Lady Abigail Houghall, the heroine from Elizabeth Ellen Carter’s latest release ‘Moonstone Conspiracy’, visits Amy Rose’s parlour. Read on to find out more about this enigmatic woman…
- What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?
An excellent question. They either love me or hate me. You see, people are very good seeing what they want to see in other people. They don’t actually see you. What they see is a mirror that projects their own fears and desires. They will either see the exciting, notorious demimondaine or they will see a manipulative whore.
- Describe your ideal mate. If you found that person would you want to marry?
That surely is the most fanciful question I’ve ever been asked! Let me see if I can do it justice. I would want a man who is more than just a handsome face. He would need to be resourceful, strong – I don’t mean physically strong, but have a strong character. He would need to love the real me. And I wish I knew who that was.
- Do you wish to marry? If so, what is your idea of a good marriage? Do you think that will happen in your life?
Is this a serious question? Who would marry someone like me – someone who has been a mistress to other men? A card sharp? A quick-tempered shrew? Someone who cares little for the opinion of other people?
A good marriage… I suppose such things do exist. My friend Lady Jane Ashton and her husband Thomas seem to have a good marriage. She utterly adores him and he dotes on her dreadfully.
- What is the worst thing that has happened in your life? What did you learn from it?
The worst thing? I imagine people will say being arrested by Sir Percy Blakeney on a charge of treason or conspiracy or some such thing.
- What is the worst thing you’ve ever done to someone? Why?
But I think the worst thing I’ve done was trampled on someone’s genuinely held feelings for me. It wasn’t even so much the unfaithfulness, it was just sex, just the excitement and the pursuit of pleasure. Even if James had never found out about my affair, I knew it. One way or another the die was cast and it killed his love for me. My consolation has been that he has genuinely fallen in love with a young woman who loves him truly. I wish him every happiness, I hope one day I can attain the same.
- How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?
Right now I’m trapped. I’m trapped in Bath with my insufferable Aunt Philomena and some useless branch of the family tree who claim connections because I was once a Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Charlotte and yet on the other hand spread the most salacious gossip about me – most of it untrue.
I want to be free again. I want to be out from under the thumb of Sir Percy Blakeney who could have me clapped in irons at a whim. My only choice is to make my own fortune under his nose and escape to Italy before he knows what I’m about.
- What attracts you to the Honourable Daniel Ridgeway?
Not you too. Lady Jane insists she can see some kind of attraction, but then she’s a hopeless romantic.
What is attractive about Ridgeway… Yes, yes, he’s handsome. Well, since you press for an answer, he’s very handsome, intensely infuriating, an accomplished dancer and… I, ah, well, um… he seems to look at me as though he actually sees me.
It’s strange, I don’t know how else to describe it.
- Why will you be better people together? What can you give each other?
Well Sir Percy Blakeney seems to have hopes in that regard. No, no, no! I mean he seems to think we will work well together. We have to.
I’ve been told that there is plot to blow up the fleet in London and to set off a series of riots across the country to force England into a revolution and Ridgeway has been ordered to work with me to stop it.
Daniel seems anxious to slip back into France. It seems a friend of his has been left behind and as for me, I need money, my dear. Lots of it. I need to get away from here as quickly as I possibly can and Sir Percy is going to have to make it worth my while.
Elizabeth Ellen Carter’s ‘Moonstone Conspiracy’ was recently released on the 2nd July. Please read on and enjoy a short excerpt.
The Red Lion Inn, built during the reign of the Tudors, was a single story stone and thatch building hunkered low and squat in the hills just outside Bath. The rain that accompanied them up from the town had eased to a drizzle by the time they stopped.
The coachman dropped nimbly from his seat and knocked on the closed door of the inn. A panel opened in the door, spilling yellow light through the aperture. Abigail shifted to see if she could glimpse the figure inside, but could not. Daniel slid along the bench beside her and brushed his hand against her arm as he looked over her shoulder to the scene outside.
“We’ll wait until we’re called,” he instructed softly. She nodded absently, but did not move her hand away and watched. The inn door opened a sliver and the driver sidled his way through it before it slammed closed behind him.
With no more to see, Abigail straightened. She felt the firmness of Daniel’s thigh against hers and the solid warmth of his body against her back as they looked out the window. She could smell his cologne, a mix of cinnamon, clove, and lime, as it mingled with her own rose and jasmine scent.
“Why are we here?” Abigail whispered, although she supposed there was no need for it. They were alone in the middle of nowhere.
“Sir Percy has news about the Radical plot to set off a bomb in London,” Daniel answered, his voice close to her ear. “I don’t know any more.”
Despite the fact no lightning split the night sky, a charge filled the carriage. A persistent thrum of arousal settled low in her, and Abigail savored the sensation. It had been such a long time since she had been in any man’s arms, let alone one she was beginning to care about.
Just as she wondered if she had misread Daniel’s feelings for her, his arm moved from the back of the seat to encircle her. She could feel raised gooseflesh with the warmth of his breath as he leaned forward to drop a light kiss on the back of her neck.
Her sigh was accepted as encouragement, and Daniel drew her closer to him with both arms. His kisses deepened where her flesh was bared, on her neck and shoulders; his fingers slightly caressed the curve of her waist and teased the undersides of her breasts.
Abigail’s own hands stroked the soft wool of the jacket that covered his arms. She was restless for more…restless for him.
She whispered his name with longing and started to turn so her lips could claim the kisses he was lavishing elsewhere.
The inn door slammed shut against the rising wind that had driven away the rain. The sound of booted feet crunching on the gravel heralded the approach of an occupant from the inn.
Abigail turned completely to look at Daniel. In the dimness of the carriage, his face was edged in shadow. Even so, she could see the stiffness of his posture, the tension in the line of his jaw. His nostrils flared as though he had just run a mile and the brightness of his eyes attested to the desire now being restrained.
Her name sounded like agony on his lips as he reached out to stroke her cheek tenderly.
For her unwitting participation in a plot to embezzle the Exchequer, Lady Abigail Houghall has spent the last two years exiled to the city of Bath. A card sharp, sometime mistress, and target of scandalous gossip by the London Beau Monde, Lady Abigail plots to escape her gilded cage as well as the prudish society that condemns her. But the times are not easy. France is in chaos. The king has been executed, and whispers of a similar revolution are stirring in England. And because of her participation in the robbery plot, the Spymaster of England is blackmailing her into passing him information about the members of London’s upper crust.
When the dashing English spy Daniel Ridgeway takes a seat at her card table and threatens to expose her for cheating, she has no choice but to do as he demands: seduce the leader of the revolutionaries and learn what she can about their plot. As she’s drawn deeper into Daniel’s dangerous world, from the seedy backstreets of London to the claustrophobic catacombs of a war-torn Paris, she realizes an even more dangerous fact. She’s falling in love with her seductive partner. And the stakes of this game might just be too high, even for her.
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