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when it could carry so much good: a new life for a wounded soldier, catharsis
after long years of war—and an opportunity for lady composer Olivia Delancey to
finally hear her music played in public.
publisher Will Marsh refuses to compound the sins of his father’s generation by
taking money to print propaganda. But with the end of the wars in France and
America, he needs something new to drive Londoners to grab his paper first. Why
not publish the score of the “Tune That Took Waterloo,” by a wounded vet, no
Olivia struggles to keep her secrets from this unsuitably alluring publisher,
and Will fights to find the truth without losing his hold on this bright-eyed
angel who has descended into his life, both discover another sort of truth.
the talk of London can be bad—or very, very good.
newspaper-publishing setting is very rare in regencies but fascinating to the
author, a former newspaperwoman.
plays a big role: Olivia plays pianoforte and Spanish-style guitar; there are
three very different concerts in the story.
also is big: the hero falls in the sound and nearly drowns; the heroine
surprises the hero during a steamy bath.
lies to help a wounded veteran and he is a strong secondary character. Services
and conditions for war veterans were poor at this time.
London, 1815—A resourceful composer falls for
the newspaper publisher she tricks into printing her music, crossing the
political aisle, the class line, and the new method of journalism: “nothing but
Miss Olivia Delancey can’t disclose that she
wrote the piece of music a former flame played to lead his regiment into battle
at Waterloo because the news would ruin her in high society. But by selling it
as his work, and sharing any profits, she might offer her badly injured friend
a decent way to pay his hospital bills and start on his new life.
Powerful, principled Will MARSH won’t publish
anything of suspicious origin. The fledgling newspaper’s reputation was badly
tarnished after his father was sent to prison for printing political slander.
In the five years Will has run it, he has lifted the London Beacon out of the
pockets of politicians and grown a steady circulation interested in timely,
uncensored news from the wars in Europe and the Americas. But now even as
England only begins to return to civilian life after Napoleon’s second defeat,
he finds circulation declining. He needs to change his paper and deliver
something that appeals to the public’s changing tastes. This paper is his life.
Why not try featuring the arts? The lady makes a
good point, and Will agrees to publish the piece. He proposes a new style of
story, a profile, and offers to print the piece of music to pair with it. The
uplifting, martial tune by “an injured war veteran” is a hit, performed at
parties and even during a peace celebration held by the regent. At the
celebration, they discover their attraction is more than cerebral.
She likes his straightforward manner, and how he
doesn’t immediately discount what she says just because she’s a lady. She finds
she wants to please him, wants him to look at her that way that makes her feel
desirable for herself, not the filigree that is her image as a lady.
Will is shocked by his attraction to the lady,
and at first treats it as simple flirting. But he can’t stop himself after a
surprise touch during the regent’s celebratory ball; he cozies up to her in the
midst of a throng of people—and she plays along. He forces himself to step
Olivia is thrilled to hear her tune played and
admired, but family finances force her to leave for Plymouth at the height of
the interest. She sells Will on running another piece “by the same composer,”
then leaves for her family’s house in Plymouth.
The story grows so large (and the other news so
small) that a rival publisher starts chasing after the titular composer,
initially coming up cold. Will brushes them off, and when he hears that
Napoleon is headed to Plymouth aboard a British “jail” ship, he decides to
travel south to cover the Little General’s story—and see a certain lady.
Olivia, who had offered to be his local guide,
meets him at the dock, where the flotilla of Britishers goggling at the former
emperor inspires them both: Will to caricature and Olivia to composition. After
an altercation with another boat, Will falls into the bay, which even in summer
can bring on hypothermia. Olivia nurses him on the boat and takes him home to
clean up. He repays her with a kiss, which grows deeper than either expect.
With all the tourists in town, he can’t find
lodgings. Her aunt insists he stay with them. She finds he is not as out of
place here as she expected; a year at Oxford has put polish in his manner. She
doesn’t know that that year also turned him off Society woman, as the sister of
a college chum publicly played him for a fool. But Will finds his attraction
growing to this unusual lady. They tell childhood stories and Olivia plays the
piano for him.
Later, they kiss, and this time Will doesn’t
step back. Neither does Olivia.
Will wakes to find the competitor paper accusing
him of lying about the music story. Before Olivia wakes he has left for London.
He assigns his best reporter to investigate.
A few days later, at the funeral for one of
Olivia’s father’s Commons allies, the father, a baron, offers his political
support to Will. Politics was a pipe dream while Will was getting the paper up
and profitable, now it could be a reality.
But later in the Commons, during a confrontation
with the rival publisher, the baron lets slip that Olivia is a gifted composer.
Will feels he has been deceived again, repeating his mistake from college and
his father’s mistake in politics (his father’s “source” was a woman, too). He
and her father agree to confront Olivia.
Meanwhile, at the engagement tea for the faux
composer, the man tells Olivia his new fiancée “won’t marry a man whose life is
a lie” and he must come clean. This and her aunt’s earlier lecture convince
Olivia to confess to Will, but she’s too late, he’s heard it already, and after
a confrontation walks away from her. His paper runs a terse retraction, not
Hearing others belittle the Beacon and its “dupe
of a publisher,” Olivia realizes what her white lies have meant to Will and to
his paper. She knows he hates being part of the story, and that he will not
forgive her. But, she decides, she must make things right anyway.
Will has learned to see shades of gray, and
realizes there are worse things than losing a story, such as losing the
affection of a good, if wayward, woman. But he decides it is up to Olivia to
see sense, and he’s not sure she’s up to it.
Olivia offers to tell the whole story to Will’s
chief correspondent. Will is suspicious, but she proves to him this story is
truth, and he runs it. She finds that having the cat out of the bag is not so
bad: Though the invitations to the homes of the Upper Crust have declined, her
family is still her family, and her friends still her friends. But she has
changed. The third piece of music she publishes, with the new story, is
Will decides it’s time to hand the reins of the
daily paper over to his editor, who had suspected the story from the first, and
announces his candidacy for a seat in the House of Commons. His first campaign
rally gives him a sense of déjà vu—just months before he had covered a rally in
the same coaching inn for his predecessor. That time, Olivia and her family had
attended to show their support. It was where they first met.
This time, she appears again, surprising him and
the crowd as Will leans Whig. She publicly says she is here because he is a
good man; privately, she tells him it is to make up, in some small way, for the
wrong she has done him. It’s not right to hurt the people you love, she says.
Cut off by her political family, Olivia tells
him she plans to leave London and live cheaply in Plymouth, trying to make it
as a composer. He suggests she take up residence in his district, which is
close enough to London she could still enjoy the music and arts. In fact, he
has just the home for her. And while she would make a very poor newspaperman’s
wife, he says, as a politician’s wife she’d be perfection. She agrees.
Nicky Penttila writes stories with adventure and love, and often with
ideas and history as well. Her favorite settings are faraway cities and
countries, because then she *must* travel there, you know, for research. She
lives in Maryland with her reading-mad husband and amazing rescue cat. She’s
chattiest on Twitter, @sunshinyday, and can also be found at nickypenttila.com and on Facebook.