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An extraordinary episode in cultural and scientific history comes to life in the fascinating story of a genius, greed, and exquisite beauty revealed by the obsessive pursuit of the secret formula for one of the most precious commodities of eighteenth century European royalty-fine porcelain.
New Year's Day, 1755. The life of Nathaniel Hopson, journeyman to the illustrious cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale, is about to take a chilling turn. He has been sent to Cambridge to install a new library at the country home of Lord Montfort. Moments after the foul-tempered Montfort storms away from the afternoon dinner, a gunshot is heard. Hopson runs to the library to find him dead. His nephew and lawyer believe the conclusion is obvious: Montfort, burdened with gambling debts, must have taken his own life. The gun near Montfort's hand suggests suicide, but there are bloody footprints on the library floor. And there is a strange detail: he is clutching a small, elaborately carved box of rare grenadillo wood. No sooner does Nathaniel become the unlikely investigator than another body is found, mutilated and frozen in the pond. Nathaniel knows this victim well -- but what was he doing on Montfort's estate? The search for answers takes Nathaniel from the slums of Fleet Street to the silk-draped rooms of the aristocracy that roil with jealousy and secrets. And he meets Madame Trenti, the alluring and mysterious Drury Lane actress and client of Chippendale's, who seems to have known not only Montfort but the dead man in the pond as well. An ingenious first novel, The Grenadillo Box is a deliciously old-fashioned detective story, crafted with all the intricacy and polish of a Chippendale cabinet.
On the death of France's most glorious king, Louis XIV, in 1715, few people benefited from the shift in power more than the intriguing financial genius from Edinburgh, John Law. Already notorious for killing a man in a duel and for acquiring a huge fortune from gambling, Law had proposed to the English monarch that a bank be established to issue paper money with the credit based on the value of land. But Queen Anne was not about to take advice from a gambler and felon. So, in exile in Paris, he convinced the bankrupt court of Louis XV of the value of his idea. Law soon engineered the revival of the French economy and found himself one of the most powerful men in Europe. In August 1717, he founded the Mississippi Company, and the Court granted him the right to trade in France's vast territory in America. The shareholders in his new trading company made such enormous profits that the term "millionaire" was coined to describe them. Paris was soon in a frenzy of speculation, conspiracies, and insatiable consumption. Before this first boom-and-bust cycle was complete, markets throughout Europe crashed, the mob began calling for Law's head, and his visionary ideas about what money could do were abandoned and forgotten. In Millionaire, Janet Gleeson lucidly reconstructs this epic drama where fortunes were made and lost, paupers grew rich, and lords fell into penury -- and a modern fiscal philosophy was born. Her enthralling tragicomic tale reveals two great characters: John Law, with his complex personality and inscrutable motives, and money itself, whose true nature even to this day remains elusive.
A revealing portrait of one of the most glamorous, influential, and notorious members of the Spencer family Intelligent, attractive, and born into wealth, Harriet Spencer, ancestor of Princess Diana, married Frederick, Viscount Duncannon, at the age of nineteen. But it was her affair with Lord Granville Leveson Gower that resulted in the birth of two children and all but consumed Harriet's life. The first comprehensive biography of Lady Harriet Spencer,Privilege & Scandalgives readers an inside look at the British aristocracy during the decadent eighteenth century, while bringing one of the era's most intriguing women to life.
She opened the shagreen box. Couched in gray silk was an emerald necklace, one he had not seen for twenty years. The stones were just as he recalled them: a dozen or more, baguette cut and set in gold links, with a single ruby at the center. Flashes of verdigris, orpiment, and Prussian blue sparkled in the candlelight. The form of this necklace was as disturbing as ever. It had nearly cost him his life. It is the summer of 1765. The renowned and exquisitely dressed portrait painter Joshua Pope accepts a commission to paint the wedding portrait of Herbert Bentnick and his fiancée, Sabine Mercer, to whom Bentnick has become engaged less than a year after the death of his first wife. Joshua has barely begun the portrait when a man's body is found in the conservatory. A few days later, Sabine's emerald necklace disappears, and Bentnick accuses Joshua of theft. The painter is suddenly fighting not only for his reputation but for his life. With a sure understanding of period detail and character, Janet Gleeson creates a richly nuanced tale of greed and revenge that plays out in the refined landscapes and dark streets of eighteenth-century London.
In the cellar there was no sound at all except her own breathing and the soft rustle of her skirts. After her eyes had grown accustomed to the dark, she noticed a niche in the wall a yard from where she stood. She saw something there about the size of her fist. Agnes quietly picked it up. It was wrapped in a cloth and surprisingly heavy. . . a pistol, the hilt filthy with mud and dirt. Suddenly she heard the chinking sound of glasses nearby. There was no mistaking the voices now. Before she had time to call out, another door creaked open and the pair emerged from the darkness. Agnes Meadowes is cook to the Blanchards of Foster Lane, the renowned London silversmiths. Preparing jugged hare, oyster loaves, almond soup, and other delicacies for the family has given her a dependable life for herself and her son. But when the Blanchards' most prestigious commission, a giant silver wine cooler, is stolen and a young apprentice murdered, Theodore Blanchard calls on Agnes to investigate below stairs. Soon she is inside the sordid underworld of London crime, where learning the truth comes at a high price.