Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, Book One in The Eyre Hall Series. #Excerpt Chapter Three: The Last Testament #BookLaunch

WAIT! Contains spoilers!

Do not read if you haven’t read chapter Two published here yesterday!

Chapter Three also takes place at Eyre Hall in July 1865, twenty-two years after Jane Eyre’s marriage to Edward Rochester. As the title suggests, Mr Rochester is signing his last will and testament. In this case, the narrator is Mr Rochester.

CHAPTER 3 – The Last Testament

Mr Rochester

He held out his hand. “Good morning, Mr Rochester. I trust you are in good health after your accident.”

“I’m still alive, for now,” I replied.

“And for many years to come, I hope.”

I wondered if he had forgotten I had called him to draft my last will and testament, or if he was more of an idiot than I had imagined.

“I am without patience, Mr Briggs. Be seated and let us get down to business.”

He sat, squinted, and looked around the room. “Is Master John not in attendance?”

“He’s not expected until tomorrow, but his presence is not required.”

Briggs coughed and wriggled in his chair. “Mr Rochester, I respectfully suggest Master John should be present.”

“My wife will be present. Master John is too young to take on any responsibility at Eyre Hall yet.”

“But Mrs Rochester…” He fumbled with his gold-rimmed eyeglasses and stared at me as if I had grown tusks. “She… I mean…The tenants and the leaseholders will not respect her.”

“Mr Briggs, you have forgotten your place, and you have also forgotten that Eyre Hall is so called in memory of my wife’s uncle, Mr John Eyre, a wealthy wine merchant from Madeira and her benefactor, whom I did not have the pleasure of meeting. My wife generously and wisely invested part of her inheritance in the construction of Eyre Hall. It is thanks to her insistence and desire that Eyre Hall was built on the grounds of Thornfield Hall.”

“Yes, I do recall the transaction, sir. In fact, as you may remember, Mr Eyre appointed me to locate his beloved niece. But that is not the issue, sir. Think of the land, the tenants; what will become of them? Need I remind you that Mrs Rochester, whom I greatly admire, is a woman? Therefore, she does not have enough knowledge to manage an estate.”

“Neither did I, as you well know. Mr Cooper takes care of the finances and you see to the legal matters. What else could she need? Or are you planning to abandon her?”

“Of course not. We will naturally assist Mrs Rochester in anything she requires; I am simply worried it could be too much for her.”

“Nothing is too much for Jane Eyre Rochester. She will have everything she deserves. Eyre Hall will belong to Jane for life. The Rochester Estate will remain in her hands until my son, John Rochester, is thirty, if he has a wife and legitimate heir, or as soon thereafter as the events should occur.”

“I must advise you that your son may not—”

“Did I ask you for your opinion, Mr Briggs?”

He shook his head, whispered, “No, sir,” and avoided my fierce gaze by opening his black leather case and extracting the documents.

“Then keep it to yourself unless I ask for it, which I guarantee you, I will not.”

He placed his brass fountain pen beside the documents and waited for my instructions. I had met plenty of pretentious London solicitors like him, making great effort to look important when travelling to the provinces, but I knew him too well to be fooled. He would sell his soul to the devil for the right price. 

“It is my wish, and although my body is failing me, I am perfectly sound of mind. Write it all down, now. I do not want to wait another minute, or it may be too late. St Peter is impatient.”

“Sir, you exaggerate.”

“Don’t coddle me. I will not live long enough to lose my mind. Call my wife.”

“At once, sir. And we will need two witnesses, I suggest two trustworthy servants. Mrs Leah and Simon, perhaps?”

“Not Leah; it’s none of her business. She’ll find out soon enough. And Simon is a gossip who can’t even read. The others aren’t much wiser.”

He nodded, pursed his lips, and tapped his fingers on the table. “Who do you suggest, sir?”

“Call the sturdy one with wolf’s eyes and his sister, the glum girl who looks like a nun. Bring them and let us get this over with.”

“You mean Michael and Susan?”

“I’m not interested in their names; just bring them.”

Minutes later, the girl walked in behind her brother and lowered her head as if she would turn to stone if she looked at me, but the brother stood tall, with his hands behind his back, his amber eyes on me. He raised his eyebrows defiantly, wondering why I wanted to speak to him. I rarely spoke to any of the servants, except Simon, who had been my valet for years, but I had heard enough about this bold young man to know he was not an idiot like the rest of them.  

“Simon told me you beat a man to an inch of his life because he made unwanted advances to one of our maids at the Rochester Arms. Is that true?”

His brow furrowed. He looked uncomfortable as if he were not proud of what he had done, or perhaps it was not true; Simon tended to exaggerate. Or perhaps he was just surprised by my question. In any case, he should have answered at once. “Well, is it?”

He nodded, pursing his lips. He was not going to volunteer any information, but I was curious, so I asked, “Why?” He clenched his fists in reply, but I was tired of his insolence. “Answer the question.”

“It was one of Mr Raven’s sons, sir. He was drunk, and Beth had not provoked his attentions. I asked him to respect her wishes, and when he ignored my words and Beth’s protests, I made him stop.”

“You made him stop? Old Raven was livid. His son’s vision was impaired for weeks after your battering, not to mention the limp he still sports.”

“I did what I had to do to protect Beth, sir.”

“She’s your sweetheart, is she?”

The fearless youth answered at once. “No, sir. I am not courting.”

“That’s not what Raven told me.”

His sister shot him a sideways glance; she knew her brother contained a beast who could be unleashed if provoked. She was not pretty, but neither was Jane when I met her, and yet she bloomed when she fell in love with me. The girl had intelligent eyes and a quiet strength about her. She was the type that could be taught to warm a man’s bed with fire. I turned back to her brother. “Have you ever had to defend your sister?”

He stood straighter, letting me know he was proud of defending his sister, but then he thought better of his admission, fidgeted, and looked towards the door. He did not want Jane to know, of course; righteous Jane would not like our servants to get involved in pub brawls. Little did she know he got up to a lot more than that.

“Well done. I can’t fault you for looking after your sister,” I said, because a man should defend the women he loves or the women he’s in charge of protecting.

“When I’m gone, you are to look after Mrs Rochester as if she were your sister; nobody is to take what is hers or molest her, do you hear me?”

His brow furrowed, and he nodded. Briggs was right; it was not easy for a woman to be respected in these parts, and Jane would be on her own. John was too youthful, coddled, and inexperienced to be of help, but this stealthy young man who had felt the pang of hunger and the fury of anger, he would do the job.

