Friday, September 21, 2018

Inspiration for Polly's Pride books

The idea came from the story of Great Aunt Hannah who, back in the thirties in order to survive through difficult times, sold off all the furniture save for an earthenware bread bin and their bed. The bread bin thereafter held their food, and acted as a table or stool. With the money, she and her husband bought second hand carpets from auctions and better class homes, which they cut up to sell on the local market. They also bought many other items offered, such as small pictures, clocks, jugs and vases, even chamber pots. Anything saleable was grist to the mill for them to survive. Everything would be loaded on to a two-wheeled hand cart and transported home to their rented terraced house.

Carpets in those days were a luxury, most houses in working class areas covering their floors with lino, although kitchens were generally just scrubbed flags, perhaps with a rag rug made from scraps of old clothes. But when they first went into business they did not have the space or the facilities to properly clean the carpets before putting them up for sale. On one occasion Aunt Hannah was showing a carpet to a prospective buyer when a huge cockroach ran across it. Fortunately he didn’t see it as she quickly grabbed the horrible thing in her hand and held it until the customer had paid for the carpet and left. She must have been a tough lady.

They also bought the entire set of carpets from the German ship SS Leviathan which was being scrapped. In order to do that, and having refurnished from the profit made, they sold everything all over again, repeating this process several times. Gradually their hard work paid off and they expanded, renting the shop next door, and later bought property where they began to sell new carpets, as Polly does in the books. Aunt Hannah was such a kind lady that when my parents, who had married early in the war, finally set up home together in 1945 in rented premises as a shoe repairer, living behind the shop, she gave them a brand new carpet as a gift. They treasured this for much of their married life, as they’d only had Dad’s demob money, and otherwise would have been on bare boards.

I often use family stories, suitably adapted and fictionalised. In this case my aunt had a very happy marriage, not suffering the traumas that Polly was forced to endure.


ebooks and paperbacks available on Amazon 

Polly’s Pride

Polly’s War 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Free on Kindle!

Kitty McKenzie Book 1 FREE on Kindle 5 days only!!
After losing everything, can she keep her family safe?
‘5 Stars – enjoyable read!’
#Historical #Victorian @amazonkindle
myBook.to/KittyMcKenzie


1864 - Suddenly left as the head of the family, Kitty McKenzie must find her inner strength to keep her family together against the odds. Evicted from their resplendent home in the fashionable part of York after her parents’ deaths, Kitty must fight the legacy of bankruptcy and homelessness to secure a home for her and her siblings. Through sheer willpower and determination she grabs opportunities with both hands from working on a clothes and rag stall in the market to creating a teashop for the wealthy. Her road to happiness is fraught with obstacles of hardship and despair, but she refuses to let her dream of a better life for her family die. She soon learns that love and loyalty brings its own reward.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Blog Tour of The Promise of Tomorrow

The Promise of Tomorrow is going on a blog tour - when I write that I always think of a rock star tour - haha - anyway, my lovely historical novel is being featured at the blogs below from October 1st - 8th.
Everyone is welcome to stop by each blog and say hello.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

New release!

Happy Release Day to me!!
The Promise of Tomorrow has been released!
Can Charlotte find the happiness that always seems under threat, and will Harry return home to her?

Available in ebook and paperback on Amazon:


The Promise of Tomorrow blurb
Charlotte Brookes flees her lecherous guardian, McBride, taking her younger sister with her. After a year on the road, they stumble into a Yorkshire village where the Wheelers, owners of the village shop, take them in. This new life is strange for Charlotte, but preferable to living with McBride or surviving on the roads.  Harry Belmont is an important man in the village, but he’s missing something in his life. His budding friendship with Charlotte gives him hope she will feel more for him one day, and he will marry the woman he yearns for. 
When McBride discovers where Charlotte lives, his threats begin. Harry fights to keep Charlotte safe, but World War I erupts and Harry enlists.  Left to face a world of new responsibilities, and Harry’s difficult sister, Charlotte must run the gauntlet of family disputes, McBride's constant harassment, and the possibility of the man she loves being killed.
Can Charlotte find the happiness that always seems under threat, and will Harry return home to her?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Cover Reveal!

Here it is! The beautiful cover for The Promise of Tomorrow. 

Now available for pre-order on Amazon!

Can Charlotte find the happiness that always seems under threat, and will Harry return home to her?

Amazon:




Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Competition!

A paperback copy of my historical novel, Isabelle's Choice is the prize in a competition held on the Coronation Street blog this week.
Enter for your chance to win.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Women Affected by World War One

More than 700,000 British men were killed during World War One, and women suffered badly from bereavement, grieving for their lost loved ones. More than a million women never found a man to marry, or the opportunity to bear children. They came to accept they never would have any, their lives having changed forever. They felt lonely with solitary lives and many lost their jobs, once the war was over. At least 750,000 women were made redundant in 1918. All men who returned were highly given priority, and even if a woman had children to care for, and no husband, she would still find it extremely difficult to gain a job.

Many began to seek careers, the facility to be able to vote and the opportunity to live their own life. They also wanted the freedom to enjoy themselves by going to the picture-palace or the palais-de-danse, if they wished of an evening. They weren’t interested in going back to being servants or maids, they either wished to keep the job they’d worked on during the war, or find a better one with good pay to care for themselves or any children they might have. Unfortunately they were not granted equal pay, and had no right to vote until 1918 when a law granted that ability to those over thirty who owned property.

Even those women who were married, their task now was to stay home, cook, clean and care for their family and be a dutiful wife. Their husbands generally felt ashamed of having her working and employers agreed and sacked them. Men saw themselves as the ruling section of society. But some men who had survived were likely to have been injured, maimed, or psychologically damaged, and their wives needed to be the one to work and care for them too.

There were many surplus women after the war. Those lucky enough to have secure financial independence often had no wish to hand it over to a husband and become ruled by him. Others felt desperate for a husband, but suffered loneliness, virginity, no children, grief for lost loved ones, or the loss of their job and rights. My books usually has a strong woman as the main character - who must succeed against all odds. She can be found fighting against the difficulty of her life, aspiring to better herself, and battling against the restrictions and prejudices of the time or whatever other dire circumstances she finds herself in. She must pit good against evil and win by her own efforts, no matter what she has suffered or lost along the way. Cecily greatly believed this, attempted to help her sister and women battling to achieve an improvement in their life. As a member of the suffragists, she was happy to assist local women who risked going on strike in order to earn more money.

Extract from Girls of the Great War: 
It came to Cecily that having been involved with the suffrage movement for so long, she could possibly attempt to assist them in this battle.
     ‘Are you managing to resolve this problem?’ she asked Sally Fielding, one of her former tram workers. A group of them were standing on the Old Town Street holding posters high, one stating: Is a Woman’s Place in the Home? Another said: We Believe in Equality. ‘I can understand why I was not granted my job back on the trams, having been away entertaining the troops in France. Those of you who’ve worked for them throughout the war should have that right.’
     ‘Indeed we should,’ Sally agreed. ‘They accuse us of having less strength and more health problems than men. Absolute tosh! The bloody government treats us like servants. We were doing our bit for the duration of the war but are now being dismissed and replaced by men they consider to be more skilled. We women have worked damned hard and done well. They see us as less productive, which we’re most definitely not and surely have the right to the same pay.’
     ‘Did you join a trade union?’ Cecily asked.
     ‘We did indeed. Once we’d registered to work in the war, why would we not protect ourselves? It was recommended we do that when we were sent a leaflet issued by the War Emergency Workers’ National Committee.’
     ‘Are you managing to provide some funds for unpaid women on strike?’
     ‘Not very well,’ Sally said, pulling a face.
     ‘Right, I’ll help with that.’ She remained with them for the remainder of the day. Taking off one of her boots she held it out to passers-by, begging a donation as a token of their support . When dusk fell she handed over a fair sum of money to Sally. ‘I’ll try to collect more tomorrow. How long will this strike last?’
     ‘Maybe just a couple of days this week. Then if we don’t get anywhere, even longer next.’
     ‘I’ll be there to join you,’ she promised.
     Cecily continued to spend time each day assisting more women by raising money to provide them with an income, as they received none while on strike. It felt such a satisfaction, giving her a fresh purpose in life. Despite the troubles they were enduring she too sorely missed the work she’d been involved with during the war, and her talent. She wrote a brief letter to Boyd, to tell him of her satisfaction in helping these women on strike, being a suffragist. She sorely missed him too.
     ‘Can I do anything more to help?’ she asked her friend Sally.
     ‘Aye, you could write a newspaper report depicting our success and why we deserve to receive the same rate of bonus that is being given to men workers, as a result of the war.’
     ‘I’ll be happy to give that a go,’ Cecily agreed. She wrote at length about how many women during the war had worked in munitions, coal, gas and power supplies, factories, transport and various offices.

 
Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Monday, June 18, 2018

Performance in the Great War.

Entertainment was a place where soldiers could escape the harsh realities of their dangerous life. They were always overjoyed to see these performances. Concerts took place to liven up the troops. Two or three concerts a day were often available and most popular. Drama presented a particular challenge: contemporary comedies and romances were played with canteen furniture, and the scenery was often a backdrop of night sky. Violin solos, string quartets, operatic arias, all were performed behind the front lines. It was not unusual for the audience to be in their hospital beds, or wheeled out of the wards, even if rain beat down upon them. Shows were also given on ships, and out in the wild country or desert.

Back in England the war naturally brought a surge in patriotism, both in drama and cinema. Music hall was one of the dominant forms in World War One. Theatre managers, newspaper editors, civic leaders and even clergymen insisted that people wanted cheering up and were not expected or even allowed to use their brains or be presented with serious matter. The war was expected to end by Christmas. Many plays were written about the suffering, but the emphasis was more on the humorous to attract the masses. Soldiers on leave flocked to the theatres with their sweethearts, eager to be amused and entertained. There were many famous performers such as Harry Lauder, Vesta Tilley dressed as a soldier, Gertie Gitana and others, all popular with troops out in the war and for soldiers and their families back home.

After the war, popular tastes began to change. Entertainment then preferred Charleston, jazz and syncopation. Performers would often entertain cinema audiences between films. Queues too would be entertained by dancing dogs or a man playing a banjo or accordion. Then a collection would be taken up for the soldiers and sailors. Benefit performances were held to raise money to entertain wounded soldiers; just as there were Tank Weeks, or fund raising for an ambulance.

In Girls of the Great War, Cecily, having lost the love of her life, eagerly goes to entertain the soldiers in France, filled with the need to help and overcome depression, Her sister, mother and Johnny, a drummer friend, accompanied her, a part of which proved to be a problem. I was inspired to write this because I’d been involved in amateur dramatics for much of my life. I still love the theatre, and have collected many books on the history of it and famous actors. Writing about it was a joy, and I have touched on this theme in one or two others of my books.

 

Here is a short extract of Cecily’s first performance. 

There was no proper stage, no curtains, dressing rooms or footlights, but they did have acetylene gas lamps glimmering brightly around the boxes. They worked for hours rehearsing and enduring more instructions from Queenie on what and how they should perform. Cecily suffered a flutter of panic as she became aware of hundreds more men gathering in the audience. A few were seated on boxes or benches, the rest of the area packed with a solid mass standing shoulder to shoulder. Many had been patiently waiting hours for the concert to start. Looking at the state of them it was evident that many had come direct from the trenches where they’d probably been trapped in horrific conditions for months. Those unable to move from their tent pulled the flaps open so that they too could hear the concert.
    Heart pounding and nerves jangling, Cecily felt the urge to turn and run as the moment for the concert to start came closer. Was her mother right and she couldn’t sing well at all? Would they roar and boo at her as they had that time at Queenie?
    She steadied her breathing, smoothed down her skirt with sweaty fingers and when she walked on stage the men gave a loud cheer of welcome. The excitement in their faces filled her with hope and as she stepped forward to the front of the boxed stage the audience instantly fell silent, looking enthralled and spellbound. She exchanged a swift glance with Merryn, counted one, two, three, four . . . and her sister and Johnny both began to play, sounding most professional. Cecily started to sing:
         
          There’s a Long, Long Trail A-winding. 
          Into the land of my dreams, 
          Where the nightingales are singing 
          And a white moon beams:

    As she sang, her fears, depression and worries vanished in a surge of elation, soaring into a new life, and bringing these soldiers pleasure and relief from the war. When the song was over she received a tumultuous applause, cheers, whistles and roars of appreciation from them. Smiling broadly she went on to sing ‘Roses of Picardy’, followed by ‘Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag’ and many other popular favourites. Most of the Tommies would readily join in to sing the chorus whenever Cecily invited them to do so. Others would weep, as if fraught with emotion because they were homesick and felt greatly moved by this reminder of England. Then would again cheer and roar with happiness at the end, urging her to sing an encore.
    ‘You are doing quite well,’ her mother casually remarked during the short interval, a comment Cecily greatly appreciated. ‘Now sing some of those jolly music hall songs that I recommended.’
    ‘Right you are.’
    Cecily went on to sing ‘Burlington Bertie From Bow’and ‘Fall In And Follow Me’. These brought bright smiles and laughter to all the Tommies’ faces. She finished with ‘Your King and Country Want You’, bringing forth loud cheers of agreement. How she loved singing to these soldiers. If she hadn’t been a star before, she certainly felt like one now.


Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Publication of my latest book

I was very fortunate back in 2010 to get the rights of many of my backlist reverted from a couple of publishers. Hearing about ebooks in the US I set out to learn how to produce them, finally achieved that and regularly self-published some. Sales began quite slowly, which didn’t trouble me as I was also writing for another publisher. But once Kindles arrived in the UK in Christmas 2011, I must say my sales shot up surprisingly well and I was amazed by my success. As a consequence in 2013, I was contacted by Amazon Lake Union for an interview, then later offered a contract by them. My first book with them, The Amber Keeper, soon sold over a hundred thousand, and has now sold more. Such a thrill. Selling ebooks is now much higher for me than print books. My second book was Forgotten Women, which is also doing quite well.

Now comes publication of Girls of the Great War, which I loved writing too. I was always supported by my parents, but Cecily in this story had enormous problems with her mother. And there was no sign of her father, which was a great worry to her and her sister Merryn. Queenie was a most difficult woman, refusing to speak of him. She also greatly objected to her boyfriend and her plan not to marry a rich man. Her attitude did not please Cecily at all, particularly as the love of her life was currently involved in the war. And when she lost him, she very much wished to perform for soldiers in the Great War.

Extract from Girls of the Great War

Prologue 


1894 
She was running as fast as her legs could carry her, rocks constantly tripping her up, and a blanket of trees towering around so that she could barely see where she was going. The sound of heavy feet pounded behind, filling her with panic. Was he chasing her again? Would she be captured? Breathless with fear she ran all the faster, knowing what would happen if she did not escape. She could feel her heart hammering, tension freezing every limb. Then pain rattled through her back with merciless precision. She felt utterly powerless and vulnerable, petrified of what might happen.
    A hand tapped her cheek and she jerked awake in panic.
    ‘Wake up, Martha, it’s time for breakfast.’
    Staring into her mother’s eyes, the young girl gave a small sigh of relief. So this had been yet another nightmare, a trauma she suffered from constantly. The emotion attached to it always cloaked her in absolute terror. At least she had managed to sleep a little last night, which was never easy. Tension would mount within her whenever she went to bed, no longer a relaxing time. Now pain and fear escalated through her once more and she cried out in agony.
    It seemed that having spent nearly five months virtually locked away in her room, she was now about to give birth, although she had only just turned seventeen.
    A part of her longed to vanish into oblivion, to disappear back into the world she’d once enjoyed, not least her happy and privileged childhood. Why had that all gone wrong after her beloved father died? Would she now die? Many women did when suffering this traumatic event. Would the good Lord take her to heaven? Her soul having no real attachment to Him, it was doubtful He would trust in her innocence and accept her. Nor did her mother, who’d made it clear she didn’t believe a word her daughter said. She no longer viewed her as respectable and had offered no sympathy or support, declaring that no one must ever learn of her condition.
    Martha gazed up at the window, her blue eyes glittering with desolation. How she ached to catch a glimpse of the sun, the cliffs and the sea. Oh, and how she missed her life. Her mind flicked back to the young man she’d once grown fond of. He was most handsome, dressed in baggy trousers, and lived in one of the fisherman’s huts. Whenever he wasn’t away at sea working in smacks and yawls to catch fish, he’d be in a local pub eating, drinking or gambling. He also spent much of his time sitting by the harbour mending nets. They’d sometimes listen to the band down on the bay along with crowds of spectators, or watch a concert and dancing. Claiming he adored her, he’d give her sweet kisses and had her name tattooed on to his arm. Then one day, when she’d excitedly hurried to meet him, as usual, he’d told her he was off to America in search of a new life, having become bored with fishing. She’d felt utterly devastated. He was so charming and helpful over her family problems that she was almost falling in love with him. How she missed him, but if he were still around why would he ever agree to marry her?
    Now water suddenly flushed out of her and the sound of her screaming echoed around the room, bouncing against the shutters that blocked the window. Over the next several hours she sank into more agony with no doctor or midwife around to help, only Enid her maid and of course Mama. Whenever another bolt of merciless pain struck, she struggled to sit up in a bid to resist it, only to be pushed back down by her scolding mother.
    Finally, something solid slid out of her, leaving her breathless and exhausted. She felt hands pressing upon her belly and more stuff flopped out, including blood that soaked the bed sheets. Then she found herself being briskly washed, wiped, stripped and dressed by the maid, making her feel like a piece of dirt. Not a single word had been spoken to her, save for orders to push hard and stop screaming. And no comfort offered.
    Whatever child had been delivered was now swept up into her mother’s arms and she marched away, slamming the door behind her. Martha gave a small sob of distress aware she’d been informed the baby would instantly be given away for adoption. She certainly would not be allowed to keep it. If only her life could return to normal but the harsh, uncaring attitude of her mother proved that would never happen.
    It came to her then that with the agony of her imprisonment and this birth finally over, she had no desire to stay here any longer. In order to maintain her safety, she needed to go as far away from here as possible, and change her name. The time had come for her to leave home and build a new life for herself. Then she’d find herself a husband and become respectable again.




Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 


Amazon UK

Amazon US

Monday, April 23, 2018

Updated Cover!

A New Dawn is my short story about characters Briony and James and the start to their life together, which as you guessed it doesn't go smoothly as they are on board the Titanic. I have an idea to continue their story into a full length novel one day, I just need to find the time to write it along with all the other stories I want to write! LOL



A New Dawn, a short story.
Escaping a brutal father, Briony runs to James, the man she loves. 
With his family’s blessing, they marry and prepare for a new life in a new country – America. 
A wedding gift of two tickets to travel on an ocean liner is a wonderful surprise. 
Full of anticipation and hope, they set sail. 
Only, fate has sent them a challenge that tests, not just their strength and love, but their very survival.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Night Owl Reviews gave my historical novel a Reviewer Top Pick:
 
'Historical romance readers will fall in love with both Amelia and Gilbert. "On A Stormy Primeval Shore" was a fabulous tale of life and hardship in historical Canada.'
 
Blurb:
In 1784, Englishwoman Amelia Latimer sails to the new colony of New Brunswick in faraway Canada. She’s to marry a man chosen by her soldier father. Amelia is repulsed by her betrothed, and refuses to marry him. Determined to defy her parent and cultivate herbs in this wilderness, she then meets the handsome Acadian trader, Gilbert, a man beneath her in status.
Gilbert must protect his mother, once attacked by an English soldier. He fights to hold on to their property, to keep it from the Loyalists who flood the colony—desperate men chased from the south after the American Revolution. In a land fraught with hardship, Amelia and Gilbert struggle to overcome prejudice, political upheaval, while forging an existence in a remote country where events seek to destroy their love and lives.
 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Wartime Recipes

Bread and Butter Pudding
Several slices of thin bread with margarine or butter
2 ounces of sugar (if available) otherwise one grated apple.
2 oz of dried raisins
1 beaten or dried egg
1 pint of milk ½ teaspoon of cinnamon

Line a pie dish with layers of the sliced buttered bread, raisins and a sprinkle of sugar or grated apple between each. Beat up the egg or add the dried egg to the milk, then pour over the pudding and all to stand for about ten minutes. Cook at around 175 degrees for an hour or so.

Lord Woolton Pie 
Chop a selection of potatoes, cauliflower, swedes, carrots, onions or whatever other vegetable you have available, and add one tablespoon of oatmeal.
Cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
Put them in a pie dish, add a sprinkle of herbs, thyme, sage or parsley, as you wish, and a little brown gravy. Line the top with sliced potatoes or wholemeal pastry and bake in a moderate oven until the pastry has browned.

Mock Cream
1 tablespoon of dried milk
2 oz margarine or butter
1 teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of vanilla essence

 Beat the margarine and sugar, slowly add the dried milk then add the vanilla and beat until smooth.

Chocolate Haystacks 
8 shredded wheat
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
2 oz cocoa.

Mix and shape in an egg cup. Set out on a tray. Do not cook just leave to harden.

