She’s survived the mean streets of Manchester and slavery in a mill. Can she survive a brutal penal colony?
Convict Tilly Marsden has to serve four years as an unpaid maid in Australia before she can get the prized Ticket of Leave.
With freedom only two months away, Tilly agrees to turn a friend’s shirt into a dress. When she discovers it was stolen, she throws it in the river.
Watching her is Joel Agnew, a convict working as an unpaid police constable. Sensing Tilly deserves a break, he dishes out some old-fashioned discipline. They both think that’s the end of the matter.
Then a body is discovered and Tilly finds herself in danger. Can Joel help her before it’s too late?
Publisher’s Note: Her Convict Constable is a sweet romance with a bit of mystery and old-fashioned Victorian discipline.
Tilly checked the shirt. It was voluminous and would easily convert into a dress for Sarah. But it felt expensive and resembled the shirts Miss Georgiana’s officer friends wore. “This is an officer’s shirt, Sarah,” she said sharply. “Where did you get it? You didn’t steal it, did you?”
“Of course I didn’t steal it,” Sarah scoffed. “Only got two months to go to my Ticket of Leave, haven’t I? Just like you. I’m not getting into any trouble. It was given to me.”
“Who by?” Tilly asked suspiciously.
Sarah tapped the side of her nose. “Nothing to do with you.”
“An officer gave it to you?” Tilly pressed.
Sarah tapped the side of her nose again.
“Oh, Sarah.” Tilly glowered at her friend, guessing she’d been given the shirt in exchange for sexual favours. That worried Tilly as much as if Sarah had stolen it. If Sarah became pregnant, Mr Butler would return her straight to the Female Factory. Pregnant maids were put in Crime Class, made to scrub clothes all day until they had the baby. Then they were shoved back in Crime Class once the baby was weaned.
If Sarah went back to Crime Class, there’d be no Ticket of Leave for her. Tilly had no idea how she’d go about making a new life here without Sarah by her side once she got her own Ticket of Leave.
“Forget all that, just tell me whether you’ll make the dress,” Sarah cajoled. “Please, Tilly. You know I don’t have anything nice to wear.”
“Show me a convict who does!” Tilly retorted. But she softened as she glanced at Sarah’s dirty shift. However much she might hate slaving for the Lintons all day, she’d definitely been fortunate that morning when the townspeople had turned up at the Female Factory to recruit free labour. Mr. and Mrs. Linton and their daughter Georgiana were cold and distant, but they treated Tilly well. True, she worked from five o’clock in the morning till nearly midnight some days. But she was always given plenty to eat, the Lintons replaced her shifts if she tore them, and they didn’t beat her. In fact, even though she was a servant, Tilly’s life here was better than it had ever been. She was fed, she was clothed, she had a roof over her head. And soon she’d be able to earn a living.
Sarah had been fortunate too at first. She’d been taken on by an old lady. But the lady had died six months ago, so Sarah had been returned to the Female Factory until new employment could be found. She’d ended up with Mr. Butler. He didn’t care that Sarah had only the one shift because the other had got torn. He didn’t care that she sometimes went to bed hungry because there wasn’t enough leftover food. He hit her too, sometimes. She’d had a black eye on occasion when she’d collected water from the storage tower. Sarah said if it weren’t so close to her Ticket of Leave she’d do something to get sent back to the Female Factory, because at least she’d be fed properly there.
Tilly hated that Sarah was treated so badly and there was nothing either of them could do about it.
She owed Sarah so many favours too. Sarah had looked after her when they had been flung in a crowded cell in Newgate Prison. She had protected the younger Tilly on the long voyage from England, not letting the amorous sailors near her, though she was entertaining them herself. Sarah had taken care of Tilly for so long, without expecting anything in return.
But now Tilly had an opportunity to do something for her long-time friend. And all it entailed was a few hours after work each night, doing some needlework, which she was good at.
What did it matter if Sarah had got the shirt through sleeping with an officer? As long as she didn’t get pregnant – and she hadn’t so far, not on the voyage, not with the other men she’d reputedly been with – no harm could come of it.
“Of course I will,” Tilly promised. She’d slip the shirt in with the clean laundry, and sneak it up to the tiny closet that for nearly four years had been her bedroom. “I’ll give it to you in church on Sunday. It should be finished then.”