Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Beautiful Thread




The Beautiful Thread (vol. 8 in The Hawk and the Dove series), releases on the 19th of February (don’t buy it, Deb Sokell, I’ve got it on pre-order for you), along with the new edition of The Breath of Peace.



Some of you will have read The Breath of Peace in its original edition, but I thought you might like to read a snippet from The Beautiful Thread to see if you like it – so far it hasn’t got the usual ‘Look Inside’ thing available on Amazon, though I expect they’ll get round to it at some point. The Beautiful Thread is all about kindness as a central characteristic of Gospel living. In the story, Abbot John and his new cellarer Brother Cormac have to juggle the rigours of a bishop’s Visitation (like an official Church inspection) with the preparations for a large wedding taking place at St Alcuins – Brother Damian’s sister Hannah is marrying into an aristocratic family. They draft in William to help Cormac with the complexities of it all; unfortunately it turns out the bishop likes William no better than most people. And then there’s Brother Conradus’s mother Rose – who appears briefly in this extract:

The five visits to St Alcuins Florence Bonvallet had made in the course of the week, Abbot John had dodged and left her to his prior. Mostly he had been required to be with his Bishop Visitor.
Some of the time he had been struggling to cram in urgent correspondence and the preparation of homilies and Chapter addresses.
Late at night and early in the morning he had been approving, signing off and stamping with his seal, the prodigious accumulation of bills associated with the torrent of extra guests into the abbey. 
But on one occasion he had been guilty of catching sight of Florence as he came out of his house, and simply legging it as fast as he could in the other direction, pretending he hadn’t seen her.
 Today he felt he owed it as much to Father Francis as to the Bonvallets to accept some share of the responsibility himself, and offer her an hour of his time – or better still, half an hour.
Brother Martin told him she had gone to the refectory, to check on the condition of the tables and their cloths, to be sure the frater had no vermin, to determine the placing of those guests of sufficient status to be indoors and seated, to decide where to situate the harpist. She also found herself in two minds about the minstrels; the simplest thing would be to give them a spot outside; let the harpist entertain the people of refinement and substance, and everyone else could enjoy the juggling and acrobatics, the more boisterous music of dubious ballads about wedding nights, and the hurdy-gurdy. On the other hand, even her more elegant guests had a taste to be amused, so she acknowledged the existence of an argument to give them a brief spot in the refectory.
She asked the abbot his opinion on the matter, and he won himself the sourest look imaginable by enquiring what Hannah’s and Gervase’s preferences might be. And now she stood, regal and imposing, one hand on her hip and the other thoughtfully rubbing her chin, as her gaze swept the room, missing nothing. John noticed that someone had made a fine job of waxing the tabletops and buffing them to a glossy finish.
            ‘There’s a mouse!’ observed Lady Bonvallet, in cold disbelief. She looked at him accusingly. Earlier on in this acquaintanceship, the abbot had felt constrained to please her if he could, to offer their best and remedy any faults she detected. By this time, reduced to counting the days and heartily looking forward to the first sunrise of Hannah’s married life, he limited his efforts to remaining both patient and civil.
‘Aye,’ he said. ‘We do have mice. We keep a cat, but she misses some.’
‘Then get another one,’ she responded. The abbot’s jaw tightened, but he did not reply.
‘You know how I want the tables set out? The top table at the far end there, the others flanking the long walls – then the harpist at the bottom, there.’
‘Aye, I do. I believe you had a word with our fraterer, Brother Richard, on the matter. I’m not your man, really, Lady Bonvallet. It’s not I who will be arranging the furniture for your family wedding.’
Florence’s mouth compressed into a tight, twisted rune of displeasure. The abbot sounded distinctly unco-operative. She fixed him with a frosty look, and drew breath to speak, but the far door – that led most directly to the kitchen – opened, and in walked Rose, cheerful and pleasant.
‘Yes?’ Florence re-directed her attention to the interruption.
Rose, smiling, curtsied. ‘Good morrow, your Ladyship. My son told me you were here. We thought the wedding day might be such a press and bustle of people, and since we have some of the sweetmeats ready and two of the subtleties are complete, we wondered if you might like to be the first to have a quick peep.’
 Her eyes sparkled with fun. Though she spoke respectfully, she made the suggestion sound enticing and delightful. She put some of the magic back. Watching Florence’s face change, seeing it light with eagerness and interest, John felt ashamed. A lifetime dedicated to the pursuit of prayer and humility had evidently not taught him the sweetness of manner that seemed to come naturally to Rose.
‘May I have your permission, Father John,’ Rose then asked him, ‘to take Lady Bonvallet through the cloister to the kitchen? I know it is a liberty, not something for everyday. But I think it might mean a lot to her.’
Florence, who had taken a step forward, it never occurring to her to seek the abbot’s permission, paused and looked at him. She read effortlessly the softening of his face, the tenderness with which he regarded Rose and heard her request. She could see that whatever Rose asked, the answer was never going to be ‘no’ from Abbot John. Her eyebrows rose slightly in astonishment.
Intrigued, she watched as the whole demeanour of his body changed; the obstinate rigidity of a moment before melted away.
‘Conradus is with you?’ he ascertained. ‘Then, yes; certainly.’
Making a mental note to get Rose on her side about the mice, Florence followed this interesting and unexpected person into the kitchen to see what they had made. Not much about this wedding so far had made her happy; but she had to admit, the sweetmeats were the daintiest creations imaginable. They let her taste one of each kind, and she had to pronounce them delectable. The dragon’s head was ready, and they showed her how the body would be formed of artfully stacked shortbreads – ‘But they must be crisp and the butter quite fresh, your Ladyship, so we’ll be making them the day after tomorrow.’
Brother Conradus, bursting with pride, showed her the subtleties he had made – the chalice and paten on the altar with gilded glory raying at the back; and a crenelated abbey with open doors revealing a host of tiny pastry people. Florence peered closer. ‘How did you make their eyes?’
‘Poppy seeds, my lady,’ he said with a smile. Then, the question he could contain no longer: ‘Do . . . do you like them?’
Lady Florence Bonvallet looked at the short, plump brother with his ruddy cheeks and shining dark eyes (exactly like his mother), anxiously awaiting her verdict; and in spite of herself she couldn’t help smiling back. ‘I do,’ she said. ‘I think what you’ve made is magnificent. The best I’ve ever seen. It makes me feel better about the whole thing.’
As she escorted Florence away from the monastery kitchen, Rose asked her softly: ‘Forgive me if I am too forward, or if it’s a secret, your Ladyship; I’m just dying to know – what will you be wearing?’
As Florence described the embroidered linen lawn of her chemise and kerchief, the sumptuous green silk velvet cotehardie, with pearls and thread of gold adorning the sleeves, then the deep red surcote with the jeweled braid edging, Rose’s eyes grew round with delight. ‘And on your head, my lady? Oh yes, you said – a kerchief in linen lawn over your barbet! Oh, gracious goodness, you will be perfect! A queen! I shall be serving along with my son on the day, so I’ll be able to catch a glimpse. Oh, my! So exciting!’ She wisely omitted any enquiry about the attire of the bride.
Lady Bonvallet went home happy; curious about the abbot, too – evidently a man not immune to feminine charm, which she hadn’t expected.

