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The Mistress of Trevelyan Mass Market Paperback – 27 Jul 2004
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About the Author
Jennifer St. Giles worked as a nurse in various fields, from pediatrics to cardiac care, until she decided to be a full-time mom and home educator to her three children. She is the author of Touch a Dark Wolf and Lure of the Wolf, the first two novels in the Shadowmen series, and two Pocket Books novels prior to that -- His Dark Desires and The Mistress of Trevelyan. She has won many awards for her writing, including the Daphne du Maurier Award for Best of the Best for The Mistress of Trevelyan. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and children as well as four cats and two dogs. Visit her website at www.jenniferstgiles.com. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The house on Trevelyan Hill had always beckoned to me. Its stone turrets, stained glass, and gray spires, often swirled with mists from the bay, rose like a dark manor in the clouds. Even today, an unusually bright San Franciscan day, the mysterious air hovering above the house intensified as I drew near.
Butterflies fluttered over my nerves, making me pause to stare at the house and dab at the perspiration upon my brow. As a child, in the rare moments when my mother and I escaped our laundering, I'd beg to go to Holloway Park. There, I'd sketch the manor's stark beauty and listen to my mother tell of her privileged life in England. She'd always drift off to sleep, dreaming of those days, and I'd make up stories about those who lived on Trevelyan Hill.
Such things as drawing and dreams were foreign to my practical nature, as was my penchant for books, but they were my only luxury. I held on to them as I grew from girl to woman -- the art, the books, and the dreams. They eased my soul, and were my only solace during the toiling days of scalding water, lye soap, and scorching irons.
My fantasies of the inhabitants of Trevelyan Hill never matched the rumors about their rich lives. In recent years, tragedy had befallen the Trevelyan family as persistently as the waves of the bay beat against the dark, jagged cliffs visible in the patchy fog behind the manor. The death of their patriarch, rumors of madness, and then the suicide of Benedict Trevelyan's young wife had marked them. Leastwise, suicide was the official ruling concerning Benedict's wife's fall from one of the manor's turreted towers last year. No one had proven Benedict Trevelyan guilty -- but there were whispers.
Gathering my courage, I forced myself up the manor's long drive to the perfectly polished mahogany doors. Desperation, or perhaps fate, spurred me. I had decided, and nothing would deter me, least of all rumors. My own life had made me immune to wagging tongues. Closer now, I saw with some surprise that the tall castle-like doors were carved with winged demons chasing after fair, dainty maidens. I'd expected something stately, like a royal emblem, or a proper design. My curiosity about the inhabitants of the manor grew.
My mother had named me Titania after Shakespeare's Queen of the Fairies. I think she'd expected I'd be as beautiful and tiny as she, and not the almost-six-foot plain woman I had become. Somewhere over the years -- at my insistence -- my name had been shortened to the more suitable form of Ann.
The heat of the afternoon sun must have had a strange effect on me. For as I straightened my dress to walk up the steps of the manor, I suddenly wished to be as attractive as a fairy queen. To be dainty and desirable, even if it meant having to run from demons.
Shaking my head, I put my mind back on my task and smoothed the stolen paper I held in my hand, suffering a twinge of guilt as I read it again. This was the first time I'd ever done anything so unseemly. The moment I'd seen the employment notice in the window of Mr. McGuire's Bookstore, I had snatched it down, unwilling for anyone else to read it and apply for the position before I could. Benedict Trevelyan was looking for a tutor for his small children, and those interested in the job were to apply in person at his residence.
I bolstered myself with a small prayer and a deep breath, feeling my hopes for a different life than that of a laundress lodge in my stomach as I lifted the gargoyle-like brass knocker.
A butler wearing a suit and black tie answered. At the sight of me, his polite smile immediately drooped and his nose inched higher. "May I help you?"
My attempts to hide the threadbare state of my gray serge dress with extra starch and ironing had apparently failed, and the heat of the day had wilted the crisply efficient air I had striven to achieve. Now that I was here, doubts about the wisdom of what I planned to do assailed me, but I pushed them aside, refusing to turn around and run.
"Yes?" the butler prompted. Though he stood on the step above me, he didn't quite reach my height. Instead of looking me in the eye, he focused at some point below my chin.
