Friday, May 20, 2016

The Mason's Mark: Love and Death in the Tower by M.S. Spencer

Thanks so much for having me today. I’d like to talk about my new release, The Mason’s Mark: Love and Death in the Tower
Old Town Alexandria, founded 1749, is a thriving Colonial-era city, complete with cobblestones and Federal-style row houses. Laid out in a well-ordered grid, King Street runs in a straight line from the Potomac River to the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, where most of the action in The Mason’s Mark takes place. To its south lie Prince and Duke Streets and to the north Cameron, Queen, and then Princess. The mystery of how Cameron had come to insert itself between a King and his Queen is unclear.
Alexandria is very much a southern city—with all the charm and dilatoriness of that wonderful region and a perfect venue for the intrepid duo Claire calls the Marples.
Complicating the affairs of both our hero and heroine, but also of the villains, are two unlikely characters. Letitia Canfield, Claire’s mother, meets Andromeda Miller Bliss, Gideon’s mother, in Paris and they immediately hit it off. Being naturally inquisitive and terrible snobs, they take charge of both their victims’ love lives and the mystery.

In both the best and worst first day at work ever, docent Claire Wilding meets the man of her dreams, but her carefully rehearsed guided tour of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial collapses when she discovers a body and is drawn into a dark world of black ops and Italian renegade masons, of secret cabals and hidden treasure.

Also cloaked in mystery is handsome Gideon Bliss, a George Washington expert who haunts the Memorial, his manner evasive. What is his secret? Claire fears she'll fall in love with him only to learn he's a thief or even a murderer. Juggling two eccentric mothers, an inquisitive sister, and an increasingly smitten detective, Claire must find answers to a complex web of intrigue, including who to trust and who to love. 

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In this excerpt we find Letitia and Andromeda mixing it up, outdoing each other in snobbery.

Excerpt (G): Best of Friends

“Let me have a look at it.” Claire pulled the chain over her head. Her mother hefted it. “Beautiful. I adore old gold. And look at those lovely seed pearls interlinked—I’ve never seen a design like that.”
Andromeda took it from her. “It belonged to my great aunt Celestine. The man she almost married gave it to her.”
“Almost? What happened?”
The old lady settled back with the air of someone who has told the story many times. “It was in 1865, a few months after the War of Northern Aggression—what our family calls ‘The Late Unpleasantness’—ended.” The old Southern euphemism for the Civil War always tickled Claire. “A band of former Confederate officers had been terrorizing the town, pillaging the stores, and beating the men. Joseph mustered out near Richmond and rode four days to fulfill his vow to wed Celestine, but when he arrived he found the gang in the street. He stood up to them while the whole town watched. They killed him.”
“Oh dear.” Claire pictured a beautiful young girl waving her kerchief as her hero went to his death. “Did she find the necklace in his effects?”
Andromeda smiled benignly. “Yes, and her last love letter to him.”
Letitia heaved a delicate sigh. “I suppose Celestine never married, pining away for her Joseph.”
“On the contrary, she married a Mr. Parsons and had ten children. She and her family traveled by prairie schooner to Arkansas, Texas, and finally Oregon in the l870s. Her daughter rode the train alone across country to New York and graduate school, one of the first women to do so.” The gauntlet was thrown.
Letitia picked it up with a wintry smile. “I guess some families never lose their wanderlust, do they? Now my family found the perfect spot right here in Virginia in 1607 and never saw any good reason to leave. Of course they were very successful farmers and statesman.” She eyed Andromeda, braced for the response.
Her friend did not disappoint. “Well, I always say travel broadens the mind,” she warbled airily. “One can become awfully…parochial if one nests in the same tree for generations.” She checked the ceiling for cracks before delivering the coup de grace. “Everywhere they settled, my ancestors certainly flourished.”
The two old ladies set their chins. Claire, squeezed between them on an uncomfortable antique settee, half expected them to leap up and start circling each other. She had been entertained for a few minutes, but it was time to revive their customary cordiality. “May I have my chain back?”

About the Author:
Although she has lived or traveled in every continent except Antarctica and Australia (bucket list), M. S. Spencer has spent the last thirty years mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director and parent. Blessed with two fabulous grown children and an adorable grandchild, she has published ten romantic suspense/mystery novels. She now divides her time between the Florida Gulf coast and a tiny hamlet in Maine.
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