The London Foundling Hospital

I recently ran across Orphans of Empire by Helen Berry, a new nonfiction book chronicling the history of the London Foundling Hospital, Britain’s first home for abandoned children, a find that thrilled me to no end because a) lifeline Anglophile b) lifelong history geek and c) the LFH is the principal setting for my late Regency romance, Claimed By the Rogue.

The LFH was founded by sea captain Thomas Coram, a childless widower with a hefty purse and the heart to match it. Appalled by the 1,000 children abandoned to the London streets each year, Captain Coram resolved to put his money where his morals were. In 1735 he petitioned Britain’s King George II to establish a “hospital” (a philanthropic institution dispensing hospitality) for the education and maintenance of foundlings. Twenty-one aristocratic ladies signed on to Coram’s petition, which quickly picked up steam as a fashionable philanthropy. Coram received his Royal Charter in 1739; the first children were admitted in 1741. Prominent patrons included the painter, William Hogarth and composer George Frideric Handel; the latter served as the hospital’s first governor.

The LFH no longer exists – the gracious Georgian brickwork building in Bloomsbury was demolished in 1926 and the institution ended in the 1950s – but its 200+ year history is preserved in the Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square. Perhaps the most feeling artifacts on exhibit are also the humblest: the museum’s collection of Foundling Tokens – buttons, jewelry, coins etc. – left behind by the mothers, a last tangible link to the child they hoped one day to reclaim. Sadly, such hoped for reunions were rare; the vast majority of tokens remain with the museum.

If an orphanage sounds like an unconventional setting for a Regency romance, you would be right! In Claimed By The Rogue, my heroine, Lady Phoebe Tremont, volunteers at the LFH after her fiance, Captain Robert Bellamy, is presumed lost at sea. Six years later, Robert returns to find a very different Phoebe than the sweet, pampered miss he left behind. Fiercely devoted to the foundlings under her care, determined to continue in her duties despite her impending marriage to an expat French aristocrat, Phoebe is very much a woman ahead of her time. To win her back, Robert makes an offer not even Phoebe can refuse. He’ll donate 100 pounds a day to the institution she lives and breathes provided Phoebe allows him to shadow her in her daily duties.

Spoiler Alert! He falls head over feet for the new impassioned, socially-minded Phoebe – it IS a romance – as well as the adorable orphans under her care.

Enjoy this short excerpt from Claimed By The Rogue and join me on Twitter @hopetarr and Instagram @hopectarr where I post fun historical tidbits at #HistoryMatters.

“Don’t you ever rest?” Robert asked, trailing Phoebe down yet another labyrinthine passageway. So far they’d visited the governors’ court room, chapel, girls’ dormitory, boys’ dormitory, sundry classrooms, and even the morgue, all of it at a brisk to breakneck pace.

She glanced back at him over her shoulder. “I haven’t the need, but don’t let me hinder you from doing so.”

“No, I’m fine. I was only concerned for you.”

“Hmm,” was all she said before darting down yet another white-walled corridor.

Lengthening his stride, he found himself wondering how it was that such a graceful woman managed to move so swiftly. The indolent maid of his memory seemed to have acquired the gait of a racehorse, not that he considered complaining of it. Admiring the hind view of those slender, swaying hips made for a deucedly pleasant pastime even if the reek of turpentine and lemon oil was beginning to block his nose.

The ended their tour at the infirmary. The strong smell of vinegar permeated the vicinity. A glass-front apothecary cabinet containing myriad meticulously labeled clear jars, a washing bench outfitted with a bandage roller and stacked bedpans and a leather bound ledger presumably for recording the circumstances of patients comprised the long, narrow room. Phoebe’s hushed conference with the attending nurse secured their admission. Robert followed her along the queue of narrow cots, all but one of them unoccupied.

“Feeling a bit better today, Sally?” Phoebe asked, pausing to rest her hand upon the child’s brow, her swollen jaw banded by a camphorous cloth.

The girl, Sally, shook her head, wincing. “Tooth hurts terrible.”

Phoebe stroked a hank of brown hair back from the girl’s forehead. “I’m sure it does, poppet, but at least your fever’s down. Once the foulness finishes draining, you’ll be right as rain.”

Dull eyes looked up into hers. “Yes, miss.”

Most in Phoebe’s position would have moved along but instead she lingered. “I was going to give this to you later but now shall serve.” She reached into her gown’s pocket and pulled out a cloth-covered doll.

The fevered little face lit. “Oh, miss, thank you!”

Phoebe tucked the doll into the crook of Sally’s arm and straightened. “Not only a doll but a magic doll. Whenever your tooth troubles you, squeeze upon her and she’ll help keep the pain away.”

