Born in the rookeries, the hard life is something Jones is all too familiar with. Saved as a young boy, he was trained to be a spy, one of the best--elite, in fact. He now spends his days serving His Majesty in espionage, hunting rogue spies.His latest assignment, though, has him tracking a fellow spy...
Cat Ashdown is a baroness. Nothing is more important than protecting five hundred years of heritage. She knows every detail of every estate that commands the largest income in Britain— yet her father placed her inheritance in trust to her uncle who is forcing her to marry a man she has no desire for. The baroness’s battle against law and convention leads her to Jones and results that are surprising ... and possibly unwanted.
Each book in the Spy in the Ton series is STANDALONE.
* A Dance with Seduction
* The Lady and Mr. Jones
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Jones rubbed a thumb along the faint line running the length of the pistol's barrel. He couldn't remember now the origin of the scratch, but he had never been able to polish it out to his satisfaction.
Nevertheless, he tried. A man took care of his weapons.
There was very little light in the hidden nook of his commander's office. Curtains blocked the candlelight from the main room, so it fell just shy of the flintlock pistol. But Jones needed no light for this work, as he knew the feel and shape of the weapon, every ridge in the wood, every curve of the iron. Still, bringing out the small, soft linen square he kept in his pocket, he began the meticulous process of rubbing the iron and wood.
And he listened to the conversation occurring beyond the secret alcove he had been assigned to.
"The Flower is no longer yours to command, Lord Wycomb. Nor has she been this last half year." Sir Charles Flint spoke carefully to the man standing on the other side of his desk. The light was bright near the two of them, from the fire and the windows and the candles. It shone on the broad, barrel chest of Sir Charles and the lean, elegantly clothed agent challenging him. "The Flower is now under my direct command."
Ah. They were discussing Vivienne La Fleur, the opera dancer who had captivated London between visits to France and breaking into the homes of the ton at Wycomb's direction. She excelled at thievery, with her quick fingers and elegant grace. She was also damned good at lock-picking, as her new husband, Maximilian Westwood, had become aware.
But Henry Taylor, Lord Wycomb — the bastard — had mistreated her and lost Sir Charles's good will.
And Jones's respect.
"I trained her." Lord Wycomb's voice was as cool and careful as the spymaster's behind the desk. "I found her in the rookeries as a child, trained her for espionage, and commanded her assignments for a decade. She is my agent."
From his hiding place, Jones glanced at Wycomb's back, at the set of his shoulders and angle of his head. Jones couldn't see his face from this vantage point, but there did not seem to be any sign of untoward anger.
Jones refolded the linen square and began to polish his pistol anew, focusing on that single scratch he could not smooth out.
"The Flower was your agent. I have reassigned her. Again, I now control her missions," Sir Charles answered. There was no hint of his anger at Wycomb's treatment of the Flower — but Jones knew, if Wycomb did not. Jones had seen Sir Charles months ago in this very office, had witnessed the mingled fury and pity. "Why is it that you require her expertise?"
"An assignment that is not under your command, Sir Charles." Haughtiness. Presumption. Precedence. All echoed in the room.
From his hiding place, Jones narrowed his eyes. A man didn't disrespect his superior officer, regardless of social titles. Tempted to stand and reveal his presence, Jones flattened his hand over the pistol to steady himself. He had his own assignment, and allowing his irritation free rein was not it.
"I have a need for the Flower's particular talents." Wycomb leaned over the desk slightly, bending at the waist by only the smallest of angles. He expanded his chest on an inhale, creating an indentation in the back of his coat that clearly outlined the pistol hidden there. "I want access to her."
Wycomb's movement was not significant, but the linen in Jones's hand paused in its steady rhythm as he watched. Waited. Jones suspected even that small angle over the desk would not be tolerated by Sir Charles. Still, his forefinger slid against the trigger, palm cupping the stock.
It was only a precaution, a moment to prepare for action, if need be.
But there was no need. Sir Charles's chair scraped against wooden floorboards. He stood slowly, eyes never leaving Wycomb's face though Sir Charles was nearly a head shorter. The flame of the candle flickered over the tight features of both men as silence reined for a beat, then two.
"Vivienne is not available to you." Sir Charles spoke softly, his voice dropping to a whisper. "You will need to use another of the spies you command. Not the Flower."
Wycomb did not move, his head and shoulders steady as he stared at Sir Charles.