I forced my feet to stay planted and continued to hold my head high. "I am here to see Mr. Trevelyan, please."
"Miss Ann Lovell."
The butler finally raised his gaze to mine. That he had to crick his neck a bit to do it clearly displeased him as much as my appearance. His disapproving frown deepened.
"All household cleaning positions have been filled." He stepped back and started to shut the door.
"Please." I held up the bookstore notice. "I am seeking a teaching position."
"I assure you, he is looking for an educated young man to fill that position."
"Then the position is still available?" My hopes rose to my throat, nearly choking off my speech.
The sound of heavy-booted feet striding closer preceded a deep, polished voice. "Is there a problem, Dobbs?"
The tone and verve of the unknown man's voice vibrated in the air and ruffled my already quaking insides. The sensation intensified when a towering man appeared at the door behind the butler.
I almost stepped back. The man appeared as tall and as broad as the massive doorway itself. His dark hair gleamed in the sunlight like the rich, deep hues of the polished wood behind him. A distinctive brow and Roman nose topped a freshly shaven jaw that could conquer an empire with its determination. He was dressed in dark trousers and a white shirt. His hair lay damp upon his brow as if he'd just bathed, and he smelled pleasantly of sandalwood. I breathed in, luxuriating in the scent before I could stop myself. The aroma proved most distracting.
Dobbs cleared his throat with a self-righteous flair. "I was just telling the woman that you were looking for a male tutor for Masters Robert and Justin, sir. Not a governess."
Blinking, I attempted to refocus my thoughts. I lifted my gaze. The man had to be Benedict Trevelyan; his gaze, black as a moonless night in its darkest hours, probed mine. This time I had to crane my neck back, an unusual movement for me. I could easily cast him as one of the winged demons carved on the door. His eyes were so dark a woman would never be able to see through to his soul, and I pitied the poor maiden he would chase. No mercy lurked in his measuring gaze.
"And?" Though he spoke to his servant, the enigmatic master of Trevelyan Hill didn't move his gaze from mine. He pushed the door wider and joined me on the step. I quickly crumpled the notice that I'd ripped from the bookstore's window and tucked my hand in the fold of my dress lest he think my hasty action too presumptuous.
"She found -- "r
"I found the answer unsatisfactory, Mr. Trevelyan." I spoke with enough force to clearly be heard over Dobbs's disdain. Then I held my breath, forcing myself to stand strong. There were times when the bounds of propriety had to be breached, and this was such a time.
For a brief second, I thought I saw the corners of Benedict Trevelyan's lips twitch, but his eyes remained so dark and unmoved that I told myself I'd imagined it.
"Interesting. Since he is only reiterating my wishes, I am to take it that it is my words you find unsatisfactory, Miss -- "
"Lovell," I supplied, offering my right hand in what I knew to be a manly manner. I felt I needed to stand my ground in the face of his challenge. His voice from inside the house had frayed at my confidence; now the pitch of his deep tones reached inside me, shaking unknown feelings to life that made me a bit queasy. I didn't like it.
Benedict Trevelyan hesitated, but only a moment, before he gripped and shook my hand. Though I'd been able to fashion a small hat from odds and ends of materials and netting left over from years past, I did not have the luxury of gloves; nor did he have any on at the moment. I'm not sure what he thought about this impropriety, but the shock of his bare hand upon mine struck me like a lightning bolt. Heat traveled through my veins to unmentionable places and coalesced to a burning in my cheeks.
I quickly promised myself I would buy a pair of gloves should I receive an employment offer. I instinctively knew it would be necessary for my peace of mind. The man was entirely too disturbing, and I had unprecedented trouble centering my thoughts on the conversation.
"Um, they are not necessarily unsatisfactory, Mr. Trevelyan. Unjust would be a more accurate word. A woman can teach as well as a man. What difference does gender make with -- "
He tightened his grip and bowed as if greeting the governor's wife. My hands were reddened from years of laundering, not a lady's hands. My voice clogged in my throat, and my thoughts evaporated as his lips, warm and soft, brushed the back of my hand. A fever washed over me, leaving my skin even damper than the humid air had made it.
I forcibly snatched back my hand, and this time there was no mistaking the lifting corners of his mouth, but no matching light reached his shadowed eyes.
"Unjust?" he said softly.
I suddenly realized Benedict Trevelyan knew exactly what he'd done to me. Considering our stations in life -- laundress to rich master of the manor -- he'd no social obligation to greet me in such a way. A man as practiced as he had to know the effects his charm had on women, and he'd smoothly manipulated me into the traditional womanly role I'd just tried to step away from. I had best tread more carefully with him, I thought.
Gathering my practicality and composure, I narrowed my brows, striving to admonish him. My future depended on it. "Completely unjust. Did you even once consider a woman for the position?"
"No," he said flatly, pulling out his pocket watch. "I have my reasons."
The finality of his tone pricked holes in my confidence, and my hands clenched as the mountain of laundry I saw in the back of my mind grew tenfold, trying to bury me completely. Too many injustices in the world went unaddressed, especially in regards to a woman's capabilities, and I had to speak up.
"Reasons to eliminate candidates without giving just consideration?" I asked softly.
dHe tensed as I studied him, his stillness similar to that of a predator catching sight of its prey. I made myself meet and hold the intensity of his gaze. I would not let myself feel shame that I hadn't excused myself when told a woman was not wanted.
"Dobbs, please escort Miss Lovell to my study," he finally said.
I managed to snap my mouth shut before Dobbs repaired the surprised crack in his formal mask. Neither of us had expected Benedict Trevelyan would spend another moment upon a closed issue. I had the distinct impression his decisions were always final.
"I will join you there shortly. You'll have exactly ten minutes to state your credentials and explain why you believe a woman would be a better teacher for my sons." He turned on his heel and disappeared into the manor.
Dobbs stood frozen in place, and for a moment, so did I. I had no official credentials beyond my thirst for knowledge, and my mouth went completely dry over the lie I was about to tell.
Regaining his composure, Dobbs stepped aside, motioning me in with an impatient gesture. The look he gave me condemned without a trial. I might as well have been stealing the family silver rather than searching for employment. Even if Benedict Trevelyan laughed in my face, I'd demanded an opportunity to apply for the position, and I had gotten it. Renewed confidence swelled inside me.
I honestly believed in my abilities to teach. Thanks to my mother's determination, I'd had many teachers over the years, and thus, personal experience with what methods of instruction worked well.
A bittersweet wash of memories splashed over my heart. My education had been as important to my mother as food to eat and air to breathe. It was as if she had known I would be alone as she had been.
As I crossed the threshold into the manor, I was surprised to feel small for the first time in my life. Most often I identified with Lewis Carroll's Alice when she grew too big for the room in which she stood. The ceilings, beam after beam of carved wood, arched to an ornate point above the foyer, like I had seen in drawings of European cathedrals. The marbled floor tiles stretched like a black-and-white sea. Heavy, dark wood chests -- massive in size -- sat between a series of champagne-silk-covered sofas dotted with jewel-like pillows. Gold leaf adorned the fancy wood of the furniture and accented the frames of a multitude of imposing portraits hung on the walls. The faces of the ancestors were stern, as if they judged all who entered and found them lacking. A ramrod suit of armor stood sentry with a sword in his hand, ready to carry out the ancestors' judgments. The room was the epitome of wealth tastefully displayed. Yet all of its richness paled in comparison to the stained glass windows on opposite ends of the hall.
As often as I had studied the house over the years, I'd never seen the window at the back of the hall. It was twice the size of the front and, in my opinion, the saving grace of Trevelyan Manor, countering its darkness. The combined beauty of the windows was indescribable. I stopped in the entryway, admiring the play of multicolored sunlight dancing over me. I could not help myself.
Either I had gotten lost in my astonishment or Dobbs had decided to abandon me in the hall, for the next thing I knew Benedict Trevelyan stood in front of me with a puzzled frown on his face.
"Miss Lovell, my time is limited. Do you wish to speak with me or not?"
"Yes, of course. Please forgive me, but I have never before seen anything so magnificent."
He spun in a circle, his gaze traveling the room. "I suppose the furnishings are impressive. It is not something to which I give much notice."