Looking on, Robert felt a powerful pull in the vicinity of his heart. Phoebe had the makings of a marvelous mother. The earlier scene in the classroom and now this strengthened his resolve to do all in his power to ensure that her future children would be his, not Bouchart’s.

Seeing her about to turn back to him, he quickly made a mask of his face. “You needn’t fear infection,” she said archly, misreading him yet again. “Mostly we treat minor injuries, sprained ankles and, in Sally’s case, toothache. More serious cases are transported to St. George’s.”

“My constitution is that of an ox,” he answered, no idle boast. Given the fevers and pestilence to which he’d been exposed, an abscessed tooth and a few running noses hardly seemed of note. Stepping away from the beds with Phoebe, he asked, “How did you come to volunteer here?”

She hesitated. “In an odd way, I have you to thank for it.”

“I?” Even strongly suspecting he would regret it, he had to ask, “How so?”

“After we were told you were…lost, I wasn’t entirely certain what to do with myself, how to go on. Coming here began as a crutch, a reason to rise from bed each morning. Over time I began adding days, heartened that it was in my power to do some good.”

His kitchen conversation with Chelsea came back to him. She draped herself in black crepe and bombazine for a full year as though she were your widow in truth. There were times we feared she might take her own life.

“How does your mother feel about your laboring?”

She lanced him a look. “You mean my eccentricity, or so Mother calls it. She’s pinning her hopes on marriage proving the cure. To be fair, I should admit that she is hardly alone in her censure. Barring Chelsea and Anthony, most members of the ton think I’m daft to spend my days fraternizing with orphaned children, whom they’re convinced will amount to nothing more than cutpurses and prostitutes.

Watching her closely, he ventured, “And Bouchart, what does he say?”

She hesitated, the pause telling or so it seemed to Robert. “Aristide tolerates my employment for the present though he too assumes I’ll give it up of my own accord once we’re wed.” She paused, her quicksilver gaze honing onto his. “He’s mistaken.”

“I admire you for following your passion.”

She looked at him askance.

A renegade curl clung to the side of her cheek, which was neither pale nor waxen as it had been after her faint but a healthy, becoming pink. Resisting the urge to reach out and brush it back, he shook his head. “No really I do.”

Admire her though he did, he was in no way inured to how enticing she not only looked but smelled—vanilla from the milled soap she’d always favored, lavender from the eau de cologne she preferred to perfume, and some spicy citrus scent he didn’t recall from before but badly wanted to sample.

A baby’s balling drew their attention outside. Robert joined her at the window overlooking the front lawn. Fifty-odd women and children, the latter of various ages from infancy to adolescence, stood in queue extending from the arcaded entrance gate to the circular drive. The group had grown considerably since Robert had arrived. Passing them by, he’d seen more than one cheek tracked with tears but aside from the occasional wailing infant, they’d waited in stoic silence. It seemed they waited still.

“Good God, there are so many of them.”

Letting the curtain drop, Phoebe sighed. “I know. Every Monday brings the same sad sight. I’d thought by now to be accustomed to it, but after five years it still breaks my heart.”

“Have the London parish houses grown so lax in dispensing relief?

Her arch look told him he’d said the wrong thing—again. “They’ve not come for alms but to surrender their children. Only babes of twelve months or younger are accepted, and the mother must stipulate that the child is the fruit of her first fall—born out of wedlock. Admission is by ballot. Every Monday, a man is sent out with a leather bag of colored marbles. Each woman is entitled to draw only one from the bag. White entitles her child to admission subject to passing the medical examination, red to be put on a waiting list in case one of the accepted children is found to suffer from a malady of an infectious nature, and black—”

“Mother and child are turned away?”

Eyes suspiciously bright, she nodded. “It sounds heartless, I know, and in a way it is, but we haven’t beds for them all. Truth be told, we haven’t room for the ones we do take in. Presently we’re at four hundred and ten and that’s with several of the younger boys and girls sleeping two to a cot.”

He’d thought himself hardened to sad, suffering sights, but apparently he wasn’t as toughened as he’d supposed. “What will happen to them?”

“Once they pass the medical examination, they’re sent to the country for fostering. At four or five years of age, they’re brought back here, the boys to learn a trade, the girls to train for domestic employment. When the boys reach fourteen, the governors arrange indentures for them; many end up enlisting in the army. Settling the girls is more difficult, but every effort is made to find them suitable situations.”

Like a surgeon probing a wound, he had to know. “And what of those who are turned away?”

