Author of the Grace Beale Series

Welcome. Do you enjoy historical fiction? I am the author of three books beginning in 1800's England through to the the Great War, spanning three generations of the same family.

Sneek peek of book 4! Crabbe and the Black Flag!
Chapter 1
Crabbe stood on the burning deck. The sea seethed and boiled around him with the debris of burning ships and the detritus of the battle. He could still hear the muffled boom of the nine guns from the lead ship chasing away the last of the Americans. Crabbe felt absolute relief at the departure of the enemy ship. Their first skirmish had resulted in a precipitous retreat by the enemy.
As the smoke cleared, he could make out Lieutenant Marshall on the quarter deck, blood running down his left cheek, shouting orders to the crew to trim the sails and heave to! Her several hundred crew duly brought around His Majesty’s frigate Donegal. This manoeuvre exposed the Donegal to one of the enemy ships who fired, but two shots fell short, the other two sailing over the top of her masts.
Midshipman Blake, not much older than Crabbe, did a jig upon the deck, hallo-ing and hollering for all he was worth, making crude gestures at the attacking ship.
After a few more running skirmishes, the Americans gave up and changed tack, disappearing quickly towards the horizon. Crabbe watched the stern of the enemy ship and went to assist Gunner Leader with unloading the ship’s cannon.
Thomas’ first duties were assisting Gunner Leader. During the first few weeks on the Donegal, Thomas would never forget a distressing incident that made him wary of firearms for the remainder of his life. While a few crew were stacking muskets in the storeroom, some of the powder stored there exploded, killing them outright. Thomas saw one of the men catapulted out of the hold and thrown against one of the bulkheads, leaving an imprint of himself upon it, not something a fifteen-year-old boy wishes to witness.
The Donegal proceeded to sail on for some time before entering the Gulf of Honduras, where it dropped anchor for the night.
Thomas Crabbe (Able Seaman) had recently joined His Majesty’s navy at the ripe age of fifteen. His late father had been a soldier, having fought against Bonaparte and had instilled a sense of duty in his only child.
Having kissed his weeping mother goodbye, Thomas had spent a night and half a day bumping in the Royal Mail coach from Ipswich to London and connected with another mail coach to Southampton. He had spent some weeks at a naval training base before embarking on a skiff and joining his first Third Rate warship, which carried seventy-four guns manned by a crew of roughly six hundred and fifty men.
His first view of the warship was from the water, the ship’s side rising like an enormous cliff above the small boat. They boarded via a flimsy rope ladder tossed over the side. He felt like a monkey, climbing up the side of the hull, clinging on for dear life, another lad pressing close behind him called Frederick Marley. Crabbe and Marley had been cadets together in Southampton and being the same age and minus their respective fathers, had become fast friends. The duty officer greeted the new cadets and, after noting their names in the log, directed them where to go below decks to find their hammocks.
The ship seemed to be a heaving mass of humanity, sailors running to and fro, making Thomas dizzy, although the large warship was a great deal steadier than the small boat they’d just left. An officer stood by a narrow companionway which led down into the cavernous interior of the decks below, indicating to each boy where their separate sleeping quarters were.
‘Quarters’ was a generous description; each man had a hammock which measured less than six feet. During the day, the hammocks were put up, including the bedding and stowed on the bulwarks allowing free movement belowdecks, but at night there were barely ten inches between each man suspended in their hammocks. Each seaman had to bring a mattress, pillow and blanket which belonged to him - the hammock belonged to the Royal Navy. The boys had to share a chest which contained all their possessions, not that they had many.
After they had settled in, Midshipman Blake collected them and showed them to the quartermaster's cabin. Both boys ducked their heads as they entered Quartermaster Jones’ den. As they adjusted their eyes to the dimly lit cabin, Crabbe observed a large chart on a square table bolted to the floor. He also noticed a brass instrument lying on the chart, the like he had only seen in the hands of an instructor in Southampton.
Quartermaster Jones looked up as they entered and followed Crabbe’s line of vision. “Know how to use a sextant, boy? No, well, if you work hard and keep your nose clean, one of the officers might condescend to give you a lesson.” With that, he opened his fob watch. “They will be ringing eight bells soon, gentlemen; that means you will be on the next watch from midday to four of the clock.” He snapped the watch shut. “I suggest you both present yourselves on deck.” He looked at both the boys who stood with eyes round as saucers. “Come to think of it, do either of you have any experience with cooking? Food preparation of any kind?”
Thomas raised his hand and nodded briefly.
“Ah, Able Seaman Crabbe, good; well, after you have completed your first watch, return here, and we will discuss the matter of you assisting the officers’ cook once you have learned the ropes.”
