– ‘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 ‘Where Your Treasure Is’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
M. C. Bunn grew up in a house full of books, history, and music. “Daddy was a master storyteller. The past was another world, but one that seemed familiar because of him. He read aloud at the table, classics or whatever historical subject interested him. His idea of bedtime stories were passages from Dickens, Twain, and Stevenson. Mama told me I could write whatever I wanted. She put a dictionary in my hands and let me use her typewriter, or watch I, Claudius and Shoulder to Shoulder when they first aired on Masterpiece Theatre. She was the realist. He was the romantic. They were a great team.”
Where Your Treasure Is, a novel set in late-Victorian London and Norfolk, came together after the sudden death of the author’s father. “I’d been teaching high school English for over a decade and had spent the summer cleaning my parents’ house and their offices. It was August, time for classes to begin. The characters emerged out of nowhere, sort of like they knew I needed them. They took over.”
She had worked on a novella as part of her master’s degree in English years before but set it aside, along with many other stories. “I was also writing songs for the band I’m in and had done a libretto for a sacred piece. All of that was completely different from Where Your Treasure Is. Before her health declined, my mother heard Treasure’s first draft and encouraged me to return to prose. The novel is a nod to all the wonderful books my father read to us, the old movies we stayed up to watch, a thank you to my parents, especially Mama for reminding me that nothing is wasted. Dreams don’t have to die. Neither does love.”
When M. C. Bunn is not writing, she’s researching or reading. Her idea of a well-appointed room includes multiple bookshelves, a full pot of coffee, and a place to lie down with a big, old book. To further feed her soul, she and her husband take long walks with their dog, Emeril in North Carolina’s woods, or she makes music with friends.
“I try to remember to look up at the sky and take some time each day to be thankful.”
Book Title: Where Your Treasure Is
Author: M. C. Bunn
Publication Date: 23rd April 2021
Publisher: Bellastoria Press
Page Length: 454 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Victorian Romance
Feisty, independent heiress Winifred de la Coeur has never wanted to live according to someone else’s rules—but even she didn’t plan on falling in love with a bank robber.
Winifred is a wealthy, nontraditional beauty who bridles against the strict rules and conventions of Victorian London society. When she gets caught up in the chaos of a bungled bank robbery, she is thrust unwillingly into an encounter with Court Furor, a reluctant getaway driver and prizefighter. In the bitter cold of a bleak London winter, sparks fly.
Winifred and Court are two misfits in their own circumscribed worlds—the fashionable beau monde with its rigorously upheld rules, and the gritty demimonde, where survival often means life-or-death choices.
Despite their conflicting backgrounds, they fall desperately in love while acknowledging the impossibility of remaining together. Returning to their own worlds, they try to make peace with their lives until a moment of unrestrained honesty and defiance threatens to topple the deceptions that they have carefully constructed to protect each other.
A story of the overlapping entanglements of Victorian London’s social classes, the strength of family bonds and true friendship, and the power of love to heal a broken spirit.
Winifred de la Coeur was not a traditional beauty, but she was one of a kind. Or so George had whispered while they played cards. He had won the hand and taken hers in his. After all these years, she ought to know better than to trust him.
She stood with her maid in the hall before the pier glass and examined the result of their morning’s work. They had begun earlier than usual. Bathed, combed, powdered, and perfumed, Winifred wore underlinens trimmed in lace a duchess would envy. Her dress was the latest fashion. The crowning achievement was the hat, an enormous concoction of absinthe silk covered in black tulle and ostrich plumes.
“Morrant is right. I do look frightful!” Her hands flew to her head.
“Pooh! What does he know?” Bettina scoffed, none too quietly. She adjusted the veil and shot a sour glance at the butler, who strode past them into the breakfast room.
“Dr. Frost arrives at ten o’clock,” Morrant announced. He scooped the brandy bottle from where it rested by Percival’s feet then read aloud from the daybook in which the older man penned his thoughts. “‘CAN A MAN ALTER HIS CHARACTER?’ Not before breakfast, sir.”
“I’m not hungry,” Percival grumbled.
“Up late? ‘The unexamined life is not worth living,’ and so forth?”
“More like ‘Lions prowling about the door’!” He pushed away the coffee and toast Morrant set by him. “Tea with Tasha and Delilah yesterday nearly finished me. Like battling hydras!” He peered into the hall and spoke to Winifred. “Plans today?”
“The bank and luncheon with George at Simpson’s.”
In the breakfast room, her uncle tried to deflect his manservant’s attempt to get him to eat. She watched with affection. Two bachelors, just as she and Bettina were two old maids. While her uncle’s bad lungs had aged him prematurely, Morrant’s physique was still trim, his black hair touched with grey along the temples. She frowned at her reflection, tugged the tight bodice, and wished she was going riding on the Heath with her cousins Amelie and Bert.
Neither man had hidden his astonishment as she twirled into the breakfast room in her parrot green ensemble. Her uncle shaded his eyes. “Good lord, you’re bright as a Christmas cracker! Are we to have the Highland Fling?” He squinted at the skirt’s purple tartan trim while she kissed his cheek. “My dear, you look ready to pop!”
