Saturday, December 2, 2017

Work on the land in World War II

At the start of the war because of the blockade around our shores, there were fewer imports, and farming exports fell. The amount of food people could find went down and people turned their flower gardens into vegetable plots. They would keep hens and maybe a pig too. Women and youngsters would go out each autumn to pick acorns, collecting those that had fallen from the oak trees and use them to feed pigs. Children often had plots at school where, with the help of teachers, they too grew vegetables.

Throughout the war the government maintained good prices and strived to avoid a post-war farm recession, as happened following World War I. Farm labour shortage did become a problem, most men having enlisted. A farmer’s first reaction was to get his wife and children to work with him, being required to produce more food. Eventually an emergency appeal was made to recruit members for the Women’s Land Army. Many had not worked on the land before, some having been hairdressers, shop assistants or simply wives and mothers, so had a great deal to learn. It could be difficult at times for them to cope with the cold and mud of winter, the long hours and heavy work involved in the vital tasks of digging, weeding and ploughing, but the land girls grew proud at being able to contribute to the war effort.

Later, the government allowed German and Italian prisoners of war (POWs) to be used as farm labourers, which is what happens in this story. Were they welcomed, and were there rules that had to be kept? They were often involved in caring for sheep and hens. I too have experienced that when running a smallholding. I found that great fun, if quite demanding and took me a while to learn how to do it.

A friend supplied me with a number of sheep and battery hens, which I could give the freedom to be free-range. Being a lass from the mill towns of Lancashire I barely knew how to deal with them, except for a vague memory of helping my grandfather with his hens when I was a small child. She explained the routine, reminding me to shut them up last thing at night. What she didn’t tell me was how to get them safely into the hen hut. I diligently attempted to pick them up. They ran around avoiding me and I finally fell headlong, catching none on them. I went off to have a cup of tea to puzzle over how to resolve this issue, then saw them forming an orderly queue. Presumably in correct pecking order they hopped through the pop hole and onto their perches. So simple! I used this experience in the story, just for fun.

Despite rationing of raw materials for farm equipment, farmers during the war became keen on new technology. The arrival of the Ford Tractor provided valuable equipment for the task of food production. When the war was over, most of their previous hired labourers did not return to the farm. By then most farmers were much better equipped, having used their increased income to buy machines, so they no longer required anywhere near as many workers.

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


Sunday, November 12, 2017

New Cover!

Eden's Conflict - My Victorian saga has had a revamp.  I felt the old cover wasn't getting the right response from readers. So I worked with Josephine, a graphics designer (JB Graphics) who is wonderful in my opinion, and after telling her about the story and what I envisioned, she came up with the cover you see below.
I love it. Those who have read the story will see how much the cover represents the story as well.

I've asked Amazon, Apple iBook and Kobo, etc, to change their listing to the new cover, which will take a few days or so to filter through online. Hopefully, this lovely new cover will soon be able to be seen by everyone.

Eden's Conflict
1901 - A new century brings change to the carefully ordered world Eden Harris maintains, change that threatens all she holds dear. Despite years of devoted service to the Bradburys, the leading family of the community, Eden hides a secret that would affect them all. When an enemy returns, her world is shattered and her secret exposed. Torn and provoked, she strains to protect her family until a devastating accident leaves her alone and frightened. As the threat against her grows, Eden takes her precious daughters and flees from the only place she's called home, to live amongst masses in York. 
Her attempt to start anew is not so simple as the past haunts her, and the one man she thought lost to her so many years before, returns to claim what has always been his. Eden must gather her strength and look into her heart to accept what the future offers. 
Can she find the happiness she longs for?

Eden's Conflict is available now.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Secret Purpose of Masques at the French Court.

Catherine de Medici is reputed to have imported the fashion of masques to France from her native Italy, along with works by the Italian dancing masters. Her festivals and tournaments were famously lavish and spectacular entertainments. She spared no expense and employed the finest artists, musicians, choreographers and skilled craftsmen to create the necessary dramas and effects. A highly talented and artistic woman, she took a major role in planning and devising the most elaborate festivities, which she liked to call her ‘magnificences’.

