Hello, my friends! Happy Friday! Today, I have a lovely excerpt for you to read from Sarah M. Eden's new book, The Merchant and the Rogue! This is the third book of The Dread Penny Society.
The Merchant and the Rogue
by Sarah M. Eden
Series: Book 3 in The Dread Penny Society
Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Mystery/Suspense, Inspirational Fiction
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Vera Sorokina loves reading the Penny Dreadfuls and immersing herself in tales of adventure, mystery, and romance. Her own days are filled with the often-mundane work of running the book and print shop she owns with her father. The shop offers her the freedom and income to employ and protect the poverty-stricken Londoners she's come to care about, and it gives her father something to do other than long for their hometown of St. Petersburg. She is grateful for the stability in their lives, but she often feels lonely.
Brogan Donnelly was born and raised in Ireland, but has lived in London for several years, where he's built a career as a Penny Dreadful writer. He has dedicated himself to the plight of the poor with the help of his sister. His membership in the secretive Dread Penny Society allows him to feel he isn't entirely wasting his life, yet he feels dissatisfied. With no one to share his life with but his sister, he fears London will never truly feel like home.
Brogan and Vera's paths cross, and the attraction is both immediate and ill-advised. Vera knows from experience that writers are never to be trusted, and Brogan has reason to suspect not everything at her print shop is aboveboard. When the growing criminal enterprise run by the elusive and violent Mastiff begins targeting their area of London, Brogan and Vera must work together to protect the community they've both grown to love. But that means they'll need to learn to trust each other with dangerous secrets that have followed both of them from their home countries.
Papa’s voice echoed from beyond the back door, raised in a way that told her he was talking as he approached rather than being present already. “Have you read the paper, kotik?”
Vera lowered her voice and said to Ganor, “Another product of writers he’s willing to endure.”
Ganor nodded solemnly.
“I haven’t, papishka,” she called back just as Papa stepped through the doorway.
He didn’t come all the way inside. She’d wager his distance was part of his ongoing protest over the presence of the penny serials. Vera rose from her seat and crossed to him. Ganor, thank the heavens, set himself to tasks on the other side of the shop. Papa had accepted his presence there, but he’d not seemed overly pleased at the need for hiring someone.
“It’s about von Brunnow.” Papa pointed to an article on the page he’d folded back.
“And what does the paper have to say about Russia’s ambassador?”
“Rumors of a falling out with Lord Chelmsford.” More curiosity sat in Papa’s tone than alarm.
“Odd, that. They’ve something of a friendship between them.” She took the paper from him.
Papa scratched at his beard. “I’ve heard whispers he’s been acting strange.”
“Which one? The baron or the ambassador?”
“The ambassador,” Papa said as he pushed back his spectacles.
Vera scanned the article, looking for indications of oddity in Russia’s representative. “Where’ve you heard these whispers? You haven’t much contact with the Russian community here.”
He stiffened. He always did when talk turned to his countrymen. She ought to have known better after so many years. But his bringing up the ambassador had lulled her into thinking the topic wasn’t as forbidden as it usually was.
“I suppose von Brunnow will sort things with the baron soon enough,” Vera said, hoping to end the discussion before Papa worked himself into a huff. “We’ve done a vast deal of business today. One of our most profitable.”
“We’ll have more print business soon enough, you’ll see. Then you can get rid of all those—” He looked over at the display of penny dreadfuls. His nose scrunched as if he’d come across a putrid smell, sending his spectacles slipping once more.
“They’re only stories, Papa. None of the people who write them are here, and they never will be. We’re a small shop in Soho. We’re too far below any of their notice.”
But Papa was shaking his head in that mechanical way he did when dismissing an argument even as it was being made. Little Olly hopped into the shop in the very next moment, offering a much needed distraction. “What’ve you got new today, Miss Vera?”
“Piles and piles, Olly.” She stepped away from her papa, knowing he’d disappear downstairs. “You remember Mr. O’Donnell.” She directed the boy’s attention that way.
“You bought us a story last time.” Olly popped Ganor one of his cheeky salutes.
“What’d you think of it, lad?” Ganor asked, leaning a shoulder against the doorframe, his thick arms folded across his chest, light falling on the thick scars on his knuckles.
“It’ll be frightening, I know it. All them dead animals.”
Ganor nodded. “I suspect it will be.”
Olly dropped his voice to a whisper. “Who do you think’s taking the missing animals?”
Ganor matched the boy’s volume. “If I knew, I’d not tell you, lad. ’Twould ruin the story.”
That brought Olly’s eyes to Vera. “Have you sorted it?”
She shook her head. “It’s a mystery to me.”
