Category Archives for My Novels

The Captain and the Coquette Chapter 4

April 16, 2021

The Captain and the Coquette 

A Short Story Prequel to  

Beauty and the Beast of Thornleigh. 

From material which inspired my second novel. 

I hope you enjoy the read.
Please be sure to comment and share! 

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Chapter Four

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Brandt did not have time to raise his weapon.

The tallest of the highwaymen spoke in rough tones. ‘Step out, gentlemen! No hasty movements! Leave the pistol behind, I think, Sir!’

Brandt reluctantly placed the gun on the floor and followed Osmand and Charles to step from the carriage onto the road. The woman in the dark cloak remained inside, and Brandt prayed the creature would stay quiet. The highwaymen had not thought to check for other occupants, and he hoped they would not think to do so.

The driver lay on the road, moaning, blood gushing from a wound on his leg, and the post-boy was disappeared.
‘Naval fellows!’ exclaimed the leader of the pair. ‘Aye, then you might have some pretty coin in your pocket, and a trinket or two, I suppose, hey fellows? Empty your pockets, boys, while my friend here searches your trunks!’

True to his word, the other masked man had opened the trunks and was flinging clothes and papers onto the road, until he found a wad of pound notes. The first man waved his pistol again and indicated they ought to turn out their pockets.
Suddenly, a very uneven but decidedly female voice cried, ‘Put down the gun or I will shoot! I am determined!’

Five men swung around in astonishment.
‘Good God! Miss Hailsham!’

These two exclamations were uttered at the same time, for both Charles and Brandt had recognized the young woman who was half kneeling in the door of the carriage, her hood flung back from her fair hair.

The footpad with the pistol turned his weapon upon her, but she had already fired. Eyes closed, she had fired as straight as she could, and struck the fellow on his arm. He tumbled, clutching the arm, and the other masked fellow, still clutching the wad of pound notes, stumbled and struck off for the woods on their left, in as much haste as he could make.
Brandt lost no time. He strode to the young woman and gently removed the pistol which was now smoking darkly from the tip.

She opened the eyes which had been squeezed shut. ‘Is he dead?’ she asked in a wavering voice.
He shook his head grimly. The other fellow now got to his feet and made off, limping badly, in his friend’s wake. Osmand, at first making an attempt to follow, was prevented by Charles, and the party turned instead to Catherine, in a great astonishment. A volley of questions followed, which led her to hang her head in shame.

‘I only wanted to see Charles off! Yes, it was very foolish of me, but I thought, what a lark, and I never have adventures, and I thought I should be perfectly safe with you all, and now I feel foolish and silly, but after all, I did save you all, did I not?’ she ended hopefully.
Brandt recalled the conversation in the carriage earlier, and bit his tongue. Miss Hailsham had been through enough today. He wished he had not spoken so. He put his hand gently upon her arm. ‘Despite your foolish behavior, Miss Hailsham, I believe we have you to thank for our lives, if nothing else. You were very courageous, was she not, Hailsham?’

Charles put his arm around his sister. ‘Yes, you’re a jolly good girl, Cathy, but what possessed you to endanger yourself, and travel in disguise I do not know. You know if you had come to harm, I could not have faced Mama,’ he chastised. ‘What she will say, I can hardly guess!’

‘Yes Charles, I am very sorry for the nuisance I have been. I only wanted to see Cap—I mean to see you off. War is so very a dangerous thing, is it not?’ With this remark, she began to cry, and was inconsolable for some minutes.
Brandt thought to himself that this was the first time he had seen the real Catherine Hailsham, and he liked her rather the better for it.

When they had seen to the injured driver and bandaged him up with pieces of shirt, they struck out again, with Charles at the reins this time. They made for the nearest inn, where, to Catherine’s dismay, they insisted that they were bound to set her home again on whatever hired hackney they could cajole from the innkeeper, and with the indignity of woman to keep her company. True to their word, upon reaching the nearest posting house they saw to it that after a fortifying meal and glass of wine, Miss Hailsham was bundled into a hired chaise. With a mixture of awareness of her own foolishness and the new misery which she now must conceal from them all, especially Captain Brandt, Catherine allowed herself to be tucked into the carriage. 

