Increasingly desperate poverty after her beloved father's suicide forces a crisis for Callista Stanford, for vicious rent collector Oswin Slade will accept only the girl's body in payment for the rent due. Repulsed by his advances, Callista postpones the evil day until it is too late. Homeless and destitute, Callista finds refuge with Abigail and Daniel Roberts, a kindly couple, potters by trade. Taught by her father to appreciate beauty, Callista proves to have a feeling for the clay and with Daniel's help comes to be mistress of the Leabrook Pottery. But there is no happy ending yet; an unseen enemy, a depraved woman, lurks in the shadows, intent on harm to the pauper's child.
He claimed to be a man of God. But he did the devil's work.
Thomas Thorpe hides his carnal desires under the mask of a pious lay preacher. When Ann Spencer rejects his advances, he evicts her from her home, claiming she is living in sin with a young man not her blood relative. But Alec is a ward, not a lover. And Ann has made a promise to her dead father that she will protect the Russian boy with her life.
Taken in by kind-hearted Leah Marshall, Ann and Alec repay her by working in the dairy. The two young people become substitutes for the children Leah has lost. But Thomas Thorpe will not leave them in peace. Playing on the paranoia engendered by the Great War, he sows seeds of doubt among the good people of Wednesbury about the foreigner in their midst. Once Ann becomes an outcast, he will be able to claim her unwilling body for his evil purposes.
The Number One bestseller When Tam's brother Benjie is wrongly accused of theft, and locked in a prison cell, his sister makes a solemn promise that she will not let the little lad down. But Fate makes her break her word almost immediately: Benjie is transported to Australia and Tam must embark upon an epic journey to find him. Friendless and penniless, she makes her way to Bristol, finding employment as a lady's maid on board the Porpoise, a ship bound for the colonies. The voyage is long and perilous and Tam's life is threatened by two depraved seamen; though First Mate James Allen offers her his protection, she cannot return his love. For Tamar's heart already belongs to another seafaring man - Captain Nathan Burford, who, like Tamar, haunts the seas looking for lost loved ones. Under the blazing Australian sun, Tam must endure hardship and cruelty, but she also encounters generosity and friendship from unexpected quarters on her quest. Will one poor girl right a terrible wrong and rescue her brother from the judas touch?
Maura Deverell is a young Irish peasant girl whose mother is dying of consumption. Their cruel landlord threatens to throw them out of their cottage unless Maura agrees to marry his young son, Liam Riordan. But before Maura can decide, she is brutally raped by Liam's brother Padraig, who gloats that once she is under their roof, Maura will be at his mercy - his sexual slave.
Weak though she is, Maura's mother does not let this vicious act go unavenged. She curses the Riordans and then, on her deathbed, makes Maura promise to leave Ireland for good. Maura ends up in Birmingham, after many narrow escapes from rape and death. Even when she makes staunch friends, and discovers a protector in the shape of Aiden Shanley, she longs to go home, stopped only by her promise to her mother. Eventually the wicked Riordans meet a well deserved sticky end and Maura is persuaded to return and marry Liam after all.
Robbed of marriage to the man she loved, Leah Bryce rears his daugther Miriam as her own. But her bitterness and desire for vengeance lead her to treat the girl with extreme cruelty, and when Miriam falls pregnant, Leah refuses to let her marry the father of her child. Leah's son Ralph has always loved the girl he believes to be his sister, and fights to subdue feelings that are more than brotherly. When he discovers Miriam's seducer has no intention of standing by her, he takes a terrible revenge: Saul Marsh will leave no other woman pregnant. But Miriam's trials are far from over. Her mother's hatred reaches new and evil heights - even on her deathbed she seeks to ruin the girl's happiness. Only when Leah's malign influence is removed for ever can Miriam overcome the horrors of her girlhood to find love and joy at last.
'You be a cheat and a liar Katy Hawley, no wonder your folks d'aint want you! Well we don't want you neither, do we girls?' It was only a playground spat but the cruel words burned like acid into Katrin Hawley's brain. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold and Katrin waited until she could hit her persecutors where it hurt. However, in her pursuit of vengeance, Katrin takes a fatal step too far. Meg Hutchinson's new novel chronicles the ruthlessly destructive quest of one damaged woman at a time when the onslaught of German bombs was daily robbing families of their loved ones. Just as the stalwart men and women of the Black Country were pulling together for victory, one obsessive woman sought only to satisfy her own malignant, vindictive craving for retribution.
Shocked beyond measure at her wrongful arrest and imprisonment, and little dreaming that it is the work of her jealous Aunt Annie, Phoebe finds it hard to adjust to the harsh cruelty of life in the infamous Handsworth Prison. She has a guardian angel in the form of Sir William Dartmouth, but even when he engineers her release, Phoebe must struggle to make a living for herself. And Annie has not given up her own perverse quest for revenge . . .
With mounting disbelief, Regan Trent realises that the death of her beloved mother has left her totally at her stepfather's mercy. But mercy is a foreign concept to Sherwyn Huntley. To this ruthless man, Regan is simply an obstacle between him and the Trent fortune. Denied a place at her mother's funeral, cruelly separated from her younger brother, promised in marriage to a sadistic pervert, Regan prefers to take her chance in the wide world. But Huntley will stop at nothing to achieve his cruel ambitions . . .
Having suffered much cruelty at the hands of her father, Isabel Kenton is shocked to hear after his death that he was not her real father. She inherits their house while her twin brother Mark is left the family steel works. When World War I breaks out, Mark joins the RAF, and the management of the business is left in Isabel's hands, which is not welcomed by the town's industrialists. She makes many enemies and has to struggle to keep her business alive. After much unhappiness, she finally finds love with the manager of a local foundry as well as the identity of her real father.
Agnes Ridley has a cruel tongue and a heart of stone: when she discovers housemaid Lizzie Burton has fallen pregnant, she turns her out with only the clothes on her back. If it weren't for loyal Debbie, who follows her friend into exile, Lizzie would be friendless as well as destitute.The girls are blessed when they meet big-hearted Sadie Trent, who takes them in and cherishes them like her own. But even Sadie cannot protect the girls from the vicious malice of Abe Turley, who is determined to take his pleasure - and then his revenge; and from sinister Fleur Masson, who hides an evil trade behind the respectable facade of a fashion house. After such tribulations, can there ever be true happiness for a child of sin?
When Myra Brent's sister Eden visits her at Moorcroft House, instead of being welcomed, Eden receives a stinging slap. Eden is devastated by her sister's cruel behaviour. Myra is simply trying to prevent her beloved sister from catching the predatory eye of Ava Russell, the cruel mistress of Moorcroft House. But her action is to have dire consequences. Believing herself abandoned, Eden sets off, penniless, to make her way in the world alone. Eden will enjoy the kindness of strangers; but her path will also cross that of vicious evildoers, bent only on drawing innocents into their web of depravity and corruption. And in the meantime, Myra makes the greatest sacrifice of all -- for the love of her sister.
Raped and left pregnant by her drunken father, Anna Bradley knows she must abandon her baby and make a new life if her son is to have a future. As luck would have it, she is befriended by Maggie Fellen, and under her gruff but tender care, Anna builds up a successful business, and even finds a measure of happiness with Edward Royce. The happiness does not last: tragedy - and a cruel man - rob her of both husband and livelihood and once more she must rebuild her fortune. But Anna can never forget her firstborn; and when Fate leads her back to Wednesbury, it is to a confrontation that could break - or mend - her heart.
Banished from her father's sight and home since the age of four, wheelchair-bound Esther Kerral is horrified when Jos Kerral forces her into an arranged marriage with Morgan Cosmore, the son of a local factory owner. Both fathers hope the union will save their ailing businesses; little do they know that each is as bankrupt as the other. But Morgan's inclinations have long lain in another, perverse, direction and poor Esther must struggle as best she can not only to survive a loveless marriage, but also to build up a business of her own in a man's world.
