Friday, February 28, 2014

March Line up

Well peeps it's time for March Madness here on The Reading Frenzy, mark your calendars!!

Monday March 3rd -Join me on my stop on The Robyn Carr blog tour for The Chance

Tuesday March 4th Author Interview Adam Gittlin-The Deal:About Face + Giveaway

Wednesday March 5th Author Interview Alex Berenson - The Counterfeit Agent 

Thursday March 6th Erika Robuck showcase Fallen Beauty

Friday March 7th my stop on the Julia London blog tour

Monday March 10th Author Interview with Marci Jefferson The Girl On The Golden Coin

Tuesday March 11th Author Interview with Carol Wall-Mister Owita's Guide To Gardening -a memoir

Wednesday March 12th Author Interview Chelsea Cameron -My Sweetest Escape

Monday March 17th is my 4 year Blogoversary !!! So  to me :)

& - 

And it's also my stop on The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston blog tour

Monday March 24th showcasing Beatriz Williams and A Hundred Summers coming out in PB

Tuesday March 25th Author interview with Lisa Verge Higgins-Random Acts Of Kindness

Wednesday March 26th Author Interview - Ashton Lee The Reading Circle

Saturday March 29th My stop on the Kristan Higgins Waiting On You Blog Tour

Well that's all folks, it looks like March will come in like a -

so I hope it goes out like a - 

There will be add ons so be sure and check in often

Interview with Alessandra Torre - Blindfolded Innocence

Please welcome bestselling author Alessandra Torre whose here talking about her sexy, and hot new release Blindfolded Innocence. So if you like your romance on the sizzle burner hang around and check her out!

  • ISBN-13: 9780373778287
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 1/28/2014
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 304


"I'm not sure what you have been told about me, but I'm not nearly as bad as they make me out to be." His deliciously deep voice carried a little bit of ego.

I'm sure you are exactly as bad as they make you out to be….

Brad De Luca is used to getting whatever and whomever he wants. The premier divorce attorney in town, he's a playboy who's bedded half the city—including his own clients. And when the newest intern at his firm poses a challenge, ...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Blog Tour The Sound of Broken Glass + Interview with author Deborah Crombie

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour celebrating Deborah Crombie's latest Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid award winning series The Sound Of Broken Glass being released in paperback. Sit back and learn all about the novel and enjoy our interview.
The Blog Tour is sponsored by Partners In Crime Blog Tours.

The Sound of Broken Glass

by Deborah Crombie

on Tour Feb 24th - March 31st, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780061990649
Purchase Links:


In the past. . .home to the tragically destroyed Great Exhibition, a solitary thirteen-year-old boy meets his next-door neighbor, a recently widowed young teacher hoping to make a new start in the tight-knit South London community. Drawn together by loneliness, the unlikely pair forms a deep connection that ends in a shattering act of betrayal.

In the present. . .On a cold January morning in London, Detective Inspector Gemma James is back on the job while her husband, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, is at home caring for their three-year-old foster daughter. Assigned to lead a Murder Investigation Team in South London, she's assisted by her trusted colleague, newly promoted Detective Sergeant Melody Talbot. Their first case: a crime scene at a seedy hotel in Crystal Palace. The victim: a well-respected barrister, found naked, trussed, and apparently strangled. Is it an unsavory accident or murder? In either case, he was not alone, and Gemma's team must find his companion—a search that takes them into unexpected corners and forces them to contemplate unsettling truths about the weaknesses and passions that lead to murder. Ultimately, they will question everything they think they know about their world and those they trust most.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thrown For A Curve by Sugar Jamison-Interview and **GIVEAWAY**

I'm pleased to welcome back Sugar Jamison who is visiting to promote her newest release Thrown For A Curve in her Perfect Fit series.
Plus Sugar's publisher St. Martin's Press is offering one giveaway copy US ONLY see below for contest details.

  • ISBN-13: 9781250032980
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Series: A Perfect Fit Novel Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 336


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Evening Stars by Susan Mallery- Interview- Review

Please welcome NYT bestselling author plus personal favorite Susan Mallery who is talking to me today about her Just released today and her final Blackberry Island novel, Evening Stars. I'm also including my review courtesy of RT Magazine.

