A Jacketing Concern
What does a gentleman do when a climbing boy – a sweep’s apprentice – accidentally falls down the chimney while he is having sex with one of Regency London’s most famous courtesan? To protect the dubious reputations of himself and the whore, the rich and bored Lord Roderick Davenant takes home seven–year old Addy, consigns him to his servants’ care and then promptly forgets about him.
However, Henry, Davenant’s loyal groom discovers Addy is no ordinary climbing boy: he is well mannered, literate and speaks elegant French, for unbeknown to Davenant the boy has been kidnapped from his grandfather, a former slave trader, and sold to a one-eyed London sweep. Addy claims he and his grandfather “live in a castle near where a giant sleeps.” The inventive Henry is sure Addy is the victim of “ a jacketing concern,” usurpation from his wealth by someone who wants it for himself.
Georgiana, Davenant’s half-sister, who arrives unexpectedly, having temporarily left her husband, supports Henry’s view. At first disbelieving, Davenant is finally convinced when he learns Addy has begun learning Latin so he can attend a prestigious public school.
A young man whose relative Davenant ruined in a wager, and who was bested by him, bets Davenant “a pound to a penny” to prove within three weeks that Addy is a gentleman, and to find his family. Hoping to win from Davenant two horses he covets, the Prince Regent joins in the bet.
The arrogant Davenant is sure that once he finds the sweep who bought Addy, he will solve the mystery in days, not weeks. While Addy becomes the darling of fashionable London society,
Davenant’s quest lead him on a trail of murder and intrigue that taxes the bored aristocrat mentally and physically. Who wants Addy dead and why?Who is the man with buckled shoes following Davenant? Is he a spy of the cuckold husband of Davenant’s cast-off love, or does he have a more sinister motive? Why is the menacing duke so interested in Addy? How is it that whoever seeks to kill Addy seems anticipate Davenant’s every move?
The trail leads Davenant from fashionable Mayfair to the “rookeries” of the London underworld; from Carlton House to the “flash houses” of St. Giles’ slum; from the former slave port of Liverpool to the smuggling haunts of the Sussex coast. In his journeyings Davenant encounters a diverse group of people: Miss Barclay, an attractive pacifist Quaker heiress to whom he is attracted; the bawd of a high-class brothel, and Bodger, a cheeky, worldly climbing boy.
Matters finally come to a head in the ruined crypt of Davenant’s estate in which Addy and Bodger are hiding.
Will the pacifist Miss Barclay be able to overcome her religious scruples in time to save Davenant who is in a fight to the death?
And will Davenant win his wager?