by Sawyer North
Series Bow Street Beaus
Genre Adult Historical Romance
Publisher Entangled Scandalous
Publication Date August 17, 2020
The first standalone novel in the Bow Street Beaus series by historical romance author Sawyer North…
Lucy Locket, the long lost granddaughter of a duchess, has never been a part of Society. One day, she was living a secluded life as the prisoner of a criminal, and the next day she was an heiress in a world she did not even remotely understand. She does not embody the typical qualities of a well-born lady…at all. She can’t curtsy, she doesn’t hide her emotions, she’s too clever by far. But in three months, she must marry a suitor with a royally-bestowed title, or she forfeits a fortune—leaving her and the duchess in dire straits.
All Henry Beaumont wants is to prove himself to Society and step outside of his half-brother’s shadow. So when the duchess asks him for a personal favor involving her newly found granddaughter—with a hefty thank you reward at the end—he leaps at the opportunity. It seems as if Lucy is trading one prison for another. Henry has now become a permanent fixture as her charming yet iron-fisted taskmaster and tutor in the ways of High Society. Like oil and water, Lucy and Henry spar in an epic battle of wills—and even rapiers. But Lucy’s past and her surprising, undeniable feelings for Henry may doom their undertaking if he declares his love for her…because without a title, he can never be hers
1805, Oxfordshire, England
The arrival of important visitors drove Henry into his secret fortress—a tiny chamber tucked behind a hidden panel in the library. Though cramped and dusty, it provided the perfect refuge for a sullen and wounded twelve-year-old. A narrow slit of window above him admitted early afternoon light that battled the festering shadows.
“Why did you leave me alone, Mother?” he whispered. She did not answer, long-dead as she was. Resigned to solitude, he turned his attention to a worn copy of Robinson Crusoe and began reading where he had stopped during his previous withdrawal. So intent was his focus that he dropped the book when a girl spoke.
“Are you the boy?”
His eyes darted toward the panel door to find a young girl peeking through the opening.
“How did you find me?”
She seemed to accept the question as an invitation to enter. Before he could formulate a plan to repel the invasion, she slipped inside, pressed the panel closed, and seated herself atop a stack of books. She sat very primly with hands clasped in her lap, her russet brown hair framing a confident expression.
“The answer is simple, really.” Henry cocked his head before realizing she was answering his question. “I was informed that there might be a boy here near my age. When I did not see you, I asked your whereabouts from your sister.”
“Yes, Charlotte. She is very kind and quite pretty.”
He nodded but did not speak, so the intruder continued. “She directed me to your secret hiding place and suggested that a visit would not be unwelcome. I slipped away before Father could decide otherwise.”
Henry stared askance at the strange girl, bewildered by her forward manner and sophistication. “Just how old are you?”
She placed a hand to her mouth and giggled. “Nine this past autumn, although I have been told that such a question to a lady is improper. I do not know why. No one will tell me.”
“I don’t know why either. I am Henry, by the way. Second son of the Earl of Ravensheugh. And you are called Margaret?”
She dipped her chin and giggled again. “Nobody calls me Margaret, silly. My father calls me Lucy, after a noble woman he greatly admires. You may call me that as well.”
He scratched his chin. “Should I not call you ‘Lady something or another’ instead? Would not the marquess be offended?”
“I think not. My father is less noble than you might believe.”
The impugning description intrigued Henry. “How so?”
She sighed heavily. “Do you know why he is here to visit your sister’s husband?”
When he shook his head, she leaned near and spoke with an air of conspiracy. “His father, the Duke of Ramsbury, arranged a marriage for him. However, instead of wedding his betrothed, he eloped with a beautiful barmaid and fled to Italy to escape his father’s anger. I was born in Florence, so I have been in exile my entire life.”
She averted her eyes as sadness briefly took hold. However, she recovered to face him again.
“The duke is attempting to disinherit him, and some on the Committee of Privileges are considering his argument. We have visited many members of that committee, such as your brother-in-law, to argue otherwise.” She leaned back again and refolded her hands. “See? Not so noble after all. You calling me Lucy will not offend him in the least.”
Henry gawked at her easy command of language. She seemed twice her stated age. In the silence that followed, they glanced furtively at each other. He finally broke the stalemate. “I have many books here, but none that would interest you.”
“Oh? Such as?”
He retrieved his dropped book from the floor and showed her the cover. She clapped her hands gleefully. “Robinson Crusoe! My favorite!”
His face twisted in disbelief. “Really?”
“Oh, yes! He was a castaway also. But his misfortunes turned out well for him.”
