The pair arrive in the drawing room of a Mayfair townhouse. After exchanging pleasantries, taking our seats and pouring tea, we begin with small talk.
Novel PASTimes: Gemma, I like your red cloak.
Gemma: Thank you, ma’am. So do I.
Tavin: I wish you’d have worn something else. That cloak has caused naught but trouble.
Novel PASTimes: Trouble?
Gemma: Mistaken identity. Someone else has one like it.
Tavin: Someone dangerous. And it almost cost your life.
Gemma: Well, it didn’t, thanks to you.
Novel PASTimes: Can you elaborate?
Gemma: A female smuggler who operates near my home wears a red cloak like this, and a smuggling ringleader known as The Sovereign thought I was she. Since I am not—and I saw his face and can identify him—there is some concern I might be in danger. Which I am not. The Sovereign does not know who I am, and dozens of ladies wear red cloaks. Besides, he is in Hampshire, and I am now here in London for my Season.
Tavin: I agree that you are not in danger, but I still say you shouldn’t wear that thing anymore until things are. . . settled.
Tavin’s gaze occasionally flickers to the door and windows, as if certain someone will barge in on our interview.
Novel PASTimes: Let’s move on. Where were you born?
Gemma: Hampshire. The New Forest area. ‘Tis beautiful, so green.
Novel PASTimes: Oh? I detect no noticeable Scottish burr.
Tavin: I was educated in England. My mother was English. It was important to her family that I sound English. I haven’t been to Scotland in years.
Novel PASTimes: Would you like to go back shortly? To visit family?
Tavin: I’m a little busy these days.
Novel PASTimes: Ah, yes. You’re a spy for the Revenue Agency.
Tavin: No, you’re mistaken. I’m in the import business.
Gemma: *shaking head*:We may speak freely here, Tavin. She won’t tell anyone. *Turning to interviewer* Of course he’s a spy. “Import business” is a euphemism for his secretive work for the Revenue Agency. He was hunting down the Sovereign when I intruded upon his investigation. He’s been ordered to guard me for the time being.
Tavin: I’m not accustomed to playing nursemaid. I should be back in Hampshire to bring that rogue to justice.
Gemma: If it was up to me, you would be. Believe me, I do not like you watching me, disapproving of everything I do.
Tavin: I don’t disapprove. Unless you’re careless. Which you are, far too often for my liking.
Gemma: You’d have us live in a cage. The boys cannot be confined.
Novel PASTimes: The boys?
Gemma: My brother’s children. They adore Tavin. Their parents allowed me to bring them to London with me for the Season. They’re my greatest joy.
Tavin: She’s more of a parent to them than their own mother. And they love her, those imps.
Novel PASTimes: You’re smiling, Tavin. Thinking of the boys?
Tavin: They’re a mischievous pair. They love castles and knights and making trouble. I’m. . . fond of them. In my line of work, a family is out of the question. Perhaps spending time with them is making me realize what I shall never have.
Gemma: You could, someday.
Tavin: Not in my line of work, and I’ll not leave it until—well, that is neither here nor there. I have one occupation: capturing The Sovereign.
Gemma: Then let us finish this once and for all. Let’s make a plan I shall return to Hampshire and lure the Sovereign out. If he wants to kill me because I can identify him, he is sure to take the bait—
Tavin: Ach, no—that’s the maddest thing I’ve ever heard—
Novel PASTimes: Wait a second—I hear a trace of Scottish burr in your voice that I didn’t detect before, Tavin.
Gemma: That happens when he’s upset.
Tavin: *scowling* Forgive me.
Gemma: There’s nothing to forgive. It’s the real you.
Tavin: *still scowling* Next question?
Novel PASTimes: Um, all right. There’s been gossip about town regarding your relationship. People think you’re courting.
Tavin: As I’ve said, a man like me cannot have a family. I’ve had to stay close to her to protect her, but everyone has been told we are family friends. ‘Tis no lie. Those gossipmongers say what they like.
Gemma: His closest friend is my brother-in-law.
Novel PASTimes: So you wouldn’t be together at all, ever, by choice?
Gemma: No. I mean—if circumstances were different. . .
Tavin: I—well, I suppose not.
Gemma: But we are friends, are we not?
Tavin: Of course. And it hasn’t been all bad, spending so much time together.
Novel PASTimes: So you’re friends and that’s all? You’re sure there are no romantic feelings underlying things here?
Tavin: No. Next question.
Gemma: None whatsoever. Our relationship is strictly platonic. A matter of business ordered by the Crown. Tavin doesn’t. . . and I do not. . . there are no feelings of that nature.
Novel PASTimes: That’s not what your book says. I see a kiss on page—
Gemma: Oh my.
Tavin: That’s enough. Interview over.
The Reluctant Guardian Blurb: When Gemma Lyfeld inadvertently interrupts a dangerous smuggling operation in her English village, she’s rescued by a mysterious Scottish spy. Now with criminals after her and her hopes for an expected marriage proposal recently dashed, she will make her society debut in London. But not without the man tasked with protecting her…
Covert government agent Tavin Knox must keep Gemma safe from the criminals who think she can identify them—a mission he never wanted. But as he escorts her and her rascally nephews around London, the lovely English lass proves braver than he ever imagined. Suddenly, the spy who works alone has one Season to become the family man he never dreamed he’d be.
Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she’s the award-winning author of over a dozen historical romances who’s seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, genealogy, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos.