“Anybody could drive a stick shift. Right?

Apparently not.

“Clutch!” John shouted at me for the hundredth time. “For Jesus’ sake, clutch!”


“We seem to have stepped onto the set of a Cary Grant movie,” he suggested. “Beautiful woman and virile man caught together in a rainstorm . . .”

I couldn’t help smiling; the firelight danced in his eyes and he looked so absurd in his tasseled bedspread. “So you’re Cary Grant now?”

“And virile, don’t forget.” He moved a little closer to me, and my body, so recently cold and shivering, felt suddenly heated with the warmth of his gaze.

With the dawning of spring, the Cotswolds were lush and green and warm with promise; but spring also brought the annual invasion of tourists (just like the locusts in the Lord’s Book, according to our infuriated gardener).

Lit by a thousand candles, the hall appeared just as it would have in Queen Jane’s day: women in rustling silk and heavy jewelry, men in knee breeches and satin doublets. The chattering and laughter rose to a dull roar; glassware clinked; and a lutist strummed her instrument in the corner. For a moment, I felt transported.