A Royal Likeness

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Overview

As heiress to the famous Laurent Fashion Dolls business, Marguerite Ashby's future seems secure. But France still seethes with violence in the wake of the Revolution. And when Marguerite's husband Nicholas is killed during a riot at their shop, she leaves home vowing never to return. Instead, the young widow travels to Edinburgh and joins her old friend, Marie Tussaud, who has established a touring wax exhibition.

Under the great Tussaud's patient instruction, Marguerite learns ...

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A Royal Likeness

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Overview

As heiress to the famous Laurent Fashion Dolls business, Marguerite Ashby's future seems secure. But France still seethes with violence in the wake of the Revolution. And when Marguerite's husband Nicholas is killed during a riot at their shop, she leaves home vowing never to return. Instead, the young widow travels to Edinburgh and joins her old friend, Marie Tussaud, who has established a touring wax exhibition.

Under the great Tussaud's patient instruction, Marguerite learns to mold wax into stunningly lifelike creations. When Prime Minister William Pitt commissions a wax figure of military hero Admiral Nelson, Marguerite becomes immersed in a dangerous adventure--and earns the admiration of two very different men. And as Britain battles to overthrow Napoleon and flush out spies against the Crown, Marguerite will find her own loyalties, and her heart, under fire from all sides.

With wit, flair, and a masterful eye for telling details, Christine Trent brings one of history's most fascinating eras to vibrant life in an unforgettable story of desire, ambition, treachery, and courage.

Praise for Christine Trent's The Queen's Dollmaker

"Exuberant, sparkling, beguiling. . .brims with Dickensian gusto!" --Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen's Lady

"Winningly original. . .glittering with atmospheric detail!" --Leslie Carroll, author of Royal Affairs

"Unique, imaginative. . .replete with delightful details and astounding characters, both real and imagined." --Donna Russo Morin, author of The Courtier's Secret

Christine Trent writes historical fiction from her two-story home library. She lives with her wonderful bookshelf-building husband, three precocious cats, a large doll collection, and over 3,000 fully cataloged books. She and her husband are active travelers and journey regularly to England to conduct book research at historic sites. It was Christine's interest in dolls and history that led to the idea for The Queen's Dollmaker.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Trent's newest is a complicated historical that covers too much territory. When French-born Marguerite Ashby, a famous doll maker, loses her husband in turn of the 19th-century London in an attack on her London shop by an angry mob seething with anti-French sentiments, she flees to the country but returns to work for Madame Tussaud, who runs a waxworks exhibit. Tussaud is brilliant, but at the mercy of her predatory financial partner, Philipsthal, who schemes to make Marguerite his wife. When he dies, Marguerite opens a new waxworks and is enlisted by the crown for a crucial bit of espionage, creating decoys for the battle of Trafalgar. Marguerite is also torn between two men, Brax and Hastings, one of whom harbors a dangerous secret. Marguerite is a strong heroine, and following her adventures is enjoyable, but the overload of background before the actual tale begins slows the pace and compromises the tension. While Marguerite's rival wooers make for fairly decent candidates for her affections, there is no heat in their courtships. Readers interested n the battle of Trafalgar will find this retelling compelling, but the rest is run of the mill. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758238580
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 12/28/2010
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.32 (d)

First Chapter

A ROYAL LIKENESS


By CHRISTINE TRENT

KENSINGTON BOOKS

Copyright © 2011 Christine M. Trent
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-3858-0


Chapter One

London, January 1803. "Ow! Nicholas, I need another bandage."

Marguerite's husband rushed into the workroom with a bundle of muslin strips.

"You've hurt yourself again? I'm going to send those new carving tools into the Thames. This is the third time this week a knife has slipped in your hands."

"I know. And look what happened." Marguerite held up her latest creation, a fashion doll commissioned by a local dressmaker who intended to show off a new ball-gown design on it for several of her select clients. But the doll's head would have to be redone, as there was now a deep gash across the left side of its face.

"Why don't you let Roger handle the carving?" Nicholas asked.

"I probably should, but I'm so frustrated with trying to perfect wax heads that I wanted to retreat back to the familiarity of working with wood. I'm good at that. At least, I used to be." She held up her left thumb, the muslin hastily wrapped around it now beginning to seep blood.

Nicholas put his arms around his young wife and lifted her up onto the large worktable, which was littered with scraps of fabric, bundles of straw, blocks of wood, and other materials of the trade.