“John told me you carried him home, all the way from the Arms, after a problem with an unruly client.” He knitted his eyebrows, but his fierce gaze did not falter. “Yes, I found out, although John did not disclose the event.” The boy opened his mouth to speak but closed it again. He was hot-tempered, but not foolish. He knew it was not his place to question the master of the house. “And then you called Dr Carter, and you made sure his mother never found out about it.”

His sister did not know either. Her eyes widened, and she shot her brother a worried look. He glanced her way and then nodded, looking at me directly in the eyes. He was obedient, fearless, and astute, an excellent combination for a loyal servant.

“Look after John, too. Jane trusts you, and she is an excellent judge of character, so I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, despite your audacious behaviour.” He blushed like a debutante and lowered his head in acknowledgement. “Give me your word that I can count on you to protect them.”

“You have my word, sir.”

“And you better keep it, or I’ll come back from hell and curse you till the day you die.”

“I give you my word that no one will harm Mrs Rochester or Master John while I’m employed at Eyre Hall.”

I lifted my cane towards Briggs. I needed to ensure the boy would stay at Eyre Hall for the foreseeable future.

“Tell Cooper to double his salary and secure it for the next ten years.”

Briggs nodded and made a note in his ledger.

The lad looked older and sturdier than John, too young to have many vices, but old enough to go to war. “How old are you?” I asked him.

“Twenty-five next month, sir.”

“You’re old enough to marry. Have you set your eyes on someone?”

“I’m not planning on marrying, sir. Not until my sister finds a position or marries.”

“Jane tells me your sister is apprenticed to the parish schoolteacher. She is a clever girl, and she’s not unpleasant to look at. Do not let her marry below her station. And keep away from Mrs Rossett, both of you. She’s a troublemaker.”

“Yes, sir.”

His sister turned to leave. “You wait here,” I said, and her face paled, but I was too sick to carry out what she thought I required. I might have desired her tender flesh once upon a time. She reminded me of the plain, meek Jane I had met twenty-three years ago, but my body was too wasted now. “Stay. You are both to be witnesses of my last will and testament.”

Their eyes widened, but they remained as still as two gate posts.   

Mr Rochester is aware that Jane will need help from loyal servants and he has identified Michael as her guardian

 I turned to Briggs. “And where the devil is Jane?”

She walked in and strode to my side, placing her hand on my shoulder and glancing at the two servants in surprise. “Is everything all right, Edward?”

I squeezed her hand. “It is now that you’re here. Let us begin, Mr Briggs. Read out the testament you have written per my instructions.”

“Edward?”

“It is time, Jane. I want everything to be in order as soon as possible.”

 “Edward, shouldn’t we discuss—”

“Do not interrupt me.” The footman’s head jerked towards me, and I realised my words had been too harsh. “Because if you do, my darling, I will lose my nerve and my concentration. I am feeling stronger today, but I know this will not last, and I want everything to be in order before I leave. Do you understand, Jane?”

She nodded and sat beside me, covering her mouth with an embroidered handkerchief. I waved my cane at Briggs. “Read it!”

I watched them listen carefully as Briggs read my will and then presented the siblings with his pen so they could sign.

“Jane, find Susan a husband and her brother a wife.” She nodded, and I turned to them again. “Make sure you marry your equal, as I did. The man or woman who matches your wit and intelligence, who will adapt to your way of life and accept you as you are, with all your faults, because our virtues are easy to tolerate.”

The girl looked at her brother, who bowed and spoke. “Yes, sir. Thank you for your advice, sir.” 

I didn’t like his tone, but I was in no mood to argue, and they had served their purpose. I waved towards the door. “You may return to your chores.”

The girl said, “Thank you, sir,” curtseyed, and spun towards the door, but her brother had the gall to ignore my words and turn to Jane.

“Mrs Rochester, is there anything you require?” I disliked his insolence, but it pleased me that he would be loyal to Jane over anyone else, including the present master of the house.

When she seemed too upset to reply, he insisted, “Shall I bring some tea to the drawing room?”

She composed herself, smiled and spoke at last. “Thank you, Michael.” It was a lovely smile, one that she had not bestowed on me for months, perhaps even years. She was right not to; I did not deserve her kindness. “I’ll be there shortly,” she added, and he followed his sister out.

“Jane, you are to be strong. John needs you, and you will have to run the estate single-handedly; he is not prepared yet. Mr Cooper is trustworthy. You can depend on him, but as with any employee, he must know you are his employer. He will respect you and answer to you. Have you gone through the books with him as I asked you?”

She nodded and glanced at Briggs. “There are some expenses I don’t understand. The payments to Jamaica, and others to…” she paused. I knew she must have seen the sums I had been sending to the convent in Spanish Town and London.

“You heard me tell Cooper yesterday they were to be discontinued, did you not?”

“Yes, I did, but I would like to know the subject and reason for the transactions.”

“They are old debts and burdens which have been amply paid. You are not required to carry any of them; that is all you need to know.”   

The less she knew, the better. There was no point in displeasing her by opening old wounds. The past was dead and gone. I would soon be relegated to her memory, and I did not want her to know all the reasons she should not have loved me. I could at least be a better man in her recollections. 

“Jane, you were too good for me. I never deserved you. I should have treasured you more, but I could not change my nature. You have been the love of my life, and if I did not love you more, it was because I was not capable of it, not because you did not deserve it. You are dearer to me than anyone has ever been, including my son. I have been a fortunate man to have had you by my side all these years. I am not proud of all my deeds; unfortunately, they cannot be undone, but I ask for your forgiveness.”

She was not angry or upset by my words, but she did not smile. Her face was calm, as if she had known a storm was coming and was taking refuge in a house on a cliff, watching the raging waves from afar.

“There is nothing to forgive that I have not already forgiven.

“There may be grievances you are not aware of and yet you must forgive them too.”

“Edward, I cannot forgive that which is unknown to me.”

“You would have me die in torment?”

“Of course not; I have nothing to reproach you.”

I wanted to tell her she was wrong; I needed her pardon, but she withheld her absolution. “Edward, I am tired. Simon will take you to your room and serve your dinner.” She dropped a chaste kiss on my forehead and left without waiting for my response. I never expected Jane to be so cruel, not after offering her my sincere repentance.

Why couldn’t she do as I asked and forgive all my sins, including the ones I had not confessed? If she understood I was trying to avoid the heavy burden she would have to carry if I told her everything, she would not deny me her forgiveness.