“It’s not Guy Fawkes ’til tomorrow, sir,” Morrant said.
“It’s so tight, I might explode!” She had inhaled against her stays. “It is vulgar. I feel like Gloriana gone wild. Add seven ropes of pearls, and call me the Virgin Queen.”
It was impossible to tell whether his eyes expressed disapproval or suppressed amusement. About his opinion of the idiotic tea gown she had worn while she and George played cards the prior evening, there could be no mistake. Morrant and Bettina had had words over it. In spite of the man’s usual equanimity, the recent changes to her toilette had put him in a permanent state of alarm. His opinion of George had already involved the use of horsewhips. Though Bettina asserted that a woman dressed for herself, and Winifred inwardly argued that a servant’s thoughts about her wardrobe or the way she lived should not matter, Morrant’s opinion did.
She grimaced at her hat and reached for it. “Ce chapeau, est-ce que les femmes françaises appellent la Catherinette?”
Bettina caught her hands. “Poof! Do not tease about old maids. I work hard to dress you beautifully! The hat is très chic et vous êtes une femme de la mode, a fashionable lady. We want people to notice!” She adjusted Winifred’s jabot. “The cut of the jacket is so modest, so cunning!”
“I suppose it makes me look less fat.” In the long mirror, she critically regarded her hips.
“Madame Gretchen is all skin and bones, so our cousin can get away with no corset.” She pushed in Winifred’s waist. “We are not so!”
Richards sat on the brougham’s high box, bundled against the cold. Leaves danced along the street in a gust of wind. Morrant walked down the steps, a blanket draped over his arm. Winifred quickly followed, glad of Bettina’s insistence she wear the warm cashmere.
Morrant handed her up, checked the foot-warmer, then decorously spread the blanket over her knees. She watched his hands smooth the material. Their faces were very close.
“No, Miss, let me—if I may, speak first.”
His tone was so serious; she prepared herself.
“Though you’re not in the best spirits this morning and worried about your uncle, you appear fit to face any challenge, even in that dress and—,” he hesitated. “If one might hazard a guess at the identity of that object upon your head—that hat!”
The hint of his smile and the kind expression in his dark eyes were a relief. He returned her hand’s pressure, then closed the carriage door.
Richards cracked the reins.
Winifred twisted about to catch a last glimpse of Morrant, who stood on the steps and watched after her. The carriage turned the corner.
Hampstead’s quiet streets gave way to those of Regent’s Park. As traffic increased, Winifred’s spirits rallied. Never fond of London, this morning she welcomed its energy and activity, an astringent if not a completely palatable medicine for her nerves. Richards’ whip handle tapped her window.
“Still going to the City, Miss?”
“Yes, straight to the Royal Empire Bank!”
George’s letter with its bold cursive had arrived in the morning’s post. Morrant laid it between her and Percival. She had torn open the envelope and felt her cheeks flush. “It’s only about that piece of land he wants to sell me.” She threw the letter on the table, pushed away the nearly finished plate of kedgeree that she already regretted, and pretended to read the newspaper’s financial section.
“That detestable piece land,” Percival had snapped. “I wish the earth would swallow it!” And their owner George, she had thought. Her uncle added that he was sorry if she was disappointed. She knew he was relieved.
During a shooting party that September, George had proposed the sale of a twenty-acre wood that separated the de la Coeur and Broughton-Caruthers estates and where the game warden encouraged the foxes. Winifred said that she was not interested. George replied that she made an art of playing hard to get.
How it must gall him, she had gibed. The first son in five generations obliged to sell off parcels of land rather than buy them! His brother Charles lived in Scotland in an enormous castle with his wife and two little girls. He had a steady character and was happily matched. They had acres of hunting grounds and no mortgages in sight. Charles had little money of his own but did not owe any either. Nor did he share George’s lavish habits or the propensity for ennui that drove Hereford Hall’s heir into low company and reckless deeds.
George smirked. “But he’s boring, and neither as good looking nor as popular as I am.”
On the day before she came up to London, she rode her horse Tulip across the fields to inspect the wood. Beyond it lay Hereford Hall’s brick towers, graceful lawns, and chestnut-lined drive. She had given Tulip a smart kick and galloped down the sandy lane that led to the sea. In spite of her elder cousins’ warnings, she and George had raced one another on it many times. She bent over her mare’s neck, urged her to go faster, and pretended to outdistance her neighbor. She was Queen Bess, who ruled a kingdom of her own. No need of any man!
Her pride could not bear that George, or even her family, might suspect that while she had won the battle against her suitors, she had lost the war. At summer’s end, once the field cleared and the dust settled, she discovered she was tired of holding up the increasingly heavy standard of her virginity. The other debutantes of her year had long retired from the lists on their fiancés’ arms or were preoccupied by their confinements. She had attended so many weddings she lost track of the sprays of orange blossom Bettina cleared from her dressing table or the number of silver rattles that she and Amelie had wrapped. Her freedom was not the triumph she had imagined it would be.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds