Publisher: Aria Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
The forgotten children of London are going missing, apparently being sold by their own families. Can she save them before it’s too late…
Flora Maguire’s life is perfect – a beautiful home in Belgravia teeming with servants, a loving husband, and new baby Arthur to enjoy. But when she is invited to tour St Philomena’s Children’s Hospital in deprived Southwark, she gets a harsh insight into the darker side of Edwardian London.
Shocked by the conditions people are living in, she soon uncovers a scandal with a dark heart – children are going missing from the hospital, apparently sold by their own families, and their fate is too awful to imagine. With the police seemingly unable or unwilling to investigate, Flora teams up with the matron of the hospital, Alice Finch, to try to get to the bottom of it.
Soon Flora is immersed in the seedy, dangerous underbelly of criminal London, and time is running out to save the children. Will they get to them in time, or was their fate decided the day they were born poor…
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Forgotten Children! I have an extract to share today.
London, September 1904
Flora tilted her hat over her left eye and pouted at her reflection in the mirror above the mantelpiece. Bunny appeared at her shoulder and plucked a sheet of pasteboard propped against the clock.
‘That’s the third time you’ve scrutinized that card in the last hour.’ She frowned as she returned the grey velvet confection to its original position.
‘Don’t you find it strange that we’ve been invited to tour a hospital neither of us has ever heard of?’ He tapped the card against his thumbnail. ‘Incidentally, I like that hat the other way.’
‘St Philomena’s Hospital is a charity founded by a wealthy philanthropist to provide medical care for children of the poor.’ Sighing, she adjusted the hat again.
‘An admirable endeavour, no doubt, but why have we been invited?’ He pushed his spectacles further up his nose with a middle finger and tucked the card into his inside pocket. ‘If Arthur became ill, we’re unlikely to take him to a hospital in Southwark.’
Flora suppressed a shiver at the mention of illness in respect of their infant son, who currently enjoyed chubby good health. ‘Charities are always looking for funds; maybe they regard Mr Ptolemy Harrington, Solicitor at Law, as a viable proposition?’
‘Trust you to get to the bottom of the thing.’ Bunny joined her by the front door being held open by their butler. ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go in the motor car?’
‘No, and it’s too late to change your mind, the taxi is already here.’ She smiled at his downcast expression that was so like Arthur’s. ‘And Southwark is hardly a suitable place to leave your beloved Aster, no matter how many street urchins you pay to watch it.’
‘Taxi it is, then.’ Bunny handed her inside the motor taxi that idled at the kerb whilst giving the house a slow appraising glance through the window.
The façade of Portland stone that rose four floors from the street always sent a possessive thrill up Flora’s spine. A pair of Ionic columns flanked a shiny black-painted front door with a set of railed stone steps that descended into basement kitchens equipped with the latest innovations Flora had insisted upon. Aware of what life was like in the servants’ hall at her childhood home, Cleeve Abbey in Gloucestershire, with its outdated facilities, she had been determined to make her own servants’ lives a little easier. She had unwisely expressed this sentiment in the presence of her mother-in-law, the memory of whose contempt still made Flora’s cheeks burn.
The taxi headed east along Victoria Street, past the Catholic cathedral and around Parliament Square, past monumental buildings that represented the might of the British Empire.
On the far side of Westminster Bridge, Portland stone and red brick gave way to wood and steel of the industrial area of the city, deteriorating more with each mile. The taxi’s route took them in a wide circle and back to the river where the sparkling new structure of Tower Bridge reached into a darkening sky.
‘It’s hard to believe we’re only three miles from Belgravia.’ Flora wiped a gloved hand to clear the mist on the rain-streaked taxi window as they entered Quilp Street and passed beneath a wrought-iron archway that displayed the words St Philomena’s Hospital for Sick Children.
The hospital was a solid, rectangular building with a mansard roof that squatted amongst its less imposing neighbours like an elegant woman who had known better days; the red brick having faded to a dirty russet colour by forty years of coal smoke from the surrounding factories and tanneries.
‘Is that baking I can smell?’ She sniffed appreciatively at an enticing aroma of burned sugar that seeped into the cab.
‘Probably. The Peek Frean’s factory is one of the main employers in this area,’ Bunny said, handing her out of the cab. ‘They call this place “Biscuit Town”.’
Their heads down against a sudden rainstorm, they ran for the entrance, splashing through puddles that soaked their feet, and exploded into the entrance hall laughing delightedly. A group of ladies in wide-brimmed hats and black-suited gentleman gave the newcomers slow, appraising looks, some curious, others of bored disinterest, before going back to their conversations.
Bunny handed the porter who held open the door for them the printed invitation that had so perplexed him earlier.
‘Mr and Mrs Harrington, is it?’ He squinted at the square of pasteboard. ‘As you can see, we have quite a few visitors today, but someone will be here shortly to show you around.’
About the Author:
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