So happy today to have my good friend, Lilly Gayle here with her latest release. I’m double excited because this is an historical release AND it has a little bit to do with…
Serial killers and romance novels—not normally two things that go together, but in my latest historical release, Slightly Noble, the most prolific female serial killer of the Victorian era is mentioned three times. Her name? Amelia Dyer.
Amelia Dyer was raised in Bristol by respectable parents and trained as a nurse before deciding “baby farming” was a much more lucrative career and required far less work.
In Victorian times, Baby farmer was the name given to women (and sometimes couples) who took in unwanted and/or illegitimate children and infants for a fee until a more permanent home could be found. Most of the children died of neglect or starvation because feeding the children cut too heavily into their profit margins. Some baby farmers decided it was more profitable to murder the children and infants outright and not waste time looking for a permanent home because well, a dead child doesn’t eat at all.
Amelia Dyer was one of those baby farmers.
For a mere five pounds, she would take in a child with the promise of finding a loving home for the infant. Often times, she would pose as the adopting mother, anxious to raise a little one as her own. The children were never placed in permanent homes, and over her thirty-year career as a “baby farmer,” she is believed to have killed no less than eight and possibly as many as 400 infants.
In 1879, a doctor became suspicious of the number of infants who died while in Mrs. Dyers’ care, and she was charged with neglect. She served six months’s hard labor before returning to her infamous career.
In 1895 the tiny corpse of Helena Fry was found in the Thames river with a ribbon tied around her neck. The ribbon and the parcel in which she was wrapped was traced back to Amelia Dyer.
Dyer was arrested on April 4th, 1896, and by May, seven more bodies were found with tapes around their tiny necks. One of those infants was four-month-old Doris Marmon. Dyer’s defense attorney tried claiming she was insane, as she had spent some time in insane asylums, but Mrs. Dyer soon confessed that Doris Marmon was not the only infant in the Thames.
“You’ll know all mine by the tape around their necks,” she said.
It took the jury just five minutes to convict her, and on June 10, 1896, Amelia Dyer was hanged at Newgate Prison.
Despite the fact that my latest historical release, Slightly Noble is set in 1865 rather than 1879 or 1896, I took some creative license using Amelia Dyer’s name in the story. Since Mrs. Dyer’s career as a baby farmer spanned thirty years, she could have been actively acquiring babies as early as 1865. And despite her arrest and six month sentence occurring in 1879, I mention it in Slightly Noble because the dates were close enough to fit the sub-plot of my story. I also wanted to emphasize how dire my heroine, Abby’s, situation was since she is pregnant and unwed during a time in history when women had few choices, and Bastardy laws limited those choices even more.
“It be your kind what come up with legislation to deter illegitimate births. But them Bastardy Laws condemn unwed mothers to impossible situations and protect society gents from financial responsibility. Them laws force women out of employment and bar
them from the workhouse. They got no choice but to become prostitutes, pay baby farmers, or kill the babes at birth. My sister provided a safer solution. Then that Dyer woman got caught starving babies she took in and tossing their little bodies into the Thames like garbage. She was charged with neglect and only served six months.”
American privateer, Captain Jack isn’t really an American, but heir to a viscountcy. When his father dies, he leaves everything not entailed with the estate to his worthless cousin. Jack’s only hope of inheriting his mother’s ancestral home and honoring her dying wish is to marry and produce an heir before his thirty-fifth birthday—in five months. And he doesn’t have a single prospect. Pregnant and unwed, Abigail Halsey is sent by her father to an Anglican convent until he can find a family to adopt his grandchild or a husband for his daughter. Abby has other plans, but they go awry when she goes into labor early and her rescuer, a pirate captain turned lord, insists on marrying her. Is Jack too much like his jealous, unforgiving father? Can Abby overcome her fear of men and have a real marriage? Or will she never be anything more than the unwanted wife of a Slightly Noble Viscount?
“Well, you will be welcomed now, Abby. You are a viscountess.” His voice softened, but his eyes shone with disappointment. Was it because he had hoped she would confide in him? Or because she had confessed her humble origins?
Pride stiffened her spine. “I am more than just a viscountess. I am a wife and mother, and if I am to be a good wife, at some point, I must act like a wife.” This meant running a household, not living on a ship. She did not want to argue or have him ask more questions about her past, but she could not bear living aboard ship indefinitely.
He started, his expression surprised. Then a slow smile spread over his face, and his eyes burned as if he had a fever. He leaned over the table, his face mere inches from hers. “A real wife sleeps in her husband’s bed.”
Abby’s breath hitched. Her pulse jumped. Oh dear! He had taken her meaning all wrong. Heat rushed to her cheeks, and her flesh tingled. “What I meant…That is, I should be running your household.”
“We live on a ship.” He leaned back in his chair. He still smiled, but it was now more humorous than…amorous?
She shivered, unable to suppress a brief surge of longing. What would it be like to kiss that hard mouth? To feel his lips pressed against hers?
Dear Lord! What is wrong with me?
Lilly Gayle is a wife, mother of two grown daughters, a new grandmother, and a breast cancer
survivor. She lives in North Carolina with her husband. When not working as an x-ray technologist and mammographer, Lilly writes paranormal and historical romances.
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