Sunday, February 27, 2011

Speaking of Love

Throughout the ages, humans have loved, made love, and strived to control nature before and after the fact. Contraceptive is by no means a modern concept. Nor is trying to escape the hazards of childbirth. Of course, it's much easier nowadays...

Birth contraceptive, some more effective than others, have been around since B.C. There is evidence in Mediterranean writings of vaginal suppositories using fruits, honey, cabbage leaves, crocodile dung, tree gums, wool and many other organic produce. Ingesting herbs and roots such as Queen Anne’s Lace, Pennyroyal, willow and rue was more commonplace. Desperate women even risked potentially fatal herbs such as the poisonous belladonna and honeysuckle.

It’s interesting to note that the Libyans made great use of a giant fennel plant, silphium. Modern day tests on relatives of this fennel give results of about 50% effectiveness. Silphium was so popular, being exported far and wide, that the particular species used became extinct by 400 C.E. and this possibly had a far greater success rate than the species which survived for our modern tests.

Caesarean section is by no means a modern concept, although the operation wasn’t widely practiced until medicine had evolved to hygienic environments and the use of anaesthetic – mother’s were far too likely to die of shock, infection and internal bleeding during the operation.

As early as 3000 B.C. (Egypt), this operation was mandated to provide separate burials for the mother and babe. In ancient Roman, there was a Law of the Caesars that sometimes prescribed this operation in an attempt to save a baby once the mother was dead. The name Caesarean section likely takes its name from this law rather than the rumour that Julius Caesar had been born by this method.

Progressing into the middle ages, there have been documented cases of caesareans being performed as early as the 1400s in an attempt to save both mother and babe although, as mentioned above, the survival rate would have been poor due to the medicine practices of the time.
Although the first reliable accounting comes from Germany in 1610, there’s mention of a Swiss pork butcher who delivered his own child successfully (using his carving skills) in around 1500.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More On Medicine

So, last week I slammed on the brakes and my computer bag went tumbling onto the floorboard of my car. Poor "puter" wouldn't boot after the incident. On Friday, I sent my little electronic baby to the Levono hospital to make it all better. In the meantime, I've been reduced to pecking out words on my iPad.

So, I asked my friend and Regency era expert Nancy Mayer if I could present a page from her website which I maintain. She suggested this nice article on a Regency lady's medicine cabinet.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Apothecary: Only The Lucky Lived

The apothecary shop was the forerunner of the modern drug store. For centuries, villagers and townspeople depending on the local apothecary for remedies of all sorts. In some areas, the apothecary was considered a doctor, despite a lack of medical training. They not only prepared medicine but they also preformed minor surgeries, did amputations and treated wounds.  They also performed bleedings and blisterings. There were no training schools to learn the trade. Like many vocations, it required an apprenticeship.

The available drugs at the apothecary were made from a variety of roots, plants, berries and other herbs.  Often the apothecary grew his own plants. From these plants, a variety of powders, liniments, lotions and ointments were made and sold for a variety of illnesses including everything from a cold to cancer. While some of the remedies had to have helped some patients, advances in science proved most of them to be ineffective in treating disease.

Just so you will appreciate medicine today, here are some of the unusual theories and medical advice given centuries ago:

A plant was supposed to cure the part of the body that it looked like. For example, walnuts were considered brain food because they resembled the brain. Rose petals were good for blood diseases because of their red color. Almonds could improve eyesight. 

Cure for tuberculosis: Smoke dried cow dun. Inhale fumes through pipe.  (That would've killed me right on the spot.)

Cold: Mix goose grease and turpentine. Spread on patient's chest. 

Whooping cough: Father should place head of sick child in a hole in a meadow for a few minutes at dusk.

Ague: Have patient swallow a cobweb rolled into a ball.

Scarlet Fever: Put saffron in an onion, baked onion until juicy and feed onion to patient.

Teething: Hang the foot of a mole around the baby's neck.

