Dearest Sally, Copthorne, Kent
June 15, 1814
I write to you because I feel that only you can truly enter into my feelings at this time. None but you know how disappointed I was when Tarquin so disobligingly refused to make an offer to Susanna, ruining all the hopes we had of bringing our children and families together in a most appropriate match! I feel so strongly that close family ties must and will always be a far more reliable basis for a marriage than romantical notions.
Alas, it was not to be. That scheming Mrs. Carlton has wrested my dearest Tarquin from me with her ingratiating ways, which seem to have fooled so many. But they have not deceived his mama! I know her for the scheming fortune hunter she is. Imagine Copthorne, with its hundreds of years of history having a mistress who has actually earned a living. And that after spending several years following the drum in the Peninsula! Spending one’s time in grubby camps, traveling around the countryside and cooking for her husband and his fellow officers instead of staying by hearth and home, to write letters and make sure that her hands and face were still white and soft for him when he came home!
But I think the worst of it is surely that she disappeared mysteriously for a fortnight, and no one seems to know exactly what she was about, or who she was with. So indelicate and damaging to a lady’s reputation, that I simply cannot countenance it! Her friend Damaris Honeysett would not breathe a word of the details to me, no matter how delicately I inquired. I must tell you dearest, that even though she is the daughter of a Viscount, her husband is not of the highest ton, so I am not entirely surprised. So, I am left to wonder why Tarquin returned from a sudden extended and unexplained visit to Town only to announce that he would marry in just a few days!
Really it is utterly exasperating! I console myself that although it is quite clear why her father Lord Upleadon cast her off, he at least is of the very best breeding. Some may say that he is rather high in the instep, but I think his opinion of his own superiority is quite justified by his birth, background, and of course the ancient nature of his title, and a very sizable fortune.
So now it seems I am to move to the Dower House. It is a matter of a mile or so away from Copthorne, and perfectly pleasant, but not of the size and importance that I am accustomed to. In addition, it will need entirely new hangings, wallpapers, and any number of other things – perhaps even an entire new wing!! I will certainly point out to dearest Tarquin that his mama must live in a certain style, and since my jointure will not run to the expense of addressing these shortcomings, he will have to open his purse to accomplish it.
I long to hear all of your thoughts about Mrs. Carlton and how Susanna goes on, even though it saddens me that she will not be my daughter-in-law.
Your very dear friend,
Bio: Alicia Quigley is a lifelong lover of romance novels, who fell in love with Jane Austen in grade school, and Georgette Heyer in junior high. She made up games with playing cards using the face cards for Heyer characters, and sewed regency gowns (walking dresses, riding habits and bonnets that even Lydia Bennett wouldn’t have touched) for her Barbie. In spite of her terrible science and engineering addiction, she remains a devotee of the romance, and enjoys turning her hand to their production as well as their consumption.
Blurb: Mrs. Valerie Carlton is the widow of a soldier who died in the Peninsular Wars. Disowned by her family for “marrying down,” she survives working as a governess. When the elder son of the family makes unwelcome advances, Valerie leaves, seeking refuge with a close friend until she can find another position.
Sir Tarquin Arlingby, a wealthy, handsome bachelor on his way home, is staying at the same inn as Valerie and witnesses her being robbed before she can board the coach. He goes to Valerie’s aid and is instantly attracted to her. As her friend’s home is near his estate, he offers to drive her there.
An unfortunate accident forces the pair to spend a night in a village inn. Over dinner, Valerie talks about her experiences during the Spanish campaign against Napoleon and the sense of mission that she felt following the drum, which she misses in her current life. Sir Tarquin, who is secretly spying for the Crown by masquerading as a smuggler to pass information in and out of France, is intrigued by her bravery and his attraction increases. Valerie is also drawn to the handsome baronet.
Tarquin needs a French-speaking woman to pose as a smuggler during a mission to the “City of Smugglers” in Gravelines. When he discovers that Valerie speaks French like a native, he successfully recruits her for the job.
Will the pair survive their dangerous mission? Will they finally acknowledge the depth of their feelings for each other?
Find out in Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy, a Regency romance with intrigue, humor and just the right amount of moderately explicit sex for those readers who enjoy sensuality with their romances.
Valerie fell silent, looking down at her hands, and Sir Tarquin, finding himself appreciating the sight of her blonde curls, fine figure, and aura of calm, didn’t need to stretch his imagination far to imagine the son of the Forney household had been unable to resist the temptation of the pretty governess.
“It makes me angry to think of you being preyed upon,” he said abruptly, much to his own surprise.
“It is a common enough problem, and far worse has befallen others. He did not force me and, while Mrs. Forney was unkind, I left of my own volition,” said Valerie uncomfortably. “My friends have helped me before and will help me now. I would rather spend my time with children, but perhaps I will have to seek employment as a companion to an older lady instead.”
“You do not deserve a life as a drudge to children or as the companion of elderly harridan, who will doubtless have a horrid grandson who will treat you as Mr. Forney did,” Sir Tarquin exclaimed. “You are young, and have given far too much.”
“Whatever do you mean?” she asked.
“You sacrificed a husband and a family to your country, did you not?”
“I suppose you could say so, although it has been three long years since then.” A wistful look came over her face. “It seems so far away. Thinking of it now, Robert and I were both practically children; it is almost as though it happened to someone else, or was a story someone told to me.”
“Yet you are still all but penniless and without protection as a result, are you not? That is not much of an ending to the story.”
She gazed at him thoughtfully. “It was my decision, though I was far too young to understand the possible consequences. In some ways it was worth it all the same; I loved Robert as much as an eighteen-year-old can love anyone, and perhaps even more, I loved following the drum.”
Sir Tarquin looked startled. “Did you really? Surely it was a very hard life for a gently bred and sheltered young lady?”
Valerie laughed. “Indeed it was! I had no notion that such hardships were ahead of me. Yet the sense of purpose, of being needed and useful was inspiring . I was always rather bookish, and never truly enjoyed the rounds of parties and balls, to my stepmother’s despair.” She hesitated and continued, “My father you know, is very concerned about matters of manners and breeding, and my lack of interest in making a grand marriage upset him.”
Summoning up a vision of the ill-tempered Lord Upleadon, whose snobbery was legendary even among the ton, Sir Tarquin could easily imagine that he had made the Season a misery for his daughter. “I can easily imagine he was inexcusably harsh in expressing his disappointment,” he replied.
“I see you know my father, so I won’t try to deny it,” she replied with a ghost of a smile. “But I can’t regret any of the difficulties, for I did discover the powerful joy of knowing that my life had meaning and purpose, and that overcame all else.
“Even in the tail of the Army with all the camp followers, and rabble you felt so?” Sir Tarquin asked curiously.
“Oh, I rode with the column, Sir Tarquin,” she exclaimed proudly. “I had no children to care for and I was handy with horses even before I went on campaign, for my father’s stables are renowned and I spent a great deal of time in them as a child. I soon learned to kill and stew a chicken, and make sure that there was always something to eat at our billet, so it was not long before many of the other officers were to be found at our table.”
Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy
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