If you’d like to know more about Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, check out these three posts:

What Happened after Jane Eyre Married Mr Rochester?

Blood Moon at Eyre Hall Two Days to Launch

The Prequel which Inspired the Sequel to Jane Eyre

Blood Moon will be published on Amazon tomorrow, 22 August. Here’s the International link in case you’d like to check it out.

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Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, Book One The Eyre Hall Series. #Excerpt Chapter Two: Earthly Matters #BookLaunch #HistFic

WAIT! Contains spoilers!

Do not read if you haven’t read chapter One, published here yesterday!

Chapter Two also takes place at Eyre Hall and the surrounding land in July 1865, twenty-two years after Jane Eyre’s marriage to Edward Rochester. Her husband has suffered an attack while they were walking in the grounds and they have returned to Eyre Hall and called the doctor. The narrator is Jane.

CHAPTER 2 – Earthly Matters

Jane

Michael called Simon as soon as we arrived and instructed him to take Edward to his room, wash his muddy wounds, change his clothes, and put him to bed. Then he told Beth to call Adele and Christy to bring hot tea and led me to the drawing room. I was shivering, despite the woollen cloak. Michael suggested I sit by the fire. I nodded, too shocked to speak. Edward’s face had looked as grey as a corpse’s, and his hands had felt as cold as death. Perhaps he had died, and I had not noticed.

“Michael, how is Edward?”

“Mr Rochester will recover.” But Michael’s intense stare did not appease my distressed thoughts.

“Why are you still here? Please fetch Dr Carter.”

“I’ll leave as soon as Miss Adele comes downstairs to join you.”

I was grateful for his loyalty, but my major concern was Edward’s health. “I’m well, Michael,” I said, forcing a smile, because I knew he would not leave me unless I convinced him I had recovered from the shock.

“John must come home as soon as possible.”

He nodded. “I’ll be back with Dr Carter in less than an hour, and then I’ll ride to Millcote to send a telegram to Master John.”

As soon as the door closed, grief crushed my chest like a boulder, and I felt helpless. Minutes later, Adele rushed in fussing as if I had suffered a heart attack. “Adele, I’m well. It is Edward who took another turn.”

“What happened?”

“We were by the lake, and suddenly he clutched his chest, cried out, and lurched so violently that his chair overturned and he fell to the ground.”

She threw her arms around me. “How dreadful, Jane!”

“It was a blessing that Michael arrived so quickly.”

“What was Michael doing by the lake?”

I could not fathom why Michael had been so close by, and then I remembered he had draped the cloak over my shoulders. “He brought my winter cloak. I went out with my summer coat.”

“Well, thank goodness he’s so thoughtful. I hate to think of you alone with Edward, sick on the ground, out on the estate. You wouldn’t have been able to lift him and push him back on your own.”

Adele was right, and I shuddered to think of having been alone when Edward fell. Michael was nothing like the shy lad who had arrived at Eyre Hall nine years earlier. He was sturdy and loyal, like the trees in the orchard. I had grown to depend on him for my life to run smoothly. He brought my meals on time, and he knew what I preferred to eat and drink, he carried out my errands, kindled the fires and drove me wherever I needed to go.  

But he would leave one day, when his sister, Susan, who had been a maid and was now apprenticed at the parish school, found a permanent position, or married. He would marry and find another employment, no doubt in a grander household. He was too clever and resourceful to stay at Eyre Hall forever.

They would all leave me soon, and I should be alone. First Edward, then Michael and finally John, who was already away most of the time at Oxford, or in London, with his fiancée, Elizabeth. He would marry in a few years and maybe find a position in London. Elizabeth’s father, Judge Harwood, a prominent London magistrate, would no doubt endeavour to keep his daughter and future grandchildren close to him.

I would become an old, widowed maid in this empty country house, which should have been full of children, if God had allowed me to have more, at least one more; the little girl I held in my arms for a few minutes before she died and was taken away from me forever. I saw the iron gate to the Rochester crypt inside our church every Sunday, and I never ceased to shed a tear for the innocent body I buried there ten years ago.

Jane is worried about her husband’s death and the loneliness that will follow. She also mourns the loss of her baby daughter.

******

Dr Carter entered the room solemnly, with his navy-blue coat, as always, starched and buttoned, and his medical case firmly gripped in his broad hands.

The doctor was getting old. He walked stiffly and had trouble standing up after he had been seated. His overweight frame no longer had the worthy presence of his youth, but his light-grey hair, grave voice and expression conferred an air of wisdom which led his patients to believe every word he said and follow his instructions to the letter.

“Good day, madam, Miss Adele.” He greeted us both with the tragic tone of the bearer of bad news. I offered him some tea, which he declined, and delivered his medical diagnosis at once.

“Mr Rochester shows the typical signs of apoplexy, a distorted mouth, slurred speech, weakness of the right arm, and pain at the back of the head.”

Adele jumped up from her seat and rushed towards the doctor, who was still standing in the doorway. “How is he? Can we see him?”

“He is stable at the moment. Despite the weakening of the body and paralysis of his left limbs, his breathing is slow but deep and regular, and his heart activity is feeble, but even. I suggest we let him rest and recover.”

Adele grabbed his arm. “But tell us, will he get better? He must get better!”

Dr Carter coughed and retrieved his arm from Adele’s grasp. “When he is able to speak, we may discover that he has some long-term physical damage such as urinary incontinence, inferior vision and hearing, and perhaps impaired memory.”

“But you can cure him, Dr Carter?”

“Adele, please sit down or you will make yourself ill.” I patted the seat next to mine by the hearth, then I turned to the physician. “Please take a seat and tell us how we can help Edward.”

He approached the armchair to our left. “I cannot stay long; Mrs Carter is expecting me for lunch.”

He dropped his case on the floor and sat. “There is no definite cure for this malady, madam. However, periodic bloodletting can help by decreasing blood pressure as can the use of purgatives, and some laudanum for the pain, which may all prolong his life, or at least render it more comfortable. I have instructed Simon to rub his legs with a woollen cloth and some ginger ointment to improve the circulation and to prepare plantain tea twice a day to reduce the inflammation from his head injury. I also suggest several cups of dandelion tea for the bladder and kidneys.”

We sat in a tense silence, pondering over the doctor’s disturbing prognosis. “How long can we expect him to remain with us?”

“It’s hard to say. This episode was far worse than last year’s illness. He is older and weaker. I suggest you call John.”

“Michael is on his way to send him a telegram.”

Dr Carter shook his head. “I doubt he’ll be with us next Christmas.”

Adele cried into her handkerchief, and the doctor continued. “I will visit daily, more than once if needed. I would warn you that nervousness or distress of any kind should be avoided at all costs as it will worsen his weak health and shorten his life. He needs absolute rest. He must no longer engage in any kind of subjective labour.”

And so, we had reached the beginning of the end. Soon Edward would be but another memory of days gone by. His corpse would lie alone in the damp crypt, and I would remain in this empty house until it was my turn to join him.

Dr Carter interrupted my thoughts. “I trust his affairs are in order, madam?”

“Not yet. He has asked to see his accountant and his lawyer as soon as possible.”

“His mind may have softened after the accident. We will have to wait and see when he wakes up. I suggest you postpone their visit for a few days.”

“I can’t bear to see him suffer!” cried Adele, burying her face in her handkerchief. 

“He will not suffer, Miss Adele. He may have difficulty swallowing and breathing, and his pulse will weaken as his blood flows more slowly. He will leave us gradually but painlessly when the time comes.”

Other worries Jane has are the financial and estate matters she will have to deal with after his death.

******

The doctor’s diagnosis had been too pessimistic. A few days later, Edward’s words were slow but clear, and his memory had not been impaired. He insisted I call Mr Cooper and Mr Briggs, because he wanted to make sure all his accounts were in order.

Mr Cooper was a tall, skeletal man with a large head of unruly white hair whose jackets were too long and trousers too short, reminding me of a clown, although he never smiled at all. Simon carried Edward down to the library for his meeting. I was about to leave them to their business when Edward called me back.

“Stay, Jane. You are to supervise all transactions from now on. I have no more interest in earthly matters.”

Edward had asked me to help with the accounts over the last year, so I had become familiar with the procedure. I listened attentively to Edward as he instructed his accountant to prepare for my forthcoming responsibilities.

“You will send one final year’s payment to the following and inform them that all contact will be ceased thereafter.” Edward glanced at me before continuing. “Mr Pickering.”

Mr Cooper’s eyes shot up. “Excuse me, sir, did you say mister?”

Edward interrupted him. “I said Mr Pickering; are you deaf?”

I had seen the unfamiliar names with regular payments. Edward had told me Mr Cooper had mistakenly written Mrs instead of Mister in several entries. I supposed it was another of his lies, but his disloyalty had ceased to trouble me years ago, although Edward kept up appearances in front of his accountant.

“The same for Mr Weston and Mr Heath.”

Mr Cooper’s eyebrows reached his hairline. “Did you say, one year’s annuity, sir?”

“Why do you tire me so? Do not question or interrupt me again, or you will be out of a job, do you hear me?”

Mr Cooper nodded. “Excuse me, sir. I was merely checking the facts. We are dealing with a lot of money.”

“It will be a final payment. Make it known to them that if they ever ask for more, you are to speak to Briggs and he will press charges. Blackmail is a punishable crime and should be reported at once. Blackmailers and other extortionists are punished with seven years’ transportation. They can even be sentenced to death if the victim was threatened with murder.”

“Naturally,” said Cooper, scribbling in his notebook.  

“Also, all rents, club annuities and any other expenses not directly related to Eyre Hall and the Rochester Estate will be discontinued immediately.”

Cooper coughed, wiped his forehead, and shot a sideways glance in my direction before asking, “Sir, the overseas expenses; what is to become of them?”

“Continue with the upkeep for the villa in the south of France and transfer it to Adele. Jane has no interest in it, do you, my love?”

“None.” It was the house he had asked me to travel to after Bertha Mason’s presence in the attic was discovered. He wanted me to live with him in France while his wife remained in the attic. I should have realised then that he would not be a worthy husband, but I was blinded by love. “Adele will be pleased.”

“And the other overseas expenses, sir?”

“The same as the rest; the annuity to mark the end of the agreement.”

“Are you sure, sir?”

Edward raised his cane. “I’m sure you are a deaf and dumb imbecile.”

Cooper held up his hand and moved further away to the other side of the desk. “They have not replied to the letter I sent last month, sir.”

“That is of no concern to me. I do not care for a reply, because I did not ask a question. I merely told you to inform them of the new situation. They have been informed, I trust?”

“Of course, sir. It was sent through the diplomatic dispatch to the governor’s office as you instructed.”

“Excellent. Then it is done. I have no more business with them and neither has my wife. I would like to spare Jane the burden of dealing with any of my unfinished affairs. You will take care of these matters at once, Mr Cooper.”

Edward did not intend to justify, explain or much less be penitent for any of his undisclosed expenses, which I supposed were clandestine; he merely wished to ensure they were terminated before I took over our finances. I did not ask or complain; I had no interest in his London acquaintances or dealings over the last ten years of our marriage. I had chosen to immerse myself in my writing and my involvement in local charities and Sunday schools as well as John, Adele, and the day-to-day running of Eyre Hall.

The first eleven years of our marriage had been like a protracted honeymoon, until the severe breakdown I suffered after my daughter’s death. I dread to remember the abyss I descended into, and I thank my dear cousin Mary and her husband, Reverend Wharton, for helping me recover my sanity during my stay with them in Wales. Unfortunately, by the time I returned, Edward had become restless and impatient at Eyre Hall. His trips to London and visits to acquaintances were frequent, but, in all honesty, I was partly to blame, for I had stopped loving him, and yet, his lies, betrayals, and imminent death still saddened me.

I surreptitiously wiped a tear as they continued to talk about the estate matters I was already familiar with. I felt old and unloved, and yet Edward had met me and found love later in life. Perhaps it was different for men, so free to feel love at any age while we women were constrained to find happiness only in our child-bearing years. I still had my courses, although little did they serve me, for I was barren. I was half a woman who would soon be a solitary widow nobody would ever love again.

We are also made aware of recent difficulties in their marriage. Perhaps Edward went back to his old ways?

Come back tomorrow I’ll be posting an excerpt of chapter three!

If you’d like to know more about Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, check out these two posts:

What Happened after Jane Eyre Married Mr Rochester?

Blood Moon at Eyre Hall Two Days to Launch

Blood Moon will be published on Amazon on 22 August. Here’s the International link in case you’d like to check it out.

Sign up to my mailing list for information on new releases, updates, and special offers

What happened after Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester married? Find out in The Eyre Hall Series, Book One Blood Moon at Eyre Hall is out now! #FridayReads #BookLaunch

According to Orson Wells:


“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”


Jane Eyre ended with a wedding and HEA, but what would have happened some years after the wedding?


Jane mentioned that they had one child in Jane Eyre. Would they have had more?
Would Jane have become the lady of the grand lady of Rochester Estate?

Would she have worn the silk dresses and jewels Mr Rochester offered?
Would she have championed women’s independence in any way, as she did in her autobiography, Jane Eyre?
What about the poor, workhouses and institutions for orphans, would she have cared?
What would she have done with the fortune she inherited from her uncle John Eyre?
What about Mr Rochester? Would he have been the faithful husband he promised?
Would he have shared Jane’s concerns for the underprivileged?
After their honeymoon, what kind of a husband would he have been?
Were their backgrounds too different to lead to a happy marriage, or can love conquer all?

Nobody can know for sure what happened after Jane Eyre married Mr Rochester, but there are plenty of clues in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, the prequel written by Jean Rhys in 1966, to give us plenty of options.
The Eyre Hall Series explores what could have happened, but what do you think happened 22 years after their marriage?

Book One of the Eyre Hall Series, Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, explores some of the avenues their marriage might have taken. It will be published on Sunday 22nd August.

You can download your copy on Amazon US here!

Amazon UK here

Amazon International link here

If you live in the US, you can apply for a goodreads giveaway here

You can also apply for an ARC copy at Book Sirens in exchange for an honest review here

And you can also apply for an ARC at Book Sprout in exchange for an honest review here

Important Message: If you have already read the original Eyre Hall Trilogy, you should read Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall, Book 4 in the Eyre Hall Series, which will be published in October and will soon be available for pre-order. Any questions, just let me know in the comments.

And remember if you enjoy reading action-packed, historical fiction, set in the Victorian era, including romance, heartache, evil villains, engaging heroes and heroines, gothic and supernatural elements, pick up your copy of Blood Moon at Eyre Hall! Hours of enjoyment, for the price of a coffee!

Happy Weekend and Happy Reading!

Thank you for helping me decide. This is my new cover for Blood Moon at Eyre Hall #NewRelease

Relive the mystery and magic of Jane Eyre in Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, Book One of The Eyre Hall Series.

Twenty-two years after Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester married, Richard Mason returns from Jamaica with disturbing demands and the revelation of more dark secrets from the attic at Thornfield Hall.

What must Jane do to protect her son’s legacy and safeguard her own integrity?

Blood Moon at Eyre Hall will be published on 22nd of August and is now available for preorder on Amazon.

I have some ARCs. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to read Blood Moon at Eyre Hall right now.

Letter M #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre and The Mason Family

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today Jane is going to tell you all about the Mason family, her husband’s troublesome in-laws.

M

I met two members of the Mason family personally; Mr. Richard Mason and his sister, Bertha Mason, who was Mr. Rochester’s first wife.

Richard Mason was Edward’s brother-in-Law, when I first met him, Richard took the liberty of installing himself as a guest at Thornfield. When Edward discovered that he was at Thornfield he was distressed and asked me to spy on him, worried that he might be talking about grave and mysterious things, but I told him he seemed engaged in a merry conversation with the other guests. Then he asked to speak with him privately in his study. I was worried about Mr. Mason’s intentions. They talked for an hour and seemed to part on friendly terms.

Later that night there was a great commotion at Thornfield Hall. Everyone was woken up by cries of help coming from the third storey. Edward told them it was a servant who had had a nightmare, but later, when everyone had gone back to bed, he called me to nurse Mr. Mason, who had been attacked, but I knew not by what kind of creature. I should have realized they were keeping a dark secret, but I had no idea what had happened and dared not even ask.

I met, no it could not be called a meeting, I mean I came face to face with Bertha Mason the night before my first ill-fated wedding day. She stood before my eyes in my room in the dead of night. ‘She was tall and large, with thick and dark hair hanging long down her back. I know not what dress she had on: it was white and straight; but whether gown, sheet, or shroud, I could not tell.  Her face was a fearful, ghastly, discoloured and savage face with red eyes. She reminded me of a Vampire. She tore my veil and approached me with a candle and I fainted.

Edward tried to convince me it had been a nightmare until I saw the torn veil on the floor. I would find out who she was on my wedding day, after the wedding was interrupted and we were taken upstairs to see her in her windowless room on the third floor.

Richard interrupted our marriage because he was defending his sister from her husband. Rochester was given a high dowry of 30,000 pounds for marrying her, by Mason’s father.

It seemed strange to me that he was not concerned about her physical welfare. He seemed to agree that she should stay in the attic. I suspected that Mason was a villain who had tried to blackmail Edward.

Many years later, one of my Dear Readers, who knew Mr. Mason was a villain, imagined he would return to haunt me twenty-two years later, while my husband lay on his death bed, in her novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. She has written another post about Richard’s role as villain.

Richard Maso Villain

Kevin Spacey would be a great Richard Mason, 22 years later.

There were other members of the Mason family, whom I never met. Edward also told me that Richard and Bertha’s father, had been an acquaintance of Edward’s father, and they had planned Edward and Bertha’s marriage as a business arrangement. Edward’s father negotiated a 30,000 pound dowry and conditions, such as his removal to Jamaica to marry and live there with Bertha.

Much later, when Bertha’s presence became known to me, Edward also told me he found out Bertha’s mother was a lunatic, who lived in an asylum, and that she had another brother, who was a ‘dumb idiot’.

Finally, Bertha burnt down Thornfield Hall and committed suicide, at least that what I was told…

It does indeed seem that the Mason family were the most unpleasant in-laws.

Another Dear Reader called Jean Rhys, wrote a whole book about the Mason family called Wide Sargasso Sea. It’s a prequel to Jane Eyre. More about that in letter ‘P’ for Prequel, on Tuesday.

 

 

 

Letter H #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Husband

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today it’s all about Jane Eyre’s Husband. Edward Rochester himself will tell us all about his life. This is Edward Rochester’s autobiography.

H

My name is Edward Fairfax Rochester. My honourable surname, dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. It’s etymology is related to a fortress, ‘chester’ meaning Roman fort in Old English. My family has lived in Yorkshire since the 12th century. My surname was briefly changed to ‘de Rochester’ after the Conquest, which was probably when my ancestor moved from Kent, where there were too many Norman invaders, to Yorkshire.

Battle_of_Marston_Moor,_1644

My first famous ancestor was Damer de Rochester, a brave soldier who had been struck by a cannon ball on Marston Moor in 1642, fighting for the Parliamentarians against the Royalists. My father used to say that was why King George, whom he considered a vengeful man, had denied my grandfather a Peerdom.

My mother’s surname is also of ancient Anglo-Saxon origins. In this case, the Fairfax were landed gentry who have always lived in Yorkshire. My mother’s older brother, retained all the land, as was customary. Her father remarried, when his wife died, and her younger step-brother, was later disowned and became a clergyman. My mother was rather fond of her little brother, so she insisted my father should employ him as vicar at Hay church, and when he died, his wife, Mrs. Fairfax, was employed as our housekeeper.

Mrs. Fairfax was a good woman who knew her place and never boasted of her husband’s relationship with the landowning Fairfax family. My parents cut off their relationship with the Fairfax shortly after they married. My mother’s family considered the Rochesters too fierce and warlike. I’ll admit, my father was never a patient man, much like myself, but he was an honourable Rochester.

Haddon_Hall

Our house, Thornfield Hall, and the nearby church, was built by my ancestors in the 12th century, shortly after moving to Yorkshire. Additions were made in the 13th and the 17th centuries.

The Hay district church stood just beyond the gates of Thornfield Hall. It was a small village place of worship, which was erected, when the original house was built in the 12th century. My grandfather renovated the older derelict building. It was the church where my grandparents were buried, where my parents married and were buried, and where my brother, Roland, was buried, too, in the family vault at the front of the altar. It was the same altar where I had stood as Jane’s groom, twice. It is where we christened our son, too. My unfortunate first wife, Bertha Mason, was buried anonymously in the graveyard.

This quiet, secluded place of worship, which would also be my last resting place, had been Roman Catholic before Henry VIII’s ecclesiastical reform, and although we had become Anglicans, not wanting to vex the King, there are still many reminders of our ancient religion, both in the church and in our minds.

Adele

I once confessed to Jane that I had brought Adele over from France when her mother died on the Roman Catholic principle of expiating numerous sins, great or small, by one good work. Adele was my expiation, and she was the person who brought Jane to me, so perhaps we shouldn’t have swapped our ancient beliefs so easily. In any case, officially, I’m an Anglican.

I was the spare, the second son, who would not inherit my ancestor’s lands. I hated being second best to my brother, simply because he had been born first. He was a whining, fair-haired and sickly Fairfax, like my mother. I was my father, and grandfather’s living image. I was the Rochester, but my brother, Rowland Rochester was destined to inherit what was mine. I realized I would always be the aimless and unlikely replacement to my brother, and behaved recklessly in my youth.

My father and my brother schemed to get me as far away as possible, out of the country, to be rid of the troublesome young man I had become. So, my father provided me with a wealthy marriage. He had an old acquaintance, Mr. Mason, a West India planter and merchant, whose possessions were vast. Mason had a son, Richard and a daughter, Bertha Antoinette. He offered thirty thousand pounds as dowry for his daughter, and my father signed the deal. I left college and was sent out to Jamaica, to espouse a bride already courted for me. My father told me Miss Mason was the boast of Spanish Town for her beauty, and this was no lie. She was a beautiful woman, tall, dark, and majestic, and I was suitably dazzled. Her family wished to secure me because I was of a good race, but they did not tell me the truth until it was too late.

Bertha

Miss Mason was Mr. Mason’s step-daughter. She was a creole, like her mother, his first wife, who was shut up in a lunatic asylum, and there was a younger brother, who was a dumb idiot. I soon learned her splendid dresses, and demure glances were a farce, because she had been familiar with other men on the island. I had been tricked to marring her.

I found her nature wholly alien to mine, her tastes obnoxious to me, her cast of mind common, low, narrow, and singularly incapable of being led to anything higher. In short, she had a pigmy mind. I found that I could not pass a single evening, nor even a single hour of the day with her. Soon she showed me her outbreaks of violent and unreasonable temper.

I lived with that monster for four years, on that infernal island, until I received news that both my father and my brother had died, and the Rochester Estate was mine, at last. I brought her back with me. Her brother insisted and what could I do? He reminded me of the dowry and I told him that it was insufficient for everything I had put up with, and still had to endure.

I made sure she was well fed and comfortably hidden in my attic. I paid a trustworthy woman to look after her. She had everything she needed, but her madness spiraled after our arrival in England. She escaped and tried to burn the house down, on several occasions

I could not stand living under the same roof as her, even though I never saw her, but I heard her. I began to abhor Thornfield Hall, so I travelled to the continent in search of a good and intelligent woman. Instead I fell under the spell of the beautiful but fickle opera singer, Celine Varens.

Six months before Jane arrived at Thornfield Hall, Celine gave me her daughter, Adele, affirming she was mine. I tell you Pilot is more like me than Adele! Celine abandoned her child, and ran away to Italy with a musician or singer. I am convinced I am not her father, but hearing that she was quite destitute, I took the poor thing out of the slime and mud of Paris, and transplanted it here, to grow up clean in the wholesome soil of an English country garden.

You see, my goodwill has always turned against me. I vowed never to become involved with a beautiful woman again.

Horse

One day, nine years after returning from Jamaica, I met a small, pale, elf-like creature who stole my heart. I fell in love with her youth, her naiveté, her quick, sharp mind and her generous spirit enraptured me. However, I soon learnt she was as independent and headstrong as I was selfish and scheming. I had to have her as my wife, not my employee or my mistress. I wanted her skin on my skin, our bodies joined as soon as possible, so I devised a plan.

I thought she was too young to realize she loved me yet, so I had to make her feel jealous,  I invited Blanche Ingram, a beautiful woman, who was the antithesis of Jane. Blanche was tall, with raven hair and dark eyes. She wore expensive clothes and jewels to catch a husband. She was also a snob and a bitch. I would tease them both nicely. It was a game for my enjoyment. I knew Jane would win. She already had my heart and Blanche was only after my money. I would never marry a dark beauty again, I had already done that once. I wanted a real, English rose, on this occasion. An intelligent, soul mate. I wanted Jane Eyre.

Wedding

After Jane left Thornfield Hall, when Richard Mason cruelly interrupted my first wedding attempt, the lunatic’s madness escalated. She succeeded in burning down the house, and when she went up to the battlements to throw herself down, I tried to save her. I swear that’s why I went up there, but she threw herself off, after burning down my ancestral home.

I had lied, and I had broken the law, God’s law and man’s law, to make Jane mine. I even tried to ruin her, by trying to convince her to be my mistress. I would have done anything in my power to have her back at my side, but she disappeared like a summer breeze. I became a desperate and brooding beast living in a decrepit and secluded manor house with two old servants.

