Amelia final cover

Chapter One

March 1924

At thirty years old, my life was already over. Naively, I suppose, I’d assumed I’d live in Hove with Aunt Una until I died. I had actually had visions of her standing over my grave and weeping in her signature over-dramatic fashion. Given that she was forty years my senior, the chances of her outliving me were pretty slim, and I now came to the conclusion that my fantasies of her immortality were just another symptom of my feeblemindedness. Something that would surely now worsen, given that my life would be even emptier.

As it was always going to be, I was the one standing over a grave, mourning my beloved aunt. To her rather eccentric group of friends, who were all over the age of seventy, Una’s passing was just another chapter in their lives, and even though they were touched by her death, they were also busy discussing which ‘literary salon’ to go to in town, where they could raise a toast to her. Naturally I was invited – the more theatrical of the bunch expressing their concern at me going back to that big house alone; but I needed to. I had been suddenly abandoned and I had to think about what I was going to do now. When I went to live with Aunt Una, I’d thought that I’d finally found somewhere I could make a home, and that I would be there forever. Now I had no idea how I was going to earn enough money to keep the house running. The thought of having to leave and move into some bed and breakfast filled me with horror, so by hook or by crook, I was determined to stay.

“Do you want me to come back with you?” asked Gloria Cameron, my aunt’s best friend and probably the most successful writer in the group. “You’ll see her ghost everywhere.”

“And it will give me great comfort,” I smiled. “I’ll see you soon, Gloria. Thank everyone for coming.”

Without looking back, I turned and walked from the grave, through the cemetery, past the neatly turned-out graves with their fresh flowers, to the scruffy plot marked only with a  cross that covered the mass graves of the people from the workhouse. Sometimes, in my more melancholic moments, I would find myself wishing that when I’d ‘fallen’, my parents had sent me to the workhouse instead of to live with Aunt Una. As a young girl I had worked with the Socialist movement, and knew all about the conditions within workhouses. If I’d been sent to one, I would have more than likely died from hard work before I was even thirty five. Then at least I wouldn’t have to face another forty years of living from hand to mouth, relying on the kindness of strangers for employment and a place to live.

By the time I made it back to the house in which I’d lived with my aunt for five, peaceful years, my legs were aching and my heart was heavy. It was true what Gloria Cameron had said – the place would be filled with Aunt Una, and I would no doubt find myself turning to talk to her as I sat in the drawing room of a night, and when nothing but silence answered me, it would crush and destroy me. I was so familiar with her voice, her mannerisms and her reactions, that quite often it was as though she thought for me, and to suddenly have to think for myself once again would be very difficult.

I trudged up the steps and opened the door. I found Betty the housemaid coming out of the drawing room – a flustered expression on her plump, freckled face.

“You’ve a visitor, Miss,” she said.

“Oh yes, who is it?”

“Mr Hicks, Miss.”

My father. I wondered what on earth he was doing here – especially seeing as he hadn’t even bothered to attend his sister’s funeral. Aunt Una had been something of a black sheep to the Hicks family. We were the owners of one of the oldest tea companies in the world, but Una hadn’t been interested in marrying someone who worked for the company or some society gentleman. Instead she had chosen Sam Logan, an ordinary police inspector. Unfortunately the marriage had lasted a mere two years before Sam was crushed to death by a horse and cart. Una never married again and spent the rest of her life living in Hove, spending time with her friends and pursuing a not very successful writing career. That was why she and I had got on so well. I never fitted into my family either.

I thanked Betty and asked her to bring us some tea. As she walked off, I paused for a moment, as it struck me it would now be my responsibility to pay her. Things like that had always been Aunt Una’s area. I knew she wouldn’t have left me much money – she was hardly rich. What was I supposed to do? The weight of these thoughts and worries were crippling, and if I dwelled too long I feared I would collapse.

I went into the drawing room and found my father sitting by the fire, warming his hands. It may have been April, and not actually that cold, but my father was never warm – either in spirit or body temperature. As he turned to look at me, the disappointment in his dark eyes was so cutting that I almost gasped aloud. I should have been used to it by now. From childhood I had always felt like a burden to him, and when I’d joined the Suffrage movement as a young girl, it had placed the final nail in the coffin of our relationship. But his reaction still hurt. I was only human, and a part of me hoped that one day he would learn to love me as a father should.

“Hello Lilly,” he said, and I found it strange how he still addressed me by my childhood nickname. His indifference would have been easier to bear if he’d just called me Amelia and done with it.

“Hello Father,” I replied, sitting opposite him. “Would you like me to ask Betty to stoke the fire up some more? Are you very cold?”

“No I won’t waste any more of your coal. I always find it so chilly by the sea. Why Una chose to live here will forever remain a mystery to me.”

I could have replied and said it was because she had fallen in love with Mr Logan, her policeman, but I couldn’t be bothered. Love held very little currency in my father’s world, and he would have still seen it as my aunt frittering her life away. I did notice that he was wearing a black band around his upper arm – although I guessed this was more for show than a mark of his grief. I also realised that he had aged. I’d last seen him a couple of Christmases ago, when he and Mother had been en-route to visit friends in Hastings and had dropped in to see me and Una. In that time his once dark, lustrous hair had turned grey and all those years of not smiling were serving to give him terrible frown lines.

“Funeral go well?” he asked, breaking the silence.

“As well as could be expected.”

“It wasn’t just you….?”

“No Aunt Una’s friends all turned up. They’ve gone off to find a public house somewhere. I wanted to come back here. I’m in no mind for socialising.”

“I’ve come down to see you, Lilly, because, and I’m sorry to have to give you this news straight after your aunt’s funeral, but you will need to leave this house.”

“So soon?”

“Yes. As Una had no children to pass it to, the house has now become part of my estate.”

“I guessed it was too much to hope she’d leave it to me.”

“She probably realised the running of a house like this would be far too much for a girl like you. Cousin Timothy is coming over from India at the end of the month. He’ll be based in the Farringdon offices, but he wants to live near the sea and travel in each day. Gillian suffers from some sort of nervous condition and Timothy’s convinced the salt in the air will help her. The train service from here to London is very good and this place is ideal for him, so I’ve told him he can move in.”

“And I shall be homeless,” I uttered.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Amelia. You and I may have had our disagreements, but I would never see my youngest daughter on the street. You will be moving to London.”

“London?!”

“Yes, you’ll be living with Blanche Armstrong. She’s your mother’s niece. Your cousin.”

“Yes, well, Emma, her mother and yours haven’t always seen eye to eye. But they’re talking at the moment, and Emma thinks Blanche would benefit from a companion-cum-secretary. I naturally suggested you.”

“London. I never thought about moving to London. My home is here in Hove.”

Father looked flustered and cross, gripping the chair arms until his knuckles went white.

“Because of the choices you have made and the things you have done, Amelia, you are in no position to pick and choose where you live and work. Now, you served perfectly well as your aunt’s companion for many years. I do not see why you cannot do the same for Blanche.”

“Of course,” I replied, suitably chastened  “I’m sorry Father.”

“Blanche will be expecting you on Wednesday morning. Do I need to hire someone to move your things into storage?”

“I haven’t very much. Most of these things are Aunt Una’s.”

“Very well. I shall leave you some money for your train fare. There is a six o’clock train from Hove that arrives at Victoria at just gone eight. The house isn’t too far from there.”

“How old is this Blanche? Does she live alone?”

“She’s not much older than you. Richard, her husband, is a businessman. His mother is Lady Clarissa Marsh, a distant cousin of mine. He and Blanche have a small child, Jon. I expect from time to time you may be required to care for him in Nanny’s absence.”

I could not believe my father would be so cruel as to put me in a house where there would be a little boy. Was his memory really that short? Or did he think that my feelings were negated because my child had been born out of wedlock? Did that make me less of a mother? Was my sorrow not the same?

“Thank you, Father,” I replied, wishing I could summon up the strength to fight him – like I used to. But all my fight was gone. All I longed for was a quiet life, and it was easier to go along with him, however much it hurt me.

“Blanche knows a little of your past,” he said. “I told her you became friends with some girls in the Women’s movement when you were very young, but that you quickly saw the error of your ways and left. I would appreciate it if you refrained from talking about your former life. Blanche isn’t interested, and you will only embarrass yourself. I told her that you spent many years as a companion to Una, and that is all she needs to know.”

“Yes Father.”

“Good. I will pay you a small allowance each month. I’ll make sure Richard receives it and gives it to you.”

He reached into his inside pocket and took out his wallet. From it he pulled out a piece of paper and some money. Passing it all to me.

“There’s the address and some money to keep you going.”

He stood up and returned his wallet to his coat.

“I must leave,” he said.

“But I’ve asked Betty to bring us some tea…..”

“I have to leave now, Lilly. It’s a long drive back to Missdenden.”

He walked out the door, and in temper, I threw the money and paper across the room. It landed on the table in the bay of the window, right in front of Aunt Una’s treasured photograph of her and Virginia Woolfe. Just then, the door opened and Betty came in carrying a tray with the tea things on.

“Oh, Mr Hicks gone, Miss?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied, trying to keep my composure. “You’re going to be getting a new employer Betty.”

“I know Miss, Sir Timothy Hicks. Mr Hicks told me.”

I kept quiet and smiled sweetly, but inside I was seething. My father had told the servant about my change in circumstance before he’d told me. This just confirmed how little I meant to him.

“I see,” I eventually said. “Then I will require you to help me pack. I only want to take one suitcase and my carpet bag to London.”

 

Chapter Two

I didn’t want to take much to London. I’d got Betty to take a lot of my belongings up to the attic and leave them there. It gave me a secret satisfaction to imagine this cousin Timothy, whom I had never met before, and his sick wife, living in the house, going about their business, while all the time, my possessions were up in the attic – like a spider watching from the corner of the room. I was being forced from my home without mercy and I was determined to leave a part of me behind.

I left the house without looking back. I walked briskly and resolutely out of Chertsey Terrace and to the sea front, towards my new life. Inside I was dying, mourning the five years I had spent in my aunt’s love and protection. Would I ever find another place where I fitted in so easily? I doubted it.

At six o’clock on a weekday morning, all my fellow commuters were gentlemen on their way to work, reading The Times and smoking cigars. My carriage was full, and it embarrassed me, every time the man opposite, glanced at me, no doubt wondering what a woman like me was doing travelling alone so early in the morning. I avoided his scrutiny by looking out of the window at the countryside rolling by. I hated it whenever the train would pass through a tunnel, and the blackness would turn the window into a mirror and I would have to look at my reflection. I’d quickly close my eyes until my eyelids turned red and I realised I was in daylight again.

I had always hated looking at myself. My insecurity came from my childhood, when I would be compared to Verity, my older sister. Like David, Thomas and Robert – our older brothers, Verity was blonde-haired and porcelain skinned – just like our mother. People would always pity me for inheriting my father’s black hair and dark, angry features. I was six years old when we’d moved from India to England, and my parents’ friends would tease them and ask if they’d brought a little black girl back to work as a servant. Before the dull English weather had turned my skin lighter, I’d been as dark as oak and so different to my siblings, who would suffer from the heat and have to be slathered in various creams to calm their sunburnt skin. I thrived in the sunshine and hated the cold, seeming to feel it more than they did.

Now of course, I was several shades paler, but I still looked like a foreigner. Catching my reflection in the train window, I could see I was ageing as well. Dark circles sat beneath my eyes, and my cheekbones looked more pronounced than ever. I could imagine myself in twenty years time, a thin-faced, haggard old woman who looked like a witch. But I had never been considered pretty, so what did it matter? The only person who had ever told me I was beautiful was Christopher, and he’d had an ulterior motive so I could hardly trust his word.

The train reached Victoria Station, and as I disembarked and waited for the guard to fetch my bags, I stood and looked around and wondered if I would be able to adapt to living in the Metropolis. As a girl I had spent much time in London with my fellow Suffragettes – lobbying, demonstrating and getting into trouble, but that was more than ten years ago. The war had probably changed the place beyond the recognition and I would feel as much an outsider here as I did anywhere else.

Even at eight o’clock in the morning, Victoria Station was filled with the steam of the trains arriving from the Coast and Kent. People bustled around me, making their way to work, and the noise of it all drove me to distraction. I was glad when I was given my bags and could make my way outside.

Even though I had been to London many times, it was usually with companions who knew their way round. But alone, I felt suddenly lost. I guessed Eccleston Gardens was close to Victoria Station, but how to get there was beyond me. I wanted to ask someone, but the businessmen who passed me looked so serious and wrapped up in their thoughts that I felt they would not appreciate a silly woman stopping them. Instead, I went up to a tradesman standing near two beautiful dray horses. He was fixing nosebags to them, while his colleague unloaded barrels – no doubt taking beer to one of the pubs in the station.

“Excuse me,” I asked. “Could you please tell me how to get to Eccleston Gardens?”

The man turned and looked at me. His face was filthy and under his cap, wisps of white hair stuck out.

“Right Miss, turn left ‘ere,” he said in his broad, cockney accent. “Then left again, then left again and it’s the first on the left.”

“Is it far?”

“Nah, you’ll be there in five minutes.”

“Thank you.”

I was almost tempted to ask him if he could carry my bags for me, but I guessed he wouldn’t want to leave his horses. So I picked up my case and my carpet bag and headed off in the direction he had told me. Behind the dirty, busy station stood streets filled with grand, white townhouses. I found Eccleston Gardens, and made my way to number fourteen. As I stood on the cobbled road and looked up at the huge, five story house with its pillars by the door, and stairs leading down to the servants’ quarters, I wondered what was awaiting me. Of course I had lived in a grand house before – I had grown up in Oakley, the family home in Buckinghamshire, which was much bigger than this one, but so much had happened to me since, that sometimes it felt as though those memories belonged to someone else.

I was awoken from my reverie by the street door opening and a man emerging. He wore his hat low over his eyes, the collar of his trench-coat turned up. He walked with a quick, determined step, tripping lightly down the front stairs to the pavement.

“Can I help you?” he asked. His voice was deep and commanding, with a hint of suspicion. I got the feeling he thought I was some sort of lunatic – a mad woman who wandered the streets of London, looking up at people’s houses.

“Er, yes, I’m sorry,” I uttered. “I’m looking for Mrs Armstrong.”

He raised his head and surveyed me with his rather piercing blue eyes. His haughty expression startled me a little, and I immediately felt as though I was going to be entering another environment where I was disapproved of.

“Are you Miss Hicks?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Ring the bell, someone will let you in.”

“Thank you.”

I swiftly picked up my bags and proceeded up the steps, but he stopped me again.

“Do you require any assistance?” he asked.

“No I’m fine, thank you,” I replied, before turning and carrying on up the steps. The front step was marble, the black door was immaculately painted, and the brass knob polished to perfection. I rang the bell beside it, and found myself suddenly gripped by fear. I was going to live in a strange house with people I did not know. Blanche Armstrong may have been my cousin, but she meant nothing to me. My mother was one of twelve children, and like any family, not all the siblings got on, and relationships were estranged. There were hundreds of relatives out there who were strangers to me, and Blanche was one of them.

The door opened, and a little maid stood there, a nervous expression on her face. I found myself longing for Betty and her Bolshie attitude. Aunt Una adored her for it, and encouraged her to stand up for herself. Una had never subscribed to the notion that women should be seen and not heard – even those belonging to the serving classes.

“Can I help you?” the maid asked in a quiet, mousy voice.

“I’m Miss Hicks, I’m here to see Mrs Armstrong.”

“Come in Miss,” she said, stepping back and letting me into the hall. It was dark and cold, and the smell of beeswax was overwhelming. The maid stood before me, holding her hand out expectantly.

“Shall I take your bags up to your room, Miss?” she asked. “I’ll ring down to fetch Mrs Woods.”

“Mrs Woods?”

“The housekeeper. She’ll be up soon to show you where you need to go.”

The little maid showed extraordinary strength, as she picked up my heavy bags and took them upstairs. I stood and took stock of the situation and felt as though I had stepped back in time. Aunt Una and I had been self-sufficient – apart from Betty’s help. And now I had returned to a house where there were maids and a housekeeper. There was probably a butler downstairs, as well.

Suddenly there was a cry from above my head;

“Are you Amelia?”

I looked up. Hanging over the balustrade above me was a woman. At first I was struck by her long, chestnut hair hanging loose and down towards me. Secondly I was taken by her striking features. Even from ten feet below, I could see she was very beautiful, with dark eyes and a large, generous mouth painted red.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Oh good. Come up and help me choose a dress, will you?”

Realising this was a command rather than a question, and guessing that this was my new ‘companion’, I went upstairs. When I got to the next floor, I was a little shocked to find that the woman was standing – bold as brass – in a silk petticoat and dressing gown. A teasing, if not mocking smile on her face.

