THE MYSTERY AT FALCONBRIDGE HALL
Bestselling Historical Thriller
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Award winning cover by Josephine Blake.
What lies beneath the ordered world of Falconbridge Hall?
Vanessa Ashley felt herself qualified for a position as governess, until offered the position at Falconbridge Hall. Left penniless after the deaths of her artist father and suffragette mother, Vanessa Ashley draws on her knowledge of art, politics and history to gain employment as a governess. She discovers that Julian, Lord Falconbridge, requires a governess for his ten-year-old daughter Blythe at Falconbridge Hall, a huge rambling mansion in the countryside outside London. Lord Falconbridge is a scientist and dedicated lepidopterist who is about to embark on an extended expedition to the Amazon in search of exotic butterflies. An enigmatic man, he takes a keen interest in his daughter’s education, but Vanessa feels that he may disapprove of her modern methods. As she prepares her young charge to enter into the modern world, Vanessa finds the girl detached and aloof. As Vanessa learns more about Falconbridge Hall, more questions arise. Why doesn’t Blythe feel safe in her own home? Why is the death of her mother, once famed society beauty Clara, never spoken of? And why did the former governess leave so suddenly without giving notice?
Twitter review: THE MYSTERY AT FALCONBRIDGE HALL is a perfect gem. Loved, loved, loved every minute! Rich with detail and a beautiful slow-burn romance. Can’t wait to read more by Maggi Andersen!
“The author deserves high praise for her ability to capture the reader’s attention and engage one in both the mystery and the romance of this delightful story!” InD’Tale Magazine
“The author’s use of interspersing simple sentences and detailed description of scenery perfectly crafted the wild and mysterious setting of Falconbridge Hall and conveyed without confusion Vanessa and Julian’s thoughts when they were together, and when they were apart. This indirect characterization had done much to reveal the characters’ personalities and mind, which added a layer of realism and amiability to the story. I highly applaud Maggi Andersen’s writing in this book…”
“Treachery, deceit, and death are in the writing and make for an exceptionally good read.”
“Hated for [the] book to come to an end.”
“This was an enjoyable book with lots of tips of the hat to modern times in a changing world. Women’s suffrage, telephones, bicycles and amazon Rainforest adventure all rolled into one.
Excellent mystery unfolding in a household that had secrets galore. I enjoyed this first book of Maggie Anderen that I have read. I liked her writing style and I want to read more from her. Her heroine is a nice blend of new and respectable and Julian was a lovely scientific mind that had no idea he was making Vanessa Ashley the new governess fall for him.”
The pervading gloom of Falconbridge Hall’s shuttered rooms failed to dampen Vanessa’s spirits. It was the thought of riding a horse which struck fear into her heart. She hardly touched her lunch, and her stomach rumbled while she changed into her divided skirt. There was no point in wishing she had something smarter to wear.
Her hope that his lordship would be unable to join them had been dashed when he’d assured her at lunch of his intention. As she’d picked nervously at her food, he said he was looking forward to it.
Looking forward to it indeed! He seemed determined to see her on a horse. She supposed he wished her to accompany Blythe in his absence.
At the stables, Lovel threw her up into the saddle. Vanessa tried not to shrink from the touch of his large hands. He eyed her derriere, and for a horrible moment, she thought he might touch her there. “Sit square on the horse, Miss Ashley. It’s bad for the beast otherwise.”
Vanessa grew hot beneath her hat. Her balance never failed her on a bicycle, but then she had complete control. Horses were unpredictable. She held the pommel and shifted slightly as Lovel adjusted the stirrup. His hand grabbed her boot, and she started at the familiarity of it.
“Keep your left ankle flexed and the heel down,” he said, bending it.
“Thank you,” she said stiffly.
He handed her the whip. “Hold it in your right hand, and it’s just for urging, not punishment.”
“I have no intention of hurting Flora.” She only hoped that was Flora’s intention for her.
He stood back and nodded with a sly grin. Did he sense how much he unnerved her? Or did he think all women would fall for his charm? She could read very little in those black eyes before he turned away. She drew in the reins and turned Flora’s head. “Walk on.” The horse trotted obediently after the others.
On the bridle path, Lord Falconbridge reined in beside her while Blythe cantered ahead. “This is the best path to take when you ride with Blythe,” he said. “I wouldn’t want her persuading you to go too far.”
“I wouldn’t care for that either, my lord.” She bounced uncomfortably along beside him held spellbound by his vivid blue eyes.
His expression was often preoccupied and distant, but today, his eyes held a hint of compassion. He must have noticed how awkward and unsure of herself she was on a horse.
“Lean back,” he advised as the horse walked down a slope to cross a shallow stream.
Vanessa grabbed the pommel and gasped as gravity pulled her forward. She did as he instructed, afraid she was about to tumble over the horse’s head. They reached the bottom, and Flora splashed across to the other side.
“That’s it.” He rode alongside her. “You’ll get the hang of it quickly enough.”
Once they’d climbed up the opposite bank, they were a level path. Relieved, she grew confident that Flora knew exactly what to do if she didn’t. There was no sign of Blythe ahead of them. He rode ahead to the next turn in the path then returned.
Flora plodded along. Vanessa could sense his lordship’s impatience building. She hoped it wasn’t at her, but if so, there was little she could do about it.
