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The Bobbin Girls

Extract - Prologue


The windows of the house were ablaze with light as the young girl dragged herself on leaden feet down the seemingly endless driveway, though she guessed her deathly tiredness made it seem longer than it actually was. The farm or manor house, whatever it may be, was by no means grand. Solid and square and grey in the evening light, there was a bare, unloved quality about it that chilled her. Yet since it was the first glimpse of civilisation she had seen for miles in this bleak Lakes country, she kept her eyes fixed on those lights like heavenly beacons and, gritting her teeth, plodded steadily onward.

The wind moaned through a thicket of trees, making the boughs creak and grind together as if they might at any moment tumble down upon her. Rain-soaked hair whipped like a lash against her frozen cheeks but she did not trouble to wipe it away. Once her hair would have borne a sheen as fine as that of her short silk dress; now it was tangled and dirty, uncombed for days, just as the dress was torn and spoiled. Even the thin wool coat that was meant to keep out the bitter cold did no such thing, since it too was soaking wet with mud or blood, or both. It had been bought not for any practical purpose but to conform to the vagaries of fashion. She had no thought now for such niceties.

Not that she had any right to complain. Men were dying in worse conditions on the battlefields of France; dying in a war not of their making. But then she hadn’t committed a sin against mankind either, only against society.

It occurred to her that the bewildering number of lights could indicate that the people within were entertaining guests; they might not take kindly to being interrupted by a bedraggled ragamuffin covered in mud, shivering on their doorstep in her sodden clothing. She should perhaps seek out the kitchen door or servants’ entrance, beg a bowl of hot water from a housekeeper or maid so she could wash before making her request. Mama would wish her at least to present herself well. The thought, coming so unexpectedly and automatically, made her almost laugh out loud, but then the pain gripped her again and she gasped, falling to her knees as it knotted her spine, straddled the swell of her stomach and dragged piercingly down into her groin.

She clutched at a nearby drystone wall, her finger nails breaking in the rough lichen. How much longer could she bear it? As the worst of the pain ebbed away, she pressed her heated brow against the iron-cold stone. Was this how death came, with red-hot pincers?

What if they - the people at this house - refused to give her shelter? They knew nothing of her and her troubles, so why should they agree? Where then would she go? How could she survive yet another night in this wild, empty country? Her time was near.

With the last dregs of her energy, the girl pulled herself upright and, redoubling her efforts, reached a low flight of stone steps that led up through a wide storm porch to a solid oak door. She doubted her ability to climb them, let alone reach the high polished brass knocker. Her feet slipped on the rough stone chippings and she half fell, half sank thankfully upon the lowest step with an agonised cry, as the pain sliced through her back bone once more with merciless precision.

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‘an informative and lively read’ West Briton on The Bobbin Girls

‘A bombshell of an unsuspected secret rounds off a romantic saga narrated with pace and purpose and fuelled by conflict.’ The Keswick Reminder on The Bobbin Girls

Alena Townsen, a fiery tomboy from a large, happy family, wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life with her childhood friend, Rob, the only son of James Hollinthwaite, a wealthy landowner.

Hollinthwaite, however, has other ideas and when he forces the two to part Rob is sent away to school while Alena must start work in the local bobbin mill.

Life is hard and her love for Rob severely tested. Torn between two men, her indecision is heightened by the knowledge of a tragic secret. Dolly Sutton has problems of a more intimate nature, while shy and unassuming, Sandra Myers finds herself an unlikely campaigner against Hollinthwaite’s destructive plans for the village when he ruthlessly sacks the man she loves.