Our latest summer anthology, Regency Mid-Summer Mischief, went on preorder for $0.99 on June 30. It will release on 20 July 2021. In this anthology, all the stories have relatives/family members or friends up to some sort of hijinks and being extremely interfering: therefore, the “mischief” in the title. My contribution to the grouping is entitled “The Jewel Thief and the Earl.” Permit me to introduce you to my hero and heroine.
Grandison Franklyn, 8th Earl Harlow, is a collector of artifacts from ancient civilizations. He also performs duties for the Home Office bringing him into the search for a missing necklace belonging to Queen Charlotte. He has earned the moniker “Grandison, the Great” for a variety of reasons: his well-honed attitude of superiority; his appearance; and a string of mistresses, most notably Lady Jenest, who created a “great” row when he cut her loose.
Miss Colleen Everley is the daughter of England’s most infamous thief, a man called “Brook’s Crook,” for Thomas Everley’s family estate is in Brook, a hamlet in the civil parish of Branshaw in Hampshire. Colleen has been taught many of her father’s skills of sleight of hand, along with an eye for the value of each item in a room. As Thomas Everley has been caught and transported, naturally, Lord Harlow must depend upon Miss Everley’s assistance in using a thief to catch a thief. Unfortunately, the lady has inherited Everley’s skills, but not necessarily his daring.
GIVEAWAY: Comment below to be included in the giveaway of 5 eBook copies of Regency Mid-Summer Mischief, which will be delivered to winners upon the anthology’s release on July 20, 2021. The deadline is midnight EST on Thursday, July 15, 2021.
The Jewel Thief and the Earl
Late June 1817
“We require an expert thief to capture an expert thief.” Lord Liverpool stated the obvious, as Prince George paced his private chambers in a fit of anxiety. The quickness with which the Prince Regent covered the distance from his bed to the door and back amazed Grandison Franklyn, 8th Earl Harlow, for the Prince’s bulk had, in Grandison’s opinion, greatly increase since the last time, perhaps a year prior, Grand had been summoned before His Royal Highness.
Grandison’s role in Prince George’s latest complaint was to correct the “error” made by His Royal Highness before it became public knowledge. Grand’s position in the Home Office called for his ability to respond quickly and with discretion. He often referred to himself as a “coordinator.” He possessed connections to a variety of resources and people; yet, even he held his doubts about the return of a royal sapphire necklace, likely presented to the Prince’s latest paramour, a woman too flighty for the necessary secrecy of any woman who became one of Prince Regent’s mistresses. Certainly, a woman placed in such a position could not expect others never to discover she was willing to accept the prince’s attentions, but to discuss openly the gifts His Royal Highness presented her only asked for censure and a rebuke from the prince.
“Find the best and offer the man a reprieve if he secures my mother’s sapphire necklace,” Prinny instructed.
“Queen Charlotte’s sapphire necklace?” Grand asked, suddenly comprehending the urgency of his being summoned to Carlton House.
Prinny purposely turned his back on Grand, in obvious disapproval for not attending to the conversation, but Liverpool answered in soft tones, “Yes, part of Her Royal Highness’s bridal gifts from the King.”
Grand swallowed the series of questions and “reprimands” rushing to his lips. Instead, he said, “The best thief in England is currently on a ship to a penal colony, a reprieve from the hangman’s noose presented to him in return for his agreement to surrender more than a dozen pieces of Egyptian relics and an equal number of pieces of priceless jewelry waiting to be returned to the appropriate owners.”
“Then turn the ship around!” the prince demanded.
Grandison said evenly, so as not to offend his future king, but, rather, to practice reason, “As the ship departed London nearly three weeks prior, even if another was launched immediately to give pursuit, it would take more than a handful of months to overtake the prison ship and return Brook’s Crook to London. I assume we require a quicker resolution.”
Even with Grand’s simple explanation, the prince’s face turned a purplish-red with anger. “I would prefer to have the necklace in my hands by the day’s end!”
Grandison warned, “I suspect we will be fortunate to know success by week’s end.”
“Week’s end!” the prince screeched.
Lord Liverpool stepped before Prinny to say, “Lord Harlow’s warning was purely standard, Your Highness. Naturally, we will have more than a dozen men searching for the necklace within the hour.”
Those words appeared to sober the prince. “I would prefer only a few were made aware of my shortcomings,” he announced with an air of superiority ingrained in Prince George’s nature.
