Sweet young Irene Forrester sang operetta to earn her modest living—until she met Edward Mortimer Baindor, the temperamental son of a wealthy businessman.
Jilted by her first lover, Irene meekly agrees to marry Edward. He’s rich, masterful, and 14 years her senior, but he can take better care of her than a younger man might, or so says the Baindor family solicitor. Irene bears him a son, but Edward allows her little time with the boy. To all appearances, Edward is a pillar of respectability, but behind closed doors he’s a sadist who ties and flogs his wife, then bites her flesh before raping her. Unable to bear his abuse, Irene plans escape when a childhood friend, now a young man, comes to her dressing room—and Edward bursts in and assumes the worst. He beats them both mercilessly, sues for custody of his son, and consigns Irene to an asylum. Unhinged, she nonetheless gets free and is rescued by Bella Morgan, a loquacious Liverpudlian who, with Geordie Joe, a giant of a man, and Pimple Face, runs a fruit stall in front of a house her former employer left her. Although Irene communicates chiefly in gestures, Bella understands that she wants to create a kip house for men able to pay a shilling or two and help out when needed. World War II raids bring many in need of shelter—how to feed and house them all? A secret stash of money is discovered (apparently Bella’s former employer was a diamond smuggler), and happy years pass until a minor mishap lands Pimple Face in hospital and his doctor is—Richard Baindor! Irene swoons on hearing her son's name, and the truth is revealed at last. Aghast at his mother’s fragility (she’s near death), Richard at last confronts his monstrous father, now a peer and a multimillionaire. . . .
They don’t write melodramas like this any more. A posthumous humdinger from Cookson (Kate Hannigan’s Girl, 2001, etc.).