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Monday, December 11, 2017

A Historical Christmas Event with Sherry Thomas

USA Today-bestselling author Sherry Thomas decided years ago that her goal in life is to write every kind of book she enjoys reading. Thus far she has published romance, fantasy, mystery, and a wuxia-inspired duology. Her books regularly receive starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications, including such outlets as the New York Times and National Public Radio. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

Her latest book, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, is the second entry in the gender-bending Lady Sherlock historical mystery series. A Study in Scarlet Women, book 1 of the series, is an NPR and Kirkus Reviews best book of 2016.

And by the way, English is her second language.  

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For the Historical Xmas event in 2012, I wrote a little scene set on a wintry terrace, a man and a woman having a chat on Christmas Eve. At the time I thought the scene was going to be a one-off. But sometimes a story proves deeper and more interesting than even its creator imagined. So in ​each subsequent year I added to the scene and this year I expand it yet again.

Please read Parts 1, Part 2, Part 3​,​ Part 4​, and Part 5​ first.

He was still in his evening clothes, his cigarette case in hand. Also in that hand was a book that he had probably taken from her mother’s library. On his index finger, he wore a signet ring, the sheen of the gold quite muted.

She realized she was avoiding his gaze.

Their eyes met. He looked at her in a way—certainly he had never looked at her this way. In fact, she had never seen him look at anyone with remotely the same intensity. A fierceness that was almost…distress.

He pushed away from the door. “A drink, Lady Georgina?” he said, with a casual friendliness, as if there was nothing the slightest irregular about her presence in his rooms at this hour of the night. As if that moment of naked longing on his part had never taken place. “I have been given a decanter of very good cognac by your mother.”

“She does have a worthy stock of potent beverages,” murmured Georgina, her heart still pounding from his sudden appearance. And from something that had nothing to do with the shock of it. “What shall we drink to?”

He poured cognac in two glasses, handed her one, and raised his. “To this excellent year. I understand you now have the patronage of both the queen and the Princess of Wales.”

Most of her friends knew that she enjoyed creating perfumes. But other than her mother, her sister, and her late husband, very few people were privy to the fact that she had turned her passion into a commercial endeavor.

Beresford was one of the few. Elliot hadn’t quite known what to do when Georgina had proposed the idea—he hadn’t wanted to make her unhappy, but at the same time, he hadn’t known whether it was proper for a lady to undertake such an enterprise. So as he had always done whenever he found himself in a quandary, he wrote to Beresford.

And Beresford’s reply had been among her favorite words that a man ever set to paper, love letters included. As for the matter of Lady Georgina’s interest in the manufacture of perfumes and perfumed goods, I am of the firm belief that her going into business would not render her less of a lady, nor would its opposite somehow make her more of one. Instead of asking what other people would think, ask rather whether she has the temperament, expertise, and perseverance—and of course, the initial funds—to make a proper go of it.

Elliot had listened to his most trusted friend and decided that his wife would indeed “make a proper go of it”. And what followed had been a lovely interval. Elliot, a talented amateur artist, had designed elegant, distinctive bottles for her perfumes and painted beautiful images for the packaging of the products. She had delighted in his participation and he had taken much pleasure in her enjoyment of the entire process, from the first incipient idea to the final, finished item.

“Yes, it has indeed been a good year,” she said. “I’m thinking now of an establishment on Regent Street—a very small one.”

“But still, Regent Street.”

“Yes, still.”

“Elliot would have been very proud of you,” he said softly.

She had discovered, among Elliot’s belongings, two entire portfolios filled with drawings that he hadn’t yet presented to her. Quite enough for at least a decade’s worth of new product packaging.

“He would have been just as proud of you,” she said, speaking past a lump in her throat. “Two papers read at the Royal Society in such a short time. He always said that you are much more serious and heavyweight than people realized.”

Beresford glanced at her. He seemed surprised…as well as slightly discomfited. “Did you believe him?”

“I…” She thought about it. “He was a good judge of character so I had no reason to doubt his assessment. Although since I’d mostly seen you at some kind of merrymaking or another, I’d never felt it in my bones. Except when I read your letters to him, at times, and thought to myself, this is a man who isn’t only eloquent, but insightful.”

He didn’t reply, but only took a sip of cognac.

Her nerves jangled. Perhaps she ought not to have mentioned letters, but she pressed on. “And I thought furthermore that you seemed to have two different sides: The side you allowed the public to see, the amiable, fun-loving gentleman who was a welcome addition to any gathering; and the side that only your intimates were allowed to glimpse.”

And he hadn’t counted her one of his intimates, because she never saw that side of him and would have been blithely ignorant of its existence had he not been Elliot’s best friend.

In fact, now that she thought about it, during their engagement—and again at beginning of their marriage—Elliot had commented that he had never before seen Beresford pursue amusement with quite such frenetic intensity.

Perhaps your marriage has made him nervous, she had said, laughing. Perhaps now he believes his own doom draws nigh and must divert himself as much as possible, before he too is towed under by a great tide of matrimony.

Again, Beresford said nothing. Maybe she had held forth quite enough on the topic.

She smiled a little. “Well, we digress. What I meant to say earlier was that given your expertise in botany and my interest in perfume-making, which depends so heavily on botanical extracts, it’s odd that we’ve never discussed the subject.”

He took another sip of his cognac. “The subject would probably have been broached some time tomorrow.”


“I brought you a cutting. A Christmas present.”

“A cutting of?”

“A night-blooming jasmine with an extraordinary scent—or at least so I think.”

She was taken aback. Delighted. And almost abashed. “Really?”

“I understand that you are constructing a large greenhouse. It should do well in there—and you can try and see if it will grow outdoors in your part of the Devon. Should be manageable against a sheltered wall and with the usual precautions.”

They were only speaking of plants, yet she was aflutter, her breaths coming in short. “I adore jasmine,” she managed.

His gaze turned wistful. “I know.”

She swallowed. She couldn’t remember why she had decided to visit him so late, but she knew that time had come for her to leave, while everything was still proper and decorous.

If one chose to overlook the fact that she had entered his rooms without permission, after everyone else had gone to bed.

“Thank you very much for the thoughtful present,” she said, her words coming out too fast. “I look forward to seeing it tomorrow. Good night, then. And sweet dreams.”

She was almost at the door when he asked, “Before you go, Lady Georgina, would you mind telling me why you are here?”

The game is afoot as Charlotte Holmes returns in the atmospheric second novel in USA Today bestseller Sherry Thomas’s Victorian-set Lady Sherlock series.

Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,” aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office.

Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother.

In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London?

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Check out the Lady Sherlock series:

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  1. Wonderful excerpt. Thank you for sharing.
    I look forward to reading this series.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  2. This is probably one of the main reason I love this event. I want to read this short story you write for this event. I just really wish you turn it into a book or novella. I can't believe I have to wait another year for the next part.

  3. Gah! I'm dying to read more!! I do love this story but the super greedy part of me wants it all now! Thanks for another segment at least. I don't know what I'd do if you decided not to participate in the Historical Christmas Event!

  4. Always ending on such a cliffhanger! XD

  5. Love this excerpt! Will they find her brother in time...

  6. How wonderful. It makes my heart smile.