Bonded Heart is my latest title to be released by Accent Press as an ebook and paperback and comes out on 20th of this month.
Before the formation of police forces in the 1830s the law was administered by local Justices. Though some were men of integrity, others used the law for their own ends. Bonded Heart is set in the early 1800s when the war with France, sky-high food prices, and poor harvests meant that smuggling was the only way of avoiding starvation.
Branoc Casvellan became a Justice to try and wipe out the stain on the family name caused by his father's behaviour. An honourable man who tempers justice with mercy, he's appalled by his attraction to Roz Trevaskis, the illegitimate daughter of a drunken whore.
When Casvellan's brother catches smallpox, it falls to Roz to nurse him – bringing her into close contact with her handsome employer. But how will Branoc – and his family – react when the truth about Roz's past, and her involvement with the local smuggling trade comes out?
I hope you enjoy this short extract:
The constable withdrew, closing the door quietly. Roz felt a moment’s relief that no one else would hear whatever the Justice had to say. Surely he would criticise. She could not blame him. Less than a month ago her mother had agreed to be bound over. But as the constable had explained on the walk from Porthinnis, far from being of good behaviour, Mary-Blanche had been found down at the harbour, drunk and raging at one of the masons.
“I would have took her home, miss,” the constable said. “But the foreman wasn’t having it. He complained she’d been distracting the men. Said if I didn’t arrest her, he’d go hisself and fetch the Justice.”
Shame for her mother had made Roz’s face burn as she nodded. “I understand, Mr Colenso. You had no choice.”
“Sit down, Miss Trevaskis.” Casvellan’s voice broke into her thoughts.
Doing as she was told, Roz sat straight-backed on the wooden chair placed at an angle to his desk. Tucking her feet to one side, she stared at her hands folded tightly in her lap.
“You are aware your mother is downstairs in one of the cells?”
“Yes.” Roz’s throat was so dry that the word emerged in a hoarse whisper. She cleared her throat. “Yes, sir.”
“Be so good as to look at me when I am addressing you.”
She knew she had been guilty of discourtesy, but it was so hard to meet his gaze. She had made promises on her mother’s behalf, and they had not been kept. By helping Will Prowse with the contraband she had broken the law, and must do so again. Like the constable, she too had no choice. How else could she pay her mother’s fines and still put food on the table?
She raised her head. His eyes were the dark blue of storm clouds, heavy-lidded and fringed with black lashes. He had a way of narrowing them that made him appear sleepy. But it was misleading for his glittering gaze was as sharp as an unsheathed blade. He linked his fingers on the desk in front of him, his expression bleak.
“Miss Trevaskis, this cannot continue.”
Roz screwed up her courage. “Sir, please, I beg you, not gaol. Bodmin is almost a day’s ride away. How am I to keep my job and still find the time to visit?” Driven by fear, the words tumbled out. “Sir, if she is confined in a small dank cell with hardly any light and no proper food, her mind will break as surely as her health. I’ve heard the place is rife with fever.” She stopped and chewed her lip, gripping her hands so tightly the knuckles ached.
Leaning back, he tapped his fingers lightly on the polished wood table where several neat piles of documents rested alongside a number of thick volumes. “I am running out of patience and alternatives, Miss Trevaskis. I understand your mother has now been barred from the Three Mackerel, the Bell, and the Red Lion.”
Roz’s breath hitched and as her head snapped up she tried to hide her shock. But she had forgotten how observant he was, how shrewd.
“You didn’t know.”
“No.” No one had told her. Like him, they probably assumed she knew. But if the three main inns in the village were refusing to serve her mother, where was she getting the brandy? There were a number of small ale-houses in the back streets by the harbour where no doubt a keg or two of cognac was kept under the counter. One day, unable to find her mother, she had asked Annie if Mary-Blanche might be in one of them. Annie had shaken her head.
“No, my bird. She wouldn’t be let over the step. ‘Tis men only.”
“Miss Trevaskis,” Casvellan’s cool tone pierced the clamour in her head. “You are clearly not suited to your current circumstances.“
Before she realised it, Roz was on her feet. “No, I’m not. But I’m doing my best,” she cried. “If anyone had complained about me I would have been told. Nell - Mrs Hicks – is very – “
“Sit down.” Though he didn’t raise his voice it was an order nonetheless.
She sat, her heart pounding. Heat scalded her cheeks as a lump formed in her throat. If she lost her job what would she do? How would they manage?