Welcome to the twenty-eighth day of my Almost Heaven West Virginia Blog Bash.

                Here are some lovely pictures of the Capitol Building in Charleston, WV, it is a replica of the  United States Capitol Building only we have a real Gold Dome.

Welcome to all my followers and visitors, I am having a month-long celebration in my husbands honor. My husband Denny is retiring from the Navy after serving for 24 years. We are packing up one last time and moving back to his home state of Wild Wonderful West Virginia. Each post will start off with a picture to showcase West Virginia.  Everyday their will be a prize up for grabs and at the end we’ll be giving away some chocolate.

Please follow the rules posted at the end of each post to enter the daily contests and remember you don’t have to subscribe to win but I hope you decide to stick around. Also any post that contain super erotic material will carry the warning label so as not to shock or offend anyone upon opening.

Today is Julia London, a Goddess.  no really she is a Goddess on the Goddess Blogs.

 Look there she is right next to another favorite Sabina Jefferies and Karen Hawkins.

Bio:

Julia London is the New York Times and USA Today best selling author of more than a twenty romantic fiction novels. She is the author of the popular Desperate Debutante and Scandalous historical romance series, as well as The Year of Living Scandalously, the first novel in the Secrets of Hadley Green series. She is also the author of several contemporary women’s fiction novels with strong romantic elements, including Summer of Two Wishes, One Season of Sunshine, and Light at Winter’s End.

Julia is the recipient of the RT Bookclub Award for Best Historical Romance and a four-time finalist for the prestigious RITA award for excellence in romantic fiction. She lives in Round Rock, Texas, with her husband. To keep up with all the Julia London news and excerpts, please visit http://www.julialondon.com.

Un- official Bio:

Okay, here is the real scoop on Julia London: the official bio looks nothing like who I think is the real me. The unofficial truth is that I was born and raised in rural west Texas. I was a fat baby and typical little girl with Barbies, bikes, and an overactive imagination. I know that I loved to make up stories from a time I can scarcely remember (because my mom has a story I wrote in the first grade, which featured me in an episode of Wagon Train), and I know that I always loved books.

I remember going to the library. It was in an old house and it was very cool inside and smelled like old books. All of the children’s books were on lower shelves for easy access by little hands. I read all the usual stuff: Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women… Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask (by then I was fifteen or sixteen and was afraid to ask).

In my early teens, I began to dream of great adventure filled notebooks with stories of a girl who looked and spoke like me and was constantly caught up in adventure and peril. She always landed in the arms of hunky guys who happened to resemble a few of my favorite TV stars. Hey, I’m not ashamed to admit it: Starsky and Hutch, Alias Smith and Jones, and yes, even Keith Partridge.

I went to college, I got a job, and when I got a little older, I began to live the real adventures of my life. I traveled to far-flung places and tried things I never thought I’d try. I had good jobs with the federal government and eventually ended up working in the White House, and then later, I came back to Texas and worked as a public administrator until I could take politics no more.

That’s when I decided to turn my penchant for making up stories into books, and I’ll be damned if an agent and a publisher didn’t want to publish my daydreams.

I look back at my life and mark the passage of time by standard measures: bad hair and bad style sense. Or, I can pinpoint where I was and what I was doing in my life by the sports I tried.

Not all of them took, but I discovered I was best at tennis (back in the day), golf (except when it’s too hot, and its always too hot in Texas) and wunning (sort of a half-walk, half-run. Extremely ugly in appearance, but gets the job done), which I do moderately well.

Along the way I fell in love with a few good dogs and a few good men, and found the ones I want to keep forever.

Sure, there have been those few occasions where I might have drunk too much and did some things I wish I hadn’t, but overall, I have no regrets. I’ve never wanted for anything except the perfect purse (the search continues). In sum, I have been a lucky, lucky girl.

The unofficial truth is that I’ve had two successful careers. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family and I’ve been lucky in love and work and play. I love my life, I love what I do. I love the people and animals that surround me and I am eager to see what the next half of my life brings.

Now that is a bio that looks like me.

