Authors: Margaret Dickinson
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Born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, Margaret Dickinson moved to the coast at the age of seven and so began her love for the sea and the Lincolnshire landscape.
Her ambition to be a writer began early and she had her first novel published at the age of twenty-five. This was followed by twenty-seven further titles including
Plough the Furrow
Sow the Seed
Reap the Harvest
, which make up her Lincolnshire Fleethaven trilogy.
Many of her novels are set in the heart of her home county, but in
the stories include not only Lincolnshire but also the framework knitting and lace industries of Nottingham.
Her 2012 and 2013 novels,
The Clippie Girls
, were both top twenty bestsellers and her 2014 novel,
, went to number nine on the
My writing career falls into two âeras'. I had my first novel published at the age of twenty-five, and between 1968 and 1984 I had a total of nine novels published by Robert Hale Ltd. These were a mixture of light, historical romance, an action-suspense and one thriller, originally published under a pseudonym. Because of family commitments I then had a seven-year gap, but began writing again in the early nineties. Then occurred that little piece of luck that we all need at some time in our lives: I found a wonderful agent, Darley Anderson, and on his advice began to write saga fiction; stories with a strong woman as the main character and with a vivid and realistic background as the setting. Darley found me a happy home with Pan Macmillan, for whom I have now written twenty-one novels since 1994. Older, and with a maturity those seven â fallow' years brought me, I recognize that I am now writing with greater depth and daring.
But I am by no means ashamed of those early works: they have been my early learning curve â and I am still learning! Originally, the first nine novels were published in hardback and subsequently in Large Print, but have never previously been issued in paperback or, of course, in ebook. So, I am thrilled that Macmillan, under their Bello imprint, has decided to reissue all nine titles.
Portrait of Jonathan
, my third novel, was published in 1970 during the same week in which my first daughter was born.
âMan's love is of man's life a thing apart, 'Tis woman's whole existence.'
âYou cannot possibly contemplate such a thing.' Giles Eldon thumped the table with his clenched fist to emphasise his viewpoint. The cut glass tinkled, the silver rattled and the candles flickered.
There was an uneasy silence around the table following his outburst, and, as he realised he had spoken out of turn, embarrassment spread across his young face. He saw that his mother had raised her fine eyebrowsâshe could not let her son's discourtesy in criticising their hosts pass without rebukeâbut he saw too that her eyes belied the purse of her lips.
Giles relaxed a littleâhis mother, at least, agreed with him though she could not voice her unanimity. Giles glanced at his father and at his eldest brother, Jonathan. His father's frown was easy to read for he was seated on the other side of the table though not directly opposite Giles. His brother's expression was somewhat more difficult to discern for the latter was seated next to him and his head was inclined towards their hostess. Lady Sarah Kelvin. But he could imagine that Jonathan's face wore a similar expression of censure as their father. Lord Melmoth, Giles thought irritably. He was always in trouble with one of them, he mused, though âaffectionate' trouble he called it. He knew it was only his impetuosity which led him into difficulties. As a family they were devoted to each other: he could see that now after having spent but a few hours in this house and having seen the contrast between their family life and that of their hosts, Viscount and Viscountess Kelvin.
Giles' restless eyes returned to the cause of his outburst. The daughter, Lavinia Kelvin, was seated opposite him, her eyes downcast on her plate, upon which the food was almost untouched. She could not be more than fifteen or sixteen, he supposed, perhaps not even that, though she showed signs of blossoming womanhood. Her dress, no more than a child's party dress with short, puffed sleeves, frills and a wide sash, was too small for her. The blue silk was faded and, he could imagine, mended here and there. Her black hair was drawn tightly back from her face into two plaits looped around her ears. Her face was pale and plain. Her only appealing feature was her large brown eyes, which, Giles had noticed when she had dared to look at himâonly once during the whole evening, held such a world of misery that the young man's ready pity was instantly aroused.
âAnd why not, pray?' The shrill voice of Lady Kelvin at the end of the table penetrated Giles' wandering thoughts. He turned his eyes from the girl to the mother. Lady Kelvin was a thin, shrewish-looking woman with eyes like a viper and a mouth to match.
âMy son forgets himself, Lady Kelvin,' Rupert, Earl of Melmoth remarked, his low, cultured tones easing the tension somewhat. Giles, a little surprised, noticed that his father's tones held no note of reprobation towards him, and had he not felt some sympathy with Giles' view, then undoubtedly his anger would have been apparent.
