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Historical novel set in SUNDERLAND and NEW YORK

24th November 2023

A Woman of Courage by Rita Bradshaw, historical novel set in Sunderland and New York.

Historical novel set in SUNDERLAND and NEW YORK

Fifteen year old Josie Gray is a stunner, with her green eyes and her glorious auburn locks. She sings six nights a week in the Fiddler’s Elbow, a rough pub where she earns a few bob to take home to her family.

Photo credit : Pan Macmillan

One evening she espies a new customer, an extremely handsome young man – who stands out from the majority of men who have “faces like battered plucks” (an expression used in Sunderland, the exact meaning is unclear) –  who turns out to be Adam McGuigan, the youngest son of a notorious local wealthy family, with fingers in all kinds of nefarious pies. Her brother, who escorts her home from her gig to their lodgings in run down Long Bank every evening, through the rough streets of the city, shares his alarm at Adam’s interest in her. But Adam, given his family’s clout in the city, is not one to be deterred and asks for her hand in marriage on her sixteenth birthday. She is charmed by this handsome man, although she does have some sense of the family dynamics. On their wedding night, the scales start to fall from her eyes and soon she is expecting their child.

He finds her pregnancy repellant and is soon spending the evenings out on the town. She is mortified and angry that it has come to this and then, an argument between the two of them, changes their future. All she can do is escape and a kindly ship’s captain offers her a passage to New York. With some of her jewellery and money, she embarks on a new life and she may just find out what true love means. Back in Sunderland, the quest to find her is on and the McGuigans are a determined to find her…..

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This is a very readable novel, that transports the reader back to the industrial days of Sunderland, the shipping hustle and bustle and the sharp division between rich and poor. Life was so hard for so many back then in the 1890s…

This is one for fans of Glenda Young  who sets her novels in a slightly later period in Ryhope (Sunderland)

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