Meet Brotherly Love’s Liam Warner

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Father Liam Warner is forty years old and is the eldest surviving child of four siblings. Liam studied for the priesthood at Maynooth College, County Kildare, which is just outside Dublin. He was the first in his family to become a priest and his mother worked herself into an early grave, taking in washing and sewing, and selling her butter, eggs, and bread at the local market in an effort to be able to afford to send him there.

Liam and his brother, Michael, have lived just outside the village of Doon for the past year where they rent and farm fifteen acres of good land. In 1831, Ireland had a population of 7,767,401 and with Roman Catholicism being the largest religion by far, the fees paid to parish priests by their parishioners for christenings, marriages, and burials etc., made them wealthy men – on a par with the Church of Ireland clergyman – and, in some cases, even wealthier. It was a hard life, however, priests spent long hours in all weathers travelling the length and breath of their parish.

With Liam’s income, he and Michael can afford to live in lodgings, so why do they need to farm the land at all? Why do they not employ a housekeeper? And why did Liam agree to be appointed priest of a remote, rural, and mountainous parish in the first place? So many questions. Discover the answers in Brotherly Love.

Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.

Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?

brotherly_love_print_jpg

Excerpt:

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It is a week since my last confession.”

Liam rolled his eyes. Malachy Donnellan. How the man had the nerve… He listened to the usual impure thoughts rubbish Malachy spouted each week and began to absolve him, wanting eagerly to get rid of him, wondering how many Hail Marys to give him, when Malachy continued unexpectedly.

“Father, there’s something else that’s been on my mind lately, something you should know about.”

“Oh? Well, go on.”

“It’s about your brother, Father.”

“Michael?” Liam’s heart thumped. “What about him?”

“Well.” Liam heard Malachy scratch his head. “I’m not quite sure, Father, but I think he’s done something. Something he regrets. Something he wants to keep quiet..?”

Malachy ended on a high, questioning note and Liam leaned forward and glared at him through the grille.

“Like what?” he demanded.

“Oh, well…” For once Malachy was flustered, as if he hadn’t expected the news to affect the priest so badly. “I’m not quite sure, but it’s been on my mind for a while now and I thought you ought to know, being his brother and all…”

“Yes, well, thank you.” Liam sat back, closing his eyes in relief. At least Malachy didn’t know. “Is there anything else?”

“Well…” He heard Malachy scratch his head again. “It is wrong to break a promise, isn’t it, Father?”

“Yes,” he replied hesitantly. “Why?”

“Oh, it’s just that your brother and I were having a little chat the other day and now he seems to be under the impression that it isn’t wrong. Now you can tell him that it is. Can’t you, Father?”

Liam didn’t reply but leaned forward again and stared at Malachy in consternation as he grinned back at him through the grille.

“Is that all?” He found his voice.

“It is, Father, thank you.”

Liam quickly absolved Malachy and gave him five Hail Marys before sinking back in his seat as he heard the other man leave the confessional box. He touched his forehead and jumped, he was sweating profusely.

“Bastard,” he whispered and quickly crossed himself.

He opened the door and peered out into the chapel. Thankfully it was empty and he went out and began to pace up and down the aisle. What had Michael been up to, talking to that man? What had he said to give him those ideas? Without waiting for anymore confessees, he threw open the chapel door and strode along the road to the cottage without disrobing. He stood silently in the doorway for a few minutes watching Michael, who was sitting on his bed staring into space. He went into the bedroom and closed the door to the kitchen.

Michael started up and gaped wide-eyed at him. “You’re back early?”

“I had one confessee. One who was more than enough.”

“Oh?”

“It was Malachy Donnellan. He told me a lot about you, Michael. What the hell have you been up to?”

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Image from page 22 of “Waynesburg, prosperous and beautiful : a souvenir pictorial story of the biggest and best little city in Pennsylvania” (1906). Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images via Flickr.com / No known copyright restrictions

Fairs and Markets in Ireland

 

 

The fair is one of the oldest known gatherings of people which we know of. Fairs are known to have been held by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who utilised the religious games they played for trading purposes.

In Ireland, the aenach or fair, was an assembly of every social group without distinction. It was the most common kind of large public meeting and its objectives were the celebration of games, athletic exercises, sports and other pastimes. One of the most important fairs in ancient Ireland was that at Tailltenn, now Teltown on the river Blackwater between Navan and Kells in Co. Meath. It was attended by people from all over Ireland and also from Scotland. It was held yearly on or around August 1 and marriages formed a special feature of it. Another important fair was held at Nenagh, Co. Tipperary and has given its name to the town. Nenagh in Irish means ‘the fair’.

