Joanna Bourne talks about ROGUE SPY!

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

MJP: Word Wench Joanna Bourne's long-awaited new book, Rogue Spy, will be released tomorrow! Her last book, Black Hawk, won RWA's RITA for best historical romance of the year, and Rogue Spy was named to Library Journal's list of the 10 Best Romances of the year even before it was released.

So–Joanna, could you tell us about the story and the characters?  I loved not only the protagonists, but all the delightful, kindly criminal elders, such as the Fluffy Aunts.  <G>

 JB: I'm writing a love story, of course, so the emotional mainspring of Rogue Spy is the relationship between Pax and Cami. They reach out to each other. They heal each other's wounds. They fall in love.

RoguespycoveramazonThey also unravel a a spy plot, chase the bad guy, (very bad, bad guy,) across London. and in the end avert death, disaster, and international chaos.

The usual, y'know.

 But the book is also about family. The family we're born with. The one we choose.

 That 'family' theme lets me bring in some of the wise elder characters I so enjoy writing. The Fluffy Aunts, who are only as dithery and harmless as they choose to appear. Galba, trying to manage his British Service agents. This is like herding cats, except it's cats who kill people. Bernardo Baldoni, spy lord, power broker, con man, and political plotter. His Medici ancestors would have been proud.

Read more

A Flask of Regency Liquor

A la bonne bouteilleNo, Sir, claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men: but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.
Samuel Johnson

Joanna here, talking about Regency tipples.  The hard-drinking Regency or Georgian gentleman is such a stock figure in Romance, it's worth stopping a minute to wonder what sort of liquor he was likely to be imbBeer brewingibing. 

There was ale and beer, of course, and their cousin, porter.  Ale and beer weren't precisely a gentleman's drink, but it's likely your hero lifted a mug of ale before the hunt and he may well have drunk beer with his breakfast, especially if he lived in the deep country. 

Beer and ale were drinks native to England, universal, and cheap.  The drink of the people, as it were.  Even small children drank a low-alcohol sort of beer called 'small beer' made from the second or third re-fermentation of the mash during brewing and containing just enough alcohol to preserve the drink.

Singleton_Ale-House_Door_1790By the Regency, the distinction between ale and beer lay not so much in the ingredients that made them up, as in the proportions.

Ale differs from beer in having fewer hops, which, giving less bitterness, leaves more of the soft smooth sweetness of the malt. It is usual, too, to brew it with pale malt, so that it is not so brown as beer. 
Scenes of British Wealth, Isaac Taylor, 1825.

Porterlater this was also called 'stout'was a style of strong, dark, well-aged beer dating back to the Eighteenth Century, much favored by the working class of London.  Thus 'porter', because porters drank it.  Not a stylish beverage.  If you're wondering what it was like; Guinness is stout.

Why so much beer drinking?  I read, here and there, the thought that folks drank beer or ale instead of water because the water was contaminated.  Beer is boiled during the fermentation process and afterwards the alcWomen drinking beer manetoholic content kills off pathogens.  In a land of contaminated water, beer is a lot safer to drink.  The argument is that historical people somehow sensed this. 

This has always struck me as applying twenty-first century attitudes back into historical times.  The modern popularity of beer or wineor coke for that matterisn't an indication folks don't trust the water. 

I think folks in Regency times made beer as a way of handily preserving grain; they drank beer because they liked the taste; and probably, like modern folks, they enjoyed getting a little tipsy.

. . .  sober maids are wooed in wine.
Samuel Johnson

Wine, not beer, was the gentlemanly table drink, being imported and expensive and therefore fancier.  Agricultural experimentation, starting in Roman times, had demonstrated the sad truth that England is not a wine-producing country.   I wonder if some of the ancient conflict between England and France boils down to a certain jealousy that France can make wine and England can't. 

It was to France the English had traditionally turned to fill up their glass.  The two decades of war between England and France made the enjoyment of French wines more problematic.  Our Regency gentleman, who would once have poured out Bordeaux, (which they were likely to call claret,) burgundy, hermitage, (from the Rhône region south of Lyon,) or a sparkling champagne, now maybe substituted Tokay, an old favorite from Hungary, or hock, which was a catchall term for German wines. 

Amontillado wikiBut he might also have turned to some new favorites the English had found among the wines of Spain, Portugal and the mid-Atlantic islandsthe wines called Madeira, Malaga, port, or sherry.  Sherry, which, just to liven things up, was also called sack or Canary. 

Next time you see a character in a book with sherry-colored eyes, that over on the left is probably what the author means.  That's a mid-range sherry.  Sherry runs all the way from clear to dark brown.   

These new favorites were fortified wines, most of them heavy and sweet.  They were made by mixing traditional varieties of light, generally sweet wines and then adding brandy at some specific point in the fermentation process.  This fixed the flavor and sugar content and brought the alcohol level up to 15% or 20%.  The high alcohol prevented spoilage during shipment.  These fortified wines were less temperamental in the keg and the robust alcohol level was a nice compromise between ordinary wine and harder liquors.

A fortified wine like port was likely to be passed around the table after a fine dinner when the ladies had withdrawn and the gentlemen could start telling dirty jokes.  Meanwhile the ladies, in the salon, were helping themselves to a ladylike glass of 30-proof sherry and engaging in their own risqué conversations. 

Zwiebelflasche Sherry bottleI don't want to zip right past wine without saying that the size of the ordinary historical wine bottle may have been determined by the amount of air in a glassblower's lungs.  Georgian and earlier wine bottles had a long-necked, onion-bodied shape, which made them a bit less likely to get knocked over.  Wine bottles assumed the bullet shape we're so familiar with today when transportation improved in the Eighteenth century.

Early wine was shipped in kegs.  The householder or tavern owner tapped the keg and poured it into the nearest pitcher or bottle.  In the Eighteenth Century, better roads led individual wine growers to bottle their own wine.  The long, cylindrical bottle with a tight cork could be stacked and stored on its side and shipped economically.

When our Regency gentleman wasn't drinking wine, what were the other choices?  There was a formidable array of distilled liquors for him; brandy, arrack, whiskey, gin, cognac, rum, and cordials of every sort.  Exotic drinksAbsinthe-ducros-fils-110kb could be brought back from odd corners of the Continent; kirshwasser, distilled from cherries in Switzerland and Germany; vermouth, from Italy; maybe a bottle of Green Chartreuse liqueur brought out of France and hoarded from before the Revolution. Absinthe, the green liqueur containing wormwood, was being made in France, preparing for a long career as the decadent man's drink of choice. 

Considering a few of these 

Geneva was the period name for what we'd call gin.  It was probably not passed around the table after dinner by your average Regency gentleman, gin being notoriously the beverage of the depraved lower class.  The nickname, 'blue ruin', seems applicable.

The poet, also, is disguised, and seems, if we may use his own mixed phraseology, to have "drunk deep" of blue ruin, instead of the "Pierian spring."
Monthly Review, Ralph Griffiths

 
Arrack.  This was strong liquor imported from India and the East Indies, made from any of a number of 220px-Cocos_nucifera_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-187grains, such as rice, along with sugar and the juice of the coconut tree.  It was regularly imported into England from the Eighteenth Century onward.  It seems to have been drunk, in England, mainly as an ingredient in punch.

Not to keep thee longer in suspense ; last night, it seems, the infamous woman got so heartily intoxicated with her beloved liquor, arrack punch, at the expense of Colonel Salter, that, mistaking her way, she fell down a pair of stairs, and broke her leg:
Clarissa, Samuel Richardson

Was arrack punch a wee bit vulgar?  Our sporting gentlemen probably preferred a rum punch when he met friends at the inn after a long day's ride.

Brandy.  Gessa y ariasAh.  Now here is the quintessential liquor for our Regency gentleman.  This is what lurks in the decanter he hands round the table after dinner.  This is the tot served to male guests in the library.  When in doubt, the hero pours brandy.

Brandy is distilled from wine.  Eau-de-vie is most properly the distilled liquor made from other fruits or grains, but in this period they were often called brandies as well.   

