#Onthisday 29th October Chapter One of The sequel to #JaneEyre ‘All Hallows at Eyre Hall’

Chapter 1 of All Hallows at Eyre Hall takes place on the 29th of October, 1865, with Richard Mason’s visit to Eyre Hall. Here’s an excerpt from this chapter. 

Chapter 1- Mr Mason

29th October, 1865

I stepped out of the carriage onto the soggy gravel, adjusted my cloak and hat, and looked up to the rebuilt mansion for the first time.

 Twenty-three years had passed since my last visit to another house in this same spot, when I was bitten by a raging lioness fighting to preserve her offspring and her reason. My bones shivered. My sister had been wronged, my niece had been wronged, and my mission was to settle the injustice before the funeral.

The sharp smell of burning coal reminded me that there were fireplaces in this gloomy, damp climate, in which I could not envisage my ancestors ever having lived.

My eyes travelled up to the top floor and tower, wrapped in a vaporous cloud, and down again to the ground floor casements, which rose from the ground, symmetrically sliced into squares, standing out like prison bars. I could sense the witch was there watching me. I fancied her slight shadow floating over the curtains, and imagined curious fingers pulling back the heavy dark fabric in an effort to catch a glimpse of my arrival. I had received no answer to my message requesting an encounter, but I prayed she would be curious enough to converse with me.

I took an instant dislike to the sturdy valet who announced my visit. He had no business staring at me as if he were my equal when I told him my name and the purpose of my visit. His eyes bore into my back as I entered, instead of leaving at once.

The woman who was waiting for me looked exactly the same as the last time I had seen her, slight and ethereal, a trembling debutante underneath her pathetic white veil.

She slid towards me as if she were floating over the dark, Persian carpet, held out her hand limply and spoke.  

 “What brings you here, Mr. Mason?” She asked coolly.

It took me a few seconds to reply, taken aback by her unprecedented assertiveness and waiting for the defiant-looking servant to leave. I glanced his way and coughed, but he stood unmoved, like a guard dog, waiting for a sign from his mistress.

“I heard you finally became Mrs. Rochester.” I examined her carefully. She was still as pale and elflike as the last time I had seen her.

“Indeed. After your sister’s unfortunate death, Mr. Rochester and I married, as we both wished.”

She hadn’t fooled me then, and she wasn’t going to fool me now. I knew that her innocent expression was a facade which hid a determined and ambitious viper. “Not so unfortunate for you…”

“Have you come here to insult me, Mr. Mason? Because if that is the case, it will not be tolerated and I must ask you to leave at once.”

The valet took a step forward, his arms still, but his fists were clenched. Be careful, Richard, I reminded myself. She had employed over twenty years to enhance her wicked skills and now she had a guard dog.

“May I speak to you privately, madam?” I said looking at the impertienent servant. She was silent. Good. It meant that she was afraid of me, and she should be, but I would use her fear to my advantage, as soon as I could convince her to get rid of him.

“Pardon me, madam. It was not my wish to distress you. I merely pointed out that my sister’s sudden death made your marriage to my brother-in-law possible.”

I saw her left eyebrow rise slightly, and she blinked a shade quicker before replying.

“Have I wronged you in any way, Mr. Mason?”

Her complexion was pale and flawless, and although her look was stiff and almost expressionless, her smooth face was pleasing to look upon. “Indeed you have not, madam.”

“Did I not respect your sister’s existence and abandon Thornfield Hall as soon as I learned of her presence?”

“That is so, madam.”

Her thin crimson lips pursed as she tightened her jaw. Did she really believe she was innocent? Did she not see it was all her fault? She had killed my sister as surely as if she had thrown her off the buttery that tragic night. Bertha had been accused of setting the house on fire, but no one had seen her do it. They had also accused Bertha of committing suicide, therefore, her interment was without ceremony, and even so, I was not allowed to attend. It was all obviously a scheme set up by her husband to be rid of her. Edward would have done anything to be a free man and recover this enticing little sorceress.

“Can you or anyone reproach anything in my behaviour?”

I smirked as she insisted on her innocence and watched her scuttle away like a scared mouse. It was easy to imagine how they had both planned their revenge. He had rid himself of my poor, wretched sister, and she had returned to marry a widowed man.

I had decided that her curiosity by far outweighed her hatred of me, or she wouldn’t have agreed to see me. Or perhaps it was fear? In any case, I decided to play further.

