17 August 2008

Book Party: Anne Whitfield

This week we welcome the return of long-time contributor Anne Whitfield, who's celebrating the release of her newest work of historical fiction, WOODLAND DAUGHTER.


Woodland Daughter by Anne Whitfield
A new century brings change to the carefully ordered world Eden Harris maintains--change that threatens all she holds dear. Despite years of devoted service to the Bradburys, the leading family of the community, Eden hides a secret that would affect them all, a secret shared only with her husband, Nathan and grandfather. Then an enemy returns, shattering her world and exposing her secret.

Torn and provoked, she strains to protect her family until a devastating accident robs her of Nathan, and she is alone and frightened. As the threat against her grows, Eden takes her precious daughters and flees from the country estate and the cottage she's called home, to live amongst masses in York.

Her attempt to start anew is not so simple as the past haunts her, and the one man she thought lost to her so many years before, returns to claim what has always been his. Eden must gather her strength and look into her heart to accept what the future offers.


This is the first book I've written set in the early Edwardian era of England and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. Another 'first' for me is writing a book where the heroine is married and a mother at the start of the book, that made a wonderful change for me.

WOODLAND DAUGHTER is only available in hardback, but it is worth it, I promise you! Eden's story is a lovely one, full of the ups and downs of splitting her life in two, her home life and her working life. She often finds that the two threads entwine and become one.

Do you ever run out of ideas, or suffer from 'writers block'?

No, I never run out of ideas. It's more a case of not having enough time to write all the stories that are in my head! I don't suffer from writer's block in any real sense. Sometimes I'll write myself into a corner and realise, nope this isn't the way to go, so I'll read over what I've written and chop and change things to get the flow back working properly. My first drafts are usually the bare bones of the story and second drafts are when I start adding all the padding.

What are you currently writing?

A few months ago I finished a romantic comedy which I hope will sell to a publisher, and currently I'm writing a Victorian era historical novel set in Australia and based on a governess scheme that sent governesses to Australia, but not all the women who came out had an easy time of it.

I've also got a historical short story simmering away too.

What is your routine for writing?

My current routine is to write from 9 am to 3 pm weekdays, while the kids are at school. If I have editing deadlines, I'll do that anytime, but mainly during the day while the house is quiet. On the weekends, if I have spare time, I'll do what promoting I can, plus do all the chores like updating blog and website, etc, that I didn’t get done during the week. I'm pretty flexible thankfully, but I do get frustrated if I don't accomplish enough during the day.

What books do you have out now?

WOODLAND DAUGHTER (historical); HER SHADOWED HEART (historical); BROKEN HERO (historical); A NOBLE PLACE (historical); THE GENTLE WIND'S CARESS (historical); GOSSAMER WINGS (historical); KITTY MCKENZIE'S LAND (historical); KITTY MCKENZIE (historical); LONG DISTANCE LOVE (contemporary romance); "To Love Again" (short story); "Avenue of Dreams" (short story); "India Dreaming" (short story)


The light started to fade and the ominous dark clouds that threatened rain all day seemed to lower even more. They sang together as they left the village and headed south over the fields and common, keeping parallel to the raging river. Its swollen contents flowing swiftly due to the recent rain, dashed against the banks and filled the air with rumbling noise unlike that of thunder.

"I'm thirsty." Lillie yawned in Nathan's arms. "Can we get a drink from the river?"

"No, it's not safe at the minute. It's flowing too fast." Nathan dropped her to her feet. "You'll have to wait until we get home and we'll have to be quick. It looks ready to bucket down."

A fat drop of rain landed on Eden's nose. "Bother! We won't make it. It's starting to rain."

They rushed under the shelter of trees that lined the bank as a loud clap of thunder pounded overhead. The girls squealed, covering their ears.

Nathan frowned. "We're going to get wet," he yelled over the rush of the river behind them.

"Thankfully, we don't have much further to go." Pulling the girls close, for the temperature had dropped, Eden nodded to Nathan and they continued walking, but quietly now. Yawns and shivers had replaced the singing and laughter as they trudged through the long grass on top of the bank in the grey light.

Lightening forked across the sky and at the same time the first deluge of rain hit them. Its coldness made them shiver even more and Eden worried about the girls or Nathan catching a chill. Ahead the wood loomed through the clouds and she sighed with relief. Not long now and they would be in the warmth of the cottage.

Out of the corner of her eye, Eden caught sight of movement. She paused in her step and turned just as Clifton yanked his horse to a sliding halt a few feet away. His approach had been silenced by the roar of the water. "What are you doing here?" She snapped, wiping the rain from her face. "Go away!"

Nathan spun around, his eyes widening. "Clifton!" He dragged Josephine behind him, putting distance between her and the fiend on the horse.

Clifton dug his heels into the horse's flanks, urging it closer to Nathan. "I'm not here to cause trouble, Harris. I just want to have a look at my daughter."

