Rosie Clarke shares an extract from her new book, Lizzie’s Daughters, set in London in 1958.
‘I wish you’d let me take you home,’ Frank Hadley said as he saw the way Betty’s eyes were sparkling dangerously. ‘You shouldn’t drink so much, Betty – and I don’t like this crowd here tonight. What would your father say if he knew the company you keep?’
‘Why would he care?’ Betty Oliver tossed her long reddish blonde hair. She was gradually having it lightened to what she hoped would be a fabulous strawberry-blonde, but it was taking ages, because she didn’t dare to have it done all over and was adding streaks a few at a time. Her greenish-blue eyes snapped with temper. ‘If you think my father loves me, Frank, you’re wrong. I’m not really his and he only cares about my sister… and Mum, of course.’
‘That’s ridiculous,’ Frank said and took hold of her arm. ‘Come on, Betty love, you’ve had enough wine. I’m getting you out of here…’
The jukebox was playing an Everly Brothers song in the background and Betty swayed dreamily to the romantic music. ‘Dance with me, Frank,’ she said and looked up at him enticingly, her full skirts swishing about her hips. The skirt was made fuller by layers of net petticoats and she had flat red shoes on her feet so that she could dance to the fast numbers, because she loved to jive and twist to the popular songs. ‘Hold me…’
‘Come on, we’re leaving…’ Frank said, but Betty pulled away from him, her smile gone as she refused to leave.
‘You go,’ she said petulantly. ‘I want some fun and I’d like another Babycham…’
‘I’m leaving now,’ Frank said, suddenly angry. ‘You can come or you can stay here – but this isn’t a place I want to be, Betty…’
‘I’m staying.’ Betty flounced away from him, her neatly cut hair tossing as she lifted her head in defiance.
Frank watched her walk across the room, feeling angry and frustrated. Betty wasn’t his girl yet but he’d had hopes. When she’d asked him to bring her to this club this evening, he’d been pleased, but when he discovered what was going on he felt let down and disappointed. He frowned as he saw her start dancing with a man he’d seen around in the cafés and dances they all went to. Frank knew he was French and he’d heard rumours about the man Betty was snuggling up to. There was nothing substantial, but Frank’s instincts told him that he meant to seduce Betty if he could. That sort who would think nothing of getting an innocent girl drunk and taking advantage. It would serve her right if he stuck to his word and went off and left her – but Frank wasn’t the sort to abandon a girl if he took her out.
He would stay on and watch over Betty, try to stop her drinking too much and eventually take her home in his car. Even if she was behaving foolishly, he couldn’t help the way he felt. Frank had been attracted to the lively girl the first time he’d met Betty at Matt’s home. She was wilful, sometimes sulky, but her smile lit up the room and he hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her. He and Matt Court had been at college together, and bonded because of their love of sport, though Frank was three years older; he hadn’t been able to take up his place for a couple of years due to his father’s death and his mother’s collapse.
‘How yer doin’, Frank?’ Matt’s voice made him spin round and he smiled as he saw the tall handsome younger man. They were much the same build and height, but if anything Frank was a little heavier, and both were good at all the strenuous sports like rowing, rugby and boxing. ‘Has our Betty gone off and deserted you then?’
‘She didn’t like it because I wouldn’t get her another drink and tried to make her let me drive her home.’
‘She’s headstrong sometimes,’ Matt frowned over it. ‘She thinks Sebastian loves Francie more than her and that’s so wrong. He spoils her rotten and always has – but I know how she feels, because I was in the same boat. My mother had Jenny and me before she married…’
Frank nodded, anxious about the girl he felt so protective of. ‘She won’t listen to me but that man she’s dancing with… I know him, Matt, and I don’t like him. He’ll get her drunk and then you know what will happen… I wish you’d talk to her.’
‘Betty has always been a bit of a handful – but I’ll see if I can rescue her.’ Matt grinned. ‘Maybe, I’ll just give him a look and scare him off…’
Matt was the college champion in all things sporting – and his size made him rather terrifying, especially when he was angry. Although of a similar build and almost as successful at sport, Frank had a quieter personality and people often mistook him for a country bumpkin, which was far from the truth.
