Frankie says hello. Or rather, “Don’t bother me now.”
Into the Autumn
We’re into autumn, or fall in some parts of the globe. Politics is in its usual confused state, the weather is equally confused, so all is what passes as normal in this day and age.
I’m getting restless to write. Every so often I get the urge, so I think my enforced sabbatical is having a good effect. While my mother is settled in her care home, and my sister is moving up to be nearer to us, I’ve been pondering the changes of life. Of course as you get older, so do your nearest and dearest. This happens. It’s inevitable.
Before the pandemic I visited the USA for as long as I was allowed to every year – usually 30 consecutive days at a time. I made some wonderful friends, and I do miss them, but I haven’t been back since. The countryside is so very beautiful and so varied, too. There are lots of places I want to go back and see. What’s the best time of year to see Death Valley?
I wrote a novella to conclude the Brazen Burrells series, finally giving the matriarch, Mrs. Burrell, her happy ending. I tried to fit it in to a Dragonblade anthology, but it didn’t work. The story went in a different direction. I’m not sure if it will ever see the light of day, but perhaps I can release it as a freebie. Contracts and such mean it belongs to the rest of the series.
I have had some interest in the new line I’m taking – or do we call it back to the beginning? I dearly want to write about one couple going through their life journey together, adding in a cast of friends and family, adding a touch of murder for spice and interest. I thought it might be a vanity project, but apparently not so.
So does that sound like something you’d like to read?
Let’s go back to an older title. One of the Secrets series, which I dearly love.
True Love Sees With The Heart
Now that his best friend is blissfully married, Severus Granville, Earl of Swithland, finds himself dealing with a wholly unfamiliar urge—to settle down and produce an heir. But among the bevy of beauties vying for his attention, none hold his interest except for one: Penelope. Clumsy, intelligent, appealing Penelope is the one woman with whom he could escape…but she’s expected to marry another.
Afraid she’ll be labeled an unmarriageable bluestocking, Penelope’s family forces her to go without her badly needed spectacles in public, and to hide her intelligence. Though she has loved Severus for years, the best she can hope for is a loveless union with a perfectly suitable—and perfectly boring—cousin. Except Severus seems to have changed his mind.
Hours spent in his rooftop observatory leads to a passion neither of them expected. Yet just as their eyes are opened to the possibility of lasting love, Penelope is snatched away, a pawn in a plot to destroy her family and make her a slave to a man she hardly knows.
If he wants to keep his heart’s treasure, Severus will have to fight for her with everything within him—mind, body and soul.
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And here’s a snippet!
Severus’s attention returned to the kitten, which seemed to have settled in, nestling against his waistcoat. “We’ll have to see those scratches seen to as well.”
Penelope thought he was talking about the kitten for a moment, then she remembered her hand and arm, and saw his thoughtful regard on the thin red lines. “It’s nothing. They’ll be gone in a day or two.”
“Still, I’d feel better if they were seen to. Cat scratches can be poisonous.”
She moved closer to him when he moved away, whipping her glasses off when they left the seclusion of the enclosed rose garden. It seemed to attract his attention to them again. “How does Makepiece feel about your spectacles? Will he let you wear them?”
“No.” She was sure about that. “He can’t think why I should need them. I’m near-sighted, so I can see to do the household accounts, nurse a babe, or sew a fine seam. That’s all I’ll need to do as his wife.”
He was close enough for her to see him properly; his expression was calm, but concentrated. “I always knew he was a dead bore,” he commented.
“You shouldn’t say that, sir!”
“Why not?” he demanded, irrepressible. “I’m no hypocrite! I’ll say it to his face, if you like. Oh Lord!”
The last remark made Penelope look at him, startled, for there was genuine dismay in his tone. He glanced at her. “You can’t see, can you? Three of them, bearing down on us with the determination of well trained hounds scenting the prey. Speed up, my dear, I’ll make sure you don’t bump into anything!”
“I’m not that bad,” she assured him, chuckling, and obligingly quickened her pace. It was strange how many people, once they knew of her near sightedness, would assume that she could see nothing. It was the details that eluded her, that was all. An irritation rather than a disablement, she told herself stoutly.
He took her swiftly to the servants’ entrance, where his admirers wouldn’t follow them. The laundry maids were gone, probably to drape the wet sheets over a bush. Laundry would dry well in this heat, Penelope thought in passing. They passed through the sheltered yard and into the narrow passage before the kitchen. The width of the corridor meant Penelope had to move closer to her host. She didn’t dislike it. In this confined space, she became aware of his scent. The sharp, lemony perfume was laced with something spicy and exotic, making her stomach turn in an emotion she wasn’t familiar with and couldn’t put a name to. When she tried to move out of the way, she bumped her shoulder on the wall. It disturbed her being this close. “Put them on,” he told her, seemingly unaware of her discomfiture. “There are only servants here. They won’t tell.”
“My aunt’s maid might be about,” Penelope said shortly. “She’ll tell.”
He gave her a curious look, but didn’t say anything, and didn’t insist she put her spectacles back on.
The kitchen was a bustle of hot activity. The fire burned brightly, despite the heat of the day. The two small boys scurrying about attending to it were bare to the waist, their skinny torsos gleaming with sweat. Penelope looked away hastily, towards the long table where the cooks and kitchen maids were already at work preparing the evening meal.
Lord Swithland grimaced. “I don’t know how they manage in this heat,” he commented. “Perhaps they’re used to it.”
Although everyone stopped to stare at them and bow, there was little fluster at their arrival. Penelope became aware of a suspicion forming in her mind. “This entrance isn’t strange to you,” she said.
He flushed, and laughed. “You’ve caught me out! I use this way as a bolt-hole. I’ve done it since I was small and no one has ever betrayed me. I trust,” he added, turning to give her his full attention, “you will undertake not to tell anyone?”
Penelope was delighted. “So we have each others’ secrets to keep.”
He smiled, intimately friendly. “Precisely.” Her last, bitter memories of being close with him evaporated away. They could be friends now, she was sure of it.
At the first touch of soft fur, he looked down to see a very large, well kept cat snaking around his legs. A tiny bundle of fur pranced in the cat’s wake. “This is yours, I believe, madam.” He bent and carefully deposited the kitten at his feet. At once, the cat, after sniffing at her offspring, took the creature up by the scruff of its neck and bore it away.
Lord Swithland examined his coat, now sprinkled with hairs of white, orange and black. Since his coat was brown, none of them quite matched. A maid approached. “A bowl of warm water, some cloths, and—some tea, please.”
Penelope felt managed. “No, I should go to my room and change.” There were grass stains on the front of her skirt, and she felt a curl straggling down her neck from the once neat bun at the back. She felt dowdy and uncomfortable.
“You certainly should,” he agreed, “as should I. But allow me to see to your wounds first. If they’re not bathed they’ll likely fester.” Taking her arm in his he led her to a small table at the edge of the kitchen, mercifully as far away from the fire as anyone could get in this room. Seeing that he had no intention of letting her slink away, Penelope sat down in the chair he held for her. He sat down in a similar hard wooden chair opposite her. A maid followed, with a brown pot of steaming tea, a milk jug and two dishes. Not the Chelsea and Bow china which was allotted to the Family Rooms, but plain white china. It spoke volumes about his lordship’s familiarity with below stairs that he didn’t seem to notice. The maid placed the bowl between them, and Lord Swithland took Penelope’s hand in a firm grasp, forcing her to put it in the bowl. “I think, in the circumstances, I’ll pour the tea.” He proceeded to do so.
Penelope was almost speechless. She hadn’t considered that the suave, aristocratic Earl of Swithland would have such a practical bent. When she imagined him, which wasn’t often, it was in an elegant drawing room surrounded by languishing maidens, all staggeringly beautiful, not sitting at a plain kitchen table prosaically drinking kitchen tea. Which, she considered as she sipped her own brew, was surprisingly good.