So you could have a 'brandy' made by fermenting peaches.  Or you could have a brandy made from grape wine that was later infused with the flavor of peaches.  These fruit-infused brandies were made by soaking crushed fruits like cherries, apricots or blackcurrents in brandy.  There are numerous recipes for this.

To make Cherry Brandy. Take six pounds of cherries, half red and half black.  Mash or squeeze them to pieces with your hands, and put to them three gallons of brandy, letting them stand steeping twenty-four hours; then put the mashed cherries and liquor, a little at a time, into a canvass bag, and press it as long as any juice will run; sweeten it to your taste; put it into a vessel fit for it; let it stand a month, and bottle it out. Put a lump of loaf sugar into every bottle.
The Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter, 1800

  
Our gentleman will almost certainly serve French brandy, though it seems a bit vulgar to mention the origin.  A gentleman will take that for granted.  His brandy may, in fact, come from Cognac, a region so famous for brandy that the liquor is simply called Cognac. 

He has delivered himself over to strong libations of pure cognac, and is daily plunged in intoxication and stupor
Patrick Kennedy

Gilray punch_cures
Rum.  Our fashionable gentleman, unless he's spent his youth at sea, is unlikely to drink rum straight up, but if he's a sporting gentleman, he will most probably drink rum punch.

It is made with rum, brandy, lemon, hot water, and sugar.  . . .  Put in as much sugar as the water will dissolve. If you brew, say, a quart of punch, let it contain the juice and the rind of one lemon. The juice, I say; not the pulp. The rind also; not all the peel; none of the white pith: only the yellow outside pared off thin . . .  Mix your hot water, sugar, and lemon. Let the water be boiling hot—fresh from the kettle on the fire.  . . .  put a wrapper consisting of a folded napkin over the mouth of your jug, and lay a thick octavo or some other equivalent body, over the mouth of that vessel, and let it stand for five minutes. Then add the liquors.
Punch

Whiskey.  Gaelic usquebaugh, from the Latin 'aqua vitae' or 'water of life', became 'whiskey' in English.  It's a distilled malted grain liquor.  Scotch whisky shares with French brandy the distinction of being an illegally smuggled import in England during the Regency.  Would our gentleman have served it? 

Well … if he were Scots or had spent time in Scotland, very possibly.  Or our gentleman might simply like to add the fillip of illegality to his after dinner relaxation.

Meissenier louvre C19 cropWhen I think of my historical gentleman, at ease, talking with a friend at the table, I think of him with a glass of good simple wine set at his elbow. Black Hawk

What about you?  When you settle down to talk to your friends, what drink do you like to sip, and why?

 

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Black Hawk.

 

Regency Pyrotechnics

Catherine wheels wikiJoanna here.

What do Vauxhall, the court of Queen Elizabeth, Cuper's Gardens, (which is described intriguingly as "the scene of low dissipation . . . and the great resort of the profligate of both sexes" — rather like our local mall,) thFurttenbach_Feuerwerk1644e celebration of the wedding of George III, and Kensington Gardens have in common?

Fireworks.  Big, bright rockets and Catherine wheels and crackers.  Fireworks were the sound and light show of the Eighteenth Century.  The extravaganza that marked all great and festive events.

Sometimes there was music.  You can listen to Handel's Fireworks Music, for instance, here.  I'll admit I was expecting something with more booms in it.

 

“…. fireworks had for her a direct and magical appeal. Their attraction was more complex than that of any other form of art. They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger; above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty.”
Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver

 

Fireworks came out of China, like printing, dim sum and Bruce Lee.  The original fireworks date back to the Ninth Century or so.  They, were firecrackers made of gunpowder, stuffed into thin bamboo shoots.  Oddly enough, the original use of pyrotechnics was not warfare.  All this gunpowder was set off at the new year to scare away evil spirits.  It probably worked.

Knowledge of gunpowder arrived in the Middle East and Europe in the 1200s.  Marco Polo sometimes gets the credit, and why shouldn't he? 

 

“You're much better than fireworks. They're all over in a moment, and you're going to stay for a fortnight. Besides, fireworks are noisy, and they make too much smoke.”
Kate Ross, Cut to the Quick

One of the first mentions of fireworks is in Roger Bacon's Opus Majus.  Roger-bacon-wiki

"… that children's toy which is made in many diverse parts of the world, a device no bigger than one's thumb. From the violence of that salt called saltpetre, together with sulphur and willow charcoal, combined into a powder, so horrible a sound is made by the bursting of a thing so small, with no more than a bit of parchment containing it, that we find the ear assaulted by a noise exceeding the roar of strong thunder, and a flash brighter than the most brilliant lightning."
 
Early English fireworks specialists were — it's not surprising — military gunners.  The same men who used gunpowder to send an iron ball shooting out of a cannon, used that knowledge to create and explode fireworks.  They formed craft guilds across Europe, traveled, exchanged information, and wrote long treatises on the formulas and methods.    

Fireworks 2 and illuminations 1749This here is a vast fireworks display over the Thames in 1748 at the Duke of Richmond to celebrate the ending of the War of the Austrian Succession.  This is the shindig for which Handel wrote that music linked above.  

See there in the middle of the Thames?  Those rockets going up and letting off a globe and lights falling out were called 'stars'. 

To make falling stars —
"… the stuffe which is to be put into the Rocket for to flame and give crackes is made of twelve partes of Saltpeeter refind, of Citrine Brimstone nine partes, of grosse gunpowder five partes and 1/4 of a part mingled togeather with your hand."

That mixture was moistened and formed into small pieces, then packed into a ball and wound tightly Fireworks wikiround with packthread, given a fuse, and placed in the head of a rocket.  When the rocket exploded, the stars would stream down in the air.

One observer said it seemed "as if the sky has opened … as if all the air in the world is filled with fireworks and all the stars in the heavens are falling to earth …  a thing truly stupendous and marvelous to behold."

 

"We were ready for the apocalypse and when it didn't come we were very disappointed. So we drank more absinthe and set off fireworks."
Marilyn Manson

 

Black powderWhat our Regency folks would have called 'gun powder', what we might call 'black powder' today, was made from three main ingredients.  There were some other additives, but thee were the Big Three.

Ground charcoal.  The best charcoal, the sort used for fireworks — was made from willow, alder or black dogwood. 

Sulphur, which had to be perfectly clean and free from sulfuric acid. 

And saltpeter. Saltpeter is interesting stuff.  It's mainly potassium nitrate.  The name, sal petrae, 'salt of rock' is because it's found as an incrustation on rocks.  Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century folks mined it in dungheaps and farmyards and caves favored by bats for many years. Or they cultivated it deliberately by composting manure for a year, adding additional urine.  It was the urea in urine that bacteria broke down to the useful nitrates.

I haven't found any Regency reference to the idea that saltpeter suppresses sexual desire.  Either I just haven't found it or they hadn't thought that up yet.

Back to the ingredients for fireworks.
It's somewhat a matter of what they didn't have. Iron filings might be added to make a brighter and more intense flame, but fireworks were white and yellow.  They didn't have color.  It wasn't till the 1830s that folks started adding the metals that give color to fireworks.  All our red, blues and greens, the Regency folks never saw.

The rockets that launched all this display looked something like these Congreve rockets — military rockets — from 1805. Congreve_rocket pub dom 1805
  Rockets for firework displays were made of paper, filled with powder.  The height of accent and the timing of the explosion was carefully controlled by the tightness of the packing, the size of the case and the length of the cotton fuse.  A long stick fixed the rocket to the ground, setting the flight at the proper angle.

And they had Catherine wheels.  As early as 1540, Florence and Siena in Italy erected huge wood and papier mache wheels set in motion by rockets and fire tubes.  Fireworks 2 display for muhammad shah

Fixed designs like modern fire fountains shot streams of lit powder into the air from rolls of pasteboard filled with gunpowder. I'm particularly impressed with this picture from the mid-Eighteenth Century that shows these fire fountains and the court ladies of Mohammad Shah playing with fireworks.  Brave ladies.

