanted.

ELIZA HARRIS is accustomed to doing as she pleases. Yet, despite being infuriated by his authoritative manner, when she meets the staunchly disciplined Captain Fitzwilliam, she wishes for more. She instinctively knows he is “home,” but Eliza possesses no skills in achieving her aspirations.

Plagued with misunderstandings, manipulations, and peril upon the Great Valley Road between eastern Virginia and western Tennessee in the years following the Revolutionary War, Darius and Eliza claim a strong allegiance before love finds its way into their hearts.

This is a faith-based tale based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Excerpt from The Road to Understanding (Chapter 1)

 Eliza Harris held her father’s arm tightly.

“Pardon me, Sir,” Mr. Harris said as they approached a tow-headed man whose hair displayed the signs of long hours in the sun. “I’m seekin’ the acquaintance of two gentlemen from the western counties.”

The man looked up and grinned widely. Eliza thought his the most congenial smile she’d ever encountered. “I suppose that be me, but I don’t count myself a gentleman,
not in the strictest sense of the word. I be a frontiersman who knows his Bible teachings. My name’s Charles Bradford. How may I be of assistance, Sir?”

Her father stretched out his hand in greeting. It was only then that Eliza noticed the man’s missing hand. 

Mr. Bradford shrugged in embarrassment. “A gift from good King George,” he said in explanation. “I beg your pardon.”

Mr. Harris shook off Bradford’s apology. “No need, Son. I’m proud to claim the acquaintance of those who served our fledgling country.”

A flush of color claimed Bradford’s cheeks, but Eliza noted how the man stood straighter. “I’ve learnt to do many things with the left one. Now, what business do you claim, Sir?”

Her father cleared his throat before confessing their purpose. “My name is Robert Harris, and this be my daughter Eliza. We heard two men from the western counties meant to set out soon for Jonesborough. We hoped to join them as far as the
Cumberland Gap. Perhaps we can find another group of settlers to continue the journey from there.”

Bradford nodded his greeting to Eliza while her father made his explanation. “Where ye from, Harris?” the man asked.

“Up near the Maryland–Virginia border. My family and I mean to claim land in the valleys in Kentucky County. I hear land be available for less than a dollar an acre.”

“Hears the same,” Bradford assured. “Do you also have sons?”

Her father patted the back of Eliza’s hand. “My only boy be but eight, but have no fear, Sir, my three girls be strong enough to survive the trek if that be yer concern, Mr. Bradford.”

“I’m just askin’ what I know my partner Mr. Fitzwilliam will ask. The journey be difficult even for sturdy men.” Eliza straightened her spine to appear taller than she was.

“My sisters Jonquil and Margaret and I can handle a team of oxen as well as any man, and none of us are afeard of a long walk.”

Bradford smiled kindly upon her. “I’ve no doubt, Miss. As for me, yer welcome to join up with us. Fitz means to see several settlers to the mountain territory, but I’m certain he’ll not object to add a few more to our party.”

“Where’s Mr. Fitzwilliam?” Eliza inquired.

“To the east in Fincastle,” Bradford said with a smile of amusement. “Plans to get himself hitched to my youngest sister.”

“And you won’t attend the wedding?” Eliza asked. It appeared odd to her that both men wouldn’t retrieve the lady.

“Nah,” Bradford said with a shrug. “I left home at eighteen to join General Washington. My pa’s house no longer exists. Only been home once since leaving to fight. Wade Heywood bought the land when my pa passed, and he married my eldest sister, Louisa. There’s nothing for me there. My sister’s neighbors recall a whole man and look upon me as if I’m a derelict. I prefer the wilderness where a man be judged for what he accomplishes, not for his failures. My pa left me a small legacy, and I mean to earn my fortune upon the frontier.

“As to the wedding, Fitz will escort several families west to join up with us. He and Caroline will share a small wagon until we meet up again, and then I’ll claim the smaller one and permit Fitz the larger. There’s no need for a man without a wife
to hold back those who do. Moreover, I consider myself fortunate to claim Fitz to friend. Most wouldn’t consider my needs in such a matter. Even takin’ a small wagon, it’ll be good to have Caroline close. Of late, I find I’m missin’ much of my New York
and Virginia roots. The winter in the mountains reminds me of home.”

“It sounds as if you’ve found yourself a friend with principles,” her father observed.

“He’s a Christian man and the best,” Bradford declared.

“If not for Fitz, I’d be dead in some unmarked cornfield posing as a battleground.”

The man’s words sent a shiver of dread down Eliza’s spine. She’d never been so close to those who’d fought in the war of revolution.

“When do you expect to depart?” her father asked.

“Three to four days. A week at most if’n we get rain. Can you be prepared by then?”

“Absolutely,” her father declared. “Provides us time to restock some of our supplies. We’ll be prepared to leave when you and Mr. Fitzwilliam make the call.”


Watching the McClendons cuddle together upon the wagon seat did little to ease Darius’s bruised pride. The couple had professed sorrow at not taking Caroline’s acquaintance, for before he’d ridden to Fincastle, Darius had spoken of his betrothed  to the pair. From his own observation, he didn’t think the McClendons would even know of Caroline’s absence if he’d not informed them of it. Married only a few months, they were rarely seen not holding hands.

In truth, the scene fueled Darius’s anger. He couldn’t say he would be so openly affectionate with Caroline as were Andrew and Marti McClendon, but he’d convinced himself he and Miss Bradford would know contentment. 

“Much longer?” Geoffrey Shannon asked as he brought his horse alongside the one Darius rode.

Darius wasn’t much pleased to add Shannon to their party, but he’d possessed no legitimate excuse to deny the man. He’d known Shannon when he was still in England, and it was at Darius’s suggestion that the Shannons sought their fortunes
in America, and that brought them to his notice a second time. If Darius had known then what he knew now, he’d have kept his counsel.

“Can’t blame the son for the sins of the father,” he thought when he looked upon the man.

With Shannon on the other side of the line of muskets, they’d been enemies during the war, but Shannon had claimed American roots since then. He’d been in the colonies long enough that the English would no longer consider him an “English” man. Even Shannon’s British accent had softened somewhat, picking up the cadence of those born in America. Darius’s conscience said that many of the founding fathers had come to America for their freedom, and he should provide Shannon his forgiveness for a crime the father committed. God would expect it of him. And so,
against his better judgment, Darius had permitted Shannon to claim a spot among the traveling party.

“Be in Wythe Court House by this time tomorrow. It’ll take at least two days to bring the group together. Hope to set out for Franklin by week’s end. The others might wish to stay for one last Sunday service before leaving the closest thing to civilization
this side of the mountains.”

“In that case, I might ride over North Carolina way for a day or two,” Shannon said. “I’ve relations that direction.”

Darius warned, “Can’t wait for your return if the others mean to claim dry weather.”

“No worries,” Shannon said with a grin. “I travel light. If you leave, I’ll follow in a day or two. I’m certain several of those waiting for you are well loaded with supplies. You’ll not make as good a time when you add another half dozen wagons to these

“Will the boy come with us?” Darius glanced back at the small ox cart owned by Shannon. The fellow had won a Negro child, an ox, and a flat wagon in a card game. The boy of no more than ten to twelve years drove the slow moving cart holding
Shannon’s few belongings, some supplies, and an impressive chest of which Darius had yet to view the contents.

“Finny will wait with the cart in Wythe Court House. It’ll be my contract with you. Everything I own be on that cart. I shan’t forget to return.”

Although Darius held his doubts regarding Shannon’s character, his Christian faith said he must play the role of Good Samaritan. If the worse came, he could send Shannon out on his own or leave the man at one of the forts.

“Before you set out for greener lands, I must reiterate: I won’t tolerate gaming for  more than a few pebbles. The families that travel with me are under my protection. Do I make myself clear?”

“I’d expect nothin’ less, Fitzwilliam,” Shannon declared in what sounded of sincerity, but Darius couldn’t shake the unease he experienced.

The Road to Understanding: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary  is available on Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and CreateSpace. 

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Purchasing Commissions During the Napoleonic Wars

We often read of a young gentleman purchasing a commission in either the militia or the regulars during the Regency era, but did conditions exist when a commission could not be secured? The answer is “Yes,” but there were conditions and exceptions.

Not all regiments were open to purchase of rank!

According to the “History” section of the British Army website, “The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) was formed in 1947. It was descended from two older institutions, the Royal Military Academy (RMA) and the Royal Military College (RMC).

“The RMA had been founded in 1741 at Woolwich to train gentlemen cadets for the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers, and later for the Royal Corps of Signals and some for the Royal Tank Corps. It remained there until it was closed on mobilisation in 1939.

“The RMC began in 1800 as a school for staff officers which later became the Staff College, Camberley. A Junior Department was formed in 1802, to train gentlemen cadets as officers of the Line. A new college was built at Sandhurst, into which the cadets moved in 1812. After 1860, the RMC succeeded the East India Company’s Military Seminary as the establishment where most officers of the Indian Army were trained. Following the abolition of the purchase system in 1870, attendance at Sandhurst became the usual route to a commission. The college was enlarged in 1912, when New College was built.”

The purchasing of an officer commission in the British Army was a common practice throughout British history. Originally, the commission served as a cash bond guaranteeing the man’s good behavior, and it was forfeited if he acted with cowardice, gross misbehavior, or deserted his position. The practice began as early as the reign of Charles II and continued until it was officially abolished on 1 November 1871 by the Cardwell Reforms. 

Commissions in cavalry and infantry regiments were the only ones available, and officer ranks could only be purchased up to the rank of colonel. Those who graduated from a course at the Royal Military Academy at Woolrich were presented commissions in the Royal Engineers and the Royal Artillery. These men were subsequently promoted by seniority. This was a means for those of the middle class or the trade class to enter the “gentlemen ranks” as officers, but they were still shunned by many as being “not quite gentlemen” by those of the Army of the British East India Company and those of the aristocratic class who purchased their commissions. 

The British Royal Navy never entertained the idea of the sale of commissions. Officers of the Navy advanced by merit and/or seniority. Even so, nepotism was not dead among British officers. A young gentleman could advance quicker if he was fortunate enough to have an admiral or vice admiral in his family, assuming he passed the relevant exams/tests.

According to Wikipedia’s article on the Purchase of Commissions, “There were several key reasons behind the sale of commissions:

  • It preserved the social exclusivity of the officer class.
  • It served as a form of collateral against abuse of authority or gross negligence or incompetence. Disgraced officers could be cashiered by the crown (that is, stripped of their commission without reimbursement).
  • It ensured that the officer class was largely populated by persons having a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, thereby reducing the possibility of Army units taking part in a revolution or coup.
  • It ensured that officers had private means and were less likely to engage in looting or pillaging, or to cheat the soldiers under their command by engaging in profiteering using army supplies.
  • It provided honourably retired officers with an immediate source of capital.

