Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Read on to find out more about this book and its author together with an extract from it to whet your appetite – sounds like an intriguing historical adventure and romance!
Where will her loyalty lead her?
Once accused of witchcraft Martha Spicer is now free from the shadow of the gallows and lives a safe and happy life with her husband, Jacob. But when Jacob heads north to accompany his master, he warns Martha to keep her healing gifts a secret, to keep herself safe, to be a good wife.
Martha loves Jacob but without him there to protect her, she soon comes under the suspicious eye of the wicked Steward Boult, who’s heard of her talent and forces her to attend to him. If she refuses, he promises to destroy the good life she has built for herself with Jacob.
Desperate and alone, Martha faces a terrible decision: stay and be beholden to Boult or journey north to find Jacob who is reported to have been killed.. The road ahead is filled with danger, but also the promise of a brighter future. And where her gifts once threatened to be her downfall, might they now be the very thing that sets Martha free…?
The brilliant follow-up to Eleanor Porter’s first novel of love, betrayal, superstition and fear in Elizabethan England. A story of female courage, ingenuity and determination , this is perfect for fans of Tracy Chevalier.
Purchase Link – https://buff.ly/3jveaHL
There was no moon the night he left. All the frost had wilted and the roads and fields were lined with a grey slubber. I walked with him to the stables and waited while the horses were saddled up and clattered into the yard. Jacob was a fine stableman; I could see why the young lord had picked him out; he had a way of talking that the horses seemed to understand. They bent their heads to him and snorted. In the light of the lantern their white breath smoked about his face.
At last he turned to me, smiling, ‘Come here, Martha, we have a little time still.’ I followed him up a ladder into a corner loft and sat back against the straw.
‘Pinch out the lamp,’ I said, ‘we don’t need that.’
‘Don’t we, wife? The last time I was with you in a stable loft you near pulled a knife on me, remember?’
‘Ah,’ I whispered, ‘I remember husband, but that was before I had learned to lie with you.’
‘Did I not make you an honest woman then?’
‘Oh no, our talking always ends in lying.’
‘And how does that begin? Like this?’
That moment – with the smell of horses and mould, with the horses snorting and stamping below and the men calling and cursing as they fitted the packs – I think it held the keenest joy I have ever known. The knowledge he was about to go made the wonder of it sharper. In the soft darkness there was only his breath on my cheek as we kissed one another’s faces, tracing the contours and the hollows, pressing the map of one another into our lips. It is his arms, his holding me, I thought, that keeps me whole; only that. Without that the sorrows of my life, and my own wild soul will hurl me into pieces. I will be like the Gabriel Ratchets people tell tales of, the restless hounds forever howling across the whipped skies, unable to find my self.
Jacob sat up. ‘It is only two months little mouse. I shall be back before you hang a garland up for May.’
‘I hope so indeed!’ I said, ‘or who will take me out a-Maying and help me stain my brown gown green?’
‘Ha! My Briar Rose still.’ He brushed the straw from his hair.
‘Jacob, lad,’ a voice called, ‘have done and come down, they’ll be here any minute.’
He bent towards me, suddenly earnest, ‘I don’t doubt you. All the same, be wary whom you trust Martha. You know the Steward’s fondness for making bastards. No, don’t take on. If any call you into their house a healing, make sure there’s a woman by. Bolt the door, nights, and don’t walk abroad.’
‘I will obey, my lord. I’ll not stir from my hearth nor lift my eyes from the earth for fear of dishonour.’
He threw his head back in his old way, narrowing his eyes. I placed a finger on his lips before the hasty words came. ‘Forgive me,’ I said. ‘Don’t let’s quarrel, I cannot bear you to leave on a quarrel. Come, Jacob, I am tame, you have tamed me quite. You are much more likely to be tempted than I.’ I put my hands round his face. ‘Morning and evening I shall hear the culvers cooing their constancy and I shall sing with them of mine. Be as true to me as I shall be to you.’
‘As true as the circling sun, Martha.’ He smiled, kissed me once more and leapt down the ladder.
Then all was commotion; the bleary young lords and their retinues came swaggering in. There were shouts for forgotten necessaries, bags added to, orders from the florid Steward and in the grey damp light the horses were led one by one to the mounting block and the gentlemen swung themselves into the saddle. It was Jacob himself held Sir Thomas’s bridle. He was barely older than we were; I dare say he looked younger, although his dainty-featured face was golden from his travels. There was a delicate charm in him that spoke of strength, like a jewelled scabbard for a blade. Jacob beamed when his master inclined his head and spoke to him. Sir Thomas did not shout as the Steward and the other lordings did – he garnered attention and spent it generously, sweeping us all in his clear intelligent smile.
Eleanor Porter has lectured at Universities in England and Hong Kong and her poetry and short fiction has been published in magazines. The Wheelwright’s Daughter was her first novel.
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