The Riddle of Alabaster Royal [NOOK Book]

Overview

Captain Jack Vespa, an aide-de-camp of Lord Wellington's in the battle against Napoleon, has returned home to convalesce from his rather serious battle wounds. But his parents' home in London is just too hectic, with his society-minded mother hovering and the demands of the social season looming.

Expressly against the wishes of both his father and mother, Jack heads to the country to the estate of Alabaster Royal, his inheritance from his Grandmama. It promises to be deserted ...

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The Riddle of Alabaster Royal

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Overview

Captain Jack Vespa, an aide-de-camp of Lord Wellington's in the battle against Napoleon, has returned home to convalesce from his rather serious battle wounds. But his parents' home in London is just too hectic, with his society-minded mother hovering and the demands of the social season looming.

Expressly against the wishes of both his father and mother, Jack heads to the country to the estate of Alabaster Royal, his inheritance from his Grandmama. It promises to be deserted and a little run-down, but the prospect of some peace and quiet is more than Jack can refuse.

But as Jack nears the village of Gallery-on-Tang, everyone he meets gawks in shock at the mention of Alabaster Royal, mutters a few words about the "accursed" place, and refuses to elaborate.

When he finally arrives at his estate, the presence of a mysterious and beautiful young woman marks an end to Jack's plans for rest and relaxation. Miss Consuela Jones is the granddaughter of an Italian duchess and the daughter of an English artist who died on the grounds of Alabaster Royal. Consuela thinks that he was murdered and wants Jack to help her find out why...

This delightful Regency novel, mixing equal parts suspense and romance, is the latest from Patricia Veryan, "the reigning queen of period romance" (Romantic Times) and it promises to enthrall her many, many fans.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
YACaptain Jack Vesper, recuperating from wounds received fighting Napoleon, travels to his recently inherited mansion only to learn that all of his new neighbors believe it to be haunted. Strange events start happening to him even before he arrives. To further complicate his life, he meets lovely Consuela Jones, who believes that her father was murdered on Vesper's estate. She needs his help to prove this and to learn why. In language reminiscent of Jane Austen, Veryan includes many details that bring the Regency period to life. Students will appreciate the witty dialogue, which varies depending on the educational level of the speaker. Seeds of romance are gently sown and the closing chapter leaves little doubt that there will be a sequel for it to develop. However, the elements of mystery and suspense are much stronger, culminating in a dangerous climax fought with a surprise antagonist.Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Another roistering Regency romance of mystery and suspense from the author of Lanterns (1996), among many, many others.

Veryan fans will recognize some enjoyable staples here: a beset but tender-hearted hero, kind to children and animals; his entertaining chums; lively and irreverent servants; a set of noble nasties; and a heroine of Waspish waist and wit. There's also plenty of action, of course, and here the calamities confer on a supposedly haunted mansion, plus a murder or two and general mayhem. Captain Jack Vespa, only son of elegant Sir Kendrick, has returned from the horrors of Wellington's war in Spain with a game leg and a possible concussion. Sir K. is enraged that Jack, rather than lead a sensible idle life in London, intends to take over the crumbling family estate of Alabaster Royal in the village of Gallery-on-Tang. But Jack persists, and despite an attempt by someone to run him off the road, he not only moves in but rehires as caretaker a local rowdy (interviewed in the stocks). Eventually, Jack also hires on a gamey variety of theatrical servants, since no one in the village will come near the "haunted" mansion. Then there are the invaders who live in Alabaster Royal uninvited: an Italian duchess and her fiery-tongued, lovely granddaughter Consuela, who between rages explains that she's there to find the murderer of her father, the famous artist Preston Jones. Before long it appears to Jack that Consuela's suspicions might be well founded—especially after a strangling attempt, shots in the cemetery, and other distractions to peaceful country living. Meanwhile, two clever friends from the war enliven the sleuthing, and there'll be an exotic Indian lady, a cloisonné vase, paintings with secret messages by Jones, and a dead gallery-owner. It all ends with a watery chase and a deadly surprise—and, naturally, an appropriate union.

Very good Veryan. Jollity, junkets, and a juicy mystery.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466884311
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 240,044
  • File size: 401 KB

Meet the Author

Patricia Veryan was born in England and moved to the United States following World War II. The author of several critically acclaimed Georgian and Regency series, including the Sanguinet Saga, she now lives in Kirkland, Washington.