I shook my head. "No, not the room." I pointed to the stained glass. "The windows. They are like heaven itself." Each of the windows depicted a choir of angels singing to a Christ rising through the clouds. As I held out my hand, I realized little spots of color -- reds, blues, purples, and greens -- danced over my skin, masking its work-worn redness. "Look, they paint you with their beauty." My hand truly felt beautiful within the colored light.
"So they do." His voice dropped deeper, catching my attention.
I'd forgotten I still held his employment advertisement. He pulled the paper from my fingers. Unable to look him in the eye, I focused on his large hands as he smoothed out the creases. I found myself wondering what strength lay in such powerful hands.
He stood silent too long. I couldn't bear it. I couldn't let a stolen notice rob me of all that I had to offer. I had to say something on my behalf. "Do you not find the facets of light amazing?" I moved my hand through the colored beams filtering into the hall. "The hues hidden within its waves. Its warmth. Its refractivity. Its beauty. Why, one could spend a lifetime discovering more about its miracles. I have often wondered what it would have been like to be Newton or Huygens. To have made some of the discoveries they did in their scientific studies."
"I think you would have found them to be very lonely men, Miss Lovell. The world doesn't take kindly to new theories. Not until long after the discoverer is dead."
I met his gaze then and could not look away. He stared at me intently, his eyes unreadable and as dark as a starless night.
After an uncomfortable moment, he cleared his throat. "I have a pressing appointment, Miss Lovell, and very little time for musings. Your ten minutes are dwindling."
"Of course." I followed him into his office. Deep wood tones dominated the decor -- paneled walls, heavy curtained windows, huge shelves of dark leather-bound books, and a massive mahogany desk.
The master of Trevelyan Hill didn't appear to be a lover of light. I found the room as oppressive as a mound of laundry.
My relief that he said nothing of the notice I'd stolen was minimal. The man radiated tension, and I felt it seeping into me. I clenched my jaw and washed my mind with a good dose of practicality. Nerves would not feed me.
He sat behind his desk and, with a curt nod of his head, motioned me to a burgundy leather chair facing him. I thankfully perched upon the seat.
Tossing the advertisement down on the desk amid the neat stacks of paper, he picked up a writing instrument and slid a pad in front of him. "Why don't we start with the name of your schooling institution?"
My stomach quivered. I'd planned to cite my mother's school in England, but now that the moment to lie had arrived, my mouth had gone numb. I bit down on my tongue, hoping to bring feeling back as I sent another prayer toward heaven. I had more to give than the name of an institution, and it was up to me to make him see that. "Sir, if I may. I have several questions first."
Wincing, I pressed on before he could. "If my information is right, your children are young yet?"
He placed the pen back into the inkwell and with deliberate slowness leaned back in his chair, folded his arms, and glared at me. The hard set of his jaw told me I was about to be dismissed.
Perspiration beaded my lip. Throat dry, I swallowed and clenched my hands in my lap, blessing the inner kernel of determination that bolstered me. I had to stay strong -- my future depended on it.
"Miss Lovell, I do not have time to -- "
"Please," I said, softly but firmly.
"They are five and seven," he finally said after a long pause. Rather than easing, the tension between us increased.
"They are very young and without a mother. Might I inquire as to your reasons for particularly wanting a male tutor during this time as opposed to a governess?"
His lips pressed to a grim line, and I bit my bottom lip hard, already hearing my dismissal. My action drew his attention, and he stared at my mouth. The seconds seemed to grow longer as the tension in the room shifted from impatient antagonism to a physical awareness similar to the moment he kissed my hand. The heat of his regard made me much more aware of everything feminine within me, parts of myself I'd never given the least bit of attention.
I slowly released my lip, then curled my toes, welcoming the pinch of my boots. We both seemed to draw a deep breath at the same time.
Instead of asking me to leave, he slanted his head to one side and lifted his eyebrow, apparently deciding to humor me. "My boys are high-spirited and unruly. I think they need a firm hand."
"A gentle hand can also be firm."
"That has not been the case with their nurse."
"Because one person does not have a certain skill doesn't mean another person is equally lacking."
"True." His response was slow, as if dragged from him.
"Are there more reasons?"
"Dozens. It has been my experience that women have little patience for science and mathematics. They focus on fashion and parties as opposed to academics."
"True of some women," I conceded. "But not true of all, especially of me." To prove my point, I motioned to my starkly plain attire.
"So I see," he said dryly.
Though I had invited the criticism, the remark still burned.
"Miss Lovell, why don't you tell me in as few words as possible what you can offer my children over and above a tutor."
I closed my eyes, determined to state my case. "I hope to teach your children what my many teachers taught me. To love learning. To have a thirst for the next book that will take you to a new land. To have a curiosity and desire to press forward to uncover a new fact or invent a new thing. All the humdrum memorization of lessons can never be as valuable as that."
"Well put, but where does discipline fit into all this enthusiasm?"
"I cannot answer that, for each child is unique. Each child must be studied, encouraged, and if need be, admonished at his own level." I met his gaze steadily. He seemed to mull over my words. The more I gave voice to the feelings and ideas inside me, the stronger I felt.
"Tell me, Miss Lovell. Where did you come by this philosophy of education?"
"I learned what I know from my mother, from the many people of varied knowledge to whom she bartered her services as a laundress so that I would be educated. I learned much the same way as Abraham Lincoln did. Anything I want to know, anywhere I want to go, a book can take me."
"And you think this knowledge you have independently acquired would be more beneficial to my children than a man with the accreditation of a learned institution behind him?"
My heart sank at his incredulous tone. "At this point in your children's development, I most assuredly can offer them something that no institution can give, no matter how learned. It is called heart, Mr. Trevelyan."
I stood, knowing that without credentials I had no hope for employment here. Benedict Trevelyan appeared too rigid to consider my unorthodox education. "I thank you for your time, Mr. Trevelyan, and I wish you luck in your search for a proper tutor."
"One more question, Miss Lovell. Your parents? How do they feel about you seeking employment here? I am not completely unaware of the whispers behind my back."
"I had a mother only, Mr. Trevelyan. So I am well versed in ignoring whispers. She cannot give her opinion. She recently passed away. Good day."
His voice stopped me at the door. "Be here at eight tomorrow morning, Miss Lovell. I will employ you on a trial basis until you've proven yourself capable. If at any time I find you are not being beneficial to my children's development, I will find another to replace you. Expect me to appear and observe your methods of teaching without warning, for I will be evaluating their progress frequently. Your salary will be in keeping with the current rate for teachers here in San Francisco, payable at the end of each month with Saturdays and half-day Sundays off. Room and board are included with the position, as I think having the teacher available to coordinate my children's development more important than just a few hours a day. I want them to be as well rounded in their education as money can buy. That goes from music to languages as well. If you are not particularly adept at something, then I expect you to hire someone who is, and to participate in that lesson enough to know my child is learning. I have high expectations, Miss Lovell. Have I made myself clear?"
Gratitude flooded my emotions, and I dared not face him. "Perfectly clear, Mr. Trevelyan."
I hurried across the hall, feeling as if I would either laugh or cry at any moment.
Dobbs had a haughty look on his face that was drenched in satisfaction. I held on to my composure long enough to speak to him before I sailed out of the doorway. "See you tomorrow morning, Mr. Dobbs. You will be a joy to work with." My voice rang out loudly.
An amused snort echoed from the office I had just left, and Dobbs paled to the point that I thought he would faint. Smiling, I stepped out into the sunshine, wondering if I would too. I felt light-headed, as if I was floating in the air.
My feet carried me across the street to Holloway Park, to the brightly flowered gardens and sharp scents of marigolds, geraniums, and bluebells. I walked beneath the shady oaks, feeling the soft, springy grass and remembering the past. The birds chirped. The children played. And a light breeze, flavored with the salt and the fish of the bay, trifled with the leaves and then teased the wisps of my hair as it danced by, looking for mischief. The tension wrought so tightly with in me for so long eased.
My mother hadn't given me fancy dresses or a pretty face, but she'd given me something even more valuable. She'd given me her love. I had always known that. But today I realized that in that love, she'd given me another precious gift -- belief in myself, in my worth as a person.
