Book review: The Miner's Daughter by Jennie Felton

The Miner's Daughter byJennie Felton
The Miner's Daughter byJennie Felton

The close-knit community of a late 19th century pit village are back to capture hearts in the second book of Jennie Felton’s compelling Families of Fairley Terrace sagas.

This warm but gritty series, which began with All the Dark Secrets, was inspired by a real-life mining disaster only a few miles from Felton’s home town of Radstock in Somerset.

Twelve miners died at Wells Way Coal Works in 1839 when a rope snapped as they were descending into the pit. Popular belief has it that the rope was maliciously cut, although nobody was ever arrested.

Felton’s engaging books chart the fortunes and misfortunes of the people who live in a row of ten houses in a village caught up in a terrible pit tragedy.

Packed with romance, drama, hardships and triumphs, the stories revolve around the residents, all bound together by the colliery, the legacy of the terrible accident and an uncertain future.

When Annie Day, who lives at number four, Fairley Terrace, known local as the Ten Houses, loses her beloved husband John in the pit tragedy, she cannot afford the luxury of grief. For now she must find a way to support herself and her two young daughters, Kitty and Lucy, but with no formal training, she will find it hard to get a job.

Marriage to widower Algernon Pierce, manager of a glove factory and a respected lay preacher at the chapel, seems to be the answer to Annie’s prayers, even if it means leaving her friends at Fairley Terrace and moving into his house.

But behind her new husband’s respectable and saintly veneer are ‘dark thoughts, imaginings and urges’ that simmer and rage and deepen as the years roll by. She had hoped that Algernon offered security for herself and her two daughters but now she fears for their futures.

Youngest daughter Lucy, a vibrant and headstrong girl, detests the man who replaced her real father and is disturbed to see her once happy mother reduced to a fearful and subdued shadow of her former self.

Determined and wilful, Lucy’s defiance of Algernon is set to alter the course of their lives forever...

This emotional rollercoaster tale of love and betrayal, darkness and light, hope and despair, recalls the powerful sense of loyalty and shared adversity that helped mining communities to survive the hardships of unemployment and tragedy.

Felton has a natural empathy for the people and their landscape and this enables her to evoke time and place so convincingly and to write about their lives and loves with such genuine affection and warmth.

A winter treat for all Fairley Terrace fans…

(Headline, paperback, £6.99)