Friday, April 24, 2020
Dolly Fitton started in the mill as a doffer at 14, knocking off the filled bobbins, or cops as they were called, replacing them with empty ones. Her real name was Mary Ann but was more affectionately known to her family and friends as Dolly, because she was fairly small. ‘I were the scrapings up off t’mill floor,’ she told me, chortling with glee. ‘Eeh, it were marvellous in t’mill. You could hear them coming a mile off up from the mill. Clattering on the setts,’ she said.
If I’d asked her what she’d had for her dinner she might not have been able to tell me but she recalled the spinning mill vividly. She took me through her day, how the cotton was spun, fleas that were a nuisance, the heat in the mill, and the constant danger of fire. Where and how they had their dinner, and the tricks they used to play on each other in the mill, one being to roll a spindle on the greasy floor and send you flying. She also spoke about how she’d sing in a band as Dolores, and would climb down a drainpipe with her dance frock over her arm, which her mother made for her, so that she could secretly attend. She also mentioned having met Gracie Fields, such a treat.
When first published it sold remarkable well and has done so many times since, and received some good comments. Now published by Canelo.
Where there’s muck, there’s mettle…
Dolly Tomkins has always known what it is to live hand to mouth. In the mean streets of a Salford struggling under the mantle of the Great Depression, the only one making a decent living is the talleyman.
Though Nifty Jack has a money bag where his heart should be, Dolly’s mam is in hock up to her ears and in dire need of assistance. But when Jack offers to wipe the slate clean, Dolly just can’t bring herself to trust him.
Instead, she takes him on at his own game and in the process endangers everything she holds most dear as a revelation about the past rocks the very foundations of her world.
This is an enchanting story of love and endurance perfect for fans of Nadine Dorries and Kitty Neale. Previously published as Watch for the Talleyman.
Praise for 'The Castlefield Collector '
A story which in some ways could be written about today as easily as the 1920s' 5* Reader review
'This is my first novel by Freda and it will definitely not be the last' 5* Reader review '
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from start to finish' 5* Reader review
Dolly Tomkins put her arms about her mother’s frail shoulders and hugged her tight. ‘It’ll be all right Mam, you’ll see. Dad’ll walk through the door any minute with his wage packet in his hand.’
‘Aye, course he will, chuck.’
They both knew this to be wishful thinking. When had Calvin Tomkins ever put the needs of his family before a sure fire certainty, which was how he viewed any bet, whether on the dogs, the horses, or two raindrops running down a window. And since it was a Friday and pay day at the mill, his pocket would be full of brass, burning a hole in his pocket. Most women hereabouts would be waiting with their open hand held out to collect wages as each member of the family came home on pay day. Maisie certainly did that with the three children she still had left at home: Willy, Dolly and Aggie, but had learned that it was a pointless occupation to wait for Calvin’s pay packet. He wouldn’t give a single thought to his long-suffering wife and daughters, not for a moment.
Dolly studied her mother’s face more closely as she bent to cut the cardboard to fit, and slid it into the sole of her boot. The lines seemed to be etched deeper than ever. Dark rings lay like purple bruises beneath soft grey eyes, which had once shone with hope and laughter, and her too-thin shoulders were slumped with weariness. She looked what she was, a woman beaten down by life, and by a husband who thought nothing of stealing the last halfpenny from her purse in order to feed his habit, his addiction, despite the family already being on the brink of starvation.
Maisie handed the boots to her younger daughter with a rare smile. ‘There y’are love, see how that feels.’ Dolly slid her feet inside and agreed they were just fine, making no mention of how the boots pinched her toes since she’d grown quite a lot recently. They’d been Aggie’s long before they’d come to her, and probably Maisie’s before that, and their numerous patches had themselves been patched, over and over again.
