Friday, January 16, 2015

A peak into A Natural History of Dragons and The Secret Rooms

For this week's Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader here is the start of the novel A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan.

When I was seven, I found a sparkling lying dead on a beach at the edge of the woods which formed the back boundary of our garden, that the groundskeeper had not yet cleared away. With much excitement, I brought it for my mother to see, but by the time I reached her it had mostly collapsed into ash in my hands. Mama exclaimed in distaste and sent me to wash. 

Our cook, a tall and gangly woman who nonetheless produced the most amazing soups and souffl├ęs (thus putting the lie to the notion that one cannot trust a slender cook) was the one who showed me the secret of preserving sparklings after death. She kept one on her dresser top, which she brought out for me to see when I arrived in her kitchen, much cast down from the loss of the sparkling and my mother's chastisement. "However did you keep it?" I asked her, wiping away my tears. "Mine fell all to pieces."

"Vinegar," she said, and that one word set me upon the path that led me to where I stand today. 

For nonfiction I have The Secret Rooms: A True Story of A Haunted Castle, A Plotting Duchess, & A Family Secret by Catherine Bailey ...

Two doctors were already at the castle; a third, Lord Dawson, Physician to King George VI, was expected. It was mid-morning on Thursday 18 April 1940 and they were gathered at the entrance to a suite of rooms. The door leading into them was made of polished steel; the color of gunmetal, it was the type used to secure a walk-in safe.

The door was firmly closed.

The light from the dim bulbs along the windowless passage cast pools of inky shadows around the waiting figures. Piles of cardboard boxes were stacked against the bare stone walls. Marked 'Secret–Property of His Majesty's Government', they were secured with steel binding.

For The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice here is a teaser from page 56 of A Natural History of Dragons ...

Mama was there with him, occupied in polite chatter, but she rose with alacrity when I appeared. "I will leave you two to talk," she said, and closed the doors behind her as she departed. 

I was alone in the room with an unmarried man. Had I needed any further proof of what was about to occur, that would have done nicely. 

From page 56 of The Secret Rooms ...

'Those rooms are forbidden,' she said, pointing towards them. 'When I was a housemaid here, the housekeeper used to lock us in there while we were cleaning. She used to come back and get us at coffee time. Then we'd be locked back in again.'

'You were locked in? Why?'

'It was to stop us taking anything out,' she said. 'No one went in there.' 

'When did you work here?' I asked her. 

'In the 1940s and '50s,' she replied. 'Those rooms were sealed. They were sealed after the Duke died.' 

This woman seemed to be saying something other than the tour guides who had stopped me earlier. There really did seem to be a mystery attached to these rooms. I look at her. She was in her early eighties and not in costume like the others. 

'Which duke?' I asked. 

 Happy Friday - have a lovely weekend ! 


  1. Oh, now I am very curious about The Secret Rooms...the excerpts have definitely piqued my interest. Thanks for sharing, and here's mine: “AFTER BIRTH”

  2. I haven't heard of either of these, but they sound like great reading. Girl Who Reads

  3. The Secret Rooms sounds fascinating! I haven't heard of it before but I just added it to my TBR. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Both of these sound fantastic and are going on my tbr.

    Here's my 56.

  5. I LOVED The History of Dragons. I have a thing for dragons though. Hope you enjoy it too!
    I'm intrigued by The Secret Rooms. I love true-crime stories!
    Happy weekend!

  6. Both of these sound good. Especially The History of Dragons. My favorite dragon series is The Dragonriders of Pern. Read the entire series numerous times.

    My 56 -


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