A small fishing village, a shunned healer, her daughter, tradition, superstition and a world set to change.
Kerensa lives with her mother, the healer Meliora, on the edge of a small fishing community on the Cornish Coast.
The townsfolk, who work the fish runs of pilchard and mackerel that make their way up the Atlantic coast, call on her mother for help with their ailments, but never for her company.
Kerensa does not know why.
Curses and superstitions whisper around her as she grows into a competent young woman, fighting for her place amongst the people of Porth Gwynn.
But what has caused the rift between her and the town?
And can their traditional way of life survive in the face of changing winds?
Where the Gulls Fall Silent is an historical fiction that explores the lives of the fishermen and women who made their living from the rough Atlantic Ocean; the hardship they faced; the secrets that divided them; and the community spirit that pulled them through.
A story of love, loss, hope and second chances.
The soft earth felt good in Kerensa’s hands. Using the small trowel as her mother showed her when she was but a child, she turned the earth and placed the seeds for turnips, lettuce, parsley and pumpkin, saved and dried from last year’s harvest, covering them gently ready to sprout and grow.
At her side Eia clucked and scratched and searched for bugs. She had grown thin these last months, nearing the end of her life. The past seven years her egg laying had been exceptional, keeping Kerensa and her mother happily fed each morning. But this year as the autumn sun faded into winter, Kerensa stopped collecting her eggs to give her a rest from laying. A chicken won’t lay if she has a batch to nest. She was too old now to produce eggs so frequently. Meliora lamented that they’d let her live too long, she’d be nothing but gristle and bone by now. But Kerensa didn’t care. Since Eia came to stay, she’d decided she didn’t even like chicken.
Overhead the sun shone bright and strong in the clear blue sky. Sitting back on her heels she wiped the sweat from her eyes and watched as a gull rode the winds that whipped up from the shore, ducking and weaving, hovering. It was almost as if it were playing. Spring was giving way to summer, soon the men who worked the local farms in the off season would return for the fish run and her town, so quiet in these in-between months, would once again come to life with the sound of fishermen yelling, saws cutting wood and nails sealing barrels, the scent of fresh paint over last year’s peeling bows, of fish guts and slime, of salt and sweat.
But there would be a few more weeks of the quiet yet.
Kerensa finished her last row of vegetables. Standing she placed her hands on the small of her back and leaned back, stretching the aching muscles here. It was a nice ache though, the ache of a job completed, unlike the ache from her ankle. Pushing the thought aside, Kerensa washed her hands and trowel in the bucket drying both on her skirts. Reaching down to give Eia a quick pat she headed inside, blocking the back door open with a stone so the old chook could follow at her leisure. She slept on one of Kerensa’s old smocks by the oven everyday now, not just when it snowed, the warmth of the fire soothing her old bones.
The light from outside cut a bright swathe through the home, Kerensa walked about the main room, reaching up to gently squeeze the bundles of drying herbs that lined the ceiling to check their progress. The thyme was done, the sage not far off. Tonight she could start the bottling for sale.
A knock came at the door. Smiling to herself Kerensa opened the door. Derwa stood in the entranceway, practically bouncing out of her skin.
She didn’t wait for an invite, but barrelled into Meliora’s hut. “He’s coming back! Jory ran ahead to tell mother and me. The men are returning. Today!”
She spun on her heel heading back out the doorway where Kerensa still stood. Stopping on the step she turned to her friend. “Well, aren’t you coming? You haven’t seen him since December. Surely you are as eager as I am to see how much stronger his shoulders have become! Come on!”
A wicked light glinted in her eyes as Derwa gripped her friend’s hand and pulled. Kerensa paused, the herbs needed grinding, the meal sifting and the roots were as yet unprepared… Derwa looked back at Kerensa, eyes shining with mischief and enthusiasm.
The roots could wait.
The two girls walked arm in arm down the gently sloping hill into the town. The sun shone bright on their hair, glossy with youth and promise, accenting the red highlights that hid among Derwa’s brown mop. The scarcity of winter laid their bodies thin, but could not deny the budding curves of womanhood that refused to be denied. Not yet old enough for marriage, but it would not be long, and their thoughts and dreams had certainly turned to plans for such a future.
In Derwa’s case such plans were also constantly on her tongue. Kerensa, keeping pace beside her friend despite her limp, held such hopes close and private, her secret fear that her malformed foot would keep any would-be suitor at bay. Even Rewan.
She had come to understand the taunts some folk threw her way. She was born deformed. It was a bad sign. And the fish-runs were dwindling. But where the girl had shrunk from the words, trying to hide from the superstitious talk, the young woman stood tall and faced the jeers in the full light of the sun. She remained on the edge of town, but her friendship with the wild-hearted friend now at her side brought her within the fold more and more. And Kerensa was determined to embrace that.