Before closing the door, however, Brandt leaned in and said in surprisingly gently, ‘You were very brave today, Miss Hailsham. I shall not forget what you did.’
She nodded stiffly, and felt herself the fool for more than just her actions today. But he obviously meant to go on.

‘It is perhaps better not to speak of what was said in the coach in your hearing, particularly when you should not have been there in the first place,’ he added in chastising tones. ‘But I never meant you should hear ill spoken of you. Forgive my impudence.’ His voice was soft, kind, the voice you use on an infant.

Catherine felt herself colour deeply, and did not know where to look. Finally, she looked him in the eye, almost defiantly. ‘It was nothing, Captain,’ she said lightly, ‘pray do not be anxious over it. I am thicker-skinned than my friends give me credit for. Besides, due to my having but little real substance,’ she added tartly, ‘I collect we should both find each other tiresome, if we were to spend any time together.’

Truth obliged him to acknowledge privately that she had not misjudged the general suitability of their characters, but he felt, all the same, the sting of that judgement, since he certainly might have misjudged the lady on one point. He said gently, ‘I collect that you have more substance than I gave you credit for, Miss Hailsham. I own that I rather mistook you. I beg your forgiveness for that, too.’

She kept bright, defiant eyes fixed upon him, but seemed as if she could not speak. 

He admired her courage, but repressed the chivalrous urge to comfort her, for he knew he could not. She would take refuge in her pride, and he would not take that from her. He said lightly, ‘I am afraid I must leave you; time awaits no man, and I must now be away to sea with your brother, and only God can say if we shall return and when.’

There was kindness in his eyes, but it was the kindness which arises from pity, and she looked away. Brandt stepped back and closed the door to the carriage. ‘Goodbye.’ He gave the post boy a nod and the carriage jolted slightly and moved forward. 

The woman they had hired to see her safely back to town made some general remarks upon the weather, and the amount of work she would come back to that evening, but Catherine did not reply. She pulled up her hood, and turned her face, once again, to the window, and even the woman did not notice the tears which rolled down her cheeks for some time in the shadows of the carriage as it moved inexorably forward, taking her back to the city.

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End Chapter Four

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The Captain and the Coquette Chapter 3

April 10, 2021

The Captain and the Coquette

A Short Story Prequel to  

Beauty and the Beast of Thornleigh. 

From material which inspired my second novel. 

I hope you enjoy the read.
Please be sure to comment and share! 

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Chapter Three

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The humid, quiet morning seemed to Brandt only to intensify the cloying stench of the gutters and the absence of a breeze made him eager to get started. He had taken a hired hackney to call for young Hailsham, and when the three extra trunks had been loaded quickly into the rear in the morning darkness, the young lieutenant joined Captain Brandt and his brother Osmand inside. It took but seven or eight minutes in the comparatively empty streets to reach the posting inn where they were to meet the public stage, and when they entered that vehicle to start their long journey to Portsmouth, they found that they had already attained two travelling companions – a woman who was hidden from view inside a dirty, hooded cloak and who seemed to be dozing, and a corpulent, red-faced gentleman clutching a large portmanteau and a nonplussed rooster in a cage, both of which took up ever more seat space than his ticket had paid for. Every so often the unhappy creature in the cage would give off a few startled murmurs of objection to being carried off in such a way, but settled finally into offended silence. The three officers crammed themselves into the remaining seats, and almost immediately the footman gave whistle, the post-boy whipped up the poor horses, and they had started off.

