Meet the protagonist Simon and one of the antagonists for The Key for Spies, the most recent release by M.A. Lee in her historical mystery / suspense series Hearts in Hazard.
1st April 1813, Thursday
That’s what his older brother called it, back when they’d run together. They’d taken to the dark streets, smashed locks to steal pastries or sausages, pried open windows to climb into dark rooms, and stolen locked boxes with stashes of coins. He never knew who Mattias worked for. Belly stuffed with iced rolls or spiced sausage, he had trailed behind his brother. Until the gendarmes caught Mat with a hand stuck in the alms box.
Hidden behind a dark column, he’d frozen when the gendarmes appeared. Then black wings flapped before his face. He ran until his sides hurt and his too-tight shoes split along the worn sides. He’d abandoned his brother, a betrayal that had never left him.
The next day he ran on to Marseilles. There, he re-invented himself as Pierre LeCuyer.
I’m a longtime lover of light romance in a historical time frame.
When I started writing my own stories, it was only natural that several of the novels in my Hearts in Hazard series would have more than a nod to the precursors who formed my love of the genre.
The first HnH, A Game of Secrets, is my poor attempt at a smuggler’s story, à la Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn.
The Danger of Secrets is my homage to Georgette Heyer’s Cousin Kate.
One of my upcoming books in the HnH series, The Key with Hearts, is forming itself around the same concept that formed Heyer’s The Convenient Wife. I hope I will make my own marriage-of-convenience story a bit more of a love story than Heyer’s—although her story is much more based in reality.
And my marriage-of-convenience will be threatened not only by mistakes and missed opportunities but also the mystery of murder!
My personal favorite by Heyer is Venetia, with The Unknown Ajax only a whisker behind. You can’t go wrong with either of those books. Both are excellent romances as well as light comedy, and Ajax goes one better by adding mystery and suspense to the story. Venetia, however, has characters that appeals just a little bit more.
My recent published book, The Key for Spies, developed out of Georgette Heyer’s Regency era historical novels, where the main focus is on the events rather than the relationships–although the relationships will bring tears to your eyes and we readers have pleasurable meetings with old friends from other Heyer books.
Over the years of reading everything Heyer, I have of course read her An Infamous Army, which concludes with her carefully researched depiction of the Battle of Waterloo, when Wellington and his allies finally and completely defeated Napoleon Bonaparte. AIA is a precursor for my K4Spies although it is not a direct inspiration.
An Infamous Army is not one of Heyer’s light-hearted joys. More than anything else, it is an historical novel, and its meticulous detail is off-putting for many. I don’t remember my first reading of it. When I finally returned, with another decade of life behind me, I found a much greater understanding of Heyer’s story and much greater patience with her development of it.
If you are a history buff, with Napoleon and Wellington in your sights, AIA is a wonderful source. The whole back half is a close depiction of the details of this significant battle.
Heyer’s work is so well-researched, as many sources on the internet inform us, that the novel was required reading at Sandhurst, a British military college. Heyer was even invited to lecture at Sandhurst. Here is only one source ~ https://thebeaumonde.com/an-infamous-army/ . Many other sources abound: search Heyer, the title, and Sandhurst or military college, and the search engine will provide multiple sites for perusal.
The original ideas swirling for my book, The Key for Spies, were soldier and Wellington. Those two words started my mind spinning. I had to discover the reason a British soldier would become a spy.
Then comes the next question ~ When and where in the Regency era would a soldier need to be a spy?
I knew of Wellington’s Peninsular campaign (thank you, Ms. Heyer), and so I dug a little bit, looking for soldiers not in battle. Research into reconnaissance planted the story in Spain, and everything else developed from there. Miri developed; her world developed around her. LeCuyer sprang forth, and then Jesus, Angelo, and the other guerrillas. Elixane sprang into the story around chapter 10, necessitating going back and adding her at earlier places.
I have enjoyed my journey with K4Spies. I have researched plants for gardens–jacarandas and cypress walks. I’ve explored new house plans and new recipes. The dinner party Miri unwillingly hosts for the French officers is a dinner that I want to have. I have also become enamored of the afternoon siesta and wistful about breakfast on the terrace, with lots and lots of coffee.
I hope you will explore the world of The Key for Spies and enjoy my journey—and do try a few of the dishes as well.
I’m running far behind deadline on the Hearts in Hazard series.
Last year, I should have put out three HnH books: The Key to Secrets and The Key for Spies made it to press.
The Key with Hearts is my current struggle. Too many commitments that drag me away from the story. Too many distractions that make it too easy to walk away when I do have time.
The story’s coming, though, and I love how it’s developing.
I plan my novels. Then, when I write, I usually wind up gutting most of the plan and just following where the story leads. That’s happening now. It’s a joy–but also a struggle.
I could fall back on the plan, but I don’t think that would develop into the best book.
And we want the best book possible, don’t we?
For now, here’s the cover image. It’s Grenville brooding in the maze of his great house. My guiding mantra for this book: A convenient marriage inconveniently causes murder.
The cover is by the wonderful people at Deranged Doctor Design. I said “maze” and “big house” and “murder” and picked a cover model, and they delivered, as always, a fantastic cover design.
I have four more books for this year: the last three in the Hearts in Hazard series, 12 full novels, all loosely connected to each other–after all, it’s a small world that we live in. And the third Into Death mystery with Isabella Newcombe Tarrant, Portrait into Death.
I’ll have to wait and see how successful I am at putting out four more books in a year–five total.
When Constable Hector Evans returns to Chalmsley Court, he doesn’t expect the violent crime to be the murder of one of Lord Chalmsley’s guests.
His lordship wants a quick resolution, before gossip about the crime’s salacious nature and trap-like killing becomes widespread. With no murder weapon, no identifiable clues, and no eyewitnesses, Hector has little to build a case. He has plenty of suspects, even when he realizes the murderer must be a woman.
Even though other guests could have killed the man, Hector finds himself focusing on the Chalmsley family. Was it compulsive Cordelia? Obsessive Portia? Mad Aunt Beth, who gives him riddling clues as snippets of ballads. Hector would blame George, who grew up tormenting his sisters and torturing small animals, but George left two years ago for a rest-cure in Vienna. He can’t have returned, can he?
Bee Seddars, the girl who broke his heart, is a distraction he doesn’t need, especially as she and her cousins are among those celebrating recent engagements. Bee is as lovely as he once thought her and seemingly the most rational member of the Chalmsley family, but he wonders if a few brief months so many summers ago could possibly give him an understanding of who she is.
Hector can’t get Bee to open up about the Chalmsley family secrets. Unlocking those, he believes, is key to solving the murder. Yet she mistrusts him—while he thought she was the one who broke the trust between them, since she refused to write him after he was sent away to join the Bow Street Runners.
In his first twelve hours on the case, the murder scene is torched and the victim’s journal is burned.
In his second twelve hours, a second fiancé is murdered with the missing weapon. And Hector’s suspect lists remains an ell long and a grief wide.
With madness looking like the strongest motive and only circumstantial evidence to build his case, will Hector find the murderess before she strikes again? Or will he discover his lost love is causing bloody death?
He needs The Key to Secrets at Chalmsley Court.
A cozy mystery of 66,000 words, The Key to Secrets is the seventh entry in the Hearts to Hazard series of Regency mysteries. Each book is a standalone novel, complete unto itself, with loose interconnections of characters.
Constable Hector Evans was first introduced in The Danger to Hearts, the sixth Hearts in Hazards.