After years studying a cache of the Marquis de Saint Croix’s personal correspondence, one of his many ciphers has at last been cracked and a portion of his letters can now be read. The first of these letters appears to be a copy of one sent to the infamous spy Jack Sharpe at the end of the Franco-Dutch War in 1678:
September 18th, 1678
It took me a great deal of wine to digest the contents of your last letter. You write so beautifully of the horrors of war and childbirth alike, I cannot help but feel I lived them beside you. I am most relieved to read Madame Sharpe is well. She is a most remarkable woman and very dear to my heart. Best wishes to you both on the birth of your son! I cannot believe you named him for me — this is one of your peculiar English jests? As he was born in the midst of battle, perhaps Achilles is appropriate. I have enclosed a pair of small boots with silver heels for his protection. One can never be too careful, you understand.
Word has reached us in Paris that the Peace of Nijmegan has brought an end to this war, though the thousands dead at St-Denis may beg to differ. Will another peace be issued after this last, late battle? I will rest easier when you and your small family are out of harm’s way. You are most welcome to stay at any of my properties for as long as you wish.
Should you happen to venture to Paris, you will find me engaged in a battle of my own. My niece has wholeheartedly embraced life as a gentlewoman, and between shopping and visiting her own divineress (God help me), she has begun a flirtation with none other than the Duc de Languedoc! Although I have ever so slightly more patience for him after what he did for us last autumn, the fact remains that he is a wolf (and a married one) and poor Laure is a naive little lamb.
I regret that I have not yet completed the task Madame Sharpe entrusted to me, but I shall leave for London as soon as I am satisfied Laure will be safe from Languedoc’s advances. I look forward to seeing your homeland for myself and meeting Madame Sharpe’s fabled blonde sisters. If they are half as lovely as she is, I will sleep with my heart under lock and key.
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.
Jessica is also a Bluestocking Belle. You can visit her page here.