Friday, December 14, 2012

Looking for something to read at Christmas? How about a romance with a Gothic setting in Cornwall?

Laura Palmer marries the mysterious baron, Lord Nathaniel Lanyon, and goes to live in his ancient home in Cornwall. A dark cloud hovers over Wolfram. The death of Nathaniel’s first wife has never been solved, and some of the villagers believe him responsible. Struggling to understand the distant man she married, Laura tries to uncover the truth. With each stone unturned, she comes closer to danger.

 The carriage drove along a river and through a green valley ringed by forest. The misty
scene muted the cries of a flock of birds disappearing into the fog like magic. Stone walls crisscrossed the countryside, confining sheep to the meadows. Finally, at the top of a rise, the clouds
shifted and Laura caught sight of water, turned gauzy gold under a westerly sun.
“I can see the sea!” she said, craning her neck.
“I’m sorry about the fog.” Nathaniel said. “This was not how I planned your first sight of
She patted his hand, resting on hers. “I shall love it. I just know it.”
They drove down the hill to Wolfram village. Laura looked eagerly about her as they
passed small houses hugging the warren of narrow, cobbled lanes leading down to the bay. The
fog was even thicker here. The smell of the sea, salty and unfamiliar, washed over her. Gulls
cried, swooping above them in the grey sky, the horizon cut off by the wall of fog.
The carriage traveled down the hill to the harbor where fishing boats were moored along
the quay. A row of houses, shops and an inn rimmed the seawall. A curtain of spray from
surging waves sent fingers of foam over the promenade. Nathaniel nodded towards an ancient
Tudor inn bearing the sign The Green Feather. “We’ll have some refreshment.” He jumped
down and turned to assist her.
“Why? Can’t we go straight home?”
“The causeway’s underwater, your ladyship,” Jarvis said, holding the horses steady. “We
must wait for the tide to turn before we can take the carriage across.”
Laura raised her eyebrows and looked at Nathaniel. “Causeway?”
The abbey is cut off at high tide,” he explained.
Laura fell silent, dumbstruck that he had not felt the need to explain this to her before.
She felt unnerved at the idea of being cut off from the mainland. Beyond a glowing description
of the abbey’s history, Nathaniel had told her very little of his life here. And nothing of his first
wife at all.
“We’ll take the boat,” Nathaniel said to Jarvis. “You can follow with the luggage. My
bride is eager to see her new home.”
“Right you are, your lordship,” Jarvis said touching his cap.
Laura walked with Nathaniel along the harbor foreshore where a fishing boat was
unloaded of its catch onto the wharf. The men doffed their caps at Nathaniel and studied her
with open curiosity. The smell of fish was overpowering and the noise of the gulls jangled at her
nerves. Nathaniel stopped in front of a rowboat tied up at a wharf, bobbing about in the water.
He picked Laura up and descended the mossy steps, placing her into the boat. “Sit there
in the middle and don’t move.”
Laura did as she was bid. Feeling unstable in her high-heeled boots, she clung to the hard
wooden seat as the boat danced on the waves.
Jarvis untied the rope and kicked the boat away from the wharf as Nathaniel picked up
the oars. He began to row strongly. Laura watched, admiring him. Within minutes, they were
well out into the bay. The boat dipped and spray splashed over the side, running towards her
feet. The ultramarine sea rushed by alarmingly close. The thought that she couldn’t swim and
would sink quickly in her heavy suit and boots made her swallow nervously. She clung to her
hat knowing it would be limp as an old cabbage leaf but it did shield her eyes from the glare.
“It’s not far,” Nathaniel pulled at the oars.
“It’s on an island?”
“Only at high tide.”
 Laura gave up trying to question him further as he rowed effortlessly on. Suddenly, a
narrow wharf loomed out of the mist. Tied up to it a small sloop rocked on the waves.
“Welcome to Wolfram,” Nathaniel said, a note of pride in his voice.
As he secured the rowboat to the wharf, Laura looked up at the abbey, its tower, as
unyielding as a mountain peak, emerged from the fog as the sky began to clear. Nathaniel
helped her onto the wharf. She caught sight of a garden of flowering trees and shrubs and her
heart leapt. Laura followed him along the path.
Nathaniel gave a low whistle. Excited barking rent the air. Two red setters raced down
the path, their glossy ears bouncing, their tongues lolling. They pounced on their master in
delight. “Meet Orsino and Sebastian.”
Laura laughed in delight. “From Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night?” Her husband constantly
surprised her.
He grinned. “One of my favorite plays.”
The dogs barely gave Laura a glance, their love for their master took all their attention.
After he rubbed their ears and gave them a pat, they continued up the path, the dogs rushing
They passed through a gate in a stone wall.
The garden, with its rose-pink magnolia and white azaleas that had touched her, proved to
be a graveyard filled with ancient gravestones, the scent of jasmine on the air suddenly cloying.
She was not sure what she had expected, it just wasn’t this. It looked so ... forbidding. “Your
ancestors?” she asked.
Nathaniel glanced away over the grounds. “Yes.”
She bit her lip. Of course, Amanda would be buried here.

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