"Sweetheart, you are the best dollmaker in London. Wax is still a new medium. I've no doubt you will eventually be the best wax dollmaker in all of Europe."

"I'll never be as good as Aunt Claudette."

"No, you'll never be your aunt Claudette." He wrapped his arms around his wife and kissed the tip of her nose. "Much to my great relief. I couldn't bear to be married to a woman of lesser talent than you."

"Mr. Ashby, you're very fortunate that I am of such a forgiving nature that I can overlook your insult to my beloved aunt and mentor. Otherwise, I might be forced to employ my shrewish tone of voice."

"Is that so? And what does a lady shrew look like in her natural state?" He scooped her off the worktable and cupped one hand around the back of her neck while using the other to pull her thick auburn hair out of the knot she employed to keep it out of her face while working. It slid down her back like the flow of warm brandy from a decanter.

"Now I remember the fair young maiden I fell in love with at Hevington a decade ago. She was covered in wood shavings even back then."

Bells jangled as someone entered the front door. Marguerite disengaged from her husband's embrace and went from the back workroom out to the front of the shop.

It was Agnes Smoot, returning from an errand.

"Letter just come for you, Mrs. Ashby."

Marguerite took the proffered folded square from the shop's seamstress with her unhurt hand. "Thank you, Agnes. Has Roger returned yet from making deliveries?"

"No, mum, not yet. D'you want to see him when he gets back?"

"No, I'm sure he doesn't want to hear of my epic battle with a carving knife." She held up her bandaged thumb.

"Again, mum?"

"Yes, again, unfortunately." Marguerite returned to the workroom where Nicholas was busy arranging some scraps of wood according to size, while whistling softly under his breath. She held up the sealed correspondence.

"Speaking of Aunt Claudette, I have a letter from her. Would you like to read it with me?"

Nicholas stopped what he was doing and lit a small lamp to better illuminate the letter. Claudette Greycliffe's writing tended to be faint and spidery, and it could take them an entire evening to decipher her longer missives.

January 15, 1803 Hevington, Kent My dearest Marguerite, I trust all is well with you and that you are capably managing the recent influx of orders for the Season. Are the troubles with France affecting your ability to obtain supplies? I expect old Boney won't be letting any French brocades leave his shores. Forgive my intrusion, dear. Sometimes I get lonely for the excitement of the shop. Send along a project for me, will you? I should love to wield a knife again. It feels like an eternity since I held a block of wood in my hand. William and I send our love to both you and Nicholas. Will you be coming to visit soon? Little Bitty is dying to show you her new cat that she found hiding under some shrubbery. It's a mangy thing—one eye missing, an ear clipped, and its tail bent horribly out of shape—but Little Bitty carries the thing with her everywhere. I believe this new addition to the family makes the animal-to-child ratio at Hevington nearly two to one. William says the family estate is being turned into a wildlife menagerie. I haven't the heart to tell him yet that I have my eye on one of those new bullmastiffs that are becoming popular. They are supposed to be very good guard dogs, but I suppose that like every other creature that migrates onto Hevington, he will become spoilt and lazy. With my greatest affection, Claudette P.S. Why don't you come for a week or so next month? William wants to teach the children blindman's bluff, and you certainly don't want to miss that spectacle.

"Aunt Claudette sounds a little lonely, Nicholas."

"Lonely! How could she have time to be lonely? She manages a careful and virtuous household, contains three noisy and active children, and hosts numerous fashionable parties, yet the woman is still inexplicably graceful. No wonder Uncle William adores her."

"Why, you foolish man! Not ten minutes ago you were glad I wasn't Aunt Claudette."

Claudette Laurent, the daughter of a great French dollmaker, had been orphaned in France at the age of sixteen, but found ship's passage to England and worked as a domestic servant for several years under a harsh mistress before finally risking all to start her own doll shop. Marguerite's widowed mother, Biatrice du Georges, had become friends with Claudette aboard the ship bound for England and so, along with five-year-old Marguerite, the three had lived, worked, and survived together. Although her mother had been involved in the shop, it was the young Marguerite who had shown a talent for dollmaking. Claudette encouraged her interest and the two became close, with Marguerite referring to the older woman as "Aunt" Claudette.

William Greycliffe was a man of minor aristocratic connections who had pursued Claudette relentlessly despite her initial disdain of him. Even now Marguerite loved to hear stories of their courtship told for the thousandth time.

