Happy Friday, readers! I’m so very excited to start the weekend with a visit from author Victoria Kincaid, who just released a new Pride and Prejudice variation ten days ago titled – The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy. And it sounds quite like an action-packed adventure for Our Dear Couple! Check out what Victoria learned about being a spy during the Napoleonic Wars and read a teasing excerpt from The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy!
Thank you for having me as a guest, Meredith! When I set about to write an actual spy story set in Napoleonic France, I decided to do some research on real espionage of the era. British and French spies pop up all over Regency romances all the time, and I was curious how accurate these depictions were. To my surprise, I discovered that there’s a shocking dearth of research on the topic. You can find out anything you want to know about the various battles of the Napoleonic wars and what the soldiers wore or shot, but information about actual espionage activities is hard to find.
I did discover one researcher who had written extensively about British espionage, and her research surprised me; the history of British espionage was quite different than I had assumed. There was a lot less cloak and dagger and a lot more suborning of people in authority.
British activities were run through the Alien office (part of the Home Office) which was run by a magistrate named (ironically enough) William Wickham. Wickham’s focus was on finding support—particularly within France—for the restoration of the French monarchy, although they were hampered by internal strife within the monarchist movement (the king insisted on an absolute monarchy while the English and other countries thought a constitutional monarchy was a better idea). The agency tried to disrupt France internally by infiltrating its civil and military governments with royalist supporters, securing the loyalty of a number of French generals who committed their troops to the royalist cause.
The British government payed for these secret armies by funneling money through banks in Paris and Hamburg. Money was also sent to French rebel movements in the Vendee, Normandy, and Brittany. By 1800, the secret government account for the Alien Office had spent 3.8 million pounds; it’s hard to imagine how much that would be in today’s terms.
British secret service also created a network of spies within the Parisian gendarmerie and the elite haute police force. There is some evidence that Joseph Fouche, Paris’s well-known minister of police, was aware of some of the espionage activities and allowed them to continue—even if he was not an official double agent. For example, he promoted Antoine Talon to the haute police despite suspicions of his loyalty; the British agent practically ran the agency for three years until his arrest in 1803. British agents also had such complete access to official government channels that they kept on hand blank passports with signatures from multiple high French officials, so their agents could travel freely through France.
It is the nature of clandestine activities that it is difficult to evaluate their effectiveness, but there is no doubt that Wickham’s agency played a role in Napoleon’s eventual overthrow. No doubt, if Elizabeth and Darcy had actually been in France, they would have lent a hand as well.
Excerpt from The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy
His attention wandering, Darcy’s eye was caught by a bookcase opposite his chair. There were several volumes of poetry, plays of Shakespeare’s, and books about English history. The doctor and his wife were well read.
The doctor’s eye followed Darcy’s. “You read English?” he asked. Only then did Darcy realize that every title on the bookshelf was in English. He flinched. I am a truly terrible spy.
Martin chuckled softly. “Do not worry, my friend. Many of us have studied English, even if it is not fashionable these days.”
Darcy covered his confusion with a sip of coffee. What could he possibly say in response? A simple laborer like Guillaume D’Arcy should not be able to read English. Many men of that class would not read at all. Richard would laugh at Darcy’s ineptitude.
“My mother was English,” he mumbled. That was true enough.
“I say, do you speak English?” Martin’s eyes widened.
Nothing to do but continue the charade. “Yes,” he admitted.
“I have a patient who speaks only English, and I cannot understand her. I read English well, but my conversation leaves much to be desired.”
Darcy hesitated. Revealing anything more about himself was dangerous, and he should return to Dreyfus’s house, but the doctor had been very hospitable. Darcy could spare a few minutes to repay the man’s kindness.
“I would be glad to be of assistance.” Only belatedly did the request strike him as odd. “How did you acquire a patient who speaks only English?”
“She is a bit of a mystery. She washed up on the beach some time ago, half drowned. She has been quite ill, and we have been unable to communicate with her. We do not even have her name.”
Darcy froze. Was it possible the doctor had found the Black Cobra? No, surely the spy would be a native French speaker—and male. “She could not even tell you her name?” Perhaps the woman was touched in some way.