With that, the quartermaster flicked his fingers at them. They were dismissed.
Marley went to the companionway stairs, which led to the upper deck, Crabbe following close behind.
The Donegal as a Third Rate warship was tasked with tracking American hostiles. They were not expected to engage directly, however, if the opportunity presented itself, they would not turn and run from the action. It was less than thirty years since the end of the American Revolutionary War and feelings were still running high. The two leading causes of the latest conflict were the British Orders-in-Council, which limited American trade with Europe and the Royal Navy's practice of taking seamen from American merchant vessels to fill out the crews of its own chronically undermanned warships.
The Donegal shucked her lines at exactly midday. The two recruits soon learned that the Donegal’s commander, Captain Knox, was a stickler for punctuality. In fact, the captain was a stickler for many things and talking to other crew members during a hurried meal, Crabbe learned that although Knox was hard, he was fair.
“Ya darn’t want to cross ’im!” This from Jimmy Weymouth, another able seaman who was talking from vast experience, being sixteen to Crabbe’s fifteen. “He might look like he should be sitting in a lady’s boudoir but make no mistake, he’s a tough 'un, an’ he’ll flay the skin from your shoulders should ya step out of line.”
Thomas digested this information; he felt it might be helpful in the future. Another bit of information divulged to him was that Captain Knox did not tolerate swearing; he had a man flogged for taking the Lord’s name in vain. Thomas had been brought up by his mother to be clean in his language but had come in for some ridicule from the other cadets, who viewed his lack of swearing as unmanly. As a result, he finally was persuaded to begin swearing and to counterbalance his newfound habit, he prayed more earnestly at night, asking the Almighty for understanding and forgiveness.
After a few weeks at sea, Quartermaster Jones ordered Thomas to the head galley to assist the officers’ cook. After a wrong turn into the crewmen’s galley, Thomas found the correct one and entered. All he could see was a lot of steam, a grumbling monologue in a thick Scottish accent, and a cacophony of crashing pots and pans. He coughed politely, with no response. Crabbe coughed a bit louder.
“What?” roared the ship’s cook, a face like a clenched oyster emerging from the steam. The clenched oyster wore a cloth beret in faded tartan and sported a thin ginger moustache perched above a mouth like a slash. “Who the feck are ye?” demanded the apparition.
“Ah, my name is Crabbe, sir, Thomas Crabbe; I be sent to assist you, the quartermaster said--”
‘I nay care what the feckin’ quartermaster said,” snapped the cook. “Ya grab yon tongs an’ 'help me get t' chook outta t'oven, ye ken?" He gestured impatiently to some metal tongs hanging on a hook from the galley wall. Thomas nodded like an automaton, reaching up and grabbing the tongs.
Then the world exploded.
“Ye feckin’ arsewipes!” screamed the cook, “ya bluddy ruined ma fricassee!”
Part of Crabbe’s brain, not immediately occupied with trying to stay alive, mentally applauded the cook’s devotion to his work; clearly, he was passionate about food.
By now, Crabbe could tell that an American sloop-of-war had rapidly gained on the Donegal. While Crabbe was trying to work out how large the attacking ship was, the enemy drew broadside and fired another volley of shots. One blew a hole in the galley wall, sending shattered wood all over the captain’s lunch and the two cowering cooks. They'd rapidly come up from behind and once within approximately sixty yards, known as ‘within hail’, fired a volley astern of the Donegal, not connecting. With their superior sails and crew, they quickly drew broadside and fired another volley of shots; this time proving successful.
As the battle continued, the USS Wasp's gunners paused in reloading, which gave the Donegal chance to keep firing at the smaller ship's topmast and mizzen. The ramming of the Donegal’s weapons could be completed more quickly, given the number of gunners, giving her the advantage in resuming her fire. This she did with renewed vim and vigour.
After what seemed an eternity, the Americans decided the British wouldn't play nicely, so shrugging their shoulders, they changed tack and sailed off, presumably to regroup and try another time.
As the guns stopped firing, Crabbe removed his hands from his ears where he’d been kneeling and looked over at the cook lying face down on the boards, praying to “God and Sonny Jesus that they would be spared, so I can continue cleaning up the bluddy mess yon colonials hev made o’ ma’ galley.”
The Donegal had miraculously only suffered ten casualties. However, her starboard side had been badly damaged, causing Captain Knox to announce that they would head quickly to the Gulf of Honduras and make running repairs there.
As the HMS Donegal limped along, Able Seaman Crabbe and William ‘Billy’ MacDonald cleared up the chaos after the Wasp's departure.
As Thomas was kneeling on the floor, sweeping up bits of splintered wood into a dustpan, he became aware of being under scrutiny. Slowly raising his head from his cleaning, he made out a pair of lime green eyes watching him from under one of the cabinets bolted to the wall. The unwavering green stare was set in a black face sporting a white muzzle and truly prodigious white whiskers curved up at the ends, looking like they had been waxed that morning. Thomas put the brush down and gently extended his knuckles to the large black and white cat, who condescended to sniff them before hissing soundlessly at him.
