Friday, January 31, 2020

BWL Publishing Inc. New Releases for February 2020

 



To Purchase Yvonne Rediger's Books visit her BWL Author Page
https://bookswelove.net/rediger-yvonne/
















Alicia  Highmere is heading home, back to Musgrave Landing after a call from her mother’s care home. Accompanied by her bodyguard, Bryce Graham, Alicia won’t know until she gets there that Olivia Frost-Highmere is manipulating events regarding the estranged family members to suit her agenda.

Part of the reason the family has fallen out is due to the disappearance of Allister Highmere, some twenty years ago. Alicia’s father vanished without a trace upsetting the family company and leaving the seat of CEO vacant. Uncle Hugo had his eye on the power seat and accused Olivia of murder, to get it, but is it murder if there’s no body?

When a corpse is discovered in the family cemetery, where there shouldn’t be one, the cold case regarding Allister Highmere is reopened. Alicia has no idea who in the family or the Highmere estate staff is involved, but she will find out.




Thursday, January 30, 2020

Coming up in February 2020

Struggling with a tricky assignment on a wild Scottish island, 
Australian journalist Jasmine's almost literal lifeline is the sexy ferry deckhand.
 But is he more than he seems?


 Recently I spent an enjoyable afternoon in a large local garden which is not often open to the public. It's on undulating land, semi-rural on the edge of town, with numerous mature trees, both Australian natives and others including Californian redwoods. Swathes of grassy areas are bordered with various flowers and shrubs; there's a vegetable and herb plot, and a 'secret' walled garden. Several benches invite relaxing and enjoying the ambience. Paths meander throughout; following one towards the boundary, I came to a coppice which thinned out to reveal a shady seat with an expansive view down over farmland to distant hills.

Sitting on the seat was a woman writing on a tablet. Maybe she was writing a novel, or a description of the garden, or a letter... Silence except for a light breeze through the trees; a faint scent of eucalypts; the sheer peace of the landscape shimmering in the heat. Since this grandstand seat was taken, I continued my exploration of the garden while musing on how such a setting for me would be a haven for creativity to blossom.

 
While not a gardener by inclination, I do like my own small low-maintenance garden to look attractive with its flowering trees, roses and pot plants. I find inspiration in the colours, the textures, the shapes, the delicate rose fragrance, and, too, the tiny honeyeaters feasting on the nectar in the bottlebrush and grevillea blooms (Australian native shrubs).

In my contemporary romance novels, several main characters have interesting gardens, and I enjoy researching these in person, from books, magazines, travel brochures and the Internet; as I write, I picture them in my head. I have been lucky with some personal research, combining this with my love of travel. However, a visit to the Grenadine islands, not planned for research as I did not have a West Indian location in my story bank, resulted eventually in Where The Heart Is, and Cameron's island garden. In this story, his and Cristina's garden in country Victoria (Australia) couldn't be more different. His,  'a tangle of jungle geraniums, buttercup bush and oleanders...a confusion of trees tousled with dazzling climbing plants' contrasts with hers, 'a teeming beauty of flowers with their faces to the sun, their zigzags of colours cascading and blending...honeysuckle on the fence smells so sweet and the air is full of bees'. (I am so envious of her garden!)

In Dancing the Reel, the above-mentioned deckhand tends a garden warmed by the North Atlantic Drift which enables palm trees to grow. My visit to a Scottish island inspired the inclusion of such a garden into the story, though on my trip no sexy deckhand/gardener appeared so I had to invent him (and gave him more background that these occupations).

And now, I must pay attention to my garden, specifically to dig up weeds which seem to pop up overnight. After admiring the result of my effort, I will spend time outside working on the next chapter in my current work in progress.

Enjoy your reading.




Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Trials of a Fluffy Kitty




First of all, Happy Birthday to Alexander H., born on Nevis January 11, 1757. To begin, I will post a quote of his that feels utterly relevant.

"...a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that ... those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants."  ~~The Federalist Papers


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The trials of a fluffy kitty...



Here is the "Fluffy Kitty" the day she came to us as a baby, a bitten-up kitten who had just been to the vet so he could drain an abscess from a bite. 

My husband and I have learned a lot about her over the years both by observation and by inference. Kimi is the only one who could call us on any of these suppositions, but she's not talking, except for the ever-useful word "meow." 

