Friday, October 20, 2017

Romance Reviews Magazine: Regency

Romance Reviews Magazine: Regency: Reviewed by Fran. Set in London 1821, the Unmasking of Lady Helen is a sweet tale of the young lady Helen who fears an incident...

A novel setting...a peek inside...

My latest release, Southern Sons, is set in Australia and France during the Great War.
It's about the grandchildren of Kitty McKenzie, who live on a large cattle property (or cattle station) called Blue Water.
I set Blue Water in the country area of Northern New South Wales, near the town of Grafton which sits on the mighty Clarence River. A smaller river runs off the Clarence, called Orara. Blue water sits on the edge of the Orara River.
In a chapter in Southern Sons, Tilly learns to drive her father's motor car and she drives it miles from Blue Water to Grafton to do some shopping. She has to cross the Clarence River on a steam ferry, and I have found a picture of the actual ferry.



The picture below is something similar to the motor car, Tilly would have learned to drive while the men were at war.
 
Tilly also went on a cattle muster, to bring in the cattle that grazed the hundreds of acres of Blue Water...
 
 
and at night they would camp by the fire.
 

Read Tilly's story in Southern Sons.


 
Blurb: 1914, Australia. As war is declared, the idyllic world of Blue Water Station is torn apart when Oliver, the eldest grandson and heir, shares his desire to enlist in the army. His enthusiasm ignites his brother, cousins and friends to do the same, but upsets his sister, Tilly. After a tragic family incident, Tilly is left to run the cattle station and take care of the older folk. A chance meeting with a sophisticated Lieutenant opens up a friendship through letters, but it’s a rogue stockman who attracts her attention with dire consequences. With the men at war, and her heart pulled in two directions, Tilly must grow up quickly and face the consequences of her rash decisions. Will She find her own happiness?Surviving a baptism of battle fire in Gallipoli, Turkey, Oliver and the men are sent to France and feel the brutal force of the Western Front. The only glimmer of light for Oliver is his relationship with Jessica, an army nurse. But as the terrors of war impact him, he feels the heavy guilt of encouraging the others to follow him into combat. Will he, and they, ever make it home to Blue Water.

Can the grandchildren of Kitty McKenzie survive the horrors of war?
 
Out in ebook now
Amazon myBook.to/SouthernSons
Kobo https://goo.gl/x8uXMB
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review of The Murderess by Jennifer Wells



PUBLISHER’S BLURB

The Murderess is a heart-stopping story of family, love, passion and betrayal set against the backdrop of war-ravaged Britain. Perfect for fans of Lesley Pearse and Dilly Court.
1931: Fifteen year old Kate witnesses her mother Millicent push a stranger from a station platform into the path of an oncoming train. There was no warning, seemingly no reason, and absolutely no remorse.

1940: Exactly nine years later, Kate returns to the station and notices a tramp laying flowers on the exact spot that the murder was committed; the identity of the victim, still remains unknown.

With a country torn apart by war and her family estate and name in tatters, Kate has nothing to lose as she attempts to uncover family secrets that date back to the Great War and solve a mystery that blights her family name.

REVIEW 

I enjoyed Ms Wells ‘The Liar’ and this book was just as well written, also intriguing in that at first, I couldn’t tell where the story was going.. The author left me guessing as to which character I was supposed to feel empathy with. The betrayed Millicent whose only wish was to bear her husband’s child, Kate, who had been lied to for so long that when the secrets started to unravel, as they always do, was left to make sense of it all.

Or was Rosalie the one who deserved pity, the one who betrayed and was eventually betrayed? Halfway through the story I had a sense of inevitability which even though it played out, did not detract from the impact of the story.


Ms Wells certainly has a knack for portraying women whose obsession for motherhood changes their personalities and in some cases is used as justification for the things they do.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Oppression of Women in Historical fiction

Women’s oppression across history has been written about constantly, even during the 60s, in an age of strong feminism. The desire for power, male domination, violence and control, and captive women, have been recurring themes from Jane Eyre to the present day. Drabble, Byatt, and Jean Rhys in her retelling of Jane Eyre in Wide Sargossa Sea have all used this theme. As have countless gothic and romantic suspense novels. Is this because women fear reliving the fates of their mothers?

‘Happy women, like happy countries, they say, have no histories,’ says Harriet in Victoria Holt’s Menfreya in the Morning.

Eleanor Hibbert, in her different incarnations, as Jean Plaidy, Holt, and Philippa Carr used this theme constantly. Her Plaidy novels were written in the 3rd person, which gave them a rounder, more objective viewpoint, if slightly distanced. Her others were in 1st and therefore more personal and emotional.


Gregory too writes about the lot of women. About primogeniture and how women are ignored. Even her biographical fiction is about exploited women, forced to marry for political reasons, or used by their political ambitious fathers. Her early novels also deal with the theme of exploitation in other ways, such as the agricultural peasant after the enclosures. Writing these novels in the 1980s, during the time of the miners’ strikes, this would strike a chord with readers, as it tuned in with the radical political consciousness of the time.

As with Gregory, so with Susan Howatch, who wrote about wealth and inheritance, stating that women were considered a possession as was a house or land. But she plunders history for her stories: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine for Penmarrick, and Edward I, II and III for Cashelmara. She is saying that nothing changes. She used history itself as her inspiration, disguised and relocated while echoing the universal truth of her theme of exploitation of women in dysfunctional families. Both Howatch and Gregory teach us that history does not exist in a vacuum, that nothing really changes about human nature, despite progress in other fields.

Perhaps it is easier for us to view these problems through the prism of nostalgia. Class/sexual inequalities/social differences/violent abuse/illegitimacy and other strong themes, are often best viewed at a distance. They work because they don’t have to be defended, criticised or judged. People like to think - ah yes, that’s how it was back then. They are aware the issue still has a resonance today, yet it is easier to think of it with the benefit of hindsight. Its awfulness is often stressed quite strongly, yet as it is safely in the past, this allows a slight air of unreality or fantasy in the way the subject is depicted.

In the 1970s the theme of exploited women was turned on its head and the liberation of women became a popular theme in racy historicals. Known as bodice rippers these started with Kathleen Woodiwise: The Flame and the Flower. Rosemary Rogers: Sweet Savage Love. They depicted accurate sex in inaccurate history. History was pure fantasy, a mere backdrop. Women were still incarcerated, degraded, violated, and yet they maintained their sense of adventure and spirit of defiance and independence. The strength of the abused woman resonated throughout, giving women the right to enjoy sex, and to exploit men just as they had exploited women throughout history. Ultimately they tamed the hero. They conquered evil with love, a theme which was picked up by Mills & Boon at the time, and has featured strongly in romantic fiction ever since.

Marguerite de Valois in ‘Hostage Queen’ was most certainly an oppressed woman, bullied by her mother, Catherine de Medici, and imprisoned by her husband, Henry of Navarre, but never defeated. She remained a strong woman, a feminist before her time demanding equal rights, and far more intelligent than her mad brothers. She was the Queen that France needed but never got. Gabrielle d’Estrées who takes the lead in Reluctant Queen, was sold by her mother, twice, to different men, so quite a different sort of oppression. Fortunately she was adored by Henry IV, whose mistress she became, so things improved, at least for a time. In ‘The Queen and the Courtesan’, I set out giving Henriette d’Entragues the benefit of the doubt, that she was used by her father and brother. But while they were certainly complicit in all the intrigue in which they were engaged, I soon decided that she was no innocent victim. She was the very opposite of an oppressed woman, one who manipulated events to win herself the crown she craved. But did she succeed?

BUY

Amazon UK

 Amazon US

Friday, October 13, 2017

Australian Historical Novels Don't Sell...?

Three of my novels are in the top 10 of Australian category. Kitty McKenzie's Land, Nicola's Virtue & Southern Sons.

I'm so pleased that they are doing well because I feel that a lot of the time the reading public ignore the region of Australia and southern countries and islands, when in truth they are wonderful places to learn about and enjoy. I suppose everyone has their favourite areas where authors set stories, as they do by having favourite genres and historical eras. However, there is room for more, less known countries to be featured and explored, and I really encourage readers to try something new and different.

Throughout the many years I've been writing, I've been told constantly that Australian set historical novels don't sell outside of Australia. Well, I beg to differ. Agents who have said in the past to me to not bother writing Australian historical novels may not have been willing to take a chance, and I think that is a mistake.
I'm excited by the fact that people may be branching out and trying books set in other areas outside of the main countries that are so popular. If you are one of those readers, thank you!

Amazon UK. Australian & Oceania category. 13th October 2017. 9:48 am.
Proof that sometimes readers buck the trend.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book Fair at Morley

Last Saturday I attended the Morley Lit Festival, which held a book fair in the Town Hall. Unfortunately the turn out wasn't great, perhaps due to the awful cold wet and windy day. But that didn't stop all visitors.








A selection of my books.
 

I met some lovely readers and signed some books. The highlight was meeting Deborah, an avid reader and supporter of authors, who runs a couple of Facebook pages promoting historical fiction authors like myself. I was so pleased to see her and have a chat in person - and of course we had a photo taken!




Deborah and myself

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Baxendale Sisters Anthology is available for pre-order!