"Thank you," I cried out to the sun, for I knew she watched from heaven, and the warmth of her spirit wrapped around me.
Yesterday, after placing wildflowers on my mother's two-week-old grave, I'd returned to our small shack to finish that day's laundry. Yet once there, I'd found myself unable to clean the mounds of dirty clothes. The bleakness of my future had stared me in the eye. I would have to wash baskets of clothes to feed myself -- just as I had helped my mother do since I was four.
The thought of spending another twenty years the way I had spent the last twenty made me shiver with dread, and all of my practicality deserted me. My soul cried for a new book to lose my sorrows in, and I turned right around and went to Mr. McGuire's Bookstore in town.
I never made it into the store. For as I stood outside trying to blink away my tears, Benedict Trevelyan's employment advertisement had come into focus, as had my destiny. I knew at that moment that I would find a way to teach, and I had.
Tomorrow I would return to Trevelyan Hill, to the mysterious manor that had called to me for so long. Soon I'd be able to explore what lay behind its intriguing facade.
I turned to study its turrets and spires from afar, and my thoughts strayed again to the master of the manor. Was he capable of murder?
I rubbed my wrist, remembering the feel of his lips upon my skin, remembering the tenor of his voice and his disturbing size. Deep inside me heat tingled, making a little ache flutter to life.
I knew that once I passed through the demon-carved portal tomorrow, my life would be forever changed, but there was no going back. My thirst to know more was too strong. I could not deny myself this, no matter what dangers lay ahead. I imagine my yearnings were akin to those that had driven explorers to the sea and pioneers to the West.
But, I thought, as I recalled the feel of Benedict Trevelyan's hand within mine and the touch of his lips, I would definitely buy a pair of gloves. Of that there was no doubt.
As the afternoon sun drew closer to the western horizon, painting the sky a swirl of pinks and yellows, I again found myself in front of McGuire's Bookstore. Walking out to Trevelyan Hill and back into town had left a coating of dust upon me, yet the time I spent at Holloway Park had my spirit feeling renewed, like a flower after a spring rain. Not even the impersonal hustle and bustle of people rushing to the shops, banks, and saloons -- something that usually made me feel lonely -- could dampen my spirit. My life had changed, and I yearned to tell someone of its wondrous new direction.
I stepped through the door to the tinkling of tiny bells and a squawking "How now, Spirit!" from Puck the Parrot as he announced my arrival.
Mr. McGuire was just as I always found him, perched on a high stool at his desk, engrossed in a book. As always, his desk was a precarious pyramid of novels and papers with only a small corner clear on which to rest the current tome he read. I greeted Puck with a soft coo, brushing his red and green plumes with the back of my hand, then cleared my throat twice before I got Mr. McGuire's attention.
His face broke into a wreath of kind wrinkles when he saw me. "Ah, lass, I'm so glad you've come. I've something for ye." He stood, absently pushing his bifocals in place on his pebble nose and tucking his few wisps of silver hair back atop his shiny head.
"Something to read?" The greediness in my voice should have shamed me, but I fear that when it came to books, I had none.
"I go, I go, look how I go!" Puck, sensing my enthusiasm, answered in kind. The colorful bird quoted Shakespeare, most often the fairy character after which he was named.
Mr. McGuire shook his head as if mystified. "How did you ever guess?"
I smiled at the game we had played before and dutifully replied by rote. "I saw it in my crystal ball?"
"A bird whispered it in my ear?"
He moved over to Puck, close to where I stood, and gave the parrot half of a hardened biscuit. After a long moment he spoke. "Possibly."
I blinked in surprise. My mother and I had come when we could to McGuire's Bookstore, using whatever spare monies we had to buy one of the bound treasures from his shelves. And over the years affection had grown between us. Were I able to choose a grandfather, Mr. McGuire, his Scottish burr, and all of his absentminded clutter would be mine. I would never forget the thrill that had gone through my ten-year-old heart the first time he said he had a surprise for me. Always before at this point in our game, when I'd said a bird whispered in my ear, Mr. McGuire would fuss at Puck for giving away secrets. That Mr. McGuire had changed his response now gave me pause. I didn't know what to say next.