“Hello cousin,” she said. “Come into my dressing room.”

Still a little perplexed, I followed her into one of the side rooms, and discovered it to be dedicated entirely to her dresses. A rail ran along every wall, and from it hung the most beautiful clothes I had ever seen. I could make out silver sparkling dresses and gowns made from the finest lace. It smelt of exquisite perfume, and it was only on my second inspection that I realised that a girl was standing at the far end of the room. She was a maid but looked older than the one who had greeted me downstairs. Over her arm was draped a beautiful, burgundy silk dress, and she could not disguise the annoyance on her face.

“I won’t be needing you now, Hudson,” Blanche said. She then looked at me. Those big, dark eyes twinkling with mischief. “I’m having lunch with Phoebe Bailey-Morris, and Hudson thinks that monstrosity of a dress is appropriate. I don’t know why I pay her.” She looked at the maid once more. “Miss Hicks is here to help me now, Hudson. Why don’t you go downstairs and see if Mrs Woods needs any help with the meat order?”

“Yes Ma’m,” Hudson snapped, remembering to do a little curtsey. She hung the dress back on its rail and left the room, and I swear I could hear her muttering under her breath as she went downstairs. Blanche walked further into the room and I stumbled behind her, like some sort of disciple, only able to concentrate on how beautiful she was. One of my fellow Suffragettes – a girl called Alice Poole, had been a stage actress. Being small and plain, She was only ever cast as maids, or dowdy younger sisters; but if she could act, Blanche Armstrong would have been a leading lady. She moved with the grace of a cat, and being only five feet four myself, I envied her long limbs and tall stature. Under the stark electric light, her chestnut hair glimmered and shone, illuminated with slivers of pure gold. I knew I would never feel comfortable in her company, and longed for a time machine to take me back to Aunt Una and her set of eccentric old friends who treated me like a surrogate daughter.

“So what do you think I should wear?” she sighed.

“I don’t know where you’re going…Ma’am.” Was this right? What should I address her as?

She turned and looked at me, arching a perfectly plucked eyebrow.

“Ma’am? We’re cousins. Why are you calling me Ma’am?”

“I’m not sure what I should address you as.”

“Blanche of course! You’re not a member of staff. Haven’t you been told why you’re here?”

“Not really, no. My father did mention that you hadn’t been well.”

She turned her back on me and started leafing through the clothes.

“There was a baby,” she said. “It died. My mother is convinced that it’s sent me insane and that I need watching twenty four hours a day. It seems inappropriate for the staff to guard me, so the idea was for me to have you as my watcher.”

She turned again and looked at me.

“Are you up to that, Amelia? Will you be my watcher?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Well you can start by helping me choose a dress. I’m meeting Phoebe at Burtons. Have you been there?”

“No.”

“It’s a restaurant in St James. Do you know the Bailey-Morrises?”

“No.”

“Well they’re appalling snobs. Their grandfather was one of those ghastly Yorkshiremen who made his money from coal. Now Phoebe and her sister Andrea think they’re up there with the Astors or something. So naturally I want my proper class to shine through and teach them that it cannot be bought.”

“I’m so sorry,” I blurted out, feeling rather that I had been dropped in the middle of something, and I should have known what was going on. “I know so little about you, I didn’t even know I had an Aunt Emma.”

“You wouldn’t. She and Aunt Marjorie fell out as girls. It was only after the war, when Mother found out your brothers had been killed, that she made contact. By the time I was introduced to your family, you had gone to live with your aunt. I was surprised you weren’t at Uncle Freddie’s funeral.”

“Uncle Freddie’s dead?” I uttered. He had been my favourite uncle. He hadn’t treated me like an outsider – like everyone else did. The fact that I had not been informed of his death just reinforced how little I meant to my family.

“Yes he died a couple of months ago. No one told you?”

“No.”

Blanche put her hand upon her hip.

“So you really were exiled?! What was your crime?”

“I didn’t do anything. Aunt Una needed a companion and I volunteered to do it.”

“That’s still no reason not to be told of your uncle’s death.” She stopped and gasped. “You’re not a murderer or something are you?!”

