Trencarrow, the Hart family's country estate near Penzance in Cornwall contains two nemesis for twenty-year-old Isabel Hart. The lake where she nearly drowned four years before, and The Maze in the gardens of the elegant Queen Anne manor house.
It’s the summer of 1882, and with her forthcoming engagement to her childhood sweetheart imminent, Isabel attempts to put at least one of her fears behind her. However, when she summons the courage to venture inside the maze, she sees something she didn’t anticipate.
As other family secrets are revealed, Isabel is faced with the fact her vibrant, beautiful mother is desperately ill and her cousin, Laura, has developed a clandestine attraction to an enigmatic young man.
Isabel's growing doubts about her fiancé are exacerbated as she finds herself attracted to one of the houseguests, Viscount Strachan. Isabel discovers the lives around her are anything but ordinary and that her destiny lies in her own hands.
Will she see her way through the maze her life has become, or will she be driven further into her own world?
I have been honored with a sneak read of Anita Davison's upcoming novel, scheduled for June 2011 release, Trencarrow Secret. I have never read any of her previous work, so I took a chance when I accepted a pdf file from the author.... and... I liked it! Bookbabe_review
A rattle and ping of the bell accompanied Isabel onto the street. She gazed in both directions but there was no sign of Laura.
The sun burned into her back, and her dress clung to her dampening skin as the minutes passed. Isabel’s shoes pinched.
“There’s Miss Laura.” Peg pointed to where Laura hurried toward them in a heat haze.
Isabel frowned. “Isn’t the haberdasher’s at the other end of Fore Street?”
“I’m sure I don’t know, Miss.” Peg gave a bored shrug.
“Ah, here you are,” Laura exclaimed, as if she’d been the one left waiting. Her face looked flushed, and she gripped her closed parasol in one hand. “The tearoom has a garden at the back. We can sit for a while and enjoy the sunshine.”
Isabel looked down at Laura’s hands, empty apart from the parasol. “Didn’t you find what you wanted in the haberdashers?”
“Er, no.” Laura avoided her eye. “They only keep a small stock. I’ll have to make a trip into Penzance with you.”
The lady in the teashop welcomed them both in the same way Mr Methuen had, with effusive greetings and mildly embarrassing remembrances of their childhood.
In the shade beneath a rose-covered archway, they sat with a jug of cold, slightly tart lemonade on the table between them covered with a crocheted lid to keep the bees away.
Peg reclined on a bench, savouring a fruit-ice, her scrawny legs stretched out on the grass. Isabel’s headache had lifted and despite the blistering heat, the walk to the village made a pleasant change to being in the house all day.
Fat insects buzzed among the wisteria, which clung to the bakery walls, while cabbage white butterflies skittered between the shrubbery.
“They must water this area.” Isabel indicated the clematis, where plump, white blooms drooped from a trellis.
“Hmm…?” Obviously, Laura wasn’t listening.
Isabel fanned her hot face. “Mr Tarrant has spent a great deal of time at Trencarrow during the last week. Does he have a profession, or occupation of some sort?”
“Why should he?” Laura’s voice held a defensive edge. “My father never had one.”
Isabel flinched. Laura had a point. “I’m merely curious as to how long he intends to remain in Cornwall.”
“I have no idea.” Laura’s fan moved in rapid, jerky movements. “Until he chooses to return to London, I daresay. Why do you ask?”
“You don’t think Nicholas is a little, well. . .”
“What are you trying to say?” Laura stiffened, her fan halting in mid flight.
Whatever Isabel said now was bound to be wrong, but she couldn’t keep quiet. Her cousin’s happiness was at stake. “I suspect he may be paying you attention . . . well because he can see the advantages.”
“And those would be?” Laura raised a brow and tucked in her chin, her so reminiscent of Aunt Margot, Isabel’s mouth went dry.
“What I mean is, he doesn’t appear to have much in the way of financial resources.”
“You mean he’s poor?”
A bee hovered close to Isabel’s face. She grimaced and waved it away. “I didn’t mean to be unkind. I simply get the impression he’s not in a position to support you. Not in the way you are used to anyway.”
Pots clattered in the tearoom kitchen behind them, and a female laugh drifted out into the street.
“Don’t scowl so, Laura. I’m genuinely concerned for you. He doesn’t seem quite. . . what I mean is-”
“I know what you mean. And I don’t think I want to hear your opinion after all.” Laura rose and she swept toward the gate.
Following, Isabel grasped the top to prevent it opening, the peeling paint rough on her palm. “Please, Laura. I simply don’t want him to hurt you.”
Laura’s eyes flashed. “You know nothing about him. Look at yourself before you accuse me of being deceived.”
Isabel halted, shocked. “What do you mean?”
The other patrons had left the garden, their only observer being Peg, who busied herself gathering their parasols and Isabel’s purchases.
“It’s absurd how the family still treats you like a child,” Laura went on, still wrestling with the gate. “I know what happened at the lake that summer. I was there, remember?”
Isabel flinched. “Don’t, Laura.”
“Don’t, Laura,” she mimicked. “That’s what you always say. It’s what everyone says.” Her face twisted into a mocking grin. “Don’t talk about it. Don’t upset Izzy. She nearly drowned, you know.”
Her sing-song tone made Isabel flinch. “I can’t help it. I still have nightmares.”
Laura’s expression softened. “I didn’t realize. I’m sorry. But there are things happening now you should be aware of.” Her even white teeth chewed at her lower lip. “Although, I promised Mother I wouldn’t say anything.”
“You’re not breaking any confidences, Laura. I’m aware of my mother’s condition.”
Laura’s eyes widened. “You know?” At Isabel’s helpless shrug her eyes rolled to the sky and back again. “Then what’s all that nonsense about weak lungs, and she’ll get better with good nursing?”
“You’re right. I know I have deceived myself. But is that so surprising?”
“I suppose not.” Laura’s shoulders slumped. “And I’m so sorry about Aunt Marie. Mother seemed sure you didn’t know.” Her blue eyes swam with tears. “You could have trusted me, Izzy. We could have shared the pain, you and I.”
This thought hadn’t occurred to Isabel before. Her own grief loomed in her head as her personal tragedy, leaving no room for anyone else. “I’m so sorry, Laura. I didn’t-”
“No, you didn’t. You never do.” Laura’s chest heaved and she clenched both hands into fists on top of the wooden gate. “It’s always the same. We must consider how Isabel feels. Yet no one takes into account how much I’ve always loved you, Melody, and David. I love Uncle Ashton and Aunt Marie, too. You’re all the family I have.”
Laura dashed a hand across her eyes, her jaw set in a firm line. “You should never have questioned Nicholas’ feelings for me. That I cannot forgive.” She hauled the gate from Isabel’s hands and passed through, slamming it behind her to stalk away, stiff-backed.