I was trilled to meet Julia at RomCon this past summer, such a funny story. We were working the registration desk helping get people checked in and my daughter was bent over getting more bags out or something when someone came up behind her and asked her a question. She replied just a minute then stood up and started to help the person without looking at her. I turned around and read her name tag and gasped and said, “Stephanie, do you know who you are talking to?” She frowned and looked up and gasped after reading her name…yes fan girl moment.  Later that weekend I was able to get Julia to sign all my books and my author index, she was very happy to sign all the books I brought oh, about 20 of them. I say go big or go home! She loved my author index and she asked me if I wanted her to fill in some books I hadn’t yet put in my series list…I said of course,,who wouldn’t want an author writing in their books, I was tickled pink. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures.

This is one of my favorite series by Julia: The Highland Lockhart Family

     

A gold and brass statue of an ugly beastie holds a special value to the Lockhart family of the Scottish Highlands.  An emerald the size of a goose egg is sealed in its belly.  That emerald could be the answer to all their financial woes.   The only problem is, the English stole it during one of the Border Wars, and the Lockharts must  come down out of the Highlands and travel to London to get it back.

I am also collecting her other series as I can, the books I have are on my TBR shelves.

Scandalous Series

        

A marital conflict between the Prince and Princess of Wales produces scandals that touch that haut ton of Regency England

The Desperate Debutantes

         

A sexy, wildly romantic and emotionally charged trilogy in which three aristocratic young ladies, upon discovering they are destitute, resort to desperate means to keep up appearances…and find the husbands of their dreams

So how about we sit Julia down in the tea room and while we’re waiting for Jeeves to bring in some tea and crumpets we’ll ask her some questions before moving on into the Gallery to finish our tour.

Z: Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

J:  I have always loved history and historical literature like Jane Austen.  So I suppose I chose it.

Z: What is your favorite comfort food?

J: Brownies.  I find I need more of them to comfort me as I get older so they’re sort of dangerous to my health if I have them in my home.  It has to be a special occasion.

Z: Oh, we just had some last night warmed up with some vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Z:  Do you have a comfort read?

J: Not really.  I love to read all kinds of books and in different genres.

Z: Were you a bookworm growing up?

J: Yes.  Our big trip out of the house was to the library.

Who did you read?

I cut my teeth on the Nancy Drew mysteries, then graduated to Victoria Holt and Kathleen Woodiwiss

Z: I love both of those.

Z: What is something that scares the heck out of you?

J: Poor health.  I am so lucky that I am very healthy, but I work at it because the thought of being old an in poor health is just too frightening to contemplate.

Z: If you could go on the Ultimate Vaca where would you go and who or what would go with you?

J:  Hmmm….I’ve travelled quite a bit, so I don’t know if there is one.  What I would like to do, what I wish I had done when I was much younger, is to go and live in different parts of the world and absorb it.

Z:  Who are some of your favorite authors?

J: Too many to name!  I have read more than one of Marian Keyes, Jodi Picoult, and Anita Shreve

Z: Research? How do you prefer to do it; plane/train/automobile, laptop or library? 

J: All of the above.  I minored in British history, I take frequent trips there, and I have a small reference library in my office, which I have added to over time.  And there is always Google.

Z: Do you attend conferences?

J:  Yes, I usually go to the Romance Writer’s of America conference.  I will be attending the New Jersey Romance Writer’s conference this year as well.

If so where can we “stalk” I mean go to find you and which is your favorite to attend?

I am almost always at the RWA conference.  That would be your best bet.  I’m very stalk-able.

Z: What do you like to drink, nibble on or listen to while you write?

J:  I drink lots of water so I won’t drink coffee.  I don’t generally snack while I am writing, and I don’t listen to anything.  I am one of those who needs silence.

Z: I enjoy silence too, you should be at my house at 3:20 pm when all 6+ kids get home from school.

Z: Do you have kids?  If so are they toddlers, school age, teens, college bound or “Hey Mom, I’m home again! or are you an empty nester?

I had stepkids, and one of them dropped off a baby a few years ago and didn’t come back for three years.  He is five now, but he was the closest thing I had to my own flesh and blood child.  Now I have five step-grandkids and see them regularly.

Z:  I am raising my 3 grandkids too, hopefully when my sil can get his mom up from Brazil they will get to go back to live with him.

Z:  If you could have one of your books or series to be made into a movie which would it be and who do you see staring in it?  J: With the popularity of Downton Abbey, I’d love to see my current series, The Secrets of Hadley Green, become a series.  I don’t know who would play in it.  Beautiful people with British accents, hahaha.

