When It Rained at Hembry Castle (The Hembry Castle Chronicles, Book 1) by Meredith Allard
From Meredith Allard, author of the bestselling Loving Husband Trilogy, comes When It Rained at Hembry Castle, a lush historical novel set in Victorian England. Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, it’s the story of an aristocratic family, a mysterious death, secrets that dare not be told, and the wonder of falling in love.
When the 8th Earl of Staton dies, his eldest son, the unreliable Richard, inherits the title and the family�s home�Hembry Castle. The Earl’s niece, the American-born Daphne, is intrigued by Edward Ellis, a rising author with a first-hand knowledge of Hembry Castle�from the servants� hall. And Edward, though captivated by the lovely Daphne, has his own hurdles he must overcome. Can Richard come to terms with his title before bringing ruin on his family? Will Edward and Daphne find their way to each other despite the obstacles of life at Hembry Castle?
When It Rained at Hembry Castle is a page-turning, romantic novel with vivid characters and an engrossing story that will keep you guessing until the end.
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Meredith Allard is the author of the bestselling novels The Loving Husband Trilogy, That You Are Here, Victory Garden, Woman of Stones, and My Brother’s Battle. Her newest release, the historical novel When It Rained at Hembry Castle, is a great read for fans of Downton Abbey.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, April 18
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, April 20
Review & Giveaway at A Holland Reads
Friday, April 22
Excerpt at Historical Fiction Addicts
Saturday, April 23
Guest Post & Giveaway at Brooke Blogs
Sunday, April 24
Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
When It Rained at Hembry Castle Excerpt
Drawn as though by the man’s impatience, Edward looked at the time. Nearly 11 a.m. No more dilly-dallying. He had to work. As he was turning from the window he saw her. At first he thought his eyes deceived him. Certainly, he only thought he saw her because she had been so much on his mind since the Earl of Staton’s funeral, but no, it was her.
Miss Daphne Meriwether stood near her father, whom Edward recognized from the funeral. Though she was still in full mourning, she was a vision, her pale skin set off by the crinkled black crepe that fell in ripples from her waist. Edward memorized every detail of her—her gold hair pulled back in a simple knot at the base of her neck, a few strands loose beneath her black bonnet. She wasn’t wearing a veil, and Edward was able to focus on the heart-shaped face with the same kind smile as her father, who wore his mourning as a black band around his arm. As Mr. and Miss Meriwether crossed the street, the cab drivers pulled their horses to a halt and doffed their hats in the young woman’s direction. Her father doffed his hat in return, and the Meriwethers crossed unmolested by man, vehicle, or beast, a near miracle on the busy London streets. As they walked, Mr. Meriwether gestured toward the building from where Edward watched them. Edward felt embarrassed suddenly. He wanted to hide, but where? Under his desk? Should he run up the stairs to the next floor? He couldn’t possibly let her see him. She would know at a glance that he had been thinking improperly about her—well, not improperly, perhaps, but not entirely properly either. But he didn’t run. His feet wouldn’t move. She was too lovely, after all, and who knew when he would see such a sight again.
As father and daughter were about to enter the building, a ruddy, plump-cheeked boy raced across the street, dodging vehicles, horses, and low-flying birds, causing shouts from annoyed pedestrians. The boy held a small bouquet of yellow calla lilies toward the golden-haired young woman, and Edward saw the ruddy, plump-cheeked flower vendor wiping his hands on his apron, laughing at his son. The boy stopped short, nearly running father and daughter over in his haste to get to them before they disappeared inside. The boy, shy suddenly and pulling his slouch cap over his eyes, grinned sheepishly as Miss Meriwether kneeled next to him, took the bouquet, inhaled deeply as though the flowers smelled of ambrosia, and kissed the boy’s cheek. The boy clasped his hand to his face as though he meant to keep the kiss forever. He looked back toward his father and beamed. He had won his prize. Mr. Meriwether reached into his coat pocket and handed a few coins to the boy, who was clearly in love. Edward leaned close to the open window and heard the boy say, “Oh, no, sir. My pa says the flowers are a gift for the pretty young lady in black. To cheer her from her sadness.”
“That is a most generous gesture,” Frederick Meriwether said. “Where is your father, young man?”
“Just there, sir.” The boy pointed to where his father waited by the flower barrow.
“How very kind,” Miss Meriwether said. “You see, Papa, people in London can be as considerate as people in New London.”
Edward watched as Mr. and Miss Meriwether walked the boy back to his father and Frederick Meriwether and the flower vendor began talking. The younger brother of the Earl of Staton speaking to a flower vendor in the street, where anyone could see? Edward wondered what Mr. Meriwether’s mother, the Countess of Staton, would have to say about that. He realized too late that Roberts and Wellesley were beside him.
“Whatever has your rapt attention, Ellis?” asked Roberts.
“Ahhh…” Wellesley pointed to where Mr. and Miss Meriwether still chatted with the flower vendor and his son, who was now partially hidden behind his father while he stared at the young woman as though she were the goddess Aphrodite come to earth.
“You have excellent taste, Ellis,” said Roberts. “The young woman is in mourning. Perhaps she needs a shoulder to cry on.”
As Mr. and Miss Meriwether left the flower vendor and his son, the rain picked up again. Suddenly, as though she sensed someone watching her, Miss Meriwether looked up and Edward knew he had been seen. Then she smiled. It wasn’t a perturbed smile, which Edward would have expected from a well-born young English woman, a “How dare that strange man have the indecency to notice me!” sort of aggravation. It was a friendly smile, an acknowledgement—hello, I see you—and it made Edward’s heart stammer. Then he did the unthinkable. He smiled back.
“I see you’re acquainted with the young woman,” said Wellesley.
“That’s Mr. Meriwether and his daughter,” Edward said.
Roberts looked toward the door. “Here they come.”
Edward stood. He cursed the fact that bright colors had gone out of fashion because he suddenly thought his black frock coat and brown waistcoat were too dreary. He ran his fingers through his hair, brushing it first to the right, then to the left, then away from his face, then to the right again. He sat at his desk, crossing his right leg languidly over the left. He leaned back as though this were the most ordinary thing in the world. He was at work where he belonged and it was a daily occurrence for beautiful young women to visit there. Why shouldn’t it be?
Roberts grinned. “You’re prettying yourself up for the daughter of the brother of the Earl of Staton?”
“I am not prettying myself up.”
The door opened and there were Mr. and Miss Meriwether. The office went silent. Mr. Meriwether smiled in a fatherly manner at the scrutinizing faces, though the young men brightened considerably when they noticed Miss Meriwether. Randall Tewson hurried from his desk as quickly as his short legs would carry him and he nearly prostrated himself in front of the new editor as though Mr. Meriwether were the Duke of Somewhereorother. In Mr. Meriwether Edward saw a tall, straight-backed man with the upright stature of an aristocrat and the manner of a friend. Mr. Meriwether’s chestnut-colored hair was graying at the temples, and he was clean-shaven, as Edward was—a contrast to the style of the day since only men and very old women could grow beards properly. Though on another man his small blue eyes and refined features might look cold, Mr. Meriwether didn’t appear disagreeable at all. With introductions led by Tewson, Mr. Meriwether made his way around meeting the men who would work for him. Edward noticed the way Mr. Meriwether looked everyone in the eye and asked everyone’s name and their responsibilities at the paper. Yes, he spoke in the swanky tones of the aristocracy, but otherwise he could have been anyone from anywhere. If Edward didn’t know better he would never have guessed that Mr. Meriwether was reared in the ancient halls of Hembry Castle. Then Frederick Meriwether stood before Edward as Tewson introduced them.
“I can’t believe we haven’t met before, all things considered,” Mr. Meriwether said. Edward struggled to keep his eyes on the father, and he succeeded in looking at the daughter only twice. “I believe you know Mitchell Chattaway?”
“I do,” Edward said. “I worked for him at the beginning of my career.”
“He’s a good man to know if you’re in the newspaper business. My daughter and I dined with Chattaway and his family when we first arrived in England. Allow me to introduce my daughter. Daphne, this is Edward Ellis, the young man I’ve heard so much about. Mr. Ellis, my daughter Miss Meriwether. I’ve been telling everyone in my family about you, young man. Mr. Barden told me of your talents as a reporter as well as an editor, and he showed me some of the short pieces you’ve had published. I must admit, I’m rather impressed.”
