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A LADY NEVER TELLS
Women of Daring Series
BY LYNN WINCHESTER
Richard Downing may be a viscount of impeccable character, but he’s bored beyond belief of dancing at balls, faking smiles, and making dull conversation. So when he stumbles upon a housemaid with defiance in her striking blue eyes and a dagger hidden in her skirts…well, color him intrigued.
Raised with a rather…peculiar upbringing, Lady Victoria Daring is full of secrets and surprises. As part of His Majesty’s personal homeland spy network and as a master of disguises, Vic is charged with infiltrating high society to uncover the enemies hiding in plain sight.
But Richard is the first man to see through her disguises––and infiltrate deep into her heart. Too bad his family is at the top of her list of suspects…
About the Book
A Lady Never Tells
by Lynn Winchester
Women of Daring
September 23, 2019
Home of Ambassador Gadstoke
Lady Victoria Daring kicked out with her bare foot, sweeping at her brother’s knees to send him toppling onto the bamboo mat behind him. Before he could rise, Vic pressed the tip of her rapier to the bottom of his chin, grinning down at him like the monkey who stole the sweet cakes.
“I thought you said you were faster than me, Love,” she said, her voice carrying a triumph she didn’t bother hiding. “It appears to me, dear brother, that you’ve only gotten clumsier.”
Their sister Honoria giggled from the other side of the training house, or the dàochǎng, her vigorous hand-to-hand practicing paused so she could watch her siblings spar. Dressed as she was in loose-fitting pants and tunic—just as they all were—she looked at ease grimacing playfully at Love, who was glowering up at Vic.
“Dammit, Vic, you know I haven’t fully recovered yet,” he groused, flopping back onto the mat and throwing his arms over his head in a dramatic show of surrender.
“You shouldn’t have eaten so much làzǐ jī; you were warned that all that spice would upset your delicate stomach,” Vic teased, removing the blade point from her brother’s throat and helping him stand. “Next time, opt for the steamed rice and pork rolls.”
“But I love the spicy food,” Love whined, making Vic grin at him.
“I know you do, darling, but your stomach does not.”
Love opened his mouth to argue, and Vic opened her mouth in preparation of arguing back, but the sound of the door opening made them both turn toward it.
“Hallooo,” their other sister, Verity, called from the doorway, her emerald green silk gown a dramatic accent to her pale skin and black hair. Her furrowed brow was telling. Though her lovely sister was stunning in her more elegant attire, Vic knew Verity much preferred breeches and loose shirts—which was in contrast to Honoria’s preferences for big gowns and shiny baubles. The twins were alike yet so different, and it never failed to make Victoria somewhat jealous of their closeness.
“Mother must have been beyond determined to get Verity into a gown this morning, otherwise she would be dressed as you are, Honoria, and much happier.” Vic offered her younger sister an empathetic smile.
A frown appearing on her face, Honoria crossed her arms over her chest, which pulled the fabric of her training costume, or jianshen fu, taut.
“I see you are wearing one of my gowns,” she accused, huffing adorably.
Apparently unbothered by her sister’s displeasure, Verity simply shrugged.
“I haven’t many gowns of my own, and Mother was adamant that I dress in a manner befitting a true lady.”
Love, as usual forgotten among his sisters, snorted, drawing all eyes to him.
“Vic!” Verity exclaimed. “You know better than to challenge Lowell after he’s gorged himself on Ping’s cooking.” She sighed heavily, walking across the room to stand beside Honoria.
Lowell—whom they’d called Love since the time he learned to write his own name but the “W” came out looking like one big “V”—brushed pieces of bamboo mat from his backside. His glare was equal parts menacing and playful. As the only male sibling, he often found himself the butt of jokes or the center of unwanted sisterly affection. He would sneer and grumble about it, but he also didn’t mind the special treatment when it came time to procure sweet treats from the kitchens.
Chuckling, Vic replaced her rapier on the horizontal wall-mounted hooks beside the other five swords. While she was more than proficient with the dao and katana, she preferred the rapier, which was lighter and a little more wicked.
“What brings you to the dàochǎng? I thought Mother was forcing etiquette lessons on you today,” Honoria said, unwinding the linen strips from around her fists. “Lord knows you need them.”
Verity arched a single raven eyebrow. “If anyone needs etiquette lessons, it’s Faith. She’s been running around with Mai all morning—I tell you, that monkey is going to get her into trouble.” Verity huffed, which was her usual reaction to anything their youngest sister did. At only twelve, Faith was the most rambunctious and feckless of the lot. “This morning, the creature stole one of my stockings.”
Honoria snickered. “Which one, Faith or the monkey?”
The room erupted with hearty laughter, and Vic embraced the moment of welcome levity. Unlike her typical five-hour training schedule, she’d been training ten hours every day for the last two months, and she was tired. Tired of the bruises, the missed meals with her family, and the constant strain on her body. But there was naught she could do or say about it. Her father had pushed her, telling her she needed to be faster, fiercer, tougher. And it had been a rather difficult two months, but she knew she would only be better for it.
