Jude Knight Interviews Mrs. Forsythe from Farewell to Kindness
An interview with a charming widow
Mrs Forsythe, or Anne as she invited me to call her, lives a retired life in the village of Longford, where she is very active in the community and the parish. She looks very young to be a widow, the mother of a six-year-old, and the main support of her three sisters.
J.K.: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
A.F.: Rescuing my family, without a doubt, and establishing them here in Longford. I have not done it alone, of course. Dear Ruth has been with me every step of the way, and we were so lucky to find Hannah. She is a treasure.
I was only 18, you know, and Ruth was not more than two years older. But I knew we could not stay to let my uncle carry out his wicked plans.
Fortunately, I had a little money—enough to get us all to London and to hide us for long enough… Well, suffice it to say that it was neither easy nor pleasant, but it worked. That is the important thing, is it not?
Then, when we came to Longford, Mr Baxter the land agent was very helpful, and the dear Rector and his wife, too. We have really been very fortunate.
J.K.: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A.F.: An evening at home with my family. We play games, or take turns in reading aloud, or we sing. I love to sit and listen to Kitty and Ruth singing. My own voice is nothing to speak of, but I believe that Daisy, my daughter, will have a very pretty voice when she is grown.
J.K.: What is your current state of mind?
A.F.: I am content. We have a roof over our heads, food to put on the table, clothes to our backs. Many are not as fortunate. We, ourselves, went hungry to bed in that first year in Longford, when we were still learning to stretch every shilling. In another year, things will change again, but I do not believe we could be happier than we are now.
J.K.: What is your favorite occupation?
A.F.: My sisters would tell you that I love best to organise things, and I fear there is some truth in that! Let me see. My favourite occupation. I like to sew. I enjoy cooking when our dear servant Hannah will let me. I love teaching; I teach three mornings a week at the local mill school. I know!
Archery. Archery is my favourite occupation. When I practice at the foot of the garden, or compete in the competitions, it is as if I am transported to another world. Nothing exists except the bow, the string, the arrow, the target. And the satisfaction of placing each arrow where I want it! There is nothing like it in the world.
J.K.: What is your most treasured possession?
A.F.: I have a prayer book that was my mother’s. It is the only thing of hers that I have.
There were a few pieces of jewellery—nothing valuable, but little things my brother let me have when I turned 17 and came down from the schoolroom. They are all sold, gone to feed us in those first years.
But I have my mother’s prayer book, and when I say my prayers at night, I feel so close to her.
J.K.: What or who is the greatest love of your life?
A.F. Do you mean romantic love? That is not for me. I hope my dear sister Kitty will one day find a husband she can love, and who will love her. But I am past the age, do you not think?
Oh. You are wondering about Mr Forsythe? I never speak of Daisy’s father. Did you have another question?
J.K.: What is your most marked characteristic?
A.F.: Determination. I will do anything for my family, and will not danger or disapproval stand in my way.
J.K.: When and where were you the happiest?
A.F.: I am now the happiest I have ever been. I am content.
J.K.: What is it that you most dislike?
A.F.: Hypocrisy. I strongly dislike the way people can be nice before your eyes and yet clawing at your reputation behind your back. I have often seen it in the village.
I cannot abide mean-minded gossip, but I most dislike the kind of two-faced dissembling that often masks such nastiness from the victim.
J.K.: What is your greatest fear?
A.F.: I fear having my sister Kitty taken from us. I believe the rest of us are safe. I’m almost sure that is so. But Kitty… If my uncle finds us…
I will not let it happen. If I must, I will take my family again, and start over somewhere else.
J.K.: What is your greatest extravagance?
You may laugh, but my greatest extravagance is good quality tea. Truly, if I never again have a thrice-steeped cup it will be too soon!
Now that Ruth and I are both earning a few shillings, I always buy the best quality of tea I can. The village shop knows to stock it for me, and one of my great pleasures is to sit in the morning with our dear Hannah, before anyone else is awake, sipping tea by the kitchen fire.
J.K.: Which living person do you most despise?
A.F.: Beyond a doubt, it is either my uncle or his son. I think my uncle, because he should have cared for the orphaned daughters of his brother, but he could think only how to turn his guardianship to his own account. I hate it when people prey on the weak.
J.K.: What is your greatest regret?
A.F.: I regret that I didn’t sleep with my sisters, or have them with me, the night that it all changed. If I had, my brother might yet be alive; I might have had my season; all might have been different.
And yet… I am content, and my sisters are happy, I believe. Things would have been different, but who is to say they would have been better.
J.K.: Which talent would you most like to have?
A.F.: To sing like Kitty? To play the pianoforte as well as Ruth? To be happy with little blessings like Meg? My sisters are the talented ones! What talent would I like for myself. Let me think… I know. I would like to be able to turn pebbles into gold. Wouldn’t that be a gift to treasure?