Everyone believed the more bitter the medicine, the better it worked.

In closing, I must say that I think it was only the lucky who survived and I'm glad medicine has advanced so much in the past hundred years.  There is just no way I could swallow a cobweb!!  Could you?

Patricia Preston

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Language of Flowers

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray,
love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts...
There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue
for you; and here's some for me: we may call it
herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with
a difference...
~ Hamlet, Act 4, Scene V

On Valentine's Day, we say it with flowers. Florists everywhere do a brisk business, especially, in beautiful, long-stemmed, blood-red roses, and even today we all recognize these say,  "I love you."

But back in the day, long before ladies spoke the language of the fan, lowering coy eyelashes behind fluttering sprays of feathers, ivory, silk and painted paper, and conveying meaning with every gesture (which perhaps we'll visit in another post!), flowers held sway.
We all remember crazy Ophelia, driven insane by murder, mayhem and wishy-washy Hamlet's commitment issues, reciting her poignant litany of herbs and flowers.

That language of flowers, or "floriography," much of it lost to us in these instant days of pixels, texting and Tweets, harks back to the early Chinese dynasties -- if not earlier. The fashion was transported to Europe by Charles II of Sweden, whose courtiers popularized the fad  in 1714, upon Charles returned to Sweden after years in exile in Turkey at the Ottoman court. Four short years later, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu,  the wife of the ambassador to Constantinople, found herself intrigued by the fragrant coded messages used in Turkish harems and introduced the symbolism to Britain.

During the Regency period, a young lady, or even a taciturn gentleman, could say what otherwise they did not dare to, by wearing a flower or presenting one, even scenting a handkerchief with a particularly recognizable fragrance.
And when Queen Victoria came to the throne, flowers truly became the rock stars of their era. Their language was spoken everywhere.  Flower dictionaries, including an actual "The Language of Flowers" were published, in case anyone might be unclear of the translation when sent a surreptitious message.
Flowers adorned everything, from hair and gowns and jewelry and bonnets to men's lapels, furniture and china patterns. Coded messages were transmitted depending on the type of flower, its color, its size, whether a single bloom or grouped together in a bouquet, or presented with the left hand ("no") or the right ("Yes!"), in an upright or lowered position! 

 "Tussie-mussies" -- small nosegays of tightly-gathered mixed flowers and herbs that live on today in bridal bouquets -- were carried to provide sweet-smelling antidotes to the odors of the cities. Mixed with herbs such as rosemary and thyme, and thought to ward off malady, as well as lift spirits, this was Victorian-era aromatherapy combined with romance!
The floriography is endless -- and, of course -- open to translation, but here are a few to tantalize:
Apple blossom: good fortune
Asparagus fern: fascination
Baby's breath: innocence
Carnation (yellow): rejection
Carnation (red): heartache
Clover (white): Think of Me
Clover (four-leaf): Be Mine
Daffodil: unrequited love
Dill: lust
(I will never make another pot of chicken soup without thinking of that last one!)

Taryn Kincaid is the author of an erotic paranormal romance, Sleepy Hollow Dreams. Her debut historical, Healing Hearts, a Regency romance, will be released by Carina Press, February 28. Please come visit her at, or follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why orchids used to be more rare and expensive

Another blog about orchids in history? Be glad I’m not blogging about my other obsession - reptiles, especially snakes. I love snakes. I’m weird. What can I say?

So, now that I’ve thoroughly creeped you out, let’s get back to the world’s most exotic, erotic, romantic flowers - orchids. First, let’s clear up some misconceptions. There are no black orchids. You can send your Victorian adventurer off to search for one, if you want, but he/she won’t find one. Also, orchids aren’t parasites. Many types grow on trees, and their roots cling to the bark to hang on, but they don’t harm the trees except, maybe, by weighing them down.