  • SBN-13: 9780778316138
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Pages: 368

Small-town nurse Nina Wentworth has made a career out of being a caretaker. More "Mom" than their mother ever was, she sacrificed medical school—and her first love—so her sister could break free. Which is why she isn't exactly thrilled to see Averil back on Blackberry Island, especially when Nina's life has suddenly become

 Read an excerpt:

IN A BATTLE between Betty Boop and multi-colored hearts, Nina Wentworth decided it was going to be a Betty Boop kind of day. She pulled the short-sleeved scrub shirt over her head and was already moving toward the bathroom before the fabric settled over her hips.
"Don't be snug, don't be snug," she chanted as she came to a stop in front of the mirror and reached for her brush.
The shirt settled as it should, with a couple of inches to spare. Nina breathed a sigh of relief. Last night's incident with three brownies and a rather large glass of red wine hadn't made a lasting impression on her hips. She was grateful and she would repent later on an elliptical. Or at least vow to eat her brownies one at a time.
Ten seconds of brushing, one minute of braiding and her blond hair was neat and tidy. She dashed out into the hall, toward the kitchen where she grabbed her car keys and nearly made it to the back door. Just as she was reaching for the knob, the house phone rang.
Nina glanced from the clock to the phone. Everyone in her world-friends, family, work-had her cell. Very few calls came on the antiquated land line and none of them were good news. Nina retraced her steps and braced herself for disaster. "Hello?"
"Hey, Nina. It's Jerry down at Too Good To Be True. I just opened and there's a lady here trying to sell a box of crap, ah, stuff. I think it's from the store."
Nina closed her eyes as she held in a groan. "Let me guess. Early twenties, red hair with purple streaks and a tattoo of a weird bird on her neck?"
"That's her. She's glaring at me something fierce. You think she's armed?"
"I hope not."
"Me, too." Jerry didn't sound especially concerned. "What's her name?"
If Nina had more time, she would have collapsed right there on the floor. But she had a real job to get to. A job unrelated to the disaster that was the family's antique store.
"You let your mom hire her, huh?" Jerry asked.
"You know better."
"That I do. I'll call the police and ask them to pick up Tanya. Can you keep her there until they get there?"
"Sure thing, kid."
"Great. And I'll be by after work to pick up the stuff."
"I'll hold it for you," Jerry promised.
Nina hung up and hurried to her car. After her cell connected to the Bluetooth, she called the local sheriff's department and explained what happened.
"Again?" Deputy Sam Payton asked, his voice thick with amusement. "Did you let your mom hire this employee?"
Nina carefully backed out of the driveway. Jerry's humor she could handle. He'd lived here all his life-he was allowed to tease her. But Sam was relatively new. He hadn't earned mocking rights.
"Hey, tax-paying citizen here, reporting a crime," she said.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm writing it down. What'd she take?"
"I didn't ask. She's at the pawn shop. Too Good To Be True."
"I know it," Deputy Sam told her. "I'll head out and see what's what."
She hung up before he could offer advice on hiring policies and turned up the hill. The morning was clear-odd for early spring in the Pacific Northwest. Normally the good weather didn't kick in until closer to summer. To the west, blue water sparkled. To the east was western Washington.
As she climbed higher and higher, the view got better, but when she parked across from the three Queen Anne houses at the very top of the hill, pausing to enjoy the spectacular combination of sky and ocean was the last thing on her mind.
She hurried up the steps to the front porch that was both her boss's home and her office. Dr. Andi, as she was known, was a popular pediatrician on the island. Make that the onlypediatrician. She'd moved here a year ago, opened her practice in September and had been thriving ever since. She was also a newlywed and as of two months ago, pregnant.
Nina unlocked the front door and stepped inside. She flipped on lights as she went, confirmed the temperature on the thermostat and then started the three computers in the front office.
After storing her purse in her locker, she logged into the scheduling program and saw that the first appointment of the day had canceled. Andi would appreciate the extra time to get herself moving. She was still battling morning sickness.
Nina did a quick check of her e-mail, forwarded several items to the bookkeeper/office manager, then walked to the breakroom for coffee. Less than five minutes after she'd arrived, she was climbing the stairs to her boss's private quarters.
Nina knocked once before entering. She found Andi, a tall, pretty brunette with curly hair, sitting at the table in the kitchen. Her arms cradled her head.
"Still bad?" Nina asked, walking to the cupboard.
"Hi and yes. It's not that I throw up, it's that I feel like I'm going to every single second." She raised her head and drew in a breath. "Are you drinking coffee?"
"I miss coffee. I'm a wreck. I need to talk to my parents about my ancestors. Obviously I don't come from hardy stock."
Nina took down a mug, filled it with water and put it in the microwave. Then she collected a tea bag from the pantry.
"Not ginger tea," Andi said with a moan. "Please. I hate it."
"But it helps."
"I'd rather feel sick."
Nina raised her eyebrows.
Andi slumped in her seat. "I'm such a failure. Look at me. I'm carrying around a child the size of a lima bean and I'm throwing a hissy fit. It's embarrassing."
"And yet the need to act mature doesn't seem to be kicking in."
Andi smiled. "Funny how that works."
The microwaved dinged. Nina dropped the tea bag into the steaming water and crossed to the table.
The eat-in kitchen was open, with painted cabinets and lots of granite. The big window by the table took advantage of the east-facing views in the old house. The mainland shimmered only a few miles away.
Andi had bought the house-one of three up on the hill- when she'd moved to Blackberry Island. Undeterred by the broken windows and outdated plumbing, she'd had the house restored from the framework out. During the process, she'd fallen in love with her contractor. Which had led to her current tummy problems.
"Your first appointment canceled," Nina told her.
"Thank God." Andi sniffed the tea, then wrinkled her nose and took a sip. "It's the ginger. If I could have tea without ginger I think I could get it down."
"The thing is, the ginger is the part that settles your stomach."
"Life is perverse like that." Andi took another sip, then smiled. "I like the shirt."
Nina glanced down at the pattern. "Betty and I go way back."
One of the advantages of working for a pediatrician was that cheerful attire was encouraged. She had a collection of brightly colored fun shirts in her closet. It wasn't high fashion but it helped the kids smile and that was what mattered.
"I need to get back downstairs," she said. "Your first appointment is now at eight-thirty."
Nina rose and started toward the stairs.
"Are you busy after work?" Andi asked.
Nina thought about the fact that she was going to have to go by the pawn shop and pick up what Tanya had tried to sell, then spend several hours at Blackberry Preserves, her family's antique store, figuring out what had been stolen, then tell her mother what had happened and possibly lecture her on the importance of actually following up on a potential employee's references. Only she'd been lecturing her mother for as long as she could remember and the lessons never seemed to stick. No matter how many times Bonnie promised to do better, she never did. Which left Nina picking up the pieces.
"I kind of am. Why?"
"I haven't been to Pilates in a week," Andi said. "It's important I keep exercising. Would you go with me? It's more fun when you're along."
"I can't tonight, but Monday's good."
Andi smiled. "Thanks, Nina. You're the best."
"Give me a plaque and I'll believe it."
"I'll order one today."
Nina counted out the number of happy fruit and vegetable stickers she had. Just enough, but she would have to order more.
Since opening her practice, Andi had started a program of inviting local elementary school classes into her office as a field trip. Kids learned about a basic exam, were able to use the stethoscope and check their weight and height in a non-threatening atmosphere. Andi's goal was to make a visit to the doctor less stressful.
Nina handled the scheduling and conducted the tour. Each student left with a small goodie bag filled with the stickers, a small coloring book on different ways to exercise and a box of crayons.
Normally the gift bags were filled by their receptionist before the event, but she had forgotten the stickers last time so Nina had taken over the task.
She was in the middle of lining up the open goodie bags for quick filling when her cell phone buzzed. She pulled it from her pocket and checked the name, then pushed speaker and set it on the breakroom table.
"Hi, Mom."
"Sweetheart! How are you? We're fine, but you were right, as you usually are."
Nina grabbed crayons from the big bag of them on the chair. "Right about what?"
"The tires. That we should have replaced them before we left. We had snow last night."
Nina glanced out the window at the sunny skies. She could see a few clouds pilling up against the horizon. Rain later that afternoon, she thought.
"Where are you?"
"Montana. It was coming down like you wouldn't believe. We had about four inches and the tires just couldn't handle it. We skidded off the road. We're fine now. Bertie found a Les Schwab store and the man there was just as nice as the one back home."
Nina sank onto the only free chair in the breakroom. "You were in a car accident?"
"No. We skidded. Not to worry. We're fine. The new tires are very nice. We went to several estate sales and more antique stores than I can count. We're filling the van with so many beautiful things. You're going to love what we've found."
She kept talking. Nina closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, telling herself that her commitment to eat her brownies one at a time had not made any reference to wine and when she got home that night, she was taking a bath and having a glass. Then she'd have her breakdown.
Bonnie Wentworth had given birth to her oldest at sixteen. She hadn't settled down when she'd become a mother and she sure wasn't settled now. Bonnie and her partner, Bertie, traveled the country on "buying trips" for their antique store. Antique being defined very loosely in this case. Junk was probably more accurate, but even Nina avoided the "j" word as much as possible.
She drew in a breath as her mother talked about a handmade doll Bertie had found.
"Mom, Tanya was caught trying to sell inventory to Jerry this morning."
Bonnie paused. "No," she said, sounding stunned. "I don't believe it."
Nina resisted the need to point out that Bonnie never believing it was the main problem.
"This is why I want to do the interviewing. Or if not me, than at least let Bertie do it."
"Are you sure she wasn't selling something of her own?" Bonnie asked. "She seemed like such a nice girl. I hate to think of her doing something like that."
"Me, too. You know this means the store's closed." Again.
There was silence. "Do you want us to come back? We could be there in a couple of days."
"No. I'll find someone."
Nina knew that if she asked, her mother would come home and run the store while they found someone. But then Nina would feel guilty, like she did now. And for the life of her, she couldn't figure out why.
"Sweetheart, you take on too much."
Nina opened her mouth and closed it. Right. Mostly because no one else was here to do it. "Mom, it's fine. But we need someone in the store who's responsible and can work without stealing."
"You're right. There must be someone and I'm sure you'll find her."
"I will. Did you call on the roof? Is the guy coming out to fix it?"
"I did call." Her mother sounded triumphant. "It's taken care of."
"Great. Thanks."
"You're welcome. I love you, sweetheart."
"I love you, too, Mom."
"I'll call in a few days. By then we should know when we'll be home. Bye."
Nina heard the click and knew her mother had hung up. Before she returned to the goodie bags, she called the local paper.
"Hi, Ellen, it's Nina Wentworth."
The old woman cackled. "Let me guess. You need someone to work at Blackberry Preserves. I have the information from the last ad, which is the same as the one before and the one before that. Want me to run it?"
Nina glanced out the window again. The storm clouds were closer. She could see a bit of the Sound and wondered if she got on a boat right now, where she would end up.
"That would be great," she said instead. "Thanks Ellen."
"You know, Nina, you've got to stop letting your mama hire people for that store."
Nina tightened her grip on the phone. "Yes, I know."
Nina stared at the items in the box. The candlesticks were silver and actually worth something. There were also several pieces of jewelry, a few with gems. The painting was a cheap reproduction and worth less than the frame, but still.
Jerry nodded as she inventoried the haul. "I was thinking the same thing," he told her. "How could a girl smart enough to know what to steal be dumb enough to come to me? Why didn't she just drive over the bridge and head toward Seattle? Another forty minutes in the car and she could have had the cash and been on her way."
"That's exactly what I was thinking," she admitted. "But I'm glad she was impatient. Was Sam Peyton by?"
"Yup. He took pictures. He said he needs to know what the candlesticks are worth." Jerry, a chubby, balding man in his sixties, nodded knowingly. "If it's over five grand, then Miss Tanya has committed a Class B felony. If she gets the maximum, it's a ten year prison sentence with a twenty thousand dollar fine."
"You're very knowledgeable about felonies and the law."
"In my business, it pays to know that sort of thing."
Nina picked up the box of items from the store. "I'm going to have to call Sam, aren't I? He's going to tell me I can't sell these until the case against Tanya is settled, right?"
"I wouldn't be surprised," Jerry told her.
Great. So the only items of value in the store were now going to be held hostage. She started for the door. "Thanks, Jerry."

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Little Folly out in PaperBack

I first posted this in April of 2013 when the book first releases and since it's coming out in PB this week I thought I'd repost it for you all!

  • ISBN-13: 9781250038180
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Pages: 416

 Read an excerpt:

A Little Folly: Chapter I
Sir Clement Carnell's ruling passion, until the very last moment of his life, was his passion for ruling.
In other times and circumstances he might have made a fine king of the absolute and despotic sort, bringing troublesome provinces to order, crushing rebels under his chariot wheels, and inscribing on a giant column his exact and fearsome laws. Being, however, only a country gentleman of Devonshire, he had to make do with tyrannising his wife and children.
He had married late; not through any lack of eligibility on his own part, for he possessed a good estate, and was impressive, even handsome in looks. Marital candidates there had been, but all had exhibited some deplorable shortcoming, such as a mild independence of mind, or a wish to have their feelings occasionally considered, which had rendered them unacceptable to a man of Sir Clement's character. The bride he at last chose was much younger than he, and sufficiently impressionable to mistake the awe she felt for him as love. She liked, as she said, a man to be masterful. The best that could be said for the unhappy consequences of her choice was that she had not long to endure them. She died less than ten years after her marriage, having presented Sir Clement with two children, and having had her opinion of herself so thoroughly lowered, degraded and trampled by her husband that her dying regrets at leaving her little boy and girl were almost overcome by the conviction that they would be better off without her.
Where another man might have been given solemn pause by the prospect of bringing up two motherless children, Sir Clement, once the obligations of grief were over, rather welcomed it. His experience of matrimony had given him a disdain for feminine softness, and in taking exclusive charge of these two young lives he saw an opportunity.
He was a man of harsh, narrow and illiberal views, considering the times decayed and most men fools; - and not being afraid to say so, he had quarrelled with most of his neighbours. In his younger years he had done his duty as a Parliament-man, and there his unthinking deference to the great and powerful had been enough to secure his knighthood. Now he was done with London, which he condemned as a haunt of fashion and idleness; and was very ready to remain at his country seat of Pennacombe, isolated and self-sufficient, and there pursue a sort of experiment in authority, which would demonstrate to the world what could be achieved by a man who was determined truly to be master in his own house.
His tenants and servants knew, to their cost, the sharpness of his temper and the ferocity of Sir Clement's demands for obedience; but their subjection was as nothing to that of his children, who must live every moment under his close supervision. There, he could not only dominate but manipulate; could bend them to his will by playing upon the natural love that even so undeserving a parent must elicit; and in short, could reduce them to a continual state of fearful and self-doubting unhappiness, equal to everything his caprice and ill-nature could devise.
Education there must be, but of his choosing. Neither boy nor girl must be sent away, out of his sight and control: instead Sir Clement engaged, for Valentine and Louisa, a succession of tutors and governesses. They came and went rapidly. Partly this was the consequence of Sir Clement's infinite capacity for finding fault; but more than that, as soon as any of these teachers began to manifest an influence over their pupils, he was roused to jealousy; - and if any were unlucky enough actually to be liked by their charges, their doom was sealed at once. For while he did nothing to secure his children's affection, he could not endure to see it bestowed elsewhere; and was quick to impress on them that in doing so, they were very ungrateful and unnatural creatures.
Valentine, when the time came, was sent up to Oxford, chiefly because Sir Clement had been there; but after a single term, his father put an end to his university career. A couple of tailor's bills, a few unwontedly cheerful and spirited remarks, were enough to convince Sir Clement that his son was going rapidly to the bad. As he stood sole heir to Pennacombe, there was no necessity for Valentine to pursue a profession; but after the Oxford disaster, he did speak tentatively of studying the law, only to have the idea firmly rejected - because it was his idea, because all lawyers were fools and knaves, and because it would mean his going to London, at the furthest remove from his father's surveillance and control. No, he was to remain at Pennacombe - and remain there quite without interest or occupation; for while many men of Sir Clement's age and situation would have been glad to pass on to their grown sons some of the responsibilities of the estate, of stewardship and accounting and management of the home farm, Sir Clement kept them all under his own hand. As a result, at the age of twenty-three Valentine was just such an idle and discontented young man as Sir Clement had always sharply condemned; and he could not understand it.
