It’s been over eighteen months since Molly Gilchrist has had a man (in any way), so when she stumbles upon one lying passed out—and stark naked—on the moors one morning, it seems like the universe is having a laugh at her expense.
But her discovery, Dr. Phinneas Baxter, is not your everyday drunken layabout, as Molly is soon to discover. He’s got a PhD in astrophysics, a razor-sharp wit, and a trainwreck of a romantic past that’s a match for Molly’s own love life.
Neither Molly nor Phinn is in any hurry to get mixed up with the other. But sometimes the last person you’re looking for is the first person you’d like to find . . .
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The man lay naked, unconscious and, inevitably I suppose given the temperature, slightly blue. I knew he was unconscious because anyone in possession of their faculties would at least have flinched, given the way the northerly wind was making his skin pucker into goose pimples the size of marbles. Yep, definitely unconscious, as his ribs were moving. Definitely naked. And most definitely a man.
I nudged Stan a little closer, keeping my hands firm on his reins to control his approach and ensure he didn't step on anything sensitive. Under the saddle I could feel him advancing warily, as though naked men were well known among the equine community for their tendency to leap up and shout 'Boo!'
'Hello? Can you hear me?'
There was no reply. In fact there was no sound from anywhere except the high, distant song of the skylarks and some faint wind-carried voices from the village of Riverdale tucked like a pimple into the cleavage of the valley below.
I poked Stan with my heels and he inched his nose a little further forward without moving his feet, obeying the spirit of my demand but not the actuality and making it feel as though I was riding a slowly elongating rubber band.
I admitted defeat, dismounted and crept closer over the heather, dragging Stan behind me, although his resentment travelled through his bridle and into my hands.
'Hello? Are you all right?' I asked, advancing, then muttering to myself, 'yeah, Moll, of course he's all right. He's out for the count on the Yorkshire Moors with no pants on. That's a really cracking definition of all right, isn't it?'
The man continued to lie immobile. His arms were outflung, as if to welcome the chilly wind currently nudging around the dark, sparse hair which smudged across his chest and flickered into a line down over his stomach. His long legs were similarly decorated with dark hair, bony bare feet pointed to the sky and, as I moved further in, I could see his head cushioned on a patch of heather, with eyes closed and more dark hair tangled around the bush's roots. He looked oddly comfortable spreadeagled over the greening whin and bracken, as though he'd been planted there as some kind of pagan symbol.
Closer examination told me that his face was thin, covered in at least a couple of days worth of stubble and that he had long eyelashes which feathered along the edge of his eye sockets. His ribs were prominent as though he hadn't eaten a square meal in a while, and a quick glance further down told me that even with the shrinking effects of the March cold he was quite nicely proportioned.
I did the whole 'basic first aid' check and there didn't seem to be anything broken, ruptured or electrocuted, so I took off my fleecy jacket and draped it over him. After a few seconds tugging I managed to get it to cover most of the major areas of immediate concern, while Stan took the opportunity to graze a large circle around me, soup-plate-sized hooves missing treading on either me or the naked man by not very much. One of his feet caught in some fabric half-hidden in the ankle-high undergrowth and I leaned over to disentangle him, only to find that what he'd got wrapped around his fetlock was a leather jacket.
A moment on my hands and knees and I managed to locate some black jeans, a pair of Lycra underpants, which I handled with extreme care, and a baggy grey T-shirt which, if it belonged to the unconscious man, must have only fitted him around the neck.
Stan circled again at the end of his reins and rolled his eyes at the prone figure. The wind tugged his stubby grey mane and twisted his tail into figures of eight. I could feel it drilling through my ears and worming its way under my shirt, the temperature this far up on the moors was probably only in single figures. If it was cold to me, then how much colder must it be for the poor guy lying on the ground? My fingers twitched instinctively towards a mobile phone. Even after eighteen months I still hadn't quite lost the instinct to use one whenever the going got tough, although the signal this far up on the moors was so erratic that a Ouija board would be more use than an Orange contract. I made a decision.
'Okay, Stan, you're not going to like this very much.' I shortened the reins to reel him closer. 'But we can't leave the poor guy to freeze and I can't carry him down.'
I got a truncated prance in response. Stan was bred to be dourly hardy, not to be highly strung and his attempts at temperament were merely token affairs. Which was just as well, because the next half an hour would have tested the patience of a pit pony, as I shoved, poked, dragged and ultimately wedged the man onto the saddle.