Did the Earl of Melmoth agree with his younger son then? And, Giles thought, what of his brother?
It was an ill-assorted gathering, Lord Melmoth mused, and one which came together for the first time, and probably, as the evening progressed unfavourably, for the last. Their host, Lord Kelvin, who lounged at the head of the table, was the only son of Wilford Kelvin, Earl of Rowan, a close friend and business partner of Lord Melmoth, who together formed the âKeldon Shipping Line'. The chief occupation of their fleet was tea-transporting from China. On receiving the invitation to dine with âyoung Kelvin's family', the Earl of Melmoth and his wife had been thrown into somewhat of a dilemma.
âBut my dear,' Evelina had spread her expressive hands, â what can they want of us?'
âHmph,' the Earl had grunted, â “want of us” is a good way of summing up this little invitation, my love. Undoubtedly, Gervase Kelvin is short of money, as always, but 'tis the first time he has presumed upon my friendship with his father and approached me.'
âAre you going to accept the invitation, Rupert?'
âI wish I knew how things stood between Rowan and his disreputable sonâthere would be my answer. If they are reconciled now, my refusal would hurt Rowan, and that I would not have for the world. And yet, if the gulf is as wide between them as ever and the quarrel still on, then my acceptance is almost insulting to my friend.' He had sighed. âA predicament, my love, to be sure.' He had tapped his pursed lips with his forefinger.
âI think,' he said slowly after a moment's pause, âit would be diverting to accept and see what the young man has in mind.'
The âyoung man', however, whom the Earl had not seen for some fifteen years, had changed beyond recognition. It was almost impossible for Lord Melmoth to believe that this man was his friend's son, so dissimilar were they.
Gervase, Viscount Kelvin, was obese in his figure, gluttonous in his manner and totally lacking the finesse which his birth demanded. He was a disgrace to the family name of Kelvin and, in particular to his long-suffering father. He had caused Lord Rowan a great deal of unhappiness, anger and final disillusionment, Melmoth knew. He remembered the frequent occasionsâyears beforeâwhen Rowan had confided in him on his fears regarding his son.
âHe is totally lacking in every characteristic which I admire in a man, Melmoth. I can never allow him to join the “Keldon Line”, that would only add to my worries,' Lord Rowan had said dispiritedly. âBut what
I to do?'
This particular conversation which Melmoth remembered now, had been caused by Gervase's unsuitable marriage to Sarah, a girl who, though of good parentage, was far too weak-willed to be of assistance to her dissolute husband.
âThis will kill his mother,' Lord Rowan had said in anguish and sure enough, within six months of Gervase's marriage, his mother, a sweet and charming creature, was dead.
That, Lord Melmoth thought, was the beginning of the final break between father and son. Instead of trying to mend his ways, Gervase had gambled more, drank heavily and had relied more and more upon his father to pay his debts and support his family. Within eight years of their marriage, five children had been born to Gervase and Sarah, Melmoth recalled, but only the first two had survived, the three younger children dying before they had scarcely drawn breath. As a young man Gervase Kelvin had possessed a moderate degree of good looks and charm, and with the advantage of his birthright, he should have embarked upon a distinguished career. But his character was sadly lacking in the qualities so necessary to achieve distinction. How two persons of the calibre of Lord Rowan and his beautiful wife could have produced such a son was a mystery to all who knew the family intimatelyâand it was a life-long source of mortification to Lord Rowan. Gervase Kelvin had slipped from careless youth into rapacious manhood. His choice of marriage partner was a disaster, but there was little Rowan could do to prevent the union. Sarah had never been even pretty: her thin face with its sharp features, beak-like nose, darting eyes and narrow lips, and five children within eight years had left her thinner and more haggard than ever, her tongue sharper, her voice whining and petulant.
Lord Melmoth's eyes turned towards the children of the marriage. The eldest, Lavinia, was a pathetic creature and shown no affection by her parentsâall their love (if they were capable of such a worthy emotion) was showered upon their son, Roderick. He was a pale, pimply youth with a weak chin and deceitful eyes. During the hour or so he had been under their roof, Melmoth had summed up the situation. The girl was ill-used by the other threeâso much so that on entering he had thought her the maid for she had opened the door to them and had helped to serve dinner, and it was not until she had taken her place at the table that he, and he was sure the rest of his own family too, had realised with a shock that she was the daughter of the house.