Friday, October 3, 2014

Devil's Return by Sandra Schwab

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Publication Date: August 15, 2014 

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Seven years ago Fran and Alex were very much in love. Yet because Alex was only a younger son with no prospects to speak of, Fran’s family pressured her into breaking the engagement and marrying a rich, titled man instead. Filled with bitterness, Alex left England for the New World. Now he is back, more dangerous and more cynical than ever before. He has found fame and fortune as an adventurer, traveling the world from America to the Near East and writing about his travels for Allan’s Miscellany. He has come to London to drum up interest for his friend’s archeological excavations. Soon, he finds himself the darling of London society, admired by men, wooed by women. Fate has not been so kind to Fran. After a disastrous marriage, which has left her with deep emotional and physical scars, she is widowed and now lives in genteel poverty. By chance, Alex and Fran’s paths cross again. They have both changed so much, and past betrayals and past hurts still divide them. So surely there can be no second chance for their love…

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With measured steps, Alex walked towards the door at the end of the gallery and pushed it open—and there it was: the holy of the holies, an Ali Baba’s cave of wit and intellect: the editorial offices of Allan’s Miscellany.
Warmth and smoke and laughter greeted him. Seven or eight men sat around a large table that dominated the room. 
“Crenshaw!” Jon Allan exclaimed as he caught sight of him. His old friend stood and came around the table, hand outstretched. “It’s good to see you!”
“And you.” Alex pressed the other’s hand. Many years ago, he had met Allan at the Cider Cellar, where they had fallen into the habit of talking and drinking together. It had been Allan who had suggested that Alex should write about his adventures abroad for the magazine. And thus, Mr. Alexander Wodemarsh, Traveler, had been born.
“Everybody.” Allan turned, his hand now resting on Alex’s shoulder. “Here’s the good Mr. Wodemarsh, Our Man Abroad.”
Applause greeted this announcement, and the next minutes passed in a flurry of introductions.
“I’m Beaton, your illustrator.” A round, open face and a boyish grin. “Lud, it’s good to finally meet you!”
“Robbie is our chief illustrator,” Allan explained, “and here’s Philip Whitting, our new caricaturist extraordinary. And our writers: Matthew Clark, theatre—he’s a comedian; beware of his whoopee cushion!—Edward Flanders, our Man at Westminster—the incomparable Dr. Grant, medical and natural sciences—Arthur Tambling, literature, can’t join us today, poor sod, he’s got a cold—no wonder considering the weather we’ve had—”
“Good lord, Jon! Not the weather, I beg you,” a man with flaming red hair drawled, cutting him short.
Allan rolled his eyes. “And last, but not least—“ He made a deep bow in the direction of the man who had just spoken. “—the one and only William MacNeil, the Great Mac himself, our editor, who writes half of our humble magazine in the night from Thursday to Friday, whose red pen our writers fear, and before whom we mere mortals all tremble—” 
A ball of paper bounced off Allan’s head. “Don’t be an ass, Jon.” MacNeil came around the table, his movements as smooth and powerful as those of a jungle cat. “Good to meet you, Crenshaw.” He offered his hand.
“King Mac, the mightiest of the mighty,” Allan murmured, his lips twitching.
MacNeil shook his head at him.
“We all envy Jon,” Beaton told Alex with a twinkle in his eyes. “As our publisher he doesn’t have to fear the revenge of Mac’s infamous red pen. Come and sit down, Crenshaw, and tell us about how it feels to be a veritable hero.”
“Slayer of dragons,” added Matthew Clark with a grin. And, “Ooops, that was my whoopee cushion,” when the chair on which Alex sat bleated like a dying goat.
The whoopee cushion was duly removed, and glasses newly filled with claret. MacNeil rose from his chair: “A toast for Mr. Wodemarsh! May he long write for this magazine and entertain our readers with his adventures!”

About the Author

Sandra Schwab

Award-winning author Sandra Schwab started writing her first novel when she was seven years old. Thirty-odd years later, telling stories is still her greatest passion, even though by now she has exchanged her pink fountain pen of old for a black computer keyboard. Since the release of her debut novel in 2005, she has enchanted readers worldwide with her unusual historical romances. She holds a PhD in English literature and lives in Frankfurt am Main / Germany with a sketchbook, a sewing machine, and an ever-expanding library. Her new series about the fictional magazine Allan's Miscellany combines her academic research on Victorian periodicals with her love for story-telling.
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