Another fixed display was a spherical 'sun'.
Sun firework 2 public dom
"In the centre of the block of the sun drive a spindle on which put a small hexagonal wheel whose cases must be  filled with the same charge as the cases of the sun…a sun thus made is called a Brilliant Sun because the wood work is intierly covered with fire from the wheel to the middle so there appears nothing but sparks of a brilliant fire."

For the entry of Louis XIII into Lyon in 1623, fireworkers constructed a huge artificial lion with fire bursting from its jaw.

Fireworks were spectacle, display, public celebration.  In 1814, in a jubilee in celebration of peace in London —


"The senses were next astoniFireworks_1856 wikished and enchanted with a pacific exhibition of those tremendous instruments of destruction invented by colonel Congreve. Some notion even of their terrible power might be formed from the display of the night, and their exceeding beauty could be contemplated, divested of its usual awful associations. Each rocket contains in itself a world of smaller rockets: as soon as it is discharged from the gun it bursts, and flings aloft in the air innumerable parcels of flame, brilliant as the brightest stars: the whole atmosphere was illuminated by a delicate blue light, which threw an air of inchantment over the trees and lawns, and made even the motley groups of universal London become interesting as an assembly in romance."

 

What's the most memorable fireworks you've ever seen or participated in?  Anything from Black Hawkbackyard sparklers to the aurora borealis or australis.  

One lucky commenter will win their choice of Black Hawk or Forbidden Rose.

 

 

Looking at the World Through Regency Glasses

Joanna here, talking about eyeglasses in the Regency period. Franklin6

The idea of eyeglasses isn't new.  Dipping into wayback history, folks were getting a close look at small stuff with a clear, curving crystal in ancient times.

Nimrud_2lens_British_MuseumHere's the Nimrud Stone, a piece of ground, polished rock crystal found in the excavation of a 3000-year-old Assyrian palace.  Lenses like this have turned up in Greek burial sites that are even older. 

These first magnifying glasses gave the users up to 10X enlargement, which is to say they compare favorably with the magnifying glass you have in your desk right now and use for reading the print in your OED or threading needles or staring in bemused enjoyment at the whorls and ridges of your thumbprint. 

Scholars figure these very early lenses were used by Greek and Sumerian craftsmen to produce the unbelievably fine detail in some of their art work.  Or gazing at the rings of Saturn.  Or, y'know, looking at their thumb.

What limited the number and quality of these first lenses — the reason Cleopatra didn't wear eyeglasses — Pectoral_of_Senusret_II_cc attrib John_Campanawas they hadn't got around to making cheap and clear glass yet.  High quality glass was precious. That's why Tutankhamun's hoard of jewels is made of gold, ivory, lapis lazuli, carnelian, turquoise, and . . . glass.  This must have come as a disappointment to the Victorian treasure-seekers in the Nile valley.  They'd open a tomb and pull out a fancy pectoral or amulet and it was brilliant, colorful glass, instead of, say, brilliant colorful emeralds.


Folks finally made reliably clear glass on a large scale in Italy. 

Thirteenth Century Italy was the hotbed of glass technHugh_specsology for its day.  Venice — the Medieval Silicon Valley of glasswork — turned out round, hand-held magnifiers on a regular basis.  About 1280 some bright lad, his name forever lost to history, mounted two of these glass disks in round frames and joined them together.  Presto.  Eyeglasses. 

And, lickety-split, as historical innovation goes, we get portraits of people with spectacles.  This 1352 portrait to the left may be the earliest representation of eyeglasses.


Friedrich_Herlin,_Reading_Saint_Peter_(1466)
Spectacle and spectacle case c mother or pearl painted totoiseshell silver glass 1700 vandAThere were two kinds.  Perch-on-the-nose glasses, for one.  Pince-nez we'd call them now.  That's a circa 1700 example on the left.  This picture to the right is from 1466.

Lorgnette the met We also get a scissors-type eyeglasses that joined together at a hinge and could be adjusted to fit.  This kind of glasses could be held up as we see to the left, or held up from below.  The scissors glasses seem awkward, but they appear in portraits right along to the Regency so they must have had hidden charm and utility.