That's what she said to my friend Patti who found her on the porch of her Palmyra house on a cold December day. Kimi was hungry and cold and Patti could see her ribs through the fluff, and also see that she'd been hurt. Hundreds of $$ of vet bills and a few days later, Patti brought Kimi to me. Patti already had three indoor cats in her double wide. She was was still covered with ticks, in her ears, her paws and just everywhere. Patti and I stopped counting after we'd removed thirty.

Life for her improved after that, for, with antibiotics and wounds stitched, she was already on the path to better health. We had a set-back, though, when the abscess had to be drained again. My husband and I soon learned that this little girl had been badly handled by whoever had originally “been responsible” for her -- before they'd decided to throw her away. 

I've come to believe that this is her story. As little kitten, she must have been a yellow fluff ball, looking more like a stuffed toy than a living being. This had led some cat-ignorant people to treat her like one. They'd probably allowed their children to tease her, chase her, and handle her far beyond her ability to endure. If Kimi was already a shy kitten, (and some kitties are emotionally fragile) this man-=handling must have pushed her beyond endurance. She became the hissing, clawing, fearful little girl who first came to live with us.



Kimi was definitely not a fan of being touched, not unless she initiated contact herself. If you reached out to pet her, you'd better come at her slowly and touch gently. Otherwise, there there'd be a steam-kettle worthy (dragon worthy?) hiss and she'd speedily decamp, glaring over her shoulder at the clod human who'd displeased her. She distrusted our other cats too, unsurprisingly, as she'd been beaten up and bitten while trying to get food at some stray cat feeding spot. 

None of the other cats who lived here liked her. She wouldn't play, she wouldn't accept an introductory sniff or lick; she wouldn't play or share the food bowl or space on the couch or be any fun at all. She was just plain scared, and her obvious fear made her a target for our top cat, a large streetwise male. There were periods when she spent most of her time hiding out in a grungy pile of rags in a basement box. In fact, she came darn close to becoming known as "Basement Cat."  




I began to coax her to come upstairs and sit with me, and then into accepting grooming, which her long hair definitely required. I bought a wide-toothed dog brush to start, so that it would pass easily through her thick, matted fur without tugging.  This way we began to break the ice. 

Gradually, she began to believe my intentions were good. After all, her  fluff was too dense for her to care for by herself. As all cat owners should know, hairballs are a standard problem for cats. Nature obliges felines to groom thoroughly every day. All that hair goes in, but if it doesn't come out one end or the other, then the cat will be sick, sometimes fatally. Brushing and combing are a daily must, especially for such a fluffy kitty. 



We'd brush until we'd get a growl. Nail clipping was the same--a few at a time. At first, these beauty treatments were all trials for Kimi, but slowly this necessary handling became routine. 



We still wait until she approaches us for attention and then obey the message of the tail lash which signals "ENOUGH." Her only significant daily trial is Anthony. He arrived last year, absolutely certain that all the other cats must be dying to play with him—and if they refused, he’d chase them all over the house mercilessly. I think, however, that "still he persisted" might win the day, even faced with her determined suspicion.  

Who can say? She may yet learn to enjoy the company of the other cats.

~~Juliet Waldron



























Monday, January 27, 2020

The Princess in the Tower—Suburban Version by Connie Vines

The Princess in the Tower.  
Chanel, dressed as a princess

I’ve always been drawn to stories where the princess is trapped in a tower. After all, the standard place to imprison damsels in distress and overthrown princes is a tower. Preferably on top of the tallest tower, in the biggest castle, on the highest hill, in the most dangerous land in the whole wide world.

“Rapunzel" (/rəˈpʌnzəl/; German: [ʁaˈpʊnt͡səl]) is a German fairy tale in the collection assembled by the Brothers Grimm, and first published in 1812 as part of Children's and Household Tales. Is one story which comes to mind. 

Among the earliest examples of this theme are Perseus and Hercules saving princesses from hydras or sea creatures. In Yamata no Orochi, a hero also saves the princess from a type of hydra, which could be considered a primeval dragon.

“Beauty and the Beast” (Disney version) This is pretty similar to La Belle et la Bête, the French fairy tale (minus the animated furniture).

Why am I drawn to these stories? 

It sounds gloomy. . .even hopeless, without a chance of a HEA (happily ever after ending).  Unless, your version of the story is set in the suburbs. 

