A Foreign Affair

( 4 )

Overview

A remarkable debut novel rich in atmosphere, color, and suspense, Caro Peacock's A Foreign Affair is an irresistible blend of history, adventure, and ingenious invention that brings an extraordinary new writer—and a truly endearing and unforgettable heroine—to the literary stage.

The year is 1837. Queen Victoria, barely eighteen, has just ascended to the throne of England, and a young woman named Liberty Lane has just had her first taste of true sorrow. Refusing to accept that ...

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Overview

A remarkable debut novel rich in atmosphere, color, and suspense, Caro Peacock's A Foreign Affair is an irresistible blend of history, adventure, and ingenious invention that brings an extraordinary new writer—and a truly endearing and unforgettable heroine—to the literary stage.

The year is 1837. Queen Victoria, barely eighteen, has just ascended to the throne of England, and a young woman named Liberty Lane has just had her first taste of true sorrow. Refusing to accept that her gentle, peace-loving father has been killed fighting a duel, she vows to see justice done. . . .

The trail she follows is a twisting and dangerous one, leading the spirited young Englishwoman into an intricate weave of conspiracy. Contacted by secret agents, she is asked to pose as a governess in order to infiltrate cold, rambling Mandeville Hall and spy on its master, Sir Herbert Mandeville, who is at the center of a treasonous plan.

Nothing at the hall is what it seems, and every turn reveals another deceit, another surprise, another peril, leaving Libby to wonder who to trust and embroiling her in a deadly affair that could destroy the young queen and place Libby herself in mortal peril. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Set in England at the moment of Victoria's ascent to the throne, British novelist Peacock's initial title in a new historical series begins with the murder of Thomas Lane. His daughter, Liberty, is a determinedly self-confident young woman driven to decipher the mystery of her father's death; an opponent of duels, he inexplicably died in such an act. In the course of her pursuit of her father's killer, Liberty uncovers a plot to overthrow the young Queen Victoria. This book has all the right elements: a plucky heroine succeeding against the odds, dastardly villains who fail, and the heroine's supportive friends who lighten her burden with unconditional love. Unfortunately, it's hard for the reader to warm up to the main characters, who remain stubbornly one-dimensional. The supporting characters show the most life but come and go quickly. A confusing back story, such as the occasional reference to a younger brother in India, makes it hard to focus on the main plot. One hopes the next book will be more engaging. Recommended for libraries with patrons who love historical mysteries similar to Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series. [Peacock previously wrote under the name Gillian Linscott.-Ed.]
—Stacey Hayman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061445897
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/25/2008
  • Series: A+ Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 668,704
  • Product dimensions: 7.98 (w) x 5.26 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Read an Excerpt

A Foreign Affair

Chapter One

"Would you be kind enough to tell me where they keep people's bodies," I said.

The porter blinked. The edges of his eyelids were pink in a brown face, lashes sparse and painful-looking like the bristles on a gooseberry. Odd the things you notice when your mind's trying to shy away from a large thing. When he saw me coming toward him over the cobbles among the crowds leaving the evening steam packet, he must have expected another kind of question altogether. Something along the lines of "How much do you charge to bring a trunk up from the hold?" or "Where can I find a clean, respectable hotel?" Those kinds of questions were filling the air all round us, mostly in the loud but uneasy tones of the English newly landed at Calais. I'd asked in French, but he obviously thought he'd misheard.

"You mean where people stay, at the hotels?"

"Not hotels, no. People who've been killed. A gentleman who was killed on Saturday."

Another blink and a frown. He looked over my shoulder at his colleagues carrying bags and boxes down the gangplank, regretting his own bad luck in encountering me.

"Would he not be in his own house, mademoiselle?"

"He has no house here."

Nor anywhere else, come to that. He would have had one soon, the tall thin house he was going to rent for us, near the unfashionable end of Oxford Street when we . . . Don't think about that.

"In church then, perhaps."

I thought, but didn't say, that he was never a great frequenter of churches.

"If an English gentlemanwere killed in . . . inan accident and had no family here, where might he be taken?"

The porter's face went hard. He'd noticed my hesitation.

"The morgue is over there, mam'selle."

He nodded toward a group of buildings a little back from the seafront then turned, with obvious relief, to a plump man who was pulling at his sleeve and burbling about cases of books.

I walked in the direction he'd pointed out but had to ask again before I found my way to a low building, built of bricks covered over with black tarry paint. A man who looked as thin and faded as driftwood was sitting on a chair at the door, smoking a clay pipe. The smell of his tobacco couldn't quite mask another smell coming from inside the building. When he heard me approaching he turned his head without shifting the rest of his body, like a clockwork automaton, and gave me a considering look.

"It's possible that you have my father here," I said.

He took a long draw on his pipe and spoke with it still in his mouth.

"Would he be the gentleman who got shot?"

"Possibly, yes."

"English?"

"Yes."

"She said his clothes had an English cut."

"Who said?"