He half-woke at one point, for which I was incredibly grateful; despite the fact he looked like a skeleton that had been working out lately, he was heavy and difficult to manoeuvre and I'd had no luck with trying to persuade Stan to lie down like a camel. I tried to keep my fleece between the man's skin and my hands, using it a bit like a tea towel to handle a hot baking tray, telling myself I was doing it to keep him warm, rather than to prevent myself touching him because handling this much naked flesh made me a little squeamish. The man's eyes flickered once, he murmured something that sounded like 'you ape', which I thought was a bit ungrateful, then flailed his arms around a bit and I managed to use his random twitches to help get a purchase on the saddle. I had to drape him over it rather than sit him up, and he lay across Stan's wide back like a load of damp washing, lapsing back into unconsciousness with his head dangling to one stirrup and one hip hooked around the pommel.
I folded his clothes and tried to tuck them underneath him in strategic spots in an attempt to prevent chafing, but I feared that some parts were going to get off Stan with a lot less skin than they'd got on with. The leather jacket I put on myself, the wind was attacking with the fury of an enraged cutlery drawer and I reckoned that naked bloke was really not in any position to complain about my wearing his coat, not when he'd got my fleece protecting what little of his modesty was left far better than the chilly leather would have done.
So, with me tentatively grasping one hairy male ankle to prevent a sudden head-first dismount off the far side, holding Stan's reins in the other hand and with my shoulder level with a set of buttocks cautiously draped in my bright red fleece, we made our careful way down the bridle path that I had taken up the hill earlier that morning.
Stan was peppered with little patches of sweat that foamed along his neckline and around his girth, but it was nothing to how hot I was getting, imagining the robust responses I would receive if anyone from the village saw me arriving home with a naked man slung across my horse. I mentally practised my 'insouciant wave' all the way down — or would it be better to adopt a strictly 'eyes front' saunter, as though this sort of thing happened to me all the time, such a bore, yes, yet another naked bloke, yawn yawn ...
In the event the village streets were empty, swept free of people by the chill wind and early hour. We reached my garden gate without major mishap and I stood baffled by logistics for a moment. Take the man off and leave him on the ground while I dealt with Stan, or leave Stan tied to the flimsy garden gate while I tried to drag the man inside, like the results of an overkeen Stone Age marriage proposal?
I was saved by Caro slowing her Landrover to drive past the notoriously unskittish Stan and stalling the engine at the sight of my dilemma.
'Good grief, Molly, what on earth have you been up to?' She wound down the window and stared, then had to climb out for a closer look. 'It's a man. And ... is he naked?'
'I found him up on the moors.'
Caro's eyebrows went up and down in a sort of ripple effect. 'Most women just pick the flowers,' she said faintly. 'Who is he?'
'I have no idea. I thought it was more important to stop him dying of hypothermia than to interview him. Particularly with him being unconscious and everything.'
Stan jogged at the end of his reins and there was an embarrassing noise of bare flesh sliding over the damp leather of the saddle. 'Could you hold on to Stan while I get him down?'
Caro took the reins and Stan instantly began to behave impeccably. Caro was his technical owner and she stood no nonsense from her horses. In the meantime, and with some shoving help from Caro, I dragged my passenger off and down onto the three blades of grass and a dandelion which formed my so-called lawn.
I looked up at Caro. 'I'm going to get him inside.'
Caro slowly shook her cropped head. 'You could just leave him there. People would think you'd got another gnome. An extremely anatomically correct one.' She frowned thoughtfully. 'I'm sure I recognise him, you know.'
'There's something familiar about him ...'
'It had better be his face you are referring to, Caroline Edwards, or you are going to have such a lot of explaining to do.'
She clicked her fingers. 'I know. He's that bloke who's been camping out in the empty house at the end of the village, up near the main road. You know, old Mr Patterdale's place. I've seen him wandering in and out a couple of times when I've been riding by.'
'I thought you said it was a tramp, squatting.'
'Oh, yeah, and this is so clearly a multi-billionaire with his own yacht and a Swiss bank account.' She looked down at the hairy acres of skin lying at my feet. 'Take him round there. Leave him on his own lawn.'
'I can't leave him, he might swallow his tongue or something. Anyway, I ought to get him to hospital. He's unconscious, Caro. Something must have happened to him up there.'
Stan shifted and the pair of underpants which I'd squeezed between naked guy's torso and the saddle, fell off and landed at Caro's feet.
She sniffed. 'I'll take Stan and put him away for you. You've clearly got your hands full,' she said, giving a sidelong glance at the collapsed figure now decorating my front garden. 'But I think you're bonkers, of course.'
'For thinking you're bonkers?'
'For looking after Stan. He's a bit hot, walking down off the hills with a body on board, he might need cooling off.'
Caro gave me another arch look. 'Yeah, Moll. Right now Stan is the least of my worries. I know I told you that you should go out and find yourself a man, but I rather hoped you'd find one that was actually, you know, upright.'
'I didn't exactly go looking. He can't help being unconscious anyway.' I bent down and got my arms under the man's armpits.
'But you could have found yourself a man with money. Or at least loose change.' She glanced down. ''Cos if this guy has any cash, I really don't want to think about where he might be keeping it.' Caro was still standing by the gate, watching my efforts at naked man dragging with an element of scorn on her face. 'Talking of which, mind out for his arse, it's dragging along the concrete there.'
'Thank you so much,' I puffed, inching the body another few feet towards my front door, 'for your kind attention.'
'Just saying. After having done a few miles bent over that saddle he's going to have some interesting chafing. You don't want to add to it with cement-burn.' She was leaning against Stan now, nodding slowly as though giving me marks out of ten.
I adjusted the red fleece which kept inching down his midsection. For some reason I didn't want the complete nature of his nakedness exposed to my friend. She'd probably insist on going off for a tape measure. 'It'll be okay once I get him inside.'
'If you're sure.'
I bent my head to redouble my pulling efforts and heard the gentle scuffle and clop as she turned Stan round and began to lead him across the road to the stable yard where he lived, when he wasn't terrorising local dogs.
'I'm sorry about this,' I apologised to the prostrate figure I was jerkily tugging by the arms up the three steps to the door. 'Call it a panic response. Actually you'll probably call it friction burns, but you're not exactly in a position to complain right now.'
Another lengthy yank and we'd reached the top of the steps. The door handle dropped under my elbow pressure, I never bothered locking it because burglary around here was almost unheard of. The Neighbourhood Watch was made up entirely of very attentive little old ladies who would have pestered any burglar to death by calling around mid break-in to ask him impertinent personal questions. Besides, not locking doors meant that I didn't have to worry about losing my keys somewhere in the forty square miles of moorland, whilst trying to force Stan into something approaching a canter.
I half-fell over the threshold with the top half of my burden. The lower half jammed briefly on the draught proofing but, with the added advantage of less friction once we'd hit the lino of the hall, I managed to slide the entire length of him, with an indescribable amount of noise, as far as the bottom of the stairs before I collapsed, panting against the banisters.
'This,' I gasped, 'is not as much fun as it's going to sound when I come to tell it.' I put my hands on my thighs and tried to get my breath back. 'Although it does score highly on the "guess what happened to me today" scale.'
There was no answer from my recumbent visitor. He just lay spreadeagled along the black and white plastic floor, like a fallen Greek statue, only one with better detailing and, well, rather more lifelike proportions. He wasn't that tall, several inches off six feet at a guess, and well-muscled, like someone who's cared about how they look. But his arms and legs were spidery, his hip bones jutted up like a couple of kerbstones and the individual bones of his fingers showed under his skin where his hands curled in upon themselves, as though he was preparing to punch someone as soon as he came round. If he'd looked after his appearance once, it had been a while ago.
Caro was right, he did look rough.
I waited until my heart rate had steadied and then, using an undignified combination of pull and shove, got him through the narrow doorway into my living room, where at least he was lying on carpet.
I dashed upstairs, pulled the duvet from the spare bed and tore down again, using the duvet to replace the red fleece, which really wasn't cutting it in the covering up man bits stakes and kept giving me interesting glimpses of what lay beneath, like an impromptu burlesque show.
Trying to remember everything I'd ever learned about hypothermia, I rolled the bloke up in the duvet so that his head protruded from one end like the contents of a tube of toothpaste and tucked the lower end around his feet, then leaned back on my heels to appreciate my handiwork.
His eyes were open and he was watching me.
Phinn came round slowly to realise that he'd been better off unconscious. Everything hurt. Something inside his head was jerking and twitching, his eyes burned and his body was in more pain than he could ever remember having suffered before in his life.
'Ow. Ow. No, really, ow,' he muttered, prising his eyelids apart. 'Why do my elbows hurt?'
A brief moment of lucidity showed him that there was a woman crouching down next to him. At least, it seemed to be a woman, his sight was too blurred for anything more than bare outlines to register. 'Where am I? Actually, never mind where, can we start with who and work our way out from there?'
The figure next to him stood up. 'I was hoping you could help me with that,' she said. 'I mean, I know where you are, you're on my living room floor. In Riverdale.'
A vague memory knocked politely at the inside of Phinn's skull but he was too bemused to take any notice. 'Oh, yeah. Riverdale. Always think it sounded a bit Lord of the Rings.'
