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Tag: 17th Century (Page 1 of 2)

At Home With Mark Virtue

Long before the sun came up, Mark Virtue kissed his sleeping wife and dressed quickly in the darkness. The door glided open on well-oiled hinges and he crept into the hall like a shadow without his boots on. Twenty-four stairs stood between him and his coffee, and he needed to cross them all without waking any of the beasts that slept in his house.

One, two, three—skip the fourth, it creaked—five, the outside corner of the sixth, and he landed like a cat on seven. His breath was shallow and slow; even the slightest sigh could unleash unholy chaos. Eight, nine, ten, and he reached the floor below. The middle floor was the most perilous. Six of the little blighters were split between the two rooms nearest their parents so Jane could hear if one of them so much as hiccuped in the night. He passed the open doors on the balls of his feet until he made it to the banister at the top of the long stretch of stairs.

That final stretch was his favorite. Though he’d only installed them a few years before, they still creaked enough beneath his weight to give him away. Short of flying, there was only one solution.

He sat on the railing and slid on his arse to the bottom.

Mark dismounted with a smile, pausing to listen for any stirring from the top of the stairs. He hadn’t taken to the highways in years, but he was as quiet as ever, a fact that gave him no little satisfaction. As it happened, being a father required many of the same attributes as being a thief: patience, agility, awareness of one’s surroundings, and a loud, clear voice.

When two full minutes had passed without a sound, he carried on into the kitchen, started the fire, brought in a bucket of water from the well, and set the coffee to boil. It would be some time before it was ready, but Jane would appreciate it when the baby woke her up. God knew he would need it. He left it bubbling away and headed outside and through the back garden to his workshop, lantern in his hand.

Once he made it inside and closed the door, he let out a noisy sigh of relief.

“Good morning, Daddy.”

Mark just about jumped out of his skin at the tiny voice greeting him from the darkness. “Christ wept, child! What are you doing out here?”

Lily rolled out of one of the workshop’s dozen wardrobes with a yawn. “Mary snores. Is it morning already?”

“Not quite,” he yawned, the impulse contagious. “Tell me you didn’t sleep out here.”

She pursed her lips.

He waited. “Well?”

“You told me not to lie.”

Mark ran a hand over his face. “You’re too little to be sleeping out here on your own, darling. You should be in the house with the others.”

She shrugged and put on his old hat, looking more like a tiny cutthroat than a child of six. Without a word of argument, she meandered out of the workshop and into the house. He watched her until she was inside with the door closed. She was safe enough within the house, the workshop, and their little walled garden, but he knew his daughter well enough to make sure she didn’t try to jump the fence.

Alone, he sat at the desk and put quill to paper. He would have precious little time to himself and there was a letter he had been meaning to write. He had sent many like it over the past years, and would continue to send them until one of them reached his cousin.

10th May, 1679

Dear Harry,
I am writing you again with hopes this letter finds you. I do not know if you are alive or dead, or where you might be. You have a son. His mother did not survive his birth and he is with us now. We’ve called him Hugo after your father. He is four years old and he’s a good little chap, healthy and with your look. We love him as one of our own and he will always have a place with us, but he should know his father. Every day we pray you can find your way back

A coffee appeared at his elbow. Lily watched him with curiosity over the rim of her own mug. She took a noisy sip.

“That coffee won’t be ready yet,” he warned her. “It has to boil for an hour.”

“Tommy’s dad only boils it for ten minutes. Try it.”

Mark rolled his eyes. Ever since Meg had married Jake Cohen, all the children could talk about Tommy’s new father. He was teaching Tommy to box, he’d made Meg kinder, and by all accounts was making progress in fixing Chris Cooper’s busted leg. Now he could boil coffee faster than anyone. No doubt he didn’t have to use the bridge to get into town at all as he could walk straight across the river.

He was a long ways better than Tommy’s real father, so Mark couldn’t complain. He liked the man fine, he just didn’t need to hear about his accomplishments before he’d had his breakfast.

“It’s better,” Lily insisted.

“Oh, for God’s sake.” Mark gulped the coffee. Instead of the tepid water he’d been expecting, the coffee had a texture closer to ale than the thick, black sludge he was accustomed to drinking. It was much better. “I’ll be damned.”

Lily gave him a smug little smile but she didn’t gloat. “What are you writing?”

“I’m writing to your uncle Harry in the Carolinas.”

She wrinkled her nose, the one gesture she had in common with her mother. Everything else about her manner was him. “Will he come home soon?”

Mark’s heart sank. Transportation and the labor that followed was notoriously difficult. Few survived it, let alone found their way back to England. He hoped Harry was alive, but it got harder to hold that hope with every passing year.