As for Louisa, there his self-appointed task was simpler. He was so far from a friend to learning in females that he would have spared even the usual accomplishments of music and drawing if convention had not made them obligatory. But the sole aim and purpose of a daughter of Sir Clement Carnell must be to make a good marriage; and that he had already planned to his own satisfaction, having chosen the candidate when she was scarce sixteen. Only the sentimental degeneracy of the times, indeed, had prevented him drawing up a contract with an attorney, and binding her to it there and then. Some evidences of her own will in the matter there had been - taking the form of evasions, shifts and silences rather than mutiny - but he had no doubt of conquering it when the time came. It would never have occurred to Sir Clement that he knew his daughter very little: that his continual scrutiny had necessarily fostered in her the habit of reserve, and the art of disguise - especially when, as often happened, she undertook to shield her brother from the worst excesses of his authority. Being a woman, she was in his view not only as frail as glass but as transparent.
Alas for Sir Clement, he could not absolutely direct the lives of Valentine and Louisa once they were come to adulthood, as he could when they were children. Some concessions there must be to the forms of society, for though he did not mind being disliked, he was averse to being despised. He could not deprive them of the odd tea-visit, riding-party or even ball without injuring his own standing: the Carnells must make a figure in the social life of the neighbourhood in which he was the chief landowner. But he contented himself by making sure that they did not go about often, that their acquaintance was strictly limited, that their conduct was always rigidly regulated, and that they enjoyed themselves as little as possible.
It is not wonderful to relate that Louisa and Valentine Carnell depended greatly on each other, and were joined by a bond of exceptional affection, loyalty and mutual protectiveness. They were so sustained by it that those who came upon them expecting to find them pitiable objects were much surprised. Their aspect was rather subdued than crushed; they were not at all tongue-tied, if their father was not by; and both were so well grown, well figured and handsome - their infrequent smiles, as light springing from darkness, so entrancing - that one could only wonder what effect might be produced by a little more confidence of address, and a little less of a tendency to look over their shoulder.
What the interested observer must find the most intriguing conjecture, however, was their likely future: - if and when that single dominating influence were to be removed, and they found themselves at liberty.
One such observer was Mrs Lappage, the widow of the former rector of Pennacombe. During the rector's life, and for some time after, she had been one of the few people in the district on easy terms with the family at Pennacombe House. Having no children of her own, and being a civil, active, good-natured woman, never happier than when she was giving herself trouble about something, she became as near as she dared a friend to the motherless Carnells, with an ear for their whispered confidences, and a heart to feel always for their situation, regardless of the little power she had to ameliorate it. But even this degree of influence was ended before Louisa and Valentine were grown. She decided to marry again - she was never quite sure why: it was, she supposed, someone to talk to. Her choice, Mr Lappage, was a retired corn-factor. He was a respectable, comfortable, unassuming man, and his manners, when he was awake, were perfectly good. But Mrs Lappage had found herself immediately sunk in Sir Clement's estimation.
'He had known the times were sadly decayed: - still he was shocked, deeply shocked, to see the widow of a clergyman so blind to decorum, and so willing to throw away the good opinion of society, and lower herself by such a connection, especially at her time of life.' Mrs Lappage was no longer welcome at the great house, and calls at Mr Lappage's pleasant grange-house were entirely proscribed. Mrs Lappage must satisfy her curiosity and compassion - both equally lively - by such chance encounters with Louisa and Valentine as could be managed; and soothe her feelings by many reiterations that it was a shame and scandal how that odious old man carried on, and by gathering every grain of intelligence about what went on behind the high park walls of Pennacombe.
And it was from this source that came the story of Sir Clement Carnell's last hours; of how they had been marked, and even hastened, by his domineering temper. The servants and labourers in his employ were always welcome at the kitchen-door of the Grange, there to eat a slice of pie and drink a cup of Mrs Lappage's excellent table-beer, and incidentally unburden themselves of any news from Pennacombe House. When, in the late autumn of 1813, it was given out that Sir Clement Carnell had died, the account was merely 'suddenly at home, after a short illness', a theme subsequently taken up in the newspaper obituaries; but Mrs Lappage knew the facts in all their revealing detail.
Sir Clement, a devoted huntsman, had returned from the day's chase and, faithful to habit, had stayed lingering about the stables to see his horse unsaddled, and minutely direct every stage of the operation. He had begun the day in more than usually irritable mood; his face, the groom recalled, had been red as beefsteak; and then had come the moment the young man could only recollect hazily, so awful were the circumstances. He had hung a piece of riding-tackle on the wrong hook - a hook quite apt for the purpose, but not the usual one - and Sir Clement had begun violently berating him. The groom had not been long in his employ and, half flustered and half desperate, had answered that it didn't signify.
