My dear girl! I could never fall in love by letter. Though I have no doubt you are a notorious breaker of hearts, not to mention a princess in disguise, and if I were a few miles closer to Toot‑above‑the‑Batch I would be in great danger. From the safe distance of another continent, I will admit to a modest desire to see how your pearl becomes you, even to know the color of your hair and eyes, but this is mere curiosity, I assure you. —Your knight, Robert Through their innocent correspondence, a lonely young wife grows to love an imaginary man thousands of miles away. But when Folie finally meets him in truth, reality is turned upside down. She cannot find her own cherished Robert in the frightening stranger who claims her love. My Sweet Folly was a finalist from the Romance Writers of America for both Favorite Book of the Year and Best Long Historical Novel.
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Laura Kinsale is the award‑winning and New York Times –bestselling author of The Shadow and the Star , Seize the Fire , The Prince of Midnight , Flowers From the Storm , For My Lady’s Heart , and The Dream Hunter . She and her husband divide their time between Santa Fe and Dallas. Shadowheart won the Romance Writers of America Rita Award for best long historical romance of 2004. Kinsale also won best romance novel of 1990 for Prince of Midnight . Kinsale was 1987–1988 Career Achievement Award Winner from Romantic Times Magazine . She was also Regency Historical Romance 2004 Career Achievement Award Winner from Romantic Times Magazine and the Innovative Historical Romance 1994 RRA Awards Nominee for Best Historical Romance Author.
Read an Excerpt
My Sweet Folly
By Laura Kinsale
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2013 Hedgehog Inc.
All rights reserved.
"He is a disgrace!" Mrs. Couch said. "A disgrace to the country, I say!"
Folie, her mind having drifted to the wind-whipped apple blossoms outside the window, thought for an instant that her caller was referring to the disreputable object at which Mrs. Couch was staring in indignation. Folie sought vainly for an appropriate reply—certainly Master George Couch was a disgrace, but to agree with his vehement mother on this point seemed a trifle hazardous. Mrs. Couch was no feeble dame.
George, uncowed by his mother's fury, turned to Folie and said confidingly, "Yes, ma'am, and his water is purple!"
"George!" Mrs. Couch gasped, turning an interesting shade of that color herself. "You must not—Oh!"
Folie realized that the topic was rather to do with mad old King George than His Majesty's untidy namesake regaling himself on lemon cakes in her parlor. "That is not drawing room talk, you know, George," she said, with a sidelong glance at the boy. "We shall all swoon."
"Oh, I say! I should like that!" George asserted.
"Yes, and Mama would adore it, so pray do not encourage her!" Melinda said, tossing her bright honey curls back.
"I thought Mrs. Hamilton would like to know," George said. "She's interested in that sort of—"
"George!" Mrs. Couch snapped.
Folie smiled. "You may tell me later, George, out behind the dustbins."
"Mama!" Melinda said, in much the same warning tone that Mrs. Couch had used with her son.
Folie merely replied with a superior smirk. For a full ten seconds Melinda, having matured to a beautiful and demure maiden of eighteen, managed to maintain a disapproving expression. Then her perfectly straight Grecian nose twitched, and she dropped her eyes to her lap. Several faint tremors disturbed her otherwise modest bosom.
Fortunately Mrs. Couch, their primary hope for entree into Society for Melinda's debut season, did not appear to notice this fall from grace. "It was the Prince Regent to whom I referred, George," Mrs. Couch said firmly, and then lowered her voice to a heroic whisper. "If he should go mad like his father, I know not what we shall do!"
"The first thing," Folie mused, "if they do lock him up, would be to make sure our Ladies' Committee gets supervision of the church bazaar. He owns such a number of extravagant objects, I vow we could rebuild the steeple this very year on a single estate sale."
Melinda properly ignored such disrespect toward the Prince Regent. "The papers say it is merely that he fell and sprained his ankle," she said. "He has taken to his bed to recover."
Mrs. Couch began to argue that this certainly proved the regent's mind to be weak, since any sane man of his enormous bulk must know that he could not accomplish a Highland Fling with any degree of safety. Folie watched the postman wander from door to door of the village's main street, his collar blown up against his neck and his scarf tails whipping in the spring wind. She did not expect him to cross to her door. When he did, her eyebrows lifted.
She stood up. "Now where is that Sally with more hot water for the tea? Do pardon me while I find her!"
