Release date: October 1, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction
NEW YORK 1900. A captivating historical drama on-board the maiden voyage of the S.S. Minneapolis featuring series character Flora Maguire. For fans of Downton Abbey.
Young governess Flora Maguire is on her way home from America on the maiden voyage of the S.S. Minneapolis with her young charge Eddy, Viscount Trent, when she discovers a dead body.
Unconvinced when the death is pronounced an accident, Flora starts asking questions, but following threats, a near drowning and a second murder, the hunt is on for a killer. Time is running out as the Minneapolis approaches the English coast.
Will Flora be able to protect Eddy, as well as herself?
Is her burgeoning relationship with the handsome Bunny Harrington only a shipboard dalliance, or something more? And what secrets must Flora keep in order to stay safe?
Hey everyone, hope y’all are having a wonderful week. I have an extract from Murder on the Minneapolis to share today!
Well-wishers stood four deep on Pier 39 in New York Harbour beneath a sea of colourful hats wide as sailboats, their owners waving handkerchiefs or sobbing into them. Horse-drawn carriages with crests on the doors lined up alongside hired hackneys to disgorge elegantly dressed couples and businessmen with their matronly wives, all of whom joined the clamour on the quayside taking farewell of friends and relatives. The clatter of hooves vied with shouts from newsboys and costermongers plying their wares to the waiting crowd, their voices combined in an inaudible concert.
Boisterous children darted between them, miniature flags held aloft on sticks; Union Jacks and Stars and Stripes in equal numbers. Harassed nurses made vain attempts to round them up, while their parents looked on with bored disinterest. Porters strained behind loaded trolleys calling out their warnings to make way, while imperious matrons issued braying instructions for the disposition of their luggage.
‘It’s huge!’ Flora stood at the bottom of the gangplank, her foot tapping in time to the music from a brass band led by an enthusiastic conductor in a rendition of the ‘Washington Post’ march. She had seen ocean-going steamers before, even travelled on one, yet there was something awe-inspiring about the Minneapolis, with her gleaming black hull, bright red smoke stack and taut metal winch lines draped with multi-coloured bunting.’
‘This is her maiden voyage,’ Eddy shouted as he waved the shipping line brochure that had been his constant companion this past week under Flora’s nose: ‘Listen to this,’ he opened the booklet and read aloud. ‘She’s six hundred feet long, and 13,400 tonnes, which means she has the largest tonnage of any ship afloat, apart from the SS Oceanic.’
‘Which was the ship we came over on three months ago,’ Flora reminded him.
‘I know, but Minneapolis is a brand new ship.’ He looked up briefly from the brochure. ‘This is her maiden voyage, and she’s carrying only seventy-eight first-class passengers and a hundred and fifty five crew. That’s almost two crew members for each passenger. Just think, Flora we’ll be the first people to travel on her.’ He tucked the booklet back into his pocket, his gaze following a man who walked past with a boy of about his own age. The man pointed items of interest out to the boy, who laughed and chatted at his side, both intent on each other.
‘I’m sorry you have only me for company on the trip home.’ Flora caressed Eddy’s shoulder gently with one hand. ‘Your parents would have stayed to see you off, but they had a train to catch.’
‘I don’t mind being with you, Flora. For a governess, you’re a good egg.’ Eddy swiped a hand across eyes that looked suspiciously wet, then trained a morose glare on the emotional farewells taking place on the quayside. ‘Mama didn’t even bother to get out of the carriage.’
Although tall for thirteen, with well-defined features that promised to mature into male handsomeness in years to come, Edward, Viscount Trent, was still very much a child.
‘You’re very important to your father.’ Flora bit her lip at the disappointment in his voice. ‘You’re Lord Vaughn’s heir, remember.’
She tried to imagine how she would feel, if her parents had packed her off back to England while they toured the Eastern United States. The question was moot, for her mother had died when she was young and, as Lord Vaughn’s head butler, her father didn’t possess the resources to send her anywhere. Flora had resigned herself long ago to viewing the peripatetic lives of the English aristocracy from the shadows.
‘I would sooner be just his son.’ Eddy broke away from her and pounded up the gangplank.
Sighing, Flora prepared to follow, but was prevented by a young man in a shabby brown suit who stepped in front of her, a bulky camera raised to his face. ‘Photograph, Miss?’
‘Er no, thank you.’ Flora stood on tiptoe to keep Eddy in sight, he had reached the saloon deck and was on his way to the outside companionway. ‘Maybe later.’
Lowering the camera, the youth pressed a pasteboard card into her hand. ‘Printed in our own darkroom, and available throughout the voyage,’ his sales patter continued unabated. ‘Perfect to send to your loved ones as postcards.’
‘I’m sure.’ Thanking him with a smile, Flora shoved the card into a pocket without looking at it, and joined a queue of passengers further up the gangplank.
An officer saluted her with a smile, and flattered, she stood a little straighter before proceeding to the packed deck where a group of sailors held out baskets of tightly coiled paper streamers in pastel colours. Flora grabbed a handful, pausing to allow an elderly matron to totter past with a tiny white dog on a leash. With a sharp eye open for Eddy, she eased through the press of bodies, where a barrage of feathers and silk flowers batted her face, their owners with world-weary expressions oblivious to her repeated and increasingly urgent “excuse me’s”.
She spotted Eddy again on the promenade deck, where he strolled the row of doors of the suites where she guessed he was trying to find theirs. Flora started up the companionway to join him, forced to a halt at the top when a noisy family shoved past her. She stepped back to let them pass, where her attention was caught by an arrestingly pretty woman beneath the deck canopy. In a claret wool travelling coat with mutton leg sleeves and fox fur trim, she looked to be about Flora’s own age. Her features were set hard, eyes narrowed and her fists clenched at her sides in barely restrained anger.
The object of her fury was older, with slightly receding hair, olive skin and thick eyebrows that met in the middle. He accepted her tirade in silence, while he repeatedly eased his collar away from his throat with a finger.
Her message delivered, the lady shot him a final hard glare, swivelled on her heel and stalked away.
The man inhaled deeply from a lit cheroot, shot the smoke in a straight upward stream, turned and leaned both forearms on the rail, hunched forward as if the encounter had drained him.
Flora took in his yellow-stained fingers and badly cut hair as she passed, intrigued as to what someone like him could have to say to the immaculate girl in her expensive clothes.
About the Author:
Born in London, Anita has always had a penchant for all things historical. She now lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, the backdrop for her Flora Maguire mysteries.
Anita’s Blog – http:thedisorganisedauthor.blogspot.co.uk
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