Imagine The Jane Austen Book Club meets Wuthering Heights when three diverse women in one household indulge in reading a scandalous new novel of romance, revenge and retribution written by little-known author Ellis Bell. When the winsome governess in the home of a wealthy British gentleman surreptitiously uses Wuthering Heights as a text to teach a house maid to read, the spoilt 17-year old daughter threatens to end their nighttime studies unless she is encircled in their covert activities. Shadows of Heathcliff and Cathy follow each character in this journey of loss, fulfillment and discovery.
This excerpt from Whispering Night might easily be titled Lords in the Kitchen.
A luscious aroma drew Hortense to the kitchen where she found Mr. Brown once again stirring a pot on the stove with Thig hovering over his shoulder. This was becoming quite a common occurrence, a disturbance Hortense found annoying. Thig had always been a hearty eater, a passion enthusiastically shared with Hortense. Indulging their tongues seemed more stimulating than other carnal activities typically shared by husband and wife. Winslough Hall was renowned in many circles for its fine table, and Mrs. Deacon paid well to keep her fat and happy in its kitchen. Why Mrs. Deacon had surrendered her spoon to Mr. Brown puzzled Hortense and though she was devoted to discovering why, Hortense relished the proximity of the riding master in the kitchen where she could share genuine interest, rather than in the stable where she tired of the forced equestrian enthusiasm required to keep his attention.
“Concocting ambrosia again, Mr. Brown?” said Hortense, waving her hand before her face and swooning with a passionate sigh.
“Should moussaka be the food of the gods, then yes, Mrs. Thiggenbottom.”
“Moose-a-what?” She asked.
“Moo-sa-KA,” Thig replied. “It’s Greek. Just like ambrosia, but with lamb and aubergine.”
Mr. Brown reached into the larder and pulled out a shiny white fruit and handed it to Hortense. “I’ve been growing these delicacies in the kitchen garden. They look just like swan’s eggs.”
Hortense rubbed the shiny fruit, then drew it to her mouth and sunk her teeth into its white flesh. Her mouth puckered uncontrollably and she spit the caustic fruit right onto the kitchen floor. “Yick. You call this blamed bane a fruit?”
“It’s not to be consumed before cooking,” said Mr. Brown. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to stop you from sampling. But here,” he motioned to the pot, “is where it becomes heavenly.”
Hortense peeked into the pot and inhaled. Mr. Brown was right. It did smell heavenly. “What makes it so red?”
“Another one of my garden treasures.” Mr. Brown pulled a tomato from the larder. “They are superb right from the vine, or cooked into sauces such as this.”
Now these, you can bite and chew with abandon.” He took a large bite and chewed with relish.
“Tomatoes?” Her brow puckered and she stepped back. “Are you trying to poison our household?”
Mr. Brown took another bite. “Would I be eating this gem right before you if it were poison? That is a wicked mistake, which will surely be rectified with time.”
Thig took the tomato from Mr. Brown and popped the remains into his mouth. “Umm. Delightful. Fresh. Zesty.”
Mr. Brown raised his eyes to Thig. “You have a keen way with words, Mr. Thiggenbottom.”
“Only when describing food, I’m afraid.” Thig drew a ladle of sauce, then held it to Hortense for sampling. “Why don’t you give it a try, my dove?”
Hortense pulled back her shoulders and shook her head. “You two should be ashamed of yourselves. If you get sick, Mr. Thiggenbottom, don’t expect any nursing from me.”
Mr. Brown took the ladle from Thig and drew it to his lips. “Tut-tut. You know in France, they’re called ‘love apples.’ They’re considered a fruit one eats to stimulate one’s passions. Passion for love.”
“You mean they’re aphrodisiacs?” Thig raised his eyebrows.
“I wouldn’t have said exactly so in mixed company,” said Mr. Brown, nodding toward Hortense before turning back to Thig. “But on the Continent, they are quite renowned for increasing one’s virility.
Hortense wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw Mr. Brown flick his eyes in her direction before fixing them on Thig.