Daring Duplicity | Edale Lane
The Wellington Mysteries, Vol. 1
Release Date: January 14th, 2022
Cover Artist: Enggar Adirasa
Word Count: 79,025
Solving mysteries is her business. Finding love is her dream. Will combining the two get her killed?
Victorian Era England. Stetson revels in being unconventional. So when society shies away from her independent nature, the bold woman creates an imaginary boss and opens her own detective agency. And her keen observational skills, convincing disguises, and Holmesian methods quickly bring in a string of tough-to-crack cases.
Struggling to squeeze a personal life in around a series of hazardous investigations, Stetson worries she’ll never find a woman of like-passions. But with her heart set on true love despite the risk, she carries on hunting for the perfect relationship.
Will her clever escapades lead to death… or delight?
Daring Duplicity: The Wellington Mysteries, Vol. 1, Adventures of a Lesbian Victorian Detective is a collection of five sequential novellas, each encompassing its own exciting mystery while furthering the story of Stetson’s life in London.
Jewel gripped her own gloved hands and scanned the room anxiously. “It is a matter of the utmost discretion,” she began in a tone much more demanding than she had intended. “It is of a personal nature, you see,” she continued more gently and forced a polite smile. “May I speak with Mr. Wellington in private?”
Miss Goody responded with a pleasant smile of her own. “I’m afraid that will not be possible. Mr. X is extremely successful in foiling criminals because of his anonymity. In fact, no one has ever seen him but me. All correspondence between the investigator and the clients goes through his assistant—me. So how this works is, you tell me the specifics, I talk to him, and he gives me a list of questions to ask, and so forth. I assure you, anything you say to me will be kept in the strictest of confidence, just as if you were conversing with the detective himself.”
“I see.” The assistant paused for a moment before continuing and her attention fell on Miss Goody for the first time, being specifically drawn to ample breasts squeezed into her buttoned waist coat. It required conscious effort for Jewel to raise her gaze, but doing so she became captivated by two warm, caring cognac eyes. “Very well, then. I am being blackmailed, and the nature of the information being held over me makes it impossible to go to Scotland Yard, or a constable, or even my father, for the money. I receive an allowance, not enough to meet the foul villain’s demands, but sufficient to cover your agency’s fees and expenses I’m sure.”
“I see,” she replied with a soft expression of compassion. “Was the man you were seen with married, or simply from the wrong side of the tracks?”
“Well,” Jewel stammered, cleared her throat, and fixed her gaze on a painting on the wall. “Not exactly. And he has a photograph.”
Miss Goody sighed and leaned forward, her palms on the desk top. “Now, Lady Jewel Ashton, if we are to find this blackmailer and save your reputation, you cannot hold anything back. How can Mr. Wellington help you if you won’t tell us the whole story?”
“It is not my reputation I am concerned with,” she admitted, a hint of real fear trembling in her voice. “My whole family could be ruined, utterly ruined, and destroy my father’s political career. We would be forced to retreat to our estate in the countryside. I cannot allow shame to come upon my family for one moment’s indiscretion.”
Miss Goody met her eyes. “I assure you if you provide Mr. X all the information he needs, he can find this scoundrel, take back the photo and the plates, and give him every reason to keep his deceitful mouth closed on the matter.”
Jewel held her gaze for a long moment, and believing her sincerity, made a decision—the only one she could really make. She opened her reticule and withdrew a tan envelope. “Someone left this in my carriage while I was shopping. My driver said he didn’t see or hear a thing.” She placed the parcel on the desk within Miss Goody’s reach and held her breath.
Stetson opened the envelope and spilled its contents out onto the desk. Inside was a note and a photograph, not of Jewel kissing a married man, but another young woman! For an instant, time stood still. A flush rose in Jewel’s cheeks while Stetson’s mouth absently fell agape as she stared dumbfounded at the image. Stetson’s mind raced almost as fast as her heart.
Could it be that this beautiful gem who walked in this morning has the same inclination as myself? Could there actually be other women who love women, that I am not a singular oddity? She not only had these thoughts, but acted on them! She had never met another like-minded woman—not to mention one whose looks could stop a locomotive in its tracks like Jewel Ashton.
She was roused from her musings when she heard a desperate voice from across the desk. “So now you see the urgency and delicacy of the matter.”
She quickly shoved the note and the photograph back into the envelope and replied with sincerity. “Do not be distressed, Lady Jewel Ashton. We will take care of this with great expediency. I shall show these to the detective and he will know just what to do. Wait here. I’ll return anon.”
Stetson stepped into the room behind her, leaned against the closed door, and let out a deep sigh. With eyes shut and hugging herself, she took a moment to process the warm thrill that rose from her loins. Reveling in the euphoric rush, she wanted to believe the impossible–that maybe her dreams could come true. Mayhap there was a chance, ever so slight, that she, too, could act on her passions. Her breathing became ragged as she imagined kissing Jewel, and being kissed in return. Her heart pounded in excitement. Until reality stuck its ugly head into her dream reminding her there was a case to solve. Stetson moaned softly in aggravation and opened her eyes to glance around her inner sanctum.
Within the confines of Mr. Wellington’s lair were all the implements one would need to be a successful private investigator. On the wall to the left was an array of weapons, including both an umbrella and walking cane hiding swords in their handles, an umbrella with a singleshot rifle barrel and a trigger in the handle, several knives, guns, and gadgets.
A glass-doored cabinet contained other curiosities such as a wristwatch that concealed a tiny explosive, a unique copper and brass miniature camera with flash attachment, a mirror attached to a long folding pole for seeing around corners or over walls, telescopic opera glasses, and a voice recording device. There was a table holding an array of wigs in vast colors and styles for both men and women, false beards and moustaches, along with an exhaustive selection of hats.
Hanging from hooks on another wall were various costumes for the well-to-do business people, and the poor, male and female alike. There was a large vanity with a mirror and cases of cosmetics and face powder as one might see backstage of a theatre. Yes, the windowless room had all the trappings to outfit a man of mystery save one—there was no Xavier Wellington… only Stetson.
About The Author
Edale Lane is an award-winning author (Rainbow Awards, Imaginarium Awards, Lesfic Bard Awards) who is realizing her dream of being a full-time writer. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Tribute in Blood, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press.
Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication regarding research. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature.
After driving an 18-wheeler cross-country for eight years, she now lives with her partner in beautiful Chilliwack, B.C. Canada.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Pastandprologuepress/
Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/edale-land
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Edale is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour.