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The ​Harrogate Secret is a tour de force of historical imagination, a story with an enthralling plot, thick with the intertwining stories of richly drawn characters, and a brilliantly detailed portrait of the oppression of the poor by those who reaped the rewards of the British Empire. But most of all, this is a story of romance.

Born into grinding poverty, ten-year-old Frederick Musgrave spent his childhood living by his wits. Agile in mind and body and never more so than when navigating his little boat across the swift-flowing waters of the Tyne between the busy seaports of North and South Shields. The shillings he picked up running messages and smuggled goods, evading the ever-watchful eyes of the customs agents, helped to feed his family amidst the endless battle for survival fought by so many in this year of 1843.

But one night a mission took this small runner to the house at The Towers, where madness had been known to lurk, and there he witnessed a scene of unremitting horror. His silence was bought and the tide of his life shifted. He gained the patronage of Miss Maggie Hewitt, the middle-aged sea captain’s daughter who was to play a major role in shaping Freddie’s life and fortunes as he grew to manhood.

But years later the madness at The Towers again threatens, and Freddie must once more rescue his hard-won happiness and security from cruel fate and escape the long shadow cast by Roderick Gallagher, whose power and influence threatened all who crossed his path.

The Harrogate Secret is one of Catherine Cookson’s most powerful and ingeniously devised novels, a tale rising to a suspenseful and exciting climax.

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