1924. The English Shires after the Great War – all crumbling country houses and no men. When her jazzing flapper of an aunt dies, Gerardina Mary Chiledexter inherits some silver-topped scent bottles, a wardrobe of love-affair clothes, and astonishingly, a half-share in a million-acre cattle ranch in south-west Texas. Haunted by a psychic cat, and the ghost voice of her aunt Leonie, Gerry feels driven to travel thousands of miles to see the ranch for herself. Against a background of big sky, cattle barons and oil wells, she is soon engaged in a game of power, pride, and ultimately love, with the Texan who owns the other half.
Publisher: New Romantics 4
Gerry backed into the Hepplewhite sofa. For goodness sake! Why hadn’t she noticed him before? Six foot something, without a rag of formal dress to his name? He stood out a mile.
Their eyes met, and as Lord Evelyn galloped merrily through introductions, Gerry completely lost the thread of what he was saying.
A fractional nod from Cooper. ‘Mizz Chiledexter.’ Very formal, stiffly polite.
‘You’ve met?’ Lord Evelyn eyed them, curiously.
‘Oh, yes.’ Gerry’s throat was dry. They certainly had. Met, crossed swords and parted. And he looked even taller and more forbidding than the last time. ‘Yes, we have.’
‘Good show! Capital, capital.’ Duty done, their host swiftly turned and left them together.
An awkward silence. Cooper leaned against sombre wood panelling and watched her, with that odd intentness.
She didn’t like the way he was looking at her. He wasn’t going to ask for a decision on those papers now, was he? Tonight? She felt herself flush. Too soon! Too late, on the other hand, to make a run for it. She was cornered.
‘You appear to have bare feet.’
‘What? Oh … yes, mud. On my shoes. Someone’s cleaning them for me.’
There was a slight arching of an eyebrow, as he coolly appraised the rest of her.
He was on his guard, alright, Gerry thought. So what? She was on hers, too. Oh behave, she told herself. He’s a stranger ar from home, isn’t he? Do unto others, blah, blah. Come along now, best party manners.
Taking another sherry from a passing tray, she gulped down a warming mouthful, and said, as sympathetically as she could manage, ‘How is your cold?’
‘Developing nicely. Will it ever stop raining?’
‘Oh, this is just a sprinkle.’ She found herself rushing breathlessly to the defence of the English weather. ‘And why everything is so green, of course.’
‘Yeah, I’d noticed. Green and drenched and dripping.’
‘A pity for anyone visiting though, because …’
‘We may drown?’
‘Because, there’s some beautiful countryside here. Woods and hills and … yes, it’s quite … quite lovely in the Spring.’
‘Well, come Spring, when I’m back in hot Texan sun, guess I’ll be kicking myself.’
His voice was deadpan, and as another burst of rain splattered the windows, Gerry sighed. If he was waiting to be amused, she was already failing miserably. How had he managed to weasel his way in here, anyway?
‘So, how do you … um, know Lord Evelyn?’
‘You mean, what’s a feller like me doing in a place like this?’
‘Erm … ’ She shifted her feet.
‘Guess there’s no fooling you.’ He stretched out the vowels, laying on, she suspected, a really thick drawl. ‘We’re real plain folks where I come from. But me and Lord Evelyn … we got a lot in common.’
‘Sure. Country estates. Chippendale staircases.’
‘Really?’ Eyes widened.
He raised an eyebrow. ‘More like common interests. Livestock and breeding. Cattle, horses?’
‘Ah, yes. Yes, I see.’
‘He’s real hospitable.’
‘Oh.’ She shifted to the other foot. ‘He certainly is.’
His turn? The silence stretched on. And on. Apparently, he didn’t want another turn. Faced with this bored indifference, Gerry started to feel awkward again.
It’s called a conversation, she wanted to say. First I speak and you listen, then you do the same. Keep up, man!
She said, ‘Were you out shooting today?’ but didn’t really require an answer. Here was a merciless dead-eyed shot, if ever she saw one. How had he got that thread of a scar on his face? The one showing up so white against his skin? Wrestling with bears?
‘Do you shoot?’ he asked, and she shook her head.
She didn’t ride to hounds, didn’t stalk or shoot and couldn’t cast a line, either, without taking someone’s eye out. ‘Men with big guns shooting small birds has never appealed very much to me.’
There was a dry pause.
‘Guess you won’t be eating any of the results, then. P’raps you’d rather we used catapults?’
‘I’ve nothing against game as such, just birds being reared to be shot for sport. Some are too fat to even fly.’
‘That’s life, isn’t it. Far as I know, no game’s ever been born plucked and in a puddle of gravy.’
Touché. Feeling foolish, un-sporty and utterly charmless, she picked at a nail and polite conversation dribbled away again.
What had Sully called him? A man’s man. A man for livestock, shooting and the saddle. Not, apparently, one who felt the need for small talk. Not with her, anyway.
Glancing over her shoulder towards the door, she intercepted a look of unwavering dislike from Mrs Dutt-Dixon-Nabb. Slings and arrows, from all sides.
Minutes passed by, dragging their feet and noise rose to a crescendo around them. Gerry found herself rendered mute, and there wasn’t so much as another squeak from the American.
If only, she thought, they had something in common, anything in common. Oh, don’t be stupid! The only reason he was even condescending to talk to her, was because he needed her signature on a piece of paper. Not that he seemed to be making much effort to win her over.
Rooted to the spot like some faithful spaniel, she couldn’t help noticing that his very presence was sending certain other parts of the room into a deep swoon. Heads were turning , wondering who he was, hoping he would chance to look at them. You could ...
Wonderful historical read full of glamour, romance and adventure
The 20’s Girl was an absolute delight to read. It was a book full of huge contrasts, not just in the locations, but in the characters too. We are first introduced to Gerry, very English, desperately trying to save her bookshop from closure, living in a small village where everyone wants to know everyone else’s business. I instantly liked her and was rooting for her throughout the novel. She gives us an insight into her late aunt’s unusual life and well, I for one, would love an aunt like Leonie. From a ghost voice and a highly amusing psychic cat we end up being transported to the huge, dry, hot expanse of Texas and a cattle ranch, worlds away from 1920’s England. We are now introduced to another raft of characters so completely different from those on the other side of the Atlantic. There is adventure and mystery as the story takes on some unexpected twists.
This novel virtually warmed my hands as I was reading it. I could almost feel the wind and the Texas heat wafting out of the book every time I turned the page. However, to say that this is a great winter read, for that reason, would deny all those readers who are looking for a great summer read. This truly is a book for all seasons and all weathers.
The book is full of 20’s glamour and glitz and I am so glad that Aunt Leonie left Gerry all her wonderful gowns and perfumes which June Kearns describes so beautifully. I also liked the short quotations at the start of every chapter taken from books of the day. They just reminded us of how it must have been for a single girl in the days after the First World War which had taken so many eligible young men.
There are also, for me, a few unanswered questions at the end of the novel which I very much hope means that there will be a sequel.
I would certainly recommend this book highly to anyone who wants an unusual, historical read with a good mixture of glamour, romance, adventure, mystery and intrigue.
Books by June Kearns
Jane Austen meets Zane Grey! The American West, 1867.
After a stagecoach wreck, well-bred bookish spinster Annie Haddon, (product of mustn’t-take-off-your-hat, mustn’t-take-off-your-gloves, mustn’t-get-hot-or-perspire Victorian society) is thrown into the company of cowboy Colt McCall – a man who lives by his own rules and hates the English.
Can two people from such wildly differing backgrounds learn to trust each other? Annie and McCall find out, on their journey across the haunting, mystical landscape of the West.