She shrugged but once again her eyes, silver blue irises awash in unshed tears, confirmed how very deeply she cared.  “Some will be abandoned. Others will starve alongside their mothers. Still others still will seek refuge in the workhouses or…worse.” A pained look crossed her face. “Last winter a newborn was discovered in a…rubbish bin behind the hospital kitchen. He’d been dead some hours, of exposure or so the resident physician judged.” She turned her face away.

He braced a hand upon the sill, bringing their bodies ever so slightly brushing. “Surely something more may be done?  What of the fathers?  Haven’t they any say in whether or not their children are given up?”

She turned back to glare at him, her quicksilver gaze once more sharp as Damascus steel. “Do you honestly believe that even one of those women standing out there would give up her child if she might choose another course, if she herself hadn’t been abandoned?”

Abandoned—so there it was, the crux of Phoebe’s philanthropic passion. Clearly she felt an affinity with these women who’d been abandoned by their men to fend for their offspring and themselves.

“I only meant that it seems a father should have some rights, some say at the very least. Conceiving a child requires both parties, after all.” Gaze on hers, he owned how very much he wanted to make love with her and babies with her, the yearning to plant his seed inside her so fiercely primal he felt a sudden aching in his loins.

“One of the prerequisites for participating in the balloting is that the father must have deserted both mother and child. Deserted, Robert. I’d think you of all people would understand that.”

He swallowed against the pain pushing a path up his throat. “I didn’t desert you.”

She answered with a sharp laugh. “You chose to stay away and leave me to think you dead. If that’s not desertion, what is?”

“I chose to return when I knew I might be a fit husband for you in every way.”

After the torturers had gotten through with him, it had taken him months before he’d been able to stand the sight of himself in a mirror; closer to two years before he could bear so much as a hand upon his shoulder without flinching. How could he have come to her then, broken, a wreck? Better to allow her to think him dead and remember him as he’d been then to foist the leavings of himself upon her, a shell empty of all but pain and horror. Returning ere now would have been the ultimate selfishness or so he’d told himself. But staring into Phoebe’s face, he was no longer so supremely certain. The woman before him was fashioned of sturdier stuff than the girl he’d left behind. That girl would have crumpled at the sight of him but the strong, poised woman he saw before him might have proven equal to the task.

Her gaze narrowed. “And now you are too late, for I have a husband or at least I shall before the month is out.”

Before the month is out! Robert felt as though an invisible fist plowed him in the solar plexus. In the past, controlling his reaction to the pain, pretending to no longer feel or care, had served as his best defense, his strongest weapon.

Calling upon that hard-learned stoicism now, he summoned a smile. “What a coincidence, for I too will be embarking upon my next voyage at the month’s end but not before I have the pleasure of seeing you as a bride, I hope.”

Phoebe’s smile slipped.

“For now, I am afraid I must away. I have another appointment to attend.”

“Pray do not let me keep you from your pressing business,” she retorted, sounding much like her mother. Judging from her planted stance, he gathered she didn’t mean to walk him out. Just as well, he supposed for he needed some time to recover from the blow she’d just dealt him.

Heading for the door, he turned back. “What ungodly hour shall I arrive tomorrow?”

She shrugged. “Anytime or not at all, as you wish.”

“If you treat all your benefactors in such a shrewish fashion, ‘tis a mercy you have a roof and four walls,” he answered, a deliberate reminder that he was, in point, paying for her company if not her goodwill.

Releasing a sigh, she capitulated, “Oh, very well, nine o’ clock sharp and mind if you’re late, I shall bar the classroom door and you may wait out in the hallway until the session finishes.”

“My dearest Phoebe, I wouldn’t dream of being late.”

Stepping out into the hallway, Robert considered that six years was quite late enough. He didn’t mean to waste so much as a single second more.

Copyright: Hope Tarr

To read the rest of Lady Phoebe and Robert’s second chance at love story, buy the ebook at any of these online retailers.

 

 

Tomorrow’s Destiny in Ebook AND Audiobook!

Seasons Greetings!

I’m thrilled to announce that Tomorrow’s Destiny, my beloved Victorian paranormal romance, is out in time for the winter holidays thanks to the good people at Scribd. Even better, the audiobook is narrated by my fellow Victorian ghost-loving author, Leanna Renee Hieber. Having Leanna lend her lovely, lilting voice to my heroine, Fiona is a wee dream-come-true.

A bit about the book:

Approaching her thirtieth birthday on Christmas Day, 1890, bookshop proprietress Fiona MacPherson is in danger of becoming a Scrooge on par with Mr. Dickens’ curmudgeon. With her beloved Da dead, she’s set to lose her treasured bookshop to a mysterious antiquities collector. Fortunately for Fiona, her guardian angel-in-training, Fern, is determined to set her stubborn charge’s life, and future, back on track. Masquerading as the Angel of Christmas Future, Fern has until the final stroke of midnight on Christmas to persuade Fiona to embrace her destiny, and her one true love.

