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Tag: The Southwark Saga (Page 1 of 2)

Harry Townsend Found and Lost Again

Whenever Lily was alone in the workshop, she sat in her father’s chair.

He was out back with the new apprentice, showing him how to split a log into usable planks. From her seat at his desk, the familiar sound of sawing all but drowned out her sisters’ incessant chatter and the noise from the street outside. She leaned back and swung her boots onto the desk, taking up her file and setting to work on the toy in her hand. It was nice out here. The furniture for sale couldn’t tease her or pull her hair. It didn’t cry or scream or ask her for anything.

She could get used to this.

The door swung open and Tommy Henshawe rushed in. His cheeks were pink and he was out of breath, but he was smiling. He set a little cloth sack on the desk in front of her. “I can’t stay long, but I saved you some of these.”

Lily dropped her feet to the floor and leaned forward. “Cinnamon biscuits?”

He shook his head. “Raspberry this time. Grandma Ruta has a bush behind the bakery. I wanted to bring you some before they ate them all back home.” He opened up the sack to reveal half a dozen biscuits sticking to each other in the summer heat. They were golden and flaky and smelled like honey.

Lily snatched one and popped it into her mouth with a moan. “You have the best grandma,” she said between bites. “I thought she lived in the city.”

“She does.” He took a biscuit for himself. “She’s been coming around more to help mum until the baby comes.”

“How much longer?” Lily pinched another biscuit.

“Another month or two, I think.” He noticed the file and her half-finished project. “What are you working on?”

“I’m making a present for the baby. It’s a dagger.”

Tommy cocked his head. “I don’t know if babies are supposed to have daggers. They can hurt themselves.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “That’s why it’s wood,” she explained like he was stupid. “Mum and the girls are making blankets and clothes for it. Don’t tell your mum, I think it’s meant to be a surprise.”

Tommy grinned. “She’ll like that. Your mum’s so good at that. I haven’t been cold once since she patched my trousers. Are you going to learn to sew, too?”

“God, no.” Lily shuddered. “I’m going to grow up to be like my daddy.”

He nodded solemnly. “Me, too.”

The door opened again and a man stepped inside, looking lost. He was her mum’s age and dressed like a curate. He approached the desk slowly, no doubt surprised to find the shop being kept by a little girl. “Erm…good afternoon. Does Mark Virtue live here?”

Lily crossed her arms and looked him up and down. He was either a vicar or a lawyer, and she couldn’t think what either would want with her dad. “Who’s asking?”

“Eli Hartford,” he introduced himself. “I have a letter for him.”

He held the letter in one hand and his hat in the other. She had never seen such clean hands in her life. She didn’t trust him. “Why are your hands so clean?” She blurted.

He blinked at her, surprised by the line of questioning. “I work with lepers. Everything is clean.”

She nodded sagely, though she wasn’t quite sure what that meant. She got up and stuck her head out the back door. “Daddy! There’s a leper here to see you!”

Mark stopped dead in his tracks, the saw halfway through a log. “What?”

“I’m not a leper–” the man protested.

Lily shot him an impatient look over her shoulder.

Mark wiped the sweat from his face and pulled his shirt back on. He told the apprentice to take a break and strolled into the workshop. He looked relieved when he saw the man. “Lily, he’s not a leper, he’s a curate.” He shook his head. “How can I help?”

The man let out a sigh of relief and held out the letter to her father. The paper was thin and battered, as though it had traveled a very long way. “My name is Eli Hartford,” the non-leper repeated. “My sister Maude is indentured in the Carolinas and this was included in her last letter. She asked me to be sure you received it.”

The color drained from her father’s face. He seemed to know what it was. “Thank you, Mr Hartford. Do you know what it is? Is your sister well?”

“She’s well. She mentioned some trouble earlier in the year and that she believed you were looking for someone. That is all I know.”

Mark shook his hand. “I can’t thank you enough. Can I offer you a cup of coffee?”

The man shook his head. “My thanks, sir, but I must be on my way. I hope you find who you’re looking for.”

After the man had left, Mark all but ran to the house, tearing the letter open as he went. “Jane! Jane!”

Lily ran after him, and Tommy followed close behind. Her mother appeared at the door with the baby on her hip. “What is it?”

“Word from the Carolinas.”

Jane’s eyes widened and she met him in the garden. “Harry?”

“It has to be.” His family gathering around him, he read aloud. “Dear Mr. Virtue, We have received your letters. My master burns them. I am forbidden from replying, but I write to you to repay the kindness Mr. Townsend showed me during his time here.”

Jane swallowed, the hope on her face fading.

“Mr. Townsend worked here for four years. He was treated very poorly and my master kept your letters from him. I saved one from the fire and read it to him.”

“Are we sure it’s the same Harry?” Jane asked. “It’s not an uncommon name.”

“He robbed my master, seduced his wife, and incited a riot the likes of which has not been seen since Virginia in ’76. Servants and slaves have escaped and a number of farms have been burned to the ground.” Mark grinned. “It’s him.”

