To be re-published in Spring 2018 as A Summer of Secrets
Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.
Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.
When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it the attraction or the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?
How long can she stay at the abbey knowing what she does?
Leaving her boxes in the car in what had once been the abbey’s cloister garth – the grassy area around which the cloister arcades ran – she got out and took a long look around her. The grass had long been cobbled over and they were now covered with gravel. The cloisters had become stables and were now offices, while the lofts overhead had recently been converted into living accommodation. The estate manager occupied one flat, she was to occupy the second, and the third was still vacant.
Taking the computer printout of her tour and the map – kindly drawn by Lady Heaton – out of her handbag, she set off across the now redundantly-named stable yard towards Heaton Abbey House. The heart of the sprawling house had once been the monastic church, and opening a side door, she went inside.
This wasn’t good, she thought ten minutes later, turning down yet another similar-looking corridor in the bowels of the house. Where on earth was she? Lady Heaton hadn’t brought her down here the other day, had she? Weren’t the signs to keep the public out of certain rooms supposed to have gone up by now?
A door to her right was ajar and she pushed it open. It was the library but the room was incredibly dark and gloomy with only one narrow window directly across from her. Anyone else would have retreated but she had always been intrigued by the contents of other people’s bookcases and she wasn’t going to resist delving into these, even if she could do with a torch. A whole room full of books – absolute paradise. The first shelf was rather disappointing, containing large books on antiques, art history textbooks, a glossy coffee table-type volume on the various uses of herbs, and some new paperbacks on accounting, business management, and computers.
Further along, the shelves housed nineteenth-century novels by authors like the Brontë sisters, Mrs Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, and Jane Austen. Other shelves held classical prose and poetry but there were very few twentieth or twenty-first-century novels, unless they weren’t in keeping and were shelved elsewhere. Selecting a leather bound and rather dusty volume of Hardy’s The Woodlanders, she opened the cover. Oh, that dusty, old booky smell. On the flyleaf, in spidery handwriting, she could just about make out an inscription…
“And you are…?”
Sophia almost jumped out of her skin and peered into a dark corner. It was Lord Thomas Heaton himself. Dark-haired and in his late thirties, he was stretched out casually in a leather wing-backed armchair, and she watched as he savoured a mouthful of what looked like whisky. One of his hands was resting lightly on the arm of the chair while the other held the glass of golden liquid as he waited for her to reply.
“Sophia Nelson. I’m the new tour guide.”
His eyebrows rose in an ‘Oh, I see’ expression. “I must correct you in that you are the tour guide. We have not had a tour guide here before, unless you can count the few times Lady Heaton has shown guests around the house, that is.”
“Lady Heaton is to bring me on another tour this afternoon,” Sophia explained.
“During which she will no doubt tell you that this wing of the house is not part of the tour you will give.”
Sophia closed the book and raised her eyes to his face again. He stared back impassively at her, and she realised she was staring rudely at him.
“I’m sorry.” She flushed, glad now for the gloom in the room. “I was trying to familiarise myself with the house and I seem to have got lost.”
“You start tomorrow, don’t you? As tour guide?”
What the hell must he think of her? The tour guide getting lost. “Yes. I know the, er…history, I just need to…er…place it in context.”
“Context?” One eyebrow rose.
Oh, God, that had sounded better in her head. “Yes. I’m sorry that I disturbed you, my Lord.”
Cringing, she replaced the book on the shelf, and left the room.
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Amazon ASIN: B01KW0I7P2
E-book ISBN: 9781911381310
Print ISBN: 9781911381358
Visit my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information
“I must admit, I hadn’t heard of the author before and my expectations of the book were pretty low. I had no idea that I would be sucked in and completely absorbed with it for two days until I finished it! I fell in love with the characters flaws and all!…I found this book to be a great read. The author really drew me in and is an amazing story teller.” Amanda Schnellenberger at Goodreads
“Sophia and Thomas have obviously got the hots for each other from the start and this book really crackles with sexual tension. Add to that family secrets, a rambling house, a vengeful drug dealer and an array of calamitous parents and you’ve got one hell of a book!” Nikki Mason at Best Chick Lit
“Great read! I very much enjoyed this book. Combines a bit of history with a bit of romance with an intriguing story.” Reader Review on Amazon US
“I enjoyed this gothic tale of intrigue with the dashing Baron Heaton. Sophia is a game girl that readers will bond with as she walks a fine line dealing with the intrigue of her new post at Heaton Abbey. If you enjoy ‘big house’ stories with a dash of secrets and intrigue, give this a whirl. You’ll enjoy an escapist dash into some ancestral intrigue to while away a chilly autumn afternoon…” Jill Adams at NetGalley