At many of the fairs, the chief men would sit in council in places specially allotted to them and discussions would take place. Each day but the last would be given over to the games of each social group or tribe. Among the entertainments was the recitation of poems and romantic tales. Music also formed an important part and there were many harpers, pipers and fiddlers. There is no mention of dancing and it is probable that the ancient Irish did not dance as we know it. Other performers included showmen, jugglers and clowns similar to what we see in circuses today. Prizes were awarded to the best performers and were publicly presented by the most important person present, whether it was a king, queen or a chief.

Buying and selling was a very important feature of the fair. There were often three markets. A market of food and clothes, a market of livestock and horses and a market for the use of foreign merchants who sold articles made of gold and silver. Space was also assigned for cooking. The cooking would have taken place on a very large-scale to feed the large numbers of people present.

When the evening of the last day had come, all the men of the council would stand up, at a signal from the chief and make a great clash with their spears. Each man would strike the handle of the next man’s spear with the handle of his own. This was the signal for the crowds to disperse.

After these, the most ancient of the Irish fairs, others developed over the next one thousand years. When St. Patrick introduced Christianity into Ireland in the fifth century, the Pagan customs were discontinued and Christian ceremonies were introduced. The fairs were organised by the local chieftain in his area. The Gaelicised Normans later continued this tradition. Many patents were issued by King James I in the early seventeenth century, granting authority to towns to establish fairs. It would be much later, however, before many of these fairs would become a reality.

The Cromwellian policy of land confiscation, ‘To hell or to Connaught’, and later the Penal Laws, suppressed the customs previously practiced by the Irish people and denied them ownership of anything over £5. However, as the eighteenth century wore on the laws were relaxed and Catholic Emancipation was finally granted in 1829. Despite this, the Irish people largely did not own any property, renting the land from landlords. From this time onward many fairs and markets were set up. These fairs were used mainly by the landed gentry and the landlords for the buying and selling of the herds of cattle and sheep from their estates. The tenant farmer’s land could only support one cow and as time went on, the growing population and the division of the farm amongst all the farmer’s sons made it nearly impossible to do more than grow potatoes for eating and enough grain to pay the rent.

In those pre-Famine times the weekly markets provided an outlet for cottage industries, butter, linen and potatoes. It was only after the Famine, at the time of the Land War of 1879-1881, that the majority of Irish people made the transition from the market to the fair. The Land Acts which gave the tenant farmers fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure and the opportunity to buy out their farm from the landlord, gave them the personal and economic independence to do so.

The building and extension of the railways in Ireland in the mid-to-late nineteenth century meant that cattle could be easily transported around the country to various fairs. It also brought about improvements in the breeding of livestock. Better animals were now for sale at the fairs due to the importation of different breeds of bulls and rams from abroad.

In the rural towns and villages the markets gave way to fairs held on the fair green. Gradually the fair moved onto the streets, no doubt encouraged by the business people but not by the residents as the streets would be left in a mess. The first cattle would appear in the town at about seven o’clock in the morning, some having been walked as far as ten miles to it during the night. They would be met by cattle jobbers who would buy and sell the cattle later on to bigger dealers at a profit. The buying and selling of the cattle followed a set pattern. The price would be enquired of the farmer, the farmer would then ask the dealer how much he would give. The animal’s mouth would then be examined to determine its age and a bid made. If the bidding became prolonged a third man, a friend of either the farmer or the dealer, would appear. He would enquire how much money was dividing the two and try and settle the deal by catching the hands of the farmer and dealer, slap them together and spit on them to seal the deal. A ‘luck penny’ was then given to the dealer by the farmer as a gesture of goodwill.

In the larger towns the market would be held on the streets and would be especially busy from October to Easter. This was regarded as the Christmas period when the country people would do their buying. Goods were displayed on stands lining the streets, with each range of items having its own special location. Frieze, flannel and clothing material in one location, wooden dishes in another, followed by shoes and brogues of all sizes and quality; hats, pottery, butter, flax seed, pork and beef, sally rods for scallops (used in thatching roofs) and rushes for lights. Hosiers, tailors and pedlars did not use stands, preferring to carry their wares- stockings, ready-made waistcoats, pins, needles, brass buttons and other items through the streets.

Most shoppers went straight home after the fairs and markets but some headed for the whiskey-houses (sheebeens) and the pubs, both of which had been open since six o’clock that morning. In the sheebeens, the drinking often went on all night. Unsold cattle would be stored in yards which the publicans made available to their customers.

