The first in the captivating Cornish Pengarron sagas, perfect for fans of Poldark
Kerensa Trelynne is excited about marrying her sweetheart Clem Trenchard, although it will be a wrench to leave Trelynne Cove and the little tumbledown cottage she shares with her grandfather, Old Tom.
But when local landowner Sir Oliver Pengarron sets his sights on their land, everything changes. Old Tom offers a deal – he will let Sir Oliver purchase their home, but only if he agrees to marry his lowly granddaughter. Will Sir Oliver Pengarron take Kerensa to be his wife? And if so, what does this mean for Clem?
Set in the sweeping beauty of Cornwall, this is the first installment of a passionate family saga series, perfect for readers of Margaret Dickinson, Elizabeth Gill or Linda Finlay.The Pengarron Sagas
- Pengarron Land
- Pengarron Pride
- Pengarron's Children
- Pengarron Dynasty
- Pengarron Rivalry
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Kerensa Trelynne lingered on the shingle beach of the little Cornish cove where she lived. It was the first day of a new year, 1753, and in the spring she would begin a new life. She would miss all the familiar sights and sounds around her, things she had taken almost for granted all her seventeen years. The dramatic horse-shoe-shaped cliffs of the cove, formed of black granite, and part of the mild southern coastline. The weathered lichen-covered rocks she had climbed over, exploring every nook and cranny. The ever-present winds that swept her face and lifted her hair. The constantly changing, eternal beauty of the sea.
Trelynne Cove was one of the many coves and creeks and inlets of Mount's Bay, the bay taking its name from St Michael's Mount, a large high rock, graced by a habited castle, out in the sea and known to fishermen and mariners alike as the Cornish Mount. It could not be seen from the cove, sheltered from view by the outward curve of the cliff.
Kerensa leaned against her grandfather's rowing boat, shabby now, its paint flaking and lower timbers needing replacement. The air was sharp but here she was sheltered, warmed by a mellow winter sun which heightened the pungent smells of dried seaweed and the worn-out crab pots stacked clumsily close by. Even though the boat and crab pots had not been used in years, to Kerensa they were a vital part of the cove.
It would be a wrench to leave all this; it was as much a part of her home as the solitary tumbledown cottage above the beach, and her scrap of garden which produced masses of wild flowers. Kerensa knew every rock of the cliff, every mood of the waters that invaded the lonely shore. She had watched them contentedly throughout her life, changed with them through each successive season. She loved them all with a passion, but she loved Clem Trenchard, the young tenant farmer's son whom she was going to marry, far more. It would be hard to leave all this, strange to wake up to the sounds of noisy farm animals instead of screeching gulls and the lapping or crashing waves, but she would wake in Clem's arms.
Kerensa would miss her grandfather too. After her mother had died when Kerensa was seven, he had raised her. He was the last of the Trelynnes and after his death the cove would pass to her. She and Clem planned to use it as a retreat from the busy farm life. Kerensa was pleased the cove would always belong to her.
She was reluctant to go back inside the cottage this morning, but she had her grandfather's breakfast to prepare. He had spent all of last night out somewhere, probably in an alehouse with his gambling cronies, and was sure to come home to Trelynne Cove ravenously hungry. She turned back up the shingle towards home.
* * *
Two miles further along the coast Sir Oliver Pengarron was standing on the rugged cliff top at Pengarron Point, the place to which he always came when troubled or in need of solitude. He was making plans for the new year.
Oliver had spent the last eight years rebuilding the fortunes of his family estate which his late father had allowed almost to founder. After much hard work and bloody-minded determination on his part, his business interests were at last successful. On the 1,500 acres of land he had been left he had knocked the two dozen tenant farms into shape, achieved a high-yielding home farm and oak timber plantation, and was breeding the finest horses in the country. Gradually he had bought back the pockets of land his father, Sir Daniel, had sold or lost at the gaming tables, winning some back by the same means as they had been lost. There was only one piece of land left to repossess. It had not been sold or lost by his father. Trelynne Cove had been gifted away, by his great-great-grandfather, Sir Henry Pengarron, to Jacob Trelynne, Kerensa's great-grandfather, for saving him from being trampled by a runaway horse. The locals had quickly dubbed it Trelynne Cove and Trelynnes had lived there and continued to work on Pengarron land up to the present owner's day. Old Tom Trelynne preferred to make his living by more dubious means.
