The Angel Maker
The Hartford Manor Series
1884 North Devon, England
When carpenter, Fred Carter, finds a young woman in dire straits by the roadside, he takes her to the local inn where she gives birth to a daughter. Charlotte Mackie, an unmarried mother, has run away from home where she would have no sympathy from her strict parents. A few days later, Fred takes Charlotte to her aunt’s house and does not expect to see her again.
When their paths unexpectedly cross, Fred finds Charlotte distraught as her aunt has arranged an adoption behind her back. Charlotte is desperate to find her baby, and Fred promises to help. However, they are unprepared for the sinister discoveries that lay before them. Set alongside the absorbing detail of country life and budding village romances, dark forces are at work, which ultimately test the bravery and resourcefulness of the whole community.
The Angel Maker is the sequel to The Mazzard Tree and the second novel in a compelling series that follows the lives and loves of the villagers of Hartford. A rare treat for lovers of historical fiction.
The Angel Maker was the runner-up in the AllAuthor Cover Competition in January 2023.
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Enjoy an Excerpt
The Angel Maker
“Hello, Sam; are you there?”
Charlie pushed the door open. As his eyes grew accustomed to the dimness, he could see a body huddled on the pallet Sam slept on. His fears grew as the old man showed no sign of movement, and he felt for a pulse on the old man’s neck. To his relief, Sam stirred, and then panicked, as he realised someone was bent over him.
“It’s all right, Sam, it’s all right, it’s me, Charlie. Are you poorly, or just having a nap?”
Sam opened his eyes and gazed at Charlie. He didn’t recognise him for a few moments, but as realisation dawned, he gave a weak smile. “Oh, hello, Charlie. I was fast asleep. Just a minute and I’ll get up.”
With some difficulty, the old man swung his legs to the floor and pushed himself into a sitting position, groaning loudly. He sat there for a few minutes as if summoning the strength to stand.
“Sam, what’s wrong? Are you hurt?” Charlie could see the tramp was thinner and even more unkempt than usual.
“Aye, I’m not too good. That’s why I was resting. Hold on, and I’ll come outside. There’s not much room in here.”
Charlie led the way from the hut and signalled to Eveline to dismount from her horse. He glanced back to talk to Sam and gasped in shock. Sam’s hair was crusted with blood, and there were dark purple bruises and weals all down one side of his grimy face. He swayed dangerously as he stumbled towards where the fire should be burning merrily.
“Oh, Sam, what’s happened? Has someone beaten you?”
“No, I’m all right; I fell over the other day and bumped my head, but I’m on the mend. Oh, now, my fire’s gone out.”
The sight of the cold, grey ashes seemed more than the old man could take, and suddenly tears coursed down his wrinkled cheeks. Charlie quickly pulled forward the tree stump which seemed to be Sam’s favourite seat.
“Here, sit down, Sam, and tell us what happened.”
“Nothing happened. Like I told you, I fell over.”
Charlie persisted gently. “I don’t think you did, Sam. Your injuries don’t look like the result of a fall. I think someone beat you with a stick. Tell me who did it, and I’ll give them a hiding they’ll never forget.”
Sam shook his head. “No, I don’t want you getting into trouble. How’s that dog bite?”
“Still sore, but thanks to you, it’s healing nicely. That’s why I’m here; I wanted to thank you. I might have lost my leg if it wasn’t for you. That ointment is amazing stuff, Sam. This is my friend, Eveline, she’s Annie’s aunt, and she’d like to know your secret ingredients.”
“Aye, I’ll be bet she would; well, if you come when I’m better, my dear, I’ll show you how to make it. I’ve always kept it a secret and told no one else, but maybe it’s time I did. I may not be around a great while longer.”
“Hello, Sam, I’m pleased to meet you again. I’ve seen you before when you came to the inn.”
Sam squinted at her out of his left eye which wasn’t swollen shut. “Oh, yes, I remember you. You gave me food more than once if I remember rightly.”