Throughout the 1960’s the fairs and markets came under threat from the cattle marts. In the beginning the farmers would drive their cattle past the mart to the fair on the streets. As time went on, however, the farmers made less use of the fairs and markets, the majority dying out thirty to thirty-five years ago. At many marts today, it can be seen that a lot of business is still done outside on the streets in the fair tradition.

Some fairs and markets are still in existence today. The horse fair at Ballinasloe, Co. Galway and the Old Fair Day, held every year in Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo are two such examples. They prove that the fair and market, in existence for well over a thousand years still have a place in the modern world.

 

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Horse sale in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, Ireland: As well as the horses, there were hens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, goats and donkeys for sale

Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.

Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?

brotherly_love_print_jpg

Excerpt:

Caitriona stood in the middle of the kitchen floor and looked around her. The cottage was hers. The rents from sub-letting ten out of the fifteen acres of land would be coming straight to her now, too. She spent the next half hour gathering all of Bridget’s belongings together and piling them up at the door. The next time she saw Thady or Mary she’d ask if they wanted them, otherwise she’d burn them.

Walking around the side of the cottage and shooing the six chickens out of her way, she gazed at her land bathed in late Spring sunshine and beyond it to her long and narrow turf bog plot. The first field fed Áine, the small black Kerry cow, and her calf. The second and third fields – full of potatoes and oats – fed her, and the oaten straw kept Áine going through winter. Any surplus eggs, butter, and milk was sold at the weekly market five miles away in Kilbarry.

On acquiring Tommy Gilleen as a tenant, following John’s death, they had come to an agreement that Tommy would help her with both the oats and the turf in return for her help on his bog and a slight reduction in the rent. She had an income, she had food, and she had fuel. She nodded to herself, she’d be all right.

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Pattern Day in Ireland

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An Irish ‘Patern’ at Balla County Mayo – The ‘Long station’, engraved by Eugène Froment, in The Graphic 11 (23 January 1875).

The word pattern is derived from the Irish Patrun or English Patron and most Irish parishes had a patron saint. On the saint’s feast day, parishioners celebrated what was known as a Pattern Day at a holy well or another holy site.

Devotions at holy wells began with making what was called ‘the rounds.’ The people would walk around the well a certain number of times while saying special prayers. Part of the ritual included drinking the water and bathing with it. It was thought that water from a holy well had healing powers and some wells became famous for curing specific ailments.

Patterns were a common part of Irish rural tradition until the reforms of Cardinal Paul Cullen in the 1850s. The clergy had opposed the excesses of these celebrations – the (faction) fighting, the drunkenness, and the immorality. They also criticised the popular belief in the magical powers of holy wells and other holy sites.

This opposition had gained impetus in the late eighteenth century and bishops began to issue edicts forbidding the people to participate in such festivals. Pilgrimages did decline but this was due to the Famine and social change. It also coincided with the opening of schools and a decline in the Irish language. As the Irish language and culture waned, the traditional lore and rituals faded as well.

!A Discovered Diamond

Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.

Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?

brotherly_love_print_jpg

Excerpt:

As Father Liam Warner celebrated the Mass, he stole glances behind him and noted two things. His brother and Mrs Brady were kneeling very close together and almost all the men in the congregation had blackthorn sticks at their side. His heart sank twice over.

Once the Mass ended, he watched as Michael and Mrs Brady returned to the rock on which they had been sitting before. He then turned as the rest of the congregation parted into two distinct groups – the Bradys, in honour of Mrs Brady’s late husband – and the Donnellans – in honour of Malachy Donnellan – their leader and champion. Once the alcohol started to flow there would be trouble, he knew it, despite all he had warned them.

He wearily turned back to Michael and Mrs Brady. It was clear they were attracted to each other and he grimaced. He didn’t want his brother to become involved with a woman whose name was synonymous with violence and death in the locality. Soon after his arrival in the parish, he’d had to bury three men who had been battered to death by the Bradys. Then, he learned what had happened to John Brady himself two years ago. Oh, Michael, he thought angrily, don’t be a fool and get involved with her, no matter what she says about her hating the fighting. She’s dangerous, even if she doesn’t realise it herself.

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Sticks and Stones: What is Faction Fighting?

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The Party Fight and Funeral (Carleton’s Irish Peasantry by William Carleton, George Routledge & Co, 1854)

Faction fights were mass brawls at Irish fairs, markets, funerals, race meetings, and patterns (parish patron saints days) between hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people – usually families or parishes or estate tenants – whose weapons were usually sticks and stones. The fights often resulted in the deaths of one or more of the participants, and always resulted in maiming and injury. The tradition descended from one generation to the next as did the leadership of each faction.

Reasons for fighting ranged from a desire to display a family’s strength, conflicts over non-payment of dowries, fights over succession to land, and long-standing grudges often going back several generations. In many cases, the reasons behind some grudges were so trivial that it was not unusual for members of hostile factions to live and work peacefully together except for the days when the factions gathered together to fight.

The sticks used in faction fights were of holly, oak, whitethorn, and blackthorn. The blackthorn stick was popular because it was thought that a cut or a wound from a blackthorn would heal more quickly than those from a whitethorn. Sticks were also weighted at one end to cause maximum injury.

Reports in 1839 that faction fighting had all but come to an end were proved false as on 30 June 1845, fair day in the village of Ballinhassig, Co Cork, the Ballygarvan and Ballinhassig factions met to fight. When the leaders of each faction began fighting, the police attempted to stop the fight by arresting ‘Ranter’ Sullivan, the leader of the Ballinhassig faction and imprisoning him in the village Dispensary. When both factions joined forces to release Sullivan, the police opened fire and eleven people were killed, including a woman, Julia O’Callaghan. A plaque in the village commemorates those who lost their lives.

The Ballinhassig faction fight and aftermath appear to have been the final significant incidents of its kind. There were some isolated faction fights following the Famine and the last recorded faction fight took place at Cappawhite, County Tipperary in 1887.

Many thanks to Mixed Messages on Twitter for bringing the Ballinhassig Faction Fight to my attention.

Documentary on Faction Fighting from TG4 – Ireland’s Irish language TV channel – in English and Irish with English subtitles

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Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.

Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?

!A Discovered Diamond

brotherly_love_print_jpgRead an Excerpt…

At the edge of the wood they stopped and stared.      

Liam, his hands on his hips, was watching in clear despair as the two factions lined up against each other. Malachy Donnellan, waving a blackthorn stick which must have been over two yards long, was wheeling – walking up and down between the factions, taunting and challenging Tommy Gilleen of the Bradys to fight.      

“It didn’t take her long to forget him, did it?” Malachy was shouting. “John Brady – the supposed best fighter ever. He didn’t seem the best fighter ever to me when I last saw him.”      

Michael saw Caitriona bite her bottom lip. Why couldn’t they let John Brady rest in peace? He gripped her hand tightly as Tommy Gilleen was at last provoked.      

“Caitriona Brady has betrayed her husband,” Tommy screamed back. “She doesn’t deserve to have the name Brady. Her husband was the best fighter ever in this parish. She may not love him anymore, she may have forgotten him, but we never will. Why do you think we’re still called the Bradys?”      

“None of you have the imagination to think of anything else?” Malachy replied innocently. “You’re just not good enough to lend your name to your lot.”      

“Aragh, you bastard.” Tommy rushed forward with his stick, swinging it around his head. He struck out but Malachy met the stick with his own. This was the signal for general ructions to begin and within seconds the entire congregation who, only minutes before had been knelt together in prayer, were beating the living daylights out of each other. 

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Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images via Flickr.com / No known copyright restrictions

Meet Sophia Nelson from A Summer of Secrets

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Thirty-three year-old Sophia Nelson is about to start work as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House, a stately home and former Cistercian Abbey in Yorkshire, England. She returned to her home town six months previously to be closer to her ageing parents, working for a short time at the town’s mining museum before a suspicious fire burned it to the ground.

Her mother has dementia, suffered a stroke, and lives in a local care home. When her father fell and badly broke his arm, he couldn’t live on his own anymore, so he sold the family home and moved into sheltered accommodation. Sophia slept on her father’s sofa for a short time before her best friend, Michelle, offered Sophia the bed in her loft conversion. Sophia can’t believe her luck in securing a local job which comes with accommodation – a flat in what used to be the stable yard of Heaton Abbey House.

Sophia gets off to an unpromising start with Thomas, Baron Heaton. She first encounters a man she later realises is him behaving suspiciously at a boathouse on the abbey estate. The following day, trying to familiarise herself with the sprawling house, she wanders into the dark library and begins to examine the leather-bound books on the shelves, not realising her employer is seated in a corner enjoying a glass of whisky. He is not too impressed that the tour guide has managed to lose herself in the house on her first day. For Sophia, it is lust at first sight of her tall, dark, and handsome employer, and who turns her into what she describes as ‘a gibbering mess’.

