A Bow Street Runner and a debutante in London Society use their skills to find the killer of a wealthy businessman, but the killer’s secrets aren’t the only ones they will uncover.
Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill’s owner dead of an apparent gunshot–but no sign of the killer.
Even though the owner’s daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, she may be the only one. It seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can’t take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage–and his job as a runner–comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him. Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha’s bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. But when her trusted instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation, Lady Juliette obeys. That is, until circumstances intervene, and she drops right into the middle of the deadly pursuit.
When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case–and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.
“An artfully told story that will have you wondering at the outcome until the final pages are read.” —Ruth Logan Herne, USA Today best-selling author
“…a fully satisfying mystery. I can’t wait to read the next one!” —Jocelyn Green, Christy Award–winning author of Drawn by the Current
“I am sure fans of the first book in this series will revel in the deepening relationship between Daniel Swann and Juliette Thorndike.” —Alissa Baxter, author of The Viscount’s Lady Novelist
“Millstone of Doubt captivated me from the first sentence and kept me guessing the entire novel…Erica Vetsch is the master of all things Regency.” —Lorri Dudley, author of The Duke’s Refuge
“5 Stars. Millstone of Doubt is a compelling Regency mystery with plenty of romance. Michelle Griep fans (or any Regency fan in general) will love this novel.”— Jennifer Purcell, ChristianBooks.com
Excerpt 4 from Millstone of Doubt:
As she linked arms with her friend, Uncle Bertie appeared in the dining room doorway. He jerked his chin toward Daniel and beckoned. “Ah, good, you’re here. Juliette, are you
“Please, go in without us. I need a word with Agatha.” And an opportunity to retrieve my pistol before it is discovered.
Agatha all but bolted into the drawing room, spinning on her toes to face Juliette. “You’ll never guess.”
“What is it?” Juliette sneaked a glance at the settee, noting that the tip of the holster protruded from beneath the edge.
“Alonzo proposed. He actually proposed.” Agatha bounced, clap- ping her hands, color riding her cheeks and happiness sparkling from her eyes. “I’m getting married.”
Juliette dropped to the settee, her mouth agape. “What? When?” The couple had barely known each other a month. Was that long enough to know if you wanted to marry someone?
“He asked Father’s permission. Alonzo told me Father jested about someone finally taking me off his hands, but I think he’s very pleased. A viscount, heir to an earldom. For me. Can you believe it?”
Juliette pulled herself together, knowing that her misgivings and startlement would rub the bloom off the moment for Agatha. She leapt up and grabbed her friend’s hands, squeezing them before drawing her into a hug. “Congratulations. I had no idea it was
becoming so serious between the two of you. You two haven’t known each other very long. Are you in love with him?”
Love wasn’t strictly necessary for marriages these days—especially ones as advantageous as this one would be, making Agatha a viscount- ess and eventually a countess. But Juliette and Agatha had spent long hours after lamps were extinguished, lying in their dormitory beds and declaring they would never marry for less than true love.
Agatha’s blush deepened, and she ducked her chin. “I do. I love him very much, and he says he loves me.”
Juliette squeezed Agatha’s upper arms. “That’s all that matters, then. Have you chosen a date?”
“Oh, goodness no. Since we have known each other such a short time, Father has insisted upon a longish betrothal, perhaps waiting until autumn or even Christmastime to wed. Alonzo would like us to be married at his family’s country estate since his grandfather is frail and cannot travel. Doesn’t that sound lovely? A church wedding at a country estate?” Agatha’s eyes took on a far-off look, as if she could see herself in nuptial finery with her groom at her side.
“Lovely indeed.” Juliette was so distracted by news of the engagement she forgot herself, reached down, retrieved her pistol, and wrapped the strap around the holster absentmindedly.
“What is that?” Agatha asked.
Juliette glanced down, mortification washing over her. She barely resisted tossing the gun away from herself. “I believe it is a little jest planted by Uncle Bertie. He has hinted that if I am going to be kid- napped with any frequency, perhaps he should stash weapons about the house. Do not worry—it isn’t loaded.” She silently begged God’s
forgiveness for the lie. The gun certainly was loaded. “Let’s go into the dining room before someone comes in search of us. I cannot wait for you to announce your news.”
“Your uncle has a peculiar sense of humor. As to the announcement, that will happen tomorrow night at the party. Father wants to tell everyone himself.” Agatha’s brows fell. “He was supposed to be here this afternoon though. He went to the Hammersmith Mill,
but he was coming here straight after, and he’s late. Again. Why must his work always take precedence over other things? Me in particular? He’ll probably arrive late to my wedding.”
“I’m sure he’ll come soon. You know how men can be, losing track of time when they’re working.” Juliette took the pistol with her to the dining room. Passing a potted fern on a plinth in the hall, she tucked the gun into the fronds for retrieval later.
Uncle Bertie would not count that she had fulfilled her task of remaining armed at all times, but sometimes one had to improvise.
Daniel found himself seated too close to the outspoken Jasper Finch and much too far away from Lady Juliette at the Venetian breakfast. Though breakfast was a bit of a misnomer. It was the middle of the afternoon. Why couldn’t his hosts just say they’d invited him for luncheon, like normal people?
“The Luddites were right to be afraid those machines would be problematic. Look at what’s happening to our factories and industries.” Jasper Finch punctuated every word with his fork, poking the air. “Jobs gone, people thrown out of work by this automation
and mechanization. First it was the textile industry, and now it’s milling. Mark my words—this new trend will bring about an economic crisis. The common man will not stand for being thrown out of work.”
“Why don’t they find other work to do?” a man opposite asked. “Other work? If you’ve spent your entire life, from boyhood apprenticeship to adulthood, learning and perfecting your trade, what else are you supposed to do with your skills when your employer tells you you’re no longer wanted? There are weavers and embroiderers and millers and rope makers and sail makers and more being shoved out of their way of life in droves, without so much as a fare-thee-well.”
Poke, poke, poke with the silver tines.
“But it’s progress,” the same guest said. “That has to be good for the country, does it not?”
“Progress? To impoverish thousands in order to make a few men rich? I think you and I differ on what should be classified as progress.”
Finch droned on, but Daniel allowed his mind to turn to other things.
First to Lady Juliette. She looked lovely as always, her dark hair and eyes shining. Composed, a smile on her heart-shaped face as she listened to Duke Heinrich von Lowe, who bent to whisper something to her.
An odd feeling twisted in Daniel’s gut as he acknowledged how well they looked together. The duke was masculine, handsome, and courteous—and, as much as Daniel wanted to dislike him, friendly as well. Several times, he and the duke had met early in the day to ride in Hyde Park. Only a few weeks ago the duke had purchased a horse
Daniel had been hired to sell, and lately the duke enjoyed taking the animal for brisk gallops in the deserted park at dawn. After the rides, he invited Daniel to his lodgings for breakfast and conversation.
Yes, as much as Daniel wanted to dislike the duke for his obvious interest in Lady Juliette, he couldn’t.
The man was his friend.
Shrugging off those conflicting thoughts, he turned to the other item preying upon his mind.
He’d received a summons to the lawyers’ office. An appointment set for the following week, no doubt to wrap up the guardianship. His twenty-fifth birthday loomed, three weeks away, at which time his mysterious patron would no longer support him. An anxious feeling in his chest warred with elation at the thought of finally being free. No more obligation to do as his patron expected. No more errands and tasks handed down through the offices of Coles, Franks & Moody by a faceless, nameless entity who expected total obedience in exchange for his financial and influential aid.
But also, no more power moving in the shadows for Daniel’s benefit. No more quarterly allowance, no more fine clothing appearing from merchants on a regular basis. Daniel would have to survive on his wits and his salary from the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court.
Chapter 1, pages 15 – 19
Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling author and ACFW Carol Award winner and has been a Romantic Times top pick for her previous books. She loves Jesus, history, romance, and watching sports. This transplanted Kansan now makes her home in Rochester, Minnesota.