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Saturday, 5 October 2019

‘Secrets at St Bride’s’ by Debbie Young

Published by Hawkesbury Press,
5 August 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-911223-43-6 (PB)

Gemma Lamb is desperate to escape her controlling, bullying boyfriend, Steven, but has no idea how to accomplish this when she has failed to get every job she has secretly applied for. The apartment they live in belongs to Steven, and all of her friends have been fooled into thinking him the charming, considerate man that Gemma had believed he was, before she discovered what he was really like. Gemma has drifted apart from her parents, who never liked Steven and she feels trapped, alone in the world, with nowhere to go.

The answer to Gemma’s problem comes when she is offered the job of teaching English at St Bride’s, an exclusive and eccentric boarding school for girls. This live-in post at a beautiful Victorian mansion in the Cotswolds, with excellent security, is just what Gemma needs and, miraculously, the headmistress, Miss Harnett, values kindness above qualifications. Gemma can hardly believe her luck and just prays that nobody will discover that, although she gained her teaching certificate, Steven’s jealousy had prevented her from gaining practical experience by taking a teaching job after she qualified.

Although the book opens with a brief prologue, which indicates that there is danger in the offing, the main thrust of the book is about Gemma settling into a remarkable but kind and welcoming school. Gemma has not told anybody about her disastrous relationship with Steven and she soon realises that many of her fellow teachers have secrets of their own. Why does the Maths teacher, Orianna Bliss, change her appearance so drastically and so often? And is Mavis Brook, the Geography teacher who is also in charge of the school library, selling off valuable antique books for her own profit? Above all, what is the truth behind the remarkably rugged Head of PE, in this school that advertises that it is staffed only by females? However, when Steven tracks Gemma to her refuge, she has more to worry about than her colleagues’ secrets, as she discovers just how far he will go to force her to return to his control.

Secrets at St Bride’s is described on the cover as ‘a school story for grown-ups’, and all those who enjoyed school stories in their youth will relate to this story, with Gemma as the ‘new girl ‘ discovering her new community, and it is a pleasure to watch her regain her self-belief as she realises that she is a good teacher and that she has found a new, accepting community. St Bride’s is certainly an extremely eccentric school, but it is also warm and funny with an delightful cast of characters, both mistresses and pupils. Secrets at St Bride’s is a ‘feel good ‘book and remarkably easy to read. I would describe it as a gentle page-turner, and I enjoyed it very much.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Debbie Young was born and raised in Sidcup, Kent. When she was 14, her family relocated to Germany for her father’s job. Debbie spent four years at Frankfurt International School, broadening her outlook as well as gaining the then brand new IB (International Baccalaureate). She returned to the UK to earn her BA (Hons) in English and Related Literature at the University of York, then lived and worked for a while in London and the West of England as a journalist and PR consultant.  In 1991 she moved to the Cotswolds. In 2002, she married a Scot named Gordon whom she met in Swindon – and not, as village rumour once had it, a Swede named Scottie.  In 2003, her daughter Laura was born.  Best Murder in Show was the first in her series featuring Sophie Sayers. There are now a further three books in this series.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below
To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

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