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Penny for Your Secrets

Penny for Your Secrets

Автором Anna Lee Huber

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Penny for Your Secrets

Автором Anna Lee Huber

4.5/5 (13 оценки)
415 pages
6 hours
Oct 29, 2019


England, 1919. In Anna Lee Huber’s latest mystery, former Secret Service agent Verity Kent is finding that life after wartime offers its own share of danger . . .
The Great War may be over, but for many, there are still obstacles on the home front. Reconciling with her estranged husband makes Verity sympathetic to her friend Ada’s marital difficulties. Bourgeois-bred Ada, recently married to the Marquess of Rockham, is overwhelmed trying to navigate the ways of the aristocracy. And when Lord Rockham is discovered shot through the heart with a bullet from Ada’s revolver, Verity fears her friend has made a fatal blunder.
While striving to prove Ada’s innocence, Verity is called upon for another favor. The sister of a former Secret Service colleague has been killed in what authorities believe was a home invasion gone wrong. The victim’s war work—censoring letters sent by soldiers from the front—exposed her to sensitive, disturbing material. Verity begins to suspect these two unlikely cases may be linked. But as the connections deepen, the consequences—not just for Verity, but for Britain—grow more menacing than she could have imagined.
Praise for Anna Lee Huber’s Treacherous Is the Night
“A thrilling mystery that supplies its gutsy heroine with plenty of angst-ridden romance.”
—Kirkus Reviews
“A splendid sequel. . . . Huber combines intricate puzzles with affecting human drama.” 
—Publishers Weekly 
“Masterful. . . . Just when you think the plot will zig, it zags. . . . Deeply enjoyable.”
Criminal Element
Oct 29, 2019

Об авторе

Anna Lee Huber is the Daphne award-winning author of the national bestselling Lady Darby Mysteries and the Verity Kent Mysteries. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in music and minored in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana with her family and is hard at work on her next novel. Visit her online at www.annaleehuber.com.

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Penny for Your Secrets - Anna Lee Huber



Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

—Benjamin Franklin

September 1919

London, England

"Verity, darling. Ada grasped my hands and pulled me into her poppy-scented embrace, kissing the air next to my cheek. I’m so glad you could make it."

But, of course, I replied, searching her eyes for signs of strain. Your letter was most persuasive.

If she still felt any of the frantic energy that had filled her missive, she didn’t show it. In fact, she all but ignored my comment, allowing her gaze to sweep up and down my form. And what is this? You look stunning. Her fingers brushed over the jade-green beaded bodice of my gown with its dropped waist. This color is divine. It makes your eyes sparkle.

I laughed. If anyone looks stunning, it’s you.

Indeed, it was true. Swathed in a gown of crimson satin that left little to the imagination, her neck dripping with diamonds, there was no better word to describe the impact of Ada’s appearance. Her dark hair and eyes, gently lined in kohl, were a striking contrast to the fluid red of her gown and the soft wash of color on her lips. A wash of color that the more staid guests of tonight’s dinner party were certain to find too brash, not realizing their hostess had already made a concession to their feelings by not applying it as boldly as she normally would.

However, her husband didn’t seem to appreciate the difference.

Yes, subtlety has never been Ada’s strong suit.

Her smile took on a sharp edge as she flicked a glance at him. You know Rockham. Always so frightfully swank, she drawled sarcastically.

The marquess stiffened and I stepped sideways to offer him my hand in greeting, hoping to prevent him from responding in kind.

Of course. Good evening, my lord.

He bowed. Mrs. Kent.

And this must be your long-lost husband, Ada declared, turning toward Sidney with an arch smile. "Well, you are a gorgeous one, aren’t you? Now I understand why Verity was so broken up when she thought you were pushing up daisies over in France, she remarked in her usual irreverent manner, casting me a speculative glance. And why she was willing to rusticate with you in some drafty cottage in Sussex for nearly four weeks."

The fact that our eight-bedroom cottage was far from drafty, and far from Spartan—boasting a staff of four and all the modern conveniences—mattered not. Anything outside of London was flippantly deemed rustic, and therefore bleak, by Ada’s current standards.

She offered him her bejeweled hand. I’m charmed to meet you.

Sidney smiled and bowed over her hand. Likewise, Lady Rockham.

Please, call me Ada. Lady Rockham is far too stuffy to use among friends. She flashed him a saucy smile. As I’m sure we will be.

I was accustomed to Ada’s flirtatious behavior. It was simply how she was. In any case, I knew I had nothing to fear from either her or Sidney, and so long as she didn’t cling to him, and he kept his replies to light banter, I was content to ignore it.

However, I didn’t think Rockham viewed the matter so affably, despite the five years she’d spent as his mistress before he’d been granted his divorce from his first wife. His eyes tightened at the corners, and his lips flattened into a thin line of disapproval.

Threading my arm through Sidney’s, I pulled him forward to shake Rockham’s hand so that we might move on before his temper got the better of him. But Ada grabbed my arm before we could make our escape.

Verity, can you slip into the dining room and check the seating arrangements? she whispered, a note of anxiety creeping into her voice. I’m still not sure the order of precedence is correct, and I would hate to insult someone.

Not having been born into the upper class with all its rules and protocols, Ada had struggled to keep up with the duties and responsibilities of a grand lady. I had helped her manage as best I could since her marriage to Rockham two years prior, but there were so many minute matters of decorum, so many tiny strictures that had been ingrained in me since birth that it was impossible to impart them all.

Of course, I began to say when Rockham interrupted me.

You cannot ask such a thing of Mrs. Kent, he hissed. "As marchioness, it is your responsibility to manage such things."

Do you think I don’t know that? she snapped. I am doing my best.

He shrugged, running a hand over his gray hair slicked with pomade. Calliope managed just fine.

My eyes widened at his mention of his first wife’s name. It had the predictable effect of making Ada’s face flush with rage. I pressed a hand to her arm. I’ll see to it, I murmured before hurrying away.

Well, that was decidedly awkward, Sidney muttered as we passed into the opulent hall decorated with bronzed friezes and rococo flourishes. Before us a carved double staircase arched upward toward an intricately painted ceiling and walls draped with silk a shade of mignonette green.

To say the least. I paused beneath a painting of one of Rockham’s sullen seventeenth-century ancestors to glance back at the pair, their backs both stiff with suppressed anger.

I would say she’s deliberately provoking him, but he seems to require very little goading to behave like a self-righteous prig.

My gaze shifted to meet his, amused by his assessment of the marquess, of whom I was no great admirer. She is quite coquettish.

No more than a dozen other ladies I’ve been introduced to since my return, he countered. And many of them were from gentler pedigrees. His deep blue eyes warmed as he realized I hadn’t taken offense at my friend’s behavior. Young ladies have become downright brazen during my time in France.

Well, what did you expect, leaving us all home alone to fend for ourselves? I squeezed his arm, urging him across the patterned marble floor toward the Rockham’s pretentious butler, Deacon.

As was all too common among butlers of the elite, Deacon was an utter snob, and it was evident he didn’t approve of his employer’s bourgeois-bred wife. I doubted he’d approved of his previous American-born wife, either.

I lifted my chin to direct a penetrating stare at him. Are the seating arrangements correct? I bit out in a voice that said I would tolerate nothing less. Ada might not yet have mastered the demeanor every aristocratic and gently bred lady knew she must keep tucked under her cap for instances like this, but I had learned at my mother’s knee how to demand respect and compliance. And no one did it better.

Yes, madam, he intoned.

I scrutinized his sharp features through narrowed eyes to ascertain his truthfulness and then dipped my head once, trusting that if the arrangements weren’t correct, they would soon be set to rights.

Gliding away, I couldn’t help but shake my head at what a sad state of affairs my friend had to contend with that she couldn’t even rely on her staff to help her ensure the correct order of precedence was maintained. In my parents’ household, the butler was one of my mother’s chief allies. And as much as it had rankled when he’d tattled on me as a child, I could appreciate that matters were just as they should be.

Catching sight of my reflection in the mirror hanging above a floral-draped console table, I paused to adjust the diamond and pearl bejeweled pin that held back the auburn waves of bobbed hair framing my face. Sidney hovered beside me as I swiveled to the left and then the right, smoothing my hands over the shimmering material of my bodice as I inspected my appearance. My gown was a trifle more daring than I usually wore, but since I’d been certain Ada and her friends would be dressed even more audaciously, I’d decided it would be the perfect occasion to try this new style.

Sidney’s warm hand pressed against the small of my back, his thumb brushing against the skin revealed by the deep vee there. He dipped his head to speak into my ear while his gaze held mine in the mirror. Have I told you yet how much I like your hair like this? His breath feathered over my skin, soft as a caress.

No, I replied. I hadn’t lopped it off until after the armistice, when it was no longer necessary for me to sneak through the electrified fence between neutral Holland and German-occupied Belgium in my capacity as an intelligence agent working with the Secret Service. Such a style would have made me much too conspicuous.

It suits you. A roguish twinkle lit his eyes. And it grazes the nape of your neck in such a delightful manner. I can’t help but wish to press my lips to it.

My breath quickened as he turned his head as if to do just that, his thumb brushing across my spine. I stepped away, turning to face him, as I summoned the poise that had served me so well throughout the war. But not here, I trust. I arched my eyebrows in gentle chastisement. Or else you might send one of the more straitlaced matrons into a swoon.

His grin widened. Not here, then. But after a pause, he added with mischievous delight, Unless we require a distraction.

My lips quirked. Let’s hope not.

