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Authors: Sarah Zettel

Dangerous Deceptions

BOOK: Dangerous Deceptions
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Table of Contents



In which Our Heroine prepares for battle in the latest fashion and receives an unwelcome blow.

In which a most unwelcome acquaintance is renewed.

In which, against all expectations, at least a few plans unfold as hoped.

In which Our Heroine gives her first party and discovers that not all the circumstances of her life have changed.

In which a most touching reunion is achieved.

In which Our Heroine boldly attempts, just once, to begin a normal sort of day.

In which Our Heroine finds herself once more out in the cold.

In which orders are given, and accepted, with a certain and perfectly comprehensible amount of reluctance.

In which Our Heroine makes a perilous descent among some unruly and unkempt ruffians.

In which Our Heroine makes her full and free confession and must accept the consequences.

In which Our Heroine attempts some actual spying, with frustratingly limited results.

In which Our Heroine receives a highly unusual dancing lesson.

In which a second and much more comfortable supper is given, and pie is consumed by all concerned.

In which Our Heroine avoids a card game, initiates a business transaction, and rises to a challenge.

In which there are favors proposed, confessions offered, and more than a few words spoken in haste.

In which Our Heroine must account for her actions.

In which Our Heroine engages in a pair of entirely unsatisfactory confrontations.

In which Our Heroine makes one more bold attempt at both reconciliation and artifice.

In which the fortress is breached.

In which Our Heroine suffers an infuriating delay.

In which a number of most unwelcome discoveries are made.

In which a timely and highly desirable escape is, most unfortunately, prevented.

In which Our Heroine discovers even previously identified problems may contain unsuspected and profoundly unwelcome depths.

In which Our Heroine becomes thoroughly tired of unexpected encounters in dark places.

In which it becomes abundantly clear that drastic and decisive action is required.


In which the stakes are unusually high, even by Our Heroine’s standards.

In which triumph proves to be somewhat short-lived.

In which Our Heroine reluctantly forms several new acquaintances.

In which certain discoveries are made, and there is a short but eventful boat ride.

In which there prove to be multiple endings, plus one beginning.

Sample Chapter from PALACE OF SPIES

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About the Author

Copyright © 2014 by Sarah Zettel


All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.


The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:

Zettel, Sarah.

Dangerous deceptions : a Palace of Spies novel : being the latest volume in the entirely true and wholly remarkable adventures of Margaret Preston Fitzroy, maid of honor, impersonator of persons of quality, confirmed housebreaker, apprentice cardsharper, and confidential agent at the court of His Majesty, King George I / Sarah Zettel.

pages cm. —(Palace of spies ; 2)

Summary: An unwelcome engagement, a mysterious plot that hints at treason, and a possible murder add even more excitement to sixteen-year-old Peggy Fitzroy’s life as she continues to serve as both a lady in waiting and confidential agent to King George of England.

ISBN 978-0-544-07409-5

[1. Spies—Fiction. 2. Courts and courtiers—Fiction. 3. Love—Fiction. 4. Orphans—Fiction. 5. London (England)—History—18th century—Fiction. 6. Great Britain—History—George I, 1714–1727—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.Z448 Dan 2014




eISBN 978-0-544-07374-6





This book is dedicated to all those who refuse to simply stand and wait.


London, October 1716

I begin this newest volume of my memoirs with a frank warning. Soon or late, there comes to the life of every confidential agent and maid of honor an order she wishes with all her heart to refuse.

In my particular case, it involved dinner.

For those as yet unfamiliar with these memoirs, my name is Margaret Preston Fitzroy, though I am more commonly known as Peggy. Until quite recently, I was an orphan girl, living in a state of dependency with my banker uncle, his kind but silly wife, and my dear, dramatic cousin, Olivia. This evening, I sat in my dressing closet at St. James’s Palace, trussed up tightly in my corsets and silk mantua, and trying to remember if I’d ordered everything necessary to entertain those same relations in royal style.

“You’re certain the kitchen agreed to the partridges?” I asked my maid, Nell Libby.

“Yes, miss,” Libby answered through clenched teeth. This was not because I had asked her this same question three or four times in the past hour. At least, not entirely. Rather, it was because she had a mouthful of silver pins and was endeavoring to fix my hair in the latest style.

“What about the jugged hares?” I demanded. My own voice was somewhat muffled from my efforts to keep my teeth from chattering. It had begun to rain outside. Even in the windowless dressing closet of my equally windowless bedchamber, I could hear the steady pounding over the roofs. Each drop carried winter’s brutal promise and dragged another icy draft across the wooden floor. My fire was roaring, and I was being positively profligate with the candles, but my rooms remained cold enough that my fingertips had achieved a truly arresting shade of blue. “And the chianti? It’s my uncle’s favorite wine. Ormand did say he’d have an extra bottle laid by for us?”

I don’t believe I had put in as much effort preparing for any court function as I had for this meal. I had spent the better part of the last two weeks arranging for room, food, and drink, all the while assuring the clerks of the household (mostly truthfully) that I could pay for it all and that, upon my sacred honor, my little entertainment would not add extra expense to the royal housekeeping.

Had it been up to me, I would have never laid eyes upon my uncle again. He might have taken me in after my mother died, but we had never warmed to each other. Matters rather came to a head this past spring when he betrothed me to a young man with whom I later shared a mutual misunderstanding. That is to say, I attacked him. To be perfectly fair, though, he did attack me first. This wholly rational argument, however, failed to carry any weight with my uncle, and his response was to throw me out into the street. That the entire unhappy affair ended with my taking up residence in the royal court came as something of a surprise to all concerned. As did the interlude in which I masqueraded as one Lady Francesca, who, it was discovered, had been murdered.

I hasten to add that none of this was actually my own doing or idea. Well, almost none. That is to say, very little.

This admittedly extraordinary run of events had an appropriately extraordinary ending. I now enjoyed a certain amount of royal favor and a post at court. It had not, however, served to mend the rift between myself and my uncle. For my part, I had rather hoped to let that particular matter lie. Unfortunately, my new mistress, Her Royal Highness Princess Caroline, had other ideas.

“Sir Oliver Pierpont is your uncle and legal guardian, Miss Fitzroy,” she reminded me, with a hard tap of the royal index finger against the back of my hand. “Whether or not you relish the relationship. You will make peace with him, or trouble will come of it.”

She was right. More important, she was Princess of Wales. That fact limited the replies I could make to being lectured or poked. I could not, for example, inform Her Royal Highness that I would much prefer to be removed to some place of quiet retirement, such as the Tower.

“I’ve made sure of everything, miss. I promise you.” Libby might have been behind me, but the face she pulled showed clearly in the looking glass on my vanity table. “Now, hold still, or I’ll have this pin right in your scalp.”

“On purpose too.”

“Now, miss, would I ever do that?”

“I’m not entirely sure.”

“Then you’d better be sure you sit still, hadn’t you? Miss.”

The perceptive reader will see by this exchange that my luck with maids had not improved since we last communicated. When I first came to court, my maid was a large, raw-boned woman called Mrs. Abbott. We had what might be charitably described as a troubled relationship. The fact that I once accused her of plotting murder did not assist matters. Libby, by contrast, was a tiny girl about my own age. She was so tiny, in fact, that she had to stand on a footstool to properly pin and pomade my hair. Her olive skin and dark eyes might have indicated descent from a Spaniard, or a Roman, or a Gypsy rover. Libby pretended ignorance on the matter, and I pretended to believe her.

I might have tried to find a different, gentler person to whom I could entrust the care of my person but for one grave and overwhelming concern: Libby had mastered the New Art of Hairdressing.

It was a dread and terrible time to be a maid of honor, for we found ourselves in the midst of the storm of revolution. For women, the wig had gone out of fashion.

The wig, or more properly, the
had been seen as an indispensable portion of the fashionable lady’s toilette since the days of Queen Anne. Its purpose, as far as I could tell, was to ensure woman’s rigid adherence to the first two of the Great Rules of Fashion. I will set those down here as a warning to future generations.

Rule 1: Any item of dress for ladies must be both more complicated and less comfortable than the corresponding item for gentlemen.

Rule 2: No woman may show any portion of her personage in public without it being severely, and preferably painfully, altered.

The fontange satisfied both criteria admirably. It was an assemblage of horsehair and wire framework pinned and strapped to the lady’s Delicate Head, over which her own hair was then arranged to create sufficient height and approved shape, with the whole topped off by a tall comb or similar adornment. But recently, some daring woman had appeared before the new regent of France with a smooth, sleek head of her own hair on full display. Instead of being shocked beyond endurance, the regent liked it. He liked it, and he said so. Aloud. In public.

Thus are mighty storms generated by the tiniest gust.
En masse,
the ladies of Versailles cast off the fontange to freely and wantonly display their own tresses. Many were scandalized, but where Versailles’s ladies led, we lesser mortals were condemned to follow.

For me, this all meant an extra hour in front of the mirror. The fontange might have been consigned to history alongside the neck ruff and the codpiece, but Rules 1 and 2 were not to be altered in any particular. My coarse, dark hair could not be shown in public until it had been cemented into orderly ringlets and lovelocks, then pinned with pearls and flowers and other such maidenly adornments. Libby the Sharp excelled at this feat of fashion, unfortunately.

There was a knock at the door. Libby snorted and jumped off her stool. By then, however, the closet door had opened and Mary Bellenden was sauntering in.

“Hello, Peggy. I’ve come for that bracelet you said I could borrow.” Mary was not a friend to me, or to anyone as far as I could tell. She was, in fact, one of the few genuinely careless people I’d ever met. A diamond and a hen’s egg were both the same to the lively Miss Bellenden, as long as they were accompanied by a flattering turn of phrase and the chance to make a good joke.

Without pausing to do more than smile at my reflection, Mary flipped up the lid on the first of the jewel boxes set out on my vanity table and began rooting through the contents. I was not surprised. Mary Bellenden did not believe in pausing for such trifles as permission.

“It’s here.” I pushed a smaller, sandalwood box toward her, trying not to move my head. Libby had resumed her stool and taken up her pins. She held one up for me to see in the glass. It was a gentle reminder that she was in a position to make my life yet more uncomfortable if I executed any sudden moves.

“Thank you for taking my turn at waiting tonight,” I said to Mary, keeping my head rigidly still.

“Not at all.” Mary held up the pearl and peridot bracelet. It was a pretty thing, and I rather liked it. However, this loan was understood to be of long duration. Those of us in waiting to the royal family were kept to a strict schedule. We had three months on duty, followed by a month off, during which we might return to our family homes, if we had them. This may not sound terribly onerous, but we were expected to be in attendance between six and seven days each week. If it was a state occasion, a day could stretch to twenty hours out of the twenty-four. Maids of honor, like the other “women of the bedchamber,” could take a day off only as long as at least two of us remained in attendance. This resulted in the trading of all sorts of favors and small valuables in return for time.

BOOK: Dangerous Deceptions
9.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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