Eden didn't know whether she would faint or scream with fury. Her anger won and she lunged for Clifton's leg, wanting to rip him from the saddle. "Why can't you leave us alone! You'll never have her, never."

The Colonel's spirited hunter spooked, side-stepped and threw its head, giving Clifton a job of controlling it. Eden hung on, dimly aware of Nathan behind her and Clifton using his riding crop across her shoulders.

"Let him go, Eden," Nathan yelled, but she was past heeding him. She gripped Clifton's trousers and tried yanking him down. He kicked out at her but his actions scared the horse and it plunged forward towards Nathan and the girls. With one swoop of his arm, Nathan knocked Eden away from the horse and she landed with a thump on the wet grass. The girls scurried across to her, crying, the rain plastering their hair flat on their heads.

She held them close, watching as Nathan battled Clifton. The horse reared when Nathan tried to grab the reins, unseating Clifton and with a bone-jarring crack landed on the ground and laid still.

"Oh good lord." Eden scrambled on her knees over to him. "Is he dead?" she cried at Nathan.

Nathan knelt beside her. "Has he hit his head?" As he reached out to touch him Clifton sprang up and grabbed him by the throat. The force of their struggle sent them both backwards. Eden screamed with the girls joining in. Rain blurred Eden's vision as the two men wrestled furiously. Her senses recoiled at the violence, the grunts and swearing, the girls crying, the roar of the river and the non-stop rain pounding on her head. She wanted to get up, to protest, to stop them fighting, but the weight of her wet skirts kept her down, her spirit struggling in a battle of its own.

"Mam!" Josephine clung to Eden's arm with Lillie sobbing on the other side, but Eden couldn't think, couldn't act, as Nathan punched Clifton on the chin before Clifton sprang back and knocked him against a tree with a groan. On and on they went, and suddenly Eden was aware of how close they were to the riverbank. She struggled to her feet and faced the girls, shaking them so they'd focus on her. "Run home. Do you hear me?"

Josephine's eyes widened even further. "No--"

"Do it!" Eden took Lillie's cold wet hand and thrust it into Josephine's. "Take your sister home. Get into the wood. You know the way. Get into the cottage and put the door bolt through."

"But Mam--"

"Go!" Eden pushed them both in the back, stumbling the girls forward. "Run!" she screamed at them.

She watched them for a moment, waiting until the shadowy wood swallowed their little bodies. The wood would protect them, they knew it as well as she did. She'd taught them every path, feature and tree.

A grunt brought her whirling back to the brawl. Clifton, on his knees swayed before Nathan, who brought back his fist and then let another blow connect with Clifton's face. The crunch of flesh on bone, made Eden retch. She staggered forward. "Nathan…enough…"

Clifton shook his head like a wet ragged dog, squinted at her and smiled a bloody smile. Using a tree as a support, he hitched himself upright and leant there, breathing heavy.

Nathan coughed, dragging great gulps of air into his lungs. He held out a hand for Eden and she ran towards it.

"No. I'll not have it." Clifton thrust away from the tree and made last attempt at knocking Nathan down. The momentum took both men back onto the edge of the slippery bank. The more they tried to get a better footing the more they slipped down. Nathan slid on hands and feet down into the water. He grabbed at Clifton, who lay on his stomach clasping handfuls of grass, trying to get a solid hold.

Throwing herself onto her knees, Eden reached down for Nathan but he was sinking in the thick mud, the water lapping at him. "Nathan!"

"Eden." Clifton waved a free hand at her. "Help me."

She ignored him, moving away from where he lay, so he couldn't grab her. "Nathan, down this way." She called over the rage of the frothing water. The thick mud sucked at Nathan's boot. He was only knee deep but stuck fast. "Unlace your boots, forget them." Eden inched closer to the edge. She was aware of Clifton managing to slowly crawl up the bank, slithering and sliding with each bit of ground he covered. The rain came down in sheets, blurring the landscape, reducing visibility.

"I'm free, Eden." Nathan looked up, triumphant, and at that moment, the blood ran cold in her body, for behind him, surging down the raging river was a large mass of flotsam; trees, bushes and logs, all tangled up like a giant bird's nest.

"Nathan!" She scrambled to her feet, pulling out her wet skirts that wrapped around her legs, tripping her. "Nathan, get up on the bank. Quickly." She pointed to the threat bearing down on him. "Hurry, God, hurry."

The fear in her voice made him turn to face the hazard, he stepped back, fell and scrambled up again, but the river knew no mercy. The menace bore down on him, bouncing from bank to bank before it struck him in the chest and then sucked him along with it. The swirling, murky water carried him away, tossing him like a cork in a barrel.


WOODLAND DAUGHTER is available from Amazon.UK and also from The Book Depository, which has free worldwide delivery.

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