I’m excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The Cottage on Winter Moss by Allie Cresswell today.
Burned-out author Dee needs fresh inspiration. Impetuously, she abandons London and her good-for-nothing boyfriend to go wherever her literary quest takes her. Journey’s end is a remote village on the shores of a wild estuary, overshadowed by a ruined pele tower. She rents Winter Cottage and waits for a story to emerge.
The bleak beauty of the whispering dunes, the jacquard of colour and texture of the marsh and a romantic tree in a secluded glade—The Trysting Tree—all seduce Dee. Nevertheless, the secretive behaviour of a handsome neighbour, lights across the marsh, a spurious squire and a bizarre, moonlit encounter all suggest there is something odd afoot.
Local gossip and crumbling graveyard inscriptions give Dee the opening she needs. She begins to weave hints about the tragic history of a local family, feuding brothers and a fatal fire into a sweeping historical saga. Her characters clamour for a voice as the tale spools effortlessly onto the page—demanding to be told. Dee feels more like its instrument than its instigator.
As she becomes enmeshed in the local community, Dee is startled to find her fiction unnervingly confirmed by fact, her history still resonating in the present-day.
Is she being guided by echoes of the past?
FROM THE AUTHOR: My new book is a dual timeline novel, a book within a book. This extract is from the inner book, ‘<i>The Trysting Tree, </i> a family saga stretching over a period of almost one hundred years. It features an unusual silver birch tree that grows on a remote and eerie marsh. The tree plays a significant role in the family annals and here, Todd Forrester waits beneath it to meet his childhood sweetheart, the squire’s wayward daughter, after seven years of separation.
The tree was in shadow, the sunset blocked out by the hill that rose up between the Moss and the coast. It’s silver branches had a strange luminescence of their own, though, and he had no difficulty navigating his way through the encircling screen of willow and elder to the still heart of the glade. The evening was windless – a rarity – and a deeper level of quietude shimmered amongst the saplings so Todd almost felt as though he was under a spell.
An early owl flew low over the marsh, calling to its mate, and in the east a silver moon rose in the pearly sky.
He felt her before he saw her – the slight flex of the bough beneath his thighs, the shiver of leaves above his head in spite of the calm of the night. He remained still for a few moments, as though he had felt nothing, as though he still waited. He could feel her impatience mounting, a pulsing vein through the fibre of the tree. He knew she was stifling laughter. If he honed his ears he could hear her breath, muffled by a hand clapped over her mouth. Leisurely, he removed a packet cigarettes from his pocket and took his time about lighting one, blowing the smoke up through the canopy of the tree, but keeping his eyes down. It would madden her, he knew, that her trick had backfired. Now she was the one who was kept waiting.
At last he said, ‘Are you going to come down?’
The tree above him shook, and her hoot of amused frustration erupted. ‘Oh!’ she cried out. ‘I thought you’d never cotton on.’
Then he looked up into the branches of the tree, squinting past their tracery, the glow of their bark in the moonlight making a miasma that dazzled his night vision. The tree trembled and she emerged from it, like a dryad, dropping lightly onto her feet on the bough beside him.
‘I knew you’d come,’ she said, lowering herself until she was sitting beside him.
He did not turn his head to look at her but inspected the tip of his cigarette with casual interest. ‘I knew <i>you</i> would,’ he returned levelly – much more levelly than he felt. His hands were sweating. A pulse throbbed in his throat, and he felt the old ache of his desire for her in the pit of his stomach. He was suddenly conscious of his flat vowels, the narrowness of his world. Her accent was like a shard glass in comparison and he could not even begin to imagine the life she led in London. He inhaled, and she smelled of roses and something astringent she could not name.
‘It’s been a long time,’ he said.
‘Seven years,’ she agreed. ‘A lot has happened.’
‘Not here,’ he said. ‘My mam died, that’s all.’
‘Oh,’ she said. Her hand traveled from where it had lain in her lap and took his. He winced, that she would feel its dampness; <i> her </i>hand was cool and dry. But he didn’t refuse her gesture. Still they did not look at each other. ‘I’m sorry.’
He didn’t reply because suddenly his throat was thick with grief and he knew that if he spoke his words would come out as a sob. He swallowed, choking down his sadness.
She said, ‘Have you got a spare cigarette?’
He had felt let go of her hand to fumble one out of the packet for her, and when he struck the match his hand shook. He could not help but turn to her then, to hold the flame to the end of her cigarette. They looked at each other through the flickering tongue of light, their faces inches from each other. Her eyes were dark wells made fathomless by an application of smoky make up and thickly blackened eyelashes. He realised her whole face was painted – powder, rouge and a gash of red lipstick. The match went out but he continued to look at her, seeing both the impossible image of the fashionable debutante that had burned itself into his retinas and also, in his mind’s eye, the softly delicious girl he had known before, his old playmate, the brave, impish, teasing vixen. He loved her. He had always loved her. The hectic exasperation he had felt about her as a child had been love, but he had been too young and stupid to recognise it.
Slowly, he raised a hand to her face and, with his thumb, smeared away the greasy coating from her mouth. Then he leaned towards her and kissed her.
The UK purchase link is: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cottage-Winter-Moss-timeline-literary-ebook/dp/B09YYHRR5J/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3K8W6V2X4X7XH&keywords=allie+cresswell&qid=1654091699&sprefix=allie+cresswell%2Caps%2C216&sr=8-2
The Australian link is https://www.amazon.com.au/Cottage-Winter-Moss-timeline-literary-ebook/dp/B09YYHRR5J/ref=sr_1_11?crid=2634UBQMFHFKR&keywords=allie+cresswell&qid=1654096581&sprefix=allie+cresswell%2Caps%2C245&sr=8-11
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil and by the time I was in Junior School I was writing copiously and sometimes almost legibly.
It was at this time that I had the difference between fiction and lies forcefully impressed upon me, after penning a long and entirely spurious account of my grandfather’s death and funeral…..
The teacher had permitted it as being good therapy for bereavement whereas in fact it was only a good excuse to get out of learning my multiplication tables (something I have never achieved).
Clearly I was forgiven. For for my next birthday I asked for a stack of writing paper and my parents obliged, it being more easily obtained and wrapped than a pony.
A BA in English and Drama at Birmingham University was followed by an MA in English at Queen Mary College but marriage and motherhood put my writing career on hold for some years until 1992 when I began work on Game Show.
In the meantime I worked as a production manager for an educational publishing company, an educational resources copywriter, a bookkeeper for a small printing firm, and was the landlady of a country pub in Yorkshire, a small guest house in Cheshire and the proprietor of a group of boutique holiday cottages in Cumbria.
I am currently teaching literature in the community alongside full time writing.
I have two grown-up children, Tom and Abby, and am married to Tim.
I live in Cheshire.