In 2003 she graduated from Edge Hill University, Lancashire, with a BA Hons degree in Drama and Writing. During this time she decided that her future lay in writing words rather than performing them.
“Too much trouble, and you’ll end up just like your crazy mother.”
Maeve was six when they took her mother away, and left her in the care of her Uncle Lou: a drunk, a misogynist, a fraud.
For eleven years she’s lived with him in Falside’s slums, deep in the silt of the Falwere River. She bottles his miracle medicine, stocks his apothecary shop, and endures his savage temper.
But as his violence escalates, and his lies come undone, she devises a plan to escape him forever. Even if it means people have to die.
Hemlock had been easy enough to find. It grew plentifully among the tall grasses at the far end of The Floor, and its red-spattered stems were distinctive. Maeve had been careful to keep it separate from the other plants, which would be destined for the medicine bottles.
She put the basket of cuttings on the kitchen floor, and pulled out the hemlock, constantly reminding herself not to touch her face before washing her hands. She removed the leaves, and wrapped the stems and clusters of white flowers into an old towel. According to the book, the leaves would do the job.
Crossing to the sink, she scrubbed her hands until they were red. She grabbed a loaf from the worktop, took some old sliced ham from the fridge, and pulled out the small jar of mustard she’d bought on The Hope. The book said hemlock tasted foul, and she hoped the mustard would be enough to disguise its flavour.
Maeve carried everything to the table. She spread the bread with generous amounts of mustard, wincing at the smell. She layered in two slices of ham, and then looked at the hemlock. Could she really do this?
Lou strode into the kitchen and peered at the half-made sandwich.
“I made you lunch,” Maeve said, as casually as she could manage.
Lou raised an eyebrow. “Lunch?” He folded his arms. “When do you ever make me lunch? It’s not poisoned, is it?” He laughed at his own joke.
Maeve’s heart beat like a drum. She was sure he’d hear it.
“It’s a peace offering,” she said quickly, stepping away from him. “An apology.”
“That mustard stinks. And what’s that?” He pointed at the hemlock leaves.
“Parsley,” Maeve said with a smile.
Lou snorted. He grabbed the mustard-covered knife, and swept the leaves onto the floor.
“Rabbit food,” he said. He closed the sandwich and walked back to the shop.
Maeve looked down at the scattered hemlock leaves. Several of them had dropped into the basket with the other cuttings. She knelt down, scooping up the leaves from the floor. Then she set about inspecting each and every cutting, removing anything that looked even remotely like hemlock. But without their distinctive stalks, it wasn’t a simple task.
When she’d finished, she wrapped the leaves with the rest of the hemlock and stashed it in the storage room. Maybe, if she found the courage, she’d try again.
“There was a time when a girl’s wedding day was the happiest day of her life.”
In Falside, girls are a rare commodity; protected, controlled, and tracked by the administration. They spend their days idly waiting to be married off to the highest bidder.
When the marriage announcements include Tale’s lover, Freda, the women will do anything to stop the match from happening.
Their relationship is forbidden, and as members of the resistance, they’re already risking everything.
But as their attempts to stop the wedding fail, both women have to decide what they’re willing to sacrifice for love.