A letter was recently discovered in the ditch outside His Majesty’s bedchamber. It is said King Louis’ interest in his subjects extends to reading their missives before they are delivered. Given the insalubrious place it was found, one can only assume he did not approve of its contents…

Francoise_Marie_de_Bourbon_par_Caminade_Alexandre-FrançoisDearest Sister,

I’ve run out of money again. I lost ten thousand écus on bassett last night. I know you disapprove of gaming, but His radiant Majesty does not permit us to sit unless we are playing. I was attending Ysabeau, and quite suddenly I suffered a pain to my back so terrible I thought for a moment someone had done me in! I simply had to sit, and once I did, I was quite relieved. Perhaps it was the silver threads in my newest gown. It’s heavy enough to wear into battle, and that may be just as well. One cannot be too careful surrounded by so many rivals.

Could I prevail upon you to send me a little more to get by until I receive the estate? Belchamps lingers, the stubborn old goat, and inheritance powder isn’t cheap, you know. Ysabeau insists on the smallest of doses so as to avoid detection, but as diverting as it is to watch him suffer, I’d prefer to smother him and be done with it. My Chevalier is aware Belchamps is ill, but he does not know his affliction is yours truly. I daresay he would not approve—my sweet, innocent love! Perhaps ever so slightly less innocent as of late.

I would not need much, perhaps another thirty-thousand? I am confident I could recover my losses. I’ve a talent for cards, as you may remember. I will repay you by Christmas, and treat you to half a dozen new gowns, as well. The estate is not insignificant, and once I have his wretched daughter safely confined to a convent, it will all belong to me, and I will be in a better position to contest the possession of St. Croix. Archambault, that insufferable blackamoor, has further disgraced himself by bringing an Englishman into our midst, a certain Jack Sharpe of Southwark, wherever that is.

It is said this Sharpe is related to an earl, but it is plain he is common as dirt. His every thought shows on his face as he fights the King for Cendrillon’s favour—bon chance, cher!—and disdains the rest of us for only the Lord-knows-what. He has no lover nor true patron, and I am convinced he thinks himself above court politics. Ha! Just this week, I saw him enter the chapel with a button in his cuff undone, and he neglected to remove his hat when Marie-Celeste sneezed. Poor, misguided youth.

As for the much celebrated Cendrillon, she will be fortunate to survive the week. His Majesty gifted her with a pair of coveted red-heeled slippers for the tableau tomorrow, and Ysabeau is furious. She is convinced everything the girl has done since her arrival has been part of a great plot against her, but between you and I, Louise, I do not believe Cendrillon is deceptive enough to play so deep a game. Ysabeau is at once my dearest friend and greatest enemy, and is prone to fits of paranoia and insanity. If the King discovers half of what she has done, she will beat Belchamps’ daughter to the convent.

I have enclosed a little love charm to aid you in capturing your neighbor’s affections. Wear it around your neck, but take care not to crack it open–it’s filled with blood and holy oil, and will stain your gown. I am assured its magic is very potent. If you find yourself in Montmartre soon, might I beg you send me more inheritance powder, or some of La Voisin’s infamous soup? I am impatient to be rid of Belchamps, and Ysabeau charges far too much for hers.

Give my love to the children.

Your Affectionate Sister,

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.

Jessica is also a Bluestocking Belle. You can visit her page here.