A masque was a tableau or pageant in which the courtiers, often in some form of disguise or costume, would dance and perform. It could be anything from a simple ceremony or procession with torchbearers, to an elaborately staged classical story or mythological fable. They took place at Christmas, Easter and other festivals, would celebrate a wedding, christening or betrothal, or welcome visiting guests to the French court. They might include ballet or other dances, dramatic tales and songs, and even offer gifts to the spectators, often followed by a masked ball. These sumptuous court rituals sometimes incorporated martial sports and tournaments, which Catherine used as a means of allowing her feuding nobles to express their grievances with each other without reverting to open warfare, thereby maintaining her own power over them.

As queen mother of three sons who became King of France, Catherine used her entertainments to dazzle and impress visiting delegates and political leaders, the more fantastic and extravagant the better. At Bayonne she organised a water festival to take place on the river with an artificial whale leaking red wine from a supposed wound, and King Neptune riding his chariot pulled by sea horses. This was her way of showing the strength and riches of France, her adopted country. Her ‘magnificences’ certainly cost an inordinate sum to stage, but Catherine, being the wily operator she was, always had a political purpose behind them. Once her distinguished visitor had been sumptuously entertained, as with the Duke of Alva in Bayonne in ‘Hostage Queen’, the first of my Marguerite de Valois trilogy, she then embarked upon political discussions which, in this case, proved to have dire consequences.

Masques also provided an opportunity for a young lady to show herself off to advantage. Gabrielle d’Estrées in ‘Reluctant Queen’, second in the trilogy, chose the prettiest, most lively ladies of the court to take part in the ballet. She herself, splendidly attired as a queen in cloth of silver and ice blue satin, led the dance and was hailed la belle des belles.

Flirting and dalliance was very much a part of the scene, of which Henry of Navarre, later Henry IV of France, was an expert. The nymph-like figures would often be scantily dressed. In ‘The Queen and the Courtesan’, last in the trilogy, on seeing the King watching her, pretty little Charlotte tossed back her blonde tresses and pirouetted gracefully across the room, then lifting her bow aimed the arrow at the King’s breast. She struck his heart not with the arrow but with love, which was not good news for his official mistress, Henriette d’Entragues.

Henriette, or Madame la Marquise as she was known, has her hopes set on a crown, but is devastated when she hears that Henry IV is considering marriage to the Italian princess, Marie de Medici. The masque, with all its busy hubbub and noise, was an excellent place to involve herself in a little subtle intrigue on how best to rid herself of this rival. But whether it will gain Henriette what she most desires, or lead her into mortal danger is a risk she is willing to take.

Even as she let him peel off her silk stockings and pleasure her beneath her skirts, her mind was busily devising how to dispose of the Italian threat. Assistance soon came in the shape of Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, a son-in-law and ally of Philip II of Spain. He arrived at Fontainebleau on the fourteenth of December with an entourage of his most important ministers and nobles, and twelve hundred horse. Henriette took a dislike to him on sight.
      ‘What a strange little man he is,’ she whispered to her brother as the court gathered in the cold courtyard to receive him. ‘Like an ugly dwarf with that humpback, and over-large head with its abnormally broad brow.’
     ‘Hold your waspish tongue, sister. He is a powerful man, and whatever his deficiencies, rumour has it that he has enjoyed as many mistresses in his time as Henry of Navarre, and consequently acquired as many children.’
     ‘Poor souls,’ Henriette giggled. ‘I trust they do not resemble their father. His head looks like a brush with that great tuft of bristled hair atop it.’
     ‘Be nice to him,’ Auvergne warned. ‘He could be important to us. He bears many grudges against both France and the King. Apart from ongoing disputes about land, he had hoped to marry one of his daughters to Gabrielle’s son, little César, whom, had she lived, would have become the next Dauphin. Now that alliance has been lost, which he sorely regrets.’
     Henriette considered this tidbit of gossip with eager interest. ‘You think he might help us then?’
     ‘It would not be in his interests for the Italian alliance to go ahead as the huge dowry offered might well be deployed by France to start a war against himself. Much of the territory he once captured from the French in the religious wars has now been restored, save for the Marquisate of Saluzzo. We, of course, regard that piece as of great strategic importance to our nation, being situated as it is on the Italian side of the Alps, but he resolutely refuses to surrender it. So guard that virulent wit of yours, sister, and practice more charm.’
     The Duke was given a warm welcome by the King, and made much of with endless balls, jousts, masques and hunting-parties. After a week of this the court moved to Paris where the festivities, many devised by Madame la Marquise herself, continued over Christmas and into the New Year of 1600. Henriette was striving to be agreeable, and to please Henry, which was in her own best interests, after all. She even allowed the Duke to lead her out in a dance, although she returned to her brother’s side with a sardonic curl to her lip.
     ‘I do not care for that odious little man. Small of stature, large in ego.’
     ‘Remember what I told you. Ah, he is coming for you again, now put on your best smile and be gracious.’

