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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Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966), The Prequel which inspired the Sequel to Jane Eyre: The Eyre Hall Series

I would never have written The Eyre Hall Series if I had not read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (I was about fourteen the first time I read it). Many of the characters and events in The Eyre Hall Series were inspired by Jane Eyre, however my main inspiration for writing The Eyre Hall Series was Wide Sargasso Sea, the prequel to Jane Eyre, written by Jean Rhys in 1966 (I read WSS, many years after JE, when I was over forty, at the suggestion of my friend and colleague, Anne Gerd Petersen).

Check out my review on Goodreads

Wide Sargasso Sea tells us Bertha Antoinetta Mason’s story from her childhood in Jamaica to her tragic death at Thornfield Hall. It was Ms Rhys’s retelling of ‘the madwoman in the attic’s’ story which inspired my unique character, and one of the protagonists of The Eyre Hall Series: Annette Mason.

Annette is Jane’s antagonist in Blood Moon at Eyre Hall. She is the child who was born in the attic to Bertha Mason, rejected by Edward Rochester, and surreptitiously removed by her uncle, Richard Mason, to a convent in Jamaica.

The Eyre Hall Series would not exist without Annette Mason. Annette was inspired by Jane Eyre (Jane dreams she hears a baby in Jane Eyre, more information below), and created as a tribute to Bertha Antoinette Mason, a wealthy Creole heiress who was used and abused by Edward Rochester in both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. (Read my post about The Madwoman in the Attic here).

“But there was no baby in the attic in Jane Eyre,” you may say.

Only Grace Poole, Edward Rochester and Richard Mason knew what was happening, or who was in the attic for ten years, and none of them was a reliable narrator. The baby was not there the day Mr Rochester opened the attic and showed Jane Eyre, the Vicar and the solicitor who was inside, but that doesn’t mean the baby hadn’t been there at some point during the previous years.

There are two scenes in Jane Eyre in which Jane dreams of a baby and hears its cries while she is sleeping directly under the attic at Thornfield Hall.

Chapter XXI of Jane Eyre, starts like this:

Presentiments are strange things! And so are sympathies; and so are signs; and the three combined make one mystery to which humanity has not yet found the key.

Jane then tells the reader about her dream:

The past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a dream of an infant, which I sometimes hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched playing with daisies on a lawn, or again, dabbling its hands in running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me; but whatever mood the apparition evinced, whatever aspect it wore, it failed not for seven successive nights to meet me the moment I entered the land of slumber.

And in the following paragraph:

It was from companionship with this baby-phantom I had been roused on that moonlit night when I heard the cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day following I was summoned downstairs by a message that someone wanted me in Mrs. Fairfax’s room.

This does not mean there was a baby in the attic. In fact, Jane attributes the dream to her childhood, but then, Jane has no idea what is going on in the attic, does she?

Jane’s dream also means that my imagining of the baby in the attic is not a feverish or absurd delusion. The baby is a result of reading between the lines of Jane Eyre. It is an account of what could have occurred in that attic, where the first Mrs Rochester was held prisoner for ten years, while her husband was away most of the time, galavanting with mistresses in the continent.

When I started writing the Eyre Hall Series in 2013, I had four characters in mind. Three first appeared in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, namely, Jane Eyre, Edward Rochester, and Richard Mason. The fourth belongs to my imagination: Annette Mason.

Annette Mason is meant to be a tribute to her mother, Bertha Antoinetta Mason. Her uncle, Richard Mason, has brought Annette to Eyre Hall for his own devious purposes, but from this author’s point of view, Annette has come to reinstate and vindicate her mother and face her mother’s rival: Jane Eyre Rochester. How will Jane react to Annette’s arrival, twenty-two years after her marriage to Edward Rochester? Well, you’ll have to read The Eyre Hall Series to find out!

Why not start with Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, Book One, and see if it’s for you?

You can read the first chapter on this blog post:

Find out more about Blood Moon at Eyre Hall here:

International link to Blood Moon at Eyre Hall here

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.

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#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!