Without answering, he got up and walked over to a narrow house with a front door opening on to the cobbles only a few steps away from the morgue. He thumped on the door a couple of times and a fat woman came out in a black dress and off-white apron, straggly gray hair hanging down under her cap. They whispered, heads together, then he gave her a nudge toward me.

"Your father, oh, you poor little thing. Poor little thing."

Her deep voice was a grieving purr in my ear, her hand moist and warm on my shoulder. Her breath smelled of brandy.

"May I see him, please?"

She led the way inside, still purring "Pauvre petite, oh pauvre petite." Her husband in his cloud of pipe smoke fell in behind us. There were flies buzzing around the low ceiling and a smell of vinegar. The evening sun came in through the slats of the shutters, making bars of red on the whitewashed wall. Three rough pinewood tables took up most of the space in the room but only one of them was occupied by a shape covered in a yellowish sheet. The woman put her arm round me and signed to the man to pull the sheet back. I knew almost before I saw his face. I suppose I made some noise or movement because the man started pulling the sheet back over again. I signed to him to leave it where it was.

"Your father?"

"Yes. Please . . ."

He hesitated, then, when I nodded, reluctantly pulled the sheet further down. They'd put my father in a white cotton shroud with his hands crossed on his chest. I took a step forward and untied the strings at the neck of the shroud. The woman pulled at my arm and tried to stop me. Trust your own eyes and ears, he'd said. Never let anybody persuade you against them. He'd been talking at the time about the question dividing some of his naturalist friends as to whether squirrels were completely hibernatory, standing in some beechwoods with Tom and me on a bright January day. I tried to keep the sound of his voice in my head as I lifted up his right hand, cold and heavy in mine. I pulled the shroud aside with my other hand and looked at the round hole the pistol ball had made in his chest, right over the heart, and the livid scorch-marks on his skin surrounding it. No blood. They'd have sponged his body before they put it in the shroud. That probably accounted for the vinegar smell. It would have been done by the same plump, liver-spotted hand that was now pulling at my arm, trying to make me come away. The thought of that hand moving over him made me feel sick. I pulled the shroud up, crossed his right hand back over his left and watched while they covered him up again.

"His clothes?" I asked.

She looked annoyed and left us, wooden clogs clacking over the cobbles. The flies buzzed and circled. After a minute or two she was back with an armful of white linen, streaked with rusty stains. Breeches, stockings, a shirt. On the left breast of the shirt was a small round hole. I bent over it and smelled, through the iron tang of blood, a whiff of scorched linen and black powder. I think the woman imagined I was kissing it, holding it so close, because her arm came round me, sympathetic again. The man was repeating some question insistently.

A Foreign Affair. Copyright © by Caro Peacock. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    aka: Death at Dawn, UK title. I have a weakness for mysteries se

    aka: Death at Dawn, UK title.
    I have a weakness for mysteries set in the Victorian era. While I like most historical mysteries, there is something about this era in England, with its foggy gas lit streets that takes hold of my imagination. It is the dawn of the industrial age, and technological advances in every quarter were on the horizon.

    A Foreign Affair takes place just as the last Hanoverian King, William IV is dying, and his niece Victoria is poised to take the throne. Never had an English Queen come to power without civil strife. But, that isn't what concerns Liberty Lane at this time. Her beloved father has been killed in France in a duel. Liberty knows her father, and knows he has been murdered! He was a nonviolent man and would never have dueled. With a single minded intensity Liberty sets off to prove this. She leaves the safe but begrudging care of an aunt, and makes her way to France. She is thrown head long into political skullduggery which not only threatens her life, but that of the nation. A shadowy figure offers her a way to find out what happened to her father, and to be of service to her country. Out of money and options she reluntantly agrees to pose as a Governess to a wholly unlikeable man and his dysfunctional family. There is a connection to the death of her father here, if only she can prove it.

    Ms. Peacock writes a great cast of characters that will reoccur in the next books. I have seen Ms. Peacock described as Christie-esque and I can't deny they might have a little of that feeling, bodies do tend to turn up when she is around. Liberty is a young woman raised by socially conscious parents, with decidedly republican sentiments. I think that her upbringing, gives her the strength to defy convention, and to make her own way in the world, at a time that women were very much restricted. Peacock gives a very good portrayal of the challenges she might have faced. What I also loved was her understanding of the class system and how Liberty fits into it. I liked this book very much, and what also is exciting is that there are three other books in this series, and a fifth to be released in June 2012. 4 stars

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  • Posted July 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Close, But Not Close Enough

    All of the ingredients of a spectacular novel were contained in this book, but still fell short of its potential. The first sentence had grabbed me instantly with - "'Would you be kind enough to tell me where they keep people's bodies,' I said." But from that point onward it danced on the edge of wonderful and never crossed over all the way.
    Why did A Foreign Affair never fulfill all of its promises for greatness? The plot was never driving enough. The drama never thrilling enough. The words never strong enough. The characters never compelling enough.
    Sure, everything was ok, but a proximity to success does not equal success itself.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Read

    This was an enjoyable book. The plot moved quickly and the characters were very likable. It was an easy read, and the writing style was good. I have already purchased the second book in the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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