Jan 8 2017 12:00pm
KJ Charles Excerpt: Wanted, A Gentleman
WANTED, A GENTLEMAN
Or, Virtue Over-Rated
the grand romance of
Mr. Martin St. Vincent... a Merchant with a Mission, also a Problem
Mr. Theodore Swann... a humble Scribbler and Advertiser for Love
Act the First:
the offices of the Matrimonial Advertiser, London
where Lonely Hearts may seek one another for the cost of a shilling
Act the Second:
a Pursuit to Gretna Green (or thereabouts)
a speedy Carriage
sundry rustic Inns
a private Bed-chamber
In the course of which are presented
Romance, Revenge, and Redemption
Deceptions, Discoveries, and Desires
the particulars of which are too numerous to impart
Get a sneak peek at KJ Charles's Wanted, A Gentleman (available January 9, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.
Theo glared down at the blank page. It looked back at him with studied disinterest.
It was four days since Martin St. Vincent had brought his distracting presence into the office. In the interim, Theo had done his best to earn the promised ten shillings. He’d kept a weather eye out for any letters, to his office or the Three Ducks; examined the other newspapers and rival matrimonial gazettes in case the errant couple were advertising in more than one forum; even gone through back issues of the Matrimonial Advertiser looking for clues and finding none. He hadn’t seen hide or hair of St. Vincent in all that time.
He had identified Cressida, though, not that such had been part of his commission. She was Miss Jennifer Conroy, daughter of an immensely wealthy plantation owner whose new house on Cavendish Square had been designed by the great Nash. Her identity was probably not something St. Vincent would want him to know.
It hadn’t been difficult to discover. St. Vincent had been discreet in everything except his own name, but a black man surnamed for a Caribbean island? Theo had started by looking at the wealthiest plantation owners whose money came from the West Indies, found four with a single daughter, and then simply asked a few people in their households: Did you once have a Martin St. Vincent here?
He’d been a slave. Theo wasn’t surprised by that, but he was disturbed on a deep, rather sick level to think of it, and he wasn’t quite sure why. He knew plenty of men who were or had been enslaved. That was how things were, and while Theo didn’t buy slave sugar on the few occasions he could afford sugar at all, and would have spoken for abolition if anyone had asked his opinion, he was not one to fight against the world. It wasn’t, in the end, his problem. He could shrug and move on. He always did.
He had a feeling that St. Vincent was not the sort of man who shrugged. There was a simmering deep-down anger there that Theo recognised, the kind that made you not want to cross a man in case it erupted. The kind that said, I do not forgive lightly.
That being the case, why was he working for his former masters? Theo had drifted up to his old drinking haunt in Marylebone, the Yorkshire Stingo, which functioned not only as a public house but also as a sort of poor relief for men and women of colour in distress. That was where you’d go to ask about a black Londoner, and he’d found out enough about Martin St. Vincent to chew on. It seemed he was doing well enough for himself. He was a dealer in coal, invested in a number of small businesses and coffeehouses owned by men and women of his own race, and from what Theo could gather, he was a successful and respected, if rather solitary, man. He attended abolitionist meetings, though he never spoke, and contributed generously to the Stingo’s much-needed relief fund for the hungry, the homeless, the men abandoned to the streets after they’d been beaten or worked half to death.
Meanwhile, the Conroys lived in luxury on the proceeds of plantations tilled by slave labour, yet St. Vincent called himself the family’s friend. Theo couldn’t understand that.
Couldn’t, and was wasting his time trying to. The fact was, Martin St. Vincent was none of Theo’s affair. His task was not to puzzle over St. Vincent’s motivations, no matter how curious he might be, or how memorable he found those orange-flecked eyes. His job was to extricate Miss Adelina Fanshawe from the clutches of her dastardly guardian’s last desperate effort to force a marriage, and reunite her with the strong, clean-limbed, ineffably dull Thomas Mountjoy before the end of the week, when their romance was due at his publisher.
Theo sincerely hoped his readers would find Mountjoy less boring than he did. He could barely stand the fellow himself, and Adelina was almost as bad. They deserved each other, the ghastly, virtuous, pallid pair. He was tempted to kill them off—a sudden earthquake would be satisfying—and leave Adelina’s guardian Jasper de Vere triumphant, with his faithful hunchbacked henchman by his side. Theo had some fairly clear ideas about Jasper and his henchman, and indeed he had mentally played them out alone in bed with his hand’s assistance, but it was scarcely a story he could write for money, and that was why he wrote, as it was why he did everything.
Adelina: or, Virtue Imperill’dwould soon go out to add to the body of work that he offered a mildly interested world under the barely disguised persona of Dorothea Swann. Mrs. Swann was making a modest name for herself as an authoress of Gothic romances, in the spirit of Mrs. Radcliffe although without her sales quite yet. If Theo could just get Adelina and her damned virtue off his desk early, he could make a start on his new story before the next issue of the Advertiser had to be prepared. All he had to do was invent something clever for Thomas Mountjoy to do—hah—and stop thinking about Martin St. Vincent, and his eyes, and what he might look like if he really smiled.
Although Theo could have sworn, in the Three Ducks, just for a moment . . .
“Oh, stop it,” he said aloud, and dipped his pen with such determination that tiny droplets of ink flew.
Copyright © 2017 by KJ Charles.
Learn more about or order a copy of Wanted, A Gentleman by KJ Charles, available January 9, 2017:
KJ Charles is a writer of mostly m/m historical romance, sometimes with fantasy. She has won several Rainbow Awards for her work and twice been voted Best LGBT+ Romance in the All About Romance annual poll. She is published by Loveswept and Samhain.