The Valentine Hop


Thanks for participating in the Valentine Hop!

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The Grand Prize winner is Traci Bell

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The  winner of the prize for this stop on the HOP is Diana Aden. She elected to receive Fire& Frost

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My story will remain here.


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Patience Abney and The Academy for the Formation of Young Gentlemen


Patience Abney stared up at the derelict building, a house long past its prime, with peeling window frames, sagging front stairs, and one chimney that listed a bit.“It doesn’t look like a school, Miss Abney,” said Stump, one of the charity students she brought with her, a refugee, as they all were, from The Spraggins Charitable Institution.

“It does to me,” she replied with the secret sort of smile a woman has when she’s considering a building—or a boy—as it could be, rather than as it appears. “It will do.” And it would. Wallpaper can be replaced, curtains washed, and carpets cleaned. As to the rest, she’d leave it in the hands of the Almighty for now.

“Are you sure about that, Miss Abney? Th’earl hasn’t been able to find a tenant these three years.” The speaker, a stocky farmer, with wild hair just going grey, lived on the next property but served as a sort of care taker.

“Good. My cousin may be glad to have it off his hands. Does the roof leak?” she asked.

“Not yet. Dunno how long that will last. Mebbe a few years.”

She beamed at the man. “It is perfect, Mr. Banks.”

The old man shook his head. “Mrs. Banks said as how I should talk you out of it.”

“It is kind of her to care. My father remembers her fondly from boyhood.” Patience’s father, the Reverend Mr. Abney, had suggested the house, a family keeping, where he’d visited an elderly aunt frequently in childhood. His memories of the house made up of its size, warmth and commodious outbuildings drew her; those memories left out the decay, but Patience chose to ignore it. She would manage.

“Her gracious offer to care for the boys while I approach the earl is much appreciated,” she added.

“I want to go with you. You said we’d stay with you after old Beatram threw us out.” Stump glared at her. The boy had an angry streak she found more vital to fix than the chimney or the carpets. At his side, tiny little January gaped up wide eyed, but didn’t speak. He never did. He never left Stump’s side, either.

Patience smoothed a hand over January’s head as she spoke to Stump. “I need you to look after January while I talk to my cousin. Mr. Banks will want to air the house. Perhaps the two of you can help, since you’ll have ideas about where we’ll put the dormitory and what rooms are best for the classrooms.”

Stump looked mollified if not content. He helped Banks hitch Algernon, the placid draft horse that had been her father’s gift, all he had to contribute to her venture. The vehicle was more farm wagon than carriage. One manages as one must.

The Earl of Montour’s seat spread over two hundred acres of Norfolk, two days west of Patience’s dreams at Algernon’s plodding pace. She arrived somewhat disheveled, shocked the footman at the entrance with her appearance and her wagon, but managed to convince the butler to sit her in the withdrawing room while he notified his lordship. That stern gentleman unbent enough to send a footman with lemonade while she waited.

“Patience Abney, what in the name of all that is holy brings you here looking like that.” She hadn’t seen Horace Abney since she was eleven and he a cocky twenty-two, chaffing at spending weeks at his father’s country estate, particularly with poor relations in residence. Approaching forty, he had a paunch and a face ravaged by time and intemperance.

She curtseyed properly, but her address slipped. “Hello, Horace. Or am I meant to call you Montour now? Did her ladyship receive my note of congratulations upon the birth of little Archibald?” Since her father had seven older siblings in addition to the late earl, all with abundant descendants, she doubted the countess even noticed, but it seemed polite to send one.

He looked her up and down with a grimace and ignored her question. “Have you come about that bit of nastiness in Great Yarmouth?”

“You heard about what happened at the Spraggins Institution?”

“I heard you were let go for insubordination. I heard other more salacious things, but given what a prim little chit I knew you to be, and your puritan of a father, I ignored them.”

“Well done on your part. Did you hear that he hit me with a staff and beat a tiny child?”

They confronted each other across the room, both standing, both unbending, and he repeated his close study of her person, with a faint expression of distaste.  “I presume you’ve hit upon hard times and come for money. I am not a charitable—”

“Not money.” She had his attention with that. He raised one arrogant eyebrow, and she rushed forward. “I want Aunt Clarissa’s house.”

He looked confused.

“The one above Fenwick on Sea.”

His confusion lifted, but only partly. “What on earth for? The place is a wreck, and your father’s vicarage is snug enough. He hasn’t refused to take you in, has he?”

“Of course not! In fact, he’s the one who suggested Aunt Clarissa’s house. I plan to open a school. A true charity school, but I already have nibbles from a few tuition-paying families unhappy with Spraggins.”

His expression changed. She may have imagined the respect, but he at least appeared to take her seriously. “Not money?”


“You won’t expect me to see to repairs and whatnot?”


He rubbed his chin. “A ninety-nine-year lease perhaps…”

“In that case, the repairs are yours, are they not?”

This time she was sure she saw respect. “Not necessarily,” he mused.

“Give it to me outright. We’ll name you our benefactor. I’ll name the school after you. I’ll—”

“Spare me! If I give you the house, how do I know you won’t be back in six months asking for a carriage, or cash, or the cost of a new roof.”

