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Cameo Courtships: 4 Stories of Women Whose Lives Are Touched by a Legendary Gift

Cameo Courtships: 4 Stories of Women Whose Lives Are Touched by a Legendary Gift


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A Family Heirloom Inspires Romance
In 1851, a special cameo is gifted by Queen Victoria to Letitia Newton, who though considered an old maid, meets the perfect gentleman minutes after donning. Told by the Queen the cameo is to be shared, Letitia gifts the "Victoria Cameo" to a woman in her family, hoping adventure and romance will follow each of its subsequent wearers. 
1851 – Pittsburgh, PA
After receiving the Victoria Cameo, aspiring journalist Clara Newton works to expose a smuggler, but reporter Byron Breaux must break the story first or lose his job. Working together is out of the question until they learn secrets that threaten Clara’s father. . .and her heart.
TAMING PETRA by Jennifer Uhlarik
1875 – Colorado Territory
Trouser-wearing frontierswoman Petra Jayne Hollingsworth has no intention of donning the heirloom cameo, but when a crooked brothel owner steals the treasure, securing its return becomes Petra’s highest priority. Assisting her, Reverend Dustin Owens is appalled to learn the price of its ransom is that Petra must work in the brothel. He may save the woman’s virtue, but can he help Petra regain her cameo and rediscover her faith?
MEET ME AT THE FAIR by Kathleen Y’Barbo
Spring 1885 – New Orleans during the 1884 World’s Fair and Cotton Exposition
It takes a Pinkerton to find a Pinkerton, and Ethan Butler has been charged with finding Elizabeth Newton. Just when he locates her, the cameo he is to deliver is stolen. It appears his previous case has discovered his presence in New Orleans, but he can’t return to that case until the cameo is found. With Miss Newton as a reluctant partner in crime fighting, can Ethan Butler locate the cameo and its thieves without losing his heart?
LENDING MY HEART by Debra E. Marvin
1895 – Pittsburgh, PA
The arrival of a handsome Scottish administrator ruins Miss Bertie Hart’s dream to oversee the new Carnegie Library children’s department. Yet bristly Mr. Russell Smart’s working-class determination and his love of books make him the perfect partner to better the lives of Pittsburgh’s poor. As for a partner in life? Not even her Victoria Cameo can narrow the social chasm he and her father keep between them.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781643520483
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/01/2019
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 771,851
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of a dozen new and upcoming historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos.  You can visit her online at and subscribe to her newsletters at

DEBRA E. MARVIN tries not to run too far from real life, but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and serves on the board of Bridges Ministry in Seneca Falls, New York. She is published with Barbour Publishing, WhiteFire Publishing, Forget Me Not Romances, and Journey Fiction, and has been a judge for the Grace Awards for many years. Debra works as a program assistant at Cornell University and enjoys her family and grandchildren, obsessively buying fabric, watching British programming, and traveling with her childhood friends. 

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a preteen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a BA in writing, she has won five writing competitions and was a finalist in two others. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenage son, and four fur children.

Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than eighty novels with almost two million copies in print in the US and abroad. She has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and is the winner of the 2014 Inspirational Romance of the Year by Romantic Times magazine. Kathleen is a paralegal, a proud military wife, and a tenth-generation Texan, who recently moved back to cheer on her beloved Texas Aggies. Connect with her through social media at

Read an Excerpt


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

July 1851

Her green hem dusted in ash, Clara Newton stepped as close as she dared to the burned-out shell. "Thank God no one was inside."

"Don't go any farther, poppet." Papa's tone brooked no argument. "Just because there is still a roof on it doesn't mean the place is stable."

"I won't." The burned building wasn't safe — she knew that — but Clara had to see for herself. She needed every detail impressed on her brain for later on, when she had paper and ink.

A few remaining members of the fire brigade remained on the scene, sloshing pails of water onto smoking piles of debris or carrying crates of salvageable goods. Those crates seemed to be all that was left of Purl Textiles, the business situated just yards away from Papa's Newton Glassworks along the banks of the Monongahela River. The glassworks stood whole and proud, its sturdy brick walls undamaged by the arsonist's blaze.

Unlike Mr. Purl's building. But if the wind had shifted during the fire —

Clara's stomach knotted. The blaze could have overtaken her family's glassworks — their livelihood and heritage, and the source of employment for several craftsmen.

Upon learning the news of the fire over breakfast — arson, at that — Clara and her family had come to the scene at once. It had taken two carriages to bring them all here: Clara and her parents; her elder brother, Wallace; Aunt Letitia, Papa's younger sister, who lived with them; and Peter Hollingsworth, the affable fiancé Aunt Letitia brought home from England. They stood clustered together on the street gazing at the remnants of Purl's once-thriving business.

