Hi, I’m Georgia Fenchurch and I’d like to show you a typical day in my current investigation. Kate Parker tells you all about the murder and theft in The Counterfeit Lady, but I’d like to tell you what I went through to solve those crimes.
I’m a bookshop owner, but as part of my work with the Archivist Society, I had to abandon my bookshop to play a widow who’s won the heart of the Duke of Blackford. The bookshop is my only source of income; I didn’t like handing its operation over to fellow Archivist Society members. I rose early before the day began in my role as an upper-class lady to check on Fenchurch’s Books. Today, I discovered the newly arrived gothic novel, The Ruined Castle by Mrs. Hepplewhite, hadn’t been put out for sale. My customers were furious! No reader wants to wait for new books from their favorite authors.
After I solved that problem, the Duke of Blackford arrived on his way to look for a man believed to be the man in the sketch of a burglar. Could the investigation end so easily? I went along and spoke to the burglar’s prostitute sister, but the duke’s men didn’t catch the burglar.
Then I began my day as a wealthy widow, paying calls on society women when I’d rather take a nap in this terrible summer heatwave. I returned to the rented house that was part of my disguise, only to meet up with the Duke again. He had two surprises for me.
He brushed my words aside. “I won’t be her anything. Now, we need to keep an eye on them. Or rather, you do. I’m too obviously involved in the hunt for the blueprints. So we’ll be leaving Friday morning for a stay at Lord Harwin’s.”
“We will what?”
The maid entered with the tea tray as I shrieked out the last word. She looked from me to the duke with widened eyes, but she set down the tray without spilling and fled the room, shutting the door quietly as she left.
“I suspected you’d need heavily sugared tea,” Blackford said as he fixed a cup and handed it to me.
I took a sip. It was sugary, but it revived me from a state of sputtering disbelief to full blown fury. “How did you manage to get us invited?”
“I applied economic and social pressure. Lord Harwin enjoys my help in finding the best investments for his dwindling fortune, and Lady Harwin enjoys mentioning the presence of a duke at her home. Then I simply invited the three of us, and your maid and my valet, to stay with the Harwins for a few days. Don’t worry. They have plenty of room. “
Was no one immune to Blackford’s charm and power? “How long are we going to be there?”
“Four or five days. Phyllida will of course go with us, as will your maid, Emma.”
I set down the cup with a clatter. “Who’s going to manage the bookshop?”
“Whoever’s managing it now.”
“Emma and I are spending our mornings there, taking care of problems.” Such as not shelving The Ruined Castle.
“I wondered why you looked so exhausted. Ladies are supposed to sleep all morning.”
“I’m not a lady. Remember?”
“It’s too late to back out now, Georgina.” He stressed my assumed name.
And then, if that weren’t enough for one day, he told me how I’d spend my evening. We’d be at the Royal Albert Hall in very illustrious company.
“Oh, he’ll come to us. Everyone will. I’ve invited Lord and Lady Salisbury to sit in our box. They accepted.”
My gulp of tea lodged painfully halfway down my throat. I managed to swallow without choking and said, “You’ve invited the Prime Minister and his wife to sit with us? I have to perform as Mrs. Monthalf in front of the Prime Minister?”
He smiled. “Think of this as playing your role on a larger stage.”
“What’s next? Dining with the Queen?”
“No. That wouldn’t help with the investigation.”
Dear heavens. He was serious.
Read about the rest of Georgia’s investigation in The Counterfeit Lady, the second book in the “Victorian Bookshop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime, on sale now. The first book in the series is The Vanishing Thief.
GIVEAWAY: One autographed copy of THE COUNTERFEIT LADY will go to a winner in the US or Canada when a comment is left by 6 p.m. eastern on September 22.
About the author
After many false starts, Kate Parker has found her dream job writing mysteries in bygone London. When she returns to reality, she’s on the Carolina coast. She can be found at www.KateParkerbooks.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.