Antiquarian Tobias Templeton has been cursed from birth with an unknown form of albinism, a condition that renders him unable to endure sunlight and overly sensitive to touch. For five years he’s been obsessed with an ancient Aristotelian text on alchemy; Tobias is convinced the book holds the key to his cure. Unfortunately, it was snatched away at auction by MacPherson, a Scottish bookseller and rival collector. Five years later, success is in sight! Tobias has the deed to MacPherson & Daughter Booksellers in his pocket.

When Tobias shows up on Fiona’s doorstep on Christmas Eve to claim his property, will her scheme to save her shop, and his certainty that his condition makes him unlovable, keep them apart? Or will they embrace the magic of the holiday season and accept the destiny that eluded them five years ago?

Not subscribed to Scribd? Not a problem. Click on the link and get a 30-day free trial during which you can savor so many wonderful books including Tomorrow’s Destiny.

Happy Christmas! Merry Hanukah!! Fabulous Festivus!!!

Follow me on Twitter @hopetarr and Instagram @hopectarr.

Tempting back in paperback! Enjoy the first chapter FREE

Just in time for the winter holidays, Tempting is once more available in paperback! Check out the book, which RT BOOK Reviews nominated for “Best Unusual Historical Romance” on Amazon.

Tempting by Hope TarrAnd of course ebook readers can continue to find the Tempting ebook on Kindle Nook iBooks Kobo Smashwords — everywhere ebooks are sold. Meanwhile, enjoy the first chapter, my compliments, here.

Chapter One
London, October 1867

Simon Belleville was no stranger to squalor. He’d passed his first fifteen years in Whitechapel, the worst of the London stews, among the moneylenders, whores, and immigrants of Eastern Europe. The brothel staircase upon which he stood was every bit as narrow, as filthy, as dank as the ones he’d played upon as a child. Only now he was a man of four-and-thirty. A man of property and experience. A man who’d traveled to India and back—to Hell and back—to make his fortune. A fortune he’d doubled, no, quadrupled, many times over since his return. In a country where wealth and position were bestowed by birth or not at all, he was a self-made man, a living legend. At East India Company headquarters in Leadenhall, directors and shareholders and counting house clerks all uttered his name in reverent whispers. When he walked into the Royal Exchange, a hush fell over the central court as investors strained to hear what stocks he would buy, what others he would sell. And now he was poised to realize his next great ambition: a seat in the House of Commons.

Backing his aspiration was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord Derby’s Conservative government, Benjamin Disraeli. When Disraeli had suggested Simon head Her Majesty’s Morality and Vice Commission, he’d had no thought of refusing. Distasteful as his duties were—if women elected to sell their bodies for a few quid and food in their bellies, who was he to stop them?—still the appointment was his chance to prove his worth to Disraeli, to the Conservatives, perhaps even to Victoria herself.

Over the past six months, Simon had led raids on twenty-odd brothels. The present establishment, Madame LeBow’s, was the very last on his list. Like the others, it offered the standard fare of flagellations, deflorations, and fellatio at working-class prices. Patrons liked their sex rough, their wine cheap, and their whores young. The close air stank of spilled seed and stale beer, and at least four of the eight prostitutes incarcerated in the police wagon outside were younger than sixteen.

Stopping on the stairwell, he stripped off his gloves and stuffed them in his coat pockets. Gloves were de rigor, of course, the hallmark of a gentleman, and yet wearing them he never felt as though his flesh could properly breathe. Wrapping one blissfully bare hand about the scarred newel post, he looked below to the four blue-suited police sergeants flanking the first floor entrance. A fifth officer was posted outside to guard the women. Simon had been about to issue the order to pull out when he’d overhead two of the prisoners whispering about the new girl in the attic. He might dislike discharging this particular set of duties, still he was a thorough man. A clean sweep meant just that, and he had no intention of allowing even one rabbit to escape from its warren.

Inspector Tolliver, lantern in hand, walked up the stairs, stopping a few steps below him. “Shall I light the way, sir?”

Simon shook his head. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll go alone.” He reached for the lantern, which Tolliver reluctantly handed up.

At the last whorehouse where he’d allowed Tolliver to lead an arrest, the madam had emerged with a blackened eye and split lip. Tolliver claimed she’d tripped and fallen on her way down the stairs. Simon had his doubts.

Tolliver twisted one waxed end of his handlebar mustache. “Are you certain, sir? It could be a trap.”

