MAGGI ANDERSEN'S BLOG Bestselling Author of Historical Romance

Thursday, February 7, 2019

New Release and excerpt from Anita Davison THE BLOOMSBURY AFFAIR

1905 London is a heady mix of unimaginable wealth and simmering political tensions, and with war looming Flora Maguire wants to keep her family safe.
So when her beloved charge Viscount Edward Trent is accused of murder, she's determined not to leave the investigation to the police. Flora has trodden the path of amateur sleuth before, but with so much at stake, this time it's personal.
Slowly the body of the victim found stabbed on a train bound for Paddington starts giving up its secrets, and Flora and her husband Bunny become mired in a murky world of spies, communists and fraudsters. And with the police more sure than ever that Edward is their murderer, Flora must work fast to keep him safe.
Anita Davison's compulsive story-telling, combined with the irresistible mix of historical drama and gripping mystery, make this unputdownable.

The Bloomsbury Affair – Excerpt

‘Despite the host’s unexplained absence, I think the evening was a success.’ Flora returned to the relative warmth of the hallway.
‘I’ve already apologized for that.’ Bunny tightened his arm round her and nuzzled her hair just above her ear before guiding her back into the sitting room, where Stokes was clearing away the coffee cups and empty brandy glasses. ‘You do realize bringing them together without warning like that could have gone horribly wrong? Suppose they had harboured some long-buried resentment in the intervening years, or worse, didn’t like the person they had each become?’
‘That didn’t occur to me,’ Flora lied. ‘I was confident they would behave as if the last twenty years had never happened.’
‘William couldn’t keep the smile off his face, and all those long looks.’ Bunny chuckled.
‘He was like a young boy with his first tendre.’
‘Except this particular tendre had already produced a grown-up daughter.’ Flora summoned a distracted smile, her thoughts still on William and whether or not he might be recalled to Russia if the situation there worsened.
‘Stokes,’ Bunny halted the butler on his way out with a loaded tray. ‘Before you retire, would you kindly bring us some fresh coffee?’
‘Of course, sir.’ Stokes bowed and left.
‘None for me, thank you.’ Flora frowned. ‘I shan’t be able to sleep. After such a long day, I would have thought cocoa would have been more appropriate?’
‘Coffee.’ Bunny’s eyes hardened and he caressed her shoulder. ‘I have a feeling we might need it.’
‘You’ve been very distracted tonight,’ Flora dragged her thoughts back to the present. ‘Are you sure something isn’t bothering you?’
‘Don’t change the subject. We were talking about your parents.’ Bunny took the place beside Flora on the sofa. ‘I sensed at some point during the evening you became somewhat tense.’ 
‘Did I?’ She sighed having hoped he had not noticed. ‘You might think I’m being selfish, but in all the drama of getting them together again, the past – my past has been overlooked.  I still don’t understand why Riordan told everyone that Alice, or Lily as she was known then, had died.’
‘She left him, Flora. Did it occur to you that might have hurt his pride? Pretending to be a widower meant no one would whisper about him behind his back.’
Flora silently acknowledged he was probably right. Her mother had married the head butler at Cleeve Abbey to save her reputation when she had fallen pregnant by William. The family had made it clear a marriage between Lily and William was out of the question and sent him abroad. Too young and overawed by their respective families to fight back, they had both obeyed. However,
William pined in America and Lily was miserable at home until she could stand no more and ran away  leaving Flora behind to be raised by the man she married to preserve her reputation. 
Riordan Maguire had adored Flora and despite Lily’s urging, had refused to let her see Flora again, preferring to explain away her absence by spinning a story acceptable for a child.
‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if William and Alice found happiness together after all this time? It’s just—’ she broke off, smothering a yawn at the reappearance of Stokes who set down a tray in front of them, wished them both and withdrew.
 ‘I’m going up to bed. Enjoy your coffee.’ As she rose to leave, he grasped her hand and tugged her gently onto the squab.
‘Could you give me a moment, Flora? There’s something I need to tell you. Well, more show you actually.’
‘Something which explains why you were late for dinner?’ she asked, yawning again but complied.
‘In a way.’ He stood, one hand held palm downwards in a command for her to stay. ‘Wait here. I’ll be back in a moment.’
‘Can’t whatever it is keep until morn—’ she broke off with a sigh as she addressed an empty room.
More for something to do than a desire for some coffee, she poured herself a cup and stirred in milk, the gentle ticking of silver against china the only sound in the room as the hot, aromatic coffee triggered her senses.
The evening she had anticipated with such pleasure should have been one for celebration, but as she had observed her parents smile at each other across her dining table, all her unresolved feelings had resurfaced.
The knowledge that Lily Maguire had cared for other people’s children in a London hospital while her own daughter grew up without her remained a cruel irony. That Alice had instigated contact again went some way to compensating for the past, although a deep-seated antipathy persisted for all the lost years in between.
Flora’s childhood had been far from unhappy with Riordan Maguire, who had always been a loving parent, if an uncompromising one. His halo had slipped slightly when she discovered he had known Lily had been alive all this time. He had even destroyed the letters she sent him pleading for forgiveness.  Letters Flora had known nothing about, but which Alice had told her she had written in an effort to see her again. That he had been killed protecting Flora made it impossible to harbour bitterness against him, but also meant he could never explain.
At the sound of the rear hall door closing, she returned her cup to its saucer. The smile she had summoned in anticipation of Bunny’s return faded instantly when she realized he was not alone. A young man with light brown hair hovered a pace behind him, his head down and shoulders hunched as if unsure of his welcome. He lifted his head, his eyes meeting Flora’s for a second before he ducked away, his cheeks flushed red.
‘Eddy!’ A shaft of delighted recognition ran through her and she leapt to her feet, crossed the room in two strides. ‘How lovely to see you. But why are you here this late? Has something happened?’
 ‘Hello, Flora.’ Eddy slumped onto the centre squab of the closest sofa, ignoring the fact she remained standing. The cheeky-faced boy she had been governess to five years before had changed into a handsome young man. His angular frame had filled out into a sturdy athletic build, and his eyes so similar to his Uncle William’s, were red-rimmed. His suit was rumpled as if he had slept in it, his collar half undone and his hair stuck up on one side.
‘Eddy, whatever’s wrong?’ Flora dropped her arms, mildly hurt he had avoided her welcome hug. ‘Has something happened? Is it your parents?’
‘As far as we know, Lord and Lady Trent are still enjoying their trip to New York,’ Bunny answered for him.
‘Oh, yes, of course.’ Flora frowned as she recalled the Trent’s had sailed to America two months before to see their eldest daughter, Lady Amelia, and her American husband for the first time since her marriage five years before. They planned to bring them back to England with their children for the summer.
‘Eddy arrived at my office this afternoon.’ Bunny lifted the coffee pot towards Eddy in enquiry but was waved away. ‘He wasn’t making much sense at first, so I sat him down with a brandy until he grew calmer and could tell his story.’ Bunny poured a cup for himself and strolled to the mantelpiece, taking an occasional sip. ‘Knowing William would be here tonight, I felt it wise to take him to the chauffeur’s room until he and Alice had left.’
‘What story, Eddy?’ Flora eased down onto the seat beside him, her arm loosely wrapped round his stiff shoulders. Why wouldn’t he want his Uncle William to know he was in London?
‘It’s Ed.’ He adjusted his jacket flaps and loosened his tie, possibly to disguise the fact his lip trembled when he spoke. ‘I’m nineteen now, too old to be called by my nursery name.’
‘Ed then.’ Worry knotted Flora’s insides. ‘What did happen this afternoon?’
‘Tell Flora exactly what you told me, Ed. Take your time.’
‘I…’ he began, his voice soft. ‘I got bored at Cleeve Abbey with everyone away, and term doesn’t start for a couple of weeks, so I decided to spend a few days in town at my sister Jocasta’s. I thought I’d take in a show with a few chums maybe.’ He shrugged as if the idea seemed nonsensical now. ‘Anyway, I took the afternoon train from Cheltenham and got into a compartment with another chap.’
‘What chap?’ Flora asked, impatient for him to get to the point.
Bunny shushed her, pointing his coffee cup at Ed. ‘Go on, Ed.’
‘We chatted for most of the journey.’ Ed rocked back and forth, his hands clenched so tightly, his knuckles showed white. ‘Then he fell asleep. Just dozing, you know. Maybe I did too, I can’t be sure. When the train arrived at Paddington, I shook him. Told him it was time to get off, but he didn’t wake up.’ He massaged his forehead with one hand. ‘The guard arrived and said we had to leave the train. I started to explain he must be ill, when the guard announced the man was dead.’
‘What?’ Flora brought a hand to her throat. ‘He was really dead?’
Ed nodded. ‘Then another guard came running and the first one told him I had killed the fellow and he should summon the police. Then everything became confused and there was lots of shouting.’
‘That’s outrageous!’ Flora said, angry that anyone could make such an assumption. ‘How could they think you were responsible?’
‘I tried to explain I had done nothing, but when the guard refused to listen, I elbowed the nearest one in the ribs and made a run for it.’

‘You ran away?’ Flora stared at him as the full horror of his situation sank in.

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Review: *****

I've enjoyed this fabulous series set in the early 20th Century,  beautifully brought to life by Anita Davison's skillful writing. Her amateur detective, Flora, is a great character as is her husband, Bunny, and the other quirky characters who regularly inhabit Flora's world. I’m always delighted when a new release comes along, because Flora is always keen to get her teeth into a new mystery, and most particularly this one where there is so much at stake. In The Bloomsbury Affair, a young man has been murdered whilst traveling on a train, and as the story unfolds we find that it comes too close to home for comfort. 


#Edwardian #Historical #Mystery #Series #Murder Mystery #Anita Davison. 

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