Saturday 18 December 2021

The December Story Song: Today's Guest Writer is...Elizabeth St John

we are a little different this year:
some contributions are exclusive stories, others are excerpts
 from the authors' novels,
but all have our traditional format of...

Read the Story - Guess the Song

Here's a clue to the song title

An excerpt from Written in Their Stars  By Elizabeth St.John


Ditchley Park, England, 1650

The letter arrived tightly sealed and folded many times. Nan flipped over the parchment, noting the worn creases, and confirmed the tiny intricate cutout was undisturbed. This message had travelled far and through many hands, some friendly, some not. She ran her thumb across the fold just above her name.

Yes. She smiled. Frances had learned her new skill well and used it adroitly.

The small tag which projected from the top left corner, no greater than a nail paring, would not be noticed by any but the sharpest eyes. Attention would be on the seal, a perfectly innocent falcon set in red wax. No interceptor would note the tag disappearing when the wax was softened and prized open. Only the recipient would know someone had tampered with the letter and resealed it.

Lady Anne Wilmot, Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire.

A simple address, Frances’s dear cousin in England, anxious to receive news of a baby safely delivered or a recipe for a physick.

Innocent enough.

Besides, what woman in a man’s world would be receiving cryptography, for surely the fair sex had no mind for the concealment of subtle thinking, politicking or other seditious behaviours? Nan Wilmot may have a reputation for being a shrewd bargainer and a good custodian of her children’s inheritance, but these were the confines of her faculties.

And she intended such opinion of her would remain.

Confident of her chamber’s privacy, Nan swiftly removed the cushion and lifted the dark oak seat of a large chair by the fireplace. Shifting first the left leg and then the right, she converted the chair into a desk and removed the inset writing box with its ivory-handled pen knife. In a few heartbeats, she slit open Frances’s letter. Drawing a candle close, she angled the parchment to catch the golden light.


My dear Nan

We are safely in Paris and greeted with much warmth by Mr. Jonathan Nash, who has taken great pains to introduce us to his friends and make us welcome. I am to visit the Convent of Our Lady this afternoon to continue the charitable works I started in England. I hope you received my note from Dover, and I would be grateful if you could send me Johanna’s recipe for the falling sickness, with the ingredients called out. Allen has a friend who suffers from this malady, and we would like to offer him consolation. In haste and in health.

                                            Your affectionate cousin    


Nan placed the parchment on her desk and leaned back, relief in her heart. Allen was safe. Not only safe, but now connected with their cousin Sir Edward Hyde, whose code name Frances had slipped so naturally into her missive. The king’s counselor welcomed them into the network, set Frances up with her contacts at the convent and, as agreed, sent a first request. Within the falling sickness recipe and list of ingredients, an update of safe houses would be written in lemon juice between the lines.

The fire flared blue, a hidden bead of resin popped, startling Nan from her thoughts. She took up the parchment again and held it towards the candle. Frances performed well. The convent was the main office for the distribution of news and intelligence in Paris, for who but the spinster daughters of exiled papists and secret Royalists could be trusted with the sacred intelligence of their beloved king?

Satisfied no other news was hidden within the document, yet saddened there was no word of Henry, she held the letter to the flame, teasing the corner to catch before tossing it to the fire. A flare as the note settled, and Frances’s writing curled and danced before blackening and turning to ash.#


 Song: Nobody Does it Better
by: Carly Simon

Soundtrack to the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me

Written in Their Stars

London, 1649. Horrified eyewitnesses to King Charles’s bloody execution, Royalists Nan Wilmot and Frances Apsley plot to return the king’s exiled son to England’s throne, while their radical cousin Luce, the wife of king-killer John Hutchinson, rejoices in the new republic’s triumph. Nan exploits her high-ranking position as Countess of Rochester to manipulate England’s great divide, flouting Cromwell and establishing a Royalist spy network; while Frances and her husband Allen join the destitute prince in Paris’s Louvre Palace to support his restoration. As the women work from the shadows to topple Cromwell’s regime, their husbands fight openly for the throne on England’s bloody battlefields.But will the return of the king be a victory, or destroy them all? Separated by loyalty and bound by love, Luce, Nan and Frances hold the fate of England—and their family—in their hands. A true story based on surviving memoirs of Elizabeth St.John's family.

Universal Buy Link:

About the author

Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England, lives in California, and spends most of her time in the 17th Century. To inspire her writing, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, and Castle Fonmon to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family still occupy them - in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that's a different story...

images via: Pixabay unless otherwise stated
Note: it is illegal to copy lyrics but there is no © for ideas!

our stories or excerpts to enjoy

1st Deborah Swift  an excerpt from Pleasing Mr Pepys
2nd Graham BrackThe Clock Struck One
3rd Cindy VallarRumble the Dragon
4th Barbara Gaskell DenvilThe Great Forest
5th Nicky GalliersTwo Stories
6th Annie Whiteheadexcerpt from To Be A Queen
7th Judith Arnopp - an excerpt from The Winchester Goose
8th Paul Marriner - First Love
9th Loretta LivingstoneLabour of Love
10th Marian L. Thorpeexcerpt from Empire’s Heir
11th J G Harlond - excerpt from A Turning Wind
12th Amy Maroney - excerpt from Island of Gold
13th Richard Tearle - excerpt from the North Finchley Writer's Group
14th Inge H BorgExcerpt from After the Cataclysm
15th Juhi Ray the movie Jodha Akbar
16th Clare FlynnExcerpt from The Green Ribbons 
17th Anna BelfrageA Light So Bright
18th Elizabeth St Johnexcerpt from Written in Their Stars
19th Nicky GalliersDuty
20th Erica LainĂ© - La Belle Russe
21st Anna Belfrage  - Excerpt from A Rip In The Veil
22nd Kathryn Gauci - Excerpt from The Poseidon Network
23rd Cryssa Bazos - Excerpt from Rebel's Knot
24th Debbie Young The Secret Ministry Of Frost

* * * 
you might also enjoy books by Helen Hollick
or direct to an Amazon near you

* King Arthur Trilogy
* the events that led to the Battle Of Hastings 1066
(includes US The Forever Queen USA Today Bestseller)
* the Sea Witch Nautical adventure series
* Cosy Mysteries

* Pirates
* Smugglers



  1. Lovely, I enjoyed this. Didn't guess the song though, despite it being one of my favourites!

    1. Guessing the song isn't as easy as you think is it!

  2. Super writing, and super song too.

  3. A lovely excerpt from what I think is my favourite volume of the series. Thanks!


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