I am thrilled to announce that The Crown Spire, a rip-roaring adventure stuffed full of highwaymen, intrigue and romance, is now available to buy in ebook format across the world.
Co-written by my good self and Willow Winsham, The Crown Spire takes readers back in time to 18th century Edinburgh and a world of bodysnatchers, brutish husbands and longed-for second chances.
Read on for an exclusive look at the first chapter!
Buy The Crown Spire at Amazon UK
Buy The Crown Spire at Amazon US
About The Crown Spire
Alice Ingram escapes her brutish husband and leaves a glittering life in London far behind. With her niece, Beth, at her side she flees north, determined to save the girl from the fate she has endured but after an encounter with two mysterious highwaymen, life for the women will never be the same again...
Devoted to his daughter and resigned to a life of loneliness, James Dillingham has built a reputation as the finest physician in the land and a man for whom romance is a notion best avoided. He leaves all that to his best friend, Ed Hogan, who is just the sort of rogue to catch a girl's adventurous eye...
By day Alice finds herself ever more at odds with the straight-laced doctor who becomes her neighbour whilst by night, moonlit escapades with a masked highwayman lead her into a life of excitement in the shadow of the Crown Spire. Yet with her husband in relentless pursuit, are some shackles too strong to break?
Almost a week on the road, Alice Ingram reflected with a long sigh of exhaustion, leaning back against the squabs of the carriage. Almost a week crammed in together, feeling every bump, every pothole, counting the miles as they made their way northwards, each hour, each passing minute, taking them that one bit closer to freedom.
"It will be time to stop soon," she said simply to break the resentful silence, lifting her head as though to direct her niece’s attention to the window, "The light is fading."
"Thank goodness!" Beth’s voice was full of relief and for once, Alice noted without humour, she and her fellow passenger were in agreement. For a moment Alice considered the wisdom of breaking for the night and peered at the darkening sky. They had covered a great deal of distance so far and now, with the end almost in sight, she found herself loathe to stop, to delay even one more night almost unbearable.
"No," she shook her head, Beth letting out a huff of annoyance as Alice decided, "No, we shall press on."
The trees on either side of the road, no thicker than two or three deep at the start of their journey that day, seemed too dark and entwined now, shadows in the dusk throwing darkness over the carriage where the bows reached out high above to make a vaulted chapel of the canopy. What was left of the daylight barely penetrated the new spring foliage, even the birdsong muted until the silence was unbroken by so much as the chirrup of a sparrow. Still the carriage rolled on towards its uncertain destination, the man at the reins no doubt looking forward to the next stop when he would hand over this party, trouble that they seemed to be, to another hired hand.
"It has been ages," Beth's pout grew to proportions not yet reached at the refusal, "My legs are so numb I can barely feel them and if I have to look at one more tree — Aunt Alice, please—"
"Grace," Alice reminded her niece, "You must remember to call me aunt Grace now. There will be plenty of opportunity to stretch your legs when we reach Edinburgh. I told you - we carry on."
The silence, seemingly so unbreakable, was shattered by the sound of a single gunshot, and a moment later the carriage veered from the road as the coachman fell from his seat, dead before he hit the ground. The horses surged on with the driverless carriage at their rumps, stopped only by two men who galloped alongside to grab up the reins and halt the progress of the vehicle.
"What -" Alice’s exclamation mingled with Beth's shriek of surprise as she fumbled for the weapon packed for just such an eventuality, heart pounding with fear.
The doors on either side of the waylaid carriage were wrenched violently open before she was able to find the gun. What daylight remained was blocked by two hulking figures, pistols primed and ready. From beneath a beard thick as the tangled boughs outside a voice aged with alcohol and menace asked, "And what have we here?"
"I will shoot you," Alice felt surprisingly calm even as she was sure the appearance of their assailants was no coincidence. "Don't think for a moment I won't."
"There'll be no shooting anybody," the man laughed, a scent of sweat and tobacco filling the stale air. He gestured into the carriage with his gun barrel and asked Beth, "You going to go along with my friend over there?"
"She will not be going anywhere." Uttering the words with a confidence she no longer felt, Alice heard the refusal echoed by the rigidly still young woman. The look of horror in her niece's eyes firmed her resolve as she added, "What do you want from us? If it is money you are after—"
"Money," the bandit laughed as his comrade moved further into the carriage, seizing Beth's wrist in a leather-gloved hand. "Who wants money when there's a fine bounty like you two?"
With that he made his move, fist locking around Alice's arm and dragging her towards the door.
"No—" An attempt at resistance served only to lose her the weapon, though it was with savage satisfaction that she landed a hard kick to the shin of the man who had grabbed her. Despite his gasp of pain the triumph was short lived, as Alice found herself pulled from the carriage. She would not go, she knew, could not be parted from Beth, could not let the young woman suffer whatever tortures they had intended for her.
Alice twisted and turned, fists and feet flying uselessly until her captor succeeded in pinioning her arms painfully behind her back. Even then she struggled and shouted for help, though where help could possibly come from, Alice did not know.
"Bitch!" The word was a hiss, the bandit wrapping one arm around her waist as he instructed the two men at the head of the carriage, "Empty the bags and bring the horses. Tonight, we’ll all of us have some fun!"
Beth's scream rang in Alice’s ears as she was carried off, the smell and proximity of the man turning her stomach with fear of what was to come.
"And when you've done all that and finished with the lady," the bandit who had taken Beth's arm laughed, "You can have a go on this lass after I’m done!"
With that, he dragged the screaming Beth out onto his horse, barely keeping hold of her as he galloped deep into the trees.