Bad blood and old grievances in 18th century Lewes

Beverley Elphick ... the second book in her trilogy contains a list of local smugglers
Beverley Elphick ... the second book in her trilogy contains a list of local smugglers

Her home town of Lewes and its environs form the backdrop for the latest historical novel by local author Beverley Elphick.

The much-anticipated ‘Retribution’ is set in the 1790s, with Britain at war with France and Spain.

Men and boys are being forced onto the King’s ships by unscrupulous press gangs, while the womenfolk left behind struggle to deal with the consequences at home of food shortages, hunger and rampant disease – as well as smuggling and street crime.

In the second of a trilogy beginning with the popular ‘Three Round Towers’, Esther Coad is once again on her old stomping ground of Lewes, looking forward to her wedding and hoping to continue her midwifery training with Dr Grieve despite the resistance of Wilf, her husband-to-be.

As before, she moves betwixt and between extremes of wealth and poverty, using her many skills to bring assistance to disadvantaged women in the later stages of pregnancy.

But bad blood and old grievances with local smugglers mean that there are those who will stop at nothing to bring down both Esther and the child Beth, whose troublesome birth lies at the heart of the story.

It is not by choice that Esther’s horizons are expanded far beyond those of home and her resourcefulness tested to the limit when she finds herself on a perilous journey from which there appears to be no return.

Will her fate turn out to be once more that of the outcast or will she find at last the happiness and security she so craves?

Author Beverley, 66, of Balneath Lane, South Chailey, said: “At the head of each chapter there are excerpts, most of which are drawn from the early editions of the Sussex Weekly Advertiser and Lewes Journal – the forerunner of the Sussex Express.

“Some are quite gruesome but all of them set the context of what life was like in those days.

“I tried to combine everyday life alongside the more colourful. There is also a list of local smugglers which begs the question are their descendants still in and around the Lewes area?”

‘Retribution’ is published by Matador and priced at £9.99.