A new novel. (Unnamed as of yet!) The second in “The Cotswolds Series.” I have already written five chapters and I am already totally in love with the new heroine. My newest story takes place in one of my favorite small, Southern towns – New Bern, NC. This story could not be part of the Cotswolds Series if it did not have an English destination. This time we will be traveling to Castle Combs, one of England’s most photographed villages.
I hate to disappoint but I am only releasing my first Chapter this time around. The book will be available on Amazon and Kindle upon its release, hopefully in a few months. I decided to self publish both this novel and my previous novel, At the Water’s Edge. My first novel will be available for purchase soon, also. I hope you are just as excited as I am with this second book. I can’t wait to hear your comments. xxoo, Barb
The love of gardening is a seed that once sown – never dies. – Gertrude Jeckyll
Thirty-six years earlier…
The remnants of a soft, English rain lay gently puddled upon centuries old garden stones. Bits of
green moss, covered in shimmering droplets, arose between each stone along the garden pathway in
an attempt to absorb as much of the warming rays of sun as possible. The garden behind the Inn was
filled to the brim with statues, raised flower beds and terra cotta containers overflowing with
ivy, perennials and even herbs. Various fountains dotted the landscape, their gently falling waters
creating a distinctive melodious rhythm throughout the walled garden. The aroma was beyond
unimaginable with a myriad of blooms and scents creating a cacophony of fragrances meant to incite
the senses. Several garden benches were strategically placed as an invitation for overnight guests to
sit, relax and fully enjoy their surroundings. Afternoon tea was often served on small, bistro style
tables with soft music playing tranquilly in the background. More often you would hear Mozart or
Chopin as these were the preferred selections of the Inn’s owner.
Throughout the garden, located under a fern’s frond or tucked inside one of fountains, one might
discover small painted stones. They were about the size of a child’s palm and these stones were not
just ordinary rocks. Some were painted with a few words from favorite poems and others were painted
with tiny scenes of the British countryside. The Inn owner herself had lovingly created each small
piece of art and carefully placed them throughout the garden. There was an overwhelming sense of
peace within these walls. It was not the most immaculate English garden and certainly far from the
most beauteous. Instead, it’s appeal could best be described more as surreal and intoxicating rather
than majestic and imposing. Guests often returned to the Inn time and again because of the garden
and the hospitality shown by it’s owner.
As a child, Emily Ann Walker Hayes eagerly anticipated her Summers when she would travel from
America and spend several months with her Aunt, often assisting her with running the Inn and the
afternoon tea service. Her parents would accompany her on the journey across the ocean but would
soon take off to the European Continent where they traveled for a month or more. Emily
preferred when her parent’s were not at the Inn because even as a child she fully comprehended the
hostility her mother had for her Aunt. Though Emily had never been told the reasoning for the bitter
feelings that were so obvious between the two women in her life, each year they visited England it was
more and more obvious that the conflict was becoming increasingly perceptible with time.
Lilyanna Emily Walker Devonshire, Emily’s Aunt, could only be described as beautiful and alluring.
Her father’s sister possessed an almost ethereal aura about herself that men seemed to find fascinating
and women loathed. She was creative and artistic, her greatest work being the Inn’s garden which she
had brought to life with her own hands. Lilyanna married a soon-to-be titled Englishman right out of
college. They were introduced at an art gallery in New York City and her Aunt proclaimed with great
fervor that Mr. Devonshire fell in love with her at first sight and she with him. They were married a
mere three months after they met and she was whisked off two days later to live in England with her
new husband. The new Lord and Lady Devonshire traveled throughout Europe immediately following
their nuptials and that is where Lilyanna fell head over heels with the second love of her life – gardens.
Emily’s aunt always told her that a garden was merely a living canvas where instead of a brush, one
used a spade. And instead of paints, the blank canvas was filled with flowers and plants. Emily never
had the privilege of knowing Lord Devonshire as he was killed in a riding accident a mere two years
after they were married. After his untimely death, the title was inherited by the new Lord,
her brother-in-law. Lilyanna took the willed but small allowance she had been granted as the widow
of the Estate and purchased a large Inn in the village of Castle Comb and there she settled. Lady
Lilyanna Devonshire would never marry again.
