Smuggling was rife in the eighteenth and well into the nineteenth century among the small hamlets and remote farms of Northumberland. This surprised me when I researched the history of the area in which I wanted to place my heroine, Melanie Grey, and I decided to incorporate such activities into her story. She seemed just the right sort of person to be able to live with such risks, though she tried to persuade the master of Gavington to mend his ways for the sake of his child if not for himself. I've given you the opening lines of the story here, and to find out what happens you'll have to read on...
‘Gavington House, Miss.’
The coachman, no doubt anxious to reach his journey’s end before dark, was briskly polite as he drew the coach to a halt on the road between Corbridge and Morpeth. Descending unaided and with some difficulty, given her hooped skirt, she saw he had deposited her bag beside the imposing stone pillars of an open gateway. He tipped his hat to her and sprang back up to his perch with a cry to his horses. She watched the coach roll along the lane, and waved away the cloud of dust and grit that flew up behind the large wheels.
Green hedgerows divided greener fields, and there was not a dwelling in sight. Looking around, Melanie shivered. The snarling griffins with claws dug into the top of the stone gateposts added to her feeling of unease. Stepping closer, she realised the griffins protected a date incised into the stone beneath them: 1524. Gavington House had stood here for three hundred and forty years.
A little unnerved by such a span of time, Melanie stooped, gripped the handles of her portmanteau and marched between the gate posts with a determined stride. The gates had been opened and then abandoned some time ago, for tall weeds grew on both sides of them. Odd, she thought, as she walked along the weedy gravel drive that led through a shadowy clump of pine trees. Though she had packed only the necessities and a fresh gown for tomorrow’s interview, her leather bag was heavy and the gravel drive did not make for easy walking. Full of shallow gradients and curves, it wound through the trees in a most annoying way. Now and then, through gaps in the foliage, she caught sight of what must be Gavington House.
Had she been in the comfort of a sprung carriage, she would have found the approach charming and no doubt been delighted with each pretty vista as it appeared. But after twenty minutes of energetic walking, Melanie hesitated. The drive was about to take one of its unnecessary bends away from the house, which was plainly visible two hundred yards away in the opposite direction.
With a frustrated sigh, Melanie gripped her bag firmly, brushed through the low hanging branches and strode out across the lawn. If she were shot for it, she would not follow that drive an instant longer. Hurrying across the open stretch of recently scythed grass, she glanced over her shoulder, half expecting an irate gardener or gamekeeper to chase her off the hallowed turf.
Available here: amzn.to/ZLEeT1
“Fascinating and beautifully created characters, plenty of secrets, and a compelling love story between a hero and a heroine that tugs at your heart strings, makes this a must read.”