At first, the occupants of the carriage, offering no remark amongst themselves, and being underwhelmed with the prospect from the window and overwhelmed by sleepiness, drowsed on and off, until a few hours brought them, under full daylight, into the open roads. A quick stop at a turn pike allowed their red-faced guest to disembark, taking his unwieldy and morose luggage with him.
Within minutes the carriage was on the move again, and the naval men, now wide awake, stirred and began to converse in lowered tones of the difficulties ahead, and the likelihood of success in protecting British trade concerns in East India. The hooded woman was silent, keeping her face to the window, and seemed to pay no heed to the three men.
‘I only hope,’ Charles Hailsham ventured, ‘that Collingwood knows what he is about. I pray that he has not been beforehand in this, for the devil knows the French navy has deployed enough ships to populate the whole Pacific! I wager they’ll give us the devil’s nuisance out there.’

‘Aye. They’ve done an excellent job so far to disrupt trade routes already; several merchant ships have been lost. We are bound immediately for Isle de France.’ Brandt sighed. ‘We are in for a ferocious engagement, I collect, but God is on our side; and we have the “Victorious”; she has never let me down yet!’

‘Hear, hear!’ cried Charles in a low voice. Osmand had said little, but was lost in thought. Brandt determined that once they were at sea, he would put his brother to such vigorous employment that he would have no time for melancholy reminiscence.

Charles addressed his captain again. ‘Well, Sir, I collect you have left behind you a sad gaggle of young ladies in London. I hope you know you are responsible for the lost appetites of at least a dozen hopefuls!’ He laughed. ‘I rather think my sister had her eye upon a dashing naval captain, too. ‘Tis too bad, you would have made a fine pair, I fancy!’

Brandt gave a short laugh. ‘Your sister is an amiable, pleasant girl,’ he replied diplomatically, ‘certainly charming enough.’

‘But?’ Charles smiled, nudging Osmand into a laugh.

‘My brother thinks all women are scatterbrained, inconstant creatures, ready to talk but never to listen, always fluttering like butterflies, and lacking the real substance required for him to give them credence!’

Brandt laughed and held up his hands. ‘You have painted me a dark fellow indeed, brother, but it is true enough; I have not yet discovered a woman who can satisfy my desire for a solid meal, rather than little sweetmeats, as it were.’ He paused. ‘In women, I admire above all things intellect, and I like to see a spark of something more than just outward girlishness. The woman to satisfy me will be as solid as I am, intellectually. She will feed my mind and my soul. Nay,’ he added with a grave smile to Charles, ‘your sister, while a fine, good girl, will do better to focus her attention of one of those young London blades that sit around uselessly and have nothing better to say for themselves than do the ladies that simper at them.’

‘Why, that’s a tad singular, and most unfair to poor Catherine, Sir. She’s a good girl, you know!’ Charles had enough brotherly affection to defend his sister, where she was prevented from doing so herself by her absence.

But Osmand shot his brother a look of astonishment. ‘Good God, Ash! I never took you for a romantic! That was from the soul of a poet, not a weather-beaten sea Captain! Then, you might well understand what it means to lose such a one, when you have just found them!’

Brandt was opening his mouth to answer this remark, when the carriage rolled to a jolting stop and the sounds of shouting came from without. The men all leaned forward to look from the window to see what had occurred, but were prevented from doing so for long, on account of the sound of two gun shots that suddenly rang through the morning air. The woman in the corner screamed.
Brandt leaped up, reaching into his boot. ‘Calm yourself, Madam!’

All at once, the door of the carriage had swung open and two men, masked, stood at the opening, with a gun. 

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End Chapter Three

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The Captain and the Coquette Chapter 2

April 3, 2021

The Captain and the Coquette

A Short Story Prequel to  

Beauty and the Beast of Thornleigh. 

From material which inspired my second novel. 

I hope you enjoy the read.
Please be sure to comment and share! 

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Chapter Two 

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Are you sure? Tomorrow morning, four o clock?’