Closing the drawing room door on Melinda's look of inquiry, she ran down the stairs in time to find the housemaid bidding the postman good day. There were two letters in Sally's hand, a thin one and a fat packet.
The cook, just coming up from the kitchen, gave Folie a dry look. "You make good speed on the stairs, ma'am, for a lady of your age."
Folie stuck out her tongue. "Just because I am thirty today! And refused to have a great number of cakes and a party, so that you have no opportunity to tell me that I eat too many sweets for my mature widow's digestion!"
"Perhaps there is a special birthday greeting, ma'am!" Sally said, proffering the post shyly.
"Perhaps it is! From our solicitors!" Folie gave the packet a mock grimace. "Always so attentive, dear Mssrs. Hawkridge and James."
She looked down at the address on the letter. For an instant she held the paper between her two hands, frowning at it. Then her face grew still. She slipped the letter into her pocket, grasped the banister, and ran up the stairs. She paused at the landing and whispered, "Pray, Sally—tell Mrs. Couch that I've taken a blinding headache and must lie down!"
* * *
Four years and three months it had been since she had seen that particular handwriting, that blue seal, the unmistakable Mrs. Charles Hamilton, the distinctive curl of the F in My dear Folly. She sat at her desk overlooking the red tulips and peeking green leaves in the back garden, smoothing open the paper.
My dear Folly.
She stared at her own name for a moment. For some reason, she hardly knew what, tears blurred the letters. She sniffed and blinked, looking up at the tulips. "Really, ma'am," she murmured reprovingly to herself.
It was nostalgia. It took her back so vividly. Four years ago, she had been just out of mourning for Charles. Good kind steady Charles, gone much too early at sixty-one. For five years before that, a married woman, she had smiled whenever she'd seen this handwriting in the post; smiled and grown as breathless as if she were falling from a high cliff, and run up the stairs to this desk just as she had today.
My dear Folly,
I have left you languishing on your lilypad for a criminal length of time, princess. Can you forgive me? A dragon distracted me, just a small one, nothing to worry about, but I pursued him into an uncommonly sultry desert (you know how India is) and seem to have lost my way there. To be candid, I recall very little of it—I have no sense of direction, which is a great trial for a knight errant—but in the end I seem to discover myself in England. I think there was a magic door or a key or something of that sort involved. At any rate, I am at Solinger and you and Miss Melinda are commanded to repair here directly. On the instant. I am her guardian, you know, since my father's death. So I may command these things. And I do.
Your Knight, Robert Cambourne
Folie shook her head. She read it again, and laughed angrily, giddily, to herself. "You must be mad!" she whispered.
An investigation of the fat packet and its contents showed that the travel plans and expenses had all been arranged by the efficient and attentive Mssrs. Hawkridge and James.
The bedroom door opened. "Whatever is it?" As Folie turned, Melinda slipped in, her pretty face clouded with worry. "What's the news?"
Folie stood up from the chair. "Your guardian wishes to see you."
"Oh." Melinda's expression relaxed. "Well, that is not so bad! Sally and Cook said that from the look upon your face, it was something very shocking."
"It is shocking," Folie said dryly. "Considering that he has not lifted a finger on your behalf in years!"
"Lieutenant Cambourne? Well, he has been in India, has he not?" Melinda's lashes swept upward. "Surely he does not expect us to travel out there!"
"No, only as far as Buckinghamshire, I'm afraid. He is at Solinger Abbey."
"Solinger! Oh, I shall like to see that place! It must be very grand."
"As grand as all the gems in India can make it, I have no doubt. But happily for our self-respect, we need not concern ourselves with vulgar calculating designs on the Cambourne fortune. He is married."
"I shall pay him no mind, then." Melinda gave a pert grin. "Besides, as a calculating hussy, I insist upon having all the sport of hunting down my own rich bachelor—perhaps a few years younger!"
"Why, today of all days, is this household so haunted by allusions to decrepitude and old age?" Folie exclaimed. "The poor gentleman is but four years older than I. But never mind, if he is too dilapidated for your taste, you shall simper prettily at him anyway. We might move to his house in town for the season if—"
"Of course! Of course! Oh, Mama, you are wicked!"
"If the notion should happen to occur to him," Folie finished gravely.
"That will be no problem. You can wrap him about your little finger," Melinda said.
"I quite doubt that. He has not written since—" Folie paused. "Shortly after your papa died, God bless him. But we shall do our best to squeeze Lieutenant Cambourne for our own nefarious purposes. You are to leave for Buckinghamshire tomorrow."
"Tomorrow! As soon as that?"
Folie waved a limp hand at the packet. "Hawkridge and James," she said helplessly. "You know how they are."
Melinda made an unladylike snort. "I know for a certainty that you can wrap them about your finger. Why should we hurry so?"
"I see no reason to delay. Your spring wardrobe is quite ready."
"But the packing—"
"Why, have you never stayed up all night to pack for a mad flight from your evil creditors? It is most diverting." She walked past Melinda, sliding a finger under her stepdaughter's chin. "Seize your gowns and what's left of your jewels, my child, and you shall be off to skin fresh pigeons!"
"Such a shady character you are, Mama," Melinda said fondly.
"I know," Folie said from beyond the door. "I really believe I should have been born a highwayman."
* * *
She finished packing for her stepdaughter at 4 a.m., long after a somnolent Melinda had fallen asleep in a chair and been coaxed off to bed. Folie decided it was best simply to stay awake until seven, when the post chaise was scheduled to arrive at their door. She made herself a cup of tea in the kitchen and sat alone at the table, reading the letter again.
Her sweet knight. From half a world away, he had come to her through his letters, whimsical and intriguing, shy and flirtatious, a unicorn stranded in the solid beef of the Indian Army.
She sipped her tea and toyed with the corner of the paper. It had been a woman's dream, of course. All an impossible fancy.
She had not been able to remain angry at him. In the days after his last letter, she had hated him; hated herself for what she had allowed to happen to her. But that had faded, slowly faded, with time and an eternity of heartache. How could she blame him for deceit, for drawing her into loving him, when she had slipped and skidded so easily down that slope herself? She could hardly remember the unhappy girl she must have been, to develop such a passion for a man who was no more than ink upon paper.
It was best, the way he had done it. She did not doubt that. Folie knew herself; she had longed to write him, to maintain a connection, to remain friends. And yet at the same time she had known how impossible it must be—that she could not keep her heart out of it.
So she had not written. Only thought of him every day of the past four years, until he was a habit, a smile and a gentle stroke of the blue cashmere shawl when she rose, a little prayer for him each night.
Only a few months after his last letter, Mssrs. Hawkridge and James had informed her that the father had passed away, and Lieutenant Robert Cambourne, being next named in the will, was now her stepdaughter's guardian. But nothing had changed, no letter had come to her from him, and Folie had ceased watching for the post.
At least, she had ceased hoping. She had thought that she would watch for the rest of her life.
But now ...
Now he asked her to come to him. Commanded it. By his letter, she thought his character must be much the same, but she was not so sure of her own. In the years after Charles' death, her heart had toughened in some places and grown softer in others. She and Melinda had become friends, and friendship had grown into a deep love.
Melinda was her priority now. Folie could remember the silent, frozen battles from her stepdaughter's childhood, but she could no longer feel them. Somewhere along the way the two women had thawed to one another—there was nothing in Folie's life more important than that Melinda should make an excellent marriage, a happy marriage. And Folie would settle somewhere close by, but not too close by, perfectly comfortable on Charles' modest pension, and there would be children to spoil and perhaps if she were fortunate some entertaining females to gossip with, and ...
And she was commanded to meet him. To go to his home, to see his wife. A wave of despair washed over her. She did not want to meet him. She wanted him to stay forever as he had been in her memory, a perfect knight. Her knight, hers alone.
Her throat closed too quickly as she swallowed another sip of tea. She wrinkled her nose. With a deep unsteady breath, she folded the letter, slipped it into her apron, and stood up to wash her cup.
* * *
"Mama, this is perfectly absurd!" Melinda exclaimed, standing between her trunk and valise on the front stoop. An early morning fog obscured most of the village street. "I will not go alone!"
"Sally will do as a companion for the journey. The letters say you will be there before dark," Folie said, bending down to check the leather buckle on the valise. "I really do not feel well enough to travel, and once you've arrived, Mrs. Cambourne will be a proper chaperon."
"If you don't feel well, then all the more reason I should remain here with you!" Melinda turned to Sally, pulling back the stylish gray hood of her cloak. "You must go for Dr. Martin directly."
