A Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller
When Rachel Crofton marries, her new life soon takes a more unexpected turn as she is invited to become the companion to the reclusive Jonathan Alleyn, a man tormented by the disappearance of his childhood sweetheart, Alice.
Starling, servant to the Alleyn family, is convinced that Alice, the woman she loved as a sister, was stolen from her. Did Alice run away? Or did something more sinister occur?
As Rachel and Starling try to expose the lies, they find others are desperate to forget, and will go to extreme lengths to do so. . .
When I first told a friend that I was writing a book set in Bath in the early 1820s, her immediate response was Oh, good, something like a Jane Austen? To which I slightly recoiled... The more I thought about it, the more I decided that I was in fact writing the anti-Jane Austen – by which I don’t mean I’m opposed to the author in any way, but more to the romanticised vision of the early nineteenth century that countless adaptations of her books have left us with. All of her heroines are in need of husbands, and it’s all fun and games and occasional pining as they set about finding them… But as Austen herself knew, it wasn’t all plain sailing. And if you couldn’t find the right man – or any man – what then? Austen was lucky enough to have solvent male relatives, and in later years her writing, to support her. What if you had neither of those?
So, as well as writing a mystery about a girl who disappeared, I wanted to explore how easy it would have been, back then, to slip into poverty and destitution, and how deadly serious that was in an era with no social safety nets. I wanted to show how easy it might have been for a girl to just disappear, and for powerful men, at every level of society, to treat the women in their lives however they saw fit, with no fear of legal or peer censure. The theme of women being trapped by their situations, however outwardly respectable those situations might be, runs throughout the book. There’s also a theme of sisterhood, and what that means to the different female characters. Ultimately, however, no matter how bright, wily or demure these women are, the only real security they have is through the men in their lives – however unworthy those men may be. I took a small liberty, perhaps, in having my some of my female characters wind up with a modicum of independence – it was rare, but it could happen.
Bath is such an historic city, with so much of its beautiful architecture unchanged since the late eighteenth century; it’s a wonderful place to set a book – and countless other authors have done so. I love being able to go and see the exact places, and walk the exact streets, that famous literary figures and their characters saw and walked, and I hope that, in some small way, The Misbegotten becomes a part of Bath’s long literary history.
'The mystery of a woman's disappearance powers this gripping story of two young women who unravel past misdeeds to discover the truth. An engrossing tale of deceit, passion and courage.'
Woman & Home Magazine
'I was quite mesmerised by the story that unfolded and really struggled to make myself set it aside and leave the life of its characters, so desperate was I to find out the truth. This was wonderful story telling, rich with descriptions of the period – and the descriptions of Jonathan’s wartime experiences leave enduring and horrifying images – plainly meticulously researched and intricately plotted. I really can’t praise it highly enough – Katherine Webb is most certainly going to feature in my Top Ten of 2013 too.'
'The plot is full of twists and surprises and the characters intensely interesting if not always likeable. ...a fantastic gothic thriller. I highly recommend it.'
''The Misbegotten' is a wonderful book, gripping plot, unforgettable characters and all told in Katherine Webb’s marvellously atmospheric prose. She weaves a seductive spell around the reader and before you know it, you are captured in her world, captivated by her beautiful writing. Webb has a true gift for uncovering the mysteries of the human heart and exploring the truth of love. A detective story you can't put down, heart-stopping suspense and a heroine who will stay with you long after you close the book - what more could you want?'
Kate Williams - author and TV presenter
'Her writing is beautiful and it reads like a journey through the dark hidden world beneath a Jane Austen novel. How clever.'
Liz Fremantle - author
'In a series of flashbacks, Katherine Webb’s enticing Gothic tale weaves between the ‘present’ Bath of 1821 and the events of sixteen years earlier, with some stark and devastating depictions of the horrors of war. A compelling and convincing novel.'
The Daily Mail
'I was captivated by ‘The Misbegotten’, a wonderfully readable, utterly compelling story, set early in the eighteenth century. It’s such a cliché, but I have to say that this is the perfect book to curl up with on a gloomy autumn evening. Because it is!'
'This is a compelling, sinister story that’s impossible to put down and one that haunted me days after I’d reached the end. I loved it. 10/10'
'An engrossing tale of deceit, passion and courage.'
Woman & Home Magazine