Tea with Prue Virtue

Today’s post is an excerpt from my latest novel, Revealed in Mist. (Click on the link to read the blurb and find buy links.)

Prue hesitated in the street outside her next destination. Callers needed to present their card at the gate, be escorted to the front door and delivered to the butler, then wait to be announced. On most days of the week, uninvited guests below a certain rank in society would have difficulty making it past the first obstacle, but on Thursday afternoons, the Duchess of Haverford was ‘at home’ to petitioners.

Past encounters had always been initiated by Her Grace. A scented note would arrive by footman, and Prue would obey the summons and receive the duchess’s commission. Though she was always gracious, never, by word or deed, had Her Grace indicated that she and Prue had any closer relationship than employer and agent.

The entrance and public rooms of Haverford House were designed to impress lesser mortals with the greatness of the family—and their own lesser status. Prue was ushered to a room just off the lofty entrance hall. Small by Haverford standards, this waiting area nonetheless dwarfed the people waiting to see the duchess.

Two women, one middle-aged and the other a copy some twenty years younger, nervously perched on two of the ladder-backed chairs lining one wall. Next to them, but several chairs along, a lean young man with an anxious frown pretended to read some papers, shuffling them frequently, peering over the tops of his spectacles at the door to the next room. Two men strolled slowly along the wall, examining the large paintings and conversing in low whispers. A lone woman walked back and forth before the small window, hushing the baby fretting on her shoulder.

Prue took a seat and prepared for a wait. She would not tremble. She had nothing to fear. Both Tolliver and David said so, and Aldridge, too. But how she wished the waiting was over.

It seemed a long time but was only a few minutes, before a servant hurried in and approached her.

“Miss Virtue? Her Grace will see you now.”

Prue gave the other occupants an apologetic nod and followed the servant.

The duchess received her in a pretty parlour, somehow cosy despite its grand scale. Prue curtseyed to her and the woman with her. Were all petitioners waved to a seat on an elegant sofa facing Her Grace? Addressed as ‘my dear’? Asked if they should care for a cup of tea?

“Miss Virtue takes her tea black, with a slice of lemon,” the duchess told her companion. Or was the woman her secretary?

“Miss Virtue, my companion, Miss Grant. Miss Grant, Miss Virtue has been of great service to me and to those I love. I am always at home to her.”

Was Miss Grant one of the army of relatives for whom Her Grace had found employment, or perhaps one of the dozens of noble godchildren she sponsored? The young woman did not have the look of either Aldridge or his brother, nor of their parents. Prue murmured a greeting.

“I was not expecting you, Miss Virtue, was I? Is anything wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong, Your Grace. I just… I have some questions, Ma’am.”

“You should have sent a note, my dear. I will always take time to see you. I was happy to give a good report of you to my friend Lady Georgiana, of course.” As she spoke, the duchess took the tea cup from Miss Grant and passed it to her.

“Your Grace, I would like to speak with you alone, if I may. I beg your pardon, Miss Grant. I do not mean to be discourteous.”

The duchess stopped her own cup partway to her lips and put it carefully back into the saucer, examining Prue’s face carefully.

When she spoke, it was to Miss Grant. “Celia, my dear, will you let those waiting know that I will be delayed…” she consulted her lapel watch, “…thirty-five minutes, but I will see them all today? Perhaps you could arrange refreshments for them? Return on the half hour, please. That is all the time I can spare, Miss Virtue. If you need longer, I will ask you to wait or return another day.”

Prue shook her head. “The time will be ample, Ma’am. Thank you.”

As Miss Grant left the room, Prue was silent, collecting her thoughts. The duchess waited.

“You knew. You have known all along.” Prue shifted uneasily. She had not intended to sound accusing.

The duchess inclined her head in agreement, her face showing nothing but calm.

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Revealed in Mist is nearly here

Revealed in Mist is released on iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords on 13 December. It’ll be coming on Amazon at around the same time — I’m putting the file up this evening or tomorrow evening New Zealand time, so it will be published as soon as it goes through their approval process. And it has been up on Amazon as a print book for over a week, since I wanted to order some books to come to New Zealand in time for an event in February, and the cheapest form of delivery takes a couple of months. I’ve even sold two print books! Woohoo!

