This book is on pre-order until 25th - it already has a 2* review left over from it's previous publication by Musa in 2012. These low reviews are always on the US site - I think a lot of American readers aren't in tune with English writing.
I've put up two covers images - can you spot the difference? Jane Dixon-Smith and I didn't and Amanda Grange had to point it out. The incorrect version was replaced the same day.
This is the last of my long back list - going to be hard to publish something every month, apart from December, in future.
Here is an extract from the opening of the book:
Lydia grabbed at the strap as the carriage tilted but failed to stop her undignified slide into the well. Her maid landed heavily on top of her. For a moment she lay winded, unable to move.
'I beg your pardon, miss, I couldn't stop myself from falling.'
'It's not your fault, Martha. I think we must have broken an axle. I sincerely hope the horses are unharmed.' With some difficulty she extricated herself and stood up. 'At least we are both in one piece. If I balance on the edge of the seat I believe I might manage to open the door.' She attempted the manoeuvre and the coach rocked alarmingly.
'Please don't do that, Miss Peterson. You'll likely have us right over.'
'Why doesn't Jim come to our aid? Do you think he's taken a tumble from the box. As Billy has gone ahead to order our refreshments he cannot assist. I must get out.'
This time her struggles sent the coach crashing right over. Her world turned upside down, her legs and arms became entangled with Martha's and it was several minutes before she was able to get both of them upright. The doors were now the floor and ceiling, the squabs pointing into the air. The sound of her precious horses panicking meant she had no option. If she did not get out and release them from the harness one would likely break a leg.
Martha screamed and pointed down. Lydia saw water seeping in through the door that now acted as the floor. They must have turned over into the ditch that ran alongside the road. 'Hold onto something, Martha. I think if I could step on your knee I might reach the door handle somehow.'
Her smart travelling ensemble was ruined, the hem already saturated with muddy water and her spencer in no better case. Her lovely new bonnet was hanging in disarray around her neck. Her sister had been most insistent she dressed in her best to meet the colonel, as the much longed for visitor was to arrive today as well. She was not going to impress anyone now.
The whinnying and stamping from the team had stopped. Was this a good or bad sign? Before she had time to consider, the door above her head was slammed back and a gentleman appeared in the space. His features were indistinct, but from his voice he was obviously well-to-do.
'Why couldn't you stay still, ladies? You have turned a minor accident into a major disaster. I have released your horses and attended to your coachman, however, now that you've managed to tip the carriage over there is nothing I can do to get you out without assistance. You must stay inside.'
The incredibly rude gentleman vanished as suddenly as he'd appeared, leaving Lydia up to her boot tops in freezing water. 'Come back here this instant, sir. You cannot abandon us in here.'
He slammed his fist against the carriage and shouted back. 'I cannot right the vehicle unaided, and can't pull you out through the door. You will come to no harm, the ditch is shallow, I shall be back as soon as I can.'
Then he was gone, only the sound of hoofbeats echoing in the cold winter air to keep her company. This was no gentleman. He had callously left her and Martha without making a serious attempt to rescue them. He could be gone hours. What about poor Jim possibly unconscious on the side of the road?
She would not remain incarcerated a moment longer.
'Martha, let me stand on your knee. If you brace yourself against the seat I'm certain I can scramble out.'
'It's a good thing you're not as short as me, miss. I'd not reach if I tried.'
With her maid as a stool, she grasped the edges of the open door. 'Martha, give me a push.'
Her feet were grasped firmly and she rose steadily. Throwing herself forward, she tipped headlong through the door and slithered, skirts and petticoats flying, down the side to land with a thud in the road. 'I'm out, Martha. I shall come back to you in a moment. I must check on Jim and the horses first.'
Three of the team were standing dejectedly in the shelter of the hedge that bordered the lane. There was no sign of Jim and the fourth horse. Good grief! The wretched man had used the lead horse to convey her coachman. Surely it would have been better to wait until a cart could be brought round?
Too late to repine. She must get Martha out and her precious chestnuts to shelter. The White Queen could be no more than two miles away; that must be where her would-be rescuer had gone for help. The thought of him returning and castigating her a second time prompted her to take matters into her own hands.
Hope you enjoy it,
Fenella J Miller
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