Lady B: Where on earth did I set my reticule?
Miss Carissa Portland: Funny you say that! I seem to have misplaced my jeweled lorgnette, as well.
Sebastian Walker, Viscount Beauchamp: Blazes, my fob watch is missing. It was right here in my pocket!
Carissa (discreetly to him, but with an arch look): Checking the time already, my lord? I suppose you have an assignation to keep with your latest femme du jour, hmm?
Beau: Well, if you weren’t so absorbed in exchanging gossip with Lady B, perhaps you’d have paid attention to where you left your–thing.
Carissa: I didn’t leave it anywhere! How am I to spy on everyone and find out all the latest on-dits without my spyglass? (Turning to him prettily.) Will you help me find it?
Beau (sigh): All right. Where do you last recall having it? –Hold on. (His eyes narrow as his stare homes in on a distant quarter of the room.) I think I just saw . . .
Carissa: Yes? Did you see it somewhere?
Beau: No. A hand.
Beau: Never mind. Stay here. (He starts off.)
Carissa (grabbing his arm): Wait! What did you see, Beauchamp?
Beau (He bendsto murmur in her ear, rousing a small shiver which she diligently tries to ignore): Do not tell Lady B. She will fly up into the boughs higher than her blasted parrot. But I believe an intruder has entered her house. Right here in the ballroom. Don’t look now! Act natural. Keep everyone calm. I will attend to this.
Carissa, to herself: Well, he’d better not have taken my lorgnette.
Lady B returns: No sign of it anywhere! Ah, well. One of the servants probably put it away for me. As for you, my dear. Hmm, did I just see you talking to Lord Beauchamp?
Carissa (blushing): Er, yes, my lady, but only for a moment–
Lady B: La, you needn’t look so guilty, dear! He is altogether naughty, so I hear, but there are plenty of chaperones present should that rogue attempt to menace you with his advances. It’s so refreshing to find a young lady with a such nice sense of decorum as yourself, Miss Portland.
Carissa (If she only knew.): Lady Beaufeatheringstone, I am humbled by your praise.
Lady B. gives her a gracious smile and is off once more, whisking off to greet Ladies Sarah and Katharine, who have just arrived on the arms of their latest dashing heroes.
Meanwhile, Lord Beauchamp [who is a Professional Spy – so don’t try this at home, kids] has now drifted over, ever so casually toward the refreshment tables. Carissa watches him [at least at the moment she has an excuse to do so – normally, she just can’t help herself in this regard, he is do devastatingly handsome].
Something seems amiss. While Beauchamp scans the room, waiting for the intruder to make his next move, the sound of muffled coughing comes from somewhere behind the farthest couch.
“Blimey! Wot’s this? Disgustin’! Salmon…patties? Blech!”
Beau leaps around the couch with a manly “Aha!” ~ but no one is there. Carissa stares, seeing the bottom few inches of a figure quickly crawling on hands and knees behind the adjacent row of chairs. Beau cannot see this from his angle and has a look behind the curtains. She tries to get his attention with a discreet gesture, but then she is distracted.
For an extraordinary thing happens.
One of the beautiful, flowery cakes from Gunter’s levitates off the sweets table for no apparent reason, and then begins floating in the directly where Carissa can still see the feet hiding behind the scrolled side of the divan.
She blinks a few times rapidly, wondering if she’s had too much of Lady Tessa’s spiked ratafia. But when her vision clears, the cake has disappeared altogether. It is neither floating in midair, nor is it back on the table where it ought to be.
Beau seems as confused as she. He turns and gives her an eloquent shrug from across the room.
All of a sudden, the entrance hall beyond the ballroom erupts with the yipping bark of a toy-sized dog. A great panicked squawking and a whoosh of plumage fans the air overhead as Albert swoops past the chandeliers.
<Squawk! Intruders! Help! Mama!>
A little ragtag Norwich terrier comes racing into the ballroom, quite uninvited, leaping for the bird, and not even coming close to catching him (but having a good time trying).
“Teddy! Teddy! Come back ’ere! I’m sorry, ma’am! It’s just the bird got his attention–”
The wee scruffy dog chases after the affronted parrot; the parrot darts to a safe perch atop the head of a marble goddess in a statuary niche; but the third in this line of noisy new arrivals is stopped in her tracks by the glower on Lady B’s face as Her Ladyship towers before the redhaired ragamuffin child.
