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The Beloved

Alison Rattle
"Escape from a bullying mother takes one young woman to an even more dangerous place"
The Beloved – picture

Escape from a bullying mother takes one young woman to an even more dangerous place.

Alice Angel has known only a life of rules, restriction and punishments as she strays from the rigid path of Victorian proprietary that her mother has set out for her. A constant disappointment to all but her doting father, she longs for the day that she might break free from the stifling atmosphere of her mother’s rule.

After a chance encounter with a charming stranger, and a final incident with her family that sees her condemned to the madhouse, Alice sees her opportunity to run and grasps it with both hands. She escapes to join the Agapemonites in their Abode of Love, where ex-Reverend Henry Prince rules his isolated colony of women as their Beloved. Prince ignites a passion in Alice that she never knew existed, and she dares to think she might be free at last.

But as Alice becomes more deeply drawn into the life of Prince’s strange religious sect, secrets are revealed that seem to hint at a darker nature lurking behind the man’s charm. Instead of freedom, is Alice in fact more trapped, alone and in danger than ever before?

Publication Date: Thu 5 Mar 2015
ISBN Paperback: 9781471403798
ISBN Ebook: 9781471403804

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Author

Alison Rattle

Alison grew up in Liverpool, and now lives in a medieval house in Somerset with her three children, her husband - a carpenter - an extremely naughty Jack Russell and a ghost cat. She has co-authored a number of non-fiction titles on subjects as diverse as growing old, mad monarchs, how to boil a flamingo, the history of America and the biography of a nineteenth-century baby killer. She has worked as a fashion designer, a production controller, a painter and decorator, a barmaid, and now owns and runs a travelling vintage tea room. Alison has also published three previous YA books about young Victorian women with Hot Key Books - The Quietness, The Beloved and The Madness. Follow Alison at www.alisonrattle.com or on Twitter: @alisonrattle

Extract

I am torn from sleep by the most dreadful screams. I sit bolt upright. The walls of my room tremble with the sounds of running feet and shouts and the banging of doors. I jump from my bed and rush to the door. 'Fetch the doctor!' someone shouts. As I reach the landing I see the stairs are crowded with servants. The screams have stopped, and instead there is a loud keening noise, like nothing I have ever heard before. I think of wild animals and of a kitchen cat we once had that made a similar sound before it gave birth to six dead kittens. But this is worse. I want to put my fingers in my ears to silence it. Suddenly I think of Mama and how she didn't come to my room last night. Something terrible has happened to her, I am sure of it. My first feeling is one of relief. Now perhaps she will never have to know that I burned my stays. Then Eli is standing next to me, hastily belting up his dressing gown. 'What has happened, Alice?' he asks me quickly. 'I . . . I don't know,' I stammer. 'I think, Mama. Maybe?' Eli pushes past me and begins to take charge of the chaos. 'Move out of the way. Let me see,' he orders. The clamour quietens and the servants step back to make room for Eli. There is a moment of silence. 'It's all right, Alice,' he shouts back up to me. 'It is not Mama. It is only Lillie.' Disappointment clutches at my stomach briefly. I peer over the banisters and the first thing I see is blood. It is smeared all over a kitchen maid's apron and hands and is splotched onto the pale rose-covered paper that runs up the stairwell wall. Lillie is slumped against the wall and a blood-soaked cloth is being held to her mouth by another servant. 'What has she done?' asks Eli. 'Do we really need to call for a doctor?' 'She's bit her tongue off, sir,' says the servant with the cloth. 'Look. Here it is.' She opens her hand and I see what looks like a small piece of red meat resting in her palm. Eli recoils and starts walking back up the stairs towards me. 'Get her into a bed,' he says. 'And yes, indeed, please call Dr Danby.' His face has paled. 'Don't look, Alice,' he tells me as he reaches the landing. 'Go back to your room and let them deal with it.'