All that I was I gave to you.
All that I am you took from me.
All that you have I will destroy…
The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin
Simon & Schuster, PB £8.99 (available from Amazon, January 25)
Reviewed by Karen Byrom
From the author of bestselling The Silversmith’s Wife comes The Vanishing, a Gothic tale of love an betrayal set on the Yorkshire Moors.
The story opens with Annaleigh, a young girl running from her past, arriving at White Windows, where she has found a new life as housekeeper, working for the elusive Marcus Twentyman.
The house lies deep in the Yorkshire Moors, in a desolate spot carved out of the barren landscape, and when Annaleigh arrives she discovers all is not as it seems, or as she hoped it would be.
Isolated and lonely, Annaleigh is increasingly drawn to Marcus and as their relationship intensifies, she soon realises that the house is not a place of sanctuary but a place from which she cannot escape…
A story of intrigue, revenge and betrayal, The Vanishing is Jane Eyre meets Fingersmith, perfect for fans of The Miniaturist and Burial Rites.
Carry on down this page to read the prologue of The Vanishing – a wonderful foretaste of this enthralling Gothic romance …
The storm was at its height when we left the inn that night. The wind was howling around the outer walls, the draughts whistling through the seams of the windows.
As we opened the door to the moors and the rain, there was not even a glance from those drinking there; not so much as a raised eyebrow. I wondered how much Thomas had paid them to keep silent, or whether they did it for the love of him. With the quiet tenacity I expected of him, he did not complain about the weather. He only pulled his collar high, and pushed the old cocked hat he wore, the fur on it half- eaten away by moths, low over his forehead. He wore it for luck, I knew. By the time he had climbed up onto the box and gathered the reins, his greatcoat shone like polished jet in the sheeting rain.
A kind of blessing
It was only then that Emma and I ran from beneath the lintel of the inn doorway through the puddles and the mud to the carriage, the door held open by the stable boy.
By the light of the carriage lamps I saw that the child’s fair hair was dark with rain, so that he had to blink every moment to keep the water out of his eyes. As Emma climbed up before me, scrambling like a milkmaid rather than a lady, I touched the child’s head. It was a kind of blessing; whether for myself, or him, I hardly knew.
The steps were let up, the door was shut, and as the carriage lurched forwards a piece of silver flew past the window, the boy jumping to catch it, and my lady flinched.
I reached over, and touched her arm in reassurance. ‘It’s Thomas,’ I said. ‘He’s throwing the boy a coin for his trouble.’
She turned her face away.
The height of the storm
It was not long before we had left the tavern behind and were journeying through open moorland. The road surged downwards, and the horses’ hooves caught on the worsening road. I felt the jagged vibration of it through the springs of the carriage. ‘Too fast,’ murmured Emma.
The horses slowed as they began the long climb up to Shawsdrop; as we surmounted the hill, Thomas urged them on. He was a hard driver that night.
‘I see it,’ I said. Quietly, as though I thought my master might hear me. There were the distant lights – his harbour lights, as he used to call them – shining out across the moor.
I wondered if Sorsby was watching our approach from his lodge, the blink and roll of our lamps as we jolted along. It was why we had chosen the height of the storm, the kind of night when every sane person would wish to be at their fireside. Surely no one of sense would travel on such a night.
But I was without sense, and without feeling. I had one goal in view. I was a different Annaleigh from the one who had come here a year before, the bitter tension in me so familiar that it was part of me, and I could seem serene even under the yoke of it.
Such different creatures
I was all calmness compared to the woman who sat opposite me in her London walking dress, her cloak furlined, her hair a fashionable cascade of curls. How often, in recent days, I had looked for similarities between us.
Like me, Emma feigned serenity, but I could see the slight tremble of the muscles at the corner of one beautiful eye, and the sheen of sweat on her face seemed unnatural and marked, like mildew in a grand reception room. I noted the desperate tightness of her clasped hands, still bearing her rings, her wedding ring, even after all that had happened.
That alone made me want to roll my eyes in exasperation. We are such different creatures, I thought, with surprise, the kind of surprise that made the hairs prickle on the back of my neck with misgiving. She had no reason to care for me; and yet we were here together.
Take his life
When she spoke, her voice startled me, that sudden gentle voice, amidst the tumult of the storm and the lurch of the carriage.
‘If we take his life,’ she said, ‘we had best do it quickly.’
‘Madam,’ I said, ‘there is no “if”.’
For the chance to win a free copy of The Vanishing, visit our competition page
Buy The Vanishing at Amazon