Frederica and the Viscountess

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fredericaandtheviscountess_lg Frederica and the Viscountess
Barbara Davies

Nuance
164 pp. ● 5.25×8
$9.95 (pb) ● $6.95 (eb)
ISBN 978-1-934452-48-6 (pb)
● 978-1-934452-50-9 (eb)

FICTION – Lesbian
FICTION – Historical
England – Social life and customs – 19th century – Fiction

About the Book

Frederica and the Viscountess

June 1815. Joanna, Viscountess Norland arrives at her brother’s country residence, Thornbury Park. Her notoriety and recent exploits on the war torn Continent precede her, and her presence in the quiet neighborhood causes quite a stir. Scandal aside, Frederica must continue her visits there or forfeit the attentions of the Viscountess’s dull brother-in-law and endure her mother’s tiresome reminders that she’s getting past her prime.

Complications arise when a friend from Joanna’s checkered past, Lord Peregrine, takes a fancy to Frederica’s younger sister. Frederica and the Viscountess join forces to stop a potential scandal and discover they have more in common than anyone would suspect.

The Adventures of Murdering Meg

Five years ago, plantation owner Thomas Digges and his sons left Margaret Etherege for dead. Now known as Murdering Meg, a notorious pirate, she’s ready to exact her revenge on her former master. And when a brigantine sets sail for England, with Digges’s nubile daughter Alice and her dowry on board, Meg decides to relieve its captain of his valuable cargo.


Praise

“Davies does an excellent job of emulating Austen’s style and mannerisms in the story of the viscountess. The influence of Pride and Prejudice will be obvious to any reader who is familiar with that book. The nice thing about the book is that Davies stays true to the period in dealing with the love affair between the women.” — Lynne Pierce , Piercing Fiction


Excerpt

It was a glorious morning when Frederica and Amelia set off to walk the three miles to Thornbury Park. As they strolled, enjoying the late June sunshine and swinging their reticules, conversation kept returning to the glad tidings of two days ago.

The first sign something significant had happened was the ringing of church bells. Mr. Bertram had sent a footman down to the village to enquire about the peals. He had come running back to Chawleigh, red-faced and grinning, and bellowing to everyone and his dog that “the Duke of Wellington has defeated old Boney at Waterloo.”

Everyone had cheered at the news, and a few of the servants had even danced a reel. It was as though a great weight had been lifted, and the weather obligingly mirrored the mood.

Halfway to their destination, though, and in the middle of Amelia’s amusing anecdote at Herbert Smith’s expense, the sun began to dim. Frederica glanced up at the swiftly gathering clouds in dismay.

“We must hurry,” she urged her sister and quickened her pace accordingly. They had not gone many yards before the first drops of rain began to fall. “Perhaps it will be merely a shower.” But it was a full-blown summer storm, and a few minutes later, they were running for cover, hair dripping, flimsy summer dresses plastered to their bodies.

As they cowered under an oak tree, thunder rumbled above them and lightning flashed. Amelia grew almost hysterical. Frederica’s own nerves were badly shaken when a loud crack of lightning was followed by a broken branch thudding to earth a few feet from them. She embraced her sister and tried to comfort her, while she considered what to do. Amelia was trembling violently in her arms, whether from cold or fear she was unsure; Frederica herself felt uncomfortably chilled. They had passed the halfway point of their walk, or she would have advocated returning home. One thing was certain—they could not stay here under the oak tree. Another branch might fall.

She had just told her sister, “We must continue,” and was urging her out into the rain once more, when movement caught her eye. A town coach was making its grand way along the road to Thornbury Park, its progress hampered by the driver having to coax horses made nervous by the storm.

She blinked the rain from her eyelashes and stared. “Amelia!” she cried.

“I see it.”

“Wave. They must see us. They must.”

She had begun to think neither the driver nor the coach’s occupants had seen their frantic waving, when it began to slow. As it drew level with the oak tree, it halted, and the door opened.

A short woman, plump and with dark eyebrows, descended, and placed her feet gingerly on the wet ground. She drew her shawl over her head and picked her way across the grass towards them. When she was within hailing distance, she paused and shouted.

“Are you bound for Thornbury Park?” Her voice was barely audible above the elements.

Frederica thought it simplest to nod. A smile and a beckoning gesture were her reward. As the stranger turned and hurried back towards the coach, she urged her sister to follow. Moments later, they were climbing aboard and pulling the door closed behind them.

Almost at once, the coach lurched forward, tipping Frederica against her sister who objected with a squeal. She apologised, righted herself, and—at the plump woman’s urging—accepted a rug for their knees and a shawl for their shoulders. At once she felt much warmer, and a sense of relief and gratitude overtook her.

“Oh thank you so much for stopping,” she said, taking her sister’s hands between hers and rubbing warmth into them. “It would have been very hard for us had you not.” Ruefully she indicated her bedraggled state. “As you can see, the storm has got the better of us.”

The woman smiled. “You can thank her ladyship not me.” She indicated with her head, and it was only then that Frederica become aware there was another person sitting in the corner, gazing out of the window.

“Oh! I did not see you there.” Belatedly she remembered her manners and blushed. “Thank you indeed,” she addressed the silent figure. “My sister and I are both indebted to you.”

The woman turned her head and nodded once before looking away once more. The coach’s shadowy interior muted colours and merged shapes, making it difficult to see their mysterious benefactress. Frederica was left with an impression of a pale face and dark hair and that was all.

The loud clatter of rain on the roof lessened and died away, and they travelled on for a while in awkward silence.

“Frederica,” whispered her sister at last, between chattering teeth. “Are we nearly there yet?”

As if in answer, the coach slowed and came to a halt. Then the door opened, and the Lyntons’ footman was standing there, looking enquiringly up at them. His mouth gaped when he saw the bedraggled sisters.

“Is that you, Miss Bertram, Miss Amelia?”

“Indeed it is.” Frederica glanced at the woman in the corner to see if it was permissible for them to disembark first and received a nod. “We got caught in the rain.”

She let him help her down and waited while he did the same for Amelia. “Fortunately for us, her ladyship’s coach—” Ladyship. It suddenly dawned on her just whose coach they had been riding in, and she struggled to maintain her composure.

“Would you please tell Mr. Lynton that we are here to throw ourselves upon his mercy?”

“Very good, ma’am.”

But there was no need for the footman to carry out that particular errand, because a startled, laughing, “My goodness! My sister has brought a couple of drowned rats with her,” announced the presence of the master of the house himself, eliciting an uninhibited laugh from inside the coach.

“I do beg your pardon,” he amended, catching Frederica’s gaze and blushing. “That was unkind of me. You must be chilled to the bone.” He turned towards the front porch and bellowed, “Caroline.”

Seconds later his wife appeared, looking disapproving. “Good heavens, Edmund. I know your sister has arrived, but must you shout?”

Her gaze fell on Frederica and Amelia and her mouth dropped open. Once she collected her wits, though, she was sympathy itself. “Oh, you poor dears! Come in, come in. We must get you out of those wet things at once.”

Edmund meanwhile was peering inside the coach. “What a splendid contraption. Is it yours or rented, Joanna?”

“Oh, rented, of course,” came a female drawl.

The clouds had thinned, and the sun was threatening to appear once more. Frederica would have liked to stay to see the Viscountess alight and study her properly, but Amelia chose that moment to sneeze, which brought out the mother hen in Mrs. Lynton, and without further ado they were ushered inside.