October 30th, 1678
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,
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
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.