Jane gaped, but she didn’t look unhappy. “Good lord, Harry.”

“My master has sworn vengeance and hunts him to this day. If he finds him, he’ll be shot. I am loathe to bear this tragic news, and I pray Mr. Townsend finds his way back to God.” Mark punched the air in triumph. “He’s fine.”

Jane laughed. “What do you mean, he’s fine? It sounds like he’s in trouble.”

“Nah.” Mark shrugged. “He’s found his way out of worse.”

***

You can read more about Harry, the Virtues, the Henshawes, and the other residents of Southwark in Jessica Cale’s The Southwark Saga, out now.  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.

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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

Word from Southwark, Suspicions Confirmed

Theodoor Verstraete, High Tide

May 13th, 1679

The Hague

It was late afternoon and dark as dusk, with rain pelting the window again. It was unseasonably cold for May and the rain had barely stopped since March. As each dreary day rolled in off the sea, Alice’s dread deepened. It had been months since she’d had word of her family, and the local tea merchant who had last reported her sister missing had proved maddeningly difficult to find.

They had never gone so long without a letter from home before. By her estimation, Jane should have given birth again in late January, and Mark had never let such an occasion pass without writing. She filled the silence with an endless procession of nightmare scenarios, each of them ending in the death or injury of someone she loved.

Was Jane alive?

Where was Meg Henshawe?

How had a Jewish prizefighter come to own her childhood home and her family’s business?

This last question tied her mind in knots. Jack’s tailor was Jewish with family in London, and he had informed her that although his people had been formally readmitted to England, they were still not permitted to own property there.

How had he managed it? Was there a chance the tea merchant could be mistaken?

Alice’s heart leapt as the door slammed on the ground level. The noise was followed by heavy steps as someone thundered up the stairs.

“Your father’s home,” she whispered to her infant son, sleeping with his angelic face pressed into her shoulder. He had begun to fall asleep on her following his afternoon feeding, but Alice never had the heart to put him in his bed. He would be grown soon enough. Instead, she relaxed into her chair by the window and let him sleep.

Jack rarely made a sound as he returned home every day, light as the thief he had once been. Some things never changed. That she could hear him at all troubled her. Either something had happened, or he was being chased.

He flung open the door, out of breath. Immediately, he noticed Achilles in her arms. He flung up his hands in contrition, an opened letter clutched in one. “Sorry,” he whispered and closed the door behind himself.

“What is it?” she asked, her voice low.

Achilles yawned and slept on.

Jack’s face lit up. “A letter from Mark!”

Relief warred with excitement in her chest. Achilles felt it and shifted. “Is Jane well? What of my sisters?”

“Everyone’s well, by the sound of things. He had sent the letter to Paris and Achille had it forwarded to us when he returned from Versailles, that’s what’s caused the delay.”

He sat in the chair across from hers and passed her the letter. She shifted the baby’s weight more fully onto her shoulder and flipped it open with her left hand.

He leaned forward on his knees, watching her reaction. “You were right.”

Dear Jack,

Happy Christmas! I hope you and Alice and your little soldier are enjoying a nice quiet one. I have given up on ever having a good night’s sleep again and I find I am happier for it. There’s no use in wishing for the impossible, now more than ever. Jane gave birth to a healthy boy on Christmas Eve. We’re calling him John. He’s thriving and does not often cry, but the rest of the children make such a fuss over him it’s noisy as a lark’s nest. I nodded off at work on Meg’s kitchen this week and woke to her foot between my ribs. Married life has made her sweeter, but her toes are still sharp as anything.

I don’t expect she’s written, so I’ll be the first to tell you. Meg’s married Jake Cohen and now she refuses to make pork pies. The notion had my full support until she told me in no uncertain terms my pies are gone for good. I won’t half miss them, I can tell you! I suppose it’s worth it to see her so happy. Happiness on Meg is the strangest thing — she’s unrecognizable these days. More beautiful, if you can believe it. She wears her hair differently and when folks come looking for Meg Henshawe, she tells them she’s dead. I couldn’t be gladder for the both of them, but the whole ordeal has been rather humbling. If this is what happy looks like on Meg, I don’t recall seeing it before this month. Jake’s a right decent sort, but it would seem he’s a magician as well.

We’re on better terms with Meg now. Jane had some trouble with this last birth and Meg was able to help her, to my everlasting gratitude. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say Jane would not be alive if not for Meg, and I’ll never forget it.

Everyone else is alive and well. Alice’s sisters are selling cosmetics out of the inn and business appears to be picking up. Nothing like a pretty face to sell complexion tonic, except perhaps four of them. When you return you will find things roughly where you left them, but improved, as so few things are, with time.

Give my love to Alice and your boy.

Affectionately,

Mark Virtue

P.S. No word yet from Harry. He was last seen in the Carolinas, and I sent another letter there this week. Hugo is well and very excited to have another boy to play with at last.

Alice took a moment to catch her breath. “I was right,” she whispered. “Meg’s married Jake Cohen.”

