Muskets and Masquerades by Lindsey S. Fera released in April in the Historical Romance genre.
Jack and Annalisa are married only five months when, enroute to France, a shipwreck separates them. On different shores, each believes the other dead. But when Annalisa learns Jack is alive, she returns to America and discovers much has changed. After a betrayal, she flees town as her alter ego, Benjamin Cavendish, and joins the Continental Army.
Unbeknownst to Annalisa, Jack has also joined the Continentals, harboring shameful secrets from his days in mourning. Against the backdrop of war with Britain, façades mount between Jack and Annalisa, and the merry minuet of their adolescence dissolves into a masquerade of deceit, one which threatens to part them forever.
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With Candlemas upon them, Twelfth Night felt to be years ago, not mere weeks. Annalisa and Mary sat in the parlor. Her sister worked on her needlepoint, and Annalisa reread Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. The pamphlet was now two years old, but the radical words still rang true. She harkened back to the night at the Black Water Inn when Jack, William, and Quinnapin gathered about to read the pamphlet for the first time; before any of them, save George, had left for the army.
George was returning from the Black Water today, and would be home within the hour, she supposed. Three years had passed since he last stepped inside his own establishment, and two years since Annalisa had seen Elisha Porter.
She glanced at Mary and smiled. Her darling younger sister would have her debut come spring. Annalisa pondered the kind of gentleman who would ask Mary to dance, and perhaps, court her. My little sister, my dearest Mary. She can’t be courted by just anyone. But who remains to attend these local balls? What young, eligible gentleman hasn’t joined the war?
Mary seemed unaffected. Her little needle pointed up, then down, her fingers fast at work embroidering a rose. Mary was far better than she or Jane ever purported to be at needlepoint. Annalisa bit her lip to hide her smirk. Her own stitching was base at the best of times, and Jane had always been the accomplished one among them. Now, Mary seemed to surpass even Jane.
“You’re quite good,” Annalisa said.
Mary looked up. “I suppose with you and Jane gone I’ve had much time to master these old, hackneyed patterns.”
Annalisa set aside her pamphlet. “I’m sorry I left you alone here.”
“Don’t be. You were married, and then terrible things befell you. I could never blame you for any of it. I’ve only missed you, ’tis all. Would that I could’ve joined you.”
“Mary, you know ’tis too dangerous.”
Mary set down her canvas. “What makes you think I don’t wish to partake in this war? What makes you think I couldn’t learn to fire a musket as you have?”
“I wouldn’t wish what I’ve seen upon anyone, especially you. Battle is full of horrors. If you wish to partake, then weave your own textiles, as other ladies are wont to do—”
“How can you rebuke me so? You of all would scoff at such trite displays of rebellion.”
Annalisa frowned. Mary was right. She could hardly sit by and spin her own fabric while the men left for battle. “Well, if you don’t fight, and you’ll not weave or spin, what will you do?”
“I go with Henry every other week to George’s tavern. I’ve taken to listening.”
“Aye. I’ve come away with quite a bit of information,” Mary replied.
“And to whom have you relayed such knowledge?” Though Annalisa chuckled, she remembered the few times she’d been at George’s tavern and overheard Loyalists speaking of British generals and such. A tavern was an easy way to garner intelligence, but it was a matter of ensuring the news ended safely, and in the right hands.
“I’ve told Henry, of course,” Mary replied.
“Ah, then he takes it to his contact?” Annalisa asked.
“I suppose. I know not where he takes my information.” Mary picked up her canvas and continued with her perfect rose.
Espionage. ’Tis what Mary does. She spies. Perhaps she could be employed by someone within the Continental Army. No one would suspect her… The thought covered her in goosebumps. Spies, if uncovered, always received capital punishment. No, I can never involve her. The dangers are too great.
She suddenly understood the fear George felt all these years about her masquerading as a man. He cared too much for her to see her languishing in a prison, or potentially hanged.
The front door swung open, and George strode into the parlor. “My two favorite sisters,” he bellowed. “I come bearing gifts from Elisha.” He handed them each a parcel wrapped in paper.
Annalisa tore it open and sniffed the beef mince pie. Her mouth watered at the buttery crust. “How I’ve missed these.”
Mary carefully put away her canvas then ripped open the paper, and bit into the pie without moving to the kitchen.
Annalisa and George laughed.
“These pies are so delicious, George,” Mary said, her mouth full and her eyes rolling back into her head.
“Careful, with such vulgar manners, Mother won’t let you have your debut this spring,” George howled. He sat beside Annalisa and drew up the pamphlet she’d been reading. “I’ve read this thing nearly a hundred times.”
“I’ve but read it twice.” She leaned against him and closed her eyes.
A knock sounded at the door, and Annalisa lifted her head.
LINDSEY S. FERA is a born and bred New Englander, hailing from the North Shore of Boston. As a member of the Topsfield Historical Society and the Historical Novel Society, she forged her love for writing with her intrigue for colonial America by writing her debut novel, Muskets & Minuets, a planned trilogy.
When she’s not attending historical reenactments or spouting off facts about Boston, she’s nursing patients back to health. Muskets & Masquerades is her sophomore novel.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Lindsey-S-Fera/author/B09598KYNM
The excerpt is part of a tour. Tour Schedule Page: https://thecoffeepotbookclub.blogspot.com/2023/03/blog-tour-muskets-and-masquerades.html
Thanks so much for hosting Lindsey S. Fera today with an excerpt from Muskets & Masquerades.
The Coffee Pot Book Club
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