J.K.: Where would you like to live?
A.F.: If I could, I would stay here in Longford. I know that Kitty must have her chance, and we’ll have to go to Bath, or perhaps Bristol, for that. Bath, I think.
But if we can retain the tenancy on the cottage, I will always come back here. I feel part of the community here. We have been happy here.
J.K.: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A.F.: Failing my sisters and my daughter. It is my duty and my delight to keep them safe, and to do that I must keep them hidden. I cannot fail. I cannot imagine any worse misery than knowing that they have been harmed because I failed.
J.K.: What is the quality you most like in a man?
A.F.: Integrity. Someone who is true to their commitments all the way through to the bone. Sadly, few men seem to be like that.
J.K.: What is the quality you most like in a woman?
J.K.: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A.F.: Cowardice. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to just give up. But however hard it may be, I have to continue for the sake of Kitty and Meg—yes, and my daughter Daisy, too.
J.K.: What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A.F.: Sneakiness. People should be open about what they want, and what they are doing. Little communities like ours—people can tear them apart if they are two-faced—if they say one thing to you and another behind your back.
J.K.: What do you most value in your friends?
A.F.: Honesty. Friends should be honest with one another. And being supportive. That’s important, too.
J.K.: Who are your heroes or heroines in real life?
A.F.: Ruth is my heroine. My older sister and my best friend. She gave up everything to come with us, and she has stood by me through all the last seven years. Longer. She didn’t have to—my uncle could not have touched her. But she has been a rock.
And the Rector’s wife, Mrs Ashbrook—all those children and she still finds time for everyone in need.
J.K.: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
A.F.: Meekness. I do not consider meekness a virtue at all. The Bible assures us that the meek will inherit the earth, but until that happy day, meekness, it seems to me, merely encourages tyrants and bullies.
J.K.: On what occasions do you lie?
A.F.: I do not like lies. I try to always be honest. But I will lie for my family. I have done so once before, and I would do so again if I had to. The safety and wellbeing of my daughter and my sisters—of my whole household—takes first place.
If I can, I will simply avoid the truth. But a direct lie? Yes. Rarely, with reluctance, but yes.
J.K.: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A.F.: I would like to be able to wave a magic wand and be more patient. Learning patience the long way, through all the frustrations of life—it is hard, and I seem to be a slow learner.
J.K.: How would you like to die?
A.F.: I would like to die in my own bed, with my family around me, after a short illness that gave me time to say farewell to those I love.
J.K.: What is your motto?
A.F.: Family first
Anne is the heroine of Farewell to Kindness, a romantic suspense novel set in 1807 against a backdrop of village life.
Farewell to Kindness
Rede, the Earl of Chirbury wants the beautiful widow, Anne Forsythe, from the moment he first sees her. Not that he has time for dalliance, or that the virtuous widow would be available if he did.
Or perhaps not so virtuous? She lives rent-free in a cottage belonging to the estate, courtesy of his predecessor and cousin, George. And her daughter’s distinctive eyes mark the little girl as George’s child.
But it isn’t just the mystery that surrounds her that keeps drawing him to her side.
Anne Forsythe has good cause to be wary of men, peers and members of the Redepenning family. The Earl of Chirbury is all three, and a distraction she does not need. If she can hide her sisters until the youngest turns 21, they will be safe from her uncle’s sinister plans.
And she is a virtuous woman, her reputation in the village built through years of impeccable behaviour. The Earl of Chirbury is not for her, and she will not fall to his fascinating smile, gentle teasing, and tragic past. Let him continue to pursue the villains who ordered the deaths of his family three years ago, and leave her and her family alone.
But good intentions fly in the face of their strong attraction, until several accidents make Rede believe his enemies are determined to kill him, and Anne wonder whether her uncle has found her.
To build a future together, they must be prepared to face their pasts—something their deadly enemies have no intention of allowing.
Farewell to Kindness is Book 1 in the series The Golden Redepennings.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1121346576
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Farewell-Kindness-Golden-Redepennings-Book-ebook/dp/B00TXRW4KA/
Meet Jude Knight
Jude Knight has been telling stories all her life: making up serial tales to amuse her friends and children, imagining sequels to books that have moved her and left her wanting more, occasionally submitting short stories to magazines and the radio, starting more than a dozen novels set in different times and places.
She has devoted most of the last forty years to a career in commercial writing and raising a large family (most recently as grandmother-in-residence while a daughter was out of action for three years). She and her own personal romantic hero, with whom she has shared those forty+ years, now live with two cats and frequent visitors in a small town in rural New Zealand.
Jude wrote and published her first historical romance in 2014, and now has the wind in her sails and a head full of strong determined heroines, heroes with the sense to appreciate them, and villains you’ll love to loathe.
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