Think about this for a moment, or two.  

Life in the suburbs is hectic without a moment of down time.  Ever.

However, in the Tower there is:

Room Service.  All of your meals are prepared for you.  Clean bedding and clothing are provided (after all, you are a princess). 

View from the Window. Think of your beautiful view.  Clouds, forests, beaches.  A fresh breeze to tangle your freshly washed hair.

Solitude. You could read an entire novel without interruption, play an instrument, or journal to your heart’s content.

Uninterrupted Sleep.  Unless, you have a fire-breathing dragon guarding the entrance (this could present a problem).

Exercise.  With all those stairs, cardio will be a breeze.

Visitors.  Of course, but none will be a shouting solicitor trying to sell you lame horse or home improvement contracts.

Pets.  It wasn’t unheard of for a woman to be allowed to keep her small dog.  (Anne Boleyn had a dog—well, perhaps that’s not the best case in point. . .)

And since this tower is in the suburbs, imprisonment wouldn’t be enforced for very long. 

This does sound like a nice weekend get-away or perhaps, a B & B (Bed and Breakfast).

What is your favorite princess fairy tale?

Your favorite setting?

How do you feel about dragons?

Happy Reading,




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US Space force – the race is on - by Vijaya Schartz

Check out Vijaya's Sci-fi on BWL HERE



As a sci-fi author, I am fascinated by what’s happening right now concerning space.

On December 20, 2019, the US government announced the creation of a new branch of the military to operate in space, called the US SPACE FORCE. The new logo, however, is eliciting frowns. Star Trek fans say it was ripped from their beloved Starfleet badge. Judge for yourself.



But why to go space? And why now? 

The official answer is to protect our communication satellites and the International Space Station… but could there be other reasons? 



Does the government fear an attack from space? 

Is there an asteroid threatening our planet?


Scientists say it’s not a matter of if but when it will happen… and we are overdue. Remember the end of the dinosaurs?



Or is it a race for dominance in Space? The Chinese declared a space race for the moon and have already landed equipment on the dark side. They also have satellites in moon orbit. It didn’t make the headline news, but it was confirmed by NASA. And India just announced plans for its first human space mission.



This month, SpaceX celebrated the successful test of Crew Dragon Capsule that will carry NASA astronauts. Which means, no more using the Russian rocket.



Or was this decision for a new US SPACE FORCE made in order to protect the private companies who are preparing to harvest a wealth of minerals in space? These private companies are already launching their own rockets. First the moon, then the asteroid belt. Like in the old West, there are fortunes to be made. Space has become the new frontier, the new opportunity for those daring enough. 

Space is also a new place to expand for the ever-growing population of Earth that is quickly destroying our planet. Earth cannot sustain the growth rate of our population. Pollution is a direct byproduct of overpopulation. More people means more exhaust gas, more manufacturing, more garbage, more fishing, more plundering of our natural resources.



Some say the race is for alien first contact, in order to benefit from their technology. Or has it happened already? Former astronauts have been warning us for decades that we are not alone in the universe. Now, the scientific community agrees, and recent government leaks informed the world that contact and exchange of technologies already happened with ET races at the highest levels.

Some even say the US already has a military force in space that needs to be legitimized. Others talk about shadows around the Mars Rover on NASA pictures, suggesting a human presence on Mars. Do we already have people there? Or did some alien humanoid help unstick the Mars rover?



Most of us think we would know if that were the case, but sci-fi authors and fans will tell you we would be the very last to know. Remember Stargate? Military secrets are extremely well guarded. And as for the topic of aliens, governments have become masters at systematic debunking, and misdirection. 

One might wonder if there suddenly is a reason to legitimize what is already going on in space, or maybe to provide more funding for new space projects.

In any case, I will be keeping an eye on what’s developing in space. That’s where we are headed, that’s our future, and I feel lucky to be alive now, at the beginning of what can only be a great adventure.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing, and researching. This new phase of our evolution is bound to inspire many stories. Maybe you would like my Byzantium space station series. Here is the latest:

AKIRA'S CHOICE
Byzantium Book 2

by Vijaya Schartz



When bounty hunter Akira Karyudo accepted her assignment, something didn't add up. Why would the Galactic Trade Alliance want a young kidnapped orphan dead or alive?

