Barbara Havelocke

gothic historical thrillers

Imagine being raised in darkness and brainwashed against men. What terrible psychological impact would this have on a child? What kind of emotionally-scarred adult would she grow to be? What chance of living a normal life?

These were the questions haunting me every time I read Great Expectations. The drive to find answers was what inspired my debut historical fiction, Estella’s Revenge.


You know Miss Havisham.

The world’s most famous jilted bride.

This is her daughter’s story.

Raised in the darkness of Satis House where the clocks never tick, the beautiful Estella is bred to hate men and to keep her heart cold as the grave.

She knows she doesn’t feel things quite like other people do but is this just the result of her strange upbringing?

As she watches the brutal treatment of women around her, hatred hardens into a core of vengeance and when she finds herself married to the abusive Drummle, she is forced to make a deadly choice:

should she embrace the darkness within her and exact her revenge?

Estella’s Revenge is a stunningly original, gripping Gothic read, perfect for fans of Stacey Halls, Eve Chase and Jessie Burton.

My name is Estella; it means ‘star’. I was named in the hope I would be a light to guide my adoptive mother out of the emotional blackness that enveloped her. Instead, I have become something far darker than any night.

My inspiration

Journalism, psychological thrillers & passion

I’m excited to introduce my debut historical thriller. Estella’s Revenge is inspired by the Charles Dickens character Estella Havisham from Great Expectations. It’s a richly-layered tale about coercive relationships, identity, and female anger, which will appeal to fans of the Victorian classic, but also a whole new audience who enjoy gothic historical fiction with crime at its heart and a strong female lead character. For example, The Familiars (Stacey Halls), Daughters of the Night (Laura Shepherd-Robinson), and The Clockwork Girl (Anna Mazzola) as well as contemporary hit How To Kill Your Family (Bella Mackie).

Imagine being raised in darkness and brainwashed against men. What terrible psychological impact would this have on a child? What kind of emotionally-scarred adult would Estellabecome? What chance of living a normal life? These were the questions haunting me every time I read Great Expectations.


As a journalist on national magazines, I interviewed victims and perpetrators of crime; ran an award-winning campaign about domestic abuse, and got involved with my local women’s refuge. Over the past decade I’ve written six psychological thrillers under my real name, Barbara Copperthwaite. With my digital publisher, Bookouture, I have been a No 1 bestseller on Amazon and Kobo. Through it all, I’ve thought of Estella, a child told daily to never love, never trust.

In Great Expectations we’re told she suffers at the hands of her violent husband, Bentley Drummle. Yet there’s a line,spoken by the character Mr Jaggers, about Estella’s marriage: “The stronger will win in the end, but the stronger has to be found first… he may possibly get strength on his side; if it should be a question of intellect, he certainly will not…may the question of supremacy be settled to the lady’s satisfaction!”

This was what fascinated. This was why I had to explore Estella’s story. What it revealed to me was incredible...

Read the prologue to estella’s Revenge…

It is dark, so dark, as dark as my soul, but still there is just enough light down this dank alley for me to see that my hands are stained with something sticky. My blood. In this half-light they look slate-grey but I imagine them as the colour of the half-finished shawl I have been knitting, the vibrant wool lying unspooled somewhere nearby, across the filthy cobbles.

Beneath the blood veneer are cuts and open wounds where my knuckles have split on impact. An experimental try at gently opening and closing my hands makes me suck in my breath, short and sharp, and a smell reminiscent of a butcher’s shop hits my nostrils, mixed with the rank tang of urine, and the freshness of petrichor.

In that first surge of action the pain was blotted out. Now it is rushing in, along with…

I need to stop these ridiculous thoughts and try to find out where all the blood is coming from.

I hold my hands out and take a little shuffle backwards, trying to get away from them and the truth they spell out in violent vermillion. My stomach heaves. I hurriedly wipe my hands on my clothes – and they find something unexpected. My fingers explore. There is something protruding from my bodice. Something long and thin and cold to touch and…realisation dawns.

It is a knitting needle. My own knitting needle.

My heart, which had been slowing, speeds up painfully again, and as I pull the homely weapon out my breathing comes in gasping huffs that refuse to be controlled.

Murder, I think. How did it come to this?

Terror, anger, regret, guilt…

They aren’t the emotions singing through me. No, it is joy. Absently, I lick my lips. A metallic tang of blood spreads across my tongue as my thoughts start to shout.

Murder! It was always going to come to this!

Tears fall: happiness and relief forming a river down my cheeks. Slowly, I fold down onto the damp cobbles and curl up, red hands over my head, trying to quiet myself when all I want to do is scream my elation at finally accepting my fate.

The sound of footsteps running grows fainter. And beside me the dead body starts to cool.

My background

Barbara is an international bestselling author, whose books have topped Amazon and Kobo, and also appeared on the USA Today chart. Her psychological thrillers are: INVISIBLE, FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD, THE DARKEST LIES, HER LAST SECRET, THE PERFECT FRIEND, and THE GIRL IN THE MISSING POSTER. To find out more, visit her website.

She also writes gothic historical thrillers as Barbara Havelocke. ESTELLA’S REVENGE is the first in a new series. It is available for preorder now.


Noir at the Bar, 1 March , Whitley Bay

PUBLICATION DAY TALK, 9 May, The Heath Bookshop

Boston Crime Festival, panel: Bad Women & Toxic Frienships, 9 June

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