Lord Liverpool reasoned, “Then I cannot guarantee your wish to know a resolution by day’s end.”
“How soon?” Prinny asked, while a frown marked his forehead.
Grandison admired Liverpool’s calm while soothing their future king. It was the odd man who stood toe-to-toe with Prince George and won an argument.
“As Lord Harlow says, a week. We will attempt to resolve the situation sooner, but I cannot warrant the deed done until it is done. May I ask, Your Highness, of the urgency lacing this commission?”
Prinny glanced to Grandison before lowering his voice. Because he was not meant to hear the prince’s confession, Grand looked away, but he remained in place, knowing, quite well, he would be held responsible if he failed the Home Office. “Her Royal Highness means to wear the necklace for a family gathering set to mark the King and Queen’s anniversary in early September. She has asked me to have the jeweler at Mr. Grose’s establishment to have it cleaned and the settings tightened before then.”
Liverpool kept his voice soft, as if soothing a baby or a puppy, but loud enough for Grandison to hear. “Then you did not present the necklace to the Marchioness of Hertford?”
The prince lowered his voice further. “I had imbibed too much brandy and trusted those I should not, who said someone might think to remove the necklace from my person without my knowledge.”
Liverpool continued to ask the necessary question to which Grandison would require answers in order to conduct an investigation. “Did you view Lady Hertford placing the necklace securely away?”
The prince puffed up in indignation. “I never said I was with Lady Hertford at the time. Her ladyship is beyond respectable. In fact, she remains unaware of my indiscretion.”
“I see,” Liverpool said gravely. “Then please explain what occurred. Lord Harlow must be made aware upon whom to call.”
Prince George’s countenance screwed up in defiance. “I would prefer this incident was handled with the greatest discretion.”
“Naturally, Your Highness. Yet, Lord Harlow must have a starting point,” Liverpool insisted.
The prince shot a wary glance toward Grandison. “Perhaps we should claim the assistance of someone other than Lord Harlow.”
Lord Liverpool directed a steady gaze on Grand, warning him to remain silent until the Prime Minister “handled” Prince George. “Most assuredly, Your Highness, Lord Harlow can be replaced by another, but you must understand that his lordship possesses specialized skills, as well as a number of connections in such circles as will be required to assist us in retrieving the necklace before it is sold to a rich count or marquis upon the Continent.”
After a long pause, the Prince huffed his disapproval, but he nodded his agreement, nevertheless. “I was with Ridgeworth and Spratt. We all had had too much to drink; yet, we still called upon Lady Jenest. She was having her bi-monthly gaming ‘at-home’ gathering on Friday evening.”
Grand swallowed the words forming on his lips. Olivia Brownstone, Lady Jenest, had, at one time, served as Grand’s mistress. A widow, Lady Jenest had chosen the freedom her “widowhood” had provided, rather than to shackle herself to another. As Lord Franklyn, Grand had frequently enjoyed the pleasure of bedding a woman “with experience”; however, as Lady Jenest demanded more and more of his time and his allowance from his father, Grand had cut her loose in what turned out to be a very public breakup; thus, his moniker, “Grandison the Great,” meaning a “great” uproar occurred with their separation, although he had heard himself spoken of for both a ‘great’ sense of self consequence, as well as ‘great’ ease when it came to wooing the finer sex.
After a very awkward pause, Grand said, “Perhaps, His Royal Highness has the right of it, my lord. I doubt Lady Jenest would respond to any request from me to meet with her on this matter, despite the urgency of the investigation.”
Before the prince could agree, Lord Liverpool announced, “Nonsense, Lady Jenest will do what is necessary: I will assure it. Moreover, I possess an idea of how we might proceed. Trust me, Your Highness. Lord Harlow is your best choice for settling this matter quickly and with significant discretion.”
* * *
Dawn’s light barely streaked the sky as Grandison set his key to the lock and turned the latch. It surprised him to view his butler reaching for the door, for it would be nearly an hour before Mr. Shelby would be expected to be on duty.
“You took me unawares, Shelby,” Grand murmured as he handed his waiting servant his hat and gloves. “What are you doing on duty at this ungodly hour?”
Mr. Shelby tilted his head toward the passageway. “Lord Liverpool arrived an hour prior. He is enjoying his breakfast in the morning room.”