Finally, he said, “I’d best go and see where Blythe has got to.”
He rode effortlessly away on his beautiful Arab stallion, the color of honey. Vanessa watched him go. Anxiety at being left to cope on her own tightened her chest. Despite her sense of abandonment, she couldn’t help admiring the elegant triangle formed by his broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist and hips. He looked good in the saddle, rising, and falling in rhythm with his horse’s gait. It made her feel even worse.
Flora continued to amble along at a sedate pace, and as the horse showed no inclination to go any faster, Vanessa’s confidence grew. She began to enjoy herself. The sun warmed her back. The pine-scented air was pleasant, and the banks of rhododendrons had a carpet of spent crimson and purple blooms at their feet. Birds chirped in the trees.
The path forked into two and there was no clear sign of which trail the other two riders had taken.
“Whoa! Hold up, girl.” Flora ignored her entreaties and continued down the right fork.
Through a break in the trees, the other path appeared to meander onto a meadow. Vanessa shrugged; perhaps Flora knew more than she did. She let the horse have her way.
Five minutes passed into ten, and she found herself in the woods with no sign of his lordship or Blythe. Surely, they would ride back soon to join her.
The thicket of trees blotted out the sky, and bushes narrowed the path. Ordinarily she enjoyed being in the woods, but perhaps because of what had taken place here, she couldn’t wait to leave. It was ominously quiet. She shivered. “This can’t be the way, Flora.” She pulled on the reins. Flora ignored her. Raising her voice, she pulled again using more force. “Stop, girl. We have to go back.”
A shot ricocheted through the trees, frightening a flock of wood pigeons. They rose up as one and exploded into the sky.
Flora pricked up her ears and took off at a gallop. Vanessa almost slid off the saddle. She struggled to keep hold of the reins with her left hand and the pommel with her right. It was an uncomfortable position, and she was sure she couldn’t hold it for long. “Whoa, whoa girl!”
Gasping in distress with her thighs and back aching, Vanessa finally succeeded in pulling Flora up. While considering what to do next, her whip fell to the ground. There was no way she was climbing off to get it. She could have cried with frustration for the horse now showed no inclination to go in either direction, lowering her head to crop a patch of grass. “Flora, please!” Vanessa did everything she could think of to get the horse moving.
“Ye are lost, miss?”
She started at the voice.
Lovel walked toward her. His shirt had come open almost to the waist, revealing a thick mat of black hair on his brown chest. He carried a shotgun over his shoulder. A bloody, dead rabbit swung from one hand. His dark eyes unfathomable.
Vanessa shifted on the saddle. “I appear to be. I lost sight of his lordship and must have taken a wrong path.” She stared down at him, disliking being alone with the man in this isolated place.
He bent and retrieved her whip, handing it to her. His gaze roamed over her again in that unsettling arrogant manner one would not expect to find in a humble groom. “They would have ridden over the meadow. His lordship doesn’t like the woods. Not after the lady’s death.”
He shrugged as if it was a matter of indifference to him that some poor woman had ended her life somewhere amongst these trees.
It made Vanessa even more determined to ride away, but no amount of tapping and tugging made the slightest difference to Flora. “I’m afraid Flora doesn’t respect my authority,” she was forced to admit.
“Not good for a governess,” he said with a sly smile. “You have to teach a mare who is the master.” He made no move toward her, however. She suspected he enjoyed her discomfiture.
“Could you assist me then, Lovel?” Vanessa tried to keep the impatience out of her voice.
Lovel had only to raise his hand, and Flora stopped chewing to watch him. He seized the bridle, backed the horse up, and turned her.
“Do as you’re told, Flora.” He slapped the mare on the rump.
Flora whinnied with indignation. She took off at a fast clip back the way they’d come.
Grinding her teeth, Vanessa held on grimly as Lovel’s laugh sounded behind her. She doubted she could stop Flora now that horse had the bit between her teeth. They dashed along, bushes grabbing at Vanessa’s clothing and a low branch almost knocking off her hat. She dared not consider what the branch might have done to her head had she not had the presentiment to duck.
“Easy girl. Slow down.” Vanessa rasped out her infuriatingly weak command as her throat tightened with fear. She almost cried out with relief when she spied his lordship and Blythe waiting on the trail ahead, but it was short lived. It soon appeared that Flora was going to gallop right past them.
As she raced by, Lord Falconbridge angled his horse alongside and grabbed her reins.
“Whoa!” Flora gave in to his masculine command without a fight.
Vanessa was so angry she could have spit. She sagged weakly in the saddle.
Lord Falconbridge grabbed her arm. “Are you, all right? Not faint? It appears that you lost us, Miss Ashley.”
Struggling for breath, Vanessa stared at Lord Falconbridge, imperious in his riding clothes, his boots polished like mirrors. She felt so unattractive and inept she could have wept. “Or you lost me, my lord,” she bit back.
“Quite so,” he said mildly. “I didn’t like to ask too much of you this first time and left you to go at your own speed. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done so.”
“If you’d mentioned which path to take, I would have followed happily behind you,” she said, knowing full well Flora would still have taken the other trail, for once the horse made up her mind there was no deterring her. Vanessa was positive the horse was half-mule.