A saga of love, hate and self-sacrifice spanning both World Wars and the years between. A tale of tender love; rape; heroism and murder during a time witness to the most radical change in European class distinction in history.
The events of the first part of this book take place in the first instance in the county of Cornwall during the First World War.
The three principle characters being Donna Curtis, a serving maid at the country Manor named Firhill standing in excess of two thousand acres of the finest farming land and woods of the district of Newquay; An apprentice blacksmith, Edward (Ned) Webb and the son of a gentleman farmer; Jonas Briggs.
The reader should bear in mind the social gap prevailing between the haves and have-nots of that era.
All places and most of the buildings mentioned exist to this day although some names may have changed. The Commercial Inn at St Columb Major has been renamed The Silver Ball. The Smithy at Mountjoy has long since been demolished to make way for a modern bungalow.
Consider yourself fortunate if you should meet a true 'Cousin Jack' one evening in a local hostelry of St Columb or Quintrell Downs. Stand him a couple of pints from the barrel and you will be regally entertained with his recollections of days of yore. You will also be assured of the basic truth behind the following stories.
Part two of this book is mostly concerned with events during and shortly after the Second World War. Names have been changed to protect any persons still living from possible prosecution, either in this country or Germany.
If the reader should recognise themself as one of the characters portrayed, fear not my friend, your secret will be buried one day with the author in St.Colan parish churchyard
Her hair, cascading over her shoulders, was the colour and texture of fine corn silk. Eyes of a grey-green hue and a slender figure that had matured, or rather ripened to fullness, belying her seventeen years. Her gingham dress, stretched taut by her firm young breasts, accentuated the smooth curves of her hips. Full, rosebud lips and a healthy yet delicate complexion brushed clear by the country air. Donna was indeed a true Cornish maid. She was the illegitimate and much loved daughter of Mary Curtis, senior barmaid at the Commercial Inn, a popular tavern opposite the cattle market in the town of St Columb Major in the county of Cornwall.
Donna's father, Gunther Donitz, a tall blond German seaman, had visited Cornwall in search of employment but had been forced to return to his homeland by local aversion to 'furriners' from the other side of the river Tamar, that stretch of water separating Cornwall from the rest of humanity.
It is quite possible that he had no knowledge of his daughter's existence, which is perhaps just as well considering the turmoil that shook Europe in 1914, when Donna was barely fifteen years into her life.
A more pleasant disposition in a young woman you would be most fortunate to encounter. It is small wonder then that many an appraising male eye had been cast in her direction. All to no avail, for last Sunday the banns had their second reading at St Colan parish church for the forthcoming nuptials of Donna and her friend since childhood, one Edward James Webb.
Edward Webb, known to all and sundry as Ned, had been Donna's champion since primary school at St Columb. Nobody pulled Donna's hair unless they wanted to risk a confrontation with Ned, who although of a mild temper, would stand fast against any man threatening the one and only love of his life.
Five feet eleven inches in his size nine boots; not an ounce of superfluous body fat and biceps of fifteen inches when flexed, Ned was a superb specimen of young manhood.
Since late schooldays Ned had spent many an evening and weekend striking for Jack Willcocks, the blacksmith of the Mountjoy smithy, and for the past four years had been apprenticed to that good man.
On this particular late afternoon steam spat and hissed like a scolded cat as Ned dowsed the dying embers of the fire. He laid the iron pail on the cobbled floor and drew back his muscular forearm across his sweating brow. Already he was thinking of her -his darling Donna- and he had yet to scrape the dross off the anvil, sweep away the straw and dust, put away his hammers and long handled tongs that were the tools of his trade. A place for everything and everything in its place. His training had been long and thorough. Even his leather apron had it's own particular nail as a hanger, hammered into one of the upright posts supporting the roof
The old forge occupied a site on the junction of the road leading from Mountjoy (Mungee to the locals) to the hamlet of Bosoughan and was just across the road from the chapel .It was the chapel's ornate wrought iron gate he'd just that minute completed. It was also the reason he was late in leaving on this balmy summer's eve, so much so, he would have no time to cycle home, wash and prepare himself for the night to come. This was the only evening of the week he could spend with his one true love, for this was Saturday and in the morning, unlike any other, he would not have to rise with the crows.