‘Your mouth is open, sis. Close it. Yes, tomorrow morning.’ Charles Hailsham laughed. ‘I ought to know, for the note came today. My captain requires me aboard, and that, I am afraid, is the end of my leave. Mama is melancholy, of course, but she will rally. I dare say I’ll be back to port again soon enough. Brandt is to call here for me, and we shall travel together to Portsmouth. He leaves devilish early, I must say, but I dare say he is eager to inspect the “Victorious” before we pull anchor and it is a ten hour journey. Lord, how I shall be sore by the time we arrive! Well, I shall say my goodbyes after dinner, Cathy. I shall not expect you to rise at that ungodly hour!’

Catherine smiled weakly, but her mind was frantic. Captain Brandt was to go! And so soon! And she had received no offer, none at all, and no hint of one. Her heart began to pale. She must see him again before he went away! She could not bear it if she did not! She had never been in love before, and if she had ever known what it was to feel this mingling of joy and desperation, of happiness to be with him and to think of him, and the accompanying terror at the thought that she might never see him again, she would perhaps have been more cautious with her heart. But it was too late –she wanted none but him, and she could not allow him to leave her without making her heart known to him!

In misery she watched Charles go upstairs to pack. If only there was a way she could at least wish Captain Brandt goodbye! Then he would know her devotion; indeed he could not be immune to knowing himself so cherished, surely! She went into the drawing room and sat for some time at the window. Then, rising suddenly, she went upstairs. At Charles’s door, she knocked then entered. Her brother was just closing his trunks.

‘Pardon me, Charles, for interrupting—but how will you be travelling to Portsmouth? Did you say Captain Brandt was to call here for you?’

‘Why, yes, he’ll call here and then we will go direct to the stage coach with our trunks and cases. Why do you ask?’

‘Oh! Only because I was anxious as to your safety. I suppose if you are travelling public coach you are less likely to be held up. You know there have been incidents on many roads out of London.’

Charles reassured her laughingly. ‘Brandt always carries a weapon, as do I. I believe we shall be quite safe, you goose!’

‘Oh, good,’ replied Catherine absently, forgetting to object to the unflattering appellation. She left the room and retired to her own until dinner was called.

Their meal was a sombre one, Mrs Hailsham alternately putting down her knife and fork with a volley of sighs, and admonishing poor dear Charles to ‘keep his neck warm at all times and to write as soon as ever he was able’.

“Poor Charles”, rather excited to be going to sea again, and with all his faith in having the very steadiest of captains to carry him safely away and home again, was less moved than his parent. He ate and drank with a heartiness neither his sister nor mother could countenance, and instead of giving in to melancholy himself, he did his best to cheer them all up who were not going to sea, and were pretty well assured of comfortable and long lives!

Catherine, whose mind was much occupied with other thoughts, was the quietest of the three, and when finally the coffee was brought in and they had all sat together for the last time, she bid her brother a rather dry-eyed goodbye, pleaded tiredness, and went upstairs to bed.

The Captain and the Coquette Chapter 1

March 16, 2021

The Captain and the Coquette. 

A Short Story Prequel to  

Beauty and the Beast of Thornleigh.

From material which inspired my second novel.

I hope you enjoy the read.
Please be sure to comment and share! 

Kate Westwood regency romance site decoration

Chapter One 

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London, 1809.

There are those who complain that London in the summer is an unbearable conglomeration of stifling, cloying heat to rival Africa, clamouring, ceaseless noise reminiscent of a screaming threshing machine working full tilt twenty-four hours a day, and odious stench akin to that of the down-wind from a pig farm.

This was no deterrent, however to the throngs who swarmed into this veritable pig-pit for the yearly ‘season’. The capacity of that great city each summer was stretched ever more, so that it brimmed to bursting with diversion-seeking, pleasure-loving country gentry, ready to be entertained and determined to be so twenty-four hours a day. The mad rush of carriages, people and horses passing among each other at all hours, with barely a whit of distance to separate them, nor opportunity to pass between, gave most of these so-called refined people the head-ache, which affliction they would own quite cheerfully as they rushed forward and onward to the next engagement.  