“Indeed, Mrs. Rochester, you have done nothing reproachable.”

“Explain yourself, Mr. Mason. I have many matters to attend this morning.”

I had been informed by Edward’s agent that she had been attending to legal and financial matters in provision of her husband’s foreseeable death. Did she really think she was going to get away with it? Did she think that she, a plain and penniless governess, would inherit all his wealth and property, while he shunned and murdered my sister, who had been a beautiful heiress?

“Of course, madam. It is Mr. Rochester with whom I have matters to resolve.”

“Mr. Mason, you must be aware that Mr. Rochester is unwell.”

“It pains me to hear such news.”

“Allow me to doubt your sincerity on this matter.”

“Please, madam, accept my sympathy for your personal pain and your son’s.”

She shot a piercing look, moved her lips as if to speak, hesitated, then seemed to change her mind before finally speaking. “Your sympathy is accepted, because it would be unchristian to reject it.”

I envisioned the proud and uncouth Saxon who lay on his deathbed. I never understood what my sister or any of his women ever saw in his stocky figure or irksome character. I would no longer have to deal with him, thank God. She would be my new business associate, although she was not yet aware of our inevitable partnership.

“I am honoured, madam, that it should be accepted.”

“Will you now tell me what is your business, Mr. Mason?”

Did her lips curl slightly? Was she so easy to entice? Or was I being enticed? Her face did seem most pleasant, especially when the vexation ceased. I insisted more mildly on this occasion. “I have some urgent business with Mr. Rochester.”

“He is not receiving any visitors at the moment.”

“Yet, I must speak to him.”

“That will not be possible. In any case, I cannot imagine what business you should have with my husband.”

She had been suitably lured and was eager to discover the reason for my visit. “I would not wish to bother you with certain unpleasant matters, madam.”

“I am afraid you will have to deal with me from now on, Mr. Mason, so proceed.”

‘They are private matters,’ I added, glancing once again at her sentinel, who was still ready to pounce.

I wondered how much she had already discovered about her husband’s finances and offences. He was a dark horse, if ever there was one.

‘Thank you, Michael,’ she smiled at her watchdog, who unclenched his fists and took a step backwards. ‘Could you ask Beth to bring us some tea, please?’

He nodded and left, not without shooting me a threatening stare. How dare he? Who did he think he was? I would be dealing with his insolence shortly. Little did he suspect his days at Eyre Hall were numbered.

“Please sit down, Mr. Mason.”

She pointed to two high-backed Regency chairs on either side of a red teak table. Dark. In spite of the rebuilding and modern furnishings, the house was as gloomy and distasteful as the last time I had seen it while my sister still lived. It was so different to my bright colonial mansion, where one could drink iced lemonade in the mornings and dark rum in the evenings, on the verandah, inhaling the ocean breeze.

Despite the unfortunate and occasional insurrection of the local slaves, now called workers, who were usually pleasing and compliant, it was far more beautiful than this dreary land would ever be. For a moment I imagined pale, petite Jane in a colourful colonial dress revealing ample cleavage, her hair free and carelessly caressing her bare shoulders, smiling and twirling while carrying a parasol to keep the sun out of her flushed face. She would make a splendid widow. I wondered how soon she would remarry after the sick beast’s death.

“Thank you, madam.”

Mrs. Rochester sat as far away as she could on the other side of the table. “Please continue, Mr. Mason,” she said as she smoothed her pale blue day dress with her petite, gloved hands.

“The matter is pertaining to his first wife, my sister Bertha Antoinette née Mason and died Rochester.”

“The lady died twenty-three years ago, sir. There can be no further matter to discuss.”

“Oh, but there is, madam, and a very serious one indeed.”

“I trust it is not a financial matter, Mr. Mason. My husband and I have nothing more to discuss with the Mason family in this respect.”

“I’m afraid you do, madam.”

“You tire me with your games. Explain yourself once and for all or abandon my house.”

Perhaps I should speak. I wondered how she would react. Would she faint? Or have a hysterical fit, as most women would due to the inferior size of their brains? Might she call the constable and have me arrested? Or call her stalwart servant to throw me out of the house?

“Mr. Mason, whatever agreement you may have had with my husband will have to be authorized by me henceforth.”

“Mr. Rochester has broken an agreement we had. There is the matter of a certain sum of money that has not been received in the last few months.”

