It is Sunday, June 28, 1914, and Rose Warrington is celebrating her 60th birthday at the remote family home of Fencott Place on Dartmoor. Rose could not be happier, surrounded by her family and friends. But on that very same day, Archduke Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated in faraway Sarajevo, leading to the outbreak of World War I. Rose’s spirited younger daughter, Marianne—having taken a vow of celibacy some years earlier—sees the war as an opportunity to prove herself as capable as any man. The peace of Dartmoor behind her, she joins the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry as an ambulance driver in war-torn France, and it takes all her strength to face its horrors: there are tragedies lying in wait for those she loves, and her girlhood vow will be challenged and tested. A powerful, dramatic, and evocative story of love, courage, loss, and the demon of revenge.
|Publisher:||Hale, Robert Limited|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Tania Crosse used her meticulous historical research and love of Dartmoor to pen her novels set in the area from Victorian times to the 1950s, all based closely on local history. She is the author of A Bouquet of Thorns, Hope at Holly Cottage, and Lily's Journey.
Read an Excerpt
Teardrops in the Moon
By Tania Crosse
Robert Hale LimitedCopyright © 2014 Tania Crosse
All rights reserved.
'Oh, when will you let me learn to drive?' Marianne called out, exploding with frustration, as her father brought the Napier to a stop at the front of the grand family home known as Fencott Place. 'I'm nearly twenty-five, for Heaven's sake! Surely I'm capable —'
'Now then, young lady,' Seth admonished, switching off the engine and climbing out of the elegant motorcar. 'Don't start that again. And you know it's your brother's machine, not mine, so it's him you need to persuade.'
'He lets you drive it.'
'Perhaps he trusts me more. Keep saving your allowance and when you can afford your own vehicle, I'll be happy to teach you.'
'But that could take forever!'
'It will if you keep buying new saddles when we have perfectly good equipment in the tack room. Now, I'm just going to see if your mother's ready, and then we're going to meet Adam and Rebecca at the station. If you want to come too, why don't you saddle up Pegasus and ride there?'
Marianne's petulantly bunched lips slackened and then spread into a grin. Not that she needed an excuse to ride her beloved horse. 'I'll race you,' she challenged. 'And I bet you I'll win!'
'I expect you will,' Seth grimaced. 'The road is so full of potholes, I can barely crawl along if I don't want to damage the car. I'll be glad when they put tarmac down on the roads over the moor. Not that I suppose that will happen for many a long year. And I can't imagine they'll do this stretch, anyway.'
He shook his head with a half amused, half exasperated sigh. Marianne was so like her mother. She hadn't waited for him to finish speaking, but had dived around the side of the house towards the stables. She dressed habitually in a riding habit so there was no need to go indoors to change. Instead, she went straight out to the field where Pegasus was grazing with his companions. He came straight up to her, knowing that a mad dash across the open moor might well be on offer, and followed his young mistress expectantly through the gate and along to the stable yard without her having to lead him.
'You'm off for a ride, Marianne?'
She turned to the groom, pleased to see a happy gleam in his eyes, as he had always looked so sad since his wife, Molly, had died the previous year. Marianne's mother, Rose, had been close friends with Joe and Molly since youth, which was why there was no doffing of caps or deferential speech. But that was how Rose had always run her household, treating her so-called servants as members of the family, and Marianne would not have done things any differently herself.
'You know Uncle Adam and Aunt Becky are coming to stay?' she went on casually, slipping the bit of the bridle into the stunning dapple grey's mouth.
At this, Joe actually grinned. 'Cap'ain an' Mrs Bradley? Yes, of course I knows. Talked of nort else the past two weeks has your mother!'
'Well, Mum and Dad are picking them up at the station in the Napier and I'm going to ride alongside. Or rather, I'll get there first as I'm sure Pegasus would like a good gallop.'
