Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen: A Rosie and McBrae Mystery
by Barbara Monajem
About Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen:
A Rosie and McBrae Mystery
Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen: A Rosie and McBrae Mystery
Historical Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Level Best Books (April 21, 2020)
Paperback: 244 pages
Digital ASIN: B087BBLLNL
Lady Rosamund Phipps, daughter of an earl, has a secret. Well, more than one. Such as the fact that she’s so uninterested in sex that she married a man who promised to leave her alone and stick to his mistress. And a secret only her family knows—the mortifying compulsion to check things over and over. Society condemns people like her to asylums. But when she discovers the dead body of a footman on the stairs, everything she’s tried to hide for years may be spilled out in broad daylight.
First the anonymous caricaturist, Corvus, implicates Lady Rosamund in a series of scandalous prints. Worse, though, are the poison pen letters that indicate someone knows the shameful secret of her compulsions. She cannot do detective work on her own without seeming odder than she already is, but she has no choice if she is to unmask both Corvus and the poison pen.
About Barbara Monjem
Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. When they grew up, she turned to writing for adults, first the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries and then Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Some of her Regencies have magic in them and some don’t (except for the magic of love, which is in every story she writes).
Barbara loves to cook, especially soups, and is an avid reader. There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. She’ll manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.
Nothing gets in the way of an enjoyable meal quite as much as a tantrum.
I had just finished a sustaining breakfast of ham, eggs, and plum cake when the front door slammed, its echo reaching all the way to the breakfast parlor. My husband stormed into the room. “Who the bloody hell is responsible for this?” He snapped a rolled-up sheet of paper against his palm. His beak of a nose twitched in fury.
“Albert! What a surprise,” I said brightly, recognizing the warning signs of a fit of temper. “I thought you were at a meeting.”
“At which some kind soul presented me with this…” He snarled, words evidently failing him, and threw the offending paper down. “The broadsheets will make a laughingstock of me.”
The lugubrious countenance of our butler appeared in the doorway; no doubt assorted servants hovered right behind. I shot him a look suggesting that they all make themselves scarce, but Albert caught my glance and turned, roaring, “Go!” He kicked the door shut.
Albert in a tantrum is such a bore. However, in other ways he is a satisfactory spouse.
I unrolled the paper and spread it on the table, setting various cups and bowls on the corners to hold them down. It was a caricature which featured not so much Albert, but me! I stood at the top of a staircase, a scowl on my face, in the act of pushing a tall, handsome footman down the stairs. “What in heaven’s name?”
“By God, I’ll make whoever did this pay!” Albert raged.
The caption read: The Desperate Wife Scorned. The doomed footman was saying, “Sorry, mum, just can’t bring meself to do it.” His words faded to a scream, while I said (to quote the caricaturist—let me make myself clear), “I can’t even pay the help to t__ me!”
I burst into laughter. I couldn’t help it. The entire notion was absurd, although the portrait of Albert, off to the side with his monstrous nose in Cynthia’s magnificent bosom, was delightfully accurate. Apart from the scowl and the lewd implication, the portrait of me was quite flattering. No one had chosen to mock me before. I suppose, being so ordinary, that I’m difficult to caricature.
Even more interesting, this portrait was by no ordinary caricaturist, but by the artist who had taken London by storm a year or so before. He signed himself Corvus (which is Latin for ‘crow’) and so far no one had unmasked him. Whoever he was, he knew a great deal of what went on in society, often behind closed doors, and commented upon it most wittily. It was no small honor—and rather fun—to be mocked by this mysterious man, or so I saw it.
“It’s not funny!” yelled Albert. “How dare this—this Corvus person make a fool of me?”
I controlled my whoops, since Albert was practically foaming at the mouth. I didn’t see why. “It’s me he’s making fun of, not you.” Or at least not much. “If I don’t mind, why should you?”
“You don’t mind being accused of murder?”
“When you look at it like that, I suppose it might be annoying, but it’s utterly absurd. Cynthia and I are the best of friends. I encouraged her to continue to be your mistress. I’m not the least bit desperate or scorned, as everyone knows—everyone who matters, that is. As for those who don’t matter, who cares what they believe?”
“It looks bad,” Albert said. “It makes me look like a neglectful husband, and you an unstable wife.”
By ordinary standards, I suppose he is a neglectful husband, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. As for unstable… Uneasiness prickled between my shoulders, but I dismissed it as irrelevant; this caricature was not aimed at character flaws of which only my family is aware. “No one will believe this nonsense. We’re both well-respected, and no one faults you for having a mistress. Most well-off men of our class do.”
“I have ambitions,” Albert said. “I can’t afford to be a figure of fun.”
I sighed my exasperation. “All politicians are made figures of fun sooner or later.” Even my own father, a rather innocuous peer who now lives secluded in the North, was singled out from time to time when he spoke up in the House of Lords. “One must take it with a good grace and get on with life.”
He ran his hands through his hair. Albert is proud of his thick head of hair, but what with all the raving, it stuck out every which way. What a good thing the caricaturist hadn’t seen him like this.
Who, I wondered suddenly, was Corvus, and how did he know about the footman who had fallen down the stairs?
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