Conrad_von_Soest,_'Brillenapostel'_(1403)
You can see the difficulty with both kinds.  They were always ready to fall off.  You had to tie a ribbon around your head or keep one hand on your glasses.  Tedious, to say the least. They'd be for reading and close work only.

In the early 1700s a London spectacles maker, Edward Scarlett, advertised a clever solution.  His glasses had folding hinged struts on the sides and two arms to hold the optics onto the head.  There were even loops, sometimes, to tie the glasses on.  Made in china before 1846 after C17 3rd quart british museum attribNow your spectacles didn't fall off every time you incautiously reached for a new sheet of paper. 

It became practical to walk around wearing the things.  All this improvement in eyeglass technology meant people could pay intelligent attention to where they were going. This lasted till the invention of the ipod.
Crome 1817 detail 2Benjamin Franklin, one of my favorite people — he's up at the top of the page — invented bifocals in 1784.
It was also in the Eighteenth Century that glasses met the masses.  They were no longer for scholars and artists.  This traveling glasses pedlar on the left argues that glasses were cheap enough that a country woman in a cottage was likely to buy a pair. This ragged tailor on the right can afford glasses to pursue his trade. Crussens mid c17
 
I haven't found examples of these Georgian and Regency glasses with a curve to fit neatly around the ear.  They seem to have hugged the head in a steely embrace, doubtless leading to many a Regency headache.  Some, intended to tuck intMusvisattrib 1750 wig spectacles spearshaped tipso the fashionable wigs of the time, had fierce and sharpish-looking points.

Now, with all this development of practical eyeglasses that gripped the head and stayed on and didn't require constant fidgeting, you'd think the old, precarious sort without side pieces would disappear. 
Not so much.  As the new utilitarian eyeglasses spread through the hoi polloi, the inconvenient older optics were now considered spiffy and upper-crust.

Quizzing glass closeup Quizzing glass 1820 britinsh museum attrib detail 2So, you had your quizzing glass. 
This was a single, hand-held lens, like a magnifying glass. 

Single lenses that you held had long since been replaced by spectacles for everyday use.  Round about 1790 the French, as the French will, turned this passe object into a fashion accessory.  If you needed glasses, or even if you didn't, you could walk around with a quizzing glass handy, maybe hanging it on a long chain worn around the neck. The you whipped it out to inspect something.
Fashionably.

 
The double-barreled version of the quizzing glass was the lorgnette, which is sort of glasses-on-a-stick.  Lorgnette after 1700 the met Like the quizzing glass, the lorgnette was a decorative social prop, capable of depressing pretension all the way across the ballroom. 

Quizzing glass 1801The word lorgnette, you will be pleased to know, comes from the French lorgner, 'to peer at', from Middle French lorgne, 'squint'.  The French, being contrary, call this instrument a face-a-main — a 'face-to-hand' — and then use the French word lorgnette to mean, not that, but a quizzing glass or small telescope.
The word English word 'lorgnette' appears in 1803 so you should probably not have your character raise her lorgnette to intimidate an encroaching mushroom before that.  Unless she is French.  In which case she is talking about a quizzing glass. 
Life is complex.

One thing you notice, when you're looking at paintings of Georgian and Regency crowd scenes, is how few people are wearing glasses.  When you do see glasses in a crowd, they're generally perched on the nose of a plump parson or peering, bent old woman.  I set aside the possibilities of Eighteenth Century Lasik surgery, contact lenses, and a general eagle-eyed-ness in the population and ask myself why.


Regency Romances portray glasses as a bit fuddy-duddy.  Our Regency heroines hide their spectacles in their reticules (and our Regency heroes have better eyesight than the average squad of fighter pilots.)  This is a Regency Romance convention that seems to have good evidence on its side. 

Nimrud stone and quizzling glass attrib British Museum. Scissor glasses and lorgnette attrib The Met. Pectoral of Senusret cc attrib John Compana. Glasses with wig points and glasses with loops Museum of Vision by permission. Spectacles and caseBlack Hawk attrib V&A.
 