Each Summer during Emily’s stays her Aunt taught her more and more about the art of gardening. As
a child she had a hard time pronouncing and remembering many of the plant’s Latin names but her
Aunt proclaimed that she possessed the skillful knack of combining colors and textures – a requisite
for developing a garden which wasn’t “simply planted” but sprang to life like a magnificent
Emily carried her passion for gardening back to the States when she returned home after each
Summer, much to her mother’s chagrin. It wasn’t unusual for her mother to scold her when she found
Emily down on her knees, spade in hand, trying to recreate her Aunt’s English garden at their own
home back in North Carolina.
“Emily Ann! Get inside this house right now, young lady!” she yelled one afternoon from their wrap-
around porch. “No proper young lady wallows in the dirt like that. I wish your Aunt would
stop putting those ridiculous notions into your head about gardening. We have a hired gardener,
young lady, and that is not your place in life. You are an embarrassment to this family. Now come
inside at once before someone passes by and sees you.”
Head down and almost in tears Emily placed the small spade their old gardener, Mr. Watkins, had
given her to use by the small herb garden she was tending to. The gardener noted the sadness in
the child’s face and smiled reassuringly.
“You go right on along now, Miss Emily. Ole’ Watkins will finish planting your mint. I promise to
keep them nice and healthy for you, too. Now go before yo’ Mama has one of her hissy fits.”
Emily wiped her dirt-covered hands onto the front of her gardening apron and returned a smile to Mr.
Watkins. Only he understood the passion inside of her to plant things and in turn watch them flourish
and grow. The closest Emily’s mother came to anything remotely horticultural was when she hosted
the local garden club to have tea on the lawn. Then and only then would her mother pretend that she
had any interests in gardening, although she could barely name a single plant beyond that of a rose.
The hard work and dedicated hours which were spent tending to the garden were of no consideration
as long as it continued to be a showcase for her mother’s society needs.
This was one of the many reasons Emily was thrilled whenever her parents said their goodbyes and left
her in the care of her Aunt Lilyanna during the Summer months. Being in England was also an escape
from the constant battling between her parents – something which was becoming more pronounced
each year. In fact, her father had hinted during the Spring that it was possible their annual Summer
trip to England would be canceled. Emily was deeply disheartened and perplexed. As a child she was
not entitled to any knowledge of the rationale behind her parent’s conflicts. All she knew was there
was an immense unhappiness at their home in the States. All of this malaise Emily felt within her soul
seemed to dissipate as soon as she arrived at her Aunt’s Inn and especially when she entered the
garden. Just one hug and one smile from Aunt Lil and all the unpleasantness at home subsided.
Emily had made a secret friend that she dared not tell her mother or father about. Her father was
extremely doting and she was afraid her mother would accuse her of pernicious actions in which she
was innocent of. She had been forbade to have any contact with any of the neighborhood boys even as
a small child. If her mother knew about the male friend she had made several Summers ago in
England she would forbade her from visiting her Aunt ever again.
Gabriel Conroy Addison was the second son of a Marquess, so as the presumptive heir he held no title
nor would he ever inherit any property or family wealth. At twelve he was tall and lanky with dark hair
that was often unruly and needed to be trimmed. He and Emily had met at the village hardware store.
She was carrying a huge flat of English lavender that she and her Aunt planned to add beside the large
fountain under the oak tree. He was there buying a new collar for his dog. On his way back home, he
walked several steps behind Emily before finally offering to carry the burdensome tray for her. They
soon struck up a conversation and Emily invited him to visit her Aunt’s garden. Gabriel’s family
garden was expansive and much more meticulously designed than this smaller garden being that it
was part of a large Estate home, but he never once told Emily that. He saw the pride in his
new friend’s face. The fact was, he much preferred this garden to the more formal gardens of his own
home. Gabriel snuck away from his home at Devoroy Hall as much as possible to spend time with
Emily. He knew his friend’s would tease him unmercifully if they knew he was spending time with a
nine-year old girl when he was almost twelve years old himself. Nevertheless he loved conversing with
her and hearing her unusual American accent. She called it her Southern twang. He had to look up
what the word “ wang” meant because he had no clue. The dictionary was no help at all as it referred
to the sound of a musical instrument. He finally deducted that twang was the slow and almost sedate
tone of her voice as her words seemed to effortlessly roll off of her tongue. When she was excited
her “twang” became even more exaggerated. Sometimes he had to ask her to slow down or repeat
herself in the early weeks of their friendship, but by the end of their first Summer he understood
her perfectly. If she had any problems understanding his English accent she never mentioned it.
