Friday, April 15, 2016

The Gybford Affair ~ New Release from Jen Black

The quiet life of Frances, Lady Rathmere, is disrupted forever the day Jack, 4th Marquess of Streatham, arrives from London and almost rides her down. At the same time a stranger arrives in the locality, makes a play for her young cousin and scandalous letters accusing Frances of an illicit liaison appear in the national press. Is Jack their author? Frances is convinced he is, and has no idea the trouble those letters are going to bring in their wake.

“Gyp! No! You will be soaked!” Rolling to her knees, Frances stared across the grass. Too late. Gyp’s front paws were already in the water. “Gyp! No!
The faint sound of hooves distracted her. At the end of the meadow she saw a flicker of white against dark foliage. Her eyes narrowed. No gentleman of her acquaintance would ride without jacket, gloves and hat on Gybford land. Shirt sleeves were for the gypsy or the common field labourer.
Whoever he was, he turned his horse and hurtled across the ford in a shower of spray. Frances sank back on her heels, frowning. Ought she to be wary? Strangers were rare in the district, though vagrants and gypsies occasionally travelled the old route by the river. Frances opened her mouth to call her dog, and realised that would bring Gyp into the path of the horse.
The vibration from the great iron-shod hooves thudded up through the grass into her spine. Really, there was no need for such speed. One would think the snorting grey was in a race. The rider aimed for the gap between the river and the beech tree and gave no sign of having seen her.
Faster than she would have believed possible, the huge grey horse filled her vision.
Forgetting her dignity, Frances scrambled to her feet and lunged for safety behind the beech tree. She caught a glimpse of the wide-eyed rider gaping at her.
Gyp sprang up from the river bank like a red flame in the sunshine and loosed a loud bark beneath the horse’s nose. The horse veered sharply away from both dog and the river.
The rider flew out of the saddle, struck the bank with his shoulder and disappeared over the edge. Water droplets rose in a huge shower, sparkled for an instant and fell back into the stream.
Frances hesitated, one palm clasped to her mouth, suppressing a breathless urge to laugh. It served him right, really; but she ought not to laugh. One should not mock another’s misfortune.
The stallion snorted, wheeled and tore across the field, hooves flinging clods of grass high in its wake. Gyp followed, barking, but returned when Frances called her name. The horse was in no danger and would soon slow and stop of its own accord.
The rider, however, might need careful handling. She’d suffered similar falls as a child when she had not paid attention to her pony, and knew how foolish he would feel, which might mean an outburst of some kind.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Where Dragonflies Hover now released!

Where Dragonflies Hover is released today! Yay!
I really enjoyed writing this story. It's the first time I wrote a split-era novel (modern/1915).
I think having two strong heroines worked in this case. From the diary she finds, Lexi learns a lot of about life and love from Allie, the diarist.
WWI is an interest of mine. The first World War was a time of change in so many ways. Allie as a nurse experiences first hand the effects of what a tragic and perilous time it was. The biggest thing she learns, however, is that life is short, we never know when our time is up, so make the most of it. I totally agree with that lesson, and it is one that Lexi learns, too.

I hope you enjoy reading Where Dragonflies Hover as much as I did writing it.
AnneMarie Brear

Where Dragonflies Hover blurb:

Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …

Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it. 
Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.
Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the house leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …


The late sunshine enveloped the house in a golden glow. Again, it seemed to call to her, begging for attention. A path on the left of the drive looked inviting as it meandered through a small strand of poplars. Lexi grabbed her keys, locked the car and took off to explore again. She had nothing to rush home to now, and if she got caught for trespassing, then so be it.
The overgrown pathway brought her out on the far side of the grounds near the end of a small lake. She gazed over the water towards the back of the house and noticed a paved terrace area. From there the lawn then sloped down to the water. She’d not been around the back before and fell even more in love with the property. She could imagine the serenity of sipping a cool drink on a hot summer’s day and looking out over the lake.
Lexi stepped out along the bank. A lone duck swam by, its movement serene on the glassy, dark surface. This side of the lake was in shadow from large pine trees, and she stumbled on fallen pinecones hidden in the long grass. On the opposite side of the water were some small buildings, a garage, fruit trees in early blossom, and an overgrown vegetable patch, complete with a broken, rejected-looking scarecrow.
She wandered over to a narrow shed on her left and peered through its sole, dirty window. Unable to make out much in the dimness, she walked around to the front and was surprised when she was able to pull the bolt back on the door. Why didn’t people lock things? A covered rowboat took up most of the space inside. She smiled, seeing herself rowing it on the lake. Growing more excited, Lexi edged around it to peer at the workbenches and the odd assortment of tools and useless things one found in abandoned sheds. It was like treasure hunting in an antique shop. She used to love doing that with her grandfather.
She glanced about and spied a dusty painting leaning against the wall. The scene was of a child and a brown dog. Behind the canvas were more paintings, some framed, some not. Lexi flicked through them. The ones that caught her attention she took out and set aside.
She looked for somewhere to sit and study the paintings. A small tin trunk wedged under a workbench seemed the only offering. Thinking it empty, she went to tug it out, but it remained fast.
Using both hands, she heaved it out and was showered in a puff of dust. Squatting down, she inspected the latch that was held tight with a small lock. ‘Why are you locked?’ she murmured. The shed was open to anyone passing by, yet this ugly little chest had a lock on it. The trunk was nothing special, plain and in parts rusted. No ornament or writing hinted at its use.
Intrigued, she grabbed a hammer from the workbench, but then hesitated. She had no right to open someone else’s property. Lexi closed her eyes momentarily. What was she thinking of breaking into the trunk? What am I doing? Never had she broken the law and here she was guilty of trespassing and breaking and entering! She looked around the rowboat as though expecting someone to jump out and arrest her.
Something inside urged her on. She knew she couldn’t stop now. Sucking in a deep breath, she bent and hit the lock hard. The ringing sound was loud in the quiet serenity of the garden. The metal dented and with another few solid whacks the lock gave.
Shivers of excitement tingled along her skin. Gently, she eased up the lid.

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Also available in Apple ibooks, etc.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Life as a British Governess in Russia

Hiring a British governess was quite fashionable among Russian aristocracy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. They loved English style and wished their sons to turn into little Lord Fauntleroys. Being able to speak English was considered to be a necessary social accomplishment. French was also fashionable so employing an English governess who could speak the language was ideal. A tutor might also be hired to provide instruction in the Russian and history, and perhaps someone to teach the piano or violin. Lessons would take place in the mornings with the afternoons devoted to teaching drawing, painting and sewing for their daughters. Boys spent the afternoons taking part in field sports and fishing. Very much in the style of British aristocracy.

Books were hard to find. Those brought into the country were often assumed to be politically suspect and not allowed, a situation which worsened once the revolution started. Education was seen by the Bolsheviks as a snare which tended to make people unruly. Families who owned precious books learned to keep them hidden away.

Children were expected to take afternoon tea and dinner with their parents, and the governess must accompany them. This requirement differed very much from the situation in England where a governess was held in something of a limbo between servants and master. Millie was thankful that she’d learned about aristocratic etiquette from her former employer. The children, however, were quite capable of embarrassing her.

Discipline was an important part of a governess’s job. Not always easy with children who had led sheltered, spoiled lives. Some governesses lost patience and made them stand on a table, or put sticky paper over their mouth. Millie did not approve of such punishment.

A governess was also expected to attend church with the family most Sundays. The congregation would stand throughout the long service, even the Tsar and Tsarina, and all servants of the household must wear their best clothes. A fine hat was essential, the more flamboyant the better.

She could also visit the British and American Chapel in St. Petersburg on her day off, which Millie did, once she had convinced the Countess that she was entitled to some free time of her own. After the service the governesses would get together to chat as this wasn’t simply a place of worship, but also a social club. It provided evening classes, a library, chess club, choir, amateur dramatics and jolly picnics. It was the place to make friends, and hear of new jobs on the chapel grape-vine. Very much a home from home for ex-pats. It was here that Millie met the love of her life, but did he feel the same way about her?

Set against the backdrop of revolutionary Russia, The Amber Keeper is a sweeping tale of jealousy and revenge, reconciliation and forgiveness. English Lake District, 1960s: A young Abbie Myers returns home after learning of her mother’s death. Estranged from her turbulent family for many years, Abbie is heartbroken to hear that they blame her for the tragedy. 

Determined to uncover her mother’s past, Abbie approaches her beloved grandmother, Millie, in search of answers. As the old woman recounts her own past, Abbie is transported back to the grandeur of the Russian Empire in 1911 with tales of her grandmother’s life as a governess and the revolution that exploded around her. As Abbie struggles to reconcile with her family, and to support herself and her child, she realizes that those long-ago events created aftershocks that threaten to upset the fragile peace she longs to create.

Published by Lake Union Imprint.