Title: Wolves and Deer
A Tale Based on Fact
Author: Catherine Haustein
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency
Keywords: historical, regency romance, science, Dora (Dorothy) Jordan, dark humor
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
An actress, a secret, and a prince who’s not too charming. Who will get the last laugh?
BLURB: Wolves and Deer
In 1832, Grace Clare works at the Royal Institution under the direction of the well-known chemist Michael Faraday. But science isn't all she has on her mind. She learns that her birth mother was famous comic actress Dora Jordan. Grace is dangerously drawn into the tale of Dora's mysterious, unjust death after her twenty-year relationship with the prince who now occupies the throne--a man who betrayed his life partner and mother of his children. As the only child free to do so, Grace travels to Paris for work and to view her mother’s lonely grave. Awash with the injustice of the cruel betrayal, will Grace be doomed to a tragic life of seeking revenge or like her mother will she be laughing in the end?
EXCERPT: Wolves and Deer
Sacred to the memory of DOROTHY JORDAN, who, for a series of years, in London, as well as other cities of Britain pre-eminently adorned the Stage. For Comic Wit, sweetness of voice, and imitating the manners and customs of laughing maidens, as well as the opposite sex, she ranked second to none in the display of that Art, wherein she was so pre-eminently skilled. Neither was any one more prompt in relieving the necessitous. She departed this life the 5th of July 1816, aged fifty. Remember and weep for her!
Harry handed Grace the tulips. It was true; he did find her beautiful, her dark eyes mysterious. His fingers ached to touch her hair. But the talk of poison put him off. He had to find something to say as she stood forlornly in front of her mother’s grave.
“Relieving the necessitous. There’s the mark of a fine person, someone who cares for the poor. A hard-working and talented commoner, I hear tell. I’m happy to pay my respects.”
“Yes. This is my mother. Here she rests. I, however, shan’t rest.” Grace climbed over the fence and placed the tulip bouquet next to the stone. There were no other flowers.
“She needs some roses planted to show she died in midlife,” Grace said. “I will come back with roses.”
“My condolences. My parents admired her. There is still a postcard of her as Viola in our kitchen. My mother speaks of her generous heart and her sad fate.”
“I’m overwhelmed by it all. Yes, my dear mother, so far from home.” Grace let the tears come. She crouched down and put her hand on the dirt that separated Dora from the air and the sunshine and from the child who longed so much to know her. The ground was wet as if even the earth wept for her. Grace ran her hand across it as sorrow rose up and shook her like a dog shakes a rabbit. Aunt Hester was right. This grave held a broken heart that caught anyone who came to pay respects.
“Oh, my. It’s so forlorn. So forlorn and forgotten,” Grace said in her ripe peach voice.
Harry wanted to take the broken girl in his arms, to tell her how sorry he was that he’d agreed to bring her here. Instead, he folded his arms across his broad chest, but this gesture didn’t hold in the injustice that grew in it. “The people still speak of how her royal ‘protector’, now our glorious King, worked her like a plow horse, as they’ll do to us all. The powerful expect our sacrifice. It’s nothing to them.”
Grace wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. “No mention of mate or offspring on that stone. What does that tell you?”
“That her fans laid the stone. It’s known.” This, to Harry, was the most grievous part of the death; no family had come forward to pay for a grave marker. An English couple who had visited her in Paris made the arrangements for the simple memorial, and a mysterious male friend arranged for the gravesite.
“More than that, Harry. It means that her connections wanted her to be forgotten. She didn’t come here to escape swindling sons-in-law, as my aunt has suggested. She was purposely sent here to be disremembered,” Grace said. “How can it be that none of her other children have visited?” Disappointment filled her. There wasn’t anything more to this place. It was just a lonely grave in a damp spot.
“A shame.” Harry climbed over the fence and kneeled beside Grace. “The Royals are beasts. They aren’t better than we are as they wish we’d believe.”
Harry took out a handkerchief, and bent down and wiped her cheeks.
“Here now, Miss Clare, allow me. I don’t mean to be forward, but your face is dirty.”
Grace cried as the softness of the handkerchief stroked her face. “She doesn’t belong here. I’m so melancholy. My insides are like a crumpled letter. Death is meant to bring peace, but even her bones were kept from everything she’d loved.”
Harry went to the carriage and came back with a bag. He took out a trowel and dug a hole six inches deep through the spindly grass. He handed Grace a tulip bulb.
“Mr. Babbage says that the tulip signifies the brevity of life. Place it point up in the hole.”
“Are you giving me advice?”
“I am simply passing on gardening wisdom. Do you want them to grow?’
“Will anything grow in this dank spot? ‘Twill be a miracle if we’re not overcome by miasma. I believe I am sick already.”
Grace put the bulb in the hole while Harry dug another one.
“Do you know why no one was allowed to attend her death?” Grace asked.
“They did not know about it until it was too late.”
“No. It was a way of signaling to the population of England that she was doomed to hell for her sins, for there are but two directions, heaven or hell, and if you are alone, it shows God that you were not loved and to hell you go. My Aunt Hester has told me this much. Not that she believes it, but as evidence that Mother’s death was arranged by the palace to appear as a judgment.” Grace put another bulb in the hole, and Harry scooped dirt over it.
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