- Title:Millstone of Doubt: Thorndike and Swann Regency Mysteries (Book 2)
- Series: Thorndike and Swann Regency Mysteries
- Author:Erica Vetsch
- Genre:Historical Mystery, Historical Romance, Inspirational Fiction
- Publisher: Kregel Publications (September 20, 2022)
- Length: (304) pages
- Format: Trade paperback & eBook
- ISBN: 978-0825447143
- Tour Dates: September 19 – October 3, 2022
A Bow Street Runner and a debutante in London Society use their skills to find the killer of a wealthy businessman, but the killer’s secrets aren’t the only ones they will uncover.
Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill’s owner dead of an apparent gunshot–but no sign of the killer.
Even though the owner’s daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, she may be the only one. It seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can’t take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage–and his job as a runner–comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him.
Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha’s bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. But when her trusted instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation, Lady Juliette obeys. That is, until circumstances intervene, and she drops right into the middle of the deadly pursuit.
When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case–and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.
- “An artfully told story that will have you wondering at the outcome until the final pages are read.” —Ruth Logan Herne, USA Today best-selling author
- “…a fully satisfying mystery. I can’t wait to read the next one!” —Jocelyn Green, Christy Award–winning author of Drawn by the Current
- “I am sure fans of the first book in this series will revel in the deepening relationship between Daniel Swann and Juliette Thorndike.” —Alissa Baxter, author of The Viscount’s Lady Novelist
- “Millstone of Doubt captivated me from the first sentence and kept me guessing the entire novel…Erica Vetsch is the master of all things Regency.” —Lorri Dudley, author of The Duke’s Refuge
- “5 Stars. Millstone of Doubt is a compelling Regency mystery with plenty of romance. Michelle Griep fans (or any Regency fan in general) will love this novel.”— Jennifer Purcell, ChristianBooks.com
Daniel opened his eyes, his head throbbing. His body felt pulped, as if he’d been trampled by a herd of Highland cattle. Something bit into his cheek as he lay sprawled on the cobbles, and he tasted the coppery tang of blood.
Sprawled on the cobbles? Why was he on the ground? Had he fallen?
His thoughts scattered and fragmented, refusing to organize.
He blinked hard, wincing against the throbbing inside his skull.
Had someone hit him?
Drawing in his arms and planting his palms on the rough stones, he pushed himself away from the ground, pausing on hands and knees to ease the dizziness swirling behind his eyes. To his left, a horse lay on its side, kicking and struggling, tangled in the harness like a fly in a web. The animal’s mouth was open, but no sound came out—or at least no sound that could be heard above the ringing in Daniel’s head. He straightened to his knees and pressed his palms to his temples.
What happened? He tried to draw a deep breath, but dust and smoke choked him, and he gagged, coughing, doing an agony to his head. He staggered to his feet. Rocks and rubble littered the small courtyard.
A man stumbled by, eyes wide, face streaked with blood and dirt.
His head and shoulders were covered with white powder.
Daniel turned a slow circle, unsure of where he was, until his eyes lit on the carriage with the Earl of Thorndike’s crest on the black door.
The mill. The trip to find Mr. Montgomery . . .
Lady Juliette! What had become of her? He swung wildly, looking one direction and then another, but he couldn’t see her anywhere. She had been emerging from the carriage when whatever had happened
. . . happened.
The carriage had slid several yards, dragging the horses backward and to the ground. One would never trot again, and the other continued to thrash. The driver was nowhere to be seen, but the tiger, a youngster of thirteen or fourteen summers, bent at the head of the struggling horse, trying to calm him. As Daniel moved toward the vehicle, the door opened and the viscount’s head and shoulders emerged. His hat was gone, and his cape wrapped around his shoulders as if trying to strangle him.
His eyes were wild. He mouthed something to Daniel, beckoning him before disappearing within once more. Or had he spoken aloud? Daniel’s ears still rang so loudly he heard nothing else. It was as if someone had locked him in a glass room with a banshee. He could see the world around him, but nothing else penetrated his shrieking prison. He glanced toward the end of the street. Yellow flames licked through the gaping doorway of the mill. Every window was an empty eye socket, no glass to be seen. Rock dust filled the air, and men ran past him from the center of the town toward the burning building,
buffeting him in their haste.
