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).
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 sheis 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?
It was with sadness that I clicked on the ‘unpublish’ button on My KDP Bookshelf yesterday morning. So now, if you go to my Amazon Author page you will not be able to purchase my novels in ebook format any more. But, fear not, remember, ‘All’s well that ends well’!
This was the banner I created in 2016, when I published the third and final novel in my series, Midsummer at Eyre Hall. It’s been almost five years since that happened, and seven years since I published my first novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. It’s been a wonderful journey as an independent author, improving my writing skills, learning about self-publishing, blogging, networking with other authors, readers and reviewers, and marketing, because an indie author has to do it all, and/or outsource to others.
When I started writing All Hallows at Eyre Hall, my sequel to Jane Eyre, I had four characters, Mrs Rochester (nee Jane Eyre) Mr Edward Rochester, Mr Richard Mason and Miss Annette Mason, in a setting, Eyre Hall, in Yorkshire, rebuilt by Jane, on the site of Thornfield Hall, after it was burnt down and she married Mr Rochester, on a specific date, twenty-two years after their marriage in October 1865, while Mr Rochester is on his deathbed. I had a very vague plot; Richard Mason was to bring Bertha Mason, Edward’s first wife’s daughter, Annette, born in the attic, while she was imprisoned at Thornfield Hall, back to England, from Jamaica, where she had been living, under his supervision, to blackmail Jane Eyre.
Plotter, Pantser or Plantser?
I began my first novel as a ‘pantser’; I sat down and wrote All Hallows at Eyre Hall, with no attention to plot structure or character arc. I had my characters, location and one specific plot line, and I wrote with the naïve confidence that it would all work out in the end. I started writing, during my summer holidays in 2013 (I was working as a teacher at the time), by September, I realised it would be a trilogy, because although there was one main plot, there were plenty of linked sub plots, and over twenty characters had come into play.
I also realised I needed a plan to keep all the plot lines, character arcs, and events in place, so I decided to plot my novels, but I didn’t become a plotter, I became a plantser. This means I prepare an outline of my novel, with scenes and chapters, and then I write, but I’m not a slave to my plot. The plot guides me to a destination, but my characters decide if they want to follow the plan or rewrite it with their own ideas. I literally go with my character’s flow. The end product looks like the original plot, but it’s never the same, and that’s the beauty of plantsing; you get the best of both worlds.
All Hallows was a learning experience. Writing this novel taught me my strengths and weaknesses, and learning from them helped me become a better writer. It’s not my favourite novel (yes, I do have a favourite, and some of you already know which one it is), but it is the most special, because by writing this novel, I discovered the best writing process for me.
I wrote and published a book a year after All Hallows. By trial and error I found two great editors, one in the UK and one in the US, several fabulous cover designers, I learnt something about selling and marketing books, and a lot about the self-publishing business, thanks to many generous people on YouTube, specialised blogs and other social media. I learnt to format and upload my books as ebooks and paperbacks on Amazon, and dabble in a bit of marketing, at a very basic level. It has been an exhausting, but hugely rewarding enterprise, I had never even imagined lay ahead of me when I started writing.
Everything changed in 2020
So, what happened in 2020? Actually, it all started in 2019, when I took early retirement from teaching in September and decided to write full time. I expected to have more time for my literary pursuits, but starting in December 2019, everything went downhill. It was a very complex year for personal and family reasons. There were births, illness, marriage and divorce in the family to cope with, as well as Covid-19, and although ideas were bursting to be written, they were put on hold, as I attended to the urgent matters in my family’s lives.
Everything changed again in the autumn of 2020. Suddenly, I had all the time in the world to write, due to partial lockdown, and the personal and family issues were well on the mend, so I resumed my neglected writing career with full force. This means that The Eyre Hall Trilogy has gradually become The Eyre Hall Series, an idea which had been in my mind, and partly on paper, for some time.
The first new instalment is Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, The new Book One in the series.
This led to a third edition of All Hallows at Eyre Hall, which has become Book Two. The series continues with a second, revised edition of Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, which has become Book Three of the Eyre Hall Series.
I reached a major hurdle when it came to Midsummer at Eyre Hall, which covered over ten years and has now become three books: Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall, Book Four of The Eyre Hall Series.
And finally, Midsummer at Eyre Hall is now Book Six in the Eyre Hall Series.
