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Independent by Means of Magic

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Blurb

An Enchanting Victorian Fantasy

Victoria Haversham leads a life of privilege. A luxurious home. Beautiful gowns and jewelry. Even a fine education.

But her father’s single-minded determination to marry her off transforms Victoria’s pleasant life into torment. He never suspects Victoria means to create her own future.

Police Inspector Rob McDuff patrols London with a keen mind and a heavy burden. Caught in never ending routine in a city full of crime.

Then he discovers a misdeed unexplainable by normal methods. An investigation that leads him to Victoria’s door.

Will McDuff seal Victoria’s fate? Or will their collision create a new destiny for them both?

The Odd Society: Book One

An excerpt from Independent by Means of Magic:

Some plans are best laid in secret

“There may be no good time for such things,” Victoria’s father said. “I’m afraid I have terrible news, Victoria. It’s about your wedding.”


“What’s happened, Father? I do hope Wilfred is well.”


“My dear, that word can have many meanings,” he said, his mouth and eyebrows deepening into a scowl that lifted Victoria’s heart. “He is well finished with polite society. That means he’s well finished with any daughter of mine.”


“Is there no hope?” her mother said, tears standing in her eyes. “No salvation?”


“None. An inspector will likely be round to ask whether we have anything to contribute to the investigation. I told him we had no secrets of Mr. Abernathy’s or our own to keep. I am sorry, Victoria. Other suitable arrangements will be made, I can assure you of that.”


“Yes, Father,” Victoria said, her voice and face reflecting her mother’s heartbreak perfectly. “I’ll speak to the inspector if it will help. I trust it will all work out for the best in the end.”


Victoria stood, holding her napkin to her face, and walked quickly out of the room.


“Shouldn’t have let him barter me off to the highest bidder, Mother,” she said under her breath. “And you should never have let him bring us back to this awful place.”


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Chapter 1
Chapter 1 Victoria Jade Haversham, a perfect vision of a proper English girl who took care to appear so, sat in the highest room in her father’s house. Sweat trickled down her neck even with her thick brunette curls piled carelessly on top of her head. Most people in London would consider the third floor dreadfully hot this time of year, and Victoria admitted it was unusually warm even for summer in such a dreary place. She preferred the heat, though, and the quiet and solitude suited her far better than the cooler lower levels. The wavy, leaded glass windows were both open, and the breeze helped. In frigid February, the light, spring-green tea gown Victoria wore would be intolerable even with a heavy overcoat. Not so many years ago in this supposedly forward-thinking city, she would have been obligated to drape and obscure herself in layers of silk and absurd sleeves that puffed up to her ears and cinched at her wrist. In the heat of August, the delicate, airy layers of a modern tea dress worn without a crushing corset freed her from one of the burdens of womanhood in a still burdensome life. The small room was made even smaller by a false wall a few feet behind the girl, one that she and Jaji, her beloved nanny, had put in years before. Neither Victoria, her mother, nor Jaji had been in favor of the trip from Mr. Haversham’s Caribbean plantation back to England. His business interests—and his simple authority, uncontested at the time—overrode all with not so much as a discussion. The privacy screen Jaji required in her room now suited Victoria’s own needs perfectly. Anyone passing by in the hallway would see the same textured and tasteful wallpaper that covered the rest of this level. Magic older than words took care of troublesome memories or suspicions. In a sharp contrast to the tidy bedroom on the far side—much smaller than her own bedroom on the second floor below—the space Victoria occupied whenever she could was a crowded workspace. If she’d only had more room, things wouldn’t look so jammed in and chaotic. The truth was Victoria knew where every single thing was and what it was for. She’d created nothing less than a miniature factory for herself, one only she knew about. The walls held several shelves sitting in front of that same flowery wallpaper, most of them full of tiny clockwork figures. Teapots that appeared to pour themselves into cups that in turn waddled forward to deliver the tea without help. Common and exotic animals, from cats to giraffes to birds to ornamental carp with legs to lions that roared in miniature. Small men and women who could dance together, fight with each other. Pretend to murder one another, or strike altogether shocking and scandalous poses. Victoria didn’t build these herself, though she certainly could have. This part of her operation was best left to an anonymous factory. It simply would not do to have her handiwork traced back to this house. She ordered the ordinary little toys from cramped and hideous factories in London, same as everyone else did. By the time the clockwork trinkets left her workshop and found their way to their intended owners, they were anything but ordinary. Victoria adjusted her magnifying glasses, an incredibly helpful gift from a watchmaker her father knew, and pushed a long metal pick into the exaggerated bowtie that matched the black tuxedo on a clearly male penguin. With just the right amount of pressure, the head popped up, and Victoria caught it before it could fall. Trying to repair or conceal nicks in the paint was far too much trouble when she was in a hurry. Her velvet jewelers cloth over the rough wooden table helped, but if the pieces fell onto the uncarpeted floor, the damage would be unavoidable. She angled the pick inside, toward the back of the penguin, shifting until she felt a click. A bit of downward pressure had the entire toy in pieces in her hand. The front and back of the body fell away, the wings slipped to the side, and the exposed gears glinted in the bright sunlight. Victoria smiled. Plenty of open space inside of this one. Just what she needed. A different sized gear here, a small adjustment there, and the penguin suited her purposes. The original designer likely wouldn’t notice the difference, and neither would the horrible man Victoria’s father had promised her to. Skill, careful planning, and a bit of old, dark magic would do the rest. Several small, irregular pottery jars, brought carefully padded on the long return voyage from the Caribbean several years ago when Victoria was just thirteen, lined two of the shelves just to her left. Nothing in the entire house full of treasures from England and abroad, nothing in the entire world meant as much to Victoria as these jars and what they held. She pulled out the primitive cork stopper on the orange and green and brown streaked vessel closest to her. Larger than the rest, the size and weight of a small melon, the middle curved inward to perfectly fit into Victoria’s hands. She’d carefully formed and fired it for this purpose, her own salty tears creating streaks and smudges in the rings of color, the resulting imperfection sealing their beauty and power. “Jaji,” she whispered, “Hear me now. My love is deep, and my need is strong.” Victoria used a tiny silver spoon, smaller than her smallest fingernail, to scoop out a bit of the gray, irregular ashes in the jar. That amount fit perfectly into a dainty tan muslin bag, small enough that pulling one thread closed it. She picked up the penguin, reassembled except for the head, and hung the bag inside. A practiced twist and snap set everything right. For the last most powerful touch, Victoria held the toy to her lips for a few seconds, delicate brow wrinkled in concentration. “Go out from here and do my bidding.” She set to work on an identical penguin, this one with long, painted black hair and a girlish flowered dress.

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