Grand nodded his understanding: When called upon by necessity, his servants could respond with a moment’s notice. “Extend my gratitude to Cook and her staff for rising to the occasion. Assure all I will reward their loyalty at the next quarter day.”
“That is very gracious of you, my lord.”
Before more could be said, Liverpool stepped into the hall to say, “Ah, it is you, Harlow. Please join me. I have been anticipating your return for some time now.”
Grand inclined his head in acceptance of the Prime Minister’s request, while his insides groaned with the idea he would be made to wait a bit longer before he could claim his bed. “I will require coffee and my usual fare, Shelby.”
“Right away, sir.”
As he made his way to his morning room, he set his shoulders in expectation of Liverpool’s disappointment when Grand made his report. “You have risen early, my lord,” he said as he permitted his footman to hold his chair.
“You would be surprised how few hours of sleep a man requires. I believe such is a prerequisite before assuming the role of Prime Minister,” Liverpool countered.
“If that is all that is required for the position, perhaps I should place my hat into the ring of candidates,” Grand said with as much levity as he could muster, especially as he was bone-tired and frustrated by his lack of leads to the necklace.
Liverpool nodded sagely. “If you do not discover the necklace, neither of us is likely to retain our position in government, let alone be Prime Minister.”
Mr. Shelby appeared at Grand’s side with a steaming pot of coffee, which he poured into Grand’s cup, essentially bringing a momentary end to Liverpool’s poorly veiled threat. The footman who had followed set a plate of coddled eggs and ham before Grand.
“Will there be anything else, my lord?” Shelby asked.
“As long as Lord Liverpool requires no further service, I am content,” Grand instructed.
“I, too, am content for the time being.”
With Liverpool’s flick of his wrist, Grand’s servants disappeared into the nearby servants’ hall to wait for another summons.
“Tell me, you, at least, have a lead as to the whereabouts of Her Royal Highness’s necklace,” the Prime Minister said in exacting tones.
Grand sucked in a steadying breath before responding. He wished he had known then what he knew now of the intricacies of keeping a mistress in London society. “Permit me to say before we go further, I would prefer not to be the one required to speak to Lady Jenest. I do not think my doing so would be wise. We both know the woman lacks discretion. Yet, I completely understand the necessity of interviewing her ladyship in this matter.” He sighed heavily, “I am grieved to say, my lord, that no one appears to know anything of someone attempting to sell the gems as individual jewels, rather than in a gold setting, as we thought the person might do, nor selling the necklace itself.”
Liverpool’s frown lines deepened. “Just as I feared.” He placed his fork upon the plate. “It sounds as if we are to squeeze out a suspect, we must search where only the lowest of the low dare to venture.”
Grand did not like the sound of the charge, obviously being dumped into his lap. “I will claim a few hours of sleep and then return to the streets,” he assured.
Liverpool wiped his mouth with the serviette. “As I said to the Prince Regent, although I had hoped for a ready resolution, I have an idea of someone who may be of assistance to us. I will send over the person’s directions after I have made arrangements for your house call.” With that, the country’s Prime Minister strode from the room. Within seconds, the door leading to the street closed behind him.
Grand sat looking down at his plate of food in stunned silence. He did not want to know what Lord Liverpool planned for him. “Not much chance of sleep,” he grumbled, “as my good name and reputation is on the line.” He took a long draught of the coffee. “I wonder what his lordship has in mind for me.”
NOTE: If you would like to read the second half of this chapter, you will find it on my personal blog, Every Woman Dreams. Click HERE.
Seven stories of Regency heroines and heroes finding love in the face of obstructions: mayhem, malice, and mischief.
Varying heat levels, both in the text and during the English summertime.
Seven best-selling and award-winning authors team up to delight your summer holiday reading.
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A Maiden for a Marquess by Arietta Richmond – Scandal, marriage, dark secrets – is love possible?
Saracen’s Gift by Janis Susan May – From heiress to prisoner – will love save her?
Seaside Summer by Victoria Hinshaw – A wounded warrior fights for love against the odds
The Jewel Thief and the Earl by Regina Jeffers – Both find more than a missing necklace.
Wildflowers and Wiles by Summer Hanford – Is impersonating a peer wrong if you’re family?
The Journey by Becca St. John – Batten down the hatches, hidden hearts on board!
Weekend at Baron E’s by Ebony Oaten – Newly wed to newly dead – don’t tell the in-laws!
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