Today, I turn my blog over to historical romance author Jude Knight, who brings us an interview with her heroine. Readers, enjoy!
My heroine is Eleanor Melville, widow of cavalry officer and baronet Captain Sir Gervase Melville. Ella was living at her husband’s country estate, nursing his elderly mother, until the dowager Lady Melville died and Ella was forced to flee the ill intentions of Gervase’s half brother and his wife.
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have lost everything I have achieved. I was proud of my successes as physician-surgeon to my husband’s regiment, unacknowledged though they were since I was a woman. But Gervase sent me home to England. I took over his neglected estate and made it thrive. Gervase grumbled, but did not interfere when he found his income increased. But then he died and left the property to his brother, who is slowly ruining it. And children; the wife of a baronet has one important role. I failed, and failed again, before at last I gave birth to my little Richard. But he died while still a baby.
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
In my dreams, I live in the country, with friends and family around me. Children, perhaps? The world is full of children who need a home and the love of a mother. If some fairy godmother wishes to bestow on me a small competence, I will buy a house in some country village, and fill it with children.
In my dreams, I have a husband. Not one like Gervase, but a man who supports and respects me. Foolishness, of course. If such a man exists, he would not be interested in a widow well past her first youth. Besides, I lost my heart long long ago, and the man who holds it is gentry-born; the grandson of an earl. No. I do not expect perfect happiness.
I am, however, seizing the happiness I can, travelling with that very same man. That is not as scandalous as it sounds. He has been all that is proper and is, besides, too ill for dalliance. But these past weeks together have been wonderful.
- What is your current state of mind?
I am content. As I just said, I have the best of company. I am also being useful, keeping things clean and providing meals for the menfolk. I will not think of my uncertain future, or the danger if my in-laws pursue me. I am content.
- What is your favorite occupation?
I enjoy all the work of running an estate. I love caring for people, helping them to recover their health. If I could find a position doing either kind of work, it would be wonderful. Alex has promised that his sister will help me, and she is a great lady, with many useful contacts. I used to enjoy schooling my colt. I hope he has survived; I fear what Edwin might have done to him.
Oh. You mean a single occupation that I do for pleasure? Reading, then. I read novels, though my sister-in-law Constance assures me it is a low occupation, and one that rots the morals.
- What is your most treasured possession?
(Ella’s smile turns wistful, and she gazes into the distance.) I possess neither of them. I had to leave them behind when I fled. The colt Falcon’s Storm and the medical kit I had from my father. Storm is all I have left of my mare, Hawk of May, and my only inheritance from Gervase. His horse Lightning was Storm’s sire.
- What or who is the greatest love of your life?
(In a whisper.) Alex. But he must never know how I feel, for I am sure he would be kind and his kindness would break my heart. He is such a kind man. When I travelled with the regiment, it was always Alex who protected me from danger and saw to my comfort, while Gervase thought only of himself. And when I turned to him for help after escaping Edwin and Constance, he put his own wellbeing at risk to save me.
- What is your favorite journey?
The one I am on. Travelling the canals from Cheshire to London is both peaceful and fascinating. But the best part has been getting to know Alex again.
- What is your most marked characteristic?
Once I have given my loyalty, I stay true. At least in my actions, though my thoughts may rebel. But my thoughts are my own.
- When and where were you the happiest?
Now, this canal journey, is the happiest I have ever been. After Richard was born, I was filled with a joy such as I’ve never known. But I was very ill, and my mother-in-law was confined to bed with her first attack of apoplexy. Edwin and Constance arrived with news of Gervase’s death and every criticism under the sun. My joy in my child was a glorious bright light, but it shone in the darkness. This happiness pales by comparison, but my fears and worries are small and not worth dwelling on.
- What is it that you most dislike?
Two-faced liars. People who pretend to piety and charity, but who tear other people’s characters to shreds behind their backs and who will do a bad turn if they can without consequence.
- What is your greatest fear?
I fear being forced to go back to Edwin and Constance. What they have planned for me… (she trails off and shudders).
- What is your greatest extravagance?
Books. When I was mistress of the income from the estate, I used to have the latest novels sent from London. Even now, when my only money comes from Alex’s pocket, I cannot resist picking over the second-hand book stalls at every market we visit. Alex is worse than I, mind you, loading up young Pat like a pack-mule.