“Indeed? I have been supervising Mr. Rochester’s finances, and I do not recall your name on any of the transactions.”

“I have been informed that you have cancelled a transfer to Spanish Town, Jamaica.”

“That is so, to the Convent of Saint Mary. We are Church of England, sir. I cannot imagine why my husband should continue sending money to a Roman Catholic convent in Jamaica.”

“Did you not ask your husband about the matter?”

“Indeed I did.”

“Did he not tell you that you were to continue making the payments after his death?”

“He did not. He told me it was an old matter dating from his youth, and I needn’t carry his burden any further.”

“Is that so? I cannot understand why he should act in such a dishonourable manner.”

She surprised me by suddenly jumping up from her chair and rushing to the door. I got up immediately, wondering what she was going to do next. She spun around and spat out the words.

“How dare you speak to me of honour? My husband is the most honourable man I have ever met.”

“Your loyalty is touching, madam. You have been wronged, as my sister was before you. Mr. Rochester is not, has never been, an honest man.”

“I beg you, order you, not to speak of my husband disrespectfully in his own house.”

Her voice had gradually risen during our last exchange. I smiled in the security right then that my news would destroy any illusion of happiness or ounce of tranquillity she might have had in her years with Rochester.

“I doubt you will be of the same opinion when I tell you the reason for my visit. I do not wish to distress you, madam, but what I have to say may trouble you.”

She covered her face with her hands. “Why do you always bring me such bad news?”

“I humbly ask your forgiveness before I convey the tidings I must bring you.”

I revelled in her tortured frown and devastated sigh as she returned to her seat.

She straightened and looked away from me, absently caressing the folds on her dress, once more. “To the point, if you please, Mr. Mason.”

“There is someone Mr. Rochester must see before he dies.”

“No more games. You are to leave. My husband will not be molested by anyone in his final moments.”

“Not even by his daughter?”

“Who?”

She paced towards the window, breathing heavily. I could not see her face, but her shoulders were hunched, and she seemed to be trembling. I wondered if she might be crying and waited a few minutes before continuing.

“She would like to meet her father before he dies.” I said the words I had come to say slowly and softly. I wanted to make sure she heard them clearly.

We both heard the instants pass, as the small steel second hand ticked around the inner circle of the long clock standing majestically between the bay windows. Her eyes were fixed on the watery pane. Abruptly she straightened her back and lifted her head, as if she were looking for something in the sky. It was a damp dismal morning, and the cloud-burdened sky loured heavily above the laurel orchard. Her palms repeated the ritual of smoothing her dress, and then she spun around towards me, surprisingly composed after her initial shock. She spoke slowly and resolutely.

****

Download your FREE copy now, BEFORE 2nd NOVEMBER, to read the rest of the novel. International link to All Hallows at Eyre Hall! 

All Hallows Museum

Passion, suspense, secrets, betrayals, villains, and romance, Book One of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, will be free for the first time on Kindle Deals, for five days only, to coincide with the Halloween Weekend, from 29th October to the 2nd November, 2020.

Make sure you download your copy today!

Readers are invited to rediscover the mystery and magic of a Victorian Gothic Romance set in Eyre Hall, the mansion Jane Eyre rebuilt after her marriage to Edward Rochester.

This breathtaking trilogy chronicles the lives and vicissitudes of the residents of Eyre Hall from the beginning to the height of the Victorian era.

 

‘All Hallows at Eyre Hall’ The sequel to #JaneEyre is #Free on #KindleDeals #HistoricalFiction #Romance

Book One of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, will be free for the first time on Kindle Deals, for five days only, to coincide with the Halloween Weekend, from 29th October to the 2nd November, 2020.

International link to All Hallows at Eyre Hall!

Passion, suspense, secrets, betrayals, villains, and romance, at Eyre Hall, in Victorian England.

Make sure you download your copy today!

Readers are invited to rediscover the mystery and magic of a Victorian Gothic Romance set in Eyre Hall, the mansion Jane Eyre rebuilt after her marriage to Edward Rochester.

This breathtaking trilogy chronicles the lives and vicissitudes of the residents of Eyre Hall from the beginning to the height of the Victorian era.

All Hallows Museum

All Hallows at Eyre Hall is Book One of the Eyre Hall Trilogy. 

Twenty-two years have passed since her marriage to Edward Rochester and while a mature Jane is coping with the imminent death of her bedridden husband, Richard Mason has returned from Jamaica to disclose more secrets and ruin her happiness once again, instigating a sequence of events which will expose Rochester’s disloyalty to Jane, his murderous plots, and innumerable other sins. Jane will be drawn into a complex conspiracy threatening everything she holds dear.

Who was the man she thought she loved? What is she prepared to do to safeguard her family and preserve her own stability?

Find out when you read All Hallows at Eyre Hall!

 

 

My Favourite Novel: Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall on #kindle Countdown Deal

Today is a very special day for my novel Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, because Twelfth Night is the night before the twelfth and final day of the Christmas season, which started on Christmas Day, and that day, the 5th of January, is today. Although it’s no longer celebrated in the UK, it used to be a merry festivity in Victorian England.

Twelfth Night Billboard

 

Asking a writer to choose a favourite novel is like asking a parent to choose their favourite child. I’m going to own up to the truth here, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall is my favourite novel. It’s a quick and easy answer, because I enjoyed writing it so much more than the others.

 

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Let me explain, book one, All Hallows was hard to write because it was the first and I had to prove to myself, and my readers that I could do it. I could write a novel. It was a cathartic experience and although I’m thrilled with the result, it was also stressful process.

Second came Twelfth Night, and I felt liberated and capable, so I let my imagination run wild and wrote the most exciting, adventurous and optimistic novel in the trilogy. Twelfth Night has everything that can entertain a reader: wonderful and varied characters, servants, villains, murderers, heroes, supernatural beings, pirates, children as well as adults. There’s romance, a murder investigation, child theft, blackmail, unveiling of family secrets, and a sea voyage. The settings are varied, we move away from Eyre Hall and travel to Dickens’ Victorian London, there’s also a sea voyage across to colonial Jamaica.

Although it’s part of a trilogy, it can be read as a standalone. There is no cliff-hanger ending, the ending is satisfactory, although not happy ever after. I hope readers will read the final instalment, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, but Twelfth Night is a self-contained novel.

The titles of the three books represent the day one of the major event in the novel takes place. In the case of twelfth Night, a significant event takes place. It’s the death, or rather the murder of one of the characters. I can’t say any more without including a spoiler, but I can read the first two paragraphs of the chapter, which is narrated by Jane.

Chapter XVI

Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall

The morning after Twelfth Night, Eyre Hall woke up to an alarming blizzard. I had risen and was looking out to the vast whiteness where no shape, human, animal or natural, could be discerned due to the snowy curtain pouring down. I pitied anyone who would have to leave the house in such weather.

I turned my thoughts to Michael, in London. No doubt, the weather as always, was kinder there. I wondered if he had found Helen, and how soon he would return. He had said by Twelfth Night, so I was looking forward to his arrival shortly. The snow might slow down his journey, but it was a small impediment for such a tenacious person. I wondered wistfully as Nell helped me dress, if we could ever be together as any couple who are in love, but we were not any couple. There were so many obstacles in our way, although now, more than ever, I was sure our future was entwined, and we would find a way to overcome all the complications.

I was shaken by cries coming from Mr. Mason’s room…

****

So, if you’d like to read a Victorian Gothic romance, including some of the characters in Jane Eyre and many other engaging characters, in a novel which is full of mystery, suspense, romance and adventure, now is the time to give Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall a try because it’s on Kindle Countdown Deal at less than a dollar or a pound until the 11th of January.

Amazon USA

Amazon UK 

And when you read it, don’t forget to write a review, just a line or two is enough, and let me know what you think.

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Happy Reading and Happy New Year 2017!

 

2 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. My Genre: What is a #Victorian #Gothic #Romance?

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are two days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day two is all about genre. The Eyre Hal Trilogy is a Victorian Gothic Romance, but what exactly is that? Read on to find out.

3 BOOKS ALL HALLOWS

The first word in my genre description is straightforward. A Victorian novel is a novel that is set in Victorian England, roughly between the 1830s and 1900, although many scholars extend it to the encompass the end of the 18th century, too. Most Victorian novels were written in Victorian times, but many others, sometimes called neo-Victorian novels, were written in the 20th and especially in the 21st century. There is more information on the characteristics, themes and style of Victorian and neo-Victorian novels,  and why I write them in these other posts in my blog:

What is neo-Victorian Fiction

https://lucciagray.com/2016/03/28/why-i-write-neo-victorian-fiction/

Why read neo-Victorian fiction instead of authentic Victorian Fiction.

