Galla Placidia and “Bell, Book, and Wardrobe” + a Giveaway

December 1, 2022, will see the release of our annual Christmas anthology, A REGENCY CHRISTMAS DOUBLED, this one with a “twins” theme. My contribution is a piece entitle “Bell, Book, and Wardrobe.” In this tale, I have presented my heroine with the Christian name of “Galla.” Yes, I know Galla means “joyful,” which my character is, but I was thinking more of her being a woman who could change the destiny of a man, such as was Galla Placidia.

Ancient Roman coins in the Altes Museum Berlin ~,_solido_del_422.JPG

Not familiar with Galla Placidia? She was daughter of the Roman emperor Theodosius I, was a mother, tutor, and advisor to emperor Valentinian III, and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life. She was queen consort to Ataulf, king of the Visigoths from 414 until his death in 415, briefly empress consort to Constantius III in 421, and managed the government administration as a regent during the early reign of Valentinian III, until her death. Wow! Is that not impressive?

The only imperial burials known to have been discovered intact were found beneath the chapel of Santa Peronilla, a late antique mausoleum attached to Old Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Being a devout Christian, she was involved in the building and restoration of various churches throughout her period of influence. She restored and expanded the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. She built San Giovanni Evangelista, Ravenna in thanks for the sparing of her life and those of her children in a storm while crossing the Adriatic Sea. The dedicatory inscription reads “Galla Placidia, along with her son Placidus Valentinian Augustus and her daughter Justa Grata Honoria Augusta, paid off their vow for their liberation from the danger of the sea.” [Mathisen, Ralph W., “Galla Placidia”, in Weigel, Richard D. (ed.), An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors]

Interior of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna ~

In 1458, a marble sarcophagus was discovered beneath the chapel floor. Within were two silver-platted coffins, each containing a body wrapped in cloth of gold. These were almost certainly the remains of the empress Galla Placidia and her son Theodosius. [Garrett Ryan, Naked Statues, Fat Gladiators, and War Elephants. 2021. Prometheus Books. pg. 199]

Visit the mausoleum on You Tube.

Book Blurb:

Bell, Book, and Wardrobe: A Georgian Romance 

They may be able to disguise their appearance, but not the love in their hearts. 

Miss Galla Casson wished with all her being her cousin Lady Helena Aldrete had consulted her before Helena ran off with a simple “Mr. Groton,” a country solicitor. However, Helena had not. Now, in desperation, Galla must pretend to be her cousin at a Christmas house party where Helena was to meet her intended, but just long enough for the Holy days to come to an end and for Galla to earn employment in London. 

Colonel Ian Coates did not relish pretending to be his brother, Evan, the Earl of Claiborne, but in order to reclaim several precious heirlooms stolen from Evan in a savage attack, Ian practices his deception. The only problem is the woman who is to marry Evan’s assumed attacker is a woman Ian has previously presented a small piece of his heart. 

Ian’s and Galla’s double deception threatens to overset their purpose in being at the same house party until a bell, a book, and a wardrobe lead them to a lifetime of singular devotion.

Book Excerpt from second half of Chapter One:

Galla Casson sucked in a slow and steady breath as Lady Wilton announced her presence to the room. So far, her scheme had worked perfectly. When Helena had sent Galla on a variety of errands nearly a week ago, Galla should have known something was amiss, but, as she adored her sweet, but very immature cousin, she had foolishly overlooked Helena’s guile of late. 

Despite her father, Lord Aldrete, being in negotiation with the Wiltons for a possible marriage between Helena and Lord Stephen Wilton, Galla’s cousin had foolishly taken a liking to Mr. Milo Groton, a young solicitor in the nearby village. The Wiltons were distant relatives, which worked to Galla’s advantage, for neither Galla nor Helena had ever met Lord Wilton, and Helena said she had not encountered Lady Wilton since she was age twelve or so. 

Looking back on how easily Helena had duped them all, she realized she had never presented her cousin with enough guile to pull off such a disguise. Helena had quite wisely waited for her father to travel to Dover on business before she took off with Milo for the Scottish border. Galla knew Lord Aldrete would be furious with Helena, but, more importantly to her own future, also with her. “My days as a companion are at an end,” she had told Helena’s empty suite of rooms when she read her cousin’s hastily written note. 

Galla had always known this day would come, for her cousin was a strikingly handsome young woman. “I just hoped I might have stayed on as a governess to Helena’s children when the deed was done and over,” Galla reasoned aloud. Lord Wilton, a man of which both Helena and Galla knew little, could have afforded, first, a nurse maid and then a governess for his children, whereas, Mr. Groton’s prospects were less stellar. Without a doubt, the man would be many years away from affording more than a suite of rooms for himself and his young wife. “Few servants, if any,” Galla whispered. 

