Authors: Elizabeth Cooke
The Wild Dark Flowers
“A charming, intriguing novel. Some scenes are reminiscent of two popular TV series,
, which have similar subject matter. Her research is excellent. The various battle scenes in France are completely riveting, and her portrayal of the sinking of the
is heartrending. This book is a perfect summer read.”
âHistorical Novel Society
“Simply deliciousÂ .Â .Â . Like
Â .Â .Â . as addictive as a soap opera.”
“Elizabeth Cooke has written a noble, admirable follow-up novel to
Â .Â .Â . Fine, fine historical fiction!”
âThe Best Reviews
“Fans of the era will seize the opportunity to immerse themselves in Cooke's world. Unlike many historical dramas set during the Great War, the second installment in Cooke's trilogy is set on the home front and the battlefieldÂ .Â .Â . Readers see what war does on and off the front lines, yet Cooke never loses focus on her characters' emotions.”
âRT Book Reviews
“A breathtakingly beautiful book. Cooke portrays an aristocratic dynasty that, in 1914, was poised on the brink of extinction, as ponderous as the huge dinosaurs but just as magnificent. The exquisite intimacy of the writing and of the haunting love story drew me into this elegant world so entirely that I couldn't imagine ever leaving it. The vivid characters and understated heartbreak of their conflicts, above and belowstairs, are depicted with sensitivity and insight. Superbly researched; a real treat.”
âKate Furnivall, author of
The Russian Concubine
“I found myself addicted to
, much as I was to
. I reveled in delicious detail about life in a great country estate, all the while waiting to learn, would Octavia's family survive or would they be torn apart by the forces converging on them: personal failings, society's excesses, and Europe's Great War?”
âMargaret Wurtele, author of
The Golden Hour
“Beautiful, melancholy, and richly detailed,
elegantly depicts the lives within an English country house on the cusp of a new age. Elizabeth Cooke evokes classic authors like Vita Sackville-West and Frances Hodgson Burnett.”
âNatasha Solomons, author of
The House at Tyneford
“Reminiscent of Catherine Cookson, a heart-aching story of an old world order and class divides set against Edwardian England.”
âJudith Kinghorn, author of
The Last Summer
“With its vivid descriptions and memorable characters,
drew me in from the first page. Richly textured with historical details, the novel captures perfectly the preâWorld War I mood and atmosphere of the grand Yorkshire house and the lives of those who inhabit it. The final page left me thoroughly satisfied, yet wishing for more. Thank you, Elizabeth Cooke, for a wonderful story and the promise of another.”
âKelly Jones, author of
The Woman Who Heard Color
on the eve of WWI are inevitable, but
gives a more comprehensive and realistic look at the farms and mill villages that sustained the great houses, and shows us the inevitable cracks in their foundations. Compelling.”
âMargaret Maron, author of the Judge Deborah Knott series
Titles by Elizabeth Cooke
THE WILD DARK FLOWERS
THE GATES OF RUTHERFORD
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
This book is an original publication of Penguin Random House LLC.
Copyright Â© 2015 by Elizabeth Cooke.
“Readers Guide” copyright 2015 by Pengin Random House LLC.
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For more information about the Penguin Group, visit penguin.com.
eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-17947-9
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Cooke, Elizabeth, date,
The gates of Rutherford / Elizabeth Cooke.âBerkley trade paperback edition.
Berkley trade paperback edition / September 2015
Cover photos: woman Â© Edward Steichen / Vogue / Conde Nast 1925; castle Â© Gentl &Hyers / Conde Nast Traveler 2007
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
he rain fell softly on the day that she was to be married.
All night long Charlotte had been dreaming of her old home at Rutherford Parkâshe thought that the sound of the downpour outside was the water rushing through the red stones of the riverbed by the bridge. It was only when she awoke that she realized she was in London, in the Chelsea house owned by the American, John Gould.
It was half past five in the morning when Charlotte let herself out of the house and into the street. Cheyne Walk was barely stirring, and the road held only a clattering echo of her own running feet. She was at the Embankment wall in just a few moments, leaning on the edge, staring at the lively grey ribbon of the Thames.
I shall be married
, she thought,
in a few hours.
She turned her face up to the rain.
It was April 1917; she was nineteen years old. And everywhere there was change. On the fields of Flanders, history was being written in the harrowing of humanity; in the pretty eighteenth century house behind her, her own mother lived in what some called sin, but what Charlotte could see was a kind of correctness, a way of holding
on to life. In Yorkshire, her once happy father habitually mourned in bitterness. The world rolled and altered.
She held on to the Embankment wall, feeling its granite strength. Someone had told her that the stones of the wall here had come from Cornwall, from Lamorna Cove. It was supposed to be wildly lovely there, but she had never seen it. She had, despite her nursing service at St. Dunstan's, never seen France. Her brother, Harry, was back there now, advising the Flying Corps. She had never seen America, as Mr. Gould had done; she had never been to Italy. She had wanted to take the Grand Tour as her male ancestors had once done. But she doubted that she would now. She was to be a married woman.
She turned away from the river, trying to hold down the nonsensical impulse to throw herself into the water. She had nothing at all to be worried about, she told herself. This was just a morbid anxiety, a last-minute rush of pre-wedding nerves. She must grow up, and stop wanting some romantic notion of independence. After all, what did she have to be worried about? Michael Preston was a wonderful man, a brave man. His blindness was no barrier; they were, as he always joked, a good team. Her parents were pleased that she was about to marry into one of Kent's oldest and most respectedânot to say very wealthyâfamilies; that she would be secure and cared for. That she would live a stone's throw from her family's London house in Grosvenor Square, in a lovely little mews cottage that Michael's parents had bestowed upon them. Her father had even hinted obliquely at the grandchildren that she and Michael would provide, and she so longed to see him happy again. She was desperate not to bring further disappointment into his life.
Yet the old sense of suffocation threatened to overwhelm her.
She looked back through the trees at the houses on Cheyne Walk. John Gould now owned one of the prettiest, his gift to her mother, Octavia. They lived like two honeymooners here, and for the last six
months Charlotte had come here often, absorbing both their scandal and their happiness in equal measure. She was to be married from here, and not the Grosvenor Square house where her father was now staying in solitary and temporary splendor among the dusty relics of his marriage. Now and then, in talking to him, it had become obvious that he expected his wife to eventually return to him. People called him an old fool for it, she knew. It was her older sister, Louisa, who tended to look after Father; Charlotte was drawn to her mother. But sometimes the longing for the old untouched days at Rutherford would return in her; the innocence of it all, the feeling that England would never change. The ancient conviction that the Cavendish estate of Rutherford and that charmed and luxurious way of life was eternal.
Charlotte smiled to herself. Well, they had all had that permeability knocked out of them now.
She wondered, as she looked at Cheyne Walk, at the other dramas that had played out in this London street over the centuries. In Number 16, Dante Gabriel Rossetti had lived out his final years with Fanny Cornforth; Number 4 was George Eliot's last home. Just along the way was the Chelsea Hospital and the Physic Garden. And it had been here, last October, that Charlotte had sat with her mother and told her that Michael had proposed to her. In the seventeenth-century green oasis by the Thames, Charlotte had expected Octavia to tell her that she was far too young. In retrospect, she had hoped that this was indeed what her mother was going to say. She would have returned to Michael and told him that, without her mother's approval, she could not possibly marry him, flattered as she was to have been asked. But, to her astonishment, Octavia had not objected at all. In her own half-dazed and happy state, she had simply clasped Charlotte's hands and smiled at her, and given her blessing. But it was not her mother's blessing that Charlotte had wanted. She had wanted her mother's disapproval, and an excuse not to marry at all.
It was very strange, she considered, that in all these months, it had only been John Gould, her mother's lover, who had carefully and subtly questioned her decision. “Shall you be very happy as a little wife?” he had said to her in a joking fashion last Christmas. She had looked at him gravely, the champagne glass in her hand as the dinner guests settled around the dining table on the day before Christmas Eve. “Don't you think that I could be?” she'd replied. John, in his handsome and easy way, had considered her. “You always struck me as a wild bird waiting to fly,” he had commented. “Well, one can fly when one is married,” she'd told him. And then had blushed scarlet. “I mean, as a couple. We could fly anywhere, anywhere at all.”
If he had noticed her embarrassment, he hadn't dwelled upon it. “Come to America when this lousy war is over,” he had said. “And see the house I've built for your mother on Cape Cod. I'm sure you'll like it. America, too.”
Her heart had welled up inside her. Oh, she was sure that she would love the beach, the house, the country. The very words spelled out freedom and space. And of course she could go there with Michaelâof course they would love to, she told John. She had then deliberately turned away from him and his piercing appraising gaze. She had spoken gaily to the woman on the other side of her; but about what, she had no idea at all.
Since then, she seemed to have been swept forward by events. Michael's parents were charming; their grand home in its beautiful gardens outside Sevenoaks was charming; Michael himself was, of course, charming. But how “charming” grated on her to the roots of her soul! How maddening she found it. How ridiculously she had painted herself into this lover's corner. Into maturity and security and all those other things that her father so approved of. She thought she should die of it.
“Stop it,” she said out loud, to no one at all but herself. “What a silly, selfish fool you are.”
She walked back to the house and let herself in the gate. In six hours, at midday, her father would come here in the Rolls-Royce he had lately acquired. They would be chauffeured to the parish Church of St. Margaret's at Westminster Abbey, within sight of the abbey itself and the famous clock tower of the Palace of Westminster that was familiarly called Big Ben.
There would be crowds at the church door because society weddings were food and drink to a war-weary London, and because it was seen to be a great romance, this union of the blinded war hero and the youngest child of a loyal servant of the Crown. Police on horseback would hold back the throng; there would be cheers as she emerged from the car dressed in what sheâoh so privately, oh so secretlyâthought was a completely idiotic costume of a white silk dress and a vast tulle veil. Her sister, Louisa, would be there at the church door, laughing prettily and scattering rose petals. And, after the ceremony, the thunder of the
march on the church organ would compete with the pealing of bells of St. Margaret's. And she and Michael would stand together at the porch, smiling, arm in arm.
And all the time, she would be wanting to run.
The door of the house opened as she approached it, and there was the housemaid, looking frightened that someone was already outside as she reached to polish the door frame and the brass handle of the bell. “Oh, miss,” she said, beaming when she saw that it was Charlotte. “The happiest day of your life. We are all that excited, miss, if you'll pardon me saying.”
Charlotte stepped over the threshold and shook off the coat that had become saturated with rain.
“Yes,” she murmured. “You're quite right, Milly. It's the happiest day of my life.”