The Mersey Girls
When Evie Kilgaren takes over the running of the back office at Skinner and Son’s haulage yard, she has no idea she is walking into a hive of blackmail, secrets and lies.
Her fellow co-worker and childhood nemesis, Susie Blackthorn, is outraged at being demoted and is hell-bent on securing the affections of local heartthrob Danny Harris.
Grace Harris, a singer on the prestigious D’Angelo transatlantic ocean liners, is returning home engaged to be married. But Grace is harbouring her own shocking secrets and something valuable her fiancé very desperately wants back.
As we return to the lives and loves of those who live and work in the Mersey Docklands, not everything is as it seems and love and luck are rarely on the same side.
Author Bio –
Sheila Riley wrote four #1 bestselling novels under the pseudonym Annie Groves and is now writing the Reckoner’s Row series under her own name. She has set it around the River Mersey and its docklands near to where she spent her early years. She still lives in Liverpool.
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New Year’s Eve: 1949
‘Ten… Nine… Eight…’
Twenty-five-year-old Grace Harris lifted her finely sculptured chin, allowing her dark curls to caress her sun-kissed shoulders as her outstretched arm took in the audience of first-class passengers, before striding with ultimate confidence across the spot lit stage prominently situated in the chandelier-lit state ballroom of the Marine Spirit. The D’Angelo line’s newest cruise ship was embarking on a six-month cruise that left Grace’s hometown of Liverpool on the first day of December, heading to tropical waters and visiting islands off the Caribbean before docking in New York on Valentine’s Day.
A far cry from her hometown – the dockside streets of her beloved Liverpool, where the legacy of the Second World War was still visible in the vacant bombsites, broken houses, temporary prefabs and gardens turned into allotments for those lucky enough to have a garden, Although back in Reckoner’s Row there were no such things as gardens.
‘Three… Two… One…! Happy New Decade!’
The elite passengers on board were either famous, royal, or incredibly wealthy. Celebrity guests such as Queen Elizabeth and Walt Disney cruised among many of Hollywood’s top stars.
From her lofty perch on stage, Grace watched the party people rise as one and join hands to make a huge circle, merging together for a rousing chorus of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to welcome the new decade of 1950, and a sea of emotional faces sang out a decade of war, destruction, austerity and want, which she had been lucky enough to avoid, since joining the ship two years ago and mixing with the richest of the rich.
Grace knew her singing afforded her a luxurious lifestyle that others envied, especially now she had reached the coveted position of headlining act. But her smile froze when she caught sight of something that made her heart skip a beat and caused the stirring words of the old song to stick in her throat. Clifford, the entertainment director, was bringing in his New Year locked in a passionate clinch with one of the dancing girls. And Grace realised the onboard gossip could be true after all.
She had reached the dizzy height of headline performer through hard work, determination and talent and had not slept her way to the top like some. So when Clifford had said he loved her at the start of the trip, and proved it by asking her to marry him on Christmas Eve, she felt like the luckiest woman in the world.
However, aware of scurrilous rumours regarding Clifford from some on-board staff, she put their gossip down to jealousy. A handsome man, he schmoozed the rich and famous clientele as part of his job, so speculation, like meat and drink to some crew members, had been rife.
Although Grace tried to ignore it, letting nobody see the hearsay hurt her, reassuring herself that his dashing good looks and devastating charm was bound to feed the gossip. Part of England’s social elite, Clifford had served with distinction in the Royal Air Force during the war and blended perfectly with the high society passenger list.
She was thrilled even though he swore her to secrecy regarding their engagement. Apart from the ruling that fraternising between the staff was not allowed, Clifford told her that being engaged to marry may harm his standing with the well-to-do big tippers, and they needed all the money they could get to save for a place of their own. Grace believed him, knowing every female on board had their eye on Clifford.
From this height, she could clearly see Clifford and the girl moving to the area behind ‘the staff bar’. Hidden away from the passengers, the small room had walls of optics containing every alcohol, where the waiters fulfilled the table orders without having to queue with passengers. Making sure the coast was clear, Clifford locked the door behind them.
Every muscle in her body was taut and Grace wanted to storm off the stage and interrupt their fun. But to make a scene would be tantamount to career suicide for both of them.
When Clifford had asked her to marry him on Christmas Eve, slipping a pink diamond ring onto her finger, she marvelled at the perfect fit, thrilled. And he told her she must only wear the ring when she was performing, that way there would be no embarrassing questions to answer.
Her throat tightened and Grace felt crushed. The betrayal was as sharp as a slap in the face, making her realise she could be replaced by any of the on-board hopefuls hungry for the limelight, or any of the frustrated women with rich husbands who were willing to give more than she had been prepared to part with.