The official values of commissions varied by regiment, usually in line with the differing levels of social prestige of different regiments. 

In 1837 for example, the costs of commissions were:

Rank Life Guards Cavalry Foot Guards Infantry Half pay difference
Cornet (or)


£1,260 £840 £1,200 £450 £150
Lieutenant £1,785 £1,190 £2,050 £700 £365
Captain £3,500 £3,225 £4,800 £1,800 £511
Major £5,350 £4,575 £8,300 £3,200 £949
Lieutenant Colonel £7,250 £6,175 £9,000 £4,500 £1,314

PWAssaulton0theBreechatSanSebastian.jpgThese prices were not incremental. To purchase a promotion, an officer only had to pay the difference in price between his existing rank and the desired rank. [Goldsmith, Jeremy (May 2007), “A gentleman and an officer – Army commissions”, Family Tree Magazine, 23 (7), pp. 10–13.]

If an officer wished to sell out his commission, he could do so, but only for the official value of the commission. He had to offer it to the next highest ranking officer of his regiment. Unfortunately, some of the lower ranks could not afford the commission, for there were also other costs operating among the officers. These were known as the “over-regulation price” or the “regimental value.” Occasionally, the commissions were auctioned off, especially those in the “more fashionable” regiments. As many officers were second or third sons and would have little beyond their “pensions” to live upon once they exited service, they often drove up the price. It was not unknown for officers who incurred or inherited debts to sell their commission to raise funds.

Colonels of fashionable regiments were also known to refuse the sale of commission if the person purchasing it were not of the colonel’s social status or to his liking. “This was especially the case in the Household and Guards regiments, which were dominated by aristocrats. Elsewhere however, it was not unknown for Colonels to lend deserving senior non-commissioned officers or warrant officers the funds necessary to purchase commissions.


20th Light Dragoons at the Battle of Vimeiro on 21st August 1808 in the Peninsular War

“Not all first commissions or promotions were paid for. If an officer was killed in action or was appointed to the Staff (usually through being promoted to Major General), this created a series of “non-purchase vacancies” within his regiment. (These could also arise when new regiments or battalions were created, or when the establishments of existing units were expanded.) However, all vacancies arising from officers dying of disease, retiring (whether on full or half pay) or resigning their commissions were “purchase vacancies”. A period, usually of several years, had to elapse before an officer who succeeded to a non-purchase vacancy could sell his commission e.g. if a Captain were promoted to Major to fill a non-purchase vacancy but decided to leave the Army immediately afterwards, he would receive only the value of his Captain’s commission.” [Purchase of Commissions in the British Army]

Regulations required minimum lengths of service for the various ranks. These restricted officers from selling or exchanging their commissions to avoid active service. This would be in the case of the militia. Exceptions were at the discretion of the Commander in Chief. In 1806, Mary Anne Clarke, the mistress of the Duke of York, the acting Commander in Chief at the time, brought scandal to the York’s door when she was accused of selling commissions to plump up her own purse.

“The worst potential effects of the system were mitigated during intensive conflicts such as the Napoleonic Wars by heavy casualties among senior ranks, which resulted in many non-purchase vacancies, and also discouraged wealthy dilettantes who were not keen on active service, thereby ensuring that many commissions were exchanged for their face value only. There was also the possibility of promotion to brevet army ranks for deserving officers. An officer might be a subaltern or Captain in his regiment, but might hold a higher local rank if attached to other units or allied armies, or might be given a higher Army rank by the Commander-in-Chief or the Monarch in recognition of meritorious service or a notable feat of bravery. Officers bearing dispatches giving news of a victory (such as Waterloo), often received such promotion, and might be specially selected by a General in the field for this purpose.” [Purchase of Commissions in the British Army]

Additional Resources:

Allen, Douglas. “Compatible Incentives and the Purchase of Military Commissions.” 

Goldsmith, Jeremy (May 2007), “A gentleman and an officer – Army commissions”, Family Tree Magazine, 23 (7), pp. 10–13.

Holmes, Richard. “The Soldier’s Trade in a Changing World,” BBC – History.

Military Officers in the Napoleonic Wars,” Reddit – Ask Historians 

“Purchase of Commissions in the British Army,” Wikipedia




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The Wilderness Road, Setting for “The Road to Understanding”

Kentucky_Road_MapAccording to, the Wilderness Road “was only a crude trail; only pack teams could cross the mountains. Pioneers coming from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas before 1796 found it necessary to unload their Conestoga Wagons at Sapling Grove [Bristol, Virginia] and pack their belongings on horses in order to cross the mountains. The early pioneers lashed huge baskets and bundles of clothing, bed furnishings and household articles upon packhorses. Children perched on top, or rode in front and behind their mothers and relatives. The older boys and men who did not have mounts had to trudge along on foot. A caravan of pack horses and people on foot sometimes stretched out as far as three miles along the trail. Indian raids were common at various points on the Wilderness Road.