She will get to the truth once she finds the boy, and the no-good SOB who snatched him from a psychiatric hospital. With her cheetah, Freckles, a genetically enhanced feline retriever, Akira sets out to flush them out of the bowels of the Byzantium space station. But when she finds her fugitives, the kidnapper is not what she expects.

Kazmo, a decorated Resistance fighter, stole his nephew from the authorities, who performed painful experiments on the boy. Stuck on Byzantium, he protects the child, but how can he shield him from the horribly dangerous conditions in the lawless sublevels of the space station?

Akira faces the worst moral dilemma of her career. Law or justice, duty or love. She can't have it both ways.


"Wow! If readers want to see and feel and believe they are in deep space, then ‘Akira's Choice’ is the perfect choice! With a touch of romance, the vivid descriptions and beautifully developed characters masterfully presented by Schartz create a virtual world that invite the reader not merely to observe, but to walk amongst them and participate... This is a delicate art, and Schartz wields her weapons with precision and skill. Banzai!" 5 stars - exceptional - recommended read - Ind'tale Magazine

"A captivating story with interesting, appealing characters. Being a cat lover, I found the relationship, with its psychic element, between Freckles and Shane absolutely captivating. As always, Ms. Schartz’s solid plot and crisply-written prose incorporates a good blend of action and intrigue... This story can easily stand alone... but I believe you’ll enjoy this exciting Sci-Fi series much more if you start reading it from the beginning... a must read for all fans of Sci-Fi romance. Go pick them up and settle into your favorite armchair for some entertaining reading." 4.5 stars - Manic Readers


Keep reading!

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes

Saturday, January 25, 2020

When did chivalry die? Tricia McGill

Find all my books here on my BWL page


Was there really an “Age of Chivalry” and if so when did it die, for die it certainly did. It never occurs to most men to open a door for a woman nowadays. A smile and a thank you go a long way to making someone’s day more pleasant.

The following is one of Edmund Burke’s quotes in his “Reflections on the Revolution in France” written many years ago.

“The Age of Chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold the generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprize is gone!”
More of his amazing quotes can be found here:

I learnt about Sir Walter Raleigh at the primary school I went to in London many years ago, but mainly I remember that he was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth the first and was well-known to have laid his cloak down over a puddle so she would not get her dainty feet muddy. I didn’t know in fact that he was beheaded for treason. To me, as a child, I thought what he did for his Queen was very polite and chivalrous. You can learn more of him here:

I am of an age when I am entitled to grumble about the poor manners of the young people of today. In fact, to meet someone under 30 with perfect manners is such a rarity that it is a pleasure when you come up against one. We were taught as children that we did not interrupt adults when they were talking, but every day I come upon a child who thinks nothing of tapping his mother on the arm constantly while she is in conversation, and she does not reprimand him/her.

My list of bad manners in today’s society is very long, and shared by all my contemporaries.
I love my mobile phone and would not be without it in case of emergencies, but one thing I would never do is answer it while waiting in a queue, while sitting in my Doctor’s waiting room, while on transport—the list goes on. Why do some people have the notion we wish to be a part of their conversation? Why do you need to tell your boy/girlfriend, husband/wife that you have just arrived in the supermarket or just got onto the train home, or worse still tell them all about your problems that should be discussed in the privacy of your home.

In the process of relocating last year, I had to sit in the waiting room of a Government office where out of work people go to sign on to collect dole money, etc. In my instance the government needed me to go in person, as for some reason it proved too difficult to change certain details over the phone (Insert big sigh here). Anyway, for the entire hour I had to wait for the interviewer, I was forced to listen to a young girl’s endless chatter on her phone to first one friend then another about her problems with her car. Unfortunately, if I had complained to the person about her bad manners I would doubtlessly have been confronted with a bad-mouthed response about minding my own business.

I am tired of hearing about people being booked by the police for using their phones while driving, this is not only against the law, it is downright dangerous and another case of senseless rudeness and inconsideration for others—in fact bad manners. Turn your phones off or to mute while driving why don’t you?

Don’t get me started on drivers these days. One day while in my hairdressers a young girl was bragging about the thousands of dollars in speeding fines that she had accumulated. When someone told her she could end up doing jail time she thought that hilarious. Let’s hope she is now sitting in a cell somewhere meditating on her stupidity.