Please note: For the rest of this blog, I’ll be referring to the cattleya orchid for two reasons. 1) there are around 30,000 species of orchids, and nothing I say could be true about all of them, 2) the cattleya, or “corsage,” orchid is the one most familiar to the general public, and perhaps, the most beautiful.

We hear stories of orchid plants so exceedingly rare they were worth thousands of dollars, and yet today, we often see them at the garden center and even the supermarket for under $30. Is there a contradiction there? Actually, no. Modern science has made what used to be unique and extravagant quite common.

Orchid seeds used to be almost impossible to germinate. They’re tiny and only can establish themselves in the presence of symbiotic fungi. These days, horticulturists “plant” seeds in sterile flasks with nutrients suspended in liquid. As the tiny, tiny plantlets grow, they’re transplanted several times into other flasks and only after a year or more are put into pots. Before the latter half of the 20th century, all a grower could do was pollinate a plant in the hopes that, of the thousands of almost-microscopic seeds, one might fall into just the right situation in the pot and grow into a plant. Then, the grower would have to wait years for the new plant to bloom to see if he had a truly magnificent flower or only a ho-hum one.

Because, you see, not all orchids are created equal - not even orchids that originate in the same seed pod. In order to explain, I’ll have to science-geek-out for a moment. Please, pardon me.

Orchids have a high chromosome count - almost as high as the number humans do. As a result, orchid siblings vary as much as human brothers and sisters do. You know the scenario. One of the brothers is drop-dead-gorgeous, and while the other one resembles his handsome sib, he’s not nearly as good looking. For the sake of discussion, let’s call them Jim and George. Your heart goes pitty-pat when in the presence of Jim. George you love as a friend, even though you aren’t IN love with him.

For just this reason, truly beautiful orchid plants get their own individual names. I’m not kidding you. Cattleya intermedia ‘Jim’ is highly desirable, while cattleya intermedia ‘George’ is not so much. Owning just any cattleya intermedia isn’t good enough for a true connoisseur. You need to own cattleya intermedia ’Jim.’

But there is only one Jim, and given how hard it is to get more cattleya intermedias by any name, Jims is doubly valuable. To get a new plant, you can spend large amounts of money to get an orchid hunter to find you one in the wild. Because cattleyas are New World plants, that would involve paying for an expedition to the Americas. Or you can pollinate the plant you have in your greenhouse and hope you get someone as gorgeous as Jim and not just a bunch of Georges.

In either case, you have no guarantee of the worth of the flower you’re getting. If you want to get a piece of the Jim you already know exists, your only hope there is to talk Jim’s owner into dividing him (essentially taking a cutting) and selling you a piece at a Truly Astronomical Price.

These days, modern science can clone hundreds of little Jims, and you can order one from a supplier for under $50. But you can see that when Lord Whatsizname had a precious orchid in his Victorian hothouse why it was such an investment.

Let me conclude by saying that I put orchids in almost all of my books. They feature in a scene in Miss Foster’s Folly and will play an even bigger role in Always a Princess, due out from Carina this August. I don’t put snakes into my books, so you’re safe.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Historical TMI

It has occurred to me that, should I happen to meet certain historical figures in the afterlife, our conversations might prove a bit awkward.

It’s the TMI factor, you see. What do you say to a man when you’ve seen the love letters he sent to his wife in the early days of their marriage? Letters which contain such revealing passages as:

"Come soon; I warn you, if you delay, you will find me ill. Fatigue and your absence are too much. You are coming, aren't you? You are going to be here beside me, in my arms, on my breast, on my mouth? Take wing and come, come! A kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much lower!"

Well, all right, then. Good to know this guy--we’ll call him General X--could be so generous and amorous when his passions were engaged.

And then there’s General Y. A more circumspect soul, he left us no correspondence allowing us to deduce just what he planned to do to his woman of the moment next time he got her into bed. And when one of his brothers was being a bit too scandalous in his womanizing, General Y complained in a letter to another brother that he wished their errant sibling was ”castrated, or that he would like other people attend to his business & perform too. It is lamentable to see Talents & character & advantages such as he possesses thrown away upon Whoring.”