Jack nodded. “I barely remember him. Was he the one with the unusual fighting style?”

Alice shrugged. “I never saw him fight, all I remember is Meg’s description.”

“And?”

“He’s built like a coach and four and handsome as the devil himself,” she mimicked her sister’s voice. “Those eyes, that punch…that back. God’s teeth, Bel, I could stare at him all night.”

Jack’s laugh was pure glee. “Sounds like she gets to now. Never thought I’d see the day.”

“You’re not the only one,” Alice sighed, feeling as though a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “Meg. Married.”

Jack kneeled before her and took her hands in his. “You must be so relieved. I know you’ve been worried about your sisters.”

She nodded. “I’m sorry about Harry.”

His face fell almost imperceptibly, but she noticed.

“We’ll find him,” she assured him with more certainty that she had. “Or he’ll find his way back, just you see.”

Broken Things

Out Now

Content notes: contains profanity, violence, graphic sex, and references to domestic violence.

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

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Rumors from Southwark: Is Meg Henshawe Missing?

March 11th, 1679

Alice sipped her coffee with a frown. She’d been staring at the sea for so long, it had gone cold and sickly sweet. Even the sugar from St. Croix couldn’t save it now. She poked at the crystalline sediment at the bottom of her mug.

She had only managed half of her porridge, as well. It had been more than a year since she had survived ingesting a truly spectacular amount of arsenic, but her stomach had yet to recover.

Her son ate his porridge happily enough. When she sweetened it with honey, he almost always finished the bowl. He was young for it still, but he was growing faster than she could feed him on her own. Achilles was a beautiful baby, a stout, sturdy little fellow glowing with health. He had her eyes and his father’s hair. She was so in love with him she wished she could show him off to her sisters and her friends back in Southwark, but for now, she and her new family were alone in The Hague.

Alice had nothing to complain about; she had married the boy she’d loved all her life to find he was an even better man than she thought he’d be. Their rented rooms faced the sea on one side and the square on the other, a picturesque space full of shops and, as of this week, tulips of every variety. It was nothing like the street she’d grown up on. For one thing, she could take her son with her to the shops without fear they’d be robbed.

England was so close she could feel it, almost see it across the water. They wouldn’t be able to travel until Achilles was older, but it was just close enough to make her mad. She was far more worried than she let on to Jack; for all Meg complained about the inn, she’d never willingly leave it. What had become of her?

A month before, she and Jack had overheard a traveler in town lamenting the disappearance of Meg Henshawe. Alice’s eldest sister was a tart so infamous that men embarked on pilgrimages to see her for themselves, but this traveler had returned disappointed. He’d made it to her family’s inn, The Rose and Crown in Southwark, to find it half burned down and Meg Henshawe gone.

Alice wrung her skirt in her hands like fear twisted her guts. Meg burning down the inn would surprise no one–least of all Alice–but where had she gone? Where were Bess, Bel, and Judith in all of this?

She took a deep breath to calm her nerves and searched her memory for clues. She knew maddeningly little. According to the traveler, a local tea merchant she had seen about, her sisters were gone and the inn had been taken over by a Jewish prizefighter and his wife.

Alice had never enjoyed watching the fights–certainly not as much as Meg did–but she knew the boxer in question by reputation alone. Every time he knocked out an opponent, it was all anyone could talk about.

It was all Meg could talk about, at least.

Meg had had so many lovers over the years, she must have thought Alice wouldn’t notice her fascination with Jake Cohen. It wasn’t hard to miss. Of all the men Meg had known, he was the only one she talked about. Her comments always seemed to come out in semi-incoherent thoughts muttered to herself or divulged to Bess or Bel after one too many glasses of wine. Their last conversation echoed in her mind.

Meg and Bel had returned late from Bear Gardens the night Jake Cohen had knocked out Tom Callaghan, the father of Meg’s youngest boy.

“Did you see that, Bel? God’s teeth, there’s no finer man alive.”

Bel snorted. “Not so fine now. Jake the Jew gave him a bloody good thrashing.”

Meg smacked her arm affectionately. “I wasn’t referring to Tom.”

“You think Tom will take kindly to you fancying his rival?”

Meg topped up their wine. “Bugger Tom. If I thought I had a chance with Jake…”

The idea that Meg couldn’t have anyone she wanted had struck Alice as absurd, and the notion hadn’t become more believable with time. Meg Henshawe a legendary beauty capable of turning grown men into babbling fools with a glance. Surely a boxer–

Alice gasped as another possibility sprung to mind.

Once Achilles had finished his porridge, she bundled him into his little coat and his boots with the reinforced heels. She had a question only a tea merchant could answer.

Alice’s story, The Long Way Home, is out now. Watch for Meg’s story, Broken Things, coming out May 1st, 2017. Here’s a preview…

Broken Things
The Southwark Saga, Book 4

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

Buy links coming soon! For updates, sign up for Jessica Cale’s newsletter here

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

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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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