Marcia Clayton was born in North Devon, a rural and picturesque area in the far South West of England. She is a farmer's daughter and often helped to milk the cows and clean out the shippens in her younger days.
When Marcia left school she worked in a bank for several years until she married her husband, Bryan, and then stayed at home for a few years to take care of her three sons, Stuart, Paul and David. As the children grew older, Marcia worked as a Marie Curie nurse caring for the terminally ill, and later for the local authority managing school transport.
Now a grandmother, Marcia enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She’s a keen researcher of family history, and it was this hobby that inspired some of the characters in her books. A keen gardener, Marcia grows many of her own vegetables. She is also an avid reader and mainly enjoys historical fiction, romance, and crime books.
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Set in 1820, Betsey is the prequel to the much-loved Hartford Manor Series.
Betsey, a sadly neglected child, is shouldering responsibilities far beyond her years. As she does her best to care for her little brother, Norman, she is befriended by Gypsy Freda, an old woman whose family is camped nearby. Freda's granddaughter, Jane, is also fond of the little girl and is concerned about her.
Thomas, the second son of Lord Fellwood, happens across the gypsy camp and becomes besotted with Jane. However, Jasper Morris, the local miller, also has designs on the young gypsy, and inevitably, the two men do not see eye to eye.
Betsey is drawn into their rivalry for the attention of the beautiful young woman, and she finds herself promising to keep a dangerous secret for many years to come.
The Prequel to the Much Loved Hartford Manor Series
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Excerpt from Betsey
A week or so later, on a Sunday morning, Adam crawled out of bed earlier than usual and told Barney to get his coat on.
"Why, Dad, where are we going?"
"It's time you went out to work, lad. We need the money, and you've had more than enough schooling. I'm told the miller's looking for a boy, so we'll see if he'll take you on."
"Oh, Adam, could we not leave it just a little longer? Mr Billery says Barney's doing well at school and I'd like him to stay as long as possible. I'm sure it will help him get a better job in the long run. Perhaps I could take in more washing to earn a bit more money."
"No, he's ten years old, and it's high time he earned his keep. Anyway, from what I see of it, you can't cope with the washing you do now, and I never see any money from it. Come on, lad, get a move on, or someone else will get there before us." He fixed his wife with a firm stare and seeing her husband was determined, she dared not say more.
Betsey was dismayed but knew better than to voice her opinions. When her dad was drunk and violent, Barney was often her only protector, and she was distraught to think he would no longer be there.
Saying no more, Barney got his coat on and hugged his mother, Betsey, and Norman. He held on to his little sister the longest.
"If I get the job, I'll come back to see you on my day off, Betsey, but you know where the mill is, don't you, so if you need me, you know where to come." He looked at her knowingly, to see if she understood.
Holding back her tears, she nodded and returned his embrace.
Adam was pleased when he and Barney seemed to have arrived at just the right time at the mill. Jasper was looking hot and bothered, as he loaded the sacks of flour onto the cart, and he stopped and wiped his brow, as he saw the boy and his father approaching. Adam had known the miller all his life.
"Hello, Jasper, I hear you're looking for a lad. Would you consider young Barney, here? He's strong and intelligent; you'd get a decent day's work out of him."
"Aye, I am, Adam, he's a bit skinny, though. I shouldn't think he's got a lot of strength."
"Well, times are hard you know, Jasper, but with a bit more food, he'll soon fill out. He's strong and wiry, and he knows he'll feel the buckle end of my belt if he doesn't come up to scratch.”
The miller surveyed the young boy.
"What do you think, lad; do you want to come and work for me?"
"Aye, sir, if my dad says I have to then I promise I'll work hard."
"All right then, see if you can hoist that half sack of flour onto the cart, and then take the horse and cart around the yard."
Ignoring the sack of flour, Barney went first to the horse, stroked the old mare's nose, and spoke kindly to her. He then lifted the sack, and with considerable difficulty, managed to get it onto the cart. Saying nothing, he calmly patted the horse again and climbed onto the cart. He clicked his tongue and told the horse to move on, taking the cart carefully around the yard.
Though Barney did not know it, his father was both surprised and impressed, and stood with a wide smile on his face, admiring his son's actions.
"There, what do you think of that, Jasper? The boy's a natural with the old horse; you can see he'd be an asset to any business."
The miller took off his cap and scratched his slightly balding head. "Aye, I must confess he made a fine job of that. All right then, lad, I'll give you a month's trial. You can sleep in the loft above the barn, and come into the house for your meals. I can't afford to pay him much, mind."
"Aw, come on, man, we all know you're one of the richest men in the village; don't be mean."
However, the miller stood his ground, but eventually, the two men agreed on a wage that Adam insisted would be paid directly to him. He ruffled his son's hair and wished him luck, as he walked home whistling, pleased with his morning's work.
As Barney watched his father amble off, he felt sad, not for himself, but for his family, whom he knew would miss him, particularly Betsey. His mother too, would miss his help in chopping firewood, and doing all the jobs around the house that his father should have taken care of, but never did. He was startled out of his thoughts by the miller.
"Come on then, lad, there's work to be done. No use standing there daydreaming. 'Twill be no holiday living here, but if you give me a good day's work, I'll see to it that you have a full belly, and it looks like that doesn't happen often.”
"Thanks, Mr Morris; I promise I'll work hard."
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