Henry grinned in agreement, feeling very much like a castaway himself. “Right. Do you want to read it together?”
She nodded happily, so he read aloud from the place of interruption. They alternated the reading of chapters until both were squinting in the fading light of late afternoon. Charlotte intervened before darkness swallowed them completely, her face appearing from behind the panel door.
“There you are,” she said to Lucy. “Your party is set to leave so that you may reach the inn before nightfall. Your father is concerned about your whereabouts. You should bid Henry goodbye.”
Lucy stood and curtsied awkwardly to Henry. “Farewell, Friday. Perhaps we will meet again someday.”
He stood and bowed stiffly. “Perhaps.”
She ducked from the room, but Charlotte continued to eye him. “Are you coming?”
He sat down again. Charlotte held him in her gaze a moment longer. “I see. I will save supper for you, then.”
She closed the panel and he heard her footsteps pad away. Left again to solitude, he remained in his fortress until long after the guests had departed. However, his thoughts kept returning to the odd but engaging Lucy, daughter of the heir to a dukedom and fellow exile. He even smiled.
June 1816, Shooter’s Hill, England
Lucy had never intended to become a highwayman.
She had, however, become terribly lost. As a result, she sat astride a horse alongside three disreputable men in a huddle of trees just below the crest of Shooter’s Hill, while waiting for the world to explode.
“Chin up, Lucy Locket.”
She raised her eyes to find Steadman regarding her with a rakish grin. Though two years past thirty, her longtime guardian retained the devastating looks that had earned him the title of Beau Monde Highwayman and the admiration of women of all classes. His smile, however, remained powerless against Lucy.
“You promised,” she said with accusation.
His eyebrows arched slowly. “This again?”
“Yes, this again.” She prodded her mount nearer to his and lowered her voice. “The day you found me at the river, you swore me an oath. In exchange for my compliance, you would never again engage in highway robbery. Was it just a lie? To a lost child?”
Steadman glanced sidelong at his accomplices, who tried to pretend disinterest in the conversation. His mirth fled. “Circumstances change, girl. Lord Colvin championed the new game laws. Now, a poor man wishing to prevent his family from starving can be transported halfway across the world to a prison colony, simply for snaring a pheasant. It is our ethical duty to liberate a horde of gold from that heartless lord, to distribute among those he seeks to starve.”
“Can we not burgle empty country houses as we did some years ago? Or find other methods of parting callous gentlefolk from their riches?”
He shook his head. “No, my dear. Such ventures produce lightly and jeopardize greatly. If I am to risk the gallows, I must do so in pursuit of a small fortune.”
She presented her cheek to him as anger knotted her jaw.
“Do not grit your teeth, Lucy,” he chided gently. “The expression is far too masculine for one as fair as you.”
She exhaled a huff of breath. “Why did you insist on bringing me along, then? Why not leave me in the wilds of Dartmoor as you always have?”
He crossed his hands over the saddle and leaned toward her. “I was afraid that when I returned, you would be gone.”
“Gone? Why now? Why after all these years?”
His smile returned, wistful this time. “Because you are a grown woman now. Nearly one and twenty. Because I have taught you how to survive, and you have proved an excellent pupil. Because I have seen the yearning in your eyes of late.”
“Yearning?” Her eyes widened in surprise. Had he guessed her thoughts? “What yearning?”
“To be free. Free of me. Free of my associates. Free of the excuse of a life I have given you.” His ever-present smile became a memory. “I am sorry, Lucy.”
She blinked rapidly. “For…for what?”
Before he could answer, Steadman’s eyes flicked away and his body tensed. The unmistakable clatter of carriage wheels drew nearer. He motioned sharply to his mates, who readied their horses. Then he leaned once more toward her.
“Remain here out of sight. Be ready to fly when the job is finished.”
She nodded dully. Where else could she go at this juncture? Apparently satisfied, Steadman turned to watch the road. Within moments, Lord Colvin’s ornate carriage sailed by. With a shout, Steadman drew a purple scarf to cover most of his face and drove his horse onto the road. His accomplices bolted after him. The fleeting glimpse of the grand vehicle, complete with four white horses, two drivers, and two footmen, stirred long-forgotten memories in Lucy. Images of her real father trickled through her recollection—of the time they had traveled the dusty roads of England together, birds of a feather, thick as thieves. Unexpected tears pricked her eyes. She wiped them away and nudged her horse nearer to the road.
Dust raised by the passing carriage hung in the breeze as the staccato footfalls of the team and pursuers faded on the climb up Shooter’s Hill. She launched a silent prayer that no violence would befall anyone in the minutes to come—robber and robbed alike.