Sir Daniel had thought Trelynne Cove too small and insignificant to bother about, but to Sir Oliver it was a matter of honour not to allow it to remain in another's hands. A smile crossed his intense dark features. He was contemplating a proposition he was about to put to Old Tom Trelynne. Confident of the outcome, he drew in one last deep satisfying breath of tangy sea air and held it for a moment before turning to reach for the reins of his horse.
Allowing Conomor, his sleek black thoroughbred, to have his head, Oliver raced the half mile from the headland on to the cliff track. Keeping the grey, undulating sea in view he followed the track at the same pace until sighting the small shingle beach in isolated Trelynne Cove. Conomor picked his way deftly down the steep rocky path as it wound its way in the shape of a figure three to the front of the cottage. Smoke drifted lazily upwards from its one chimney, and as they approached the chorus of the sea reached out beguilingly as peaceful waves lapped their way up the shore.
Kerensa was singing happily at the top of her voice and was startled at the suddenness of the loud rapping on the cottage door. Very few people ventured down to Trelynne Cove, rarely anyone as early as this, unless it was one of the disreputable-looking characters her grandfather called his friends.
Leaving the breakfast preparations, she wiped her hands on her apron and cautiously opened the heavy wooden door. She was even more surprised when she recognised the tall proud-looking man standing there in the chill air. What reason could the Lord of the Manor have to be here in Trelynne Cove?
'Good morning, my lord,' she blurted out, pushing back a straying lock of rich dark auburn hair from her eyes; eyes that were grey-green like the winter sea and always bright and enquiring. Now, her brows were raised in curiosity, her small oval-shaped face mirroring her surprise.
'I want to speak to Tom Trelynne,' Sir Oliver informed her brusquely, in his firm cultured voice.
Kerensa did not reply at once, just stared up at him.
Impatiently he bent to lean one arm against the door jamb. Deliberately bringing his strong dark face close to hers, he snapped, 'Well, girl! Have you lost your tongue? Where is Trelynne?'
Oliver Pengarron's strikingly handsome face showed none of the harshness and debauchery she'd expected from his reputation as a hard-drinking womaniser who spent many hours at the gaming tables. His nose was long and straight, his cheekbones high, and like most of his forebears he possessed hair and eyes as black as the deepest night. It was the first time Kerensa had seen him at such close quarters and she found it disconcerting to look straight into those eyes. She took a step back from him, a not unbecoming flush tinging her pale cheeks.
Kerensa was determined not to be intimidated by this man so, lifting up her chin, she clasped her hands firmly together and said, 'My grandfather is abroad somewhere, my lord. I am expecting him back at any moment.'
Oliver Pengarron was studying her, moving his eyes up and down her slender body in undisguised familiarity. Not much past girlhood, Kerensa moved with a natural grace and poise that evaded most of the women he knew. Her skin glowed clear and healthy and she exuded a gentle innocence which he found appealing. Beneath this he sensed an adventurous spirit tinged with obstinacy.
Kerensa stepped well back into the room, her face growing crimson under his steady scrutiny, although more from anger than embarrassment. Pengarron moved his arm from the door jamb, took off his tricorn hat and bowed to her in mock chivalry.
'I'm obliged to you, Miss ... Miss Trelynne, is it?'
'Ais, that it tes, m'lord. Miss Kerensa Trelynne. My granddattur.'
Oliver whirled round. Having the ability to scramble over the rocks and cliffs like a surefooted animal, Old Tom Trelynne had crept silently up behind him. The old man was hideous and stunted. He reminded Oliver of a throwback to the prehistoric race of dwarf-like people who were said to have crossed the sea from Europe and settled in West Cornwall. It was they who had probably given rise to the many legends of goblins, fairies and little people; it would not have been difficult to harbour such superstitions looking at Old Tom. He had a leathery brown face, short claw-like hands, filthy grizzled hair, and one overlong tooth. Old Tom gave Kerensa a broad smile. 'Tes all right, m'dear,' he croaked, 'you shut the door an' keep yerself warm. Don't reckon tes you Sir Oliver 'as come a visitin'.'