Z: I have only just heard about Downtown Abbey, and then I saw  a picture of it on a magazine in Wal mart, I’ll have to go check it out.

Z: Favorite TV shows?

J: I am embarrassed to say I am a reality TV junkie.  I watch the Real Housewives, HGTV and Project Runway.

Z:  To finish off, describe yourself in 5 words.

J: Dreamy, loyal, friendly, confident, fun!

Now let’s look at Julia’s newest series: The Secrets of Hadley Green

   Does he look intense or what.

Hadley Green, 1808

He’d truly expected a plain woman with a plain physical need.

He had not expected an imposter.

It wasn’t patently obvious, for the lady behaved in a manner that a countess ought to behave.  She didn’t do anything to openly spark suspicion, such as neglect to lift her little finger when sipping tea, or curtsy properly.  No, Declan knew she was an imposter because he’d known Keira Hannigan all her life, and Keira Hannigan was no countess.

But she seemed perfectly at ease pretending to be one.

He had no idea what she was doing in England, much less a small village like Hadley Green.  The last he’d seen her—months now, if memory served—she’d been in County Galway (from which they both hailed), and Loman Maloney, whose affluence was matched only by his ambition, was expertly courting her.  Keira was a Hannigan, a daughter of an influential, powerful Irish Catholic family known for their horses and their outspoken politics.  She was pretty in a way that Declan believed only Irish women were pretty, with black hair, fair skin and flashing green eyes.  She was spirited in the way of the Irish, too, which to Declan meant she was possessed of a good sense of adventure and a clever, if not occasionally sharp, tongue.

What Declan found particularly galling was that Keira did not seem the least bit appalled that he’d discovered her deception in this sleepy little village in England.  Quite the contrary.  She looked at him daringly, as if she believed he might openly challenge her.

“Lady Ashwood, may I present Lord Donnelly,” Mr. Fish said.

After his moment of shock, Declan debated calling her out, but he supposed she would be discovered soon and would suffer accordingly.  In the meantime, he had no intention of being drawn into her little game.  He’d been drawn into a game of hers years ago, with disastrous consequences.  He was here to buy a horse.  Nothing more.

“Good afternoon, my lord,” she said.  Her voice filtered into his consciousness, lodging in that place of the familiar.  She moved forward, her dark green riding skirt flaring out around her boots as she moved.  She tossed a ridiculously jaunty hat with a gold tassel at the crown onto the settee as she moved past it.  She walked in that way beautiful women had of walking: light-footed, with a certain sway in her hip, a pert tilt of her head, a shine in her eyes.

“Lord Donnelly, the Lady Ashwood,” Mr. Fish said.

Lady Ashwood, is it?” He might have laughed had he not been so appalled.  She smiled pertly.

“Lord Donnelly has bid twenty five pounds for the filly, madam,” Mr. Fish informed her.

“A respectable sum,” she said pleasantly.  “Although I admit I had hoped she would earn a wee bit more.  She’s a fine horse.  Tea, my lord?”

“Twenty five pounds is far more than she is worth.  And I prefer Irish whiskey,” Declan said dryly.

“What luck!  We happen to have some on hand.  Mr. Fish?”

Mr. Fish instantly moved to the sidecart.  Declan noticed the room.  The salon was as impressive as the sandstone Georgian mansion itself.  The walls were covered in green and crème silk that matched the heavy draperies.  The furnishings were lushly upholstered, the carpet thick, and sunlight streamed in through three pairs of windows that soared all the way to the sculpted crown molding.  The ceiling had been painted to resemble a blue summer sky, complete with clouds and sun and fat little redbirds flitting across.

Declan shifted his gaze to Keira, who smiled a bit nervously, a bit brazenly, as Mr. Fish poured three whiskeys.  Mr. Fish handed one to Keira, whose upbringing as a good Irish girl made her unafraid of whiskey, unlike the genteel ladies in London’s salons.

“Lord Donnelly,” Mr. Fish asked amicably as he handed him a whiskey.  “Your reputation quite precedes you, sir.”

“Apparently, my reputation is alone in that regard,” he said, looking pointedly at Keira.

She smiled serenely, pretty as a portrait, completely unruffled.  A long curl lay across her décolletage, starkly black against her creamy skin.

Mr. Fish seemed a little confused by Declan’s remark, but being a gentleman, continued on.  “We are quite honored that a man of your aptitude in horse breeding is interested in our stock.”

“In whose stock?” Declan asked.

Mr. Fish’s brows dipped deeper into confusion.  “The Lady Ashwood’s, of course.”

“And does the Lady Ashwood intend to join us?” Declan asked, his gaze still on Keira.

Mr. Fish blinked; Keira laughed and swept forward, smoothing away that errant curl with an anxious flutter of her fingers.  “Lord Donnelly is displaying his fine Irish humor, Mr. Fish.  Would you be so kind as to excuse us for a moment?”

Startled, Mr. Fish looked at Keira.  She smiled a little and lifted her tot of whiskey.  “If you’d be so kind,” she said again.

“Of course, madam.”  But he looked entirely perplexed as he put down his tot and strode from the room.

When the door had shut behind him, Keira tossed her whiskey back, then announced breathlessly, “This is not what you think.”

“Not what I think?  I think you are impersonating an English countess, unless you have made a rather fortuitous match,” Declan scoffed.

“No, Declan.  This is Ashwood.”

“Aye…and?”

“And it is Lily’s!  Haven’t you heard?”

He had no earthly idea what she was talking about.  “What is Lily’s?”

“She inherited Ashwood,” Keira said.  “Free and clear.  Don’t tease me, you know that she has.”

He had heard the old earl of Ashwood’s estate had passed to a surviving female heir, but certainly Lily Boudine had not once crossed his mind.  He didn’t know she was associated with Ashwood in any way.  “Why in heaven would I know such a thing?” he demanded irritably.

“Honestly,” Keira said, just as irritably.  “She came from Ashwood.  Everyone knows that she did.”

“I beg your pardon, I did not.  I have not made it my habit to study the family history of Lily Boudine!  But what I find remarkable in this very interesting conversation is that you have made no mention of the fact that you are impersonating your very own cousin.”

“No!” she cried with a nervous glance at the door.  “You are entirely mistaken!”

“Where is Lily?” he demanded incredulously.

Keira sighed.  “Italy,” she said.

“Do you mean to tell me that your cousin is in Italy and you are parading about as her?”

“I am not parading,” she snapped.  “I certainly didn’t come here with the intent of being the countess, obviously,” she said, but Declan saw nothing obvious about that.  “She asked me to come and mind things for her, for she is now the countess.  Aye, aye, I see your look of amazement, and believe me when I tell you it was a surprise to us all, but it is quite true.  Whilst Lily is in Italy with Mrs. Canavan, I came here on her behalf.  Imagine my great surprise when I arrived and they all believed me to be Lily, for apparently, our resemblance is much greater than certainly I had ever realized, and really, Declan, it was their suggestion.”

“Oh, I can imagine,” Declan said skeptically.  “The devil has a face of an angel, Keira Hannigan.”

She frowned darkly.  “You have said that before.”

“And I will say it again.”  He couldn’t imagine what Keira and Lily were about.  He had never thought Keira particularly sensible, but he couldn’t believe for a moment Lily would agree to such a ridiculous bit of fraud.  “What scheme have the two of you concocted?”

“Must you use the word scheme?” she protested.  “It is all very simple.  Lily had committed her companionship to Mrs. Canavan.”

Declan cocked a skeptical brow.

“I came here to mind things until she returns from Italy.  But Declan, I never imagined to find things in such disarray!  That old earl died and left a financial ruin of Ashwood.  You can’t imagine the urgency—there was poor old Hannah Hough, for example.  Some awful monster of a man was attempting to take her lease and enclose it with his property, and the dear was in danger of being evicted from the only home she’s ever known, the very house where she herself was born and raised her three children.  Naturally, I had to act.”

“By pretending to be your cousin?” Declan asked incredulously.

Keira blinked.  “Well I didn’t mean, to, obviously,” she said with great exasperation.  “But it was imperative that a document be signed by the rightful property owner—the countess—that prohibited the sale or alteration of the lease of that the land, or Hannah Hough would lose it all.  I had no choice.”

He knew Keira was bold, but this was astounding.  “Do you not understand that what you have done is unlawful?”

