Publisher: One More Chapter
Format: Ebook & Paperback (6 October 2023)
When does a story begin?
For Edwin Hope, it begins with a childhood dare and a forbidden tree. It begins with him falling … in more ways than one.
Called home from his studies by the grandfather who has always hated him, eighteen-year-old Edwin is once again trapped in a house that is colder than the winds whipping across the fields. Seeking sanctuary, he escapes into the untamed beauty of the Peaks and meets a woman who sparks an old memory. A memory of the sycamore that broke him, and the little girl who saved him.
Drusilla has had many acolytes over the centuries but none like Edwin. With the Great War looming and Edwin’s future uncertain, she knows the right thing to do is to set him free from her spell, but can she do so if it means breaking her own heart?
My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invite. Last year I read Daughters of Paris by Elizabeth Hobbes, historical fiction set in wartime Paris which I very much enjoyed. I wasn’t able to read and review The Promise Tree for the tour but am delighted to share an extract.
Edwin has been back in Cheshire for a couple of weeks and has discovered his grandfather is just as cold and unpleasant as he was when Edwin was a child. After an uncomfortable dinner which has ended in yet another disagreement about what role Edwin will play in the business he has decided to go out for a walk around the estate to clear his head.
He stared upwards. Heavy clouds blocked out the moon so that only a faint edge was visible. On the horizon the sycamore tree looked lonely. Some movement at the edge of it caught his eyes. He stood up a little straighter. Perhaps that was Sykes. He walked across the meadow in a straight line. He regretted it almost immediately because the long grass was wet with evening dew and before he had taken a dozen steps his trouser cuffs were sodden. He grimaced, an almost physical memory of revulsion springing up inside him.
“Hello?” he called as he drew close. “Is that Mr Sykes?”
The only answer was the sigh of the wind in the leaves and a rustling from close to the tree. He walked closer. In the darkness the shadows played across the branches and the trunk. The tangle of thorns in the hedgerow now looked unwelcoming in the shadowy half-light.
Taking care to tread quietly, Edwin walked inside the circular mound. The hair on the back of his neck prickled and he had the distinct impression somebody was watching him. He couldn’t see Sykes, but as he turned to go, he saw a flicker of movement from the corner of his eye. What would Sykes be doing hiding? His heart pulsated as he wondered if he had interrupted a poacher or a vagrant. He froze, then turned around quickly, hoping to catch whoever it was by surprise.
Standing in the shadows, half-concealed behind the trunk was a tall girl. Not the image he had of a poacher. Their eyes met and the breath caught in Edwin’s throat. The young woman – he realised now that she was around the same age as him – looked startled, and then guilty. She darted behind the tree.
Edwin took a step towards her. “I know you’re there. There’s no use pretending you aren’t.”
She didn’t answer but he saw her hands creep around the trunk of the tree. Perhaps she had been caught trespassing before. One day about six years previously he had climbed into the rectory garden with Harold and a friend and they had scrimped apples. They had been caught and sent to bed with no dinner as a result, as well as being made to write a letter of apology to the vicar to be hand-delivered. Edwin could imagine that Stephen Brice was much less lenient than Dr James (who had contented himself with delivering to the boys a thirty-minute-long sermon on Eve’s sin). What he could not imagine was why the girl would want to trespass at the sycamore tree which didn’t even bear fruit.
“You’re not supposed to be here, you know.” He remembered the expression on her thin face and the way she had darted away and thought for a minute. “But I promise you won’t be in any trouble.”
He took a step back then spoke in a gentler voice. “Are you already in trouble? Do you need help? I’m not going to hurt you.”
He raised his hands to show they were empty and took another step backwards, as if appeasing a scared animal. The girl peeked out from behind the tree. Her large eyes were fixed on Edwin, thick lashes edging them, and he lost a moment staring into them.
“Are you here to meet somebody? Are you hiding from someone?” She still didn’t reply. Edwin turned away in irritation.
“Well, stay there if you insist.”
He walked out of the circle but stopped when he was halfway through the hedgerow and then spun around quickly to look. She had moved silently and quickly because she was now standing in front of the tree trunk. Her face was pale and her hair was long and loose. It looked like a cloak, falling over her breasts, almost down to her waist. She wasn’t as pretty as some of the girls that Edwin knew. Demetria and Eleni were much more striking, but there was something about her angular jaw and cheekbones that drew Edwin’s attention. His school had once collaborated with the girls’ school in the neighbouring town to perform Hamlet and she reminded him of the girl from the fifth form who had played Ophelia in the last stages of her madness, with tangled hair and a bedraggled dress. Presumably she was a tinker or a vagrant to be dressed like this and hiding in a hedgerow. He shouldn’t even be wasting time talking to someone of her class.
“You know this is private property,” he said, gesturing around him. “It belongs to the house and the mill.”
He sucked his teeth. Something in his brain told him this was all familiar. If only he could remember where he’d seen the girl before. Her eyes widened and she edged a couple of steps forwards. She was very thin, and very pale. She almost blended in against the tree. No wonder he had found it hard to see her at first. Edwin looked down and saw that she was barefoot.
“Good grief!” he exclaimed. “You must be frozen.”
He stuck his hands in his pockets, wondering if he had any spare change, but they were empty and his money clip was back in his room.
“Do you need to eat?” he asked.
She still didn’t answer, merely stared at him with a pensive expression. Edwin started to grow annoyed. He’d told her she was safe, and even that he would help her. She was just being rude. He
“I’m going to go back to the house at the bottom of the meadow. It’s where I live. If you’re in some sort of trouble, you can come to the door. My grandfather owns that factory.” He pointed at it.
“He could probably find you employment if you needed it.”
The girl was staring at him intently now, her eyes flickering up and down, side to side.
Edwin sighed. “Well, I said I’m going. If you do decide to come to the house or go to the factory, tell them that Edwin Hope told you to. That way there shouldn’t be any trouble.”
He turned and walked away.
Elisabeth’s writing career began in 2013 when she entered Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest and it turned out she could. She writes romantic Historical fiction as Elisabeth Hobbes and Historical folklore/fantasy inspired romance as Elisabeth J. Hobbes.
She teaches Primary school but would rather write full time because unlike five year olds her characters generally do what she tells them. She spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.
She lives in Cheshire because the car broke down there in 1999 and she never left. Elisabeth has two almost grown kids, two cats, two dogs and a husband. The whole family are on the autistic spectrum and that probably includes the pets! She dreams of having a tidy house one day.
Purchase Link – https://mybook.to/ThePromiseTree