Mending her daughters’ footwear was a task carried out each and every Friday in order to give the boots a fresh lease of life. Dolly wore clogs throughout the long working week, but in the evenings and at weekends when she wasn’t at the mill, she liked to make a show of dressing up. Worse, it’d rained for days and Dolly’s small feet were frozen to the marrow. She’d paid a visit to Edna Crawshaw’s corner shop and begged a bit of stiff cardboard off her, whole boxes being at a premium. This piece had Brooke Bond Tea stamped all over it but that didn’t trouble Dolly; the card was thick and strong and would keep out the wet for a while, which was the only consideration that mattered.
Published by Canelo.
Friday, March 13, 2020
About to be published by Ulverscroft.
Having involved myself in a great deal of research about evacuees, I thought it would be good to show their love for Blackpool and the people who cared for them. This idea came from a memory of my grandparents running a boarding house in the centre of Blackpool during the war, largely occupied by evacuees, Polish aircrew, soldiers taking a break, and many of their wives and children coming to visit their husbands. They apparently had a very busy and fascinating time. I learned from my father that he’d been trained as a shoe repairer when he was young before the war, working in Lytham St Annes. He remembered collecting and delivering shoes for George Formby, a lovely entertainer who lived nearby. He also used to do a lot of fishing, and knowing exactly where to do this, he would charge people to show them or provide them with some of the fish he’d caught.
Here they are seated on the right hand side of the first row. My mother worked for his parents for a while, being his girlfriend. Once the war broke out they quickly married. She moved back to live with her own mother in Accrington and worked in the textile industry throughout the war, largely producing parachutes. My father was only twenty and had to report for infantry training at Squires Gate in Blackpool. That only lasted about six weeks although he would have preferred it to have been much longer. But the tragedy of the defeat of the Army in France and the evacuation of Dunkirk, speeded things up. He was then moved on to Manchester, Bury, Scotland and various other places throughout the war. Writing details of his service he said:
‘It was about this time that the Blitz on Manchester started, and the 6th Battalion was called in to give help to the Civil Defence and the Police. Along with other Army units this was a terrible time for the people of Manchester, as it was for other Cities in the country and we did our best to help. Our own barracks did not escape, and if not on duty we took shelter.’
After the war I recall as a toddler often visiting my grandparents and watching a performance of brightly lit puppets where a curtain was strung across part of the dining room. They told me that had often taken place during the war. We spent many happy days in Blackpool, my favourite visits being the Tower Ballroom, the Circus, Winter Gardens and riding a donkey on the beach. Always great fun for a young child. I remember my grandmother coming home from shopping one day to find a dusty mess of plaster and rubble on the staircase, my Grandfather having knocked open the entrance to the loft and planned to put in another bedroom. I used this incident and one or two others in the story, which was great fun. Eventually my grandparents sold the property and moved to Burnley, but my memories of this part of my family’s life, and my own memories post war, proved to be very much an inspiration as a setting for Peace in My Heart. The owners in charge of the boarding house in this story were, of course, not my grandparents but two sisters who cared for Joanne and Megan as evacuees. But would they stay with them or move back home?
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 from WH Smith and other good book shops.
Thursday, December 5, 2019
Also, there will be guest posts to make this a bumper Christmas edition! To sign up please visit my website. (and don't forget to click the email confirmation in your inbox - check spam folder.)
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
#99p Amazon UK December only!
Award winning & Amazon UK Bestseller! The Slum Angel
Can Victoria find the security she has lost? Will a certain doctor be the man she can give her heart to?
#historicalfiction #Victorian #kindleunlimited #York
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Monday, October 28, 2019
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Friday, October 4, 2019
Book one, Kitty McKenzie is out in Feb 2020.
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.
De repente, Kitty McKenzie é deixada como chefe da família e deverá encontrar sua força interior para mantê-la unida contra todas as probabilidades.
Despejada, após a morte de seus pais, de sua resplandecente residência na parte elegante de York, Kitty precisará combater o legado da falência e da falta de moradia para garantir um lar para ela e seus irmãos.
Com determinação e pura força de vontade, ela se agarra às oportunidades, desde trabalhar com roupas e barracas no mercado até abrir uma loja de chá para os ricos.