Coming into the main street of town, Kerensa felt her lips curve in a joyous smile. The news had travelled, the men were returning. Along the street wives and daughters and toddling boys waited at their doors in the sun. Pots of flowers kept in the shade of huts were placed now along the pebbled foreshore, a vivid splash of colour to welcome them home. The air was electric with anticipation and joy.
It had been a hard winter and spring, the fish yield from the previous season had been low, yet the rent on the nets and catch still increased. Even Braneh, who owned his own fishing boat, had had to take up his hoe and shovel and, Rewan and Gerens by his side, take to the neighbouring farms that spread out from the coast in search of extra work.
But now, with the rising heat proclaiming summer’s height, they returned.
Tonight there would be a celebration. A feast. The abundance of spring produce saved carefully over the past season, now prepared with abandon. Mouths watering at the possibility that a man may bring back a lamb or even beef leg to roast and share.
The girls took up a spot on the foreshore, bay at their backs. The waters were peaceful today, only a gentle breeze ruffling their skirts, the waves lapping softly on the rocks. High tide.
And they waited.
It was not long before the tell-tale cry started up the street. Beyond where the girls could see, blocked by the natural curve of the town, came the cheer. Derwa squeezed Kerensa’s arm, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
“Do you see them? Kerensa? Do you?”
Kerensa laughed at her friend’s exuberance and smiled, “Soon, Derwa, soon.”
And soon it was. The cheers and laughter rolled down the street, bouncing from the cottage walls, the sound of heavy footfall and patter of little feet. They rounded the curve striding as one into the village centre. Braneh, Meraud on his arm, led the procession. He pressed a kiss to his wife’s forehead. Meraud grinned up at her husband, the lines that had marked her face with grief since the winter of sickness years before, temporarily transformed to joy. Behind them strode Gerens and Rewan, little Wenna, Peran’s daughter riding Rewan’s shoulders, her father’s occupied by her twin Eseld. Peran’s wife Embyn walked proudly beside them. Jago, arm wrapped about Mabyn’s waist, smiled to Derwa, who ran to greet her father and older brother Jory happily. The line stretched on, the whole town emptying onto the streets. As they passed Kerensa fell in with Derwa and her family, all heading for the edge of the fishing sheds, where they would stop and group to hear the stories of the men’s spring farming and share the warmth and joy of each other’s company.
Gerens moved alongside Kerensa, and she smiled at her oldest friend.
“How was it?” she asked.
“Long,” he replied, “it’s good to be home.”
Kerensa laughed. Gerens hated physical work, but he did what needed to be done.
“It’s good to have you.”
Gerens smiled, his gentle mouth curving softly. “You…”
“Kerensa! You are looking well. Spring has been good to you I see.”
Kerensa looked up. Keeping pace on her other side strode Rewan, shoulders still filled with the giggling Wenna. He flicked a flop of light brown curls from his eyes and gifted her his smile. Still lopsided, still dazzling. His eyes scanned her face, her body, a new light twinkling there.
Kerensa swallowed, suddenly shy. He always called her Kerensa, never Kez like the others. She loved how her name sounded on his lips, it made her knees weak. A strange energy coursed through her body, her tummy a bundle of butterflies fluttering. She felt the heat rising to her cheeks and cursed her fair skin. Derwa saved her.
“And you too are looking fine, Rewan. I swear your shoulders are twice as wide.” Derwa said, an unashamed flirt.
Rewan threw back his head and laughed, “Farm work is good training for the sea,” he replied. But his eyes never left Kerensa’s face.
The group looked up. Braneh stood at the front of the first shed, beaming across at his sons. “Come help your mother. We’ve a feast to prepare!”
“Coming father,” Rewan called, and, winking quickly at Kerensa, mouth still twisted in that cheeky grin, lengthened his stride to his father’s side.
Available on #KindleUnlimited
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09HJH1TG6
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09HJH1TG6
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09HJH1TG6
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B09HJH1TG6
Meet Lelita Baldock
Lelita Baldock is an author of historical fiction and crime fiction.
She has a passion for dark stories, with an unexpected twist.
It was during her years studying English Literature at University that Lelita discovered her love of all things reading and writing. But it would be another 15 years before she would take up the challenge and write her own novel.
Her debut novel, the historical fiction Widow’s Lace, is an Amazon best-seller.
Her follow up, The Unsound Sister, saw her take a different direction in her writing, trying her hand at crime fiction and has been warmly received globally.
Her third novel, Where the Gulls Fall Silent, a traditional historical fiction set in mid-1800s Cornwall, is out now.
Lelita also runs a blog and newsletter featuring fellow authors and other creatives.
Connect with Lelita
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lelita-Baldock/e/B086L53M1G
1 thought on “Where the Gulls Fall Silent, Excerpt by Lelita Baldock”
Thank you so much for hosting the blog tour for Where the Gulls Fall Silent.
All the best,
The Coffee Pot Book Club