Historical … romantic … based on the legend of Jay's Grave, on Dartmoor in England, Mary's Child is a tale of love and courage.
When Mary Jay is incarcerated in the workhouse after the death of her mother, it isn't until sixteen years later that she is apprenticed out to the Bennett's farm on Dartmoor. She has no idea it is only a few miles from where she was born, or that the man who darkened her mother's life, will threaten her own.
Her life becomes entangled with Leah Underwood's--Leah, who experiences the 'dark rider' as Mary thinks of him, in quite a different way, and who seems mesmerized by him. This, despite that he carelessly tosses her aside when she displeases him. His displeasure goes further, reaching its dark tentacles into the next generation, where it threatens to destroy more lives, including that of Kitty Underwood, Leah's daughter.
Kitty enrages him further by trying to save two friends from his wrath, but in turn, this leads to a startling discovery about her birth. Her fear changes to rage, and she avenges the dreadful wrong done to her mother.
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Twilight Times Books
Celia Leaman, author
JAY’S GRAVE There is a lonely grave by the road not far from Hound Tor on Dartmoor that is never without flowers. It is marked on the Ordnance Survey map as Jay’s Grave.
Around 1860, men working on the road unearthed what they thought were, at first, the remains of a pony. These were later discovered to be the bones of a young woman, and the local squire ordered them to be reburied in their present position. One of the road-mender’s wives recalled being told by her mother that it was the grave of a young girl known as Mary Jay.
When the law forbade the burial of suicides in consecrated ground, they were buried outside parish boundaries, often at a fork or crossroads. It was believed this would confuse their spirits and render them unable to return and haunt the living. Sometimes a stake would be driven through their hearts.
Research has revealed the girl was most likely an orphan, apprenticed out from the Wolborough workhouse in Newton Abbot.
This novel is based around these fragile facts. All characters are fictitious, except for Mary Jay. Some place and farm names do exist, and in this story they are embellished by the author’s imagination.
At supper, Mary couldn’t eat a morsel of food. Neither could she meet Matthew’s eyes that looked at her so inquisitively, for she knew he would realize something terrible had happened to her. She signed she wasn’t feeling well and was excused from her evening chores and allowed to go upstairs to her room.
She closed the door and undressed, but instead of getting into bed, she stood looking out of the window.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she watched the world grow darker and the stars come out. Now and again clouds crossed the moon blotting the light out of the heavens. That was how she felt her happiness had been blotted out that day. Now she would never be able to walk those lanes again and feel safe. Never pause on the bridges or dally in the meadow. She would even be afraid to go and visit Betsy at the inn. That beast, that devil, had robbed her of far more than her virtue.
Through her tears, she saw a star twinkle. Tilly reckoned after people died they went to other stars, one of which was called Heaven. Tilly had told her lots of things that were quite the opposite of what the preacher in the workhouse said. He contended they were all sinners and had committed a crime merely by being born. Condemned to hell he said, all of them.
Mary felt at that moment she was already in hell, and that what was to come after death could only be an improvement. Because, really, in God’s vast creation, what worse could have happened to her? Although even that she could, and would, survive. What it might lead to, however, she might not.
“You all right, my dear Mary?"
She heard Ronald’s voice outside the door and quickly got into bed. Just in time, for the door opened and he stood there.
He scratched his ear and looked at her anxiously, but didn’t cross the threshold. “It isn’t like you not to want your supper,” he said, sounding concerned. “I just wanted to make sure you were all right.” He hovered for a moment longer. “Well, good night then, my angel. Sleep tight.”
As Ronald closed the door, Mary turned her head into her pillow and wept. How she loved that dear man who cared for her so deeply. She couldn’t bear it if she let him down. Yet she knew it may only take one time. In the workhouse she had watched women’s bodies swell and witnessed their unwanted babies born into an unwelcoming, uncaring world. And she had heard a woman take her last breath when she’d done something to avoid such an outcome and it had gone wrong.
She tossed and turned in inconsolable grief, afraid that a similar fate might await her.