A black coach and horses arrived outside of the inn. Fortunately, there was step outside of the inn to allow me a little grace, as I entered the carriage. Alas, the handbag had not been invented. I kept my possessions in my pockets, stored my belongings in a bundle and held ‘Fortune’s Promise’ in my grasp. It was 1811, ‘the night was painted silver’, as I commenced the journey. The horses moved at a genteel pace and took me to Orchard House. Peering into the house, I saw a striking young woman, Lucinda, ‘with raven hair and sapphire eyes’. A servant brought a ‘delicious looking drink in a sugar-frosted glass’, alas he could not see this twenty first century reader. I settled back in the carriage, and could not wait to open to recommence the thrilling journey through the novel.
Sue Johnson, the author, was driving the coach and horses and I heard her call to the horse to commence the journey. We galloped at a pace through the Regency narrative; it was indeed thrilling as the characters veered of the track. Without a fortune to keep the characters on a steady road of wealth, I was in awe as they employed survival tactics of the highest order. Lucinda and Hannah, both strong and resourceful ladies, navigated their way through the perilous era – and what a brilliant journey. The ladies could not see me. I waited in the background, hoping for a twist in fate to keep them safe. Perhaps, I did help them along the way.
The shadow of the villain lurked, but ‘a hunger and cold gnawed his insides’, as he searched for his treasure – the lady with the ‘sapphire eyes’. Oh, how I feared for Lucinda. Despite her slight frame and pale countenance, Lucinda had the fire of the twenty first century woman. Indeed, ‘naked hostility’ shone in her ‘sapphire blue eyes’, and she recognised that her brother ‘had more choice in life’. Mentally stronger than her artist brother, John, Lucinda rejected ‘the devil on Longdon Hill’, and was not fooled when he ‘strutted out like a peacock’. Laughing at Lucinda’s perceptive, intelligent comments, I wanted to invite her into the twenty first century; but she could not see me.
I was on the edge of my seat, as the horses negotiated the rough narrative terrain. We encountered the thieves and vagabonds hiding in the underworld. Driving through the era: we stopped at inns, fairs, farms and cottages. Sue Johnson documents the uncivilised element of the era thus providing a refreshing perspective. I entered an inn to find ‘the air thick with the smell of smoke, old cooking and unwashed bodies. The smell was so over powering…’ But I did not dwell on the assault on my senses, as it was time to follow the pathway of the winding plot. I saw that ‘turmoil’ ‘twisted inside’ of Lucinda when faced with the devilish character. She was not hoodwinked by her suitor, and I knew I would witness the adventures of a thoroughly modern Regency lady. I returned hastily to the carriage each night to follow the plot, but drew the curtains on the ‘man on a black horse’ who was always clipping at Lucinda’s heels. I hoped Lucinda would be clever enough to outwit him, and see his ‘silhouette’ before he saw her. I pointed at a potential suitor, alas she could neither see me, nor hear my counsel.
I feared for the characters as they met the various people along the way. I ‘heard of situations where wealthy young men had disappeared to be stripped of their belongings and left dead in a ditch.’ I moved out of the Regency drawing room to travel through the reality of the era. The hiring fair chilled me to the bone, when the sinister farmer approached Lucinda, but I marvelled at Lucinda’s independent spirit.
The narrative is wrapped in the superstition of the era and a hint of the supernatural. I was enchanted by this novel, as I travelled back in time to reality of the Regency era. I wanted to help the characters who had been thrown into turmoil by the cruel twist of their fate. But, ‘the air cracked with tension’ as I drove through the twists and turns in the narrative. ‘The storm rattled and crashed overhead’ in the dramatic story of greed, ambition and survival.