So The Eyre Hall Trilogy has become The has become The Eyre Hall Series with six books.
The first four novels are complete, but in various stages of editing and formatting. The last two are still in early drafts. I hope to publish Book One, Blood Moon at Eyre Hall in July, and the following books will be published one a month until the whole series and Box Set will be complete by December, 2021.
This being the case, I thought it best to unpublish the original trilogy. For those who have read The Eyre Hall Trilogy, I suggest two options; you could reread the whole new series (The box set of six books will have a very special price). Otherwise, if you remember the plot, you can take up the story after Twelfth Night, because there are no major changes up to the end of this novel, and read the last three books, which are new. If you’re still not sure, drop me a line at the email below, or in the comments.
Finally, if any of you would like to be the first to read Blood Moon at Eyre Hall, Book One in The Eyre Hall Series, please let me know, so I can get in touch personally, either in the comments below, or email me at email@example.com so I can send you an ARC.
This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts, and concerns about our profession. By the way, all writers are invited to join in!
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
May 5 question – Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?
Have my readers’ responses surprised me? Definitely!
I have over a hundred written reviews on Amazon, and over two hundred reviews on Goodreads, which may not seem like a lot, but it never ceases to amaze me. The fact that so many readers, people I don’t know and who may never have heard of me, a relatively little known author, in a vast ocean of millions of books and writers, have been motivated to read my books and taken the trouble to write a review, amazes me.
I feel encouraged by the good reviews, which fortunately account for the majority, and that used to surprise me when I started publishing, seven years ago, in 2014, because I was very insecure!
I used to feel upset when I got a negative review, again, because I was very insecure, but now I’m less insecure and I appreciate them too, because some are useful, and at least they all count as reviews!
At first, I was surprised that so many readers disliked my novel because they thought I had treated Mr Rochester too harshly. In my defense, I’d say I didn’t lock him in a windowless attic, or make him suffer any physical torture! He lived a good life, with his wife and son, even though he went back to some of his old ways.
I mean, locking your wife in an attic in dire conditions, hidden from everyone (in spite of being a moneyed heiress), and pretending you’re single to the point of intending bigamy (until your wedding was interrupted at the altar) with an innocent nineteen-year-old, is pretty objectionable behaviour, even for 19th century standards.
On the other hand, I can appreciate the fact that Mr Rochester has been an icon of passionate love, aka the brooding Byronic hero/lover, who is brought to his feet due to the love of a ‘good’ woman, for almost 200 years, but that’s due to an erroneous interpretation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Jane Eyre is the protagonist the reader should root for, not Rochester. Jane is the independent, resourceful and single-minded nineteen-year-old woman who stood up to a manipulative rake and won him over on her terms, with her money (Spoiler alert: at the end of the novel she becomes an heiress herself), once he was a widower, and once she had made her way in the world working and living on her own, a feat not all women achieve, even nowadays.
I’d love to continue to be surprised by my readers, and I hope to surprise them too with more novels. I started by writing The Eyre Hall which will become The Eyre Hall Series shortly, as two new novels, Blood Moon at Eyre Hall and Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall are coming soon!
Take a look at my provisional banner, I’m still making changes and adapting the covers. Do you like them?
If you’d like to read or reread Jane Eyre, I’m posting one chapter a week, every Friday, in flash fiction, directly from the original novel, for readers who prefer to read an abridged version, here, just click on the banner below:
Writing the first draft of the fourth novel, which is the prequel to the Eyre Hall Trilogy, my sequel to Jane Eyre, was challenging but fun. The exploration of the characters’ backstories and the gradual unveiling of the plot was thrilling. But editing is another story.
I am currently grinding my teeth and pulling out my hair, because I’m sending my editor the second and final edit on Monday.
Why does self-editing get more difficult with every novel I write? Answers in the comments, please!
Meanwhile, I’m taking a brief break to post a short extract from Chapter 12 of Blood Moon at Eyre Hall. Narrated by Michael, Mrs Rochester’s valet.
“My husband’s first wife, was a very unfortunate woman. It pains me to remember her.”
Mrs Rochester turned to me. “You look surprised, Michael. So was I when I met her, just once.”
Her eyes followed the tumbling flight of the chestnut leaves blowing across the lawn. “The leaves remind me of some lines from Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind, ‘If I were a dead leaf, Or a swift cloud to fly with thee, Uncontrollable in my wanderings, Oh, lift me like a wave, a leaf, a cloud!’”
She sighed and closed her eyes. “’I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!’ Or words to that effect.”
I had read her copy of ‘Prometheus Unbound’ many times. “The last line reads something like, ‘When winter passes, can spring be far behind?’”
Her face bloomed like a summer rose. “Indeed, Michael; the calm after the storm, the annual rebirth of life. Perhaps spring will bring new hope.”
I received this image as a recommendation from Pixabay, which is a wonderful site where many generous amateur and professional photographers offer their photos at no cost (there are also photos you have to pay for).
The image immediately brought words and thoughts to my mind, which I’ve captured and made into a haiku.
January has always been a tough month for me for many reasons, mainly the anticlimax after the Christmas and New Year Holidays, the return to work, the cold temperatures, and this year there is the added challenge because of covid restrictions and worries.
Fortunately, there are only ten more days to get to February, a nice, short month which leads on to March and the promise of spring. So hang on in there!
This January I’m giving myself time to plan. I’m still organising the year ahead, trying to establish and follow a blog and writing schedule, as well as a daily routine that works for me. But it’s an ongoing process because there’s a lot on my plate; a new novel in my Eyre Hall series and a box set, new blog features, looking into traditionally publishing a contemporary romantic thriller I finished last year, and so on.
I’m sowing seeds, despite the snow. Who knows which ones will grow and when? But life’s like that, nothing is guaranteed and yet everything is possible. That’s January for you!
All Hallows at Eyre Hall has seven main characters, Jane Eyre Rochester, Edward Rochester, Richard Mason, Annette Mason, Michael Kirkpatrick, John Rochester and Adele Varens, although there are about thirty-eight other secondary characters, 16 created by Charlotte Bronte, which appeared in Jane Eyre, and 16 characters which are unique to The Eyre Hall Trilogy.
I just love this image, sandwiched between Thomas Hardy and Elizabeth Gaskell. You can’t get more Victorian than that!
Characters mentioned in Jane Eyre and All Hallows at Eyre Hall:
Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre, Richard Mason, Leah, Adele Varens, Bertha Mason, Dr. Carter, Mr Briggs, Mrs. Diana Rivers, Mary Rivers, St John Rivers, Captain Fitzjames, Mr Wharton, Mrs Alice Fairfax, Mr Fairfax, Mr Woods.
Note: Jane’s Aunt Reed and cousins Georgina and John are briefly mentioned, but they do not appear in All Hallows (her Aunt and John died in Jane Eyre).
In any case, none of the original characters are exactly the same as they were in Jane Eyre, twenty-two years have passed, so their lives have changed and their characters have developed over time and they been recreated in my own imagination.
The following table will help you see this transition from Jane Eyre to All Hallows at Eyre Hall.
In Jane Eyre
In All Hallows at Eyre Hall
He was the master of Thornfield Hall and the Rochester Estate. He was about forty years old and claimed to be a bachelor with no children.
He’s about 65 and on his death bed. He’s still the master of the Rochester Estate and also of Eyre Hall. He claims to have only one son, John Rochester.
She was a 19 year-old governess, who married her employer, Mr Rochester.
She’s 42 and becomes a widow during the novel. She is a novelist and philanthropist, who is concerned with the well-being of young orphans and the education of children.
An English landowner who lived in the British colony of Jamaica. He was Bertha Mason’s brother (step-brother according to Wide Sargasso Sea) and he interrupted Jane and Rochester’s wedding, exposing him as a bigamist.
He still lives in Jamaica, but he has squandered his family fortune and has returned to blackmail Jane, after Rochester’s death. He knows more of Rochester’s secrets, which are still unknown to Jane.
Mr Rochester’s 10-year-old ward, who was born and brought up in France. She was most probably Rochester’s illegitimate daughter, and her surname is Varens, like her mother, a French opera singer, who was Rochester’s mistress.
She is a 32 year-old spinster, who is still living with Mr Rochester and Jane, searching for the love of her life and looking forward to meeting her mother who is living in Italy, before she dies.
She was a young servant when Jane Eyre arrived at Thornfield.
