After her mother’s death, twenty-year-old Sophie Ross is left orphaned in London. With no money and little chance of an income, she tries to get work as a governess to avoid destitution. Now alone in the world, she only has the company of her erstwhile nursemaid and faithful friend, Hannah.
But unbeknown to Sophie, her mother instructed Hannah to post a letter to Trescadinnick House in Cornwall upon her death. The letter will be the catalyst that changes Sophie’s life forever as she learns of her mother’s romance, marriage and then ultimate rejection by her own father and the estranged family she left behind in Cornwall.
The Penvarrow family welcome Sophie and Hannah into their fold, but tensions rise and family secrets are revealed as Sophie attempts to rebuild her life and find happiness.
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In the pale dawn of her twenty-first birthday, Mary Penvarrow stole out of the house carrying a large leather bag containing her worldly goods. She skirted round the outhouses and set off up the track that led to the moor. As she approached a stand of trees she saw a figure waiting, holding the reins of two horses. She ran towards him, dropping her bag as he gathered her into his arms.
‘You came!’ he murmured into her hair. ‘I was afraid you’d change your mind.’
‘Never,’ she replied as she returned his embrace.
‘Did anyone see you leave?’ he asked as he let her go and picked up her saddlebag.
‘No, the house was still asleep.’
‘Not even Miss Matty?’
‘No, John. Not even Matty,’ sighed Mary.
‘Then it’s time to go,’ John said and lifting her up in his arms, tossed her into the saddle. He slung her saddlebag behind her and then mounted his own horse. ‘There’s an early train to Truro from St Morwen,’ he said. ‘We’ll leave the horses at the inn.’
Together they rode out from the shelter of the trees and took the track that edged the moor. As they crested a rise, Mary drew rein and turned for one final glimpse of the house where she had lived for her twenty-one years… from now, no longer her home. In wreaths of early mist, its tower jutting into a yellowing sky, Trescadinnick stood strong and solid, staring out across the pewter of the restless sea. In the distance, early-morning smoke rose from the hidden chimneys of Port Felec, the little fishing village and its harbour sheltered from the worst of the weather in a hollow of the cliffs. The church with its squat tower stood sentinel above the village, behind which a few sturdy cottages clung to the rising cliff, and beyond it all, etched against the pale morning, the tall finger of the copper mine pointed to the sky. It was a view Mary knew by heart, and as she gazed upon it one last time a shaft of sunlight pierced the mist, illuminating the home she was leaving. For a moment tears filled her eyes as she imprinted the view on her mind, but her decision had been made five days ago when her father had sent John Ross away, his suit unheard. She lifted one hand as if in salute and then turning the horse’s head, she followed John over the hill, riding into the unknown that was the rest of her life.
Diney Costeloe is the bestselling author of The Throwaway Children, The Runaway Family, The Lost Soldier, The Sisters of St Croix and The Girl With No Name. She divides her time between Somerset and West Cork.
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