'You be careful now,' Joe warned, pulling in his chin. 'Mad as a hatter you be when you'm in the saddle, just like your mother. An' I wouldn't want ort to happen to you or Pegasus.'
'Don't you worry. I'd never do anything silly where any of the horses are concerned, and especially not dear Pegasus.' And she gave the animal a smacking kiss on his nose to prove it.
'Mind you doesn't,' Joe nodded with an amused smile. 'I'll get that fancy new saddle from the tack room for you.'
'Would you, Joe? That's very kind.'
Five minutes later, she swung herself into the saddle. 'No, dogs, not this time,' she told the two Labradors who were gazing up at her expectantly, and then she was clattering round to the front of the house on Pegasus's back. The car was still parked there, but Marianne was not prepared to wait. She urged Pegasus into a trot along the sweeping drive, but as soon as they passed through the gates in the high brick wall, she turned him across the open, windswept moor towards the prison settlement of Princetown. She did not take the direct route along the road however, but crossed over to the parallel track that had once led out to the long-defunct Eylesbarrow Mine. The ground was softer and would be safer for her steed's finely sculptured legs, for despite Joe's words of caution, neither she nor her mother would ever take a risk with any of the horses.
She gave Pegasus his head, feeling the power of the magnificent creature beneath her and crouching low over his strong, outstretched neck. Her own body echoed the rippling movements as if she and the horse were one, the ground flying beneath them in a blur. They slowed only to navigate the occasional stone embedded in the track, and it only seemed minutes before they had eaten up the two miles or so into Princetown.
They trotted into the heart of the small, isolated town. People were going about their business, mainly the families of warders who were obliged by the terms of their employment to live within sprinting distance of Dartmoor's grim prison. But Princetown was also the main centre for the hardy farming community scattered across that part of the bleak, hostile moor. The warm weather had brought women out to shop in the various establishments, Bolt's Store on the corner and other shops scattered elsewhere. Further along the road towards the prison was the attractive building that housed the Co-operative store. Attached to it was a small, single-storey newsagents, W. H. Smith, but Marianne was not buying a newspaper today. It would only be full of the worrying situation in Europe and just now, she would rather not think about it.
Instead, she turned off onto the road to the railway station. As they approached the long, low building that housed the waiting rooms and the ticket and station master's offices, she glanced back over her shoulder. She tossed her head, bringing Pegasus to a halt and swinging her leg fluidly over his neck to dismount. No sign yet of her parents in Hal's precious motorcar. What did she care? Give her a horse any day! But she knew that she did care very much indeed. She wanted to do anything a man could – and one day she would prove that she could do it better, too!
Tying Pegasus's reins over the railings, Marianne skipped through onto the platform and peered down the track that snaked its way down over the moor to join the mainline at Yelverton. She was sure her parents would arrive in the Napier at any minute to greet their dear friends, Captain and Mrs Bradley. Rose had originally been introduced to them by Richard and Beth Pencarrow, and all three families had, over the decades, become as one.
As she waited for Adam and Rebecca to arrive, Marianne reflected on how inordinately fond she was of the aging couple. They had acted as surrogate aunt and uncle to Marianne and her siblings in their childhood, and the love that had passed between them had not diminished with time. Kate and Philip had even named their son for Adam, something that had brought an emotional tear to the captain's eye when they had asked his permission to do so.
At the thought of her sister, Marianne's heart jerked. What was it to Rosebank Hall? Ten or twelve miles? She could easily ride over for the day and did so frequently. But if she was allowed to drive over in the motorcar, she could get there so much more quickly despite the uneven surface of the roads since she could not keep Pegasus at a flat out gallop all that way. And then she could spend longer with Kate.
'Miss Marianne! You meeting someone off the train, your brother, perhaps?'
The station master's voice drew Marianne from her thoughts and she turned to smile at the uniformed fellow coming towards her. 'Yes, but not Hal. Captain and Mrs Bradley, my parents' friends. They're coming to meet them in the car, but I rode on ahead.'
