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I had such a wonderful time editing Victoria Kincaid’s latest Pride and Prejudice variation, The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, and I’m thrilled to welcome her back to Diary of an Eccentric to celebrate its release! Victoria is here to talk about her research on espionage and to share an excerpt from the novel. Please give her a warm welcome!

Thank you for having me visit, Anna!  While doing research for The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, I learned a lot about espionage activities during the Napoleonic Wars.  In particular, I read about the Alien office (part of the Home Office) which was basically the British government’s first official spy agency.  I learned about a number of fascinating incidents which would make great scenes in novels but didn’t fit into this book.  Still, I think that anyone who is interested in the era would find them remarkable—and entertaining:

  • The Alien Office thwarted one actual domestic insurrection: an incipient Irish rebellion led by agents supported by the French government. The secret service placed agents in Ireland to infiltrate the organization. This enabled them to arrest all of the rebellion’s leaders in 1798 before the event took place this represented one of the office’s greatest success.
  • In 1800 the secret service helped one faction of the French royalists form the “English Committee” in Paris. The Committee was responsible for several assassination attempts on Napoleon’s life—the most famous of which was the Rue Nicaise bombing on Christmas Eve, 1800. By 1803 the Committee had detailed plans in place for Napoleon’s kidnapping or assassination.  These plans almost certainly could not have remained in place without the tacit complicity of Fouche, the well-known minister of police in Paris.
  • One of the Committee’s most successful agents was a woman, Madame Williams. An Englishman’s widow who made multiple Channel crossings, some disguised as a sailor, Williams was never captured or apparently even suspected of being a spy.
  • Napoleon had planted agents of his own. One double agent arrived in England with his own false plans for overthrowing the French government.  Aware of the ruse, the British government created an elaborate counter plan that was designed to fool the French authorities into believing the British had fallen for their trick.  For months they created correspondence and moved agents around Europe with the purpose of deceiving Napoleon’s spy.
  • Savary, the chief of Napoleon’s personal guard, was charged with Investigating the extent of a treasonous plot. He visited the home of a recently discovered traitor along the Channel coast and found early drafts of reports that he himself had given to the Emperor.  He realized then that the information in the reports he had been giving had been authored by the British Alien Office.

It is difficult to say to what extent the secret service’s efforts helped to bring about Napoleon’s eventual demise since it is the nature of espionage to have unseen effects.  Most likely the agency’s efforts helped to sow the seeds that eventually led to many French citizens to switch to the royalist cause, but at the time eventual success was attributed to diplomacy and conventional warfare.

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An excerpt from The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, courtesy of Victoria Kincaid

Darcy returned his attention to Elizabeth’s still form, aware that the doctor’s eyes were upon him.  After a long moment the Frenchman spoke.  “You are not a laborer searching for work.”  It was a statement, not a question.

Darcy stiffened.  “No?”

“Your hands are too soft, with callouses only from a horse’s reins.”  The doctor’s voice was matter-of-fact, not accusatory.  “A farm laborer’s hands are calloused everywhere.”

Darcy cursed himself silently for not having anticipated that detail.

“And you have an English wife.”  No doubt myriad explanations occurred to the doctor: spies, expatriate nobles, smugglers.

Darcy readied himself to fight.  Were he alone he could simply flee, but he could not leave Elizabeth behind—and traveling might kill her.

But Martin spread his hands, giving Darcy a gentle smile. “I am not your enemy.  To me, you and your wife are simply patients in need of care, and I have taken an oath to care for all who need it.”  Darcy regarded the doctor steadily.  Did he dare take the other man’s word?  Did he dare put his life—and Elizabeth’s—into this man’s trust?

Darcy sighed, and his shoulders slumped.  In truth, he had no choice.

“I swear I will not give you up to the authorities.  I have no love for them.  I would not give a rabid dog into their keeping.”  For a moment Martin’s expression was quite fierce.