Kerensa reached for the latch but before closing the door looked first at Old Tom, then Sir Oliver, and back to Old Tom again. What on earth did Sir Oliver Pengarron want with her grandfather? What had the old man been up to now? It must be something serious to warrant the baron's presence here. She went straight to a window and peeped out at them.
Oliver glared angrily at the closed door. He had been thinking it would be a pleasure to wait with the girl until her grandfather's return, an unexpected bonus ... He quickly dismissed her from his mind. The purpose of his visit to Trelynne Cove had nothing to do with wenching but with the wretched little man now leering up at him, exposing his long yellowing tooth.
'Ye 'aven't come a visitin' my granddattur, 'ave 'ee?' asked the old man, adding with a hard edge to his croak, 'cus 'ee better not 'ave. I'll excuse 'ee fer any other reason, yer bein' of the quality 'n' that, but not with 'er. Anyone who lays as much as a finger on 'er will end up with a slit gizzard.' Old Tom drew a dirty finger across his throat to illustrate his point.
'It is you I have come to see,' Oliver said stonily. 'I have a proposition to put to you, Trelynne.'
Oliver pointed down to the shingle. 'We'll talk down there.' With long easy strides he led the way along the well-worn path from the cottage door until he could feel the smooth pebbles of the beach crunch under his boots.
Old Tom followed him slowly, shrugging his scrawny shoulders and scratching his grizzled hair, all the while speculating on the reason for this unexpected visit. When he reached the younger man's side, looking out across the sea, he lit a foul-smelling pipe. Oliver's face tightened at the acrid smell of the home cured tobacco and the equally distasteful odour of the old man's unwashed body. It amazed him that this dirty little man should be the grandfather of the extraordinarily pretty, neat and clean girl in the cottage.
Kerensa still watched them from the window. They had their backs to her. Sir Oliver was a muscular, straight-backed man and towered over her grandfather, who stood with his heavy ragged coat pushed back, elbows stuck out, and his thumbs rammed into his waistcoat pockets. He was puffing pipe smoke towards Sir Oliver.
Worried thoughts raced through Kerensa's head. What was going on? What were they talking about? She knew Old Tom lived just one shaky step ahead of the law. Had he gone as far as offending Sir Oliver and was therefore about to be hauled off to prison? Or, worse still, had the baronet arrived to mete out his own personal form of justice? It was rumoured he was a terrible man to cross. Her grandfather was a bit of a rogue, Kerensa had known that for years, but she loved him and was concerned for him. If only she could hear what they were saying.
Oliver avoided looking at the old man and watched the sails of the fishing boats from the nearby fishing village of Perranbarvah as he spoke. They were racing one another back from the mackerel grounds to the busy fish market at Newlyn to get the best prices for their catch. The fishermen were proud of their thirty- to forty-feet luggers which skimmed with great rapidity over the waters, and which could be seen from any position in the cove.
'I want to buy this cove, Trelynne,' Oliver said with the quiet firmness of a man used to getting his own way.
'That so?' Old Tom rubbed his dirt-streaked, stubbly chin and spat a ball of saliva on to the shingle. 'How much yer off'rin'?'
'Nonetheless, I intend to buy this land. Name your price.'
'Les see now ... Shall we say, two 'undred?'
Oliver rounded on the old man. 'Don't be ridiculous, you old fool! I'll give you thirty guineas and not a penny more.'
Old Tom looked up through narrowed eyes. 'Now look 'ee 'ere, I got no call to sell this 'ere cove, tes my 'ome, so if yer wants it, tes not goin' to be cheap, young sir. Trelynnes 'ave been livin' 'ere fer years 'n' years, ever since my grandfather Jacob worked in the Pengarron stables. Course, Pengarron Manor was a fine place in they days. Not like it is now, all run down an' any'ow,' Old Tom put in sarcastically. 'With my son Robert dead of the typhus, all this 'ere will be my granddattur's one day to do with as she pleases when I be dead 'n' buried.'
