About the book
A heart-wrenching saga of two girls, forced to survive without a mother’s love. Bestselling Lindsey Hutchinson returns to her beloved Black Country, with a novel perfect for all fans of Josephine Cox and Lyn Andrews.
Orpha Buchanan and Peg Meriweather had a very different start in life. Orpha surrounded by wealth and riches, Peg dumped on a doorstep as a baby with nothing to her name but a scruffy blanket and tatty clothes. But one thing they had in common from their very first day, was a mother who despised them and wished them gone.
Hortense Buchanan wasn’t made to be a mother. Bullied herself when she was a child, she continues the tradition with her own children, loving money and finery more than her own flesh and blood. When her daughter Orpha runs away from home, Hortense celebrates, never once worrying for her safety.
Circumstances bring Orpha and Peg together, and before long they’re as close as family, making their way in the hustle and bustle of a booming Birmingham and the smoke-filled Black Country. But before long, Hortense realises that her daughter stands in the way of the one thing she really cares about, and the bitter legacy of the Buchanans looks set to destroy them all…
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The sound of the slap echoed around the quiet parlour. Orpha Buchanan’s head rocked on her shoulders from the impact.
‘You are a spiteful, vindictive woman! Why ever did you have me in the first place?’ Orpha shouted then listened with horror to the answer her mother gave.
‘It was your father’s fault, I never wanted you! I would have left you to die but for your father finding a wet nurse and nanny! If I had had my way, you wouldn’t be here now!’
Hortense Buchanan smirked as she watched her daughter’s face. The girl’s bravado suddenly crumbled.
‘What is it that makes you hate me so much?’ Orpha sobbed as she slumped into a chair.
‘You were born! With your dark hair and green eyes like your father’s; your sweet nature… you make me sick!
Finding her courage once more, Orpha shouted, ‘I didn’t ask to be born! That was your mistake, if you hadn’t wanted a child…’
Another sharp slap halted the girl’s words.
‘How dare you speak to me in such a manner!’ Hortense’s fury reached boiling point as she landed blow after blow on her daughter. In a frenzy of anger, she slapped the young girl who tried desperately to fend off the attack. Hortense screamed abuse as she rained down the blows with her open hand until finally she fell into a chair exhausted.
‘Get out of my sight girl!’ Hortense said in hardly more than a menacing whisper.
Orpha shot from the parlour to the safe haven of her bedroom. Sitting on her bed, she allowed the tears to fall at last. Her face was stinging from the slaps, and the hurt to her body told of yet more bruises to come.
Slowly and carefully she took off her blouse and allowed her long skirt to fall to the floor. Bathing the sore areas around her face and shoulders with cold water from the bowl on the dresser, Orpha stared into the mirror.
Why was it that she and her mother could not get on? Why did they have to argue over the most trivial of things? She was at a loss as she searched for answers to these questions. From as early as she could remember, Orpha’s mother had shown only her dislike of her daughter. Hortense was jealous, that much Orpha had worked out, jealous of the fact that she and her father had the same features and character as well as sharing a good relationship. Even Orpha could see there was nothing of her mother in her, and she, at least, was grateful for that.
As she stared at herself in the mirror she wished she had been born in another century. Would the future be any different? Would she have been better placed to fight her own corner in a time yet to come? Tears flowed freely as she feared that time may never come.
Looking again at the marks that covered her body, Orpha turned away. Drying her tears, she carefully began to get dressed once more. Finally managing to lie on her bed, her thoughts swirled. Why did she put up with the constant physical and mental abuse from her mother? She didn’t really have a choice. At fourteen years old, what could she do? She could tell her father, but then Hortense would make her life unbearable. She contemplated what might happen if her father knew about what was going on. Would he divorce her mother? If he did, would he hold her, Orpha, responsible for the break-up of the family? She could not risk her father’s displeasure, she loved him too much for that. She could run away, but where would she go? She had no working skills, no trade to fall back on. She would starve or end up in the workhouse. No, even taking the beatings was better than that! She realised at that moment there was no way out for her… at least not yet.
As she lay on her bed, Orpha heard the singing and joviality from the people in the streets around her home in Wednesbury. She had hoped to be allowed to join in, but instead she had received yet another hiding. The day had been declared a bank holiday in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee – 20th June 1897, and street parties were in full swing everywhere. Orpha had asked her mother’s permission to go out and enjoy the day with the other people of St. James’ Street, but Hortense had refused.
Orpha slowly stood and walked to the window, looking out longingly at the revellers. She heard the music and laughter of the road’s residents as they enjoyed their day off from the daily grind of work.
She pursed her lips as she thought about those fortunate enough to have a job. This celebration day off was welcome indeed for them. If she had a job herself it would give her freedom and independence from her mother, but finding work would be nigh on impossible in the poverty stricken town.
As she watched the festivities she thought about the people who were singing and dancing in the street. She thought about where she, and they, lived.
Wednesbury was a small town in the heart of the industrial ‘Black Country’, so named due to the pall of smoke constantly hanging over the place, belched out daily from chimneys both domestic and industrial. The coal dust from the three collieries combined with the dark smoke from factories and furnaces coated every building with a layer of grime. Housewives spent many hours cleaning their closely packed terraced houses only to have to do it all again the next day. Work, she knew, was hard to come by and the ‘bread line’ – out of work people standing at the corner of the marketplace in the vain hope of finding employment – grew steadily day by day.
She considered how fortunate she was to live in such a fine house as she watched the poorer people making the most of their day off.
Lindsey’s previous books are out now! http://amzn.to/2wnSyqB
About the author
Lindsey lives in Shropshire with her husband. She has a son and a daughter and three beautiful grandchildren. She is the daughter of million-copy bestselling author Meg Hutchinson.
Facebook: Lindsey Hutchinson