A dark cloud hovers over Wolfram, the ancient abbey Laura calls her new home. Can she trust the mysterious man she married?
After a whirlwind courtship, Laura Parr marries Baron, Lord Nathaniel Lanyon, and he takes her to live in his ancient home in Southern England. Laura comes to Cornwall excited to begin life with the passionate man she has married. But secrets lurk in the shadows. The death of Nathaniel’s first wife has never been solved, and some of the villagers believe him responsible. Struggling to understand her new husband, Laura tries to uncover the truth. With each stone unturned, she comes closer to danger.
Lord Nathaniel Lanyon had decided never to marry again. But when he meets Miss Laura Parr, the daughter of Sir Edmund Parr, one rainy afternoon, he realizes almost immediately that he must have her in his life. And the only way he could was to marry her.
Nathaniel believes that his troubled past is behind him and he can offer Laura a good life at Wolfram, even though he can never offer her his heart. But as soon as they come to live in the ancient abbey, the past returns to haunt him, revealing secrets that he thought had been buried forever. As he tries to fight the forces threatening to overwhelm him, he realizes that feisty Laura will demand more from him than he can give.
“A Gothic romance in the classic style, the author is a master at creating ominous atmosphere and multilayered characters.” Coffee Time Romance and More.
“The plot was interesting and the added mystery kept me riveted. The novel kept me wondering until the end.” The Romance Studios.
“It was hard to put the story down as the mystery kept just out of reach, drawing the reader in further to the storyline. [It] kept me up way too late into the night following the puzzle of Wolfram Abbey. I look forward to seeing more from Maggi Andersen.” Siren Book Reviews.
Enjoy an excerpt:
When Nathaniel sat opposite Laura and picked up the oars, Teg untied the mooring rope and pushed them away from the dock. Nathaniel began to row, steering the boat out into the bay. Within minutes, they had left Teg and the wharf behind.
The ocean churned in a wash around them. Laura glanced in dismay at her best boots as the boat dipped, and spray splashed over the sides to pool in the bottom. What if they were swamped? She couldn’t swim. The prospect of her heavy suit and footwear dragging her down made her suck in deep breaths of briny air.
She refused to express her concerns and watched her new husband with reluctant admiration, both annoyed and impressed with how calm and capable he was. It was impossible to imagine anything untoward happening with him in control. He grew up here and was at home on the sea. There would be no nasty surprises, she repeated silently like a mantra. The wind picked up. She clung to her hat that must now resemble a limp, old cabbage leaf, grateful that it shielded her eyes from the surprisingly sharp glare off the water.
Nathaniel pulled hard on the oars. “Not far now.”
“The abbey is on an island?” she managed to say, dreading his reply.
“No, Wolfram joins the coast farther on, but the causeway is the quickest way to the village. If you’d agreed to wait for the tide to turn, your journey would have ended in a more comfortable fashion.”
“This is not unpleasant.” Laura chewed her lip on the lie. “I wouldn’t have asked you to row in your good clothes if you’d explained.”
“What do clothes matter? Isn’t this invigorating? We’ll be there soon.”
His voice held a rasp of excitement, like a boy on Christmas morning, she thought with a reluctant smile. The mist cleared and a narrow jetty appeared, where a small sloop rocked on the waves.
“Welcome to Wolfram,” Nathaniel said.
While he secured the boat to the jetty, Laura gazed up at the abbey. Its tower, as unyielding as a mountain peak, emerged from the fog as the sky began to clear. Nathaniel lifted her onto the wharf. There was a rambling garden filled with flowering trees and shrubs spilling over a stone wall. Laura’s heart leapt at the sight of something so ordinary and familiar as she followed him along the path.
Nathaniel whistled. A moment later, exuberant barking rent the air, and a pair of red setters raced down the hill. Glossy ears bounced and tongues lolled as they pounced on their master in delight. “Meet Orsino and Sebastian.”
Laura laughed. “From Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night?” Her husband constantly surprised her.
He grinned. “A favorite play.”
The dogs barely acknowledged Laura; their love for their master took all their attention. After he rubbed their ears and gave them a pat, she walked with him up the path, the dogs rushing ahead.
They entered through a wooden gate in the stone wall.
The garden of purple magnolia and white azaleas that had caught her eye grew among ancient gravestones, the scent of jasmine cloying. Laura was taken aback. It looked so… forbidding. “Your ancestors?”
Nathaniel turned away. “Yes.”
She silently cursed herself for her insensitivity. Of course, his late wife, Amanda, would be buried here.
He smiled and held out his hand to her. She clasped it, and they continued up the hill. Laura’s breath shortened as emotion and exhaustion took their toll on her depleted energy reserves. She chided herself for her weakness, but she was tired; so much had happened, and it had been a long trip.
Nathaniel pushed open an iron gate which led into a cobblestoned courtyard. The abbey appeared, sheer walls of granite darkened to black by the fog, the long, mullioned windows reflecting a leaden sky. Above a set of wide steps, the solid pair of arched oak doors were set within a square frame of ornamental stone molding, with a solid brass knocker in the shape of a lion’s head.
“Orsino, Sebastian, to the stables!” Nathaniel commanded. The two dogs whined in protest, but turned and loped off around the corner.
The door opened. A dark-haired young maid in a black dress, white apron and mobcap bobbed. “My lord.”
Nathaniel frowned. “Where is Rudge?”
“Gone into the village, Your Lordship.”
“This is Lady Lanyon, Dorcas.”
“Milady.” Dorcas dipped again.
Wondering why his butler’s absence annoyed him, Laura smiled at the maid. “Hello, Dorcas. What is the housekeeper’s name? I should like to meet her.”
“We have no housekeeper at present, milady,” Dorcas said.
“Have tea brought to the library,” Nathaniel ordered.
He ushered Laura into a grand hall that reminded her of a cold, fossilized forest. Solid columns of stone like the trunks of giant oaks formed graceful arches rising to a giddy height above. The carved wooden staircase decorated with branches, leaves and fruit led up into the shadowy floor overhead. A chill radiated up from the stone flags.
Their footsteps echoing, Laura followed Nathaniel along a passageway where massive tapestries decorated the walls. He opened a door and stood aside for her to enter beneath an ornamental arch into a magnificent room, its high, vaulted ceiling a series of decorative ribs. A splendid stained glass window dominated the far wall, which was set on fire by the lowering sun. The fog had drifted away.
“We have a smaller salon, which is cozier in the winter. But I prefer this room.”
“It’s breathtaking.” Laura was unable to suppress the relief in her voice at finding both beauty and comfort in the elegant room. Bookshelves filled with gilt and leather-bound books covered two of the oak-paneled walls. Glass cabinets held displays of delicate Chinese porcelain. The furniture was mostly antiques of a very fine quality, most particularly the round rosewood library table and the carved oak desk. A large globe rested on a stand nearby. The pair of brown leather chesterfields faced a baronial fireplace, a Canaletto landscape of the Thames hanging above. It was all undeniably tasteful, well suited to a man like Nathaniel, she thought, eyeing the leopard skin rug stretched out before the fire.
“Did you shoot that?” she asked with a smile.
He grinned. “I believe a great uncle did. I don’t care for safaris.”
Relieved, she made a note to have it stored in the attic. “You have an extensive collection of Chinese porcelain.”
“My mother was a collector. Sit down, sweetheart. I’ll have a drink with you, and then I must consult my overseer Hugh Pitney. I’ll introduce you to him tomorrow.”
Apart from the beautiful porcelain, Laura couldn’t see a sign of a woman’s influence anywhere. No likenesses in silver frames, no china ornaments, shawls or crocheted antimacassars. She sat on the chesterfield and swallowed her disappointment at him leaving her so soon. Although eager to see more of the house, she would have liked him to show it to her. But she knew he must supervise the running of his estate, especially after an absence.
