on September 18th 2018
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Mrs. Brodie's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies appears exclusive and respectable, a place for daughters of the gentry to glean the accomplishments that will win them suitable husbands.
But the academy is not what it seems. It's more.
Alongside every lesson in French or dancing or mathematics, the students learn the skills they’ll need to survive in a man’s world. They forge; they fight; they change their accents to blend into a world apart. And the staff at the academy find a haven from their pasts…and lose their hearts
Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies appears exclusive and respectable, a place for daughters of the gentry to glean the accomplishments that will win them suitable husbands.
But the academy is not what it seems. It’s more.
Alongside every lesson in French or dancing or mathematics, the students learn the skills they’ll need to survive in a man’s world. They forge; they fight; they change their accents to blend into a world apart. And the staff at the academy find a haven from their pasts…and lose their hearts.
The Way to A Gentleman’s Heart by Theresa Romain
Eight years ago, impoverished gentleman’s daughter Marianne Redfern fled her Lincolnshire home when her first love was forced to wed another. At Mrs. Brodie’s Academy, she learned the arts of cookery and self-defense—and as head cook, she can manage her staff, feed hundreds, and take down thieves. But she has no defense against Jack Grahame’s unexpected arrival two weeks before a dinner that will secure the academy’s fortunes.
Now a wealthy widower, Jack still has a wicked twinkle in his eye and a place in Marianne’s heart. Before long, he’s at her side in the kitchen all day and the bedchamber all night. But forgiveness doesn’t come together as easily as a sauce, and the wounds of the past will either destroy the academy’s fortunes or ruin Jack and Marianne’s chance at a future…
Counterfeit Scandal by Shana Galen
Bridget Lavery gave up her son Jimmy when she was sent to debtor’s prison. Now that she’s free and has found steady work at the academy as a teacher of art and counterfeiting, she’s desperate to reunite with her son—but he’s lost in the warrens of London’s streets. When she encounters Caleb Harris, a man from her past—a man she thought was dead—he agrees to help in her search. But both Bridget and Caleb have secrets. Some of them deadly…
Caleb Harris is a man with a price on his head. He knew his work during the war was dangerous, but he didn’t think it would haunt him the rest of his life. Before he left for the war, he and Bridget had a passionate affair. Finding her again means everything to him. He wants to help her and he definitely still loves her, but loving her might just be too dangerous for either of them.
The Way to A Gentleman’s Heart by Theresa Romain
As they left the stands of fruit and vegetables, Jack was simply relieved not to have dozens of cabbages piled onto the clinking weight of the exotic ingredients in the basket.
“We’ll go to the butcher’s next,” Marianne said, pushing back into the thick of the crowd of shoppers. “And find a bit of bacon to go into the servants’ dinner, plus joints of beef for the young ladies.”
“One moment,” Jack said. “I’ve got to switch arms, since you’re using me instead of a farm wagon.” He shifted the basket, drawing it from his aching left forearm to the right and immediately felt pinioned.
It was then that he noticed the dip. If it had been subtle, he probably wouldn’t have, but this was a jostle against his side, a hand in his coat.
He struggled to turn, fighting the press of several people moving past him at once. Who had done it? A boy? No, a grown man! That wiry balding fellow, just there. Jack saw the purse just before someone moved between them, blocking both his sight and path to the man.
“Stop! Thief!” Jack thrust the huge basket into Marianne’s arms, then gave chase. “Stop that bald man!” he called. “Thief!” Damn these crowds! Why was everyone in his way? Hadn’t they heard him? Seen the man running away with his purse?
Shoving and pushing, he finally got close enough to dive for his quarry. With a leap and a curse, he caught the man about the shoulders and tackled him down.
“Lemme go! I didn’t do anything!” The wiry man struggled, caught Jack in the bruised forearm, and slipped from his grasp as Jack hissed in pain.
A neat booted foot stuck out—to trip the man, Jack thought with a flicker of hope, but no, it caught another fellow and sent him sprawling. The balding man darted away, looking over his shoulder furtively, as Jack turned to lambaste his would-be helper.
It was no well-meaning stranger who regarded him with grave green eyes.
“Marianne!” How had she run after him so quickly? He shook that off. “That’s not the thief!” The man she had tripped was larger and quite prosperous looking. Already, he was heaving himself upright, indignant and blustering.
Marianne moved closer to the man, saying something Jack couldn’t hear, and held out her hand. In a flash, it all changed. The proper gentleman’s face contorted, and he caught her about the throat and pulled her against his body with an arm like a vise. Jack’s heart, already hammering from the chase, skipped and stuttered. “No!” He lunged forward, ready to attack.
Then Marianne sank in a faint, poor thing, her knees buckling. Jack twisted to catch her—but no, she wasn’t collapsing as he’d thought. She’d got the man to loosen his hold, and she bent abruptly at the waist, flipping the much larger man over her body. Jack could only gape as the large man was somersaulted over Marianne, landing flat on his back on the pavement. With a single stride, Marianne went to the groaning man’s side and planted her foot gently on his throat.
“Stay down,” she said coolly, “and don’t cause any more mischief. And give my kitchenmaid back what your accomplice stole from him.”
“Accomplice…?” Jack had no idea what was going on. How had Marianne flung a grown man over her head like that? And where was the man who had stolen Jack’s money?
A constable arrived on the scene and took charge of the prone man from Marianne. A search of his pockets revealed not only Jack’s purse, but several others—more than enough to haul him off, despite his protests that he’d never stolen a thing.