Seu caminho para a felicidade é repleto de obstáculos, dificuldades e desespero, mas se recusa a deixar morrer seu sonho de uma vida melhor para sua família.
Ela logo descobre que amor e lealdade trazem sua própria recompensa.
Todas as novidades em: https://www.leabharbooks.com/
New Portuguese cover.
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Now Presented by Canelo
Putting on the Style (Book 1)
Folk are just emerging from the shadow of WWII and money is still tight. So the vibrant market of Champion Street is a source of many a tempting bargain – as well as all the local gossip.
Dena loves her Saturday job at Belle Garside’s market café, and her ready smile makes her a universal favourite. She is soon in thrall to Belle’s two good-looking and dangerous sons. But fate has other plans in store when her younger brother is killed by a gang of thugs. Only when it is far too late does Dena begin to ask herself one terrifying question: has she fallen in love with her brother’s killer?
Bargains galore and life in the raw… A moving saga of second chances and forbidden love set around a bustling café in 1950s Manchester.
Fools Fall in Love. (Book 2)
When Patsy talks her way into a job on the Champion Street Market millinery stall, the Higginson sisters get more than they bargained for. Riddled with insecurities, Patsy’s impudence wins her new enemies as well as friends and her determination to solve the riddle of her own past starts to unravel secrets Annie and Clara would much rather keep hidden.
Meanwhile, Molly Poulson hasn’t a care in the world until her two daughters both fall in love with the wrong man. But the more Molly interferes, the more danger looms. Home is where you hang your hat…
An enthralling saga of secrecy and sisterhood set around an elegant hat stall in 1950s Manchester.
That’ll be the Day (Book 3)
Working on their busy flower stall in Champion Street Market, Lynda and her mother, Betty, have lots of opportunities to observe their customers and speculate about their lives.
Sam regularly buys bouquets for his wife, Judy, so why does she always look so worn out and miserable? Then there's Leo, who comes every week for flowers for his mother, but has never bought so much as a rosebud for his elegant wife. As for Lynda's father, he ran off long ago, so is it any wonder that she has such a low opinion of men? But could all that really be about to change? Flowers spill everyone's secrets…
A gripping saga of gossip and parenthood set around a beautiful flower stall in 1950s Manchester.
Candy Kisses (Book 4)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone dotes on Aunty Dot, as much as they do on her homemade sweets. The plump, smiling woman has provided a loving home for many a troubled child over the years, and Lizzie Pringle is no exception.
Lizzie would do anything for her foster mother – even take on local sweet manufacturer and notorious bully, Cedric Finch. Until, that is, she falls for his son, Charlie. Meanwhile, Dena can’t believe that Barry Holmes would hurt her beloved daughter: he’s been like a favourite uncle to the little girl. But rumours are rife and her fears only grow…
Chocolate can also be bitter…
Who’s Sorry Now (Book 5)
Things are far from simple in the noisy, warm-hearted Bertalone family. Carmina is the quintessential extrovert with beaus flocking to her side like bees round a honeypot – all except Luc Fabriani. For some unaccountable reason, he seems to prefer Carmina's sister.
Gina has always been quiet and shy, the apple of her over-protective parents’ eye, so she believes her sister when Carmina spreads malicious rumours about Luc in an effort to sabotage any blooming relationship. But lies have a habit of unravelling and tangling those who spin them in a web of deceit, as Carmina soon discovers. The question remains: who’s sorry now?
There were never such devoted sisters. A bewitching saga of budding romance and family feuds set around an Italian ice cream parlour in 1950s Manchester.
Lonely Teardrops (Book 6)
It’s a rainy day on Champion Street as Harriet attends the funeral of her beloved father. But then her grandmother drops a bombshell on her out of nowhere and she can hardly take in the words for shock and grief.
Joyce, the woman she has always called Mam, isn’t really her mother. After all this time, it at least explains why Joyce always favoured Harriet’s brother, Grant. Her emotions in turmoil, Harriet discovers a streak of rebellion that puts everything she holds dear into jeopardy. Can she ever come back from the brink or will her life be full of nothing but lonely teardrops?
