Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy
Title: Bright Young People
London during the Twenties overflows with magic and secrets.
Five souls move through London, unaware of how Fate is drawing them together, into a mystery that threatens to skewer the very heart of society.
Pen, a troubled debutante, unhappily engaged, consumed by terrible nightmares, plagued by guilt over the jubilant part she played in her father’s death, feels something powerful overtaking her. Eva, a student with too much passion for the rigid society she finds herself in, out to experience all life has to offer. Mei, a blind entertainer struggling under the constraints of family obligation and hopes for more. Abby, a refugee from a war-torn America, weighed down with guilt over what she left behind. And Wally, an irreverent self-described rogue with no direction searching for a greater destiny, and finding more than he bargained for. Each representing forces greater than they know, threads within a tapestry long in the making.
As the five circle closer, as the world grows darker and more dangerous, as secrets are revealed and hearts broken, this story takes them literally to Hell...but maybe not back.
Sense8 meets Hellraiser on the set of Downton Abbey, in a story of magic, murder and mayhem.
Bright Young People
Pen tapped her foot to the music, her palms sweating inside her elbow-length gloves, trying not to let her nervousness show. She was glad the introductions were over with, and she didn’t have to fake-smile at all these awful people judging her. No different to her other debuts, really, but it felt worse. All those sassenachs, she supposed.
“Do stop fidgeting, Penelope!” Arabella, her mother - the prime sassenach - hissed, her furrowed brows belying her assured smile.
Pen started, looking down at her now-bedraggled ostrich-feather fan. She swallowed and looked around the hot, crowded, smelly - why did everyone wear so much scent? - ballroom. She hung at the edge of it with her mother and sister, a wallflower, despite it being her ball. If only Pip were here!
She scanned the huge townhouse - one of the few left in private hands - ballroom again, barely taking in the light balls zipping about above everyone’s heads, the black band setting up, the various entertainers in different corners of the room, the side-table beladen and groaning with food, the people milling about, waiting for the real fun to start - the dancing.
“Mother, please. Of course she’s nervous!” Kitty, her elder sister, piped up from next to Pen. She felt hemmed in from the beauty. They looked like the succubus, demon of lust, they were descended from. Pen, according to her worthless, sylph-and-family-legend-
“I was never nervous at my debut.” Her mother continued talking over her head.
“Ha! Of course you weren’t,” muttered Pen.
Her mother glanced at her out of the corner of her eye. Pen bit her lip.
“Stop that, or you’ll ruin your lip rouge.” Arabella snapped. She sniffed and strode forwards, mingling with the crowd of the cream of London high society.
Pen bit the inside of her cheek this time. If Pip were here, he would know just how to cheer her up, cracking some joke, or teaching her a new dance, or helping her break into the liquor cabinet in the library. Or perhaps, this time, proposing, like she knew he simply must do soon. Yes, he was a younger son of a viscount, and she was a duke’s daughter with a more-than-healthy dowry and more-than usual secrets, but they were in love.
She had loved him since she was six, when they had first met because their mothers had debuted together and liked to reminisce. They had been thrown together in the nursery, along with his younger sister Olivia, who, at a few years younger than them had been roundly despised as a stupid baby, and had escaped into the grounds together, getting lost for a couple of hours. She had fallen irrevocably in love. They were destined for each other. Pen knew it. She deserved a happily-ever-after with the love of her life, didn’t she, after everything?
Pen jumped as Kitty placed a hand on her shoulder. “Wait here a moment, dear.”
She sighed in relief as Kitty gracefully floated away. She loved her sister - indeed, it was hard not to, Kitty was just so nice - but when they stood together, Pen just knew people were comparing them. How could they not? Kitty was statuesque, voluptuous, with a river of jet-black hair and the most beautiful face anyone had ever seen, just like Venus, as one of her suitors had said. Pen was short, skinny, with the same navy-blue eyes and plush mouth as Kitty (and their mother) transposed onto her pointier face with the Renleigh tip-tilted Nose, with wild ash-blonde curls that no one could do anything with. She had the more fashionable figure, of course, and that was something. Kitty was always on reducing diets while Pen could eat whatever she liked. But men’s eyes didn’t follow Pen about, ever. Even Pip thought Kitty was the more beautiful, so he had said, but he had followed that up with the fact that even so, he preferred Pen. So.
Pen moved a few feet to the left, trying to look like she had something to do. Why was no one talking to her? It was her ball; she should’ve had to fight off the deb’s delights vying for a place on her dance card. It was like she was giving off some terrible smell, or aura, or something. Was it possible people knew?
Just then, Kitty came back, Pip on her arm, and Pen felt herself begin to glow, a huge grin spreading over her face.. He had come! Of course he had, he would never leave her alone at her own deb ball!
“Pip! You came!”
Kitty let go of her bounty, moving back beside Pen, a beatific smile on her face.
“Of course I did, darling! Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Pip smiled down at her as she gazed up at him in adoration. Oh, he was so handsome - tall, broad-shouldered, glossy auburn hair and peat-brown eyes.
She threw herself into his arms, hugging him close, breathing in his scent - brylcreem and something indefinably Pip, which, to her, was the absolute best scent in the world.
She opened her mouth to tell him that she’d put him first on her dance card, but he was already moving away, saying something about greeting someone else. She gaped at him as he slipped away. How could he leave her already? Pen blinked.
Kitty hissed, “I can’t believe it!” Then, her face smoothing out until she was smiling placidly again, she said, “You shouldn’t languish after him. There are other men in the world, you know.”
“What, like Henry? No thank you!” Pen sighed wistfully. “There’s no one like Pip.”
“Men like him are everywhere, dearest. That’s rather the problem."
Pen frowned at her sister, not understanding what she meant. Pip was her Prince Charming. Much like Henry was Kitty’s. If only Pip would swoop in and run away with her! Though she couldn’t understand how Kitty threw herself away on a mere barrister, especially one who looked like Henry, even if he had been a wounded soldier she had been nursing back to health, and the younger son of a marquess. It was the one thing her mother and herself agreed on. At least, the only thing they agreed on out loud.
She spotted Henry trundling over and she had to keep herself from making a face. He really was such a flat tire.
“Lady Penelope.” He barely even nodded at her, but as soon as he looked at Kitty his face softened, and Pen felt horribly jealous. Why hadn’t Pip looked at her like that? Was it possible Kitty was right about him?
She scanned the room, looking for him, as the band started up the music for the first dance. He would come and claim her for it. He simply must.
But, since he was sailing by with Lucy Montague, who was clinging his arm and throwing Pen a triumphant look, he must simply think her card was full. He would never leave her alone, not at her own debutante ball. It was unthinkable. He couldn’t be so...so…
Someone tapped her on the shoulder and she spun around. It would be some other handsome boy and they would dance up a storm and show everyone.
Or...it could be Simon, her eldest brother. Who was a double duke, but still: her brother. How mortifying.