“Wha’ the bluddy ’ell am I goin’ feed yon officers, now?” Billy glared at Thomas as if expecting him to come up with a solution, but Thomas realised it was a rhetorical question. Billy followed Thomas’ gaze, and a surprisingly gentle smile broke out on his crusty face. “Aye, so you’ve met Trim then?”
Thomas smiled at Billy in return and asked, “Is he your cat?”
“Nay, he's yon ship’s cat; he keeps t’ rats down and, in return, gets t’sleep in t’galley, the noo.”
It was incredible the cat was still on the ship, let alone in the galley and alive and well after the last foray.
The two men cobbled together some boiled corned beef, cheese, pickles, and fruit. Billy grumbled that it was poor fare for seagoing men, but until they got within sight of the shore and could trade with some of the local people, that was the best he could manage.
“We mun best talk to Jemmy Ducks an’ see if he can get some more chickens whilst they repair yon ship.”
It was a charming habit of the Royal Navy that the man in charge of poultry on board any ship was known as Jemmy Ducks, irrespective of his real name. However, the man had to be changed regularly to avoid getting too attached to his feathered charges. Crabbe had even heard a tale of one pig who was so popular amongst the crew that she died onboard of obesity, having been fed and petted regularly.
Eventually, they arrived at the inlet, and as predicted, some bumboats made their way out to the ship, with various local traders shouting and waving their wares to the ship's crew. While they dropped anchor, rope ladders were dropped over the side to allow the more brave or foolhardy to scramble up and begin haggling with the seamen. The ship's carpenters duly went to work dipping into the necessary stock of wooden boards, nails, glue, and other supplies that any self-respecting warship carried. The sound of hammering was accompanied by shouting, bleating, squawking, clucking and the general melee of goods and money exchanging hands.
Just before sunset, with the repairs mostly concluded, Billy and Thomas were sufficiently victualled to cook a good meal for the officers. Having obtained some goats who were promptly slaughtered on board, the officers and crew dined on goat stew, complete with some yams and sweet potatoes. This repast was followed by caramelised oranges with a dollop of fresh cream whipped up by Crabbe using milk gleaned from the last remaining cow. A saucer was placed on the galley floor, and Trim deigned to creep out of his hidey hole to lap the whole lot up.
After Billy and Thomas had washed up the last of the plates and pots, Billy reached into a small nook to the left of the sink and withdrew a pipe and a tobacco pouch. He proceeded to fill this, packing the contents until satisfied. He lit a lighter from a pot next to the ship's oven and then applied it to the pipe, puffing vigorously. After a few moments, he appeared satisfied with the result and sucked deeply once before removing the pipe from his mouth.
As the resultant tendrils of smoke drifted out of both nostrils, he took a sip of mulled wine from a pewter cup and settled himself more comfortably in his chair, looking meaningfully through the smoke that wreathed him like an irascible dragon. At this point, Trim decided to acquaint himself with the top of Crabbe’s shoes and, after sniffing them industriously, proceeded to fling himself on top of them and lay there washing his face, much to Billy’s amusement.
“Well, laddie, an’ ye be helpin’ me in t’galley the noo?”
Crabbe nodded, holding a small pewter cup containing beer.
“Ye may not be able to cook t’best food wi’ what ye have, but it allus has to be hot, aye?”
Crabbe nodded again, hanging on Billy’s every word.
“Ye may as well no’ bother if ye dinna have it hot.” Billy inclined his head sagely, dragging deeply on his pipe. “An' ye never, ever o'er cook t'meat. Nothin’ sey bad as tough meat, like chewing an old bit o’ leather.”
Billy puckered his thin lips in thought before dropping another pearl of wisdom. “The captain likes ‘is puddin’, the sweeter t’ better.” He looked deeply into the stove bolted to the floor, manufactured by Lamb & Nicolson, his rough complexion highlighted in the firelight, sparking the hair in his thin moustache.
“Aye, yon captain has a sweet tooth,” Billy smiled, “plum duff be ’is favourite, with a bucket o’ runny custard.”
Crabbe made a mental note, tucking it in the ‘Cook's Law’ file.
Billy reached back up into the nook and withdrew another pipe, smaller than his own, which he proceeded to pack with tobacco before handing it to Crabbe. Reaching into the stove to apply flames to the lighter, he lifted it towards Crabbe, indicating he should apply it to the bowl of the pipe. Crabbe did so and, sucking the smoke into his lungs, broke into a violent coughing fit.
“Nay take such a deep drag, laddie, let the smoke tickle ya lungs, not drown ’em.”
Crabbe nodded, not able to speak while turning a shade of purple.
Billy leaned forward and pounded him on the back, most unhelpfully, Crabbe thought.
“Ye’ll get used to it, lad; ye mun get practice in.”
Crabbe merely nodded, feeling slightly sick. Trim glanced up at him with a look of concern on his whiskered face, then, satisfying himself that Crabbe wasn’t about to expire, went back to washing his ears.
Both men and cat spent the rest