 

 

#AtoZChallenge 2019 #Audiobooks ‘K’ is for Lisa Kleypas @LisaKleypas ‘The Ravenels and The Wallflowers’ @Scribd #HistoricalRomance

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

I love novels set in Vicrorian England and I enjoy reading romance, in between psychological thrillers and literary fiction, and I’ve found the perfect combination in Lisa Kleypas. She has written various series of historical romance, set in 19th century England, such as The Ravenel Series of four novels and The Wallflowers of five novels. In her latest novel, The Devil’s Daughter, The Ravenels meet The Wallflowers!

Lisa is ranked #10 bestselling kindle (US) author of historical romance, and the reason is she writes engaging and entertaining, well-written historical romance. On this occasion, I’ve listened to her  novels on Scribd, but they’re also available on Audible.

Lisa Kleypas

All her novels are standalones, but if you read them in order, it leads to a better reading experience, because the characters are related, either by family or friendship, so characters in previous books will appear in later titles.

I’d recommend you start with the first Ravenel book, published in 2015, which is also one of my favourites. By the way, aren’t those covers beautiful?

Cold-Hearted Rake audiobook cover art

Hello Stranger, published in 2018 is my favourite, perhaps because it was the first one I read and then I made my way back to the first three books in the series!

The female lead in Hello Stranger, Dr. Garrett Gibson, is a woman ahead of her time. She’s the only female physician in England, and is making herself respected in a man’s world. She’s intelligent, strong-willed, daring and independent. Ethan Ransom, a former detective for Scotland Yard, is a rumored assassin whose true loyalties are a mystery. They are both drawn into dangerous plot against the government.

Hello Stranger audiobook cover art

Her latest novel, Devil’s Daughter, is the delightful story of a widow with two young children and a reformed rake.

Devil's Daughter audiobook cover art

Lisa Kleypas’s historical novels have all the ingredients for an exciting and entertaining journey into Victorian England. The novels are well researched and plotted, with engaging heroes and heroines. Readers will visit Victorian London, from the dark alleyways and slums, gentlemen’s and gaming clubs, to stately town houses and horse rides in Regents Park, as well as travels to country estates. There are villains, rakes and other evil characters who battle against her main characters. You can also look forward to plenty of (unstressful) suspense, in spite of expecting a happy ending, because the journey towards the grand finale is so enjoyable.

Lisa Kleypas, like Jane Austen, is well aware that in 19th century England, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” And just like Jane Austen, that’s what she writes about, except in Kleypas’ case, the novels are more about assertive women fighting for love matches and independence in a world of marriages of convenience and gender inequality.

Most of her novels are read by Mary Jane Wells, who does all the accents and genders very nicely, although, as always, I would have prefered at least two narrators, for male and female voices, but I enjoyed listening to all of them as they are.

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Lisa Kleypas’ novels are especially for readers who want an escape from real 21st century life for a few hours, and enjoy historical romance set in Victorian England, with strong-willed female leads who overcome obstacles on their way to a happy marriage. A delightful indulgence!

Lasa Kleypas’s Audible Author Page

Lisa Kleypas’s Scribd author page

What? You’ve never read an Audiobook? Here are my 34 reasons why you should be reading audiobooks!

I’ll be reviewing an audiobook a day throughout April, so come back on Monday! There will be a round-up tomorrow!

Would you like to read about the other authors and audiobooks I’ve posted about during the challenge, which started on 1st April? Here they are!

Find out more about this blogging challenge here!

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Mogul’ and ‘Tycoon’ by @JoannaShupe #amreading #amreviewing

Thanks to a long weekend, an almost ten-hour car trip, and a few hours waiting in hospitals, visiting a relative, I’ve finished the Knickerbocker Series. I had already read books one and two, which I reviewed here last week.

Now I’ve completed book Three Mogul and Tycoon a novella.

I loved Mogul, and Tycoon was included too, as a bonus.

The novels are set mostly in New York at the end of the 19th century. The knickerbocker Club series includes strong-willed, independent women, and powerful men who pull the ropes in NY society of the time. Intriguing plots and plenty of twists and turns to keep readers turning pages.