Mrs. Leah is the housekeeper at Eyre Hall. She is a spinster who is about Jane’s age.
Bertha Antionette Mason
Mrs Rochester. She was Mr Rochester’s first wife, whom he locked in their attic claiming she was insane. She allegedly burnt Thornfield and jumped from the battlements to her death.
She is mentioned as Annette Mason’s mother, whom she gave birth to while she was in the attic.
He was Mr Rochester’s private physician.
He is still the Rochester family doctor, who currently resides at Ferndean, Mr Rochester’s manor house. He is about Mr Rochester’s age. He has one son who is studying medicine.
He was a London solicitor who interrupted Jane and Rochester’s first marriage attempt, at Richard Mason’s instance, and later informed Jane that her uncle had died and she had inherited his fortune.
He is a solicitor who works in London and is employed frequently by Mr Rochester.
Miss Diana Rivers
Jane’s cousin, whom she met by chance after leaving Thornfield. Diana and her siblings take Jane in when Jane is homeless and penniless after leaving Mr Rochester on finding out he was married. She marries Captain Fitzjames. She is Mary and St John’s sister.
Mrs Fitzjames. She is married to Admiral Fitzjames. She employed Michael’s mother as a seamstress and took the orphaned Michael and Susan for holidays at her house. Jane met Michael and Susan on a visit to Diana’s home at Christmas. They have no children.
Miss Mary Rivers
Jane’s cousin, whom she meets by chance and takes her in at Morton, when Jane is homeless and penniless after leaving Mr Rochester on finding out he was married. She marries clergyman, Mr Wharton. She is Diana and St John’s sister.
Mrs. Wharton is a clergyman’s wife. They have moved to Wales, where he has found a good position. They visit Jane once a year, usually at Christmas. They are childless.
St John Rivers
Mary and Diana’s brother. He is a clergyman. He proposes to Jane, but she rejects him. He leaves for the colonies in India as a missionary and never returns to England.
He is only mentioned, but he has not returned to England and is still in India.
Mr Rochester’s housekeeper whose husband was related to his mother, née Fairfax.
She is only mentioned.
He was a clergyman who was related to Mr Rochester’s mother, whose surname was Fairfax, thus Mr Rochester’s middle name was Fairfax.
He is only mentioned, but a letter written by Mr Rochester to Mr Fairfax, shortly after his marriage to Bertha Mason, is an important document in All Hallows.
He was the local clergyman at the church on the Rochester Estate. He married Jane and Rochester.
He is very elderly now, but he is still clergyman on the Rochester Estate church.
He is briefly mentioned as Jane’s cousin, Diana’s, husband.
He is now retired Admiral Fitzjames. Michael and Susan’s father died while on a mission on his frigate.
He is briefly mentioned as a Clergyman who married Jane’s cousin Mary Rivers.
He is briefly mentioned in All Hallows.
Characters which are unique to All Hallows at Eyre Hall:
John Eyre Rochester, Michael Kirkpatrick, Susan Kirkpatrick, Annette Mason, Bishop Templar, Mr. Greenwood, Jenny Rosset, Nell Rosset, Thomas Rosset, Simon, Beth, Christy, Mr Raven, Mr Cooper, Mr Tempest, and The Sin Eater, Isac das Junot.
Annette Mason. She was born in Thornfield Hall. Mr Rochester denies being the father, although he was married to Bertha Mason, who was locked in the attic, when Annette was born, so, if he is not lying, her father’s identity is, as yet, unknown.
Her uncle, Richard Mason, who had taken her with him to Jamaica, as a baby, brought her back to England to claim her birthright when Mr. Rochester was dying.
John Rochester. He is Jane and Rochester’s son. He is 21. He is studying Law at Oxford and he is engaged to Elizabeth Harwood, the daughter of a London Judge. Elizabeth is mentioned, but she does not appear in the novel as she is ill throughout the novel.
Michael Kirkpatrick. He is Jane’s faithful valet, who has been employed at Eyre Hall since he was fifteen, nine years ago. Jane met him at her cousin, Diane’s home and offered him and his sister, Susan, a job at Eyre Hall.
Susan Kirkpatrick,is Michael’s younger sister. She started working as a maid and is now teaching at the Sunday and Parish school, although she still lives at Eyre Hall.