Not so long ago, such a playful exchange would have been beyond us, such a simple jest unthinkable. Four years of war and separation, followed by the fifteen cruel months when he’d allowed me to believe he was dead—despite the fact it had been for very good reason—had all but destroyed our relationship. But the time and effort we’d put into the past three months had gone a long way to salvaging a marriage I’d worried was hopelessly broken. There was still much work to be done to completely restore our trust in each other, but now that felt as if it was only a matter of time, rather than a stark uncertainty.

His gaze softened, as if entertaining a similar thought, and I reached for his hand as we crossed the threshold into the salon.

The immense room was far larger than most London drawing rooms, and far more extravagant, being iced in gold, white, and cream décor, like some baker’s frothy confection. An Adam-designed ceiling with a small, coffered dome at the center even topped the walls of luminescent gold silk. Ada had told me that at one time the salon had also doubled as a music room, and it was said Mozart had played there on his visit to London in the 1760s.

Other guests congregated throughout the space, some sipping cocktails while others abstained. It wasn’t difficult to differentiate between those who were friends with Ada and those who had been invited by the marquess. Though some of Ada’s friends were also members of high society, they were the type who frequented the nightclubs in Soho and Leicester Square, and so were happy to imbibe and converse with the brightly dressed women whose tinkling laughter filled the room. None of the marquess’s guests were society’s greatest sticklers to the established rules of decorum, but they still sat stiffly throughout the room, pretending to ignore the frivolity and the colorful assemblage, though the pinched expressions on their faces told a different tale.

Before the war, the chances of my meeting a woman like Ada would have been decidedly slim, let alone my becoming friends with her. But times were changing, despite the protests of those who wished otherwise. The lines that had so strongly divided classes for centuries were now more blurred than ever, if not hopelessly muddled given the chaos and comradery of war. While some despaired of this jumbling of class distinctions and muddying of blue blood, I welcomed it. I had no desire to return to the prewar days of adherence to outdated protocols.

In any case, Ada wasn’t precisely outré, but her upbringing had been rather unconventional. Her father had been a gentleman poet. Not a particularly noteworthy one, but he’d enjoyed some success with a book of romantic sonnets. While her mother had been an artist of great passion, but no acclaim. Or so Ada described her.

Having been raised in such bohemian circles, it was no wonder she had a flair for the dramatic, and that she’d chosen to reject many of society’s norms. At least, until two years ago when she’d agreed to wed Rockham. It was a love match.

Or, at one time, it had been.

Pushing my worries over my friend’s marriage from my mind, I advanced into the room to greet the other guests while Sidney went to fetch us drinks. Having strolled through both the drawing rooms of high society and theaters and nightclubs alike throughout the war and after, I was already acquainted with many of them. But only one of them was capable of making me break into a wide smile at just the sound of her voice.

Verity Kent. She stood with her hands planted on her hips in a fabulous gown of gold silk lamé, a feathered stole drooping from her creamy mocha shoulders. Where have you been, doll?

I moved forward to embrace her, admiring her pearl grapevine earrings. Hullo, Etta.

I haven’t seen you in months. Not since you told Goldy he was a fool for backing Paper Money over The Panther or Grand Parade at the Derby. I started to think you’d gone into seclusion or something. Her gaze shifted over my shoulder. "I’m sure I would have if my husband was such a tall drink of water and he’d suddenly come back from the dead."

I turned to find Sidney hovering at my elbow, a grin curling his lips. I accepted the gin rickey he held out to me, condensation already forming on the glass, and gestured toward my friend. Sidney, I want you to meet Etta Lorraine, the best jazz singer this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps both.

He bowed politely over her hand. Lovely to meet you, Miss Lorraine.

Oh, heavens. None of that Miss Lorraine stuff. It’s Etta. Particularly if you keep making my friend Verity happy. Her eyebrows arched in both a question and promised retribution.

But far from being intimidated, Sidney’s eyes glinted with mischief. Every chance I get.

Etta threw her head back and laughed before tapping him with her ebony handled fan. "Hoo, boy, you are a scoundrel, aren’t you? She dimpled at me. And just what ma petite needs."

I shook my head, lowering my glass after taking a cool drink. Where’s Goldy? This is what happens when he lets you out of his sight, I teased. You’re already causing trouble.

I would say I’m more likely to get her into it.

I lifted my face to accept a swift buss on my cheek from Goldy as he joined us.

Lovely as always, Ver. Ada told me you’d be here. He passed a drink to Etta before reaching out to shake Sidney’s hand with his gloved one. Having suffered horrible burns to the right side of his torso, he rarely removed it. "Kent, it’s good to see you, old chap. I was pickled as punch to hear you’d survived after all. And exposed a group of traitors to boot. Well done!"

You’re one to talk. Heard you took out an armament factory with only half a left wing on your plane.

Well, there was a bit more involved than that, Goldy replied, suddenly chagrined.

Sidney nodded, his own good humor dimming. There always was.

Etta and I exchanged glances, realizing we were crossing into territory where we couldn’t follow them, and from whence they were likely to emerge with morose dispositions if we allowed them to dwell there much longer.

You two were up at Oxford together, were you not? I interjected, hoping to jar them from their reminiscences.

Goldy nodded. Along with your brother Freddy. His lips curled into a grin. Who, a little birdie told me, turned respectable. I couldn’t believe it.

It’s true, Sidney confirmed. Thriving medical practice. Wife and young daughter. Townsend is now an upright citizen. His gaze flicked to mine. For the most part.

I smiled at his jest. It was impossible to believe my older brother had given up all of his shenanigans, but for my sister-in-law’s and niece’s sakes I hoped they were of the harmless, prankish variety.

What of you? Does your family still own its aviation company? Sidney asked him.

Yes. He sipped from his glass before adding hesitantly, Actually, I’ve been thinking of investing in some of these efforts to form passenger services. The first scheduled flight between Paris and London flew just a week ago, and with Alcock and Brown making the first successful flight across the Atlantic in June, it’s only a matter of time before we’re crisscrossing the globe through the air.

I had little knowledge or experience with aeroplanes beyond the dreaded sound of their approach as I scrambled for cover from the coming bombardment, along with the other citizens in the German-occupied towns just behind the front. But even being aware of the amazing advances made in aircraft production during the war, and some of the covert weapons Britain and Germany had been developing for them, I had a difficult time believing people would ever regularly fly across the ocean as passengers. Not when they could already cross the Atlantic on a ship in relative comfort in three days.

But if Sidney harbored any of the same doubts, he didn’t show it. Well, you always did have a head for business, and you certainly have the flight experience, so if you think it’s worth pursuing, then I believe it.

Goldy’s shoulders straightened under Sidney’s regard. You think so? Well, thanks, old chum.

He brushed it aside as if it was no consequence and turned to ask Etta about the latest club she was performing at, but I couldn’t disregard it all so easily. Not when Goldy seemed to stand taller, his eyes alive with his plans.

Sidney had always been the type of man whom others seemed to want the good opinion of. They wanted to impress him, to call him their friend. So, when he offered his thoughts on something, they listened. And when he gave them his approval, it was like gold.

However, since his return, I’d noticed how cautious he’d been to offer his endorsement, or express his judgment of any kind. It was as if the war had stolen that ability, that confidence from him. So to see him do so now, and so casually, made my chest tighten and the back of my eyes burn.

I blinked, focusing my gaze on my drink as I rubbed my finger over the condensation on the glass. Sidney cast me a look of concern, but I shook my head and forced a brighter smile.

The number of guests gathered in the salon had grown, and while the room still wasn’t precisely crowded, he used the opportunity afforded by someone nudging me from behind to drape an arm around my waist and pull me closer to his side. There it remained even after they’d passed.

There was a slight stir as Ada and Rockham entered the room arm in arm, though it appeared perfunctory. She certainly stepped away quickly enough, moving toward another gentleman whom she appeared to lavish attention on. Rockham’s jaw hardened, and I felt my stomach dip at my friend’s misstep. Flirtatious comments and daring gowns people might overlook, and expect her husband to do so also, but such blatant fawning over another man—and in front of Rockham, no less—was beyond the pale.

She’s been cozying up to Ardmore for months now, Etta leaned over to whisper. Shows up at the club on his arm.

I wasn’t precisely shocked by this news, but I was disappointed. I wasn’t naïve. I understood that infidelity ran rampant among the upper classes. Many high-ranking gentlemen boasted a mistress, and their wives quietly indulged in affairs on the side as well. It was well-known that Rockham himself had claimed one mistress or another during the duration of his first marriage— Ada being that woman the last five years of it. However, that didn’t mean I approved of the matter.

When I’d met Ada, I’d initially overlooked the matter for the sake of expediency—having needed to cultivate her acquaintance—but I’d quickly deduced that she and Rockham were also in love. It had helped ease my conscience. It also helped that I was friendly with Rockham’s first wife, and well knew she was perfectly happy for him to take his attentions elsewhere. Their divorce had seemed ever imminent. As for my opinion of Rockham, I was more inclined to side with Calliope, but Ada had seemed to genuinely care for him. So when they wed, I’d been happy for her.

But now, just two years later, the marriage seemed to be dissolving before my eyes.

I was not so unmindful that I didn’t recognize that part of my unease stemmed from the fact that my own marriage had been on rocky ground until recently. And though relations between me and Sidney were much improved, here was evidence of how easily it could all fall apart again.

I watched Ada as she worked her way through the room, chatting with guests and gesturing broadly. This was all a choice bit of theater, for it was obvious she wasn’t as cheerful and blithe as she wished to seem. Her voice was pitched just a shade too high, her movements a degree too forceful.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed, for Etta shook her head, making a humming noise of sympathy.

I take it all is not well in Eden? I remarked softly.

Her cinnamon-brown eyes shifted to meet mine. No, honey. It’s not.

Does Rockham have a new mistress?

Not a permanent one, but I’ve seen a progression of jeunes filles on his arm, she replied, peppering her sentences as she usually did with the French she’d learned from her mother, who had been born on Martinique. Each one more stupid than the last, she added derisively.

I looked at her in question.

They all think they’ll be the next Lady Rockham.

I wasn’t sure I would classify them precisely as stupid, but more foolishly hopeful. After all, the war had left my generation with a distinct shortage of young men. But I understood what she meant. Just as I grasped how precarious Ada’s marriage truly was.

How did it fall apart so quickly? I murmured more to myself than anyone else, but Etta answered me nonetheless.

It usually does, honey. And the cracks were beginning to show long ago. Her eyes scoured my features. Maybe you just didn’t want to see them.

I exhaled, conceding she was probably right. For all the horrible things I’d witnessed during the war, all the dark potential of human nature, I was still remarkably ingenuous when it came to my friends, preferring to view them through rose-colored glasses. Not for the first time, I wondered if that was a fault or an asset. Was I being indulgent or blind?


Ada swooped over to join us. Etta, dear, did I tell you how absolutely smashing this gown is. She ran her fingers lightly over the feathers. You must tell me where you got it. But before Etta could even reply, she had turned toward me, arching her eyebrows in query. Verity, darling, were you able to handle that little matter for me?

Yes, all is set.

Marvelous, she gasped, squeezing my arm. You are a lifesaver, my dear. Her gaze shifted to my husband. Is she not a wonder, Mr. Kent?

Sidney smiled at me warmly. That she is.

Once again, before the person she was addressing could reply, she’d already whirled away to beckon to someone. Verity, there is someone you simply must meet.

It was all a bit much, and I found myself searching her eyes, wondering if perhaps cocaine could be blamed for her near-frantic energy. I knew she indulged in drugs from time to time, and had even hosted opium parties in the past. But although her eyes were bright, her pupils were not dilated.

She pulled forward the man she had hastened toward earlier upon entering the salon. This is Lord Ardmore. And this is my dearest friend, Verity Kent, she told him.

His mouth creased into a pleased smile and he dipped his head in a shallow bow. Mrs. Kent, I’m utterly charmed. Your reputation precedes you.

Does it? I replied evenly, though I was confused as to which part of my reputation he was referring to.

Your husband’s exploits are not the only ones of which there has been great talk. On Umbersea and elsewhere.

By this last statement and the shrewd gleam in his eyes, I took it to mean he was aware of our part in foiling a rather nasty scheme in Belgium six weeks prior.

I’d heard of Ardmore. That he held some sort of position in Whitehall, though I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was. I knew there was some connection to Naval Intelligence. One that even C, my former chief in the foreign division of the Secret Service, didn’t seem to be privy to the details of. The fact that the government had chosen to explain away the incident in Belgium as a mere accident meant there were very few people who knew the extent of my and Sidney’s involvement, and the discovery that he was one of those few told me a great deal about the influence this man had.

I judged him to be somewhere between the ages of forty-five and fifty, with pale-blond hair streaked with gray, and a small mole just above his left ear at his hairline. He was tall and trim, though probably a stone heavier than he had been in his youth. With his mossy-green eyes and a distinguished appearance, I could understand his appeal to Ada. Rockham wasn’t often praised for his looks.

However, there was something about the man I didn’t like. Something that immediately put me on guard. Perhaps it was the fact that he was encouraging Ada to stray from her marriage vows. Or maybe it was his shadowy connection to military intelligence, one I could tell C—whom I trusted implicitly—was wary of, even if he’d never stated so outright.

Whatever the case, I couldn’t help but search Ardmore’s facial features and those striking eyes for some greater explanation why he’d wished to meet me beyond the fact he was bedding my friend. Not that he gave anything away. A man of his position—whatever it was—would never divulge his intent so easily.

Ardmore and I are going to the Embassy Club tomorrow evening, Ada was saying. You and Sidney should join us. And invite Daphne and George as well, she added, referring to my two closest friends, both of whom had also worked for military intelligence in different capacities. We’ll make a party of it!

It did not escape my notice that her husband was not included on the guest list.

I glanced at Sidney, unsure how to answer, and uncertain I even wanted to. Perhaps we will, I replied noncommittally.

I was saved from having to say more by the abrupt arrival of Rockham. His shoulders were rigid with attention, his head thrown back to thrust his chin upward at a haughty angle.

Ada, your presence is needed elsewhere. Deacon is signaling that dinner is ready, and you are not paying the least bit of attention. His eyes flicked up and down her form, clearly finding it lacking, and then landed on Ardmore. I would have thought you would at least try to be a little more circumspect, he snapped in a lower voice. You are a marchioness now, after all. But I suppose I was wrong.