“No,” I laughed. “Nothing so exciting.” I knew I was going to have to tell her something – an abridged version of my past, taking out the more unsavoury elements. “I think my father might have told you that when I was young I joined the Women’s Movement. It didn’t sit well with my family and I fell out with them. We’ve never really been reconciled. I was badly affected by my three brothers being killed in the war, and Mother and Father thought it would do me good to go and live with Aunt Una.”

“You were a Suffragette?!” Blanche gasped. “Did you go to prison?”

“Yes.”

“Were you force fed?”

“Yes. I don’t wish to talk about it.”

“Of course not. How exciting. You must meet my mother-in-law. She has very strong opinions about the Suffragettes. I’m sure you could give a very interesting argument.”

I groaned inwardly, getting the feeling I was going to be a source of novelty to Blanche – someone to be paraded about at dull dinner parties.

“Anyway, let’s find me something glorious to wear.”

I didn’t know where to start. As a young girl, I’d liked to make myself look nice, but after so many years of living with an elderly woman, fashion had lost its priority in my life. I didn’t know what one wore to fancy restaurants. It was only lunch so I guessed she wouldn’t want something too ostentatious, so I selected a blue dress with a lace panel down the front, and white lace panels within the pleats of the skirt. I took it from the rail and showed it to Blanche.”

“Yes that’s quite lovely,” she said. “Will you help me dress?”

“Of course.”

“Come on then. Make me look stunning. I want Phoebe Bailey-Morris to seethe when she sees me.”

We went into the grand bedroom, with its four poster bed, Persian rugs damask curtains, and a beautiful bevelled mirror over the mantelpiece. As I caught sight of myself with Blanche, it was hard to comprehend we shared the same blood. She was so big and Amazonian and beautiful, and I was like a little mouse, trailing along behind her.

“Was that your husband I met outside?” I asked her, as I laid the dress on the bed. Blanche went to her dressing table and began brushing her long, glossy hair, looking at me in the mirror.

“Miserable fellow? Looked as though he had a bad smell under his nose?”

“Well I wouldn’t say…” How did I reply without sounding rude?

“Yes, that was Richard,” Blanche laughed. “You have to excuse him. Basic manners are difficult for him to comprehend.”

“He wasn’t rude to me.”

“You’re too kind. Now come and help me choose a pair of earrings.”

I was rather glad when Blanche left for her appointment, and I could get my bearings. I was introduced to Mrs Woods, the housekeeper, a steely-looking woman who bore the countenance of an old retainer. I would have bet my remaining few shillings that she’d probably worked for Richard’s family since she was a girl and so saw any newcomer as an interloper.

She showed me to my room on the second floor. It was twice the size of the room I’d had back in Hove, with a double bed, a large wardrobe, a writing bureau and an armchair. The fireplace was clean, and thankfully there was no mirror above the mantelpiece. Instead there was a reproduction Matisse painting of an exotic looking lady. Quite ironic given my countenance.

“There’s a bathroom and water closet down the hall,” Mrs Woods explained. “You’ll share it with Nanny and Master Jonathan.”

The boy. Where was he? Did he have to be so close to me?

“Where are they at the moment?” I asked.

“Nanny will have taken Master Jon to school. He goes to St Cuthbert’s Prep on Eaton Square. He’ll be home soon. Although Master Jon is in Nanny’s care and nothing to do with you.”

“Well what shall I do until Mrs Armstrong returns? I don’t know what my role is.”

“No use asking me!” Mrs Woods snapped. “It’s not me who’s taken you in. I suggest you make yourself at home.”

And that was what I did. I hung up my clothes, tried the bed for size and spent a lot of time looking out of the window. My bedroom did not face the Square, instead I had to gaze upon the trains coming into Victoria Station. I knew this would be a source of much distraction to me. All my life I had been scolded for daydreaming and I knew I would find myself wondering about the people on the trains. Where were they going and where they had come from. Were they happier than me? That wouldn’t be difficult.

I sat upon the bed and pondered my situation. I was here in London for the first time since before the war. But back then I had been a young girl in the company of sympathetic friends with a common goal to fight for. Now I was alone, forced to live with a cousin who I had taken an instant dislike to, a housekeeper who made her feelings for me perfectly clear, and the husband who even his wife called miserable. This was to be a prison for me. With each passing day I would be reminded of my sins and punished for them. I was always sceptical about religion, but it truly seemed that someone up there hated me.