Hi, Maggi here,

I'm excited to announce that The Baxendale Sisters Series is now available for pre-order in a 5 Book Box Set! books2read.com/u/4jwoBX On Amazon. Coming soon to Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBooks.
T
HE BAXENDALE SISTERS 5 BOOK BOX SET
A Regency Romance Family Series
Five sisters find love during their London season. Five short novels and novellas. A guaranteed happily ever after. Nominated for several awards.
Lady Honor's Debt.
Lady Faith Takes a Leap.
Lady Hope and the Duke of Darkness.
The Seduction of Lady Charity.
The Scandalous Lady Mercy.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Southern Sons - WWI historical fiction

So, for those of you who have read and enjoyed Kitty McKenzie, and the sequel Kitty McKenzie's Land, you'll be pleased to know that I've written a third book to do with the family. Southern Sons is about Kitty's grandchildren. (If you've not read the first two Kitty books, don't worry, Southern Sons is a stand alone book as well.)
I absolutely loved writing this book. it was one of those books that just flew out onto the page without much hardship. The research I did was enjoyable because the era of WWI is fascinating to me. I have many books about the Great War, and spent hours watching documentaries. Also online are some wonderful forums and websites about WWI, the battles, the conditions and the soldiers' stories.

I felt the need to write about the young Australian men who went to war so naïve and fresh-faced, and who, by the end of 4 years of fighting, were renowned as a magnificent army of brave and gutsy men full of the new-born Australian spirit that still lives on today.
I used Kitty's grandsons for that honour, and her tenacious spirit flows in their veins.
To add to the drama of  the grandsons going to war, I needed a granddaughter to be at home on Blue Water Station to 'keep the home fires burning' so to speak. Matilda (Tilly) is definitely Kitty McKenzie's granddaughter, with the same braveness and can-do attitude.

I love this family like my own, I hope you do too.




Blurb: 1914, Australia. As war is declared, the idyllic world of Blue Water Station is torn apart when Oliver, the eldest grandson and heir, shares his desire to enlist in the army. His enthusiasm ignites his brother, cousins and friends to do the same, but upsets his sister, Tilly.
After a tragic family incident, Tilly is left to run the cattle station and take care of the older folk. A chance meeting with a sophisticated Lieutenant opens up a friendship through letters, but it’s a rogue stockman who attracts her attention with dire consequences. With the men at war, and her heart pulled in two directions, Tilly must grow up quickly and face the consequences of her rash decisions. Will She find her own happiness?Surviving a baptism of battle fire in Gallipoli, Turkey, Oliver and the men are sent to France and feel the brutal force of the Western Front. The only glimmer of light for Oliver is his relationship with Jessica, an army nurse. But as the terrors of war impact him, he feels the heavy guilt of encouraging the others to follow him into combat. Will he, and they, ever make it home to Blue Water.

Can the grandchildren of Kitty McKenzie survive the horrors of war?



Out in ebook now
Amazon myBook.to/SouthernSons
Kobo https://goo.gl/x8uXMB


Out in print October 17.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Is Accuracy important in a Historical Novel?

Historical novels are so deeply researched they sometimes seem like non-fiction in disguise. And some readers consider that romance can kill the story dead. Even so, we must do our research and set the scene as accurately as we can. We can take some liberties, for the sake of the story, but if we veer too far from the facts as we know them the reader may feel cheated and lose faith in the work. If a mistake crops up, an anachronism, this will jar the reader and jerk them out of the story back to the present.

The war in France


It’s also best to avoid controversy or anything doubtful, which has a hint of being anachronistic. It has to feel correct. E.g: Soldiers did play baseball in the American Civil War. I believe they also played in a Jane Austen novel too. But the reader may found that hard to accept.

Societies traditions, moral mores and customs help to build the picture, but this is where even the most fanatical historian can come unstuck. Many time periods, such as Regency, have become so stylised that you may actually be considered to have written an historically inaccurate book if you do not follow the “popular perceptions” of the period. Presenting a realistic and complex view of society during a specific era can be the thing that makes the difference between a passable yarn and a gripping story.

It’s surely about striking the right balance. The story is the most important thing, but it must be firmly rooted in the appropriate period. It must not simply be a costume drama. The past must be made as relevant as the present. The problems can be the same: human emotion, conflict and behaviour. Falling in love and losing that love are just as painful, whatever year it is in.

It’s a combination of accuracy and imagination that will make the story plausable. The writer needs to incorporate the odd, quirky detail. Perhaps the price of cheese, a housemaid’s monthly wage, a description of underwear, length of time for a journey, breed of horse, how someone would get their boots mended, what book or newspaper they might read. How would they conduct a funeral, spin wool, pluck a hen, fire a rifle, fight a duel or take part in a bare knuckle fight. Whatever is needed for your story. When you can’t draw on personal experience or memories use interviews, explore diaries, memoirs, biographies, newspapers, etc. Select with care. Don’t put material in just because you wish to show off how much you learnt at the Imperial War Museum. Too much info can be boring unless it is entirely relevant to the story.