Mogul is book three, but they can be read as standalones. A rich heiress, Lillian Davies, and a journalist who has worked his way up to become the owner of three major newspapers, Calvin Cabot, become involved in dangerous dealings with the Chinese Mafia, which leads to many exciting chapters.

It so happens that Lillian and Calvin had been married and later had their marriage annulled, sparks fly as they’re forced to work together leading and face their unsolved issues as they preserve their own integrity and that of the people they love.

It was wonderful to be immersed once again in 19th century New York and Joanna Shupe’s clever and enthralling story. 

Especially for lovers of historical romance, set in New York in the Gilded Age.

I also enjoyed Tycoon, my only objection being that it was too short! I would have loved to know more about the enchanting Clara Dobson, who grabs a stranger’s arm at Grand Central Station, in New York, pretending to be his wife, and asks him to help her. Fortunately for her, the man is Ted Harper, a gentleman, owner of one of the biggest banks in New York, and a member of the prestigious, albeit secret, Knickerbocker Club. On their two-day train journey to St. Louis, their mutual attraction will grow. Ted will gradually discover who she’s running away from and she’ll discover who Ted really is, too. 

A great short read for lovers of historical romance.

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Knickerbocker Club Series buy links US

Knickerbocker Club Series buy links UK

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Joanna Shupe has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels. In 2013, she won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

Follow Joanne Shupe on Twitter 

Visit Joanna’s Web Page 

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Follow Luccia Gray on Social Media:

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Check out Luccia Gray’s Books on Amazon 

#Book Tour & #Review ‘Her One True Love’ by @RachelBrimble for @BrookCottageBks

Her One True Love Tour Banner

HER ONE TRUE LOVE  BY RACHEL BRIMBLE

Genre: Victorian romance. Release Date: March 15th 2016.

Publisher:  eKensington/Lyrical Press

****

Blurb

She Can’t Forget Him…

Jane Charlotte Danes has loved the squire of her idyllic country town for as long as she can remember. He is good, kind, and alluring beyond words… and he chose to marry another. Tired of dwelling on her futile longings, Jane plans a move to Bath, where she dreams of a new beginning. But the man who has so imprisoned her heart is only a few steps behind…

He Can’t Let Her Go…

Until now, Matthew Cleaves has endeavoured to meet the responsibilities of his position with dignity and good spirits–including his dutiful marriage. But when his wife leaves him for another man, Matthew is at last free to pursue his one true love. Only one vital question remains: will the captivating, stubborn, beautiful Jane allow him the challenge, and the pleasure, of winning her back?

****

Cover One True Love

My Review

One of the reasons readers love historical novels is because they are transported to another time and place. in the case of historical romance, such as Her One True Love, readers are transported to 19th century Bath and a nearby village, Biddlestone. Bath, Biddlestone, and Victorian England in general, were places where most people lived according to strict rules and conventions. Marriages across social classes was frowned upon, so the Mathew, the Squire, had to marry a suitably rich lady, and the lower classes must marry amongst themselves. Love was ignored. Everyone seemed to agree with this ancient tradition, but Victorian England was a time of tradition and change, so people like Elizabeth, rebelled against this imposition and decided her marriage to Mathew was unsatisfactory, so she left him for another man.

Although Elizabeth is a minor character, I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t further developed, because I thought she had great potential. She came across as the catalyst for Mathew and Jane’s love. Mathew would have continued with the unsatisfactory marriage, following his family wishes if his wife hadn’t left him.

Mathew is perplexed, humiliated and distraught, at first, until he realises he is free, at last, to marry his ‘one true love’, whom he has known since they were children. Unfortunately, tired of waiting, Jane Danes now has other plans. She wants to break with all the social conventions which have tied her down and live her life independently in Bath.

As we follow her struggle to independence, we are sorry to witness the difficulties she had to face, and thankful that we were born two hundred years later, where such issues are no longer questioned.