Out of Darkness is released Monday 27th  November 2017

(c) Karen Mason. 2017

 

 

 

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Amelia final cover

Book one of my new saga, Out of Darkness, is released on Monday 27th November.

All her life Amelia Hicks has felt like an outsider. A former Suffragette and mother to an illegitimate child, she has been cast aside by her wealthy family and sent to live with an elderly aunt in Hove. When her aunt dies, Amelia finds herself at the mercy of her unloving father who sends her to London to live with Blanche Armstrong, her glamorous and capricious cousin and her shell-shocked husband Richard. Amelia finds herself thrust back into society, coping with Blanche’s ever changing moods and fighting the growing attraction between her and Richard, who is carrying his own demons after his experience in the First World War.

Amelia’s life takes a dramatic turn when she receives news of the son she gave away five years ago, and when a scruffy man with amnesia turns up at the shelter at which she is a volunteer, she realises it is David, her beloved older brother who was declared missing presumed dead after the Battle of the Somme.

After so long in the shadows, Amelia steps back into the light when a whole new world opens up before her. She finally gets the chance to make a difference to the lives of those most in need, and finds love in the most unlikely place. But will she choose to stay in London and continue her campaigning work, or will she sacrifice all that she has come to love, to move to the other side of the world for a chance to be a mother to the son she last saw when he was an hour old?

 

I am proud to reveal the cover of Out of Darkness – released winter 2017 – more details to followAmelia Cover 1

Tainted Love

March 15, 2017

tl-cover-1When Phillipa is given a cold case – investigating the gang rape of student, Kelly Shanks, twenty six years ago, she thinks the hardest thing to do will be to prove the guilt of the group of elite men accused of the crime. With Kelly having committed suicide shortly after the attack, leaving a note saying ‘Maybe Now You’ll Believe Me’, Phillipa is left with only the memories of the people who were closest to her, to get to the truth. But she soon realises there is more to this case than meets the eye. Why has justice evaded the men accused of the crime, despite numerous accusations against them over the years? Are the very people who claim to have loved Kelly being honest with her? And is Phillipa in more danger than she could possibly realise?

In a race against time to get answers, it begins to dawn on her that this could well be her last ever case.

Tainted Love is available on Smashwords and Amazon (more outlets to follow)

 

tl-cover-1When Phillipa is given a cold case – investigating the gang rape of a student, twenty six years ago, she thinks the hardest thing to do will be to prove the guilt of the group of elite men accused of the crime. With the victim having committed suicide shortly after the attack, leaving a note saying only ‘Maybe Now You’ll Believe Me’, Phillipa is left with only the memories of those people who were closest to her, but is everyone telling the truth? Why has justice evaded these men despite numerous accusations against them over the years? And is Phillipa in more danger than she could possibly realise? In a race against time to get answers, it begins to dawn on her that this could well be her last ever case.

Tainted Love will be released on 16 March 2017.

Happy New Year!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been near this website and I can only apologise for my break last year. 2016 was a tough year for so many of us, me included and I just needed to concentrate on other things.

But I’m back and early March will see the release of Tainted Love, the new Phillipa Hardcastle mystery. Phillipa will be tasked with investigating the suicide of a student, twenty six years ago, and what starts as something ordinary turns into a highly dangerous game, where not only Phillipa, but those around are under threat.

More to come over the next few weeks, but here is the cover and I hope you’re looking forward to reading it….

tl-cover-1 

Final cover v1The honeymoon period is definitely over for Phillipa Hardcastle. Husband Joe is on secondment with the CIA and Phillipa has been left to her own devices. She throws herself into work, trying to clear the name of Jordan Garry, a young man accused of instigating riots that have broken out across South London. Carmel Garry, Jordan’s mother, is convinced her son is being used as a patsy for Truth and Justice, a shadowy anarchist movement hellbent on destroying the establishment, and Phillipa sends Sam, her trusty assistant, on his first proper undercover assignment, infiltrating Truth and Justice to find out why it seems they are working with the Metropolitan Police.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to occupy her time, Phillipa also takes on the case of Jane Watkins, a missing woman who disappeared at the same time as Siobhan Stone, a glamorous political aide. The two women both worked for the same MP and it soon becomes apparent to Phillipa that their cases are linked. In order to solve it, she has to enter the heart of government, not realising that her undercover work will provide her with more answers than she ever anticipated.