"No, no!" Folie said. "It's not as bad as that. Just a touch of the headache."
Melinda looked at her suspiciously. "Certainly your eyes are quite puffy and dull," she said. "You look as if you've been weeping all night."
"Thank you so much," Folie said. "I feel as if I have been packing all night!"
"Well, I did not insist upon it! This is entirely silly. It's no wonder you feel unwell, staying up till all hours. I simply do not see why there is this great rush—"
'"There, that will be the postchaise," Folie said, straightening up at the sound of hooves and a creaking jingle that carried through the fog.
Down the street, a handsome carriage materialized, the horses moving at a slow walk jwhile the postboy, mounted on the leader, peered about at the houses. There were even two footmen up behind, a most luxurious touch. Folie lifted her hand and called out to them.
"I am not going," Melinda announced. "I will not go without you, Mama."
The vehicle came to a halt before Bridgend House. Next door, a parlor window opened and the two Misses Nunney leaned out like a pair of capped and gray-headed puppets.
"Of course you are going," Folie said under her breath. She motioned to the baggage as the two footmen leaped down. "This is all."
One of them came up the steps and bowed to her. "Mrs. Hamilton?"
"Yes," Folie said, looking up at the burly young man. In spite of his polished bow, there was an air of toughness about him, as if he could turn his hand to dock work as well as a lady's luggage. "Come, Sally, where is the small basket, the one I packed for inside the cab?"
"Here, ma'am." The maid picked up the basket.
"Put it in, then." Folie turned to the footman, who had made no move to begin loading. She waved her hand toward the trunk. "No doubt that one should be put up first," she said helpfully.
"I beg your pardon, ma'am," he said, "I'm to inquire if one of these cases is yours?"
"No, I am afraid not. I'm not well enough to travel."
Folie gave her stepdaughter a pointed glare. "Do not make a scene, Melinda. Half the village is watching. Sally, do put that basket in the chaise!"
"Beg pardon, ma'am." The footman produced a letter from his pocket. Folie tried to hide the little twist of her heart as she saw the familiar lettering. She slipped the note into her apron pocket.
The footman made another bow. "Mr. Cambourne sent instructions that you must read directly his letter that I put into your hands."
"Indeed!" Folie stood straight. "I don't believe I am under any obligation to him to do so."
"Yes, ma'am," the footman said. "Then I am not to do any loading, by Mr. Cambourne's instructions."
"I beg your pardon?" Folie exclaimed.
"Whatever has got into you, Mama?" Melinda hissed, waving cheerfully at the Misses Nunney. "Only read the gentleman's note. Perhaps it is a change of plan!"
Folie stepped back into the house, pulled the door closed and tore open the seal on his folded letter, scowling.
You are digging in your heels, I see, if you are reading this. My sweet Folly, I know this is difficult for you. You need not forgive me, or even speak to me if you like, but muster your courage. You are no coward, of that I am certain. But if you do not come now, I shall not waste time about retrieving you in person.
Excerpted from My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale. Copyright © 2013 Hedgehog Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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
Upon finishing My Sweet Folly I feel like the victim of a mean dirty trick - and how easily did I play into the author's hands. The first third of the book was ok - up to pg 146 to be precise, the exact moment that the book turned into something other than what it had promised to be and dashed my hopes utterly. I don't mind twists and turns and surprises in books - I welcome them. Things get boring otherwise. But in this case, what came before pg. 146 and what came after simply didn't fit together, and the rest of the story fell apart as a result - undoing all the wonderful character development and promising romance that came before. ***Spoiler alert*** Prior to pg. 146, Robert Cambourne, formerly of the Indian army, is going stark raving mad ¿ his dead wife harasses him and he thinks They are out to get him. Folie Hamilton, widowed with a 19 year old stepdaughter, is invited by Robert to visit him at his estate before she and her daughter Melinda set off to London for Melinda's debut. Folie and Robert share some history - they started a correspondence four years ago, quite by accident, having never seen each other before. They fell in love, even though at the time Folie was married. Robert put an end to their letter writing by revealing late in the game that he's been married the whole time and they can never contact each other ever again. Oh the angst. They're both free now, spouses having gone to their respective graves, and leaving Robert as Melinda¿s guardian. Against her better judgment Folie accepts Robert¿s invitation, and she and Melinda go to Solinger. When Folie sees Robert for the first time, she's shocked and horrified - he's not the Robert she imagined from her letters, the sweet gentle, funny knight in shining armor she¿s loved all these