It was clearly my duty to visit my friend, Mr. Charles. I knew he would be most distressed when he sees this morning’s newssheet, for prints by Corvus, London’s most scandalous caricaturist, bring him a good deal of revenue. They also provide fodder for the Teatime Tattler.
Soon we were cozily ensconced in his office at B.P. Charles and Co, Stationers, in the Strand, tea and plum cake before us. I pulled the offending newssheet from my bag. “Look at this. How ghastly!”
Corvus mocks the cream of English society—most recently, Lady Rosamund Phipps. The headline read: At all costs, Corvus must be unmasked!
Was he distressed? “Not at all, my dear girl. This is excellent publicity,” Mr. Charles said.
“In what possible way?” Everyone longs to unmask Corvus, but how dreadful if it meant he could no longer produce such scandalous caricatures. In his latest, he well-nigh accused Lady Rosamund of murdering her footman, suggesting that the poor man had refused to take her husband’s place in her bed. “If his identity were disclosed, he would no longer have access to the scandalous doings of the beau monde,” I said. “If he is a gentleman, society would shun him; if a servant, he would be thrashed.”
“He won’t be unmasked,” Mr. Charles said smugly. “If I, who receive his drawings regularly, have not yet learned his identity, who is likely to do so?”
I eyed him narrowly. “Have you tried to unmask him?”
He bristled. “No, for he wishes to remain anonymous, and I respect that.”
More likely, he respects the amount of money he makes from selling the prints. I gave him a Look.
He chuckled, but then we were interrupted by his assistant. “Mr. McBrae to see you, sir.”
“Show him in,” Mr. Charles said, “and bring another cup and plate.”
A dark-haired gentleman of medium height appeared, and we were duly introduced. “Mr. McBrae does etchings for me,” Mr. Charles said, showing him the newssheet. “You’ll find this nonsense amusing.”
“Aye, I saw that claptrap.” Mr. McBrae helped himself to a slice of plum cake. “Lady Rosamund won’t be arrested for murder. She’s the daughter of an earl.”
“Perhaps not,” I said, “but how unkind of Corvus to mock her. She can’t help it if her husband is unfaithful.” I paused. “Although it is rather strange that she is bosom friends with his mistress—but such a situation is not unprecedented in the ton. Perhaps it is her attempt to pretend nothing is wrong, poor thing.”
Mr. McBrae snorted. “No need to feel sorry for her. She found the caricature amusing.”
“How do you know this?” Excitement gripped me. “Have you met Lady Rosamund?”
“We were introduced.” He rolled his eyes. “She’s far above my touch.”
Evidently so, for although he spoke like a gentleman, he must be poor indeed if he scrapes a living from doing etchings. But how thrilling to meet the daughter of an earl! “What is she like?”
He shrugged. “Well-mannered, but aware of her own worth.”
That was only to be expected—and not the least bit scandal-worthy. “Tell me, Mr. McBrae—do you think she pushed the footman down the stairs?”
“Not at all,” he scoffed. “If she wanted to get rid of a footman, she would merely dismiss him.”
“But in a fit of temper…?” I suggested. Aristocrats are notoriously capricious.
“I doubt she would have found the caricature amusing if she actually were guilty.”
I sighed. Not that I wished Lady Rosamund to be a murderess, but scandal is the lifeblood of the Tattler.
“Just wait till you see his next effort,” Mr. Charles said with a twinkle.
Mr. McBrae cocked his head. “What has he pulled out of his sleeve now?”
Mr. Charles grinned. “That would be telling.”
Surprised, I asked Mr. McBrae, “Do you not do etchings of Corvus’ drawings?”
He shook his head. “No, for I work at my lodgings. Once drawings by Corvus are in Mr. Charles’s hands, he keeps them very close indeed. Attempts have been made to steal them, most likely by another printer.”
“Heavens!” I assumed on my coyest expression. “Dear Mr. Charles, pray give me some small clue about the new caricature?”
“It will embarrass Lady Rosamund,” he said.
I huffed. “That’s not a clue. His caricatures always embarrass someone.”
“Yes, but I fear she will find this one particularly upsetting.”
Odious man, to tease me so! “Fine, but is what he depicted true?”
“How should I know?” Mr. Charles said. “By what I have heard, her maid is impervious to bribes, and I expect the other lady’s maid is—” He coughed. “How indiscreet of me.”
“Which other lady?” I cried.
But he wouldn’t say another word, and although Mr. McBrae sent me a sympathetic glance, he knew nothing useful.
Well! I am no fool. Mr. Charles was indiscreet on purpose. He expects me use what little he said to drop several improper hints in the Tattler. So I shall—whilst hoping that no one unmasks Corvus!
About the Book
Lady Rosamund and the Poisoned Pen
Lady Rosamund Phipps, daughter of an earl, has a secret. Well, more than one. Such as the fact that she’s so uninterested in sex that she married a man who promised to leave her alone and stick to his mistress. And a secret only her family knows—the mortifying compulsion to check things over and over. Society condemns people like her to asylums. But when she discovers the dead body of a footman on the stairs, everything she’s tried to hide for years may be spilled out in broad daylight.
First the anonymous caricaturist, Corvus, implicates Lady Rosamund in a series of scandalous prints. Worse, though, are the poison pen letters that indicate someone knows the shameful secret of her compulsions. She cannot do detective work on her own without seeming odder than she already is, but she has no choice if she is to unmask both Corvus and the poison pen.
Will Corvus prove to be an ally or an enemy? With the anonymous poison pen still out there, her sanity—and her life—are at stake.
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087BBLLNL/
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087BBLLNL/
Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B087BBLLNL/
Amazon Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B087BBLLNL/
About the Author
Rumor has it that Barbara Monajem is descended from English aristocrats. If one keeps to verifiable claims, however, her ancestors include London shopkeepers and hardy Canadian pioneers. As far as personal attributes go, she suffers from an annoying tendency to check and recheck anything and everything, usually for no good reason. Hopefully all this helps to explain her decision to write from the point of view of a compulsive English lady with a lot to learn about how the other ninety-nine percent lived in 1811 or so.
As for qualifications, Barbara is the author of over twenty historical romances and a few mysteries, for which she has won several awards. On the other hand, she has no artistic talent and therefore is really stretching it to write about an artist who draws wickedly good caricatures. But she’s doing it anyway, because he’s irresistible. To her, anyway. Not so much to the aristocratic lady. Or at least not yet.
Social media links: