The Deception of Harriet Fleet by Helen Scarlett, a chilling Gothic novel set in the wild and beautiful landscape of County Durham, has been bought by Quercus.

Jane Wood, Publisher, brought UK and Commonwealth rights in a 2-book deal, with plans to publish in Spring 2021.

Of the deal, Jane said: “This novel swept me back to the Brontës and those fantastic 19th works that we grew up with. Yet The Deception of Harriet Fleet has an added dimension. Seen through modern eyes, the book reminds us how frustrating life was then for clever women who dared to voice the slightest intellectual ambition. I believe this novel will appeal to women of all ages and look forward eagerly to launching it.”

Helen Scarlett said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that The Deception of Harriet Fleet will be published by Quercus. I couldn’t think of a better home for my novel and I’m so excited to be working with someone as talented and knowledgeable as Jane. I’ve also been lucky with all the support I’ve received from my wonderful agent Giles Milburn. I’m really looking forward to seeing my first novel in print.”

With echoes of the Brontës and other classic Victorian Gothic novels, the debut follows Harriet Fleet, who through escaping the traumas of her own life, becomes trapped by the sinister secrets of Teesbank Hall and its troubled residents.

1871. An age of discovery and progress. But for the Wainwrights, residents of the remote Teesbank Hall, it’s the past that casts a shadow over their lives.

Harriet Fleet arrives as governess to the resentful Eleanor, a fiercely bright 18-year-old, tortured by demons and feared by family and staff alike.

It soon becomes apparent that Harriet is not there to teach Eleanor, but rather to monitor her erratic and dangerous behaviour, the result of a frustrated intellect strangled by the stifling, malevolent atmosphere at home.

This is a family that’s guarding a terrible secret. Ancient wrongs are slowly unearthed, convincing Harriet that ghosts from the past are determined to reveal her own shameful story. For Harriet, like Eleanor, is plagued by deception and untruths.

Helen has a BA (hons) degree from London University and, after a brief flirtation with the world of finance, has taught secondary English for over twenty years, most recently in a sixth form college. In that time, society has become much more open in talking about mental health issues and this formed the starting point for her novel. She lives and works in the North East of England, a region which holds endless fascination for her and whose influence can be felt throughout her writing.