Her eyes narrowed into slits. "As circumspect as you, boring everyone with talk of your horses and your glorious exploits through the halls of Parliament during the war?"

I glanced about us, shocked by their spite and their willingness to air their dirty linen in front of everyone. Neither of them was making much of an effort to keep their comments from being overheard.

Rockham bristled. I’ve never claimed my service was glorious.

She scoffed. Really? You could have fooled me.

His gaze shifted toward Sidney. Of course, our men who fought and died on the fields of France and farther abroad are to be lauded. But I do like to think I did my little bit to keep the Huns at bay. To right the cause of liberty and . . .

Blah, blah, blah, Ada interrupted, rolling her eyes. "Some gentlemen did make contributions. And the rest should quit beating their gums." She strode past him toward the entrance, where Deacon no doubt hovered.

If looks could burn, Rockham’s glare would have incinerated Ardmore on the spot. His lip curled with derision. And here I thought you were known for your circumspection, what with all the secrets you have to keep. Then he whirled around to storm after his wife.

My skin prickled at being in such close proximity to so much anger, as if the daggers aimed at others had been deflected on to me. However, Ardmore, for his part, didn’t appear the least bit ruffled by what had sounded to me like a veiled threat. He turned away and went in search of the lady he would escort into dinner with a perfectly affable expression on his face. I couldn’t decide whether he was that unfeeling or simply a brilliant actor. Either seemed as likely.

Well, that was awkward, Sidney murmured again into the stilted silence that had descended over our quartet. A refrain that would echo through the night, it appeared.

"You can say that again, chéri, Etta concurred. I’m just glad I don’t rank high enough to sit next to either our host or hostess."

I agreed. There were times when being a mere missus suited me to a T. Even though as things now stood, that wouldn’t last forever. Sidney was currently the only son of his father and his father’s two older brothers, which meant that unless either of Sidney’s uncles fathered a legitimate son before he died, which was highly unlikely, Sidney would eventually inherit his oldest uncle’s title.

I smiled in delight as Crispin Ballantyne approached to escort me into dinner. As one of Sidney’s few friends from his Oxford days who had survived the war, I had seen rather a lot of him in the past few months. Not that I minded. Crispin was kind and levelheaded, though he possessed a rather morbid sense of humor, and unlike many soldiers who’d returned with such a twist in their personality, he’d come by his before the war.

Having served as an artillery officer, he’d suffered some hearing damage, so I tilted my head toward his copper-red pate so that he could hear me as we followed the other guests into the dining room, where the focal point of the room was a stunning chimneypiece of Verona marble. A carton pierre ceiling of monochrome medallions swirled above the table laid with glittering crystal and silver over crisp white linens. Vases of red roses and pink Carthusian were interspersed with shaded candles, while lush vines of ivy and clusters of golden pears were woven between them down the center of the table.

We found ourselves seated several chairs from Ada’s left. Far enough we could choose to ignore whatever drama might unfold, or listen in as we chose. Truth be told, now that the quarreling couple was separated by the long expanse of the table, I didn’t expect there to be any further unpleasantness, but I was swiftly proven wrong.

As the bowls of soup were whisked away by liveried footmen to be replaced by plates of delicate sole in lemon cream sauce, Ada wriggled in her chair, reaching down to extract something that had either been tucked behind her seat cushion or attached to her person. When she plunked it down on the table next to her plate, I began to suspect it was the latter, for she could never have concealed something so hefty beneath her sinuous dress. Seated to her right, Lord Paget startled, confirming my suspicions of what the object was.