Laura Cadman had always assumed she would marry Edmund Shaw, the son of her father's partner, and keep the Shaw and Cadman name. But Edmund's violent refusal is just the beginning. When Jabez Shaw dies, Edmund takes advantage of Laura's father and cheats him out of the engineering works. Not content with that, he manufactures an accusation that lands Mr Cadman in Winson Green Prison. Penniless, her pride hurt and her heart broken, Laura vows to repay every pound that Edmund claims he is owed.
Rafe Travers is often at hand when Laura is in trouble, but Edmund's cruel words blind her to Rafe's love. Only when he saves her from Edmund's final wickedness can she believe he loves her, and embrace happiness at last.
One of five sisters, Margaret Rose Astbury grew up in Wednesbury during the first half of the twentieth century. Despite the constant struggle to make ends meet, and the hardship and worry of wartime, life in the Black Country was not all doom and gloom. In the crowded terraced houses and teeming communal yards, there was love and laughter aplenty.
Meg was no angel, and was often up to her armpits in mischief. But she knew she could rely on her sisters to stick up for her and her mom and dad were too soft-hearted to punish any of their beloved daughters.
With all the humour and narrative skill that have made her novels bestsellers, Meg Hutchinson paints a loving portrait of family life in a more innocent age.
'Throw it to the dogs! Do as I say or by Christ I'll do it myself and throw you in after it!' Tyler Cadell's cruel order spells heartbreak for his wife Garnet and their new-born baby. She flees to save herself, but cannot save her child and the memory of that tragic loss haunts her days.
Taken in by a band of Black Country Romanies, Garnet is touched by the warmth and generosity of the gypsy people, even if not all of them offer her an equally charitable welcome. Although loved by their leader, Judah Kane, Garnet moves on once she has regained her strength and determines to take revenge on her husband. Meanwhile Tyler has assumed the role of grieving widower in order to ally his fortune with that of Lady Olivia Denton: the reappearance of his legal wife would be a major inconvenience. Indulging his voracious sexual appetite with the sensual gypsy girl, Marisa, Tyler learns of Garnet's whereabouts and determines to be rid of her once and for all.
Emma Price is only a pit bank wench, but her corn-coloured hair and blue eyes win the love of Paul Felton, younger brother of the colliery owner. Carver Felton has no intention of seeing his brother throw away his future on such a humble girl and savagely rapes Emma, leaving her isolated and pregnant with his bastard child.It looks as though she is destined for the workhouse, but there are kindly folk in Wednesbury: Emma is taken in by butcher Samuel Hollington and his wife and gives birth to her son, Paul, under their care.But Carver Felton has not forgotten the girl he wronged. Once he has ruthlessly achieved his business ambitions, he turns his attentions to finding an heir to the Felton fortune - and he determines to track down Emma and her child.
Don't go, Amber, don't leave Denny an' me alone, I be feared of this house.' If only she had heeded her ten-year-old sister's words! But Amber Neale returns from India to the devastating news of Bethany's death and her brother's disappearance. The man she holds responsible is mine-owner Uriah Buckley, a powerful man in Darlaston, and Amber knows he will make her life a living hell if crossed. But loyalty to her siblings prevails, and she determines to seek out the truth. Amber's only ally is Rani, the gentle Indian girl who owes Amber her life. Together they create a line of floral face creams and cosmetics, and go on to found a successful beauty salon. But wealth and success do not fill the heart. Amber still aches with the loss of her beloved family, and demons from her life in India haunt her dreams. Meanwhile the vile Uriah Buckley waits in the wings, determined to despoil the innocent girl rather than see her uncover his vicious secret.
Young Philippa Cranley is living a lie. Her tyrannical father Archer forces her to masquerade as a man in order to comply with the terms of her maternal grandfather's Will, and enable him to inherit the glassworks. By threatening her fragile mother with imprisonment in a mental institution, he forces Philippa to become Philip, wearing men's clothes and unable to reveal her identity to anyone.
To increase her humiliation, Archer Cranley forces 'Philip' to do a stint in the glassworks, which puts her in danger from her rough co-workers as well as from the machinery itself. There the girl is befriended by Joshua Fairley, whose pity is aroused by the gentle 'lad'. But soon Joshua finds his feelings for 'Philip' are more than just pity, and is tormented by the thought that he is being tempted into a homosexual relationship. Luckily, by the end of the novel Philippa is able to reveal the truth and marry Joshua.
