The final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s La Grande Armée, is oft remembered as a great personal victory for the Duke of Wellington. But, there is no denying, a high price was paid on the 18th June 1815. It was a day of great losses of men, of badly maimed and fatally wounded personnel. Thus, I have purposefully stepped away from the harshness of battle scenes, and of blood and gore. No doubt the latter will be recalled time and time again within other novels commemorating the 200th bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. Instead, my story is that of wives, of mistresses, of terrible secrets and lies, and the consequences of stolen moments of unbridled passion.
As always my novels are penned with British English spelling and grammar usage, which is not quite on a par with US English usage. Please bear with me on local English dialects and character thoughts, for they are, often as not, grammatically incorrect. I can only hope you will enjoy stepping back in time to the sights, sounds and scents of a bygone era.
Pennard Hall, Somerset.
When news of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo arrives at Pennard Hall, excitement and trepidation prevails. Thus, with Pennard’s heroes homeward bound, a grand homecoming ball is in the making. But a letter arrives, a letter from another woman, and Isobel, Countess of Weston, is quite aware life can never be as it was before. Worse, a terrible sin in the dowager countess’ past suddenly threatens to undermine the structure of lawful inheritance. Albeit sage advice is proffered by the Duke of Wellington, and makes perfect sense, can Isobel’s son remain as heir to the title: Earl of Weston?
Excerpt from opening chapter.
Pennard Hall, Somerset 1815: 24th June
Having escaped to the garden, sitting alone and utterly devoid of distractions, it was so very difficult to brush aside the image of light blue eyes turning smoky grey in sunlight, and of manly lips curving to a quirky smile. Would that she could erase that special memory of her heart’s desire and the relaxed manner of his basking in the afterglow of mutual bliss. But it was all too vivid: even the remembered sweet scent of flattened meadow grasses, where they had lain surrounded by moon daisies swaying gently on a balmy summer breeze.
....Both had known the love expressed between them was oh so wrong, but heady euphoria had taken hold in the madness of the moment. Although it was true love back then, illicit love, he still expressed undying love within his letters: letters she kept hidden.
....Oh how oft she had pondered over portraits hanging in the upper gallery, and studied the likeness between her son and that of Earls’ of Weston down the centuries. Mathew’s appearance bespoke untainted bloodlines, as did that of the present earl’s younger brother, whilst her husband, the earl, resembled none of the former.
....It was quite bizarre, for Michael Melrose, Earl of Weston, was fair, with light brown eyes, and florid features. Albeit of good height, he was so unlike the taller, dark-haired, blue-eyed Melrose trait, it was little wonder there were those within society who had looked upon Michael with a curious eye. Similarities to his mother, the dowager countess, had always excused his appearance. But his sister, May, had let slip observations from time to time of a curious bent in relation to her brother’s likeness to that of an unrelated family, and the very fact the family were not of Isobel’s acquaintance, she had no means to verify May’s comments.
....Thus daydreaming, and duly caught unawares, a sudden flash of pink in her peripheral vision drew her attention, and her heart sank. Oh lordy. So often, when she slipped away to write in her journal, someone would come looking for her.
....“Izzie . . . Izzie . . .” came a plaintive plea from her sister-in-law. “Where are you?”
....Holding her breath whilst tempted to take flight, instead she remained seated behind the trunk of a favoured walnut tree, half hoping the lovely May would pass her by unnoticed.
....“Izzie. . . Izzie, I know you are out here, somewhere,” yelled May, quite unladylike in manner, followed by a sharp: “Isobel, answer me.”
....If May was resorting to Isobel then something was amiss, and she called out in response: “I’m here, by the walnut tree.”