Unaccustomed to having his judgment questioned, Simon snapped, “I believe I can handle it, Inspector. By all accounts, there’s but one woman up there, and if she’s anything like the others, she’s little more than a child.”

Tolliver shifted his narrow shoulders. “Have it your way, guv. The lads and I’ll be below if you need us.” He patted the club swinging from his belt.

Watching him fumble his way back down in the dark, Simon suppressed a snort. With its bicycles and billy clubs and smart blue uniforms, London’s eight-man detective department fancied itself a force to be reckoned with. But then Tolliver and his men rarely ventured into the East End. Those dark, crooked lanes with their stench of urine, rotting rubbish, and spoiled dreams were a foreign land to them. To Simon, they would always be home.

He continued up the remaining three flights to the attic, rotting floorboards groaning beneath his boot soles. It was nearly twenty years, and yet it might have been yesterday that he’d listened for the landlord’s footfalls on a set of creaking stairs much like these.

“This isn’t a charity house,” the landlord, Mr. Plotkin, had said, after delivering what amounted to a death sentence. The three of them—Simon, his mother, and Rebecca—had twenty-four hours to gather their belongings and quit the premises; otherwise, he’d have them all hauled to debtors’ prison.

It was the first time Simon had seen his mother cry since his father’s death. Wringing her work-roughened hands, Lilith Belleville had looked from one child to the next and then back at the landlord. Then she’d done the unthinkable. She’d sunk to her knees and begged.

“Have pity, Mr. Plotkin. If you turn us out, where shall we go?”

“That is not my affair.” Stepping past her, Plotkin’s shoe had landed on the hem of her worn dress, leaving a dusty footprint on the clean calico.

The scene, like so many painful episodes from his past, remained branded on Simon’s brain. Now someone else, some other cringing scrap of humanity, waited behind a closed attic door for him to deliver the edict that would result in her being dispatched to Newgate Gaol or, worse still, one of the prison hulks moored along the Thames.

Like grinding an insect beneath his boot heel, Simon moved to squash what piddling pity still lived inside him. “That is not my affair,” he said softly, gaining the landing.

The attic door was a narrow planked archway barely broader than his shoulders. He slid back the bolt and the warped wood moaned open on rusted hinges. Ducking beneath the low lintel, he entered.

Inside the air was foul as a draining ditch, the heat as stifling as Calcutta at midday, the darkness unrelieved by any light save the one Simon bore. A latticework of cobwebs hung from the eaves, catching on the crown of his beaver hat. Brushing them aside, he held up the lantern and took stock. There was an old seaman’s chest, a slop bucket—full, judging from the stench—and a rope bed wedged beneath the slanted roof, an elaborately arranged pile of rags draped atop.

Securing the door, Simon moved toward the center of the room, his free hand pushing through dust motes, his footfalls on the floorboards sending mice scuttling. As he closed in, the bundle on the bed shifted as he’d well suspected it would.

He centered his light on the bed. “You can come out now.”

A gasp greeted that suggestion. Flinging the bedclothes aside, the girl bolted upright. “Ye keep away from me, d’ye hear?” Wide set eyes of an undeterminable color flashed in warning, the eyes of a wilding.

Simon shone the light on her. “Easy now, no one will harm you.”

She blinked owlishly, her little face puckering. This girl looked to be the youngest yet, but then those in the maiden trade were adept at the art of illusion. The childish night rail she wore, white cotton and buttoned to the neck, made her appear innocent, almost virginal.

Simon knew better.

Whatever her age, she was no beauty. Her eyes were too large, her breasts too small, and her waist-length hair of brownish hue hung in greasy strands about her pinched face. That any man would pay to lie with such a sad little waif was almost impossible to fathom. Then again London was rife with males who found it diverting to prey on the young and innocent. He thought again of Rebecca, and the familiar ache in his chest throbbed.

A few more measured steps brought him to the foot of the bed. She cringed when he closed in, falling back on her hands as though the light hurt her eyes. There was a dark blotch on her forehead that could have been a bruise, a birthmark, or simply more of the same filth that stained the front of her night rail. But there was no doubt that the small reddish crescent on her left cheek was anything but what it appeared.

A freshly cut scar.

Simon’s anger, never far from the surface, surged. No woman, lady or whore, deserved to be so foully abused. Resolved that the manacles he’d brought would remain in his coat pocket, he summoned his most soothing voice to say, “I’ve come to take you away.”

She lifted her face, pinning him with her wide-eyed stare. “Truly?”

Before he could answer, she did the one thing for which he was completely unprepared. She drew up on her knees and hurled herself against him.

“Oh sar, I’ve prayed and prayed that someone would come and just when I were a’most ready to give up, ’ere ye are.” She snatched his hand and pressed the palm to her mouth.