When Biatrice died suddenly, Claudette and William brought the teenaged Marguerite to live with them at their Kentish estate of Hevington and Claudette made Marguerite her de facto heir in the doll shop. As time passed, Claudette turned more and more of the responsibility for the shop over to Marguerite as she became involved in raising her three children and managing the estate with William.

Nicholas was one of a set of twin boys born to James and Maude Ashby, Claudette's and Biatrice's domestic employers upon their arrival in England. Nicholas's heart burned with youthful passion for Biatrice, who gently refused him. He avidly followed the women's progress after they left the Ashby home and even visited on occasion. Following Biatrice's death, Nicholas finally took note of Marguerite and promptly fell in love with her saucy temperament. For Marguerite, Nicholas filled the need for gentle sweetness that her mother's death had yanked away from her, and the two had been inseparable during the intervening ten years.

"Oh, Nicholas, let's go for Shrovetide as Aunt Claudette suggests. We haven't been to Hevington in months. We even missed the lighting of the Yule log this past year. Besides, Rebecca is probably old enough now for a baby house and we could take one to her as a gift." In the coziness of the warmly lit workshop, full of the smell of freshly shaved wood, she reached her arms around her husband's neck and pressed her lips to his.

He responded in his familiar way, sliding both arms around her waist and burying his face in her neck.

"Very well, Mrs. Ashby. We'll leave the shop in the care of Roger and Agnes, and plan for a long visit to Hevington. But before you begin packing trunks, I believe there is some more immediate business that requires your attention," he said, gently dropping kisses along her exposed neckline.

"Is that so, Mr. Ashby? Pray, what business could be of such consequence that it calls for my immediate attention?"

"It's a very private matter. Come home now, woman, so we can, er, discuss it before it loses the strength of its importance." He playfully smacked his wife's bottom and ushered her out of the shop, humming a happy but aimless tune.

February 21, 1803. The evening before their scheduled departure for Hevington, Marguerite and Nicholas returned to the closed doll shop so she could put together a small box of miniature furniture and other accoutrements for the baby house they had already packed to take to Claudette's daughter, Rebecca.

Miniature dolls' houses, called baby houses, were becoming increasingly popular in England. Claudette had once spoken wistfully about the houses her father carried in his doll shop back in France, which led to an expansion in her own shop's trade in these diminutive pieces. In addition to offering miniature replicas of tables, chairs, beds, carpets, paintings, and dishes, Marguerite had started designing tiny scale-sized families to inhabit them.

She rummaged patiently through a box of petite tissue-wrapped dolls, searching for one painted with Rebecca's cobalt eyes, eyes that defined her as her mother's child.

"Marguerite, the hackney will not wait all night for us. Isn't the house and its furnishings enough for one child?"

"I suppose so, but I know I painted a baby-house doll that resembles her. I want her to have it. Maybe in this drawer? No, not here. I should look on the fabric shelves. Nicholas, would you go back to the workroom and see if you can find any more boxes of baby-house dolls?"

While Nicholas retreated to the back of the shop, she continued her search, the sound of her husband's gentle whistling floating high over the tops of shelves loaded with every manner of elegantly dressed doll. Marguerite's stock ranged from the little babyhouse dolls all the way up to the grandes Pandores, life-sized dolls built on metal frames, which Aunt Claudette had made popular among the aristocratic English. The grandes Pandores were Claudette's favorite dolls, but Marguerite preferred the nimble skill involved in the tiniest of her creations. Besides, the grandes Pandores required the wax heads that were so dratted difficult to create as flawless pieces.

A distant shouting from outside overtook the comforting sound of Nicholas's whistling. She paused from what she was doing to listen, but the noise abated and she returned to her task.

Nicholas returned to the display room at the front of the shop. "Sweetheart, there are no baby-house dolls in the workroom. I'll go up to the attic and see if Roger may have stored some up there."

"And I'll continue looking down here. I'm just certain that we have more of these dolls in the shop."

Nicholas Ashby's tall but lanky frame disappeared from view again. He had grown in height as he became an adult, but had never filled out in an obviously muscular sort of way. Still he had the strength of two men, and Marguerite loved watching him haul large planks of wood from delivery wagons into the shed behind the shop. Even Roger, as enormous and barrel-chested as he was, could not out-lift Nicholas Ashby.

But Nicholas's interest in the shop stopped with physical duties. He was content to let Marguerite deal with customers and manage the financial affairs of the shop, much as her mother had been happy to let Aunt Claudette do years ago.