If anyone ever slept, this was kept quite secret, for no one appeared ever to take to their beds, and most sported great dark circles below glazed, reddened eyes as a testimony to the capacity of humans for overindulgence and the importance of being seen over seeing clearly.  

For a particular young lady in a blue silk dress, perched on a chair in a ballroom with her friends, however, none of this signified, and neither had the usual effects of an eight-week season in London touched her materially, to an observer at any rate, for Catherine Hailsham was in a state which rendered her impervious to the rigors of a London summer; she was in love.

Captain Asher Brandt, the object of her recently discovered adoration had made his fortune early by excelling in the navy, and now he was on well-earned leave, however brief that might be with Bonaparte threatening war again already. He had come home to be with his brother, a widower whose wife had died in childbirth. Brandt’s handsome countenance, not the least bit reddened from months at sea, matched his handsome fortune, the said fortune only increasing the captain’s personal attractions as far as young ladies were concerned. And if those same young ladies found anything lacking in the saturnine nose and strong intelligent brow, Brandt’s amiable, assured manner and proud carriage set him apart from most other men in the room.

At least, such were the reflections of Catherine, as she sat with her friends, watching him across the room.

‘You are so lucky, Cathy, to be always in company with him because of Charles. Really, it is quite unfair to the other ladies; you have so much more opportunity to engage him than we do!’ Miss Anne Young made this observation with a wistful sigh.
‘Really, Anne, I cannot help that my brother is Captain Brandt’s most intimate friend, as well as being his lieutenant on the “Victorious”. It is only natural that we should meet often.’ A satisfied smile lurked upon her lips as she spoke.

Catherine had been thrown into Captain Brandt’s company more than a dozen times, conversed with him exactly nine times, and danced with him four times, two dances each time. Enough for her to have fallen headlong into that rapturous state young ladies call “love”, and older matrons, having long since given up all claims to that violence of affection which can so discombobulate a young lady’s composure, dismiss as “infatuation”.

Anne was Catherine’s intimate friend, and these two young women, along with Lilly Osbourne, Catherine’s other particular friend, now sat together, looking out over the crowded ballroom, fluttering their fans in the evening heat and gossiping gently. They sat demurely, their mothers watching guard over them, but the girls had still managed to enclose themselves in that private little circle of confiding intimacy which one only sees among the female sex.

Lilly was hesitant for her friend. ‘He is very handsome, I admit Catherine. But, oughtn’t you to be a little careful, as to your heart? Do you sense that he pays you a peculiar attention? Does he make his meaning clear, or imply it? Mama says that Lady Appleby says, that his heart will not easily be won, because of Bonaparte, and all that.’ Although she had noted the Captain’s easy manners with them all, and seemed to accept Catherine’s attentions with good humour, Lilly had perceived nothing extraordinary in his addresses to her friend.

‘Bonaparte? What has he to do with anything? Captain Brandt has been most attentive, and his asking me to dance twice last night, and twice tonight, was a sure sign of his intention! He will certainly offer for me, and Mama agrees. Besides,’ she added confidently, ‘Charles would warn me if he was not serious. He is too much the gentleman to lead a lady on and then retreat.’

‘Well, perhaps you are right, Cathy, but Mama says she heard from Lady Appleby that he might be called away to Portsmouth as early as next week, so if he is to offer, it had better be soon!’ interjected Miss Young. ‘And if you intend to get him, you had better make your mark with him immediately, for I collect you have some competition!’  

Catherine, dismayed at both these items of news, followed her friend’s eyes and then made a determined little moue with her lips. The object of her interest now stood in the center of several attractively-gowned ladies, all of whom were positively swooning over him, she thought acerbically.

She stood. Advancing towards the group, she inserted herself into the little gaggle of hens which had collected about their rooster, and with the confidence of a six-week intimacy behind them both, interjected, ‘Are you to stay long in town, Captain? I do hope you will be able to enjoy a long leave, for I am sure you have earned it!’

