The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla comes out in just six weeks!
To pass the time until then, here is one of my very favorite bits from The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla… in which Miss Gwen, once again, thinks this book is about her. And Sally, like another famous personage, is Not Amused.
Points to anyone who spots the classic children’s book reference!
I will confess, I may have been just a little slaphappy when I wrote this section….
And now, without further ado, a little bit of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla:
It took her several false starts, one wrong turn down a service stair, and the help of a friendly under-housemaid (who, it turned out, also had an excellent recipe for freckle cream), but Sally eventually found her way to Miss Gwen’s room, only an hour after she had left her own.
Really, guests should be given maps, she thought grumpily. She added that to her list of grievances as she knocked peremptorily at the door of Miss Gwen’s room.
Miss Gwen’s familiar dulcet tones issued forth from behind the closed door. “Go away.”
Sally went in anyway.
The door to the dressing room clicked shut as Miss Gwen’s maid whisked out of the way, carrying a pile of garments over one arm, her cap pulled down low over her brow.
“Did you know that [plot point I can’t share with you yet]?” Sally said without preamble.
“Now I do.” Miss Gwen’s room, unlike Sally’s, was in the new wing. Instead of dark paneling, everything was light and airy, from the white woodwork to the cheerful birds and flowers embroidered on the counterpane. Miss Gwen was comfortably ensconced in a bed that looked as though it had been purchased within the past century, propped against a number of pillows, a tray on her lap. Her pince-nez were perched upon her nose and there was a pile of papers on the bed beside her.
Sally felt a surge of relief. Miss Gwen was on the case. They would find the real murderer, clear Lucien’s name, improve the castle kitchens, and then retire to London in a blaze of glory.
Then everything could go back just the way it was.
Somehow, that wasn’t quite as satisfying a prospect as it ought to have been.
“What did you find? Correspondence? A journal?” Sally plunked herself down on the bed, making the chocolate cup rock on its saucer. She snatched eagerly at the nearest page. “Sir Magnifico bent his knee. ‘It would be selfish in me to keep you by my side when such evil stalks the land.’ With one noble tear—you’re working on your book?”
Miss Gwen snatched the page away. “Manuscripts don’t just write themselves.”
Sally wiggled off the bed, waving her arms for emphasis. “Yes, and murders don’t just solve themselves either! There are lives at stake.”
Not to mention her pride, which was currently sporting a duke-shaped dent.
“You have lives to save; I have a deadline.” Miss Gwen permitted herself a small smirk. “Many people are waiting for the sequel to The Convent of Orsino.”
Sally’s nails dug into her palms. “Is this the sequel in which a duke is unfairly charged with murder because someone spread ridiculous rumors about vampires?”
“Who would want to read that?” Miss Gwen regarded her manuscript pages fondly. “Plumeria must leave her child with Sir Magnifico and go to battle the dread Goblin King, who has risen from the dead to menace the kingdom.”
This was beginning to sound far less fictional. Miss Gwen had left her own infant daughter, Plumeria, at home with her husband, Colonel Reid. Colonel Reid, who had five previous offspring from various relationships, was something of an expert when it came to infant wrangling.
Sally didn’t bother to keep the edge out of her voice. “Is there also an old castle in the countryside all covered in vines?”
“Guarded by ten fearsome ghouls in two straight lines.” Assuming a soulful expression, Miss Gwen intoned, “In two straight lines they shook their spears, bared their teeth and pulled their ears.”
They didn’t sound particularly fearsome to Sally. “Is there also an intrepid golden-haired heroine?”
Miss Gwen looked at Sally over her spectacles. “No,” she said succinctly.
More Manzanilla coming your way soon! (Complete with intrepid golden-haired heroine. Ghouls with spears sold separately.)