So engrossed was she with her thoughts and her search that when the projectile came through the window on the other side of the shop she was at first confused as to whether the sound had come from outside or the attic. The growing clamor outside on the street settled her confusion.

"Nicholas? Nicholas! Come quickly!" Marguerite called up toward the attic entrance, but he did not answer. He must have gone into the far reaches of the attic, which spanned the forty-foot length of the shop. She stood up, brushing dust from the sturdy, brown woolen skirt she wore most days when working.

Ever brash as a child and no less so as a woman, Marguerite marched to the front door of the shop and flung it open. The hackney was gone, and she was stunned to see a group of about twenty men, mostly drunk and on the brink of irrationality. They carried torches and clubs and the occasional pitchfork, and were gabbing loudly about a hanging at Southwark.

Why were these drunkards marching on respectable Oxford Street, and why in heaven's name were they congregating outside her shop with obvious ill will?

"That's her, Mr. Emmett. She's the doll lady we told you about, Marguerite Ashby." Through the smoky haze of the torches Marguerite could not see individual faces well, but the voice was coming from the back of the assembly.

"Yes, I have that figured out, Reggie. Your assistance is appreciated." A man who could have been one of any number of different merchants stepped forward so that Marguerite could see him. He was as short as Nicholas was tall but built like a bull. He swept an exaggerated bow.

"Mr. Emmett at your service, mistress."

"Yes, I have that figured out, Mr. Emmett." Hoots of laughter were interspersed with calls for Mr. Emmett to "get to it."

"Well now, mistress, we've just heard some disturbing news. News that might have a serious impact on your little trade here."

"News? What news?"

Reggie's voice rang out again. "She's a liar, Mr. Emmett. She knows all about it!"

The other men grumbled their agreement.

Marguerite stared steadily at Mr. Emmett with her arms crossed in front of her. "Hurry up with what you have to say so I can be about my business. I'm a law-abiding woman running an honorable shop with her husband."

"Is that right?" Mr. Emmett stepped closer and his frame filled the doorway. Up close, Marguerite could see that his eyes were bloodshot from drink and hidden rage, and he stank of a laborer's sweat. She calculated whether or not to scream for Nicholas but was unsure whether he would hear her, and as of yet she was not sure what might infuriate these men further.

"So is your husband here right now, mistress?" Mr. Emmett's gaze was thoughtful.

"He is. Shall I get him for you?"

"She's still lying, Mr. Emmett! Ain't no one else here except probably some spies hiding out."

Mr. Emmett's darting eyes spoke his indecision over whom to believe.

"C'mon, Mr. Emmett, are we going to do what we came here for? We're almost out of ale and I've a powerful thirst."

Marguerite maintained her own gaze. "And what did you come here for?"

"We're here to put a stop to the French intrigues coming in through Ireland, and that would include Colonel Despard and his bunch, plus all the French rabble like you."

"What French rabble? I'm an Englishwoman. Who is Colonel Despard?" Marguerite was trying desperately to figure out what he was talking about.

"Not with a fancy name like Marguerite you're not. A good Englishwoman would be Margaret or Margery. Your name has you dead to rights a lady Frog."

Marguerite drew in a breath in an attempt to be patient. What was taking Nicholas so long in the attic? "My mother was French. I have lived in this country all my life and am married to an Englishman. What is this nonsense about French infiltration through Ireland?"

"Ever since the French peasants started their revolution, the Irish have been hoping for a chance to bring popery back to England. Stinking papists the French and Irish are. They've been looking for a way to bring down the right noble house of Hanover so they could bring in French rule and turn us all into foppin' Frogs. So they found a half-wit in Colonel Despard to do their work. He stole over here from Ireland slippery as an eel and planned to kill our good King George. But the Irish and French are no match for smart Englishmen and he was found out. So today we all went and watched him and his gang swing from the gallows and get their heads chopped off, and now we're going to help out the Crown by getting rid of the rest of the French influence in England, starting with you, Mrs. Marguerite Ashby. We know all about this shop's wicked dealings."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A ROYAL LIKENESS by CHRISTINE TRENT Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Trent. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a good read for fans of historical fiction

    After reading Christine Trent's The Queen's Dollmaker, I was eager to read her second book, A Royal Likeness, whose main character, Marguerite, was first introduced in The Queen's Dollmaker. Marguerite now owns Claudette's doll shop (Claudette was the main character in the first book), but when tragedy strikes she leaves the shop and London. Then, through Claudette's connections, she receives the opportunity to work as Madame Tussaud's apprentice. She learns the trade of making life-size wax models of famous people and helps Madame Tussaud with her exhibitions in London, Edinburgh and Dublin. Later, because of her skill, she gets involved with the British government and the Battle of Trafalgar.