Matters don’t improve when she witnesses Lord Heaton throwing a man out of his office and later that day she bursts into tears and runs from the library when he asks her about her parents. Returning to the library to apologise for her behaviour, she hears him speaking about his sister, Stephanie, who is in hospital having just suffered a miscarriage. What Sophia overhears leaves her torn between her attraction to Lord Heaton and the fear of opening a Pandora’s box if the truth were to get out. How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Read An Excerpt:

She was at Michelle’s at eight o’clock on the dot that evening.

“Come in.” Michelle smiled. “I’ve just put the kettle on.” They brought their mugs of coffee into the living room and sat on the sofa. “So what’s up? You sounded like you were about to strangle someone yesterday.”

“Lord Heaton,” she replied simply.

“What, he’s a pain in the arse?”

“Yeah, and the rest.”

“What?” Michelle’s eyes bulged. “Oh, my God, you don’t fancy him, do you?” Sophia looked away. “Sophia?”

“I don’t know what to do,” she said miserably. “I need to leave but I can’t because I need the money and I need the flat but…”

“Heaton,” Michelle finished and Sophia smiled sadly and nodded. “Okay, tell me what’s been going on.”

“Everyone thinks he’s a recluse. He isn’t. I mean, he doesn’t go out much but it’s not like he never leaves the house or anything. I mean, we’ve been going walking together for weeks now—”

“Walking?” Michelle interrupted incredulously. “Hang on. Hang on. Rewind. You go walking together?”

“It came up that I go walking and I asked if he’d like to come. He said yes after a bit and we go walking on the moors. Stephanie comes too at the moment, though.”

“His sister?” Michelle asked.

Sophia swallowed. “Yes.”

“Okay. Go on.”

“I fancied him from the start. Bloody hell, it’s so corny but he’s tall, dark and handsome. But he’s got an awful temper and he smokes.”

Michelle shrugged. “You can’t have everything.”

“No. We just…talk. He’s shy and he’s lonely. He hates to admit it but he is. Everyone just treats him like ‘Lord Heaton’ and it’s like he’s become this character and has to keep on playing it. I mean, he continually calls me Ms Nelson. He’s never called me Sophia once.”

“And what do you call him?” Michelle frowned.

“Lord Heaton,” she replied. “It sounds ridiculous but he’s never once asked me to call him Thomas.”

“And you never once thought to ask him to call you Sophia?” Michelle added and Sophia shrugged. “Does he fancy you?”

“Yes.”

“What?” Michelle had reached for her mug but had to put it down again. “How do you know?”

“He, um, draws people. He’s got drawings of me.”

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Meet Thomas Heaton from A Summer of Secrets

Thomas Heaton Colourised

Thirty-nine year-old Thomas Heaton is the 13th Baron Heaton. He inherited the title from his father when he had just finished university at Cambridge. For almost twenty years, he has had the burden and responsibility of not wanting to be remembered as the Heaton who had to sell Heaton Abbey House. Despite working long hours – often sleeping in his office – and being regarded as a recluse, he has been forced to open up the house to the public in order to keep the estate afloat.

Luckily, the house is somewhere tourists will flock to see. Thomas’ ancestor, Sir William Heaton bought the abbey and its lands following the dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s, renamed the abbey after himself, and remodelled the monastic buildings to suit his own domestic requirements.

A descendent of Sir William’s was created a Baron in the early 18th century and more rebuilding took place, reflecting the family’s elevation to the peerage. A further descendent made a fortune from coal mining, resulting in yet more rebuilding and restyling. A 20th century descendent made a catastrophic business deal and was forced to sell the mine and some land but, thankfully, the house with its mishmash of styles and five hundred acres of land remained unsold.

When he has a few minutes to spare, Thomas retreats to the abbey library to savour a glass of single-malt whisky. Having studied History of Art at university and with a weakness for full-figured Renaissance women, he can hardly believe his eyes when a curvy red-haired woman wanders in and begins to examine the books, not realising he is seated in a corner. The voluptuous Sophia Nelson may as well have walked off the pages of his art textbooks and will be working and living right on his doorstep.

Thomas’ elder sister, Stephanie, recently suffered a miscarriage at the hands of her violent boyfriend and lost a lot of blood. When Thomas offered to donate blood, he is told he can’t – and why – a secret that has been closely guarded for forty years and which shakes his world to the core.

When Sophia overhears the secret, Thomas can only hope she doesn’t reveal it. He struggles to keep his distance and his feelings under control, despite finding himself more and more in her company. She is the tour guide – staff – someone he really shouldn’t become involved with. Is it only a matter of time before the secret becomes public knowledge?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

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 her attraction to him or the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

Closing the bedroom door, she saw Heaton crossing the stable yard. It was the first time she had seen him dressed in anything but a suit and she stopped and stared. He was wearing a brown wax jacket with a bottle green jumper underneath, khaki combat-style trousers similar to her own and brown walking boots. She sighed and shook her head. It looked as though he was one of those men who looked fabulous in everything they wore. She reached for her mobile phone, pulled on a waterproof jacket, and grabbed her car keys before going downstairs to join him.