Patricia Veryan was born in England and moved to the United States following World War II. The author of several critically acclaimed Georgian and Regency series, including the Sanguinet Saga, she now lives in Kirkland, Washington.

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Read an Excerpt


Jack resigned himself to the inevitable recital of Sherry's faults, and
watched his mother patiently. She really was a fine-looking woman, he
thought, and had managed to keep her figure. It was unfortunate that her
nature was so pessimistic. She doubtless couldn't help it, but it was her
maudlin tendency to whine, and to dwell upon tragic events and the
shortcomings of others, that had long since driven her husband into less
tiresome arms. The knowledge that her famous spouse had a mistress only a
year or two younger than herself exacerbated Lady Faith's sense of ill
usage. She complained to all who would listen that Sir Kendrick seldom
visited his Richmond house, but when he did come she sniped at and
reproached him, with the result that his visits became less and less
frequent.

When she removed to Town for the Season, Sir Kendrick was unfailingly sent
on "a diplomatic mission" elsewhere. The efforts of friends and family to
support her dwindled when they were regaled with long and tearful accounts
of the ills of her situation, and even the reminder that she had two fine
sons could not alleviate her gloom. Sherborne's strong resemblance to his
father irritated her, and although she would grudgingly admit that her
younger son favoured her own side of the family, Jack's efforts to cheer
her usually ended in failure, just as an amused Sherry predicted.

Bringing her grievances up to date, Lady Faith wailed, "But for Sherborne,
you would never have got into the war, you know you would not." She
stretched out a hand to him pleadingly. He had been holding his cane, and
discarding ithurriedly, he brushed against a bowl of sweet peas on the
table beside her, sending it tumbling to the floor. "Oh, no!" she wailed,
ringing the bell for her abigail. "My new bowl! Is it chipped? I so seldom
receive gifts any more! Oh, my poor nerves!"

He rescued the heavy and charmingly enamelled bowl, and scooping the
blossoms inside, told her soothingly that it appeared to be undamaged.
"It's a pretty thing," he said, attempting to turn her thoughts. "From
Papa, or one of your cisisbeos, love?"

"Cisisbeos, indeed! At my age?" Despite the dismissing tone, she looked
pleased. Her maid hurried in and brought a towel to wipe up the floor.
Jack limped aside and the abigail gave him a sympathetic glance that was
not lost upon Lady Faith so that before the door had closed behind the
woman she moaned, "My poor boy! Barely able to totter about, and--your
face! Whatever will my friends say when they see you?"

"I hope they won't faint," he said with a whimsical grin. "Cheer up, it's
not that bad, surely? And this scar will fade, so the doctors tell me."

"Doctors! Who can believe one word those quacks utter? You are thin as a
rail and will never regain your full health. Only to think"--the tears
started to flow--"of how proud I was when you were small and I would go
with Nurse into the park. All the ladies would so admire your curls, and
say how much you took after me. And you did, for you have always had
beautiful eyes, John, even if they are that unfortunate tawny colour.
Sherborne cast everyone into the shade, of course. But you grew into such
a good-looking boy. And now . . . !" Her voice almost suspended, she
sobbed, "I can scarce bear to--to look at you!"

He took a deep breath and said lightly, "Well, you will not be obliged to
do so for very long, Mama. I have decided to live down at Alabaster Royal
for a while, and--" He drew back, his ears ringing to her horrified shriek.

"What? You cannot be serious! No, no, you must not! It is a dreadful,
dreadful house!"

"How so? It has walls, and a roof. And it stands in beautiful grounds, so
I hear. If it is somewhat run-down, why, walls and ceilings can be
repaired."

"I do not speak of such mundane things as bricks and mortar!" Lady Faith
sat up straight, her face pale and her manner so agitated that he took her
outstretched hands and held them firmly. "It is evil!" she declared, her
eyes wide and frightened. "Even as a child I hated going down there in the
summer-time. And your dear Grandmama Wansdyke loathed it also. I was never
more pleased than when she told my father she would sooner stay in
London's heat! There are spirits, John! Drifting about--everywhere! And
that dreadful cat! Ugh!" She shivered. "It was always so . . . cold! And I
saw . . . " Her voice trailed into silence.

