The 2019 Victorian romance from the Sunday Times bestselling author.
A perfect Dickensian saga for Christmas.
Christmas Day, London 1880. Snow falls … a dying Irish girl clutching her new-born baby drags herself to the sanctuary of an East End orphanage and throws herself on the mercy of the Sisters of Clemency. The nuns raise little Ettie O’Reilly as their own, but the lives of the nuns and orphans are soon crushed by an unscrupulous bishop. The heart-breaking outcome turns Ettie’s life upside down and Christmas will never mean the same again.
Will Ettie ever find her friend Michael Wilson whose secret holds the key to their past? Will Ettie keep her innocence and survive the traumatic events that are about to erupt?
The convent’s schoolroom was very old, with brown-painted walls and ink stains smudging the desks and floor. A grey and depressing light seeped in from the broken windows. In the very same manner as Ettie had held tightly to Sister Patrick, the little girls held fast to Ettie. ‘We don’t want to go,’ they wailed, cuffing the snot from their noses.
Ettie had just delivered the news. She wanted to tell the children herself. They had to prepare themselves.
‘I want to stay here with you,’ Kathy insisted.
Ettie lifted the little girl’s chin. ‘Say your prayers. Jesus will look after you.’
‘We’re being got rid of!’ accused Johnny Dean, scratching nervously at one of his disfigured ears.
‘The nuns don’t give a farthing about us,’ agreed Michael Wilson, who looked very angry as he clenched his fists. Ettie always smiled when he bragged he was older and wiser than her. Though tall and skinny as a rake, he was very strong. ‘We’ll be turfed out on the street,’ he declared. ‘Or sent to the workhouse.’
Ettie looked into his rebellious grey eyes. ‘Where is your faith Michael?’
’The only faith I’ve got,’ he shouted dramatically, ‘is in myself!’ His face darkened as he poked a finger at her. ’Can the nuns stop the rozzers from nabbing me the moment I step out of this place?’
Ettie felt her tummy turn over. He could be right, for it was only the nuns intervention with the law that had prevented Michael’s arrest.
‘God will provide,’ she promised. ‘He’ll answer your prayers.’
‘He’s never answered them before,’ came the reply. ‘Why should he answer them now?’
Ettie wanted to remind him that it was only because of the nuns request to the police that he wasn’t now incarcerated in the boys’ reformatory. But she knew this would upset him even more.
From the smaller children there were sobs and gulps as they listened to this harsh exchange. How could she reassure them?
‘Let’s say our prayers,’ she said and obediently they kneeled on the floor. All, except Michael.
‘May God surround us with His light,’ she prayed fervently. ‘May He enfold us with His love. May He protect us and guide us, so that forever we will remain safe in the palm of His hand.’
‘I’m clearing out,’ interrupted Michael, kicking his boot against a desk. ‘While I’ve got the chance.’ He grabbed his grubby cloth cap from the chair. ‘Good luck to all of you. You’ll need it.’
Thank you, Carol Rivers and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
“Were there’s muck there’s money!” If my family had a royal crest I’m sure those are the words that would have been hewn into the stone above it.
Mum and Dad were both East Enders who were born on the famous or should I say the then infamous Isle of Dogs. They were costermongers selling fruit, veg and anything else that would stand still long enough!
Their family were immigrants who travelled to the UK from Ireland and France, while others emigrated to America.
As a child I would listen to the adults spinning their colourful stories, as my cousins and I drank pop under the table.
I know the seeds of all my stories come from those far off times that feel like only yesterday. So I would like to say a big heartfelt thank you to all my family and ancestors wherever you are now … UK, Ireland, France or America, as you’ve handed down to me the magic and love of story telling.
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