Thursday 12 September 2019

Check out Historical Fiction author, Deborah Swift's, fabulous book — The Gilded Lily @swiftstory

The Gilded Lily
By Deborah Swift

'intriguing characters, an action-packed plot, and history brought to life; this book is a must read.' Night Owl Reviews.
Winter 1661

In her short life Sadie Appleby has never left rural Westmorland. But one night she is rudely awoken by her older and bolder sister, Ella. She has robbed her employer and is on the run.

Together the girls flee their home and head for London, hoping to lose themselves in the teeming city. But the dead man's relatives are in pursuit, and soon a game of cat and mouse ensues amongst the freezing warren that is London in winter.

Ella is soon seduced by the glitter and glamour of city life and sets her sights on the flamboyant man-about-town, Jay Whitgift, owner of a beauty parlour for the wives of the London gentry.

But nothing in the capital is what it seems, least of all Jay Whitgift. Soon a rift has formed between Ella and Sadie, and the sisters are threatened by a menace more sinister than even the law.

Set in a brilliantly realised Restoration London, The Gilded Lily is a novel about beauty and desire, about the stories we tell ourselves, and about how sisterhood can be both a burden and a saving grace.


Chapter 1
England, November 1660

Anyone else would probably scream - woken in the night like that, with a hand clamped over the mouth in the pitch black. But not Sadie, she knew it was Ella, even though she heard not a single word, for the smell of her sister’s skin was as familiar to her as her own.
A blast of cold air buffeted her through her thin shift as the covers were wrenched back over her feet. Sadie scrambled out of bed. Silently she felt the floorboards for her clothes, shivering as she slipped her arms awkwardly into her bodice, and tied on her skirt, with fingers fumbling in half-sleep. She tripped as she put on her clogs, and one of them clattered down.
“Sshh,” said Ella. They listened in breathless silence for a sound from below, Sadie could hear nothing, except her own heart beating.
A cuff round the ear. “Carry them, mutton-head.” 
Sadie felt a strong grip steering her shoulder, and Ella’s voice hissed in her ear, “If you waken him, I’ll do for you.”
Ella half-pushed her down the stairs, and out of the front door into the wet, before she had time to catch her breath. In the white chalk of the lane Ella was silhouetted in the darkness; Sadie could just make out her dark eyes in the pale oval of her face, and the outline of her hair, which had escaped from her cap and sprung into curls from the damp.
“Is it time?” whispered Sadie, “Have you come for me already? What shall I fetch over?”
“Nothing,” said Ella shortly, half-dragging her along the road. “Hurry, can’t you.”
Sadie hopped along, trying to fit her clogs on her feet as she went. This was not what she had imagined at all. When Ella had left home to be the Ibbetsons’ lady’s maid she had promised Sadie she would come back for her, as soon as she could find her a position in the household. But surely they wouldn’t be asking for her in the middle of the night.
“Why are we in such a fret? What’s the matter?”
“Muzzle it. Or I’ll leave you behind.” She set off at a run, with Sadie hanging onto her sleeve, haring down the road through the sleeping village, under the shadowy dripping trees. Though at fifteen she was three years younger than Ella, Sadie was almost as tall, but she was not used to running, and soon had to let go of her arm. 
Ella did not slow - her skirts were hoisted up over her knees, her feet kicked up gobs of dirt as she ran. Sadie dropped behind, clutching a stitch in her side, but when she saw the flash of her sister’s white calves getting smaller she forced herself to sprint on behind her, pounding through the puddles, her eyes screwed up against the sting of the rain.
The big house suddenly loomed up ahead of them. The windows were blacked out holes, no smoke came from the chimneys. They stopped on the front step, both of them doubled over and panting. Ella produced a key to open up and thrust Sadie into the hall. Sadie tried to curb her breathing, expecting to see a housekeeper, a footman, or other staff. From long-standing habit she pulled her hair forward over the left side of her face, to hide the wine stain on her cheek. Strangers often feared this birthmark as a sign of bad luck. But she need not have worried - there was nobody there. She rubbed her eyes, and wiped the drizzle from her face on her sleeve, letting her dark hair fall back over the side of her face. It was the first time she had been actually inside the Ibbetson’s house. She peered around eagerly.
Ella took out a tinder-box from the drawer and lit a candle on the side table.  Sadie gasped as it illuminated a sudden sheen of polished wood panelling. Ella turned around to face her, holding the candle. She was breathless, her face grim. In the flickering light her eyes were like swimming fish, darting from side to side. A dread settled on Sadie’s shoulders like a cloak. Something was wrong.
“The dawn’s coming, and we must be away before t’is light. Listen to me. There’s no time to explain. Get ahold of that basket and fill it with ought you can find that’s worth having. Silver plate, linen - nought too big, but we’ve got to be quick.”
Sadie whispered, “You mean, just take it?” She did not move, just held tight to the fabric of her skirt with both hands.
 “Oh, for God’s sake.” Ella grabbed hold of her arm and pulled her towards the stairs.  “Come here. I’ll do it. Just take the basket, will you. We’ll start up there.” 
The house was eerily quiet. Not a sign of anyone else, and the fires were cold in the grates. Where was everyone? Why was Ella allowed to roam the house alone at night? The stairs creaked. Sadie’s wooden clogs scraped on the edges of the steps, despite the fact she did her best to tread quietly. She clasped the basket in both hands, staring round her in astonishment. Ella seemed to know exactly what she was doing. They cleared a room of a lady’s things – silver thimbles, glass scent bottles still reeking of lavender, gloves, a mother-of-pearl fan. Ella shovelled armfuls of lace into the basket, leaving all the drawers gaping.
Sadie pushed the door of the second room, it swung open silently at her touch. In the gloom she glimpsed a mound of blankets and the top of a stubbled head.
She scuttled backwards onto the landing. “There’s someone asleep in there.” She could barely speak, and caught hold of Ella’s arm to stay her. Ella shook her off and pushed past her, the candle in one hand, the basket with its trailing lace balanced on her hip.
“Get that trunk,” Ella pointed under the bed, “we’ll need that too.”
Sadie tiptoed over and inched out the trunk in case she should wake him, but the man on the bed slept on. Even when Ella cleared his side-table of its ivory combs, brass candlesticks and magnifying lens on a stand, he did not stir.  Ella jammed all the things hastily into the basket, packing them tightly round with nightcaps, gloves and hose dragged from the linen press at the end of the bed.
Sadie stood up; the man remained hunched under the bedcovers. She leaned over and peered down at him. His eyes were like two whelks staring up at her.
She stepped back and almost lost her balance as her heel banged into the trunk. A part of her would have fled, but she could not take her eyes away. His mouth was slightly open as if he was about to speak. In an instant she knew. No more words would come.

Pick up your copy of
The Gilded Lily

Deborah Swift

Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.

She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Connect with Deborah: Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx