– ‘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 ‘Widow’s Lace’ 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 :
Lelita has a passion for stories, especially those with a dark undercurrent, or a twist to be revealed.
She hopes to tell interesting stories that people will find themselves drawn into. Stories that are for entertainment and escape, and hopefully a little thrill of the unexpected. She truly enjoys the experience of writing, exploring human traits and reactions as well as the darkness that can lurk unexpectedly inside anyone.
Born and raised in Adelaide, Australia, Lelita holds a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and History from the University of Adelaide and a Bachelor of Education from The University of South Australia. During her twenties she worked as an English teacher in both Australia and the United Kingdom, working with the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
Now Lelita and her husband run a web development business, and she makes time for writing after hours and on weekends. It can mean long days and late nights, but she doesn’t mind, stories are her passion.
Lelita’s long term goal as a writer is to be able to publish her stories regularly and hopefully appeal to a wide range of readers.
Lelita currently resides in the United Kingdom with her husband Ryan and beloved rescue-cat, Jasmine.
Book Title: Widow’s Lace
Author: Lelita Baldock
Publication Date: 23 March 2020
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 242
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery
A hundred year old mystery, the widow left behind, a fallen soldier, the abandoned fiancée, an unnamed body and the young student determined to find the truth.
In 1886 famous English poet Edward Barrington moves from Derbyshire, England to a farm on the Finniss River, in South Australia. Two years later he disappears.
25 years later Archie Hargraves abandons his fiancée Clara and travels from England to meet with Edward’s widow, Rosalind. He plans to write a biography and make a name for himself, independent from his wealthy father. Returning to England in 1914 he abandons his work to join the war in Europe. His journal of notes from Australia is never released.
Ellie Cannon, a young PhD candidate at Sydney University, is writing a thesis on one of Barrington’s last known poems, The Fall. It’s not going well. Struggling with her relationship with her mother and loss of her father, Ellie is on the brink of failure.
Then a body is found by the Finniss River, 130 years after Edward’s disappearance. Could it be the famous poet?
The discovery draws Ellie into the worlds of Edward, Archie and Clara, taking her across Australia and England in her search for the truth.
Covering life in remote South Australia, the social pressures of 1900s Britain and the historical role of women, Widow’s Lace is an historical fiction, mystery cross-over dealing with themes of obsession, fear, love, inner-secrets and regret. But also the hope that can come from despair.
Beneath the currents of the sky I remain, passed by.
London, England 1913
‘Archie!’ Clara exclaimed, eyes wide with joy and surprise. It was mid-summer and the heat was stifling. Attempting to find some respite from their stuffy, overheated townhouse, Clara had persuaded her mother to take an afternoon walk. Leaving behind their brown brick abode, they’d followed the shimmering wall of white terraced houses that bordered Regent’s Park and entered the gardens. Vivid green leaves covered the trees, flowers in bright bloom bursting from bushes and shrubs, the park was glorious at this time of year, though the grass was perhaps a tad dry. A gentle breeze was blowing through the grounds, bringing with it much welcomed relief from the oppressive heat. She’d known that Archie would be on semester break from university, but had not had word from him as to when to expect a visit.
And yet, there he stood. Archie.
Naturally tall, he was hunched forward, a smile playing on lips pressed almost against his companion’s ear. Telling some silly joke no doubt.
Overjoyed at the unexpected encounter, Clara unlinked her arm from Ada’s and hurried towards him. A powerful urge to throw her arms about his neck gripped her, but thankfully she remembered herself in time.
It had been three years since her family had moved to the London townhouse and Archie had begun his studies at Cambridge. He had been a most attentive and punctual friend, writing to her regularly to regale her with his stories of new acquaintances, travel and his favourite authors. Each semester break he would pay her and her parents a visit, dining with them and sharing their company. Slowly but surely, despite the distance between them, Clara felt their connection grow and solidify. All those years ago, as her mother cooed to her of Archie’s budding love, Clara had felt doubts. But the intervening years were proving Ada right.
Coming to Archie’s side, she beamed up into his face. Expecting to see her own joy mirrored back in his smile, his hesitance surprised her. He nodded to her saying stiffly, ‘Miss Clara, Mrs Forsyth, what a pleasant surprise.’ His uncomfortable stance and tight voice gave away the lie.
He stepped to the side, opening a space between himself and his friend.
Clara forged ahead, refusing to be put off by the unexpected reservation in his greeting. ‘I did not know to expect you in London so soon. Was the summer poetry class cancelled? No matter, I’m so pleased to see you. When did you arrive? Where are you staying?’
‘Clara, dear,’ Ada said softly, coming up beside her daughter, ‘be calm my child, you haven’t given Archie a chance to answer your flurry of questions.’
Clara felt her cheeks redden. At seventeen years old she was desperate to prove her maturity and class, but struggled to reign in a natural enthusiasm that seemed bound to her blood. ‘Sorry mother, Archie. I am just very happy to see you. And meet your friend.’ She nodded respectfully to the tall blonde youth who had been sharing conversation with Archie just moments before. The man smiled uncertainly, eyes flicking from her, to Ada and back to Archie. A shy one, she decided.
‘Why, yes, do forgive me,’ Archie stuttered. ‘This is my friend from Cambridge, William Wright. We take Classics together.’ Clara beamed at William. He wasn’t one she had heard of. Archie often spoke of Phillip and Paul, and she had even met dear Harry. Their mothers were friends…
‘Pleased to meet you,’ Ada said, an edge in her tone caught Clara’s attention. Her mother had fixed William with a cold stare. What was wrong? Tension buzzed between her mother and Archie. Clara tried to move the conversation along. ’So you and Mr Wright travelled here together then? Sometime on holiday? What a wonderful idea. I should like to travel with friends someday.’
‘We haven’t been here long,’ Archie said hastily. ‘Only just arrived really. I was planning to write to you shortly.’
‘But of course you were,’ Ada cut in smoothly. ‘We have no doubt. Well, this has been a wonderful surprise but I fear we must be getting on. Come Clara, dear.’
Clara glanced up at her mother in consternation. There was no rush. They could take a walk together… but when Ada gave a direction… ‘Well,’ she fussed with her skirt, trying to compose herself, in turmoil from her mother’s cold behaviour, ‘it was lovely to see you Archie. And to meet you Mr Wright.’
‘Lovely to meet you also Miss Clara.’
‘And we will be seeing you soon…’
‘Of course dear,’ Ada called, already turning away. ‘I will have an invite sent to your hotel today, Mr Hargraves. Where was it you said you were staying?’
Archie looked sharply at Ada, arms stiffly by his side, ‘Brown’s Hotel, in Mayfair.’
‘Good day for now then,’ Ada said and, linking her arm to Clara’s, led her daughter slowly away down the sunny green-lined path.
Clara’s forehead felt tight, her cheeks flushed, and not from the sun. When they were a good distance away and out of ear shot, she hissed, ‘What was that mother? Why were you so dismissive?’
Ada strolled on in silence, not changing her gentle pace. Clara felt the tension charging through her body, urging her to pick up speed and get… somewhere. After a few moments Ada spoke softly, facing forward as if talking to herself, ‘Sometimes a man needs to be shown that you aren’t just there when it suits him. But that he must also make the effort.’
Clara glanced up at her mother, confused. But Ada did not look down at her daughter, only straight ahead, nodding politely to the other pairs of ladies walking arm in arm down the garden path. In their white lace gowns, dainty umbrellas or jauntily-worn summer hats shielding them from the sunlight, Clara was reminded of how elegant city ladies were, of what she longed to be. Remembering herself, she straightened her back and returned her focus to their stroll and the etiquette required from a grown woman. In her mind she ran through her mother’s words and actions, hoping desperately that with enough thought, she might come to understand. Yet again her mother had demonstrated the importance of poise. Archie always looked at her with such admiration. Clara wanted to be on the other end of that gaze.
Arriving home, Clara retreated to the library, picking up a little volume of poetry Archie had gifted to her last year. Out of the blue he had visited, bearing the small book. ‘I have found my path to greatness Clara,’ he had exclaimed. ‘The mystery of Edward James Barrington. He was a poet. I bought you a copy of his first works. I think, if you try, you will like them.’
‘Greatness? Why Archie, you are already ‘great’!’ she had protested. Archie had gifted her a strained smile and pressed the small volume of poems into her hand.
‘It’s like he wrote the words for me,’ he said. ‘Don’t you ever feel like no one understands you? Like you are hidden by shadow?’
Clara certainly did not.
She had heard the rumblings of the women calling themselves ’Suffragettes’. They’d even had a large rally in Hyde Park earlier that month. Clara remembered her mother’s dismissive tone when Harold had mentioned the disruption they were causing the city. ‘It’s never a good thing to stir up trouble,’ she’d declared, eyes daring Clara to disagree. But honestly, Clara had no understanding of what they were complaining about. Did Archie mean something like that, but for men? Unsure how to respond she only nodded, confusion furrowing her delicate brow.
‘Ah,’ Archie had sighed deeply, ‘he travelled to Australia. All that way away. And shaped himself a whole new life. Can you imagine? Your own life, of your choosing.’
‘I’m not sure I should like that at all,’ Clara replied.
Archie had smiled indulgently at her, as though she were still a child. Some emotion she could not place sat within his eyes. ‘Try the poems,’ he’d said and left.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds