Feisty Irish gypsy girl, Tamara Redmond is just sixteen when she overhears her parents planning her wedding to the powerful and hated Jake Travis. In desperation, she leaves Galway, a place she loves, and stows away on a ship with disastrous consequences. On her release from a cell in Liverpool, she takes refuge in a travelling circus and falls in love with Kit Trevlyn, a trapeze artist.
Accused of stealing, she is thrown out. She sleeps rough in Covent Garden where her fear of Jake Travis finding her dominates her waking hours. When he kidnaps her and keeps her captive, her life spirals downwards. Then Tamara hears a truth, a truth that will change her life and her very existence forever.
The girl lay in the sand dunes, her green cape camouflaged by the tall grasses. Her breath came in gasps. She was lucky to have come this far. The gypsy camp was only a couple of miles behind her. It wasn’t far enough, and if her escape failed, she wouldn’t live to see her seventeenth birthday.
She could hear the sea lapping the shore, taste the salt spray of the waves lashing the rocks below. Seagulls screeched overhead. Black-horned rams roamed the hilltops. Turf smoke curled from chimneys in the stone cottages in the nearby village. Straining forward, she looked down at the deserted beach. She watched and waited.
The September sun faded and a bitter wind blew in across the bay. She drew her cape tighter around her shoulders when the vessel came into view. The sight of its white sails made her excited. She turned her head as the ship moored alongside the pier and anchored in the bay. She could hear the raucous laughter of the men. They climbed from the vessel and strode towards the beach, their boots crunching the shingle.
They passed by with jute sacks slung across their shoulders. Two bearded and bareheaded, the rest wore caps and rough sea-jackets. She knew they were on their way to the tavern in the village.
The moon was rising over Claddagh; a sight she would never tire of, a place she loved but doubted she would ever see again. Listening to the tide receding, she waited until dark. Then, with one last look at the wild coastline and the misty shapes of the Aran Islands in the distance, she scrambled down the slopes, slipping and sliding in her haste. Her legs stung from nettles, and her bare feet were numb and bleeding. She stepped across the uneven pebbles, her feet squelching the seaweed, her cape billowing, and her red curls tumbling around her shoulders. Making sure no one saw her, she lifted her long skirts and waded through the water. The sea was cold as it rushed over her bruised feet and ankles. Close up, the ship was not as big as she had thought, but it was the only one moored that night.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she used her hands and feet to clamber onto the pier. Her feet slipping on the wet stone, she raced along the jetty, only pausing long enough to read the name, Maryanne, on the side of the ship. She climbed down onto the deck of the cutter with no idea where it would take her; she had nothing but the clothes she stood up in and a small bundle under her arm. In it, she carried a change of clothes, a hairbrush and a copy of Jonathan Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, given to her by her grandmother when she first learned to read.