For April 20 and 21 only,Escaping Notice, a Regency romantic mystery, is free! This is the fourth book in the Archer family series, but never fear, you don't need to read them in any particular order and they all contain the adventure, romance and lighthearted fun, along with a murder or two that you've grown to love. In fact, I may have to dream up a few more long-lost relatives and write a few more books for this series--I never expected it to be this popular. I guess everyone likes a laugh or two.
So what's this one about? Here's a brief blurb and excerpt. I hope you enjoy it.
The murderer made his first mistake when he tried to kill Hugh Castle, the Earl of Monnow. His second mistake was killing Hugh's younger brother, instead.
Wrestling with grief, Hugh is determined to discover why he was the target and get justice for his brother's death. When everyone
assumes he drowned along with his brother when their sabotaged boat foundered, Hugh fosters that belief to trick the elusive killer into revealing himself.
But Hugh doesn’t count on running into two others also desperate to escape
notice by assuming false identities. Helen Archer lost the fabled Peckham
necklace at a ball given at Ormsby and risks censure and shame if she doesn’t
find it. Young Edward Brown only wants to escape his unpleasant guardians and
go to sea like his hero, Admiral Nelson. When the three meet, Helen and Hugh
discover they are both going to Ormsby and hatch the perfect plan. By
masquerading as servants, they can gain access to Hugh’s grand house and
accomplish their missions in secret.
However, Edward objects for purely practical
reasons. He wants to go to sea, not to Ormsby, and he definitely doesn’t want
to spend his days polishing boots as a pretend servant. But the young boy's
objections are overruled.
The adventure begins.
In this scene, Helen, Hugh, and Edward have been accepted into the household as new servants. Hugh and Knighton Gaunt, an inquiry agent Hugh hired to help him investigate, are breaking the news to Hugh's aunt that the earl's boat sank with Lionel and presumably the earl on board. Hugh is still hoping he was wrong and that Lionel somehow survived, but in his heart, he knows his brother perished at sea.
Unseen by the others, Helen entered the hallway. She stood
hesitantly a few feet away from the tense cluster. As if sensing him, she
looked in Hugh’s direction. When he caught her eye, he shook his head. She
transferred her gaze to the floor.
Symes was the first to notice her. “You there,” he said. “Did you
bring Miss Leigh’s brandy?”
“Yes, sir.” She held out a small glass filled with amber liquid.
“She’s had a terrible shock.” He waved her forward.
She handed the glass to Miss Leigh, who grabbed it and swallowed
the contents in one gulp, causing her to go into a paroxysm of coughing. Helen eased
the small glass from her hand and put an arm around Miss Leigh’s thin
“May I help you upstairs? You should lie down.” Helen’s puzzled
gaze flew first to Mr. Symes and then Mr. Gaunt, but both ignored her. “Come,
Miss Leigh, you should lie down.”
Face red and damp from coughing, Miss Leigh leaned on Helen’s
arm, and allowed herself to be led away.
When Gaunt placed his hat on his head in preparation to leave,
Hugh slid quietly through the library and out of the French doors into the
garden. He headed towards the front drive, hoping to cut Gaunt off before he
departed. Halfway around, he met his quarry. Hugh waved and led him off towards
a small copse of trees where they could not be seen from the house.
“What have you discovered?” Hugh asked, turning abruptly as he
rounded the bole of a large oak.
“It’s early, yet,” Gaunt remarked. “They have collected the
debris from the Twilight, however. And the constabulary of Burnham-on-Sea has
instituted an investigation.”
“Any sign of Lionel?”
“Not yet. I’m sorry.”
Hugh ran a hand through his hair, glancing once over his shoulder
in the direction of Ormsby. “Why did you not warn my aunt that Lionel is most
likely dead? She may not see it as a kindness when she finds out.”
“You’ve presented me with a bit of a problem, my lord. According
to your story, you were the only one who knew your brother went out with you on
the Twilight. It would be impossible for me to know, or tell anyone, that
Lionel is most likely drowned. Without his remains, how would I know unless you
had told me?”
“Yes, but damn it, when she does discover it —”
“I’m sorry. However, there is no easy way to do this; no way to
spare her feelings ̶ or those of anyone else.”
“There is no sign, then, of Lionel?”
“No. As I mentioned, it’s possible that he survived —”
“No,” Hugh said, feeling the waves battering him, tearing him
away from the foundering boat and his brother. The unbearable, unforgiveable
lightness when he had lost his grip on Lionel. “No. I realize there is no
proof, but he could not have survived. Eventually, we’ll have to reveal that
Lionel is dead.”