Hungry for scandal, the villagers of Rathmichael congregate in the grand Hatchwood House. Before the night is over, the elusive Kate Millington will lie dead at the bottom of the Hatchwood stairs – her death opening a disturbing window into the past for three women.
Alice, Kate’s daughter, is faced with her grief for a mother who was forever distant. As the circumstances of Kate’s death, and her state of mind, are drawn into question, Alice struggles to understand the appalling truth about her mother’s past.
In New York, a death bed secret brings Faith Cranston to Ireland, where news of a shocking accident in a rural community leads her to a distressing discovery.
Nancy Canning has only seen Kate from afar. Ashamed of her past, an overwhelming fear of human relationships drives Nancy. As the news of Kate’s death spreads through the village, she is forced to overcome her fear of connection, and come to terms with the fact that the shame she feels may not be hers alone.
Over the course of a harsh Irish winter, the women battle misogyny and impediment as they struggle to reveal the secrets about Kate’s past. But will they ever be able to make peace with the devastating truth they’re about to uncover?
Welcome to my turn on the Spellbound tour and my thanks to Zoe of Zooloos Book Tours for the invite. You can read more about all the books featured here but I’m delighted to share an extract of one today, The Secrets Left Behind.
They watched as with shaking hands he dialled the number and waited.
‘I need an ambulance urgently.’
His voice was that of a stranger, soft and weak. Not the assured and calm tones of Hugh.
‘It’s my wife. There’s been an accident. She’s fallen down the stairs.’
Hugh described where the house was and hung up the phone. His eyes were drawn back to his wife’s body. He walked over to her and knelt down beside her. Her hair lay in a tangled mess across the unblemished side of her face. Brushing it to one side, he bent over her and kissed her cheek. Tears streamed down his face as he began to sway back and forth. He placed his hand over her open eyes and closed them.
They heard him whisper, ‘My darling Kate, what have I done?’
Someone handed Alice a blanket and she placed it over her mother’s body. She helped her father up. Once she was sure he was safely standing without her support, she turned to the guests and in her soft, small voice whispered, ‘I think it’s time you all went home.’
They stood still, none of them moving at her command.
One of the men from the village stepped forward. ‘Are you sure that’s a good idea, love? Shouldn’t we stay? The Guards might want to talk to us?’
She looked back at him blankly. When no response was offered, he tried again.
‘Alice, love, I think we should stay here.’
With an audible catch in her voice, she pleaded, ‘Please go. Leave us alone.’
As she spoke, her eyes scanned across them, seeking out the only person who could comfort her now. A movement in the corner of the room caught her eye. She was there, already taking charge, pulling coats out of a closet where they’d been hung earlier. Feeling Alice’s eyes on her, the elderly woman stopped what she was doing and made her way to Alice’s side where she pulled her into a tight embrace.
‘There, there, love. It’s going to be okay.’
Alice nodded. ‘Please, Mrs. Brayton, I don’t know what to do.’
Stepping away from her, the woman turned to them.
‘If you can all make your way home now. Your coats are there.’
She nodded over to the pile she had begun assembling on the table which had been earlier used to hold champagne glasses.
‘The family needs some privacy now. You’re very kind to want to stay but we know where you are if we need anything at all.’
The man who had spoken turned to the others and in a whisper said, ‘Okay, let’s do what she asks but we should all make sure to be around tomorrow.’
Some of them nodded at him but others amongst them began to quietly answer back.
‘We should stay, we can’t just leave. Not after this.’
The debate continued as their whispers rose in disagreement.
Finally, Alice’s voice cut through them, almost in a shout. ‘Please!’
They turned away from each other and back towards her. Standing in front of them she looked tiny and childlike – younger than her twenty-five years. Her dark hair, jet-black in the dim light of the chandeliers contrasted with her pale skin, making it translucent. Her blue eyes looked unnaturally big, swimming with tears as yet unshed. Her lips had a blue hue and she clasped her hands tightly in front of her in an attempt to quell their shaking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Antoinette’s dream in life is to be paid to read books but as a close second, she’s happy to write them instead. She studied English and History at NUI Maynooth, followed by a career in public relations. Her debut novel, Home to Cavendish, was published by Poolbeg Press in 2019, the same year that Antoinette decided she’d had enough of 9 to 5 life and endless commuting.
Her decision to set up her own writing consultancy coincided neatly with the start of a global health pandemic but despite some setbacks, she has established herself as a successful business and ghost-writer. She recently moved to the Costa Blanca with her partner Ahmed. True to her Irish roots she spends most of her days convinced that it is going to start raining, any minute now.
The Secrets Left Behind, her second novel, is a multi-layered tale of the savage severing of maternal ties, a crumbling marriage built on conjecture, and the devastating impact on the next generation of women. It is set against the backdrop of the patriarchal regime once imposed by the Catholic Church in Ireland and spans the period from 1952 to 1981.
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