A standalone novel in The Dread Penny Society set in 1865 London brimming with secrets, scandal, suspense, and romance.
· "The real joy in Eden's follow-up to The Lady and the Highwayman (2019) is the furthering of the overarching crime story and the work of the Dread Penny Society as Hollis and Ana pursue a chaste romance. Eden excels at exploring the realities of Victorian life and class differences. Once again, chapters of penny dreadfuls written by the characters are interspersed throughout, with Hollis' story about a school for ghosts offering particular delight. Fans of Eden's smart series will be thrilled and impatient for the next installment."— Booklist, starred review
· “Every time I thought my racing heart just couldn’t take the suspense anymore, I'd turn the page and smile.”— Bookconfessions
· “Eden writes it well, so thoroughly researched that you’re transported and in Victoria England. Great suspense and romance.”— Leslie, Books and Socks Rock
· “Undeniably clever, suspenseful, well-researched, and deftly written…”— Katie Jackson, RegencyProofreading.com
· "Charming, suggestive, and featuring rich historical details, The Gentleman and the Thief has the elements of a gritty, juicy penny dreadful."— Foreword Reviews
READ AN EXCERPT
Ana Newport had attended very few Society gatherings in the past two years, and none away from Thurloe Collegiate School, where she was a teacher. She took a deep, reassuring breath as she waited to depart for a musicale.
“You needn’t be worried, Ana,” Elizabeth said. “You will play your violin beautifully and win the hearts of everyone there tonight.”
That was not at all the reason for her nervousness, but it was a reason she could admit to.
“I haven’t played in public in years. And I’m hardly a regular on Society’s guest list.”
“Well, you’re on this one,” Elizabeth said.
At first, Ana had refused Elizabeth’s suggestion that she attend. Society had not been kind when her family’s fortunes had turned. That made her wary. But Elizabeth had let slip that Mrs. Sudworth would be in attendance, and there was no question of refusing after that. Ana needed to be there if that terrible, horrid, wretched woman was.
A knock sounded at the door. Elizabeth hadn’t moved far from the door in the past fifteen minutes, waiting for the gentlemen who were accompanying them that night.
A moment later, the men stepped inside. Fletcher Walker was a well-known author of penny dreadfuls, who had managed to gain something of a foothold in Society despite having spent his early life in the gutters. His close friend, Hollis Darby, came from an “old money” family. They’d been part of the upper crust for generations, and he was precisely the sort of refined and intimidating gentleman she’d been in awe of when she had still been part of that world, young and starry- eyed and naive.
Mr. Walker pulled Elizabeth into an embrace the moment the door was closed behind him. “I’ve missed you, dove.”
“If you came by more often, you wouldn’t have to miss me.” Elizabeth threaded her fingers through his but addressed both of the gentlemen. “Shall we be on our way?”
Before Ana could take more than one step toward the door, however, Mr. Darby held out his hand. “Please, allow me to carry your violin. I promise to be very careful with it.”
He was always the perfect gentleman. How well she remembered the strict propriety of those of his standing. She remembered nearly as well how hypocritical that often proved.
“I know it ain’t proper,” Mr. Walker said to the group as they approached the waiting hackney, “but I’d much prefer to sit with Elizabeth.” He eyed Ana and Mr. Darby with an undeniably charming bit of pleading. “Have a heart? Do a bloke a favor?”
“I will not impose upon Miss Newport,” Mr. Darby said.
“And neither should you, no matter your wish for a bit of sparking.”
“If they are going to be sparking, I don’t know that I want them in the same carriage regardless of where they’re sitting,” Ana said.
Mr. Darby smiled at her humor. No matter that he occupied an elevated rung on the ladder of Society, he had a way of setting her at ease.
“I will not be made uncomfortable by the arrangement Mr. Walker suggested,” Ana said.
“Capital.” Mr. Walker grinned.
They were soon inside and settled, and the hackney began its journey to the evening’s destination. Across the carriage, Elizabeth and Mr. Walker spoke quietly, their heads pressed together. Mr. Darby sat beside Ana, her violin held carefully on his lap.
“I hope you will forgive me if this proves a bit of nosiness,” he said, “but you seem anxious.”
“I am.” She clasped her gloved hands. “I have not been out in Society in years. And I’ve not played any instrument outside of Thurloe in at least that long. I have every expectation of things going terribly wrong tonight.”
“I, for one, have every hope the evening will go wonderfully right.” His voice was so
soothing and calm, so very reassuring. “I cannot think of anyone more perfectly suited for
a musicale. You won’t want for topics to discuss, as music is your area of expertise. And you will impress all in attendance with your talent.”
“You have never heard me play,” she answered, amused. “I might be terrible at it.”
His smile, dimly lit by the late-evening sun, blossomed. “Miss Black speaks very highly of your skills. I am not nearly brave enough to question her reliability.”
Ana hazarded a glance across the way. Elizabeth and her beau weren’t paying them the least heed. “She has been very kind to me.”
“I cannot imagine anyone being anything but kind to you.”
She didn’t need to imagine it. Her family had once occupied a minor place amongst the influential. They were newly accepted in Society, not for their standing but for their growing wealth. Her mother had possessed flawless manners and grace. Father had been the epitome of a gentleman despite having earned his fortune. All of that had disappeared in an instant. The Society peacocks had turned to vultures.
“Merciful heavens, Miss Newport. You’re growing paler by the moment.”
She tried to smile, but the memories were not pleasant ones. “My family suffered a reversal of fortunes a few years ago. Based on how we were treated at the time, I am not entirely confident of my reception tonight.”
“Society is a fickle beast.” He leaned closer, though not so close as to be inappropriate. “I will be nearby all evening. Should anyone treat you with any degree of unkindness, I will gladly intervene on your behalf.”
She could not afford to have anyone dogging her heels the entire evening. A lighthearted response would likely gain her a bit of freedom. “Perhaps we should engage Mr. Walker’s help should fisticuffs be necessary.”
Mr. Darby smiled at her once more. She did like his smile; it was genuine and kind. “He would not need to be asked twice.”
(Chapter 2, pages 16-20)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today best-selling author of witty and charming historical romances, including 2019’s Foreword Reviews INDIE Awards Gold Winner for Romance, The Lady and the Highwayman, and 2020 Holt Medallion finalist, Healing Hearts. She is a two-time “Best of State” Gold Medal winner for fiction and a three-time Whitney Award winner. Combining her obsession with history and her affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting deep characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library.
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