Blood is thicker than water ... An emotional saga of love and loss set around a family hair salon in 1950.
‘You can’t put a price on Freda Lightfoot’s stories from Manchester’s 1950s.'
Friday, September 20, 2019
Christmas at the Chateau
Following on from Millie, the first book in The Marsh Sagas series, now comes a holiday novella! Join the family again as they spend Christmas with Millie and Jeremy at Chateau Dumont. #holidaystory
Friday, September 6, 2019
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
The day the Queen came to Manchester was a grand day for Ruby McBride and her young sister and brother. It’s glories fade into insignificance, however, when their mother, Molly, due to illness reluctantly entrusts her beloved children to Ignatious House, and the not-so-tender care of the nuns. Ruby, a rebel at heart, is always on the wrong side of authority. Her chief concern is to keep her promise to take care of Pearl and Billy, but when she is sixteen, the Board of Guardians forces her into marriage and she has to abandon her siblings, vowing she will reunite the family when she can. Convinced that her new husband is a conman, Ruby discovers life on the barge is not at all what she expected. She is furious at being robbed of the chance to be with her childhood sweetheart, Kit Jarvis, so resists Bart’s advances as long as possible. Only when Kit comes back into her life and jealousy between the two men causes events to run out of control, does Ruby realise which one she truly loves. But it takes the Great War for her to fulfil that childhood promise, and not in the expected way . . .
This is an enthralling story of romance and rebellion perfect for fans of Rosie Goodwin and Dilly Court.
‘Charming and exciting. A lovely story by an author with an extraordinary feeling in her writing.’ Bangor Chronicle
‘An inspiring novel about accepting change and bravely facing the future.’ The Daily Telegraph
Ruby McBride has always been on the wrong side of authority. The grand opening of the Manchester Ship Canal is set to be a day of unfettered festivity for Ruby and her younger sister and brother. Even Queen Victoria will be in attendance.
But the glories of the ceremony fade into insignificance when their dying mother delivers them to the imposing oak doors of Ignatius House. Abandoned in the not-so-tender care of the nuns, the siblings are soon separated. So when the Board of Guardians force Ruby into a marriage that sends her to a new home upon the Salford waterways, she makes only one vow: to reunite her family whatever the cost.
21 May 1894
‘Rise and shine, chuck, kettle’s on.’
Ruby stretched blissfully, then lifted her arms and wrapped them about her mother’s neck in a tight, warm hug. Even if she was nearly eleven, she hoped never to be too old for a morning cuddle. ‘Is this the special day you promised us, Mam?’
‘It is, love, and if you don’t shape yourself, you’ll miss out on a very special breakfast an’ all. I’ve saved a bit of jam to go on us bread and marg this morning.’
The thrill of a day’s holiday from school made Ruby want to shout with joy, and jam on her bread took it into the realms of fantasy. She’d known too many mornings when there’d been no breakfast at all. Inside, she felt a bit sick with the wonder of it, and prayed she wouldn’t disgrace herself by not managing to eat the promised treat.
Molly McBride kissed her daughter and tweaked her snub nose. ‘See you wash yer lovely face and hands especially well this morning. We don’t want Her Majesty to see the McBrides looking anything less than their best, now do we, chuck? Not when she’s come all the way up from London to see us, eh?’
Ruby giggled as her mother gave a huge wink then, one hand at her hip and the other lifting her long cotton skirts, she sashayed away, nose in the air, just as if she were the Queen of England herself. Oh, she was a laugh a minute, her mam. But then she leaned over the table, clinging on to the edge as she started coughing, which quite ruined the effect.
Ruby felt the familiar jolt of panic but said nothing, knowing how her mother hated a fuss or any show of sympathy. ‘I won’t let it rob me of me sparkle,’ she would say, but the cough that had got worse all winter was a constant worry at the back of Ruby’s mind. She felt thankful that summer was almost here, for the warmer weather would surely ease it. And Mam didn’t want her to worry about anything today, not with the Queen herself coming to open the Manchester Ship Canal that had cost millions of pounds to build. ‘The big ditch’, they called it. Folk had been putting up flags and bunting for days, and there was to be a band.
