When I begin to write a story I already have a fair idea of what my hero and heroine will be like, although I discover more about them in the writing. I also know my story will end with that prerequisite HEA. But I can never be sure of what might happen on the journey, or which secondary characters might appear to enrich the story, like bit players or character actors in a movie. They seem to evolve with little effort on my part.
One such character is Geneviève, Duchesse la Châteaudunn.
In the first of my Spies of Mayfair Series, A Baron in Her Bed, Guy, Baron Fortescue’s French-born sister, Geneviève, grows concerned for him and travels from Paris with her large staff, the duke’s horses and fashionable carriage. She, and Guy’s fiancée, Horatia Cavendish conclude that Guy is acting strangely. He might be in trouble, and they decide to help him.
Guy, however, doesn’t wish to be helped:
It is the Duchesse la Châteaudunn’s opulent turquoise carriage lined with fine parquetry, paisley silk curtains, velvet upholstery and gold carriage lamps, which gives the women away.
Guy emerged from the house into the square. He glanced at the two women in the park who chatted beneath their parasols, and continued along the path. He must report to Strathairn. Tonight would put an end to the infernal scheme. He had no real faith in these so-called spies, for they appeared more like mischief-makers. A plan to free Napoleon was bizarre. Their idolatry of Vincent seemed amateurish. Had the Home Secretary been ill informed? Yet, he surmised, amateurs they might be, but obsessed and dangerous they were nonetheless.
He crossed the juncture of Henrietta and Margaret Streets and began to walk down Holles Street, making his way to Oxford Street, where he had a better chance of finding a hackney. The chaotic streets were filled with horsemen and carriages. Guy cursed and stopped suddenly causing a knife grinder to give him a speculative look as he passed. A grand, aqua carriage waited on the next corner, the four matched grey horses held by a liveried groom. Not only did this fit Horatia’s description of his sister’s carriage to perfection, he was sure that was the duke’s livery. The two women in the park, hidden behind parasols… Could it be? Guy swiveled on his heel.
“Zut!” He strode into the square to meet the two ladies.
Had he not been so angry, he would have laughed at their stricken expressions.
It was one thing for him to be in danger, but he would not have his two favorite people in all the world thrown into the arena.
“And what might you be doing here?” he asked in a glacial tone.
“I took the duchess to meet a friend of mine, but she is not at home.” Horatia’s face flushed crimson, and she refused to meet his gaze.
“You are a very poor liar, Horatia,” Guy said. He raised his brows at his sister. “Who is behind this absurd notion?”
“I am,” Horatia blurted.
“Non. ’Twas I.” Geneviève revealed a sisterly lack of fear at his wrath. “You are in trouble. We wish to help.”
He ground his teeth in frustration. “You can help enormously.”
Two pairs of pretty eyes gazed at him in fascination.
“How?” Horatia asked in a breathless voice.
“By going home and staying there.”
“Oh.” She looked at Geneviève, who made a moue with her lips.
“Then you do not deny you are in trouble?” Geneviève asked.
“I do deny it. You are being absurd. Allow me to escort you both to your carriage.”
“But where do you go? Why don’t you come with us now?” his sister persisted.
“Because I have a prior engagement. You are both behaving badly. Must I reveal every detail of my life to you?”
When Geneviève continued to object in a flood of outraged French, he held up his hand. “Assez!”
The unmanageable pair climbed into the carriage. “Can we give you a lift somewhere?” Horatia asked with a sweet smile.
“Non merci!” He slammed the door. “I shall call on you both tomorrow.”
But the two women are not done with him yet. They resort to a disguise to follow him again.
After dinner, Geneviève called for Horatia at the appointed time in her carriage. She thrust some clothes into Horatia’s hands. “Put these on.”
“Oui.” She lowered the blinds.
As the carriage rocked along the street, Horatia struggled into the ill-fitting clothes that reeked of horse.
“I’m sorry. They belong to the stable boy,” Geneviève said. “They were the only ones that would fit you.” She gave an apologetic shrug. “You are so tall and slim.” She held out a pair of scuffed shoes. “These will be too large for you. You’ll need to stuff the toes with paper.”
Horatia admired Geneviève’s nimble fingers as she tied a credible cravat without a mirror. Her clothes were more suited to the gentry. She wondered whom the duchess had coerced into giving them up and had a ridiculous vision of her ordering a local clerk to remove his clothes. She stifled a nervous giggle, tugging on her black tricorn as Geneviève tucked her dark hair beneath the bevor hat.
A watchman called, to whoever would listen, that the weather remained fine. The carriage halted for them to alight at the stand in New Bond Street beside a water trough. A night coach passed them, and link boys lit the way for a chair carrying an important personage. Fortuitously, the bare wisp of smoky cloud hiding the crescent moon drifted away. A cool breeze stirred the trees and fanned the stench of fresh horse manure, stinging Horatia’s nostrils. She shivered in the thin clothing, more from apprehension than cold.
No available hackneys were waiting. A peddler strolled up to them with a box of clocks strapped around his neck. Horatia waved him away as her frustration grew. She and Geneviève walked up and down. The minutes turned into half an hour.
“It’s growing late; we will have missed him.” Horatia rubbed the goose bumps on her arms.
“I see one!” Geneviève darted out to wave it down. Horatia followed more slowly, hampered by the shoes slipping off her heels.
Should you wish to learn more about A Baron in Her Bed:
Review RT Book Reviews: Andersen’s first Spies of Mayfair novel is a romance that shows the darker aspect of the Regency. There is a nice mystery, with some captivating secondary characters, plenty of action and a hero and heroine that play well off each other.
London, 1816. A handsome baron. A faux betrothal. And Horatia’s plan to join the London literary set takes a dangerous turn. Now that the war with France has ended, Baron Guy Fortescue arrives in England to claim his inheritance, abandoned over thirty years ago when his father fled to France after killing a man in a duel. When Guy is set upon by footpads in London, a stranger, Lord Strathairn, rescues and befriends him. But while traveling to his country estate, Guy is again attacked. He escapes only to knock himself out on a tree branch. Aspiring poet Horatia Cavendish has taken to riding her father’s stallion, ‘The General’, around the countryside of Digswell dressed as a groom. She has become bored of her country life and longs to escape to London to pursue her desire to become part of the London literary set. When she discovers Guy lying unconscious on the road, the two are forced to take shelter for the night in a hunting lodge. After Guy discovers her ruse, a friendship develops between them. Guy suspects his relative, Eustace Fennimore is behind the attacks on his life. He has been ensconced in Rosecroft Hall during the family’s exile and will become the heir should Guy die. Horatia refuses to believe her godfather, Eustace, is responsible. But when Guy proposes a faux betrothal to give him more time to discover the truth, she agrees. Secure in the knowledge that his daughter will finally wed, Horatia’s father allows her to visit her bluestocking aunt in London. But Horatia’s time spent in London proves to be anything but a literary feast, for a dangerous foe plots Guy’s demise. She is determined to keep alive her handsome fiancé, who has proven more than willing to play the part of her lover even as he resists her attempts to save him.
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