Henriette d’Entragues isn’t satisfied with simply being the mistress of Henry IV of France, she wants a crown too. Despite his promises to marry her, the King is obliged by political necessity to ally himself with Marie de Medici, an Italian princess who will bring riches to the treasury. But Henriette isn’t for giving up easily. She has a written promise of marriage which she intends to use to declare the royal marriage illegal. All she has to do to achieve her ambition is to give Henry a son, then whatever it takes through intrigue and conspiracy to set him on the throne.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Monday, October 23, 2017

New review for Anita Davison

A wonderful review from Jennifer Wells for Anita Davison's novel, which is part of her Flora Maguire series.

 USA cover                     

Flora Maguire's life is perfect – a beautiful home in Belgravia teeming with servants, a loving husband, and new baby Arthur to enjoy. But when she is invited to tour St Philomena's Children's Hospital in deprived Southwark, she gets a harsh insight into the darker side of Edwardian London.
Shocked by the conditions people are living in, she soon uncovers a scandal with a dark heart – children are going missing from the hospital, apparently sold by their own families, and their fate is too awful to imagine. With the police seemingly unable or unwilling to investigate, Flora teams up with the matron of the hospital, Alice Finch, to try to get to the bottom of it.
Soon Flora is immersed in the seedy, dangerous underbelly of criminal London, and time is running out to save the children. Will they get to them in time, or was their fate decided the day they were born poor...

 UK cover

Flora’s life seems perfect. She has a loving husband, beautiful baby and servants to help run her opulent home, but when she receives an invitation to a charitable tour of a children’s hospital, she is soon reminded that life for most Edwardian Londoners can be much harder. When a student nurse is murdered at the hospital, Flora unearths a plot concerning the abduction of patients. Flora’s perfect life is contrasted with some brilliant descriptions of the deprived areas of the city. There are hooks on almost every page that draw the reader deeper and deeper until they are fully immersed in the mystery. The final chapters are action-packed. I had read the first book in this series and regret not returning to them until now (book 4). The first book briefly introduced Flora’s childhood, specifically the disappearance of her mother - something which had me intrigued. Luckily the author skilfully weaves the mysteries of Flora’s past throughout the series. Both books that I read work well in isolation – but readers should be aware of tantalising flashbacks and cliff-hangers that will make them want to read all of the Flora Maguire series.

Reviewer: Jennifer Wells
twitter:  @jenwellswriter

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?

For those who have read the Kitty McKenzie books, the third book, Southern Sons, about Kitty's grandchildren, is available in ebook and paperback.
If you've read and enjoyed it, I'd love it if you left a review on Amazon please. Thank you.
Southern Sons
Will they survive the war?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review of The Murderess by Jennifer Wells


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.


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?


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! On Amazon. Coming soon to Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBooks.
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?

For those who have read the Kitty McKenzie books, the third book, Southern Sons, about Kitty's grandchildren, is available in ebook and paperback.
If you've read and enjoyed it, I'd love it if you left a review on Amazon please. Thank you.
Southern Sons
Will they survive the war?