is here today with a fantastic post!
TAINTED ANGEL, is the first in a series of Napoleon-era adventures (!!)
In congruence with the scope of this blog- which highlights historical women of strength and substance in high quality fiction and non-fiction books, Anne Cleeland has written a post on
her heroine's greatest hidden strengths, portrayed throughout her novel.
Please Welcome Anne Cleeland.
Courage in Adversity: the Classic Heroine
Tainted Angel is the first book in a new series that I like to think of as “Regency adventure” even though technically, there isn’t such a subgenre. The books combine historical fiction with mystery or adventure—as though alter-egos Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt collaborated together on a project. My favorite example of this type of story is Georgette Heyer’s The Toll Gate, where the plot arises from a scheme to disrupt England’s treasury; the villains are real and the stakes are high—not the usual romance that Heyer offers up (although I love the romances, too.)
Tainted Angel can best be summed up as a Regency version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The heroine is an agent for the Crown, on assignment to discover who is stealing the shipments of gold slated for Wellington’s army on the Peninsula. To her dismay, she begins to realize that her spymaster suspects she is “tainted”—a double agent working for Napoleon. As the net tightens around her, she has to keep her wits and fight her attraction to a fellow spy who has his own dark secrets—unless his affection is feigned, and he is actually setting a trap to reveal her own treason.
A continuing theme in these books is courage, and how ordinary women react when extraordinary circumstances require them to be brave, come what may. After her terrible experiences in the war, the heroine is content to retreat into her shadowy, solitary work that requires no honesty and where trust is to be avoided at all costs. But despite herself, she finds hidden depths of courage; the courage to face her past, her fears and to fight for a future that she once thought impossible. Here’s an excerpt:
The role of the tender lover was quickly abandoned—much to her relief—and he gave an elliptical answer. “There is much at stake; caution is advised.”
Eying him sidelong, she tried to gauge his thoughts, knowing all the while it was hopeless—he would only reveal what he wished, and if his aim was to arrest her he would reveal precious little. “Will you promise to give me one minute’s warning before I am clapped in irons? I would do the same for you, you know.”
“You will not be clapped in irons,” he said immediately, but she noted he didn’t meet her eye, and hid a flare of alarm.
“No,” she replied with forced lightness. “I would simply disappear, leaving you free to give my wrap to your next mark.”
“Don’t.” He made an involuntary gesture of protest, and the blue eyes finally met hers with a fierce intensity that she could swear was genuine. “But if you know anything of these matters, Vidia, best to say and to say immediately.”
“I cannot decide,” she wondered aloud as they rounded the corner of her street, “whether our interlude that first night was strictly business. If it was, you did a very poor job of pressing for information as opposed to simply pressing.”
He was not fooled by her tone. “You are angry and I cannot blame you. But I assure you it was not strictly business.”
Coming to her town house, she wondered if she was making a monumental mistake—attempting to be honest with him. But she had decided—there on the street with his subtle insincerity grating on her nerves—that she couldn’t continue as she was; not with him. Perhaps he will be my downfall, she thought. But it hardly matters anymore—I am seventeen again, and just as foolish as I was then.
I hope your readers will enjoy Tainted Angel, available on Amazon and at a Barnes & Noble near you. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
Thank you, Anne!