Today as a part of The Coffeepot Bookclub, I am happy to feature Ropewalk: Rebellion. Love. Survival.
Book Title: Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival * Series: The Ropewalk series * Author: H D Coulter * Publication Date: 23rd November 2020 * Publisher: Independently Published * Page Length: 243 Pages * Genre: Historical Fiction
The North of England, 1831.
The working class are gathering. Rebellion is stirring, and the people are divided.
Beatrice Lightfoot, a young woman fighting her own personal rebellion, is looking for an opportunity to change her luck. When she gains the attention of the enigmatic Captain Hanley, he offers her a tantalising deal to attend the May Day dance. She accepts, unaware of the true price of her own free will.
Her subsequent entanglement with Joshua Mason, the son of a local merchant, draws all three into a destructive and dangerous relationship, which threatens to drag Beatrice, and all she knows into darkness.
Now, Beatrice must choose between rebellion, love and survival before all is lost, and the Northern uprising changes her world forever.
Hayley was born and raised in the lake district and across Cumbria. From a young age, Hayley loved learning about history, visiting castles and discovering local stories from the past. Hayley and her partner lived in Ulverston for three years and spent her weekends walking along the Ropewalk and down by the old harbour. She became inspired by the spirit of the area and stories that had taken place along the historic streets.
As a teacher, Hayley had loved the art of storytelling by studying drama and theatre. The power of the written word, how it can transport the reader to another world or even another time in history. But it wasn’t until living in Ulverston did she discover a story worth telling. From that point, the characters became alive and she fell in love with the story.
NOTE: Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival. is going to be on promotion during the tour at 0.99 and signed copies of the paperbacks will be available on Hayley’s website – https://hdcoulter.com/
Bent over the old wooden table, Bea sprinkled out a second dusting of flour before pulling and stretching the stringy wholemeal dough to make the bread for the evening meal. The house was quiet; her brothers were out working with her Da, and her eldest sister Beth was a housemaid over on Southergate. Holly and Rowan sat playing with their wooden toys by the fire as Bea placed the dough in a bowl in front of the grate, covered it with a cloth and allowed it to prove. She made a start on the rabbit stew with the animal she caught yesterday in one of her Da’s traps. She peeled the potatoes and chopped the cabbages she had dug out of the small vegetable patch earlier that morning, finishing with a handful of the dried thyme and rosemary which hung in bunches over the hearth, throwing them in to the pot.
With the stew bubbling away above the fire, Bea placed the bread in the small oven inset to the right of the grate. The front door rattled open, abruptly disturbing the peace, as Mrs Lightfoot strutted into the seat in front of the fire.
“Come on girls, move out the way.” She kept nudging them until she could sit down. They looked up at Bea, who gestured with her eyes for them to play at the other end of the table.
“How is Mrs Dent faring?” Bea asked politely. Mrs Dent had a nasty turn at the same time every morning, roughly about the time Mr Lightfoot left for work.
“Oh, she is just fine now,” her mother remarked with no interest.
“How’s dinner comin’ by? Anythin’ else you need to do? Your father and brothers will be home soon.”
Bea continued in silence, turning her back on her Mam and smiling towards the girls. This seemed to vex her Mam once more. She raised her voice a notch higher.
“Your Father can’t be expected to always. . .”
A knock echoed across the room, putting a stop to her complaint. Bea let out the breath she had been holding in. Like a Greek player with two masks, Mrs Lightfoot quickly substituted her frown for a large smile. She stood up and smoothed down her dress, rushing hastily to the door.
“Good day, Captain Hanley! Please, come in!”
Without thinking, Bea ducked down and hid by the girls behind the kitchen table. She couldn’t imagine what he had come for; it had been a week since their last encounter and the awkwardness she had felt then suddenly came flooding back.
“Good day, Mrs Lightfoot, forgive the intrusion,” he greeted her as he stepped into the room, scanning his surroundings quickly.
“Tea?” Her Mam grabbed a grimy tin from the top shelf of the dresser and dusted off the small china teapot given to her as a wedding gift. She hovered over the precious leaves, counting out each spoonful.
“Please.” He took off his hat and placed it on the table alongside a large paper parcel.
“If you don’t mind me being so bold, Captain Hanley, what do you have there?” She offered the Captain a beaming smile, attempting to convince him it was meant for her. With relief, Bea realised, her Mam had no intention of making her presence known.
