I was puzzled by this castle when I saw the proofs for the cover, but now it's obvious. It's Castle Cruel! (Read the excerpt.)
I'm pleased to have made contact with a publisher reissuing some of the very popular gothic novels of the period. Visit Valancourt Books You, too, can enjoy Barozzi for only $14.99.
This picture is a period illustration of Dubourg's cork exibition, which Mara drags Dare to below.
(I've leapt ahead a little. Mara is determined to get Dare out of his shell, so she's pestering him to take her to some of the amusements London has to offer -- in this case, M. Dubourg's exhibit of classical featured made out of cork.)
Mara woke early the next day, aware only that she'd soon see Dare again. Who could have imagined that a visit to the cork exhibition would shine like sunrise?
To stop herself mooning about Dare all morning, she wrote a letter to a friend, though it felt false because she couldn't say anything about him. Not yet, at least. She was past the age of confessing impetuous loves.
She sat staring into space. Rather, it felt pre-destined, as if her lack of interest in her suitors had been because she'd been already committed to Dare. She could see their wedding at the church in Monkton St. Brides. She could see friends and family celebrating.
She shook herself and returned to her letter to write a dull account of political dinners and a drive in the park "with an old friend of Simon's."
Ruth came in with the washing water. "Nice day again, milady. What will you be wearing?"
"I'm going out with Lord Darius again. We'll be walking to the cork exhibition." She mentally riffled through her walking dresses and discarded practicality in favor of prettiness. "I'll wear the Nile green with the flounced hem and the bronze pelisse."
Ruth pursed her lips as if she'd prefer to send Mara out in a nun's habit, but she didn't openly protest.
Once dressed, Mara visited Ella again and played with little Amy, thinking for the first time of children of her own. Dare's children.
When he was announced, she raced to add gloves, pelisse, and bonnet, but then went downstairs in careful dignity.
She paused at first sight of him, to absorb a thrill. When she took his proferred arm, the simple action excited her like a kiss. She managed a good morning, but then couldn't think what to say.
"I hope this is interesting," she babbled as they went out into an overcast day, "but I have little faith. Cork, after all."
"I've seen clever models out of paper, plaster, and even bone."
"I remember our governess setting us all to making an Egyptian scene with pyramids of paper. It involved a lot of sand. We were brushing it out of clothes and carpets for weeks."
"I can imagine. Did you all take lessons together?"
"Much of the time. Though Benji went to school eventually, of course."
Mara wanted to cut her own throat. He was going to die of boredom in such company! "When did you go to school?" she asked.
"I had tutors until I went to Harrow at thirteen."
"Did you mind leaving home?"
"Not at all. It was an adventure."
She lured him to tell stories of the Rogues, including some about Simon that her brother had concealed. By the time they arrived at the exhibition in Lower Grosvenor Street, she almost had her head straight again.
The building seemed like any other house, but once Dare had paid, they were ushered into a large chamber at the rear, well lit by windows up near the ceiling. Tables around the walls held ancient monuments in miniature, but in the middle of the room stood the piece de resistance.
"Oh my," Mara said, approaching a craggy rock crowned with the ruins of a temple. Water tricked down to gather in a pool at the base. "No wonder these are famous. Apart from the scale, it could be real."
"Very cleverly done," Dare agreed.
"Is it truly all from cork?" Mara longed to reach out and touch and glanced around. She could see only six other visitors, but an attendant was already hurrying over.
"Indeed yes, madam. Monsieur Dubourg discovered entirely by accident that cork, in texture and color, is ideal for the representation of ancient structures...."
He chattered on, but Mara simply looked, enjoying the trick played on her senses. Silence fell and she saw that Dare had paid off the attendant who was now approaching another couple.
"I half expect people to emerge from the temple at any moment," she said, "but it doesn't bother me that none do."
"Perhaps because it's a ruin. We expect ruins to be deserted."
She looked at him. "Have you seen real ruins? I mean in Greece?"
"No, but one day I will."
He intended to wander? She couldn't imagine sharing a life like that. Brideswell St. Brides stayed close to home. It was their nature.
"Where else would you like to go?" she asked, hoping her concern wasn't obvious.
"Europe lies open to the traveler now. Wouldn't you enjoy travel?"
She considered it. "Short trips, perhaps." With you.
He smiled. "Despite being a Brideswell St. Bride, you would be an enthusiastic traveler, I think."
"You were once full of enthusiasm, Dare."
He looked at the model. "As that was once whole and full of worshipers. Come, let's admire the Tomb of Virgil."
"No tombs," she said firmly. "According to my guide book there's a model of Vesuvius that actually erupts. I wonder where it is."
Dare summoned the guide.
"Indeed, sir, madam. It is in that curtained area over there for darkness, but it erupts only at certain hours."
"How very convenient," Dare commented. "Would that some people were like that."
His eyes were twinkling and it was as if an eruption threatened inside Mara. "I long to see it explode, Dare."
"Of course you do, but I admit, so do I. I see that it will erupt at six. May I bring you this evening?"
"Yes! No. Bother, I can't. We're going to the theater. At last. Covent Garden. Some new piece called The Lady's Choice. But we must see this soon. Promise? And don't come without me."
She was overdoing the enthusiasm, but it was like fanning a spark, hoping it would flame.
"I promise," he said. "My time is almost entirely free, so you must set the day."
"Like a wedding," she said -- then wanted to strangle herself. "Oh, look. Pyramids!" She towed him to the side tables. "Smaller than the ones we made at home, but much more believable."
They contemplated pyramids, then strolled down the tables. The models here were quite small, but still exquisitely realistic.
"The Temple of the Sibyls at Tivoli," she read from one label. "What exactly is a sibyl?"
"They can't be the same thing."
"Perhaps a sibyl is a type of oracle. Or an oracle a type of sibyl. Just as a minx is a type of young lady, but not all young ladies are minxes."
She wrinkled her nose at him. "I know something about a sybyl."
"One of them -- I can't remember which -- had twelve books of prophesies. She offered them to a king -- I can't remember which-"
"Not an attentive student."
"No." He was still smiling, so she continued to amuse.
"This Sibyl offered her books to the king for an enormous price. He tried to haggle, so she burned three and offered the nine for the same price. When he refused to pay, she burned three more. By the time he gave in, there were only three left and he paid her original price for them. I like her."
"You would. But think of all the wisdom lost."
"That was the king's fault for being miserly. He probably thought that of course a woman would buckle to his demands."
"One would think a king would have greater wisdom."
He laughed. "An excellent question, especially as ours is mad. What do we have next? The Grotto of Egeria. Who was Egeria? We need Nicholas or Lucien."
"We do?" Mara was treasuring that laughter.
He glanced at her. "Nicholas Delaney and Lucien, Lord Arden."
"I know that. Why do we need them here?"
"Nicholas has a magpie mind, and Lucien -- never tell the world -- was a brilliant scholar."
"Shocking!" she declared. "What do we have here?"
Their guide reappeared at their side.
"Ah, Verona! Site of the touching story of the star-crossed lovers. Behold the model of Juliet's house, the Casa di Giulietta. That is the true name in Italian, and here you see the very balcony upon which fair Juliet stood to be admired by Signor Romeo. Beside it we have her tomb..."
"No tombs," Dare said and steered Mara firmly onward. "With Black Ademar's hair it would be fatal to encourage tragic love."
"I'm a St. Bride of Brideswell," she protested, laughing. "I'm incapable of it."
"... the Colosseum, where Christian martyrs were fed to wild beasts," the guide orated with determination.
"And can you really imagine the St. Bride family involved in a blood feud with anyone?" Mara murmured.
"In Simon's case, yes." Dare thanked the frustrated guide and dispatched him with another coin.
"He's going to make a fortune by pestering us," Mara pointed out. "I think Simon's burned away that sort of fury, and Jancy is the epitome of calm practicality."
"Thus, a perfect match."
She ignored antiquities to look at Dare. "Opposites make an ideal couple? Ella and George are very alike, and Rupert and Mary, and father and mother-"
"But none of them have Black Ademar's thatch."
"So," Mara asked, "what would my opposite be?"
"A compliment, I think?"
"I suspect many pray for a dull spouse." He turned her toward the display. "Pay attention to the ruins."
"The Parthenon. Father might enjoy this, you know. He hates travel, but is interested in antiquities. He thinks there some sort of ancient temple beneath the ruins of St. Bride's monastery."
"I wouldn't be surprised."
At his tone, she glanced at him. "Why?"
"There's something special about the place."
"It's a rambling hodge-podge of a house."
"I don't mean Brideswell, though that has a sort of magic, but the area. The house, the church, the village. It's all built within the bounds of the old monastery. If that had been built on some pagan site, it would explain a lot."
Mara's heart was beating fast. "You'd always be welcome there, Dare. We think of you as one of the family."
Oh, her hasty tongue. Not as a brother, she wanted to add.
"In fact, you must come for a visit soon," she hurried on.
Would you like to live there? Marry me, and it can be done.
But he was looking around the room. "Pierre might enjoy this. The volcano especially."
Mara let the moment slip away. "Boys being boys and liking noisy explosions."
He smiled at her. "I seem to remember you expressing enthusiasm. Are you claiming to be a boy?"
She wrinkled her nose. "As you say, it's the hair."
They strolled past the last models and left. Mara eyed the clouds, praying it wouldn't rain. They couldn't dampen her spirits, bet they could cut short the expedition.
"Buy a souvenir for your lady, sir!"
The harshly-accented cry, drew Mara's attention to a woman selling reproductions of the models. She was holding one out to tempt Dare. Your lady. Mara cherished that as they strolled over.
The copies were crudely made, but Mara picked up one of the volcano. "I wonder if this could be made to erupt. It could be filled with gunpowder..."
"No," Dare said firmly, taking it from her, "but Pierre would probably like it and not have such notions." He purchased it, and a Casa di Giulietta for Delphie.
