I’d like to welcome my friend and fellow Bluestocking Belle Caroline Warfield to my blog today. Caroline’s next novel, Dangerous Weakness, releases on September 30 and is available for pre-order. I love Caroline’s story telling and I’m sure her latest and greatest will be another book hangover in the making! Let’s sit back and see what she has in store for us today…
The following scene did not take place in Dangerous Weakness, but it could have if the hero and heroine were not otherwise engaged.
European Quarter, Constantinople, 1818
Sir Robert Liston His Majesty’s ambassador to the Sublime Porte, seat of Ottoman imperial power, employee of the Levant Company and happily married man stretched his arm to ease the tension in his shoulder and worried about his house guest. The Marquess of Glenaire, he thought, not for the first time, has taken leave of his senses.
The marquess also interfered with the work of the embassy, which is to say, the work of commerce. Reports had to be written. Huddled over a cramped desk in the sitting room of his wife’s private apartments abused Liston’s aging joints badly, but he soldiered on. He was not, he insisted to his wife, cowering. Senior diplomats do not cower. He simply needed to avoid the Marquess of Glenaire in the hopes the man would calm down before he caused a diplomatic crisis.
Glenaire had exhibited great agitation after Liston arranged a visit to the Topkapi Palace the day before. As soon as the meeting ended, he importuned Liston for an immediate return even though they had been shown the door quite firmly. One did not make demands on Ottoman officials. Neither did one forbid a duke’s heir—who was also a rising star in the foreign office—to seek an audience at the court. One could only delay a meeting in hope a cooler head might improve the outcome.
Glenaire lost his senses over John Thornton’s daughter. Liston shook his head, dropped his quill, and rose carefully to ease the ache in his knees. The sky outside his window looked orange over the towers and onion domes of the city. It would be dark soon. That should keep the marquess indoors if he has any sense left. He let out a deep breath. If.
“A man of Glenaire’s stature ought to know better,” he had told Lady Henrietta in the privacy of their boudoir the previous night. “The Thornton woman has somehow managed to worm her way into the Seraglio itself, by all accounts she did it by her own free choice. The marquess acts like he plans to drag her out bodily.”
Lady Henrietta merely smiled and said, “He has every sign of a young man in love. Such creatures rarely rely on reason.” His lady had no opinion about whether Miss Thornton’s presence in the Sultans household had been her “free choice” meant more or less scandal, but she allowed that the woman’s interesting condition would certainly give the tabbies something to chew on. Liston spared little thought for Miss Thornton’s reputation. His duty lay in making sure Glenaire did not create tension with the palace. Tension always boded ill for commerce, and those who paid his salary cared very much about commerce and trade. Unfortunately, he saw little he could do to prevent it.
A scuffle in the hallway interrupted his gloomy thoughts.
“Here now, what is this? Who is upsetting my wife’s private quarters.”
“My apologies, Sir. I thought you best hear this directly from the source.” Liston’s secretary stood in the door, one hand tightly clamped on the arm of a street urchin, the other hand running in agitation through what little hair remained on his head. Liston recognized the boy.
“You there—you’re the lad who sweeps our steps. I hope for your sake the matter is important or I’ll have you caned for impertinence.”
The boy yanked his arm away and stood straighter with great dignity, both arms at his side and two skinny legs poking out below his short trousers. “Important, sir. The English Lord did not return. I offer to guide but he say no. I told this one— He cocked his head toward the secretary. “He do nothing. Now dark come.”
“Glenaire is gone? Did he take a guard? How long has he been gone? Didn’t you try to stop him?” Liston demanded of the secretary.
“He left around four, Sir, and he took no guard. I checked. All servants are accounted for.” The secretary looked miserable. “I told him three times you were not available today and we might arrange an audience tomorrow. He didn’t like the answers, Sir.”
And then you hid most likely, cowered like a— Liston didn’t finish the thought. “Get my sword cane and arrange an escort. I need to see Sahin Pasha immediately before the damn fool causes an incident.”
“No can do English sir,” the urchin piped up.
Liston stopped his rush to the door and stared at the boy. “What do you mean?”
“No sword in cane. The English lord, he took it.”
Liston took a deep breath and let it out. I like that cane, blast Glenaire’s eyes.
Hurrying down the stairs Sir Robert considered his future. Short term he faced two possible disasters. If one occurred he would have to soothe an affronted Ottoman official and try to minimize whatever damage Glenaire caused. I dearly hope the besotted young fool didn’t try to storm the Seraglio. In the second, worst case, he might have to find a way to explain how he managed to lose the Duke of Sudbury’s heir and Castlereagh’s protégée. Long term? I’m getting too old for this. Maybe I should retire.
