“Get out. Get far away if you have to. Don’t leave him for me, leave him for yourself. Even if I never saw you again, if we couldn’t ever be friends, I’ll be happier with that than seeing you every day with you being with him, I’m not saying I would make you happy, Mary, but at least I’d try.”
Mary Ryder is a housewife, her once fiery nature ground down by a life of cleaning and cooking for her drunken husband Nigel. A chance meeting with idealistic mineworker Lewis Evans makes her realise what love can be. But Mary made a commitment to Nigel: for better, for worse.
When the National Union of Mineworkers calls a strike, Mary doesn’t realise it will change her, and the town, forever.
A tale of love, friendship and solidarity, set against the backdrop of the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, Mighty Like a Rose follows Mary on her journey from neat detached house to the front line of the UK’s longest-running industrial dispute.
Read an excerpt:
Just after they crossed the bridge, Lewis steered the motorbike up a farm track, and after a few bumpy minutes he stopped. They overlooked the valley. Behind them were the stepped stones of what was once a sandstone quarry, above it the wall of an abandoned hospital. Both quarry and wall were covered in graffiti. Nobody remembered who had done it or when, but years ago someone had painted “Hollywood” in white letters as high as the wall. Visible from the other side of the valley it had become a source of pride for the town, in a drily humorous way.
Lewis dismounted the bike and took his helmet off. Mary did the same. Carved and painted onto the sandstone were decades worth of lovers' initials, the older ones corroded by the wind and rain. Mary rested against a rock, which was warm from the sun. Behind Lewis the valley lay green, to the south the horizon was dominated by Emley Moor TV mast, a gently curved concrete tower. Mary had used to stare at it out of the classroom window at school. It was the tallest structure in Western Europe, another source of local pride. She knew that just to the right of the mast was Emley Moor pit, and to the left somewhere was Caphouse Colliery. In the middle, lower down on the hill, just the other side of the river, was Thornethorpe colliery. From here the valley looked at peace, you wouldn’t guess there was a strike on looking at the cows grazing sleepily in the green fields.
Lewis looked out over the valley, took a deep breath, then looked at her. “What I said was it’s a bloody shame you’re married.”
Mary looked back at him, agape. He was agitated, pacing about.
“You aren’t happy, Mary. Anyone can see that. It’s a bloody shame that you are married to someone who can’t make you happy. Who won’t, more like. You deserve better.” He looked at her, pleadingly. He was close enough now that Mary could see herself reflected in the molasses of his eyes. “Get out. Get far away if you have to. Don’t leave him for me, leave him for yourself. Even if I never saw you again, if we couldn’t ever be friends, I’ll be happier with that than seeing you every day with you being with him.”
Mary opened her mouth to say something. She felt she should defend Nigel, but she couldn’t. Lewis took one of Mary's hands in his.
“I’m not saying I would make you happy, Mary, but at least I’d try.”
Mary didn’t think. Her mind had stopped working. She stepped towards Lewis and kissed him. Kissed him hard, on the mouth. His lips were soft and full, parting slightly under hers. She cradled his face in her hand, the prickle of his stubble under her fingertips. He responded and pulled her close to him. Pressed close to Lewis, Mary slid her hands under his open leather jacket, feeling the heat of him through his white t shirt. She felt her heart in her throat. She could hardly breathe. After what felt like forever and no time at all they broke the kiss.
“Wow,” said Lewis, “I was expecting you to slap me.”
Mary laughed and buried her face in his shoulder, leaving blue mascara and a lipstick smile on his T shirt. She inhaled deeply, she wanted to fix his scent in her mind. He wrapped his arms around her. Mary felt safe. She looked up at Lewis.
“I can’t just leave him, you know.”
“Why not? I’m sorry, that’s not fair on you. I’ve no idea how things are for you.”
“What would I do? I need time. To work things out. My head’s spinning right now.”
“Take the time you need. I’ll wait. I’ll wait for as long as I have to. I promise.”
They rode back to Tingley Road, Mary holding on to Lewis as tightly as ever. By the time they got back to Lewis’s house, his dad’s car was already parked outside. Mary unlocked her car.
“I should go.” she said.
“I’ll see you soon?”
“Like I said, give me time. Please.”
Lewis nodded solemnly then looked around. There was no-one else on the street and he leaned forward and kissed Mary quickly on the lips.
Mary got into her car and turned the key in the ignition. She felt dizzy. Before she knew it she was parked in her driveway with no memory of the journey back.
Born and raised in West Yorkshire, Kitty now lives in Surrey with her partner and son. Her début novel, Mighty Like a Rose, is a tale of love, friendship and solidarity, set against the backdrop of the 1984-85 Miners' Strike, Mighty Like a Rose follows Mary on her journey from neat detached house to the front line of the UK's longest-running industrial dispute.