The Promise of Tomorrow
By AnneMarie Brear
Charlotte Brookes flees her lecherous guardian, McBride, taking her younger sister with her. After a year on the road, they stumble into a Yorkshire village where the Wheelers, owners of the village shop, take them in. This new life is strange for Charlotte, but preferable to living with McBride or surviving on the roads.
Harry Belmont is an important man in the village, but he’s missing something in his life. His budding friendship with Charlotte gives him hope she will feel more for him one day, and he will marry the woman he yearns for.
When McBride discovers where Charlotte lives, his threats begin. Harry fights to keep Charlotte safe, but World War I erupts and Harry enlists.
Left to face a world of new responsibilities, and Harry’s difficult sister, Charlotte must run the gauntlet of family disputes, McBride's constant harassment, and the possibility of the man she loves being killed.
Can Charlotte find the happiness that always seems under threat, and will Harry return home to her?
‘I arrived home yesterday.’ Harry stared around the warm, neat shop. He moved to the fire and put his hands out to the flames, not wanting to think about the disastrous visit to London. ‘How’s everything in the village?’
‘All is well, as far as I know, anyway.’ Wheeler held up one of the tall glass jars of boiled sweets. ‘For the children?’
‘Yes, thank you. A quarter of each that you have, please.’
‘Those pit children are fortunate to have such a generous employer as you.’ As Wheeler started weighing out the brightly coloured sweets, a young woman walked out from the rear doorway and paused beside him.
Harry stared at her, never having seen her before. His heart gave a jolt, surprising him. A tingle of physical awareness gripped his whole body.
Realising that Stan Wheeler had been speaking to him, Harry gave a little cough and tried to recapture his reeling senses. The young woman before him was a delicate beauty. ‘You-you have a new assistant, Mr Wheeler?’
‘Indeed, Master Harry, for nearly six weeks now.’ Wheeler grinned, his whole demeanour showing his happiness. ‘Charlotte, this is Mr Harry Belmont, of Belmont Hall. Master Harry, may I present Miss Charlotte Brookes.’
Harry held out his hand and she tentatively took it for a second before slipping her hands behind her slender back. She wore a huge white apron over a simple black dress. Her hair, the colour of deep chestnut mixed with copper was wound in a tight bun at the back of her head, but a few stray tendrils had escaped and hung over her small ears. Her eyes were a blend of green and dark gold. Colour heightened the unblemished skin on her cheeks. It took him but a moment to notice all these things and wonder at his own astonishment to her appearance. She was attractive, certainly, but he’d seen beautiful women before. So why did this one, a shop girl, rob him of both breath and sensible thought?
‘Charlotte and her younger sister, Hannah, are staying with us, you see. They are now without family.’ Wheeler gave her a pat on the shoulder in sympathy before regaining his sunny nature once more. ‘But they have settled in so well here. Bessie and myself can’t think of how it once was without them. Such help they are to us.’
Harry watched Miss Brookes as she smiled softly at Wheeler, the affection between them was mutual it seemed. He wanted to speak to her but didn’t know what to say. A first for him.
Wheeler continued to fill up the small brown paper bags of sweets. ‘See here now, Charlotte. Master Harry comes in every now and then and buys sweets for the children of the pit rows belonging to his mine. They are the children of the men he employs.’ He opened a new jar of humbugs. ‘A quarter of each kind from the boiled sweets and a dozen strips of liquorice cut again into smaller pieces. It goes on the Belmont Hall’s account.’
‘I see, yes.’ She watched him intently as he used tongs to separate the black liquorice lengths.
‘Are you staying in the village long, Miss Brookes?’ Harry finally managed to say, absorbing the way she absently tucked her hair behind her ear.
She looked up at him, startled, her eyes wide as though speaking to him was alarming. ‘I hope so, sir.’
He cringed at the ‘sir’. He didn’t want her to cower before him like a servant. For some reason he sensed she wasn’t made that way. He didn’t know why he thought so, or what proof he had, but he instinctively believed she was strong, determined and in no way ordinary. The manner in how she stood straight-backed and watched Wheeler; the pert thrust of her chin as she helped him to weigh and bag the sweets. Her movements were neat and precise and Harry knew at that instant that he could watch her for the rest of his life.
AnneMarie was born a small town in N.S.W. Australia, to English parents from Yorkshire. She is the youngest of five children. Her love of reading fiction started at an early age with Enid Blyton’s novels, before moving on into more adult stories such as Catherine Cookson’s novels as a teenager. Living in England, during the 1980s she discovered a love of history by visiting the many and varied places of historical interest.
The road to publication was long and winding with a few false starts, but she finally became published in 2006. Since that time, many novels and several short stories have been published. She writes historical novels set in Yorkshire and/or Australia in the eras covering from Victorian to WWII. Her books are available in ebook and paperback from bookstores, especially online bookstores such as Amazon.
AnneMarie enjoys reading and gardening. Spending time visiting old country house estates and castles helps her find ideas for her books. She’s interested in genealogy and researched her family trees. She loves chocolate (who doesn't?) and enjoys travelling, cooking and surfing the web (research purposes, obviously, not wasting time on Facebook!)
AnneMarie loves to hear from readers, you can find her: Website • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads.