Fourteen-year-old Rita Taylor is no stranger to the harsh realities of a poor life in Liverpool.
She's been hungry and cold more times than she can count, and she's long since come to terms with the fact that her mother keeps them fed and clothed by taking men into her bed.
Eve Taylor has never been a candidate for mother of the year, but Rita is stunned when she leaves Liverpool for a new life in Cardiff without even telling her daughter she's leaving.
Rita finds herself dumped unceremoniously on the doorstep of Margaret Sinclair, the local pawnbroker and the aunt she never knew she had. Used to the selfish ways of her sister, Margaret grudgingly agrees to take in her wayward niece, something Rita is all too keen to avoid.
Despite a rocky start, the two gradually become friends, with Rita learning from her aunt's age and wisdom and Margaret profiting by her niece's youth and passion.
But as time creeps incessantly on, moving inescapably towards the Great Depression, Rita finds herself becoming invested in the financial woes of the Brodie family - an interest that threatens the equanimity she and Margaret have developed, and which is made worse by both women's relationships with the men of the family.
Margaret's world is turned upside down when she comes face-to-face once more with her long lost childhood sweetheart William Brodie, a man who broke her heart and married another woman. By taking on his business's debt, she seeks to keep things strictly professional between them, but the more time she spends with him, the more old feelings are stirred up again.
Meanwhile, as Rita develops an abiding friendship with Brodie's son Billy, she finds herself becoming infatuated with Billy's stepbrother Jimmy, a young man with darkness lurking beneath his angelic exterior.
Emotions surge and secrets are revealed as the two women are drawn inexorably into the lives of the Brodie family.
If Margaret and Rita are to avoid making the same mistakes all over again, they must learn to trust their hearts...
Praise for June Francis:
'Liverpool's Catherine Cookson' - Crosby Herald
'Real people. Real emotions. Another excellent book from one of our best saga writers' - Historical Novels Review
June Francis was born in Blackpool and was first introduced to the joy of storytelling by her father when he returned from the war in 1946. Her mother's work in service and tales of the old days, and a family history that boasts of at least six mariners from far and wide, have inspired and influenced several of her novels. The Pawnbroker's Niece is one of several historical novels.
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