“But it’s not,” she argued.  “When Lily comes to Ashwood, she will set it all to rights.  She asked me to mind the place after all.  I have the letter that says she is countess as proof.”

“Set it all to rights?  People do not appreciate being duped, no matter what Lily asked you to do, no matter what piece of paper you believe you have,” he said sternly, and gestured for her to refill his glass.  “This is so like you, Keira,” he said angrily.  “You act first and think afterward.  You don’t care who you harm.”

Her green eyes widened. Ah, those eyes.  They were a man’s curse, those eyes.  They had lived on in his mind’s eye, long past the point of usefulness.

Keira snatched up the decanter of whiskey and refilled his tot.  “You’re obviously not listening,” she said as she refilled his glass.  “There was quite a lot to be taken care of, and I have very diligently done that for Lily.  Furthermore, I have discovered something so astounding that someone of even your incurious nature would want to discover the truth behind it.”

“I assure you, I do not,” he said, watching her eyes glitter as he drank the whiskey. “By the bye, does the venerable Mr. Brian Hannigan know his daughter is masquerading as an English countess?  And where is your chaperone?  Surely he wouldn’t allow you to cavort about England without chaperone.”

“That is none of your concern.”

“Meaning no,” he said easily.

“Why in God’s name did I ask you here?” she complained, and moved to turn away from him, but Declan caught her wrist of the hand that held the decanter.

“What of Mr. Loman Maloney?  Is he aware that the object of his great esteem and blissful future is perpetrating an entirely indefensible deception?”

Keira turned a very appealing shade of red.  “Mr. Maloney is very busy with his own affairs,” she said primly.

“Meaning, I take it, that he believes you to be in Italy as well.”

Keira gave him a small shrug.

Declan shook his head.  “Foolish girl,” he said, his gaze wandering her face.  “I will give you twenty pounds for the filly.”

He brows dipped into a frown.  “Mr. Fish said you bid twenty five.”

“He is correct,” Declan said as he took in her oval face.  “But that was before I knew what you were about.  Twenty pounds.”

She tilted her head back, knowing full well she was being admired.  “Don’t be absurd.”

“Fifteen,” he said, and touched the curl at her décolletage with his free hand.

Keira gave him a sly smile.  “It was an act of great fortune that I came when I did, Declan.  Who was looking after Lily’s affairs, I ask you?  No one, that’s who, until I came along.”

He moved his hand, to the side of her neck.  “You must be filled with glee to think that as Maloney and your father believe you to be in Italy, and your companion in Dublin, there is no one to keep a proper eye on you, aye?”  He smiled at the thought.  “It is wedded bliss without the wedding.”

Keira’s creamy cheeks pinkened even more.  “I would never, sir.”

Declan’s smile faded.  He lowered his head, so that his lips were only a moment away from hers.  “Never,Keira?” he asked low.

Her eyes glittered angrily.  “Stand back, sir.”

Declan did no such thing.  “There is an old Irish saying.  One should never kindle a fire if one is afraid of being burned.”

Her lips parted slightly and her gaze fell to his mouth.  Something stirred inside Declan.  “I don’t want your advice, my lord,” she said silkily.  “I want your help.”

He looked at her mouth, imagined touching those full lips with his.  “You are mad,” he said low.  “I don’t want to help you.  I want to turn you over to the English authorities.”

“But you won’t,” she said.  “Because that would ruin everything for Lily.  Whatever you may think of me, I know you care about Lily.”

He couldn’t argue that.  Lily was the one person to speak up for him at particularly difficult time in his life, and it galled him that Keira would use that time in his life to buy his silence.  She was too bold, too provocative.  He splayed his fingers against her jaw and forced her head back.  “How is it that you always manage to exasperate me?”

“It is you who are exasperating me at present.”  Her mouth was now directly under his.  She expected him to kiss her; he could see it in her half-closed eyes.

“Fifteen pounds,” he said.

“I am hardly inclined to sell you the horse now that you have behaved so wretchedly,” she said, and her lips curved into a sultry smile.

“Have you considered that you don’t sell me the filly at a fair price, I shall tell the world who you are?  Or more aptly, who you are not?”

“Not for sale,” she said again.