“He’ll be giving up his accomplice within five minutes.” Marianne dusted her hands on her skirts, then straightened her hat. All perfectly untroubled, seeming heedless of the curious crowd about. “All right, then, Jack? I have to go back and get my basket from Mr. Haviland. We’d best count all the jars to make sure he hasn’t helped himself.”
“How…” Jack shook his head. “I don’t understand. How did you know who had my purse? That wasn’t the man who stole it.”
“The dip was so clumsy. He couldn’t expect to get away with it unless he handed off the goods to someone else, and I saw him do it. If you’d caught the first fellow, he wouldn’t have so much as a stolen farthing on him.” Jack must have been staring, for she added, “It’s not so uncommon a scheme here in London. Especially on a busy street.”
Jack kept a hand to his purse—impressed, intrigued, and not a little intimidated. “And you deal with this every day.” As they retraced their steps to the greengrocer’s, he asked the more pressing question. “Where did you learn to flip a grown man over your head?”
“Well, it wasn’t over my head. But I learned it from Miss Carpenter. She teaches geometry and mathematics at the academy.”
He remembered her pause when she was describing the job of Mrs. Lavery, who apparently liked eating colcannon. “She teaches something else too, I’ll warrant.”
“Oh—perhaps. You did all right for someone who hasn’t had her instruction. You almost had that first fellow.”
Retrieving the basket from the bemused Mr. Haviland, Jack resettled it on his arm. For the second time, he asked, “What sort of academy is this?”
Marianne grinned at him. “Maybe this evening, you’d like to find out.”
Counterfeit Scandal by Shana Galen
Mrs. Jacobs led her through a dark common room and up a staircase with worn carpet. The subtle scent of mold and cooked onions lingered in the air. At the landing, Mrs. Jacobs continued to the second floor. Bridget frowned. She had been hoping for a room on the first floor, as the top floor would be hot in summer and cold in winter.
“The men’s rooms are on the first floor,” Mrs. Jacobs said, as though reading her mind. “The women are up here.”
The second floor was dark, and Bridget squinted as Mrs. Jacobs led her to the end of the corridor, pulled out a large keyring, selected a key, and opened the door.
She motioned Bridget inside, and Bridget walked in cautiously. The room was small and dingy. It had a bed, a table with one chair, and a basin with a pitcher. “I thought the advertisement said the room was furnished.”
“This is furnished,” Mrs. Jacobs countered. “What more do you need?” She blew out a breath. “You even have curtains on the windows. Sewed them myself.”
Bridget crossed to the window at the other end of the room, all of six steps, and opened the curtains. The window looked out on another building and down into an alleyway. She closed the curtains again.
“One shilling and two pence a week.”
It was reasonable, though she’d hoped for better. “Is coal included?”
“What about meals?”
She could take meals at the school, but James needed to eat. “Water?”
“There’s a well in the yard. Help yourself.”
“I’ll give you a shilling a week for it.”
“It’s a shilling and two pence, and I won’t take less.” Mrs. Jacobs folded her arms over her chest with finality. Bridget would not be deterred, however. For almost two years, she had been working toward the goal of reclaiming James. She had a plan, and obtaining a room was the last step before she sought James. She needed this room, dingy as it was.
“I’ll pay a shilling and two pence if that price includes a pail of coal a week.”
Mrs. Jacobs hesitated, then began to shake her head.
“I will give you one shilling now.”
The landlady considered. She could continue to haggle, but then she risked the chance of having the room remain vacant. No tenant meant no blunt. She held out her hand. “I’ll agree, provided that Mrs. Brodie vouches for you.”
Bridget nodded, removed her glove, and placed the shilling in Mrs. Jacobs’s palm. It was gone in an instant.
“I’ll speak to Mrs. Brodie first thing in the morning. If she says you’re a good girl, you and the boy can move in tomorrow evening.”
“Very good. It will just be me for now.”
“Why is that? Where is the boy living?”
“It will take me time to send for him,” she said, keeping her answer vague.
Mrs. Jacobs nodded. “As long as he doesn’t cause trouble.”
“He won’t.” Of course, she couldn’t know that. She hadn’t seen James since he was barely three. She didn’t know what sort of boy he’d grown into in the intervening years. And yet, she was well-versed in dealing with unruly children. She could handle her own son, and she would.
She just had to find him first. She’d gone to the orphanage where she’d left James before she’d been sent to Fleet Prison with Robbie, but the St. Dismas Home for Wayward Youth had burned down, and no one seemed to know what had happened to the boys who’d lived there.
She hadn’t known how to go about discovering more. She considered hiring an investigator to look into the matter, but she feared the expense would be too dear.
Mrs. Jacobs, evidently convinced she’d shown the new tenant enough of the room, motioned her out and locked the door again. She began what sounded like a well-rehearsed speech about meals and noise and visitors as she led Bridget back down the stairs. Bridget made sounds of assent, but she was looking at the cracked paint on the walls and wondering what James would think of their new home. What would he think of her? Could he ever forgive her for abandoning him?
Finally at the front door, the two ladies said their goodbyes, and Mrs. Jacobs opened the door for Bridget just as a man was opening it from the outside.
“Pardon me, ladies,” he said when he saw that he had blocked their way.
Bridget began to say something along the lines of, It is nothing, sir, but then she looked up and into his face.
Those eyes. She knew of only two people in the world with that exact shade of blue. One was James and the other his father.
One winner will be randomly chosen from all the correct responses to receive a copy of Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain (print or ebook) and a copy of No Earls Allowed by Shana Galen (print or ebook). Open internationally.
The question for the giveaway is…
In Theresa Romain’s excerpt from “The Way to a gentleman’s Heart,” who really catches the thief?