Her lips were cool on his flesh, cool and ever so slightly trembling. Startled, Simon dropped his gaze and quite nearly the lantern. She still knelt before him, thin night rail twisted tight so that it hugged not only her hips and thighs but the mound between. The sudden urge to reach down with his kiss moistened hand and stroke her there, just there, shocked and sickened him. He’d never considered himself a passionate man, certainly not uncontrollably so. Self-mastery was everything to him, the cornerstone of his existence, the bulwark holding back the shadows. He couldn’t afford to lose it now. He forced his gaze back up to her face, safer terrain or so he thought. But the manner in which she met his stare, as though he was her personal messiah, unnerved him even more than his sordid, sensual fancies.

He snatched his hand away and set the lamp down. “How long have you been here, in the attic, that is?”

Kneeling still, she fretted her bottom lip. “A’most a week, I think, though ’tis terrible hard to tell night from day.”

Whoever she was, she was no Londoner. The rounded vowels of the Midlands were plain in her low voice. He looked beyond her to the small sealed casement window, the glass pane painted over with blacking. For a country-bred girl, being shut up thus would be an earthly hell.

Pity pricked his conscience. He fought it back, beckoning a businesslike briskness he couldn’t quite bring himself to feel. “Yes, well, you must dress and gather up your things. The others are waiting for us below. Outside,” he added by way of an enticement.

She beamed at him. “Oh, lovely, are ye rescuing ‘em too?”

The poor girl must be dim-witted indeed or mad or an opium fiend, perhaps all three. Looking into her dirty face for some sign of derangement, he observed that her eyes—brown, he decided—were clear, her cheekbones high, and her mouth full, the top and bottom lips near mirror images, an unusual and oddly tempting feature. How would it feel to have that mouth moving against his rather than only his hand? Soft, he imagined, and endearingly sweet.

He dealt himself a sound mental shake. Perhaps he was the one in danger of separating from his sanity? This girl was no sheltered innocent but an artful actress, a whore. Her feigned naïveté had likely persuaded a good many fools to part with their coin.

Simon was no fool.

He folded his arms lest she reach for him again. “You and the others will be conducted to Newgate where you will pass the night. In the morning you will be brought up before the Central Criminal Court.”

Her smile flattened and a furrow split her smooth brow. “The Old Bailey! But I’ve done naught wrong.”

Still hoping to take her the easy way, Simon steeled himself to patience. “Prostitution is a serious offense. Still, considering your youth… By the by, how old are you?”

“Nineteen.”

Nineteen was well above the age of consent and yet young enough for Simon to feel sorry for her failed future. He cleared his throat, reminded of how very much older he was than she. “The judges may be prepared to show mercy… provided you surrender yourself quietly.”

Mercy? The workhouse instead of prison? Or perhaps if she were really fortunate, she’d be set free to… starve?

That is not my affair. He had only to carry out this last arrest and write up his report to Parliament, and then his obligation would be fulfilled. And another step—no, giant leap— toward the Parliamentary bench would have been made.

All he need do to get there was to stay strong, stay the course. Determined to squelch any remaining soft sentiments, he unfolded his arms and reached for her wrist. “Come, get up and get dressed.” Beyond all, he desperately needed her to be covered with clothes.

She wrenched free, the fierceness on her face confirming that further kisses were an unfounded fear. “I won’t.”

But she was trapped, and they both knew it. The window, assuming it could be opened, was too small for crawling through and, even if it weren’t, they were four flights above the ground.

Simon reached into the pocket for the manacles, hoping he’d only need them for show. “You are coming with me—now. Of your own accord, clothed or unclothed, matters not to me.”

Her bravado broke. She shrank away. “Oh please, sar, I’ve done nothin’ wrong. Can’t ye set me free?” She folded her hands, lacing the slender, nail-bitten fingers as if in prayer.

With her white clad form and guileless eyes, she was the very image of a supplicating saint he’d once seen in a stained glass window of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a saint with whom mere seconds ago he’d fantasized lying. His conscience niggled anew. Why not simply go below and say he’d found the attic empty?

Doing so would make me a damned fool, that’s why.

Disraeli rewarded those who served him well. He was equally lavish in punishing those who failed him. Without his endorsement, Simon’s dream of holding a seat in the Commons would remain just that, a dream.

“Regrettably I cannot.” Leaning over, he grabbed her sharply boned wrists in one hand, pulling her back up onto her knees, this time taking care to keep his gaze trained on her face.

“I ain’t goin’.” She hesitated. “Leastwise not wi’out Puss.” She swiveled to look over his right shoulder.

“Puss?” Still holding her, he swung around, wondering if she might have a roommate or, worse still, an armed keeper lying in wait.