That was Keira Hannigan for you, far too confident for her own good.  Her beauty notwithstanding, her impudence in the face of her deceit annoyed Declan to the point he feared what he might do.  But he thought of Lily, now the Countess of Ashwood, apparently, and at low point in his life, his only friend.  “Don’t toy with me, Keira,” he said low.  “Don’t attempt to include me in any of your schemes.  And don’t expect me to keep your secrets this time,” he said.

He turned away from her and walked out of her purloined salon.

  Novella :  This is a novella about Eireanne O’Conner, the younger sister of Declan O’Conner, (Year of Living Scandalously) , who returns to Ireland to spend Christmas at Ballynaheath.  While there with Declan and Keira, and the pesky twins, Molly and Mabe Hannigan, Eireanne meets an American horseman who captures her attention.  This will be available as an ebook exclusive, available November 1, for your ereader or computer

   This comes out Feb 21, woo hoo!

In Hadley Green…

A gust of wind rattled the windows of Ashwood.  Lily glanced up from the mess she’d made of the wall in the salon to see autumn leaves scudding past the window in small clusters of red and gold.  Dark clouds were accumulating on the horizon, seeping in over the golden landscape.  Lily could hear Linford, the old Ashwood butler, shouting at the chambermaids to close the windows ahead of the rain that would surely fall.

He might shut the windows, but couldn’t stop the leaks around the old window frames.  Or patch this hole she’d made.  In a moment of mad frustration, Lily had taken it upon herself to remove the wallpapering.  It had begun with a frayed corner, and she’d seen paneling beneath it and she’d thought, how difficult can it be to remove the paper?  She’d ripped off a strip.  And then another.  And several more with varying degrees of success.  It seemed that the paste held quite well in some places, and not in others.

Her inability to do something as simple as remove the papering made her anger soar.  She wished the rain would fall so hard that it washed away Tiber Park.  She pictured it; the grand Georgian estate sweeping down the river, colliding with the construction of Tiber Park’s new mill, and both being churned to pieces.

“Have a care in your wishing, lass,” she muttered, and gave the paper a hearty tug.  Two small pieces came off in her hands.  “Blasted wall!”  Given her luck of late, it was far more likely that Ashwood would wash away.  In fact, she was rather surprised that Tobin Scott hadn’t ordered it up.  Oh, what delight he’d take in seeing Ashwood wash away and Lily Boudine turning head over heels down the river with it!

With a sigh, she let the torn paper flutter onto the pile she’d made as Linford hobbled in.

“Oh dear, does your knee pain you, Linford?” Lily asked.

“A bit,” the old man agreed with a slight grimace.  “Foul weather is coming. Mr. Fish has come, mu’um.  I took the liberty of ringing for tea.”

They might be poor, but they were quite rich when it came to decorum.  “Thank you.  Please ask Mr. Fish to come in.”

A moment later, Mr. Fish, who stood two inches shorter than Lily in his boots, entered, his expression stern.  He slowed his efficient step when he saw the mess Lily had made, and gave her a questioning look.

With the back of her hand, Lily pushed a dark lock of hair from her brow. “You look rather glum, sir.”

His frown deepened.  “Five tenants have notified the estate that they intend to farm greener pastures.”

Lily’s pulse ratcheted.  She folded her arms.  “I suppose you mean to Tiber Park.”

“Naturally.”

There was no end to it!  Since she’d come back to Hadley Green, Lily had suffered through a slew of letters, all from Mr. Sibley on behalf of Tiber Park, all demanding one thing or another.  One letter informed her that Tobin had offered her tenants a lucrative share of the harvested crop at Tiber Park in exchange for their tenancy.  Another letter reported that he’d lured men away from the mill she was building at Ashwood, in the hopes of generating some income, to build his bigger and better mill upstream.  She’d lost three footmen to Tiber Park, as well as a groom.

And of course, there was the one hundred of her most profitable acres, against which he’d filed a suit, claiming they rightfully belonged to Tiber Park.  Mr. Fish and Mr. Goodwin, Ashwood’s solicitor, had assured her that he would be successful in his suit, and that at a hearing on the morrow, Eberlin—Eberlin!  Honestly, not Tobin Scott, but Count Eberlin of Denmark, of all things!—would receive the acreage, all because of some arcane, ridiculous glitch in the laws of inheritance and entailments.

