Saturday 27 October 2018

Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye with Rebecca Mascull @rebeccamascull @HQStories @Joe_Thomas25 #MissMarley

Before A Christmas Carol there was… Miss Marley

A seasonal tale of kindness and goodwill

Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.
And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…
In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.

Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye is published in hardback by HQ on 1 November 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This review feels very personal for me. I went through a whole load of emotions before I even opened the beautiful cover.
I was the first person to publicly review Vanessa Lafaye's first novel; Summertime. I didn't know her, I'd not heard of her but I read Summertime, loved it, and published my review.
Vanessa contacted me to tell me that she got the notification when she was out with her choir and that she was terrified of reading the review.  Luckily, she loved what I said, and that was the beginning of our friendship.

I was lucky enough to meet Vanessa and her husband James for lunch in Lincoln a couple of years ago. She travelled here to go to Rebecca Mascull's book launch. She was as funny and beautiful in the flesh as she was online.
When I met Vanessa, she'd been having treatment for breast cancer. Her hair was growing back and she was excited about plotting her next book; At First Light.

Sadly, the cancer returned and Vanessa died earlier this year.  She'd completed the first nine chapters of Miss Marley. Vanessa's editor contacted Rebecca Mascull and asked if she would complete the book. I'm delighted that Rebecca agreed.

Miss Marley is a truly beautiful book. Just over 150 pages and easily read in one sitting, it is Vanessa Lafaye's imagining of how and why Jacob Marley became that ghost, rattling with chains, who haunted Ebenezer Scrooge in Dicken's A Christmas Carol.

In three parts; Miss Marley takes us from 'the beginning' to 'the end' and is the story of Clara Belle Marley; the imagined sister of Jacob.
Clara and Jake (as he was known as then) are living on the streets of London. Dirty, hungry and pitiful, they snatch at rotting vegetables in the market place and rotten meat from the butcher's shop.

Clara and Jake have not always been poor. They used to live in a fine house, with loving parents and full bellies and warm clothes and shoes, and often think back to those happier times. It is the misfortune of a wealthy gentleman, attacked by a gang of thieves that takes them from the streets to a room in a boarding house that is only marginally better than a cold, damp alleyway.

From here, Vanessa Lafaye leads her readers on a magical journey through the darkest streets of London. We watch as Clara and Jacob grow, as their fortunes improve, as they are knocked back, and as they prosper again. These incredibly created characters take on a life of their own, beautifully rounded and so realistic, they leap from the pages and fit perfectly with the original tale from Dickens.
Lafaye's London is exquisitely painted; the horrors of the struggles of the poorest of the poor contrast with the riches of the most wealthy against a backdrop of the most humble of houses to the glittering shop fronts.

Miss Marley is beautifully tender and Rebecca Mascull has seamlessly and cleverly completed Vanessa Lafaye's story of avarice mixed with love and hope.

This is the perfect seasonal read. It is thoughtful, captivating and an outstanding tribute to the late Vanessa Lafaye.

Vanessa Lafaye was born in Florida and studied in North Carolina. 

She moved to the UK in 1999 (having been deported once). 

She is the author of two previous novels, her first book Summertime, was chosen for Richard and Judy in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Historical Writers Award. 

Vanessa passed away in February 2018.

Rebecca Mascull is the author of three historical novels, all published by Hodder & Stoughton.
Her first novel, THE VISITORS, tells the story of Adeliza Golding, a deaf-blind child living on her father’s hop farm in Victorian Kent. Her second novel SONG OF THE SEA MAID is set in the C18th and concerns an orphan girl who becomes a scientist and makes a remarkable discovery. Her third novel, THE WILD AIR, is about a shy Edwardian girl who learns to fly and becomes a celebrated aviatrix but the shadow of war is looming. 
She has also recently completed the final chapters of her friend and fellow novelist Vanessa Lafaye’s final work, a novella called MISS MARLEY, a prequel to Dickens’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL. This novella will be published in November 2018 by HarperCollins.
After previously working in education, Rebecca is now a full-time writer. She has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the East of England. Rebecca also writes sagas under the pen-name Mollie Walton

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