Apart from sharing the memes I’ve made (see them below), I’m not making a big splash, but look in the New Year for a blog tour and some other activities. In particular, I’m planning a detective game, which I hope you’ll enjoy. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of my hero and heroine.

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Partings on WIP Wednesday

This week on work-in-progress Wednesday, I’m inviting you to post about partings. Do your characters leave a lover, a friend, a relative, an enemy? Do they part for an hour, a day, a month, forever? Show me what you’ve got.

(The video clip is the wrong period, but the right mood for my excerpt, which is below.)

In my current work in progress, the hero and heroine both work, and their commitments take them in different directions several times in the course of the novel. I like this parting.

Gren kept up a light patter of social conversation over the meal, and Prue made a valiant effort to contribute, though she was dreading the coming parting, and kept lapsing into silence to just watch David and soak up her last moments with him.

He was quiet, too, and Charrie oscillated from bright and bubbly to morose and silent. Without Gren, it would have been a dismal meal.

When the men got up to leave, Gren suggested to Charrie, “Shall we leave them the breakfast room for a moment, Charity? I know my brother wants to kiss her goodbye, and he doesn’t want to embarrass her in front of her sister.”

Charrie looked from one of the men to the other. “You are brothers?”

“Half brothers,” David confirmed.

Charrie opened her mouth, thought better of whatever she was about to say, and shut it again. Without another word, she left the room, Gren trailing in her wake.”

As soon as the door closed behind them, Prue walked into David’s arms.

“Travel safely,” she said.

“I’ll call for you on my way back.”

“No; I doubt I’ll stay long. I will go back to London. Come to me there.”

“Stay at my place, Prue. Mrs Allen knows to welcome you and make you comfortable. Treat it like your own home.”

“I will. I would like to.”

They kissed, and it was a hello and a farewell all at once. This one kiss would have to sustain them for a month or more. It lasted an eternity and was over too soon.

“I do not want to leave you,” David said at last, drawing his head back but keeping her locked in his arms.

“I do not want you to go. But we each have our duties. Go, David. Finish your enquiries and come home to me.”

David smiled, more a warmth in the eyes than a movement of the lips. “Home. Home is wherever   you are, Prue.” He kissed her again, a gentle benediction, then stepped away and opened the door.

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Wickedness on WIP Wednesdays

9ba02bf02563af86012883795a80af1cIn our fictional worlds, virtue triumphs—it is probably just as well, therefore, that the villains don’t know they’re fictional, so they lay their mischievous, selfish, or downright wicked plans, sure that they will win the day.

Today’s work-in-progress Wednesday is dedicated to the ways they act. I’m looking for an excerpt—I say eight to ten lines, but whatever you need to give us a feeling for what’s going on—that shows your villain (male or female, an irritation or an evil danger) doing something that displays their real character.

My current work-in-progress is the story of David Wakefield, best friend of Rede, the hero of Farewell to Kindness. David and his heroine are private detectives back when the name for such people was thief taker, and Embracing Prudence (set earlier in the same year as Farewell to Kindness) includes one of the villains who so complicated life for Rede and Anne.

Here is the Earl of Selby. He has just blackmailed the courtesan into giving him a night in her bed.

“Tiv won’t be happy,” the Earl gloated.

“You will be, my Lord. I guarantee it,” Miss Diamond replied, her voice a husky purr.

The Earl caught up his hat and walking stick, and in one fluid movement, backed the courtesan against the wall, trapping her with his stick held across her neck.

“I’ll collect on that guarantee,” he said, his own purr sounding of threat rather than promise.

Miss Diamond did not react, standing impassively within the cage he’d formed of his body. He leaned the last few inches and slowly, deliberately, licked the side of her face, from her jaw up to her eyebrow, then grimaced.

In another supple twist, he was off her and heading for the door.

“Don’t wear powder tomorrow night,” he instructed, as he left.

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