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 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 house guests, 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?
[Available 10th June 2011 from MuseItUp Publishing]
Anita Davison has written a compelling Victorian Gothic Romance about dark family secrets and the true meaning of love and marriage. Our heroine is Isabel who bravely enters the maze on her family’s summer manor house, where she was once lost as a child, and discovers her father locked in an embrace with her dying mother’s companion. She is caught between two men, one whom she loves and the other whom she is expected to marry. And this sets Isabel off on a voyage of discovery about herself and her family.
Trencarrow Secret is a romantic family saga with complex characters whose motivations are revealed slowly, as are secret liaisons and love ties. What I enjoyed most was Anita Davison’s descriptive prose and charming storytelling style as she slowly reveals long buried secrets, dark ambitions, and the love that exists between family members.
Isabel is a charismatic character with whom readers cannot help but like. She is a woman restricted by the strict Victorian values of the time. It pleased me to see that the author did not make her heroine feisty as is demanded by the romance genre, but rather, she made her authentic to the times, her behaviour keeping with the strict society she was subjected to. And that’s what I look for most in any historical novel is the accuracy and authenticity rather than following the current trends for the publishing industry. I very much commend and respect the author for that.
With rich prose and compelling characters, Anita Davison weaves a magnificent Victorian era love story filled with intrigues. Each chapter is more tempting than the one before it. Fans of eloquent and meaningful romantic historical fiction will want to savour every word. Not only are the historical details well presented, but the love story that unfolds is exhilarating and stunning. A deep, enriching lesson on the nature of life and love.
For those of us who love a touch of mystery, an elegant setting in an old English manor house, and stories with satisfying endings that leave you surprised – this one has all that and more. Be prepared to be completely enthralled with his novel!
Want to learn more about this fascinating heroine? Here is an interview with Isabel Hart herself! What fun!
This is a beautiful estate, Isabel. How long have your family owned it?
Since my great grandfather’s time, I believe. We live in London, but I love it here and look forward to coming down every summer, even with its bad memories.
What are those?
Well, for one, The Maze at the back of the house is somewhere I avoid. I don’t like it much.
What is it about The Maze that frightens you, Isabel?
It isn't that bad, I don't have nightmares about it or anything. There's only one thing I have bad dreams about, and that's the awful night four years ago when I almost drowned in the lake. [Looks off and bites her lip] Anyway, we were talking about the Maze. My brother David told me there was a fairy house in the middle. So, on my sixth birthday I crept out of the house before everyone got up and went to find it.
I got lost, it's as simple as that. The hedges were a lot taller then of course, and I was only small. Then a cloud passed over the sun and what with the darkness and not be able to find my way back. . . [Shrugs] Everyone teases me about it. 'Silly Izzy' they call me, as if I was still six, but I admit I've not been there since - not until the other day when... [Bites her lip again frowning]
The other day when what?
When I saw Papa and Amelia well - you know. . .kissing. [Blushes] I couldn't believe it, but when I told David, he made me feel I was being childish and that I was old enough to know Papa and Mama weren't in love when they married. They married for convenience, he said.
That came as a shock to you?
Well, of course! I always believed we were a perfect family, Mama, Papa, my sister Melody, David and me. It never occurred to me Papa didn't love Mama. They were always, so - considerate, and kind to each other. [Sniffs and fumbles with a handkerchief] And now Mama is desperately ill and brought Amelia into the house because she needs constant nursing and Papa. . .
Has your father fallen in love with her?
Oh, no, I don't think it's a serious as that! [Frowns] Or perhaps it is, and Amelia is trying to tear Papa away from Mama when she is at her weakest. Because if Mama wasn't ill, she would send that trollop packing in a heartbeat and throw her boxes into the street after her. I could imagine her doing that as Mama is so strong and was once the most glamorous hostess in London. If she hadn't fallen so ill, then Amelia wouldn't even be here and Papa. . .
What about Melody and David, are they as upset as you are?
David isn't. [Rolls eyes] As I just said, he laughed and said I was being naive. I haven't told Melody, not yet anyway, and I wonder if I should. She adores Papa and it would upset her dreadfully. She has children to care for too, George is only five and William is still a baby. No, I mustn't spoil her summer. She comes down to Cornwall for a rest.
Rest? Doesn't she have a houseful of servants, a nursery maid and a lady's maid. Why does Melody need a rest?
[Cocks her head] I don't know what you mean. She has fewer servants than we do, so has more to do than Mama ever did. Walter, my brother-in-law is a dear and quite successful in business, but he isn't rich - at least Papa said his people weren't. He's quite a bit older than my sister, [stares off again thoughtfully] I always wondered why Melody married him. She's so beautiful - tiny, dark and dainty, and he's well, older, and clumsier and rather fond of his food - I...
Walter's not a handsome prince then?
[Giggles] No, not at all. I was only thirteen when they married, and Melody was eighteen, so no one was going to discuss such an intimate subject with me. I wouldn't know how to approach it now, so I will probably never really understand. She doesn't seem unhappy though.
You have a cousin you are quite close to I believe?
[Face lights up] Laura, Yes, we were brought up together. She's a year older than I am and lives with her mother, my Aunt Margot, or rather Lady Radley. Laura's father died when she was two, so she's indulged in every way, but I adore her. We tell each other everything. [Fumbles with handkerchief again] At Least, we used to.
What do you mean by 'used to'?
Well, this summer, Laura told me she was in love with someone called Nicholas Tarrant. But it's all very mysterious. Although she insists Lady Radley knows all about him, Laura meets him in secret. She's very vague too about his family and what his prospects are. The strangest thing is, without any warning, this Nicholas turned up at Trencarrow and Laura didn't seem at all surprised to see him. Well, she tried to, throwing her hands in the air and saying, 'Well I never', and all that. But she forgets I know her very well.
So what is wrong with Nicholas Tarrant?
I'm not really sure. [Worries thumbnail with her teeth] And I don't mean to be unkind to Laura, because I love her dearly, but, well she isn't the prettiest of girls and tends to be a little plump with all the chocolates she eats. And Nicholas is extremely handsome and, well flashy and sly at the same time. Why would he be interested in a girl like Laura if she wasn't an heiress?
What about you? Do you have a young man?
[Flushes prettily] Well, I suppose I do really. I've known Jared Winters since we were children and everyone expects us to announce our engagement at my birthday ball. Jared is tall, has dark curly hair and is very handsome. All the girls I know admire him. I'm very lucky really.
Everyone? What about you? Are you happy to go along with your family's plans?
[Blinks] Me? I cannot say I've thought about it too much. Our families have always assumed we would marry one day and, well, I'll be twenty-one soon and that's late enough to be engaged, don't you think?
Tell me about your latest house guest, Viscount Strachan?
Henry? [Flushes deeply] he asked me to call him that. He's very different from Jared, who calls me 'Old girl' all the time and pats me like a dog. Henry, I mean, Lord Strachan, talks to me about art and his two sisters who sound lovely. He understands that I don't like the water and doesn't make fun of me about it at all. He never says I ought to have got over such a silly fear by now either like Jared does.
He sounds more your kind of man than Jared.
Oh, I don't think so. [Twists handkerchief in her fingers] Henry is always squiring Evaline around. She's Jared's sister. She's tall with those pale, delicate looks everyone seems to think means she needs special care, though Evaline's never been ill a day in her life. [Lowers voice] She used to bully me at school, but I never mentioned it as no one would have believed such a thing of the perfect Evaline Winters. [Isabel rises] That's enough about her, shall I show you the gardens now?
Yes, that would be lovely. And thank you for talking to me, Isabel. Enjoy the rest of your summer in this beautiful estate.