Bustlepunk Chronicles #1
and in Audio
All suffragette Esme Smith wants is a man. A scoundrel to be precise. Someone who can be persuaded to represent her political views at men-only clubs. As the daughter of the richest man in Australia, Esme can afford to make it worth the right man’s while.
Fresh off the boat, American inventor Jed Reeve is intrigued by Esme’s proposal, but even more interested in the beauty herself. Amused that she takes him for a man who lives by his wits, he accepts the job—made easier by the fact that he already shares her ideals. Soon, he finds himself caught up in political intrigue, kidnapping and blackmail, and trying to convince his employer he’s more than just a scoundrel…
“Mr. Reeve, I need a man.”
Thank you, God.
“To act the part of the leader of the Women’s Advancement League. Of course, I would continue to be the actual leader, but the numbskulls here in the Swan River Colony have decided to hold their political discussions on the future of the colony in their men’s clubs, where I simply can’t participate. I need you to speak in my place. We would have to work closely. I’d expect daily reports from you, and in return, would provide you with briefing papers.”
We would have to work closely. Jed wasn’t deaf. He heard the other words about politics and briefing papers. They just didn’t resonate.
“Closely, Miss Smith?”
“I’d need to know that I could trust you. I would pay you, obviously.” She named a figure in excess of a congressman’s salary. “A lot of men arrive in Swan River hoping to strike it rich—either in the goldfields or in a city bustling with new enterprises. Most fail, abjectly. They end up wage slaves or working their passage back to wherever they came from. As for those who think to profit from games of chance or confidence schemes…Fremantle Prison is large, dark and noisome.”
Jed bit back a smile as he realised Miss Smith had pegged him as a con man, and far from disapproving, was offering him a better con, one with assured winnings. She wanted him to take up politics. He played along. “You said Captain Fellowes recommended me?”
He adjusted the cuff of one sleeve. “Miss Smith, what exactly did you ask your uncle for?”
A delightful pink carnation colour flushed her cheeks. “A scoundrel.”
“A scoundrel.” He laughed. “You would trust your political venture to a scoundrel?”
“I intend to supervise you.”
“My father would tell you I’m unmanageable.”
Her colour subsided as she met his eyes squarely. “And you, Mr. Reeve, would you describe yourself as honourable?”
“Then I will trust in your honour and Uncle Henry’s judgement. And my own ability to manage my affairs. I require a man unknown in the colony, one with good manners and easy speech. Mr. Reeve, is that you?”
He couldn’t resist. “Miss Smith, I’m your man.”