For seven weeks the Bluestocking Belles have brought you a gift or givewaway, a bit of holiday fiction, some information about the holiday, and a recipe. This week we bring the series to a close with Jessica Cale’s epilogue to her story Artemis, one of the eight novellas featured in the Bluestocking Belles’ 2016 holiday anthology, Holly and Hopeful Hearts, and some twelfth night trivia.
Intermission at Drury Lane
January 6th, 1814 Twelfth Night
Charlotte rushed through the throng rather faster than a countess ought. She had felt quite fashionable–ravishing, even–in her blood-red velvet evening gown and black feathers, but she abandoned all hope of appearing as a sophisticated lady in her haste to return to her husband. Clutching her heavy skirts in her immaculate new gloves, she ran like a child with a grin on her face.
People already thought the worst of her. What harm could it do to make a spectacle of herself once more?
She dashed through the curtains to what she thought was their private box, and inadvertently stumbled upon a gentleman trying his hardest to importune a young lady who, judging by heated flutter of her fan, was not at all averse to his advances. They looked up at her with recognition and no little shock. “Lady Somerton.” The gentleman rose and bowed, and Charlotte recognized him as Anatole Archambault, one of her husband’s many French cousins.
Charlotte blew a strand of hair out of her face. “Monsieur Archambault! Forgive my intrusion, I’ve gotten turned around somehow. Have you seen my husband?”
He disguised his smile well, and nodded toward the next box over. He rested his face against his hand, eyes bright with amusement.
He was laughing at her. Even so, he was such a vision in his evening attire she wasn’t sure she minded.
“Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand that I might touch that cheek,” she recited to herself. “I beg your pardon. Enjoy your evening.”
Charlotte excused herself before she intruded on her cousin and his companion further. She skidded into her own box and all but flung herself into Apollo’s arms.
He caught her willingly enough. Though they had married after knowing each other for mere days, Apollo had embraced their marriage with open arms and no little courage. As an earl with an old name and older money, he could have had his pick of wife, but he had chosen Charlotte, a half-Irish actress with a fake name and salacious past.
Neither one of them had ever been happier.
“You were gone some time. Were they pleased to see you backstage?” he asked pleasantly, straightening the feather sagging from her ginger curls.
She took a deep breath. “I couldn’t believe it! For someone who got sacked, they were sure happy to have me back. It would appear marriage excuses all manner of sins.”
He rolled his eye. “Doesn’t it just?”
“They gave me a piece of their Twelfth Night cake and all. I thought we could share it.” She opened up her beaded reticule and pulled out a crumbling piece of fruit cake wrapped in a playbill.
“You put it into your reticule?”
“What else could I do with it? Though I suppose everything in it will smell of brandy now.” She sniffed it. “Not the worst smell, to be fair.”
Those shooting glances at them stared a little more boldly with Apollo’s laugh. Paying them no mind–or perhaps doing it to spite them, she was never sure–he broke off a piece of the cake and ate it. “Delicious.” He pulled a dried bean out of his mouth. “Would you look at that? I’m the Lord of Misrule.”
“You certainly are, darling.” She grinned. “I just had the most remarkable conversation with Mr. Baker. He’s asked if I might consider returning to the stage!”
Apollo beamed with pride. “That’s marvelous! Would you like that?”
She nodded, unable to contain her excitement. “I’ve missed it. He seems to think the countess thing will be a draw. He says he’s itching to replace his Desdemona and I’d be ideal, but I think the old git just wants to smother me with a pillow.”
“‘The countess thing’?” Apollo raised an eyebrow. “Nonsense. You’re the finest actress of your generation and the company has foundered without you. I’ll wager they’ll take any excuse to have you back.”
She bit her lip to keep from squealing. “You don’t mind?”
“Mind? Certainly not. Hermes is growing by leaps and bounds, and I’m sure he’ll be able to spare you for the odd evening. I’d so love for him to grow up seeing his mother perform.”
Imagining seeing her son in the audience as he grew to manhood filled her with such joy she thought her heart might burst. “I would like that.”
