Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Windmere Witness by Rebecca Tope

Today we have an excerpt of a new e-book by Rebecca Tope, published by Harper Collins. It's called The Windmere Witness...

Here's a little about the novel:

Following a personal tragedy, florist Persimmon ‘Simmy’ Brown has moved to the beautiful region of the Lake District. The peace she is searching for is quickly disturbed as a millionaire’s daughter’s wedding ends in tragedy; her brother is found brutally murdered.

As the florist of the wedding and one of the last people to talk to Mark Baxter alive, Simmy slowly becomes involved with the scandalous Baxter family, and is further entangled as she is the prime witness to the another shocking killing.

The chief suspects are the groom and his closely-knit band of loyal bachelor friends. They are all intimidating, volatile and secretive: but which one is responsible?

And here's the first chapter:  

What a day for a wedding! Sheets of rain sluiced across the windscreen, giving the wipers a harder task than they were equal to. The road ran with water, so it resembled the lake that lay a few yards to the right. The turning into the hotel was ahead, somewhere, on a pimple of land jutting into the lake. On a bright day, it would be a stunning venue for a wedding; the photos spectacular. Today it would be madness for a bridge to venture outside in silk and lace and expensively wrought hair. The many thousands of pounds that must have been spent on the event would do nothing to mitigate the disappointment, if Simmy was any judge. There would be huge umbrellas on standby, of course, and other tricks with which to defy the weather, but rain on this scale would defeat every attempt to save the day. 
Behind her, the back of the van was filled with scent and colour, conveying all the layers of meaning that went along with flowers. She was confident that her work would meet all expectations. She had labored over it for a week, selecting and matching for colour, shape and size. The scheme was a rosy peach (‘Definitely not  peachy rose,’ said the bride with a grin, when she and her mother had come to talk it over) with scatterings of rust and tangerine to echo the autumnal colours outside. Colours that were muted to grey by the rain, as it had turned out. 
The hotel’s fa├žade was a pale yellowy cream on a good day. There3 was a confident elegance to it, despite the lack of symmetry. The older part boasted a columned entrance that Simmy suspected might be a loggia, officially. She had been profoundly impressed by the whole edifice, on a previous visit two months before. The chief element in its reputation, however, lay in the setting. The lake itself was the real star, and the various architects who had created the Hall had had the good sense to realize that. All the ostentation lay indoors, where no expense had been spared in grand ornamentation. 
She parked the van as close as she could get to the humbler entrance where deliveries were customarily made. A team of hotel staff was on hand to assist, and within the hour, the centerpieces, swags and two monumental arrangements had been set into position. During that hour, Simmy lost herself in the creative process, immersed in colour and form that were intended to enhance the romantic significance of the event. She gave brisk instructions to the people detailed to work with her, their tasks restricted to pinning and tying, fetching and carrying. The florist herself attended to everything else. Everything fell perfectly to place, exactly as she had envisaged. Clusters of red berries to suggest fruitfulness; luscious blooms for sensuality; some dried seed heads for permanence – she loved the understated implications that few, if any, wedding guests would consciously grasp, and yet subliminally they might appreciate. 
‘Just the bouquets and buttonholes now,’ she told her helpers. ‘Where do they want them?’
The bride’s mother was telephoned, and Simmy was asked to take the flowers to the suite upstairs. In the lift she balanced the large box on one hand and though briefly about weddings. Just as births and funerals conjured a kaleidoscope of personal memories and associations, a wedding always called up comparisons with others one had experienced. In her case, it was her own, nine years earlier. 
She was on the third floor before she could get far in her rueful reminiscences. Room 301 was awaiting her, the door already open. Inside was a flurry of female activity, half-naked girls with hair in rollers, a heavy atmosphere of near hysteria. ‘Flowers,’ she said, superfluously, looking for a familiar face. She saw herself reflected in a gold-bordered full-length mirror – a misfitting figure amongst all the froth of silk and lace, dressed in a blue sweatshirt and jeans. Her hair was untidy, her hands not entirely clean. She had given no thought to her own appearance, which made her a complete alien in this room where appearance was everything. 

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