Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, June 14, 2012

JASNA and Last Chance for a Free Copy of Escaping Notice

Just got back from Maryland where I had a wonderful time at a book fair hosted by the Jane Austen Society of North America (I'm joining, too--these folks are wonderful!). I was thrilled (not to mention intimidated) by the amazing authors who did readings from their books and there were a ton of fascinating books for sale. I had to really resist adding more than a few books to my library, which is already full to overflowing.

The author panel included: Sandy Lerner, Margaret Sullivan, Catherine Reef, Janet Mullany, Lori Smith, and Diana Peterfreund. Oh, and me. Everyone was so nice that I hope they'll make this an annual event as it is a terrific way to start the summer season.

Speaking of celebrate, I'm offering my latest bestseller, Escaping Notice, free for the next three days. That is, Thursday, June 14 through Saturday, June 16, 2012. Here's a bit about it and a teeny-tiny excerpt. Hope you enjoy it!

Escaping Notice

Discarded by his betrothed with a parting sally that “being an earl does not excuse being a bore,” Hugh Castle, the Earl of Monnow, joins his brother on a relaxing cruise, hoping to forget. But a storm capsizes their boat, and despite Hugh’s desperate efforts, he can’t save his brother’s life. Then, when the wreckage reveals evidence of sabotage, he realizes he was never meant to return to dock. Someone intending to murder the earl killed his younger brother, instead. Angered and grieving, Hugh travels to London to enlist the aid of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency in finding his brother’s murderer.

Helen Archer attended the Earl of Monnow’s ball in expectation of joining the celebration for his betrothal, but the event seems destined for disaster. She arrives late, the earl makes no announcement, and Helen manages to lose the fabled (but cursed) Peckham necklace her sister reluctantly loaned to her. Unwilling to admit her carelessness to her sister, Helen rashly decides to return to the earl’s estate and retrieve it in secret.

When his aunt threatens to send him to the Earl of Monnow, his purportedly cruel uncle, Edward Leigh-Brown decides he’s had enough of female interference. He’s going to join the navy and follow in Lord Nelson’s footsteps to become a military hero. But finding his way to London is a lot harder for a young boy than it seems, and he’s soon lost. When he bumps into Miss Helen Archer at an inn, he’s more than happy to accept a ride in her carriage, even if she seems determined to escort him to an inquiry agency to hire someone to locate the family he doesn’t want located.

When the three meet in London at Second Sons, Helen impulsively decides to accompany Hugh to the earl’s home. They will be disguised as servants and free to pursue their secret goals. Hugh hopes to uncover a killer, Helen hopes to find her necklace, and Edward just hopes he can find the opportunity to escape again.

In this scene, Helen Archer has met up with a young boy, Edward, and has offered to convey him to London in her carriage. She little realizes what an expert Edward is at impromptu fiction, particularly when he wants to get rid of unwanted company.

Chapter Seven

“A chief part of his duty consists in assisting in the rough work ….” —The Complete Servant

Edward Brown-Leigh studied Mr. Stewart as Miss Archer left the room. The man was really offensive, another word which had recently come into his vocabulary and was already proving useful. Edward wanted to punch him in his red nose for the way he stared at the delicate Miss Archer.

“You were lucky, sir,” Edward said when the man turned towards him. Despite teasing Miss Archer, Edward had rather liked her. She was pretty and she hadn’t treated him like a sapskull, two qualities which immediately endeared her to him. He was also tired enough after walking all day with his heavy valise to be grateful to her for her offer to take him to London tomorrow in her carriage.

He did not like Mr. Stewart, however. Or the way his beady little eyes had followed Miss Archer.

After Edward’s comment, Mr. Stewart laughed, although it had a hollow, false note.

“Lucky? I agree. It was a lovely piece of luck to find the inn so full that I was forced to share a room with such a charming couple as you and your fair sister.”

Edward shook his head and fixed a pious expression on his face. “Oh, indeed. But what was lucky was that my sister hadn’t the opportunity to serve you anything to drink.”

“To drink?” Mr. Stewart echoed Edward’s words before giving another, less hearty, laugh.

“You saw the blue vial she carries?” Edward shook his head mournfully.

“Yes. What of it? Just smelling salts or some similar medicine. All delicate ladies carry such things.”

Edward sighed. “If it was only that ….”

“Only that?”

“We’re going to London to see a doctor, you see. I only hope we can get there without any more … incidents.”


“Yes. I probably shouldn’t tell you about our difficulties, but it’s been preying on my mind ever since father took ill last winter and left it up to me to see that my sister gets the care she needs. I’m only praying she won’t end up in Bedlam, though if another man …. Well, I shouldn’t tell you our troubles.”

“Bedlam?” Mr. Stewart’s voice squeaked. His ruddy face grew pale although his blob of a nose remained bright cherry red.

“Yes. You see, my sister is easily annoyed by strange men. And when she gets annoyed, she has a way of slipping a little something extra into their drink.”

Poison? Why in God’s name isn’t she locked up?”

“Oh, she hasn’t actually killed anyone.” He smiled reassuringly and widened his eyes to prove his earnestness. “Not yet, anyway. And fortunately, she listens to me and is quite docile when I'm present. We have every hope for a cure after we get to London. We’re going to see a specialist.”

Lifting his hat in one hand, Mr. Stewart wiped his sleeve over his brow. When the door behind him opened, he jerked violently, hitting the table with his hip. Edward stared at the floor to keep from laughing at the expression on Mr. Stewart’s face when Miss Archer entered the room, followed by a woman Edward presumed to be her maid.

“Oh, you’re back!” Mr. Stewart exclaimed. “I’m dreadfully sorry, but you must excuse me. Terribly sorry.” He dashed past the two women who stared after him, open-mouthed.

Edward smiled triumphantly at Miss Archer and was rewarded with a puzzled look that made him somewhat nervous. A slight frown pinched the skin between her brows. If she heard what he had told Mr. Stewart, she might take it amiss.

He shuffled his feet and gazed at the door, wondering if discretion really was the better part of valor as The Aunts had insisted.

Perhaps they’d been mistaken about that and he should admit the truth to Miss Archer and hope for the best.
 * * * * *

For those who have more eclectic tastes in literature and a fondness for short stories, you might be interested to know that Edward Brown-Leigh is my small tribute to H. H. Munro, who wrote under the pseudonym of Saki. Munro was rather plagued by Aunts, as well (yep, that's Aunts with a capital "A") and he might feel a great deal of sympathy for poor Edward. Munro is one of my all-time favorite authors and I never tire of reading his biting, witty short stories.

And if you've read any of Munro's stories, you might say that just like Edward, romance at short notice was his specialty, too. (I hope fans of his story, "The Open Window" won't roll their eyes too much. I know, it's a groaner.)

Have a wonderful weekend!


Eloise Hill said...

Amy, I didn't know the Jane Austen Society existed; I'm so jealous! I really enjoyed The Vital Principle and would like to check out Escaping Notice. I'm assuming that is on Kindle?

Amy said...

Yes - I just joined JASNA as a real member today. It's pretty cool.

Escaping Notice is available on the Kindle and will shortly be available on all other ebook devices.