Please do not send word to father until the morning,” Helena’s note had read. “Such will provide us at least a day and a half start on father’s pursuit.

Galla would do as her cousin asked, for it would make little difference as to how Lord Aldrete would view Galla’s complicity in this escapade. “No matter how often or how vehemently I swear my innocence and lack of knowledge of Helena’s deceit, his lordship will order my removal from his sight,” she had reasoned. “Instead, I should spend my time in pursuing my next post.” She had never gone through an agency to know employment, and Galla was quite lost by the prospect of where to begin. 

She looked again to Helena’s note. “You are welcome to Lord Wilton if it pleases you,” it read. 

Galla had shaken her head in dismay at her cousin’s bravado: Helena held no idea what her actions would do to Galla’s life, or her own for that matter. Foolish, foolish girl. Helena assumed once the deed was done, all would be forgiven, but Lord Aldrete did not often forgive anyone a transgression. Most assuredly, he would not forgive Galla, and likely not his own daughter. For Galla, his lordship’s anger would mean no letter of character for her to locate a new position. Helena had not thought to provide one, and, under the circumstances, Lord Aldrete would never acquiesce. 

Feeling total despair, Galla had sunk down on the edge of Helena’s bed to cry for the loss of her “home” again. “First, when Papa passed and the village replaced him with a new rector, a man with a wife and children of his own. And, now, I am once more alone in the world.” She had privately hoped the new rector would have been a single man, who might consider taking her to wife. She already knew all the villagers and how to run the rectory, for she had done so since a young girl, for her mother passed shortly after Galla was born and her father had chosen never to remarry. Tears rolled across her cheeks to land upon the skirt of her worn day dress.

Exhausted from worry and from fear for her future, she had laid out across the bed, pulling her knees up and curling into a ball of what could only be called “despair.” There she had remained for more hours than she cared to acknowledge before Judith found her. Galla had looked up into the maid’s worried expression. “I thought you would be with Lady Helena,” she had told the woman. 

“My girl said I would slow her down,” the maid admitted. “I think it be time we send word to Lord Aldrete. If not, we both’ll be blamed.” 

“I am not certain blame can be avoided, but I suppose you are correct,” Galla had said as she stood and pressed the wrinkles from her skirt with her hands. “We should act or his lordship will tell all we were complicit.” 

As Galla made her way to the desk, the maid told her, “Lady Helena left you a dozen of her dresses. I am not certain how they will assist you as a companion, but our girl thought you might sell them to tide you over until you can discover another position. There is even a number of gloves and hats and a couple pairs of slippers.” The maid confided, “I suppose, I, too, must seek another position. Mr. Groton cannot afford a lady’s maid for his wife. I fear my lady will be sorely disappointed when she realizes all she has given up.” 

Even if she agreed with the maid, Galla would not criticize Helena, for her cousin had been excessively kind to her in the months since her arrival in Lord Aldrete’s home. For nearly nine months, Galla had convinced herself she had a family again. “You will leave Aldrete Hall?” she had asked the maid. 

“Best to leave with my head held high and before his lordship returns to drive me away with a whip in his hand.” 

Galla did not think Lord Aldrete would be so cruel, but, like her own prospects, Judith’s were slim. “We likely have a day or two to determine how to proceed,” Galla had reasoned. “Surely his lordship will give chase from Dover rather than returning home first. I would expect him to send word of our immediate removal.” 

Judith frowned, but she agreed with Galla’s estimation. Even with a lack of a future on her mind, it was still the next day before either of them realized they would not so easily find new positions, for Christmastide was nearly upon them. They would not be able to secure employment until after Twelfth Night.

“According to Helena, she has no memory of meeting Lady Wilton in all her life,” Galla had shared with Judith. “My cousin is not likely to be familiar with the Wiltons as a family. She supposedly only stood up once with Lord Wilton. She was fifteen, and he had not yet inherited the title. His late mother had insisted upon their dancing at Helena’s birthday. Since that time, Lord Wilton has lost both his mother and father. His aunt runs his household in the absence of a wife.” 

“And you do favor Helena, although not as pretty,” Judith observed. 

“It should take a week or more for Lord Aldrete either to overtake Helena and Mr. Groton or to settle things with Groton in Scotland,” Galla reasoned. “Christmas is but a week removed. We could stay here for another few days and then join the Wilton household until at least the first of the year. When we are prepared to leave, I will announce his lordship and I will not suit, and we can make our exits before Lord Aldrete informs the Wiltons of Lady Helena’s impetuous nature.” 

