House of Angels

Sagas often touch on difficult subjects, in this case abuse. The three Angel sisters are ruled by a devil of a father, and the story tells how they overcome the damage such abuse inflicts. It is not always easy to write such scenes yet from the emails I get, they often touch a chord. Anyone who has ever suffered abuse, whether as a child or bullying in school, in a violent marriage, or even in the work place, will appreciate how the first thing you lose is self-esteem. You are demeaned, humiliated, debased and shamed so that you come to hate yourself. This is a deliberate ploy on the part of the abuser as it puts the power in his hand.

The abusive mentality makes certain their victim is allowed no control over their own life, no rights, not even to be angry or upset. There is a power in anger, and he, or she, as many of the worst abusers are women, claim full rights to that emotion. He is allowed to shout and criticise, to find fault and complain, but the victim is expected only to obey. The abuser also twists everything to suit himself, so that he is always right and the victim wrong. He has unrealistic expectations and if he doesn’t achieve them then he looks for someone to blame other than himself. An abuser is not generally a good listener, as he likes to ridicule, and arrogantly put down others to make himself feel good. Abusers are demanding, seeing themselves as the centre of the universe, and the victim their slave. They are intolerant and have to win every argument. The abuse may be mental in the form of name calling and insults, refusing to speak to or acknowledge a person, a withdrawal of love or praise, or to never be satisfied with the victim’s efforts at school or work, cooking a meal or whatever. Abuse is about power, control, and entitlement.

But no one is entitled to abuse another.

So how do you deal with it? First, as with the Angel sisters, you have to accept that it is happening, and then seek help. Someone, whether your teacher, mother, best friend, doctor or even the police, needs to be told.

Each of my characters are compliant to a degree, but react in different ways. Ella rebels secretly but is then forced into a marriage she does not want, Livia is openly defiant, but protective of both her sisters. Maggie is far too timid and suffers the consequences. But then another daughter unexpectedly appears on the scene, and her attitude towards this father who abandoned her is entirely different…

The Story...
The three Angel sisters live in a large Victorian mansion in the English Lake District. Josiah Angel, their bully of a father, looks upon his daughters as pawns to expand his empire.

The beautiful Kentmere Valley today.

Empty-headed, spoiled Ella is married off to a non-conformist farmer with three children in need of a mother. Amos Todd proves to be a cold, unfeeling man irrationally obsessed with cleanliness, who sees sex as wicked and women as Jezebels. But the beauty of Kentmere gradually seeps into her heart. Can she make a life for herself in the dale?

Livia is the eldest and most spirited of the three, and feels she must protect her more timid sisters. She longs to be a modern woman and work in the family store, but Josiah forbids that, but she can’t help falling in love with Jack Flint, a man untroubled by rules and convention who has already caused her father problems by inciting riots among his tenants.

The youngest daughter, practical, sensible Maggie is expected to keep house for her father with no hope of marriage, although she longs for escape even more than her sisters.

Mercy Simpson lives in the stews of Fellside in Kendal with her mother Florrie, a linsey hand loom weaver in the last throes of consumption. With her mother’s dying breath she learns that her father is none other than Josiah Angel, owner of the town’s fine department store. Florrie urges her daughter to seek employment there. But when Mercy presents herself before him, she learns how very ruthless Josiah Angel can be.

The Angel sisters need all their courage to escape the control of a brutal father, deal with the results of his abuse, and attempt to forge new lives for themselves.

A view of Kendal as it is today.

Here is a reader review.
This is the first book by Freda Lightfoot I have read and, despite the fact that I am not a lover of sagas, I was engaged with the story from page one. She piles horror on horror – rape, torture, sexual humiliation, incest, suicide - but she keeps you reading! The story of the Angel sisters, the novel is set in the Lake District in 1908, the title referring to the high-class department store their father owns. A tyrant, he successfully marries off one of his legitimate daughters so he can gain a plot of land he wants to build on. When his illegitimate daughter comes to him for help after her mother has died, however, he has her taken to the workhouse as, far from being of use to him, she is a threat to his standing in the town. Another daughter defies him, refusing to give up the working-class man she loves, while his youngest remains at home, hating him but unable to escape. How each of these four women cope with the life their father has forced on them, makes for page-turning reading, and I am sure that this novel will become yet another bestseller for Lightfoot.
Jay Dixon

Out 7 March as an ebook on Amazon