Lady Rosamund and the Plague of Suitors
A Rosie and McBrae Mystery, Book 3
Lady Rosamund’s plan for a quiet return to London society goes awry when she rescues a woman fleeing along the road—the mistress of her brother, Lord Derwent. Rosamund takes her in, meaning to sort matters out with Derwent—but he has left town in a hurry, and soon the Bow Street Runners are after him for murder. If that wasn’t trouble enough, several suitors are vying for Lady Rosamund’s hand.
Luckily, Gilroy McBrae is in London to help Rosamund save her brother. Will their strained relationship, along with his rivals for her heart, impede the race to unmask the real murderer before Derwent is caught and hanged?
Here's an excerpt from Lady Rosamund and the Plague of Suitors
A member of the House of Medway must never give way to fear. Or so I told myself sternly as my coach rumbled the last few miles toward London.
It is mortifying to confess that my fear was not of highwaymen, which are not unheard of upon some stretches of the Great North Road. My coachman and groom were armed (as was I, but only my father and I knew that), and in any event, I can afford to lose my diamond drops and a few guineas.
Perhaps anxiety is a better descriptor of my sentiments as we approached the metropolis. I had left London after the death of my husband some months earlier to spend the summer with my father in Westmoreland—but now, as autumn drew in, I was on my way home. My father, the Earl of Medway, decided to come south to visit friends, so he accompanied me most of the journey. Now, on the last leg home, I looked forward to my London friends and all the entertainments the metropolis offers.
Unfortunately, I was still in mourning. I would have to be circumspect about which events to attend—the quieter sort, nothing too frivolous, and definitely no balls. My mother lives in Kent, but she has many London friends (and enemies) who would be swift to write to her about any social solecism I commit. She might even send my brother Julius to spy on me, for mourning multiplies the number of solecisms just waiting to be committed.
But that wasn’t my only anxiety, because--
The coach slowed, and I woke from my uneasy reverie to the sound of whinnying and shouted curses. A coach heading north was stuck in the mud at the roadside, teetering toward the ditch. Two men struggled to manage the frightened horses.
John Coachman slowed our vehicle to ascertain whether help was required. One of the two men—a huge bear of a fellow with a catskin waistcoat, a red neckerchief, and a broken nose—snarled at us and cried, “(Expletive expletive), we’re in the (expletive) now!”
Well! That is hardly the proper way to greet a nobleman’s coach, nor to express oneself in the presence of a lady. Perhaps he didn’t see me through the window, but he could certainly see the crest on the door. In any event, John Coachman immediately took offense and kept going.
“What a rude fellow,” said Mary Jane, my maid. We continued around a bend, Mary Jane muttering about unmannerly behavior on the roads. I gazed out the window, pondering my second source of anxiety, when I spied a woman running ahead of us along the verge.
She turned, stark terror on her face, and leapt into the ditch. She scurried up the other side and ran pell-mell across a field towards a nearby wood.
In that one instant when she faced us, I recognized her. The fugitive was none other than my brother’s mistress, Esme Concord!
I pounded on the roof of the coach, and when it kept going, I put down the window and called, “John, stop this instant!” He is my father’s coachman and a stubborn old fellow, but he knew better than to disobey a direct order.
The coach came to a halt, and I gathered my skirts and leapt out the door without waiting for the groom to let down the steps. Mary Jane’s cries of dismay pursued me, but I ignored them.
“Miss Concord!” I called. “Please wait. It’s I, Rosamund Phipps.” I slid into the ditch and ploughed up the other side. She was halfway to the wood, but at that she paused. She wore neither pelisse nor hat, and her hair fell loose down her back. Heavens! She’s not a lady, but I’m sure she wouldn’t choose to travel in such dishabille.
“Lady Rosamund, I—” She glanced fearfully up the road in the direction from which we had come. It didn’t take much to guess that her flight had something to do with the coach we had just passed.
Well! Whatever had happened, it was clearly my duty to help her. My mother would disagree, but surely my brother would want me to succor his mistress. I beckoned. “Quickly, come with me. I’ll take you home.”
She shook her head, glancing again up the road. “I can’t go home.”
“Come!” I commanded, hurrying toward her. “Don’t be foolish. I don’t know whose coach that was, but you’re definitely safer with me.” Good Lord, now that I saw her more clearly, I realized she had a bruise on her temple. “You’re injured! You may explain it all once we’re on our way.”
With a dry sob, she capitulated, and wisely. We were almost at the coach when a shot rang out! I bundled her inside and scrambled after her. “Hang on, lad,” John shouted, whipping the horses into motion. The groom clung precariously as we raced away down the road. A minute later we slowed so he could climb up next to John.
“Are you unhurt, John?” I called, as we moved forward again at a spanking pace. “I’m well, my lady,” he said in a grumpy tone that meant he wished he hadn’t stopped in the first place but was at the same time proud that he had. He is expected to consider my welfare before anyone else’s. However, he is also supposed to obey me. At times, this must be tricky. Luckily, he didn’t anticipate any danger to us, for he wouldn’t want to leave a helpless woman on the road with an armed man shooting at her any more than I would. Neither would Mary Jane, however much she disapproved of this particular female.
Poor girl, her teeth were chattering. It wasn’t particularly chilly, but it had rained earlier and her feet were soaked, her thin slippers covered in mud. I suspected, however, that her shivers had more to do with fright than cold. I felt quite shaky myself.
I put my shawl around her shoulders, and Mary Jane, who had moved to the rear-facing seat, silently helped her off with her slippers and draped one of the carriage rugs over her knees. (Although this silence was entirely proper in a servant, it was unusual in Mary Jane, who seldom hesitates to tell me precisely what she thinks.)
Miss Concord thanked her, while I dug beneath the seat for a flask of brandy. “Here. This will help calm you and warm you up, too.”
She took a gulp, coughed, and took another. “Thank you,” she murmured. She wasn’t shaking quite so much now. “I apologize for inconveniencing you. I didn’t know he would shoot at me.” She glanced at the stone-faced Mary Jane and quickly back at me, her lip quivering.
“You suffered far greater inconvenience than we did,” I told her, scowling at Mary Jane. She is not an unkind person, but she was having a fit of the horrors, imagining what my mother would think—whilst my glare told her, I hope, that my mother could go to the devil.
“Tell me what happened,” I said. She hesitated, and I asked, “Whose coach was that?”
“Lord Worsten’s,” she said, biting her lip hard.
“That tedious prig?” I cried, and she burst into tears.
“There, there.” I put my arm around her and passed her my handkerchief. “I apologize if you are enamored of him, but if so, why would you run away?”
“I’m not enamored—in fact, I loathe him. He abducted me!”
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