Read Queen of the Mersey Online

Authors: Maureen Lee

Tags: #Thrillers, #Fiction, #War & Military

Queen of the Mersey

‘What’s happened?’ she gasped. It would appear a miracle had occurred overnight.

‘We sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar while you were asleep,’ Theo said gleefully. ‘We’re in the Mediterranean. Oh, Queenie!’ He took her in his arms.

‘I know you’ve hated every minute so far, even though you didn’t say a word.

Next time we come, we’ll fly halfway and you’ll never have to make that terrible journey again. Now, do you feel like a hearty breakfast?’

‘Yes!’ she breathed. Afterwards, she’d put on her shorts and sunbathe.

That night in the lounge, she and Theo drank champagne and danced to Frank Sinatra records. It was turning out to be the holiday of a lifetime, after all.

Maureen Lee’s award-winning novels have earned her many fans. Her recent novel, The Leaving of Liverpool, was a Sunday Times top 10 bestseller. Maureen was born in Bootle and now lives in Colchester. Find out more at:

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Lizzie O’Brien escapes her dark Liverpool childhood when she runs away to London – towards freedom and a new life. But the past is catching up with her, threatening to destroy her dreams …



There’s a party on Pearl Street, but a shadow hangs over the festivities: Britain is on the brink of war. The community must face hardship and heartbreak with courage and humour.



1940 – the cruellest year of war for Britain’s civilians. In Pearl Street, near Liverpool’s docks, families struggle to cope the best they can.



War has taken a terrible toll on Pearl Street, and changed the lives of all who live there. The German bombers have left rubble in their wake and everyone pulls together to come to terms with the loss of loved ones.



Just as Annie Harrison settles down to marriage and motherhood, fate deals an unexpected blow. As she struggles to cope, a chance meeting leads to events she has no control over. Could this be Annie’s shot at happiness?



When Millie Cameron is asked to sort through her late aunt’s possessions, she finds buried among the photographs, letters and newspaper clippings, a shocking secret …



War tears Josie Flynn from all she knows. Life takes her to Barefoot House as the companion of an elderly woman, and to New York with a new love. But she’s soon back in Liverpool, and embarks upon an unlikely career …



Sisters-in-law Alice and Cora Lacey both give birth to boys on one chaotic night in 1940. But Cora’s jealousy and resentment prompt her to commit a terrible act with devastating consequences …



Ruby O’Hagan’s life is transformed when she’s asked to look after a large house.

It becomes a refuge – not just for Ruby and her family, but for many others, as loves, triumphs, sorrows and friendships are played out.



1960s’ Liverpool, and three families are linked by music. The girls form a successful group, only to split up soon after: Rita to find success as a singer; Marcia to become a mother; and Jeannie to deceive her husband, with far-reaching consequences …



Queenie Todd is evacuated to a small town on the Welsh coast with two others when the war begins. At first, the girls have a wonderful time until something happens, so terrifying, that it will haunt them for the rest of their lives . .




Victoria lives in the old house on the corner. When the land is sold, she finds herself surrounded by new properties. Soon Victoria is drawn into the lives of her neighbours – their loves, lies and secrets.



Cara and Sybil are both born in the same house on one rainy September night.

Years later, at the outbreak of war, they are thrown together when they enlist and are stationed in Malta. It’s a time of live-changing repercussions for them both …



Kitty McCarthy wants a life less ordinary – she doesn’t want to get married and raise children in Liverpool like her sisters. An impetuous decision and a chance meeting twenty years later are to have momentous repercussions that will stay with her for ever …



Escaping their abusive home in Ireland, sisters Mollie and Annemarie head to Liverpool – and a ship bound for New York. But fate deals a cruel blow and they are separated. Soon, World War II looms – with surprising consequences for the sisters.



Amy Curran was sent to prison for killing her husband. Twenty years later, she’s released and reunited with her daughter, Pearl. But Amy is hiding a terrible secret – a tragedy that could tear the family apart …


Queen of the Mersey




First published in Great Britain in 2003 by Orion Books.

This ebook first published in 2010 by Orion Books.

Copyright Š Maureen Lee 2003

The right of Maureen Lee to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the copyright, designs and patents act 1988.

All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN: 978 1 4091 3230 1

This ebook produced by Jouve, France

Orion Books

The Orion Publishing Group Ltd

Orion House

5 Upper St Martin’s Lane

London WC2H 9EA

An Hachette UK Company

For my agent, Juliet Burton, with love.






About the Author

June, 1939

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

June, 1954

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

March, 1973

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

June, 1939

Chapter 1

‘What are you doing here?’ Vera Monaghan enquired.

‘I live here, Mam,’ Mary replied, grinning. It was a game they sometimes played.

‘Well, I’ve never seen you before. When did you arrive?’

‘Five years ago last week,’ Mary said promptly.

‘Ah, I remember now! You’re me little girl. What’s your name? I can’t rightly recall.’


‘So it is. You know, Mary, sometimes I can’t believe you’re real.’

Mary pinched herself. It hurt. ‘I am, Mam. Honest.’

‘Come and give your mam a hug so she’ll know you’re really real.’ Vera threw her fat body into a chair and held out her arms.

Mary scrambled from under the table where she’d been tying knots in the fringe of the chenille cloth, sat on her mother’s knee, and showered the beloved red face with kisses. ‘D’you believe I’m real now, Mam?’

‘I do, I truly do. You’re me little angel, the best surprise a woman could ever have had.’

‘And a man,’ Mary reminded her, thinking of her dad.

‘And a man,’ Vera agreed.

Mary had arrived, quite unexpectedly, when her mother was forty-seven and already had eight children, all of them boys, the youngest seven and the eldest almost twenty-one. She had thought her childbearing days were long over and Mary had taken her and Albert entirely by surprise. The lads had considered the whole thing hilarious. They hadn’t realised people as ancient as their mam and dad still indulged in a bit of nooky, and if ever a boy woke in the dead of night when the old folk were in bed, he would listen hard, just in case they were at it again.

When Mary was brought home from the maternity hospital, the entire family stood around the cot, staring down at the tiny baby. They had a girl!

‘Girls don’t have willies,’ remarked Tommy, nine. ‘How will she wee, Mam, without a willy?’

‘She’ll find a way,’ his mother assured him.

‘She’s pretty,’ said Caradoc, the youngest.

‘You were all pretty when you were babies.’ Vera looked at her eight big lads whom she loved with all her heart and found this hard to believe. Dick, the eldest, was six feet two and excessively hairy.

‘I wasn’t pretty,’ growled Victor, aged twelve.

‘Oh, all right, so you weren’t.’ Anything for a quiet life, she thought, although Victor, with his long dark lashes and rosy cheeks, had been the prettiest of the lot.

‘We’ve got a sister,’ Dick said in awe.

‘I’ve got a daughter,’ Albert Monaghan said in much the same tone.

Mary became their pet, better any day than a kitten or a puppy. The younger boys brought their paintings home from school to show their sister and were hurt when she tore them to pieces with a delighted shriek.

‘She doesn’t understand great art,’ their mother told them. ‘Not yet.’

The four older boys were working. On Friday, pay day, they would buy Mary sweets or chocolate, sometimes a toy. Once, Mrs Monaghan found her two-year-old daughter’s mouth stuffed with bubble gum that took a good ten minutes to remove.

‘She’s getting spoilt rotten, Vera,’ Albert would say fondly, though he was the worst of the lot. Mary had more dolls than she had brothers.

‘Too much love never hurt anyone,’ his wife would reply.

They were a contented couple, the Monaghans, happy with each other, loving their children, and Mary had been the icing on the cake. Vera had once been pretty herself, but bearing nine children had created havoc with the body that had once been described as a figure eight and now resembled a great big nought.

‘Everything’s collapsed,’ she would tell people dramatically. ‘Me breasts, me tubes, me womb. Everything.’

Her shape hadn’t been helped by her diet during the early years of marriage, long before any of the boys had gone to work, and money had been short. Albert didn’t earn much as a tram conductor and there were a lot of mouths to feed.

Often, the family would sit down to a plate of scouse, sometimes blind, if meat couldn’t be afforded, while Vera sat down to nothing at all.

‘I had mine earlier,’ she would explain when her husband wanted to know why she wasn’t eating. All she’d had was a couple of slices of bread dipped in the scouse pan.

Albert believed her because she was putting on weight, not losing it. Vera ate bread like there was no tomorrow. She particularly enjoyed it fried. It reminded her of what a proper meal would taste like.

Then Dick had started working, followed shortly afterwards by George, then Frank, Billy, Victor, Charlie and Tommy until, by the time Mary was five, there was only Caradoc still at school. Money wasn’t exactly rolling in, but they were flush compared to the old days. Yet still Vera couldn’t keep off the bread.

She’d grown used to it. Anyroad, people said it was the staff of life. Her excess flesh was soft and doughy and Mary liked to poke it with her finger and watch it slowly rise back up.

She did so now, sitting on her mother’s knee, then examined the red, shrivelled elbows that always fascinated her.

‘Why aren’t mine like that?’ she wanted to know.

‘I’ve told you before. ’Cos you’re not fifty-two, that’s why. Now that we’ve established who you are and what you’re doing here, are you going to stay on me knee all day?’

‘If you like.’

‘What I’d like,’ Vera said, trying to sound stern, ‘is for you to untie the knots you’ve made in the fringe of me bezzie tablecloth. I’ve only just noticed and it looks dead peculiar. That cloth was a wedding present off your Auntie Dolly.’

‘All right, Mam,’ Mary said equably. She slipped off the soft, cushiony knee, and was under the table, undoing her morning’s work, when there was a knock on the door.

‘Who on earth can that be!’ her mother exclaimed when she went to answer it. It must be a stranger, because the front door was wide open. Everyone they knew would have walked straight in.

Mary heard a voice babbling hysterically and a few minutes later, her mother returned with a girl about her own age.

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