What an amazing cover!
The Brantford Wagers (The Brantford Series, Book 1) by Nadine Kampen released in January in the Historical Fiction/Regency Romance genre.
Is Clara Vincent ready to risk it all for love?
Clara Vincent is “the artful dodger” when it comes to marriage, especially when her father is bent on match-making. Will her attitude change when she meets two eligible suitors and is drawn into the lives of intensely competitive families? Clara falls unexpectedly in love, but when fortunes are reversed and relationships up-ended, she needs to decide whether to trust James Brantford, who is seeking retribution, or accept the love of the man everyone else believes is her ideal match.
As the Brantford wagers unfold and lay bare the history of past relationships, will Clara be able to learn the truth and finally follow her heart?
From Chapter 8 – The Lady Plays Her Hand
Isabelle, coming into the room, brought a change in topic. ‘I have just come from seeing Clara. She is unwell and says she cannot accompany us this evening.’
‘Heavens, are we all to be sick now?’ complained Catherine.
Mrs Stancroft hurried to Clara’s room. ‘My dear girl, you cannot be ill today! I am planning to introduce you this evening.’
‘Madam, truly, I must excuse myself. My throat is sore, and I have a headache. An evening’s rest will repair me.’
Mrs Stancroft gave Clara’s hand a kindly squeeze and sighed. ‘I shall stay with you.’
‘No, no!’ protested Clara, laughing gently at Mrs Stancroft’s crestfallen face. ‘I am perfectly comfortable. Go; I insist. You need not sacrifice your pleasures to the sick room. I will meet your neighbours soon enough.’
Mrs Stancroft decided Clara’s absence was not such an unhappy arrangement. She could show Catherine and Isabelle to advantage without including this cousin, who was not so very plain after all.
The family soon left for the Drinscols. What they did, ate, drank, and said would not be known by Clara for a few days, as she became quite ill and remained in bed. The only visits were by a physician early the next day and by Mrs Simpson bringing bowls of hot broth. News of the soirée, when finally disclosed, lost none of its import through delay.
‘Do not ask me about the evening at the Drincols’, Clara,’ said Mrs Stancroft, settling herself into the bedside chair. ‘I cannot bear to discuss it. We were dressed in our finest, you know. And what did Mrs Drinscol do? She seated us on that dreadful sofa. Everybody else sat near one another, with her daughters close to the gentlemen, whilst we were at the outermost edge with those awful draperies behind us. Do you want to know what those silly Drinscol girls wore?’ She neither waited for, nor received, any confirmation from Clara, who was struggling to remain awake. ‘Sprigged muslin.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘In the most abominable shades. Ah,’ she clasped her hands together, ‘it was a sweet victory. We have outdone them this time. We did make an especially grand entrance. Mr Drinscol said he did not know how we ladies managed to look so grand. The gentlemen nodded and such. Mr Brantford was there—he admired my girls especially long, and so did one of Mr Ashton’s guests, a Mr Hangtree fellow, of all the unfortunate names. It makes you wonder about the family history. Descended from a sheriff, likely, or perhaps the family had a large oak on the property. He was a handsome man, however. Oh!—and Mr Brantford asked after you—it was he who sent the physician, which was very kind. Our man in Finstead, Mr Bibbs, is not reliable these days.’
There was more. ‘Mr Brantford came again last evening—such a polite man, enquiring after your health. Mr Ashton came by earlier today; he is still courting our Catherine, of course, but I think he begins to understand his place. What a triumph for our Catherine that evening. She wore her hair piled high, the way it is shown in the magazines. Mr Hangtree was most attentive, which Mr Ashton did not like. As for Margaret and Agnes, I am sure no one even looked their way.’
Clara, who was having trouble keeping her eyes open, found herself smiling over the scenes painted by Mrs Stancroft. ‘I saw Isabelle before you left. She looked very pretty,’ said Clara.
‘Yes, well, it was an extravagant waste for the girls to sit in their best dresses playing cards. Mrs Drinscol placed her girls with Mr Brantford and Mr Ashton. “It does the heart good to see so many handsome young people at one table,” she says to me with that annoying laugh. Catherine sat in the corner where there is no light, with her back to the room.’
‘At least she escaped comparison with the draperies,’ said Clara.
‘And the dinner—can that even be the proper name?’
‘Did not you enjoy the food?’ asked Clara.
‘We had nothing to eat until eleven o’clock!’ Mrs Stancroft looked wildly distracted for a moment, the number eleven scattering her thoughts. ‘Had I known, I would have warned Uncle Stancroft to take a midday meal. It is always hard on his constitution to drink early and eat late, and now I am to suffer for it! He threatens to reduce my allowance, while he still comes over and eats my groceries. Oh, and I must tell you, Mr Brantford postponed his dinner invitation to the next week, because of your being ill—I am so glad he did not include the Drinscols. It is a good thing that woman does not have a son old enough to be dangling after my daughters. It is wrong of me to say it, Clara—and you are kind to hear me out—but she is forever prying into our affairs. She is a useful neighbour in some respects, but whatever she has to say is, of course, the most important thing and everyone has to listen.’
Mrs Stancroft fell silent, exhausted by her own tirade. ‘Oh dear! You cannot keep your eyes open. Rest now, Clara. You cannot achieve anything of consequence lying here in bed.’
If, by consequence, Mrs Stancroft meant raising interest towards Clara among the eligible suitors, she was mistaken. Clara’s absence produced results of an unexpected kind. Mr Brantford, for one, had been exceedingly troubled to learn of Clara’s being ill. His concern, in turn, piqued the curiosity of Mr Ashton’s houseguest, the Hangtree fellow, as Mrs Stancroft had called him. The man’s actual name was Mr Robert Langley, nephew and heir to Lady Melbourne of Wells. Mr Langley took a keen interest in hearing more about the mysterious and unnamed Stancroft cousin.
Universal Link (Amazon): https://books2read.com/u/mddA55
In her début novel, The Brantford Wagers, Nadine Kampen draws on her passion for stories that bring a smile and warm the hearts of the reader. The author immerses the reader in the fictional world of traditional historical romance, set in the memorable Regency England period, sharing the hopes, schemes, and antics of her characters.
Prior to her career as an author, Nadine served as a regional marketing manager with an international consulting firm and as a communications and marketing director on university campuses. Earlier in her career, she worked in public relations and journalism, and was co-author and project lead for five non-fiction books comprising The Canadian Breast Cancer Series, published in 1989.
A resident of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada, Nadine loves relaxing with family and friends, reading and walking, playing tunes on her 1905 Bell piano, and gardening.
Social Media Links:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Nadine-Kampen-and-The-Brantford-Wagers-107540071714536
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nadine-Kampen/e/B09GS6975W