She reflected on the frightened six-year-old girl she had been eighteen years ago, facing down the hard expression of the man who would be her “master.” She’d nearly run from the dàochǎng screaming. Now, though, she had to admit, her confidence had grown by leaps and bounds over the years. She knew her own limits…and she tested them each and every day. She was the oldest and the strongest of her father’s children.
“You are becoming what you need to be, dearest. I promise it will all be worth it. You’ll see,” her father had said the evening before when she’d dragged herself into his study after a rather strenuous kung fu lesson from Master Lao-Nang. Her father, a very respected diplomat, had wanted his children—all six of them—to learn something “useful.” And so, once they were old enough, he employed masters in various specialties to instruct them on everything from languages to acting to throwing daggers.
And their poor, long-suffering mother was forced to teach them all about being men and women of bearing, grace, and good manners.
Her younger siblings often lamented the need for lessons at all, but Victoria understood that their time in China was only temporary. She’d be a fool to think that her father, an earl, would never return home to see about his estate, an estate he would eventually leave to his son. And while said son’s thoughts were often on athletic pursuits and spicy foods, Victoria’s thoughts were often on the country across the world.
The country where all the noble ladies and gentlemen made the news. The country where being a lady of twenty-four would make her a spinster—something her mother despaired of almost continually.
“If your father does not send you to England this Season, you will die alone.” Her mother had taken it upon herself to remind Vic of that nearly every day for the last week. Living as they were in China, there were so few proper British gentlemen to court, and so her mother had often despaired of ever marrying off her progeny. At least once a quarter, her mother would ask her father if it were possible to visit England for the purpose of marrying off the eldest daughters. Her father always refused, stating that there would be plenty of time for that. Later.
Her mother never liked putting off what could be done now, but it wasn’t until recently that her mother had seemed…single-minded about it. It was grating—and not only because her mother was incessant. It was also because…well…Vic was curious about what it would be like to have a Season. To attend balls and don elegant dresses. To meet new people who led lives different from hers. To dance with someone other than Love. To flirt with handsome men who didn’t know she could kill them with her bare hands.
She longed to experience life outside of China and the grinding day-to-day she lived, but also to do something with all she’d been learning for the last eighteen years.
You seem ungrateful. But she wasn’t—she loved her life in Zhejiang. She enjoyed spending time with her siblings and learning things she would have never learned in some haughty British all-girls school. But that enjoyment didn’t stop the ache that appeared more often as of late: a painful hollowness that pressed on her chest.
Angry at the trail of her thoughts, she cast Verity an impatient gaze. “Well? What was it you came in here for?”
“Father wants us all to meet him in his study. He has news for us,” Verity announced, and Vic’s heart dropped to her bare toes. Her father rarely called them all together if it weren’t time for a meal…
“Do you know what the news is?” Love asked, soft blue eyes rimmed with concern. For a lad of nineteen, Love had grown from a smiling scamp to a world-weary leader. As the only son, he was being groomed to take over for their father one day. And it showed in the loss of laughter, the thinning of his lips, and the stiffening of his spine. Yes, he’d be a good leader one day…or a terrible bore, though he did have many moments of levity and lightheartedness—but only ever with his sisters.
Verity shook her head. “But Grace and Mother are already there.”
“I wonder if this is about all the moping and furtive glances between him and Mama,” Honoria remarked, reminding Vic of Honoria’s ability to perceive more than anyone else. She could see the same image everyone saw, but she was the one who picked out all the details and insights no one else did. It was disconcerting, really—to have the ability to see through all the distractions to the very truth. Together with Verity’s ability to see codes and clues in any document, the twins were nearly impossible to fool.
“What furtive glances?” Love asked, replacing his own sword and peeling the linen from around his hands. “I haven’t noticed anything.”
Honoria huffed. “Of course you wouldn’t, Love. You barely notice your own nose on your face.”
Love grunted, rolling his eyes at his older sister.
Pursing her lips in annoyance, Honoria snipped, “It isn’t as though I haven’t told you this before. As a matter of fact, I’ve mentioned it at least twice in the last three days. It isn’t my fault no one has been listening to me.”
Her wariness piqued, Vic inquired, “What exactly did you mention, and why?”
“Father received an important missive last week,” Honoria continued, “and just after that, he and Mama began glancing at each other with this…wariness on their faces. Almost as though they were dreading telling us something.”
“That is troubling,” Verity agreed, her face pinching in alarm.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of A LADY NEVER TELLS by Lynn Winchester, we’re giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to internationally. One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf. Giveaway ends 10/23/2019 @ 11:59pm EST. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Lynn Winchester…
LYNN WINCHESTER is the pseudonym of a hardworking California-born conservative, now living in the wilds of Northeast Pennsylvania. Lynn has been writing fiction since the 5th grade, and enjoys creating worlds, characters, and stories for her readers.