To the court and subjects of Queen Victoria, young Princess Louise—later the Duchess of Argyll—was the “Wild One.” Proud and impetuous, she fought the constraints placed on her and her brothers and sisters, dreamed of becoming an artist, and broke with a three-hundred-year-old tradition by marrying outside of the privileged circle of European royals. Some said she wed for love. Others whispered of a scandal covered up by the Crown. It will take a handsome American, recruited by the queen’s elite Secret Service, to discover the truth. But even as Stephen Byrne— code name the Raven—vows to risk his life to protect the royal family from violent Irish radicals, he tempts Louise with a forbidden love that could prove just as dangerous.
In the vein of Philippa Gregory, Mary Hart Perry tells the riveting story of an extraordinary woman—a princess who refused to give up on her dreams, including her right to true love.
Osborne House, Isle of Wight
Wednesday, January 23, 1901
My dearest Edward,
I write to you with a grieving heart. My emotions are so a-jumble at this moment I can barely stop my hand from trembling long enough to put pen to paper. As all of London wakes to the sad news, you too must by now be aware that Victoria, Queen by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India—my mother—has passed from this life. Last night I stood at her bedside along with my surviving sisters and brothers, the many grandchildren, and those most favored among her court. We bid our final good-byes, and she drifted away. Among us was the devoted Colonel the Lord Edward Pelham-Clinton, who delivers this letter and accompanying documents, by hand, into your possession.
The doctors say it was a cerebral hemorrhage, not uncommon for a woman in her 80’s, but I believe she was just tired and ready to rest after reigning these tumultuous sixty-four years, many of them without her beloved Prince Consort, Albert, my father, who died before you were born.
She was not a physically affectionate mother, demanded far more than she ever gave, often drove me to anger and tears, and very nearly destroyed my life…more than once. Yet I did, in my own way, love her.
The enclosed manuscript is my means for setting straight in my own mind the alarming events of several critical years in my life. But more than that, it will bring to you, although belatedly—and for that I apologize—the truth. Your mother, my dearest friend, wished to tell you of these matters long ago. Indeed, it was she who compiled most of the information herein, using her rare skills as an observer of human nature and, later in life, as a gifted investigative journalist. I have filled in the few facts she was unable to uncover on her own. For selfish reasons I begged her to keep our secrets a while longer…and a while longer. Then she too departed from this world for a better one, leaving no one to press me to reveal these most shameful deeds. Indeed, Edward dear, I would not even now strip bare the deceptions played out in my lifetime, had they not so intimately involved you.
Do these words shock you? If so, then you had best burn these pages and live the rest of your life in ignorance. But as I remember, you were a curious lad, and so I expect you will read on. However, before you go further, I must ask of you a solemn favor. What I am about to reveal is for your knowledge alone, that you might better understand both the gifts and the sins passed along to you. To share this account with others would cause scandal so damaging that our government would surely topple. Therefore, I implore you to choose—either destroy the enclosed manuscript this instant without reading it, or do the same after reading in private.
Regardless of your decision, I pray you will ever think of me as your devoted godmother and friend, and not hate me for the things I have done to protect you or, on my own behalf, simply to survive.
Be assured of my love,
Princess Louise, duchess of Argyll
About the Author
Mary Hart Perry lives in Maryland with her husband and two feline writing partners: Miranda and Tempest. She teaches at The Writer’s Center in Washington, DC and is an inspiring speaker for international and regional organizations interested in the joys of history and fiction writing. She is an advocate for teen and adult literacy. You can reach her at Mary@MaryHartPerry.com. She invites you to “like” her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter @Mary_Hart_Perry.
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