Concern deepened his bleary blue eyes. "Your mother's illness and death has sorrowed me greatly. I've lived through losing most of those I hold dear, so I know a good bit of how ye have been feeling. I imagine you've been a mite lonely."
My mother's death had left a huge void in my life, and this dear old man's caring put a comforting arm about me. "You always understand."
He sighed. "Remember me saying a close friend of mine was a professor at the University of Edinburgh? Thomas Stewart Traill, to name him."
I nodded my head.
"He died back in '62 and willed me what he considered his greatest work. He'd had the honor of editing the Encyclopedia Britannica and gave a copy of the set to me. I want you to have them."
My soul sang at the possibility of having so much knowledge and learning at my fingertips. I didn't know which had flown open wider, my eyes or my mouth. For Mr. McGuire to give me so great a gift told me that he cared for me as deeply as I secretly cared for him. I could not stop the shower of tears that started to fall.
Looking confused, Mr. McGuire drew his white brows into high arcs above his bifocals. "Now, I meant to cheer ye." He patted my back.
"You have," I cried. "But you give too much. I could not possibly accept something so valuable."
"Humph. That's nothing but nonsense, lass. I'm an old man with none but myself to care for, and I have a mind to see knowledge passed into loving hands before I die."
My breath caught, and I studied his wise features through my tears. I did not see any hint of illness lurking about his age-worn body, but I dabbed at my eyes and looked again. I had to be sure. He appeared as well as ever, and I released my pent breath to argue. "But -- "
"I'll not be accepting any buts now. Come and take a wee look at them."
The moment I saw the box of leather-bound wisdom, I knew I was lost. Awe filled me, and tied my tongue as I fingered the gold-leaf lettering upon the spines. These treasures had come straight from Edinburgh, the very birthplace of the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
I could almost feel the information flow into my fingertips and fever my blood. A plan of instruction slowly formed in my mind. I would teach Benedict Trevelyan's boys everything in these revered pages. Little by little I would read the subjects and bring them to the level that a child might understand. Benedict Trevelyan had high expectations. I would be thorough. I turned to Mr. McGuire and impulsively hugged him hard. "I cannot find the words to even begin to thank you."
A blush rose upon his leathered cheeks, and a merry twinkle lit his watery blue eyes. "Ye can thank me by reading them."
"Oh, I will, I will, a thousand times. I will start this very night, and tomorrow I will stun Mr. Trevelyan with the lessons I have in mind for his sons."
The light of happiness in Mr. McGuire's eyes turned to alarm. "What is this you say?"
"How now mad spirit!" Puck ruffled his feathers upon his perch, disturbed from his biscuit eating by his owner's distressed tone.
"Dear me! I completely forgot to tell you. I applied for the position of governess to Mr. Trevelyan's children today, and I start work first thing tomorrow. Can you believe it?"
"Nay, lass. Surely you jest." He shook his head as if I'd given him grave news.
My excitement dimmed. Mr. McGuire didn't believe in me. Did he not think me capable? "No, truly I am now a governess. Do you fear I am unequal to the task?"
"Never. You are smarter than any lass I've ever known. Any lad, too, now that I think about it. It is Benedict Trevelyan himself who worries me. What if he had a hand in the death of his wife?"
I swallowed the twinge of unease that threatened to rise. Had not I had the same question myself?
Was I being too hasty, too desperate to change my life? I thought of the mound of smelly laundry I'd spent twelve hours cleaning the day before.
No, I decided. Employment to teach Benedict Trevelyan's children would in no way place me in any danger. "His wife jumped from the tower and died last year. Rumor has it that she was mad. Do you know more than that?"
Mr. McGuire sighed. "No, only the rumors. But if ye are going to be up on that hill, I'm going to make it my business to find out. Be careful, lass. Be very careful."
"Lord, what fools these mortals be!" Puck squawked.
Mr. McGuire and I both turned to look at the parrot, who now preened his feathers as if he didn't have a care in the world. It wasn't the first time that I wondered if Puck was more than he seemed.