Jenny Rosset claims to be s a widow with two young children,Nell and Thomas. She is about Jane’s age and she works at the George Inn occasionally and sometimes she works as a prostitute for wealthy clients. She knows some secrets about both Thronfield and Eyre Hall.
Mr. Greenwood is a widowed London poet who has been courting Adele. They have been exchanging letters for months and he has been invited to stay at Eyre Hall and meet Adele and her family. He has offered to marry Adele and accompany her to Venice to be reunited with her mother Celine Varens.
Simon is a clumsy servant at Eyre Hall. He is Mr Rochester’s valet.
Beth and Christy are two maids who work at Eyre Hall.
Mr Raven is the owner of the Rochester Arms, the only pub on the Rochester estate. The Sin Eater, Isac das Junot, is a mysterious, supernatural character who appears in every book of the trilogy when someone has died. He makes prophesies and scares the life out of most people who cross his path.
Mr Cooper is Mr Rochester’s accountant and Mr Tempest is the Undertaker.
Hi again! Sorry if I seem persistent, but this will be my last post reminding you that my novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, the sequel to Jane Eyre, and Book 1 of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, is free today, for the last day.
So, if you were thinking of purchasing it, hurry because today is your last chance! Follow this link!
I’d also like to thank those of you who have already downloaded your free copy, because thanks to you, All Hallows at Eyre Hallhas reached third position on Amazon’s Best Sellers for Historical Thrillers in the USA.
It has also reached second position on Amazon UK for the Victorian, Historical Romance category of free books, so I’m naturally thrilled.
In Spain it’s number one in Romance in English, right next to Jane Eyre, which is a real treat for my eyes!
I’m also thrilled that it’s in third position in Canada in Victorian Historical Romance, which is a wonderful discovery. I was in Montreal, some years ago and loved the city, but I have no friends there at all, so it’s a lovely surprise to know I have readers in Canada!
So, it’s been a really great promotion as far as visibility and publicity goes. Fingers crossed buyers will also be readers and hopefully reviewers!
It’s not easy being an Independent author, there’s a lot of work to be done which has nothing to do with creative writing, such as formatting, promotion and marketing, but it’s also empowering to make your own decisions and control the process from writing the novel to reaching the readers’ kindles and hopefully minds!
If you’ve read it or are in the process of doing so, I’d love to know about your experience as a reader of 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?”
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
In my previous post I wrote about my inspiration and reasons for writing The Eyre Hall Trilogyand why Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte needed a sequel, which would incorporate the themes and characters in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and take the story one step further into the next generation, twenty-two years later.
I had four objectives in mind as I wrote The Eyre Hall Trilogy:
Firstly, my aim was to expose Rochester as a tyrant and revindicate Bertha Mason as his first victim.
Secondly, I wanted to make sure that amends would be made, so Bertha’s daughter, Annette Mason (my literary creation), would be reinstated.
Thirdly, I wanted Jane to realise that Rochester had been a villain and to find love again.
Fourthly, I have loved Victorian fiction since I started reading, about 46 years ago! I have looked to my favourite writers for inspiration. The Eyre Hall Trilogy is meant as a tribute to the following Victorian (and some 20th century) authors and their literary creations, who have all influenced the characters and events which appear in some form or other in my trilogy. To name a few; Mary Shelley, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rosetti, Elizabeth Barrat Browning, Robert Browning, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas de Quincey, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Daphne du Maurier, Jean Rhys, and so many more, whose works are firmly lodged in my literary mind.
Finally, I aim to write novels that will entertain and engage readers by transporting them to another time and place, to a pre-digital and pre-electronic age, where our great-great grandparents lived and loved, just as intensely as we do today, in spite of not having light-blubs, modern bathrooms or kitchens, cars, phones or tablets.
The Eyre Hall Trilogyare three fast-paced, entertaining, historical novels, with gothic elements, suspense and romance, which I hope contemporary readers will enjoy.
If as a result of reading my novels, my readers are encouraged to read or reread Victorian novels, such as Jane Eyre, (as many have told me), that is an extra bonus!
Important news! Freebie over the Halloween weekend!
Book One of The Eyre Hall Trilogy, (International link follows) All Hallows at Eyre Hallwill be free for the first time on kindle deals to coincide with Halloween, from 29th October to the 2nd November. Make sure you download your copy!