February 11th, 1679
I am most relieved to hear you survived King Louis’ summons unscathed. It is said people have short memories, but nowhere are they shorter than they are in Versailles. I have no doubt your sugar will prove irresistible; I do hope Colbert sees fit to reimburse you for it.
Alice thrives once again, to my greatest relief. At last Achilles smiled only this morning, and it was the most remarkable thing I believe I have seen in my life. I cannot express how much I enjoy being his father. As I did not have one of my own, I am often at a loss for how I ought to behave, but I love him and his remarkable mother with all of my heart, and I would drain the sea if that’s what it took to adequately provide for them.
Fortunately, my current position is significantly less arduous. I am now in the employ of the Republic, officially serving as a translator between the Stadtholder’s men and emissaries from our two countries, though I do not have to tell you my unofficial duties are rather more akin to my work with the army and your own good self. Tensions are high of late; King Charles dismissed parliament a week ago and we can only guess at his plans to replace it. King Louis sends guests monthly with gifts for the Stadtholder and proposals to discuss. He is quick to make peace now the war has ended, but the Dutch have longer memories than even Louis, and still they suffer from those lost among their ranks.
I have sent this to your house in Paris on a hunch–I have heard La Reynie’s investigation is closing in a number of poisoners among the divineresses of Montmartre. You wouldn’t have had anything to do with that, would you?
If you journey to London this year, would you please look in on Alice’s sisters in Southwark? We overheard the most distressing piece of gossip in the market this Saturday past–a merchant just arrived from London was expressing his disappointment that Meg Henshawe is no more! Meg is Alice’s eldest sister and quite infamous even this far into the continent. I questioned the gentleman and he told me he had gone in search of The Rose & Crown to see Meg for himself. Upon arriving, he found it very different from the legends: there were no rooms to let and the inn had suffered some fire damage. He inquired after Meg and was told in no uncertain terms she did not exist. It would seem the inn is now in the hands of a Hebrew prizefighter of some renown.
I was very distressed to hear this and immediately concerned for the fate of Alice’s four sisters. Alice reserves her worry–Meg has always had a certain fascination with the fighters of Bear Gardens–but she has written home nonetheless. We would be most grateful for any insight you might provide.
Your loyal 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.