Friday, March 26, 2021

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival Series: The Ropewalk series by H D Coulter


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.


 Chapter 6 

A handful of ladies and gentlemen stood gossiping in their finest outfits outside the Assembly rooms. Having been worried she would be overdressed, Bea soon realised hers was a relatively simple design compared to the majority of the ladies’ present. They looked like they belonged at the palace amongst royal courtiers in their lace, feathers and pearls. One of the few nights a year, the classes of Ulverston might mix even a little. This was only the second time Bea had attended a comparable social gathering. The first had been at the harvest festival two years ago, but that was far less formal, and far less impressive.

Bea and Beth carefully weaved through the crowd to the main hall, the splendour of the illuminating light issuing from the candles as it reflected off the over-polished oak panels, their honey-scented wisps of smoke smudging up the newly painted walls. The warm glow created a romantic atmosphere in the large open space, as the music of the small orchestra flowed sweetly over the dancers. They spun and swirled, every partner casting a glittering shimmer onto their neighbour's silk finery.

The sisters were happy to stand back and watch every interaction, absorbing every detail. They saw the disgust on some of the more gentile faces whenever a lower-born figure approached to pay their respects. Bea noted the awkwardness in some of the poorer ladies, attempting to hide in the corners of the room so that no one would notice their simple, plain dresses against the splendour of the county women. A few mothers scouted amongst the men for a potential husband for their meek daughters, pushing them on to the dance floor unashamedly, praying for a match.

In general, however, there was a gayness to the guests, and a constant flow of laughter circulating the room. People were taking advantage of the precious few hours of light merriment to forget their troubles, and enjoy themselves in the company of friends, and a mediocre punch. She noticed a few eyes glancing their way, but was too excited to register whether this should flatter or trouble her.

"Is this not wonderful?" she remarked to Beth.

Beth could hear the joy in her sister's voice. It was rare to see her this happy, and it pleased her to be a part of it. She deserved to have cause to smile about.

"Yes, it is, - look." Beth noticed Alice on the other side of the room and waved her over. Alice glided through the knotted crowd immediately.

"You look beautiful." Bea beamed at her.

Alice stood poised in a new dress of her own creation in soft violet muslin, with a velvet sash.

"You both look so wonderful. Look at that fabric, you did such a fine job."

They continued to analyse the surrounding crowd, remarking on the handsome men, and pointing out the most elegant women. All three failed to notice Captain Hanley making his way towards them around the edge of the room.

"Good evening ladies". A gut feeling, something inside Bea, twisted suddenly. It was time to pay up the cost of her evening of freedom. She took a large gulp of her punch and focused on her friends as she introduced them.

"Good evening, Captain Hanley. May I introduce my sister Beth, and my good friend Miss Alice Little," Bea gestured to each in turn. The girls curtsied. Beth gave her sister a puzzled look as she felt her squirm under the Captain's gaze.

In the glow of the low light, Bea had to admit the Captain looked handsome. Wearing a smart white cravat and deep blue tail suit, his smile was bright, but his dark eyes seemed to see straight into her revealing nothing in return.

"Miss Beatrice, may I say I knew you would create a beautiful dress, but I never imagined it would be something so superior to every other woman in the room.” Bea felt the overly familiar compliment prickle her skin. She had imagined being noticed at such a ball by a handsome officer or gentleman ever since she was a little girl, so why did it feel so wrong now? She longed to be standing outside so that the cool evening breeze could take away the heat in her face.

"Thank you, Captain…" she trailed off. No reply sprang to mind. Hanley seemed pleased at her confusion.

“I believe it is time for our first dance." He held out his arm.

He positioned her opposite him on the dance floor, marking their space proudly. Bea felt only awkward and exposed, openly encountering the gaze of strangers. She was used to being invisible, standing on the side-lines, people passing by without giving her a second glance. In her usual clothes these people never acknowledged her, but this dress seemed to shed any disguise behind which she might have hidden. But that had been what she had wanted after all, she told herself, to be one of these fine ladies for the night, to shine like they did.

Bea recognised the music and sent out a small thankful prayer as her feet anxiously waited to trickle across the polished floor. Bea knew the common country dances upon which most of the motions were roughly based on but feared the more recent waltzes from London. Their first piece seemed to evaporate in a matter of seconds. They both smiled and laughed a little in the closing bars, his hand holding tight around her waist and a look of longing in his expression making her blush. By the time the last notes rang out, her muscles had relaxed into each graceful step as a natural child-like enjoyment took over.

As the second dance began, Bea found it harder to hide her smile and her excitement, taking a couple of steady breaths to compose herself. She looked down the line of other ladies as they waited, in an undulating sheen of elegance and demure gestures. Beth standing four couples down from her, looked a little anxious opposite an equally nervous-looking young gentleman. She glanced up at the Captain and discovered him gazing back at her with a reassuring smile. The pace of the violins eased; the tempo relaxed as the steps began. Rising and falling on the balls on her feet, she glided back and forth, greeting each partner at every turn, then twirling around the lady next to her, bringing her back to the centre, then back to the Captain. He was not forthcoming with words during the dances, and Bea found herself grateful for this fact; it allowed her to feel more at ease and enjoy her own simple movement. 

Spinning around the lady next to her, Bea placed her hand out in front for her new partner, and this time was taken by surprise, feeling the gentle grasp and seeing the impenetrable face of the stranger she had seen that early morning on horseback, a month ago. Time slowed again in that moment as his face instantly delivered the same intensity of expression, and Bea became lost once more in a tangle of thoughts. Pausing back in line, they waited as the lady and gentleman standing next to them took their turn. Then the two sets of couples weaved in and out of each other, finishing side by side in a line of four, with the new gentleman standing next to her. She held her hand to her side, counting the half-seconds until it was enclosed in his for another brief moment. She stole a glance at his face and found him staring back at her with a surprised warmth in his eyes. He gave her hand a brief squeeze before letting it go, and smiled at her hesitantly, before moving back to his original partner, of whom Bea could not help but feel envious of; her tailor-made silk and pearls evidence of their mutual status and their conversation suggestive of friendship.

Standing opposite the Captain once more, she realised he had lost his occasion to shine in her eyes. He seemed smudged and distorted, somehow smaller. Her heart, suddenly absent from the dance, ached momentarily, without reason; she felt light-headed, breathless, and confused. How could her feelings possibly change so fast?

The music stopped, and the couples broke away from the group as new ones took their place. Bea used the opportunity to break away swiftly from the Captain and seek her friends. She felt a hand on her shoulder as she tried to negotiate the crowd and turned to see Beth smiling at her; in relief, she smiled back.

"I need some more punch! Shall we?" Bea managed a small nod and allowed Beth to guide her away.  

Ropewalk: Rebellion. Love. Survival.
Copyright: ©H D Coulter

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Special Promotion

Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival is now 0.99 for the duration of the tour. Signed copies of the paperbacks are available on the author's website.

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Available for Pre-Order

Book 2, Saving Grace; Deception. Obsession. Redemption is now available for pre-order at:

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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.

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