“Professional packhorse men made it a business to hire out to settlers or merchants for transporting supplies through the wilderness. They objected to road improvements, saying it would drive them out of business. After 1796 when the trail was widened, Conestoga Wagons could cross over the mountains. A Scots-Irish family could travel from the end of their sea voyage at Alexandria, Virginia, all the way to the middle of Kentucky in the same wagon.

When Kentucky and Tennessee became occupied, the Wilderness Road provided the means to send surplus produce back to the eastern seaboard. Droves of cattle, horses, mules, and hogs went by this route to the cotton plantations of South Carolina and Georgia. Conestoga wagons were constructed of oak, with eight-inch wide hickory-spoked wheels, five feet high. They were pulled by six draft horses. The high-riding canvas top was supported by eight hoops, rising six feet above the wagon panels. The body was sixteen feet long–large enough to accommodate most of the personal belongings pioneer families wanted to take with them.”

Part of the road through the Cumberland Gap was known first as Boone’s Trace. Daniel Boone was hired by the Transylvania Company  to clear a trail into the valleys “over mountain.” Boone, with 30 men, managed to cut a trail of 208 miles in less than three weeks from Long Island on the Holston River (near what is now Kingsport, Tennessee) through the Cumberland Gap and on into Fincastle County, which is now Kentucky. Constant travel through the Cumberland Gap widened after the first settlements of Boonesborough and Harrodsburg were established. Once Kentucky claimed statehood the stream of settlers increased dramatically. 

“Early roads were made by chopping out underbrush and small trees in a swath only ten to thirty feet wide and cutting off the larger timber eighteen inches from the ground. The axemen had to leave the largest trees standing, even in the middle of the road. They bridged small streams with logs, and crossed rivers by fords or ferries. Even under the best of conditions such roads were unsatisfactory, and during wet weather they were impassible. Nevertheless, they connected the East to the West, and that was enough! Of Kentucky’s 75,000 population in 1790, about 90% had arrived by way of the Wilderness Road.

“Some suggest that the origin of the Wilderness Road was at Fort Chiswell (Ft. Chissel) on the Great Valley Road where roads converged from Philadelphia and Richmond. Others claim the Wilderness Road actually began at Sapling Grove (now Bristol, VA) which lay at the extreme southern end of the Great Valley Road because it was at that point that the road narrowed, forcing travelers to abandon their wagons. It moved through the Allegheny Mountains at Cumberland Gap, at what is now the junction of the State boundaries of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Heading northwest, it splits at Hazel Patch–with one route creating Boonesborough, the other Frankfort. Today one can follow the main route from Bristol, VA to Middlesboro, KY, then to Pineville, Mt. Vernon, and on towards Lexington on Interstate 75.” (Ancestry)


ATOV CoverThe Road to Understanding: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary [Pride and Prejudice; Inspirational Romance; vagary]

DARIUS FITZWILLIAM’s life is planned down to who he will marry and where he will live, but life has a way of saying, “You don’t get to choose.” When his marriage to his long-time betrothed Caroline Bradford falls through, Darius is forced to take a step back and to look upon a woman who enflames his blood with desire, but also engenders disbelief. Eliza Harris is everything that Darius never realized he wanted.

ELIZA HARRIS is accustomed to doing as she pleases. Yet, despite being infuriated by his authoritative manner, when she meets the staunchly disciplined Captain Fitzwilliam, she wishes for more. She instinctively knows he is “home,” but Eliza possesses no skills in achieving her aspirations.

Plagued with misunderstandings, manipulations, and peril upon the Great Valley Road between eastern Virginia and western Tennessee in the years following the Revolutionary War, Darius and Eliza claim a strong allegiance before love finds its way into their hearts.

This is a faith-based tale based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Purchase Links: 

Kindle     Kobo     Nook     Amazon     CreateSpace   Barnes & Noble 

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A Closer Look at “A Touch of Cashémere, Book 3 of the Realm Series”

You may view my post on A Touch of Scandal, Book 1 HERE and A Touch of Velvet, Book 2 HERE (or) visit my website to read excerpts from all my books. 


This is the original cover of “A Touch of Cashémere.” I did a rewrite of the tale in 2015, and recently replaced the cover with the one found below.

As with all the books in the Realm series, this book dovetails into the previous one. In A Touch of Velvet, Velvet Aldridge is kidnapped, and her youngest sister, Cashémere, insists on being a part of Velvet’s rescue. Unfortunately, the man sent to fetch her, Marcus Wellston, finds her brazen demands a sign of her immaturity. His opinion of her should not matter to Cashémere, but it does. 

Permit me to set up how all this comes about. Velvet Aldridge is the eldest of her sisters. She and her twin sisters, Satiné and Cashémere, were farmed out to relatives when their parents are killed in a suspicious carriage accident. Velvet went to live with the Duke of Thornhill’s family. Satiné remained with her maternal uncle, Lord Ashton, a man who pampered her, while Cashémere is left with her paternal uncle, the man who inherited her father’s title and a man who metes out rough punishments in the name of religion. The sisters are strangers, meeting once a year or less over the years apart. Cashé is further removed for she resides in Scotland, rather than England. 

However, Viscount Averette did bring Cashémere to England when he learned of the Duke of Thornhill’s death. He is unaware of Brantley Fowler’s ascension to his father’s title when he arrives on the duke’s threshold. The Averettes permit Cashé limited social interactions with Thornhill’s Realm friends, but she does strike up a connection with Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford. 

Now, here is the catch. Although I originally planned to match Cashémere with Lexford, as I wrote the series, I realized she would be a better match for Marcus Wellston, the acting Earl of Berwick. (His elder brother has Downs syndrome [not a term used in the Regency period] and Marcus operates as the “Regent” of the title and his brother’s guardian.) Therefore, I set up this scene at the end of Book 2 where the twins decide to pretend to be each other. Wellston thinks he wants a docile wife, such as Satiné, and Lexford is attracted to Cashémere’s enthusiasm for life, for he has been surrounded by death so much of his life. Needless to say, Wellston’s plans are thwarted by his natural attraction to Cashémere’s determination to survive. The story includes a scene where the girls are trapped in a glass cone by one of Shaheed Mir’s henchmen. Mir believes one of the Realm has stolen a fist sized emerald, and he means to have it back, even if he must kill all the Realm’s family members to do so. That is merely one of the twists and turns of the story as it leads our hero and heroine together. 

ATOC Cover.jpgA Touch of Cashémere: Book 3 of the Realm Series

MARCUS WELLSTON never expected to “inherit” his father’s title. After all, he is the youngest of three sons. However, his oldest brother Trevor is judged incapable of meeting the title’s responsibilities, and his second brother Myles has lost his life in an freak accident; therefore, Marcus has returned to Tweed Hall and the earldom. Having departed Northumberland years prior to escape his guilt in his twin sister’s death, Marcus has spent the previous six years with the Realm, a covert governmental group, in atonement. Now, all he requires is a biddable wife with a pleasing personality. Neither of those phrases describes Cashémere Aldridge.

MISS CASHEMERE ALDRIDGE thought her opinions were absolutes and her world perfectly ordered, but when her eldest sister Velvet is kidnapped, Cashé becomes a part of the intrigue. She quickly discovers nothing she knew before is etched in stone. Leading her through these changes is a man who considers her a “spoiled brat.” A man who prefers her twin Satiné to Cashémere. A man whose approval she desperately requires: Marcus Wellston, the Earl of Berwick. Toss in an irate Baloch warlord, a missing emerald, a double kidnapping, a blackmail attempt, and an explosion in a glass cone, and the Realm has its hands full. The Regency era has never been hotter, nor more dangerous.

Kindle      Amazon       CreateSpace       Kobo       Nook   

Excerpt from Chapter One: 

“I hate being soaked to the bone,” he groused. The rain sheeted everything within sight, but Marcus rode on. The creek bed he followed into the Scottish backcountry had swelled from the downpour, but he had crossed it at its lowest point and was on safe ground. He had returned from Calcutta two months prior, having turned over the Sir Louis Levering affair to Viscount Lexford, and he had settled into the routine of running his estate and tending to Trevor, but Shepherd had sent word of Velvet Aldridge’s possible abduction, and he had departed immediately. Evidently, His Grace, the Duke of Thornhill, had allowed the woman he loved to retreat to Edinburgh with her estranged family. Now, their old enemy Shaheed Mir had targeted Miss Aldridge in a dangerous game of “Who Has the Emerald?” Mir had marked each of Marcus’s band of the Realm as co-conspirators in stealing a fist-sized emerald from the Baloch warlord. Mir’s agents had staged a myriad of attacking, each proving fruitless.

Shepherd’s message said the Realm’s leader would send others to support Marcus’s efforts, but Marcus knew he was pretty much on his own. That was why he had set a course across the back roads: He could save time, and he could avoid detection. He had stopped for a few hours overnight to allow his horse to rest, but he felt he could thwart Murhad Jamot’s plans just the same. Therefore, when he cut across the open field leading to Viscount Averette’s manor, Marcus had expected to explain his sudden appearance to the sometimes-difficult Samuel Aldridge, but nothing he discovered within had met his expectations.

* * *

“Aunt,” Cashémere Aldridge called as she entered the room. “Have we any news of Uncle Samuel?” The household staff rushed about in an attempt to respond to an unknown crisis, and with no one to assume responsibility, they crisscrossed the open foyer accomplishing very little. Alice Aldridge, Lady Averette, rocked her daughter Gwendolyn, neither having had much sleep over night. They waited for news of the family patriarch, who had chased his eldest niece across southern Scotland.

Viscount Averette had been aware of the affection with which Velvet Aldridge had held Brantley Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill, for Cashé’s eldest sister had often professed she had loved the duke from the time they were children together. The household, having observed Velvet’s despondency at having been separated from Thornhill, had assumed Velvet had done the unthinkable: She had risked her life on the road to return to England. Therefore, Viscount Averette had given pursuit. Cashé was aware of how her uncle suspected the duke had arranged some sort of tryst with Velvet. Upon being made aware of his niece’s disappearance, Averette had departed immediately to intercept the girl. He had been absent from the household since early yesterday afternoon, and, in truth, Cashé thought Samuel Aldridge should permit Velvet her way. Cashé’s elder sister held a schoolgirl fantasy in which the Duke of Thornhill played the role of noble knight. However, Cashé knew true love was a fallacy of the heart.

Lady Averette glanced up from her child to give Cashé a brief shake of her head, but she said for the child’s benefit, “We should not expect to hear from my husband for several days. He must follow each lead on your sister. I am certain the rain has slowed his progress, and that is the reason we have heard nothing of yet.”

