When does a story begin?
For Edwin Hope, it begins with a childhood dare and a forbidden tree. It begins with him falling … in more ways than one.
Called home from his studies by the grandfather who has always hated him, eighteen-year-old Edwin is once again trapped in a house that is colder than the winds whipping across the fields. Seeking sanctuary, he escapes into the untamed beauty of the Peaks and meets a woman who sparks an old memory. A memory of the sycamore that broke him, and the little girl who saved him.
Drusilla has had many acolytes over the centuries but none like Edwin. With the Great War looming and Edwin’s future uncertain, she knows the right thing to do is to set him free from her spell, but can she do so if it means breaking her own heart?
Elisabeth has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy.
*****beginning of extract*****
After more than a decade of living with his aunt and uncle in Yorkshire Edwin has been summoned back (unwillingly) to Cheshire by his grandfather to begin learning about the family silk business. His grandfather is not there when he arrives so he goes to visit his parents’ graves in the local churchyard and on the way back he sees the sycamore tree that he had been obsessed with as a child.
There was the sycamore tree that stood alone on the top of the mound. This was the tree he had climbed and from which he had fallen. He remembered now how fascinated he had been by it and his pulse fluttered briefly. He was barely conscious of the decision to detour and walk via the tree before returning to the house through the meadow, but he found himself taking that route. Stanley, the old horse, was standing in the centre of the field, head down and grazing. He lifted his head and regarded Edwin solemnly before turning away and walking down to his stable.
Edwin continued on his way to the mound. The hedgerow he had pushed his way through had never been replanted. The sycamore was now only enclosed in three quarters of a circle, leaving a wide gap to walk through. He felt a deep trembling of satisfaction at seeing it, though couldn’t explain why the sight affected him so.
The ground at the edge of the circle was partially covered in thick grass and dappled with small white flowers. The ground under the tree was soil, where the top of roots pushed up. Edwin stopped in front of the trunk and stared up into the branches, trying to spot the route he had taken upwards. Climbing the branches would have been a real challenge. Now he reckoned he could scale the heights with no effort at all.
He had only climbed it on that one occasion, but he could clearly remember the cool shade offered by the branches and the scent of dry soil amid rain. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. The smell was the same even though the last time he had seen it had been late summer. Now it was autumn and the leaves had almost finished turning from green to yellow. The branches were heavily laden with bunches of seeds, waiting to be caught by the wind and sent spinning on their way.
He had a vague memory of being egged on, as Harold had reminded him, and of one of Robert’s sisters laughing at him and teasing him for being useless at climbing. He was seized by the sudden urge to try and climb it now until the thought was overtaken by speculating what Robert’s sisters would make of Harold’s new sisters. Demetria would be about the same age as the eldest of the Carfax girls.
A cold sensation ran down Edwin’s back, as if someone had lightly run a finger down it. The canopy of the branches cut out almost all the sunlight and he was growing chill, even though the air outside was mild. For old times’ sake he reached out and patted the trunk.
“Nice to see you’re still here, old girl.”
The leaves swished fiercely overhead as if a sudden gust of wind had stirred them but there had only been a soft breeze all day. Perhaps a bird had taken flight. Edwin had a feeling there were birds in this tree because he definitely remembered birdsong from the day he had climbed it. He wondered why he had thought of the tree as female. Presumably because he’d been thinking of the various sisters.
Edwin yawned. His journey had started well before dawn and he felt an urge to sit back against the tree and take a nap. He might have done if his trousers weren’t light grey. Meeting his grandfather with mud stains on his rear wouldn’t be the best plan. As Stephen popped unwelcomely into his head, Edwin decided it was time to go. If his grandfather was not back, Edwin thought he might walk into town and take advantage of the coffee shop.
He walked out into the sunshine. It definitely felt warmer outside the grove but as he walked down the meadow, heading for the summer house, another shiver ran down the length of his spine.
Someone stepping on your grave, Aunt Madeline had always said (until Uncle Jonty’s death after which she presumably found it too near to the bone).
At the bottom of the hill he stopped and turned back, feeling eyes on him and expecting someone to be watching him from the road beyond the tree, but there was no one there. He gazed back at the tree. It was unusual to find a lone sycamore. Usually the seeds spread and at least one or two children grew from their parent. The ancient stump of the previous sycamore marked the boundary of the grove but there was not another tree anywhere.
“No saplings,” he murmured, then frowned, wondering why he had spoken aloud.
***** end of extract*****
About Elisabeth J. Hobbes –
Elisabeth’s writing career began in 2013 when she entered Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest and it turned out she could. She writes romantic Historical fiction as Elisabeth Hobbes and Historical folklore/fantasy inspired romance as Elisabeth J. Hobbes.
She teaches Primary school but would rather write full time because unlike five year olds her characters generally do what she tells them. She spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.
She lives in Cheshire because the car broke down there in 1999 and she never left. Elisabeth has two almost grown kids, two cats, two dogs and a husband. The whole family are on the autistic spectrum and that probably includes the pets! She dreams of having a tidy house one day.
The Promise Tree was released by One More Chapter on 6th October 2023. Click here to buy.
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