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The Empress and Le Monstre

Frederick of Prussia never referred to Empress Maria Theresa as anything but the Queen of Hungary. She, in turn, privately called him “le Monstre.”

They never met, but here from Prussian Counterpoint is an encounter between the Empress and the monster.

“You had a pleasant journey, I hope, Your Majesty.” Frederick of Prussia bent his head graciously toward the Empress as he made the enquiry. His smile—benign, friendly—should have put her at ease. A long time ago, it had won her Francis over.

But there was nothing benign about the pale blue eyes that held hers in an unflinching stare.

“It was pleasant enough.” Her response was deliberately curt. She turned her gaze toward the dark, desolate streets of Potsdam. The steady clip-clop of the horses’ hooves beat a relentless rhythm in her brain. Her chest heaved, feeling more constricted than usual.

A friendlier man would have allowed her the courtesy of resting a day after an arduous journey through wintry roads. Instead, the King had barged into Seckendorff’s courtyard, demanding her presence at a supper that her ambassador had clearly known nothing about.

Seckendorff’s eyes had visibly widened and he had started as violently as a gun-shy horse at the unexpected sound of the King’s voice.

“The entire court is so desirous to make Your Majesty’s acquaintance, I had not the heart to keep them waiting a moment longer. I trust Your Majesty is not put out at the inconvenience.”

The air in the carriage was close, suffocating. The Empress pursed her lips, determined not to give her host the satisfaction of knowing how she felt. As always, Frederick had taken her by surprise. There had barely been time for any of her retinue to change out of their travel garb.

“The men and women who accompany me are more inconvenienced than I am.” She turned to face her longtime adversary. “That is my only regret.”

Frederick inclined his head. “Your concern becomes you, Your Majesty. But this is a small affair. A gathering of a few likeminded individuals. No one need stand on ceremony.”

The carriage climbed up the hill and swept into a semi-circular court of honor flanked by Corinthian columns. Snow glistened on the boughs of the trees, but the cobblestones had been swept clean.

“Here we are, Your Majesty. Sanssouci, my private abode, where we may be without care.”

“I pray that we may indeed be that,” the Empress replied as she stepped out of the carriage. Not that prayers could achieve any such thing. Not until they were out of Potsdam, at any event. Nothing but constant vigilance could prevent them from being caught off guard again.

Prussian Counterpoint will soon be available. To get the special preorder price, please become a Haydn Mystery Fan.

excerpts, Frederick the Great, Haydn mysteries, Maria Theresa, Prussian Counterpoint, Sanssouci

  1. Kaye George says:

    Wonderful! I love the cover, too.

  2. Nupur says:

    Thanks, Kaye! I’ve always admired the Empress, and being able to give her a more substantial role in this novel was just wonderful.

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