Life as a lady-in-waiting for Mary Queen of Scots isn’t at all what Isabel Tait expected. But she must either tolerate the mindless partying and ceaseless backstabbing of Mary’s other ladies, or risk being sent home to a forced marriage. She’d almost rather return to her family—if not for a certain handsome gentleman who arouses a new desire in her, something she’s never before experienced. Of course, he’ll never notice her…
Gavin Cade is on a mission. Tasked with spying on the Queen, he’s found the perfect woman to help. Sweet, shy Isabel is an easy target for his charms. Before he knows what’s happened, he is the one beguiled. With the fate of England in the balance, he must keep his plan to expose the treasonous queen a secret, or he will never seduce his sweet English rose.
Because there’s one thing he’s learned about Isabel Tait…she’s got a backbone of steel and may never forgive him.
Each book in the Spies in Love series is STANDALONE:
* Mistress Spy
* Game of Spies
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
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In the coolness of an autumn dusk, Gavin Cade picked his way along a street littered with garbage, trash, and broken bits of glass. He was in Berwick, an English garrison town so far north it might as well be in Scotland. Outside the ramparts, the town ran to squalor. Without the protection of the garrison, it had deteriorated until the only prosperous citizens left were criminals.
Gavin was heading toward one of the few reputable alehouses in the area. It was clean, and he'd be able to get a meat pie for his supper and a decent bed for the night. And sleep without a hand on his knife. The evening air smelled like rotting fish, with an overlay of human waste and boiled onion. The huge bastion, Meg's Mount, completely blocked the sun, and he was grateful for the comforting warmth of his plaid.
The Cade family supplied the garrison and had done so for years. Gavin and his crew had finished unloading too late to depart for home. He refused to risk making camp along the road at night. With so much unrest between the English and Scots, the chance of an attack was too great. He'd told his men to find lodging in town. They would leave at first light.
Entering the tavern, the Queen's Ramparts, Gavin glanced around for a table. Hungry men hoisted tankards and ate greedily, while others played cards or diced. Gavin was interested only in food and drink. It was noisy, but not raucous. Nell, the proprietress, didn't put up with drunken troublemakers. He stopped at the bar to greet her. "Nell, lass, 'tis good to see you again. Have ye a bed for me tonight?"
Nell's kindhearted face crinkled up into a smile, and her eyes danced with mischief. "Mayhap I do, if ye don't mind sleepin' with me, love."
"I wouldn't be getting much sleep then, would I? And I must be up at dawn." They stared at each other, until Nell could no longer hold in her laughter. She released it in loud bursts, and Gavin joined her. This was a familiar ritual for them. Their conversation went much the same way each time Gavin brought his custom to Nell.
"Always a room in my establishment for ye, Gavin. Ale and a pie, love?"
"Aye." He tipped his head toward the window. "I'll be over there."
A strange voice, behind and to Gavin's left, said, "Pray bring Master Cade's repast to my table, mistress. We have something to discuss."
Gavin jerked around for a quick look. "Who the bloody hell are ye?"
"Name is Nicholas Ryder. If you'll join me, I'll explain."
Gavin had never seen him before, of that he was certain. He didn't care for strangers who sneaked up on him wanting to "talk." Especially English strangers. In truth, they usually wanted something more tangible — money, a job, a favor. He wasn't interested.
"I prefer to eat alone, and I've nothing to discuss with ye." He made to push past the man, but Ryder, nearly as tall as Gavin, held up a staying hand. He did not touch Gavin, which was a good thing.
"Just hear me out. That's all I ask."
Gavin studied the man. He was clean and well dressed, with a neatly trimmed beard. There was nothing menacing about him. With a sigh, he nodded to Nell and followed Ryder to his table, back in the far corner. "What is it then?"
"I'm on the queen's business. We have need of a man who can be both Scots and English. A man who can use his brain, but one who is also strong enough to hold his own in a fight."
"And what makes you believe I am that man? You do not know me, sir." A tavern wench plunked tankards of ale down on the scratched oak table, and Gavin took a long pull on his.
"I know enough. My father has had men watching you."
At that Gavin got to his feet and thrust back the bench he'd been sitting on. "You've no right to spy on me. You can take your business and stuff it up your arse. Get out of here and let me eat in peace."
"Pray be seated, Master Cade. I am not here to force you into this."
After a moment, Gavin grudgingly resumed his seat, and Nell soon appeared with their meat pies. Sensing the tension between them, she said, "Everything all right here, gentlemen?"