Daniel reached the carriage and peered inside. The maid and Miss Montgomery bent over Lady Juliette, who lay on the floor. She must have been knocked back when the mill . . .
That must have been what happened. A mill explosion.
He’d heard of such things, but he’d never been close enough to one to become collateral damage.
Coatsworth sagged into the corner of the coach once more, his limbs lax, staring. Miss Montgomery’s carefully arranged hair now lay in auburn tangles on her neck and cheeks, but she gave all her attention to Lady Juliette.
“Is she injured?” Daniel asked, startled to find he couldn’t even hear his own voice. When Miss Montgomery gave him no heed, he had to assume her ears were ringing as well. He touched her sleeve.
At that moment Lady Juliette jerked, her body stiffening as she came to herself. Her legs stirred, and Daniel realized that far more of her shapely limbs showed than was proper. And something poked beneath her petticoat, affixed to her leg just above the knee. Was that a pistol in a holster? He had no notion what a woman’s underpinnings looked like, but he was certain weaponry wasn’t standard issue. He reached in and tugged her hem down.
The maid blinked, and her mobcap tumbled off her head. She had a red mark on her cheek that would soon blossom into a bruise. They must have been tossed about like pebbles in a jar when the blast hit.
Though Miss Montgomery tried to prevent her, Lady Juliette sat upright. Her pelisse tangled about her arms, and she eased aside the cloth, as if she wasn’t quite sure of her movements.
“Lady Juliette, are you injured?” Daniel asked. He couldn’t gauge how loudly he was talking, but it must have been quite loud, for with a pop, his ears began to work, and the last word all but echoed in the confined space.
With the inrush of sound, he began to understand the chaos going on around them. The horse’s screams, shouting, the crackle of fire, boots on cobbles . . . somewhere a woman or child sobbing.
Lady Juliette pushed her hair out of her eyes and edged toward the door.
He reached for her waist to draw her out of the carriage. She put her hands on his shoulders, and he easily lifted her and set her feet on the ground. Keeping hold of her, he bent to look into her eyes. Was she steady enough to stand alone?
Her hands gripped his shoulders, and his spanned her waist. As she inhaled, he felt the movement of her ribs. Heat rushed into his ears, and his heart tripped. He had never held a woman in such a way. He wanted to draw her close, to put his arms properly around her and protect her, to usher her to safety away from the pandemonium going on around them.
Brazen thoughts for a mere officer of the court to think about the daughter of an earl.
“Thank you.” Her voice sounded quavery, but she stepped back. He let her go, staying close lest she succumb to faintness. With shaking fingers, she loosened her bonnet strings and retrieved her bonnet from where it trailed down her back. Looking around her at the tumult, she let the now-battered straw millinery fall to the street.
“Are you injured?” he asked again. He could see no damage, but he must make certain.
“I do not believe so. Merely shaken.” She gulped in a breath and coughed. Dust sifted from the air, landing on her dark hair and the shoulders of her pelisse. “What happened?” She looked up at him properly for the first time, and her face went pale as milk. She blinked and swayed, and he gripped her again.
“Blood.” The word strangled its way out of her throat. She wavered so much he feared she would collapse, but as he bent to pick her up and place her back in the carriage, she planted her palms on his chest and pushed. “You’re bleeding.” She stared at his mouth, gripping the doorframe of the carriage.
He touched the corner of his lips, and his fingers came away red. He must have cut himself when he fell. Using his cuff, he swiped at the blood. Lady Juliette could not stand the sight of blood, as he remembered from her encounter with ruffians in a London alley mere weeks ago.
“Little harm has been done. I am well, I assure you.” He’d suffered worse wounds shaving.
Chapter 2, pages 26 – 29
Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling author and ACFW Carol Award winner and has been a Romantic Times top pick for her previous books. She loves Jesus, history, romance, and watching sports. This transplanted Kansan now makes her home in Rochester, Minnesota.