“I have an aunt in London,” Judith admitted. “She could likely assist us in finding a place to stay until we discover new employment. We have the dresses . . .”

And so, she and Judith had performed as impetuously as had their employer. They had not considered all the ramifications of their venture, for, if they had, they likely both would have been waiting for their fate back at Aldrete Hall when the earl returned from Scotland with his daughter in tow. Neither Galla nor Judith thought his lordship would not be successful in locating Lady Helena. The only question was how long it would take him and how soon he would contact those at Wilton Hall. 

Now, Galla was being introduced to a roomful of houseguests as Lady Helena Aldrete, suddenly realizing Helena could hold the previous acquaintance of any number of people within this very room. After all, Helena had already had two London Seasons, although the girl had not been in the Capital for the last two years, as the Aldrete household had been in mourning for Helena’s mother. Galla attempted to keep the smile upon her lips as Lady Wilton provided her the names of each of the dozen or so people occupying the drawing room. 

She made herself concentrate upon the name of each, but her nervousness must have affected both her hearing and her sight, for Lady Wilton’s voice could be likened to the buzz of a bee near Galla’s ear and her eyes blurred with suppressed tears, until, at length, they fell upon what could only be termed as a familiar face, except it was not familiar at all. Only the eyes of the gentleman before her felt amicable; yet, she knew she had never met a man—a gentleman, no less—with facial hair, except for her paternal grandfather, who sported one long hair sticking out of a mole prominently displayed on his cheek. This man’s facial hair presented him a foreboding appearance, and she knew instantly, he was a man of importance. Yet, the gentleman’s eyes spoke a language she had only encountered once in her life for a few brief hours on a road in Oxfordshire. 

She belatedly realized no one in the room cried in outrage and declared her to be a fake. With a bit of caution, she followed Lady Wilton about the room, greeting each new guest with a certain reserve, until, at last, she stood before the gentleman she thought might recognize her. 

“Lady Helena, permit me to give you the acquaintance of one of Wilton’s dearest friends, Lord Claiborne.” 

In Galla’s opinion, there was something hauntingly familiar about the man. Then she remembered the stranger at the inn. She had known more than a few fantasies regarding the gentleman when she first arrived at Aldrete Hall, imagining him coming to “rescue” her from a fate unknown, but, eventually, her dreams had withdrawn until now. She recalled the gentleman had a brother, so she said, “I am thankful for your acquaintance, my lord. I believe I encountered your brother some months back. He spoke of you when we were stranded with a few dozen others at an inn in Oxfordshire. A colonel in the British Army,” she said, immediately realizing her mistake. Helena would not have been traveling alone, but no one, not even the gentleman, spoke of the impropriety of their meeting. 

Lady Wilton said, “Claiborne and Colonel Coates favor each other closely, but one must only be around them for a few minutes to know one from the other.” 

“Naturally, I cannot claim such familiarity,” Galla was quick to say, before asking, “Tell me, my lady, will Colonel Coates also be attending your gathering? It would be good to converse with the gentleman again. We had both several topics we cherished in common.”

“You and Wilton should be the ones conversing,” Lady Wilton declared. “Not you and Lord Claiborne’s other half.” 

It was Galla’s turn to blush. “Naturally, my lady. I did not mean an offense.” 

The supper bell rang, and the company matched up to file into the dining room. By instinct, Galla stepped aside to permit the others to lead, but Lord Wilton appeared before her to offer her his arm. The others held back, permitting her and Wilton to lead, which would be Helena’s place in the procession. She glanced over her shoulder to where Lord Claiborne walked slowly beside a rose-gowned woman who chatted easily with him, but his attention appeared to be on her and Lord Wilton, and it was a frown upon his lips, not a smile. Was the gentleman’s disapproval meant for her or for Lord Wilton?





About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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7 Responses to Galla Placidia and “Bell, Book, and Wardrobe” + a Giveaway

  1. BeckyC says:

    A Regina release day is a Galla day, something I always look forward to! And bonus samplings from other authors. Win win! Congratulations!

  2. Glenda M says:

    I really enjoyed the excerpt Regina! The heroine is named after an very impressive lady who I had never heard of. The empress Galla Placidia deserves to be in more history books!

    • I found the idea of Galla’s burial in the Old Saint Peter’s in Vatican City. I wish I could have viewed the area. Do you not love Garrett Ryan’s title for his book: Naked Statues, Fat Gladiators, and War Elephants?

  3. buturot says:

    Congratulations for another book. I love the cover and enticing to see other authors’ stories. thank you for this give-away

Comments are closed.