Copyright © 2004 by Jenni Leigh Grizzle --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
Well - don't make the same mistake as me - what a TREAT, I absolutely loved this novel, from the minute I started reading right through to the end. Although quite a lengthy book I'd finished it within a couple of days and now I'm left feeling completely bereft. I haven't been able to get into another book since finishing this almost a week ago (unheard of for me, normally I go from one book straight into the next)!!
The literary style was excellent as were a whole plethora of characters, who were cleverly crafted throughout this book, none were neglected I got to know them all and was completely transfixed with the storyline.
I loved Titania and Benedict, Titania employed as Governess by Benedict to his two boys, Justin and Robert. Titania - intelligent, practical and full of integrity and love; Benedict - deeply affected by the death of Francesca his wife, gorgeous, a massive bear of a man and intelligent too! They are drawn to each other right from the start. Jennifer St. Giles builds sensual, as well as sexual tension between them which eventually turns into real love, it made me feel all fuzzy inside.
Justin and Robert, traumatised following the loss of their mother and then feeling like they have lost the love of other family members too. Titania builds up their self-worth as well as their love as we see them blossom under her tutelage.
We get to know other characters, Dobbs the stuffy Butler who is constantly plagued by Titania in a game of one-up-man-ship and Justin and Robert who insist on playing their game of `making sunshine' with him, much to his chagrin. Benedict's brother Stephen, with his secrets; his mother who is opposed to Titania's presence in the house; his deaf sister Katherine trapped in her own world; his sister-in-Law Constance, dull as ditch water and twice as spoilt, interested only in spend, spend, spending on the latest fashions.
Titania keeps up her wonderful friendship with the elderly Mr. McGuire after entering the house of Trevelyan, proprietor of the local bookshop with his trusty parrot, Puck who constantly quotes Shakespeare - absolutely brilliant!
Running alongside the romance is the question of Francesca's death, reported as suicide but suspected as murder; a real who dunnit mystery, totally riveting.
I can honestly say this is the best book I've read in an age and definitely in my top ten favourite books, thus obviously highly, highly recommend!
In a typical Gothic beginning, evocative of Daphne du Maurier, "Last night I dream of Manderlay...", when Ann Lovell walks through the gates of the old San Francisco mansion on Trevelyan Hill, she reflects how she was always mysteriously drawn to the house, almost a portent that her fate and the house was somehow intertwined. Set in the 19th century, foggy San Francisco, it's pure Gothic spooky, the big house full of sinister secrets, dark corners where evil resides. Ann, whose real name is Tatiana, is a lowly laundry worker. Her mother was a sweet lass lied to by a man of higher birth. A tall woman, who has to look down on most men, she has come to apply for a position of governess (as I said, pure blissful Gothic!) for Justin age 7, and Robert, age 5. No one seems to be able to keep the job, and now no one is applying, so Ann believes she stands a good chance of landing the position.
Benedict Trevelyan was rumored to have killed his wife, but naturally, that does not daunt Ann. Immediately, upon settling into her new role in the house, duckbumps
prickle up her spine as she becomes certain someone is watching her. With no surprise, Ann and Benedict's relationship spiral from first kiss into full blown affair - those cads never can resist the governess! Being loyal to her new lover, Ann knows Benedict did not kill his wife, thus someone else in the sinister house is the evil-doer. Occasionally, Giles lapses into deep purple prose, especially in love scenes, but she is able to maintain a sinister, passionate tension through out the story.
There is a bitter rivalry between Benedict and his brother Stephan. Toss in a secretive sister Katherine, and mother Roselind, secret passage ways you have a true Gothic in the best fashion.
Set in late 19th-century San Francisco, this conventional but well-crafted gothic romance from first-time author St. Giles is full of spooky suspense. Lowly laundry worker Ann Lovell, the book's narrator, will do almost anything to snag the position of governess at Trevelyan Manor, even face off with forbidding Benedict Trevelyan, who's rumored to have killed his wife. Ann succeeds in persuading Benedict to hire her, despite her lack of formal teaching experience, but as she settles into her new position, she can't shake the sensation that someone is watching her. That feeling only intensifies as her relationship with Benedict escalates from a chaste but sensual encounter to a full-blown affair. Convinced that Benedict didn't murder his wife, Ann realizes the culprit must be one of the manor's residents, who are all members of Benedict's family.