In his mind he pictured Donna and smiled a secretive smile. He imagined her lips, full and moist against his own and the touch of her hair upon his face, the smell of her skin, the little sound that came from her throat whenever he wrapped her in his arms.
He closed the big double oak doors, wrested his heavy cycle from the dry- stone wall, slung a long sinewy leg over the saddle and pedalled off down the road, whistling contentedly.
The woods surrounding Firhill Manor, where Donna worked as a maid, came alive to the sounds of the night. Suddenly the screech of an owl and the piercing squeal of a rabbit, caught in the jaws of a weasel were all quietened by the footfalls of Ned's boots as he dismounted on approaching the giant oak under which, waiting patiently for her lover was our heroine, Donna.
After greeting Donna with: "Hello Darlin' " Ned crushed her in his arms with such fervour as to leave her gasping for breath.
"Easy Ned" panted Donna "you don't know your own strength. You don't want me to go to our wedding covered in bruises"
Ned was most contrite "Sorry m'darlin'. I can't help it if I love you to pieces."
They settled at the base of the tree with Donna snuggled up close.
"Donna Webb" she mused aloud "I won't be Donna Curtis any more"
Ned turned and kissed the top of her head. "Come 'ere Miss Curtis and let me get an 'old of ee. He gently caressed Donna's body.
Donna quivered "No Ned you mussen do that. Not 'til we're married proper"
But Ned's passions were aroused beyond control. He had been thinking of her all day, imagining the future nights together on the goose feather mattress. The warmth of her naked body pressed tight against his and what it would be like as they consummated their love on that first night.
He had often seen farm animals being 'served'. Seen the bull's eyes stare and roll. Seen the heifer push back as if to drain the last drop of life from her sire. He wondered if humans acted the same. He didn't care, for who was there to watch but his own darling wife. Oh my God. This is torment. Why must I wait until someone says, "You are now man and wife" Who's to know if we do it now. He silenced her with a passionate kiss and very gently, yet firmly, slid her dress off her shoulders, exposing her breasts.
"You've got lovely titters darlin' " said Ned, closing his mouth around each nipple in turn.
Reaching behind her, he slid his hand slowly down her spine, massaging each vertebra, causing her to involuntary arch her back towards him.
He stroked the firm roundness of her bottom, gave it a playful squeeze and said "Did you forget your drawers on purpose darlin' " somewhat surprised at her nudity.
Donna smiled. "Shows how much you know about us girls doan' it Ned Webb. We often leave 'em off in this hot weather 'cept when we have our monthlies or on Sundays when we go to chapel or when...." She stopped in mid sentence as Ned's hand moved through her soft maidenhair and into the now moist entrance of her virginity.
No Ned. Stop it please. You'll give me cheel"
"Don't be 'fraid darlin' it can't happen first time. I heard my aunt Nellie tell cousin Clara so. And anyway it's only a few more days 'til we're wed and who's going to be counting back in nine months time"
Well yes, what were a few days. Donna was panting with rising desire and digging her nails into his shoulders as he finally thrust his way through the delicate membrane of her maidenhood.
For some time they lay together. Still. Silent, except for the laboured breathing of their recent exertions. Unwilling to break the passionate embrace of their union.
Little did the lovers realise, the heartaches they would have to endure in the months ahead.
REVIEW: It sounds an interesting subject. A Cornish background with which the author is no doubt quite familiar with by the sound of it. A bit raunchy in places but that would add a bit of spice to it in the fashion that most novels
seem to follow today. It sounds sufficiently out of the ordinary to be
attractive to an otherwise indifferent reader who would normally be satisfied with
the ordinary Run of the Mill type of narrative. I will reserve any further comment until reading more which I hope will appear shortly.