:0)

I do hope you like it.


34 comments:

Ganeida said...

Yes! Very much. Rose is delightful.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

Rose is a dear woman. Everyone loves Rose.

xx

Suze said...

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

xx

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I am so excited that Books 7 & 8 are imminent :-D I have read my way through books 1 - 6 multiple times!

Anonymous said...

I have already ordered my copy from Eden, Pen, and can't WAIT to read it.

The passage you read aloud to us at Penhurst sent shivers down my spine.

This was lovely. I'm so glad that Mum of Conradus is as endearing as he is. I knew he came from a happy family!

- Philippa
x

Pen Wilcock said...

Elizabeth - hooray! I'll ask if they can send you review copies for The Garden Window xx

Philippa - thank you! I had to think for a minute what bit it was I read - but about the spider, if I remember right (?) xx

Knowing the light said...

Hmm, my comment has disappeared.

I can't pre order it for Kindle.... all the others are available - will this one?

Jen KTL

Pen Wilcock said...

I'm so sorry you lost your comment - it's *so* annoying when that happens!

Neither of them is listed as available for Kindle on Amazon yet, but I'm entirely sure they will be. perhaps the e-book sales only kick in with the publication date ??

I don't think I ever pre-ordered anything on Kindle, so I can't be sure if that's a thing.

I'll check to be certain they've got the info sent in to Amazon to make the Kindle format happen - tho I'm sure they will have; Lion Hudson are very much on the ball and efficient, and so is Amazon most of the time.

Thanks for pointing it out though xx

Knowing the light said...

I've bought lots on pre-order on Kindle, it is quite common. I will keep checking back, maybe they will add that in.

