Eileen's latest book...
The Stuff of Dreams
Rich, romantic storytelling marks Eileen's magical new novel.
A famous actor is dead and
his lover, a famous actress, is arrested...
Years later, Abbots House is rebuilt, and a mysterious woman who hides her face and talks to no one lives there. Rumours fly through the Scottish seaside village.
Kate Buchanan can't leave her tragic past behind - nor can she remember what actually happened that fateful night.
Now, though, snatches of her memory start to return - and an epic love story spanning two decades returns to haunt the woman who survived.
ISBN: 0340835125 Hodder and Stoughton
Kate Buchanan used to be a well-known stage actress, known to the world as Katherine Buchan. Then one night, she lost everything. A fire in her seaside house in Scotland stole her lover, her career, and her memory. Katherine was accused of murder, but nothing was ever proven. She's spent years trying to recover from the long-reaching effects of that terrible night. If only she could somehow remember what really happened. She doesn't believe herself to be a murderess but unless her memory returns, how can she ever be sure?
Against the advice of her good friend, Hugh Forsythe, and her doctor, Simon Whittaker, Kate decides to rebuild the house on the Scottish seaside. She hopes the peaceful village she so loved will somehow trigger her memories. As far as she's concerned, Katherine Buchan no longer exists but Kate Buchanan is ready to move forward, albeit slowly, and begin to live again. She knows it won't be easy but for her own sanity, she has to try. Each day brings new challenges and sometimes, even the simplest of everyday tasks seems beyond her abilities. Does Kate have the perseverance and determination to keep going? Will she ever remember the events of the night her lover, Bryn Edgar, died? The night she nearly lost her own life? The night that changed her world forever?
It must be painful beyond imagining to wonder if somehow, you could actually be guilty of the unthinkable crime of murdering the man you loved. Yet Kate Buchanan somehow manages to rebuild her life - day by day, piece by piece - in the hope that her memory will somehow return. To Kate, not knowing is worse than even the most painful memory. I was happy to see that Kate wasn't alone. How would she have managed without the support of special people like Hugh Forsythe, Dr. Whittaker, the Thomson family and Father Benedict? While it was clear Kate would always carry both physical and emotional scars from that terrible night so many years ago, I hoped she would find some measure of peace. THE STUFF OF DREAMS is the first book I've read from talented storyteller Eileen Ramsay, but it will certainly not be the last. Very highly recommended!
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The Stuff of Dreams
Hodder & Stoughton General; ISBN: 0340835125
Kate Buchanan. It was a simple name, a name, as Gran said, that could take you anywhere. For a long time she did not use it, but it had always been there, legally. Even though ‘Kate Buchanan’ had not been rushed to the hospital and had not featured so graphically and lasciviously in all the papers, including the ones that purported to be above such things, it was Kate Buchanan who came out of one prison hospital and went, for long years, to a hospital of another kind, and then to the Riviera. Doesn’t that sound grand? She went to the Riviera. Once she had gone to the south of France to live in beautiful villas and sail on luxurious yachts. Not this time though. This time it was to live in seclusion, in a house that Hugh had found. Hugh Forsythe, dear, dear Hugh, another of the people whose devotion she had taken so much for granted. But there was time, wasn’t there, to make amends and that had to be done here, in this house on which she had spent a fortune, and a year she feared she could not afford, restoring. She felt well, but then she had been in the peak of condition when the fire had occurred and look what that had done to her. If the glass into which she very rarely looked was to be believed, she was no longer a young woman. She was not old, middle-aged probably, but age was relative, was it not, and, like beauty, was surely in the eye of the beholder.
The house, Abbots House, was almost as it had been - if she had remembered correctly - but she could not trust her memory because it was both her friend and her foe. It allowed her to forget some things. Had the toile de jouy been pink or blue? Blue surely: she was not a pink person, was she, and those lovely greens were not available all those years ago? Each day she would remember a little more, that’s what the doctors said. They would have preferred that she do her remembering in a safe clinical hospital where they would be on hand but it had to be here; otherwise she would never come to terms with life or with death.
Originally it had been the names. Friars Carse and Abbots House. Who would not want to live in an abbot’s house with its romantic connections with monks and friars, with Knights Templar and crusaders? Friars Carse, the picturesque village built on the carse or low-lying plain that had once belonged to an order of friars - Grey Friars, she vaguely remembered - was far away, too, from all the places that anyone who knew her, or who had seen her, frequented. Remote, unsophisticated, not in the least smart, a backwater, yes, that’s what her London friends, the ones who were allowed to visit, called it. Hugh had advised her to sell it, get what she could, at least for the plot of land, and she had vowed never to go near it again, so much pain, such horror. But once upon a time she had been happy there, every single second.
Had Kate been happy here or was it her, the other one? No one remembered Katherine. She had died, hadn’t she, so long ago?
The name won’t do, darling. Kate Buchanan would be just another talent among talents; Kate has a rather universal sound. We want something different. Katherine, yes, like the divine Hepburn, although she, of course, is Katharine but you too will be unique. Katherine Buchanan, too many syllables, but I like Katherine, so ladylike. Katherine Buchan. That will look good on billboards.
That had been Maurice Taylor. He, her first and only agent, had been right about the name, as he had been right about so many things.
Now Kate Buchanan took her pie and her dignity back to her newly refurbished house and when she got there she lay down for an hour on the day bed in what would one day, when there was a garden and not just a heap of rubble, be a study cum garden room because the effort of going out in public had exhausted her more than she had dreamed possible.
The woman in that lovely little shop had been nice though, and had assured Kate that she would be happy to deliver. She would be strong and she would go there again; she would not give in. She would look in the window first to make sure that she was there because, for a while, it would be one day and one person at a time. She had to let the villagers see her and get used to her presence among them. They would talk. It was human nature to talk. They would add up, put two and two together and make five but if she lived quietly in her lovely home, if they saw she was no trouble, minding her own business, they would accept her, get used to her infrequent appearances among them. But would they? They had been so happy to see her among them once, waved to her as she passed their windows, never getting too close, friendly but never intrusive. No, they had admired Katherine, not Kate, and Katherine was said to have done something so terrible...
Kate stared at the ceiling of the room and tried to think. What was the woman’s name? I will remember. Maggie, yes Maggie. I knew a Maggie once, didn’t I, in my past life, a will-o’-the wisp, someone I worked with, or someone I admired: something to do with the theatre perhaps? That Maggie was not sturdy and down to earth as this Maggie was. I am glad I plucked up courage to go into her delightful shop. Will I be brave enough to shop there in the season, when Friars Carse is busy? Yes. One day at a time, like a recovering alcoholic.
She was recovering too, was she not, even if not from alcoholism? Never mind, never mind. What was it Granny had said? Water under the bridge, darlings, water under the bridge. So much water, Granny. So much and not enough to kill the flames, the flames that had killed … who had they killed? Him, yes, him and her, but Kate was alive, Kate would survive, and Kate would cope. Cope? That was everybody’s granny’s word. Every decent woman coped.
She stopped looking for answers in the white ceiling and looked around. Her desk, a mahogany kneehole desk with its beautiful original swan neck handles, had been a gift from Hugh.
Look what I found in an antique shop in Grasse, Kate. It said Kate needs me now that she is well enough to write letters.
She had bought the mahogany bookcase in Edinburgh. Their colours did not quite match but the periods did. Her books were still in a packing case under the stairs, except for her favourites that stood on the table by her bed. The rugs on the polished wooden floor were new as the curtains would be. She had designed them herself, chosen the colours and the fabrics.
‘Look, Hugh, I’ve discovered a talent. Should I have been an interior decorator?’
‘You were, my dear. You did all our houses and we paid you nothing. You even made curtains, but only for my flat. The others were so envious.’
‘I’m glad I did something for you, dear old Hugh.’
There was the other talent too, the one she had uncovered in the convent, or, to be more truthful, that Sister Mary Magdalene had uncovered. What joy that was. She raised herself on one elbow. Perhaps she could do a little now before she ate. No, she would forget to eat if she started.
Propped up by her elbow she could see her reproduction mahogany Gainsborough chair, upholstered in the material that she had chosen for the curtains. She should have bought two chairs, for Hugh would visit. Hugh, never conscious of his dignity, would sit on the day bed. She liked the room the way it was; it was exactly right. Had there been too much work to do? There had been no real self-respecting, keeping-the-elements out roof, and many of the stones from the walls had been carted away, disappearing a few at a time over the years. Should she have sold it and left the memories behind? But it was impossible, if one had a memory, to leave memories behind. They had travelled with her, kept her company, the good ones and the awful, terrifying, frightening ones, wherever she was. Were there nice memories? Yes, oh yes, she had never forgotten him, nor Granny, nor dear Hugh and his mother who had been her stepmother for such a short time.
Long ago, in another life, she had found this house and had loved it immediately. Such a bad habit, loving immediately and irrevocably. Abbots House. A mile or so down the coast there was a monastery to which all the surrounding land had belonged. An abbot had built the original house on this site. Had he lived there? Unlikely. Surely he would live in the monastery but perhaps he had built it for important guests. An abbot? She thought of Friar Tuck, round and jolly. She should know better than to take refuge in stereotypes. Perhaps this abbot had been tall and austere, and very holy. Would he too demand that visitors be happy in his lovely sandstone house with its magnificent views over Monkshaven Beach? The monks had found a haven here and so had she too once long ago. She had been supremely happy here. It had been simple to be content in a house built by a man of God on a beach where other men of God had found peace and security.
Rose Lamont? Could Rose be happy anywhere?
‘The face, no one lives there.’ The director was talking.
‘The voice. It is ... how can I say ... technique is not everything ... there must be ... there must be life and there is no life here.’ He was acknowledged as one of the stage’s most brilliant directors and the students had been thrilled to have a masterclass with him, but sometimes it was a struggle to listen to him, as much of a struggle as it seemed to be for him to marshal his thoughts and march them up and down before them. He pointed at Rose again. ‘Too many times she has been told, my God, how you are pretty, the pretty hair, the pretty smile, the pretty face.’
Rose smiled at him and he turned away from her to the other students. ‘Forget pretty. To act from the soul is not pretty. You run the marathon with the Greeks and you are run to win. You are exhaust, you are sweat like the ... like the pig. He is pretty? Mister Pig? No. Shirley Temple is pretty. You know who is Shirley? No. How can I explain? Your mama and your papa say, how you are pretty and you say, ‘‘Papa, who cares for pretty? I am an actor”. To act well is to suffer, is to work, is to have total joy. To be Juliet or Rosalind or Jeanne d’Arc, or Hedda Gabler is to forget everything but to be Juliet. Capiche? You understand?’
And Rose had adjusted her Jaeger suit bought at the sale and moistened her lips, Estée Lauder on offer, and she had said yes and the director had looked at her and thrown up his hands in dismay and turned away.
‘Do you understand what he’s saying, Katherine Buchan?’ Maurice whispered in her ear as they watched the great director marshalling his thoughts.
‘That to act sometimes the veins must stand out on my lily-white neck like old ropes and my jaws must tense like prehistoric man in deadly combat? Is that what you mean? To forget everyone and everything that has gone before this moment, to be reborn: to make that frightening journey from safe, calm womb to becoming Jocasta, Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra?’
‘Keep your hair on, dear girl.’ Maurice had offered to represent Kate after seeing her in a student production: he knew just how great she might, with proper training and experience, become. ‘Who the hell do you think you are, Isadora twinned with Sybil Thorndike on a good day?’
‘No. I’m me, just me, and one day, Maurice, mon ami, you’ll tell people you knew me when.’
He laughed but he was disturbed by her intensity coupled with a matter-of-fact realisation of her own talent. ‘Dear God, she’s never set foot on a stage and she’s preparing her obituary.’ He had turned again to look at Rose, pretty, pretty Rose with her lovely blonde hair and her china blue eyes. ‘You’re not quite so bad as Rose. She has better physical equipment but she’ll never learn how to use it because she’s so determined to stay bloody British middle class, and pretty. Her whole body language tells her story. Poor Rose, if she could relax, she could be … not great, never great but quite good, perhaps. She needs a good fuck. What everybody needs is a good fuck, you too plain Katherine Buchan. And don’t go eyeing up all those young actors, fairies all of them.’
Kate blushed because there was a boy in her class who was not at all as Maurice described, and there was an older one too and they had each asked Kate to lunch. The boy was a sandwich in the park but the older man, who had a small part in a paid production, had invited her to an expensive French restaurant and she had gone. Naturally she would never tell him that she had gone mainly because she longed sometimes to be reminded of Tante and Provence and the warm waters of the Riviera, and on her allowance French restaurants were definitely out.
She had bought a new blue suit for her lunch dates; she suited blue. Ten whole pounds for a straight skirt with a kick pleat and a button-to-the-neck boxy jacket. Very demure, very flattering.
‘Where are we going?’
‘Green Park. Isn’t that the most intelligent name for a park you’ve ever heard?’
But she could think only of her hard won ten pounds that had been spent on a suit that he had not said he liked and which was being taken on a picnic. It had not been an auspicious beginning.
Katherine braucht viele Sternschnuppen, damit ihre Wünsche in Erfüllung gehen: Denn seit Abbots House, ihr idyllisches Anwesen an der schottischen Küste, in Flammen aufging und ihr Geliebter Bryn zu Tode kam, ist das Leben der Schauspielerin zerstört. Nach vielen einsamen Jahren kehrt Katherine nach Abbots House zurück, ein Haus voller Erinnerungstücke an ein Leben mit dem wunderbaren Bryn. Bryn, der sie auch dann noch liebte, als er einer anderen das Jawort gab. Katherine will dort ihr Gedächtnis wiederfinden, das sie in der Brandnacht verloren hat. Denn sie weiß: Nur wenn es ihr gelingt, ihre Vergangenheit und damit ihre Liebe zu Bryn dem Vergessen zu entreißen, wird sie erneut Glück empfinden können. Doch die Bewohner des Dorfes machen es Katherine nicht leicht. Böse Gerüchte über sie und jene verhängnisvolle Nacht machen die Runde, und nur wenige Menschen treten ihr so vorurteilslos entgegen wie die frisch verliebte Stacie, die selbst zum Theater will. Katherine fühlt sich sofort angenommen von der jungen Frau, deren kühne Lebensträume sie an die eigenen erinnern. Und damit beginnt eine ungewöhnliche Freundschaft, die für beide Frauen unvorhersehbare Folgen hat ... Mit dieser anrührenden Geschichte einer unsterblichen Liebe und einer tiefen Freundschaft hat Eileen Ramsay ihren Lesern erneut ein Buch geschenkt, das auch am helllichten Tag Sternstunden bereithält.