'So, you can remember Lord of the Rings, but not your own name?' Now the voice, which had sounded rather pleasant before, had overtones, undertones and just general tones of sardonic disbelief. 'Can you remember what you were doing up on the moors without your clothes on? Or does something have to come with a literary fantasy reference in order for your memory to kick in?'
'Without my ...?' A quick, agonising wriggle so he could peer down his torso showed him that she was quite accurate. Under this, whatever it was that he was wrapped in like something that has just had the sarcophagus lifted off it, he was stark naked. 'Why haven't I got any clothes on?'
'Again, waiting for help on that one.'
Excerpted from "How I Wonder What You Are"
Copyright © 2014 Jane Lovering.
Excerpted by permission of Choc Lit Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Four and a half stars. What do you do when you are exercising a wilful horse on the Yorkshire moors and find an unconscious naked man? Well if you're a single woman you drag him (in some cases literally) back to your cottage. Molly Gilchrist is living in a cottage in the Yorkshire countryside, scratching a living writing for a magazine called 'Miles To Go' about walking and helping out her friend Caro(line) with exercising said wilful horse Stan. She had a glittering career in London but 18 months ago something happened to make her run away and hide, where no-one knows her. When she finds astro-physicist Dr Phinn Baxter lying on the moor she brings him back and the two of them begin a prickly, push-me- pull-me relationship. Phinn too is running away from a potential Nobel prize-winning career after his wife left him - only his running away takes the form of vodka. Then they discover that they have both seen a mysterious light formation in the skies, something that no-one else can see, and that binds them together. I just loved this book. If you have read any of Jane Lovering's other York Romances then you won't be disappointed in this one. Phinn is a nerdy (but sexy) geek and totally a fav new book boyfriend. How I loved him and sympathised with his fears that he wasn't a real man because he wasn't all butch and macho. I loved Phinn's friend Link, although I am still on the fence about Caro - she was mean to Molly and I hold a grudge. And Molly herself? Wow, she truly went through some soul-searching and realised some less than pleasant things about herself. She was also treated really badly, REALLY badly. Maybe that all sounds a bit angsty, a bit deep? Can I also say it is also REALLY funny, especially about being British in a crisis (hint: it involves Custard Creams). Overall, it has made me wonder why I stopped buying Jane Lovering's books and has meant I now need to buy all her other books ASAP.
2.5 Stars Reviewed by Suzanne and posted at Under The Covers Book Blog Molly has come to Yorkshire and the small town of Riverdale to escape from her life and the memories of her fiancés betrayal. She doesn’t want anything disturbing the blanket of solitude she has thrown over herself. However, everything starts to change when she sees some strange lights in the sky, lights that lead her to Dr Phinn Baxter…naked, drunk and passed out in the middle of a field. In general, I seem to read books written by Americans, not that there is a problem with that, I have gotten used to the slightly different grammar, spelling and the strange words that you guys like to use, for example, fanny… it means something different in the UK, so, when I first read that total confusion reigned. So reading a book written by a fellow Brit, it was nice, reassuring even and it surprised me what a difference it made to my reading experience. The familiar words and phrases, the cadence of the writing, even the personalities of the characters, it was all rather comforting. However, although I definitely enjoyed the process of reading How I Wonder What You Are I found that the story itself was slow and it took me a while to really immerse myself in it. Rather than a steamy break neck pace with sudden flares of passion and drama, it was a gentle stroll with slow-building romance, involving lots of tears and lots of tea. I don’t think this book would be for everyone, the romance was slow and the kinkiest it got was Molly tripping over and landing on a naked Phinn in the bath. However, I enjoyed the slightly repressed British romance, it made me laugh and so although this is my first book by Jane Lovering, it won’t be my last.