If anyone could do it, it was Harry.

“I hope so, sweetheart.”

***

You can read more about Mark and his family in The Southwark Saga. Mark and Jane’s book is Virtue’s Lady:

Virtue’s Lady

Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.

After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.

Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.

When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark–and to herself–that there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Read Now on Kindle Unlimited

The Rose, No More? Send Word From Southwark

February 11th, 1679

Dear Achille,

I am most relieved to hear you survived King Louis’ summons unscathed. It is said people have short memories, but nowhere are they shorter than they are in Versailles. I have no doubt your sugar will prove irresistible; I do hope Colbert sees fit to reimburse you for it.

Alice thrives once again, to my greatest relief. At last Achilles smiled only this morning, and it was the most remarkable thing I believe I have seen in my life. I cannot express how much I enjoy being his father. As I did not have one of my own, I am often at a loss for how I ought to behave, but I love him and his remarkable mother with all of my heart, and I would drain the sea if that’s what it took to adequately provide for them.

Fortunately, my current position is significantly less arduous. I am now in the employ of the Republic, officially serving as a translator between the Stadtholder’s men and emissaries from our two countries, though I do not have to tell you my unofficial duties are rather more akin to my work with the army and your own good self. Tensions are high of late; King Charles dismissed parliament a week ago and we can only guess at his plans to replace it. King Louis sends guests monthly with gifts for the Stadtholder and proposals to discuss. He is quick to make peace now the war has ended, but the Dutch have longer memories than even Louis, and still they suffer from those lost among their ranks.

I have sent this to your house in Paris on a hunch–I have heard La Reynie’s investigation is closing in a number of poisoners among the divineresses of Montmartre. You wouldn’t have had anything to do with that, would you?

If you journey to London this year, would you please look in on Alice’s sisters in Southwark? We overheard the most distressing piece of gossip in the market this Saturday past–a merchant just arrived from London was expressing his disappointment that Meg Henshawe is no more! Meg is Alice’s eldest sister and quite infamous even this far into the continent. I questioned the gentleman and he told me he had gone in search of The Rose & Crown to see Meg for himself. Upon arriving, he found it very different from the legends: there were no rooms to let and the inn had suffered some fire damage. He inquired after Meg and was told in no uncertain terms she did not exist. It would seem the inn is now in the hands of a Hebrew prizefighter of some renown.

I was very distressed to hear this and immediately concerned for the fate of Alice’s four sisters. Alice reserves her worry–Meg has always had a certain fascination with the fighters of Bear Gardens–but she has written home nonetheless. We would be most grateful for any insight you might provide.

Your loyal friend,

Jack

The Long Way Homethelongwayhome (1)

(The Southwark Saga, Book 3)
By Jessica Cale

A paranoid king, a poison plot, and hideous shoes…it’s not easy being Cinderella.

After saving the life of the glamorous Marquise de Harfleur, painfully shy barmaid Alice Henshawe is employed as the lady’s companion and whisked away to Versailles. There, she catches King Louis’ eye and quickly becomes a court favorite as the muse for Charles Perrault’s Cinderella. The palace appears to be heaven itself, but there is danger hidden beneath the façade and Alice soon finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue, murder, and Satanism at the heart of the French court.

Having left his apprenticeship to serve King Charles as a spy, Jack Sharpe is given a mission that may just kill him. In the midst of the Franco-Dutch war, he is to investigate rumors of a poison plot by posing as a courtier, but he has a mission of his own. His childhood friend Alice Henshawe is missing and he will stop at nothing to see her safe. When he finds her in the company of the very people he is meant to be investigating, Jack begins to wonder if the sweet girl he grew up with has a dark side.

When a careless lie finds them accidentally married, Alice and Jack must rely on one another to survive the intrigues of the court. As old affection gives way to new passion, suspicion lingers. Can they trust each other, or is the real danger closer than they suspect?

“Really brilliant writing that’s so engaging with such endearing characters! I especially love the way Jack and Alice are both so devoted to each other! I was totally absorbed in this exciting and fascinating world Jessica Cale created from the very first paragraph to the last! I read this all in one sitting, staying awake late to finish, just had to!” – Romazing Reader

Goodreads | Amazon| B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Jessica Cale is the award-winning author of the historical romance series,The Southwark Saga. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in North Carolina. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History and a Bluestocking Belle.

Uncovering a Card Cheat

Them o’ us in service at th’ Hare and Hound know well that loose talk happens when drinks flow and folks forget there be listening ears. T’other week we overheard a lady bent on getting answers out o’ a gent something fierce. When we ferreted out that he were the king’s man, Connor Grant, we knew Tattler readers would ha’ interest. The lady claims to be Ariana Fitzroy. Imagine when we heard she’s a card cheat!

