Published by HQN Books on November 20, 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Set sail for love in this sparkling new adventure in #1 New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander’s Lady Travelers Society series.
Harry Armstrong has spent years in Egypt, recovering relics and disregarding rules. Now he’s back in England with a new title and a new purpose: penning his exploits. But his efforts are overshadowed by London’s favorite writer about Egypt—a woman they call The Queen of the Desert, of all things. Worse, her stories—serialized in newspapers and reprinted in books—are complete rubbish.
Miss Sidney Honeywell didn’t set out to deceive anyone. It’s not her fault readers assumed her Tales of a Lady Adventurer in Egypt were real! Admitting her inadvertent deception now would destroy her reputation and her livelihood. But when the Earl of Brenton challenges her to travel to Egypt to prove her expertise, accompanied by his dashing, arrogant nephew, what choice does she have but to pack her bags?
With the matchmaking founders of the Lady Travelers Society in tow, Harry is determined to expose Sidney’s secret. But the truth might not be as great a revelation as discovering that love can strike even the most stubborn of hearts.
London, January 1892
“Would anyone care to explain this to me?” Sidney Althea Gordon Honeywell looked up from the newspaper clippings spread before her on the table in her small dining room. “Well?”
Across the table, three of the dearest ladies Sidney had ever known stared back at her, the very picture of elderly innocence.
“Anyone,” Sidney prompted. “Anyone at all?”
“I think it speaks for itself, dear,” Lady Guinevere Blodgett said in a vaguely chastising manner.
Mrs. Persephone Fitzhew-Wellmore nodded. She and Lady Blodgett had long insisted Sidney call them by their given names—Poppy and Gwen—in spite of the nearly fifty-year difference in their ages as it made them feel terribly old otherwise and they weren’t at all fond of that. “I don’t really see what needs to be explained.”
The third member of the trio, Mrs. Ophelia Higginbotham—Aunt Effie—wisely held her tongue.
Sidney narrowed her eyes. “You have nothing to say?”
“Not quite yet.” Effie—her grandmother’s dearest friend and an aunt by affection rather than blood—smiled pleasantly. “I would rather hear your thoughts first.”
“No doubt.” Sidney studied the clippings on the table
although there was no need. The words had burned themselves into her mind the moment she read them. “It appears we have a series of letters to The Times from—” she picked up a clipping “—the Earl of Brenton in which he alleges that I don’t know what I write about. That my stories are total fiction. That I’ve never been to Egypt. That I am in fact a fraud. And, as we all know—” she blew a resigned breath “—I am.”
“Rubbish,” Aunt Effie said staunchly. “You never claimed your stories were anything other than fiction.”
“It’s not your fault that the public decided your adventures were real,” Poppy added.
“Regardless, I should have corrected the mistaken impression the moment I became aware of it.” It still bothered Sidney that she had allowed herself to be talked out of doing exactly that.
When Sidney had begun writing her Tales of a Lady Adventurer in Egypt in an attempt to supplement her modest income shortly after her mother’s death four years ago, she had no idea her work would ever be published, let alone become popular. Sidney’s father died some thirteen years ago, leaving Sidney and her mother a cozy house near Portman Square and an adequate income from a small trust. Father no doubt assumed Mother would eventually remarry or at least that his daughter would find a husband, but Sidney had not had the opportunity. Mother never recovered from losing the love of her life and her grief took a toll on her health. It was left to Sidney to run their small household as well as care for her mother, a responsibility Sidney neither questioned nor resented.
“Your popularity did take us all unawares. But when your book was published with all of your previously published stories from the Daily Messenger it did seem everyone was reading it and clamoring for more of your work. By then it really was too late.” Gwen shrugged. “It’s hard to undo something like that. No one ever believes it was inadvertent. We know you, of course, and we are well aware that you simply didn’t notice the attention your stories were receiving. You do tend to live in your own little world when you’re writing, Sidney dear.”
In hindsight Sidney felt like something of a ninny but writing did sweep her away to another world altogether. A world of adventure and romance that at times seemed more real than the London she lived in.
“Besides, we thought it was quite thrilling,” Poppy said, her eyes glittering with excitement. “Why, you’ve become famous. The Queen of the Desert and all.”
Sidney winced at the title her readers had bestowed upon her.
“And wasn’t your Mr. Cadwallender rather pleased that your readers thought your adventures were true?” Poppy pointed out.
“The man was ecstatic. He said it would make the stories more popular and I allowed myself to be convinced.” Sidney struggled to keep calm even as her future, her dreams, were crumbling around her. “I should have known it would come to this.”
If you would like to read a review of this book by our reviewer Monique…please click HERE