I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course, being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.
As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to herself or himself, "Let's pretend."
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To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.
American heiress India, Lady Kilnsey, enjoys the very comfortable life of an English peeress in her husband’s ancestral castle. She is deeply in love with her earl and he adores her. Her inherited fortune provides a life that is elegant, happy, and peaceful, but ominous clouds are gathering across the Channel. The clang of rattling sabers can be heard throughout Europe. In a few short months, their lives are altered forever. Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated and the world explodes in war bringing previously unimaginable changes to castle life and in India herself. With her husband amongst the first to volunteer, India is left to shoulder unexpected responsibilities, to deal with dangerous men, and to search desperately for something precious that is lost.
Perfect for fans of Marie Benedict, Helen Simonson, and Julian Fellows, The American Countess continues India’s story that began in the popular The Last Dollar Princess and takes readers on a journey of discovery, suspense, and resolution of a longstanding mystery. India’s determination, courage, and strength make her a character not easily forgotten.
The American Countess
Linda Bennett Pennell
An American Heiress: Book 2
Book Excerpt or Article
Lady Kilnsey, the former India Elisabeth Petra de Vries
Ledbetter of The Falls, Pisgah, North Carolina and Washington
Square, New York City, stepped onto Deangate’s
cobblestones and closed the shop door, setting its little bell
tinkling. Placing a hand over her eyes, she looked toward
York Minster. Its spires beckoned her to a place of peace
and grace. Having just committed enormous sums for bathroom,
kitchen, and central heating fittings for the entire
castle, a moment’s quiet reflection seemed in order.
She glanced at Althea, her lady’s maid and friend, the
only other American residing in Kilnsey Castle. “I fear these
renovations may be far messier than getting the electricity
installed. Two years later and the housemaids are still wiping
plaster dust from odd corners.” Pointing toward the
Minster, she continued, “Come. I want to light a candle in
memory of Papa and for a little good luck for the renovations.”
Althea grinned and gave India “The Look” complete with
raised brows. “When His Lordship sees the bill, you may
They were still several blocks from the cathedral when a
roar arising from the end of the street caught India’s attention.
Her eyes narrowed and her mouth became a thin line.
Mounted policemen accompanied by others on foot waded
into a crowd, the outer rings of which were comprised of
men with raised fists, some of them holding rocks or fruit. It
was impossible to see what lay at the center of the commotion,
but India had her suspicions.
She grabbed Althea’s arm. “Come on. I bet my bottom
dollar they are harassing our suffragists again.” Instead of
turning away from the disturbance, she plunged toward it.
Althea yanked her arm from India’s grasp. “Oh no you
don’t. We can’t get involved in that. His Lordship and the
Dowager would be furious.”
India’s expression hardened. “I’m going to do what I can.
Stay here if you must.” India winced inwardly at her tone.
Mistress and servant was not the true nature of their relationship.
Althea grimaced, shook her head, but fell into step. India
glanced from the corner of her eye. Althea was clearly irritated.
Perhaps a reminder was in order.
“When he proposed, Charlie promised not to interfere
with my interests.” India cast a mischievous grin at Althea.
“Furthermore, my mother-in-law needs a little shaking up.
She’s too set in her ways.”
“So, just when are you planning on telling them about
your donations and afternoons working in the office of the
York Suffragists’ Union?”
“When I’m good and ready and not a minute before. A
few pounds here and there and an occasional afternoon
hardly warrant mentioning. Besides, what they don’t know
won’t hurt them.”
As they approached the crowd, India hiked her skirt and
stepped up onto the base of a streetlamp for a better view.
What she saw set her pulse racing. Women, whose only
crime was asking for what should have been theirs long ago,
were being taunted, threatened, and assaulted by the public.
Their placards had been snatched from their hands and
were being trampled beneath the boots of a crowd of cretins.
This simply would not do.
Jumping down from the lamppost, India marched into
the gang of men surrounding the women. Jostling increased
and objects began to fly.
She tapped a mounted policeman’s booted leg and
shouted, “What is the meaning of this? Who are these
women harming that they should be treated thus? I demand
you disperse this crowd immediately.”
The policeman’s face turned as red as the rotten tomatoes
splattered on some of the protesters. He tightened his
mount’s reins and leaned down with his nose inches from
India’s face. “Madam, unless you want to be arrested along
with these other women, you will leave the area at once.
We’ve had enough of these hussies and harlots.”
“Of all the nerve. These women are nothing of the sort.
They are only asking for what is rightfully ours.”
“Oh, you’re one of them, are you?” He sat upright and motioned
to a colleague on the ground. “Hey Tommie, this here
one wants to join her sisters. Take her along with the others.”
“How dare you threaten me? I have done nothing but ask
an honest question and demand that you do your job. Your
job is to protect citizens, all of us, but it is a responsibility
you seem determined to shirk. You, sir, are as lazy as you are
stupid and insolent.”
Hands grabbed India’s upper arms from behind and propelled
her over the cobbles. Lurking out of sight around the
opposite corner, the open door of a police van greeted them.
India struggled against the policeman’s grip. “Let go of
me, you stupid oaf. I am Lady Kilnsey, wife of the fifteenth
Earl of Kilnsey.”
Before she could say more, the officer lifted her bodily
from the ground and shoved her into the already packed vehicle.
He slammed the door and frowned at her through the
bars. “I don’t give a tinker’s damn if you’re the bloody Queen
of Sheba. You’re going to the nick along with the rest of these
blighters. No decent woman would be seen with such rabble.”
India glared down at her captor. “My husband will hear
of this. Y’all are gonna be in big trouble.” India covered her
mouth with her hand. Had she really just said y’all and
gonna, vestiges of a childhood spent in America’s Appalachian
The officer snorted then tugged the brim of his helmet,
turned, and strolled back toward the now dispersing
Within the van, women of all ages and classes, some covered
with the detritus of rotten fruit, others bleeding,
huddled together on rough wooden benches. India
squeezed into the spot made for her.
The women, all strangers, watched India with interest as
though she might be some rare specimen pinned to a board
in a science laboratory. India nodded in the direction of no
one in particular, but the acknowledgement was not returned.
Finally, the woman directly opposite bestirred herself.
“You are not English, are you?” Her enunciation and vowels
revealed she was of the gentry or perhaps a well-educated
India shook her head. “Not originally. Before my marriage,
my home was in North Carolina. That’s in the
southern United States. I lived in the mountains. They are
exquisite and sometimes I miss them very much.” Her words
tumbled to a halt. Babbling, a habit she thought she had
shed, had returned full force. Her nerves must be wound
tighter than she wanted to admit.
“I see.” The woman eyed India in speculation. “One of
these American heiresses come to save our poor old British
aristocracy from ruin, I suppose?”
India’s lips thinned. She had no patience for the direction
this conversation was taking. She leaned back against
the wall and ignored her inquisitor. Within moments, the
sound of reins slapping horses’ backsides followed by the
rumble of the van’s wheels brought her upright again.
Gripping the door’s iron bars, she searched the road and
sidewalks. Word must be gotten to Charlie. She found Althea
at the forefront of a small crowd following the van.
“Go straight to the solicitor’s office. Tell him to come to
the police station at once.”
The last thing she saw before the van rounded a corner
was Althea’s horror-stricken face, her head bobbing up and
down in frantic agreement.
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Linda Bennett Pennell
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