Didn't signify! At this Sir Clement burst into a passion, excessive even for him. Perhaps this simple assertion so flew in the face of everything he believed that he experienced a touch of self-doubt, of which only the extremes of fury could purge him. He roared that he would teach the idle fellow what signified, ordered him to follow him to the house, even began bodily marching him thither - whether to give him notice, or simply make a blazing example of him before the other servants, was unknown, and would for ever remain so. Halfway across the stableyard he was struck by a paroxysm that dropped him speechless to the ground.
He was carried into the house insensible, and remained so through the succeeding night, except for a brief stir of consciousness in which he was heard to mutter something that sounded like 'Doesn't signify ...!' His physician did all he could in the way of bleeding, sighing and looking grave; but the heart-stroke was too severe, and come the morning those relentless and all-seeing eyes were finally closed.
There was matter here for the moralist; - Mrs Lappage, for one, could not resist a frequent shake of the head, and a murmur about chickens coming home to roost. Her first concern, however, was not with the dead but with the living: what must be the feelings of Louisa and Valentine - their shock, the grief that they were too natural not to feel, and their probable bewilderment at the utter transformation of their lives that must ensue?
'It is not my intention to speak ill of the departed,' she told her husband. 'That would never do. The evils of Sir Clement's character were well known in his lifetime, and I shall not allude to them now. Still, everyone must acknowledge - due respect being paid - that it is a release for his children. It would be doing violence to the truth to deny it.'
Mr Lappage showing no signs of denying it, or of doing anything at all, she went on: 'Still, it is a most perplexing situation they are placed in. I almost wonder whether that frightful old tyrant - not to speak ill of him - has so long denied them the power of thinking for themselves that now it is theirs they will hardly know how to exercise it. And you know even the most unsightly old building, when it is gone, somehow leaves a vacancy, and the eye misses it.'
'Like Phelps's barn,' Mr Lappage offered.
But Mrs Lappage was not thinking of Phelps's barn, as she reminded him with some vexation. She was thinking of Louisa and Valentine, and such was her anxiety that she almost determined to attend the burial of Sir Clement in the Carnell vault at Pennacombe church, so that she might see them. But it had not been the custom of her youth for women to attend funerals, and she could not overcome the scruple. She must content herself with her husband's promise to give her a full report of the occasion; though his powers of observation and description were not great. Some years ago at Weymouth he had come face to face with the King; but he had never been able to give any stronger idea of him to his wife's eager mind than that he had a hat on.
Mr Lappage did his best, however: counted the carriages, marked the black plumes on the horses' heads, and memorised some choice phrases of the officiating rector's. This did not satisfy.
'But Louisa and Valentine,' his wife cried, 'what of them?'
'Oh, they were there, right enough,' Mr Lappage assured her. 'The only family that I could see, in fact.'
'No surprise in that: - there are no close connections left on his side, for he outlived them all; and as for poor Lady Carnell's family, he quarrelled with them long ago, and would not even hear them mentioned.'
'Ah! well, there it is,' said Mr Lappage, with peaceful finality, and was about to enquire about dinner, when his wife caught him up with vehemence.
'But how did they appear? Louisa and Valentine - they will look I am sure very well in mourning, with their height and colouring - but how do they bear up? With dignity I am sure - they never lack that, though heaven knows how they maintained it under his rule - but, then, they are very unaccustomed to that sort of exposure, poor creatures.'
'Well, if you want the truth of it,' said Mr Lappage, seating himself and thoughtfully patting his waistcoat, 'I never saw anyone so absolutely broken up as those two today. Lord! It was as if the world had ended.'
Mrs Lappage pondered on this; and astonishment soon made room for understanding. The liveliness of her interest in the two young people quickened to an almost unbearable degree; but it was not to be easily assuaged. She had too much delicacy to call at a house where only a week ago her presence had been forbidden: it seemed a vulgar presumption - as if to say that now he was out of the way she could do as she liked. But to the accustomed quiet and retirement of a house in mourning there seemed, in the subsequent weeks and then months, something else added. Neither Louisa nor Valentine was much seen about: short polite notes were sent out in reply to those who had made the formalities of condolence; and from any evidence that Mrs Lappage could gather, there might have been no change at Pennacombe House - no lifting of a weight of oppressive authority - nothing to show that the estate had a new master and mistress, young, free, and with the world before them.
'I am very much afraid,' she said to herself, as she walked again by the high park walls, and in the leafless grey of February, 'that that monstrous old man - not to speak ill of him - is still in command of that house, and that his influence will never end!'