A general introduction to Victorian times

A general introduction to Victorian literature

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is set in Victorian England between 1865 and 1879, although some of the events included as back story occurred in the 1850s and before.

The third word is also relatively easy to define. A Romance is a novel whose central concern is a love story. Romance novels are immensely diverse. Apart from the central theme of love, the rest of the characteristics are infinite, except for the presence of some kind of conflict, which must be resolved (remember Aristotle and Vonnegut; someone get’s into trouble and out of it…).

That’s the sum of common characteristics of romance. There are endless types of conflict and endless types of love stories. They can be set in any time period and in any setting or location. The ending is generally satisfactory, optimistic or downright happy ever after, although it can be partially or totally unhappy, too, see for example: Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte, 1846), Love Story (Erich Segal 1970), or The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks, 1996).

Wuthering heights

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a Romance, because it includes several love stories, and romantic love and the conflicts brought about as a result of  the characters’ love interests are central to the plot and the sub-plots.

The genre which is going to prove most complex to define is ‘Gothic’, especially because there are many subgenres. In my case I’ll be discussing the Victorian Gothic Romance genre.

It’s origins are attributed to Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, which he himself subtitled ‘A Gothic Story’.

Castle

The name of the genre is derived from gothic architecture, specifically from the gothic neo-medieval buildings emulating the architecture which flourished in Europe between the 12th and the 16th century, including pointed arches and vaults, flying buttresses, narrow spires, stained glass windows, latticed windows on the exterior, and dungeons, secret passages, ghosts, long winding corridors, dark furnishings and a gloomy atmosphere in the inside.

Not surprisingly, one of the salient features of this genre is the setting, which must include an isolated and spooky, gothic mansion or castle. Think of The Castle of Otranto, Thornfield hall in Jane Eyre, Satis House in Great Expectations, Dracula’s Castle in Dracula, The House of Usher, Manderlay in Rebecca (20th century), Hundred’s Hall in The Little Stranger.

House

In the case of The Eyre Hall Trilogy there is a large country house, Eyre Hall. Jane Eyre rebuilt a house on the site of Thornfield Hall, which had been burnt down by Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre. Jane purposefully made sure that Eyre Hall didn’t have an attic, a rookery, vaults, or a flying buttress, in an aim to make its appearance less gothic than Thornfield  Hall, and although it was a more modern building, there were plenty of nooks and crannies to hide unspeakable secrets…

There are plenty of characteristics which are common to gothic novels. Naturally, the more elements the novel contains, the more gothic it is! Here are a few of the most recurrent, apart from the house, in no particular order:

A mystery and a secret, often a family secret or mystery including murder, torture, or illegal confinement.

A prophecy or ancestral curse on a family.

Omens and paranormal situations.

A persecuted heroine, or damsel in distress, who is generally innocent or naive and easy to fool, by…

An evil character, or villain, who causes havoc in the heroine’s life, often including a seduction, rape or forced marriage. This person is often seeking financial gain and social status.

A supernatural element, which may be a ghost or any other type of unearthly being, such as a devil or a vampire.

Macabre situations such as death, decay, graveyards, churches, exhumation, etc.

Situations which terrorise or frighten the characters.

A dark and gloomy atmosphere, including foggy, dark, cold weather.

Complex plots with secrets and scheming characters.

Strong emotions of love, hate, fear, distress, etc.

Dangerous journeys in carriages, often at night.

One of the essential elements is the opposition between good and evil. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are prime examples. The writer is concerned with the description of the spiritual and psychological challenges of the human soul in extreme situations.

The wicked are usually punished, although they may be redeemed if they learn their lesson and change their evil ways. The good yet physically weaker characters are often empowered due to their moral superiority.

Endings vary widely. Gothic Romance usually has happy endings, whereas Gothic Horror may have unhappier endings.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy must be a very gothic novel, because it contains all the elements I’ve named in spades!

I’ve tried my best to transport the modern reader to Victorian England and experience a gothic romance. There is adventure, suspense, the mystery and magic, dark family secrets, including murder, kidnapping, child theft, blackmail, exhumation, supernatural elements, journeys, asylums, villains, scheming, twisting plots, and plenty of conflict and obstacles for all pairs of lovers in the diverse love stories.

I’ve had great fun researching, planning and writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy, and I hope my readers also enjoy the ride!

Which is your favourite gothic romance?