'You and that horse!' the man chuckled, shaking his head. 'Remind me so much of your mother, you does. Huge great thing she used to gallop all over the place on, she did, when she were younger. Black as night it were, and a temper on it to match if you wasn't careful. Us was just tackers back then and terrified of it. But it were like a lamb with your mother.'
'Gospel he was called,' Marianne grinned back. 'Mum's favourite horse ever, she says. Tested all her riding skills to the limit, and you know what a superb horsewoman she is.'
'And you'm a chip off the old block from what I sees. But I suppose you'd expect it with your father being such a horseman, too, and your business being in horses and all.'
'It doesn't necessarily follow.' Marianne shrugged. 'My sister's not that keen on horses.'
'But your brother be. When's he back from London, then? Or has your father already fetched him from Plymouth or Exeter Station in that there motorcar contraption?'
'No. He's still in London. On business for Dad.'
The man raised an inquisitive eyebrow but Marianne said nothing. She knew her parents weren't keen on people knowing that their money came not so much from the stud-farm, successful though it was, but from global investments inherited from Rose's first husband, Charles Chadwick. So Marianne was not going to discuss such matters with the station master, kindly though he was.
'Here comes the train!' she was relieved to cry as a wisp of white smoke appeared above the bend, followed a few seconds later by the shiny green engine whose black and copper chimney gleamed proudly in the sunshine. The glorious sight of the fine machine on the long, straight home-run into Princetown after its tortuous climb to conquer the moor never failed to set her blood pumping. With its fire and steam and strength, it was like a living creature to Marianne, a little like a gigantic horse. And now it was bringing dear Adam and Rebecca to visit.
'Ooph, just in time!' Rose panted, running up behind her daughter, her face radiant and not looking anything like the sixty years she was about to celebrate. Elegant in a mid-grey suit of good quality, yet serviceable cloth that was fitted into her still trim waist, Marianne often hoped she would have as good a figure when she reached that age.
Now though, she turned her attention back to the mighty engine and its two coaches coasting into the station. The great coupling rods that drove the huge wheels gradually slowed, the driver having such perfect control that the train inched to a halt without the slightest grinding of brakes. A mere breath of white steam wafted across the platform and an instant later, came the distinctive clunking as carriage doors were unlocked and pushed wide open.
'Half past three, dead on time,' Rose announced. 'And there they are. Becky! Adam!'
Marianne waited, grinning ecstatically, as both her parents hurried past her to greet their old friends, for it was only right that they should be the first to welcome them. Captain Adam Bradley was still tall and broad-chested, as distinguished as ever in spite of his white hair being thin and wispy on top, while his wife was like a doll beside him, not as slim as Rose, but hardly plump. She broke away from Rose's embrace and came towards Marianne, smiling broadly.
'Marianne, my dearest!'
'Aunt Becky! Did you have a good journey?'
'We certainly did. Did Rose tell you we spent a couple of days in Bath on the way? I would never want to live in a town, but Bath is so very beautiful.'
'I don't like even visiting towns. Apart from Tavistock, of course,' Marianne insisted, hugging her tightly. 'Uncle Adam! How are you?'
'My dear child! Let me guess. You rode here on that handsome animal of yours, I'll be bound.'
'I did indeed! Well, Hal still refuses to let me drive his motorcar,' she complained with a mock pout. 'But I'll learn to drive one day, I promise you.'
'Knowing you, I'm sure you will!' Adam gave a light laugh. 'Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to find the porter and see to our luggage.'
'I'll come with you,' Seth offered. 'I know the young lad well.'
Marianne smiled to herself, falling into step beside her mother and Rebecca as they made their way to the exit. Happy chaos would reign at Fencott Place, Rose in her element since Adam and Rebecca only visited from their estate in Herefordshire once a year now, and when they were together, Rose and Rebecca sparked delightedly from each other like two firecrackers.
