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It had become a tradition with the Loveday family to dine at Boscabel after attending Joshua Loveday's service at Trewenna church. In Edward's lifetime the meal had been at Trevowan but St John was seldom at the estate preferring to spend time with his libertine friends rather than his family.

Today everyone except St John was present. Hannah insisted that she contribute her share of the meal. Adam may be master of his own shipyard but the family was large and his finances were straightened. She had brought pears from her orchard and potatoes from her crop. Adam's stepmother, Amelia, had supplied a large goat's geese from the village of Penruan and Aunt Elspeth had insisted that the cook at Trevowan bake Adam's favourite spiced apple cake and had also bought a jar of her special blackberry preserve. Hannah's father always provided two quarts of cider made from apples in the rectory orchard.

'There is no need for you all to go to so much trouble,' Adam insisted.

'Would you spoil our pleasure in contributing to a family gathering,' Hannah laughed aside his protest. 'And Senara has enough work of her own without worrying about feeding such a ravenous horde.'

The family was gathered in the old hall at Boscabel. They made an impressive group. The younger Lovedays were all dark-haired with striking features. A large log burned brightly in the vast fireplace. The old hall had been a draughty and unsociable room with its high timber beamed ceiling, but before Adam had moved in to the house he had lowered the ceiling and created two extra bedrooms above. Now the hall with its ancient tapestries on the walls had a cosy feel about it whilst still able to seat twenty at its long Jacobean oak table.

Today when they rode back from morning service there had been a sharp bite of frost in the air and hot toddies of mulled wine greeted the family on their arrival. Both Adam and Hannah had four children and with St John away from Trevowan, Aunt Elspeth had brought her great-niece Rowena to play with her cousins. Adam's young half-brother Rafe clung shyly to Amelia's skirts.

There was no formality amongst the family, and Tamasine, her lovely cheeks glowing from the cold, rounded up the nine children to take them to the nursery where they would have their meal. The young woman was at ease with her nephews and nieces. Even dressed in her finery, she would sit on the floor and play with them. Perhaps it was her way of making up for the lack of fun in her own lonely childhood. Not that Tamasine showed any outward sign of that difficult time. In two years she had become such a part of the Loveday family that it was rare for one of them to remember that she was Edward's Loveday's love-child.

Hannah glanced at Amelia. Since Edward's death she had lost weight and her auburn hair was now streaked with grey under her lace headdress. There was aloofness in her eyes if they alighted on Tamasine whose presence had caused a rift in her marriage in the last years of Edward's life. That Tamasine was to be married in the early summer had eased Amelia's resentment towards the young woman. Amelia was accomplished at putting a brave face on unpleasantness. The trials and scandals in the family since her second marriage had sorely tested her.

The sound of Tamasine's laughter narrowed Amelia's eyes. Her stepdaughter was chasing Adam's younger son Joel who refused to follow his twin sister Rhianne and older brother Nathan to the nursery.

'Must you encourage that young scamp?' Amelia snapped, quick to criticise. 'He must learn to do as he is told.'

Tamasine caught Joel in her arms and tickled him until his cheeks grew pink and his cries of protest turned to giggles.

'Adam could be spirited as a child,' Elspeth responded. 'You are lucky that Rafe is so well mannered, since you take exception to the wildness in the Loveday blood, Amelia.'

'Joel is a handful,' laughed Hannah's mother Cecily. 'Tamasine has a way with him. Adam will miss her when she weds.'

'We will all miss her,' Hannah replied. She watched her cousin herd the children up the stairs. Tamasine had the blue eyes and dark colouring of her Loveday blood and friends and neighbours accepted her as a distant cousin

'Tamasine is good with the children,' Hannah addressed Cecily. 'Even Rafe, who is usually so shy, adores her.'

'She has become a beauty. Edward would have been proud of herů' Cecily dabbed a tear from the corner of her eye. She was plump as a pigeon and tiny in comparison to her children and husband.

'And she will marry well. Better than even Edward would have wished. She was fortunate to meet a good man who did not hold her birth against her. Mr Deverell adores her.' Cecily glanced across at her sister-in-law who was chatting with Amelia.

'I thank God that Amelia has accepted Tamasine now. Though it has not been easy for her, especially when her own daughter died last year and Joan no more than a toddler.'

'It is never easy to accept the death of a child,' Hannah replied. 'Peter took Bridie's miscarriage badly. It has made my brother more fervent in his preaching. That does not always go down with his parishioners at Polruggan. Bridie is more resilient.'

'Bridie is a good wife,' Cecily replied. 'She takes after her sister and has Senara's common sense. She will be Peter's salvation. Senara has been a stabilizing force behind Adam. To see the two sisters now you would never suspect their gypsy blood.'

'Only Senara's father was a gypsy.' Hannah reminded her mother. 'Bridie's birth was even more unfortunate.'

'I do not like to think of that. Bridie is not to blame for the brutality of her mother's attack and her conception. Blessedly, Bridie has all Leah's sweetness.' Hannah nodded. 'All in all we are a motley brood. Beneath the veneer of respectability and gentlemanly blood the Lovedays remain as unconventional as their buccaneering forebears.'

Hannah stooped to kiss her petite mother's cheek.

'Despite his two respectable marriages, Uncle Edward kept secret his affair with Tamasine's mother. Although it had taken place whiles he was a widower.'

'But the Lady Eleanour was a noblewoman married to a cruel, uncaring husband. Edward would have wed her had she been free.'

'I am sure he would. He had learned to curb his wilder ways. As did Papa! He married an angel in you, Mama.'

Cecily blushed. 'I was a simple parson's daughter. Joshua was the younger son - who had led a far from exemplary youth.' She patted her daughter's cheek. 'You have the Loveday fire, my dear. It will drive you to do well for your children despite your untimely widowhood.'

Her mother squeezed her hand, but Hannah did not want her sympathy. She found it unnerving as it could slip beneath the guard she had erected around her emotions and grief.

'I will go and help Senara. She has disappeared into the kitchen. And I will try and convince Leah to take her place at the table. Even though Bridie and Senara persuaded her to move to the parsonage at Polruggan, she refuses to dine with the family, insisting it is not fitting.'

'Leah knows her place,' Cecily said gently. 'She is ill at ease amongst the gentry. She is happy to help with the children and make herself useful. Her daughters understand that.'

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