Tricia McGill web page




Friday, January 24, 2020

Cornish Pasty - A Meal For The Miners by A.M.Westerling


Cornish Pasty – A Meal For The Miners by A.M.Westerling







Love Regency romance? Find this one at your favourite online bookstore here: https://books2read.com/The-Countess-Lucky-Charm

"A.M Westerling's "The Countess' Lucky Charm" is a keeper. Combine "Pygmalian" (with a happily-ever-ending), throw in a smidgeon of "Oliver Twist," add a healthy dose of love and passion, a trek through the Canadian wilderness and a host of finely drawn secondary characters, and you'll find a terrific read." Kathy Fischer-Brown

***


Okay, enough shameless self promotion. *silly grin* Today I’m sharing a classic British recipe that originated in Cornwall, the setting for my current project, a Regency romance titled Sophie. It’s Book 1 of The Ladies of Harrington House series. My hero Lord Bryce Langdon eats a pasty one day while having lunch in an inn in Truro.




It’s thought the pasty originated as a convenient meal for Cornish miners who were unable to return to the surface at lunch time. Their hands would be dirty but the pasty could be held easily by the crust and provided a hearty meal.



***



Picture and recipe found here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/classic_cornish_pasty_67037




Ingredients



For the pastry

·         500g/1lb 1oz strong bread flour

·         120g/4oz vegetable shortening or suet

·         1 tsp salt

·         25g/1oz margarine or butter

·         175ml/6fl oz cold water

·         1 free-range egg, beaten with a little salt (for glazing)

For the filling

·         350g/12oz good-quality beef skirt, rump steak or braising steak

·         350g/12oz waxy potatoes

·         200g/7oz swede/turnip

·         175g/6oz onions

·         salt and freshly ground black pepper

·         knob of butter or margarine



Method

1.    Tip the flour into the bowl and add the shortening, a pinch of salt, the margarine or butter and all of the water.

2.    Use a spoon to gently combine the ingredients. Then use your hands to crush everything together, bringing the ingredients together as a fairly dry dough.

3.    Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface (there’s no need to put flour or oil onto the surface because it’s a tight rather than sticky dough).

4.    Knead the dough to combine the ingredients properly. Use the heel of your hand to stretch the dough. Roll it back up into a ball, then turn it, stretch and roll it up again. Repeat this process for about 5-6 minutes. The dough will start to become smooth as the shortening breaks down. If the dough feels grainy, keep working it until it’s smooth and glossy. Don’t be afraid to be rough – you’ll need to use lots of pressure and work the dough vigorously to get the best results.

5.    When the dough is smooth, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for 30–60 minutes.

6.    While the dough is resting, peel and cut the potato, swede and onion into cubes about 1cm/½in square. Cut the beef into similar sized chunks. Put all four ingredients into a bowl and mix. Season well with salt and some freshly ground black pepper, then put the filling to one side until the dough is ready.

7.    Lightly grease a baking tray with margarine (or butter) and line with baking or silicone paper (not greaseproof).

8.    Preheat the oven to 170C (150C fan assisted)/325F/Gas 3.

9.    Once the dough has had time to relax, take it out of the fridge. The margarine or butter will have chilled, giving you a tight dough. Divide the dough into four equal-sized pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a disc roughly 25cm/10in wide (roughly the same size as a dinner plate).

10. Spoon a quarter of the filling onto each disc. Spread the filling on one half of the disc, leaving the other half clear. Put a knob of butter or margarine on top of the filling.

11. Carefully fold the pastry over, join the edges and push with your fingers to seal. Crimp the edge to make sure the filling is held inside – either by using a fork, or by making small twists along the sealed edge. Traditionally Cornish pasties have around 20 crimps. When you’ve crimped along the edge, fold the end corners underneath.

12. Put the pasties onto the baking tray and brush the top of each pasty with the egg and salt mixture. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 45 minutes or until the pasties are golden-brown. If your pasties aren't browning, increase the oven temperature by 10C/25F for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.



***


Now that you’ve made your pasties, munch on one while you’re reading the next scene from Sophie. The previous excerpts can be found in order in my posts from August 25, September 25, October 25 and November 25. Enjoy!



The nerve of Leah, fumed Sophie, sitting beside Lord Langdon despite the impropriety of it all. Mama would doubtless have a few choice words later - she didn’t believe in airing the family dirty laundry in public and for that Leah should be grateful.