Lady B: What Is This?
Carissa approaches cautiously, sensing the need to support a fellow redhead. ”I believe it is what is commonly called a Street Urchin, ma’am.”
”In my ballroom?” Lady B’s eyes roll up into her head. The butler beckons to the footman to fetch the smelling salts, post haste.
Carissa quickly steps toward the small, rumpled girl. “What are you doing here, child? What is your name?”
“I’m Dani O’Dell.” She’s a mix of sass and defiance. She can’t rest easy until Teddy is safe. “Just let me get my dog and we’ll be on our way. He don’t mean no ‘arm, ma’am. I don’t know why he ran in here. Maybe he smelled the food.” She casts a brief longing glance at the refreshment table. “He wouldn’t really eat that bird. Teddy, come back here, now!”
The whole ballroom watches as Dani O’Dell goes and collects the errant Teddy, scooping the wee terrier up in her arms – everyone, that is, except Lord Beauchamp. He is keeping watch for the owner of that hand. His vast and worldly spy experience leads him to expect the miscreant will try to slip away amid the distraction.
And he’s right.
“Now I’ve got you!”
He suddenly hauls a lad out from behind the furniture.
Lady B: Another street urchin!
This one fights Beau’s grip like a fish on a line.
Beau: What are you thinking, coming in here stealing?
“So, you’re the reason Teddy ran in here! I should’ve known!” the girl bursts out. ”Why do you always have to get me in trouble, Jake Reed? One these days, you’re goin’ to get us both hanged!
“No, I’m not, you worrywart. Never mind these toffs. Let’s get out of ‘ere. I got us a cake!” he adds in a whisper.
You’re not going anywhere until you explain yourself, young man!
At last, Gaelen comes rushing in. “Wait, wait, don’t call for the constable, my lady–I can explain!! Please don’t have him arrested!”
Lady B: And why should I not?
Gaelen: “Because he’s the hero of my very first children’s novel that I’ll be releasing this summer!!!”
Beau and Carissa gasp. “You’re going to write something other than romance?”
Gaelen: On the side, yes. Don’t worry. It won’t take anything away from you, darlings. Trying my hand at children’s literature has long been a dream of mine.
“Ha,” says Jake, shaking Beau’s grasp free with a savvy harrumph. Then the blond-haired lad, age 12, with sooty smudges on his face and a devilish gleam in his blue eyes, strolls over to join Dani O’Dell and her dog. They both start backing up toward the door, trying to look casual… But they are headed into a most interesting series of scrapes and adventures among all sorts of magical creatures — ghosts, fairies, shapeshifters, Thames water nymphs, and of course, a fierce Gryphon. (seen below)
To learn more about The Gryphon Chronicles, Book 1: THE LOST HEIR, please visit www.gaelenfoley.com, or you can go to the website we just launched last night for the pen name that my husband and I, cowriting these books, will be using, E.G. Foley. Visit www.EGFoley.com to check it out. Set in Victorian England, this is a fantasy adventure series–with a hint of steampunk–that’s as much fun for grownups as it is for kids. Jake is a scrappy orphaned pickpocket who discovers over the course of the story that he is, in fact, the longlost heir of an aristocratic family–with magical powers!
Hope you’ll check it out. Both websites have the back cover copy and more details on the upcoming summer release, but this is a really exciting day for me that I finally get to announce my big news, and I wanted my Ballroom friends to be among the first to “meet” Jake. I don’t have an exact date yet, but it’ll probably be June/July…that’s one way to get your Foley fix before the October release of Beau and Carissa’s story, MY SCANDALOUS VISCOUNT. For now, check out this cover!!!
It’s been a real joy for me writing a story for “all ages.” [I think of this book as the novel equivalent of a "family movie" in tone.] Children’s literature was so meaningful to me growing up, and formative for me as a writer.
Some of the books that I loved the most were Black Beauty, the Narnia books, Nancy Drew mysteries, and classics by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. My ultimate favorite as a kid was the Prydain series, by Lloyd Alexander. I must have read those books 6 times each at least!
My question for the day is, What were your favorite books when you were a kid? And in what ways do you think those stories influenced you?