Raised voices echoed outside, pulling all their attention. Ganor stood nearest the door and was the first outside. Vera was there an instant later. A bit of commotion had broken out in front of the tobacconist’s shop a few doors down. Peter, the costermonger who worked on the street, stood in his usual spot just outside the print shop.
“Any notion what’s happened?” Vera asked.
“I heard shouts of ‘thief.’ I’m guessing Mr. Bianchi’s been robbed,” Peter said.
“A common thing on this street?” Ganor asked.
She shook her head. “We’ve crime, sure enough. But thievery ain’t much heard of.” Vera hooked a thumb in the direction of her own shop. “Keep an eye on the place, will you? I mean to go learn what’s happened.”
“Surely will, Miss Vera,” Ganor said.
No objection to being asked to remain behind while a woman investigated the danger. There weren’t many men who’d accept that arrangement, especially those with a brawler’s history.
Vera dipped her head to a few neighbors she passed, all of whom were watching the proceedings outside the tobacco shop with worried curiosity. She reached the doorway in a matter of moments and eyed the scene.
The shop was a bit broken up. Mr. Bianchi sat atop an overturned crate with a wet rag pressed to one eye. Mr. Overton, the barber from across the way, stood beside him, a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
“What happened?” Vera asked.
“A couple of roughs demanded money of him, then tossed the place around.”
“Because he wouldn’t pay?”
Mr. Bianchi shook his head.
Mr. Overton answered. “He gave them what they demanded. They tore the place to bits anyway.”
The damage didn’t look irreparable, but it was a full mess. “I’ve extra hands at my shop today. I’d bet Ganor’d be willing to come help you set the place to rights.”
“I’ll not take away your employee,” Mr. Bianchi said. “You’d be paying him and getting nothing for it.”
“Not a bit of truth to that. Having your shop running as it ought and showing anyone wishing to follow these roughs’ example that they’ll not manage much are both well worth doing.”
Whether Mr. Bianchi and Mr. Overton believed her, she couldn’t say, but she kept her word. Ganor was more than willing to head to the tobacconist’s and clean and sort things, though he too expressed concern about being paid by her for work he wasn’t doing for her. While she was grateful so many people were concerned for her, she was a little frustrated that no one seemed to take her at her word.
She was still considered new in the area, and she was younger than a lot of the local merchants. Papa’s gruff standoffishness likely didn’t help. And, though she sounded London, she was told often enough that she looked Russian that she wondered if that might also be considered by some people a mark against her. There were plenty enough immigrants in this corner of London; it ought not to have been a point of trouble.
In time, she would find a way of forging connections here. She would make a home of this bit of Soho.
She would stop being so painfully alone.
Chapter 4, Pages 50-55
Add to Goodreads
FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon US. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks!
About the Author
winning Proper Romance series novels including The Lady and the Highwayman and Ashes on the Moor. Combining her passion for history and an affinity for love stories, Sarah crafts smart, witty characters and heartfelt romances. She happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library and dreams of one day traveling to all the places she reads about.
Connect with Sarah M. Eden
Aug 16 Among the Reads (Review)
Aug 16 Austenprose (Review)
Aug 16 Reading is My Superpower (Review)
Aug 17 Literary Time Out (Review)
Aug 17 Getting Your Read On (Review)
Aug 17 Heidi Reads (Excerpt)
Aug 17 Laura's Reviews (Review)
Aug 18 Our Book Confessions (Review)
Aug 18 Bookworm Lisa (Review)
Aug 19 Fire & Ice (Review)
Aug 19 From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
Aug 20 My Bookish Bliss (Review)
Aug 20 Gwendalyn's Books (Review)
Aug 20 Storeybook Reviews (Excerpt)
Aug 21 Bookish Rantings (Review)
Aug 21 The Calico Critic (Review)
Aug 22 The Christian Fiction Girl (Review)
Aug 22 Books, Teacups, & Reviews (Excerpt)
Aug 23 My Jane Austen Book Club (Spotlight)
Aug 23 Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Review)
Aug 23 Reading with Emily (Review)
Aug 24 Wishful Endings (Review)
Aug 24 Relz Reviewz (Review)
Aug 24 The Book Diva Reads (Excerpt)
Aug 25 Bookfoolery (Review)
Aug 25 Greenish Bookshelf (Review)
Aug 26 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
Aug 26 Nurse Bookie (Review)
Aug 27 So Little Time… (Excerpt)
Aug 27 Probably at the Library (Review)
Aug 27 Bringing Up Books (Review)
Aug 28 Books and Socks Rock (Review)
Aug 28 The Bibliophile Files (Review)
Aug 29 Book Confessions of an Ex-Ballerina (Review)
Aug 29 A Darn Good Read (Review)
Congratulations to Sarah on the release of The Merchant and the Rogue!
Many thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose for organizing and having me on this blog tour!