Title: The Lost Girls
Author: Jennifer Wells
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 23, 2020
Hosted: Head of Zeus
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Amazon US: https://amzn.to/35gbff0
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/35h7FB7
A tightly woven story full of secrets and lies with a breathtaking finale.
London 1920 – Troubled young dancer, Lily, is invited to remote Elmridge House, home of the wealthy theatre benefactor Dr Cuthbertson to escape her troubled past. An isolated guest room and a surprise pregnancy leave her longing to return to the stage and her London life. She soon discovers that Elmridge House is not all that it seems - the house holds secrets which make it difficult for her to leave.
Missensham 1942 – Young nurse Ivy Watts is called out to a patient at Elmridge House, home of the aloof Mrs Cuthbertson and reclusive Dr Cuthbertson. Ivy is entranced by the opulence of the house and its glamorous past, but when she tells her mother about Mrs Cuthbertson, her mother becomes fearful and forbids her from returning to the house. What secrets does Elmridge House hold? And why does Lily’s mother live in fear of the mysterious Mrs Cuthbertson?
Perfect for the fans of Lesley Pearce and Susan Lewis.
It was an image that haunted me – the expressionless face of the young girl, her eyes reduced to dark pits by the grainy film, as if she held a secret she was not ready to share. When I closed my eyes I could see her again, looking out at me from the screen as if somehow glimpsing her future.
I sat down shakily on the bench outside the church hall, taking deep breaths of the cold night air, pulling my shawl about me and flexing my arthritic fingers.
I was not usually one for such drama. Before my husband’s death I had been a vicar’s wife. I had held hands at funerals and been an ear for all the village’s woes. I had lived through the horrors of the Great War and the epidemic that had followed it. I had learnt how to harden myself, to not get upset by things. After all, I had lived with the memory of what had happened on May Day 1912 for twenty-five years, but seeing the old image flashed across the screen so unexpectedly had caught me off guard.
I had been expecting a nice evening out – a special screening of Missensham’s past by the historical society, a chance to catch up with some of the older parishioners and an evening away from my lonely cottage – and until Iris had appeared on the screen, it had been so. The evening had begun well. The grey faces had jostled with each other onscreen, sending smiles and waves from the past, and the audience had given voices to their silence as they laughed along with them. I’d seen people I had known in my youth, faces forgotten as well as remembered, buildings that had long since decayed, fashions that had waned, and streets that were empty of cars.
There had been chatter all around me: ‘Those were the days!’
‘Hasn’t he changed!’
‘She looks just like her daughter did at that age!’
‘I remember when that teashop was a dressmaker’s!’
Then the film had moved on to the May Day preparations – a willow arch propped up against the wall of the blacksmith’s yard and some little girls running around in frothy white dresses.
Things had changed when Iris Caldwell appeared on the screen. She was no more than shades of grey cast by the tangled beams of the projector, yet she flickered out of the darkness like a spirit. I could even see her with my eyes shut, the image ghosting purple under my eyelids, a single word echoing round my head – ‘Murdered.’
I had never liked that word, for it took me to a lonely place – a thicket of wych elms high up on the common land, foxholes nestling in tangles of bare roots, and low branches shielding all from view. For a moment I fancied that I could feel the winds that chilled that place and smell the dampness of the earth.
‘Excuse me, Mrs Ryland?’
But then the thought was gone.
Author Bio ↓
Jennifer works in Market Research when not writing. She lives in Devon with her young family and cat. The Secret is her third novel in the series set in fictional Missenham in the Home Counties.
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