Neither did Jones move. He continued to observe the faint crease running the length of coat and the pistol between Wycomb's shoulder blades. Perhaps Lord Wycomb expected Sir Charles to yield immediately, the lesser title giving way to old blood. But old blood and titles held no sway with Sir Charles. If they did, he would not be spymaster.
The pistol's trigger had warmed beneath his finger now. Jones held his hand steady, knowing this moment was one reason Sir Charles had directed him to be here, in the shadows.
He suspected the other reason was he would soon be hunting a fellow spy.
Finally, the crease running down the center of Wycomb's coat smoothed out as his shoulders eased. Only the smallest of movements revealed that he'd conceded. Jones imagined it grated. But that small movement told Jones what he needed to know. His finger relaxed and slipped from the trigger. He lifted the linen square that had fallen to his lap and set it once more to the metal barrel.
"I don't have an agent with the Flower's talents available to me. The other agents I command are good, but not good enough." Wycomb set his hands on the edge of the desk. His tone was not persuasive, necessarily, but it was too sociable for Jones's liking. "Give me Jones, then. He's a close second to the Flower."
"Jones is not available." Sir Charles's tone mirrored Wycomb's falsely friendly words.
"Surely you understand their particular talents," Wycomb said.
"I have given you my orders, Lord Wycomb. The Flower is no longer yours to command, and Jones is not available." Sir Charles held Wycomb's gaze for another moment. Jones recognized impatience in the slight narrowing of Sir Charles's eyes and the downturn of his mouth.
"You may regret this, Sir Charles." It wasn't a threat, precisely, but Jones heard the warning clearly enough in Wycomb's words.
"I may," Sir Charles answered. He picked up his quill and ran the feathers through his fingers once, twice. "My agents are not at your disposal. Though you may be of higher social precedence, when it comes to espionage, my lord, it is my decision that is final." Sir Charles did not sit, but he moved papers across the desk and riffled through them, his focus clearly shifting to another task.
It was a dismissal, and not the friendly sort.
Wycomb didn't answer, but he stiffened, and his shoulders — clad in what Jones assumed was the most fashionable coat available — straightened and pulled back.
"Good day." Wycomb turned away with slow, deliberate movements so that Jones was able see his face as he strode toward the door. Shadows lay beneath his eyes and the creases along his mouth had deepened in the last months. He was angry, but not desperate.
Desperation was something Jones recognized well enough. It made men do things they would never contemplate otherwise. There was no despair in Wycomb's eyes, only exhaustion and worry, so there was no need for alarm.
The door to the hall fell closed with a loud snick. Sir Charles did not look up at the noise, instead settling himself in the chair he'd recently vacated. The quill he'd been holding dipped into the inkwell, as efficiently and calmly as though there had been no confrontation between spymaster and titled senior agent.
Jones continued the soothing rhythm of linen over wood, linen over iron as he cleaned the pistol. He did not leave his dark corner. Experience told him Sir Charles was not ready, and he was not certain of his own thoughts on the matter at any rate.
It was a full five minutes of quill scratching on paper before Sir Charles spoke.
"Do you understand why I called you in?" He did not look up from his documents, though the writing instrument no longer fluttered a path along the page. It hung suspended in the air, as if waiting to add punctuation to their conversation.
"Wycomb is bordering on insubordination." Sir Charles muttered it, pushing away the paper and tossing the quill aside.
His words did not particularly require an answer, so Jones continued his work in the corner. The pistol was no doubt perfectly clean, but productivity was better for thinking than idleness.
"I don't care for Wycomb's methods. I never have. But he is effective, and I wasn't aware of the lengths he went to achieve such effectiveness." Sir Charles pinched the bridge of his nose between forefinger and thumb and let out a long sigh. "The Flower suffered at his hands, and I don't intend to let it happen again."
That did require an answer. "No, sir."
"I don't trust Wycomb." Sir Charles looked up, and though it was unlikely he could see into the hidden corner, his eyes seemed to pierce right through Jones. "I'm not sure I ever did."
"Agreed, sir." Jones tucked the linen into one coat pocket, the pistol into the other. He stood, stepping into the room and letting the heavy curtain that had partially hidden him fall closed. "What is your direction?"
"Watch Wycomb. Find out what he is working on that requires the Flower." Sir Charles leaned back, propping his elbows on the arms of the chair. He pressed his fingers together to form a triangle. "You've done this before with our own agents, so I know I can trust you to see it through, no matter the outcome."
