Anya Paris:

In fifties Northumberland - a time and place where tradition and progress are about to collide head-on - a young restorer of art is engaged to rescue some neglected paintings. Arriving on a tide of anticipation, the enchanting young painter brings a breath of very fresh air into the dusty midst of the Chevening family, quickening pulses, challenging the old order and, as she uncovers an infamous art fraud, muddying still waters. Anya Paris is an intriguing tale of mystery, love and the bringing to light of long-forgotten secrets.

ANYA PARIS - Excerpt

Matthew paused and looked about him. Today the air was clear as far as the eye could see, and from this height the horizon was a great distance away. To the west heather-strewn expanses of moorland peppered with hardy sheep rose steeply to the foothills of the Pennines. To the east were rolling pastures and tracts of woodland, where in the distance a grey cluster of cottages wreathed in wood smoke marked the village of Fallowfell. Beyond that the river was a silver shard. Matthew’s focus changed and he traced the road along its convolute route to the house where he had been born and his father and grandfather before him.

Foxsteads. He saw a fine old house, sprawling haphazardly beneath a lichen-covered roof, dominated by the crenulated bulk of a pele tower. It was a place deeply rooted in the soil of Northumberland, a one-time battleground of border reivers and Jacobite warriors, making it hard to accept that a threat of terminal decay hung over its future. Aware of its place in family history and the importance of passing it on intact, Matthew’s thoughts deepened as he began his descent from the crag, and he wondered just why he had agreed to the day’s trivial mission when faced with such facts.

Gradually the land levelled, the pace quickened and he let the gelding have his head. This too was expected. The horse needed no encouragement, covering the distance at full stretch, finally clearing the boundary hedge into Friar’s Meadow with consummate ease. It was good galloping country, prime pasture, bordered on one side by an urgent little stream and on the other by a rutted lane. But Matthew reined back as he reached the gateway and paused for a moment to allow a noisy tractor to trundle past. Bramble side-stepped and turned in an agitated circle. Although capable of galloping flat out all day over the roughest terrain, taking stone-walls in his stride, he was inclined to be unreliable and easily spooked in traffic. One tractor spewing out noise and fumes was all it took. Even from the safety of the gateway he was beginning to dance and side-step in protest. A pity, Matthew thought, for it was a bad fault in an otherwise faultless hunter.

The tractor rounded the curve of the lane. Mathew unlatched the gate and guided the animal through. As he struggled to quieten him and refasten the latch, there came another violent sound. This time it was the sudden roar of an engine, followed by the blast of a horn and the screeching of tyres. Then without warning a little red sports car shot into view, skidding on the muddy road, finally embedding itself on the opposite verge amidst a shower of mud and flying turf. The horse panicked, sliding and cavorting on the slippery ground. Then wildly he rose on his hind legs. Matthew could do nothing to save himself. He slid into the mud with a squelching thud.

To his anguish he saw a young woman hastily clambering from the little red car and crossing the lane. Moments later he was looking up into a small face that might have materialised from a Titian canvas. It was framed by an unruly halo of bright amber hair. ‘I could have killed you!’ she gasped.

Still hanging onto the reins, he scrambled to his feet, struggling to quieten the horse and recover his dignity. He was covered in mud, and incandescent with rage. ‘You could have killed us both,’ he said. ‘What on earth possessed you to drive like a maniac on a road like this?’

‘I’m afraid I’m just horribly lost. Then this tractor appeared from nowhere.’

‘Lost? Where are you supposed to be going then on a track like this?’

‘I’m looking for a pub and some clown I’m supposed to be meeting for lunch.’

‘I see,’ he said in a dry tone, suddenly aware of just how he must appear in this humiliating situation. ‘Then perhaps I can assist you – since very probably I’m the clown you’re looking for.’

For a moment she stared in disbelief, slowly summing up the situation. Then all at once her face lit up and a pair of disarmingly direct green eyes filled with mirth. ‘Well I’m blessed - what a stroke of luck. How do you do?’

‘How do I do?’ he exclaimed. ‘Bloody badly actually.’

‘Well I’m Anya,’ she replied unperturbed, holding out her hand, smiling engagingly. ‘Matthew Chevening I presume!'

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