Clara returned to them, joining in their silence. They'd all been too shocked to say much. The fire was bad enough. Knowing it was arson was even worse.

But what unfolded before them now? It was beyond belief.

A constable and some well-dressed men gathered around the middle-aged, wild-haired Mr. Purl, not in support, but as if they expected him to flee.

"That's Sylvester Vanacore." Papa gestured at a well-built fellow, their newest neighbor. "I should've guessed he'd be here, along with other representatives of the mayor's policing committee."

Clara looked away. "I thought we'd be comforting Mr. Purl over his loss, not witnessing his arrest."

Mama shook her head. "I cannot believe an upstanding gentleman like Mr. Purl is engaged in suspect dealings."

"'Tis sad." Clara clutched her parasol.

"Perhaps it's a misunderstanding." Wallace, a man of average height like Papa, fiddled with his chestnut-brown mustache, a sure sign he was upset over the turn of events.

Papa's chortle was scoffing. "Doubtful, Son. Purl's up to his bushy eyebrows in whatever this is."

Wallace turned his head away, and a twinge twisted Clara's abdomen. Whenever Papa disagreed with Wallace, it seemed to aggravate her brother like a poke to an old wound.

Her mouth opened, but what could she say that she hadn't already? Nothing she'd done or said came close to bridging the gap that had been growing between Wallace and the rest of the family for a few years now. She could try again to restore relations with her brother, and would, but it wouldn't be appropriate to air her grievances, as Mama would say, in front of others.

The constable gripped Mr. Purl's arm and hauled him to a waiting carriage.

Aunt Letitia turned toward her Mr. Hollingsworth. "America has not been boring for you, has it, Peter?"

"I am never bored when I'm with you," he said.

Despite the gravity of the scene, Clara couldn't help but smile. Aunt Letitia had found love. Would Clara? Perhaps someday, but it did not seem to be God's current plan.

Aunt Letitia caught Clara's smile and reached for her hand. The morning sun caught on her jewelry: her new blue cameo and the large sapphire engagement ring Aunt Letitia wore with pride.

Clara looked into her aunt's eyes. "This is not the start to the festive day we planned, is it, Auntie? I am sorry."

"Nonsense." Aunt Letitia squeezed her fingers. "This is important. We don't mind, do we, Peter?"

"On the contrary," he said, his crisp British accent cheerful. "I'm happy to roll up my sleeves and assist the volunteers with clean-up, if needed."

Papa chuckled. "What would the prime minister say?"

"I hope he'd lend a hand as well." Mr. Hollingsworth grinned.

Clara grinned back at him. "Oh, I like your fiancé, Aunt Letitia."

"I do too." She winked, and perhaps it was the effect of the lingering smoke, but Mr. Hollingsworth's cheeks pinked a touch.

"Generous as your offer is, Mr. Hollingsworth," Mama said with a smile, "I do not think there is anything we can do here today. I suppose we should return home to continue preparations for your engagement party tonight."

Clara fidgeted. She couldn't leave now, not that she wished to explain her reasons to her family.

"Let's go then." Wallace's shoulder lifted a trace to avoid brushing against Papa as he offered an arm to Mama. Aunt Letitia released Clara's hand to take Mr. Hollingsworth's arm.

"Not me." Papa backed up a step. "I wish to speak to Vanacore, find out what's going on."

This was Clara's chance. "I'll return in the second carriage with Papa."

"There's room for you with us." Mama frowned.

Papa offered an indulgent smile. "She won't be long, Anne. I'll have her home within the hour."

Clara nodded. That was plenty of time.

After waving farewell to her family, Clara peered up at Papa. Though she was short like Mama, she looked more like Papa than she did blond Mama, having inherited his dark brown hair and hazel eyes. She'd also received his direct nature. "I didn't wish to tell Mama, not yet, but I think this might be a good topic for my article. I'd like to go around back for a look. I promise I shall give the rubble wide berth."

"Oh, I suspected you had ulterior motives, but I thought you wanted to chat with Vanacore there. He's a handsome fellow, eh?"

She'd met their neighbor a few times, and he was fair of face and form, true, but he made her uncomfortable. He hadn't done anything untoward, but he seemed almost too amiable. Then again, he was running for political office, and he doubtless was affable with everyone.

She shook her head. "I prefer to focus on my article, Papa."

"What a resourceful poppet you are." His cheeks rounded with the sort of pride he seldom lavished on Wallace. "Shall I accompany you?"

"No, I'll be fine."

Leaving Papa, she strode around the building's footprint, lifting the hem of her green-plaid walking dress above grass still wet from the fire brigade's efforts. As she drew closer to the river, a gentle breeze stirred off the water, sending shivers down her spine.