Edge Radio, interview for The Book Shelf, podcast available at;
Exeter markets tomorrow where I will be signing copies!

Book 1 - Ravenswood Hall now available at Poets Choice!

Based in 19th century rural England, we follow Edgar Tirips, whose
estranged mother has just died, leaving him Ravenswood Hall, the family home.
He returns to England, unaware of the dark history that the house contains,
where he takes up the reins of the family estate, aided by the irascible
housekeeper, Crabbe.
Edgar has several encounters with local characters, disovers his family history and has an affair with a local girl whose portrait he paints.

Book 2
Ticket to Botany Bay

Available at

From the author of “Ravenswood Hall” we follow Grace Beale who is falsely accused of a crime and is transported to Australia for a minimum of 12 years.
During a harrowing journey to Botany Bay, where she is at the mercy of the prison guards, she arrives in the penal colony and is moved to the Female factory to begin her sentence.
After a chance encounter with a man who has earned his ticket of leave,
Grace starts a new chapter and together they build a thriving business.
Set in rural England and Australia, Ticket to Botany Bay charts the lives and fortunes of those who grasp fate with both hands.

Ticket to Botany Bay available for pre order at

At the Going Down of the Sun - now at!

At the Going Down of the Sun available for pre order at

Stretching from Federation Australia to the trenches of WW1, ‘At the Going Down of the Sun’ follows two men, born to different women who became friends on a convict ship transporting them to Botany Bay.
Grace Beale’s son appears to be a pillar of the community but privately struggles with his inner demons. Whilst searching for the portrait of his mother painted by an artist decades before, his redemption is played out in the dirt and blood of France during the last stages of the war.

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My short story The Empty Cabin published in Idle Ink USA

My short story The Empty Cabin published in Idle Ink UK

7 Deadly Sins
published by freespiritpublishers

Runner-up Flash Fiction
Grande Dame Literary Journal