I’ve been have a lot of technology issues so forgive me for making this easy on myself. This post is about my latest work in progress and doesn’t directly relate to Jane Austen, but deals with some elements familiar to Northanger Abbey fans.
I’m working on a few stories at one time right now, but the one that is taking up a lot of my imagination and research time is an original work (non JAFF) that begins with the Great Frost of 1684 and a witch’s execution and then jumps to 1813, just before the Thames freezes over in 1814, and deals with a Jacobite claim to the crown of Great Britain. The story is steeped in conspiracy and superstition. The heroine, Lady Hannah Edgecumbe, may remind you more than a little of Catherine Morland.
Hannah writes gothic novels for fun and doesn’t believe in the supernatural, despite having a witch in her family tree. Soon, though, she is pulled into a world where people do believe in the legend surrounding her family. When the Thames freezes over again, and it seems the victim’s family is “restored,” some even believe Hannah is the fulfillment of a prophecy.
I don’t have a title for this story yet, but hope to have it out next Spring. Here’s the opening scene:
“Burn the witch!” Melisande heard the shouts outside her cottage. The townsfolk, collectively, were strong and angry. The winter of 1683-84 had been the harshest in memory or legend. The Thames froze over a foot deep, and the other canals froze as well, effecting the transport of goods and the means of money for many in the area.
With the cold also came disease. Her husband had been the apothecary but was of the first victims. For a time, Melisande continued his work, mixing the potions and visiting the ill. No one rebuked her efforts. Soon, the Squire’s favourite daughter took sick. Lord de Vere doubted the convention of a female apothecary and refused to give all of the necessary treatment to his child.
When she did not recover, he refused to pay Melisande. Fearing the loss of being able to feed her twin daughters, Hannah and Helen, Melisande began to demand payment before services rendered.
The townsfolk became suspicious of her motives. The winter continued, and the crops could not be planted. The disease spread and soon not only could people not pay, but there were no plants for the tonic. Day by day, Melisande saw her community and her own family, fade away. Now, only her eldest daughter remained.
Members of a community prove how integral they are during a crisis. Leading to this moment came to the deaths of the baker, the butcher, the miller and the magistrate. What little crop there had been could not be refined and consumed. Losing their sanity as they saw their family starve and perish, the townspeople believed Melisande withheld the cure. Some even said she cast a spell to create the freezing weather. A few took it even further and said she hoped to kill the King with it.
Pulling out her journal she looked over her oft-repeated prayer, similar to the Lord’s words to Joel about restoring that which pests have eaten and destroyed. “Restore to me what the frost has taken. Restore to me what the disease has taken. Restore my children…”
Her prayer was cut short by the door being cut down. “Find her!” She heard them yell from the front room.
“Hannah, go! Go!” Melisande watched as her eldest daughter ran to the back door but hesitate.
“Run, do not stop! Run!” The two women’s eyes met, and tears glistened as her daughter made it out the door amidst the rabble.
Melisande lost consciousness as her crazed neighbors drug her to the prepared pyre. When she came to, the flames leapt around her.
“Your last words!” They called out to her.
“God will restore…when the frost returns…God will restore…”
I’m taking title suggestions. If I choose your suggestion I’ll be sure to give you a special thanks in the notes!
The working blurb:
If blood is thicker than water…
then it will take one of their own to bring about the end of the Jacobite claims to the throne of England. James Coventry, 9th Earl of Deerhurst, has been groomed since childhood, as an illegitimate descendant of Charles II, to help with the next planned uprising to restore the Stuarts to the throne. While Britain’s forces are occupied with Napoleon and the militia worried about Luddite riots, Coventry’s uncle, the Duke of St. Albans, has masterminded a plan to cut off the Hanoverian line.
Witty, intelligent and independent…
Lady Hannah Edgecumbe writes gothic novels for own amusement. Although the descendant of an executed witch, she believes witchcraft and the supernatural are just mere entertainment for a story. Hannah’s stories gain the notice of government agents who believe she she has sleuthing abilities. Suspecting Coventry and St. Albans’ plans, the agents send her to learn all she can. She learns more than she bargained for, however, when she is forced to wed Coventry. When the Thames freezes over, her husband’s uncle is convinced she is the key to his plot and the fulfillment of a century old prophecy.