 
So.  Thinking about the impact of eyeglasses on the world . . .  Imagine a life with no eyeglasses, and you with not-so-good eyes.  What would you miss most?
One lucky commenter will win a still-fairly-hot-off-the-presses copy of Black Hawk.

Black Hawk

Black HawkJoanna here, talking about my new book, Black Hawk.

This is Adrian's story.  I don't know about anyone else, but I'm relieved the boy finally has his happy ending. 

We've met Hawker as a secondary character in the other books.  He's Hawker, or Adrian Hawker, or sometimes Sir Adrian Hawkhurst, depending who he's pretending to be and who he wants to impress.  He is deadly and sarcastic and maybe a bit too fond of sticking knives into people.  Naturally he has the making of a Romance hero.   
 
Two of the most dangerous spies of the Napoleonic War — on opposite sides, natch — fall in love.  Think Montague and Capulet.  Think Yankees and Red Sox.  Think Hannibal and Scipio Africanus.  Think about the owl and the hawk, two birds that  might share the sky for a while, but can't live together. 

Hawker rose up snarling out of the slums of London.  His mother was a country servant, forced Getty108271594 cropped for use2into prostitution when she turned up pregnant.  She dies under the fist of a brutal customer, leaving Hawker to survive alone on the streets. By the time he's ten, he's becomes the most cunning thief and the most skilled, ruthless assassin in the service of the King of Thieves.  He's rescued from that life, by the British Service who have uses for his particular skill set.

3237624_sJustine DeCabrillac, daughter of the nobility, is a woman just as formidable as Hawker.  Her parents die in the chaos of the Revolution and she is betrayed into a decadent child brothel.  She's rescued by a woman of the French Secret Police.  In time, Justine, too, becomes a great spy for France.

It was inevitable Justine and Adrian would meet.  The shifting intrigues of war and peace between England and France bring them together again and again, sometimes working toward a common goal.  Sometimes wholly at odds.  But a friendship forms between these two young spies, the best of their generation, based on common knowledge and common respect.  Spies of different nations have more in common with each other than with the armies clashing across battlefield or the civilians at home in bed. 

They become lovers.  3justine and adrian frm stk phot 4
This is a great error.

For Montague and Capulet, owl and hawk, tragedy is inevitable.  The demands of
loyalty will drag them apart. 
But they can't seem to stop.

Then, in two decisive confrontations — one on the steps of the Louvre, one outside Paris as armies advance to take the city — they hurt each other.  They do the unforgivable. They speak words that can't be taken back. 

Their love story is over.

Ironically, years later, when England and France are at peace and Justine has given up her old spy games, she learns of a plot to discredit and destroy Adrian.  She's attacked on her way to warn him and staggers into British Service Headquarters, bleeding.

As Adrian carries her upstairs, unconscious, he knows it's a second chance at love.  If they can work together, they might just find out who wants to kill Justine and frame Adrian.  If not, they'll both fall.

And, an excerpt:Adrian with beige background

 

His chin was shadowed with a need to shave. She had known a boy three years ago. She did not really know this young man.

I do not know how to ask. Everything I can say is ugly. I do not want this to be ugly.

She gave her attention to pouring hot water onto the tea leaves. Rain drummed on the roof. Since they were not talking, since they were not looking at each other, it seemed very loud. He said, “As soon as you drink that, you should leave. It’s getting worse out there.”

I must do this now, before I lose my courage. “I am hoping to spend the night.”  She chose words carefully, to clarify matters beyond any possibility of misunderstanding. “It is my wish to spend the night with you, in your bed.”

Hawker was silent. He would be this self-possessed if tribesmen of the Afghan plains burst through the door and attacked him with scimitars. The refusal to be ruffled was one of his least endearing traits.

Time stretched, very empty of comment, while she swirled the teapot gently and he was inscrutable.  Finally, he took the oil lamp from the end of the mantel and busied himself adjusting the wick, lighting it with a paper spill from the fire. “The hell you say.”

 

In the books you love, what love stories were never told? 

For me, it's the story of Cat in Sharon and Tom Curtis' Windflower.  I would love to read his story.

I'll be giving away a copy of Black Hawk to one lucky commentator.