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Lorri Proctor

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The Crimson Bed
by Lorri Proctor   

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Books by Lorri Proctor
· Middle Watch
· Dying Phoenix
· The Long Shadow (Kindle edition and paperback)
· Greece and Britain since 1945
                >> View all

Category: 

Historical Fiction

Publisher:  Troubador ISBN-10:  1848762887 Type: 
Pages: 

354

Copyright:  Mar 1st 2010 ISBN-13:  9781848762886
Fiction

The Crimson Bed tells of two striving artists, successes, failures, and the beautiful women who inspire them. But another layer lies beneath this charming picture, secrets from the past that can no longer be concealed

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Frederick Ashton Thorpe and his friend Henry Winstone, are artists immersed in the Pre-Raphaelite movement with its yearning for romantic escape from the materialism of Victorian society.  Seeing a half-finished portrait of the beautiful Eleanor Farnham at Henry's studio, Fred is fascinated and returns in order to meet her.  He and Ellie fall in love and are married.

But every heart hides a secret and both Fred and Ellie have put certain events behind them - events that, if exposed, could threaten their blissful new life.  Fred is haunted by shameful memories which lead him into the darkness of the London slums and a very different world to that of his peaceful home.  Ellie inherits the Crimson Bed, a family heirloom passed down the female line since Elizabethan times.  However, with the bed come ancestral secrets that will eventually affect Ellie as much as the unhappy memories from her own past.

Passions escalate as Fred becomes increasingly jealous of Ellie's closeness to her handsome godfather, Lord Percy Dillinger, and when shocking truths finally come to light, their lives will never be the same again....


Excerpt

Belgrave Square, London 1839

Ellie pretended to be fast asleep. Sally, the nursemaid, shivering in her nightshift, waited a few minutes. She stared at her charge with suspicion but the child’s eyes were shut, breath as light as thistledown stirring her small slender frame. Satisfied, Sally stretched her arms, and sighed.
Ellie could see perfectly well what was going on. She watched through lash-fringed slits as Sally struggled to put on her clothes in the chilly light of dawn, blowing on cold fingers to make them move around buttons and hooks. The young girl’s breath hung in the air like a ghostly vapour and Ellie knew that when the curtains were drawn back she would see that Jack Frost had drawn his icy fingers over the windowpanes, leaving swirls and leafy patterns on them. Next, Sally would go and collect the big white jug the kitchen maid had left outside the nursery room door, water already cool after being brought up four flights of stairs. This was going to be for Ellie’s wash. Dragged from a warm bed to be laved with tepid water: horrible, horrible! She shivered at the thought.
She had better ideas in mind. Rising while the water was lapping into the basin, the sound covering the soft rustle of the sheets, she slipped out of bed, through the half-open door and down the narrow stairs that led from the nursery. On the upstairs landing she paused as always to listen to the servants busy in the breakfast room below. The murmur of their voices was comforting and the aroma of cooking delicious. There was an odour of fishy kedgeree and the peculiar smell of a dish Sally had told her were ‘devil’s kidneys.’
‘What are “kid- nees”, Sally?’
‘They’re things wot you get from inside animals, Miss Ellie.’
‘So why does the Devil want them? What does he do with them and why does Papa eat them for breakfast?’
‘Not Devil - devilled, miss. They call ‘em that because they’re hot as hell.’
Ellie thought this dish sounded intriguing but knew that she could not partake of it, as it was unsuitable for a child. She would have salted porridge for breakfast in the nursery later on. She pouted, sulky at the idea of not being old enough to join Mama and Papa at their feast.
She did not linger long on the landing. Hearing an indignant Sally call her from above she ran for refuge to Mama’s room, the beautiful crimson room with the crimson bed. Her mother, whose name was Maria, was seated in this wonderful bed, a lacy white shawl thrown about her shoulders, the little nightcap atop her head tied beneath her chin. From beneath the cap dark hair spilled out over the pillows. On her lap was a small silver tray with a white doily and a long glass cup full of chocolate which she stirred with a silver spoon and then sipped slowly and pleasurably. There was always a single blossom laid on the tray, no matter what time of year.
Ellie ran up, clambered onto the huge four-poster, and snuggled under the sheets, leaning back on the soft feather pillows with a deep sigh of content, snuffing the distinctive scent of her mother.
‘Take care. You’ll spill my chocolate, you naughty wee thing! What are you doing, running down here again?’
‘Can I have some chocolate, Mama?’
Her mother, always indulgent, let her have a sip and it was the most delicious thing Ellie had ever tasted.
‘I want more!’
‘Oh, you always want more, little greedy-puss. There, another spoonful then – but that’s all now.’
Sally tapped on the door and put a head round, looking frightened at having lost her charge yet again. Mama laughed and said, ‘It’s all right, Sally, she can stay a few more moments before you take her back to the nursery.’
‘She’s that clever, mum, she always gets away when my back’s turned,’ the young girl said and dipping a respectful curtsey, disappeared to wait in the corridor for her troublesome young charge.
Ellie was in no mind to leave too soon. First of all there was the vision of her beautiful mother in her lacy shawl; the sight of that glorious, shining hair never seen during the day when it was dressed upon her head with pins and combs. Then there was the room itself, its walls painted a soft crimson with black and gold edgings around the doors and windows and picture rails as if encasing everything in a frame. At the square-paned window hung heavy red velvet curtains that blocked out most of the light even in the daytime. Dark religious pictures with carved gold frames gave an air of antique gloom. A grand mirror hung over the table where Mama sat to have her hair dressed by Mulhall and there she would select her jewellery. Ellie was sometimes allowed to sit and watch this wonderful operation taking place, allowed to see the contents of the jewel box. Mama would point out the special garnet necklace and earrings Papa had given her when they were in Venice on their wedding tour.
In the centre of this dark room was the crimson bed.
It was a tall, wide four-poster which some said went all the way back to the days of Queen Elizabeth and had been made for one of the ancestral grandmothers as a wedding gift. Ever since then it had been passed down in the Templeton family to the first bride as her marriage bed. Made from solid oak, it had darkened with age so as to be almost black. It was carved all over with scrolls, animals and acanthus leaves. As Ellie sat in the bed and stared at the carvings it seemed to be alive and rustling with leaves, birds and creatures as if she wandered in some dark, dense forest.
At the headboard was a carving depicting a wedding. The bride in her voluminous clothes and little hat with a feather looked most demure: eyes downcast, face turned slightly away. The gallant groom, who bowed and held her hand in his, had elaborate frills round his neck, wore puffed out trousers and hose that showed a sturdy leg; he was a dashing fellow. She liked the groom but thought the bride looked prim and foolish. Round the other three sides of the bed were hangings of rich red velvet and the counterpane was made of crimson-dyed wool on which were embroidered small cream flowers and dark green leaves.
Her mother often told her, ‘Our great-great ancestor, Eleanor Mary, made and embroidered this.’
Ellie knew she had been named after this long-ago grandmother whose portrait was not only on the bed-head for all time but also looked down on her from the hallway as she went downstairs; a dark stern-looking lady with black, puritanical clothes and a stiff white ruff about her neck. That old lady, with eyes that followed one about accusingly, was frightening and yet she had made this wonderful rich bedspread and slept in the crimson bed when she was a young bride.
Ellie never wondered why Papa was seldom to be seen in this room. He had his own room and his own big bed. This was a room sacred to the Feminine. Men had no place in it at all. She had sensed too a part of her mother that was private, alone and, for some reason, immensely sad.




