– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Search For The House of Dreams’ blogtour, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
I was born in Lancashire and started my career by training as a State Registered general nurse. Later, I joined the army and became an officer in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. On a posting to Malaya, now Malaysia, I found my true love. This was an ideal setting for a marriage with young children, and now my memories are a wonderfully rich source of material for my writing.
It is the year 1847 in the elegant city of Bath where 18yr old Genevre Stratton is treated more as a servant than a daughter in the elegant house where bills are not paid, and the rent is in arrears. Appalled by the dishonesty and overriding social ambition beneath her parents’ veneer of respectability, only her love for her younger brother and sisters keeps her there. Left to cope alone when their false world falls apart, she fights to keep her siblings together, until poverty forces her to yield them to the care of their half-brother, George Coleman. Handsome, wealthy and charismatic, he is the enemy who becomes her lover. To surrender all to her passionate desire for him, or to keep the independence of a new-found musical career on the London stage? This is her is her choice to make, until an unexpected call of duty takes her to Paris. Must the old, dark secrets she discovers there alter the course of her life forever?
What happens here leads to the heroine, Genevre, going to London instead of her sister Barbara and meeting the enemy who will become her lover. Here, left alone by her selfish parents to look after Barbara, dangerously ill with a fever, she has sent for a doctor.
He came into the room, a tired, heavy old man in a shabby greatcoat.
‘Miss Stratton,’ he greeted me and explained that he had been delayed by a difficult confinement. He went to the other side of the bed to hold Barbara’s wrist and I didn’t know if the tremor in his hand was due to exhaustion or some other reason. I saw him bite his lip as he felt her racing pulse.
‘Her hair’s keeping the heat in her scalp,’ he said gruffly. ‘It’ll have to come off.’
I stared at him, shocked. Barbara’s hair was a tangled mess now, but when she was well it fell over her shoulders like a golden cloak.
‘Her hair has never been cut. My parents wouldn’t accept that it was necessary.’
He interrupted sharply, ‘They’ll likely have to accept the loss of a daughter if something isn’t done to break the fever. You have scissors, do you?’
Terrified, I turned to the nearby sewing box and snatched up the dressmaking shears, gathered up a handful of her hair, then hesitated.
I felt tears come to my eyes and he said, more kindly, ‘Give the scissors to me. Your parents can’t blame you then,’ but I could not trust Barbara to his unsteady hand and set about cutting off her hair as near to the scalp as I could manage.
When the job was done, he came to my side of the bed, took off his greatcoat, rolled up his shirt sleeves, took the sponge, sodden with cold water, and slopped it over Barbara’s head, ignoring her moans of protest. Water ran everywhere, the pillow was soaked, and he set about drenching the rest of her through her cotton shift. ‘I’ll trouble you for more cold water, Miss Stratton and then you’d best take a rest while you have the chance,’ he told me, and I hurried down to the kitchen, where pails of water from the pump in the yard were lined up on the draining board ready for the morning. I filled two large enamel jugs to the brim and took them up by the back stairs, struggling under the weight. Relieved when the doctor said that would be sufficient, I lay down on the other bed and fell into an exhausted sleep.
It was almost an hour later when I heard Barbara calling my name and was by her bed in time to see her blue eyes flutter open. Her forehead was cool to the touch, the doctor smiling with relief.
‘We will never know if it was the medicine, the water or the hand of God that’s pulled her through, but you can close the window and we’ll get her bed changed.’
We pulled the wet sheets and pillow from beneath her and replaced them with the dry ones from the other bed, put her into a fresh nightdress and tucked in the bedclothes.
‘You do not have the appearance of sisters,’ he remarked as he was putting on his greatcoat to leave.
I was used to people remarking on the difference between us. Barbara was small, fair and prettily curved. I was tall for a girl, skinny and with a darker complexion, my hair and eyes very dark.
‘Barbara and the rest of the family are like my father. My mother is from the south of France. I believe I have taken after her side.’
‘And very nice too, if I may say so. How old are you, Miss Stratton? Seventeen? Eighteen. I thought so. A lovely young woman on the threshold of life!’ he remarked with an unexpected touch of gallantry. I felt my colour rise and I glanced away, unused to compliments.
After he had gone, I was too nervous to close my eyes again and sat on the upright wooden chair beside Barbara’s bed, watching in case the fever came back. She slept peacefully, but only when the night faded to early morning light and I heard the clock strike five did I feel it was safe to lie down on the bare mattress of the other bed, pull the blanket over myself and fall asleep.
There was a sudden cry, almost a scream, and I started up, wide-awake. Our mother was standing beside Barbara’s bed, her eyes wild, her beautiful face distorted by a look of horror. For a dreadful moment, I thought the worst had happened, that the fever had returned and taken Barbara while I slept. Then, as I reached the bedside, I saw she was awake, starting to cry as her small, pale hand reached up to feel her cropped hair. Relief swept over me even as our mother turned on me.
‘What have you done? Her beautiful hair gone. Ruined, spoiled forever. You wicked girl. Why did you do such a thing? Why? Why are you so stupid?’
She was likely to shout anything in a temper. I was used to that, used to placating her when she was in the wrong. Now, after the night of anguish I had endured, this was too much. I lost control just as our father came into the room. His anxious glance flickered over Barbara, then he hurried to our mother’s side and put a protective arm around her.
‘She was ill, Mama,’ I cried. ‘The fever was so bad that the doctor said it was the only way to cool her down. To save her! I had tried everything else. What was supposed to do?’
My mother flung herself against my father’s shoulder.
Her French accent, barely perceptible at other times, was pronounced as she sobbed, ‘Charles, what are we to do? Barbara was to go to London with dear Gertrude Oliphant in less than a week’s time. Gertrude has been so good to us and she has asked just this one little thing, that Barbara accompany her. And now she will not be able to go. Not like this with her pretty looks ruined by a jealous sister.’
The Magic of Wor(l)ds