About the Novel:
After Prudence’s desperate marriage and move to London, sisters Rowena and Victoria fear they have lost their beloved friend forever. Guilt-ridden and remorseful, Rowena seeks comfort from a daring flyboy and embraces the most dangerous activity the world has ever seen, and Victoria defies her family and her illness to make her own dream occupation as a botanist come true. As England and the world step closer to conflict, the two young women flout their family, their upbringing, and their heritage to seize a modern future of their own making.
With her delicate constitution but strong, unflappable spirit, Victoria has never followed societal conventions, the rules of fashion, or the pursuit of a husband. Instead, she finds herself drawn to the controversial—and dangerous—fight for women’s suffrage. But her dream is compromised, and her heart divided, when her struggles for equal rights collide with unexpected love.
After yearning to no avail for a certain young pilot to fly back into her life, Rowena fears her chances for happiness have been jeopardized by recklessness and scandal. Burdened with guilt for bringing her sister Prudence to Summerset Abbey as a lady’s maid while she herself led a life of privilege, Rowena hopes to one day make amends. But her desire to set things right is complicated by her passion for flight and a sudden engagement…to the wrong man.
Raised like a sister to Victoria and Rowena, then banished to the servants’ quarters when their father passed away, Prudence has seen both sides of life, upstairs and down. But once the truth about her parentage was revealed, Prudence forged a new life for herself, married to a penniless veterinary student. Living in poverty in a shabby London flat, she wonders if she’s made a terrible mistake—and there’s no turning back...
The nurse got Victoria into bed and settled the covers over her. Victoria’s bones ached and even the roughness of the gray woolen blankets and the hard mattress felt wonderful. When the woman moved to leave, Victoria caught her arm. “Wait,” she pleaded. It seemed as if this woman was the only person between Victoria and unknown terrors. “When will I see a judge? When can I see my family?”
The woman shook her head and flicked a switch off. The only light now came from the open door, and long shadows spilled over Victoria’s bed “I don’t know. It’s hard to tell.”
“What’s your name?” Victoria pleaded. Anything to keep the door from shutting.
“Eleanor. I’ll check on you before my shift is up. Now try to get some sleep.”
The light slivered and then was gone. The darkness, once the door had closed, was absolute, and Victoria trembled. She’d never liked being alone at night, and for years she had slept with Prudence to keep the nightmares away.
There was no one to keep the nightmares away now. Of course, how could anything her mind conjured be worse than her current reality?
Tears rose and fell down her cheeks in the darkness. How did she get here? Why hadn’t she just ignored Mary’s note? The woman was mad. Victoria wondered where she was and then realized that Mary was no doubt locked in a cell in this very prison.
She wiped the tears with her hands. Her uncle would get her out if he could. He was an important man and a rich one to boot. Surely he could do something.
With a sinking heart, she remembered some of the newspaper articles she’d read over the preceding months. Public opinion might be mixed on the suffragettes, but the justice system was not. Most judges had no sympathy whatsoever, and they had been known to throw a suffragette in jail and toss the key at the same time. And if they really thought she had plotted to destroy the painting . . . Victoria shuddered.
Something dropped outside the door and she stilled. She could hear muffled voices for a bit as the nurses and orderlies worked their way from room to room, checking on patients, and she listened intently. At least she knew there were people out there and she wasn’t all alone. But the noises grew fainter and fainter and soon there was only the sound of her own ragged breathing. Then a soft moaning began and her heart leapt jaggedly in her chest. She screwed her eyes up tight against the darkness and began to recite:
Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe. . . .
Victoria paused with a shudder. No. Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” was much too frightening for this situation. Her father used to run his fingers through his hair and recite it while making the most horrible faces. Father! She swallowed and began again. This time choosing Rudyard Kipling’s, “The Bee Boy’s Song.”
Bees! Bees! Hark to your bees!
"Hide from your neigbours as much as you please,
But all that has happened, to us you must tell,
Or else we will give you no honey to sell!"
TJ Brown is passionate about books, writing, history, dachshunds and mojitos. If she could go back in time, she would have traveled back to England, 1910, Paris, 1927 or Haight-Ashbury, 1967. She resides in the burbs of Portlandia, where she appreciates the weirdness, the microbreweries, hoodies, Voodoo Donuts and the rain.
A Bloom in Winter is available through Simon & Schuster, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, and Indiebound.
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(To see more of April's designs, see www.etsy.com/shop/speeglecreations)