Gabriel never let on to Emily who his family was, letting her assume he was just another local boy.
With Emily he could be a regular twelve year old boy without the burden of an Aristocratic family
breathing down his back. He was positive her Aunt knew who he was but she never indicated that to
him or Emily either. Every now and then her Aunt would ask him to pay her respects to his family. By
the end of their second Summer together Gabriel could see changes in Emily that he had not seen the
previous years. She seemed a bit more stressful when he spoke of her parents and often he glimpsed
moments of sadness when she was digging in the dirt. He knew the garden was her place of solace.
“Gabe, hand me that watering can. I am almost done here,” she asked her friend. “I promised my Aunt
I would help her serve tea this afternoon so I have to get these tools put away. It’s such a beautiful day
I’m sure the guests will want to partake here in the garden.”
“Does your Aunt have any of those strawberry scones?” he inquired hopefully.
“Yes and I’m reckoning you want me to sneak in there and grab you some, huh? Gabriel Addison
you’re making me into a scoundrel and a criminal.”
He smiled at the use of one of her Southernisms and repeated it. “I am reckoning so,” he smiled. “But
you know I can’t resist them. They’re the best here in Castle Comb and for miles around.”
“Okay come with me then. If’n my Aunt catches me then I’m gonna point you out as my accomplice,”
They put all the tools away in the small stone shed. Emily did a periphery glance around the garden to
make sure it was presentable to guests and made her way to the small potting bench by the side of the
shed to wash her hands.
“You need to wash off too or Aunt Lily will have a hissy fit if you come inside with dirty hands,” she
said, indicating the water where her own hands were immersed.
She scooted over to give him access and he dipped his hands under the cold, flowing water touching
Emily’s hands in the process. The touch of his hands upon her own was unexpected and her
movements stalled. They were inches away from each other. Emily had never once thought about
kissing a boy or even being kissed for that matter. The notion was foreign to her. Gabriel was nothing
but a friend and never once had she had any girlish romantic inclinations for him. At this very second
though, something exciting and unknown ran through the pit of her stomach at his touch. He
was looking down at her, smiling, as if he knew what was running through her mind and it caused her
to blush. To compensate for her embarrassment she bumped him soundly with her hip.
“Ow, what was that for?” he asked.
“For being a boy with an empty stomach all the time. Let’s go get those scones for you before tea
They made their way into the kitchen through the back door. Mrs. Bivens, the Inn’s cook, was
scurrying around readying teacups and teapots and plates of High Tea nosh. She barely acknowledged
them when they came through the door accept to say “Emily, you need to hurry up and go upstairs and
change. Your Aunt said to tell you your parents will be here within the half hour.”
“My parents? I don’t understand. They’re not expected back for weeks.”
“I don’t know all the details, missus. I just know your Aunt is highly upset and asked that you
please hurry and make yourself presentable.”
Emily looked at Gabriel. She didn’t want him to see the worry on her face. Something was wrong and
she could feel it. Never once in all the years they had been coming to England did her parents end
their European trip early. They had a series of friends and acquaintances Mother insisted on visiting
and staying with each year.
“Bye, Gabe. I’ll see you tomorrow?” She glanced to see if Mrs. Bivens was watching then quickly
grabbed three scones and wrapped them in a cloth. “Here you go.”
“You going to be okay, Em? You want me to wait in the garden?”
“No, no. I’ll be fine. I’m sure they have just missed me and want to see me. I’m sure that is all it is,”
she replied, her youthful instinct telling her she was wrong. “You run along now.”