Lily had argued that her standing as the new, rightful countess of Ashwood might work in her favor.  The estate and titles had been ordained by none other than King Henry VIII himself, when, in giving the gift of Ashwood to the first earl, had set out the permissions of inheritance: to wit, any heir, male or female, had title to the land that was Ashwood, and claim to the title!  Any blood heir, any adopted heir, any heir at all!

But Tobin had found some tiny keyhole in the law that allowed him to take her acreage.  “It would take a miracle of Biblical proportions for the ruling to go in your favor, I fear,” Mr. Goodwin had said apologetically.

And now five tenants were leaving.  “What did he offer?”

“I cannot say precisely,” Mr. Fish said.  “But apparently, new cottages have been constructed and fields that have lain fallow for years have been harrowed.  They will sow them in the spring.”

Honestly, if Lily had a canon she’d point the thing at Tiber Park and light it herself.  “Which tenants?”

“The Peterman family.  There are five crofters with that name, all related by marriage, all farming on the east end, and all convinced of the prosperity at Tiber Park,” Mr. Fish said.

The east end was the opposite end of the one hundred acres and, naturally, the next most productive, profitable bit of land at Ashwood.  “He is awfully determined, is he not?” she snapped as Linford hobbled lopsidedly into the room carrying a tea service.  “As if destroying Ashwood will bring his father back,” she added angrily.  She whirled around to the window.

“As we have discussed, you are suffering from years of poor fiscal management here at Ashwood, and he is a master at preying on estates such as this.  And yet, there is more,” Mr. Fish said.

“More!” she exclaimed, and turned around.

Mr. Fish sipped from his cup of tea, then put it aside.

He looked thoughtfully at his hand.  He squared his shoulders.

“What is it, Mr. Fish?” Lily prodded him.  “Please speak plainly, as I find myself desperately short on patience today.”

Mr. Fish cleared his throat.  “I have been studying our ledgers.  My fear is that if we do not stabilize the income of Ashwood over the winter, we stand to be bankrupt by summer.”

Lily could feel her blood rushing from face.  “You must explain what that means.”

“That we’d go the way of some other estates.  That is to say, sold in parcels to satisfy creditors.  The house turned into a museum.  Your title…”  He glanced at Lily.  “The title stays with the estate, of course.”

Lily couldn’t bring herself to speak for a moment.  Her mind was full of conflicting, jumbled thoughts.  “That is his plan, isn’t it?  He intends to see us parceled out.”  She began to pace, her mind racing, trying to think of something, anything, they might do.  “We must do whatever it takes to avoid it,” she said to Mr. Fish.  “Have you any idea how we might do that?”

“A few,” he said.  “First, we must conserve cash.  “We will look for any way that we might profit as we sow our winter crops.  But Lady Ashwood, we cannot sow without crofters.”

“Perhaps we might reduce the rents to attract them,” she suggested.  “Or sell things.  Furnishings.  Anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.”

“I dare say it will take more than a few furnishings to save the estate.”

There was something else that might save them: the missing jewels, wherever they were, but no one had managed to find them in in fifteen years.

“I have one suggestion,” Mr. Fish said, and surprisingly, his cheeks colored.

Lily paused in her pacing and looked at him curiously.  “What suggestion?”

“You might actively seek a husband.”

Lily’s brows shot up.

“Madam, forgive me,” he said quickly, “but the original decree states that any female heir must marry a titled man or forfeit the estate and title upon her death.”  At Lily’s look of surprise, he explained, “it was a way of protecting the property.  No…ruffian could seduce his way into this holding.  Your estate is your dower.  You simply choose a titled man who is not entailed to his neck and has cash.”

“That is not precisely the way I intend to go about gaining a husband, Mr. Fish.  And I daresay it is not as easy as that.  To begin, after Keira’s disastrous turn here, I am hardly in high demand in society.”

Mr. Fish looked at his hands again.  He cleared his throat once more.  His cheeks were quite dark now.  “Madam, forgive me for being forward, but I rather think any man worth his salt would fall in love with you given the slightest encouragement.”

Lily blinked.

“And the ladies in Hadley Green are very fond of matchmaking.  Lady Horncastle in particular has connections in London.  I am certain she would very much enjoy helping you.”  He glanced up.

Lily gaped at him.  Mr. Fish was a very clever man indeed.  He’d devised a way she might kill two birds with one stone.