years. He's a crazy stranger who promptly incarcerates them on his estate. Robert, for his part, starts out a very interesting character - very disturbed and tortured, and I thought that the author did a great job delving into the murkiness of his madness while still making him seem human at the same time. I really liked this set up - the rude collision between dreams and reality. I couldn't wait to see how the romance between Robert and Folie would develop. Unfortunately for me, it doesn't, because around pg 146 Robert suddenly recovers his sanity. Folie and Melinda have left Solinger by now for London, and he¿s overcome his incapacitating paranoia enough to follow them there. He brainstorms a bit and finds out that he¿s not crazy at all. He¿s just been poisoned into craziness, the victim of a diabolical plot to overthrow the monarchy and destroy the East India Trading Company. This explanation for his madness is mostly why I felt cheated. Not that I wanted Robert to stay crazy, of course, but for him to have never really been crazy in the first place, and for him to then drag us into a silly sprawling spy plot... I was annoyed, to say the least, at this turn of events. Furthermore, there is absolutely no connection between the Robert of the letters and the Robert we actually meet. Of course, that's the point when Folie meets him. But what¿s the point of this disjunction once his madness magically dissipates? Shouldn't we get a sense of who he is? Some elaboration on his past, some reference to his and Folie¿s letter writing beyond the stray comment, a reference to their love, past and present, that can then grow into something real, a compromise or incorporation of the two separate worlds? Robert as a character just doesn't make sense. After he wakes up from his poison induced madness, there¿s nothing that holds him together and convinces me that he loves Folie, let alone has any coherent feelings whatsoever. The change from crazy Robert to ¿sane¿ Robert is so sudden, and the explanation so far-fetched, such a disappointment, that I'm thrown off guard and spend the rest of the book waiting for things to return to their former brilliancy, to ret
I'm slowly working my way through Kinsale's backlist. I have all the books--I just ration them because they're so good.And My Sweet Folly is no exception. Folie Hamilton begins a correspondence with her husband's cousin Robert Cambourne when she responds to a letter he'd written to her husband. Over the course of a few years, the letters provide a source of comfort and joy to the lonely young wife and the unsuited military officer stationed in India. That all changes when Folie's husband dies and she writes Robert that she's coming to visit him. His curt response informs her that he's been married all along.Then his wife dies and he returns to England, at about the time Folie is trying to launch her stepdaughter into society. Now head of the family, Robert commands them both to come to his estate.Where Folie discovers a completely different Robert than the one she'd come to know through his letters. He's sullen, angry, paranoid, autocratic... mad. There are glimpses of the old Robert, but only enough to be confusing rather than reassuring.Robert seems convinced, in his lucid states, that someone is doing this to him--poisoning him. Or is that just madness talking? And how can Folie trust him when she has her stepdaughter's future to worry about?As is typical (if typical can be used to describe such inventive variety) of Kinsale's work, My Sweet Folly is intensely emotional. The reader isn't spared any of Folie's or Robert's pain or confusion, or, in the end, their joy. One can assume, of course, since it is romance, that Robert will be sane at the end of the book, so it's a real trick to make one doubt that in the middle. Kinsale accomplishes it.Folie is a wonderfully believable and sympathetic heroine. I loved watching her grow through the book, from the young idealistic woman escaping the duty of her marriage, through Robert's first betrayal, she grew up and turned her focus on her stepdaughter. When they meet again, she wants to believe him, but madness seems more likely, and it's the classic conflict between what the heart needs and what the head knows.Robert is even more poignant. Spurned by his beautiful wife, he knows he's unloveable, and now it seems he's going mad. He retains enough self-preservation to be suspicious and paranoid, but can't be sure that's not also madness. It's a frightening thing not to be able to trust your own mind, and I could feel that right along with him.I also loved the contrast between the first flowering of their romance--a sweet, naive, hopeful love story that could have been a whole book on its own, and the eventual HEA that was forged in the fire of adversity. (hyperbole, yes, but it seems to fit) It's like a fable about the difference between puppy love and real, lasting mature love. I'm not sure how the love between that young couple who wrote such lovely letters to each other would have survived the inevitable trials of life. The couple who ended up together at the end of the book, however, will survive anything.
Really a 3.5. First half great, second half, not so great.