The Penny Heart
Manchester 1809. Would-be industrialist Michael Croxon chases young street hawker Mary Jebb into a wretched warren after she cons his brother out of his money. In an unguarded moment he develops a suppressed attraction to the girl. After he bears witness in court against her, Mary sends him a Penny Heart token from the prison hulks bearing a strange verse, the reverse announcing that she will be transported for 7 years.
Two years later, in order to build a manufactory, Michael has married awkward Jane Moore, who is overjoyed at her luck, but soon disappointed to learn it was only to gain her land. Meanwhile, Mary escapes from Botany Bay to be shipwrecked on the wild coast of New Zealand, where she loses her lover and the last of her scruples
Using her conning skills, Mary returns home and adopts the identity of ‘Peg’, the Croxon’s cook at their lonely Hall. After Mary helps Jane compile a book of husband-pleasing recipes, Jane’s new womanly wiles seem to earn Michael’s affection. But when Jane discovers two matching Penny Heart love tokens that tell of banishment to the ends of the earth, she enters a world of deceit and double-crossing, and uncovers a tale of revenge that culminates in murder.
Praise for The Penny Heart
'Martine Bailey has invented her own niche – gothic horror meeting culinary thriller – and The Penny Heart is her second helping... There is much to admire in this sprawling tale of lies, secrets and puddings. Bailey's prose sparkles.' – The Times
'An exciting novel in the Gothic tradition.' – The Lady Magazine
'An ingenious exercise in pastiche gothic, this is a richly rewarding read.' – The Sunday Times
'The Penny Heart is a compelling and haunting story, brimming with malice and darkness, and powerfully alive to the harsh realities of 18th century life, but it also an invigorating account of the indomitability of the human spirit in the face of terrible hardship.' – Lancashire Evening Post
'I really can't recommend this novel highly enough. I loved it from start to finish.' – S D Sykes, author of Plague Land
'Peppered with recipes – many of which I suggest you do not try – this gripping drama is atmospheric, with enough intrigue to keep you engaged.' – The Sunderland Echo
'Bailey has created such vivid and believable characters that I felt entirely gripped by every strand of the story.' – Juliet West, author of Before the Fall
'It all comes down to a thrilling battle of wits and nerve – I literally could not put the book down for the last quarter.' – Laura Purcell, author of The Queen of Bedlam and Mistress of the Court
'Following an excellent debut must be tough – but Bailey has made it look easy with this polished, sophisticated work. From the first page, I sensed this novel was going to be even better than her first and my confidence was not misplaced.' – The Bookbag