A sharp knock at the door brought their immediate attention. “Possibly there is a message now,” Cashé remarked as she stepped into the foyer. She could not condone her sister’s actions, but Cashé recognized the depth of Velvet’s misery. She had seen Velvet pine for Thornhill, and how her older sister had discouraged the many suitors their uncle had paraded before her. Yet, Cashé gave her uncle’s actions merit: A woman’s virtue was her crowning glory, and a lady must protect it. She was furious because the duke had led Velvet astray, and then he had deserted her. In the three months Velvet had resided with them, her sister had not heard one word from Thornhill. He had ignored Velvet’s weekly letters, and now her sister might lose her reputation unless their uncle could prevent it.

Blane hustled to answer the door. Cashé looked on as the butler swung the door wide. Obviously, the servant had expected a messenger or even the viscount himself, but instead they all looked upon a stranger. “Yes, sir?”

An autocratic voice announced, “The Earl of Berwick to speak to Viscount Averette.”

Blane stammered, “His…his lordship is unavailable, sir.”

The voice pressed, “It is a matter of great urgency.”

Blane motioned the earl in from the rain. “I offer my apologies, sir,” the man began, but Cashé’s sensibilities had returned, and she interrupted.

She had known the stranger as “Lord Yardley” and had not put his title with the familiar countenance she encountered once he removed his hat. “Your lordship,” she rushed forward, “please come in, sir.” She wondered what had brought the earl to her family’s doorstep, very likely he had come at Thornhill’s request. Perhaps the rain had slowed his attempt to reach Velvet before her sister’s escape. Perhaps, it was he that her sister had planned to meet, and the earl was to escort Velvet to where Thornhill waited. With so many unknowns, Cashé meant to practice caution.

Berwick quickly dispensed with his hat and greatcoat before offering her a quick bow. “Miss Cashémere, might I speak to your uncle?”

“As Blane just explained, your lordship, my uncle is away at the moment. Please join my aunt and me in the drawing room, and perhaps we might be able to address the reason for this unexpected visit.” Cashé turned immediately on her heels, expecting him to follow her. She had not allowed him time to protest. It pleased her he had trailed along behind her. She had not seen Berwick since the day after Prinny’s party. Over a supper at Briar House, the Fowlers had celebrated Sir Louis Levering’s downfall. At the time, Cashé had not understood the perfidy the Fowlers had practiced on the baronet, until her Uncle Samuel had inadvertently explained the situation when he demanded the removal of Velvet from the duke’s household. In truth, Cashé had been sorry to leave so quickly; she had had no time to say her farewells to Viscount Lexford, who had shown her his attentions. It was quite heady for a young girl to have such a worthy gentleman’s approval. It made her wonder if she had made a mistake by accepting an “understanding” with Mr. Charters.

“Aunt,” Cashé called, obviously nervous, “the Earl of Berwick has come to pay his compliments.” She rushed forward to take Gwendolyn from the woman. “Permit Edana to put our dear Gwen to bed. The child could use a nap.” She lifted the child to her. “Excuse me, my lord. My young cousin experienced a rough evening.” She handed off the sleeping child to a waiting maid, before closing the door behind him.

Lady Averette belatedly stood to greet Wellston, who remained stolidly by the door. “Your lordship,” the woman gestured the earl forward. “Please join us. I apologize for my husband’s absence.”

Wellston glanced about the room, obviously displeased by the circumstances. He scowled before crossing to the chair Aunt Alice had indicated. “Might I ask, ma’am, when his lordship will return. I have urgent business.”

The viscountess shot a quick glance at Cashé. Her aunt had depended on Uncle Samuel in social situations; she knew not how to respond. Therefore, Cashé answered. “It may be some time, your lordship.”

“Then might I speak with Miss Aldridge? My business concerns your sister.”

Cashé stood behind her aunt, resting her hands on the chair’s back. “That too is impossible, your lordship.” She smiled politely at the man.

“Miss Cashémere,” the earl beseeched. “I have been sent to Scotland to offer your sister my…”

Cashé cut him off. “We are quite aware of why you have been sent to our home!”

Berwick looked aghast. “And why might that be?” he asked incredulously.

“You are an intimate friend of the Duke of Thornhill,” she asserted.

“I am,” he hissed. “Yet, even with that…”

Again, Cashé interrupted. “My uncle will foil Thornhill’s plans and save my sister.”

“Cashémere!” her aunt warned.

Her words had brought the earl to his feet. He advanced on Cashé. “You should explain,” he demanded.

“You are in my home, sir. Obeying you is not part of this house’s rules.” In defiance, her hands fisted at her waist. She attempted to meet his eyes with a resolve stronger than the one she found in his, but she felt like a tasty morsel in the path of a dangerous feline. Surprisingly, Cashé thought the earl strikingly handsome in all his fury.

* * *

He loomed over the girl. From behind him, Lady Averette gasped, but Marcus had no time to practice his manners. “You will do as I say if you wish to guard your sister’s safety. I have come to protect Miss Aldridge.” According to Shepherd’s information, Murhad Jamot had planned his attack for this very day.

Regarding him with noteworthy self-assurance, the girl charge, “You are in Scotland at the duke’s bequest, but you are too late!”

Marcus’s temper flamed. “What do you mean ‘too late’?”