I was crippled. On one arm, I had neither hand nor nails, but a mere, ghastly stump. My face had ugly burn marks, and I was almost blind. My eyes could only perceive a glow. Everything around me was a ruddy shapeless cloud, until a year later, when my fairy returned.

Mr. Rochester Blind

After the fire, I had a long time to think about my deeds. I did wrong to Jane. I would have sullied my innocent flower, breathed guilt on her purity. I began to experience remorse, repentance, and the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I prayed that Jane would return to me and promised the heavens that I would be a better man. When she returned to me, I humbly entreated my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto.

After we married, I recovered the sight of one eye, and learned to cater for my needs with one hand, instead of two. I held my son in my arms and saw he was a Rochester, like me, and thanked God for the second chance I had been awarded. I would try to be the man Jane Eyre deserved for the rest of my days.

I know some people don’t believe in me, and I can understand that. They think I can’t change, but I know I can. I’m not sorry for my past, I did what I had to do. I was a reckless youth and I married the wrong woman, but I was misled by my father and enticed by selfish women. None of it was my fault.

I’m only sorry for the unjust way I treated Jane. You may think I’m not good enough for Jane, and that’s true, too, but I’m going to try to be a better man for her. I will not go back to my gallivanting ways and I will never hurt her again.

Jane3

Dear Reader, do you believe him?

Three Line Thursday Challenge

Entwined

Leaves trembling witnessed our promises.
Reverent stems watched over
your flesh and mine entwined.

@LucciaGray

Three Line Thursday: Three lines, maximum thirty words, in response to a weekly photo prompt.

Have a look at the rules, admire the photo prompt, read the other entries, and why not take part?

 

************

The end of the winter and coming of spring reminds us of nature’s new cycle of rebirth, hope, and love.

There’s another chance; we can begin again, as we move forward.

This reminds me of Jane and Rochester’s passionate reunion after their traumatic separation. It is found in the last pages of Jane Eyre.

 

I arrested his wandering hand, and prisoned it in both mine.
‘Her very fingers!’ he cried; ‘her small, slight fingers! If so there must be more of her.’
The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my shoulder—neck—waist—I was entwined and gathered to him.
‘Is it Jane? WHAT is it? This is her shape—this is her size—‘
‘And this her voice,’ I added. ‘She is all here: her heart, too. God bless you, sir! I am glad to be so near you again.’
‘Jane Eyre!—Jane Eyre,’ was all he said.
‘My dear master,’ I answered, ‘I am Jane Eyre: I have found you out—I am come back to you.’

 

Although my portrayal of Edward Rochester is not favourable in All Hallows at Eyre Hall, there is no doubt in my mind of the sincerity of their love and passion in Jane Eyre.

However, Rochester’s obsession with Jane, as well as her excessive admiration of and submission to such an egocentric and ruthless character stand in the way of any chance of a positive development in their relationship in the long-term.

Love, like nature, must move on: eppure si muove.

The direction of the movement belongs to the seed of creativity.

Charlotte Bronte’s last love letter

‘To forbid me to write to you, to refuse to answer me, would be to tear from me from my only joy on earth, to deprive me of my last privilege _ a privilege I shall never consent willingly to surrender. Believe me, my master, in writing to me it is a good deed that you will do. So long as I believe you are pleased with me, so long as I have hope of receiving news from you, I can be at rest and not too sad.’

The last known love letter Charlotte Bronte wrote to her ‘master’, the man she fell madly in love with in her early twenties, her Belgian professor, Constantin Héger, was written on 18th November 1845, exactly 169 years ago, tomorrow.

M Héger

M Héger

What do we know of the love life of the woman who penned one of the greatest love stories ever written? In spite of her numerous letters, and the biographies written by her contemporaries, there is still a great deal of controversy.

Was she a nun-like, prudish bore, or was she a passionate, romantic lover?

Tanya Gold, reminds us in an article in the Guardian  that her contemporary biographer, prim Mrs. Gaskell, wanted us to believe Charlotte was a dull and saintly, so she intentionally left out certain significant aspects of her love life, even suggesting that her well-known infatuation with Heger was imagined.

Who was Heger, and how did they meet?

In February, 1842 Charlotte and Emily, accompanied by their father, travelled to the Pensionnat Heger, in Brussels to complete their studies. Their aim was to improve their skills in languages. In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music.

Their stay was interrupted in 1843, due to the death of her aunt, Elizabeth Branwell. After a short trip to Haworth, Charlotte returned alone to Brussels, where she remained until January, 1844.

On her return to Haworth, and for almost two years, she exchanged passionate letters with her professor and mentor, M. Héger. Four of these letters have been recovered and are kept in the British Library.

Charmotte Bronte's Letters to Héger in the British Library

Charmotte Bronte’s Letters to Héger in the British Library

Although Mrs. Gaskell had personally visited M. Heger while she was writing Charlotte’s biography, and was shown the letters, she decided not to include them, or their relationship, in her biography. This was probably due to various reasons. Firstly because Charlotte’s father and husband were still alive. Secondly, because the Victorians, and Mrs. Gaskell herself, did not want the memory of their admired novelist to be tainted, by revealing that she had been shamelessly in love with a married man.

In 1912, M. Heger’s son, Paul Heger (1846-1925), who had never met Charlotte Bronte, because he was born two years after she left Brussels, presented the British Library with four letters sent by Charlotte Brontë to his father between 1843 and 1845, and they were shortly after printed in The Times newspaper, causing a literary scandal.

We do not know Héger’s reaction to her letters, because although she refers to his replies in her letters, the former have been lost, and the only remaining accounts are those put forward by Mrs. Heger, M Heger’s wife, the mother of his six children, and his employer, for she was the owner of the Pensionnat where he worked.

According to his wife’s reports, she herself kept the letters, which her husband had torn, sewed them and preserved them for posterity. In spite of being the accepted version, it sounds at the very least improbable that she would bother to recover and keep the ardent letters a young English student fervently (and probably annoyingly, for her) sent her husband.

Bronte scholar, Brian Bracken’s article published in Janaury 2013, challenges traditional assumptions, based on Marion Spielmann’s article (1919), ‘The Inner History of the Brontë-Heger Letters’, which suggested that it was M. Heger who tore the letters, while his wife repaired and preserved them. Spielmann had no doubt also found it difficult to accept that Charlotte Brontë had fallen in love with a married man and had written passionate letters to him.