Nothing comes easily to Jane, and that’s the interest of this novel. We struggle with her until she finally finds a rewarding occupation looking after poor children, as well as marriage to the man she loves. It is no secret this novel has a happy ending, the reader is encouraged to read on due to the interest in the characters, the plot, and the smooth writing style.

Her One True Love is a heart-warming, romantic read, especially for lovers of historical romance, who wish to be transported to Victorian England.

****

 

Me at Ashford2

ABOUT RACHEL BRIMBLE

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Since 2013, she has had five books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and recently signed a contract for three more.

She also has four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical and hoping to sign a new contract for further historical romances shortly.

When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family.

AUTHOR LINKS

Facebook: Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

Twitter: Twitter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

Website

Blog

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Her One True Love purchase links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

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Enter a GIVEAWAY for £15/$25 Amazon gift voucher HERE

 

 

 

#Author Spotlight @NicciMayne and #BookReview Full Circle for #RBRT

I recently reviewed Full Circle – A Duke Lost as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team (#RBRT)

NM Cover

My Review

This is a historical romance, set in Regency England. It has three main characters and four distinct parts.

The first part is a poetic and unhurried. It takes us through an intense and beautiful love story between a Duke and a young deaf girl. Bram is the honourable Duke of Bramford, who has fought for his country and is very loyal to the crown. The wedding had been arranged by his mother since the bride was two years old! Anna is an orphan who has been living practically on her own all this time, in an isolated castle in Scotland, waiting for her betrothed. When they meet, in her 18th year, they are both surprised to fall in love. I thought I was going to read a sweet, traditional romance, because their love story was drawn out in great detail. I didn’t mind, because I love historical romances, but I did wonder where the story would be going.

The second part of the plot moves on with the only obstacle to their happy marriage, namely Bram’s best friend, Michael, Earl of Milford, who thinks Bram should marry a richer and more worldly society lady. Surprisingly, Michael also falls in love with Anna, and although their friendship is threatened, Michael finally remains both their friends.

The plot then takes a third surprising twist (I can’t go into any detail without including a spoiler), and Anna will learn that her husband is not the man she thought he was, and that he has other priorities and duties in life, which exclude Anna and their children. Anne must turn to Michael for support, with Bram’s approval.

Finally, the title refers to the end of the story in which harmony is restored, at great emotional cost to all involved. It’s not a sad ending, although it’s not a perfect HEA either. I think it’s the best possible ending, although I can’t help feeling sorry for the way in which one of the characters is excluded from ‘the circle’.

The three main characters were engaging, and the plot, which was slow at first, moved on well in the second part. Especially for lovers of historical romance.

****

I asked Nicci if she would like to take part in an interview so we could know more about her and her, her novel, and writing process.

Quote-Nicci-Mayne_1000

This is your first published novel, and it’s set in Regency England. What is it about the Regency era that most interests you?

I’m going to tell you a little story about a dream I had many times before even having set foot in England:
Surrounded by village shops and treading a cobblestone street, I smile to myself. A feeling of absolute pleasure comes over me. I love everything about the quintessential English style. The higgledy-piggeldy street starts to incline and I look up towards an emerald green hill. A winding path leads up to a church of magnificent proportions. A proud steeple signals a hearty welcome. I approach with eagerness. But with every desperate step I take, the church seems further and further out of my reach…
I came to England having stored this in a remote part of my subconscious. When I visited Chesterfield, the dream came rushing back to me. If you have not been there before, the town has an ordinary church with the most extraordinary twisted spire, both of human and natural creation. At that very moment, I realised I had truly found my home. England.
And if you know anything about English people or culture, you know that that spire is more than just a bizarre piece of architecture. It is wholly unique and yet considered. Inconsequential and yet determined. Beautiful. Like it’s people.
It has a history that can be felt in the rhythm of it’s pulse.

Is your plot based on any real historical event or people?

