SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Duplicitous Debutante by Becky Lower

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In 1859, ladies of New York society are expected to do three things well: find a husband, organize a household, and have children. But despite her mother’s best intentions, making her debut is the last thing on Rosemary Fitzpatrick’s mind.

Writing the popular Harry Hawk dime novels as F.P. Elliott, she’s too busy hiding her female identity from her new publisher, Henry Cooper. To protect her clandestine career, she ends up posing as the enigmatic author’s secretary.
Henry is not the typical Boston Brahmin, nor the typical publisher, and Rosemary entrances him from the moment they meet. As they work together and grow closer, he wonders how his traditional-minded father will react when he brings her into the family, because Henry firmly intends to marry the working-class woman.

But when her deception begins to unravel at the cotillion ball, will Henry be able to forgive her or has deceit cost her the man she loves?

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EXCERPT

Harry Hawk and the Tycoon’s Daughter—Book Six in the Harry Hawk Series

Harry Hawk stared down the barrel of his Colt .45. A huge Sioux Indian was in his sights, but was holding the girl in front of him as a shield. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she struggled against the man, and she trembled as she kept her eyes on the end of Harry’s gun.

New York City, March 1859

Rosemary Fitzpatrick laid her fountain pen on the paper, oblivious to the blob of ink that fell from its tip and damaged the page. She picked up the letter she had received earlier in the day.

It was her own gun, and she was staring down the barrel.

The letter informed her that her publisher, Page Books, had been sold, as Mr. Page had retired. The new company, Cooper and Son Publishing, was sending an envoy from Boston to New York to meet with all the authors. And to decide whom to keep.

She read the words between the lines. And whom to cut.

She had never met Mr. Page. All their correspondence had been through the post. So Mr. Page had no idea one of his best-selling dime novel authors was a woman. F.P. Elliott was the name she’d come up with when she was only fourteen and submitted her first story, not once imagining she’d become one of Mr. Page’s most productive and popular authors.

She had only two days in which to find someone to impersonate F.P. Elliott.

Rosemary ran her ink-stained fingers through her hair as she pondered what to do. The logical choice, and her only real hope, was her older brother Halwyn. But he was married now and settled. And, despite the fact he loved his sister, Rosemary doubted he’d ever cracked open one of her books.

Well, it was worth a try, anyway. She hastily stood, removed her pinafore—which was covered in purplish-blue stains resembling bruises, but protected her dress—patted her hair back in place, and glided down the steps from her garret study in the four-story townhouse to the main level, where she encountered her mother in the drawing room.

“Oh, good. I was just on my way upstairs to find you. Do come in.”

Rosemary took a seat opposite her mother, who picked up the embroidery she had been working on. Rosemary took a moment to smooth her pale blue muslin dress and inhaled her mother’s subtle, comforting scent of lilacs before she brought her eyes up. “Mother, I have a problem.”

Her mother glanced up from her needlework. “Well, if it’s a problem with one of your stories, I’m afraid I can’t help you. I don’t know where you get your ideas. Help yourself to some tea and a bit of Cook’s tangy lemon cake, why don’t you?”

Rosemary rose and poured herself a cup of tea, forgoing the cake. “Well, indirectly, it is about my stories.” She took a deep breath. “Mr. Page has retired and he’s sold the company to a Boston publisher.

Charlotte Fitzpatrick’s eyes locked on Rosemary’s. “Oh, dear.”

“Precisely. And the new publisher is sending someone to New York in two days to interview all the authors Mr. Page currently has under contract. They insist upon an in person visit. Whatever can I do?”

Charlotte tapped her finger on her teeth for a moment, before her face broke into a smile. “We’ll just have to find someone to be Mr. Elliott! What about your father?”

“Papa’s way too busy to spend an afternoon impersonating me. I was thinking more along the lines of Halwyn.”

“Hmmm. I suppose either of them would be a good choice. They can certainly think on their feet. But has either of them read your stories? Do they know where your inspiration for Harry Hawk comes from?”

“No, I don’t think either of them cares. They merely pat me on the head and tell me they’re glad I have a ‘hobby’ that keeps me off the streets and away from the Bloomers and their demonstrations for women’s rights.”

“All right then. Here’s what I suggest. You can prepare a series of questions about your stories, not just your characters but also about your current contract with Mr. Page, and administer the test to both your father and brother. Halwyn and Grace are coming over for dinner tonight, so your timing is perfect. Whoever does the best on the test will be the one to impersonate your Mr. Elliott.” Charlotte clapped her hands together.

“Your idea might just work,” Rosemary replied as a touch of excitement washed over her. “I’ll compose the pertinent questions this afternoon.”

Her mother patted her hand. “Surely we New Yorkers can pull the wool over a Boston Brahmin any day of the week.” She set aside her needlework and picked up the most recent copy of Godey’s fashion magazine.

“Now we must discuss the important business of your debut next month. That’s the real reason I wanted to talk to you.”

“Must I still go through with this archaic European folly?”

Charlotte fixed a level stare on her daughter. “It is neither archaic nor European anymore. Judging from its success in finding suitable partners for our young ladies of society since its introduction into American culture five years ago, I must say it’s a convention that’s here to stay. I let you talk me out of it last year, when you should have had your season, simply because I was exhausted from planning the weddings of your two sisters. But no more dawdling, Rosemary. 1859 has to be your year. You’re nineteen and must begin entertaining the idea of getting married. Besides, if the talk of war between the States evolves into actual battle, the Cotillion may be cancelled temporarily—at least until we take care of the Southerners and free all the slaves. You may not have another chance to find a husband for years.”

Charlotte pointed to a gown in the magazine. “Jasmine has already created a lovely white gown for your coming-out ball, but we must think beyond the dance, to the entire season. We’ll have a formal dinner in the weeks following the dance. How about a dress such as this?”

Rosemary placed a hand on her stomach, which now knotted with anxiety on top of her excitement. “Mother, I can’t think of dinners or ball gowns right now. My entire future is in jeopardy.”

“Quit being so melodramatic, for goodness’s sake. I’m quite certain your father or brother can come up with a solution, so indulge me a bit and let’s talk dresses. After all, having a wonderful season is part of your future, too.”

”I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine, Mother. I need to get to work on my questions for Papa and Halwyn.”

Rosemary’s stomach calmed a bit as she rose and went back to the garret to compose her test. Maybe her mother’s idea would work. Perhaps her father or brother could pull it off.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BeckyLower
Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it present-day middle America or on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s. Contemporary and historical romances are her specialty. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com.

5 thoughts on “SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Duplicitous Debutante by Becky Lower

  1. The Harry Hawk books sound exciting.Rosemary sounds like about as far from a proper lady, as you can get, and much more interesting. I’m routing for her all the way!

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