Others coming are:
The Favourite Child
Dancing on Deansgate
The Castlefield Collector
Monday, August 12, 2019
A Revolutionary Gone with the Wind. In 1780, what happens when you're on the wrong side of the American Revolution? In HER VANQUISHED LAND, Rowena Marsh and her family are loyalists who support England and the King. But their home in Pennsylvania is rapidly coming under rebel control.
She insists on spying to help the loyalist cause, runs afoul of both rebels and British forces. Then the enigmatic Welshman who at first repels her ends up attracting her. But what can she do with such a rogue?
During this conflict, many weren't certain which side to join, and many wanted to stay neutral. Their home in danger of confiscation, her father on the verge of being arrested, Rowena's family escape south, but soon the Battle of Yorktown will decide their ultimate fate.
And will she ever see the Welshman again?
Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.
Available in paperback and Kindle. FREE for a short time on Kindle Unlimited.
Monday, August 5, 2019
The characters in my book were inspired to go to Spain for personal reasons and as a result of what they saw on the British Pathe news. Crowds of refugees escaping the bombing of their town, children crying and bodies lying everywhere. This was why many local Scots volunteered to join the International Brigade. Some young men were seeking adventure or felt the need to escape from some problem back home. But hundreds of brave men and even women volunteered to help the Spanish people, believing in humanity and democracy. These comprised ordinary working and middle-class folk, students, artists, photographers and many others, both British and Scottish. They also feared that if fascism was not stopped in Spain, it would spread to a wider conflict across Europe and maybe to England. And with no support from the British government, they would make their own way to Spain.
Many Scottish Nurses went to help too. As Orwell states in his personal account of the Spanish Civil War - Homage to Catalonia, ‘Apparently there was no supply of trained nurses in Spain, perhaps because before the war this work was done chiefly by nuns.’ Possibly for that reason their assistance was greatly appreciated, as foreign medical volunteers were much better trained. The Scottish Ambulance Unit made a vowed commitment to neutrality, pledging to treat the injured of both sides even if this sometimes proved difficult. The nurses too remained neutral.
Spanish women took on their husbands jobs once they’d joined up to fight. The government recommended families did this, thus enabling industry to continue, women having been granted more rights during the war. But as we know, the Fascists did not always approve of them working close to the Front, even when they were supporting the men by providing food and clean clothes. However, many brave women paid no attention to this attitude, some even fought alongside the men and were in need of volunteer nurses if they suffered injury.
Around 2,400 British nationals fought in the International Brigade in Spain and about 550 were Scottish. Very few had had training and ammunition was not easily available at first. There were some volunteers who had naively imagined the war would last only a few months, and when they realised that wasn’t going to happen, would escape and return home. Later, that was disallowed, although most volunteers fought hard to the end, many of whom never returned.
The moment finally came when Franco declared he’d won and all foreigners must leave. Those who did return home were often assumed to be communists, as a consequence of their support in the Civil War, and had problems finding a job. Some men went to join up and fight in World War II, many believing that if the British and French government had done more to help Spain fight for their democracy, Hitler might never have started that war. Mussolini too might have thought twice about what he did. Yet many Spanish lives had been saved thanks to the International Brigade, including evacuated children. But sadly, Spain’s problems continued for some time.
It is 1936 and Spain is on the brink of civil war. Across Europe, young men are enlisting in the International Brigade to free their Spanish brethren from the grip of Fascism, leaving sisters and lovers at home. But not all women are content to be left behind. In Britain, Charlotte McBain and Libby Forbes, friends from opposite sides of the class divide, are determined to do what they can; in Spain, Rosita García Díaz, fiercely loyal to her family and country, cannot stand by and watch. Three brave women, inspired by patriotism, idealism, love and even revenge, dare to go into battle against tradition and oppression.
Amazon Lake Union