Between trying to make a living as a flower girl, dodging local gang leaders and hiding the fact that she is almost deaf, sixteen-year old Lily Scott has enough problems as it is, thanks for asking. The last thing she needs is a strange epidemic killing all the flowers in 1862 London. All of a sudden out of a job and threatened with starvation on the streets of Whitechapel, Lily decides she can’t trust some British Museum scientists in top hats to help.
Determined to solve the mystery of the dead flowers, Lily quickly finds herself in over her head as children disappear, books self-combust in libraries and newspapers spread rumours of dark magic. Soon panic sweeps across the city, and Lily’s investigation becomes deadly when bombs go off everywhere she turns. From East London where the fog takes on a life of its own, to the gardens of Buckingham Palace turned into a haunted forest, Lily needs to follow the clues and sort this mess out before society collapses and she loses everything – for good.
LILY IN THE SHADOWS is a 65,000-word YA Historical Fantasy that will appeal to readers of Leanna Renee Hieber’s STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL series or Cassandra Clare’s THE INFERNAL DEVICES series.
First 500 words:
I pretended I didn’t see the gentleman walking through the crowd of St. Paul’s Church Yard, but I knew he was heading for me.
I pursed my lips to prevent a smile and looked down at Elsie. She sat by my feet, on the first step of the Queen Anne statue that towered over us with a moody pout and a vacant gaze, to remind us all how insignificant we were in the grand scheme of things.
Elsie had shredded a newspaper and was trying to lure pigeons to her by using the pieces as fake bread. The pigeons, fat from feeding off the piles of refuse around the square, weren’t budging.
“Run along and try to earn a penny before it’s too late, will you?”
She looked up and coughed, little barks that made her sound like all the street children who ended up in a pauper’s grave on a cold winter morning. I frowned at her pale face, framed by a yellowish bonnet with frayed lace on the edges.
“Can’t I stay ’ere with you?” she asked.
I didn’t mind her tagging along most of the time, but it was already afternoon and she needed to go home with a few coins in her pocket if she didn’t want to get in trouble.
Also I wanted to deal with my gentleman alone.
I raised my eyebrows and Elsie hurried to her feet. She was seven, or eight maybe, who knew, but her head barely reached my elbow.
“Well.” She sighed. “Bye then, Lily.”
She wrapped her shawl tighter around her thin shoulders and walked away. Around us street merchants hawked their wares, passers-by on their way to the church attempted to avoid pickpockets, and everyone shouted to be heard over the din of the horse carriages and ringing bells. Elsie was swallowed by the multitude in an instant. When she was gone I looked up, and found the gentleman standing in front of me.
He was a regular customer, but I had never seen him alone, or so purposeful. He usually brought a very pretty young lady along with him, and he bought her flowers while she looked bored and disgusted at the sight of me. However today she wasn’t there, so I wouldn’t have to fight the urge to spit in her face while he made his purchase. And he didn’t wear his usual suit, but a fancy blue frock coat, a white waistcoat, grey striped trousers and a black top hat. That was new.
“Good afternoon, milord.”
He stared at me for a second, as if he had forgotten his purpose here.
“Nothing like a Sunday at St Paul’s, is there?” I said, still smiling, but hoping he would start speaking soon before this got uncomfortable and awkward.
“Yes, indeed,” he said, focused again.
A nervous smile reached his lips but not his eyes, before he lowered his gaze on my flower basket. All I had left that day were roses.