It is the correct little details which builds the atmosphere, gives a strong sense of time and place that creates a feeling of reality vital for the reader, so that they’ll sit back and enjoy the ride.

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.

WHSmith  

Amazon UK  

Amazon US


Kobo


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Edwardian Fashion

I really enjoy looking at historical fashion, especially from the Victorian and Edwardian eras which are the periods I set a lot of my novels.
Below are some pictures of Edwardian gowns that I can easily imagine my characters wearing. I like the simple, clean lines of the Edwardian fashion and the soft subtle colours and textiles. They capture the essence of style and femininity.








Saturday, September 9, 2017

Main Characters of Forgotten Women

Charlotte McBain, daughter of a Scottish laird, spent a lonely, neglected childhood growing up in a fine castle in Kirkcudbrightshire and has no wish to be forced into marriage by her bully of a stepfather. She is passionate about art, stubborn, courageous and determined to find freedom and do something useful with her life. 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. Charlotte, who likes to be called Charlie, also has a desire to help people less fortunate than herself, not only the tenants on her father’s estate but also the people of Spain caught up in the Civil War. She and her dear friend, Libby Forbes, have a somewhat complex relationship, being from opposite sides of the class divide, but wish to do what they can to help.

Libby Forbes is a somewhat unsociable and self-opinionated girl who very much likes to be the centre of attention. She rarely reveals her true feelings about anything, particularly the fact she is passionate about Ray Dunmore, and fond of Laurence too. But her worry is they may both be more fascinated by her friend Charlotte, who is a beautiful and rich woman. She strives to remain friends with her, despite the jealousy she feels. When Libby’s brother goes missing in Spain in 1936, she is desperate to find him, no matter what the risk.

Rosita García Díaz, a young Spanish girl, is fiercely loyal to her family and country and having suffered badly from the war, she cannot stand by and do nothing. When Charlotte and Libby arrive, they become good friends. Three brave women, inspired by patriotism, idealism, love and even revenge, who dare to do battle against tradition and oppression.

Scotland 1986: Libby’s granddaughter Jo, is accused of displaying a forged picture in an exhibition. And finding a letter tucked into the back of it, realises she knows little about her grandmother’s life. Why has she kept silent? Feeling the need to find answers and recover from her own personal traumas, she goes to Spain to find the effect the Civil War had upon these three women’s lives, and why they are forgotten women. What she learns will change all of their lives forever.


Click here to download a sample: http://www.fredalightfoot.co.uk/ 

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. 

Tying them all together is Jo, Libby’s granddaughter. Five decades later she travels to Spain hoping to make sense of a troubling letter hidden among her grandmother’s possessions. What she learns will change all of their lives forever. Deceit, heartbreak, and a longstanding fear of reprisals must all be overcome if the deeds of the forgotten women are to be properly honoured. 

Amazon UK

Amazon US 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Catrina's Return - Victorian saga

I'm highlighting another one of my books, which I really enjoyed writing.
Catrina's Return is a story of a young woman who is brave and strong and a survivor.
In this story I deal with issues resulting from selfishness.
Phillip, Catrina's half brother is the cause of a lot of Catrina's problems, like many of the men of those times, he had wealthy and power and ultimately abused both. 
Travis, the man Catrina loves, was wonderful to write. Although a flawed hero, (and we all love those, don't we?) Travis is torn between the love of Catrina and the loyalty to his family.
 
Set in the beautiful countryside of Yorkshire, Catrina's Return is a story I hope you enjoy reading.
 
 

Catrina's Return

 Blurb:
1899. A life altering event led Catrina Davies to hide from her family and society. Alone in The Highlands she exists in a lonely world cared for only by her saviour, a kind old gentleman. When she receives a surprise visitor, Travis Millard, the man she used to love, her head and heart are thrown into turmoil. 
Travis is determined to save her from this poor life and return her to her family where she belongs. No one is more surprised than he when she agrees to marry him. 
When Catrina arrives back at her family estate, Davmoor Court in Yorkshire, she is stunned to see the changes. While her father clings to life, Davmoor is nearly ruined by her brother's gambling obsession, and there is something strange about his new wife. 
As Catrina adjusts to her regained position in society and being with Travis, her marriage comes under attack from Travis's grandmother, who has her own secrets and reason for loathing the Davies family. 
When one of her brother's adversaries comes to stake his claim on the estate, the resulting chaos threatens not only Catrina's home, but the very lives of those she loves the most. 
Can she find the strength to fight once more for the right to be happy?

Catrina's Return is available now.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"A Knight's Vow," Medieval Romance Novel. 99p/99cents

Here's the blurb and a new excerpt from my re-issued full length medieval historical romance novel, "A Knight's Vow." Just 99p or 99 cents.

Blurb.