"My lady, what are you going to do with

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  • (5/5)
    Penny for Your Secrets (A Verity Kent Mystery Book 3) by Anna Lee Huber is a Historical Mystery set in 1919 England. Verity was a Secret Service Agent in the Great War. This book continues with her adventures, mysteries and romance. I love a great series that builds on past experiences of exciting characters with each new book. Historical facts and small details including the colors of clothing add so much to this book. The murders, motives, plots, witnesses and suspects are elements that keep the reader involved. Verity and husband Sidney must search for information to find the killer or killers. Were the murders committed because of love affairs and marriages gone wrong or to hide criminal activity. It’s never who you think it is, it could be almost anyone. Ms. Hubers writing has a flow that makes her books a pleasing read. I have enjoyed each book and series Ms. Huber has written but I find the Verity Kent series especially thrilling. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I appreciate the opportunity and thank the author and publisher for allowing me to read, enjoy and review this book. 5 Stars
  • (5/5)
    The period just after World War I is a frenetic time. Everybody seemed to be struggling with survivors guilt and deep, deep sorrow – they all probably knew more people who had died than who had lived. The times were stressful with the soldiers returning home and trying to resurrect some semblance of a normal life and the women who had flocked into the workforce to fill the gaps left by the men being forced out of jobs they had not only filled but excelled at. Is it any wonder that everybody turned to the clubs and dancing and drinking to fill the hours and avoid the pain.Verity and Sidney Kent are two of those frenetic people trying to get past the guilt of surviving. Sidney is particularly hard hit because he feels so very much guilt – I won’t tell you a lot about it, but you’ll learn when you read the story. As we know from the first two books in the series, Sidney was declared dead and was left in a ditch. Somehow, he managed to survive and went into hiding in order to uncover a nest of viperous traitors. In the meantime, Verity was mourning him deeply and burying her sorrows in drink. She’d worked for the Secret Service during the war and was about as shell-shocked as Sidney. In the first book, This Side of Murder, Verity was drawn into a case where she discovered Sidney was still alive. Now, Verity and Sidney are slowly trying to patch up their marriage and make things work between them.Verity and Sidney spent a very tense evening at the home of Verity’s friend Ada and her husband, the Marquess of Rockham. Everyone could tell that Ada and her husband had been at odds with each other and neither behaved very well. Verity and Sidney left early, only to be awoken by Ada requesting them to come right away because Rockham had been shot. Verity is sure that her friend can’t be the guilty party, but the police seem to be heading in that direction. Verity can’t do anything else, so she starts to investigate on her own – well – with Sidney.Not long after Ada comes to Verity, another friend, Irene Shaw, comes to Verity about the death of her half-sister. The police are treating her sister’s death as if it was the result of a robbery, but Irene doesn’t believe that because nothing was taken.As Verity and Sidney investigate the two cases, they soon come to suspect they might be related – but how and who or what is the common denominator. Their investigations take them back to France and on to the Isle of Wight – and introduces a master manipulator who will probably be a villain in a few future books at least. I hope not too many because I really don’t like him and I want him gone.The story is masterfully written and the research is impeccable. From the first page, the reader is drawn into that time and place and doesn’t leave until hours after the last page has been read. The story is so compelling that you feel those repressed emotions, the grief, the guilt that Sidney and the other survivors feel. You also feel Verity’s anxiety for Sidney when he constantly closes her out and won’t talk.I can definitely recommend this well-written, well-researched story.I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
  • (5/5)
    1919 Intrigue with a capital 'I'!Attending a dinner party and having the host murdered is shocking! For Verity Kent and Sidney we might be forgiven in thinking it's naught but small change for them after all they've encountered other the past years. It's not! Ada, Lady Rockman is an old friend of Verity's and due to a totally dramatic moment between the hosts at the dinner table, it seems Ada is about to be charged with murder.Ada appeals to Verity for help. To find out who really killed her husband. The trail is convoluted and snakes back in upon itself. Add to this the unrelated death of a woman who'd worked for the Royal Mail,” in the censorship department. Verity and Sidney are forced to cast the net wide. Along the way they encounter Ada's lover Lord Ardmore, who "holds some unknown position within Naval Intelligence", and as things become more complex, Captain Alec Xavier, a man Verity became close to after Sidney had supposedly died, and Max Westfield, the Earl of Ryde, Sidney's commanding officer. Verity and Max had been drawn to each other during the time of Sidney's supposed death.With the close of the novel I find I'm conflicted. The immediate problem may have been solved but we're left teetering on the precipice of some thing so much bigger. I felt somewhat cheated.The complexity of the plot left me gasping with exhaustion as I mentally ran to keep up, and then the door was slammed shut, presumably to be thrown open at some time in the future. Who knows where that future will take Verity and Sidney? Judging by all that's gone before I can confidently predict it will be dangerous. I feel with a couple of things hinted at Verity may be possible accused of wrongdoing during her wartime exploits. It seems C's second in command Major Davis has had Verity's name added to the list of women "suspected of having intimate relations with the enemy.” Verity is shocked, I smell treachery in the future!On the personal front, Verity and Sidney are leading a racy post war life style, moving from one distraction to another. Both are hiding things, immersing themselves in feverish activity. As Verity acknowledges it's "better to dance and be merry than to remember and regret." The mending of their relationship is tied in with their mental health and the cracks are very much starting to show, especially with Sidney.I must applaud Huber for the depth and breadth of her background research. How she takes events and includes them in her storyline to give the 'wow' factor is indeed a credit to her talent.I can't finish this review without saying how much I admire the cover art for all of the Verity books thus far. The retro 1920's block type Art Deco look that recalls Agatha Christie is stylish and intriguing, always with Verity's face turned away, enhancing her mysteriousness even as her clothes portray the stylish figure she cuts. Verity still remains somewhat of an enigma and the fabulous covers reflect that.A Kensington ARC via NetGalley
