Sneak Peek at The Unaccompanied Widow, and the origins of jeans.
The chances are really good that you’re wearing jeans right now. Especially since they invented stretch denim, jeans have become ubiquitous. Nearly everyone wears them as default casual pants, and I would guess (I didn’t look this up) that the majority of people in the western world owns at least one pair.
Today in 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets. They were considered workwear and for the lower classes only, but jeans zoomed into popular culture in the 1970s–I remember desperately wanting my first pair of jeans when I was in high school. But they were ridiculously expensive back then. And all the girls at school wanted a pair of Jordache jeans, the only jeans you could be seen in.
These days, my favourite jeans are Jeggings. 🙂
We’re a couple of weeks away from the release of The Unaccompanied Widow, so today I’m giving you a good-sized excerpt from the beginning of the story.
EXCERPT FROM THE UNACCOMPANIED WIDOW
COPYRIGHT © TRACY COOPER-POSEY 2021
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Calafort Átha Cliath (Dublin Port), Dublin, Ireland. Midday, July 9th, 1907.
It had been not quite a year since Adele had accompanied King Edward on an official visit to Germany. She had dreaded that journey, which had been utterly uneventful. Even the King himself had failed to achieve his hoped-for agreement from the Kaiser.
Now Adele was part of the King’s entourage again and this royal visit could not be more unlike that one, for it had become an unmitigated disaster even before the royal yacht had departed—and they were still to set foot upon Irish soil.
Adele clutched the rail of the top promenade deck and watched the grey, choppy waters of Dublin Port pass beneath the bow of the ship. On either side of the royal yacht, dozens of smaller craft tooted their steam whistles and their passengers waved and cheered. Two tugs guided the ship to its berth, their smokestacks chuffing.
It was an overcast day, the clouds grey and low enough that one might reach up and prod their rain-filled bellies. A stiff, chill breeze blew across the open water, stinging Adele’s cheeks and bringing with it the scent of salt and seaweed accompanied by a hint of thick, over-heated diesel oil and the stench of sun-dried fish.
The bleak outlook matched Adele’s mood. She would much rather be sitting before the fire in her little house in London, the teapot beside her, than here on the royal yacht. In this respect, the outing to Ireland was no different from the royal visit to Germany last year. She had no wish to be among the King’s entourage this time, either.
Adele’s reluctance stemmed from different reasons today…or perhaps not, in the end, were her reasons all that much different, for on both occasions she had not wished to linger near King Edward.
By rights, Edward and Queen Alexandria should be upon this deck, waving to their Irish subjects as the ship was tugged along the narrow port. But Edward was in a fine temper over the loss of the Irish Crown Jewels, which had been reported only two days before the court was due to leave for Ireland. Edward interpreted the theft as a direct insult to the Crown, coming so close to his attendance at the Irish International Exhibition. He had ignored the evidence which suggested the jewels might have been stolen weeks before. Instead, he snapped at everyone and had grown mulish.
He had demanded the investiture of the second Baron Castletown into the order of St. Patrick, when the jewels would have been worn, be cancelled. Refusing to step out upon the deck where Dubliners could see him was only the latest outburst.
Adele had tried to ignore the small voice in her mind which suggested the King’s unpredictable mood resembled the tantrums her son had once showered upon her. It felt disloyal to compare the King’s behavior to that of a two-year-old.
Her thinning empathy for the King’s upset had pushed her out into the bracing sea air in search of a more positive perspective. After forty minutes of gazing at the city they approached, with her cheeks numb and her nose frozen, Adele still could not rid herself of the bleak, unsettled feeling which sat upon her shoulders and stirred her belly.
“Oh, do stop hedging!” she railed at herself, only to have her words whipped away by the wind. Even here, deep inside the port, the wind still whistled. “Say it, Adelaide Becket. You’re afraid.”
“Is it all of Dublin you address, Lady Adelaide, or simply the gulls?” The man’s voice came from behind her. The wind had hidden the sounds of his approach, but Adele knew the voice and her heart sank a little lower.
She turned and gave Pureton a polite smile, the best she could manage with her uncooperative cheeks. “Why, it must be the gulls I speak to,” she told him brightly. “For addressing an entire city is the province of the King.”
“A prerogative of which he will not partake, today.” Sir Godfrey Dale, Baron Pureton, Assistant Private Secretary to the Crown, leaned upon the varnished wood of the railing with a deep sigh. He was a tall, spare man in his late sixties. His hair was thick, but completely white. His full beard and moustache were just as snowy, and outlined a sharp chin and thin cheeks above hawk-like cheekbones and a long, elegant nose. His eyes were pale blue, and sharp with intelligence. The high forehead added to the elongated length of him.
“The King will remain aboard until tomorrow, then?” Adele guessed. The first official duty of the King’s was to attend the Exhibition on the morrow, now that this afternoon’s investiture had been cancelled.
“You were proclaiming to the gulls about fear, I believe?”
He was changing the subject. Pureton was immovably loyal to the King, to the point of utter blindness when it was necessary. Adele supposed that was an ideal trait for an Assistant Private Secretary.
