Monday, June 17, 2013

My Highland Lord by Tara Scott

Blurb: London Heiress kidnapped by the Marquess of Ashlund, read the headlines. Yet no one tried to save her. Phoebe Wallington was seven years old when a mass assassination attempt rocked Regency England. Her father was the only accused traitor to elude capture. Now as a grown woman and a British spy, she is no closer to learning what really happened that day.Phoebe's quest for the truth takes a sudden turn when she's kidnapped by a suspected traitor. But Kiernan MacGregor, the Marquess of Ashlund, may not live long enough to stand trial. Someone wants him dead. And Phoebe stands in the killer's way.

Author Bio:
Award winning author Tarah Scott cut her teeth on authors such as Georgette Heyer, Zane Grey, and Amanda Quick. Her favorite book is a Tale of Two Cities, with Gone With the Wind as a close second. She writes modern classical romance, and paranormal and romantic suspense. Tarah grew up in Texas and currently resides in Westchester County, New York with her daughter.

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The criminal was alive and well. Yet, the one man who could have exposed him was dead. Phoebe stared at the clipping of the obituary notice printed in The Times five days ago. The knowledge of his death settled around her as black as the darkness surrounding her carriage. The lantern flickered with the sway of the carriage as she slid her gaze over the paragraph that extolled Bow Street Sheriff John Stafford’s criminal expertise, and past the mention of his involvement in The Cato Street Conspiracy. A man’s life reduced to two paragraphs. For the hundredth time since she'd first read the obituary, she settled her gaze on the final line.

September 1837, John Stafford died in his London home.
Phoebe refolded the clipping, set it on her lap, and pulled another document from her reticule. She ran her fingers along the age-yellowed edges of the only letter her father had written to her mother, the letter she had shown John Stafford when she'd visited him in his home five years ago. She unfolded the foolscap and, with a deep breath, began reading. Her lips moved in tandem with the words she'd long ago memorized.
May 20, 1820
My Dearest Amelia,
Please forgive this letter so long overdue. I am well and I have found safe haven—at least for the moment. You have, no doubt, heard the news that I am wanted for high treason, and now you know that my suspicions were correct. Amelia, you cannot know how my accusers make even the most abhorrent criminal look like one of God’s angels. I sorely underestimated the depth of their deceit. Fool that I am, I did not anticipate being branded a traitor in their stead.
I know your heart is heavy, my love, but no more so than mine. It is shocking to learn that one’s leaders are willing to sacrifice their countrymen for money and power. Ironically, had I known then what I now know, I would be guilty of their accusations. Do not shudder. I know I speak treason, but you cannot comprehend the fine line between reason and desperation when all choices have been eliminated.
Would it shock you to hear that I relish the day I shall destroy my accusers? They have taken all I hold dear: you, our darling Phoebe and, lastly, my freedom. While I cannot like Arthur Thistlewood—his motives are not pure as he would have us believe—in one thing he was right: those few rich and powerful men who rule supreme in our society have stolen our rights.
I have a plan, which, of course, I cannot elaborate upon here, but I must uncover the truth. Otherwise…well, otherwise, I am no better than Thistlewood—or those men who brought him to justice.
I do not know when I will have another opportunity to write. Give Phoebe my love, and do not despair. I have not.
Your loving husband,
It wasn't until her mother's death ten years ago that Phoebe learned her father sent this letter.  The letter, hidden amongst her mother's personal correspondence, had been folded with a newspaper clipping dated February 24, 1820, the day after the Spencean Society's planned assassination of the Cabinet. The newspaper clipping, a statement made by Lord Sidmouth to the London Gazette concerning the charge of high treason against Thistlewood and his murder of bow street runner Richard Smithers, also mentioned the bounty on Thistlewood's head. The paragraphs were framed by a note written in her father's hand on the sides.
Sidmouth could not have yet known that Thistlewood killed Smithers. Here is proof positive the noose had been put around Thistlewood's neck before he even planned the assassinations.
"Why?" Phoebe whispered. Why had her father been falsely accused and why had he cared that the government ensured Thistlewood's capture? Thistlewood was a known murderer, a man—a sharp sideways jostle yanked Phoebe back to the present.
“What in—”
Another jolt cut short the exclamation.
Phoebe yanked back the curtain and peered into the darkness. No lights dotted the countryside as they should have and the moonlit sky revealed open fields beyond the road.
She quickly refolded the letter and clipping, stuffed them into her reticule, then opened the door an inch and called, “Where are we, Calders? I don’t recognize this road.”
“Taking a shortcut, Miss,” came the muffled reply.
“Wha—" The coach listed, and she slammed the door with the force of the movement, tumbling back against the cushion. "By heavens."
Phoebe seized the handle again. The door was yanked from her grasp and flung open. A man filled the doorway. Phoebe jerked back as a rush of air guttered the lantern flame. Her heart jumped when she lost sight of the intruder for an instant, then the light flared to life again. The man gripped the side of the open doorway of the slowing carriage, one leg braced on the floor.

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