Or perhaps the shivers had more to do with the fact that she stood mere feet from an empty space where the back wall of a building stood last night. This was the scene of a crime.

A vacant scene, she must remember, and the villain long gone. She was three and twenty, after all, no schoolroom miss to be set aquiver at the slightest occurrence.

She peered into the building.

From her position, she could not see much. But if she stepped closer — just a little?

"Darling, what are you doing?"

Clara jumped, hand to her chest, and probably yelped too, but her heart was pounding so loud in her ears she wasn't certain. "Auntie, I thought you'd left."

"And I thought you were staying behind to speak to Mr. Vanacore. He is an attractive one, with that golden hair. I thought you'd formed an attachment to him."

"What? Of course not," Clara sputtered.

"Well, he is speaking to your mother right now, if you wish to catch him."

"I don't."

"She's invited him to the party tonight."

"Auntie, remember the article I told you about? The assignment to find something newsworthy and unique?" Her hands made grand gestures. "The news of this fire will be everywhere by noon, but not everyone will know it was arson. We only know because it was Papa's night watchman who spied the culprit in the act and alerted the fire brigade. That gives me exclusive information, and if I am first to report it, the editor will have to take my story. But I must make haste."

Aunt Letitia's mouth formed a soft O. Then she sighed. "Do your parents know?"

"Papa does."

"Your father no doubt thinks it marvelous. He admires initiative."

Which was probably why Papa got so irritated with Wallace, who had yet to show much interest in handling the family glassworks accounts. Or anything else, for that matter.

"I'll tell Mama. Later." Just in case the notion of her daughter traipsing around a burned building gave her apoplexy. "I must make haste. You of all people should understand how much I need this. You have an occupation."

"My single state allowed me to travel and represent the glassworks, true." Aunt Letitia's unfocused gaze looked out over the river, as if she were seeing things inside rather than out. "But things will change now that I am to wed."

Ah, that someday a fine gentleman would look at Clara the way Peter Hollingsworth looked at Aunt Letitia. Like he appreciated her mind as much as her face ... or her dowry.

But thus far the prospect of love had eluded Clara. She was like the steamships down on the river, paddling alone toward an unknown destination — but it was a path of God's choosing, and Clara had every confidence He'd see her to the end of it.

She straightened her shoulders. "Your calling has changed, Auntie. But mine is the same as it was six months ago. I believe God wishes me to write. This — here, investigating the ruins for evidence of arson — is what I must do to succeed."

Aunt Letitia shook her head, grinning. "Then go ahead and investigate, but do be careful."

Clara threw her arms around her aunt for a brief embrace. "Thank you."

"Before I go, I have something for you." She unpinned her cameo from its spot on her lapel. "Here."

"What are you doing?"

"Aren't cameos your favorites?"

"Always." Papa first began encrusting cameos into some of his glass pieces, like the vases he crafted for Queen Victoria, because of Clara's preference for them.

"Then take it."

Take? As in keep? Clara's hands remained at her sides. "I cannot accept this. I know quite well who gave it to you."

"Her Majesty made it clear that I was to give it away. She said, 'One never owns a cameo. Other jewelry, yes, but one wears a cameo and enjoys it, but as a custodian for its next owner.'"

"She said that?"

"Words to that extent. I wrote it down in my diary, and I will jot it down for you, because you'll wish to get it right when you pass the cameo on to another someday." Aunt Letitia noted Clara's lowered hands and, grinning, pinned the cameo onto Clara's deep green jacket.

It seemed she now owned a cameo with a history.

"When should I give it away?"

"That is between you and the Lord. The queen said she had been waiting to give it to the right person, and she believed it was me. And now I believe you're to have it." Aunt Letitia eyed her handiwork, frowned, and fiddled with the cameo. "Straighten, will you? So, Clara dear, the queen also said she received the cameo right before Prince Albert arrived to court her, and wouldn't you know, I wore it, and within five minutes — five! — I met Peter. The greatest adventure of a lifetime was thrust upon me. You're of age, and I sense you're about to embark on an adventure too."

"A German prince will come courting?" Clara teased.

Aunt Letitia chuckled. "Consider this gift a symbol that you are now your own woman, and I support and love you."

Clara hugged her. "Oh Auntie."

Aunt Letitia kissed her cheek. "I will see you at home."

"Thank you. For everything." Auntie was a gem, dearer than any cameo. Later she'd reflect on Aunt Letitia's words and the kindness of her gift, but for now time was short.

There might be evidence of arson left among the rubble.

Using the tip of her parasol, she poked into the debris and ash at her feet.

Blackened nails. A penny. And oh — a paper. Well, a scrap of it, the sides singed and pierced by a few burned-out holes, but the remaining writing on it was still legible.