"Yes, sir." Jones slipped into the bright circle of candlelight near the desk, his own instinct humming as much as Sir Charles's.
Sir Charles's fingertips tapped together once, twice. A third time. "I don't believe Wycomb is working on an assignment. I would have been informed directly or as a courtesy by another spymaster. I haven't, so whatever he is involved in, I suspect it's outside the service."
Jones would be hunting his own. Again.
He would set the Gents onto Wycomb first. That would be a simple and effective method of gathering facts. The Gents were small, smart, and unnoticeable. More, Wycomb had yet to be introduced to the rascals Jones had gathered.
"Do you have any suspicions?" he asked, thinking of which threads to begin tugging at. "Any suggestions as to where to begin?"
"I would suggest beginning in areas not involving espionage." Sir Charles paused, one brow twitching upward. "Still, I want no part of his life left unturned. He has considerable freedom as a senior agent, but there are lines. I need to know if he has crossed one."
Jones ran a hand over his coat pocket, instinctively checking for the recently cleaned pistol. A quick shift of his shoulders told him the second pistol hidden beneath his coat was also there.
"And Jones," Sir Charles added softly. "The lines do not exist for this assignment."
Cat flattened her hand over the smooth surface of the letter, satisfied her temper didn't translate to trembling fingers.
My deepest apologies, Baroness Worthington. I was unable to secure approval for reconstruction of the tenants' roofs. The trustees determined the mills require modernization for increased efficiency and profit, and believe the roofs will withstand another winter.
Yr. Humblest Servant, Matthew Sparks
"The mills." Disappointment warred with fury. She had made a promise to the tenants, once last summer and again just this past February before she'd left for London. Now it seemed she would not be able to fulfill it.
The quiet rhythm of a lightly tapping foot stilled. Its owner looked up, her aging gaze unfocused for a moment as she switched it from her most recent needlework to Cat's face. "Hm? Did you say something, Mary Elizabeth?"
"I was just talking to myself, Aunt Essie." The darling woman wouldn't be interested in roofs and mills, though she would listen if she knew they were important to Cat. But Cat would shortly be angering her guardian — who was also Aunt Essie's brother — so perhaps it was best to keep the problem of the promised roofs to herself.
"I understand, dear. I sometimes do the same." Essie's brown eyes blinked behind the round lenses of her spectacles. "Though you do look a might put out. Is something troubling you?"
Cat looked down at the letter again as thunder roared beyond the townhouse walls. "It is nothing serious, aunt." But she did not intend to let it pass. Pushing to her feet, she carefully folded the note. "If you will excuse me, I need to respond."
"Yes, of course, dear." Aunt Essie turned back to the pretty pale-blue linen spilling over her lap. The embroidery needle pierced the fabric, its trailing white thread slipping through the cloth.
"Thank you." Cat strode to the door, already formulating strategies for dealing with the trustees and the mills. No doubt the mills could use modernization, but the roofs were more important. The well-being of the people under the roofs was more important. "I shall see you at luncheon, then, Aunt Essie?" Cat didn't pause in the doorway to look back.
Essie's words floated through the door and into the hall. "Do send Mr. Sparks my regards."
Cat stiffened, pausing mid step to look behind her. "I beg your pardon?" She set her slipper on the parquet hall floor, leather shushing on wood.
"I recognize Mr. Spark's handwriting, Mary Elizabeth, which means you have news from the Abbey." Essie didn't look up and the needle didn't pause in its journey through the center of the embroidery hoop. "Don't anger him too much, will you? Your uncle is not easily pacified."
"Apparently, my face and my correspondence are easily read." Cat turned in the doorway, narrowing her eyes on white curls piled high and the two simple gold combs holding them into place. "What do you want to know?"
"Nothing at all. What is between you and Wycomb regarding Ashdown Abbey will not be changed by my opinion."
"But you have one."
"An opinion? No, I would never presume. Only —" Now Aunt Essie's hand paused as she looked up. "Mary Elizabeth, you cannot win. You are wedged between the trustees, your uncle, the estate, and the husband you will soon find. Whatever happens, you cannot win."
Cat knew this. Every breath and every fiber of her being echoed this immutable fact. There was no victory and no freedom for her. "I've lived with that knowledge nearly every day of my life, Aunt Essie, since the day I realized being born female meant I couldn't inherit both the earldom and the barony."