“At the very least, you might think on it,” he said.

“Yes,” Lily said, eyeing him closely.  “I will think on it.  However, I have a different suggestion.”

“Oh?” Mr. Fish asked, looking quite hopeful.

“We find ourselves in hemorrhaging cash because of him, do we not?”

“Yes, in part.”

Lily smiled a little crookedly.  “Then if we knew what he intended to do before he did it, we might be able to take steps to prevent it.”

Mr. Fish looked confused.  “Pardon?”

“Think of it, Mr. Fish,” she said, moving closer.  “If we’d known of his offer to the Peterman family before he’d made it, we might have offered them something more attractive.  Perhaps a larger share in the yields, for example.”

Mr. Fish’s look of surprise slowly melted into an indulging smile.  “But madam…how could we possibly know what he intends to do before he does it?”

This part of her plan was a bit tricky.  But Lily smiled right back as if she had it all charted out.  “It so happens that on Wednesday, I went into the village, and Louis—the footman, you know him, do you not?”

Mr. Fish nodded.

“Louis accompanied me.  A we were walking across the green, I noticed a young man who looked oddly familiar to me.  I said as much, and Louis informed me that the young man was Agatha’s brother.”  Her smiled widened. “Agatha is a chambermaid here.”

Mr. Fish looked puzzled.  “And?”

“And?” she said, trying not to sound too terribly eager, “Agatha’s brother serves Lord Eberlin and he might be persuaded to relay information to us—”

“Lady Ashwood!”

“We would pay him, of course,” she said quickly.

Mr. Fish gaped at her.  “Madam…are you suggesting that we spy on Lord Eberlin?”

“Yes!” Lily cried.  “Indeed I am!  We must do something before he ruins us!”

“But if you were caught—”

If,” Lily said.

Mr. Fish blinked once.  And then again.  “I cannot advise it,” he said sternly, shaking his head and looking quite appalled.

Lily shrugged. “Unfortunately…it might be too late.”  She smiled sheepishly.  “I may have suggested to Louis…”

“Ah, for the love of heaven,” Mr. Fish muttered and in an uncharacteristic lapse of decorum, he sank onto a chair.

“Now, now, Mr. Fish.  It is not as dire as you think,” Lily assured him, and took a seat across from him to tell him what she’d done.

And when Mr. Fish had left for the day—not the least bit pleased with her plan, and really, with his head hanging a bit, Lily reasoned that he was not entirely wrong in his objections.  She would never have believed herself capable of such machinations and trickery.

But then, she had never run across the likes of Tobin Scott before.

   Put this on your TBB for March 27, 2012

The would-be Earl of Ashwood sets his romantic sights on a forbidden prize in the enchanting third novel from Julia London’s addictively sexy new series.

The surprising news that dashing steward Harrison Tolly, illegitimate son of the Earl of Ashwood, is the rightful heir to his father’s estate comes at a most inopportune time. With a wedding on the horizon and a baby on the way, a new life of privilege and prestige would be a blessing but for one problem: his heart belongs to another woman.

Harrison keeps his desires for his employer’s wife, Lady Olivia Carey, so hidden that even she does not know of his devotion. Her callous husband, Marquis Carey, went into a rampage after Olivia’s troublesome younger sister returned from her tour of Spain pregnant, and Harrison impulsively stepped in to save the entire family from scandal. Now, like Olivia, he is trapped in a loveless arrangement. When a tragic accident claims the marquis’ life soon thereafter, can Harrison seize his chance and cast aside one sister for another? Or will doing so expose the Carey family’s darkest secret—and ruin his only chance to win Olivia’s heart?

Well, there you have Julia London, Goddess Extraordinaire. If you want to visit with Julia please go here http://julialondon.com/ or here http://www.thegoddessblogs.com/ or here http://whinesisters.com/author/julia-london/ or here https://www.facebook.com/JuliaLondon

Today Julia is promoting her Hadley Green Series by giving away a copy of The Year of Living Scandalously and I will also give away a copy so two winners, yeah!

Z Seawitch

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3. Winners will be drawn 3 days after each post and a master list will be posted on Feb 17th. You will have until Feb 29th to email me at SeawitchReviews @ yahoo (dot) com. I will also send an email to each winner but if I don’t hear from you by the 29th a new winner will be drawn.

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