Courting Cake
8 oz flour
4 oz marg/butter
2 oz sugar
1 egg (fresh or dried)

Mix to a stiff pastry with a little milk. Cut in half. Roll out one round and spread with jam. Roll a second round and place on top. Or cut and form the other half into tiny balls and place evenly on top. Bake approx 40 - 45 mins at 180C until golden brown.

Bran Loaf 
4 oz All Bran
4 oz brown sugar
6 oz mixed dried fruit
½ pint milk
4 oz Self Raising flour
1 tsp Baking Powder

Soak bran, sugar and fruit in the milk for 30 mins in a mixing bowl. Add the sifted flour and BP and mix well. Put mixture in a greased loaf tin. Bake for approximately 1 hour at 180C.

Brenda in Always in my Heart proved to be an excellent cook, if it sometimes created problems by treating her as a servant instead of a family member.



Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans. Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least is safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil. 

Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation. The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy. 

Available in most good books shops and online.

WH Smith 

Amazon UK

Amazon US 

Kobo

Monday, February 26, 2018

Researching York

Been deep in research for the current novel I'm writing which is set in York. I've bought some books to help in getting the feel of the city again, as it's been a while since I wrote my last book set in York (for those interested Kitty McKenzie and Aurora's Pride are set in York). It's so lovely to be writing in the Victorian era again, after a few books set in WWI.
I've been studying old maps which is so helpful to figure out where my characters would live and the areas they would shop and socialise.
This novel heavily features the poorer areas of the city, and it's been fascinating reading about workhouses and the slum areas. York is a beautiful city full of history and I enjoy going there and walking the streets, and now I have the perfect excuse to keep going there - for research of course!


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Inspiration For All Our Tomorrows

Why did the Yanks come to Cornwall? The river valley and creeks of Fowey were well defended, as they provided a relatively secure place to hide munitions which the enemy would more likely expect to find in Plymouth, surely never thinking to look in this secret, wooded hideaway. The docks, from where the ammunition was shipped and the china clay dispatched, were guarded around the clock, with nobody allowed in without a pass. There were guards stationed in the Pillbox at Whitehouse, and Albert Quay had tank traps across the centre with barbed wire along the seaward edge, as did many of the beaches. In addition, at St. Catherine’s, closer to the mouth of the river, there was a gun point, and one on the opposite side at Polruan.

The navy came first with their minesweepers and Z boats, armed trawlers and motor gunboats, swiftly followed by the RAF, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, plus many units doing jobs nobody quite understood or dared question. Situated as the town was, relatively close to the Channel Islands and to France, the movement of the French fishing fleet within these waters was common place, and who knew what they were up to half the time? Hush-hush boats, they called them.

 All my interviewees remembered the American soldiers with great affection, how they were great at throwing a party for the children, and Santa Claus would arrive in an army truck loaded with sacks full of presents, one for each child. The local girls clamoured to get to know them, as do the two sisters in my story. For fun, they went dancing to the Armoury, up near the doctor’s surgery, or to the flicks, which was near Berrill’s yard. So many lovely memories were told to me.

 Sara is asked if she would help organise the school children into collecting bagfuls of seaweed. This was a special commodity which the coastal towns of Cornwall could provide, being a variety known as gonothyraea, used in the making of penicillin. Janet, one of my interviewees remembers doing this as a girl – I think she quite enjoyed the excuse to miss school. By December Sara has been co-opted onto the War Weapons Week committee where plans were in progress for a major fund-raising event the following year. They also had something called Salute the Soldier Week.

In reality the town raised tens of thousands of pounds to buy boats and equipment although they had no real idea what operation was being carried out in Cornwall before their very eyes. They collected vast amounts of salvage, old magazines, letters, books and paper of every sort. Tin and other scrap metal, rags and bones. Jam jars, bottle tops and old iron bedsteads. Apparently the pavements were piled high with the stuff. The council paid 10 shillings a ton to the St John Ambulance for each ton of salvage they received. And all this from a population of no more than 2,000 living in 600 houses.

So many memories, of rationing and making do; colour prejudice, fights and love affairs; Fowey Home Guard who once sank the boat they were towing upstream; French Fishing boats and Secret Operations; the huge camp up at Windmill; the wounded being brought home on soiled and stinking mattresses and nursed back to health in lovely quiet Fowey; school children competing to collect the most salvage and being told off for straying under the coils of barbed wire.

There were tragedies, of course, much pain and suffering, fear and trauma, and no one will ever forget those brave men. But most of all we like to remember the good times, and the spirit that is essentially Fowey. So what was all the army efforts in aid of? Operation Overlord. The master plan for an Allied invasion of Europe. Everyone knew that something was going on, but nobody dared speak of what they saw or knew. Edna, another of my interviewees, remembers being brought from her bed as a young girl, and told this was a moment in history that she must see. We all know the heavy toll of their victory in reality. What it brings to the lives of my characters, I’ll leave you to discover for yourself.


Excerpt: 
‘Ships filled the River Fowey, so many that you could have walked from one shore to the other without getting your feet wet. A living mass of men and machines, seething with activity and noise: a throbbing, whining, whirring and rattling; a clattering of gas masks, canteens and weapons, and the endless chatter of hundreds, packed tightly into every corner, waiting for the order to leave. 

Hour upon hour they waited, cold and damp, sick to their stomachs with apprehension and fear, in full combat gear, weighed down with equipment. The loading had been done chiefly at night, scores of vehicles driving straight onto the LSTs; thousands of foot soldiers directed up the gangway and counted on board. 

It was June 4 and they left later that night but by the following day were driven back by the weather to spend yet another night in harbour. After all these months of preparation, all the careful planning and organising, the fate of Operation Overlord appeared to be at the mercy of the elements. There was a storm brewing and if the weather did not improve, there would be further delays. 

Twenty-four hours later the decision finally came. This time for real. On the night of June 5 they left the safe waters of Fowey, Falmouth and the Helford River, and all the other ports along the south coast for the last time and headed out to sea. Operation Overlord was underway at last.’ 

‘An enthralling wartime page-turner.’ Historical Novel Society Review 

Available in books shops and online.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Friday, January 12, 2018

Evacuation Of Children in WW2

It began the first day of September 1939 due to the threat of bombing. Parents were expected to pay 6s per week. Those who were not so well off were charged less and assisted by the government and people taking in evacuees were paid around eight shillings or as much as sixteen, according to the age and needs of the children. Billeting officers helped find them foster homes. Some sent out by Operation Pied Piper at the outbreak of war, involving over a million children being moved to the countryside within just a few days. More were sent in 1940 when the phoney war was over and bombing really started.

Indication of the official return was sent out in May 1945 but permitted until the war was completely over in the east. Not all children chose to come when instructed to do so. Megan, in Peace in my Heart, much preferred to stay with the landladies she thought of as their kind and caring aunts, having lived with them for three years. This was very often the case. Some children hardly recognised their parents, looking and feeling like strangers, not having seen them for years. This was often because they had little memory of their parents, felt they’d been neglected and abandoned, or simply loved their surrogate parents more. Coming home often didn’t seem much fun.

The parents were devastated when they found little show of affection from the children they’d badly missed. And many had lost loved ones for whom they were grieving. In this story Cecily and Megan discovered that their home had been bombed and had no idea where their mother was living, or even if she was still alive. Evie was, but finding her children was equally difficult, as was locating a new place for them to live. And when they found them, would they ever agree to come home and would they still their mam and dad?

Settling in with their family after years away was never easy and adjustments had to be made by all. For some the place they’d been living during the war had been exciting, and they found it difficult to return to their previous life they considered more boring. Their personality too had changed as they’d gradually grown up with caring people in a different area. However, if they’d suffered problems as an evacuee, perhaps been overworked, neglected or abused, they ceased to trust anyone. Sometimes their class or religion could be considered wrong by their surrogate parents. Whatever problems they suffered could result in them feeling rife with stress and anxiety, depression or obstinacy. Nor had they any wish to discuss these problems with their parents, once they returned home, not wishing to recall what had happened. Evacuation had saved lives but in many cases did create yet more problems for the family.


 The war is over and Evie Talbert eagerly awaits the return of her three children from their evacuated homes. But her carefree daughters and son are barely recognisable – their education has been disrupted, the siblings split up, and the effect on them has been life-changing. Her son has developed serious behavioural problems and with her daughters, there’s jealousy and a nervous disorder that cannot be explained… 

Evie’s husband also has problems. Having returned from being in action, he suffers nightmares and fits of rage. He’s no longer the gentle, quiet man Evie married. Peace may finally be here, but Evie’s family is in shreds. Now she must rebuild a loving home to achieve the happiness she’s always dreamed of… 

Available at WH Smith and other good Book shops, also online.

Amazon UK

Amazon US