The latest release by Susan Lodge.
Marriage to a cruel dandy is not how Hetty Avebury envisions spending the rest of her life. Determined to raise funds to escape the match she earns money the only way she knows how—gambling. Her plans go astray and she finds herself onboard a man-of-war under the care of its stern physician. But Hetty soon realizes that the disapproving Doctor Withington is not at all the man she had first imagined.
If it wasn’t bad enough declaring one of the pressed men as a woman, Robert has been tasked with the tiresome job of returning her safely back to her dysfunctional family. It was ten years ago when his father gambled away his inheritance, home, and any chance of marrying the woman he loved. So when Robert discovers Hetty gambling he takes drastic action to cure her of the habit.
“Annie, will you please walk beside me? Try to remember, I am supposed to be your brother not your employer. You must keep your arm on mine.” Annie pursed her lips but did as she was told.
At five foot four, Hetty was tall enough to masquerade as a male. Her disguise was not of fine quality this time, as she had no desire to stand out in the crowd. It was serviceable and clean, if a little ill-fitting.
She resembled a rather youthful clerk.
They had left in the early hours after Hetty had written her aunt a short note to tell her not to worry. She couldn’t risk anything else, as she knew Stark and her father would ask too many questions. If she knew nothing, Aunt Amelia wouldn’t have to lie—something she didn’t like to do.
After a moment, Hetty and Annie searched for a respectable inn, both having missed breakfast. It was only after they had seated themselves in the Boar's Head and ordered a modest meal that Hetty realized it was a bad choice. The tables were occupied by groups of unsavoury looking males, half of whom were staring at Annie in a very vulgar way. Hetty looked around with a feeling of foreboding while picking at a cold rabbit pie. The room started to empty as a strange murmur of discontent rippled through the establishment.
Annie fidgeted beside her. “I don’t like it, Miss Hetty! It ain’t right.”
Hetty groaned. “Harry—not Miss Hetty! For heaven’s sake, Annie!”
“Beg pardon…Harry,” she said, as though the name was blasphemous, “but I think we should go now.”
Hetty agreed and prepared to rise when the door shot open and the remaining customers scattered in all directions. A small party of hefty men, armed with wooden batons, sauntered in and stopped in the center of the room, assessing the occupants.
Annie grabbed Hetty’s arm. “It’s the press-gang!”
It took a moment for Annie’s words to register then Hetty swallowed violently. If only her skirts were back on. One of them noticed her and narrowed his eyes with a terrifying gleam like a predator. He pointed his finger her way. “Now, lad, I reckon you look ripe for adventure. Eager to serve your king, I wager.”
Hetty shook her head and grasped Annie. “No, sir, I have my sister here to look after.”
The man wandered closer, his fleshy face beamed and his voice cajoled. “What’s your name, lad, and how old are you?”
“Harry Blake. I am fourteen." Surely that is too young.
The man considered her for a moment, and Hetty didn’t dare to breathe.
Logic ceased. Hetty ducked under the table and tried to crawl toward the door, but one of them crunched a foul-smelling boot down on the small of her back, and her breath escaped in one whoosh of pain. A large hand hoisted her up by the neckcloth and placed her on her feet.
Susan Lodge is a life long writer, but has marketed her work just these last few years. When she is not writing, Susan tinkers on her piano, enjoys the company of her children, or takes long walks along the coastline with her real life hero.
Once asked the most important piece of advice she had been given in pursuit of publication, Susan answered -
The only difference between the unpublished writer and the published writer is the fact that the published writer didn't give up.
Catch up with Susan on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.
I'll be back Wednesday with a new menu. Until then...
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