A Loving Proposal

I’m going to take my cue from one of Agatha Christie’s novels as my response to today’s Word Press daily prompt. She had such an interesting way with words. And I love her characters’ names!

Swindolthwarp’s Surprise

Amos stood in the hallway watching the young woman hurry down the staircase. Always bustling around, this young lady. Always seemed to know where she was going and why. He liked that. And she was a pretty young thing. His old ticker skipped a beat.

As she passed him in the hall he caught her arm with the hook of his cane. “You. Miss Whats-your name-again?”

“Arthur. Miss Vivian Arthur.”

“Arthur. Yes. Good English name.” Amos drew her closer and wrapped his fingers around her arm. Nice bit of flesh she had, too. Not like some of the scrawny old birds throwing themselves at him lately. “I’d like to have a word with you.”

“Certainly, Sir. Are you wanting your tea already? I should start with dinner preparations soon.”

She took a step backward and he gripped her arm even tighter. “Never mind the tea, girl. I have something important to discuss. Something very personal. Come with me.” He tenderly pulled her into his study. “I’ve been watching you ever since you showed up — has it been a month already? I’ve see what an industrious sort you are. And not a waster, either.”

“Thank you, Mr Swindolthwarp.”

He leered at her lovingly. “To you I may seem like a poor old man, but I assure you, there’s more to me than meets the eye. I’m a lot more robust than my sons think. I’m not about to drop dead and leave them every penny like they wish.”

“No, I’m sure not, Mr Swindolthwarp. You seem quite robust yet.” She looked down at the hand that was clutching her arm.

“I try not to let on, but I do have quite a bit saved up, actually. I could look after you very well. You wouldn’t have to be a char anymore and work so hard every day. Mind you, I wouldn’t hire another cook, since you’re so capable. Having you doing the meals has suited my digestion to a turn. Once we’re married…”

“Married!” Vivian’s eyes opened wide and she turned pale, but quickly regained her composure. “Well. I never expected…”

“Surprised you, did I?” Amos chuckled with delight. “I’ve grown quite fond of you, you know. My wife, may she rest in peace, was okay, but an insipid sort. Not a lively thing like you. I think you could add some real zest to my life.”

“Whatever would your sons say, Mr Swindolthwarp? I fear they would resent me if I…er…if they thought…”

“Who cares what they say? They can go climb the Himalayas for all I care.” He pounded his cane on the floor twice to emphasize his point. “Right now they’re waiting for me to die so they can get their hands on my money and waste it all. But I can see you’re sensible. You won’t be tossing my life savings to the four winds.”

There came a sudden sparkle in her eye. “So this means no honeymoon on the Riviera?”

“Riviera!” The word made Amos gasp and sputter.

Vivian, alarmed, patted his back. “Oh, dear! Are you all right, Sir?”

One last cough and Amos replied, “I’m fine. I’m fine. Don’t fuss. I hate it when people fuss. But, my word! The Riviera. Do you have any idea how much that would cost?”

“You’re quite right,” she replied, her eyes taking in the threadbare carpet, faded wallpaper and the draperies that must have hung on these study windows for thirty years at least. “The money would be far better put into home improvements.”

“I knew you were a practical girl! Think about what I’ve said. You and I could make a delightful match. And I’m not too old, you know…” He ogled her amorously. “There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still a fire in the hearth. We could have a nice little family.”

He saw the hint of a smile flicker on her lips and took it she was delighted at the prospect.

She pulled away from him. “This is all very sudden. I shall have to give this more thought, Mr Swindolthwarp.”

He reluctantly released his loving grip on her arm. “You do that, girl. Remember, if you’re willing to take care of me, I’m willing to take care of you.”

“Thank you, Sir. This is so kind of you. I must start the dinner.” And she dashed off to the kitchen.

Amos chuckled again. He’d bowled the girl right over. But she’d come round, he was sure. Maybe by his 73nd birthday he’d be a married man again. And his sons could go jump off the cliffs of Dover if they didn’t like it.

A Vintage Year — Book Review

Last week I received a free copy of A Vintage Year by Kate Preston, with the promise that I’d review it and give my honest opinion of this book. So here it is:

Through the main character, former tennis star Harris Tucker, the reader gets a look at the immoral, self-centered world of a celebrity athlete. He’s portrayed as a careless playboy pursuing the pleasures of the flesh— seemingly well indulged in this by many attractive women. But as the story opens he botches an important game and his politically-aspiring mother, disgraced by his fiasco on the tennis court, disowns him. Then his accountant and best friend shuts off his allowance until he learns to curb his wild spending.

In Laura Bollier the reader sees the struggles of a young divorcee tackling both the hard work and planning necessary to keep the family’s grape-growing business solvent and the parenting responsibilities of a single mother. On a dare she offers Harris a week of work, an action that gets her some flak from her family. He may be clueless, but he’s desperate enough to stick it out.

If you are familiar with vineyards, and especially wine production in CA, you will find those details more interesting than I did. I felt the book slowed down in the middle as the writer took time to describe regional vine culture and wine festivals.

I found the story is well told, the plot believable, the characters well fleshed out. Most of the story moved along well. However, the relationship between Harris and Laura is a long, drawn out affair more off than on. And I did feel Harris’s mother’s “Wicked Witch of the West” role was sometimes overplayed. It’s a totally secular story; there are no religious references in it at all.

It seems the editor and writer got tired partway through the book. It could use one more editorial polishing, especially the last third. Language got a little coarser in the tense spots toward the end, too. There are typos, missing words, wrong verb tenses and such that an editor should have caught.

In places the personal pronouns are confusing; in a few spots the POV switches abruptly from one character to another, sometimes in the middle of a paragraph, and the reader is left to guess where exactly the break comes. There were places where the writer “showed” us but then told us anyway — and places where we were just told. Over all it was an interesting story.

Hamlet & the High School Dance

“To be or not to be? That is the question.” The words echoed through the trees and drowned themselves in the bubble of the creek.

“Whether it be nobler in the mind….” The young orator set down his book and looked around, soaking in the beauty of the small clearing. He sighed, then picked up his book again. “Whether it be nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune…”

It was no use; he just couldn’t concentrate. Art pulled his jackknife out of his overalls pocket and opened it. Flipping the knife in the air, he deftly caught it and carved a heart in a sapling growing near the log he was sitting on.

Who cared about Hamlet, Prince of Denmark? Would she or wouldn’t she, that was the real question – the only pertinent question in his life at this moment. If he couldn’t memorize Hamlet’s soliloquy and got a poor mark in Literature because of it, that would be just too bad. But if Jean wouldn’t let him take her to the dance, he’d be wretched.

And if she was escorted by Harold Adams, THAT would be a tragedy.

He scowled at the injustice of life. Why did he have to be born into a hard-scrabble family while Harold was wrapped in silver blankets from his first squalling appearance? And now Harold’s dad had bought him a brand-new buggy so he was really riding high.

Art’s frown deepened as he pictured Harold escorting his Jeannie to the buggy, lifting her up into it. He envisioned them driving through town; Harold would make a big show of it, too. Would Jean like that? Would an offering of wealth turn her pretty little head?

“Does she care for me or doesn’t she, that is the question?” he demanded of a floating frog. It dived into the creek. Only a small turtle, sunning himself on a rock, heard the young lover’s frustrated sigh.