“What’s an independent woman to do in a world where marrying means losing everything?”
Helena, who inherits Redway Acres stable from her grandfather, in Redway Acres – Helena (Book 1) by Trish Butler, faces the pressure to marry from those around her, her grandfather’s wishes and the local community. However, in 1813 when the main story starts, the law states “by marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage.”
What can Helena do when she meets Colonel Nathaniel Ackley, who is determined to prove he is worthy of her love?
Helena visited the Eastease estate for a dinner. There she met Colonel Nathaniel Ackley. His father, the Earl of Aysthill, attempted to get into her bedroom that night but was stopped by the colonel who then slept in the corridor outside to be sure his father didn’t return…
Bright morning sunbeams slanted through the open curtains in Helena’s room, awakening her from a light sleep. She had roused off and on during her few, short hours of slumber. Again, she had dreamt of Colonel Ackley kissing her, waking with a throbbing and frustration through her body as she had never known before.
Tiredness, coupled with this frustration, brought her anger to the fore, and many ideas went through her mind as she dressed. She sat in front of the mirror, loosely pinning up her hair, discussing the matter with her reflection.
“What right does Colonel Ackley have to make me feel this way?” she asked, her hands in her hair and pins in her teeth.
Her reflection smiled as she removed the pins to speak. “None. None whatsoever. But Grandfather did say you should find someone to help run Redway.”
“I do not need a man in my life. I manage Redway well enough without one, thank you,” she chided.
The Helena in the mirror sighed. “You could manage even better with one. Why not this man when you find him so appealing? You simply do not wish to marry and give up your independence.”
“Why are you talking of marriage? I do not know the first thing about him,” she argued with herself.
Her reflection counted on her fingers. “He is handsome, certainly, and charming, gallant and honourable. He is also thoughtful and handsome.”
Pointing a hairpin towards the mirror, she admonished, “You already said handsome. Well, it will not do. I will leave this house and not return until the entire Ackley family has left. He will probably die in France fighting Bonaparte, and then I will never have to see him again.”
With a gasp, she clamped her hand over her mouth and stared wide-eyed, mortified with herself. Her tired, glassy eyes filled with tears as her reflection shook her head.
“That is shameful. Poor Harriet already lost her stepfather to war. She would be distraught if the same happened to her cousin.”
With a last abashed look into the mirror, Helena picked up her bonnet, leaving her things for the maid to pack and send back with Issie. Cautiously, she opened the door.
Colonel Ackley lay on the couch. His eyes were closed, and he hugged the bunched coverlet tight to his chest, which she thought odd, as more warmth would have been gained had he draped it over himself. Helena contemplated not waking him, but it would not do for a servant to find him thus. She imagined the colonel had spent a miserable night on that uncomfortable couch, and guilt felt heavy in her belly.
“Colonel Ackley,” she said softly, then a bit louder, “Colonel.”
“What the blazes!” he almost shouted it, and her hand came down over his mouth in reflex to stop him waking Harriet in the next room. Horrified that she should do such a thing, she quickly took her hand away.
“Sorry,” she whispered, “but you were loud. I wanted to let you know you can go back to your rooms before the servants come, and also to say thank you.” With that, she hurried down the hall and did not dare to look back at him.
A Bite of… Trish Butler
How much of you is in your characters?
The heroine of my first Redway Acres novel, Helena, I call my alter-ego. She is the me I imagine myself to be. Confident, headstrong, kind and generous. She speaks her mind, particularly when defending someone she feels has been wronged. She will stand up to the Earl of Aysthill (Nathaniel’s father) or the local clergyman Eliot Brooks. Defending and caring for horses seems to be what gets her into the most trouble.
Is there one of your books of which you are more proud than the others? If so, which and why?
I’m most proud of my first book in my mystery series. It’s called Ctrl+Alt+Deleted. Mysteries are my favourite genre, so writing one was something I was not sure I could do and be happy with. The fact that so many people have told me they did not guess the culprit until very close to the end gives me the warm and fuzzies!
Who was the first musician/singer to make an impact on your life? And can you remember the song?
Annie Lennox. What an amazing voice and woman. I’d feel very intimidated if I ever met her. Sweet Dreams of course is The Eurythmics most iconic song. However, her song Pavement Cracks means the most to me now as my daughter loves it too and we sing it in the car together.
Similarly, can you recall the first book that grabbed you by the gonads and shook your world?
“I is for Innocent” by Sue Grafton, and it’s not because I thought A through H were bad! Tampax had an offer going on back in the 80s. You could collect the tokens from their boxes and send off for a book. This is the one I got.
Sue Grafton got me into mysteries and also, without me knowing it at the time, the strong female lead. Kinsey Millhone was the average, yet brilliant, independent, ass-kicking, murder-solving PI of Grafton’s alphabet series written back when it wasn’t ‘the popular thing’. Millhone was like a dog with a bone—sunk her teeth in and didn’t let go.
Trish Butler is the author of the Historical Fiction saga, Redway Acres, and a contemporary detective series based in the fictional New Jersey town of Rockmond.
Born in Norwich, in the county of Norfolk, England, Trish moved to Connecticut in the US, in 1999. Her daughter was born there two years later.
Currently, Trish works as Communications Director for Connecticut Family Support Network (CTFSN) a non-profit organisation that helps families with children with special needs. Trish’s daughter is on the autism spectrum.
Redway Acres, which Trish calls Pride & Prejudice with horses and a healthy dollop of feminism, is set during the early 1800s in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, UK, an area that she knows well. Over the past nearly twenty years, Trish has got to know the tri-state area well too, and hopefully enough American English terms to make her contemporary mystery book sound authentic.
Trish always wanted to write a book and at age fifty, finally realised that dream. She now has six in the Redway series, and so far, one book has been published of her Rockmond PD Mysteries. Late in 2020 the first in a companion series for Redway Acres was published.
You can catch up with Trish on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, Bookbub or read her blog on how Redway Acres began and her character, The Road to Redway, on her website.