Good Morning Friends,
Graduation craziness begins tomorrow and runs thorough next Saturday so you won't hear much from me other than to announce today's guest, Erica Vetsch with her latest novel, The Debutante’s Code.
Take it away Erica....
Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series
Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn’t spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love. But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They’ve been living double lives as government spies--and they’re only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family’s legacy.
Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spies. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors--not to mention the nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner, who suspects her of a daring theft.
Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents’ last mission?
Excerpt: London Docks January 31, 1816
“If you lean out any farther, you’ll wind up in the drink. Which, I suppose, would be a fitting end to this disaster of a trip.” Lady Juliette Thorndike ducked her chin and turned away from the fresh breeze, the deck rocking gently under her feet. Her heart pounded beneath her woolen cloak as she reached the end of one journey and anticipated embarking on a wholly new one.
“I just want to be there. "e last twenty yards is taking longer than the entire voyage.” As always when in high emotion, Agatha Montgomery, Juliette’s best friend, used her adept skills in hyperbole. She leaned over the taffrail of the Adventuress as the ship eased into its berth, and her wide green eyes bounced from the wharf to the cranes to the warehouses. “I cannot believe we made it. I never want to endure a journey like this again.”
Nor did Juliette. Their trip from Switzerland to London had been fraught with delays and discomforts, putting them a fortnight behind their expected arrival date.
But now they were moments from stepping on their native heath. Her beloved England. She was finally home. Searching the quayside, she hoped to see a familiar face, but though people thronged the wharf, all were strangers. Not that she was completely au fait with the family she hoped would meet her, having been away from home for so long. She had completed her schooling and would within the hour be back in the embrace of her parents, ready to begin her new life.
Men shouted, Zinging ropes across the narrowing expanse of water, and with a jolting bump, the Adventuress docked. Juliette inhaled the scents of tar, hemp, wet wood, and smoke. The rigging creaked, and waves lapped against the pilings. Cold mist hung in the air, remnants of last night’s fog, no doubt. But the sun, weak as it was on this last day of January, hovered overhead as if determined to burn o! the dampness.
“Ladies, the gangway will be fixed soon, and your belongings will be the first off, as I promised.” The captain, a desiccated stick of a man with so many creases on his sea-weathered face it was difficult to make out his features, paused on his way forward. “If you’ll remain here out of the way, we’ll see you off right smart.” He touched his hat brim and sketched a small bow.
The Adventuress was a cargo ship, ill equipped for passengers, but the captain had made an exception for them in Genoa when they’d discovered their original vessel had sailed without them. The first mate had vacated his tiny cabin—albeit with poor grace—to accommodate the girls. Juliette had joked that the berth was so small, they had to go out into the corridor to change their minds.
“You do think someone will be here to greet us, don’t you? Even though we’re late and on the wrong ship?” Agatha’s brow puckered. She’d voiced the same concern throughout the journey.
“If no one is there to meet us, we’ll get ourselves home. We’re grown women now and certainly capable of getting from one side of London to the other.” Juliette raised her chin. “If we can live in a foreign country for years and travel alone from Switzerland to England, we can navigate the last short stretch.” Weariness dragged at her heart. It seemed she had been on her own for such a long time. She longed to be in the care of someone else for a while, to have her parents there to look after her, to help guide her in decision-making, to give her the feeling of home and comfort she had missed since the moment she’d left Heild House, their country estate in Worcestershire, for school seven long years ago.
“But we’re not supposed to be traveling on our own. That’s the problem. Our chaperone abandoning us partway to the port was a near disaster. What my father will say, I’m sure I don’t know. He paid good money for an escort, and look what happened.” Agatha’s mouth tightened, as it often did when speaking of her father. From her description he was a man of moods and given to expressing them boldly. His rare letters to his daughter over the years had been terse and more often than not dictated to his secretary at one of the mills he owned.
“He cannot blame either of us, and if he’s thinking at all, he should applaud our independence and bravery. Frau Hecht was not a good choice of chaperone, and I’m sure our parents will communicate their displeasure to the academy.” Frau Hecht and the three men hired to take the girls to the port city of Genoa and aboard the correct ship had been in league with one another. They had taken their fees and money for traveling expenses and then abandoned their charges in the city of Turin, forcing the girls to find their own way from there.
“Ladies.” The first mate, who always spoke as if clenching a mouthful of nails in his teeth, stuck out his arm, stiff as a spar, pointing to the gangway. There had been quite a set-to when the captain had agreed to take them on as passengers, led by the first mate. Something about women on a ship being bad luck? Tosh and twaddle. Juliette would be glad to see the back of him.
Holding her skirt with one hand and anchoring her hat with the other, Juliette made her way down the wooden slope that had no rails, her mouth in her throat until her feet touched the rimed cobbles of the wharf.
The sense of peace she had anticipated didn’t come. Instead, the anxiety that had dogged her every mile of the journey remained. There were still so many questions, so much to do until she could feel settled at home. Her parents had expected her to arrive a fortnight ago. They couldn’t know of all the troubles that had waylaid the girls. Had her parents come to the dock day after day hoping for her arrival, or had they dispatched someone to look for her?
Agatha bumped into Juliette’s back. “Your pardon. The stones are slippery.” She righted her bonnet. Lean and coltish, Agatha stood six inches taller than Juliette, and she constantly hunched her shoulders, keeping her head bowed in an effort to disguise her height. “Do you see anyone we know?”
Stevedores, teamsters, and sailors abounded. Bales, barrels, and bundles blocked anyone from walking in a straight path. “No.”
“What should we do?” Agatha clutched Juliette’s arm.
What indeed? Juliette had talked a good yarn about getting themselves across London, but how did one go about it? “We can inquire at the shipping office, I suppose. To see if our families have sent word or instructions.”
Which only left the small issue of finding the headquarters for the ship they had been scheduled to travel upon but which had left them behind when they didn’t arrive on time.
Before she could take a step, a long hand snaked out of the jostling crowd and latched onto her wrist. Startled, she jerked back, bundling into Agatha, who shrieked. Heads swiveled and bodies jostled, and Juliette whacked down on the clutching hand with an instinctive chop.
Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.
Vetsch is the author of many novellas and novels, including the popular Serendipity & Secrets Regency series and the new Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery series
Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.
Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com
. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor) and Instagram (@EricaVetsch).
The Debutante's Code
can be purchased at Amazon
, and anywhere else great Christian fiction can be found!
Check out Erica's previous posts HERE
Sounds like another great read for fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Anne Perry!
See you next week for Wednesday Words with Friends and Saturday Spotlight!
Until then....take care and be blessed.