|Mentee Name||Title of Manuscript||Mentor Name||Age Category||Genre(s)||Total word count (approx.)|
|Chrissy Sturt||Be Brave Boy||Hannah Kates||MG||Historical Fiction||60000|
As a racehorse, Hagen has only ever wanted to win. But when he fails to live up to expectations, he’s cast aside. Flogged to the British Army, Hagen has a new chance to shine as a cavalry charger. His greatest wish is to please his stern new master, the Duke of Wellington, and help him lead the fight against Napoleon’s forces in Spain.
But the French fight hard and the confusion of battle threatens to take Hagen back in time to the horrors of the racecourse. As both men and horses fall, Hagen lives in constant fear that he—or one of his herd—will be next. Off the battlefield, there’s no peace either. Turnham, Wellington’s evil coachman, is constantly plotting to punish Hagen for his long-forgotten past. Even worse, there’s hunger, disease and gruelling mountain marches.
Hagen must believe in his stallion strength and trust his instincts. Only he can feel when Wellington begins to falter in the face of an overwhelming enemy. At Waterloo, the fight has never been fiercer and Hagen must keep Wellington safe for the sake of the entire army. Man and horse must work together to overcome Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his elite forces, or all of Europe will be lost.
BE BRAVE BOY is 60,000-word middle grade historical fiction based on Wellington’s real-life stallion, Copenhagen, who was buried in Wellington’s garden with full military honours. This is a fictionalised re-telling of his life from reject racehorse to war hero.
I am a Hampshire-based equestrian and award-winning BBC journalist. I was a finalist in ‘The Hook’ at last year’s SCBWI conference, a #WriteMentor mentee, an adult favourite in Write Mentor’s #CNA 2020 and second in a recent flash fiction competition.
Chapter 1 – Hidden in Shadows
Winter Wind ambushes me from the side. I swing towards her, flicking out with my tail stump. Her chill touch is on my hindquarters, over my back, in my ears. I give chase for a few strides, but she’s gone again, surging up through the old yew tree with a wild screech.
I skid to a halt under the dark branches as they creak and groan, needle-sharp leaves leaking their bitter odour. Cold air swirls in my nostrils. The ridges of frozen tree roots start to turn my hooves to ice, but a warm dribble of dawn just reaches the tips of my ears. I tilt my face and the shaft of light falls down my nose. It’s unusual to feel the touch of the sun. Usually, I’m hidden in shadows.
The nasty old yew tree sprawls in all directions, throwing my enclosure into darkness. It completely blocks my view of Eaton Hall, home to the Grosvenor family. Its brittle branches drag down to the ground, reach up to scratch the sky, and stretch out to each side. I’ve given up trying to see the big house, its stables and paddocks, dotted with Grosvenor horses. Mother is out there somewhere. I try not to think of our separation.
I sigh—long and deep—and my cloud of breath hovers in the air.
I’ve been stuck here for many weeks, with no view in any direction. Dense evergreen hedges line the other three sides of this small enclosure. I’m a young stallion. I should be on the lookout for my herd.
Yet again, the thought I’ve nobody to keep watch for makes my skin shiver and my wet wound pulse. That’s my hidden hurt, near my heart—the scar that can’t be seen. Unlike the others.
Winter Wind dives back down, seeking me out. She skims along my spine and lifts tufts of my mane, trying to rile me into rough play. I lower my neck and give her flat ears. She can’t stir any excitement in me. Not like she used to.
Could I jump the hedges? I scrape a foot, assessing the height—as I have a thousand times—before jerking away with a snort. I’m no jumper. I’m a good for nothing fellow. That’s what Cribbage calls me.
He’s my jockey at the Eaton Hall racing stud and works for General Grosvenor, my owner. Turn him away, Cribbage said. To disappoint those you most want to please is a terrible feeling. They took away my rugs and levered off my shoes, leaving my feet bare. Wearing shoes shows you have a job. We’re not just pretty field ornaments. Every horse must work. All that happened some time ago, before the Autumnal chill set in. I’ve been waiting for someone to come for me ever since.
My ears pick up the far-off clop of Grosvenor racehorses heading out to the gallops. I miss their company. How nice it would feel to lean over my door and do touch noses or scratch pact—a brisk groom of each other’s hard-to-reach places—the way Mother taught me.