Excerpt from The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The White Lady

A Novel

by Jacqueline Winspear

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear X
The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear
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    Mar 2023, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Chapter 1

Kent, England

Every morning as Rose Mackie leaned over the bars of the wooden cot and picked up her three-year-old daughter, she gave thanks for the cottage. She gave thanks for the roof over her head, and she gave thanks for the fact that she wasn't putting up with Jim's mum and dad, and she wasn't living in a London prefab set among the thousands of other London prefabs built in haste to accommodate families left homeless during six years of war. She gave thanks because her little Susie could run across fields in fresh country air, and the child didn't have to wear a scarf over her nose to protect her tiny lungs from the lumpy yellow-green London smog that looked like something nasty the dog had brought up. Just the thought of those pea-soupers made Rose feel queasy.

A lot of things made Rose feel sick about living in London, the city its dwellers called "the Smoke." There was Jim's family, for a start—in fact, his family alone amounted to a good reason not to feel very well at all. But here, now, Jim, Rose and their precious child were safe. Or as safe as they could be. They'd managed to get out of London, exchanging the Smoke for the quiet of the country. In the past year, since they had altered the course of their lives—forever, they hoped—Jim had lost that sunken look in his cheeks and those lines of worry that no young man of five and twenty should feel every time he ran his hand across his forehead. There were no longer dark circles under his pale-blue eyes, and he didn't startle every time wind rattled the windowpanes. They had escaped London. They had run as far as they could from the bomb sites—and more than anything, they had dragged themselves out from under the fingernails of the Mackie family.

It had been a miracle, the way things had fallen into place. Rose even thought her mum, dad and brothers must all be helping from what her aunt called "the other side." Without doubt, luck had been with Rose, Jim and their little girl when they stepped off the Victoria to Hastings motor coach in the small village of Shacklehurst, on the winding rural route some sixty-five miles from London. They had gone only as far as their fare budget would take them. Not knowing quite what to do next, they walked into a teashop across the street from the bus stop to ask if there was somewhere in the village they could stay for a night or two. In truth, they knew it didn't look as if they were there for just a night or two, what with a couple of suitcases, the child on Rose's hip wearing half the clothes she had to her name, and a tension in their voices that might as well have announced to everyone in the teashop that they were not, in fact, on a bit of a holiday. The proprietor gave them a broad smile when they entered her establishment, which was a good start, Rose thought. She had noticed the spotless shop and that the woman was wearing a clean, starched pinny, with the only indication that she was rushed off her feet being a single errant curler left in her hair. And people weren't always welcoming in the country when they heard an accent or turn of phrase that screamed "We're Londoners!" Still smiling, the woman looked them up and down and nodded, beckoning them aside and adding that by chance she had a spare room she could let them have for a few nights, and could put out a breakfast for them into the bargain, perhaps even a supper, though she'd need their ration books. They had to be off the premises during the day because there were customers to consider and she didn't want anyone hearing heavy feet or a baby screaming above their heads while they were enjoying a cup of tea and a cream bun. That was alright with Jim and Rose; after all, they had a good few things to accomplish during the course of their country sojourn. Finding work was at the top of the list, and a place to live came next—very much next.

Excerpted from The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear. Copyright © 2023 by Jacqueline Winspear. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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