SEQUEL TO SALT BRIDE
Salt Hendon Series Book 2
Jane and Salt — four years of Happily Ever After
Sir Antony Templestowe — four years of Exile
Lady Caroline — four years of Heartache
Diana St. John — four years plotting Revenge
The time has come…
How does a brother cope with life knowing his sister is a murderess? How can a nobleman have the life he has always wanted when a lurking evil consumes his thoughts and haunts his dreams? What will it take for good to triumph over evil?
Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Medalist
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Featured Reviews & Accolades
A few months ago, I noticed that some of my Goodreads friends were reading and loving this book (and its predecessor Salt Bride), which combines my two favorite fiction genres—historical romance and mystery. So when the chance came to review this audiobook, I eagerly jumped in, and I have now become a huge Lucinda Brant fan. There are so many things that I loved about this book, I don’t know what to call the audiobook equivalent of a “page turner,” but Salt Redux is exactly that. Marian Hussey, does an excellent job. Her narrative voice is low and quite cultured, but she very ably portrays men and women of all ages and classes. She especially excels in voicing the vile Diana, veering between her persona as a respectable society widow and the privately expressed hatred that reveals her to be a true sociopath.
Lady Wesley, Romantic Historical Reviews
Lucinda Brant weaves a rather terrifying tale of the darkest deception planned to the most minor detail and brilliantly has us uncovering the plot right along with the characters. And then just when you feel it's safe to resurface Brant gives you this chilling story that mixes insanity with brilliance, a deadly combination. Extraordinary historical romance at its very best.
★★★★★ Top Pick
SWurman, Night Owl Reviews
Lucinda Brant never fails to please readers of historical romance with her lavish portrayal of the Georgian era. Such are the minute and careful details that the era itself becomes almost like a character in the book. The richness of the prose and the attention to all that drives the story make this a wonderful read. Highly recommended.
★★★★★ Medal Winner
Fiona Ingram, Readers’ Favorite
EVERY MONTH the guardian of the unnamed person of interest detained at Castle Harlech in remote north Wales sent a report to the Earl of Salt Hendon. A messenger delivered the report, always at night, into the hands of Mr. Rufus Willis, steward of the Earl’s estate in Wiltshire. Mr. Willis then gave the report to his lordship when his employer was alone in the vastness of his library, and when there was no expectation of the Countess being present.
Mr. Willis caught the anguish on his lordship’s face every time he handed over these reports. Upon one occasion, Mr. Willis offered to read the report to spare the Earl, but his noble employer declined saying it was his duty, however distasteful and difficult the task. Mr. Willis knew the Earl was punishing himself. The Earl believed the punishment justified. The monthly reports were a painful reminder that the unnamed person of interest had brought untold suffering on her own children and was a murderer of innocents. She had also caused the death of the Earl and Countess of Salt Hendon’s first child while still in the womb. However, some comfort came from the reports. While his prisoner remained locked up, her children were safe, and so, too, were his. Although he did not need reminding of his good fortune, the Earl knew he was the luckiest of men and that nothing and no one was more important to him than his wife and family.
The guardian of the unnamed person of interest wrote much the same report every month. His “guest” was the model prisoner, afforded every comfort such a remote location could provide. The prisoner had maids to help her into velvet and satin petticoats and bodices, who dressed her waist-length auburn hair in the latest styles as remembered from her life in London, and who helped her choose what pieces of her jewelry went best with each outfit. As befitting her exalted rank, she insisted on changing her gown three times a day. Servants waited on her at table as if she were queen of her own dominion and came swiftly in answer to the constant tinkling of her little hand bell. Her guardian accompanied her on walks about the parapets and courtyards of the castle, dined with her when invited, and over coffee and cake listened to her witty recollections about politicians and the esteemed persons of Polite Society, all known to her personally.
The unnamed person of interest spent most days reading the latest issues of The Gentleman’s Magazine, particularly the reports of Parliamentary sittings, and wrote at her escritoire in her prettily furnished drawing room, with its view of the sea. Her letters were sent but never delivered and thus she never received a reply. These letters were sometimes ten pages in length and most were addressed to the Earl of Salt Hendon. Her guardian read these letters as part of his duties and found them full of advice for his lordship on all manner of topics political and domestic. The letters were then burned. While the guardian informed the Earl in general terms about these letters, he did not report what was most vital, though such information surely confirmed that the woman was indeed insane. Every letter was signed Diana, Countess of Salt Hendon.
She had one correspondent who wrote regularly and who did receive her letters of reply. There was a brother, a diplomat, who lived abroad. He wrote from St. Petersburg, long, detailed letters about the growing Russian capital and its environs, its people, and how he occupied his days as an assistant to the Ambassador. He often enclosed small gifts; a fan, a lace-bordered handkerchief, a pair of silk stockings, and for one of her birthdays he sent an embroidered silk shawl. His letters were also full of the latest Court gossip and palace intrigues, and sometimes he included clippings from months old English newssheets dispatched to him in Russia. The guardian knew this because his prisoner took great delight in reading these letters aloud. He soon realized that this brother was an astute gentleman because he never mentioned the Earl of Salt Hendon or any member of his family. What the brother knew from his sister’s correspondence that the Earl and his family did not, and he, too, kept to himself, was that his sister signed her letters to him as if she was indeed the wife of the Earl of Salt Hendon.
After three years of incarceration, the unnamed person of interest no longer answered to her own name. Nor did she recognize the person she had once been when this person was described to her. She was the Countess of Salt Hendon and Magnus Sinclair, the Earl of Salt Hendon was her dear husband. There was no persuading her otherwise. The guardian saw no harm in humoring her. After all, she was never to be released.