Then he saw it. A skinny black-and-silver tabby cat slinked out from a wicker basket set in the corner. It stopped to stretch, striped forepaws straining as it regarded Simon with its slanted eyes. Rebecca had kept a cat just like it once. This flea-bitten beast might have been its twin. For the second time in as many minutes, Simon felt the keen stab of unwanted memory, a resurrection of the old soul splitting ache.

Stiffening, he turned back to the girl, her eyes vast and luminous in her thin, pale face. “You cannot keep a cat in a gaol cell.” Self-loathing roughened his voice. “And cease looking at me like that.”

“Like what?” Her eyes widened even further, making her look even more guileless if that was indeed possible.

“Like you’re some damned… innocent.” Maddened by the skill with which she worked her ruse, he seized hold of her upper arms, his fingers biting into flesh-veiled bone.

His manhandling won her wince. “But I am innocent! And I won’t go to gaol or anywhere else without my cat.”

Gentling his grip, he said, “You’ll go and do as you’re told from here on.”

She glared. “Your arse I will.” She turned her head and suddenly his left hand sang with pain.

Releasing her, he jerked back and stared down.

By God, the little bitch had bit him!

Pinpoints of blood welled where her teeth had torn. He reached inside his breast pocket for a handkerchief, allowing that shucking off his gloves had been an exceptionally bad idea. Wrapping the linen about his throbbing palm, he fumbled in his other pocket for the iron cuffs.

But when he turned his attention back to the girl, he saw the restraint would not be needed after all.

She’d fainted.

Holding his bleeding hand aloft, he ran his gaze down the length of her, doing his level best to observe her with a dispassionate eye. She was skin-and-bones to a shocking degree, shocking for all that Simon full knew what it was to hunger.

Feeling awkward, he gave her shoulder a sharp poke. “Girl, wake up.” Belatedly it occurred to him he hadn’t thought to take down her name.

He brushed a tickling finger across the bottom of one long, slender foot. She still didn’t stir. Satisfied she wasn’t feigning, he straightened, wondering what the devil he was to do. When she’d been awake and fighting him, the path had seemed so clear, but now… She was completely senseless, completely vulnerable, completely at his… mercy?

His gaze settled once more on the raw mark marring her cheek. He’d spent years armoring his soul until he’d satisfied himself it must be as callused as once his hands had been. But somehow this slip of a girl seemed to have located a heretofore hidden chink.

But it wouldn’t do to let Tolliver and the others see the damage his foolish dallying had wrought. He took a moment to pull on his gloves, wincing when the tight leather rolled over his swelling skin, the hand she’d bit as any cornered animal would do. Try as he might, he couldn’t hold it against her.

He slipped a forearm beneath her limp form and lifted her against him. She was so slight he might have held a bale of feathers in his outstretched arms rather than a woman grown.

Simon let out a curse from his dockyard days. “Whoever you are, girl, you’ve shown yourself a more formidable foe than the entirety of the Liberal Party leadership.”

Newgate Gaol would have to make do with one fewer inmate.

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Meet Me in Maryland at #HNS2019

Join me Saturday, June 22nd for the Historical Fiction Readers’ Festival & Book Signing in Oxon Hill, Maryland. I’ll be co-presenting a workshop with award winning historical fiction and non-fiction author, Nicole Evelina on three famous couples who carried the banner for U.S. women’s suffrage. (1:15-2:15) Afterward, I’ll sign copies of my historical titles, including my suffragette romance, VANQUISHED, and chat with readers at the book fair. (3:45-5:15)

DYNAMIC DUOS: Husbands and Wives Who Worked Together during the Women’s Suffrage Movement. [Nicole Evelina & Hope Tarr] The words “women’s suffrage movement” conjure images of outspoken women who were either spinsters or fought against male prejudice to achieve their goal. But suffragists actually had many male supporters, and several leaders campaigned side-by-side with their husbands. Nicole Evelina and Hope C. Tarr will introduce you to three such dynamic duos—Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Blackwell; Virginia Minor and her husband Francis Minor; and Carrie Chapman Catt and her second husband George Catt—and will explore how their partnership and mutual support helped them become living examples of equality among the sexes. (Room: Woodrow Wilson B)

WHERE: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center (201 Waterfront St, National Harbor, MD 20745

TIME: 1:00 check-in, 1:15 – 3:30 conference sessions, 3:45 – 5:15 book signing

Tickets are $10 at the door or $5 if you preorder through EventBrite.

See you there!