'Her upstairs d'aint want nobody becomin' privy to what that husband of her'n be up to! Her knowed the ways of Fenton Gilmore . . . may the devil tek him! Her knows his temper, felt his fist many a time. And there be others as knows, women he's paid to keep silent about the blows they've suffered, for it tek more'n a roll in bed to satisfy Fenton Gilmore.' Emma Lawrence has reason to fear the base cruelty of the man she must call uncle. She and her sister Rachel had been taken into the Gilmore household on the death of their parents and have known nothing but unkindness at the hands of Fenton and his wife. And now Rachel is dead, brutally raped and strangled, and Emma must dry her tears and flee if she is to escape the same fate. Emma falls in with two other orphans, and Timothy and Lily become as dear to her as her own departed sister. But Fenton Gilmore does not give up so easily. His evil ambition is to own a brothel and Emma is vital to his perverted plan ... Meg Hutchinson is back in vintage form with this absorbing tale of a vulnerable young woman who overcomes hardship and tragedy to reap the rewards of a virtuous life.
Helpless, Saran Chandler stands by as her mother and younger sister are sold by the vile Enoch Jacobs and herself narrowly escapes the same fate. When Enoch drowns, Saran swears that she will not rest until she has secured her family's release, but - penniless and friendless - barely knows where to start.
Saran's courage and virtue bring their own rewards: when she benefits from an act of kindness, she uses the gift to become a nailmaster in Wednesbury, a dark and grimy place, in thrall to the vicious Zadok Minch, whose godfearing exterior masks perverse tastes. Zadok Minch, the man who had once bought Saran's mother and sister to satisfy his evil lusts . . .
In the grand tradition of Josephine Cox and Catherine Cookson.Stunned by her stepmother's accusation that she killed her beloved little brother, Rachel Cade is even more shocked to find she is at the mercy of the village's evil Magistrate Bedworth who sends her to the workhouse to await trial. There, Rachel is convinced her fate is sealed, but she has reckoned without the actions of handsome landowner Jared Lytton who comes to her rescue.Despite being vindicated, Rachel is forced to leave the village. Life is tough and she has to struggle to survive until she meets the widow Beulah Thomas and her son William. Working on their farm, she is treated with kindness and when William asks for her hand in marriage, she agrees - more out of gratitude than out of love. But Rachel cannot forget Jared Lytton, whose path seems destined to cross hers.
Anne Corby flees from Russia when her mother dies in the wild savagery of the steppes. Pregnant with an illegitimate child - the result a brutal rape, Anna returns to Darlaston with nothing but a mysterious talisman, wrapped in a black velvet cloth, in which the peace of nations resides. But a return to Darlaston holds no sanctuary. For it is home to Anne's aunt Clara, who sees the girl's bastard as a threat to her ownership of Glebe Metalworks.
As war clouds gather, Clara resolves to remove the usurper by fair means or foul, and enlists her depraved son Quenton in her evil plan. The turbulent years of the First World War create a dramatic backdrop for Meg Hutchinson's new novel in which Anne, the brave heroine, struggles to save her child and to survive her heritage of shame.
Meg Hutchinson's twentieth novel sweeps from the collieries of the Black Country to the sugar-scented islands of the Caribbean as it tells the story of a young woman who must suffer many violent wrongs before being saved by her own virtue, and by the love of a good man.
When her selfish, flighty sister leaves home following a false promise of becoming the wife of a wealthy sugar plantation owner, Alyssa becomes solely responsible for her poor, deranged mother as well as for Thea's bastard son. Viciously raped, then thrown out of the family home, the girl goes on the run, fleeing her cruel rapist.
Alyssa's journey is a perilous one. It will take her far from the Black Country to the wild shores of the Caribbean and put her in the path of evil men determined to despoil the young girl. For the palm-fringed island of Jamaica is home to a pernicious trade: white slavery . . .