“Oh Gabriel,” Mrs. Bivens called out as he turned to leave. “Would you like a jar of barberry jam to
go with those scones?”
His suntanned face turned beet red with embarrassment. He smiled, pure white teeth glistening. Why
had Emily never noticed how handsome his smile was before now?
“Yes, Mrs. Bivens, that would be lovely.”
Emily hurriedly changed and brushed and plaited her hair as smoothly as she could. Her Mother
would no doubt be disappointed at the way her skin had darkened in the sun while she had been
gardening and taking afternoon walks with Gabriel. There was still dirt under her nails and she would
catch hell for that. It was just another reason for her Mother to be disappointed in her. She rubbed the
wrinkles out of her dress as best as she could and slipped on her patent leather loafers.
About the time she was descending the steps she heard the voices of her parents. They were angry but
at what she could not ascertain. Everyone was shouting at once, even her Aunt. Emily wanted to run
back into her room and lock her door, shutting away the shouting and loud voices being raised in
anger below. She descended slowly a step at a time, all the while hearing bits and pieces of
“I caught her with him…,” she heard her father yell.
“I can’t help if it if he’s more of a man than you’ll ever be…,” her mother screamed over his
“Please stop this, Emily will hear you,” her Aunt begged.
The word divorce was thrown around several times and then there were words like strumpet
and harlot – words Emily had never heard before. She rounded the landing at the bottom of the stairs
“Mother? Father? Aunt Lil? What’s going on?” Emily asked frightened.
Emily’s father saw his panicked daughter and made his way over to her. “Emily pack your things,
darling. We have a flight back to the States tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? But there are several more weeks of Summer, Father. I don’t want to go.”
“Pack your things now, Emily. I don’t need any more females in my life arguing with me right now,”
he shouted impatiently.
Emily ran to her Aunt’s side and Lilyanne clasped her niece to her. “Please stop shouting at her. She’s
innocent in all of this. Maybe it’s best she stay and finish out the Summer here until things settle
down. Until you have worked things out in the States.”
“Oh, I’m sure you would love that, wouldn’t you?” Emily’s mother sneered. “I’m sure you would love
to have her stay for good, huh?”
“I just want what’s best for Emily,” Lily responded back calmly. “I have always wanted what was best
for her. Right now, I am concerned about the stress she will endure once you’re back in the United
States. Please, Thomas. Let her stay with me,” she pleaded with her brother.
“I’m afraid not, Lily. Don’t even go there. She’s our daughter,” he replied staunchly.
“I know she’s your daughter, but emotions are high and -“
“Get your things now, Emily,” her mother interrupted. “Don’t make me have to tell you again. And
look at those fingernails. Good Lord, Lily what have you allowed her to become – a heathen? Look at
her skin! I am almost ashamed to have her seen back in New Bern. She’ll be a laughing stock,” Julie
Emily could not stop the flow of tears. She didn’t even care to stop them. Her heart was being ripped
out. It was always hard to leave England and Aunt Lily but this time it seemed wrong. This entire
scenario playing out before her – the words her parents were shouting at each other, was confusing and
Lilyanna leaned down so she was level with Emily’s face. “Be a good girl, darling. Aunt Lil will see you
soon. I will come to America if you need me to.” She held her chin softly in her hand and kissed her on
the forehead. “I love you, darling girl. You be brave okay? Everything is going to be alright.” Without
being seen Lilyanna slipped a small stone into her niece’s closed hand and Emily grasped it, fully
understanding it was a secret between the two of them.
Minutes later, Emily’s father was practically dragging her and her luggage through the front door to
the car waiting out front. Emily looked back across her shoulder to see her Aunt standing on
the porch, tears falling down her face in silent agony. Just as the car pulled away she glanced to the
side of the house and standing there – looking confused and downcast – stood her good friend. Gabriel
had heard bits and pieces of the conversation inside. More than that he saw the fragility and alarm in
Emily and wanted nothing more than to run to her and protect her. Instead, he waved to her and tried
to give her a reassuring smile.
That would be the last time Emily would see either her Aunt or Gabriel again.