This week, we offer a first glimpse of the first volume of Flora Chase‘s young adult Edwardian saga, The Strattons. Set in the English countryside in the autumn of 1913, the teenagers of Stratton Hall are about to find their lives changed forever…
To find out more about the novel, visit Flora’s page.
‘Did someone die?’ exclaimed Blanche Matchingham, as she twirled through the doors into the Drawing Room at Stratton Hall. The peach muslin layers of her dress floated around her most satisfactorily, although frankly the effect was wasted on the others. Her older sister Julia was sitting ramrod straight and prim-as-you-like in the high-backed chair nearest the fireplace, dull and demure in ivory broderie anglaise with barely a dip in the neckline and her arms covered. Opposite Julia stood their brother Freddie, his hands clasped behind his back, the oldest of the three of them and, at least in age, just a man. But his stiff white collar was a teensy bit too high and grazed his chin, his thick, dark hair was refusing to lie down beneath the slick of brilliantine, and he wore the hand-stitched suit from London as though it were a hand-me-down suit of armour.
‘You’re late,’ said Julia in her mousy voice.
‘I couldn’t find my shoes and I was ringing and ringing the bell, but no-one came.’ Blanche looked indignantly at the row of housemaids arranged neatly along the wall, their faces as pale as their aprons against their black dresses. ‘Look at me! My outfit doesn’t match!’
She lifted her skirt in just the way that annoyed Julia, especially in front of all The Staff, and wriggled her foot. Of course, the tiny white shoes looked adorable anyway, and they were her favourites — this week. She glanced slyly at the chauffeur, Charlie, whose eyes were cast down so as not to catch her gaze, but his lip surely twitched around a smile. Of course, he never gave her the satisfaction of knowing she had made him laugh, and he had that way of looking right through her as though she were the least important person in the world, not the attractive sixteen-year-old daughter of the 4th Marquess of Stratton. These House gatherings were So Dull, all this ridiculous formality, The Staff looking so hopelessly out of place against the handprinted Venetian wallpaper while the three Matchingham offspring, the same age as most of the housemaids and footmen, pretended they weren’t there. Blanche sighed noisily, and glanced at the ugly ormolu clock on the mantlepiece. Only eleven o’clock. Ronnie wasn’t expected until lunchtime, but perhaps there was time to run out and call her on the telephone downstairs and beg her to come-over-here-quick-and-stop-me-dying-of-boredom!
‘Please sit down, Blanche,’ implored Julia, her palms hot and damp in her lap. Her stocking-tops were itchy, and the panels of her corset felt even tighter than usual.
I shouldn’t have chosen this chair, she thought suddenly, panic surging through her, this is the chair Papa sat me in when he told me that Ralph had broken off our engagement.
But she couldn’t move, not now all The Staff were here, arranged like sightless statues.
She glanced at Freddie. He was standing exactly where Papa had stood that morning, just out of reach, surely a little ashamed of her. Stiff and awkward, disappointed, bowed over.
Ralph. Julia swallowed her sigh, gulping his name back down into the pit of her stomach where all her misery lay. It had been five long months of hating the staircase down which she had swept on the glorious spring evening of the Easter Ball in her glistening new pale blue ballgown, her fan fluttering coyly in her fingers, picking Ralph out of the crowd of guests who mingled in the Hall. She had sworn she would never go into the orangerie again where she had waited an hour for him, while music and laughter filtered Continue reading