A flicker of fear crossed her countenance before she tamped it down, and Marcus wondered what had brought on the emotion; but before he could explore the reason, the girl raised her chin in boldness. “As if you did not know, my lord.”

Marcus thought of turning her over his knee to teach the girl about respect, but he had no time to spare. He caught her by the arm and dragged her to a nearby chair, shoving her to a seated position. He saw Lady Averette take a step toward the bell cord, but he stayed her with a deathly stare. He seethed with anger. “Now, Miss Cashémere, you will answer my questions.”

The girl rubbed her arm where he had grabbed her, and a moment of regret stabbed his heart. He was never one to treat females roughly, and he could not justify why he had done so. “I shall do no such thing!” she declared.

Marcus glanced at the cowering viscountess. The girl would protect Lady Averette. “I am certain your aunt will see things differently.” He strode angrily toward the woman, but before he took three steps, Miss Cashémere jumped onto his back and began to kick and punch.

Marcus’s hands protected his face as she swung indiscriminately, landing blows along his chin and ears. “Bloody hell!” he cursed, catching the girl’s arms and whipping her before him and effectively clamping her arms to her side. Although she still attempted to kick him, she plastered his chest with her warmth, and a spark of tension flared between them. To free himself of the sensation, Marcus shoved her into a second chair. “Stay!” he growled, pointing his finger at her as if she were a dog.

His roughness brought tears to the girl’s eyes, but she prepared for a second attack; however, her aunt stepped before the girl, effectively cutting off the exchange. “What is it you wish of us, my lord?” Lady Averette spoke softly.

Marcus glared at Miss Cashé, before taking a stilling breath. “Could you please explain, Viscountess, where I might find your husband or Miss Aldridge?”

The woman turned first to Cashé, indicating the girl should sit. “Neither my husband’s niece nor I know the answer to that question,” Lady Averette said calmly.

Marcus thought this the most bizarre mission Shepherd had ever assigned him. He ran his fingers through his hair. Taking another calming breath, he said, “What might you tell me, ma’am? I give you my word as a gentleman…” He heard the girl snort, and Marcus leveled a warning glare on her before he continued. “As a gentleman…that it is not my intention to bring shame upon your household.”

The viscountess again motioned Marcus to a chair. She sat beside Cashé, taking the girl’s hand. “Are you telling us the Duke of Thornhill did not send you to Edinburgh?”

Marcus wondered how much he might honestly share with Averette’s family, but these women were also Fowler’s family so he attempted a version of the truth. “Although His Grace now knows of my mission to your home, I did not come at his bidding.”

“Then who sent you?” the girl demanded before her aunt placed a calming hand on Miss Cashé’s sleeve.

“That I am not at liberty to say, Miss Cashémere, but I will tell you I received word of a former enemy of the men you met at Briar House after the Prince’s party. This man had planned to exact revenge on Thornhill by harming your older sister. As I live in Northumberland, I was dispatched to intercept the attack.”

The viscountess’s hands trembled. “Velvet did not leave to meet His Grace?”

Her words slammed into his chest. “Miss Aldridge has left this house?”


“When?” The word exploded in the room.

“Yesterday morning.”

“Oh, my God! I am too late!” Marcus was on his feet and pacing. “Tell me the rest.”

The viscountess reluctantly obliged. “A servant observed my husband’s niece in the orchard. The man went on about his duties, but within a quarter hour, he observed a carriage racing from the area. When Gillis reported what he had seen to my Samuel, we conducted a search. Unfortunately, we were not successful in locating our eldest niece. My husband, sir, believes his family has departed our home to meet the Duke of Thornhill. He gives chase.”

Marcus had heard from Lowery how distraught Thornhill had been at Miss Aldridge’s departure, but he knew Bran would never lure Velvet from her uncle’s home. To claim the woman he loved, Thornhill might “storm the castle,” so to speak, but he would never devise a secret betrayal. It was not the duke’s style. “Lord Averette will not find your niece with His Grace.”

“How can you be so certain, your lordship?” Miss Cashé charged.

“Because Shaheed Mir has other plans for your sister.”

“Such as? And who is Shaheed Mir?” But a slight shake of his head warned her that she would not want to know. Before he could say more, she stood before him. “You must assist her,” she asserted.

Marcus wanted to remind the silly chit assisting Miss Aldridge had been his plan when he had entered Averette’s manor. Wished to remind her he had ridden all night through a rainstorm to do his best to foil Mir’s plans. She had stated the obvious. “We must determine whether Mir’s agents have your sister. Have either of you noticed strangers in the area?”

“We ran a foreigner from the stable,” Lady Averette shared.

“When was that?”

“A week or so ago. He claimed to be seeking work. Lord Averette did not like his looks so he sent the man away.”

The girl caught Marcus’s arm. “A dark man followed Velvet and me when we shopped two days ago. We noticed because he asked Edana if he might buy her a butter tart. When she refused, he continued to ask about the household.”

“Demme!” Marcus grumbled.

“Your lordship, I must insist that you not curse in my uncle’s house,” Miss Cashé reprimanded.

Marcus blinked in confusion, unaware he had uttered an expletive before a lady. He had spent too much time of late with his duties to the Realm and in a bachelor’s household in Northumberland. “I apologize, Miss Cashémere.” Ashamed, he purposely walked away toward the window, taking up a position to look out upon the gardens. “Did you observe this stranger?”

“No, sir, but we might bring in Edana to describe him.”