Though don’t let that fool you into thinking General Y was any kind of model of chastity. Among other things, he had at least two mistresses in common with General X, one of whom was generous enough to the salacious curiosity of posterity to publicly state that Y was better in bed.

And who are our amorous generals? X is Napoleon and Y is Wellington--and speaking as someone who’s read stacks of biographies of both, it’s amazing how much of their personalities and voices come through in those two brief quotes above.

Do you know any good historical TMI? And would you prefer Napoleon or Wellington for your Valentine? (I’m on Team Wellington all the way--he’s much better-looking by my tastes, I like cool-headed, reserved, snarky personalities like his, and on the whole I prefer my Secret Historical Boyfriends to NOT try to take over the world.)

Susanna Fraser is the author of The Sergeant's Lady (available now) and A Marriage of Inconvenience (April 11, 2011). The lovely lady in the picture is NOT her, but the French actress Mademoiselle George, our informant on the relative sexual prowess of Napoleon and Wellington. You can visit Susanna's website here.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

History of Men's Underwear - Part Two

Catch up: Read The History of Men's Underpants - Part One.

Now, where were we? Oh yes. The Middle Ages.Where the codpiece had to be invented to prevent one's tackle from drifting around in the breeze and men "started" to *cough* exaggerate--just a little--what they had...

Some people, and I know this is hard to believe, had some space left over in their codpieces, so they'd keep objects in there too. Handy! Or something-y.

Of course, they stopped exaggerating... It's not like they do it now...

As the trousers got gradually longer,the undergarments grew with them. They resembled the breeches in shape and size, although they were made with a softer material such as silk, cotton or linen. This was important if you were wearing scratchy wool next to the skin. You find, too that underwear was ditched by many in favour of the coattails of the long shirts. Men would pull the tails between their legs and wrap their family jewels in the shirt. I'm just glad I wasn't a washerwoman in the 18th century, that's all I can say.

With many thanks to Anteros - who has an informative post about Age of Sail underwear here.

What do you think spurred the invention of this contraption?

The bicycle, apparently. Men found that they needed a lot of support while riding it-- although you'd think they would have realised this with horses too...

It's sad that after 6000 years we come almost full circle and where we started with the loincloth, with the jockstrap we finish off with the loincloth.

It's always fascinating to write gay romance because of the wonders to be found under a man's overclothes. It's interesting that names are so difficult to pin down. Small clothes, underthings, underwear--all were considered too delicate to mention and a writer risks getting it wrong no matter what she chooses.

But here's to them all. To the braies, the strossers, the drawers, the jockstraps, the loincloths, the smallclothes, the boxer shorts, the codpiece, the hose. Here's to everything that wraps around that small difference between men and women--viva la difference!

Erastes writes gay historicals, and her first book for Carina is "Muffled Drum" (set during the Austro Prussian War) and will be out in July 2011. It's full of soldiers, horses, angsty love drawers and many many buttons.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Of Dukes and Deceptions

When writing Regency romances I never really know where the story's going. I start with a basic idea and then allow my imagination, and characters, to take over. Sometimes they take me completely by surprise, doing things I hadn't expected at all.

Take my up-coming release with Carina Press, for example. Of Dukes and Deceptions came about because I decided it would be fun to tinker with the class system. My hero is a duke, an only child brought up in opulence and doing precisely as he pleases, regardless of the consequences. He's handsome, rich and single so it's hardly to be wondered at. But Nick meets his match in Alicia Woodley, a mere poor relation, when visiting her uncle's stud farm he visits. Here's how they first make one another's acquaintance.

