Business becomes personal for the Right Sort Marriage Bureau when a new client, a brutal murder, two kidnappings, and the recently returned from Africa Lord Bainbridge threatens everything that one of the principals holds dear …
Release date: June 8, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Print pages: 288
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A Rogue's Company
The tram trundled down from the Vauxhall Bridge and screeched reluctantly to a halt, pausing long enough to allow two women to jump down to the pavement. They waved to the conductor as it left, then looked around at their surroundings. The short brunette got her bearings while consulting a set of directions scribbled on a torn envelope. The tall blonde carried a small valise. She looked in all directions, avidly surveying every building, every person, even the piles of rubble waiting to be collected from the bomb sites.
"So this is Lambeth," said Gwen.
"This is Lambeth," confirmed Iris. "You've been in Lambeth before, haven't you?"
"I've been through Lambeth," said Gwen. "On the way to Brixton Prison and, goodness, I'm saying that like it's a normal thing. But I've never actually set foot in Lambeth proper. Should I be doing the Lambeth Walk?"
"Please don't," said Iris. "You have too much of the Mayfair touch to pull it off. And thanks for sticking that tune in my head. This way."
"I liked Me and My Girl," said Gwen wistfully as they walked along the Thames. "I thought Lupino Lane was terrifically funny. We saw it in '37, not long after it opened."
"Ronnie and I, of course," said Gwen. "One of our earlier dates. What `we' did you think I meant?"
"You just recounted a memory of him without starting to tear up," observed Iris.
"I did, didn't I?" exclaimed Gwen in surprise. "I'll have to tell Dr. Milford. That's-I was going to say progress, or something. I don't know if it is."
"If your goal is to reclaim your life so you can start living it again, then it's progress," said Iris.
"As is today's adventure," said Gwen. "How much farther is he?"
"About five minutes walk," said Iris, glancing at her directions. "Five for me, anyway. About three for you if you seize the bit."
"Thank you for setting us up," said Gwen. "And for coming with me."
"Of course," said Iris, smiling up at her. "I wouldn't dream of you meeting him without me there. Consider me your chaperone."
"I scarcely need one at my advanced age."
"You're a reputable young blue-blooded widow heading into a seedy neighborhood to meet a strange man. What will your in-laws think?"
"They will think nothing," declared Gwen. "Because I don't plan to tell them about it."
"But if it ever comes out, you have me as a witness to your respectability."
"There isn't anything respectable about this," said Gwen. "Not in the circles I travel in."
"Times are changing," said Iris. "You're changing with them."
They walked up Lambeth Road. The railroad ran alongside them, raised above the neighborhood, cutting off the view of the river. The broad arches supporting the track bed provided homes to warehouses and the odd commercial establishment.
"Will he like me, do you think?" asked Gwen. "Will I like him?"
"I don't know," said Iris. "Liking isn't really the point, is it?"
"It's just that I've never been this-"
"Go on," said Iris.
"This-physical with a man. With anyone."
"It's going to be a hot and sweaty experience," said Iris.
"And I've never really had that. Is he-is he a brute?"
"He has to be a brutish sort to do what he does," said Iris. "But he's disciplined."
"A disciplined brute," said Gwen. "I've never encountered anyone like that."
"You were never in the army," said Iris. "Two arches over from the Fitzroy Lodge, he said, which is coming up. Glad to see they've found some new digs."
"Who are they?"
Copyright c 2021 by Allison Montclair
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