Gavin nodded. "Thank ye, Nell. All is well." After she left them, Gavin asked, "Why would I be interested in working for you ... for the queen?"
Ryder leaned closer. "You appear ready for a new challenge."
Gavin cut into the steaming pie with his knife and scooped out a hunk of meat. Ah. Beef tonight rather than the mutton he hated. He'd have to give Nell a little extra for that. The truth was, Ryder had the right of it. He was bored, and restless, too. Since his wife Anna's death, and his subsequent discovery of her betrayal, he'd simply been going through the motions. Attending to his work in a trancelike state. Taking no pleasure from anything.
Ryder did not speak again, but began eating. He was a patient man.
Gavin was torn. But he couldn't decide without knowing more. "Tell me what you have in mind."
Ryder quaffed his ale, looking at Gavin over the rim of his tankard. If he felt victorious, he hid it well. "Until you make a commitment, I cannot reveal much. Should you agree, you would travel to the middle of England, to ... a location where a person of interest to the queen is currently residing. Your mission would be to ferret out information and report to me. Of necessity, you'd need to make yourself popular with a certain group of women."
Gavin raised a brow. "I'm not known for whoring."
"I am glad of that. It would interfere with your mission. But you may find that the women involved will want you to bed them. Your job will be to let them think you might, while your true mission will be to uncover the information we seek."
"Why me? For all you know, I'm a loyal Scot and hate the English. I am wearing a plaid, in case that escaped your notice."
Ryder set down his tankard. "What I notice is that you talk like a Scot around the people from hereabout, but in speaking with me, you sound like a well-educated Englishman. Your mother is Scottish, and you wear her clan's tartan. But your father is English. He saw to your education — tutors for all his children, including the females. You keep the books for your family's business. French comes naturally to you, among other languages. You are Presbyterian — but you have not attended services since the death of your wife."
Merciful God, the man knows about everything. Even Anna. Exactly how long had they been watching him?
Gavin lifted his hands. "Enough. There are many other men who possess these same qualities."
"None who fit so well as you into both worlds. Your knowledge, your talents — they're wasted in the work you are doing."
Gavin rubbed the back of his neck and tried to sort through his warring thoughts. On the one hand, this could be good for him. A challenge, a way to get his mind off Anna and the newborn son who had died with her. On the other hand, the location was some distance away, and Gavin had a very affectionate family. He'd not have survived these last months without their love and the endless small kindnesses they'd shown him while he'd grieved. His mother would miss him fiercely.
"Think on it tonight. You can give me your decision in the morning."
Gavin nodded. "I'll meet you outside the garrison at daybreak. My men expect to be leaving then."
"And I must return home as well. I live near Carlisle. It is a long journey for me."
They said their farewells and Gavin signaled Nell for another ale. He swallowed long drafts while he mulled over Ryder's offer. He had no doubt that this affair concerned Mary Stewart, the Scots queen. It was common knowledge that she was in England as the queen's guest. Or prisoner — nobody knew for sure. God's nails, he never thought he'd be in this position. He hated deceit and trickery. But he also had an ingrained distrust of Mary Stewart. She was more French than Scot, having been raised there. In her young life, she'd had three husbands, and rumor was that she and the third one, the Earl of Bothwell, had conspired to murder the second, Lord Darnley. The father of the infant king, James VI.
No, he did not trust her at all. When he finally made his way upstairs, he knew what answer he would give.
* * *
Isabel Tait's stepfather breathed his last at ten o'clock on a cold autumn night, and she was glad of it. For the past few months, she had devoted both her morning and evening prayers to beseech the Almighty for that very outcome, and now it appeared her fervent pleas had been answered. Possibly, Isabel should fear eternal damnation, but that could not be worse than what she'd endured at the hands of Nathaniel Hammond.
Her mother, composed and serene as always, said, "I shall send word to your brothers in the morning. Pray, summon the midwife to prepare the body."
The following week passed in a flurry of activity and preparation. Isabel's half brothers, Thomas and Andrew, arrived home from university for the funeral. Afterward, they summoned her to the study. "You must marry, Isabel," Thomas, the older of the brothers, said. "The sooner, the better. You're approaching the age of spinsterhood."
Isabel was twenty-five. Being a spinster did not seem such a dreadful state to her, but others saw it differently — the worst fate to befall a woman. She'd known this would come up, but hadn't anticipated it so hastily. "Why the rush? I had planned to remain here with Mother. She is alone now, after all."