Miss Meriwether smiled, and Edward forgot why he was standing there. Mr. Meriwether had just said something nice about him—he was sure of it—but he couldn’t say what and he couldn’t guess how to respond. He nodded until Miss Meriwether rescued him.
“Is it true you’re the fastest shorthand transcriber here? And the most accurate?”
“That’s what Mr. Barden has been saying about him,” said Mr. Meriwether. “Mr. Ellis, you’ll be running this place before long if I have anything to say about it.”
“Thank you, Mr. Meriwether.”
Frederick allowed Tewson to escort him to the men he hadn’t been introduced to yet. With Mr. Meriwether gone, Edward was at a loss. He tried to look everywhere but at Miss Meriwether, though he could feel her watching him. She wasn’t being indiscreet, staring like a coquette at men she didn’t know. She was curious, and she was, after all, American. No well-born young English woman would dare be caught in a place where people performed work. To be associated with a trade? Never! Yet here was Miss Meriwether, unembarrassed, curious, and her father didn’t appear concerned with exposing her to something as common as a newspaper office.
When Edward could no longer ignore the fact that Miss Meriwether’s full attention was on him, he had to resist the urge to hide in the supply closet. Though his left foot was turned toward the door, his right foot stayed stubbornly in place. He realized, after some thought, that he needed to either stay where he was or trip over himself in his haste to get away, looking even more ridiculous in Miss Meriwether’s eyes than he was sure he already did. He decided to stand strong, so he scanned himself—trousers fastened, boots on the correct feet, waistcoat right side out. Was his hair a mess? He wanted to run a hand through it again, but he didn’t want to seem vain so he resisted.
“I saw you looking out the window,” Miss Meriwether said.
“I saw the flower boy give you that bouquet.” Edward gestured to the yellow calla lilies she held in her black-gloved hand. Her eyes were so blue they appeared violet, and those violet eyes watched him like two amethysts.
“He was a sweet little boy.” Miss Meriwether watched her father speaking to several men across the room. “You needn’t worry, Mr. Ellis. You’re in good hands with my father. You won’t find a fairer employer anywhere, and he already thinks you’re so talented.”
“That’s good to know.” Edward wanted to say something bright, something witty to make her laugh, but, as it always happens in moments when you most want to sound impressive, his grasp of the English language eluded him. Finally, seeing her mourning dress, complete sentences formed and he even managed to speak them aloud.
“I’m sorry about your grandfather. I’ve had the privilege of meeting him on more than one occasion, and I know he was a kind man, a magnanimous man, respected by everyone who knew him. I was at his funeral, covering it for the paper. That’s where I saw you the first time.” Edward pictured himself with his pen running a delete line through that last sentence.
Miss Meriwether was about to respond when Mr. Meriwether called her to join him and Mr. Tewson at his desk. Edward tried to work for the third time that day, but now his thoughts were consumed by wishes for a glimpse of the golden-haired, violet-eyed beauty. Whenever he looked in her direction all he saw was the backside of Randall Tewson.
“Look!” cried Wellesley. “He keeps looking in Miss Meriwether’s direction. Ellis is in love.”
“Don’t be daft,” said Edward. “I’m thinking of my article and how little time I have to finish it.”
“And longing for a glimpse of the radiant Miss Meriwether.”
Edward grimaced at Wellesley before fastening his eyes onto the notes with the dots and doodles. He picked up his quill, filled it with ink, and began working. All around him were the manic scrapes of feather tips on paper as others scrambled to meet their deadlines. Edward thought of the beautiful young woman on the other side of the room as he translated those dots and doodles into English.
Finally, as Edward readied his copy, he heard snickering. He was about to say something rude to Wellesley and Roberts, but he realized Mr. Meriwether was standing near his desk and caught himself in time.
“Is your piece ready to go?” Mr. Meriwether asked. Edward handed the editor his work, which somehow he managed to finish. Mr. Meriwether scanned the piece. “This looks quite good.”
“Thank you, Mr. Meriwether.”