“Is Miss Beatrice around?” he enquired, ignoring Mrs Lightfoot’s question.
Mrs Lightfoot paused. So did Bea, mid-breath. Holly looked down at her sister with a delighted smile and bellowed, “Here, Bea is HERE!” She covered her mouth for a second, and then descended into a fit of giggles. Bea’s cheeks became hot, feeling like a child herself, caught hiding with the young ones. Rowan joined in with Holly’s laughter. Bea stood up slowly, keeping her eyes low.
“Good day Miss Beatrice, I have brought you a little something, which I hope you will like.” Hanley smiled, indicating the parcel.
“I… thank you…?” She hesitated, unsure how to receive such a gift, or if she should receive it at all. She stepped out from behind the security of her sisters and moved towards the Captain.
“Please – open it.” His voice held a hint of pride.
The brown wrapping paper was closed with a golden ribbon. Without thinking, she stroked the satin material with her fingers, tugging at the tails, and in doing so, sealed her acceptance. The ribbon fell away gracefully on to the table, and the paper cracked as it gave way to yards and yards of stunning silk cloth which glowed like her beloved early dawns down at the harbour. A couple of seconds passed, and no one uttered a word.
“Do you like it?” Hanley knew it had already worked its magic.
“Thank you, Captain, it is beautiful. . . but I cannot accept this”. She folded the brown paper back over, concealing the temptation inside.
“Now Miss Lightfoot, it is merely a simple gift – I came across it through a friend, for half the selling price, and thought you could make good use of it with the dance coming up.”
He opened it up again, luring her in. She did not recognise it from Johnson’s, she was certain of that. So where had he obtained it? From his connections with the smugglers, being a sailor? He might be a smuggler himself, for all she knew. Regardless, it must have cost him a shilling a yard, if not more, even at half the price. There must be at least twenty yards sat on the kitchen table. She felt a reckless tightness in her chest. The sound of his voice brought her back into the room.
“Will you do me the honour of accepting it?” His soft voice was low and clear.
“Sir – Captain – it is too much; I’ve done nothing to deserve…” Her heart was a marching drum in her chest. She had never, would never, be able to afford such a quantity of beautiful fabric in her life. It would give her the dress she wanted, allow her to attend the May Day ball which would please Alice – and herself, if she was honest. But what would she owe him in return?
“Forgive me, but I saw how you looked at the fabrics in Johnson’s, the other day,” he looked at her in a way that made her feel they were the only two in the room, “and by coincidence I came across this similar silk at a lower price only hours later. It was meant for you.”
Bea felt the words pulling her in. His hand slowly crept towards hers across the oak boards.
“Isn’t that lovely Beatrice?” Mrs Lightfoot exclaimed in a shrill voice, breaking the spell. “You didn’t tell me you saw Captain Hanley the other day? And to think, ‘e has bought you such a lovely gift!” Bea pulled back her hand and took a step away from the parcel, looking at the door. She wanted to escape, to bring this ordeal to an end.
“What if we perform a simple exchange?” He felt her attention return to him. “If you accept this small gift, in return I ask for the first two dances at the May Day Ball?” Bea’s eyes widened, and she looked at him earnestly, inspecting as best she could the meaning in his words, the truth behind the smile. She knew the implications if she said yes.
Glancing at her mother, she saw an unpleasant look on her face, a mixture of frustration, envy and resentment, her hands twisting her apron into a funnel, like a dishcloth. Bea’s finger graced the top of the fabric. It reminded her of the creaminess of a rose petal. She would be a golden rose. It would make her beautiful. The equal to any of the other ladies, for one night only, to know what it was like to have opportunities. Her heart cried out for her to say yes; for the price of the first two dances, how could she refuse.
“Captain, I will accept your offer.”
Hanley looked triumphant. “I am pleased to hear this. I look forward to seeing the dress you create from the silk, and to have the honour of the first two dances.” He made his way without ceremony to the door.
“Thank you…” Bea nodded her head at no one in particular, dazed.
A wide smile filled his face, and he gave Bea a deep bow. Turning on his heels, he faced Mrs Lightfoot.
“Thank you for the hospitality, as always, ma’am,” and tilted his head with a curt nod. In two steps he was out of the door, leaving behind a chipped cup full of untouched tea, and a silent kitchen.
Ropewalk: Rebellion. Love. Survival.
Copyright: ©H D Coulter
CONNECT WITH H D COULTER:
What good historical fiction books have you read recently?