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh - okay - thank you - I'll ask about it. x

Deborah said...

*squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee* Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you a million trillion billion times :-D

Deborah said...

Oh I love Rose as much as I love Conradus. I'm sooooooooooooo excited :-D

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

You are most welcome. I'm glad you like Rose.

xx

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Thank you, Pen!
I am currently reading your Wisdom Stories book which I was sent to review and am finding it very challenging to my sometimes rather fixed mindset. Being challenged to think is always good!

Pen Wilcock said...

Gosh, I hope you aren't getting sick of all these books! Simon said he could send you review copies of the two new ones next week!!

:0\

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Ooh, that will be fantastic! I'm always thrilled to have new books to read, especially when of the calibre and quality of yours.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you so much.

_/\_

x

Anonymous said...

Pen, yes, it was the passage with the spider you read aloud at Penhurst!

I am also really resonating with the Wisdom Stories. Haven't finished them yet, am taking my time, but must remember to do an Amazon review. Sid and Rosie are a most thoughtful couple. ;) :)

- Philippa
xx

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

So glad you are enjoying them!

xx

Knowing the light said...

I have now preordered the kindle version so it's thee for anyone who prefers e books or at least their convenience

Pen Wilcock said...

Okay - thanks, Jen. x

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Hi Pen,
my review of Wisdom Stories is up at
http://thegardenwindow.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/52-original-wisdom-stories.html

and it was most interesting. I do hope Sid and Rosie will muse some more in the future!

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh - thank you so much! I love your reviews; they are always so thoughtful and interesting.

xx

MaryR said...

Have just been emailed that my books are on the way. So excited! Can't wait!

Pen Wilcock said...

Really? That's early, isn't it! Let me know what you think of them. x

:0)

Anonymous said...

My copy of The Beautiful Thread arrived yesterday, and I began reading it on the morning commute. Wheeee!

When I'm done, I will write a review, dear Pen. I count your characters amongst my dearest literary friends. :)

- Philippa

Pen Wilcock said...

Hooray! Where did you get it from, Philippa? I saw Eden had it in stock, but Amazon hasn't cranked into action yet. x

Anonymous said...

Ah! From Eden! :)


- Philippa
x

Pen Wilcock said...

Mary R has been trying and trying to leave a comment here, but has been out-foxed by Google blogger's fiendish security system. I'm so sorry about it folks. In the early days of this blog I just let anyone make comments, no security, nothing. Then to my horror, when looking back at an old post one day, I found links randomly inserted here and there - to Chinese sex sites!!! It was like finding vine weevils in your pot plants. So I added the security checker thingy right quick! And since then we all struggle to get in.
Anyway, I suggested Mary send me by email what she wanted to say. By then she'd lost it of course and she had to write ite all over again. I am so sorry Mary, and thank you for going to the trouble of doing it twice. This is what Mary R said:

"How much I enjoyed the Breath of Peace. If I hadn’t had the next one to read, Pen, I would have re-read it there and then to find all the nuances I had missed. Each character is so beautifully delineated that I can see and touch them, and taste their feelings and fears. Not just William and John, who are so very different, but Tom and Cormac and Chad and Francis, etc. They come alive for me on the page, leaving me wanting more and more of them, each and every one, when they make their exits. How the marriage of William and Madeleine developed was fascinating to watch, because of these two flawed people who you made me love, but John’s understanding and wisdom and his sheer love for them made him just the person to sort them out, despite not being married himself. How do you do it? It was riveting. He has such fantastic common sense and no sense of his own importance and a great sense of humour, but is so kind, so very, very kind. Kindness can often come across as boring, but I could read his words over and over again and never find them in the slightest bit boring. He is luminous, so greatly touched by God’s grace and so deeply loved by his monks. I learn so much from John, when he talks to his friends or when he talks to his monks, and he demands that I live up the standards he’s trying to inculcate in them. Can’t you just go on writing about these people forever???"

Anonymous said...

"Can’t you just go on writing about these people forever???"

I second that emotion! :D

I just finished The Beautiful Thread and LOVED it. Is it kosher to put a review on Amazon before release date? My 5-star review is ready to go (no spoilers).

- Philippa
x

Pen Wilcock said...

:0D

I'm not sure if Amazon lets you add a review before their advertised release date, though you could try. Thank you!! x

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, you're right. You can't review before the release date. Same for Eden. OK, will post it on the 19th. :)

- Philippa

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you!

:0)

x