13 November, 2018

The Merest Loss by Steven Neil Blog Tour and Giveaway! @rararesources

The Merest Loss

A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English
hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet?

Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?

The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery.

The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.
Purchase Links
Author Bio Steven Neil has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. In his working life he has been a bookmaker’s clerk, management tutor, management consultant, bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire.
Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100016617465298 and https://twitter.com/stevenneil12
From Steven Neil, the author of THE MEREST LOSS
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

An important intervention
The direction of travel is unclear at this point in the novel. Harriet’s situation is unpromising but an important intervention is about to be made. In chapter twenty six of The Merest Loss Henry Fitzroy, the fifth Duke of Grafton, makes his presence felt and changes the course of events.
Chapter Twenty Six
The New Politics
Towcester and Chislehurst, England
Chantilly, France
Henry Fitzroy, the fifth Duke of Grafton, is at home at Wakefield Lodge, his hunting estate near Towcester, some forty miles north of London. His arthritis troubles him and he is unable to travel. Like his father before him, he has a tidy mind and he has a list of issues and questions he wants resolved. His physician assures him he is generally in good health, but he knows better. He asks Lord Normanby, now retired from diplomatic service and Sir George Lewis MP if they will call on him. The old families still have some clout in England.  Normanby travels up from London and Sir George breaks his journey from his country seat at Radnor, on his way back to town. The two men arrive at about the same time, turning in off Watling Street at the turnpike and several footmen and stable hands are waiting to take over the horses and carriages.
   ‘Any idea what this is all about?’ says Normanby. Sir George shrugs. The enthusiastic under-butler greets them and they make their way along the north face of the house. The visitors ask polite questions about the architecture and they learn rather more about Venetian windows, flattened arches and semi-elliptical lunettes than is strictly necessary. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the overall appearance and style of the place is attractive.
  Fitzroy meets them in the main hall. It is a room designed to impress: from the elegant, balustraded, wooden gallery; to the beamed, ornamental, plaster ceiling; to the magnificent stone chimneypiece, adorned with carved trophies of the hunt: a fox’s head on the left and a badger’s head on the right, undercut with bows and spears. A log fire roars in the grate and a rather splendid oil painting of a mare and foal, by Mr Herring senior, sits above. Candles are alight all around the room and the soft glow bounces off the mirrors and the silverware, set for tea. It has all the appearances of a cosy fireside chat, but that is not at all what the duke has in mind. He is in no mood for small talk. An apparently chance meeting with Tom Olliver at the Cesarewitch meeting, at Newmarket last year, has alerted him to the situation Harriet Howard finds herself in. He wants action.
‘Enough is enough,’ he says. ‘She has endured a great deal. I feel an enormous guilt that we did not do more when we had the chance.’   ‘It was a matter of national security. We had to do the right thing for the country,’ says Normanby. 
‘I am weary of this. I am an old man now. I made a promise on my father’s memory. I will not go to the grave having failed. Let us do the right thing for Miss Howard. Call off the hounds once and for all. I insist upon it.’
   ‘I am sure you realise that these things take time ...’ says Sir George
  ‘I don’t have time. And I will not be patronised. Between you two, you have the means to resolve this. Please get it done. And let me know when you have. I won’t hear another word. Do I make myself clear?’
 When they are gone he sends them each a letter, confirming the agreements between them. A month passes without any sign of action, so he copies the letters to Lord Palmerston, now prime minister again, following the collapse of Lord Derby’s minority government. Henry Fitzroy and Palmerston are old adversaries in the hunting field. The duke makes it clear that he holds the prime minister personally responsible for ensuring that the agreements are implemented. He mentions that he is still keeping the matter of Palmerston’s liaison, with the unnamed governess, strictly between themselves. He hopes to keep it that way, he says.
© Steven Neil
THE MEREST LOSS is available in paperback and eBook in the UK, US, France, Canada and Australia.
Follow Steven Neil on https://twitter.com/stevenneil12 for information on how to purchase the paperback through an independent bookseller in the UK.

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