Monday, November 03, 2014

It's in the Cards! Dangerous Deceptions (Palace of Spies) by Sarah Zettel

I could not tear my mind away from Sebastian Sandford and his abrupt return to my life.

Given the manner in which I'd left my uncle's house and all that had happened since, it never occurred to me that anyone would want to enforce the betrothal contract that existed between my uncle and Sebastian's father. I'd assumed the contract was broken by my uncle's failure to bring me to the church. But now the horrible possibility that I had been wrong descended upon me. As an underaged girl, I remained completely under the control of my nearest male relative. I could be given in marriage to a street sweeper or sold to an indenture to the Virginia Colony, as he saw fit.

I will admit, given that my other choice was Sebastian, street sweepers and colonies had a certain appeal.

Peggy had thought that as a newly favorite maid-in-waiting at the court of the Hanoverian Princess and Prince of Wales, she was safe from the betrothal in which her nefarious Uncle Pierpont had attempted to bind her. Peggy had barely fought off Sebastian's most improper assault, and when she refused the marriage, she had been literally thrown out of her uncle's house, leaving her orphaned and on the street at the tender age of sixteen. But her mysterious benefactor, Lord Tierney, manages to place her at the Court of St. James, not from kindness, but to serve as an impostor, a spy against the Jacobite conspiracy working to place James Stuart on the throne of England.

Peggy has begun to feel safe at court, having mastered a proper courtier's art of flirtation, the endless little dishonesties at cards, and the rivalrous intrigues of the maids-in-waiting Mary and Sophie, and welcomes the loyalty of her friend Molly Lepell and her cousin Olivia, her true love, Matthew, and the special favor of the six-year-old dog-loving Princess Anne. But she is thrown off-balance by the appearance of Sebastian, whose powerful uncle, Lord Lynnfield, threatens to enforce their marriage contract against her wishes. Peggy's intuition tells her that Sebastian's reappearance is some sort of blackmail to ensure the complicity of her banker uncle, and she has a suspicion that Jacobite loyalists are behind it somewhere. Politics aside, Peggy knows she cannot sacrifice her love for Matthew and marry the brutal Sebastian at any cost.

It all comes down to a wager at cards, in which Lord Lynnfield offers Peggy freedom from the betrothal and a wager of a small fortune only if she can beat his nephew at the gambling table, witnessed by the Princess Caroline, Prince George, and the full court.

My prologue was over. The stage was ready for me. "Mr. Sandford," I said cheerfully, "I believe you asked me for a game of piquet when we last met."

Her Royal Highness had risen. She moved forward to join my party. It was not to be missed that His Royal Highness remained at her side.

"This is most irregular, Lord Lynnfield," she remarked.

But despite her sovereign's offer of support, Peggy agrees that the game go forward. Her opponent is careful not to win too quickly. At long last the deadly game comes down to the last trick.

I pressed my hand to my bosom. Dear God, I must have counted right.

He lay his cards down. "This hand is mine, I believe." The whole of the crowd gasped.

"And there it is, Miss Fitzroy. You're mine."

But, as it turns out, Peggy Fitzroy has a final card up her sleeve, or rather, inexplicably resting on the floor under Lynnfield's own foot.

Peggy turns the tables most literally, but there are plenty of swashbuckling abductions, daring rescues, and quite a dunking in the dank and fetid waters of the Thames before our heroine emerges, high and dry in a surprisingly revealing but unsuspected conclusion, one which assures her rapt readers yet another courtly adventure in the delicious forthcoming Dangerous Deceptions (Palace of Spies) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).  Life at the court of the future King George I of England is anything but polite company, and author Sarah Zettel promises another historical fiction romp, a spy-in-the-salon page turner in this unique and riveting series, with its indomitable heroine Peggy Fitzroy overcoming cardsharpers, blackguards, murderous conspirators, and her cruelly confining corset stays to triumph over all.

To find out more about how Peggy Fitzroy finds herself in such a royal pickle, read my review of Book 1 in this series, Palace of Spies, here. And for those readers who just can't wait for another round of palace intrigues in the the third book in this trilogy, may I recommend Carolyn Meyer's The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots (Young Royals), reviewed here for  a lusty review of Jocobean conspiracies.

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