Captain Brandt smiled enigmatically. ‘I cannot say when we shall be called away. However, I find myself reluctant to leave the amusements and comforts of the city; they are exceedingly agreeable to a soul which has been forced to bear the confines of a small ship for months on end!’

‘Oh, I do agree, Captain!’ she cried eagerly.
‘Although I can hardly imagine what conditions are like on a ship, since Charles will not let me on board, even to look it over! But,’ she rapidly added as one of the young ladies opened her mouth to speak, ‘Charles says the “Victorious” should expect a long leave.’

Captain Brandt acknowledged this with a polite smile but remained silent.  

Miss Laing, a fair creature with puppy-dog eyes, fluttered her fan and began to ask breathlessly about living conditions on board, but Catherine was not so easily put off. Pressing her lips in determination she added quickly, ‘Oh, how I do hope for a long leave for my brother; it is vastly unpleasant to have one’s brothers, and one’s dear friends,’ she added coyly, ‘at sea in wartime, for every occasion the door bell rings or the post comes, the woman folk of the house simply die, expecting news of the worst kind!’

Captain Brandt smiled indulgently. ‘I am much obliged, Miss Hailsham, for your dying—how often must it be—five or six times per day at least, on mine and Charles’s behalf! It must be vastly taxing on the undertaker, however!’

‘Oh, you wicked quizz, you tease me!” she cried, fluttering her fan. ‘Miss Laing, do you not agree that Captain Brandt is a vast famous tease?’ Miss Laing had only a giggle from behind her fan to give in reply, and Catherine quickly added, ‘Only think, if it were so! The undertaker would be the richest man in London!’ She sparkled gently at him. ‘You naughty man, you know I mean to exaggerate! But I do hope your leave will be a long one,’ she added earnestly, putting her hand proprietarily on the Captain’s sleeve, then removing it with a little glance up at him through her lashes.

‘If you will excuse me, ladies, I see I am being summoned.’ He avoided her eyes, and bowing low to all of the ladies at his hand, he retreated across the room to his brother, leaving a disappointed set of hens looking after his blue-coated back.

Osmand stood alone in a corner, an almost-empty glass in his hand.
Brandt hesitated, then began in his most cheerful tone.
‘Well, Osmand, what are you about, lurking in the corner like this?’ He slapped the other man gently on his back. ‘You are missing all the diversions a city of fluttering young ladies can bring you. After all, that is why I have brought you here!’

Osmand remained grave and lifted his drink to his lips. Looking out through the window, he laughed mirthlessly. ‘You do not fool me, brother. I collect that none of those ladies, however pretty they might be or how delightful their conversation, will answer what it is we have both come here for.’

‘And what, pray, is that? What cure can a pretty young woman who darts her sparkling eyes, and smiles only for you, not effect, no matter what the illness?’ Brandt smiled at his brother, but there was concern in his eyes. ‘Come, you must rally, Osmand, you must! It has been too long!’

Osmand finished the last of his drink and placed the glass carefully upon the window will. The moonlight glanced off the cut glass design. ‘You have come to be distracted from the horrors of war, and yet, already you have received your orders again. In three days, you will be at sea, and I, I beg you that I will be with you. Get me a commission, Ash.’ He turned pleading eyes on his brother. ‘God help me, but I cannot bear to be at Thornleigh. I must occupy myself!’  

Brandt put his hand on his brother’s arm, and sighed heavily. ‘I had not spoken of it earlier, for you know how reluctant I am about this scheme of yours, but I have spoken to Admiral Shephard. It is done. You have your commission. You sail with me, at midnight, three days from now, if that is truly your wish. I only hope I have done the right thing.’

Osmand grasped his brother’s hand very hard. ‘Thank you. I am more obliged than I can ever say, Asher. I shall not let you down.’  

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End Chapter One

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