A crusader, haunted by grief and guilt. A bride-to-be, struggling with old yearnings and desires. Can Sir Guillelm de la Rochelle and Lady Alyson of Olverton rediscover the innocent love they once had for each other? When Guillelm makes a fearful vow on their wedding night, is all lost forever between him and Alyson? And will the secret enemy who hates their marriage destroy them both?

“A Knight’s Vow” is a tale of romance and chivalry. In a time of knights and ladies, of tournaments and battles, of crusades, castles and magic.

(First published by Kensington Publishing, New York, in 2008.)


Amazon Co UK

Amazon Com

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia



Excerpt. (Taken from a skirmish where the hero Guillelm is fighting and the heroine Alyson is desperate to save him.)


Alyson began to run again, to Guillelm, aware she only had seconds, instants before the enemy raised his helm and wound up his deadly crossbow.
He would shoot at Guillelm—
‘Down! Get down! Get away!’ Yelling warnings, she ran straight at Guillelm, her one thought to save him, her only wild plan that if she could not make him hear her warnings, she might spoil the aim of the enemy archer.      
Ignoring the growing pain of her heat-seared lungs and her fading, tiring limbs, she screamed again, ’Get down!’ and now Guillelm heard and saw her, shock and horror warring in his face, his mouth forming the question, ’How?’
‘Down!’ Alyson cried, but she was too late. She felt a punch slam into her shoulder, spinning her round so that she fell backwards, the breath knocked out of her. She tried to move, to reach Guillelm, shield him, but as she raised her head a jolt of agony drove through her body and she blacked out.

