cover image The Harrogate Secret

The Harrogate Secret

Catherine Cookson. Summit Books, $18.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-65941-7

As in her previous romances (The Bannaman Legacy; The Parson's Daughter) Cookson weaves thick gothic strands into the fabric of the Tyneside tales she has made popular. At age 10, Freddie Musgrave is a small, quick-witted runner for the smugglers who thrive on the waterways of the impoverished 19th century community of shipbuilders and coal miners. Musgrave's life is forever changed on a fateful last run he makes to the Towers mansion, where he hands a packet to a fearful master and, inadvertently, becomes a player in the dark doings there. Freddie rescues the unwanted child of the house, presumed dead at birth, but actually kept hidden in a dark secret room. The child, Belle, who eventually becomes his wife, is not the only woman in Freddie's life, however. There is also his mother, to whom he is special, but even more important is Miss Maggie Hewitt, a formidable spinster who redeems not only Freddie but others in the closely knit Musgrave family from their grinding poverty. Once again, Cookson evokes the milieu of post-World War I England, the poor lot of women and the ways they kept their families together. (June)