"You'll encourage her toward tragic love," Mara teased.
He picked up a Juliet's Tomb. "For you," he said, "as warning against unruly love."
Mara protested his words, but took her package with delight. He first gift from Dare! They turned to walk the short distance back to Ella's house, but Mara couldn't bear this excursion to end.
"Would you mind if we visited the book shop in the next street?" she asked. "It's not far out of our way and I have a copy waiting of Sarah Burney's Tales of Fancy."
"Not, I assume, about boxing."
"Fancy," she said, "not `the fancy.' How anyone can find amusement in watching two men pound each other with their fists I don't know."
"We're vile creatures, we men. So what is the fancy in question?"
"Imaginary things. In this case, a shipwreck."
"All too real, unfortunately."
"In this wreck," she said as they turned the corner, "a lady and her daughter are stranded on an island, just like Robinson Crusoe."
"With a Man Friday?"
"In the shape a fine English gentleman, also a survivor of the wreck."
"Definitely an imaginary thing."
"What? A fine English gentleman?" Her laughing eyes met his, which were laughing, too. A perfect moment. "It's supposed to be very adventurous. And very touching."
"So I would think."
She stopped to stare. "Dare, you're having naughty thoughts!"
"Mara, men always have naughty thoughts."
She winked. "So do women."
His brows rose and he propelled her onward. They were only a few doorways from the shop, and soon they were entering, a bell tinkling their arrival. The bookseller hurried to bow and quickly produced Tales of Fancy in three volumes. Dare accepted the burden.
"I think I'll look to see what else is on the shelves," Mara said, "as I have a beast of burden."
Dare followed, protesting, "Three volumes won't keep you occupied for at least a month?"
"I lead a very quiet life at Ella's." She slid him a look. "Except when a dashing hero rescues me."
"Simon will be here soon."
"A brother can never be a dashing hero to a sister." She turned to scan the shelves.
"But when he arrives, won't you move to Marlowe House with him and Jancy?"
"Yes, and you're right. Life's bound to be more lively then, especially as it will probably have Rogues."
"Which sounds rather like `have rats.'"
She laughed. "A plague of them. Oh, look." She grabbed a novel entitled Husband Hunters!!!. "Three exclamation marks. Very promising, don't you think?"
"Of excess, especially from an author called Amelia Beauclerc. What about this one? Barozzi, or the Venetian Sorceress."
"But it's by a mere Catherine Smith. Doesn't such a commonplace name threaten a commonplace book?"
"Mara, how can anything about a Venetian sorceress be commonplace?"
"You'd be surprised," she said darkly. "There are novelists, would you believe, who create the most tempting delights, then use them as a vehicle for pious homilies. It should be illegal."
"If I enter Parliament, I pledge to see to it. It occurs to me that you should pen novels."
"I? I struggle to write letters."
"But you have the name for it. Can't you see The Captive Corpse of Castle Cruel by Ademara St. Bride?"
She turned to look at him. "My goodness, yes. But how could a corpse be captive?"
"We're talking fancy. The corpse is under a spell. Or a potion, like Juliet."
"Locked away until her hero can find her? How thrilling."
"Then write it."
She gave a theatrical shudder and fluttered her lashes at him. "You could write it, dearest Dare, and I would lend my name to it."
"Simon would shoot me. Come along. You have enough literature here to last till doomsday."
"Especially if I'm writing novels at the same time." She arranged for the account to be sent to Ella's house and they left the store.
"What shall my heroine's name be?" she asked, to keep the fun going.
"Glorietta," Dare said. "Glorietta di Magnifico."
"No, no. The heroine must be an ordinary lady with a name like... Anne."
"Stop it!" But she adored him in this playful mood.
"Anne White, then," he said, merriment in his eyes. "White is suitably virginal. I assume she is a virgin."
Mara prayed not to be blushing. "Of course. Spelled with a y to give it elegance."
"Whyte!" Mara exclaimed. "And the hero's name is...?"
"Can he have a glorious name?"
"As long as it's not Glorioso. Tristan," she suggested.
"St. Raven would strangle us both," he said.
"That's the Duke of St. Raven's Christian name?"
"It is indeed."
"How do you know?" Mara asked.
"Ducal families tend to know about each other, but Mother had her eye on him for Thea. What other name appeals?"
"Darius," she teased.
"Then I'd have to strangle you."
"Novel writing is a lot harder than it seems," Mara complained. "We need a noble name. Kingly, even."
"As in Ethelred the Unready? No!".
"Halfacanute, then," he said, naming another ancient king.
"A whole Canute or nothing, sir."
"There you are, then. Your hero is Canute. Canute Or-not-to-canute, lost Duke of Dawlish. They're always lost heirs to something, aren't they?"
Mara was laughing almost too much to talk. "You're impossible."
You're the old Dare.
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Read more about the Company of Rogues by clicking here.
An annotated list of the books is here.
To Rescue A Rogue is a September 2006 book, but it might be out earlier.
You can order To Rescue A Rogue in advance from your bookstore or on line. For example, from AMAZON.COM
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