Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Saturday, November 25, 2017

It's all fun and games until somebody gets chopped up and put in the pies

In "The Mutinous Contemplations of Gemma Groot" the strong bond of sisterhood plays an important role. At the root of the story - and the mystery entailed within it - there are two sisters, Alonza and Venetia. One is destined to become a gruesome legend and the other will spend fourteen years trying live it down, before finally realizing that there is no such thing in life as "ordinary", that everybody has dark secrets, and that forcing a square peg into a round hole will only result in pieces being broken off.

The sisters' relationship and the love that ties them together, even when they would both occasionally like to be free of each other, is at the heart of events that soon become tangled as thickly and treacherously as the brambles overtaking the shrubbery that lies between their houses.

Children of Italian immigrants, but born in England, they grew up struggling to maintain their family's traditions and sense of pride, whilst also melding with the staid British way of life in a small market town (Withering Gibbet) where all their neighbors know -- or think they know-- each other's business. They are taught by their parents not to stand out, to be proper at all times, yet they are two girls with passionate tempers and very different ways of looking at life. While one sister would never think to disobey their parents, the other cannot seem to obey anybody at all.
Alonza, as the capable eldest daughter, is expected by her parents to always look after Venetia, who they consider "flighty". But neither girl really wants the roles into which they were put.

For Alonza, keeping up appearances is often the driving force that steers her through life. She likes to say that she is not romantic, but practical -- and that somebody has to be. As the first-born daughter, that burden fell to her. The need to seem "ordinary" is important to her peace of mind, but the harder she fights to achieve this, the further events often disintegrate into chaos. A tireless optimist with a terrifyingly strong will-- and called "The Queen of Desperate Measures" by her daughter -- Alonza tries to do her duty, but keeping Venetia safe and out of trouble proves to be something that even she, the parentally-appointed caretaker and fixer of  problems, cannot guarantee. She finds that the harder she tries to hold on, the more chance there is of everything melting away through her fingers. It doesn't stop her fighting, though, to get things done. Bruised and scratched by the tribulations of life, with her hair pins often adrift, she forges onward in her quest to assure everybody else that the Groots are just as normal as they are, even if they did have an axe murderess in the family.

As a child, and as a woman, Alonza has done everything that was expected of her -- even married the man her mother selected as suitable. Now if only other folk in her family would behave the same way...

Venetia, the younger sister, refuses to conform with those expectations. She does not fight out loud against them, however. Instead, leaving her noisier elder sister, gesticulating and screaming in frustration, Venetia calmly and simply goes her own way with a pleasant smile on her face. Much to Alonza's irritation, her sister appears to drift selfishly through life without any of the concerns and responsibilities that she has been forced to undertake. For many years Venetia, who talks to fairies in her garden, wears impractically pretty gowns and expensive face powder imported from Paris, and calls cauliflower "ogre's brains", gets away with being an independent spirit. Until she takes her rebellion just a step too far.

Oh yes, it's all fun and games until somebody gets chopped up and baked into the meat pies.

Both sisters, in the end, make great sacrifices for each other and for those they love. And, after a certain dramatic and bloody event in October of 1882, they finally begin to understand each other -- not only to be sisters, but friends too.

For much of their life together, Venetia pulls determinedly away from her sister's attempts to look after her. She pulls away just as ferociously as Alonza tries to hold her back. In her eyes this is her elder sister trying to manage her. Perhaps, only as the axe swings, does she realize that it was really all about love.

You can read more about Alonza Groot and Venetia Warboys in THE MUTINOUS CONTEMPLATIONS OF GEMMA GROOT. Find it HERE.

Thank you for reading!

(Images used here: photo of unknown Victorian sisters, and two paintings by Julius Cyrille Cave - Day Dreams (Alonza) and Plasirs des Champs (Venetia).)


  1. Jayne! I havent finished TMCOGG as yet, but can I tell you it is wonderful. I was looking for a book to read and thought "I wonder if I can get one on my Nook?" Being that it was 4 in the morning and I was ravenous for something I could sink my teeth in I thought of you. ( no pun intended). I just sent Sam a photo of my Nook and my cat Sparkey reading your novel. Happy Christmas Jayne, now I need to get back to Miss Groot I'll decorate later. Chrissy DeMart (

    1. Hi Chrissy! So glad you're enjoying the read. I shall look forward to seeing the photo of Sparkey. Good thing nothing bad happens to any cats in this book...


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