The Lady: How long have you been training the fallen women of King James’ court to be spies? Is it as long as you’ve been working as his personal assassin?

Connor: *glances around with obvious discomfort* I dinna think I shouldna discuss that here.

The Lady *laughs at her own folly*: Right. Well, then – what did you think when you saw me for the first time?

A Card Game by Gabriel Metsu

The Gent: I couldna believe ye were cheating at cards right in front of everyone and no one was any the wiser. It was bold.

The Lady *gives the gent a coy look*: Did you think I was beautiful?

The Gent: Of course. All the girls I train are bonny. But I’ve always made it a point never to have an interest in the girls I trained.

The Lady: But you did with me. What was so different about me?

The Gent *regards the lady with an endearing consideration*: Ye were unassuming. Ye were such a scrawny wee thing when ye came to Scotland, I feared ye might be blown away by a strong wind. But then ye were so determined. And despite that drive to constantly do better, ye were kind — always putting others before yerself. Ye earned my admiration and ye stole my heart as sure as ye slipped cards.

The Lady *blushes and tries to keep a serious face despite her growing smile*: Did you think I would accept your offer to become a spy for King James?

The Gent: I knew ye would, or I wouldna have asked.

The Lady: Did I surprise you with how quickly I learned?

The Gent: Nay, I knew you would. Ye were too confident at that card table, too smooth in yer actions. I knew ye were smart and I knew ye had skill long before even yer first lesson. It was yer determination which surprised and impressed me.

The Lady: I learned a lot from you during my training. Did you learn anything from me?

The Gent: Aye, I learned a lot from ye, lass. But those listening in on this interview will need to read our book to find out just how much. *gives a shameless wink to the crowd in the Hare and Hound*

The Lady *smiles*: I’m glad you feel you learned so much from me. Can you share your favorite thing you learned from me?

The Gent *grinning*: How to play at cards when it’s no’ coins ye’re gambling with.

The Lady *flushes bright red and speaks quickly*: Well, that’s all the time we have. *flashes a final grin and slips away with The Gent*

About the Book: Highland Spy (Mercenary Maidens Book 1)

Ariana Fitzroy has lost her family and her fortune. The fight for survival leads her to the shadowed card games of court where she discovers she has quite a talent for slipping cards into her favor. While the winnings are enough to sustain her at present, they will not last forever…

Connor Grant, trainer of the fallen women from the English court and personal assassin to the king, is just as broken as the women he trains. After losing his own land and all his people in a brutal attack from a trusted friend, he has no choice but to rebuild any way he sees possible – even if it means going against everything he’s ever believed in.

After catching Ariana cheating at cards, Connor has a new trainee to instruct at one of the king’s many confiscated castles. In the dilapidated ruins, he discovers Ariana is more than she appears and falls in love with her incredibly tenacity and dedication – a love that is challenged by Connor’s chance at reclaiming the inheritance he once lost and has sought so desperately to regain.

This story is one of second chances, of realizing a strength where only hopelessness once resided – a story of rising above the bad hand one has been dealt into a life of accomplishment and love.

~Excerpt~

Ariana Fitzroy had been too greedy.

She gave a charming smile to the men at the table and pulled a pile of coins toward herself. They clinked against one another, the merry tinkling rising above the din of laughter and conversation.

How she’d come to love the sound of her winnings.

Tonight though, she’d taken it a mite too far.

She’d gone beyond what she needed for the merchant’s bills, the servants’ pay, and the rent on her meager lodgings.

The coins were cool against the warmth of her palm.

Winning always gave her such a heady rush, a wash of heat spreading from her cheeks to her chest and all the way down to her satin-slippered toes.

A discomfiting sensation settled on Ariana, one of which she’d always been especially wary.

The weight of being watched.

Praise For Highland Spy

“The first of Martin’s Mercenary Maidens will intrigue readers seeking a story filled with a large cast of characters, plenty of adventure and heated love scenes. Martin showcases her talent for storytelling as this fast-paced tale moves from one adventure to another at lightning speed. . . . readers longing for a good old-fashioned adventure with empowered women will find much to enjoy.”

—RT Book Reviews

“Appealing. . . a solid thread of teamwork and family, provided by the strong supporting cast of Ariana’s fellow spies underlies the romance between Ariana and Connor, creating a community that will surely thrive as the series continues.”