    Many real historical figures play characters in this fictitious tale, and I really liked this aspect of the book. Madame Tussaud and Captain Nelson were the most interesting. The first half of the book is concentrated on Marguerite's work with Mme Tussaud. Although some readers may find the details of waxwork a little tedious, I enjoyed it and thought it quite fascinating.

    Marguerite's character, on the other hand, took a while for me to like. Let me explain. Right from the onset of the story, I thought she could have better discerned the situation that led to tragedy. After they break her shop window, Marguerite flings open the door and brashly demands "a group of about twenty men, mostly drunk and on the brink of irrationality" who are carrying clubs and pitchforks what they wanted with her and her shop. Didn't she sense the danger? She should have closed the door and gone to get her husband.

    Secondly, she once again acted foolishly when it came to Mr. Philipsthal. Although he was connected to Mme Tussaud financially, I did not think he needed to play such a big role in the first half of the book. He was not needed to advance the plot and could easily have played a minor character or none at all. As a matter of fact, his role really slowed down the story and only served to show how addle-brained (I'm using Marquerite's own words about herself) she could be.

    Now, the second half of the book with the battle of Trafalgar, the political intrigue, and the romance was what really propelled the story forward and redeemed Marguerite in my eyes. I admired her courage and the way she looked past her dire situation and made herself useful by helping the doctor with the injured men during the war despite the horrors she witnessed. Some readers may find some of these scenes gruesome but when it comes to medical situations it doesn't bother me. The story moved quickly after this, making me eager to know how it would all come to an end.

    If you are a fan of historical fiction who particularly likes a heroine who is a spirited and independent tradeswoman rather than an aristocrat, you will enjoy this book. The beginning may be slow, but stick with it and you will not be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2011

    Great historical fiction

    This book starts rather slow and I was concerned that I would not enjoy it, however that could never farther from the truth, once this book gets going it is filled with thrills, mystery, romance and more. I did not read the first in this series and need to go back and read that one, but hope that there will be more to this series or at least from this author. Characters are well developed, you can easily love and hate some of teh characters (and secretly be happy for their death!) which to me is a mark of a great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is an engaging Napoleonic Era historical

    In 1803 Marguerite Ashby, heiress to the renowned Laurent Fashion Dolls and a former student of the late great wax artist Monsieur Curtius who died years ago, escapes Paris for London. She becomes a renowned London doll maker. However, rabble attacks her shop because of her Franch lineage. Her husband Nicholas dies during the anti-French assault. Marguerite escapes the city for Edinburgh.

    Her friend and fellow French expatriate Madame Tussaud hires Marguerite to work with her waxworks exhibit. Tussaud proves an artistic genius but a financial failure at the mercy of her amoral business partner Paul de Philipsthal. When Paul dies, Marguerite opens her own waxworks. Meanwhile the Crown asks for her help with creating decoys just prior to the engagement at Trafalgar.

    This is an engaging Napoleonic Era historical though there is some romance as two men (not counting Police of Chief Joseph Fouche) chase after the widow. The story line starts very slow as Christine Trent sets the stage in France , England and Scotland. Once established, the plot accelerates into a fun early nineteenth century tale culminating with an intriguing look at the Battle of Trafalgar.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Preposterous, ridiculous romance

    This highly unbelieveable romance is the worst book I've read in a decade. All together, there are too many weird contrivances to make the story hang together.
    Here's an example from the beginning fo the book. The reader is supposed to empathize with the heroine, yet she makes ridiculous love-choices. She SO loved her husband who dies at the beginning of the book, then suddenly she's jumping into a marriage with a man she barely knows? She hates Philipstahl, yet she marries him in haste and without good reason? Then the author asks us to believe the heroine-bride doesn't go to live with the groom. Huh? I'm looking for escape, but I'm not an imbecile. Ms. Trent owes me a refund.
    If you want a MUCH better romance about the French Revolution, I'd recommend you pick up "Knight of the Maison Rouge" by Alexandre Dumas. This little-known, long-lost book by a fabulous author has all the swashbuckling and star-crossed lovers a reader could want.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted March 27, 2011

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    Posted August 15, 2011

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    Posted September 29, 2011

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