- Which living person do you most despise?
Beyond a doubt, Constance Braxton. She is married to my husband’s half-brother, Edwin Braxton, and I had the misfortune to live with them both. He is a mean bully, and she is worse. Part of the reason I stayed after my husband died, instead of seeking a position as a companion somewhere, is that I would not leave my mother-in-law to Constance’s nagging, neglect, and nasty remarks. She was a sweet gentle lady, and did not deserve her sons, let alone the witch that Edwin married.
- What is your greatest regret?
If only I had kept Richard with me. I tell myself it would not have mattered. He was born early, and he was frail. But he had been better. He was feeding well. He was putting on weight. The doctor said I should let him sleep in another room so I could regain my own strength, and Miller and Constance promised they would take turns to sit with him. Miller went to sleep, and when she woke, he was gone. If only he had been with me, I might have heard him. I might have been able to do something.
- Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to draw and paint. Alex can, and I watch with awe as the scenery we pass comes to life under his hands.
- Where would you like to live?
As I said before, I’d like to live in the country. I have been in London, and in Liverpool. Large, noisy, and smelly. I don’t mind where, but a cottage with a garden where I could grow herbs for the kitchen and for medicines, and flowers to heal the soul.
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Losing someone I love, and feeling that I could have done more to save them. I never want to feel that way again.
A Raging Madness
Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.
Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.
In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.
Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.
She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.
Read on for an excerpt from A Raging Madness!
The operation would be performed in the outdoors, where the light was better. They were only a few yards from where the Maggie Belle was moored, and all going well, they would return there after the operation. Big Dan had agreed that they could travel on with the narrowboat if Ella was prepared to guarantee Alex was on the mend.
“I don’t wish to disoblige, Mrs Sedgewick, especially when you and himself have been so good to my Pat, but I don’t want a gentleman dying on my boat, and that’s a fact.”
The canal was the gentlest way to transport Alex to London, and Ella trusted Big Dan and didn’t want to start again with another boat. She paid his costs to stable Bess for another day, and a bit over for his trouble. If she was able to save Alex’s leg, they would be ready to travel on tomorrow. Not saving Alex was an intolerable thought, and she would not entertain it for a moment.
It was a cool day in late autumn, but fine and still. Alex was carried from the boat across the bridle path to the field where they had set up trestles on a borrowed door they had pressed into service to act as stretcher and operating table.
Barlow and Whitlock had returned to watch, and Mrs Manning had bullied them into washing so they could help hold Alex during the operation. Mrs Manning’s husband had also been an advocate of Alexander Gordon’s theories that contagion was minimised by cleanliness, something Ella’s father had taught her. She had seen the benefit many times when his patients and hers survived in greater numbers than those of other doctors.
With that in mind, she had boiled the lancets and probes Mrs Manning provided. The cloths they would use, too, had been freshly laundered in boiling water, and the door had been scoured with strong soap and then draped with a clean sheet.
They strapped Alex to the door to stop him moving, gave him a wooden block to bite on, washed his naked thigh and draped cloths around it to catch the fluids that would spill.
“I will be as quick as I can, Alex,” Ella said, and Alex smiled and told her, “I trust you, Ella.”
She could not think of that: could not consider she was about to cut into her nemesis, her saviour, her dear friend; could not remember the consequences if she failed. She said a quick prayer, and then, as her father had taught her, she took a deep breath and let it go, releasing with it all consciousness of the small crowd of watchers, of the still smaller crowd of helpers, of Alex as a person.
Before her was a leg. A thing of meat and bone and blood, and within it the enemy, the death-bringer. Finding the abscess, releasing the poison, that was her entire focus. The muscle of the thigh was simply something to be damaged as little as possible as she sliced into it to reach the poison beneath.
She had chosen the sharpest and most slender of the lancets, and with it she cut quickly and deeply. On another plane, someone gave a smothered, strangled scream and the thigh twitched, but not enough to deflect her blade from its path. There. Pus, a thick yellowy cream springing up the channel she had made mixed with the blood that tried to drown her view.
Of a sudden, her detachment deserted her, and she braced herself against the table, tightening her suddenly weak knees so she didn’t fall. Rotting flesh had an odour all its own; once smelled never forgotten. This was infection, but not rot. She was in time.
And time was of the essence. No indulging in vapours.