“Yes, I did, Sam. I’ve brought some food for you today too. Have you eaten?”
“No, I haven’t eaten for days. I’ve been too sore, and too poorly, to move from my bed.”
“In that case, see if you can manage a few mouthfuls of this pork sandwich; it’s nice and tender. Here you are.” He took half of the sandwich from her gratefully, and slowly nibbled at it gingerly, trying to avoid his split lip.
“Charlie, could you get the fire going for Sam, please? I can heat some water then and bathe his injuries when he’s finished eating. Perhaps we could make a hot drink for him too. Do you have any tea, Sam?”
“No, I don’t have any tea, but there’s some dried mint in that tin. I could have a cup of that. You too, if you like.”
Whilst he ate his sandwich, Eveline went into the hut to find some rags and then sat beside him. Charlie got the fire going and went to gather more firewood.
“Sam, tell me who did this? I won’t let Charlie go after them, but tell me. How many men were there? Did they steal much?”
At that, the old man did smile. “Nay, ‘twasn’t men. To my shame, ‘twas a woman. Fancy me getting beaten up like this by a woman, ‘tis a sad state of affairs.”
“So, who was it, and why did they beat you like this? Oh, wait a minute, was it the woman at Buzzacott House?”
“Aye, you’re a smart maid. I was doing no harm. Mind you, I was spying on her, so I suppose she had some cause. I saw another woman bring a baby to the house, and I knew Fred and Charlie wanted to know all about that, so I followed her and hid in the bushes. The girl handed over her baby to the tall woman and then made off back the way she came. Unfortunately for me, I sneezed a couple of times, and the woman heard me. She passed the baby to her daughter and came running over to find out who was there. As soon as she saw me, she set about me something vicious with a big stick she was carrying. Beat me black and blue, she did. I’m bruised all over. She said if she ever saw me near the house again, I’d be sorry, and she’d set the dog on me. I don’t want Charlie going there and saying anything to her because it’s me that will suffer for it when he’s gone. If I could move on, I would, but my hut’s here, and I’m not fit to travel. I might roam again when I’m better, but my hut’s cosy, and young Fellwood said I could stay, and that doesn’t happen often.”
“Oh, Sam, I’m so sorry. What an awful thing for her to do.”
“Aye, she showed no mercy, even though I was screaming. She’s a big woman too, almost as strong as a man, and there’s not much to me these days. Just a bag of old skin and bones.”
“Sam, will you let me bathe your wounds and put some of your ointment on them?”
He nodded. “Yes, all right. I haven’t felt well enough to attend to them myself or get food or firewood. I feel better for that pork sandwich, though. I think you and Charlie might just have saved my life between you.”
By this time Charlie had the fire burning, and the water was soon hot. He made Sam some mint tea, and Eveline bathed his wounds and daubed ointment on them, but he refused to undress and let her see his other injuries. Charlie fetched a supply of firewood and stacked it near the fire.
“Sam, we’ll come again tomorrow to see how you are. There’s enough firewood there to last you until then, and we’ll bring some more food and clothes. The ones you have on are covered in blood. Will you be all right on your own until then?”
“I will now, and thank you so much for your kindness. To tell you the truth, I’d given up and was just waiting for the end to come, but perhaps it’s not quite my time yet after all.”
“Of course, it’s not. We’ll see you tomorrow, Sam.”
Marcia Clayton was born in North Devon, a rural and picturesque area in the far South West of England. She is a farmer’s daughter and often helped to milk the cows and clean out the shippens in her younger days.
When Marcia left school she worked in a bank for several years until she married her husband, Bryan, and then stayed at home for a few years to care for her three sons, Stuart, Paul and David. As the children grew older, Marcia worked as a Marie Curie nurse caring for the terminally ill, and later for the local authority managing school transport.
Now a grandmother, Marcia enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She’s a keen researcher of family history, and it was this hobby that inspired some of the characters in her books. A keen gardener, Marcia grows many of her own vegetables. She is also an avid reader and mainly enjoys historical fiction, romance and crime books.
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