The echo of raised voices marked the moment of intercept. She gripped the reins tighter and moved to the edge of the trees, concerned over the unseen events. Dismal memories of the day Steadman and his men had scattered what remained of her family, even if inadvertently, threatened to overcome her. The shouting settled into barely overheard commands as Lucy peered up the road, but the ambush remained hidden by trees and a gentle bend of the highway. She watched anyway, seemingly for an hour, until another sound stole her attention. She swiveled her head to survey the road in the opposite direction. Within seconds, the sound revealed its origin as four men on horseback—talking loudly—advanced at a trot up the road. Even as she watched, the troupe appeared to realize what was happening ahead and broke into a gallop. The bright red waistcoats of the charging men identified them immediately. She spurred her horse toward the carriage, shouting warning.
“Robin Redbreasts! Robin Redbreasts!”
By the time Lucy rounded the curve and came upon the carriage, Steadman was strapping the last coin bag to the packhorse. His eyes were wide with alarm.
“Robin Redbreasts!” she repeated, just in case he had not understood. “Four approaching at full tilt!”
Steadman immediately began shouting to his men. “Take to the woods to lead them off. Lucy and I will pull the pack horse. We rally at the appointed location.”
In the chaos, the footmen and drivers dove into the trees, leaving the terrified Lord Colvin cowering in his carriage. Lucy was too frightened to empathize. As the pair of accomplices disappeared into the woods on the opposite side of the road, she pressed her mount into the trees behind Steadman, thankful that he had allowed her to wear breeches instead of a dress. The conventional position astride her mount allowed her to lay prone as the horse squeezed beneath branches that flew at her with abandon. She focused doggedly on the horse ahead while wondering if this was how her peculiar journey would end, one way or another.
Henry Beaumont’s comrades chattered idly, as they had for the entire ride from London before Stevens mustered the audacity to ask him the question.
“Beaumont, is it true you are the second son of an earl?”
Henry nodded, having expected the question for two days. “Yes.”
Despite already knowing the answer, the three men seemed surprised. Stevens cocked his head and frowned. “And yet you ride with the Bow Street Horse Patrol? It seems rather beneath your station, particularly after your heroics at Waterloo.”
Henry had learned from his days in the cavalry that only frankness would end the uncomfortable line of questioning. “My brother banished me the day he became earl. Now, in my penniless state, Bow Street is as good an option as any.”
He did not explain the rest. That his was a corrupt soul destined for the abyss and his exile was the inevitable result. That the war against France had merely honed his killer instinct. That, desperate to avoid his dismal destiny, he had joined Bow Street after the war. Perhaps hunting criminals would prevent him from becoming one. Perhaps fighting the darkness would prevent it from consuming him. As the road began climbing Shooter’s Hill, his soul-searching was bluntly interrupted by familiar sounds on the highway ahead.
“Listen!” Henry whispered sharply as he peered up the road. “Something is happening up there.”
The sound of strident voices became clearly audible when the men fell silent. As one, they pulled flintlocks and spurred their mounts into a gallop. Within seconds, a horse, carrying a woman dressed as a man—trousers and all—darted from the woods and fled away from them. Light brown hair flew behind her as she shouted warning.
Henry spurred his horse harder until a halted carriage came into view. Liveried servants emerged quickly from the trees with chaotic explanations of what had happened. Henry silenced the rattled men.
“Where did they go?”
The servants pointed in three different directions. Stevens took charge and drove his horse into the woods in one of the indicated directions. “This way! They have raised a trail.”
The other patrolmen followed Stevens into the trees without a backward glance. Henry, however, approached a white-haired gentleman standing bewildered beside the carriage.
“Sir. Can you tell me where the thieves fled and what they took?”
The old man nodded. “The ruffians absconded with more than ten thousand guineas. They fled into the woods just there.”
He pointed toward the trees opposite from where Stevens had gone. Henry recognized the telltale signs of passing horses. He tipped his hat to the man.
“Thank you, sir. My name is Henry Beaumont, and I will pursue your attackers to world’s end if I must. You have my word.”
The gentleman dipped his head in gratitude and bid good fortune as Henry spurred his horse into the woods.
About the author:Life is short but romance is eternal…
SAWYER NORTH began writing historical romance after a torrid affair with the genre several years ago. As he is male, this proved a surprising turn of events. An engineer by day, he spends nights and weekends inventing characters, plotting stories, and trying witty banter on his wife until she makes him stop. Fair Weather Enemies was his first published romance novel.
Amazon https://amzn.to/347YVPp a Rafflecopter giveaway