Secrets & Saviours
Publisher: Beverley Elphick
Esther, as the wife of Dr. Bartholomew Grieve is a contented young woman. The child she raises as her own – Beth – has no memory of her real mother who died by her own hand on the day of her daughter’s birth. Beth has witnessed dreadful scenes of murder and kidnap, and the threat from her biological father, a farmer and smuggler, is ever present. It is Esther’s hope that she and the child will not suffer the consequences of their past entanglements with the smugglers. But it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain this hope in the face of so many threats. An unknown lad accosts her in a lonely twitten, not quite a boy nor yet a man; he believes it to be Esther’s fault his parents died, with all his siblings subsequently consigned to the poor house. He intends to make her and the child suffer as they have suffered.
There is no hunger or want in the doctor’s household and Esther has the goodwill of many in the town of Lewes; but an unwelcome visitor, in the shape of Dr. Grieve’s elder sister, is about to bring discord into the happy home. Enid McGovern disapproves of her brother’s wife and her acid tongue soon finds ways of disturbing the harmony and frightening the child Beth.
In amongst Esther’s fears for her own and Beth’s safety she finds fulfilment as a practising midwife in caring for the many pregnant women who cannot afford to pay a physician. She finds great personal happiness in her increasing family and is more than capable of seeing off interference by some of the medical profession, particularly when one of them tries to push her out of her midwifery role - a scenario being played out all over the country as venal physicians try to take the wages that midwives can earn. Esther still dreams of establishing a small house where disadvantaged women can give birth if they have no suitable home. She often loses herself in her herbal preparations and studies the works of Nicholas Culpeper. Her own understanding of herbalism comes through generations of wise women of whom her mother was one.
Esther, however, cannot escape the past and when an opportunity arrives to help destroy the smuggling industry in Sussex and Kent, she voluntarily takes part. She does not foresee the consequences and once again her life is held on a knife edge at the will of smugglers who do not realise they are harbouring their bitterest enemy. Esther is trapped as the Excise executes an audacious plan to retrieve England’s stolen gold and rid the southern counties of its smugglers once and for all.