Peter Shawcross is thirty-two years old and was born on a farm just outside Ballybeg in Co Galway. His mother died when he was two while giving birth to his brother James. The Shawcross family often visited the Glebe House as they were the Stevens family’s nearest Protestant neighbours and Peter and James’ father Thomas was the closest Isobel Fitzgerald’s father Canon Edmund Stevens had to a friend. Despite being sent to schools hundreds of miles apart, James and Isobel’s brother Alfie were best friends. Peter was more of a loner but was still a good friend to Isobel and Alfie.
Peter and Alfie are gay and Isobel later discovers they became more than good friends. Finding them together, James coerced Alfie into leaving him alone with Isobel. James seduced her, she fell pregnant and James deserted her and went to America. Isobel had no option but to tell her father and he whipped and disowned her and she left Ballybeg for Dublin.
When Isobel and Will visit Ballybeg on their honeymoon in December 1880, they meet James on the road outside the church. James smugly informs them his father discovered Peter was gay, wrote Peter out of his will and asked him to come back to Ireland and run the farm. On being asked where Peter is, James tells them he has no idea.
In September 1886, Isobel encounters a blond gentleman waiting to be interviewed for the position of her step-father James Ellison’s new law clerk. At first, she thinks he is James Shawcross but no, it’s Peter. Has he been living in Dublin all this time? Why is he using an assumed name and most importantly, how has he supported himself? When she discovers the truth mirrors her own experiences, she fears Peter and Alfie may never be reunited. Can Peter overcome his shame and start afresh?
Dublin, Ireland, September 1886. Will is reacquainted with his former fiancée when his father’s close friend Dr Ken Wilson dies suddenly. On finding they have received the only invitation to the Wilson residence after the funeral, the Fitzgeralds witness the tensions between Cecilia, her mother and her in-laws and discover her hidden motive for wanting them present.
When Isobel is reunited with an old friend from Ballybeg, his shame at what he has done to survive hampers her attempts to bring him and Alfie together again. With an empty life and low expectations, can Peter regain his self-respect or are he and Alfie destined to be alone?
Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…
After calling to number 67 with the bed linen and toys, Isobel walked to number 8 Westmoreland Street and went up the stairs to James’ offices on the first floor. As she closed the main door behind her, two gentlemen aged about thirty, one blond and one dark-haired and seated on chairs along the wall in the hall, got to their feet. Mr Dunbar, James’ law clerk of twenty years standing had died suddenly a fortnight ago and finding a suitable replacement was proving to be quite a challenge.
“This is not a position for a lady,” the dark-haired gentleman informed her forcefully and she tensed.
“Is it not?” she replied, feigning surprise.
“Clerking is a gentleman’s position.”
“Clerking is a position for a gentleman with manners,” James snapped and she turned to him as he left his office and pointed to the door. “Out.”
The dark-haired gentleman closed his eyes for a moment, mentally berating himself, before walking to the stand, lifting a hat down and leaving the hall.
“I do apologise, Isobel.” James extended a hand into the office. “I won’t be long,” he added, looking past her at the blond gentleman and she glanced at him then did a double-take, her heart almost turning over.
No, it isn’t James Shawcross, she had to reassure herself. It’s his elder brother.
“Peter,” she said, sounding breathless and he stared at her with a mixture of astonishment and horror.
“I’m Isobel Fitzgerald now,” she told him with a smile.
“Oh, no-no-no—” He began to stutter and strode to the main door.
“Don’t go, Peter, please?” Running after him, she held the door shut.
“I haven’t been Peter Shawcross for almost six years,” he whispered fiercely.
“James will understand why,” she replied and he stared at her again, realisation dawning on his face that she certainly understood why. “He is step-father to myself and Alfie.”
“Your step-father..?” Peter peered over her shoulder at James then down at her. “How is Alfie?”
“Come and sit with me.” Taking his arm, she led him back to a chair and sat him down. “I will tell you about Alfie but first, James will interview you. So gather your thoughts while I speak to him for a few minutes. Promise me you will stay and be interviewed?”
“Yes, I promise,” he replied quietly and she squeezed his shoulder before going into James’ office.
“The name on his letter of application is Richard Rutherford,” James said, closing the door. “But you called him Peter. Kindly explain why I shouldn’t ask him to leave as well?”
“He is Peter Shawcross – James’ elder brother.”
“Then, he must leave and—”
“No, please listen?” she begged. “Peter and James Shawcross are like chalk and cheese. Their father disinherited Peter when James revealed that Peter…” She tailed off deliberately and her step-father shook his head in disgust. “Richard is Peter’s father’s name and Rutherford is his mother’s maiden name. Please interview him?”
“Oh, very well,” he replied with a sigh and she gave him a grateful smile.
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