Professional Reviews

The Crimson Bed
Set against the backdrop of the revolution in art that was started by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the 1850s, 'The Crimson Bed' is a tale of
secrets and jealousies, omissions and lies. At her father's request, young
Eleanor Farnham sits for a minor Pre-Raphaelite artist and, via this
sitting, finds herself drawn into the world of art and of artistic romance.
Eventually finding what she hopes in true love with struggling artist
Frederick Ashton Thorpe, Eleanor is nevertheless still in love with her
childhood sweetheart who, she believes, has abandoned her.

Of course in books, as in life,nothing is as simple as it seems and both Eleanor and Frederick are at the mercy of the many secrets that exist in
their families. Lies have been told to them and they in turn have told lies.
But then for every rule breaking, free living Millais or Rossetti there were
thousand upon thousands of tortured Victorians trying, and mostly failing,
to live within the strict moral dictates of the day. People like Eleanor and Frederick. It is their individual struggles to untangle their pasts, to discover their own personal truths and to find a way to live together in peace that constitutes the main thrust of this story. As an exploration of the often hypocritical mores of the time, it is fascinating. Illicit sex was everywhere in Victorian England and yet to be caught actually indulging in it was tantamount to social suicide. Loretta Proctor tackles this very well and one can really feel the torment her characters experience as they fall,
sometimes again and again, from what is considered a state of monogamous
grace.

Details do not always contain the devil for me and some of Loretta's details are divine. One can really see and smell the naughty old London pleasure gardens where young men of quality and young ladies on the make were wont to roam. I also like he way that the actual Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood are kept at the periphery of the novel, not influencing but affecting the main characters lives. But it is the Crimson Bed itself that really benefits from the author's eye for detail. A metaphor for a womb if ever I saw one -sorry, psychology graduate speaking here - it is a lovely and yet at the same time, forbidding thing and men and woman have very different opinions of it. I enjoyed The Crimson Bed enormously both as a novel and as an account of the secretive, if not secret, world of the Victorians.
Barbara Nadel (author of the Inspector Ikmen and the Francis Hancock series)



An Awesome Victorian Tale
The Crimson Bed sweeps readers deep into Victorian England. At the heart of this story is Fred Ashton Thorpe, a Pre-Raphaelite painter, and the woman he falls in love with and marries, Eleanor Farnham. Each has dark secrets they strive to keep hidden, but life has a way of forcing them out. And this is what happens with each turn of the page in this lush novel. Their love story is both highly romantic and devastatingly tragic.