Marcus considered it, but he suspected it would be a waste of time. “I am assuming Miss Aldridge had at least a two-hour lead on Lord Averette,” he said to the expanse before the house.

“Closer to three,” Lady Averette shared.

“So, we are not certain whether his lordship actually followed Miss Aldridge.”

Miss Cashé asked, “What do you mean, sir?”

Marcus turned to look at her. “My informant says Mir’s man plans to travel to Liverpool and wait for a ship. I doubt Lord Averette could have known of the stranger’s plans? And I am certain the rain will eliminate any opportunity of his actually following the coach in which the man holds Miss Aldridge.”

“Your assumption holds merit.” The girl appeared very nervous. “I hold my doubts also.”

“Explain.” Marcus waited for more information.

Miss Cashé looked about sheepishly. “I heard Uncle Samuel order his driver to set a course for Derbyshire. My uncle assumed the duke would lure Velvet to Lady Worthing’s home at Linton Park. It would not be so long of a journey. Not as if Thornhill planned to lure Velvet to Kent, and Uncle realized Viscount Worthing and Lady Eleanor would be happy to provide both Velvet and Thornhill refuge.”

“So, your uncle chases his prejudice while your sister is in real danger?” Marcus could not resist this bit of censure.

“Lord Averette protects my sister!” the girl defended her foolish uncle.

“Actually, Miss Cashémere, I suspect His Grace, as well as several others of our acquaintance protect Miss Aldridge.”

“I thought you said His Grace had nothing to do with your being here!” Again, the girl was on the offensive.

I said,” he emphasized the words, “when I began my journey, His Grace knew nothing of this situation, but I am certain he has since received notification; and knowing Thornhill’s affection for Miss Aldridge, he must be on his way to Liverpool.”

Miss Cashé looked to her aunt for confirmation. “Then we must locate my uncle and see him to Liverpool as well.”

“Surely, you jest, Miss Cashémere?”

Again, her fists came to her waist. “I do not jest, your lordship! We must find my sister before His Grace has the opportunity to ruin her.”

“Miss Cashémere,” Marcus mocked, “your sister’s reputation is already ruined: She travels alone with a foreigner. However, it is her life of which you should be concerned.”

Lady Averette finally reacted. “But if Samuel can aid in Velvet’s release, we might still hush up her absence. Other than our servants, no one knows, and they are a loyal lot.” Marcus doubted the Averettes could control the gossip, but he kept his opinions to himself. “We will spread the rumor that Samuel and his niece have traveled to Derby because Lady Worthing has taken ill. If my husband can return with Velvet, no one will be the wiser. Lord Averette is most concerned for propriety.”

“I could go,” Cashé declared. “I could go after Uncle Samuel.”

Lady Averette reached for the girl. “It is a great responsibility.”

“We will tell everyone the earl came to escort me to Linton Park. Lady Eleanor, obviously, is my family also.”

Marcus suddenly realized what they planned. “I beg your pardon. I must follow Miss Aldridge’s trail.”

“Then I will go alone,” Cashé declared.

“Miss Cashémere, that idea is folly. The roads are too dangerous for a woman alone.”

“We can trust no one else, your lordship.” Lady Averette turned her eyes on him in supplication. “If we are to save Velvet’s reputation, my husband must be involved.”

Marcus realized their determination. “Then I will follow Lord Averette.”

Miss Cashé stood before him, her damnable chin lifting again. “Uncle Samuel will never believe you. He is aware of your relationship with His Grace. You must take me with you if you expect him to accept your words.”

Wellston wished he could curse again. The exclamations seemed to clear his thinking when he felt frustrated. He attempted to analyze what he might achieve if he went toward Liverpool first. Miss Aldridge and Murhad Jamot had, at least, a four and twenty hour advantage. “Might Lord Averette have access to his bank if we must ransom Miss Aldridge?” he asked.

“I shall give my niece a blank draft to take to her uncle,” Lady Averette assured him.

“Might your maid accompany us?” he needed to clarify what he should expect.

“I shall take Edana with me,” Cashé declared.

“I would go,” Lady Averette excused herself, “but Gwendolyn would be devastated. Moreover, we must keep up appearances.”

Marcus did not understand the viscountess’s attitude. He would give away every thread of propriety to have Maggie back. He would stare down Society for the pleasure of Maggie’s laugh. Marcus quickly planned their departure. “We must be on the road immediately. We have much time to recover. Is there a coach the ladies might use or should I see to renting one?”

“You may take my husband’s small coach,” Lady Averette declared. “We have another the servants might use if we require supplies or if we experience an emergency.”

“And a driver?” Marcus pressed.

“I shall see to it, your lordship.” Lady Averette caught her niece’s hand. “You must hurry, my dear. I shall send up the maids to assist you in packing.”

The girl started for the door. “Miss Cashémere,” the earl called, “do you recall what your sister wore yesterday?”

“A light blue gown.”

“Are you certain.”

“Absolutely, my lord.”

Marcus nodded. “Might you bring an item belonging to Miss Aldridge among your things? If we must use the hounds, it would be helpful to track your sister.” Thankfully, the girl acknowledged the sensibility of what he had said before excusing herself. “I will see to my horse and assure the coach’s soundness. I hope to use some of the back roads to save time.”

“I understand, your lordship.” Lady Averette led him to the door. “We will be ready within the hour.”

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