I have worked for twenty years in social care and, for much of that time, I have had the privilege of knowing people who have overcome adversity and have challenged the cruel hand that life has dealt them. I admire these people for their fight and optimism. But it wasn’t until I watched a movie made by deaf children to help people who can hear understand what life is like for them that I realised deaf people are inspirational and truly lovely and positive people.
I then reached out to deaf people using social media and read some of their stories. I was especially touched by a piece written by Christina Hartmann. She describes a world of deafness that has shaped her life into something quite beautiful and personal. Her world is clearly hers and hers alone to cherish and enjoy. She wrote:

“Make no mistake: my deafness was no curse. It shaped my perspective of the world, and I’m glad for it. For me, deafness opened up new worlds, rather than the other way around”.
I encourage you to find Christina’s personal account called ‘What it is like to be deaf from birth’.

What are the challenges facing authors of historical novels?

First and foremost, Anachronisms. If you have never heard of this very wicked word, the best way to explain it is by giving you an example of my own close call- in Full Circle- A Duke Lost, the Duke’s best friend, Michael, is having a full-on rant about the major mistake the Duke will be making if he marries Anna. Michael goes on to say:
“Don’t do it man. Every eligible beauty between here and London is ready to be set before you to be savoured and selected, each and every one resplendent in this season’s finery and primed to please. The one you are hell bent on has baggage, a heaping pile of baggage the size of the Matterhorn.”
Originally, this read “a heaping pile of baggage the size of the Kilimanjaro.”
Fortunately, my editor, Jacqui, is not only a linguist extraordinaire, but an English history enthusiast and she knew that Mount Kilimanjaro would not have been well-known during the period Full Circle is set in. She also uses Census information to research the names I use for characters to ensure they are ‘period appropriate’. Perhaps the moral of the story is that behind every good author is a ‘Jacqui’.
This leads onto the next set of challenges:
Historical accuracy vs. the use of creative license (where would a romance novel be without creative license… snooze fest!).
Too many descriptive paragraphs vs. too few (how much is too much, how little is too few?) and then, my arch-nemesis,
To use the Queen’s English or something a little more universal (I vote for “ma’am” as in “farm”, and not “ma’am” as in “jam”, but this is apparently not everyone’s cup of tea!)

Which writers have inspired you as an author?

I first read Pride and Prejudice as a teen. Now, you may not be surprised by this, after all, Jane Austen is probably many, many people’s first waltz with period romance. But South African teen’s are no ordinary teens, not those born in the ‘70’s anyway. I had a very sheltered life. My idea of a good man was one who worked hard, mowed the lawn on a weekend, knew how to ‘braai’ (barbecue) and at some point in his life had played rugby. Needless to say Mr. Darcy, made my pulse race.
After that I couldn’t get enough of period books. Although Pride and Prejudice will always have a special place in my heart, Forest Lovers by Maurice Hewlett is my absolute favourite. Set in the medieval times in a dream world, Maurice Hewlett describes an awe-inspiring love.

What are you working on now?

Hedgerows & the Imperious Duke’ is a period novel that tells the story of two unique people: Shael Nathan Averay, 11th Duke of Stanthorpe, born to wealth and expectation. However, he is no ordinary member of the aristocracy and is prone to extreme peculiarities which are not tolerated amongst the ton. He doesn’t blame anyone for detesting his company; he feels the same way about himself. Although alone and absolute, self-pity is just not part of his vocabulary. In fact, he feels little for anyone. He knows he is a monster.

The Duke resigns himself to the life of a recluse. But he does not take into account the fifth and youngest of the girls he has earmarked to be the future wives of his brothers- Nelle- an untamed, playful and nature-loving sprite who makes it her personal mission to show the Duke a life previously unknown to him. Unexpectedly, Nelle’s life is not what it appears to be on the surface and the Duke’s poor social skills, joined with his insular nature, means that he fails to recognise a kindred, suffering soul. Will he be in time to save her?

Well, you will have to read the book! But, I can tell you this, these star-crossed lovers make my tummy turn and their cruel circumstance made my editor extraordinaire cry…

Nicci Picture
What would you like readers to know about you?