“You’ll have to move the seat back,” she said as she unlocked the Mini.

He got in and moved the passenger seat so far back that he might as well have been sitting on the back seat. She looked around at him, couldn’t help herself, and laughed.

“Sorry. I wanted something small and cheap to run.”

He pulled a comical expression. “I was looking to see if you had a sunroof that I could stick my head through. Maybe we should go in the Land Rover?” She nodded and he got out. “I’ll just get the keys from Des.”

She got out, locked the car, and saw him emerge from Des’ office. The two of them crossed the stable yard to the huge Land Rover.

“You’ll have to give me directions to where we start from,” he said as they got in.

“I will.”

Twenty minutes later, he pulled in at a small car park. “I haven’t been up here for years. You don’t walk too fast, do you?”

“No. There are two routes we can take. Up to what I call the big rock, which is eight kilometres there and back. Or up to the stone circle, which is five. Maybe five would be enough for today?”

He smiled. “I think so.”

He locked the Land Rover, they climbed over the stile, and walked up onto the footpath which ran through the heather.

“It’s lovely up here, isn’t it?” He halted after a few paces, hands on hips, and looked around them.

“If you need to stop and catch your breath just say.”

“Thanks. I’m not very fit. Walking between my office and the house isn’t really enough.”

They set off again at a slower pace.

“Where did you go to university?” she asked.

“Cambridge. The Heatons have always gone there. I was halfway through my final year when I learned that my father had cancer. I still have no idea how I got through my finals. The last time I saw him, he didn’t know who I was, so I do understand what it’s like. Unfortunately, he had run the estate like there was no tomorrow. I went into his study the day after the funeral and found drawers full of bills, invoices, and tax demands. Some went back years. It took years to pay all the creditors and the tax bill was astronomical. I’m still struggling to make ends meet and when the idea was put forward of opening the house up to coach tour parties, well, you saw what I was like. I apologise if I was rude to you. It’s no excuse, but I had to go to a funeral that day and I loathe funerals.”

“I hate funerals, too, and I wouldn’t like complete strangers traipsing through my home so I can sympathise. But there are tours booked for the next three months and Lady Heaton is scheduling additional daily tours because so many coach tour operators want to add the abbey to their list of stops. The way things are going, the abbey will soon have tours all year round.”

He nodded. “I know, but I am not dressing up as a monk or in a suit of armour for anyone.”

She laughed. “What do people say to you when they ask what you do for a living?”

“When people find out I have a title it is a bit of a conversation killer. I think some people have this idea that lords are all at least fifty, frequent gentleman’s clubs, and hunt, shoot and fish. I do none of those things. I was twenty-two when I inherited the title; I’ve been working to keep the place afloat ever since and I don’t want anything to spoil that.”

“It seems to be working, though.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “Just about.”

“Mum and Dad remember when you went down the mine instead of your father when he became claustrophobic.”

“Really?” He gave her an incredulous frown. “Good God, I must have been only about twelve or something. I wanted to go down with him but he wouldn’t let me. Then, when he had to come back up I asked if I could go and he just waved his hand in agreement.”

“Mum said that you asked lots of very good questions and that Dad was impressed. That is a huge compliment from my dad.”

“Were you ever down the mine?” he asked.

“No, I was never allowed, and it’s far too dangerous now. The nearest I got was the museum. I’d liked to have satisfied my curiosity but I much prefer the open air.

Mum’s grandfather was killed in a pitfall and I think she always worried that the same would happen to Dad. Now most of the time she thinks he’s dead.” She burst into tears. “Oh, God, I’m sorry.”

“Come and sit down.” Taking her arm, he led her off the path. They sat down in the springy heather and she wiped her eyes. “You have to cry, and let it all out,” he told her gently. “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve locked myself in the library and just…”

He pulled a comical expression as she stared at him. It was hard to imagine him crying his eyes out but who knows how he reacted when he left the library after learning that his real mother was a complete stranger.

“I used to cry for my family,” he continued. “Me; the bills that still needed paying; the career I never had; the nightmare of possibly having to sell the estate; the fact that I have no life…that sort of thing. You have your cry then you dust yourself down and, in my case, head back out to the office.”

“My friends in London didn’t want me to come back up here.” She fished a handkerchief out of a pocket and blew her nose. “But I had to, she’s my mum. She and Dad are all I’ve got left and I know I’m quickly losing her. This morning she thought I was Sally, her sister. I’m really dreading a time when she forgets that I exist.”

“Do you not have any other family?” he asked.

“Mum’s brother, Martin, died when he was twenty,” she explained. “Sally lives in Cornwall. They were never close, anyway. Dad was an only child.”

“So why did you go to live in London?”

“I followed a man down there.” She shook her head at her stupidity. “I thought I’d found ‘the one’ at long last and I thought I’d be able to persuade Dad to come and live in London, even though I knew deep down that he’d never leave Mum up here and he’d never move her down there. Anyway, needless to say, it didn’t work out between Lee and me, and I was packing up down there when I got a phone call telling me that Dad had fallen and badly broken his arm and he couldn’t live on his own anymore. That was six months ago. He said himself that he should go into sheltered accommodation so he sold the house and he’s in The Beeches Complex now. Finding a job which has a flat going with it is fantastic.” She smiled. “Do you feel like going on?”

He returned a smile. “To be honest, I’d rather sit here and talk to you. I haven’t had a conversation about anything but estate business in…I don’t know how long.”

“To be honest, I think you work too hard.”

He nodded. “I think you’re right. But I have to work hard. I’m not going to be remembered as the Heaton who had to sell up. And if that means coach parties and teas, then it means coach parties and teas.”

“Did you find the fridge in the end?”

He rolled his remarkable eyes. “Yes. It’s now built into the kitchen cupboards in the pantry. Integrated, I think Mrs Fields called it, so no wonder I couldn’t find it.”

“At least you can raid it now,” she teased.

He shrugged. “There’s no Branston Pickle.”

“I can make you a sandwich if you get a craving.”

“I might just take you up on that.”

She smiled and looked away, hoping that he couldn’t see her blush.

“I rang the opticians in the town,” he announced and she turned back. “They gave me an appointment for tomorrow morning.”

“Oh. Good.”

“I hope I don’t pick the most hideous frames there.”

“Would you like me to come with you?” she asked, hoping she wasn’t overstepping the mark, and he failed to hide his relief at her offer.

“Thank you. I’d welcome another opinion. Even if I could ask Stephanie, God knows what I’d end up getting.”

“I suppose I should have mentioned it before,” she began. “Properly, I mean. But I was sorry to hear about Stephanie. A friend of mine in London lost a baby. It was awful.”

“I suppose you’ve also heard that it was because her boyfriend hits her?”

Sophia nodded.

“She won’t leave him. I’ve begged her, Lady Heaton has begged her, her friends have begged her, but she won’t. I’m terrified that one day he will kill her. She went home to her apartment the other day, refused my offer of coming here for a bit. Stubborn to the last.”

“I take it that she doesn’t know?” she asked.

“No. And that’s the way it’s going to be.” He sighed. “Look, I’m sorry you’re caught up in all of this.”

“I have to say this: I just can’t help but feel you’re burying your head in the sand over it all.”

“Well, what can I do?” he demanded. “Turn up on your friend’s doorstep and introduce myself?”

“Her name’s Michelle,” she told him.

“Michelle’s doorstep, then. Her whole family could fall apart. It sounds dramatic but if it’s anything like what’s happened between Lady Heaton and me—” He stopped abruptly realising he’d said more than he had intended to. “For now,” he continued quietly. “I just want to try and get my head around it all and let sleeping dogs lie.”

She shrugged sadly. “All right.”

“We passed a pub about a mile back,” he said, jabbing a thumb back in the direction of the road. “Would you like a coffee?”

“I would love a coffee, thank you.”

“Good. I’m freezing.”

“Why didn’t you say?”

He just shrugged comically and they returned to the Land Rover.

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The Stately Home

A stately home is a property built in the United Kingdom and Ireland between the mid-16th century and the early part of the 20th century. They include converted abbeys and other church property following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Stately homes are different from country houses in that a country house is always in the country, but a stately home can also be in a town or city. The phrase ‘stately home’ originates from the poem The Homes of England by Felicia Hemans, which was published in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1827.

lacock-abbey

Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, England

King Henry VIII’s policy of the Dissolution of the Monasteries resulted in many former ecclesiastical properties being turned over to the King’s favourites, who then converted them into private country houses. Lacock Abbey, Woburn Abbey, and many other properties with Abbey or Priory in their name often date from this period as private houses. These houses were a status symbol for the aristocracy and famous architects and landscape architects such as Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir John Vanburgh, and Capability Brown were employed to incorporate new trends into the buildings and gardens. Many stately homes are an evolution of one or more styles but driven by practicality just much as architectural trends.

