23 June 2011

Excerpt Thursday: Anne Whitfield

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming historical novelist, Anne Whitfield, as she celebrates the release of her latest novel, THE HOUSE OF WOMEN, published by Knox Robinson Publishing Ltd. It's available in the US and UK, in paperback and Kindle format. Join us Sunday, when Anne will be here to talk about the novel and give away a copy! Here's the blurb:

As the Victorian Age draws to a close, lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own.

The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her. Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster’s future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father’s infidelity, one sister’s alcoholism, and another’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match.

Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life.  All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?


An excerpt from The House of Women
Grace brought her hands together under her chin in deep thought. “He had no money until his marriage.” Her eyes widened as she realized his meaning. “He used his wife’s money?”
‘It is his money now, Miss Woodruff.” Swindale’s gaze darted away. “I reveal too much. Mr Ross will be angry.”
An overwhelming sense of humiliation filled her. “We’ve been living on Felicity’s money …” Grace felt the bile rise to her throat.
“Miss Woodruff, it’s Mr Ross’s money and he used it to keep your family from going under. He is a gentleman, and takes care of his own. You must not censure him on this. He was thinking of you all and did the only thing he could do. His married state meant he could do much good to his own affairs and those of his family. It’s quite a natural thing to do.”
“Are you telling me that without his input of money after his marriage, we would have lost what businesses remained to us?”
“Yes, and more likely the estate as well.”
 His words were like a physical blow to her stomach. She reeled, staggering back towards the nearest chair and sunk onto it breathing heavily. Her mind was numb; refusing to comprehend the debt they owed him, owed Felicity. Tears stung behind her closed lids, but she denied them release.
Some minutes passed by in strained silence until Grace gave herself a mental shake, pushing all thoughts of William and Felicity to the back of her mind. She would deal with that later. Now, her family’s future must, for once, be firmly decided. For too long she had let the present state of affairs linger. Well, no more! It was she who had cared for them all for years, not her father, not her mother and definitely not William! She would rather burn this house to the ground than live on Felicity’s money. ‘If we were to live more frugally, maybe close up most of the house and cut all staff, except perhaps one or two would that work?”
‘It would help, certainly,” Swindale agreed with haste. “I have written to Mr Ross about the sale of more of the estate’s land. The south quarter around to the western boundaries cover many acres. It’s favourable farming land and should bring a good price.”
 “How can we keep the house, if not the estate?” Grace was clutching at straws, she knew, but if they could redeem something, however small, it was better than nothing.
“I have thought of that. If Mr Ross agrees, then all the surrounding parcels of arable and woodland can be sold, leaving the house, outer buildings and say twenty acres. Enough land to grow crops for the few beasts you’ll retain. If we can achieve a good price then you might be able to maintain a cook, housemaid, one gardener, and carriage driver.”
“An enormous change for us all,” Grace said, her voice barely audible above the crackle of the shifting logs in the fireplace. Her thoughts were racing ahead. Such a transformation in their lives was not going to be easy, but it could be done. She would make sure of it. “By doing this will the house then be unencumbered?”
“Yes. Hopefully. What profits are made will be enough to sustain the family and house. Unless there is a fall in the market.”
“Good. Then it will be done.”
‘It will?” Swindale looked at her strangely as if doubting her word.
Grace’s gaze was steady and cool. She knew what he thought. “There will be no more tantrums and tears, Mr Swindale. I shall begin the changes immediately.”

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Author information: Born to Yorkshire parents, Anne Whitfield loves history and the beauty of England. She is a keen genealogist and one of her greatest loves, apart from her family, is creating exciting fiction characters. Anne lives in Australia with her family. Her website is http://www.annewhitfield.com