Bestselling author Anna Rashbrook grew up with a passion for horses, dogs, and travel. Over the years, she has lived in England, Switzerland, and Austria, but now lives in Wales and is finding her family roots. Anna’s novels are all based on her Christian faith, along with her life experiences from managing a farm to working in equine therapy, cleaning castles to teaching riding, running a holiday home business to becoming a librarian.
In Plain Sight is her first historical novel, based on her family history. Her other books are set in the country with more than a little drama and tangled relationships. They include novels, memoirs, a supernatural thriller and short story collections. Not forgetting the horses and dogs who always seem to turn up, even when not planned!
Her books can be found on her blog, Anna's Horse Books.
Anna also writes an Award nominated blog about Austria which told of rich experiences of life in a new country, but is now mostly abut her new life in Wales..
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As the dark clouds of WW2 begin to roll away from England’s shores, lives change forever in the Croft household.
Moira waits impatiently to leave the boarding school which she loathes, dreaming about entering the male-dominated world of horse racing. Her brother Peter, an RAF bomb aimer, struggles with both monotony and fear as he flies on missions with Bomber Command over Europe.
Peace finally arrives, and the family moves to a new home. Ever entrepreneurial Father always seeks new opportunities and turns the house into a Country Club. Mother meddles and tries to thwart everyone’s plans with her own.
Can they build new lives, or will there be heartbreak before each one finds happiness in the post-war world?
In Plain Sight
Can they build new lives, or will there be heartbreak before each one finds happiness in the post-war world?
Book Excerpt or Article
‘Moira, it’s time to get up. Now hurry up.’
Moira tugged both sheets and Nimbus the spaniel up over her head, a black hairy ear landing in her mouth. No, she couldn’t pull the ‘I haven’t been to confession’ excuse again. With a roar, she leapt out of bed and followed her mother down the stairs, Nimbus following the ruckus.
‘Mother, I am putting my foot down, and you must listen to me.’
This stopped her bustling tracks. She turned to face Moira, that blank expression on her face. Mother was dressed in her business suit of calf length black skirt and jacket, which did nothing for her figure, white blouse, glasses and her hair set in ever rigid curls. She wasn’t going to listen.
‘I have had religion rammed down my throat since I was six years old when you sent me away to school.’ Moira felt the bottled anger inside rising, but she thrust it down. ‘I’m eighteen, old enough to leave school and I am making my choice not to go to Mass. It’s all bells and smoke, I don’t believe in it, and you’re not sending another Jesuit priest to force his logic on me. I have a right to my opinion and I will keep it.’
All the time, her mother just looked, her lips moving as if words were trying to break out. But she said nothing, apart from an audible sniff as she slammed the front door. Wearily, Moira wandered into the kitchen and gave Nimbus his breakfast, which he greeted with joy. On the table stood a vaguely warm pot of tea and Moira was pouring herself a cup, when Father popped his head around the door.
‘What did you say to your mother this time? The car door slamming gave it away.’
‘I told her I wasn’t going to Mass.’
‘Oh, I see… I need to talk to you about something. Now, when you leave school next year, you can go to finishing school in Switzerland if you want.’ He looked quizzically at her and grinned. ‘The look on your face says you don’t, just as I hoped. I’ll break it to Mother for you, as that fits in with my plans. I want to buy Morton House in Kingsworthy and have an appointment at ten to have a look around. Would you like to come and see it with me?’
Moira needed no second bidding and quickly got ready. Father had one of the bright green vans with Croft and Sons emblazoned in gold on the side parked in front of the house. Mother, of course, had taken the larger, plain green van.
‘I swopped some spuds for a gallon of petrol and this can go down as a delivery.’ He smiled at her and slid onto the passenger side on the right. ‘Excellent experience for your driving. Off you go, my dear.’
Moira slid onto the seat and, despite having to double declutch, they moved off with ease. The two grinned conspiratorially at each other. Alike in height and stature, both had a love for life, and an attitude that looked beyond convention. Dark haired Moira was her father’s pet, but Mother had Peter, so that evened things out, didn’t it? Mother knew nothing of these secret lessons. There was little traffic as they turned into the Worthy road, so they whooped with glee as they swept down the hill towards the village, narrowly missing a horse and cart.
‘Take a left here dear, there’s something that I think will interest you.’ They turned into Headbourne Worthy and followed a lane. ‘Look, here’s a racing stables. Now won’t that be fun to have that on your doorstep? You might be able to pop down on your bike and help with the horses.’
Moira said nothing, although something leapt inside her. Father really didn’t know anything about horses, but saw her passion for them. Did he expect her to go and knock on the door and ask if she could ride the racehorses? She had heard of the trainer through the Racing Post, but he wasn’t one of the more successful ones.
For Moira, it had all started with ponies, but after a couple of trips to point to points and the never forgotten day when they saw the legendary Brown Jack win the Queen Alexandra Stakes in 1934, her fascination with racing began. Moira even ran a racing syndicate at school for the few races that had been run during the war. So far, they had good winnings, and the nuns hadn’t found out.
It suddenly dawned on her that she hadn’t actually thought about what she would do after school. Moira had imagined not having to do boring lessons, staying in bed until she wanted, helping in the shop and, of course, riding. Surely racing would start again one day and maybe there would be chances for women to get into the profession? Before the war, there had been girls training for the examinations for the Institute of the Horse at Mrs Brown’s riding stables, but they had seemed more like slaves and Moira had thought that wasn’t for her. Now, this was something she would have to think and dream about. She would discuss it with her friends when she got back to school. Maybe Father’s idea had been a good one after all. They passed the stables and drove into Kings worthy, turning up Church lane. Father pointed to a lodge on the right and they turned with a bit of a screech up the little lane beside it and drew up in front of the house.
They stopped and looked through the windscreen, forgetting to get out. It was huge, built of a grey, yellowy brick, the imposing front door flanked by tall windows. Finally, they thought to jump out of the car, and just as they slammed the doors, a bright blue sports car rushed up the drive and skidded to a stop, spreading gravel. A tall, thin man peeled himself out, and Moira caught the glance he gave the van. It was a sneer of contempt. If it had been the old Bentley, now hidden in a garage on bricks, there would have been a nod of acknowledgment. His single-breasted blue suit had stiff creases and his tie looked so tight as if to strangle him. This was no war time economy suit. Where did he get the coupons? Typical chinless wonder. Moira caught the swift gesture of checking his slicked back hair, and forcing his face into professional indifference. Father, who was unaware of all this and probably wouldn’t have cared if he had, grasped the man’s hand.
‘Mr Clayton, on time, as arranged. Let’s get on and see around.’ Father almost led the agent to the door and waited impatiently as the man struggled for the keys. Hah, not so clever now, thought Moira, and who was he, not to be serving in the forces? Wonder how he had got out of being called up?
Clayton might just as well not have been there as Moira and Father charged around the house, leaving his slick patter behind. The reception rooms were all sunny and looked onto the lawn, bordered by tall beech trees. Beyond that lay formal gardens, now fairly empty at the end of the season. They opened one of the tall glass doors, walked onto the lawn, and looked back at the house.
‘What parties we will have here! And swing seats. Can you see Mother wheeling that tea trolley? We’ll need some awnings over those windows for the hot weather…’
Father swept Clayton back into the main hall, who now at least made an effort, pointing out the good condition of the house and décor, and how much of the furniture was included in the sale. There was a ballroom, dining room, billiards room, and another smaller hall.
Through the baize door lay a large kitchen with two agas and an immense oak table. Off it lay the servants’ hall, scullery, and various rooms, one of which seemed to be a gun room. Up the stairs behind them were a couple of plain servants’ bedrooms. Moira, who was almost struck dumb at this, saw her dogs happily sleeping by the agas on cold winter days.
Returning to the main hall, they were swept up the main stairs by Clayton, who was trying to take control and shown seventeen bedrooms and five bathrooms. Well, that was what Father said later. Doors banged open and shut before they had a chance to look properly. Yet, Moira spotted one room looking over a red brick stable yard and demanded it for herself. Father agreed without argument. Out of the back door, they tore around a row of six looseboxes, garages, a kitchen garden, a rose garden, a tennis court, and an orchard right at the side of the house, two paddocks and another small house. Clayton’s chatter diminished as the two effectively talked their way round. He might as well not have been there. But at last, there was no more to be seen, and they returned to the cars.
‘Thank you so much, Mr Clayton. We’ve seen all that we need to for the moment. I will pop by your office and have a talk with your father in the next few days.’ With another handshake, Father dismissed Clayton, who drove off with little to say.
‘Obnoxious little tick. His father wangled him out of the forces. Asthma, what an excuse. I think the house will do us very nicely. All my friends can pop in for a drink. What fun we can have! That garden will support us, so we’ll need a gardener… You could have a riding stables for all your chums.’
Moira put this stable comment to the back of her mind for later. ‘But what about Mother? She would never be so far away from Winchester, the church and all her cronies with the Rotary Club and Inner Wheel and things like that.’
‘Leave her to me. But just you think about it, we might have a butler, maids, cooks. Can’t you see her lording it over her friends when they come to tea?’ They both burst out laughing and drove home, making all sorts of plans, both sensible and ridiculous with the war time restrictions.
There was a fairly frosty reception when they got back late for lunch, but when the phone rang and it was Peter, Mother cheered up. She almost bounced into the room with the news that he was on his way home for a short leave. Since he had passed his course as a Lancaster Air Bomber, he had been posted to 106 Squadron in Lincolnshire, where he had been on training flights. Now all the crew were having long overdue leave. Father took the chance to talk to her about Morton House and as expected, when he appealed to her snobbishness, she almost agreed, subject to her own personal viewing and that they got servants.
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