New general fiction titles

Cag9780719816994ed Angel by Anne Marie Vukelic

And so he stood now, as he had done since the first moment he had taken a room opposite her house: watching. He let the curtain fall, and on the glass remained a smear where his face had been. ‘Angela…’ he whispered the name to himself. ‘Like an angel…’

Through his journal of bloodstained poems and deranged fantasies, the frenzied consciousness of the barrister Richard Dunn is revealed, as he pursues the young heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts relentlessly through the streets of Victorian London.Driven by a fixation that binds him to her through the years, the reader shares his moments of fluctuating sanity and madness as he wrestles with his delusions.With the aid of influential figures of her time – the writer Charles Dickens, the Duke of Wellington and the scientist Charles Wheatstone – Angela seeks to deal with the pain of family secrets, while refusing to be defeated by Dunn’s obsession for her.

Anne-Marie Vukelic

Anne-Marie Vukelic was born in Codsall, South Staffordshire in 1967 and went on to attend St Peter’s School in Wolverhampton. In the 1980s, she moved to Austria but has now returned to the UK. Vukelic is a lifelong enthusiast of both Victorian history and psychology and currently works as a health and social care manager. She continues to live and work in the West Midlands. Her two previous novels, Far Above Rubies and The Butterflies are Free, were published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Caged Angel here.

Duty and Deception by Roberta Grieve9780719816987

Anna Grayson has been a dutiful, loyal and obedient daughter her whole life but her world is transformed when she meets the lively and outspoken Mitchell sisters, employees in her father’s factory, who awaken her interest in the women’s suffrage movement. Anna soon abandons her unfaltering obedience to her father to join them and attend a forbidden rally. This new world of excitement and freedom comes with risks. No longer sheltered by her father’s protection, Anna is forced to grow up quickly when tragedy strikes at a rally and her beloved new friend Lily Mitchell is knocked down by a motorcar and killed. Anna suspects it is no accident. Suddenly the world outside no longer seems so enticing. Convinced of foul play, Anna enlists the help of young doctor, Daniel Peters. At first, he is dismissive of her claim that Lily was pushed into the road – who would want to kill her? – but she persuades him to join her fight to uncover the truth and find justice for Lily.

Roberta Grieve

Roberta Grieve has always loved writing and when she took an early retirement, after working for West Sussex Library Service for over twenty years, she was determined to turn her hobby into a second career. Her first book was published in 1998 and since then she has had many stories and articles published.She is secretary of the Chichester Writers’ Circle and editor of the Chichester Literary Society’s quarterly newsletter. In her spare time she enjoys painting and walking, although writing and research always take precedence. She lives in Chichester, West Sussex.

Buy your copy of Duty and Deception here.

9780719817069The Rescuer by R. S. Hill

Bideford, Devon, April 1873: the River Torridge is in flood. Almost as soon as she sets foot in the town, Abigail March saves a young woman from drowning. Abigail, the daughter of a progressive Canadian politician, is in Bideford on official business, deputizing for her father. Accompanied by Inspector Theo Newton of Scotland Yard, she has travelled to the West Country to inspect the cache of smuggled weapons being guarded by the local borough police. That night, the woman Abigail saved is murdered and the weapons disappear. The police make an arrest, but when Abigail befriends Norman, the twelve-year-old brother of the accused man, she and Newton realize that the police have made a mistake which could have tragic consequences. At first, Newton is bewildered by Abigail. He has little experience of women and her forthrightness and ideas about women’s rights unsettle him. But, as their relationship progresses, Newton is inspired by her example. Spurred on by Abigail’s fearless determination and her sympathy for those less fortunate than herself, Newton shows bravery and strength, as they works tirelessly together to solve the case and uncover the truth.

R. S. Hill

R. S. Hill was born and grew up in North Devon. He taught EFL in Greece, became Head of Department in comprehensive schools and later a local authority consultant. He now writes full time. He has contributed travel, local history and educational articles to various magazines and newspapers. An experienced Western writer, The Rescuer is his first foray into crime writing.

Buy your copy of The Rescuer here.

Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Batavia by Jeremy Kingston9780719816116

When Holmes and Watson are visited at Baker Street by a frightened figure in a stovepipe hat, their interest is immediately piqued. The bizarre man turns out to be the reclusive Prince Alexander, the only son of the King of the Netherlands. In despair, he relays his suspicions to them about a plot to steal the throne, a jilted marriage proposal, and an attempted poisoning. The detective and his assistant agree to help solve the case and quickly enter a dazzling world of power, inheritance and ambition. Passing between the grandeur of The Langham and Claremont House, Holmes and Watson meet an array of enchanting and mysterious characters, each with their part to play in the struggle for the throne. With stakes this high, the game is bound to get dirty. With chapter headings derived from the titles of Conan Doyle’s short stories, Kingston cleverly weaves together the explosions in London, the extinction of the male line of the Dutch royal house of Orange, and the death of Queen Victoria’s favourite and haemophiliac son, the Duke of Albany.

Jeremy Kingston

Jeremy Kingston is a playwright, novelist and poet. For many years he was also a theatre critic, reviewing plays for the magazine Punch and then as a critic on The Times. His most recent play was Making Dickie Happy where he imagined Noel Coward, Agatha Christie and Lord Louis (Dickie) Mountbatten happening to meet at the start of their careers at an island hotel off the coast of Devon. Two volumes of his poetry have been published. He was born in London, brought up in various Home Counties and now lives again in London.

Buy your copy of Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Batavia here.

