How a cruel English folk song inspired my latest story

My new release, NEVER TEMPT A WIDOW, took as its starting point a traditional song that originated in the Hampshire area of England.

In “Pretty Polly”, which I first heard sung by Sandy Denny, Polly is taken deep into the woods by her lover, Willie. When she gets frightened “of his ways”, he tells her she’s guessed correctly- he DOES intend to do her harm. He shows her a newly-dug grave, announcing almost proudly that he worked on it most of the previous night. He then stabs her in the heart.

This is a cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder that freezes the blood. But one of the most chilling lines for me is, “He threw a little dirt over her and started for home.” This is a man with no conscience whatsoever, who gets an innocent girl into trouble after promising to marry her, then slaughters her and doesn’t even bother to cover her body properly, leaving her to the mercies of the forest animals.

What, I wondered, would have happened had Polly and her child survived? How would she feel about love after that? What lengths would a ruined woman go to in order to survive?

I renamed Polly Seraphina, made her a duke’s daughter, and had her survive a drowning attempt. The story takes off from that point. Below is a brief overview.

NEVER TEMPT A WIDOW

The Duke of Wolfingham’s scapegrace daughter Seraphina is convinced her lover tried to kill her. Alone, penniless, and desperate, there’s nothing she can do to save the life of her beloved baby daughter, Adelina. Sir Rowland Cavendish offers an escape from her grief, but how can Seraphina ever trust a man again?

Rowland has just lost his wife, and his baby boy needs feeding. The beautiful young widow from the village would make the perfect wet nurse, but the conditions she sets in exchange for her compliance are not at all what he expects.

Seraphina refuses to share her secrets with Rowland, but her past returns to haunt her, threatening her new-found security. Her future hangs on a knife-edge as the game turns deadly, and a web of kidnapping, blackmail, and lies is uncovered.

She loves Rowland deeply, but if she doesn’t leave him, he may lose what he values above all else. His baby son.

If you fancy taking a look at NEVER TEMPT A WIDOW, it is currently at its pre-order discount price of $0.99 for a couple more days, or you can now read it for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

If you want to find out the full history of this folk song, why not take a look at Paul Slade’s website? It’s fascinating!

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