Lucia in Wartime: Tom Holt's Official Sequel to E.F. Benson's Lucia Books

First published in 1985, Lucia in Wartime ($13.95, 216 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-129-3) is one of novelist Tom Holt’s two official sequels to E.F. Benson’s ever popular Lucia series. Coffeetown Press will reprint Tom’s second Lucia book, Lucia Triumphant, on November 1, 2012.

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** Also available in Kindle and in other eBook formats on Smashwords **

Across the Channel, the battle rages … On the Tilling front, another battle is being fought—the constant war of wits and social ascendancy between Lucia Pillson and Elizabeth Mapp-Flint. Lucia, with her superior style, timeless elegance, occasional low cunning and husband Georgie—whose talent for transforming powdered eggs and canned meat into gourmet fare has turned him into a minor celebrity—invariably wins the day.

Although Elizabeth may have lost a battle or two, she definitely hasn’t lost the war—until she carelessly gives Lucia the ultimate weapon against her, upsetting the balance of power in Lucia’s favor. But how long will Lucia be able to retain the admiration of all Tilling if her power remains unchecked? After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Tom Holt was born in 1961 in London, England. His first book, Poems By Tom Holt, was published when he was twelve years old. While he was still a student at Oxford he wrote two sequels to E.F. Benson’s Lucia series. After an undistinguished seven-year stint as a lawyer, he became a full-time writer in 1995 and has published over thirty novels. Tom lives with his wife and daughter in the west of England. As well as writing, he raises pigs and pedigree Dexter cattle.

Lucia in Wartime is available in 5×8 trade paperback on BN.com, Amazon.com, the European Amazons and Amazon Japan. Wholesale customers can order through Ingram, Baker & Taylor or info@coffeetownpress.com. Libraries can also order through Follett Library Resources or Midwest Library Service. EBook customers can order in multiple formats through Amazon, BN.com or Smashwords.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Georgino—I mean Georgie,’ said she, as soon as she had reached home. ‘I have an idea.’

Georgie raised his eyes from a snuff-box he had been engaged in polishing. His poor bibelots had gathered dust in the last few days, for his soul was full of horrors. Foljambe had declared that, since her husband Cadman was away at the wars (he was slightly too old for military service, and had gone to work at the Transport Headquarters at Hove, where he spent most of his time polishing the motors of Generals and Cabinet Ministers, and in sundry other ways devising the downfall of Hitler), she ought to be doing her bit by making bombs at the Ordnance Factory. As a result, he had neglected his bibelots, left a chair-cover, on which he had been embroidering Britannia ruling the Rother Estuary, abandoned half-finished in a cupboard, and lain awake two nights in a row tormented by nameless fears.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘what is it?’

‘Officers, Georgie, from the Harbour. Think of them, pacing up and down their dusty barrack-rooms in the evenings, dwelling on the perils of war, the dangers that lie before them. Allowing their morale to sink into the depths.’

Georgie shook his head. ‘I thought they had a nice little Officers’ Club in the old Customs House where they can play billiards and …’

‘Billiards, Georgie! What sort of occupation is that for a man who is about to confront the horror of the battlefield? What they need is somewhere where they can refresh their souls with music and poetry and intelligent conversation, to inspire them to go out and fight for the values of civilisation and democracy, where they can get a final taste of what England really means.’

‘You mean the Institute?’ asked Georgie, puzzled.

‘No, no, Georgie. Why, don’t you see? A salon. Here. At Mallards.’

‘Lucia! You can’t!’

‘Why not, pray?’

‘But really! They’ll drink whisky, and laugh at my embroidery.’

‘No, dearest, you are mistaken. Not all soldiers are like poor Major Benjy, boozing and making up vulgar stories about the Pride of Poonah. Imagine, Georgie, if you were an officer stranded in an unknown town, how your heart would yearn for the company of kindred souls, the refreshment of the mind. Oo not be unkind to poor officers, Georgie, make them play billiards all evening.’

‘I believe you only want them about the place to score off Elizabeth and Major Benjy. And I’m sure they won’t want to listen to us playing duets or watch us doing tableaux when they could be drinking beer in the Sebastopol Arms.’

Even as Georgie said this, a light had dawned in his brain, a light as brilliant as the first rays of the morning sun. If they were to entertain officers at Mallards, surely they would have need of at least one permanent member of staff, to wit Foljambe. Even that conscientious person would have to admit that ministering to Lucia’s officers was as much war-work as making bombs at the Ordnance Factory. Foljambe, in other words, would go to sleep in her own little room again.

‘And anyway,’ he said cautiously, ‘how do you plan to get hold of all these officers? They don’t come into the town very much.’

He knew, of course, that Lucia would manage it somehow, through some stroke of luck or Machiavellian effort. Had she not, in the space of a few months in London, filled her house in Brompton Square with duchesses, politicians and flute-playing prizefighters?

‘Me must fink,’ said she. ‘But you agree in principle, don’t you? Of course, there will be no question of Foljambe leaving if we do start entertaining in this way. Why, it would be almost like war-work!’

Every man has his price, thought Georgie, and the value of a parlour maid-cum-valet like Foljambe was far above rubies. Nonetheless, it would not do to be over-enthusiastic. Lucia must not be over-encouraged in her personal war against Germany; really, she was being even more insufferable now than she had been in the first few weeks of her Mayoralty.

‘Oh, very well then. But you must catch the officers, and you must entertain them.’

‘Thank you, dear, a thousand times. So noble of you. Now we must put our heads together and make our plans. How splendid it is to be doing something at last!’

Elizabeth, meanwhile, unaware that her military monopoly was so gravely endangered, was sitting in the drawing-room of Grebe. She had found an old pair of velvet curtains which, with a little imagination and a great deal of application, could be turned into an evening-dress. It would, of course, be very heavy and cumbersome, but the thought of appearing in a new costume of red velvet reconciled her to any degree of physical discomfort. Poor Diva had been forced back on chintz roses again, regardless of the disasters that had attended their first appearance, and little Evie Bartlett was now not only a mouse, but a church-mouse as well. Let Lucia attempt to steal this advantage from her if she dared—very fine she would look in an evening-gown of figured damask …. But the heavy material was hard to cut and her fingers were becoming quite sore where the scissors bit into them; and the lines were not really straight, even when the pile of the velvet was taken into account ….

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