Love, secrets and danger abound in the new historical novel from bestselling author Diney Costeloe, set in 19th-century France.
As the St Clair family prepare for the grand wedding of their daughter, Clarice, trouble is brewing. An old friendship, a new love and a dangerous secret threaten to destroy the life the St Clairs have built.
Their younger daughter, Hélène, became friends with orphaned Annette during the terrible events of the 1871 siege of Paris. Now they are reunited, with Annette working below stairs for Hélène’s parents. But she is hiding a dangerous secret, which Hélène has promised to keep at all costs.
Meanwhile, Hélène has begun to fall in love with a young nobleman from England, whose family has plans which do not include their son choosing a French wife.
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EXTRACT FROM THE BOOK!
It was some weeks later that Annette made the fatal discovery. She had only started having an irregular monthly bleed nine months earlier and at first she had not missed it. Unaware of the symptoms, which certainly had never been discussed at the orphanage and had been unnecessary for mention at the Clergy House, Annette had no idea that she was expecting a baby until it began to show in her waistline. Father Thomas had continued to take his pleasure with her whenever he chose. She had long since ceased to fight him; indeed, she had realised that made him more brutal in his use of her. She now lay back and waited for him to stop grunting and for it all to be over. It was, she supposed, inevitable that she should have fallen pregnant at some time in her future, but in her innocence she had assumed that priests were not as other men and could not father a child.
Father Thomas had no such innocence and as Annette’s breasts grew fuller and her stomach more rounded, he realised with disgust that she must be with child; another child of shame. His immediate thought was that he must hide the fact from the parish. He certainly would disclaim paternity, indeed he did disclaim it. The woman herself had been conceived out of wedlock and so it must be in her blood to be promiscuous. Clearly, she must have been having an illicit liaison with some man, perhaps when he, Father Thomas, was out on parish business, or when she pretended to go to the market; some man of similar parentage, similar lack of morals, similarly promiscuous. Thus assuaging his own conscience, the priest absolved himself of all guilt and became convinced in this belief; the father was someone else. Whoever it was, Father Thomas realised that Annette had to go. No shadow of suspicion must fall upon him, and certainly, as the parish priest, he could not employ a woman carrying a bastard child as his housekeeper.
Having made this decision he acted upon it at once. That evening, when she was clearing away the supper, he cornered Annette in the kitchen, barring her way to the door. ‘You are with child,’ he stated coldly. ‘You are carrying a bastard… spawn of the devil!’
By now Annette had realised that she was indeed pregnant, but naively had not been prepared for the inevitable reaction of the priest and she stared at him with frightened eyes.
‘And who is the father of this abomination?’ he demanded, leaning towards her, his face so close that she could feel his breath on her skin. ‘Which man have you been creeping out to meet?’
‘None. No one,’ stammered Annette, shrinking away from him, her back against the dresser.
‘Liar!’ Father Thomas’s face grew red with anger. ‘Liar!’ He was determined that she should admit that she had been with some man, but although her fear was stark in her eyes, she remained silent and his anger boiled over. How dare she defy him, he, a man of the cloth? ‘Well, it’s out of the house with you! I’ll keep no fallen women here.’
Annette stared at him and suddenly she realised that, though she was afraid of him, at this moment she wasn’t afraid of the hellfire he threatened. ‘It’s your child,’ she said, ‘and you know it. If you throw me out everyone will know it.’
In that moment he saw the depths of her hatred in her eyes, a hatred so intense that he took an involuntary step backwards. It was gone as quickly as it had come, but he had seen it and felt a sudden jolt of fear.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diney Costeloe is the author of twenty-three novels, several short stories, and many articles and poems. She has three children and seven grandchildren, so when she isn’t writing, she’s busy with family. She and her husband divide their time between Somerset and West Cork.
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