“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” MARK TWAIN, editorial in the Hartford Courant, Aug. 24, 1897
Whether or not this quote is accurate, and there’s some doubt about its validity, the weather confounds us all.
Love it or hate it, the weather is always with us. My latest Regency comedy novella, AN INHERITANCE FOR THE BIRDS, is set in England. Rainy, chilly England. Cold, damp England.
Well, not necessarily.
England's climate is both colder and warmer than that of the United States. The Gulf Stream crosses the Atlantic to brush by the southern and western coasts of the island, creating milder weather than in New England, where I live. Palm trees grow in Cornwall, England’s southwestern most county. Snow is rare, especially in the south, as well as blazing hot temperatures. In 1818 London, according to the Royal Society’s Meteorological Journal, the temperature range for the year was 24 degrees F to 80 degrees F. Compare that to the Boston Massachusetts range of 6 F to 103 F from February 2011 to January 2012.
But where there is weather, there are extremes. The summer of 1818 in England was one of the hottest on record to that time, with June and July the warmest. According to the Royal Society’s observations, the average London temperature for June was 66.1F, with a high of 78 F and a low of 57 F. For July, the average was 68.9F (high 80 F, low 61 F). Compare those readings, again according to the Royal Society’s London records, to the more typical year of 1817: June range 81 F - 47 F, average 62.8 F, and July range 70 F - 54 F, average 60.8 F.
The summer of 1818 was not pleasant in London. The River Thames, which, for all practical purposes was an open sewer, reeked more than usual. The streets, full of horses and their manure, reeked as well. With no air-conditioning, deodorants or running water, the people, dressed in their year-round woolens, did, too. The ever-present pall of coal smoke from thousands of chimneys added to the miasma.
In AN INHERITANCE FOR THE BIRDS, my hero, Kit, abides in noxious London when he receives the letter from his late great aunt's solicitor informing him of a possible inheritance. In order to win her estate in Somersetshire, he must compete with her former companion. Their task: Make her pet ducks happy.
Idiotic the contest may be, but the prospect of a sizeable inheritance is enough to make him accept. Another lure is the trip to the country, where, although the temperatures may not be lower, at least the air will be cleaner.
Make the ducks happy and win an estate!
Mr. Christopher "Kit" Winnington can't believe the letter from his late great-aunt's solicitor. In order to inherit her estate, he must win a contest against her companion, Miss Angela Stratton. Whoever makes his great-aunt's pet ducks happy wins.
A contest: What a cork-brained idea. This Miss Stratton is probably a sly spinster who camouflaged her grasping nature from his good-natured relative. There is no way he will let the estate go to a usurper.
Angela never expected her former employer to name her in her will. Most likely, this Mr. Winnington is a trumped-up jackanapes who expects her to give up without a fight. Well, she is made of sterner stuff.
The ducks quack in avian bliss while Kit and Angela dance a duet of desire as they do their utmost to make the ducks--and themselves--happy.
Yawning, he shut the door behind him. Enough ducks and prickly ladies for one day. After dropping his satchel by the bed, he dragged off his clothes and draped them over the chair back. He dug a nightshirt from the valise and donned the garment before he blew out both candles.
Bates had already drawn back the bedclothes. The counterpane was soft under Kit's palm, and covered a featherbed. He grinned. By any chance, had they used the down from the pet ducks to stuff the mattress and pillows?
After tying the bed curtains back, he settled into the soft cocoon and laced his fingers behind his head. Tomorrow, he would have it out with Miss Stratton about the steward's residence, but that was tomorrow. He fluffed up his pillow and turned onto his side…
A bundle of flapping, squawking feathers exploded from the depths of the covers and attacked him. Throwing his arms over his head for protection, Kit fell out of bed. He scrambled to his feet and bolted for the door, the thrashing, quacking explosion battering him. A serrated knife edge scraped over his upper arm. "Ow!" Batting at the avian attacker with one hand, he groped for the latch with the other.
The door swung open. Miss Stratton, her candle flame flickering, dashed into the chamber. "Esmeralda, you stop that right now!"
The feathered windstorm quacked once more and, in a graceful arc, fluttered to the floor.
Kit lowered his arms and gave a mental groan. A duck. He should have known.
AN INHERITANCE FOR THE BIRDS, part of The Wild Rose Press’s Love Letters series, is available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other places ebooks are sold.
Thank you all,
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!
Thanks to Linda for her post. Her stories are fun to read, and I'm eager to read AN INHERITANCE FOR THE BIRDS.
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