And so by her fourth year of imprisonment the unnamed person of interest was in every way treated as if she was indeed the Countess of Salt Hendon. Her guardian, her apothecary, her personal maid, and her servants all addressed her by that title. So, too, did the local townspeople.
For her good behavior, and under strict supervision, she was eventually permitted visitors. Prominent members of the local town came to pay their respects and to see with their own eyes the beautiful noblewoman rumor said had been locked up by a brutish husband. The unnamed person of interest proved to be a gracious hostess, full of charm and grace, and possessing a noble bearing. It was an easy thing for the outsiders to believe they were indeed in the presence of English nobility. She was majestic in velvet and silks, with rubies about her throat and wrists. Her witty conversation was peppered with anecdotes of prominent politicians, exalted noblemen and their relatives, faraway marble palaces, and sleepless cities the local townspeople could only dream about. Soon, her ladyship was holding court once a week to a room full of eager listeners.
This, too, the guardian withheld from his reports to his noble employer, reasoning again that there was little harm in his prisoner receiving a bunch of ignorant yokels to afternoon tea, who knew no one and were going nowhere. It kept her ladyship pacified, entertained and occupied, her thoughts on trivialities, a far cry from her disposition when first brought to the castle; a venomous abhorrent monster whose every hate-filled word dripped vengeance and who vowed escape.
What the guardian failed to appreciate, what he could not know and never discovered, was that he was in the presence of a far superior and utterly malevolent intellect. In his confident conceit, that in four years he had tamed a monster and beaten down a beast, he remained ignorant, almost until the last breath left his body. He failed to grasp that just under the surface of her beautiful façade, the perfumed silks, the witty conversation, and the charming manners, the monster still lurked, biding its time, awaiting the perfect opportunity to escape and unleash its vengeance.
The horror of realization came the day the guardian was racked with stomach cramp and fell into a fever. The local apothecary thought it food poisoning and prescribed an emetic. A great favorite with her ladyship, who he had treated for megrim for some months, the apothecary left the guardian in her capable hands. He advised he would return the following day. By nightfall, the guardian was dead. In his last conscious moments, he was blind and incapable of speech but he could still hear. Her ladyship whispered at his ear as she gently tucked up his coverlet. The servants thought it a touching scene, an indication of her ladyship’s high regard for her guardian.
In truth, she gleefully whispered she had poisoned him. Every speck of megrim powder the apothecary had prescribed she had carefully stored up until she had harvested enough to administer a lethal dose. She loathed him and she hoped he was in agony. Her greatest hatred she kept stored for the woman she believed falsely paraded about society as the wife and Countess of the Earl of Salt Hendon. She had spent four years devising her scheme for retribution and now, with freedom, she would put her plan into effect.
Upon the guardian’s death, the unknown person of interest did not immediately flee. She mourned his passing, wearing dove gray petticoats and inviting the local townspeople to a dinner in his honor. Then, after the guardian’s burial, a courier arrived in the dead of night. It was so late the horse’s hooves on the cobblestones did not wake the servants. However, a restless maid heard voices echoing in the courtyard and was up, pressing her nose to the windowpane in time to see her ladyship in her nightgown and slippers, taper in hand, scurry under the arch and enter by the big oak door. She held a sealed packet.
The late-night letter was from the Earl begging her to return to him. He had been bewitched by a whore of a mistress and with her death so died her influence over him. To his shame, he now recognized his great wrongdoing in sending his devoted wife into exile. Could she forgive him? Would she come back to him? He could not wait to be reconciled and would ride to meet her at the Welsh border. She was to hurry with all speed.
The servants, the apothecary and, indeed, those prominent townspeople who counted themselves friends of the Countess of Salt Hendon, all knew word for word the contents of the Earl’s letter, for she joyfully announced the news to them and showed them the letter. The apothecary did not doubt the seal and fist belonged to the illustrious Earl of Salt Hendon. There was much rejoicing and the townspeople held a celebratory dinner to honor Lady Salt and wish her well, to which she wore her most magnificent gown and jewelry.
Holland covers draped furniture, and trunks and portmanteaux were packed to bursting. A splendid carriage pulled by four high-spirited gray horses took up Lady Salt and her personal maid, and her ladyship was farewelled with much fanfare. She was never seen again.
Two days following her departure a letter arrived. It was from Sir Antony Templestowe, and it had traveled all the way from St. Petersburg.
The apothecary, who had stayed on at the castle to settle her ladyship’s small pile of accounts with money the dead guardian had for that purpose, did not know what was to be done with the letter. It was addressed to a Diana, Lady St. John, a person unknown to the apothecary and yet the direction was correct.
Perhaps the correspondent did not personally know Lady Salt.
He had correctly identified her Christian name but then become confused when writing her title. It was a mystery to the apothecary. Still, he would do his duty by her ladyship, and so he redirected the unopened letter to the Earl of Salt Hendon’s estate, Salt Hall in Wiltshire, which he had heard Lady Salt talk of so many times he felt he had visited the grand Jacobean mansion and its spacious parkland.
As Sir Antony had provided his direction in St. Petersburg, the apothecary wrote him a civil letter. He explained what he had done with his letter and, presuming he knew Lady Salt because he had used her Christian name, he took the liberty of giving Sir Antony the good news: Her ladyship had departed Harlech Castle and was on her way to be reunited with her noble lord the Earl of Salt Hendon.
A month later Sir Antony received the apothecary’s letter. Upon reading it, he promptly threw up.