Nick left Gibson to keep the horses calm and went in search of the owner of the offending vehicle. He strode across the road, following the sound of voices coming from a nearby thicket, ready to tear the malefactor off a strip. As he paused to listen, he detected the soft tones of a woman’s voice and the deeper rumble of an adolescent male.
Hold her steady if you can, Will. I almost have it.”
Will she be all right, miss?”
She will if I have any say in the matter.”
The woman sounded both angry and full of determination. Nick’s own anger at the manner in which she’d so carelessly abandoned her transportation was still clouding his mind as he descended the steep riverbank and moved closer to her position. He was keen to see what so occupied her attention that she’d blocked the road in her anxiety to attend to it. He made no effort to move quietly, but she was so taken up with her task that she didn’t appear to realise he was there.
Nick swore volubly when he discerned the cause of her anxiety. It was nothing more than a scrawny rabbit caught in a trap. His valuable horses could have been badly injured for the sake of a damned rabbit! It defied belief.
He looked again to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. No, it was definitely a rabbit, and it had its leg caught in a snare. It was clearly in acute pain and half scared out of its wits. The woman was trying to twist the vicious-looking trap clear of its leg. She was taking infinite care, speaking reassuringly to the captive, but the snare was too strong for her to break its hold.
It’s no good, Will,” she said with a frustrated sigh. “It appears to be stuck fast and I don’t have the strength to—”
It would be a greater kindness to put it out of its misery by wringing its neck.”
The woman started violently and her companion, equally discomposed, almost dropped the rabbit.
Investing his tone with a wealth of sarcasm, he stepped up to her. “And if it means you’ll move that nag of yours out of my path, I’ll be glad to provide you with that small service. Presumably you’re too squeamish to attend to the matter yourself?”
I’m not trying to kill it, you idiot! I wish to save the poor animal, and your creeping up on us like a thief in the night almost made us do it further harm.” She glared at him, her expression hostile. “Whatever did you suppose you were about?”
Nick was so taken aback that it took a moment for him to realise her remark had actually been intended for him. His Grace the Duke of Dorchester was accustomed to being pandered to. Obsequiousness came high on the list of attitudes he was compelled to endure. Deferential, sycophantic and unctuous behaviour was also much in evidence in his dealings with the lower classes. He must have become immune to it all over the years because he couldn’t remember the last time anyone had dared to refer to him as an idiot. At least, not to his face. Even Gibson, who felt he’d earned the right to speak his mind, wouldn’t go so far. His anger drained away in the face of the woman’s refreshing attitude and he decided to help her anyway.
Here, allow me.”
He took the strong wire from her fingers and twisted. It barely moved. He glanced at her in surprise.
Yes, indeed.” She nodded vigorously, her eyes alight with fiery anger. “The poachers around these parts are as desperate as they are devious. They don’t give the poor animals a chance.”
And you thought you’d be able to free the creature unaided?”
There’s no call for such scepticism.” She tossed her head, eyes now flashing with indignation. Her attitude left Nick with the distinct impression that she had little time for members of the opposite gender who thought themselves superior in the ways of the countryside. “I’ve done it successfully several times before. There’s a technique to it. It requires more than mere brute force. Even a female can manage it, with patience and an obliging captive, which this poor rabbit appears to be.”
Nick raised a brow, starkly cynical. “I admire your optimism but fear you’re chasing a lost cause.”
Nonsense! The rabbit suffers more with every second we delay but I shall free her. This is how it’s done. Look.” She moved closer to him. “You must unthread the wire, through that gap there. That’s the difficult part. No, not like that! It will tighten if you turn it in that direction.”
How can you be so sure?”
Because the animal would naturally move that way to escape. The poachers understand that and know it will doom itself. Yes, now you have it.” She nodded, apparently satisfied with his clumsy fumbling. The abrupt movement of her head dislodged a few loose curls from the ribbon which was supposed to be holding them back. They fell across her face and she pushed them impatiently aside. “Now, simply pull the wire away. Gently now, don’t distress the poor thing unnecessarily.”
The wire snapped away from the rabbit’s leg. It was badly injured but not, according to his as-yet-unnamed companion, broken.
It is as I’d hoped.” The woman bestowed a reassuring smile upon the animal. “We’ll be able to make her well again soon enough, Will.”
She pulled the shawl from around her shoulders and wrapped the rabbit in it, cradling it against her chest. Amazingly, it seemed happy enough with that situation and made no effort to escape. She stroked its ears and cooed at it. Not once had she so much as looked in Nick’s direction and had yet to thank him for his assistance.
Amused rather than offended, he took a moment to assess the rabbit’s benefactress. Early twenties was his estimate of her age. She was of above average height, dressed in a serviceable gown of scarlet wool that had seen better days. There was no corset beneath it—he’d bet the duchy on that fact—but she filled the bodice very adequately without any artificial assistance. Her white petticoat showed beneath the hem of her gown, dripping with mud, presumably as a result of her foray onto the riverbank they were standing upon. Nick’s boots were similarly afflicted. In spite of the coolness of the day, she wore no pelisse and had sacrificed her shawl for the greater good of the rabbit without a thought for her own comfort.
Her hair was dark but not quite black. He’d already ascertained that the scarlet ribbon holding it back was woefully inadequate, and her tresses cascaded across her shoulders in a riot of insubordinate curls. There was no evidence of a bonnet or gloves. She looked dishevelled, as though she had more important things to do than concern herself with her appearance, a factor greatly in her favour from Nick’s perspective. He was rather enjoying her irreverent company and decided to delay the moment when he must reveal his identity, which would inevitably change everything.
He took advantage of her preoccupation with her patient to examine her face. She wasn’t handsome in the accepted sense. However, a serene quality of self-containment about her held his attention, and an intelligent light in her eyes suggested quiet strength of character. Her features could best be described as arresting. Her face was slightly tanned, lending proof to a preference for the outdoors. Freckles dusted her pert nose, presumably the price paid for cavorting about the countryside on a one-woman crusade to deprive local poachers of a dishonest living. Her chin was a little too long to lend her true beauty, and the ear peeping through that riot of curls was decidedly too large.
But Nick wasn’t about to hold such misfortunes of nature against the chit. He was swamped by beautiful wherever he went. It was a refreshing change to encounter one who didn’t conform to that pattern, both in appearance and in manner. Besides, this creature owned such compelling green eyes, currently full of compassion as she gazed upon the injured animal in her arms, that he’d have forgiven her just about anything. He’d already absolved her from blame for the accident she’d almost caused.
She must be the daughter of some local worthy. But whoever she was, she ought to remember her manners and display some gratitude toward him for assisting her. A method in which such a spirited chit might discharge that debt sprang spontaneously to mind. Nick felt himself hardening at the prospect and almost smiled in anticipation of the challenge he’d just set for himself.
Perhaps his sojourn here wouldn’t be such a massive waste of time after all. Being of relatively lowly birth, the girl was probably unaware of the obligation she’d placed herself under when accepting his help. He’d enjoy educating her in that respect. And in other ways too. Afterward he’d reward her with a few trinkets, the like of which she’d never have anticipated owning in the normal scheme of things, and be on his way.
When she opened her mouth again, doubts filtered into his brain. She spoke in a refined manner and the lad deferred to her authority as a matter of course. His enigmatic companion was obviously well connected. Obliging females littered Nick’s path at every turn. The disappointment he experienced when he realised this one was very likely forbidden fruit was surprisingly profound.
Do I have the honour of addressing Miss Woodley?”
