rowan tree blossom

Extract from the current novel in progress. Working title Boer War Girl. (and that will change.)

The world is in such a bad state that I wanted to write something cheerful and entertaining which would leave you readers feeling amused and entertained so this novel came into being. It's nearly finished. I believe the new genre it will fit into is called UpLit!

Melisande allowed Usha to put her to bed, let her prattle in gentle and sorrowful tones as she massaged Melisande’s scalp, brushed and lightly oiled her hair, then applied the scented cream of Papa’s making to her face and neck. She heard nothing, but her body responded to the musical murmurs. Her strained neck and aching shoulders eased, her scalp ceased its tight crawl. Hoping to make sense of her brother’s attitude and Richard’s reasoning she struggled to work through the things Richard had said.

She had never wanted more of life than she now had. India, loving parents, a home here by the Ganges, her beloved Richard, and her friends among the servants who would have gone with her to her married home. She could have continued her sketching with Mama, her jewellery making, and helping Papa with the printing press and his books. She’d assumed marriage to Richard would be like the marriage her parents shared, and it had been a sharing partnership and a loving one. Wasn’t that what Richard intended their marriage to be? Yet he had given her a choice, marriage with him or she must return to her father’s family, sent to England accompanying the local magistrate’s wife returning home to settle her two boys into boarding school. She must not be alone and unprotected, proper, socially correct young ladies from ‘good families’ must be under their father’s or a senior relative’s protection until they married and then they were ‘protected’ by their husband. She knew this even if she had not seen its consequences in a less than ideal life. Now she wondered.

She heard again his voice. “Do you wish to be with me loving you like this, or this or this?” Her skin tingled at the memory of the sensations, she’d not realised that touch could make her feel so…so…she didn’t quite know what it was she felt. Her mother told her that she would explain about married life and having babies on her wedding morning. Mama’s plump cheeks had pinked up with a rosy glow as she spoke. “It will sound peculiar but it isn’t.” This time her face flushed with pleasure not embarrassment. “The…the…physical side of marriage is something you and dear Richard will learn together.”

Usha had folded her clothes, cleared her dressing table and now sat back on her heels, beside the bed, the mosquito net draped round her like a veil. She looked up at Melisande, patiently waiting.
“What do I decide, Usha? What should I do? I don’t want to leave India, it’s my home.”

Usha’s large dark eyes were liquid bright but she shed no tears. “I know. But you must go with your men. You need money. Have you money, Little Missy? Enough to live for some days?”

Melisande wrinkled her nose, puzzled, but did some reckoning in her head. “I have some.”

“And jewellery? Valuable enough to sell?”

“I think so. Why, Usha?”

“My first family here, the memsahib was later wife. She had her babies and his two big daughters. Sahib’s grown daughters but not hers.”

“Oh, I think I….”

“Hush, Little Missy, you listen. They wanted to be home, never wanted to come to India. Their Mama’s family, in Ireland, was home. Sahib Papa said ‘No.’

Usha rubbed the soles of Melisande’s feet. “I hear about the young man Papa did not approve, and young man’s welcoming family in Ireland. The daughters took jewellery, sold it, used allowance money, ran off to ship and Ireland.”

Melisande blinked, watched her ayah’s smile hidden in her eyes. “Did you help, Usha?”


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