One of my favorite trends in literature today is the reimagining of beloved characters’ lives, sometimes into entirely new genres. Mary Bennet may have played a small role in Pride and Prejudice, but she gets some much deserved attention in Katherine Cowley‘s historical mystery series, The Secret Life of Mary Bennet. The middle Bennet sister working as a spy? Yes please! In just a few days, we can all enjoy the third book of the series, The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception. This time, Mary is investigating some murders following Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape from the Isle of Elba. Of course, there are also her growing romantic feelings for her partner, Mr. Withrow, to contend with…
This novel looks absolutely delightful, and I can hardly wait to read it. Once I get through the first two books in the series, I’ll be eager to dive into The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception. Further amplifying my excitement is the exclusive excerpt that I can share below. Who knew kissing could be such a valuable resource in the art of espionage?! Read on for more about that!
Following the excerpt from The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception, you can also find out more about the book – including when and where to get it – below. Do let me know if you’re planning to pick up The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception, and if you’ve already read it, let me know how you liked it in the comments! I’m hoping to read it soon, so stay tuned for my review.
Exclusive Excerpt From The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception
Mary Bennet and other spies are being given further training by spymaster Lady Trafford. After several weeks of weapons training, the idea of using physical affection—such as kissing—to gather information is proposed. The very thought scandalizes Mary, but ultimately she agrees to it as a possible weapon in a spy’s arsenal. However, Mary has never kissed anyone before, and she needs practice.
The curtains had been opened, exposing the windows on both ends of the long ballroom. Lady Trafford looked at each of the men. “I need you to commit to share not a word of this to anyone. If any of you choose, for any reason, to expose any of the women here or damage their future prospects, I will personally ensure that you regret the act.”
Each of the men agreed. Lady Trafford was not a woman to be trifled with.
She listed off each of the partners for the exercise, leaving Mary and Mr. Withrow for last, so it was clear that they were partners even before she said it. Mr. Withrow looked at her with a certain wariness, and then took her arm and led her to the large windows at the far end of the ballroom. They stopped, and he released her arm. In the distance, Mary could see the ocean, or really, the English Channel. Mr. Withrow had been with her the first time she had touched the water, there, on that very shore.
“Miss Bennet,” said Mr. Withrow, looking very solemn. His eyes were a deep brown. She had never noticed that before. Of course, she did not normally look at someone like this. She only noticed eye colour when drawing, and despite creating portraits of almost everyone else at Castle Durrington, she had never drawn Mr. Withrow.
“I know, as a spy, that there can be a great amount of pressure to conform to expectations,” said Mr. Withrow. “However, if this is not something that you want to do, you should hold your ground and not do it.”
“I have made up my mind,” said Mary. “I am not unwilling.”
“Not being unwilling is not the same as being willing.”
“Do you truly want to have a debate of words?”
He considered this, but before he could respond, she stepped closer to him, and pressed her lips against his.
After a moment she pulled away. She had not expected such an abundance of physical sensation, and such a pleasant abundance at that.
It would be useful to catalogue the physical sensations associated with kissing, so she did so in her mind. Her lips tingled and felt warm. She was relatively certain that her cheeks had gone red, but she felt no embarrassment. And she felt very much alive, as if she was more awake.
“I suspect I need more practice than one kiss, if you are willing, Mr. Withrow.”
“Yes, I am willing,” he said.
This time he leaned into her, and the kiss was a little longer. Mr. Withrow smelled of leather-bound books. The fact that he was about her height was rather convenient for this sort of activity.
They pulled away again.
“That is not the sort of kiss that would cause someone to reveal secrets,” said Lady Trafford before heading in the direction of the other couples who were positioned at other spots across the ballroom.
Frankly, Mary felt it had been a very good kiss, but as she had limited experience, she supposed Lady Trafford might be right.
“Do you have any suggestions, Mr. Withrow? I assume you have much more experience at this than I.”
“I have no suggestions for you, Miss Bennet.” This might be the first time he had not criticised her when given the opportunity. “However, we could try a more…French style of kiss. That may be what my aunt is suggesting.”
