This is a book of fairytales, but not of happy endings.
Welcome to the Three Kingdoms.
Princesses hatch plans; princes embark on quests; the forces of evil gather in dark corners like spiders in an ancient tower. There’s an ancient tower. Don’t expect to fall asleep to sweet dreams when you’re done.
The novel is young adult and features multiple LGBT and BAME characters.
The ebook is available to buy and borrow on Kobo, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookmate, RedShelf, ProQuest and more.
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy.
Publication: Self-published, new chapters shared every fortnight.
Chapter Three of The Businessman’s Daughter
Esme rose and left the inn before dawn the next day. It took until the sun was properly overhead to reach the part of the woods where the witch supposedly lived. This was partially because the woodland was on the side of a mountain, pine trees packed so densely together that Esme could barely see the ground for pine needles. It was mostly because the directions her mother provided were terrible.
After following any path she could find, Esme stumbled out onto a tiny clearing in which a small stone bungalow sat with its chimney puffing cheerfully. On the doorstep stood a white- haired figure wearing what looked distinctly like spotted cotton pyjamas.
‘You’re late,’ she said. ‘The kettle’s going to need putting on again.’
The witch looked like someone had taken an elderly lady, roasted her in an oven and showered her with potpourri. Her skin was so wrinkly it was hard to tell where her cheeks ended and her eyes began. At least four warts adorned her chin. Her hands were clawed and bony with arthritis. Her nails, though, were neatly trimmed and painted with pink varnish. Her wispy white hair, which reached her waist despite only covering half of her scalp, was plaited and decorated with flowers. She smelt, not like the decrepit visitors to the inn whose weekly wash did not quite reach every corner, but like talcum powder and rose petals. This was not a crazy old lady, Esme realised, but an elderly woman in full control of her faculties. It was conceivable the pyjamas were a conscious fashion choice.
‘Were you expecting me?’ A brown dog greeted Esme in the doorway, its scrubby tail wagging.
‘Of course I was expecting you, dear,’ the old lady replied. A gold tooth winked from the back of her mouth. ‘I keep an eye on all the magical ones.’
‘Great,’ Esme replied. ‘What have your tarot cards told you?’
‘That all these secrets of yours will kill you one day,’ she said amicably. ‘Also, that you enjoy green tea. Here, have a cup.’
She waved her hand and there was a copper kettle and two china cups. ‘Hot but not boiling water?’ Esme asked, looking at the kettle.
‘Of course. I’m not a heathen.’
They sat at the little table, sunshine spilling through the windows. If Esme pretended very hard, she could almost be back in her grandparents’ kitchen, having tea on a Sunday afternoon. Their little house had been sold after they died of a fever, around the same time Esme started having episodes. She was probably no more than six at the time. She wondered what her grandparents would have thought of her now.
Born in Rochford in 1995, Francesca Burke decided at an early age that the worlds inside books and television were infinitely preferable to the real one. Initially put off the idea of being a writer because it requires one to sit alone and ignore people, she now finds sitting alone and ignoring people to be the most satisfying parts of the job. She lives in Southend-on- Sea.
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