She must have forgotten all about him in her anxiety for the rabbit because her eyes widened at the sound of his voice. She turned in his direction, openly assessing him. Amusement lit her expression as her eyes roved from his mud-splattered boots, taking in his tight-fitting inexpressibles, caped driving coat and finally coming to rest on his hat. Her smile broadened, indicating that, far from being cowed by unexpectedly conversing with a gentleman of high birth, she found the situation diverting.
And you’re the Duke of Dorchester, I collect.”
Without waiting for a response she executed a surprisingly graceful curtsey, given that she was still clutching the rabbit. It ought to have looked ridiculous but somehow conveyed the impression of being just the opposite. She chuckled, presumably in response to his quizzical expression.
Don’t look so crestfallen, Your Grace. I’m Alicia Woodley, the poor relation. It’s my cousin Maria you’ve come to look over, and I can assure you she’s every bit as beautiful as the reputation which precedes her.”
Really!” Nick quirked a brow imperiously. “You have the advantage of me, Miss Woodley. I was under the impression I’d come to the district to observe the workings of your uncle’s stud farm.”
She chuckled again, apparently unaffected by his display of aristocratic superiority. As she did so, Nick noticed that her lips were a perfect cupid’s bow. The tip of her tongue protruded and she moistened them unselfconsciously. He didn’t think the gesture was contrived—this girl was no flirt—and couldn’t recall the last time any female had behaved so artlessly in his presence. He regarded her with a modicum of interest.
Did you indeed.” Her smile was invested with a wealth of amusement. “Still, it doesn’t signify, about Maria, I mean. Unless I mistake the matter, you’re no stranger to ambitiously determined females anxious to make a favourable impression.”
You might well be right, but at present my path is being hindered by a different sort of female altogether. To wit, one cob intent upon the choicest pasture, mindless of the danger she causes to legitimate road-users in her determination to reach it.”
Oh, gracious!” Miss Woodley’s hand flew to her mouth. “Matilda must be up to her old tricks again. I apologise if she endangered your progress, Your Grace. However well I tether her, she seems to have mastered the knack of freeing herself if she desires something out of her reach. It’s a very trying habit but, you see, she was so badly treated by the farmer who previously owned her that I can’t bring myself to chastise her for her lack of manners.”
I quite see your difficulty.” Instead of embarking upon the lecture he’d been preparing, Nick found himself smiling. “Under the circumstance, perhaps we should be thankful that Matilda consents to be harnessed to your conveyance at all.”
Oh, she’s perfectly happy to make herself useful.” A capricious smile illuminated Miss Woodley’s face. “Although she doesn’t care to be hurried and prefers to attend to matters at her own pace.”
Then given her independent streak, might it not have been wiser to choose a wider stretch of road upon which to abandon her?”
I don’t see why that should concern you.” She lifted her shoulders, as though bored with the entire conversation.
It concerns me because it would have greatly reduced the likelihood of causing an accident.”
Perhaps, but I can’t be held to account for the location where poachers set their traps. Besides, this back road is so seldom used that I didn’t think she’d be in anyone’s way. I’d quite forgotten you were expected today, you see. But even if I’d remembered, I wouldn’t have anticipated your approaching from this direction.” She wrinkled her brow. “Don’t dukes automatically take the front entrance?”
So you hold me responsible for your own neglect.” Nick, who until that point had been enjoying the exchange, felt his anger returning. “In which case, perhaps I should beg your pardon for interrupting Matilda’s lunch.”
Oh, don’t concern yourself about that.” Miss Woodley waved his words aside. She didn’t seem in the least put out by his caustic tone. A tone which had been known to reduce grown men to quivering wrecks. “Matilda has a very forgiving nature.”
For once Nick had no answer to make and concentrated instead upon quelling his surprise at her latest revelation. She’d forgotten that he was engaged to call at Ravenswing Manor. His arrival at any location was usually keenly anticipated, and he couldn’t recall when it had last been overlooked by anyone.
I hope no harm came to your equipage,” Miss Woodley said, almost as an afterthought.
None, I thank you. And my man and I escaped injury also.”
She looked at him with an impatient expression. “Well, obviously, I can see that.”

Of Dukes and Deceptions - Available from Carina Press March 14. Don't miss it!