There’s something about Christmas that always puts me in the mood for historical romance and/or a Victorian mystery (I blame Charles Dickens) so this week’s snippet is taken from To Love a Traitor, which is set in 1920.
Matthew Connaught lost an arm in the Great War – but he may also have been a spy and a traitor. Our hero George (who doesn’t see himself as remotely heroic) is supposed to be investigating Matthew, but can’t help falling for his charms – to the extent that he’s accepted a friendly invitation to spend Christmas with Matthew’s family. Here they are exchanging gifts:
Tearing open the rather untidy and ill-tied brown paper, George blinked as he found a handsome Waterman pen. “I know this can’t be the same as the one that was your brother’s,” Matthew said, “but I hope it’ll go some way to making up the loss. It’s inscribed, look—‘To GJ from MC’—you see?”
George was absurdly touched. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you.” Feeling his face must surely be glowing as brightly as the coals in the grate, George produced a small package of his own, which he handed to Matthew. “I’m afraid this really isn’t very much by comparison,” he apologised.
Undeterred, Matthew eagerly untied the parcel, which George had made certain to fasten with a bow rather than a knot, and unwrapped the paper. His eyebrows rose as he saw the contents. “The Adventure of the Eleven Cuff Buttons?”
“It’s a sort of parody of Sherlock Holmes,” George said…
Matthew flicked through a couple of pages and laughed. “‘Hemlock Holmes had pulled back his left cuff, baring his tattooed but muscular wrist, just ready to take his fifth shot in the arm since breakfast’,” he read aloud, grinning.
And yes, for the curious, that is a real book, written in 1918 by James Francis Thierry (and you can find it for free online).
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To Love a Traitor
Wounds of the heart are the hardest to heal
Solicitor’s clerk George Johnson has a secret goal when he moves into a London boarding house in the winter of 1920: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, was the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother Hugh his life.
Yet the more he gets to know his quarry, the more George loses sight of his mission—and his heart. Blessed with boyish good looks and charm in abundance, ad man Matthew is irrepressibly cheerful despite having lost an arm in the Great War—and soon makes plain his attraction to George.
Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, and George tries to tell himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding secrets of his own—including who he really is.
But as George’s feelings for Matthew grow, so does his desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. Even if it means he’ll lose the man he’s come to love.
Available in ebook and paperback: JMS Books | Amazon