Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Excerpt and Contest: A DESPERATE FORTUNE by Susanna Kearsley (A)


I am happy to be a part of the A DESPERATE FORTUNE Blog Tour today!

Sourcebooks is offering 10 readers the chance to attend a 
LIVE online event with Susanna Kearsley. 
To enter, read the excerpt below and break the code: 16.13
Email the correct word to publicity@sourcebooks.com
Winners will be announced on March 20th!


by Susanna Kearsley
Expected release date: April 7th, 2015
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

SUMMARY

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread — its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal's cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal's reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn't hold the secrets Sara expects. 

It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise. 

When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson.

As Mary's tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take... to find the road that will lead her safely home.


EXCERPT from A DESPERATE FORTUNE

They left in the dead hours of night, in the dark, slipping over the Seine by a bridge that allowed her a view of the towers of Notre Dame, looming above them and seeming alive with a thousand stone eyes she could never escape. Her own shadow changed form with the sway of the glass-enclosed candle lamps strung in a line down the larger streets, and at her back came the larger black shadow of Mr. MacPherson, who’d changed all his clothes but his hat and his boots and had traded his cloak for a brown horseman’s coat with its collar turned down like a cape at his shoulders and full pleats that made the coat swing when he walked. He looked none the less menacing, Mary decided—not even when weighted with most of their travelling gear, for he carried the straps of their two leather portmanteaus over his shoulders together with a long cylindrical case that he’d slung in between them, and this with the already cumbersome burden of his two crossed sword belts that carried a regular sword in one scabbard and one in the other that looked like none Mary had seen, with a hilt woven much like a basket of silver that would have completely enveloped his hand.

Where the longer, lethal knife was Mary did not know, but she knew well that he did have it, for she’d watched him clean it; watched him wipe the crusting smudges from the blade and make the steel gleam sharp again with oil, until Madame Roy gently had distracted her attention. Mary did not wish to ever see that knife again.

She drew the softness of her cloak more tightly round herself and Frisque, as they came within sight of a marvellous building trapped tightly between narrow streets, a medieval chateau with a round stone-walled turret at one corner and great doors that stood open to give a view into the courtyard beyond.

In a low voice that could not be overheard by others but themselves, MacPherson said, “Wait there.” And then he was gone.

Madame Roy looked at Mary’s face and smiled slightly. “This is the Hôtel de Sens,” she said, speaking in French as they took up their places where they had been told to stand, beside the open doorway. “It was built for archbishops and once housed a queen and her lovers, and though that was a long, long time ago, this still has the look of a castle, do you not think?”

Mary was not in a state to admire the building as she might have otherwise done. It had clearly been repurposed as the office for the public coaches travelling to all the parts of France, for even at this hour of the night—or early morning, rather, since it was approaching four o’clock—the streets and courtyard bustled with activity, with torchlight and the call of voices, mostly male; the fall of booted footsteps on the cobblestones, the grind and roll of wheels, and restless stamping of the horses.

She had never seen a diligence. Her uncle, who had journeyed in one, had described it as appearing very like a coach, but being longer and in all dimensions larger, and the vehicle before them now was definitely that. It looked, by torchlight in the darkness of the early morning, very large. The huge heavy wheels at the rear were her own height, and even the smaller and more nimble front wheels were sturdily built. Besides the central closed compartment, which looked fully long enough to carry several passengers, there was another partly open box set at the front, protected by a leather curtain, and on top was seating for a handful more, though given the extremes of weather those who travelled outside would have had to be of hardy constitution. At the back end of the diligence a great curved covered basket held the luggage of the passengers, and at the front stood seven horses waiting with impatience in their harness, the postilion’s large black jackboots strapped in place upon the nearside mare, who flicked her tail and twitched an ear to Mary as though waiting for the order to be off.

Thomson, beside her, adjusted his hold on the deal-box he’d carried the whole way across from the rooms they had waited the day in. Much like the portmanteaus, it had appeared from the back room with no explanation, though Thomson had instantly taken control of it and ever since had been loath to let go of its handles. It wasn’t a large box—her uncle had used one quite like it to hold all his papers—but Thomson had guarded it closely enough Mary guessed it contained something he deemed of value.

She watched as the Scotsman returned with his sure, easy stride in the company of a much shorter and older man who helped consign both the portmanteaus into the basket. She noticed, though, Mr. MacPherson chose not to relinquish control of the third leather cylinder strapped to his back, nor his swords, but conveyed them himself to the netting assigned for that purpose. Then turning, he motioned the others to come.

Mary looked at the diligence, and at the horses, and felt a small stab of misgiving. MacPherson’s three-cornered hat blocked out the glare of the torchlight and cast a black shadow that hid his eyes, but she was no less aware of his steady regard as she turned to face Thomson and covered her worries with petulance.

“Is it permitted,” she said in a tight voice, “to ask where you’re taking me?”

“Certainly,” he said, remembering this time to answer her as she had spoken, in French. “We are bound for Lyon.”

Lyon. Mary’s heart dipped. It was such a long way to travel, so far from the dream of her bright life in Paris, the dream that beckoned to her all these years from the hazy horizon.
And yet . . . it was thinking about that horizon that helped her to muster some courage. The mare stamped hard upon the cobbles, breathing steam into the frosty early-morning air, and Mary lifted a hand to the hood of her fur-lined cloak, gathering it closely round her face to hide her features.

Mistress Jamieson, she told herself, would not have felt afraid. She would have welcomed the adventure, turned her face towards the wider sky and never looked behind.

So Mary tried to do the same. She took the gallant hand that Thomson offered her and stepped as lightly as she could into the waiting diligence and took her seat with perfect nonchalance. She tried to keep her gaze fixed forwards, only forwards, taking on the poise of Mistress Jamieson as though it were another cloak that made her fears invisible.

But as the massive public coach began to lurch and roll along the cobbles, Mary couldn’t help herself. She turned her head, against all her intentions, and looked back. The lights of Paris seemed already to have dimmed and lost their promise. And the wider sky ahead of them looked very dark indeed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Susanna Kearsley


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. 

Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. 

She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Firebird (a RITA winner) as well as, The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden (both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards). Other honors include National Readers' Choice Awards, the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize, and finaling for the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Her popular and critically acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audiobooks. 

She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.



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