"She has plans to remarry and does not want to see you hurt once again. Mother believes it would be better for everybody if you were no longer a part of the household. It was difficult for you when she married Father."
"She already has someone in mind? But how could that be? And who is he?"
"Peter Fleming, Father's solicitor. They were thrown together a good deal during the years of Father's illness and became close. They now wish to marry."
Isabel was too dumbfounded to speak. Thomas was reviewing candidates for her hand, but she was still reeling from the news about her mother. She gave her head a shake and said, "May I not choose my own husband? I can draw up a list of prospects, and you or Andrew could arrange introductions. We could jointly weigh their suitability."
"'Tis reasonable, brother," Andrew said. "I will not force Isabel to marry where she does not have an interest." Tears blurred her vision. Andrew, her favorite brother, had always stood up for her.
"I wonder why Mother has mentioned nothing of this to me," Isabel said.
Her brothers looked uncomfortable. "She didn't wish to worry you," Andrew said.
Isabel nodded, but a weight pressed on her heart. It was as she'd always suspected. Her mother cared nothing for her, and now couldn't wait to see her gone. It was hard to bear, but she'd withstood worse. "Thank you for informing me. I'll get started on preparing my catalog of potential husbands." She winked at Andrew as she left the room, and he ducked his head to hide a smile.
During the sennight following the funeral, Isabel had ample time to think matters over. She had no intention of making a list of prospective husbands, since marriage was the furthest thing from her mind. Although Isabel had no doubt her mother could make life unpleasant for her, she could not have her forcibly removed from her home. Could she?
Biding her time, Isabel kept to her chamber, pretending to work on the list of likely bridegrooms. Instead, she was reading a new edition of Montaigne's Essays Andrew had brought her. And rereading Homer and the Greek plays she loved. All the while, she was hoping Thomas would not ask to see her list. When a knock sounded at her door one afternoon, she guiltily shoved her books under her pillow.
It was one of the servants, Sarah. "Mistress Hammond asks for you."
Her mother had kept to her chamber since the funeral, emerging only for meals, which had been quiet, depressing affairs. No doubt Thomas had informed her of the delay in obtaining a husband for Isabel. She was certain to be displeased and would perhaps issue an ultimatum.
As Isabel approached the withdrawing room, she heard voices, both female. A caller. That was unexpected, especially one who required Isabel's presence. She lingered in the doorway, waiting for her mother to notice her.
"Isabel, come. We have a guest who wishes to meet you."
Considering the visitor, Isabel ventured forward. In her youth, the lady would have had an arresting face. Her long nose pointed toward her upper lip, which was narrow and bowed. Dark red hair, streaked with gray, framed a narrow face, one Isabel did not recognize. She judged the woman to be in her forties. By her dress, she would be of the upper classes, possibly nobility.
Before Elizabeth Hammond could make the introductions, the woman said, "I am Lady Shrewsbury. I need a moment of your time, mistress."
Isabel curtsied. Her mother appeared flustered, glancing from her ladyship and back to Isabel. Lady Shrewsbury then said, "In private," and looked pointedly at Isabel's parent.
"Of course." Thus was Isabel left alone with this pompous stranger.
"Be seated," she said. Isabel obeyed.
"I shall get to the point, so as not to waste my time or yours. I need a young lady with impeccable credentials to become one of Mary Stewart's ladies-in-waiting. I have good reports of you. My sons are acquainted with your brothers, who say you are highly intelligent, speak French, and love reading. What have you to say?" She looked down her long nose at Isabel, who was reminded of an anteater. She'd once seen that creature pictured in a book.
Isabel found herself fumbling for a response. "I-I — Mary Stewart? Do you refer to the Scots queen?"
Lady Shrewsbury clucked her tongue. "Aye, of course. Who else? One of her oldest friends, who has been with her since childhood, has had to leave. Temporarily. We need a young lady to take her place."
Isabel knew only that Mary was currently in England and had resided at Carlisle Castle for a time. "Where is she at present?"
"Tutbury Castle, in Staffordshire, not far from us here in Derbyshire."
"What would be my duties as Queen Mary's lady-in-waiting?"
Lady Shrewsbury sighed, indicating she'd hoped to get this interview over with more quickly. "Converse with her. Eat with her. Entertain her. She is very sociable and enjoys dances, cards, games, needlework, playing with her dogs. She likes having someone about who will read to her."
