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Fiction Regency

The Brantford Wagers

by (author) Nadine Kampen

Birdsgate Publishing
Initial publish date
Jan 2022
Regency, Historical
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2022
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2022
    List Price

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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?

About the author

Contributor Notes

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.

Excerpt: The Brantford Wagers (by (author) Nadine Kampen)

First Chapter, pp 03- 08

Gathering at Wellsmere

A whole: The idea of one object, which a picture should give in its comprehensive view. *William Gilpin: An Essay upon Prints

The night sky brightened over Wellsmere and the air was tinged with smoke. Sparks from the illuminations, purchased a fortnight ago in Bath, swirled downwards as the spent casings fell to the ground. Invited by Clara and her father for this evening’s celebration, the Vincents’ guests stood in small groups just beyond the orchard. Cheers of appreciation followed each burst of light.

Clara could see the Vincents’ head coachman, Old Perry, and two of the groundskeepers setting up their displays near the east stone wall. Lighting fuses, the men launched their packets skyward and hurried under the protective canopy nearby. There followed more loud bangs and hissing. Bright globes of colour burst in the dark sky overhead and bits of wrapping floated to the ground, still burning. Unfortunately, the sparks seared the top of a woman’s headpiece, and the decorative peacock feathers curled inward as the singe spread downwards. Clara, seeing it happen, moved quickly to help the woman, but her sister grabbed her wrist to detain her.

'Father is right there to assist,' said Mariette calmly. 'Your help will not be wanted. She is not, as you see, in any danger. No, sister dear,’ she said cheerfully, 'we both know the spark she has for father is hotter than that tiny flame on her hat.’

Clara laughed at her sister’s choice of words, and relaxed as she saw the tall woman unfasten the ribbons under her chin. Their father, who did not have the advantage of great height, reached up and pulled the hat off her head.

‘My dear friend,’ Lady Melbourne said to him, ‘do exercise restraint. Those plumes are rather precious. I spent a full day in London searching for them. Spare them, if you can.’

Mr Vincent, more concerned about a grass fire igniting, paid no attention to her and stomped energetically around her. With the sparks extinguished, Mr Vincent restored the damaged item to its owner.

‘It looks like he is performing some sort of ancient mating dance,’ giggled Mariette, giving a little snort. Clara pretended to cough, turned while she composed herself, and chided Mariette to be quiet. Fearing their own clothing might be singed as well, Clara tucked her sister’s arm into hers, and they strolled further out.

‘I am surprised you kept Auntie’s shawl,’ said Mariette, touching the folds of cloth draped elegantly over her sister’s shoulder. ‘You have repaired it beautifully. It looks lovely on you, Clara. Unless the man is blind, I am quite sure you have drawn the eye of our Mr Langley.’

Clara smiled happily but made no reply.

They walked together in companionable silence and, after a time, located Mariette’s husband Charles and the couple’s two small daughters.

‘Ah, my sweet darlings,’ said Mariette, kissing the child in her husband’s arms and scooping up the other, who was leaning sleepily against her father’s legs. The family stood together for a time before Clara excused herself.

‘I need to thank the men—they are setting up the last display,’ she said.

‘Yes, of course. The celebration has been superb, Clara,’ said Charles. ‘There is little you could have done to improve it.’

‘Except, perhaps, to serve more of Mrs Perry’s delicious food. Shall we head there now?’ asked Mariette. ‘They are setting out some pastries and cakes.’

Clara waved them off and looked around with satisfaction. She and her father had long yearned for this night. For months had they waited for news as sweet as this: an important victory in Spain, a success in the campaign, not concluding the war with France, but bringing hope. Here, at last, had been a repeat of Salamanca. It was not the first news of an important victory in the long war on the continent, and battles had been won as well across the sea in North America. But the victory in Vitoria fostered a sense of hope, and helped to balance earlier, devastating news that had met all of their worst fears.

A letter had arrived in the winter, bearing the Royal Navy’s black seal. It had been opened slowly, as unwelcome letters are, and laid aside after several readings. The frigate on which Clara’s brother had served had indeed won a decisive victory at sea, but at a tragic cost.

Edward Vincent, one-and-twenty years of age, was lost in battle. Deep sorrow pressed on the family, and they struggled to keep their grief in rein. Mr Vincent made endless lists and filled his days with tasks. Clara focused on the affairs of the estate, and Mariette and Charles spent more time with their children.

The report of this latest victory against Napoleon’s troops on the Iberian Peninsula was news of the best sort. William Vincent, a widower, did not expect his daughter to replicate the London event honouring General the Marquess of Wellington, but he did ask for her utmost effort in offering a memorable evening. He would not let the army’s triumph at Vitoria pass unmarked, nor let his son’s final contribution, half a world away, slide by without commemoration. One evening’s festivity could not bring back any of the men lost in the wars, but he and his daughter wanted to ease the pain of those who had lost loved ones. They would remember, and long for the safe return of those still away.

As Clara headed towards Old Perry, she looked again with pleasure at her shawl, admiring its sheen. Running her fingers along the edge, she found the delicate crisscrossing of thread where she had mended the fabric. A month ago, her father, careless with his pipe, had dropped hot ashes and seared a hole in it. He had been unapologetic and, Clara believed, hopeful, too.

‘You should just get rid of this old thing,’ he had said. ‘I am able to buy you twenty new ones, yet you hold on to this one.’ It was always thus with Clara, and he knew this. She cherished old things, and since this shawl had belonged to her aunt, that was all the better.

Since he had damaged the shawl, could he, Clara implored, purchase a few items for her when he was next in Bath? Objecting seemed out of the question. William Vincent fulfilled his errand sooner than expected, spent more than intended, and brought back a great deal more than needed. Opening the first of two large trunks, Clara had found the embroidery threads she requested. Underneath, separated by fine paper, lay several more skeins in different colours.

‘Do you like these nice peacock feathers, and the little ornamental beads?’ he had asked her. ‘I wondered if you might need them.’

Clara smiled as she uncovered more items. There was more than enough silk, muslin, and lace to provide new clothing for Clara, Mariette, and Mariette’s little girls for the coming year. Well, then, her father said, she could take some of the material on her visit to the Stancrofts and sew some pretty gifts for the family while she was there.

Delighted with all the new supplies, Clara had applied her artistry, and tonight, here she was, wrapped in threads of gold, burgundy, and green stitched into the underlying paisley pattern. Her father loved how elegant she looked, so reminiscent of her mother.

‘One would think,’ he mused to his son-in-law as they strolled the grounds, ‘that being so skilled, and having a significant dowry, and being astute in managing household affairs, she would be married by now.’ He lamented that it was not so. Yet, he was, at present, optimistic.

Although Mr Langley had only been staying at his Aunt Melbourne’s for a few weeks, it was ample time to gain appreciation of Clara’s qualities. Mr Vincent and Charles watched with interest as Mr Langley walked alongside Clara, helping to draw her shawl evenly around her shoulders.

‘Do you see how attentive he is?’ the father pointed out. Then he scowled. The timing of Clara’s departure from Wellsmere to visit family felt unjust. He consoled himself knowing that Lady Melbourne lived nearby, and Mr Langley could visit Clara again in the future. Mr Vincent supposed these match-making affairs were better left in the hands of the ladies. It was Mrs Stancroft, a distant cousin on his wife’s side, who had agreed to take on this challenge. She might be expected to have better results. Given Mr Vincent’s recent choices and plans, for Clara’s sake, he fervently wished it.

Particles from the final explosives, on falling to the ground, started a small fire in a cluster of shrubs, ending the night’s display in an unexpected flurry of activity. Clara called for extra helpers to assist in putting out the fire. She watched for a moment longer while the men controlled the flames, then turned her back on the scene.

‘They seem to have it well in hand,’ said Mr Langley. ‘Miss Vincent, what an extraordinary night you have given us—with such wonderful entertainment, great food, pleasurable company, and some very fine weather.’

‘Yes, I am much to be credited for the evening’s clear skies,’ Clara laughed.

‘The element of chance has played in your favour—you timed your celebration perfectly,’ he said, enjoying the sound of her laughter. ‘I can think of at least twenty occasions that were ruined by ordering up the wrong kind of weather.’

‘I suppose one could always light a few brush fires to bring novelty to such occasions,’ she chuckled.

Watching the play of light across her features, Mr Langley felt regret that they were parting company so soon and would be separated for several months. He had barely gotten to know Clara and was wanting to spend more time with her.

‘Are you still full from dinner, sir, or do you plan to join us for refreshments?’ she asked, hoping he would stay longer. ‘Our cook is well known for her desserts.’

‘If my Aunt Melbourne is not too tired, I certainly plan to stay,’ he replied. ‘You must know, Miss Vincent, that I am reluctant to give up your company. I will be sorry when the evening ends, and more so since we are both headed elsewhere. I must say, I very much look forward to seeing you again when we return in a few months. I confess, I hate to say goodbye.’

Editorial Reviews

' If you like the genre and you like the queen of the genre - Jane Austen - you'll have a great deal of fun with this. / Discovering Diamonds Review, 20220406


Nadine Kampen’s historical novel set in the Regency era is a well-constructed and highly entertaining story full of surprise and charm. The pages brim over with memorable characters: we meet catty gossips and social climbers familiar to readers of Jane Austen but also encounter roguish children and daring equestrians. Yes, Kampen knows the world of Austen and the book can be called a historical romance, but this is more refreshingly outdoorsy and not in the least sentimental. Thoughtfully, Kampen shows a keen appreciation of the limitations and restrictions for men as well as women in this class-bound era. Kampen’s sprightly and capable heroine, Clara Vincent, ultimately is presented with the dilemma of choosing between two handsome suitors, but happily Clara’s marital deliberations do not comprise her entire identity. The plot of The Brantford Wagers has more twists than you might expect; friendship, the strain of family loyalties, and firm principles are at the forefront of this compelling story, which offers convincing scenes of action and plenty of lively period details. / Sue Sorensen, author of A Large Harmonium, 20220424

'A book that truly captures the Austen spirit...' /Melodixin, 5-star, 20220203

'An entertaining and suspenseful tale.' / KatieJ, 20220120

'A traditional and lovely historical.' / Chrystal Crossings, 20220204

'A slow-paced but clever pastiche that will appeal to Regency romance fans.' / Kirkus Reviews, 20211209


A well written historical read. Great style of writing. A slow, simmering, drawn out (take your time) romance. It was engaging with excellent, rich, tanagable, complex characters and a great story plot! Read and enjoy!

/ on Bookbub - mmosburn53