But now that left her to answer a question she had no wish to respond to. “Oh, a new city, new faces…I am too much a homebody, Sir Godfrey.”
He glanced at her. “You did not seem to mind the novelties of Berlin,” he pointed out.
Adele clutched the railing with both hands as the entire ship shuddered as it kissed the wharf. Dock workers shouted to each other as ropes were tossed and secured about bolls.
Most of the entourage surrounding the King presumed Adele was among them to purportedly serve Queen Alexandra, while actually serving the King’s private…appetites. There were very few people who knew her true role, but Pureton was one of them. She could answer truthfully if she wished.
Yet she hesitated. The reasons for her fear all seemed…weak. Feminine.
William Melville had slipped into her house mere hours before she was due to depart for King’s Cross Station to join the royal party upon the train which would take them to Holyhead overnight. He had picked up a piece of shortbread from the plate beside the teapot and broken the news to her that he would not be among those numbers.
“Not even as one of the crew?” Adele asked, alarmed. Melville was adept at posing as laborers, navvies and workers to linger unremarked and eavesdrop upon conversations presumed to be private, or to follow someone of interest. She had been attempting to learn from his example for over a year.
“I must travel to York tomorrow,” Melville told her. “There is something else I must attend to.”
“But…but that will mean I am on my own.” She sank upon the arm of the sofa, careless of the impropriety of such a casual pose. “When is Daniel due back?”
Daniel Bannister, Baron Leighton, was a beau of sorts, when he was not working for Melville, which was a rare occurrence, these days. He was currently in France, eavesdropping upon yet more conversations.
“Tuesday,” Melville replied. “You will be fine on your own, Lady Adele.”
She gripped her hands together. “But you have always been nearby…even at a distance,” she pointed out. “You or Daniel. You even turned up in Germany—don’t think I didn’t see you.”
“You did, hmm?” He looked both pleased and disturbed. “What gave me away?”
“You took a biscuit from a platter on the King’s buffet table.”
Melville looked down at the shortbread in his hand, put it back upon her plate and brushed his hands of crumbs. “The fact is, we’re spread too thin,” he said, with a candid air. “If I had another dozen men, I would spare one to accompany you, but there it is. You’ll just have to rub along without us. We all have our duties.”
She clenched her hands even more tightly. “But what if something goes wrong?” she whispered.
“Then you must cope, Lady Adele. I will not have the King travel without one of us nearby to run interference should the Germans try something while he is away from England.”
She had not schooled her expression to complete neutrality, for his tone was milder as he added, “You have a perfectly good head upon your shoulders, and you have learned a great deal since you came to work for me. Keep your head and don’t act without thought. Besides, it is only Dublin.”
“Where Nationalists seethe and conspire,” she replied tartly.
“Leaving no elbow room for the Germans,” Melville said.
Adele gave up. She pushed the fingered piece of shortbread into Melville’s hand and saw him out, then closed down her house and travelled to the train station. Her heart had not completely steadied since then, and the King’s chancy temper had not improved the matter.
But she would not admit to Pureton that in Berlin, Melville had been close by if things should go wrong. In every assignment Melville had given her since she had met him, he or Daniel had been on hand, even if at a distance.
Pureton was very old-school. He believed women were quite unable to think for themselves. She knew he tolerated her presence near the King, because Edward liked her. Quite likely, he believed the rumors that the King was having an affair with her, too, for in Pureton’s regard, women were fit for little else.
Adele would not support his belief by admitting the source of her fear. Instead, she straightened and pulled the fur more firmly around her throat. “If the King is to remain aboard tonight, I believe I will find a hotel…if that suits you, Sir Godfrey?”
His smile was knowing. “With the Queen aboard, I do not believe your absence will be noticed. By all means, find your hotel, Lady Adelaide.”
She seethed, but made herself smile. “Is there an establishment you would recommend?”
“Indeed. The Shelbourne Hotel is highly respectable, frequented by most of the upper class.” He stood and touched the brim of his hat. “We shall see you at the Exhibition tomorrow, then.”
Adele brushed passed him and went to repack her trunk.
Lady Adelaide is on her own…
In Edwardian Britain, Lady Adelaide Azalea Margaret de Morville, Mrs. Hugh Becket, continues her work for William Melville, spymaster. Adele accompanies King Edward and Queen Alexandra to Dublin where the King will attend the Irish International Exhibition. Events go awry even before they depart England, for the Irish Crown Jewels are stolen and King Edward takes the theft as a personal insult to the Crown.
Then the renowned Irish MP, Eilish Slane, who is a personal friend of the King’s, is found murdered in a Dublin hotel. Adel attempts to investigate while navigating the shoals of the King’s temper, the actions of Irish Nationalists, the provocations of the British and Irish press, and the prejudices of men everywhere. And she must work alone, for Melville and his cohorts remain in England…
This novelette is the third in the Adelaide Becket Edwardian espionage series.
1: The Requisite Courage
2: The Rosewater Debutante
3: The Unaccompanied Widow
…and more to come.
A historical suspense espionage novelette.
Get your copy a week early
The story is available for pre-order right now from all retailers. If you pre-order your copy directly from me, you will get the story a week before everyone else. That is, next week. 🙂