Regency romance, historical romance
R for brief sexual content, 3-4 out of 5 flames
Caroline will give Kindle copies of both of her earlier works, one each to two randomly selected people who comment within the next 24 hours.
How far will he go to protect her? How far will she run from her fears?
If women were as easily managed as the affairs of state—or the recalcitrant Ottoman Empire—Richard Hayden, Marquess of Glenaire, would be a happier man. As it was the creatures—one woman in particular—made hash of his well-laid plans and bedeviled him on all sides.
Lily Thornton came home from Saint Petersburg in pursuit of marriage. She wants a husband and a partner, not an overbearing, managing man. She may be “the least likely candidate to be Marchioness of Glenaire,” but her problems are her own to fix, even if those problems include both a Russian villain and an interfering Ottoman official.
Given enough facts, Richard can fix anything. But protecting that impossible woman is proving to be almost as hard as protecting his heart, especially when Lily’s problems bring her dangerously close to an Ottoman revolution. As Lily’s personal problems entangle with Richard’s professional ones, and she pits her will against his, he chases her across the pirate-infested Mediterranean. Will she discover surrender isn’t defeat? It might even have its own sweet reward.
As soon as the sky lightened enough to see, long before dawn, he rose and began to assemble the remains of his clothes. He pulled up his pantaloons and picked up his shirt.
“Is it morning?” Lily’s voice, muffled by his greatcoat, interrupted him.
“Almost. The earlier we get to the Park, the better.”
He turned his back to her and examined his shirt. A particularly nasty stain covered the front. It would have to be burned.
“I need help,” she murmured.
At least she isn’t wailing.
He pulled the shirt over his head and turned to her. She lifted her shift back into place, covering her sweet breasts, but she groped in vain to fasten her chemisette. He would have her clothing burned also.
He knelt, closed the garment with a few short movements, and rose abruptly. He did not need the graceful slope of the back of her neck where she held up her glorious auburn hair to lure him to her. That dance had been done, binding him to her with silken cords.
He put on his jacket and handed her hers. The tailored riding habit did not look at all alluring. Yet, here he stood, his life in tatters.
They would marry of course. Not once in the entire night had he conjured a way out. They would marry. He pulled her to her feet and watched her fasten her skirt.
“We may still make Chadbourn Park before anyone rises if we set out now,” he said.
“Except the servants,” she retorted.
“They don’t matter. We can contain the scandal.” He picked up his coat and swung it around her.
She looked up then, hopeful.
“We will marry of course,” he told her. “Quickly, but not so abruptly as to cause comments.” He walked toward the door, expecting her to follow.
“I beg your pardon,” she called out to him. “We will what?”
He turned on his heel. “Miss Thornton, you will be the Marchioness of Glenaire. That is far from ideal, and the difference in our state will no doubt cause talk. We will have to endure it.”
“Why?” she demanded. “Why this ‘far from ideal’ demand? Has Lady Sarah refused you?”
“Don’t be coy, Miss Thornton. You have led me into folly at every step. After last night I have no choice. I shall have to marry you. My family—”
“Your family would have kittens if I married you, which I will not.”
“You have respectable, if not the highest, breeding, you will show to advantage when properly dressed, and you will do well as a diplomatic hostess. My family, I was going to say, will have to deal with it.” He stalked away. “So will you.”
“I will not,” Lily shouted after him. He ignored her.
She isn’t a fool. She will leap at the chance to be a marchioness. Does the damned woman think she deserves poetry also?
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Caroline Warfield has at various times been an army brat, a librarian, a poet, a raiser of children, a nun, a bird watcher, an Internet and Web services manager, a conference speaker, an indexer, a tech writer, a genealogist, and, of course, a romantic. She has sailed through the English channel while it was still mined from WWII, stood on the walls of Troy, searched Scotland for the location of an entirely fictional castle (and found it), climbed the steps to the Parthenon, floated down the Thames from the Tower to Greenwich, shopped in the Ginza, lost herself in the Louvre, gone on a night safari at the Singapore zoo, walked in the Black Forest, and explored the underground cistern of Istanbul. By far the biggest adventure has been life-long marriage to a prince among men.
She sits in front of a keyboard at a desk surrounded by windows, looks out at the trees and imagines. Her greatest joy is when one of those imaginings comes to life on the page and in the imagination of her readers.
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