Tea with Mrs Markinson

Villages could be cruel places for an outsider, and the new solicitor’s wife was certainly an outsider.  Mr Markinson himself had been quickly accepted by the men, and their wives and sisters were rapidly won over by  his grave courtesy and the military bearing left by years in the British Marines. Indeed, had he been less personable, they may have more quickly forgiven the foreignness of his lady.

Rank and foreigness were the two problems in a nutshell, and today the duchess intended to solve them both. The rumours had it she was an army-lightskirt, or one of the wild girls who followed the Spanish guerrillas and slit the throats of wounded Frenchmen. The rumours lied. Mrs Markinson was some sort of Spanish nobility, and the Spanish nobility was even more complicated and heirarchical than the English. The women of the sizeable village that nestled around the feet of Haverford Castle were unable to assign her a place, and so counted her very obvious quality as an affectation and a lie.

At the rectory, most of the committee for the Spring fete had already arrived, but not Mrs Markinson. Excellent. If the woman following instructions, Eleanor had precisely fifteen minutes before introducing her as the newest committee member. Plenty of time for the ridiculous courtesies the village ladies thought suitable for the mistress of the castle.

Eleanor swept into the room, this month’s companion-secretary in her wake, and sure enough, within ten minutes, had the committee seated and ready for her next move. “I have asked the new solicitor’s wife to join us, my dears, and I expect her shortly. Before she arrives, may I solicit your kindness for Mrs Markinson?” She paused, her brows delicately raised, looking around at the startled faces of these leaders of local society. The mayor’s wife was trying to smooth out a frown, and the squire’s wife was near biting her tongue lest she say something to offend the duchess.

The village haberdasher, who was the biggest gossip in all of Eastern Kent,  opened her mouth, and the rector’s wife (God bless her) was swift to ask her, sotto-voiced,  if she needed more tea.

“I trust I may expect you to keep my confidence,” the duchess continued, silencing any further attemp at interruption. “I believe it may help us to make Mrs Markinson welcome if you know a little of her history, and of her connections with my family. She grew up in England. Her father was the younger son of an English gentleman, and her mother the daughter and widow of Spanish lords, equivalent perhaps, to what we would call a baronet.”

The ladies were nodding. The daughter of a baronet and a country gentleman. Mrs Markinson was assuming a shape they could understand. “After first her father and then her mother died, she returned to Spain to keep house for her half-brother, child of her mother’s first marriage.”

“The baronet,” the squire’s wife said, nodding to show she was following the story.

Eleanor inclined her head in agreement. “Don Imanol Mendina de la Vega, who by chance was at Eton with my son Aldridge.”

That fetched a buzz. Mention of Aldridge always provoked comment. “When the war came to Spain, Don de la Vega led a force into the mountains to support the English and oppose the French, and his sister continued to manage his household, but also to keep a village school. She also learned simples from her mother and her English grandmother, so naturally she used her knowledge to treat the wounded. And one day, a badly injured English marine was carried up the mountain to her village for her care.”

“Mr Markinson,” the ladies chorused, their soft smiles displaying their enjoyment of the romantic tale.

“You have guessed it. And the rest must be quickly told, for I see Mrs Markinson at the garden gate. It was, of course, Don de la Vega, who recommended his sister’s new husband to my son, and for love of her husband, she has followed him to Kent, leaving behind both her Spanish people and her childhood town far to the north in Lancashire.”

Eleanor stood as Mrs Markinson entered the room, and crossed to take her hand, as the rest of the village ladies rustled to their feet around her. “Mrs Markinson, I am so pleased you were able to join us. You see before you the committee for the Spring fete. I always say the best way for someone to feel at home in a new community is to be given a job to do, and you have come to the right place.”

Seated again a few minutes later, Eleanor watched with delight as the village ladies tumbled verbally over one another in their anxiety to please the duchess’s new protegee, and Mrs Markinson gave agreeable replies in her softly-accented English.  The duchess had given the barest outlines of the story, of course. Nothing of the decade of separation that split the Markinson’s wedding from their marriage. But the rest was Teri Markinson’s to tell.

The Lost Wife is a story in Lost in the Tale, to be published this week.

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Explanations in WIP Wednesday

What is a romance without misunderstandings? They met, fell in love, courted, married and lived happily until they died in old age, surrounded by their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren? It makes for a highly desirable life, but lacks interest as a story.

And if we have misunderstandings we have to have explanations, or the story would come to an early end.

So this week, I’m inviting you to post excerpts where one character explains a misunderstanding to another. Mine is from The Lost Wife, which is a short story in my forthcoming collection, Lost in the Tale.

“I am Imanol Mendina de la Vega. Welcome to my humble residence, and that of my hermana.”

Hermana. He had said something similar earlier. Long ago, David had learnt a little Spanish to please Teri’s Mama, stranded as she was as a widowed Spanish lady in the very English household of her brother-in-law. But he did not know that word.

He shifted his head on the pillow, the closest he could come to a bow. “David Markinson, Captain of His Majesty’s Royal Marines.”