“A French style?”
“Well, it involves the parting of the lips and, often, the incorporation of the tongue.” He almost seemed embarrassed at this admission. She wondered how many women he had kissed before…how many French women.
“That sounds unusual,” said Mary.
“We do not need to attempt it if you are not inclined.” He adjusted his already straight cravat.
“I think it would benefit me to practise a full range of kissing styles.”
He no longer looked solemn, but beyond that, she could not tell what he was thinking at all. She wondered if he was experiencing the same range of physical sensations. How strange to think that they might be sharing that.
She was unsure of what to do, so she waited for him to initiate the kiss.
He reached out his hand, took a lock of her hair, and tucked it behind her ear. And then he kissed her.
The kiss felt very French, and produced a whole ream of additional sensations, which, due to their number, were difficult to catalogue. Better to get lost in them than to attempt to sort them in her mind.
When they pulled away, Mary was not quite sure what to say, so she said, “Merci, Mr. Withrow. That was quite educational.”
“For me as well, Miss Bennet.”
What could he possibly mean by that? He had clearly kissed before; surely there was nothing she could teach him.
Lady Trafford approached. “Do something with your hands, Miss Bennet. You are as stiff as a board. And Henry, your posture is just as rigid.”
“I do not know what to do with my hands,” said Mary.
“Then improvise,” said Lady Trafford.
Mary looked around the ballroom, hoping it would provide some sort of inspiration. Kitty had one hand on Mr. Stanley’s chest, and one on the nape of his neck. Miss Tagore had her hands wrapped around Mr. Twamley’s back. It was almost disturbing, but Mary reassured herself that everyone in this room was only kissing and doing nothing more. To her surprise, she rather liked kissing. It was a strange sort of admission.
“Shall we attempt?” said Mr. Withrow.
He held out his hand towards her, and she placed her hand in his. And then he smiled at her. Somehow, this felt more intimate than kissing him. After a moment, she placed her other hand on his chest. She could feel the sunlight on her face. They both initiated this kiss, and soon, Mr. Withrow had wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. It was quite extraordinary, like being wrapped in a blanket next to a cosy fire.
She did not want to stop kissing him. Of course, that was a sure sign that she should stop. She pulled away and brushed imaginary dirt off her skirt.
“I think I have had sufficient practice,” said Mary.
“Very well,” said Mr. Withrow, as formally as ever. He bowed to her, and then he left the room. An irresponsible part of Mary wanted to call him back.
Chapter 1, pages 14-17
What is a spy willing to do when both her heart and her country are at risk?
Life changes once again for British spy Miss Mary Bennet when Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from the Isle of Elba. Mary quickly departs England for Brussels, the city where the Allied forces prepare for war against the French. But shortly after her arrival, one of the Duke of Wellington’s best officers is murdered, an event which threatens to break the delicate alliance between the Allies.
Investigating the murder forces Mary into precarious levels of espionage, role-playing, and deception with her new partner, Mr. Withrow—the nephew and heir of her prominent sponsor, and the spy with whom she’s often at odds. Together, they court danger and discovery as they play dual roles gathering intelligence for the British. But soon Mary realizes that her growing feelings towards Mr. Withrow put her heart in as much danger as her life. And then there’s another murder.
Mary will need to unmask the murderer before more people are killed, but can she do so and remain hidden in the background?
Get the Book
You can pre-order The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception from the links below – on September 6th, it will available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
Paperback & Ebook Purchase Links:
Audiobook Purchase Links:
|A Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception by Katherine Cowley|
|Series||The Secret Life of Mary Bennet (#3)|
|Genre||Historical Mystery; Historical Romance|
|Number of Pages||368|
|Original Publication Date||September 6, 2022|
About the Author
Katherine Cowley read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when she was ten years old, which started a lifelong obsession with Jane Austen. Her debut novel, The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet, was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her Mary Bennet spy series continues with the novels The True Confessions of a London Spy and The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception. Katherine loves history, chocolate, traveling, and playing the piano, and she has taught writing classes at Western Michigan University. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband and three daughters.