  • (5/5)
    The third Verity Kent mystery has Verity and her husband Sydney trying to find out who killed Lord Rockham who is the husband of one of Verity's friends from her wartime service. The evidence points to her friend Ada but Verity doesn't want to believe that she killed her husband. But Ada isn't the same woman as she was during the war. She and her husband were fighting and she was flaunting a new titled lover. Sydney wonders what Verity ever saw in her that made her a friend. While she is investigating Lord Rockham's death, another friend comes to ask her to look into the suspicious death of her half-sister. Gradually, Verity and Sydney come to believe that the two events are related and come as a result of something mysterious that happened during the war. The story is filled with action as Sydney and Verity travel to France and the Isle of Wight to track down some of their clues. They become convinced that there is still a mastermind behind the murders and that the mastermind might not be finished cleaning up some loose ends. I enjoyed the setting of this story. I liked Verity who isn't willing to go back to the restricted life of an upper class matron after proving herself as a spy during the war. I like that she is fighting to rebuild her relationship with her husband Sydney who, if he fought in a more modern war, would likely have been diagnosed with PTSD. I could feel Verity's concern for her husband and frustration that she didn't know how to help him deal with the trauma of his service.
  • (4/5)
    This third installment in the Verity Kent Mystery series is complex, twisting, emotionally charged, somewhat dark and is a thoroughly rewarding read. Author Anna Lee Huber writes exquisitely with a tremendous understanding of the pulse of English society, circa 1919. She has gone to great lengths to display the emotional undercurrent playing out among the various characters. Tensions are high and everyone's walking on eggshells.The Great War has ended. London society is trying to regain its pre-war societal norm but that doesn't come easily. Our bright and lovely protagonist, Verity Kent and her handsome war hero husband, Sidney are gathering at the Rockhams' home for dinner and drinks. There's quite a bit of tension in the room and sure enough, someone ends up dead when no one's looking. The hostess asks Verity to quietly investigate and get her out of the police inspectors cross-hairs. Verity agrees and with Sidney's assistance they begin their investigation. Meanwhile, a past colleague of Verity seeks assistance in finding out more about her cousin's sudden demise. Something niggles at the back of Verity's steel trap mind and she questions whether the two demises may be related. I leave that to you, dear reader, to ascertain. What I loved best about this book is the emotional interplay between Verity and Sidney. He was an officer in the war who had lead his troops into battle after battle. Many of those men never made it home and or if they did, they may have returned home broken men. Sidney suffers from battlefield flashbacks and tremendous survivor's guilt. Verity wishes she could somehow ease that sorrow and guilt and struggles with what approach is best. I do love this series as much as I enjoy Huber's "Lady Darby Mystery" series for somewhat different reasons. Both series are equally well written but I find that the psychological undercurrents in the Verity Kent series are more brilliantly played out and are quite palpable. There's a certain gravitas to it all.Synopsis (from book's back cover):England, 1919. In Anna Lee Huber’s latest mystery, former Secret Service agent Verity Kent is finding that life after wartime offers its own share of danger . . .The Great War may be over, but for many, there are still obstacles on the home front. Reconciling with her estranged husband makes Verity sympathetic to her friend Ada’s marital difficulties. Bourgeois-bred Ada, recently married to the Marquess of Rockham, is overwhelmed trying to navigate the ways of the aristocracy. And when Lord Rockham is discovered shot through the heart with a bullet from Ada’s revolver, Verity fears her friend has made a fatal blunder.While striving to prove Ada’s innocence, Verity is called upon for another favor. The sister of a former Secret Service colleague has been killed in what authorities believe was a home invasion gone wrong. The victim’s war work—censoring letters sent by soldiers from the front—exposed her to sensitive, disturbing material. Verity begins to suspect these two unlikely cases may be linked. But as the connections deepen, the consequences—not just for Verity, but for Britain—grow more menacing than she could have imagined.
  • (5/5)
    post-WW1, historical-fiction, historical-research, cosy-mystery, PTSD, survivor's guilt, war-is-hell, murder-investigation, EnglandThe first thing to know is that the author has done an excellent job of filling the reader in on the relevant past, so you never feel like you've missed something important (but it did make me hunt up the earlier books because I really liked the characters!).Sidney and Verity have been married for five years but spent most of the time apart because of the war, so those problems are a large part of the plot. Included in that aspect is, (1919, eleven months after the Armistice) that Verity spent much of that time working in the Intelligence Division. Enhanced her detective ability but made for some problems in home life considering the time as well as Sidney's expected post war issues.At a party, a rather dramatic friend is beyond tipsy and makes some peculiar statements about her husband while brandishing a pistol. But in the morning, said husband is found shot to death in his home office and Verity's friend is the chief suspect. Let the sleuthing begin! Plot twists, red herrings, and misdirection follow including negative involvement by someone in Naval Intelligence.Excellent read with good insights into PTSD and survivor's guilt as well as good research into social problems of the day.I requested and received a free ebook copy from Kensington Books via NetGalley. Thank you!