He said teasingly, "You're surely not saying you believe in ghosts and
goblins and such nonsense?"

"I am saying I saw something in that horrid old place! Something
terrifying. To this day I often wake in a panic, just to recall it. Ah.
You choose to laugh at me! So why do I trouble to warn you?"

"No, really. I only--"

"Never mind. I am accustomed to being slighted and ignored. It is my lot
in life. You are a typical male and will go your own way, no matter what I
say, or how my poor nerves are overset. Well, go then, and be done!
Abandon me in this l-lonely house w-with no one to care about me!"

Dismayed, he said, "But Mama, even when I am here, you seldom have time to
see me. You have Cousin Eve to keep you company, and all your charities
and bazaars and card-parties, and your friends. I'd not thought you were
lonely. Perhaps you should move to the town house, where there is so much
for you to--"

"There is no call to pretend you care about poor me," she declared,
dabbing at her eyes again. "Go to your country monstrosity! It is all of a
piece. You are every bit as s-selfish as Sherborne was, and so I tell you!
When I look back, I wonder why I wasted my youth . . . c-caring for the
pair of you, for all the affection I was given in return. If ever there
were ser-serpents' teeth . . . "

Among his friends Captain Jack Vespa had the reputation of managing to
surmount any obstacle with cheerful persistence, seldom allowing his
temper, which could flare unexpectedly, to get the best of him. He
persisted now, soothing his mother's lamentations and attempting to win
her to a happier frame of mind. But in the end, perhaps because by then
his head was aching fiercely, he promised to stay by her side for at least
another week.

Sir Kendrick was "called away" that very evening. Solomon and Barrister,
of course, escorted him.




Ten days later, Jack rode through the gates of the Richmond house and
breathed a sigh of relief. It had not been easy, but he was free at last.

The word of his return had spread like wildfire, and friends and
neighbours had flocked to welcome him home. Lady Faith had been in her
element. She had presided over luncheons, teas and dinner parties with the
air of an inwardly heart-broken mother struggling gallantly to present a
brave face to the world. Her martyrdom, and the sympathetic glances that
came his way as she recounted ever more dramatic tales of his narrow
escape from death, had tried his patience to the limit. His attempts to
leave had been blocked with what he had to admit were superb tactics. He
was grateful to those who had come to see him, but that the constant
society functions might prove exhausting to a semi-invalid had never
seemed to occur to his mother.

The promised week had stretched to nine days, and yesterday afternoon he'd
told her he must depart. She had dismissed this with a merry laugh and a
list of upcoming events and invited guests whom he "simply could not"
disappoint. He'd done his best to please, but he was beginning to feel
worse than when he'd left the hospital, and he was not such a fool as to
endanger his health only to provide his mother with an excuse for a
continuing round of parties. Accompanying her up the stairs after a
particularly tiresome evening, he had told her politely but with
determination that he would drive out for Alabaster Royal first thing in
the morning. This had precipitated a flood of tears and reproaches, but
the fact that Lady Faith had not once enquired as to his own well-being
had helped him to withstand her demands, and he had left instructions that
his curricle was to be at the door early in the morning, with Secrets, his
black mare, tied on behind.

Lady Faith was nothing if not determined. When he came down to breakfast,
he was informed that the curricle would not be available due to the fact
that my lady had driven out in it to visit some friends in Purley, but
that she would return shortly. In view of the distance involved, this was
unlikely, and since her ladyship had never in living memory been known to
leave her suite before noon, or to be driven in a sporting coach, there
could be no doubt but that this was a deliberate attempt to further delay
his departure.

Irked, he'd ordered out his phaeton, only to be told it was at the
wheelwrights. His rare temper had flared and he had instructed his man to
fill a valise with immediate necessities and send his curricle and two
trunks to Alabaster Royal the following day. The valise had been strapped
to the saddle, he had said his farewells to his dismayed and protesting
valet, the butler and the housekeeper, and with the aid of an equally
dismayed groom had mounted Secrets and ridden out.

Now, he looked about him, his spirits lightening. The day was bright, with
a warm breeze blowing and the old Thames threading like a diamond-studded
ribbon through the low, rolling hills. It was England at her best, and as
he skirted the town and entered open country he was warmed by the beauty
of his native land.