Something fierce suddenly surfaced in Imanol’s dark intent eyes. “Markinson? Is that a common name in England?”

“Not particularly. It is more common in Scotland. My family are border people.”

“Border? Ah. Between two kingdoms. And what is the name of this border town you come from, Captain Markinson?”

“Blackwood,” David said. Once he had thought to spend all his days there; to take his articles with his employer, Mr Hemsworth, to raise a family of children with Teri and grow old in a cottage with roses around the door. After his dreams turned to dust, he had enlisted with the marines, and his mother’s death two years ago severed his last links to the place.

Imanol was scowling, his heavy brows nearly meeting above the bridge of his nose, but his voice, courteous and calm, showed none of the emotion written on his face. “And have you a wife back there in Blackwood, captain? Or a girl who loves you, perhaps?”

“No.” Not that it was any of this man’s business. “Not anymore. I have no-one.” I have a wife somewhere, his heart protested. Not back there in Blackwood, he answered his own objection.

Imanol opened his mouth to say something more, then turned to the door and fell silent.

David shifted his head on the pillow, but couldn’t turn it enough to see who stood there; who was asking a peremptory question in Spanish that was too fast for him to follow. A woman’s voice, and Imanol did not like what she said, for his answer was sharp. They argued for a few minutes more, and David tried still harder to see the woman. He could swear he knew the voice.

The altercation ended with Imanol saying to David, “Be careful, English. She says I must not gut you like a fish, but she does not rule here.” Another sentence or two in Spanish, and he left. David lay back, waiting, and sure enough the woman came into the room where he could see her. It was her. Older. In the clothes of a village woman rather than those of an English lady. But it was Teri. Maria Teresa Markinson, his runaway wife.

While he gaped, lost for words, she rested the back of her hand on his forehead, and picked up his wrist to feel for his pulse. “How is the head?” she asked. “Do you feel any pull from the stitches?”

David grabbed the hand before she could remove it. “Teri.” He struggled to order his thoughts, but they slithered out his grasp and he could only cling to her hand as if she anchored him to reality instead of driving him out of his mind.

“Take your hand off her.” Imanol’s cold voice gave David words.

“She is my wife!” he declared at the same moment that Teri said, “Go away, Imanol.”

“Your abandoned wife,” Imanol sneered.

“No! Is that what you thought, Teri? No. I did not leave you. Not by my choice.”

 

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Cover reveal Lost in the Tale

I’m nearly ready to release my 2017 collection of made-to-order stories. I have the stories and the cover, and I’m just waiting for the proofread files and a bit of time to set up the pre-release. No date yet, but it looks like it’ll be early September.

The short stories in the collection have only been available as print books, on Wattpad, or to party goers and newsletter subscribers as ebooks. The novella has so far been seen only by the giveaway winner who gave me the ingredients.

Like Hand-Turned Tales, Lost in the Tale will be free at all eretailers as soon as I can persuade Amazon to drop from 99c.

The Lost Wife: Teri’s refuge had been invaded: by the French, who were trying to conquer their land, and by wounded soldiers from the English forces sent to fight Napoleon’s armies. The latest injured man carried to her for nursing would be a bigger challenge than all the rest: he had once broken her heart. (short story)

The Heart of a Wolf: Ten years ago, Isadora lied to save her best friend, and lost her home and the man she loved when he would not listen to her. Ten years ago, Bastian caught his betrothed in the arms of another man, and her guilt was confirmed when she fled. Ten years on, both still burn with anger, but the lives of innocent children and the future of their werewolf kind demand that they work together. (short story)

My Lost Highland Love: Interfering relatives, misunderstandings, and mistranslations across a language barrier keep two lovers from finding one another again. The Earl of Chestlewick’s daughter comes to London from her beloved Highlands to please her father, planning to avoid the Englishman who married her and abandoned her. The Earl of Medford comes face-to-face with a ghost; a Society lady who bears the face of the Highland lass who saved his life and holds his heart. (short story)

Magnus and the Christmas Angel: Scarred by years in captivity, Magnus has fought English Society to be accepted as the true Earl of Fenchurch. Now he faces the hardest battle of all: to win the love of his wife. A night trapped in the snow with an orphaned kitten, gives Callie a Christmas gift: the chance to rediscover first love with the tattooed stranger she married. (short story)

The Lost Treasure of Lorne: For nearly 300 years, the Normingtons and the Lorimers have feuded, since a love affair ended in a curse that doomed dead Lorimers to haunt their home, the Castle of Lorne.

Now the last Marquis of Lorne, the last of the Lorimers, is one of those ghosts, and the Duke of Kendal, head of the House of Normington, holds the castle.

Kendal doesn’t care about the feud or the ghosts. He wants only to find the evidence that will legitimate the son his Lorimer bride bore him before her death, and to convince his stubborn housekeeper to marry him.

But the time allotted to the curse is running out, and his happiness depends on finding the Lost Treasure of Lorne before the 300 years draws to a close. (novella)

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