Burning Secret | Enthralling Victorian Historical Adventure by R J Lloyd

Burning Secret
by R J Lloyd
Inspired by actual events, Burning Secret is a dramatic and compelling tale of ambition, lies and betrayal.
Born in the slums of Bristol in 1844, Enoch Price seems destined for a life of poverty and hardship-but he’s determined not to accept his lot.
Enoch becomes a bare-knuckle fighter in London’s criminal underworld. But in a city where there’s no place for honest dealing, a cruel loan shark cheats him, leaving Enoch penniless and facing imprisonment.
Undaunted, he escapes to a new life in America and embarks on a series of audacious exploits. But even as he helps shape history, Enoch is not content. Tormented by his past and the life he left behind, Enoch soon becomes entangled in a web of lies and secrets.
Will he ever break free and find the happiness he craves?
Influenced by real people and events, Enoch’s remarkable story is one of adventure, daring, political power, deceit and, in the end, the search for redemption and forgiveness.
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Enjoy an excerpt:
A moment later, a gust of cool fresh air struck Harry in the face. Taking a deep breath, it felt refreshing and pleasant, a welcome relief from the hot, stifling smoke, but before he could exhale, the horror of it dawned. The wind had turned and was now blowing due south towards him. This fresh, invigorating breeze fanned the glowing embers like a blacksmith’s bellows, roaring the fire back into action. Within seconds, it had again built to an inferno, destroying buildings as if made of paper and card. The blaze was worse than before, launching itself across Beaver Street, smashing into Ashley, then south into Church Street. Ten blocks disappeared in the space of minutes.
Haney and his crews were seen in Newman Street running for their lives, pumps and horses abandoned. At Main Street, they regrouped to face the onslaught, but it was futile. The Church of the Immaculate Conception exploded and crashed to the ground as a pile of burning debris. At this rate of advance, it would take less than an hour before the fire levelled City Hall, the courthouse and armoury. Nothing could withstand its force. Neither brick, stone nor walls of granite provided any defence to its renewed ferocity. Harry and Munoz watched in horror as three blocks north, a pencil- thin tornado of roaring gases and jets of hot flame whipped and twisted hundreds of feet upwards. This whirlwind of fire dipped and wrapped its flowing skirt around the elegant St James Hotel before ripping it out by its roots, the whole block vanishing into the sky as a flash of blinding heat.
Munoz grabbed Harry by the arm. ‘My God, it’s coming! Mr Mason, we must leave. The Devil himself is upon us!’
But the fiery orb mesmerised Harry’s attention. Munoz slapped him hard.
‘No!’ screamed Harry. ‘I can’t lose again. I must fight.’ ‘Mr Mason, if we stay, we’ll die.’
At that moment, their attention was drawn to a commotion in the street below. Freshly arrived from Savannah, fire crews were careering up from the train station, bells clanging and horns hooting. Two large steam- driven pumps on heavy wagons, each pulled by six snarling, chestnut drays, sped wildly along West Bay Street. Harry and Munoz were transfixed as forty firefighters followed close behind, jogging in close order towards the danger. The two spectators allowed their gaze to follow the parade to the intersection with Laura Street, where Haney and his men had reassembled. Long hoses were being hurriedly unreeled and connected to the nearby jetty hydrants.
‘Look, Mr Mason. They are preparing an action to fight. Here is where your hotel is saved,’ said Munoz, wrapping a firm hand around Harry’s wrist, dragging him away from the decking and pushing him hard through the trapdoor of their crow’s nest. Munoz came behind, helter-skelter down the wooden stairs they went, through the clock tower and into the foyer where Harry’s staff had gathered. Every one of them terrified and ready to desert. Munoz, commanding them in melodramatic style, said, ‘Come, gentlemen. Take up your buckets and follow. We will save our hotel.’
Outside on the street, Harry urged his men on as hot embers showered down, scorching holes in their clothes and catching their hair. Harry and Munoz jumped into a buggy and drove furiously towards Haney and his congregation of firefighters. The heat was so fierce, the buggy’s canopy burst spontaneously into flames. The horse, its eyes bulging in terror, reared and kicked, frantically whinnying in distress. Harry leapt forward, releasing the traces, allowing the terrified creature to escape at a wild gallop along West Bay.
Harry’s band of porters, bellhops and kitchen boys ran to make up the distance, frantically pulling their hoses on two dog carts found abandoned on the sidewalk. In their grey and burgundy-striped uniforms, they had the appearance of a gang of crazed convicts.
At the junction of West Bay and Laura Street, Haney’s men were hampered by crowds of panic-stricken refugees packing the jetties in the hope of salvation across the river.

After retiring as a senior police officer, R J Lloyd turned his detective skills to genealogy, tracing his family history to the 16th century. However, after 15 years of extensive research, he couldn’t track down his great-great-grandfather, Enoch Price, whose wife, Eliza, had, in living memory, helped raise his mother.
It was his cousin Gillian who, after several more dead-ends, called one day to say that she had found him through a fluke encounter. Susan Sperry from California, who had recently retired, decided to explore the box of documents given to her thirty years before by her mother, which she had never opened. In the box, she found some references to her great-grandfather, Harry Mason, a wealthy hotel owner from Florida who had died in 1919. It soon transpired that Susan’s great-grandfather, Harry Mason, was, in fact, Enoch Price.
From this single thread, the extraordinary story of Harry Mason began to unravel, leading R J Lloyd to visit the States to meet his newly discovered American cousins, and it was Susan Sperry and Kimberly Mason, direct descendants, who persuaded R J Lloyd to write the extraordinary story of their ancestor.
R J Lloyd graduated from the University of Warwick with a degree in Philosophy and Psychology and a Masters in Marketing from UWE. Since leaving a thirty-year career in policing, he’s been a non-executive director with the NHS, social housing, and other charities. He lives with my wife in Bristol, spending his time travelling, writing and producing delicious plum jam from the trees on his award-winning allotment.
Author Links:
Website: www.lloydfamilyhistory.co.uk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rjlwriteruk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/roger.lloyd.948
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rjlwriteruk/
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.co.uk/R-J-Lloyd/e/B0B4KHGHXZ
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61333266-burning-secret