Like all Wellington's aides-de-camp, he was a splendid horseman, but he
was shocked to find that he now tired quickly. He was obliged to rest at a
wayside inn near Farnborough, and not until late afternoon did he reach
the outskirts of Andover. He acknowledged to himself that he'd been too
sanguine about his state of health, and gave up, taking a room for the
night at a pleasant hedge tavern where he ordered dinner sent to his room
and fell asleep twice while eating a plain meal of fish soup, roast
chicken accompanied by overcooked vegetables, and a gooseberry tart. He
grinned drowsily, knowing that Sir Kendrick would have been appalled by
such a menu, but compared to the roots and berries that had often been the
only food available in Spain, he'd found it satisfactory.

In the morning he awoke to leaden skies and a chill wind. His injured leg
was making it clear that a day in the saddle had been unwise, and getting
down the narrow stairs became a painful and difficult task. He was short
of breath by the time he reached the ground floor, and much embarrassed to
look up and find that two men were watching him narrowly. They were big
fellows, fashionably if not elegantly dressed. The taller of the pair
smiled sympathetically. Vespa nodded and hurried into the coffee room,
knowing that his limp was pronounced, and dreading that he would be the
object of all eyes. Fortunately, only one other table was occupied, the
elderly lady and gentleman seated there being too involved in low-voiced
but fierce bickering to pay him any heed.

By the time he finished breakfast, he had come to the reluctant conclusion
that he must either rest here for another day or hire a coach. He
consulted the host, a cheerful little man who had already drawn his own
conclusions about this guest. "Home from Spain, are you, sir?" he asked
with a kindness that forbade mortification. "Ar, I reckoned as much. I'll
send my youngest over to the Green Duck. It's a nice house no more'n five
miles west of here, and they've got a post-chaise for the hiring that's
likely gathering dust. Not what you're accustomed to, I don't doubt, but
it'll get you where you're going, and easier than riding in this weather."

It developed that the host had a young cousin who had served with the
Fourth Division at the Battle of Salamanca, and while Vespa waited, the
two men spent a congenial hour discussing the war in general, and Lord
Wellington in particular. A sullen-faced youth arrived at last, with an
ill-matched team harnessed to an equipage which had indeed seen better
days. The host was embarrassed and said he hadn't remembered its being
quite this shabby, and that perhaps the captain would be better advised to
drive into Andover and secure a more suitable vehicle. Jack was eager to
reach Alabaster Royal before the sun went down, however, and in no time
Secrets was tied on behind and the antiquated chaise rattled out of the
yard.

The miles slipped away, and far from springing his team the postilion had
all he could do to keep them to a steady trot. By mid-afternoon the
weather closed in and the view from the windows was obscured by misting
rain. Despite the poorly sprung coach and lumpy cushions, Vespa felt
relaxed and drowsy and eventually slipped into a doze.

He was awoken by an outburst of shouts and curses. Starting up in
confusion he thought for an instant that he was back in Spain, but then a
large coach loomed up dangerously close to his own. The post-boy screamed
with fear and fury. Vespa reached for the window, but he was too late. He
had a fleeting glimpse of small, dark eyes in a coarse-featured face that
grinned at him from the other coach. A violent shock was followed by
screams, a sense of falling, and the swift fading of sight and sound. His
last thought was that the man in the big coach was one of the two who had
stared at him this morning when he came down to breakfast. . . .

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Table of Contents

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2007

    I loved it!

    I am an avid reader of this time period, and this book was one of the best! As of now, it is the only book that I have read by this particular author, but I am definately going to look into more titles of hers! It had me laughing out loud at some places with the witty dialogue of the characters. The plot was one that I have not come across before. All in all, this book was most assuredly worth my time in reading it!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2000

    Great blend of humor and romance

    Very similar to a Georgette Heyer romance in terms of its witty dialogue and great development of supporting characters. I'm still a few pages away from the ending but I was a little disappointed with the tapering off of the romance between the hero and heroine. I see there is a second book that continues the story so I guess it picks up then, but I wish all of it could have been part of one big book - or at the very least this book could have mentioned that there's a book two. Admirable, strong heroine and very likeable hero. I laughed out loud at the witty exchanges between the two main characters, for the great humor alone this book is worth it!

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