Sir John Vanburgh and Capability Brown

The beginning of the decline of the stately home coincided with the rise of modern industry. It provided alternative employment for large numbers of servants, but its final demise began during World War I. The huge staff required to maintain them had either left to fight and never returned, went to work in the munitions factories, or filled the void left by fighting men in other workplaces. Of those who did return home from the war, many left the countryside for better-paid jobs in towns and cities.

Erddig, a group portrait of staff on the garden steps

Some estates employed at least one hundred indoor and outdoor servants

The death blow for many stately homes came following World War II. Many were requisitioned during the war and returned to their owners in poor repair. Many had lost their heirs in one of the World Wars. Owners who survived were required to pay high rates of tax and death duties. Agricultural incomes from the accompanying estates had also fallen.

beaupre_hall3

Beaupre Hall, a medieval fortified mansion, was demolished in 1966

The solution for some owners was to hold contents auctions, selling its stone, fireplaces, and panelling before demolishing the house. But some properties, including Chatsworth House, are still owned by the families who built them, retain their furniture and paintings, but have opened their house and estate to the public during the summer months. Most stately homes now have to be a business as well as a home.stately_home_brown_signA_SummerOfSecrets_WebBanner

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 her attraction to him the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

In the library he retrieved a cardboard wallet from a shelf, and brought it over to a desk, before switching on the reading lamp.

“This is an aerial view,” he told her, extracting the etchings, and placing them on the desk. “Showing the layout of the monastic buildings. You probably know that most Cistercian monasteries were built to more or less the same plan. It was quite a small abbey. This is the church and a view of the cloister. Then along comes King Henry VIII…”

He was very knowledgeable and seemed to relax when he spoke of the past but with a temper like his, his chances of being a good tour guide were very slim.

“You’re from the town, aren’t you?” he asked, returning the etchings to the folder.

“Yes, but I’ve lived in Leeds and then in London until quite recently.”

“What brought you back? If you don’t mind my asking?”

“No,” she replied, giving him a weak smile. “My mother is ill. She had a stroke and is in Rich Hill Nursing Home. She suffers from dementia, so she couldn’t live at home anymore. She kept wandering off and Dad couldn’t cope. I didn’t want to be too far away so I came back. To the mining museum originally, but then someone took a dislike to it.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry to hear about your mother.”

“Thank you.”

“It must be very hard on your family.”

She noticed a book on Renaissance women in the desk drawer as he opened it and placed the wallet inside. “I’m an only child but, yes, it is hard. She used to be such an active woman. She and Dad married late in life. When the mine closed, Dad—”

“The mine?” he interrupted sharply. “Your father worked in the mine?”

“Yes, he did. And when it closed, he put his heart and soul into the museum. I don’t think there’s a single family in the town that doesn’t have a miner in their family history somewhere.”

“I must have met him at one point or another. What is his name?”

“William Nelson. He gave a very long-winded speech when the museum opened a few years ago.”

“I remember now.” He smiled and glanced at her curls. “Red hair.”

She grinned. “There must be Irish or Scottish in us somewhere.”

“Could you give him and your mother my best wishes the next time you visit?”

“I will, but there are days that I could tell her that I was the Queen of Sheba and she’d believe me.” Don’t cry, she ordered herself, but she couldn’t stop the tears coming. “I’m sorry,” she gasped and fled from the room.

She ran blindly through the hall—almost colliding with Lady Heaton—hauled the heavy front door open, and staggered out onto the steps before halting to catch her breath. Pulling a paper handkerchief from her pocket, she wiped her eyes. Oh, God, what the hell will they both think of you now, she demanded of herself. A hysterical, nosy idiot who doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut, that’s what.

ASummerOfSecrets-350x525

Buy A Summer of Secrets for   

KindleOr read A Summer of Secrets FREE with 

download

Buy the A Summer of Secrets paperback at

amazon  B&N  wordery  Book Depository  blackwells  Booktopia  Fishpond AU  Fishpond NZ  BAM  McNallyRobinson  Indie BoundASOS Kindle Matchbook AD

Amazon ASIN: B07B51ZTH2

Paperback ISBN: 9781986599504

Explore A Summer of Secrets on my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

newsletter-295x300

facebook-48x48  twitter-48x48  pinterest-48x48  mewe-500-2  goodreads-48x48  Wordpress  instagram_app_large_may2016_200  newsletter  BookBub Icon