Guillelm reacted without conscious thought. He lowered the shocked, sobbing Prioress gently onto the ground and seized the quivering arrow shaft buried so sickeningly in Alyson’s shoulder, determined to draw it out before she came round from her faint.
Even as he worked, images flashed constantly before his eyes. Alyson running towards him, arms outstretched, making herself a target. Over and over, he saw the bolt thud into her slender body, saw her feet actually leave the ground as she was flung around by the force of the impact. She had been shot in the back and he had done nothing to save her; worse he had not even known she had joined the war-band. He had been so keen to lay sword against sword with Étienne the Bold, who, cur that he was, had turned tail the instant he saw him, riding through the smoke and soot of the burning convent.
‘Ah!’  Although he tried to be steady and careful and the crossbow bolt came out cleanly, the sharp decisive tug hurt her—Alyson came out of her swoon with a shriek of agony.
‘Sssh, sweetheart, it is done.’ Guillelm wanted to cradle her but dare not: he could not bear to hurt her again. Kneeling by her, he packed his cloak around her body, terrified at how cold she was. Her shoulder was bleeding freely and that must be good, for the ill-humours would be washed out.
What if the crossbow bolt was poisoned?
What if she died?
‘Live, Alyson,’ he whispered, too afraid to be angry at her. He should have known she would attempt something like this: she was never one to sit still when those she loved were under threat. Where was that sister of hers? The Flemings had herded the nuns into the courtyard while they torched the buildings. None had been harmed so where was she?
Blinking away tears, he raised his head and met the pasty faces of the squires. The lads had dismounted and gathered round, forming a shield with their horses. Too late, Guillelm thought bleakly.
‘My lord, we did not know…’
‘Truly we never suspected…’
‘She moved so swiftly, ran right amongst the horses…’
‘We could not stop her!’
Their excuses died away and they hung their heads.     
‘What can we do?’ asked one.
Guillelm raked them with furious eyes. His knights were still searching for survivors in the wrecked convent—friends or foe—but these useless, lumpen youths should be good for something. 
‘Get me that archer,’ he spat.
‘I will do so, my lord.’ Fulk stepped into the circle, glanced at Alyson’s still body, and then turned, shouting for his horse.
‘Sir —’
At first Guillelm thought it one of the squires, or the half-blind old militia-man he had led away to safety from the burning church.
‘Do not scold them, sir. I rode in disguise.’ The small, breathy voice was Alyson’s. She was looking at him, her eyes dark with pain and fear.
‘Peace!’ Guillelm took her icy hand in his, trying to will his own heat into her. ‘We shall have you home safe, soon enough.’
‘I am sorry to be so much trouble.’ Alyson tried to raise herself on her elbow, gasped and fell back.
‘Alyson!’ For a dreadful moment, he thought she had died, but then saw the quick rise of her chest and realized she had passed out again. He should lift her from this burnt, wrecked ground as soon as possible, but what way would be best? In his arms, on horseback? On a litter?
‘Give me your cloaks!’ he snapped at the hapless squires. ‘Cover her with them. You! Bring me the infirmarer! You! Make a fire here! You! Find Sir Thomas.’ He almost said Sir Fulk, his natural second-in-command, but Fulk was off on another necessary task and one he longed to accomplish himself, though revenge on the archer would not save Alyson.
Live, please live, he thought. It was a prayer and wish in one.
‘Where is that infirmarer?’ he bellowed, above the steady weeping of the Prioress. He was growing incensed with the lack of speed of everyone about him and exasperated with the cowering, wailing nuns who had trailed after him like ducklings following their mother as he carried the helpless, vacant-eyed head of their order away from her devastated convent. If  Alyson’s sister was in that drab company, why had she not come forward to be with her? Was she so withdrawn from the world that even the sight of her own flesh, broken and bleeding on the ground, stirred no passionate care? ’Is there no one?’
‘I am here, Guido.’ Calm as a rock in a sea of troubles, Sir Tom leaned down from his horse. ’What say I find something to use as a stretcher?’
‘Do it,’ Guillelm answered curtly, ’And tell your men to search the infirmary for potions and such.’ A late thought struck him, but he could not feel ashamed at it, not with Alyson injured beside him. ’See if any of our own men are hurt, and tend them.’
 ‘They will not be hurt. Men never are.’ A small, slim nun emerged from the smoke, her arms full of books and manuscripts.
‘I am Sister Ursula, who was once Matilda of Olverton Minor,’ she said, calm as glass. ‘I have been in our scriptorium, where our true treasures are stored. The mercenaries did not recognize them as such.’ Slow, careful, she laid the books on the ground and only then looked at Alyson.
‘Your infirmarer?’ Guillelm asked, as Sister Ursula’s lips moved in prayer. His hands itched to shake her out of her complacency: was this woman human? ’Your sister is still bleeding.’
‘The infirmarer is dead.’ Sister Ursula opened her eyes, fixing Guillelm with a stare of utter dislike, mingled with distaste. ’Our sister in Christ passed away eight days ago.’
‘Mother of God, have you no one who can help my wife?’
‘Do not blaspheme against the name of our blessed Lady of Heaven.’
Sister Ursula stared at a kneeling squire striking sparks off his knife to light a small, swiftly-gathered bundle of kindling until the youth shuffled out of her path. She knelt beside Alyson, facing Guillelm across her sister’s body. ‘I will pray.’
‘Please —’ Guillelm felt to be out of his depth dealing with this smooth, polished creature, he felt to be drowning in her piety. If it had been a man he would have appealed to honour, or come to blows. How did women deal with each other? He thought of his sister Juliana, but their relationship had been oddly formal, she being so much the elder and out of reach of sibling contests.
Rivalry. The answer came to him as he recalled the scrapes and scraps that he had seen and sometimes intervened in between brothers. It was a risk to employ it against women, but what other tactic could he use? Luck and recklessness were all he had left.
‘If she could speak, Alyson could tell us how to treat her,’ he remarked, adopting Sister Ursula’s calm tones while around him his squires and gathering knights held their breaths against the approaching storm. Gently: he had to do this right. ‘She is an excellent healer.’
Sister Ursula said nothing.
‘She told me you had no diligence in such matters,’ Guillelm went on, lying shamelessly and worse, feeling no guilt as he did so. ’That you love books more than people.’
‘She is wrong,’ said Sister Ursula.
 ‘You put your skill above hers, then? I have seen no other to match her, even in Outremer.’
With a small shake of her head remarkably like Alyson’s, Sister Ursula unclasped her palms.
 ‘I thought her judgment a little harsh, but I see that she was right. She said you lacked the healing touch.’
‘What nonsense.’ Sister Ursula rose to her feet. ’Build up that fire,’ she commanded. ’I must have more light.’ 

Lindsay Townsend

Friday, August 11, 2017

Primary Sources

Primary sources, I feel, are a writer's best friend, especially for a historical writer.

   I collected Victorian diaries and journals, written mainly by women who have arrived in Australia after leaving England, but also by women born in colonial Australia. These diaries give me an insight to how they lived and what was happening in the world around them at that time. From their personal entries, we can learn what was important to them, their daily routine, their views and opinions. They can also lift some of those myths we in the modern world tend to think as true.

   Diaries aren't the only primary source available to us. We have so many museums and art galleries. I love studying paintings of the different eras and visiting museums that have wonderful displays of every era.

  We should be visiting our local or state libraries for books, letters, newspapers and articles written in the eras we write. Naturally this is difficult for those writing in the ancient periods, but those of us who write about the last few hundred years have sources available and we need to use them.

   If you are writing about the area where you live, join your local historical society, where as a member, you can study maps, paintings and photos are that district. Also the local councils will have documents and maps going back years.

   It is not always possible to visit your chosen setting, but if you can visit, make sure you don't simply go to the main attractions, like a castle, etc, but find the time to visit the graveyard of the local church, sit in a pew and study the stain glass windows, lay by the river and absorb the surroundings, listen to the birds sing, the insect buzz and imagine what it would be like in your era, the smells, the sounds. Glance up at buildings, many have the dates of construction engraved at the top to give you an idea of how the street would looked. Walk the back streets of the village or town, find the oldest parts and touch the walls of the buildings and think of nothing but how your characters would have lived. Would their footsteps have walked where yours have?

 



The photo is taken from a sketch done of Lower George St, Sydney, Australia 1828. I used this as a guide for where my character, Nicola, goes in my book, Nicola’s Virtue, which is set in Sydney, Australia in the 1860s.

Sketches and paintings like these give us the artist's view of those times and from studying it we can see a little of what life was like then.

I found this photo in a book, but the internet has many websites with great antique photos and paintings, some even for sale.
 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Life in the Victorian Workhouse [Part One]


The Workhouse was built for the poor and needy, and intended to be so harsh and hostile that only the truly destitute would seek refuge there. It was hoped it would solve the problem of poverty as many rich people believed people were poor because they avoided work, but for many, this simply wasn’t the case. For example, a family could be surviving very well until the head of the house died suddenly possibly in a work-related instance such as a pit accident, some other injury or illness. The mother and children might well end up in the workhouse as there were too many mouths to feed and they couldn’t survive off the parish. Once there, the whole family would be kept apart from one another, sorted into the following categories.
  • Men infirm through age or illness
  • Women infirm through age or illness
  • Able-bodied men over 15 years
  • Able-bodied women over 15 years
  • Boys between 7 and 15
  • Girls between 7 and 15
  • Children under the age of 7
The idea behind this was so that people didn’t breed, even the elderly were segregated. Each section had its own exercise yard and there were separate boys and girls schools.
The buildings themselves were stark, foreboding places, undecorated and very much like prisons. High walls encompassed the workhouse cutting inmates off from the outside world.

Workhouses contained dormitories, washrooms, workrooms, a 'refractory ward' which was for solitary confinement, a mortuary, bake-house, receiving wards, dining halls and a chapel. Any sick or old person housed on the upper floors would be become a prisoner in the ward because he or she might not be able to manage the stairs.

Space was to a premium. Too many people were crammed into the smallest space possible: for example, eight beds could be put into a narrow dormitory only sixteen feet long; thirty-two men were put into a dormitory 20 feet long; ten children and their attendants were put into a room 10 feet by 15 feet.

The hospital ward took in all cases, so at any one time there may have been patients suffering from any variety of complaints ranging from dysentery to diphtheria, and let us not forget there were several outbreaks of cholera up and down the land during the Victorian era. But sometimes people were better off in the workhouse if they were ill than if they were outside of it as they may not be able to afford good medical care otherwise.

Furniture was basic: cheap wooden beds, flock-filled palliasses as mattresses, only two or three blankets would be provided and pillows considered a luxury, sheets were not provided. Most inmates shared beds. There were no comfy chairs just wooden benches, tables and stools. Seats were not upholstered. Walls were bare apart from lists of rules and regulations and various Bible passages were displayed.

The day began early at 5.00 am with the tolling of the bell. Prayers and breakfast were between 6.00 am and 7.00 am. The inmates were expected to work between 7.00 am and 6.00 pm but they were allowed an hour’s break for lunch between midday and 1.00 pm.  Prayers were said between 6 and 7.00 pm. Supper took place between 7 and 8.00 pm and then they were expected to go to bed and sleep, when the whole rota began again with the toll of the bell at 5.00 am the following morning.

The sort of work the men were expected to undertake was: bone crushing , stone breaking, oakum picking [which was untying threads from ropes used on ships etc’,] and sometimes working in the corn mill or on vegetable plots at the workhouse.

For women, it often involved domestic duties such as working in the laundry, scrubbing floors, blacking leading fire grates, etc.

On admission, the inmates own clothing was removed and sanitised. They were searched and washed and made to wear a uniform and their hair cropped to prevent infestation of head lice. Women wore a shapeless dress which reached ankle length, long stockings and knee length drawers and a poke bonnet. Men wore striped shirts and ill-fitting trousers that were made shorter by tying pieces of string at the knee, thick vest, woollen drawers and socks and a neckerchief  and, in wintertime, a coarse jacket.

Meals lacked nutrition for the inmates and often the Board of Guardians got to dine like kings and queens whilst the inmates made do with a thin watery gruel for breakfast, and at other times a thin vegetable soup and piece of bread. Sometimes they had meat but it was very sparse.

Children were sometimes educated inside the workhouse where there was a boys’ school and a girls’ school, so in that respect, workhouse children might be better educated than those who received no education at all in the community. When children got older they learned new skills and became apprenticed to learn crafts such as carpentry or midwifery. And some workhouses had industrial schools where children learned such skills.

PART TWO COMING SOON!


Lynette's book, The Workhouse Waif is now available from Amazon 







Sunday, August 6, 2017

Inspiration for Forgotten Women

We first had a village holiday home in Spain but in the late nineties bought an olive grove in a village in the mountains and built a house upon it. Here we enjoy a relaxed and reasonably stress-free lifestyle. We have space to breathe and enjoy the wonderful climate and a lovely outdoor life: walking, swimming, and working on the land. I generally spend an hour or two every afternoon gardening as a short break from writing. We do now spend our summers in the UK but happily spend each winter in Spain.

The subject of the Civil War is still not an issue the Spanish wish to talk about much. The horror stories we’ve heard from our village is that the priest was killed by being dropped down a well. Not a happy thought, but it was not an area that approved of Fascists and never entirely taken over by Franco. I’ve also heard stories about lost children, a dismissive attitude towards women and having lived there so long, I couldn’t resist doing some research on it.

The Spanish are delightfully friendly people, making ex-pats feel very much a part of the community and we love visiting different places in Spain. Ideas came to me when we visited the Salvador Dalí museum in Figueres, the Prado in Madrid, and the museum in Cartagena. La Colina de Arboledas is fictional, but all other places mentioned are real.

I read many books and articles on the Civil War. My favourites being: A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War, and Doves of War, both by Paul Preston. He is very much an expert on the subject. Other books included: Memories of ResistanceWomen’s Voices from the Spanish Civil War by Shirley Mangini; Malaga Burning by Gamel Woolsey; Homage to Caledonia by Daniel Gray; Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists by Haig Gordon.

But I did not wish this novel to be too depressing, as war undoubtedly is, so chose to add a little mystery and intrigue by adding the story of Libby’s granddaughter and what she discovered. I do think a little light relief in this kind of historical fiction is a good thing. Nor was there a happy ending for the Civil War in Spain and I did want one for this book, plus a little romance.

Thanks also to Maria Dolores Castro, a Spanish friend who checked the Spanish language for me, and to my brother-in-law, Michael, who helped to check the historical facts.

I would also like to thank all my readers who follow me on my newsletter, Facebook: and Twitter: @fredalightfoot If you wish to sign up for my newsletter please visit my website: http://www.fredalightfoot.co.uk 


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. 

Tying them all together is Jo, Libby’s granddaughter. Five decades later she travels to Spain hoping to make sense of a troubling letter hidden among her grandmother’s possessions. What she learns will change all of their lives forever. Deceit, heartbreak, and a longstanding fear of reprisals must all be overcome if the deeds of the forgotten women are to be properly honoured.


Amazon US


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Woman's Courage - The French Revolution


In the later eighteenth century, the status-quo was ripped apart by the poor and middle class in France who demanded equal rights with the rich who were stifling them with high taxes. In 1789 the French Revolution was born with all its accompanying atrocities.
I didn’t wish to rehash the exact events—most of this novel takes place in England—but created a young woman, Lisbette “Bettina” Jonquiere, daughter of a count, who is dragged away by a trusted (she thinks) major domo to protect her from the dangers in Paris after her father’s sudden death.
Her life of luxury vanishes and she must learn to survive with only her wits and courage.

I didn’t write a fluff piece, but through thorough research, a story with all the grit and authenticity of the era. This portion takes place in my first novel, Escape the Revolution.


This blurb explains ESCAPE THE REVOLUTION (also titled The False Light and then Betrayed Countess):

Forced from France on the eve of the French Revolution, Countess Bettina Jonquiere must deliver an important package to further the royalist cause. In England, she discovers the package is full of blank papers, the address false and she’s penniless. Bettina toils in a bawdy tavern and falls in love with a man who may have murdered his wife. Tracked by ruthless revolutionaries, she must uncover the truth about her father’s murder—and her lover’s guilt—while her life is threatened.

The novel grew so huge, I had to cut the last third, beef up that part of the story, and generated a sequel. For those who enjoyed the first novel, but lamented there was no Happily Ever After, I hope you’ll read this dénouement to the story that showcases Bettina’s further trials and triumphs—and perhaps that happy ending.

Here’s the blurb for HOSTAGE TO THE REVOLUTION:

 
In 1796, ruined countess Bettina Jonquiere leaves England after the reported drowning of her lover, Everett.  In New Orleans she struggles to establish a new life for her children. Soon a ruthless Frenchman demands the money stolen by her father at the start of the French Revolution. Bettina is forced on a dangerous mission to France to recover the funds. She unravels dark family secrets, but will she find the man she lost as well?

I hope fans will enjoy both of these novels. I think readers will be satisfied with a trip through sultry New Orleans, and a France torn apart by war during the rise of Napoleon.

But most importantly, a young woman’s determination to forge a new life while reconciling with her past in a turbulent time.