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Authors: K.M. Grant


BOOK: HartsLove
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Praise for the Perfect Fire Trilogy

‘With this gorgeously and intricately braided novel . . . K.M. Grant provides a top-notch tale of star-crossed lovers, court intrigue, twisted religious hatreds and the mystical power of landscape'
Financial Times

‘Grant handles the suspense well, and her main characters are believable – even the dog. I particularly like the way in which Yolanda never cares about her appearance or how muddy and dishevelled she gets when having her adventures. And she has woven such a gripping plot that I shall certainly be lining up to read book two. I hope she doesn't keep us waiting too long'

‘I found myself engrossed . . . Indeed, by the end my heart was in my mouth'

‘Grant's nuanced, thought-provoking look at the religious conflicts they face will resonate today. Though the themes are weighty, there is no lack of action, suspense, or romance here as Raimon and Yolanda struggle to save each other. A truly harrowing escape from a burning death and a heartbreaking separation will lead readers eagerly into the next book'
, starred review

Blue Flame
was one of the best teen books of 2008 so far. Its sequel proves easily a match. K.M. Grant doesn't allow her heroes a moment's rest: the pace is breakneck . . . Volume three,
Paradise Red
, cannot appear too soon'
Financial Times

‘One of the best character-led, dramatically charged historical teen fictions I know of'

‘K.M. Grant's spectacular novel weaves together the friendship, love and bitter rivalry of her wonderfully evoked characters in a finale to a superb trilogy of romance and adventure'
Scottish Book Trust

‘It's a story about compromise and change – about growing up, in other words – but also about the consistency of true love. A high watermark in historical fiction'
Financial Times

Praise for
Belle's Song

‘Thrilling . . . forbidden love, oaths and vows, blood feuds, politics and treason and miracles, duty and desire, adventure and deadly peril and loyalty, the dangers of travel and the easy companionship of the road . . . enough material for a dozen books'

‘I was kept on tenterhooks . . . ideal for 10–12-year-old girls in search of an exciting read'
Belfast News


K.M. Grant is an author, journalist and broadcaster. She is also the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Glasgow. Her first book,
Blood Red Horse
, was a Booklist Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth and a USBBY-CBC Outstanding International Book for 2006. The sequel,
Green Jasper
, was shortlisted for the Royal Mail Scottish Children's Book award, and
How the Hangman Lost His Heart
was an Ottakar's Book of the Month and a
Sunday Times
Children's Book of the Week. She lives in Glasgow and can also be found at

Also by K.M. Grant







First published in Great Britain in 2011 by
21 Bloomsbury Square

Copyright © K.M. Grant, 2011

The moral right of K.M. Grant to be
identified as the author of this work has been
asserted in accordance with the Copyright,
Design and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication
may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue reference for this book is available
from the British Library

ISBN 978 0 85738 187 3

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
businesses, organizations, places and events are
either the product of the author's imagination
or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events or
locales is entirely coincidental.

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Typeset by Nigel Hazle
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc.

In memory of Kettledrum,
the real The One of 1861

Wednesday, 29 May 1861

In a silence feverish with hopes and longings, a scrappy pony, hemmed in by the pressing crowd, flattened its ears. Harassed beyond endurance, the man perched on its back raised a flag. As he did, ten thousand throats caught ten thousand breaths. Ten thousand fists squeezed ten thousand slips of paper. Twenty thousand feet raised themselves on tiptoe. The man's arm, rigid with responsibility, was jolted from below. ‘Get them away, McGeorge!' The cry was taken up by others. ‘Get them away! Get them away!' For a second, McGeorge hesitated and the flag wavered. Then he stiffened and held his nerve. Not yet.

Barely six feet away from him eighteen of England's fastest horses were poised, every nerve strung taut in bodies so sleek and lean they were almost transparent. Skin glistened and quivered as they rocked. Some shook violently like kettles on the boil. Some boiled over and
began to reverse. Others had to be turned by their jockeys for fear of a false start. Soothe. Brace. Soothe. Brace. The jockeys were as tense as the horses. In the next two minutes and forty-five seconds, their places in racing history would be decided.

Amongst these sleek, boiling equine arrows, one horse stood out. He was not beautiful, at least not in the conventional sense. Where his companions were elegant, he was sturdy. Where they seemed barely strong enough to carry the designated weight of 8 stone 7 lb, he looked able to carry a fully armed dragoon into battle. His sixteen hands of height was matched by great depth of girth, arched loins and a large head which he carried poked out like a child who has suddenly smelled something quite delicious. Only muscular quarters, dropping away to a thick tail, betrayed any hint of real quality: those, and his deep chestnut coat, the blood-red broken by a white unfinished diamond, its edges almost touching both eyes before tailing into a narrow stripe running down the horse's long face and broadening untidily about three inches above a smoky nose. A white, sickle-shaped snip disappeared into his left nostril, and three white socks, two on his front legs and one on his nearside hind, gave him the look of a horse an artist has spoiled with one or two misplaced strokes, and afterwards, with regret, has decided not to bother finishing.

The horse also stood out because he was facing backwards
and chewing on an apple core unexpectedly spied amidst the straggles of grass. He seemed only marginally aware of the other horses or the crowd, and quite unaware of the challenge ahead. His head was lowered, his teeth were crunching.

McGeorge shouted. The crowd began to hiss. The horse looked up with mild interest. Somebody ran out and pulled him round to face the front. The horse was not pleased. He was looking for somebody else and was not sure what was wanted, which was unsurprising since his jockey was thirteen years old and befuddled in equal measure by fear and whisky.

In an open cart halfway up the course, five sets of knuckles and five faces under five wide-brimmed hats grew pale as they watched the horse lay back his ears and chew.

‘Daisy should have ridden him,' murmured Lily, her skin as white as her dress.

‘You know she couldn't,' retorted Rose. As the oldest, she felt that the looming catastrophe was her fault. Her short temper grew shorter.

‘Garth's terrified. I can see it from here. What happens if The One never even gets started?' Lily gazed in despair at the horse. Hope easily deserted her, and it did so now. She drooped like a flower without water. Rose looked helplessly at Daisy, standing, feet splayed. ‘Will he start, Daisy?'

‘He'll start,' Daisy said, though her voice was grim. She
stopped twiddling the bracelet she had plaited from the red horse's tail-hairs three months before and began to pick at one of the ribbons from her hat. She hardly heard Rose. She was aware only of willing Garth with all her might. ‘Count, Garth, count: one, two, three, GO; one, two, three, GO. Come on. We've practised so hard.' The bottom of her stomach was pitching and rolling.

‘What's happening?' One of a pair of identical twins, the youngest members of the family, who were squashed in the bottom of the cart and could see nothing but backs and hats.

‘Shhhh!' their sisters warned. Clover and Columbine subsided. ‘It's our future too,' they grumbled. As usual, nobody was listening to them.

McGeorge was fast losing control of the crowd. Any moment, he would have to let the horses go. Still The One was busy with his apple. Daisy could not bear to look; she could not bear to look away. Garth was listing heavily to one side and it was only now that Daisy was forced to acknowledge what she had, up to this moment, refused to accept: Garth was drunk. Drunk, drunk, drunk. All the care she had taken to keep him sober had been pointless. Sober, Garth might just remember the race plan. Drunk, there was no chance. She crumpled and held out her hands. Instinctively Lily and Rose took one each, then caught the hands of the twins.

‘Everything will be all right, won't it?' Clover whispered,
eyes huge with terror. They had never all held hands in their lives. Rose had never encouraged it. Before anybody could answer, there came a great roar. McGeorge had given in, the flag was down, and the Derby, the greatest horse race in the world, was underway.

Hartslove, nearly four months earlier

At the end of a long drive whose trees had once been planted with skill and care but was now overgrown and pitted with potholes, a skinny, mop-haired, thirteen-year-old boy, half drowned under a man's silk shirt, was staring at a ‘for sale' sign. He was staring hard at the sign, whose freshly painted words, boldly inscribed with a cheeky exclamation mark, seemed designed to insult the crusted iron gates. It was hard to believe that only twenty years before the gates had been so grand that visitors would automatically sit up straighter in their carriages as they passed through. Now the gates sagged, the lock rusted and dropping off. The new year frost sparkled like fairy dust on the iron bars, yet there was no magic here. The frost just looked cold. ‘For sale', the letters winked, ‘though who would want
!' the unwritten addition.

‘That's it. That's the end. Pa's a demon, a
!' The boy swore loudly, using bad words he had heard Skelton,
the groom, shout when the coach horses misbehaved and he thought nobody was listening. Not that there were any coach horses now, or, indeed, a coach. There was just Tinker and the vegetable cart. Garth had watched the last coach leave Hartslove two and a half years before. He remembered the day very particularly, not because it had been his mother's birthday, although it was, but because his mother had been inside the coach. She had never looked out. Like the coach and horses, she had gone through these very gates; gone and vanished.

And the ‘for sale' dashed forever any hope that she might return. Lady de Granville was not like the de Granville ghosts. If Hartslove was sold, it was possible that at least some of the ghosts – the Dead Girl who hung around in an upstairs passage, for instance – would follow Garth and his sisters to a new abode, being of the same blood and all. But their mother was not a ghost: she was a cloud. If she returned to Hartslove and found her children gone, she would presume they had forgotten her and cloudily waft away again. The thought made Garth's bottom lip tremble. He pressed against the gate until the bars bruised his skin.

BOOK: HartsLove
13.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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