Saturday, June 01, 2013

Beguiling the Barrister

This month sees the publication in the second of my four-book Regency
series featuring the Forster Dynasty. In Beguiling the Barrister Flick - Lady Felicity Forster - takes her chance to shine. With three older brothers, including the head of the family Hal Forster, Marquess of Denby, Flick has been cossetted and protected for her entire life, and she's had just about enough of it.

She's getting impatient with her neighbour, Darius Grantley, as well. She decided at the age of twelve, when she fell out of an oak tree and he was there to pick her up, that she planned to marry her handsome rescuer. Seems Darius has different ideas, which is downright insulting. She knows Darius enjoys her company but he seems more interested in forging a career for himself, defending the rights of the underprivileged in the famous Old Bailey courthouse, than he is pursuing Flick. Well, there's only so much neglect a girl can take and, taking advantage of a brief respite in the watch her brothers keep over her, Flick persuades Beth to go with her to the courthouse and watch her beloved in action.

Here's how she gets on:-

“Are you telling the court that Mr. Fuller called on you to take tea?” Darius Grantley elevated his brows, an expression of incredulity gracing his handsome face. “Nothing more sinister than that?”
“Well, he does enjoy a nice biscuit an’ all.”
“No money changed hands in return for the supposed services you provide in the establishment where you reside?”
“Ain’t no supposed about it,” muttered some wit in the public gallery. “Been there meself so I know about what I speak.”
Laughter erupted and was as quickly extinguished when the judge banged his gavel, a mask of impatience and considerable ill-humour flitting across his countenance.
Flick suppressed a smile. She and her sister-in-law were observing the proceedings from the public gallery. “I don’t think the judge approves of Miss Adams,” she whispered to Beth.
“I shall clear the courtroom if there are any more interruptions,” his lordship boomed. “Pray, continue, Mr. Grantley.”
“I’m obliged to your lordship.” Darius Grantley, barrister at law, straightened his shoulders and turned his attention to the woman in the dock. “Please answer the question, Miss Adams.”
“What was the question again, sir? What with all the excitement, it clear went out of my head.”
“Did you do it for money, love?” the same heckler yelled out.
“Absolutely not!” Miss Adams’s hand fluttered against her breast. “The very idea. I’m a respectable woman, and that’s the truth.”
“He’s good, isn’t he?” Flick said.
“He seems to know what he’s doing,” Beth conceded. “But why is he defending a woman of…well, a woman of such questionable morals?”
“Darius believes that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law,” Flick responded loftily. “He’s very liberally minded that way.”
Darius Grantley’s star was very much in the ascendancy at the Old Bailey since he’d chosen to defend wretched creatures often forced by desperation into committing crimes. The great and good in the legal profession generally agreed that his talents were wasted on, and went largely unappreciated by, his motley collection of clients. Perhaps that was true, but Darius appeared determined to serve them regardless of the fact that principles and conscience alone singularly failed to pay the rent.
“From the evidence already presented, it seems his client is as guilty as sin, in spite of your Darius’s best efforts to confuse the jury,” Beth said.
“Shush!” Flick pressed a finger to her lips. “This is very interesting. I don’t want to miss anything.”
“Not much chance of that,” Beth whispered back. “Your eyes have barely left Mr. Grantley’s person since we got here.”
The object of Flick’s affections grasped the edges of his black flowing robe and affected an air of astonishment. “Are you asking the court to believe that the gentleman who complained about being overcharged was a personal acquaintance who stopped by for a cup of tea and stimulating…er, conversation?”
“That’s right, ducks. He’s a sprightly old gent. He can still manage to get it—”
“Thank you, Miss Adams,” the judge intervened, much to Flick’s irritation. She’d very much like to know what it was that old Mr. Fuller could still manage to do. With three overprotective brothers to contend with, her education in that respect was woefully incomplete. “Confine yourself to answering counsel’s questions.”
“I was doing until you interrupted me, wasn’t I? Mr. Fuller gets confused sometimes, bless his heart. Well, at his age, what else can you expect?”
Darius glanced up, as though seeking inspiration from the four brass chandeliers overhead, and his gaze alighted on Flick and Beth. His expression showed surprise, quickly followed by irritation.
“Blast, he’s seen us!” Flick, her features hidden behind her veiled hat, had hoped their presence would go undetected.
“I don’t know why you’re so surprised,” Beth said, smiling. “You don’t have it in you to blend in.”
“Nonsense, I’d make a first-class wallflower.”
“You!” Beth covered a splutter of laughter with her hand. “Hardly, my dear. Apart from being so much better dressed than everyone here, you’re so lovely that you naturally attract attention wherever you go. You don’t bear even a passing resemblance to a humble wallflower.”
Flick wrinkled her nose. “What you mean is that I never did learn to impersonate a statue. Miss Archer quite despaired of me but I told her that all that rigid etiquette—pretending not to listen to interesting conversations that aren’t supposed to be for one’s ears—is pointless. I mean, how else is one supposed to know what’s happening in the world?” She waved her fingers at Darius. He glowered back at her and returned to the questioning of his client. “Oh dear, he doesn’t look too happy to see us, does he?”
“What else did you expect?”
Flick glanced at the motley assortment of people watching the proceedings. Beth was right. The two of them really didn’t belong here, especially given the nature of the trial in question, and they were attracting considerable unwanted attention. It didn’t bother her but she could see that Beth felt quiet discomposed by it.
“Sorry,” she said, covering Beth’s gloved hand with one of her own. “We shouldn’t have come.”
“Never mind, we’re here now. Let’s see how your Mr. Grantley gets his client out of this one. Not that I think he will but you keep telling me he’s clever enough to achieve anything he sets his mind to. It will be interesting to see if you’re right.”
“You still have doubts about him?” Flick pouted. “How could you? He’s truly magnificent.”
The magnificent Mr. Grantley appeared to have lost his thread and passed his client over to counsel for the crown without asking any more questions.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Harris,” Miss Adams said when the man stood up. “I didn’t realize it was you sitting down there. How are you, ducks? Haven’t seen you for…er, a cup of tea, for a while.”
The courtroom erupted into guffaws of laughter.

Beguiling the Barrister - Available on pre-order from Carina Press  and all etailors 


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