Eloise Kelly has gotten into quite a bit of trouble since she started spying on the Pink Carnation and the Black Tulip—two of the deadliest spies to saunter the streets of nineteenth-century England and France. Not only has she unearthed secrets that will rearrange history, she's dallied with Colin Selwick and sought out a romantic adventure all her own. Little does she know that she's about to uncover another fierce heroine running headlong into history.
The year is 1803 and England and France remain at odds. Hoping to break the English once and for all, Napoleon backs a ring of Irish rebels in uprisings against England and sends the Black Tulip, France’s most deadly spy, to the Emerald Isle to help. What they don’t know is that also in Ireland is England’s top spy, the Pink Carnation, who is working to shut the rebels down.
Meanwhile, back in England, Letty Alsworthy intercepts a note indicating that her sister, Mary, is about to make the very grave mistake of eloping with Geoffrey Pinghingdale-Snipe (second in command of the League of the Purple Gentian). In an attempt to save the family name, Letty tries to stop the elopement, but instead finds herself swept away in the midnight carriage meant for her sister and is accidentally compromised. Geoff and Letty, to each other’s horror, find themselves forced into matrimony. Then, Geoff receives word that he is to travel to Ireland to help the Pink Carnation and disappears immediately after their wedding ceremony. Letty learns of Geoff’s disappearance and, not to be outdone by her husband, steals away on a ship bound for Ireland, armed and ready to fight for her husband…and to learn a thing or two about spying for England.
• Romantic Times Top Pick
» Publishers Weekly
"Harvard Ph.D. candidate Eloise Kelly continues her research of early 19th-century spies in the smart third book of the Pink Carnation series…. Willig—like Eloise, a Ph.D. candidate in history—draws on her knowledge of the period, filling the fast-paced narrative with mistaken identities, double agents and high stakes espionage… the historic action is taut and twisting. Fans of the series will clamor for more."
» Kirkus Reviews
"Heaving bodices, embellished history and witty dialogue: What more could you ask for?"
From Chapter Three...
The moment was everything Geoff had known it would be. After her an initial startled gasp, his intended bride dissolved into his arms, returning his kiss with more fervor than she had ever shown before. They were on the verge of being married, after all.
Amazing what a difference imminent vows could make.
Her hands, originally poised against his chest as though to push him back, slid slowly up to his shoulders and stayed there, as her head tilted back, her lips perfectly matched to his. Warm and soft beneath the voluminous folds of her cloak, she fit perfectly into his arms. The dark interior of the carriage closed around them like the velvet lining of the jewel box, blotting out the inn behind them, the unfortunate scents of the courtyard, and the very passage of time.
It was quite some time before it began to dawn on Geoff that she might be just a bit too soft. The arms encircling his neck were a little rounder than he remembered them, and her shoulder blades seemed to have receded. Geoff’s hand made another tentative pass up and down her back, without breaking the kiss. Yes, definitely smoother. It might just be the added padding of the cloak, but other discordant details were beginning to intrude upon Geoff’s clouded senses. Her fragrance was all wrong, not Mary’s treasured French perfume, but something fainter, lighter, that made him think without quite knowing why of the park at Sibley Court in summer. It was a perfectly pleasant scent, but it wasn’t Mary’s.
He was kissing the wrong woman.
In the sudden rush of clarity, Geoff arrived at another painful realization. The roaring noise he had been hearing, which he had cheerfully ascribed to the pounding of his blood in the heat of the moment, wasn’t coming from within at all. Someone was actually roaring, and not far away. The roar had a decidedly jeering quality to it, and it was coming from right behind him. Whoever it might be was clearly having a rousing, roistering good time—at Geoff’s expense.
Stiff with horror, Geoff pulled away, breaking the kiss with an audible pop. He could hear the woman in his arms, the woman who wasn’t Mary, draw in a ragged breath, as if she were just as shocked as he.
Devil take it, whom had he been kissing?
“Nice work, Pinchingdale!” called a voice behind him, and Geoff swung around, still poised on the steps of the carriage, to see Martin Frobisher saluting him in a gesture of exaggerated approbation. “I give that at least three minutes without coming up for air, don’t you, Ponsonby?”
As inebriated as his companion and slower on the uptake under any circumstances, Percy Ponsonby stumbled into the small circle of light cast by the carriage lamps and peered owlishly at the woman behind Geoff. “I say, Pinchingdale, what’s all this?”