She imagined her distant cousin was none too pleased with the higher-ranking title but lesser estates. Nor was she pleased that to ensure the barony's estates remained in her family she had to marry and provide an heir. Still, she thanked all the fates and all the gods of every religion that the barony was the older title by writ and held the more profitable land.
Ashdown Abbey was still hers.
Cat clutched the letter from home in her fist, thinking of the mills and roofs and trustees. The paper gave way and crumpled in a satisfactory manner. "If I hadn't known I was trapped before, I became quite aware after my father died."
Essie let the embroidery hoop fall into her lap, abandoned. "I know, dear. I'm sorry your father put the barony into a trust. That's typical — only, you seem to fight it so very hard."
"I don't know how to do anything else." She wished she did. She had trained to be Mary Elizabeth Frances Catherine Ashdown, 13 Baroness of Worthington. Fought to prove she could carry on the legacy of the first Mary Elizabeth Frances Ashdown, who had been granted the barony five hundred years earlier.
Fought and lost, she thought fiercely.
"You are you father's daughter in character." Essie sighed, gaze flicking over the features of Cat's face one by one. "I see it every day."
"Yet my father did not believe in me enough to let me inherit the entail and lands outright." Bitterness filled her throat even as she tried to swallow it. "A five-hundred-year-old peerage, one of the few allowing a woman to inherit by writ, and he put everything into a trust so I cannot touch it until I am thirty-five or married."
"I'm sure he had his reasons," Essie murmured. Hollow words, echoing those she had spoken when they first learned of the trust.
Cat breathed deep and let out any betrayal with her exhale so only sadness remained behind. She could not change what her father had done. "What of my mother? Am I not her daughter?" Essie smiled softly. "Oh yes. Yes, my dear. You are her very image, and you have her spirit, too."
Excerpted from "The Lady and Mr. Jones"
Copyright © 2017 Alyssa Marble.
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
Interesting characters involved in a mystery filled with romance. But, I would read her books in order to understand the characters.
This book is really well-written and has interesting characters. I quite enjoyed reading it especially because I just love spy stories. Jones and Cat are just perfect characters, as well as, spies. Cat has been brought up to care of her father's estates. Her father has never treated her like some helpless woman and yet for some reason he left her without much authority, she has to depend on her uncle until she marries. It seems so unfair to her. She wants to take care of her tenants and do things the right way but she can't. What more, it seems that her uncle is not the man she thought he was, he might very well be a dangerous man who is bent upon ruining her life. Help comes in an unexpected way from an unlikely ally. Jones is working on a mission and he must do his job well. But Cat is a distraction which can lead him astray. She is fierce, independent and fearless woman and he finds himself falling for her... unfortunately they can never happen. He is not from her world and he feels that she deserves so much better... however, heart wants what it wants. It's a beautiful love story. Jones and Cat are perfect for each other and the way they find their happily ever after is just too good. I'd definitely recommend this book if you like historical romance.
I'm wavering between 3 1/2 and 4 stars for this. I liked the story line and loved Cat. She knew her own mind and wasn't afraid to state it. She was smart enough to know when to be afraid. Jones was a good hero, but there's so much I didn't like. I would have liked to know more about him as far as a backstory and more of a name. Their situation at the end didn't really give me closure for this couple. I received the book from NetGalley.
This book is part of a series by Alyssa Alexander but this book can be a stand alone read. What could possibly happen when the rookeries meets the wealthy? A wonderful story that will keep your attention captured until the last page! Baroness "Cat" Ashdown has been born and raised in one of the most powerful rich families in England and trained to take over the family fortune and barony title. When her father dies, she realizes that she has not been given control over anything. Her ruthless Uncle has been given guardianship over her until she turns 35 or marries That includes the all the money and estates being controlled by her crooked uncle. Determined to find a solution she meets Mr Jones who is a spy for the crown. Jones has no title, no heritage but is the most decent, honorable man that always pushes for justice and doing the right thing. As her uncle tries to force her into marriage to the highest bidder, Cat and Jones's world's collide and they set a course to help each other. Jones has his sights on a fellow spy and trying to bring some information to light and save Cat from her forced marriage. As these two characters from such different worlds begin to work together, intrigue and secrets begin to come out and danger lurks just around the corner. The author brings Cat and Jones alive with her descriptions and wonderful writing style. You will not be able to put this one down until you find out what awaits our hero and heroine!!