Welcome to Fifty Shades of Victorian London, where philanderers, drunkards and the very dredges of human society reside.
Wrap up well for the air is cold, and follow me as we first step foot inside Whitechapel, where there exist more slums, brothels and pubs than you will find in any other city.
Remember dear reader, when entering here you will need to keep your wits about you, for many an unsavoury fellow will walk alongside you. A filthy urchin may alarm you by grasping your leg in the faint hope you are feeling generous enough to toss a coin.
But proceed fearlessly and look ahead. You will see that the street lanterns are now alight as we follow the hard-knuckled workers making their way through the dingiest cobbled alleyways, seeking only to fill their bellies with ale.
And here begins a tale inside one of Whitechapel’s fireside taverns.
Step inside this tavern awhile to witness the host of complex characters within. You will hear music, shrill laughs, and witness the devious antics of females sitting atop men’s laps at rickety tables. You may even witness a cat fight or two amongst the unwashed whores, as they battle each other for valuable custom from the slurring, inebriated men.
You may too, if she happens to be checking upon her employees, meet Madame Davenport, the savvy yet heartless brothel-mistress who keeps organised her world of social outcasts and misfits.
If you can stay awhile into the early hours you will very likely stumble upon fifteen year old Catherine Bell who will arrive at a late hour, alone and afraid. Like you, she will feel somewhat repulsed to witness this decrepit scene within, but whilst you, dear reader, may close the pages of this book and return to a life of moderate comfort and social freedoms, she must remain here amongst the disease-infested scourge of society, to be lured upon a pitiful path where many desperate women have trodden before her.
The immoral path of a lower class whore.
Oh pity her if you must, but do not abandon her here for she is an intelligent girl beneath her innocent gaze and her life choices are few. Watch intently as she is groomed in the ways of seduction, for her very survival will depend on it, see how she learns the skilled game of pandering to men’s pleasures for a fee. But Catherine’s unblemished youth and beauty, whilst being a blessing, will also serve as her curse inside this popular tavern, for the seasoned old whores within will envy, despise and reject her.
Soon enough you will witness how her fortunes appear to rise tremendously when one middle class gentleman seeks her favours, if only for much darker ambitions than his pleasure alone.
But we shall leave them now to draw out their scenes of vulgarity, drama and misery in peace. Yes, come, let us step well away from these deliciously flawed and well-drawn characters inside the tavern, and return to the crusty fettering gutters outside.
Be mindful that this is the year 1888. The year Jack the Ripper made famous his dark reign of slaughter. And yes, dear reader, I promise that if you trawl these streets with me long enough, you will undoubtedly discover him within these very pages lurking in and around the stinking mire of Whitechapel’s nest of rotten alleyways, weaving his way between the shadows of thieves, whores, drug gangs and many other irreputable sorts.
Take a gamble though if you will, and walk on with me to witness an empowering tale of jealousy, desperation, desire, fear, abortion, sexual debauchery and of course – murder.
Do not flinch near the end of our journey however, for five women will soon be slaughtered and the man responsible will name himself ‘Jack The Ripper.’ He will embark on a bloody spree that will bury a gut-wrenching fear deep inside the bellies of every living whore.
He too might leave you pale and afraid.
You may wish to stop here, for the imagery he leaves behind is candid, brutal and all too strikingly real. But no, I urge you to continue, for ‘The Whitechapel Virgin,’ is a powerful and complex journey, evocative and gritty in its realism. A journey which hauls the past back to the present, for you to discover and enjoy from your own safe distance. Your patience and courage will be rewarded, for no other souls but ours will discover his identity, none other than you and I will unveil this truth, for the world will always marvel and wonder who he is…
So take the journey and see…
Historical Fiction Published Feb 2014
“Carla Acheson’s story takes you down the dark streets of Whitechapel, to a time when all was not as it seems, and an immense shadow was looming over the metropolis. The book is a real page turner, and one that grips the reader until the very end. An excellent addition to any shelf.” – Mike Covell – Actor, TV Producer
“ACHESON HAS A GIFT FOR BEING ABLE TO BRING THE GRIT OF POVERTY TO LIFE…” – Rachel Malone, (Historical Novel Society.)
“A TREMENDOUSLY compelling story woven around the time of Jack the Ripper’s reign. The author has effectively raised from the dead the bitter voices of downtrodden prostitutes.” – (Metro MANIA)
“DARK, sensationally gripping read… true voyeurism into the Victorian seedy underworld.” A N Hoyle – Historian