Mention of roof gave her pause, but she stiffened her resolve. “Give me the house and I give you my word. I won’t ask for anything else. I promise I will never pester you for money.”

He still hesitated.

“I’ll be taking a problem holding off your hands, one likely to cost you rather than bring income.”

“And you’ll never importune me again?”

“I won’t even come here unless you invite me.”

“Very well. The house is yours.” She opened her mouth to thank him, but he raised a hand. “Just one more thing. Keep my name far from this school of yours. And the deed reverts to me if it fails in the next ten years.”

She beamed at him. “It won’t.”

After a night in a guest room at the end of one of the wings of the earl’s manor, grudgingly offered, but welcome nonetheless, she set out for what she already thought of as home the next day.

Pleasant weather held, and Algernon, slow but steady, managed to deliver her to the old house before dark on the second day. She came down the Yarmouth road and turned inland. Stump, who had been scrubbing the front windows, saw her coming. He and January ran down the lane jumping and pointing to a sign erected where the lane met the road.

Well made, with beveled edges, painted blue with white letters, it read:

The Academy for the Formation of Young Gentlemen

She grinned, and the two young gentlemen, one with holes in his knees and the other with paint stains on his shirt, grinned back.


Patience made a start that day, but it wasn’t until a storm blew up, the roof finally caved in, and a certain coachman (and lover of books) came to her rescue that the school became more than that. It became her home and the deed never reverted to the Earl of Montour. 

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Their story is “The Tender Flood,” in  Storm & Shelter  a collection of novellas from The Bluestocking Belles, all set around The Queen’s Barque Inn when folks of all kinds are stranded during a horrific storm.

ahmdw-stsk2-1024x577 Author's Blog

Zach Newell knows Patience Abney is far above his touch. But he has been enchanted by her since she raced out of the storm and into the Queen’s Barque with a wagon full of small boys, puppies, and a bag of books. When the two of them make their way across the flooded marsh to her badly damaged school in search of a missing boy, attraction deepens. She risks scandal; he risks his heart.

I will award an electronic copy of Valentines From Bath or Fire & Frost to one  person  who  comments  here  (randomly chosen)

Every comment on all the blogs will be entered for a chance to win a $75 gift card.

So tell me, who would you rather marry: a pompous self-centered earl with a grand country estate, an abusive but wealthy headmaster, or a decent hardworking coachman with little to offer but books and dreams?

Click here to go to the next stop on Aubrey Wynne’s blog.



52 thoughts on “The Valentine Hop

  1. The coachman is my choice.
    I am always looking for new author to read. Your name has been added to my list.

  2. I would choose the coachman?
    Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone ❤️❤️❤️

    • Oh it would be the coachman to be sure. It sounds like a positively wonderful story and a fantastic story line. Thank you so much for sharing the excerpt. And thanks too for this wonderful opportunity. Happy Valentines to you Caroline ❤️ and everyone else.

  3. Definitely the Coachman. A hard working man and books. What more could you ask for?

  4. I don’t care how rich or poor a man is – he has to be kind…and love books. I’d chose the coachman (you never know, the coachman might somehow find himself gaining the pompous man’s riches…)

  5. I would take the coachman. He has dreams like everyone has at one time or another. You won’t know until you try.

  6. Coachman. Money doesn’t buy you someone who holds back your hair, when you have chemo Abusive relationship lasts longer than the marriage. You have memories for your entire lifetime.

  7. The coachman to be sure. It sounds like a wonderful book Caroline. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Happy Valentine’s Day to all! ❤️

  8. I’ll take the books and the coachman any time. Not only do you get access to the books but the ride from time to time.

  9. Books and dreams win every time so the coachman it is!! He will treat a woman with the respect she deserves. I strongly suspect she will be a partner rather than an ornament or object to be possessed.

  10. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours, Caroline:) Loved the excerpt and since I don’t have “Valentine’s from Bath”, I would love to have it!! I would choose the coachman since the other two would drive me mad! lol Thank you so much for the chance!! xo

  11. Obviously, the coachman is the romantically correct (or politically correct) answer. However, I would pick the Earl !!! and enjoy the status the title carries and the grand country estate (which probably has a large library)!!! I’m also sure we could afford to purchase books to improve the library.
    If all else failed to provide the books I love to read, I have over 4,000 books in my Kindle cloud library!!

  12. Oh, my gosh! This story sounds adorable! I’ve been waiting for Storm & Shelter for what seems like AGES.

    I’m afraid I would be non-politically correct and choose the Earl, although choosing the coachman might become far more interesting once I finish the entire story of The Tender Flood. Right now, however, I think I’d enjoy wrangling the Earl into shape.

  13. The coachman would be my choice. I enjoyed the excerpt. Happy Valentine’s day.

  14. U live the excerpt it shows your talent as a writer. I believe you will be a great author. Happy Valentines day.

  15. Love it, books are a vacation in places and time I’ll never be able to go; thanks. Happy Valentines Day.

  16. The coachman would seem to be the choice for a peaceful life, but if he’s taken the earl would be preferable to the headmaster, as he’s only pompous not abusive.

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Caroline Warfield, Author

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