There are several underlying themes running through the novel - the most important of which is the Crimson Bed Ellie inherits from her mother, which Fred does not like. The author does a splendid job of revealing each character's dilemma, the angst, the betrayal, the pain and chaos it inflicts upon them. The Crimson Bed is a novel that stirs emotions, a beautiful tale with compelling characters that are so real, they leap off the pages. On a deeper level, the novel explores human vulnerability and frailty, love and loss, trust and betrayal. Definitely well written and beautifully written. I loved how she used a Pre-Raphaelite painting for her book cover. Very highly recommended. Great Historicals


Wonderful Historical Fiction
As she is sitting for a portrait, beautiful Eleanor Farnham meets young Frederic Thorpe. Fred overcomes his shyness in order to court and marry her. And on the surface, their marriage is a happy one. But disturbing events in both of their personal histories gradually come back to haunt them. This complex plot evolves into a stunning climax which I won't give away but that you won't want to miss.
The Crimson Bed can be described as a family saga that involves several generations between the years 1839 to 1913. At the same time, it is a very intimate story where Ellie, Fred, Henry and the others come alive and make the reader care about them. Ms. Proctor uses her knowledge of settings and language to make the story both authentic and entertaining. There are wonderful descriptions of life in the Victorian world. The society's language, mores and attitudes are realistically depicted.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys good, historical fiction and a timeless love story as well.
L Hippler


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Reader Reviews for "The Crimson Bed"

Reviewed by L Hippler 4/26/2010
As she is sitting for a portrait, beautiful Eleanor Farnham meets young Frederic Thorpe. Fred overcomes his shyness in order to court and marry her. And on the surface, their marriage is a happy one. But disturbing events in both of their personal histories gradually come back to haunt them. This complex plot evolves into a stunning climax which I won’t give away but that you won’t want to miss.
The Crimson Bed can be described as a family saga that involves several generations between the years 1839 to 1913. At the same time, it is a very intimate story where Ellie, Fred, Henry and the others come alive and make the reader care about them. Ms. Proctor uses her knowledge of settings and language to make the story both authentic and entertaining. There are wonderful descriptions of life in the Victorian world. The society’s language, mores and attitudes are realistically depicted.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys good, historical fiction and a timeless love story as well.
Reviewed by Lorri Proctor 3/6/2010

Set against the backdrop of the revolution in art that was started by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the 1850s, 'The Crimson Bed' is a tale of secrets and jealousies, omissions and lies. At her father's request, young Eleanor Farnham sits for a minor pre-Raphaelite artist and, via this sitting, finds herself drawn into the world of art and of artistic romance.Eventually finding what she hopes in true love with struggling artist Frederick Ashton Thorpe, Eleanor is nevertheless still in love with her childhood sweetheart who, she believes, has abandoned her.

Of course in books, as in life, nothing is as simple as it seems and both Eleanor and Frederick are at the mercy of the many secrets that exist in their families. Lies have been told to them and they in turn have told lies. But then for every rule breaking, free living Millais or Rosetti there were thousand upon thousands of tortured Victorians trying, and mostly failing, to live within the strict moral dictates of the day. People like Eleanor and Frederick. It is their individual struggles to untangle their pasts, to discover their own personal truths and to find a way to live together in
peace that constitutes the main thrust of this story. As an exploration of the often hypocritical mores of the time, it is fascinating. Illicit sex was everywhere in Victorian England and yet to be caught actually indulging in it was tantamount to social suicide. Loretta Proctor tackles this very well and one can really feel the torment her characters experience as they fall,sometimes again and again, from what is considered a state of monogamous
grace.

Details do not always contain the devil for me and some of Loretta's details are divine. One can really see and smell the naughty old London pleasure gardens where young men of quality and young ladies on the make were wont to roam. I also like the way that the actual Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood are kept at the periphery of the novel, not influencing but affecting the main characters lives. But it is the Crimson Bed itself that really benefits from the author's eye for detail. A metaphor for a womb if ever I saw one -
sorry, psychology graduate speaking here - it is a lovely and yet at the same time, forbidding thing and men and woman have very different opinions of it. I enjoyed The Crimson Bed enormously both as a novel and as an account of the secretive, if not secret, world of the Victorians.
Barbara Nadel (author of the Inspector Ikmen and the Francis Hancock series)

Hope you're well. Good luck for your launch and I do hope that you enjoy
'Death by Design'. Lots of love

--
Barbara


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