- N. N. Light
Fall Into . . . Most Secret by Kathleen Buckley and @WildRosePress #historicalromance #giveawayalert
Title: Most Secret
Author: Kathleen Buckley
Genre: Historical Romance
Jane Stowe frequently finds her irritable father, peevish stepmother, and half brother Rupert a trial. Her only hope of eventual escape is her maternal uncle, Roger Markham, whose heir she is. When he dies under mysterious circumstances, Jane is the obvious suspect.
Alex Gordon, family misfit, has been sent to find out if there’s anything to Markham’s suspicions about the schooner Sea Mew. With half the Continent at war, and the Young Pretender recently landed in Scotland, the matter may be of critical importance. Once Alex ferrets out—with Jane’s assistance—the connection between the Sea Mew and Jacobite activity, he is told to leave the rest to the professionals. But the professionals have no stake in saving Jane from the gallows or Rupert from a charge of treason.
In treason and espionage, the stakes are life and death—and perhaps love.
At length, he heard the rush of feet and the ringing of metal on metal outside the shed. Then shouting and breaking glass. Easier to go in through windows, if they were not shuttered; the doors were likely too thick to kick in, and bolted or barred. Two or three shots were fired—not by the soldiers, he thought. Alex sat glumly, waiting upon events.
Which took a long time coming. There was a gray light around the door before the sound of men milling around and shouted orders died down. Various parts of his body ached, or were stiff, or had gone to sleep. His mouth felt dry although the linen gag was damp with saliva, and he urgently needed to relieve himself. The private had made use of the opposite corner of the shed hours ago.
The door swung open and silhouetted a tricorned figure.
“Bring the prisoner out, private.”
The private used his bayonet to cut the strip binding his feet and Alex was hauled up—not without difficulty, for the private was shorter than he and not burly—and aimed toward the door. He uttered a stifled groan.
“You may remove the gag, private.”
Alex gasped as it was taken out and croaked his request.
“Ah . . . you may free his hands, too. The army is a hard service but there’s limits to what we’ll ask of a man,” the lieutenant said with a grin.
His most pressing need taken care of, Gordon said, “I must speak with your commanding officer. I am here on behalf of the government, and have an order authorizing—”
“Ay, so you said last night. The captain is ready to see you now. Mind you don’t try to escape.”
“Nothing would induce me to do so, as I have no reason to fear His Majesty’s forces.”
“That’s as may be,” the lieutenant snorted.
“It would be best if the people you have taken into custody did not see me, however.”
“No fear of that. They’re on their way to Dundee.”
Captain Sloane had set up his command post in a back room of the house. He regarded Alex without favor.
“Gordon, is it? What were you about last night, skulking around this place?”
“Sir, as I tried to explain, I supplied the information about the smuggled shipment which I expect you’ve found. I came to intercept you with information of use to you. I have a letter which will make everything clear.” He reached up to pull it out of his coat’s inner pocket. Sloane and the others stiffened, and Gordon heard a pistol being cocked behind him.
“Raise your hands,” the captain said. “Corporal, see what he’s got inside his coat.”
The tension eased somewhat when the corporal brought out the letter and presented it to the captain. The latter took it then levelled a glance somewhere behind Alex’s left shoulder.
“You will oblige me, Lieutenant, by clearing the pan. It hardly seems that it will be necessary to fire. I do not want the prisoner’s brains on my desk.”
Alex heard and felt the puff of breath as the man blew the priming gunpowder out. He sighed with relief himself. Captain Sloane studied the thick red seal on the letter before breaking it. He read the letter, frowned and re-read it more slowly. Then he squinted suspiciously at the signature. It was not quite the reaction Gordon had expected. Sloane seemed lost in thought. At length, he said,
“I can take no action based on this remarkable document, except to pass it on to my superior.” He folded it up and tucked it into his pocket. “You will be held pending Colonel Tate’s decision.”
“But no action is called for, now that the house has been raided. Except that one of the men you arrested can be persuaded to give evidence against other conspirators, and his cooperation should be secured as soon as possible, before the ones still at large come to hear of this and scatter. And I am sure that the order you have just now read identifies me as an agent of our government.”
“It does. But I have no way of knowing that the document is genuine. Even if I recognized the signature, it might be a clever forgery. I’ve never seen such a thing as this: ‘The bearer, Alexander Gordon, is acting by my Order, and you are Instructed to give him Any aid he may request.’ If it had come through official channels I should have to trust its authenticity. As it is, this is too serious a matter for me to take any action except to refer it to a higher level.”
“There is no more to be said. Private, lock the prisoner up in the cellar until he can be sent to join the others.”
“Captain Sloane, I would ask that you keep me away from the other prisoners. Only one of them knows me, but if he encounters me here, when he supposes me gone back to England, he may guess I am an intelligencer.”
“Hmmm. Well, you won’t be less comfortable in the cellar than you would be in a cell in Dundee. See that he’s provided a blanket and some straw, Private Bates. If confirmation of your document can be obtained, or Colonel Tate chooses to trust it, your stay may not be overlong.”
“Thank you, sir. And if you could pass the word that the prisoner Rupert Stowe would probably be willing to give evidence—if someone suggests it to him? He’s a fool and I believe was led into this, this ...”
“Treason,” Sloane finished, succinctly.
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What makes this book a must-read and/or what inspired you to write this story:
Since the success of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, there have been numerous novels about the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. It’s perfectly understandable: the Scots had a handsome prince, delightful accents, kilts, romantic scenery, and a burning desire to throw off the yoke of tyranny. England had George II of the House of Hanover. I noticed there were no novels from the English point of view--how unfair! How could I resist? I’m always tempted to swim against the tide.
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More-or-less retired from a career which included a hospital billing department, a commercial print shop, a law firm (as a paralegal), and various sites, including a marine terminal, as a security officer, Kathleen Buckley decided she would like to try writing a historical romance (An Unsuitable Duchess). Then she wrote Most Secret. She has turned in the manuscript of her third novel and is working on the fourth. In her spare time, she tries out 18th century recipes (and sometimes medieval recipes), attends Jane Austen events, reads—a lot!—, is working on a patchwork quilt, and thinks about the next Albuquerque Renaissance Faire, where she will probably demonstrate spinning on a spindle wheel. You know, the kind in the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. She shares a house in Albuquerque with a friend, cats, four spinning wheels, and a giant sea turtle (preserved by taxidermy).
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