‘Tis the Season

It’s beginning to feel A LOT like Christmas here in New York City. The windows of Macy’s, Saks, Bergdorf’s and other grande dame department stores are done to dazzling perfection and our humble abode is likewise decked out. Christmas tree trimmed – check. Stockings hung by the fire – check. Gift shopping finished — er, still working on that one.

Whether you’re looking for a feel good gift for family and friends or a fun, bubble bath read to kick off holiday self-care, I hope you’ll check out my following two books:

Magazine managing editor and unapologetic Scrooge, Starr Starling is just as happy to sleep through the holiday. On Christmas Eve Starr is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future—all in the form of Matt Landry, the hot new art director she’s secretly crushing on.

“Award-winning author Hope Tarr’s A Cinderella Christmas Carol presents a different kind of Dickens story — one with a hunky Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Be.” – Joyce Lamb, USA Today

Twenty-eight bestselling romance and women’s fiction authors, including Deanna Raybourn, May McGoldrick, Lisa Renee Jones and Yours Truly, share their real-life love stories in this wholesome, heart-warming anthology perfect for the winter holidays. Net sales benefit the formerly homeless moms and kids of Women in Need, Inc.

Patricia M. 5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book! Some of the stories are funny, some are romantic, some are cute, some will break your heart but all are wonderfully true stories of love. I read anywhere from one to four stories a night. Enjoy, while you help a charity.

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Wishing you a holiday season brimming with fairy tale dreams come TRUE.
Hope

Happy Ween!

October is my hands down favorite month and not only because it’s the host month for my birthday, October 2nd, which I share with Mahatma Gandhi, Annie Leibovitz and Donna Karan! PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) and crisp autumn air, candy corn and boot shopping (finally!) – what’s not to love!?

In the midst of savoring all that’s ghoulish and garish, I hope you’ll check out my article on a rare and wonderful opportunity I stumbled upon: spending the Day of the Dead, or El Día de los Difuntos, at Cementerio de la Almudena, Cusco, Peru’s oldest and largest ossuary. Tradition holds that on this day the souls of our ancestors return to earth to visit with their loved ones. The eve of November 1st through sunset on November 2nd finds Peruvian families flocking to cemeteries to honor their dearly departed with music and dancing, picnics and toasts. What a privilege it was to join them!

Photo by Hope C. Tarr.

Panel Talk – Challenges of Writing Historical Fiction

Please join HNS for a special presentation on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, as Hope C. Tarr and Radha Vatsal discuss The Challenges of Writing the Historical SubGenre in the Willa Cather Room of the Jefferson Market Library6 – 8 pm. Following the event, authors books will be available for purchase and signing. 

Event: FREE, Open to the public

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS
Hope C. Tarr is the award-winning author of 25 historical and contemporary romance novels. Her books have been translated into 30 languages including French, Spanish, German, Japanese and, most recently, Slovene! Hope has been featured in numerous entertainment news programs and publications, including NBC’s Today Show, Time Out New York, and The New York Post. She is also a founder and curator of Lady Jane’s Salon®, NYC’s first and still only regular reading series for romance fiction, now in its ninth year with satellites nationwide, all of which support a 501c(3) charity. (The NYC Salon supports Women in Need, Inc).
Radha Vatsal is the author of A Front Page Affair (a Library Journal “Debut Mystery of the Month”), and Murder Between the Lines (Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Books Of US Historical Fiction) set in WWI-era New York. She received her Ph.D. from the English Department at Duke University and her writing has appeared in the online editions of the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Smithsonian magazine. She is also co-editor of the Women Film Pioneers Project. She was born in Mumbai, India and lives in New York City
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Meet Hope at the #HNS2017 Book Fair in Portland, OR

SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 2017
READERS FESTIVAL BOOK SIGNING

3:45 pm – 5:15 pm

Portland Hilton
Pavilion Ballroom East & West
621 SW 6th Avenue, Portland, OR

Sponsor: The Historical Novel Society

Find Hope at the Saturday Book Fair where she’ll be signing several of her historical titles plus offering a special giveaway – a signed copy of TEMPTING – to one lucky reader.

Registration information here: http://hns-conference.org/program/readers-festival/

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Video! Hope & Lady Jane’s Salon Visit RT BOOK Reviews

RT BOOK Reviews (basically, the Publishers Weekly of the romance industry) caught up with my Lady Jane’s Salon® co-founders, Leanna Renee Hieber and Ron Hogan, and I and offered to host us for a special VIP virtual Salon for September. (Our collective response–“Yes, please!!!”). Check out the under two-minute video, which includes Yours Truly reading from TEMPTING, out now in Spanish (ebook + print) as No se puede vivir sin amor.

Tempting_SpanishXCvrTEMPTING_New Cvr_Pink Pearls_Final_12-9-11