*I received this book from NetGalley* Molly and Phinn are two lost souls, closed up inside themselves and holding the world at bay. Molly writes for a magazine and came to this remote little village after a bad breakup. She doesn't talk about her ex, nor will she talk about her mother and why she's so angry with her that she avoids her calls or hangs up as soon as she answers the phone. Her life consists of her little cottage, her friend (and landlady) across the street, Caro, and a horse named Stan who is a character in his own right. When she sees mysterious colorful lights flitting across the sky, she's entranced and curious about them, although nobody else in the village appears to have seen them. One day while out riding Stan, Molly comes across a naked unconscious man lying on the ground. And that's how she meets Phinn. He's a physicist, quite well known in the science community. A lanky, awkward, bespectacled man who's taken up residence in an abandoned, neglected, moldy/mildewey house across the village. (Actually I don't remember if the author described him as “lanky” but in my head he is.) When Phinn sees mysterious colorful lights flitting across the sky, he's entranced and curious about them, although his friend Link never sees them, even when he's walking just a few yards behind Phinn. While Molly is recovering from her bad breakup, Phinn wears the remnants of his marriage like a cloak. It covers him all around, keeping his memories close and allowing his anxiety and low self-esteem to leak out through the worn fabric. His wife convinced him that he's a wimp, that he's not a real man, that no real woman would want him. Right from the beginning I was captivated by the narration, by the author's voice and her turn of phrase. It was flowing, almost lyrical at times. An example: “Phinn was about twenty yards behind with the tent bag slung across his shoulders and the last rays of the sun tinting his face and hair before it sank behind the hump of moorland to the west. It caught his glasses and blocked out his eyes, replacing them with reflections of the scenery, making him look as though he'd been possessed by the spirit of the moors.” And another: “The anger weighted his words, made them drop and bend the atmosphere around them.” For the most part I enjoyed the story, enjoyed getting to know Phinn and Molly, as well as Stan the horse. I expected those mysterious lights to play into the plot more than they did, but the plot moved forward steadily (albeit a little slowly) despite the lights not being more involved. However, as much I hate to say it, I did at times agree with Phinn that he was being a wimp, and kept wanting him to “man up” and grow a pair. And when he finally did, I was initially disappointed at the way he went about it. But everything was resolved nicely in the end and overall it was a sweet little story. Note: It's my understanding this is the fourth book in a series, The Yorkshire Romances, but each book can be read as a stand alone. Review first posted on my blog, OctoberWoman.
How I Wonder What You Are is a unique, entertaining, and heart felt story about two people who are hiding from their pasts, unable to move on. I really liked the English country side setting Jane took me to in How I Wonder What You Are. Her descriptions of the small town of Riverdale, the stars, and the moors are so vivid. As I read I got the sense that this is the perfect place for Molly and Phinn to be at this point in their lives. Molly has been hurt and keeps her past private, even from her close friend Caro. She has a heart of gold though, and this is is evident from the hilarious start to the story. Molly was very intriguing and Jane did a great job of bringing her past up at the right times in the story, and I felt like I got to know her well. Molly starts off kind of stuck in where she is, but as the story grows, so does Molly's character. Phinn is so different from most hero's in romance books! He is very scarred emotionally from his past, so scarred that he is kind of stuck there too. He is brilliant but insecure, and certainly doesn't feel like he will ever be good enough for anyone. It was sad but I liked this unique hero. Both characters come together in Riverdale, and very slowly individually they grow and together a tenuous bond is formed. As the stars dance around them though, so do their emotions and the misunderstandings of people who have been hurt before. I felt very vested in watching Phinn and Molly heal and finally start to move forward. I felt like they were a couple who would be good together if only they could take the chance again. Neither of them are perfect and the road to the future is very bumpy which makes what they are going through realistic. I really liked Caro! She is an incredible secondary character who tells it like it is, is hilarious, and tries to help Molly put things into perspective. I would love to read more about her! Family dynamics are explored which adds even more dimension to How I Wonder What You Are as you learn more and more as the story progresses. I also really liked the way Jane wrote in both first person POV and third person POV! She did this seamlessly and I felt like it really brought the characters to life, and drew me into the story easily. How I Wonder What You Are kept me laughing but it also made my heart ache a little for Molly and Phinn. The glimpse of supernatural was a unique addition and done in just a way to make me think of the possibilities. Jane wrapped up my heart in How I Wonder What You Are with great character dynamics in a great setting with so many interesting scenarios. I'd recommend How I Wonder What You Are to any romance reader!
Meet Phinn and Molly, two people hurt by their past hiding out in a small town. We find ourselves right in the middle of a beautiful discribed english landscape. The characters of their friends and neighbours all feel warm and likeable. Molly is hiding from her love life but manages to keep up a living for herself . Phinn on the other hand (and I am sorry if this is a spoiler - but I feel it is very important to mention) is suffering from a severe depression that makes it almost impossible for him to function on a normal base. There were some moments throughout the story were I was really afraid for him and where this story might take me. But I really liked the sensitive way in which Molly approached Phinn, there were enough occcasion in which she could have reacted differently and nobody would have blamed her, but she turned out to be bigger than expected. Understanding what Phinn was going through she was able to analyse what went wrong in her life too. Even with all those problems lingering in their past and threatening their future, this book surprises with witty dialogues and makes you smile at Molly and Phinn's banter. Personally I felt that the story was dragging a little when coming to an end and also some 'things' about Phinn's issues left me wondering. Therefore I am not able to give a higher rating but I can still recommend it to everyone who likes reading a typical english romance on a rainy saturday.