I’m really pleased to be one of the blogs on the tour for Ruby, the latest book from Heather Burnside, and I’m thrilled to be able to share an extract with you. Heather spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. If you are a fan of Martina Cole or Kimberley Chambers, then Ruby could just be the book for you!
The stronger sex.
Ruby has always been strong. Growing up with a feeble mother and an absent father, she is forced to fight the battles of her younger siblings. And when a childhood experience leaves her traumatised, her distrust of men turns to hatred.
On the streets.
With no safe place to call home, Ruby is desperate to fit in with the tough crowd. She spends her teenage years sleeping around and drinking in the park, and by the time she is sixteen, prostitution has become a way of life. But Ruby has ambitions, and she soon moves up the ladder to become the madam of her own brothel.
But being in charge of a brothel has its down sides, Ruby faces her worst nightmare when an enemy from the past comes back into her life, and gang intimidation threatens to ruin everything. Can she find a way to beat her tormentors? And will she be strong enough to see it through?
Nine-year-old Trina was helping her mother, Daisy, with the housework. As they worked, they both sang along to Tracy Chapman while two of Trina’s younger brothers were playing noisily, drowning out the sound of the stereo.
‘Shut up your noise!’ shouted Daisy, her Jamaican accent still pronounced after more than twenty years in the UK. ‘I can’t hear meself think.’
The two boys stopped their play-fighting, looked at each other and giggled.
‘Get up the stairs,’ said Daisy, clicking her tongue in annoyance.
‘No, we want to play out,’ said Ellis, the older of the two boys.
‘Go on, and take Tyler with you,’ said Daisy.
Trina looked across at her youngest brother, Tyler, quietly playing with his battered toy cars in a corner of the room. He was so different from the other two, Ellis and Jarell, who could be such a handful.
‘Go on, hurry up,’ said Daisy. ‘Let me get me work done.’
Trina put down the duster she was using and walked over to Tyler, ready to take him by the hand.
‘No! Not you, Trina,’ said her mother. ‘I need your help.’
‘But who’s gonna look after him?’ asked Trina.
‘Them two can,’ said Daisy.
Catching the expression on her mother’s face, Trina knew she wasn’t in the mood for arguments. She picked her duster back up and carried on with what she was doing, despite her qualms about the ability of Ellis and Jarell to look after Tyler, who was only three.
Usually the responsibility fell on Trina to look out for her three younger brothers – Ellis, aged seven, six-year-old Jarell, and Tyler – when her mother was busy cooking, shopping or washing. But today was cleaning day and Daisy often asked Trina for help. It seemed to Trina that her mother was overwhelmed with the amount of work involved in looking after a three-bedroomed house and four children. Nevertheless, she undertook her tasks every Saturday without failure, not happy till every surface was dusted, hoovered and cleaned.
Daisy was a respectable woman who took pride in having a clean home. Despite her status as a single parent on benefits, she did her best to maintain her high standards and set a good example to her children. She was an attractive woman in her thirties, of average height and with a womanly figure. Trina took after her mother in looks, but not in height for she was very tall for her age, something she had gained from her absent father.
Trina looked up from her dusting as the boys dashed excitedly to the front door. She was envious of them. It didn’t seem fair that she should have to stay and help her mother while the boys got to play outside. But that’s the way it was and she had long ago come to accept her status as the oldest child. Not only was she the oldest but she was also a girl, which made a difference as far as her mother was concerned. Girls helped with the housework; boys did not.
‘And keep a tight hold on him!’ Daisy shouted to her two eldest boys as they fled out through the front door.
They were no sooner outside than there was a knock on the door. Daisy clicked her tongue again.
‘What on earth’s the matter!’ she called, trying to ignore it.
There was a second knock. Trina said, ‘I’ll get it, Mam,’ happy to put down her duster again.
But before she got the chance, they heard a man’s voice outside. ‘Daisy! I know you’re in there so answer the door,’ he shouted.
Trina continued making her way towards the front door till she felt her mother’s sharp pull on her shoulder.
‘No,’ she whispered. ‘Get behind the curtain. Don’t let him see you or there’ll be hell to pay.’
Alarmed, Trina quickly took her place with her mother, standing to one side of the open curtains so they couldn’t be seen through the window. Daisy was busy peering through a gap at the edge of the curtains. A shadow fell across the window and the man’s voice came closer.
‘Open the door, Daisy! I know you’re in there. I’ve just seen the children leave,’ shouted the man.
A look of concern flashed across Trina’s face as she picked up on the grave tone of the man’s voice.
‘I think it’s Mr Dodds. Shouldn’t we let him in, Mam?’ she whispered.
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2T65ahm
With thanks to Vicky Joss for organising the blog tour.