Lady Harrington clapped her hands. “Sophie, Catherine, you may begin.”

Conscious of Bryce’s eyes on her every move, Sophie glided over to stand beside the pianoforte. She cleared her throat and picked up the sheaf of lyrics, fidgeting with it while she waited for Catherine to seat herself. Catherine ran her fingers up and down the keys a few times then nodded to Sophie before playing a few bars.

Sophie began to sing:

“Alas my love you do me wrong, To cast me off discourteously, For I have loved you well and long, Delighting in your company.”

She finally dared to look at Bryce in time to see Leah drop her fan at his feet. Sophie almost choked at her sister’s blatant ploy but he appeared not to notice Leah’s fan on the floor beside him. Sophie started the chorus:

“Greensleeves was all my joy, Greensleeves was my delight, Greensleeves was my heart of gold, And who but my Lady Greensleeves?”

She risked another glance at Bryce. He’d picked up the fan and held it in his hand. Obviously uncomfortable, he offered it to Leah, who batted her eye lashes at him. At the sight of the brazen deed, Sophie’s voice cracked on the opening notes of the next verse, drawing a shake of the head from Mama. She composed herself and managed to finish the verse.

Again she looked over to her sister and their guest of honour and repeated the chorus. During this Leah held a handkerchief to her eyes and dabbed at them, as if moved by the music. From time to time she peeped sideways to Bryce and when he appeared not to notice, dropped her handkerchief on his lap.

The little minx. Annoyed and more than a little irritated, Sophie mispronounced a word, drawing a horrified look from Mama. Look at Leah, Sophie wanted to scream, not at me. She managed to draw a quick breath and began the third verse:

“I have been ready at your hand, To grant whatever you would crave, I have both wagered life and land, Your love and goodwill for to have.”

Sophie mused on the last phrase while she began the chorus. Is that why Leah’s actions irritated her so? That Sophie wished for Bryce’s love and goodwill? No, she corrected herself. Not love but certainly goodwill and his favorable regard although why that should be so important to her didn’t make sense.

She sang the next few bars and looked over in time to see Leah make google eyes at Bryce. Would the brat never stop her wanton actions? Sophie missed a high note on a passage in the chorus she’d mastered many times before. Catherine glanced over and shook her head. Papa merely smiled, that indulgent twist of his lips that he used only with his daughters.

Sophie soldiered on. Next when she looked over, Leah tapped Bryce on the knee with her fan and leaned in close to him. Sophie almost choked then started on the wrong verse, drawing a hiss from Catherine. “Sophie, what is the matter with you? Pay attention.”

Lady Blackmore coughed into her elbow; Lord Blackmore stifled a smile. Surely they must find Sophie’s performance lacking. Or had they spied Leah’s shenanigans? Sophie could only hope that they realized the problem lay with Leah, not Sophie. With that, she sucked in a huge breath and with a nod to Catherine began the proper verse. She ignored Leah and their new neighbour and sang instead to the vicar and his wife. That worked and why hadn’t she thought of that earlier, she scolded herself.

Mercifully the song came to an end. She placed the sheets of paper back on the stand and inclined her head at the smattering of applause. “I do thank you,” she said, “but it’s Catherine who is the musical one, not I.”

“We’ll take a small break to refresh ourselves and then Leah shall read her poetry,” said Lady Harrington. Her mother gave her a speculative look then turned towards the Blackmores.

Disappointment at her performance of the piece bubbled through Sophie. She’d wanted to impress Langdon, not make an utter fool of herself. She needed a beverage to wet her throat and wash away her frustration with her recital and she sidled to the decanters of wine. Bryce joined her and she clutched the edge of the table for a moment to steady her nerves.

 “I much preferred your show this afternoon.” He glanced down to her satin slippers. His meaning was clear – he referred to the sight of her unshod feet on the beach. A warm flush crept over her cheeks and she glanced about to see if anyone heard. Everyone else was engaged in conversation except for Leah, who gave her a glowering look. Her sister stood and looked as if she meant to come over but thought better of it and sat down again.

Sophie peeped up at Bryce through her lashes. If Leah could play the coquette without drawing notice, so could she. “Do you mean to tell me, sir, that you find my vocal skills lacking?”

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