'I'm surprised you didn't ride here, too, Rose,' Rebecca observed with a teasing light in her sapphire eyes. 'Or are you becoming more sedate now you're about to turn sixty?'
'You must be joking!' Marianne giggled back, since the idea of her mother taking life easy was, quite frankly, ridiculous. 'She rides out with me virtually every day. Except for the last few days because she's been dashing about the house like a whirlwind making sure everything's perfect for your stay.'
'Oh, but you shouldn't —'
'Yes, I should! I love having you to stay! So, tell me, how are you? Truthfully, mind,' Rose concluded, serious for once.
'I'm very well. Adam's slowing down a little, but he is seventy-seven, so what can you expect? Hasn't been to sea in two years, not even on the Emily. And he still swears he'll never set foot on a steamship, even though he had three of the things built, as you know.'
'Toby still hasn't been able to persuade him, then?' Rose asked, referring to their son who was also a sea captain and was in fact married to Richard Pencarrow's half-French daughter, Chantal.
'No.' Rebecca gave a chuckle. 'I think Michael might one day, though. Grandchildren can sometimes be more influential than sons.'
'Michael's training still going well, then?'
'Certainly is. He's only twenty, of course, so he's a long way to go yet. But he'll get his master's ticket eventually, so that'll make three generations of sea captains in the family.'
They had reached the end of the platform and came to a halt as they watched the two men overseeing the loading of the luggage into the car. Marianne sensed a change in Rebecca's mood, as if she was hesitating. Rose must have felt it too, as Marianne saw the faint lines on her mother's forehead deepen.
'My dear Becky, is anything wrong?' Rose asked anxiously.
Marianne noticed Rebecca bite her lip and glance towards her husband. 'Well ... don't say anything, but Adam gave us a fright a few months back. But the doctor's put him on something for his heart, and he's been fine since.'
'Oh, Lord —'
'Shush. And promise you won't let on I've told you,' Rebecca pleaded. And then she turned her vivid smile on Adam as he held open the door of the Napier.
'I expect you two will want to sit in the back and natter away like two jackdaws,' he smiled fondly.
'Why, of course!' Rose agreed with even more unashamed gusto than ever – to conceal her shock, Marianne surmised.
'And will you be following us, Marianne dear?'
'Er, no, not yet, Aunt Becky,' Marianne answered after a moment's reflection. 'I need to give Pegasus more exercise yet.'
'We'll see you later on, then.'
Marianne nodded, forcing a smile to her lips while she absently stroked Pegasus's beautiful face. Feeling his silky hair beneath her fingers was like a soothing balm to her own heart which had begun to patter nervously at Rebecca's news. Dear Uncle Adam. He had always been like a rock in her life, the eldest of all her parents' friends, a solid and dependable patriarch. With influential connections in his native London, he was so strong and godlike in Marianne's eyes, and yet he was kindness itself. He was a constant, and she could not imagine her world without him.
She watched her father drive the motorcar smoothly away from the station, her throat choked. Adam and Rebecca's visit always presented a joyous occasion, even more so this year as they would be celebrating Rose's sixtieth birthday. The concept that all these people she loved were entering old age had never crossed Marianne's mind before. Or if it had, she had dismissed it out of hand. But now it hit her like a sledgehammer.
There was only one way she could open up her mind to the cold reality of acceptance. That was why she had replied instinctively that she needed to give Pegasus a longer ride, and she swung herself back into the saddle. The familiar sensation of the warm, vigorous creature beneath her was immensely comforting, and she turned his head to retrace their steps through Princetown and back across the open moor the same way they had come. Except that this time, they did not turn off towards Fencott Place, but followed the track even further out across the wild, empty moorland.
Excerpted from Teardrops in the Moon by Tania Crosse. Copyright © 2014 Tania Crosse. Excerpted by permission of Robert Hale Limited.
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