“And I would like to see you onstage again, as often as you’d like. I am your most devoted admirer.” He took her hand in his and kissed her knuckles.
She warmed considerably, amazed as ever to be so blessed. “And I yours.
In addition, comment below with your chance to win one of three e-book copies of Virtue’s Lady! by Jessica Cale.
Lady Jane Ramsey runs away from a life of privilege and a disastrous engagement to live among London’s poor, hoping to find freedom and love. No one thinks she can survive in this world, especially Southwark’s handsome carpenter, Mark Virtue. But there is more to this Lady than meets the eye. Jessica Cale is pleased to present the next installment of The Southwark Saga, Virtue’s Lady. From toiling for pennies to bare-knuckle boxing, a Lady is prepared for every eventuality.
Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.
After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.
Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.
When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye.
Content Notes: Spicy, Historical
Twelfth Night History
In 567 AD, the Council of Tours determined that all twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany should be part of the Christmas celebration. Twelfth Night, celebrated by the Church of England on January 5th, is the last night of that celebration and is traditionally thought of as the day the wise men visited Jesus. In England, particularly during the medieval and Stuart periods, Twelfth Night was celebrated with a special feast. At this feast, order was often reversed with masters waiting on servants and a Lord of Misrule chosen by chance to rule over proceedings until midnight. How did they pick the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule? He or she was chosen by the cake! A bean or small object would be baked into the traditional cake, and whoever found it in their piece would be master for the night.
Drury Lane Theatre has its own Twelfth Night tradition. Since 1795, it has provided a Twelfth Night cake and punch to its staff on January 6th at the request of Robert Baddeley, who left them a bequest of £100 to do it annually.
Twelfth Night Cake Recipe
From John Mollard’s The Art of Cookery (1803):
Take seven pounds of flour, make a cavity in the centre, set a sponge with a gill and a half of yeast and a little warm milk; then put round it one pound of fresh butter broke into small lumps, one pound and a quarter of sifted sugar, four pounds and a half of currants washed and picked, half an ounce of sifted cinnamon, a quarter of an ounce of pounded cloves,mace, and nutmeg mixed, sliced candied orange or lemon peel and citron. When the sponge is risen, mix all the ingredients together with a little warm milk; let the hoops be well papered and buttered, then fill them with the mixture and bake them, and when nearly cold ice them over with sugar prepared for that purpose as per receipt; or they may be plain.
Don’t want a fifteen pound cake? He’s a modern adaptation courtesy of The New York Times: (Link: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1644-english-twelfth-night-cake)
- ½ pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ pound sugar
- 5 eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup brandy
- ½ pound all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ pound raisins
- 1 cup blanched almonds, chopped
- 1 dried bean
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until pale and lemon-colored.
- In a separate bowl beat the eggs. Add the eggs and brandy to the butter-sugar mixture. Stir in the flour and spices and mix thoroughly. Add the raisins, almonds and good-luck bean. Mix thoroughly.
- Butter a 12-inch cake tin and line it with buttered wax paper. Pour in the cake mixture and bake for three hours. If the top browns too much during cooking, cover with foil.
When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?
25% of proceeds will go the The Malala Fund for girls’ education, a cause dear to the Duchess of Haverford’s Heart. At 570+ pages it includes eight all-new novellas, diverse characters, and something for everyone’s taste.
Buy Links for Holly and Hopeful Hearts
Amazon US: http://ow.ly/INwa3049Ey3
Amazon UK: http://ow.ly/ZMuH3049ELM
Amazon Australia: http://ow.ly/TczG3049EQ2
Amazon Canada: http://ow.ly/IERm3049EYM
Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/LqCI304jGuS
About the Stories
A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight
As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below.
Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis
Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.
A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing
Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?
Artemis, by Jessica Cale
Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?
The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight
James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.
Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack
Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts.
An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield
Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?
Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett
Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love…
Jessica Cale is the award-winning author of the historical romance series, The Southwark Saga. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in North Carolina. Visit her history blog at www.dirtysexyhistory.com.