Reaching inside his caped overcoat Oliver pulled out a fat leather pouch. Old Tom watched eagerly as, from a side pocket, he produced a flint and steel and a long thin clay pipe. Oliver carefully filled the pipe with sweet-smelling tobacco, lighting it with deliberate slowness. The old man scowled when the pouch, flint and steel were returned, unoffered, to their places.
'From what I've heard, Trelynne, the day when you'll be dead and buried may not be too far ahead.' Drawing in deeply, Oliver blew smoke into the old man's face. 'You've made a lot of enemies over the years and now you're up to your scrawny neck in gambling debts. I've heard there are some as far away as Penzance who are ready to collect their rightful dues. Perhaps one dark night ...'
'So 'ee knows 'bout that, do 'ee? Well, tes true enough I'm des'prit fer money right now, but I've got my granddattur to think 'bout.'
'Very well, Trelynne, I'll give you an extra ten guineas to give to her and will find employment for her on my estate.'
The old man stayed silent. Oliver's stern face showed signs of relaxing. In a thoughtful mood Old Tom took several steps away to where the shingle turned into coarse sand and turned his back to the sea. He spat heavily again before looking up, his wrinkled face sly and cunning, and held to one side.
'Y'know, I've done a lot of wicked things in my time,' he said, 'but I've always done right by that young maid in the cottage. Always kept 'er clothed an' well fed, even let that young preacher feller learn 'er 'er letters 'n' such. There's bin no workin' on a mine face or as a kitchen skivvy fer my little Kerensa. She was 'bout to get 'erself married to young Clem Trenchard, who's father do farm on yer estate.' Old Tom's face overran with mischief and malice. 'But I d'reckon she could do better fer 'erself.'
'What the hell are you getting at?' Pengarron demanded.
Old Tom licked his lips and rubbed the sleeve of his coat across his mouth in a rapid movement. 'I'll not move an inch off this 'ere land fer less than an 'undred guineas fer meself ... an' yer promise to marry my granddattur.'
'What! Marry your granddaughter! Have you gone mad, Trelynne?' His face livid with anger, Pengarron strode menacingly towards the old man.
'Mad? No, not me, Sir Oliver,' returned Old Tom, putting up his arms as if to protect himself. 'I d'appen to know there's two reasons fer 'ee bein' so eager to get this 'ere cove an' bit of land. One is it would make a good place to land contraband in, an' everyone knows 'ee fer bein' a freetrader. An' the other is yer want it tacked back on to yer estate, don't 'ee? Can't bear to think of me ownin' it, can 'ee? Bin eatin' away inside of 'ee ever since I turned 'ee an' that mealy-mouthed Besweth'rick boy out of 'ere all they years ago ... I'm right, ain't I?'
Oliver's face was black with fury. The insulting remark aimed at Arthur Beswetherick, his long dead friend, and the suggestion that he marry the old man's granddaughter, were almost too much to bear.
'Do you really expect me to marry kin of yours Trelynne?' he snarled between clenched teeth.
The old man's silence and smirking expression spoke for him.
'All right, you old cuss, I'll give you the two hundred guineas you asked for at first.'
Old Tom sniggered. He knew there was no shortage of money in the other man's pocket, or his bank. He could ask for double the amount, and probably receive it, but it wasn't a large sum of money he was looking for. He wanted only enough to clear his heels and set himself up again, while being comfortable in the knowledge that Kerensa would want for nothing during the rest of her life.
'Course there would be one or two other gentlemen who would be willing to pay me an 'an'some price fer this 'ere cove, an' fer the same reason as you, what with so many lookin' to get in on a bit of freetradin' these days ... or to buy it just fer the pleasure of keepin' it from 'ee. Yer not that popular yerself, are 'ee, m'lord?'
Excerpted from "Pengarron Land"
Copyright © 1992 Gloria Cook.
Excerpted by permission of Canelo Digital Publishing.
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