When one of the fishermen found her on the beach, she had suffered a blow to the head and nearly drowned. She wavered in and out of consciousness for many days; I feared for her life. Then, just as she seemed to improve, she contracted a lung fever. Her moments of consciousness have been brief, and she does not seem to understand where she is.”
“Understandable,” Darcy murmured. Poor woman. Now Darcy wanted to lend assistance for her sake as well as the doctor’s.
“Indeed,” the doctor said. “She is often feverish and incoherent. But perhaps she will say enough that you may ascertain her identity.”
Darcy stood. “Take me to her.” He would not allow his mission to stand in the way of assisting someone so unfortunate.
The doctor led Darcy up the polished staircase and down a corridor to a room at the back of the house. Mrs. Martin met them at the door.
“How does she fare?” the doctor asked.
His wife’s expression was grave. “Feverish again. Sleeping or unconscious, I do not know which.”
Darcy felt a pang of regret. If he could not speak with the woman, he could not be of much help to her. “Perhaps I should return another time,” he said.
Martin considered. “At least come into the room for a minute. Sometimes she speaks in her delirium.” He opened the door.
The room was dim, illuminated only by the sunshine peeking around the edges of the heavy curtains. Closed up as it was, the chamber was airless and quite warm.
On the bed, the woman lay very still, her hair a dark tangle over her face. Even from a distance Darcy could discern that her complexion was not good—pale and waxy. The covers were pulled up to her chin so that only her face was visible.
She moaned and shifted slightly as they entered, but her eyes remained closed. “Come closer.” The doctor gestured to the bedside. “Perhaps she will say something.”
Darcy joined the doctor reluctantly. It was the height of impropriety to be in any woman’s bedchamber, particularly that of a stranger. Of course, Darcy had no intention of taking advantage of the situation, and nobody need ever hear about it.
This close, Darcy could see that the woman was quite young; her skin was smooth and unmarked.
She moaned again, turning her head toward Darcy. A shaft of midday light struck her face, and he instinctively reached out to brush the hair from her cheek.
Darcy froze, unable to do anything but stare.
Briefly he catalogued what he could see of the woman. Her hair was a jumble of dark brown curls, and her skin was slightly tanned under the pallor. The nose…the sprinkling of freckles on her cheeks…was achingly familiar. If she opened her eyes, he knew they would be a bright forest green.
Elizabeth was lying in the bed.
Gah!!! Don’t stop there! I NEED to see what happens next! I have so many questions! Why is Darcy acting as a spy? What happened to Elizabeth?! Will she remember him when she wakes up? Must…Keep…Reading… 😉 Thanks so much for sharing Victoria! We wish you all the best with your release of The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy!
~ Book Description ~
A Pride and Prejudice Variation
Mr. Darcy arrives at Longbourn, intending to correct the mistakes he made during his disastrous proposal in Hunsford. To his horror, he learns that Elizabeth Bennet was killed in a ship’s explosion off the coast of France—in an apparent act of sabotage. Deep in despair, he travels in disguise to wartime France to seek out the spy responsible for her death.
But a surprise awaits Darcy in the French town of Saint-Malo: Elizabeth is alive!
Recovering from a blow to the head, Elizabeth has no memory of her previous life, and a series of mistakes lead her to believe that Darcy is her husband. However, they have even bigger problems. As they travel through a hostile country, the saboteur mobilizes Napoleon’s network of spies to capture them and prevent them from returning home. Elizabeth slowly regains her memories, but they often leave her more confused.
Darcy will do anything to help Elizabeth reach England safely, but what will she think of him when she learns the truth of their relationship?
Connect with Victoria
Today, Victoria brings with her ONE copy (paperback or ebook – winner’s choice!) of her newly released novel, The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, and ONE audiobook of her newly released audiobook, Mr. Darcy to the Rescue, for me to giveaway to TWO lucky winners! (one prize per winner)
To enter this giveaway, leave a comment, a question, or some love for Victoria!!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Victoria!
- This giveaway ends August 3rd!