Today, I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt from H D Coulter’s new book Ropewalk: Rebellion. Love. Survival. as part of a blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club. This is the first book in H D Coulter’s Ropewalk series and is currently currently available for 0.99c at Amazon UK, Amazon US and Other Bookshops.
Bea sat silently on the deep window seat, listening to the night creatures call out to one another. She pulled her woollen shawl tighter around her shoulders and tucked her toes into her thick cotton nightgown. The dancing stars shone brightly under the light of the May moon as it cast a silver shimmer on the grass and late spring flowers. There was no order to her thoughts. They spun from image to image as she tried to recapture the smallest of details from the night before. Realising her mind would not allow her the simple gift of sleep, she crept out of bed and gathered up her clothes.
With the dawn chorus echoing around her, her feet instinctively knew where to take her. The golden light reflected on the calm rippling waves of the softly groaning sea. She crouched down and took her usual place at the old harbour wall. She had missed coming here over the past month, and now she was back she could sense her mind relaxing with every crash of the waves against the rocks below. The air held a sharp, crisp bite, surprising for this time of year, as the growing wind carved its way towards her. Lost in thought, she did not notice the muffled sound of the hooves or the light footsteps approaching her from behind.
The words startled Bea and made her topple slightly as she quickly turned to answer. In that moment, feeling his proximity, breathing in his scent, she felt the numb, heady feeling she had at the dance, but this time she let herself go towards it, relinquishing control. Instinctively, he placed both hands on her shoulders to steady her.
His hands lingered, reluctant to move. He looked at Bea, staring up at him with a steadiness that made him swallow hard, and lose a little composure.
“I apologise, I did not… I- I called out as I approached, but you did not hear, I think…”
He looked like he had not slept much more than she had.
“May I?” he gestured to the ground beside her.
“Yes, of course Mr Mason – sir…” Crouching down to take a seat next to her on the wall, his heavy woollen overcoat brushed against her hand.
An awkward silence fell over them both, absorbed into the crashing sound of the first high tide as it encroached upon the old, battered rocks of the harbour.
“It is peaceful here.”
“Yes, I’ve been coming to this spot since I was a child, watching the ships in the canal. Normally no one else…”
“Forgive my manners, were you wanting solitude? Would you like me to leave?” Feeling embarrassed, he shifted around, positing himself ready to stand.
She pondered the question for a half-moment. She knew what her Mam would say, what people would warn her about. It was not becoming for a young woman to be sitting with a strange gentleman alone, especially at this time of day.
“Please stay, if you like, Mr Mason.”
He settled back down, the awkwardness of the past minute lingering as he hesitated over what he should say next.
“Joshua – my name is Joshua. Mr Mason reminds me of my Father.” There was a brief pause.
“Well, you know I am Beatrice, but my friends call me Bea.”
“Did you enjoy… did you enjoy last night’s dance?” the young man asked, starring out at the horizon, unable to look at her.
“Yes, it was a good turn-out… the music was beautiful… And you?”
“I am not used to a country dance … but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and the added gift of forming new acquaintances, which I hope in due time will…”, he coughed, and clasped his hands with a clap, his forearms on his knees, staring out to sea. “Do you attend many dances, Miss Lightfoot?”
“No, not many; Ulverston doesn’t hold such gatherings often. I enjoy them when they come around when I’m able.” Her fingers fiddled with a long strand of wool that had fallen from her shawl.
“I myself am not familiar with the social calendar as of yet – I have been away from home.”
“How long, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Almost fifteen years, only just returned from Cambridge and Liverpool. I am to take over the family business one day. They summoned me back so that I may now begin to learn the ropes here.” Bea smiled at the turn of phrase.
“I believe I’ve heard your family name mentioned by my father, I… I understand he has done business for you.” She noted his lack of reply with a sickening disappointment. But at least now there would be no doubt.
Joshua thought he had recognised the name and felt a small sinking feeling threaten to spoil their conversation. As if noticing her for the first time, the simplicity of her dress, and the holes in her shawl.
The howling wind gathered up tempo, the noise surrounding them making conversation harder. The waves swelled and rushed towards them as if the sea itself was reaching out to pull them down to the murky sands below. Bea felt as though she was standing on a greater precipice than merely the harbour wall, threatening to swallow her whole. She did not stir.
“Forgive me, you must be cold – Here, use my coat to keep you warm,” he began to shrug off the garment from his shoulders.
“No, I thank you… I must get back, my family will wonder where I am.” Bea looked to the sky for a glimpse of the sun, but it was hiding behind a mask of dark threatening clouds. She climbed to her feet and straightened her dress.
“But- but of course,” a disheartened look spreading across his face. Following her lead, he stood once more in front of her, and then made their way back to the well-trodden path.
“We may stumble across each other again,” she said flatly, with a sad smile. “Goodbye Mr Mason – Joshua.”
Joshua looked back at her quickly as he edged his horse away. Bea let out a long, shaking breath, and began the quiet walk back to Outcast.
She approached the cottage gate with the smallest of hopes that her parents were still unaware of her absence. She stood for a minute, contemplating her family home, covered in shadow, the sun still struggling to break the veil of cloud. More now than she ever had done before, she felt the grimy quality of her home. She knew already, as a woman it limited her future prospects, but she had never believed she would have had the chance to encounter a man like Joshua Mason.
Instead of going straight into the house, she walked over to the cowshed, telling herself that she may as well embrace her life gratefully, as she should. Clover the cow, waiting patiently to be milked, made a welcoming noise as Bea approached. She grabbed a small three-legged wooden stool with one hand, and the small wooden bucket with the other, and sat next to Clover. With the rhythmical movement of her hands rolling down the teat, she was glad of the distraction, allowing her aching mind a rest from the additional difficulties she had left herself to face.
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.
Signed copies of the paperbacks are available on H D Coulter’s website
H D Coulter
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.
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