I suppose I could tell you that which you could read on any of my networking site (trained social worker, studied psychology, love my family, love my dogs, love England), but instead, I will tell you a few select things that will help you understand why I can write about adversity:
~ I am convinced I can feel my eyebrows growing, like aliens on my face. I have Googled this phenomenon and can’t find anyone like me. It doesn’t feel good to be different.
~ I am obsessive about clean and clear surfaces. Order and control are biggies for me. I understand that feeling vulnerable can make you feel a little doolally.
~ I had very bad early childhood experiences. I know what it is like to feel ‘little’ in a very big world.
~ I believe Lattes are a key source of essential nutrients.

Where can readers find out more or contact you?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NicciMayne.givelifeago/?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NicciMayne
BingBing: http://www.thebingbing.com/niccimayne
Email: niccimayne.givelifeago@gmail.com

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Full-Circle-Duke-Nicci-Mayne-x/dp/1515271269/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452808804&sr=8-1&keywords=nicci+mayne
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011Z3UZF0?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/593044

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Thank you for stopping by, Nicci. It was a pleasure getting to know you better.

Letter E The April A to Z Blogging Challenge #AtoZChallenge

 April Author Spotlight 2015

Letter ‘E’ is for Frances Evesham author of An Independent Woman

E

Why do I recommend An Independent Woman?

An Independent Woman is an entertaining, moving, and exciting, historical romance. The novel is beautifully written with prose that flows smoothly, enticing the reader to turn the pages. There are just enough descriptive elements to submerge the reader comfortably in Victorian England, moving effortlessly from foggy, filthy London to the tranquil countryside. I loved the first chapters, when the heroine was disguised as a young boy in order to escape from London. We are also introduced to other mysterious, demanding, frivolous, and villainous characters, in a gothic mansion with a life of its own, Thatcham Hall. You will enjoy this novel if you are interested in Victorian England, wrapped up in an enjoyable parcel of mystery, action, and romance.

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What’s your novel about, Frances?

An Independent Woman is the tale of Philomena; a determined orphan from the slums of Victorian London, with a habit of tumbling from one disastrous plan to another, haunted by terrifying dreams of a man with cold green eyes. Impatient with the social conventions she encounters in the great English country house, Thatcham Hall, she meets and crosses swords with the handsome, widowed Lord Thatcham, complicating life still further by falling for a man with secrets of his own.

When I write, I imagine I’m sitting beside a roaring fire with a glass of wine, swapping stories with someone who, like me, loves the intrigue of Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh, the period feel of Georgette Heyer and the tension of Victoria Holt. We enjoy Midsomer Murders and never miss a moment of Downton Abbey.

What are you working on now?

The second book in the Thatcham Hall series is Danger at Thatcham Hall, a murder mystery, due for publication later this year.

Set three years after An Independent Woman, the story introduces Nelson, an embittered ex-soldier and lawyer and Olivia, a poor relation of Lord Thatcham, who dreads life as a Victorian governess and longs to make an unconventional living as a pianist and composer.

Together, they stumble on a body. Is the farmhand’s death a simple accident, or something more sinister? Who attacked the livestock at the Hall and why are the villagers so reluctant to talk? Can Nelson and Olivia overcome their differences and join forces to unravel the web of evil that imperils the Hall?

Frances cropped

 What would you like readers to know about you?

I write 19th Century historical mystery romances set in Victorian England, enjoy my growing collection of grandsons (number four due soon) and wish I’d kept on with those piano lessons.

I collect Victorian ancestors and historical trivia, love to smell roses, lavender and rosemary, and cook, with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other.

I’ve been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend, a road sweeper and an intermediary in the criminal courts. Now, when I can tear myself away from the Victorian world of Thatcham Hall, I like to walk in the countryside and breathe sea air in Somerset.

How can we find out more or contact you?

My Website/blog

Twitter

Facebook:

Amazon Author page:

An Independent Woman: Amazon UK  and Amazon US

The Wild Rose Press:

 

I first read and reviewed this wonderful novel some months ago as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team. Check out Rosie’s wonderful blog to find reviews, readers, writers, and much more!

Rosie is also taking part in the A-Z Challenge with great posts on main characters of the books she’s read.

Please take some time to check out some of the other blogs on the A-Z Challenge. There are plenty of interesting and varied topics.