All this was very clearly not Mary Alsworthy.
The woman so recently entangled with Geoff yanked back with enough force that her hood slipped back, revealing a confusion of ginger-colored hair that glinted like a fuzzy halo where the light struck the individual strands. It could not have been farther from Mary’s sleek fall of black hair, which ran silver and blue in the candlelight like a midnight stream. Mary’s eyes were delicately tilted at the corners; this woman’s were perfect rounds of shock, primrose to Mary’s sapphire. The only similarity lay in the lips, full and generous—although some more generous than others. Mary had never responded like that.
“Well, well, well,” said Martin Frobisher, rolling the word over his tongue like a fine port. “Well, well, well.”
Once he found a syllable he liked, he stuck with it till the bitter end. At least, Geoff was feeling bitter, not to mention decidedly unwell.
He had just been kissing his future sister-in-law. With considerable relish. That undoubtedly counted as incest under an obscure ecclesiastical law dating to the early years of the Reformation, complete with a punishment involving a sack, a beehive and a large pot of honey.
In his preoccupation with incest, Geoff realized he had completely missed a crucial step. What was Mary’s little sister doing in his carriage in the first place? He felt rather as though someone had just whacked him over the head with a very thick plank. Nothing made sense and the world was still spinning.
“If it isn’t little Letty Alsworthy,” continued Frobisher, looking like the cat who had gotten the canary that had fallen into the cream pot.
Letty Alsworthy very rapidly snatched her hood up over her head. “No, it isn’t,” she trilled from the depths, in a palpably false fluting soprano. “Can’t you see it’s Mary, you silly, silly man?”
Percy might be dim, but even he wasn’t that dim. He crossed his arms over his chest, peered into the carriage, and said, “No, you’re not.”
“How can you be so sure? It’s dark.”
For a moment, Percy wavered, swayed by the obvious truth of that last statement. He shook his head. “You’re still Letty. Can’t fool me there. They don’t look a’tall alike, do they, Pinchingdale?”
“No,” said Geoff grimly, “they don’t.”
One would have thought he might have noticed that before he swept her into his arms. But it had all happened so quickly…. One moment he was at the door, the next his arms were around her, and after that, he didn’t remember much at all.
At least, he was trying very hard not to remember. If he could, he would scrape his mind clear with sand, obliterate from his memory the way the swell of her chest had felt pressed against his, the curve of her waist beneath his arm, the arch of her neck as his hand had stroked upward into her hair. None of that, he told himself firmly, had ever happened. It wasn’t allowed to have happened.
Unfortunately, there were witnesses willing to attest that it had happened.
“Well, well, well.” Geoff could learn to hate that word. Despite being somewhat wobbly on his feet, Frobisher still managed to direct a creditable smirk at Geoff before stumbling into Percy. “Caught by the oldest trick in the book.”
“I say, Frobbers, that can’t be right.” Slinging an arm around his friend, Percy blinked sagely. “What about that trick played by those Greek chappies—something about a horse….” Percy subsided into academic reflection.
“Or, in this case,” snickered Frobisher, “a carriage.”
“No,” protested Percy, shaking his head obstinately. “It was quite definitely a horse. Unless it was a rabbit. Maybe that was it. A rabbit.”
“Neatly snared, too. Bagged yourself quite a catch, old girl,” lauded Martin, in a triumph of mixed metaphors. “Well played.”
Framed in the door of the carriage, Letty violently shook her head. Planting both hands on either side of the doorframe, she leaned earnestly out. “It’s not what you think. It isn’t!”
“I know what I’m thinking,” muttered Martin, nudging Percy. “Eh, Perce?”
His gaze was directed well below the lines of propriety. Underneath her cloak, Letty wore nothing but a linen night rail. With its high neck and long sleeves, it might at one point have been perfectly respectable, but frequent washings had reduced it to a whisper. Through the thin fabric, the carriage lamp illuminated the curves of breast and hip in a way far more erotic than mere nudity.
Flushing, Letty snatched the edges of her cloak back together, but not before the image was indelibly imprinted on the eyes of all three gentleman. Percy, blissfully inebriated, saw not one but three. Percy was a very happy man.
Geoff hastily closed his mouth, which had been hanging open. Being caught kissing
Letty Alsworthy in his carriage was bad enough. Being caught kissing Letty Alsworthy
in a night rail...