Nathaniel seemed preoccupied since they arrived. As if Wolfram owned a large part of him. She shrugged at such a fanciful thought but couldn’t help another creeping in to replace it. Would Wolfram ever become home to her? She sat back and smoothed her heavy skirt that she couldn’t wait to change out of. While she wanted to learn more about Nathaniel’s life here, now was not the time to ask. “Tell me more about the history of the abbey.”
He poured himself a whiskey from a crystal decanter on the sideboard. “It was a monastery before it became an abbey. The estate has been in my family since the 16th century.” He stretched his long legs out and leaned back against the leather squab. “The Jacobites hid here in 1714. Their plan was to seize Exeter, Bristol and Plymouth in the hope that the other smaller towns would join the Stuart cause. But the militia quelled the uprising.”
“Your ancestors supported the Jacobites?”
“King James II was a Catholic, and King Charles II’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, was popular in the Southwest. The first Baron Lanyon supported his claim to the throne. Not wisely as it turned out.”
Dorcas carried a tray with a solid silver tea service into the room, followed by another maid with golden-colored fruitcake, flat scones, thick cream and jam.
Laura had rejected any food on the train, and now her stomach rumbled. She took a bite of the fruitcake, finding it tasty. “What makes the cake this wonderful color?”
“Saffron. Traditional fare in these parts.”
Nathaniel put down his glass. He stood and bent to brush a kiss on her lips. “Dorcas will take care of your needs.”
Why no housekeeper? She had many questions, but he was gone before she could ask them. Laura poured another cup of tea, a smoky brew she didn’t recognize. The dainty teacup was Spode china with the family crest emblazoned on it in gold.
She’d finished her tea and was eating the last crumbs of the delicious fruit cake when Dorcas returned. “I’ll take you to your chamber, should you be ready, milady.”
Eager to see more of the abbey, Laura rose and followed her. They mounted the wide staircase and on the next floor walked along a corridor. A chambermaid waited with linen over her arm, her eyes downcast.
“How many on the staff, Dorcas?”
“A dozen servants in the house. There be many workers on the estate though. I have no idea of the number. You be in the Daffodil chamber, milady.”
“That sounds inviting,” Laura said, as Dorcas opened one of the thick, arched wooden doors.
Laura almost gasped out loud. Wolfram’s rooms were lofty and large, and this room was no exception. She gazed from the painted plaster ceiling a good twenty feet above, to the floor covered in a thick Oriental carpet. An entire family could sleep in comfort in the carved oak four-poster bed with gold brocade bed hangings. A massive armoire occupied a corner, with a washstand and basin, a vanity table and brocade stool against the other wall. A painting of a lady in green velvet from another age hung above the stone fireplace. Laura wondered who it was. At least it wasn’t Amanda, she thought, stifling a nervous giggle. Stepping into another woman’s shoes was rather daunting.
Laura crossed to the tall, narrow casement windows, catching sight of her pale face in a gilt mirror as she passed. She prodded her hair. Heavens, she looked like a scarecrow. Pulling aside the heavy brocade curtains woven in gold thread, she gazed at the view below.
A stiff breeze dispersed the last tendrils of fog and bared the causeway, a built-up carriageway, the receding tide lapping at its rocky foundations. There were the steps she and Nathaniel had climbed earlier, which led through terraced gardens down to the restless expanse of slate-colored sea. Craning her neck, Laura could just see the stable block next to a more modern building that would be the overseer’s office. The trap had arrived, and two men unloaded the luggage. Nathaniel wandered into view, imposing in his riding clothes, his crop resting on his shoulder, his dogs romping at his heels.
Aware that Dorcas waited behind her, Laura turned. “I shall be most comfortable here.”
Dorcas jerked her head. “His lordship be in the Fern chamber, milady.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“It’s the chamber next door, milady.”
“Oh. Of course, thank you.”