A gentle footfall sounding behind her drew her upright. A young man in a long brown coat and brown-and-green-checked trousers stepped in her direction, but he hadn't spied her yet. His face turned upward toward what was left of the roof, revealing his square-jawed profile to her.

A once-familiar profile.


She didn't think she'd said it aloud, but his head turned. Light brown brows rose, and then he favored her with one of his lopsided smiles.


"Hello, Byron." She should have been more formal and called him Mr. Breaux. It had been four years, after all.

Four years of wondering what had become of him after he'd vanished from her life.

* * *

"What are you doing in this mess, Clara? You're covered in ash." The words were out of Byron's mouth before he could unscramble his tangled thoughts. Here she was in front of him after all this time, and he'd blurted out something without thinking.

"So are you." A faint dimple manifested at one side of her chin. "Your sleeve."

He brushed it, but the fine ash clung to his coat. "We're both a sight, I expect."

She tilted her head to gaze at him. He'd always been at least a head taller than her, even though they were the same age. She'd never caught up to him.

She hadn't changed. Same small stature. Same smile. Same chestnut-hued hair too, but most of it was tucked beneath a straw bonnet. There was something about her that had drawn him from the start, something he'd always liked. Friendship between them had been easy.

But they weren't friends anymore.

"How are you?" He didn't ask the other question burning the tip of his tongue.

Have you thought of me at all?

"Quite well. You? And the children?"

It pleased him that she'd asked about his siblings. "We're in good health. Pascal is almost as tall as I am now."

She laughed. "Giants, you Breaux boys. Are the girls tall too?"

"Of course." He glanced up at the roof again, marveling that it hadn't yet collapsed. "I shall tell them I saw you in an unusual place."

"When we heard the news, the entire family came to see the extent of the damage. We wanted to make sure the glassworks was safe." She gestured to the sturdy brick building several yards distant. "And you're here because — are you with the insurance company?"

"I write for the Gazette." Something he'd worked hard to achieve. "Still not a full-time hire. I'm paid by the piece. I'm hoping to remedy that, however, and an article on this fire could give me an advantage for an opening at the paper for a salaried position. I've learned this was an arson fire set as retribution for Purl's terminating an agreement with someone over stolen goods here —"

"You know it's arson?" Her jaw went slack.

He nodded. "Everyone does."

Her shoulders slumped. "They do?"

"Well, perhaps not everyone, but enough that it's making the rounds among the fire brigade."

"Stolen goods, you say? So that's why Mr. Purl was arrested. What's this about an agreement? With whom?"

"He claims not to know. They used a middleman." Byron stopped at the look of utter despair on her face. "I see I've upset you. I'm sorry."

"I'm distraught over this, of course. But I confess to being disappointed too. I thought to write an article on the fire myself. For the Gazette." She bit her lip.

There were no female journalists at the Gazette. None anywhere else he could think of either. Clara had always been an excellent writer though, and up to anything she wished to do.

But this article? He could not give it up so readily. "You're suggesting I bow out?"

She looked up at him with large hazel eyes. "Would you mind? It's so kind of you to offer."

"I'm not offering." Not even when she batted her eyes like that.

"It's important, Byron. You see, I am on the cusp of — well, it might sound trivial to you. I'm about to realize my dream."

"It's not trivial." He had no idea what her dream had to do with being at the site of a fire, but nothing she said or did had ever been trivial to him.

She fidgeted with the ebony handle of her ash-dusty parasol. "These past few years I've written numerous devotionals and essays on spiritual disciplines. Several people have found them helpful, so I showed them to the reverend, and he told me they might make a good column in a magazine. So I contacted the editor of A Woman's Home Companion. He is willing to publish my pieces."

"That's wonderful."

"It is, but I should say, he will be willing, after I've worked with a newspaper." Her tone sounded dismal. "He says I require more experience and tutelage, and he's far too busy at the moment to help. That's why he wants me to work with a newspaper editor first. I was disappointed and angry — well, I still am angry — but I realized he is correct. If I write about trust, faith, growth, and submitting to spiritual discipline, how can I not expect to be subject to discipline as well? I must remain teachable."

Admirable, but he wasn't sure he understood. "So you are trying to get on as a journalist with the Gazette?"

"Oh, I have no desire to be a journalist, but I must gain experience, as I said. Unfortunately, the Gazette was not interested in my usual fare on faith, so I must find something more 'newsworthy' to write about." She met his gaze. "And this is it."


Excerpted from "Cameo Courtships"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Susanne Dietze.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Prologue,
Pinned Above Her Heart,
Taming Petra,
Meet Me at the Fair,
Lending My Heart,

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