Tuesday, July 15, 2014

PART TWO She only took her eyes off the view outside her window to take the blanket and a pillow, then a glass of wine and lunch.  Eleanor watched day turn to night in a few short hours.  The full moon rising in the sky.  The coast of England visible.  And when the plane arrived at Heathrow, the landing was easy and smooth, and when there was no one to meet her as she exited through Customs, no one with a sign, no one with a smile of recognition, she pulled the bag behind her, found her way to the London Underground, then through King’s Cross Station, and boarded a train for Yorkshire.  All in a long day. “There she is,” the cabdriver said and pointed to an enormous stone house on the crest of a steep green slope.  “That’s her, Trent Hall.” Eleanor got a glimpse of lights before the building disappeared behind some trees and a wall of stones chiseled to fit one against the other and hold without mortar.  It was midnight when they passed through a break in the wall and climbed the mile-long driveway to the flat top of a hill, where the house stood wrapped inside another wall, this one covered with red-leafed ivy.  Through the wall, under a thick stone archway, they drove into a large courtyard flagged with pavers and grass.  There was an evocative crunch of gravel as the car slowed to a stop and the driver jumped out.  The building, in the shape of an L around the yard, looked like a church with two towers and mullioned windows.  Eleanor stepped out of the cab and stared around to take it in: a three-storied entrance in a wall of light gray stone that extended to the right and to the left with stables and a carriage house behind her. “My God, look at this place.” The hinges on the trunk of the car creaked for oil and the driver shrugged a cute apology before he pulled out her bags. When she tipped him, he gave half of it back. “That’s too much, lass,” he said.  He doffed his hat and wished her a good evening. She watched as his hand rose out the window to wave goodbye. As he drove away she imagined he’d be on his way to a warm house for a good night of sleep. Her red leather bag sat on the damp gravel, her satchel hung from her shoulder, and the wind was so strong she had to take a stand against it. Alone in the courtyard she was seized by fear: a choked feeling in her throat and a chill, as if she’d been brushed up against.  One hand squeezed the soft leather of her suitcase handle and the other hand held tight to the strap over her shoulder, as if these would anchor her, so she startled when she heard a crunch behind her and turned to see a man. “I’m Granley,” he said and reached to take the burden of her suitcase.  “Don’t be concerned, you’re in the right place.  You’re Alice’s niece, Miss Eleanor Sutton, eh?” “I am.  I’m Eleanor Abbott.  Eleanor Sutton Abbott.”  She smiled. She rarely used her full name. Reluctantly, she let go of the suitcase, then shifted her bag and reached to shake his hand, but he didn’t take it. “You were worried,” he said. She wrapped a strand of hair behind her ear. “I was a bit.” He picked up her suitcase and reached for her satchel. She followed him. "Is it always this windy?" “’Tis more or less this way always.  ’Tis wutherin' weather."  There were leaves hanging in midair.  "The dull roarin’ sound of the wind, that’s it.”  He threw his head in the direction of the moor where the land rolled away from the house. An echoed crunch of gravel as they walked across the drive, Granley led her inside the shadow of an arch into a well-lit entrance hall whose walls were paneled in aged dark wood. With the bags set down, he reached to take her coat. Again, she startled. “Steady,” he said.  She felt his gaze unwavering on her face.  “Are ye timid?” A girl in lace leggings and a short skirt. “I’m not. I’m really not.” She laughed at herself.  Took a deep breath to calm down.  Tucked her hair behind her ear again. “I help Alice with most everything needs done ’round here.  Well, not everything...” He cocked his head for her to follow and led her into the kitchen.  She smelled fresh-baked bread.  “The women take care of some things,” he said.  He stooped as he stepped through the doorway because he was too tall for the passage.  Inside the spacious kitchen, with well-worn yellow-stone floors and ancient fixtures, were two women busy as if it were the middle of the day. The older of the two, handsome and somehow elegant despite the white apron tied around her middle, turned and gasped, “Eleanor, you’re here!”   She wiped her hands and took off her apron, then opened her arms and gave Eleanor a warm hug. “I’m sorry it’s so late.” “No, we were expecting you.” The kind stranger stepped back and looked into Eleanor’s face. “You’re much like your mother, do you know that? Alice is going to be so pleased.”  She held Eleanor’s face in her hands and saw her confusion. “I’m Gwen Angle, dear.  We spoke on the telephone.” Eleanor nodded and smiled.  She noticed that under the apron was a well-cut wool dress.  Ms. Angle’s face was long, lean, with a broad jaw and high cheekbones.  Her eyes were intelligent and deep blue.  Her cheeks were flushed from the heat of the oven. “This is Tilda,” she said briskly, introducing the woman who’d just pulled fresh loaves from the wood-burning stove. Tilda nodded her head with a confident smile.
My thoughts on SOLSBURY HILL Eleanor Sutton Abbot is on the cusp of having her dream of being a successful wool sweater designer come true when she receives a call from England.  Her Aunt Alice is dying.  She would love to see her before she goes… Is there any way she might make it?  This call sets events in motion that forever change Eleanor’s life.   SOLSBURY HILL is Eleanor’s discovery of her heritage and herself via a trip to England.  Eleanor’s personal journey is marked by ghosts, solitary walks on the moors, and an inheritance, all wrapped up in an homage to WutheringHeights and Emily Bronte. After receiving a call from Gwendolyn Angle, her aunt’s dearest friend and partner, regarding her Aunt Alice’s condition and desire to see her Eleanor reaches out to her best friend and lover, Miles.  Her innocent action leads to heartache and a solitary trip to Yorkshire.  Alone, Eleanor is forced to face events and revelations without the buffer of Miles; forcing her to discover her unique strengths and eventually her true self. So often these days we equate volume, flamboyance, and drama with passion.  Eleanor is elegant in an easy, innate way, restrained without being standoffish or cold.  There’s a quiet intensity and thoughtfulness to Eleanor that’s alluring.  Eleanor, in a word, is classy. From an old, genteel, monied, Connecticut family, Miles has been Eleanor’s best friend since childhood.  He’s also her lover and Eleanor can’t imagine her life without him.  Miles has their future mapped out in his head.  Her horizons are about to be expanded whether she likes it or not. Meadowscarp MacLeod A.K.A Mead is the ward/foster son of Aunt Alice.  His entry into the world was joyous, tragic, and miraculous.  The circumstances surrounding his birth left Duncan, his father and Alice’s friend, unable to care for him. Mead describes himself as a scarperer and understands Eleanor in a way Miles can’t. Mead and Miles are as different as day from night.  They’re the two men Eleanor must choose between.  Are they past, present, or a mysterious blending of one and the same? The way time blends and flows, the ghosts that direct Eleanor and the mysterious, therapeutic moors add to the other elements that make SOLSBURY HILL a magical read.  Just right for summer. 4 Stars

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