"I see." Isabel began to appreciate the appeal of this offer. Was this her chance to escape a marriage she did not want? Or life with her mother and new stepfather, who did not want her? Before assenting, she thought it fair that Lady Shrewsbury know the truth about her. "Did my mother inform you of the sheltered life I have led? I've been nowhere outside of this part of England. I've never been permitted to go out in Society, so I've no experience with dancing or games. I possess the scholarly assets you speak of, but lack the social graces one acquires through experience."
"You speak your mind and are truthful. In my view, that will suffice. The 'social graces,' as you call them, will come with practice. Now, what say you?"
"I would be honored," Isabel said. She hoped that was an appropriate response. Excitement was swelling in her bosom, because this rare piece of luck, which seemed to have dropped from the heavens, provided the opportunity she longed for to leave home on her own terms. My mother will be pleased.
Lady Shrewsbury smiled for the first time. "Excellent. Summon your lady mother, and we shall work out what needs to be done to prepare you. I wish to leave early next week."
Isabel opened the door and found her mother loitering just outside. For the next hour, the two older women discussed Isabel's wardrobe, shoes, jewelry, and other accoutrements. Did she have a lady's maid she wished to bring? She could not wear mourning; that would not do for one of Mary's companions. That was fine with Isabel, since she was in no way mourning the loss of a loved one.
Lady Shrewsbury circled around Isabel, eyeing her from stem to stern. "You will need to have your hair cut and arranged differently. I've never seen such dark hair — it's nearly black. But those unruly curls need taming." Isabel's cheeks flamed, but she merely nodded.
At last, the interview was over. Lady Shrewsbury would arrive in her coach on Monday next, promptly at nine of the clock, and she and Isabel would travel to Tutbury together.
Isabel did not know whether to laugh or cry.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Game of Spies"
Copyright © 2019 Pamela Mingle.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Liked the easy flow of words. Easy read and nice love story.
This ARC was courtesy of netgalley - the following opinions are unbiased and my own This is the second book of a series - I haven't read the first one but no matter this was very enjoyable and I certainly will seek out any other books in the series and also the author This is well written and full of tense situations and mystery. Great characters - absolutely loved this
Game of Spies by Pamela Mingle Spies in Love #2 Gavin Cade is at loose ends and looking for “more” when Ryder approaches him with an opportunity to spy on Mary, Queen of Scots. He thinks a bit and knowing what he knows decides to take the offer. He is on the spot when Isabel Tait arrives as Mary’s new lady in waiting. Isabel is eager to be away from home and thus didn’t hesitate to take the position when it was offered. At 25 years of age she is “on the shelf” and a “burden” to her mother. Gavin, a widow who was cuckolded then lost his wife in childbirth, is not willing to trust again but interested in helping his country root out treason. This book has intrigue, plots aplenty, attempted murder, accomplished murder, romance and more. I enjoyed the book and feel it was a bit more believable than the first book in the series. This book was based in fact and informative. I look forward to reading book three when it comes out. Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing-Amara for the ARC – This is my honest review. 3-4 Stars
Game of Spies is the second book in the Spies in Love. It was fast paced, well written and full of danger and intrigue. The characters were strong and well developed. The story described the court of Mary, the Queen of Scotland, and all the intrigue Gavin and Isabel encountered during that time frame. I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The last thing Isabel wanted to do was marry, but she knew that was her only option since her mother was getting married again and did not seem to want her around. In an unexpected happening, she was asked to be a lady in waiting for Mary Queen of Scots. It seemed like a good idea and would save her from having to choose a husband! Isabel had never ventured anywhere, having lived a very shelted life so she was in for an adventure but it maybe not of the best sort! Gavin Cade was ready for a change and when he was approached to spy on the Queen, he readily took up the mission. But he had to find a lady close to her and who should almost fall into his arms but the perfect woman, Isabel! Now he just had to get close to her and see if he could find out information that would prove the Queen did not have England's best interest while visiting. The author brings this period of history alive and leaving you with a lot of thoughts about the Queen. Isabel is so naive that it is painful at times, while Gavin is set to charm her and she begins to have feelings for him. The adventure begins as intrigue, murder plots and even an attempted kidnapping keep the story exciting. Prepare to be entertained from the first page to the last and be left waiting for the next story in this series! Well done!
A riveting story of politics and intrigue. Isabel is thrust into a world for which she is not prepared. It is complicated by her attraction to Gavin who is on a mission and fighting his feelings for her. The author leads us this perilous journey while the two try to unravel all the pieces of the puzzle around them, stay alive and protect their budding romance.