—Publishers Weekly

Buy Links

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2eghTt2
Barnes&Noble: http://bit.ly/2dvO88K
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2dIPyem
iTunes: http://apple.co/2ew37Nr
Target: http://www.target.com/p/highland-spy-paperback-madeline-martin/-/A-51545451

About the Author

Madeline Martin is a USA TODAY Bestselling author of Scottish set historical romance novels. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her two daughters (AKA OldestMinion and YoungestMinion) along with Mr. Awesome. All shenanigans are detailed regularly on Twitter and on Facebook.

Her hobbies include rock climbing, running, doing crazy races (like Mud Runs and Color Runs) and just about anything exciting she can do without getting nauseous. She’s also a history fan after having lived in Europe for over a decade, and enjoys traveling overseas whenever she can. Her favorite place to visit thus far: Scotland.

Madeline’s contact info:

Author website: www.MadelineMartin.com
Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MadelineMartinAuthor
Author Twitter: @MadelineMMartin

Author Amazon Profile page: http://www.amazon.com/Madeline-Martin/e/B00R8OGFN2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

Christmas at Versailles

le_chateau_de_versailles_sous_la_neige

December 10th, 1678

Dear Jack,

Forgive me for my delay in replying. I was called, quite unexpectedly, to join the Christmas celebrations at Versailles. I was understandably wary to receive a summons bearing the King’s seal after our misadventures last autumn, but one ignores the King at one’s peril, so I made haste to that swamp with a brace of pistols hidden well within my bed linen.

Fortunately, His Radiant Majesty has made no move to clamp me in irons. Rather, I have spoken at length with Colbert on a matter of business: I am to provide sufficient sugar to keep the King, his court, and every Cherche-Midi well satisfied through the next half-dozen years. I stand to make a handsome profit–assuming, of course, war and gloire have not bankrupted the treasury so thoroughly as it is rumored.

Speaking of “gekannibaliseerd”– You will be relieved to hear the court has all but forgotten about you and Madame Sharpe. They are presently occupied with matters of love and war: the King is bored with Isabelle de Ludres and had grown to mistrust the foreign minister, Pomponne. Neither will remain in his good graces beyond the new year. It is said His Majesty confides in Madame Maintenon as he once confided in your wife, but I would wager my house in Chartres Maintenon’s ambitions are anything but innocent.

Truly, the matter of the maitresse-en-titre does not concern me, so long as he does not set his sights on my niece. I brought Laure with me to discourage Languedoc’s ever more brazen advances. Now that she is wealthy and–thanks to yours truly–dressed to the highest fashion and most refined taste, she has attracted friends as flies to honey. Only this afternoon, we went to see the elephant with Marie Angelique de Scorailles. She and Laure are of an age and chatter on as sisters. It was a pleasant enough way to pass an afternoon, until the King’s entourage passed and his gaze lingered on the girls for longer than I would have liked. Though Laure is a woman grown and not many years younger than myself, I still think of her as a child. What will I do if I ever have daughters?

I am passing fond of the elephant. All of the ladies like to see him in the snow, to hang flowers from his neck and feed him peas and wine. They treat me likewise as a curiosity from darkest Africa, though I am French as the King himself. They are kinder to me this year, though few will dance with me and fewer still will consent to coffee. I regret postponing my journey to London. I hope to go once the roads are clear enough to make my escape. If the English women are as gracious as your lady wife, I may yet bring one home with me.

Do give my love to Alice and your son. Your small family is ever in my prayers.

Your affectionate friend,

Achille

The Long Way Homethelongwayhome (1)

(The Southwark Saga, Book 3)
By Jessica Cale

A paranoid king, a poison plot, and hideous shoes…it’s not easy being Cinderella.

After saving the life of the glamorous Marquise de Harfleur, painfully shy barmaid Alice Henshawe is employed as the lady’s companion and whisked away to Versailles. There, she catches King Louis’ eye and quickly becomes a court favorite as the muse for Charles Perrault’s Cinderella. The palace appears to be heaven itself, but there is danger hidden beneath the façade and Alice soon finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue, murder, and Satanism at the heart of the French court.

Having left his apprenticeship to serve King Charles as a spy, Jack Sharpe is given a mission that may just kill him. In the midst of the Franco-Dutch war, he is to investigate rumors of a poison plot by posing as a courtier, but he has a mission of his own. His childhood friend Alice Henshawe is missing and he will stop at nothing to see her safe. When he finds her in the company of the very people he is meant to be investigating, Jack begins to wonder if the sweet girl he grew up with has a dark side.

When a careless lie finds them accidentally married, Alice and Jack must rely on one another to survive the intrigues of the court. As old affection gives way to new passion, suspicion lingers. Can they trust each other, or is the real danger closer than they suspect?

“Really brilliant writing that’s so engaging with such endearing characters! I especially love the way Jack and Alice are both so devoted to each other! I was totally absorbed in this exciting and fascinating world Jessica Cale created from the very first paragraph to the last! I read this all in one sitting, staying awake late to finish, just had to!” – Romazing Reader

Goodreads | Amazon | ARe | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Jessica Cale is the award-winning author of the historical romance series,The Southwark Saga. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in North Carolina. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History and a Bluestocking Belle.

The Dutch Word for “Cannibalized”: A Letter From The Hague

Joust on the Hofvijver, 1625

October 30th, 1678

Dear Achille,

Many thanks for the boots – you are too generous! Achilles thrives and I doubt it will be long before he can fit into them. He has barely opened his eyes and already seems to have his mother’s serious temperament. He rarely cries and has not smiled; I worry that some dark aspect of the battle will hang over his life. He can have no way of knowing how many good men died as he drew his first breath or how close the cannon fire came to his parents, but I look at him sometimes when I hold him and wonder. Alice swears it is only that he is too young and I’m certain she must be right as she has heretofore been right about nearly everything, but if you could only see him, Achille! It would seem he was born to bear the weight of the world, and that is a fate I would not wish on anyone, least of all my own small son.

Alice is in good spirits, but she has been slow to recover. The birth was not easy, but I thank God for every day she is here with me and Achilles, and I pray for her recovery. We have made it to The Hague and will stay here until Alice is able to travel again. I found us a modest apartment overlooking the square where I am told Johan de Witt and his unfortunate brother were dismembered and eaten by an angry mob not half a dozen years past. My Dutch is improving by leaps and bounds, but stories like that make me wish it was not so good. I could do without knowing the Dutch word for cannibalized (gekannibaliseerd, if you’re wondering), but Alice takes it in stride and tucks the word away in her remarkable mind between other fearful words in half a dozen languages in case we ever have occasion to use it. I pray we never will.

Thank you for the kind offer to stay with you in Paris. When we are mobile again, I should like that very much. I am dismayed to hear of your niece’s fixation on Languedoc as she always struck me as a clever girl. Attraction has little to do with reason, I’ll warrant, but I hope for her sake she directs her attentions toward someone who is free to return them.

I hope you enjoy your journey to London. It has been years since I’ve been back and I miss it dearly. Southwark is a wild place, so do take care to disguise any obvious wealth should you happen to walk down the street. I know this will be difficult for you as your wardrobe puts the King’s to shame, but have a care as my former neighbors are proficient and ruthless thieves and you will be a tempting target. Give my love to my old master, if you will. Mark Virtue lives on Love Lane in a house with the sign of a coffin out front. You may also enjoy meeting his brother and his wife, the Earl and Countess of Somerton. Sally is French and a brilliant baker, so if you find yourself longing for your own language and cuisine, I’m sure you’ll be more than welcome at their table.

As for the Henshawe sisters…bon chance.

Your affectionate friend,

Jack

thelongwayhome (1)The Long Way Home
(The Southwark Saga, Book 3)
By Jessica Cale

A paranoid king, a poison plot, and hideous shoes…it’s not easy being Cinderella.

After saving the life of the glamorous Marquise de Harfleur, painfully shy barmaid Alice Henshawe is employed as the lady’s companion and whisked away to Versailles. There, she catches King Louis’ eye and quickly becomes a court favorite as the muse for Charles Perrault’s Cinderella. The palace appears to be heaven itself, but there is danger hidden beneath the façade and Alice soon finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue, murder, and Satanism at the heart of the French court.

Having left his apprenticeship to serve King Charles as a spy, Jack Sharpe is given a mission that may just kill him. In the midst of the Franco-Dutch war, he is to investigate rumors of a poison plot by posing as a courtier, but he has a mission of his own. His childhood friend Alice Henshawe is missing and he will stop at nothing to see her safe. When he finds her in the company of the very people he is meant to be investigating, Jack begins to wonder if the sweet girl he grew up with has a dark side.

When a careless lie finds them accidentally married, Alice and Jack must rely on one another to survive the intrigues of the court. As old affection gives way to new passion, suspicion lingers. Can they trust each other, or is the real danger closer than they suspect?

“Really brilliant writing that’s so engaging with such endearing characters! I especially love the way Jack and Alice are both so devoted to each other! I was totally absorbed in this exciting and fascinating world Jessica Cale created from the very first paragraph to the last! I read this all in one sitting, staying awake late to finish, just had to!” – Romazing Reader

Goodreads | Amazon | ARe | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Jessica Cale is the award-winning author of the historical romance series,The Southwark Saga. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in North Carolina. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History and a Bluestocking Belle.

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