Charlotte’s life has been torn apart. She must flee the city, leaving behind everything she knows. With no family left, Charlotte seeks solace in the horses around her. She understands them, and they understand her. None so much as Belle, a horse so beautiful and kind Charlotte almost forgets the disturbing events that forced her into hiding.
But once you stop running from the past, it can quickly catch up with you . . . how long will Charlotte be safe from a stranger who has sworn to find her – wherever she tries to hide . . . ?
Dark secrets and forbidden love are a treacherous combination in this page-turning adventure.
Runaway is set in 1725 in early Georgian England. It is a tale of murder, intrigue, a lost heir, love and above all of horses. Charlotte loves being around horses. When everything in her life falls apart and danger presses in from every side, they are her comfort and solace.
In order to write Runaway, I spent a lot of time researching travel in England in the early 1700s. I discovered a great deal about the state of the roads, the methods of transport used for goods and people and about the old posting inns. Things became much trickier when I wanted to research the stables of the grand houses and find out how they functioned. Most stable blocks have long since been converted to Mews houses, garages or even tea rooms. The history of the stables is largely lost. Perhaps the servants and the beasts they cared for wasn’t considered worthy of being recorded.
I did find a fantastic book eventually: The British Stable: An Architectural and Social History (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) by Giles Worsley. At £115 for a second-hand copy, it was cheaper for me to consult to copy in the British Library, so that’s what I did.
I discovered all kinds of fascinating bits and pieces whilst researching. For example that the stable boys slept in the straw in the stables with the horses, that they normally had their heads shaved to combat lice, and that the English terror of the dangers of fresh air extended to their horses. Stables were built carefully shielded from drafts and were tightly closed up at night. So when the doors were opened in the morning, the smell of ammonia was eye-watering.
The story begins in London and ends near Bath. I have used real locations, such as Dyrham Park, which locals to the area will recognise on the back cover of the book, but Dyrham has a fictional name in Runaway as I didn’t want to write about the actual family who lived there, I wanted to be free to invent my own tale.
I have woven much of what I learned about the era into the story. The appalling state of the English roads, the pack-horse trains which travelled across the country carrying goods, the waggons pulled by horses chained together in a line, the posting inns and the noblemen’s fine stables where the horses were worth far more than the staff. You can find more on the background to the book on The History Girls (the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk) where I post once a month, if you are interested. But this is all colourful background. Above all, the story is about a girl and a horse surviving in difficult circumstances and finding their place in the world.