Susan E Jones: After The Rain

Today I’m joining the blog tour for After The Rain. I’m sharing an extract from the book with thanks to Zoe O’Farrell for inviting me on the tour and to the author for my copy of the extract.


It is the late summer of 1910 and Bessie Hardwicke, thirty-nine years old and single, has just started work as a lady’s companion to widowed Fanny Grist in London. The change is momentous for Bessie and she constantly questions whether the move was a big mistake. Life in London is so different from what she’s been used to and she desperately misses her dear nephew Walter, whom she looks upon as a son.

There is no denying that she is badly in need of a change. Even after twenty years, she is still grieving the loss of her fiancé Arthur and beloved sister Ethel. But she is not alone in her grief. Those she comes into contact with in London are no less afflicted by the loss of loved ones than she is. And through her compassion and selflessness, Bessie bestows on others the priceless gift of irrepressible hope.


Mr Fielding takes my gloved hand and gives it a light squeeze. I am almost overcome with emotion, but I manage to smile and say goodbye. He walks away, but turns his head after a few steps and raises his hand in a gesture of farewell. My thoughts are racing. Is it acceptable for a man to pay such compliments to a woman he barely knows? Is this commonplace among Londoners? I have so little experience in these matters that I really can’t say. The only man who ever paid me such attention was my beloved Arthur. Later, there were a couple of widowers in the village who were said to be considering me as a possible wife, but they showed me no fondness whatsoever and I could never have subjected myself to a life with either one of them. In any case, Mr Fielding is of a different class completely. I can’t think about it anymore, or I’ll start imagining a future that could never come to pass. I’m already getting ahead of myself, believing that his kind words mean much more than they actually do.

For my own emotional sanity, I cannot afford to let this unexpected and rather thrilling encounter go to my head. But he took my hand! And looked into my eyes in such a sincere way, as if he really cared for me. I know it’s ridiculous, but I already find myself thinking about him when I lie in my bed at night. I relish these thoughts and am powerless to stop them, even though I feel that they border on the sinful and am plagued with guilt at the idea that anyone could ever take the place of Arthur in my affections.

I continue my walk and soon reach the park; once again it surprises me that the soothing gifts of nature can exist side by side with the busy and filthy London streets. The assortment of trees in the park astounds me – I cannot name them all but I recognise the common ones like oak, poplar, plane and ash. On the other side of the wide river is a striking silhouette of trees that haven’t yet lost their leaves, and I spot many birds and wildfowl, including some I’ve never seen before. Of course, glimpses of nature in the city cannot be compared to the wonder of the countryside by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a certain grandeur here that’s missing in the quiet copses, gentle streams and peaceful meadows that I used to take for granted. Back in the village I had all the time in the world to enjoy Mother Nature, but that’s not the case here. So I cannot allow myself to be unmoved when I chance upon her splendours, especially in a place that is far from her natural habitat.

There are benches facing the river so I sit for a few minutes to catch my breath and to enjoy my surroundings, rather than let the conversation with Mr Fielding eclipse all other thoughts. This is my tonic; I don’t need it bottled like Mrs Grist does. I’d like to suggest that she try a walk in the park as a possible remedy for her nerves, but I know full well that she’ll dismiss the idea as mere foolishness.

I resolve to write to Walter as soon as I get back to the house and tell him about my walk in the park. Writing to my dear nephew will take my mind off Mr Fielding and bring me back to the reality of my own social class. It still irks me that Mrs Grist looks down on Walter’s occupation. But I suppose her remarks mirror my own view that he could be something more than a stonemason. Not that I don’t respect the skills that are required for such a trade – I know how hard Walter has worked, and he learnt the craft in record time. He’s never sought a higher profession and is proud of what he does. But he was always such a clever boy and, as I’ve said before, deserved to learn more than what the village school had to offer.

My brother Edward, who never cared much for education himself – although he had more years of learning than the rest of us – insisted that Walter learn a trade from an early age. He had Walter’s best interests at heart and met no objections. I, of course, had no say in the matter. What could I have said? I didn’t have any alternative in mind. Besides, Walter’s done remarkably well; he’s now working independently and he loves his work. But I’m sure that, given the opportunity, he could have successfully pursued one of the respected professions, like medicine – if that were his calling – or perhaps the bar. Walter has always possessed a strong sense of justice and would have made a worthy solicitor.

Dear me, if Mother were to know my thoughts now, how she would scoff! She always said I was Miss High and Mighty and needed to learn to accept my humble status in life. I suppose she was right – at least insofar as my own ambitions were concerned – but when it comes to Walter, it’s a different matter. My aspirations for his success know no bounds.


After The Rain is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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