9780719816765The Upton Undertakers by Kerry Tombs

March 1891. A group of mourners gather for a funeral in a small country churchyard in Worcestershire, but events do not go according to plan. An old friend invites Detective Inspector Ravenscroft to investigate, and before long the detective and his associate Constable Tom Crabb are embroiled in the dark world of the Upton Undertakers. Their long and dangerous investigation takes the duo across the country, from Temple in London, to the ancient Shropshire market of Ludlow, to a strange educational establishment near Bromyard. Ravenscroft eventually draws the case to a dramatic conclusion, only to find that fate has one last surprising trick to play. This is the seventh book in the thrilling Victorian Inspector Ravenscroft series.

Kerry Tombs

Kerry Tombs was born in Smethwick, near Birmingham. After a career teaching in both England and Australia, he moved to Malvern where he became a genealogist, lecturer and bookseller. He currently lives in Ludlow, Shropshire. There are six previous books in the Inspector Ravenscroft series, including the Tewkesbury Tomb and The Droitwich Deceivers.

Buy your copy of The Upton Undertakers here.

Anne-Marie Vukelic talks to us about Caged Angel, Charles Dickens and Victorian novels

For those of us fascinated by Victorian history, who has not been educated, enlightened, and entertained in some way by the works of Charles Dickens?

During his lifetime he wrote fifteen major novels, drawing attention to the plight of the poor, the injustices of child labour, and the absurdities of the legal system. By raising public awareness of such matters he contributed to a number of social reforms.

My own interest in Dickens was sparked by a visit to the city of Rochester in 2005, where the author spent his final years. With its cobbled streets and crooked houses it is a city in which time appears to have stood still, and Dickens drew both characters and settings for his novels from this place which was very dear to his heart. My own time in Rochester motivated me to begin examining the author’s life in greater detail, and wondering how much of his work was biographical.

How vividly the story of Oliver Twist came to life when I learned that at the age of twelve, Dickens worked alongside other boys in a ‘Blacking’ factory under the guidance of a man named Bog Fagin. I discovered that in this same time period Dickens’s father was being held in the Marshalsea Debtors prison and the proud, solitary figure of William Dorrit came to my mind.

And what of Dickens’s heart? As a young man, it had been crushed by his first love, Maria Beadnell, who coldly referred to him as ‘Boy’. While standing in the shade of Restoration House – the inspiration for Miss Haversham’s Satis House – I thought of poor Pip cruelly spurned by Estella in Great Expectations. Yes, there is much of the pain and rejection that Dickens felt he had suffered in his youth that spilled from his pen onto the page.

By his own efforts, Dickens rose from humbling circumstances to author of great acclaim, but in studying his life I found myself curiously drawn to the shy, clumsy and somewhat disorganized wife who lived with this talented, impatient and restless man.

Little has been recorded about Catherine Dickens and yet, within the numerous pages that have been written about her famous husband, her voice appealed to me and so began the random jottings which eventually became my first novel, Far Above Rubies. Dickens’s world is traced from the perspective of a Victorian wife – the mother of ten children – who struggled through life quietly at the side of an exacting husband. When Dickens cast her aside in later years, he wrote a statement for the newspapers and, creating his own fiction, inferred that it was because she had some ‘peculiarity of character’. It was she who was to blame and not him.

My second novel, The Butterflies are Free, followed the fate of the Dickens children, the legacy of bearing the Dickens name and how their father’s secret affair with the young actress Ellen Ternan influenced their own relationships. The title is a quote taken from Dickens’s novel, Bleak House, and for me captured his wish to escape the life he found himself constrained by in his middle years.

Caged Angel, my forthcoming novel, was written as a result of my enduring interest in Dickens and the discoveries I made about some of his lesser-known contemporaries.

Caged Angel relates the story of the banking heiress, Angela Burdett-Coutts, who was considered a remarkable woman for her time in that she largely ignored what society expected of someone in her position, and chose instead to immerse herself in social issues of the day.

Dickens’s own interest in such matters made their friendship a natural one, and he was an ambassador for many of her projects, one of which was a home for former prostitutes.

Their backgrounds were completely different: Burdett-Coutts, the daughter of a baronet, had been raised on her family’s country estate. Dickens was the son of an improvident naval clerk, imprisoned for debt. Many of Angela’s equals could only have seen her in the context of her position in society, but with Dickens as her champion she was free to explore opportunities not usually open to women of her time.

Angela’s great wealth brought with it many unsolicited marriage proposals and unwanted suitors, the most persistent of these being the barrister Richard Dunn. Exploring newspaper archives and court records, I discovered how his enduring fixation with Angela became a frantic obsession. In a world largely dominated by men, there were no laws at the time to protect a woman from the term we are now familiar with as ‘stalking’.

The streets of nineteenth century London could not have provided a better setting for such a dark story to take place, and it is one by which readers of Victorian fiction are always excited.

I have an ongoing interest in the Victorian era for many reasons but partly because of its contradictions: the extremes of elegance and squalor, the veil of sexual morality twinned with hypocrisy, the contrast between the lives lived by Victorian men and women, and also experienced by those within the different class systems.

My interest in psychology and human emotions means that I am always curious about what drives an individual. What are their motives, their ambitions and inner thoughts? When writing the journal of Richard Dunn, capturing this aspect became even more challenging as Dunn’s thoughts descended into insanity.

When considering the time period in which to set a novel, the author has to consider the social attitudes of the day and how these will influence their characters. This becomes inevitably more interesting when the novel is set in the Victorian era, as so often an individual will find their own wishes going contrary to such attitudes and expectations.

All of the foregoing provides an author with an array of tools which lend themselves to a setting with tremendous atmosphere, a society from which one can draw intriguing plots and interesting characters. I think this is why Victorian fiction is still being written, and enjoyed by readers.