The Poison Diariesby Maryrose Wood, The Duchess of Northumberland
In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .
Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking/p>… See more details below
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In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .
Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.
When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .
Jessamine, 16, tends house and garden for her stern apothecary father in isolated Northumberland. Thomas Luxton relentlessly catalogs the properties of plants, visits London for days and forbids Jessamine from entering his locked garden of poisonous specimens. Weed, an orphan able to commune with plants, irrevocably alters their lives as he and Jessamine fall in love. Employing a "concept created by the Dutchess of Northumberland" (whose renowned gardens at Alnwick Castle include a poison garden), Wood fashions a narrative whose conventions of gothic romance intertwine with, then utterly succumb to, the brutal forces of human obsession. As Jessamine sickens mysteriously, Weed desperately seeks her cure, entering the poison garden repeatedly, goaded by Jessamine's sinister father. Like the supernatural hecklers of Greek mythology, the denizens of the poison garden—their "Prince," Oleander, paramount—torment Weed into unspeakable acts in love's service. Innocent Jessamine's garden diary is taken up by Weed two-thirds in, permitting the author to dig at the notions of human goodness and love's purity until she exposes their base elements. Absorbing, with room for a sequel. (Historical fantasy. YA)
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The Poison Diaries
By Maryrose Wood
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Maryrose Wood
All right reserved.
The weather has shifted. The breeze is warm and full of promise.
No time to write more. I have to tend to Weed.
Today i s the first day of a new season.
It is the season of Weed.
He is not much company yet. All day and all night he hides in the coal bin, hunched and silent. Father says it must be because that is what he was accustomed to at the madhouse, but I think Father may have frightened him with his wild talk of throwing poison into wells; it is no wonder he does not wish to speak to us. So far he has refused to eat most of the food I bring, though he will drink as much water as he is offered.
I will be patient. Any wild creature can be tamed, if you are willing to wait and be still. I have learned this from the feral cats that lurk around the courtyard. They stare like yellow-eyed demons; they bolt and hide if you approach, but sooner or later, when they are hungry enough, they come and take the food from your hand.
So it will be with Weed -- but not yet. In the meantime I have decided that I will speak to him, to get him accustomed to my presence. He may not answer me at fi rst, but that is no matter. I have someone to talk to, at last! My words will be like sunshine and air. My voice will rain down on him, and then we shall see what glorious orchid may blossom from this shy, unwanted Weed.
I race through my chores in half the usual time so that I may spend the rest of the day taming my new friend. Since he will not leave the coal bin, I carry my small stool down to the cellar and sit as close as I dare.
"My name is Jessamine Luxton," I say, as a way to begin. "I am sixteen years of age. My father is Thomas Luxton, the apothecary. You met him already; he was the one that picked you up off the ground and brought you inside the cottage, after that dreadful man on horseback left you lying in the dirt like rubbish."
While I speak he stays facing away from me, his body curved around his knees as if he were encased in the hard husk of a seed.
"So," I say, nudging my stool an inch closer, "now you have met Father and me. That means you have met my whole family, for my mother is dead, and I am an only child. My father and I live alone together, here."
I see a finger twitch, flex.
"This place we live in, this house, which I call our cottage -- it is very old. Some would say it is a sacred place. The Catholic monks used to live and worship here."
He starts, and his mouth moves as if he would speak.
"Bells," he breathes.
His voice is so soft it is not even a whisper. More like the rustle of a leaf.
"Yes," I say encouragingly, in case I heard right.
"Centuries ago, in this very place, there were church bells ringing, and Mass bells, and the call to vespers. When the monastery was here there must have been bells ringing all the time."
I am nearly sure that is what he said, but it was so soft, a mere flutter of air. "Bells?" I repeat gently. "Do you mean Canterbury bells? They are such pretty flowers, I grow them in my cutting garden."
Weed’s whole face brightens. "Garden?" he asks, quite clearly.
Once more, those remarkable green eyes pierce me like emerald daggers. "Do you like gardens? We have many," I say in a rush. "In the kitchen gardens I grow all our vegetables and herbs for the table, and there is a small orchard for fruit, and a bee garden so the bees will make delicious honey, and a dye garden so I can make dyes to color the wool. And Father has his apothecary garden of plants that he uses to make medicines and cures -- but we may not enter there, for Father’s work is secret, and many of those plants are poison -- "
"Jessamine!" Father stands silhouetted at the top of the cellar stairs. "What on earth are you telling that boy?"
"Nothing -- "
"Do not lie, Jessamine. I heard you speaking. A person cannot speak nothing."
"I am sorry, Father. I should have said, ‘Nothing of importance,’" I reply with false cheer, to cover the shame I feel at being scolded in front of Weed. "I was telling Weed about us, and our home, and about the gardens -- he ought to know where he is, and in whose care, oughtn’t he?"
Father ignores my reply. "Bring the boy upstairs to my study. I wish to speak to him." Then he leaves, letting the door close behind him. The shaft of daylight coming down the stairwell is snuffed out.
I take a deep breath to compose myself and give my eyes time to adjust to the sudden darkness. Then I make myself smile reassuringly at Weed. "Father can be stern, but you mustn’t be frightened of him. Will you come upstairs?"
I extend my hand. Weed takes it and rises gracefully to his feet, unfolding his long legs in a single fluid motion. The dim light gives his pale face an ethereal beauty that takes my breath away -- the dark, unkempt hair, his wide, impossibly green eyes, his weightless form as willowy as a sapling.
"Come," I say, steadying my voice. "Perhaps he will let you see the belladonna berries; they are quite lovely. He keeps some in a jar on the shelf."
"Belladonna," Weed says, looking at me so intensely his green eyes nearly light up the dark. "A beautiful lady."
I know he does not mean me, but I blush anyway, and go first up the stairs so he cannot see my scarlet face.
Excerpted from The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood Copyright © 2010 by Maryrose Wood. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Maryrose Wood is the author of the first five books (so far!) in this series about the Incorrigible children and their governess. These books may be considered works of fiction, which is to say, the true bits and the untrue bits are so thoroughly mixed together that no one should be able to tell the difference. This process of fabrication is fully permitted under the terms of the author's Poetic License, which is one of her most prized possessions.
Maryrose's other qualifications for writing these tales include a scandalous stint as a professional thespian, many years as a private governess to two curious and occasionally rambunctious pupils, and whatever literary insights she may have gleaned from living in close proximity to a clever but disobedient dog.
Jane Northumberland is married to the twelfth Duke of Northumberland and is mistress of Alnwick Castle. The earls and dukes of Northumberland have lived in Alnwick Castle for seven hundred years. The Duchess has spent the last fourteen years creating beautiful public gardens in the grounds of the castle and, because of her fascination with and knowledge of poisons, has created the world-famous Poison Garden. Alnwick Castle and the Alnwick Garden are the most popular tourist destinations in the north of England, attracting more than 800,000 visitors each year.
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