Darcy nodded, somewhat reassured.

Martin looked at him sidelong.  “But will you tell me how an English gentleman and his wife came to be in Saint-Malo in the midst of a war?”

An English gentleman.  Darcy rubbed his face with both hands.  Despite his clothing, Darcy apparently might as well be wearing a sign proclaiming his name and rank.  Very well. The doctor had guessed enough of the truth; Darcy might as well tell more.  “Elizabeth was on a ship that exploded near the Channel Islands. It was reported that everyone on the ship was lost.  I am seeking the man responsible for the explosion, but I did not expect to find…” He gestured to Elizabeth’s still form.

“Yes, I remember hearing word of that.  An explosion would explain the blow to the head, but her survival is wonderful indeed.  I know of no other survivors.”

The rise and fall of Elizabeth’s chest fascinated Darcy, and he allowed himself to revel in the simple fact of her breathing.  Although he did not like the soft rattle in her exhales or the convulsive coughs.  “It is a miracle.  I had no hope.”

Martin clasped Darcy’s shoulder.  “If someone killed Marguerite, I would hunt him down as well.  I wish I knew this man so I could help you seek revenge.”

Darcy continued to regard the other man warily.

Martin chuckled.  “Our countries may be at war, but I have no quarrel with you, sir.  Your secret is safe with me.”

Did Darcy even dare to trust the man?  “I cannot ask you to take such risks…”

“The risk is not so great.  Bretagne only grudgingly supported the revolution or the emperor.  My sentiments are very common.”

Darcy was humbled by the man’s generosity and trust.  “I thank you, sir.  I will be forever in your debt.”

The man took the necklace from the table and poured it into Darcy’s hand.  “You must keep this safe until your wife may wear it once more.” Darcy stared dumbly at the pendant in his hand.  “I am afraid the chain broke when we removed it from her neck.”

Darcy threaded the chain of his watch fob through the loop at the top of the pendant.  He had chosen his plainest, cheapest watch and fob for the journey, but the doctor’s sharp look suggested it was still out of place.  Hopefully the future of Britain did not rest on Darcy’s abilities to pass as a common Frenchman.

Darcy heard a knock sounding on the front door.  Martin looked toward the source of the noise.  “Ah, I have a patient for a return visit.”   With a nod to Darcy, the doctor slipped through the door and closed it behind him with a quiet click.

Darcy was alone in the room with Elizabeth—his sleeping miracle. His eyes sought out her face once more, savoring the features he had never thought to see again in this lifetime.  His heart was so full that it felt ready to burst from his chest. Yes, Elizabeth was ill, and they were trapped in a country at war with an unknown enemy threatening them.  But Elizabeth was alive, and for the moment that was more than enough.

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About The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy

A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Mr. Darcy arrives at Longbourn, intending to correct the mistakes he made during his disastrous proposal in Hunsford. To his horror, he learns that Elizabeth Bennet was killed in a ship’s explosion off the coast of France—in an apparent act of sabotage. Deep in despair, he travels in disguise to wartime France to seek out the spy responsible for her death.

But a surprise awaits Darcy in the French town of Saint-Malo: Elizabeth is alive!

Recovering from a blow to the head, Elizabeth has no memory of her previous life, and a series of mistakes lead her to believe that Darcy is her husband. However, they have even bigger problems. As they travel through a hostile country, the saboteur mobilizes Napoleon’s network of spies to capture them and prevent them from returning home. Elizabeth slowly regains her memories, but they often leave her more confused.

Darcy will do anything to help Elizabeth reach England safely, but what will she think of him when she learns the truth of their relationship?

Buy on Amazon

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Giveaway

Victoria is generously offering a reader’s choice giveaway of either an ebook or paperback copy of The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy. One winner will be selected. This giveaway is open internationally, and will be open through Sunday, August 5, 2018. To enter, leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Thank you, Victoria! It’s always a pleasure to have you visit. Congratulations on your new release!

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