‘You do that,’ he said, watching as Matt strode across the room, unconsciously clearing a path as people moved out of his way. Betty argued for a moment, but then put her arms about Matt’s waist affectionately and let him bring her away. The Frenchman stared after them, a glint of anger or even menace in his eyes as he met Frank’s gaze, but turned aside and then moved off. Frank saw him speak to another girl and leave the club with her and breathed a sigh of relief. He’d been worried, because what he knew about that particular man had made him anxious for Betty’s safety and he was glad Matt had managed what he couldn’t…
Frank couldn’t always be around to watch over her. If she’d given him her promise to be his girlfriend, he believed she would keep it, because underneath the stubborn and sometimes sulky girl he knew there was a sweet nature. However, Betty saw him as Matt’s boring friend and at the moment she hardly noticed him at all, except when she could use him to bring her somewhere like this…
Betty groaned as she opened her eyes and felt the light strike them. She’d drunk too much Babycham the previous evening and been more than a little tipsy when Matt and Frank had insisted on driving her home. She’d wanted Pierre to take her in his car, as he had a couple of times before, but after Matt had intervened he’d gone off in a mood, because he was annoyed with her.
Pierre was like that, charming, handsome and exciting, smelling of exotic Turkish cigarettes and expensive hair oil, but he could get angry if thwarted. Betty liked the hint of danger about him, and the things he whispered in her ear. His compliments sounded so much nicer in his mixture of French and broken English, making her toes tingle and her stomach clench with a need she hardly recognised as desire. Their relationship had been exciting and Betty knew she was a little out of her depth, but she couldn’t resist his smile or the sexy purr of his voice, even though she’d known him only a few weeks.
A few weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Betty was still immature enough to be thrilled by the knowledge that neither of her parents would approve of her seeing the Frenchman, which she had been doing throughout the summer holidays.
Francie, her younger sister, had been home from her art college earlier in the summer and Betty had given her a hint that she’d met someone she liked, but she hadn’t told even her how far things had gone… about the night Pierre had made love to her in the back of his car. Betty hadn’t meant for her affair to go that far so quickly, but she’d been a little drunk and somehow she’d found herself giving into his persuasion. It was a secret she had to keep, because her family would be shocked by what she’d done, and Betty had been a little anxious about whether she would fall for a child. She’d avoided meeting him for a while after that night, but then they’d met at the club.
Pierre had asked her to dance, telling her he loved her and wanted her to meet him in the café they all used, the next morning. With his arms around her, Betty had felt the pull of his charm and longed for him to kiss her and love her again..
‘We’ll go for a drive,’ he’d whispered in her ear.. ‘My time ’ere is almost over, Betty. I finish my studies and must go ’ome – but I stay for you… you’re so beautiful and I want you…’
‘Oh, Pierre…’ Betty had pressed into his lean, hard body, melting into him and wanting to be alone with him so that she could show him how much she loved him. They’d made love only once so far, but she knew it was just a matter of time before it happened again. ‘I’d love to come with you…’
Matt had interfered then and Pierre had left the club soon after, but she knew where to meet him and she’d made up her mind she would. Her rebellious feelings surfaced as she heard her mother calling to her and knew she had to make the effort to get up. Betty was sick of being told what to do and expected to excel at school the way her younger sister did. She had no intention of going back there and had her own ideas about the future – or she had until Pierre came along and now all she really wanted was to be with him…
LONDON 1958. Lizzie Larch battles to keep her daughters safe and out of harm’s reach.
Lizzie adores her beautiful and clever daughters and will do anything for them. Both possess a wonderful creative flair, but have fiercely different characters. Betty, the eldest is head strong like Lizzie’s first husband whilst Francie is talented and easily influenced.
When Betty runs away after an argument with Sebastian, heartbreak and worry descend on the family. At great risk to her health Lizzie finds herself pregnant but is determined to give Sebastian the son they craved. Sebastian meanwhile is plunged into a dangerous overseas mission using his old contacts to track Betty to Paris and to the lair of the rogue that seduced her?
Consumed with guilt can Sebastian right the wrongs of the past and finally unite his family and friends?
Rosie Clarke was born in Swindon, but moved to Ely in Cambridgeshire at the age of nine. Married at eighteen, she ran her own hairdressing business for many years. Rosie started writing in 1976, combining this with helping her husband run his antique shop. She loves to write for her own enjoyment and to give pleasure to her millions of fans.