There is no proof either way, but I am not the only person to suspect that it was Heger who repaired the letters his wife had found and torn, kept them, and aware of their literary value, gave them to his sons on his deathbed to be made known in England.

I am in no doubt that Edward Rochester is modeled partly on M. Heger. Charlotte says of him in a letter to Ellen Nussey, when she first arrived in Brussels:

He is professor of Rhetoric a man of power as to mind but very choleric and irritable in temperament—a little, black, ugly being with a face that varies in expression, sometimes he borrows the lineaments of an insane Tom-cat—sometimes those of a delirious Hyena—occasionally—but very seldom he discards these perilous attractions and assumes an air not above a hundred degrees removed from what you would call mild & gentleman-like he is very angry with me just at present because I have written a translation which he chose to stigmatize as peu correct.

Charlotte would later fall in love with his ‘Byronic’ character and refer to him as ‘master’, in her letters. How far their relationship went, or to what extent it was reciprocal, is also unknown.

In Jane Eyre, a frail, petite, pale, and plain governess, much like Charlotte herself, fell in love with the unattractive, temperamental, and choleric Rochester, except in this case it was reciprocal, and Rochester was rich enough to do as he pleased. Rochester was also married, but he had no legitimate children, and his mad wife conveniently committed suicide, so her fantasy was complete, including a happy fictional ending.

The last letter she wrote to Héger, at least the last one which has survived, ends thus:

Farewell, my dear Master __ may God protect you with special care and crown you with peculiar blessings.

Brontë's publisher, George Smith, commissioned this portrait of the novelist from George Richmond (1809-1896),  as a gift for her father.

Brontë’s publisher, George Smith, commissioned this portrait of the novelist from George Richmond (1809-1896), as a gift for her father.

In any case, although Charlotte Bronte, was reportedly tiny, frail, and shy, she was no ugly, unwanted spinster; she received and rejected four marriage proposals between 1839 and 1853. She finally married a man she did not love, but who offered her the financial, and perhaps emotional security, she lacked. Their home was only theirs as long as her father, Patrick Bronte was the pastor at Hawthorne, on his death Charlotte would have been homeless. Mr. Bronte’s original opposition to Mr. Nicholls gradually weakened, and Charlotte and Nicholls became engaged. He became curate at Haworth, and they were married. She died eight months later. Charlotte was pregnant, and it is presumed that she died of severe dehydration and malnutrition due to hyperemesis gravidarum (sever morning sickness).

There is still a great deal to read, reread, and discover about the author of Jane Eyre. Margaret Smith has edited an invaluable selection of letters written by Charlotte Brontë from her schooldays to her death in 1855, with many useful notes, giving us some insight into her priveleged and passionate mind.

Why I love romantic novels with Byronic Heroes

I love reading romantic novels with Byronic heroes, on occasions, because they are emotionally gratifying.

The reader enters an ideal world with young, beautiful, rich, and powerful people, and it all ends well, which is satisfying after a hard day facing the real, sometimes boring, and often ugly world.

There’s a likeable heroine who eventually makes an unlikeable hero, very likeable, leading to a happy ending. What’s there not to like?

There are many novels following this timeless pattern, recurrent in many love stories throughout literature, all of them immensely popular.
Put simply:

1- Bad guy meets good girl.
2.a- Bad guy tries to seduce, dominate and/or spoil good girl, making her bad, too, but he fails because she’s stronger or cleverer, or better, so good conquers evil. Or
2.b- Good girl tries to make bad guy into a good guy.
3- Finally he becomes a good guy and they live HEA (which usually includes marriage and/or children).

This formula has been successful in literature for centuries. It started with Mr. B in Henry Fielding’s Pamela (1740), and can be seen again in  Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1813), Captain Wentworth, in Persuasion (1817), Rochester, in Jane Eyre (1847), Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights (1846), Max de Winter, in Rebecca (1938), Edward Cullen in the Twilight Saga (210-2011), Christian Grey, in Fifty Shades of Grey (2011), to name a few of the most well-known.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing the literary quality of any of the previous novels mentioned, I’m merely pointing out that the main romantic plot arc in these novels is almost identical.

This moody, and self-assured, male protagonist, who is finally tamed by the heroine, came to be known as the Byronic hero, named after the English Romantic poet Lord Byron, and described by Lord Macaulay as ‘a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection.

Portrait of Lord Byron by George Henry Harlow. Circa 1816.

Byronic heroes are brooding, darkly handsome, and they have a secret, hidden past, which makes them behave antisocially. They are usually worldly, rich, cynical, destructive, and resentful. They have difficulties identifying and even expressing their emotions, and women find them extremely alluring. They are idealized yet flawed characters, who need to be recovered and repaired by the perfect heroine.

Many readers enjoy these novels. I enjoy them, no, I love them. Although I often wonder why I liked them in the first place.

I think it’s because I’d like it to be true. I’d like to believe, even if it’s for a few hours, or minutes, that good can conquer evil, that love can soften resentment, and cure all ills. I want to be optimistic….for a while.

One of my favourite contemporary romance writers is Roberta Pearce. The Value of Vulnerability is the third novel I’ve read by this author who specializes in romantic novels with strong female leads and rich and handsome, alpha males, with HEA endings.

What makes her novels worth reading or different from other similar novels?

Well, I haven’t read all the others, but I’ve read a few, and what makes Roberta Pearce’s novels different is that they are impeccably written, with economical, precise prose, and the characters are well portrayed.

Ford is perfectly depicted from page one. After leaving a girl he’s just slept with, he says;
“You mentioned having difficulty with some finances. Now you have fewer.”
She licked her lips, staring at the scattered hundreds with an expression he had seen dozens of times: greed combined with humiliation, and underwritten with gratitude.
He’s a real baddie, with the usual Byronic defects, and he develops, and grows out of them as the novel progresses, and the reader expects.

The reader’s interest is in discovering who’s going to make him change, and how she’s going to do it.

She is Erin, beautiful, young, intelligent, generous, friendly, loving, and far too good a person for him.

In the real world, if she were my daughter, or a friend, I’d say, ‘keep away, he’s no good’, but this isn’t the real world. I’m escaping from reality. It’s a romantic novel, and I know it will be all right in the end. I keep turning the pages impatiently, and I know there will be ups and downs, twists and turns, but I know I won’t suffer…too much, because it will have a happy ending.

Why do I recommend it? Because it’s well written, the characters are authentic, the story is beautiful, and it’s a welcome break from a real, hard day!