Exclusive Extract from The Patchwork Girls by Elaine Everest

Today we are thrilled to be able to publish an exclusive extract from the first chapter of the brand new novel, The Patchwork Girls, by well-known saga writer and regular visitor to our blog, Elaine Everest

Chapter 1

‘I’m sorry, Mrs Wentworth, but you shouldn’t be here,’ the grey-haired porter said, reaching out gently to take the young woman’s arm. He could see she was in shock, her face pale and her body trembling.

Helen looked up at the damaged facade of the Victorian mansion block. The building where she’d started her married life with so many hopes and dreams had fared badly: several window panes were missing and the red brickwork was chipped on the first floor. ‘I need to collect a few things,’ she pleaded. ‘I promise to be careful . . .’

‘Okay, missus, but I’ll have to accompany you. I would never forgive myself if something ’appened to you after – well, after what went on here yesterday.’

Without a word Helen entered the building, heading towards the ornate iron lift residents used to travel to the upper floors.

‘Best we don’t use it,’ he said, steering her towards the wide staircase. ‘It’s not been checked out yet and gawd knows what damage has been done.’ He scowled. ‘I don’t know what the world’s come to.’ He fell into step beside her as they started to climb the winding black-and-white tiled staircase. Already some of the ornate windows had been boarded up, although chinks of light from the midday sun shone through the cracks, illuminating dust motes dancing around them.

‘Here we go,’ the porter said, pulling open a heavy oak door that led to the upper hallway and the entrance to her home, along with several others. ‘You’ll find a couple of coppers in there. I did tell them not to hang about, as that ceiling’s bound to come down before too long. Who’d have thought this could ’appen here in Cadogan Mansions?’ He shook his head. ‘I’ll come with you to make sure you stay safe. Do you really want to go in there after . . .’

Helen thanked him, but didn’t say any more. The porter and his wife liked nothing better than a juicy morsel of gossip to keep them going during their live-in job of caring for the old building. She usually did her best to slip quietly past if either of them was hovering in the entrance lobby. They could chat for England, and what had happened in her apartment would certainly keep them interested for many a day.

‘Oh, my goodness; I never thought there would be so much damage! A few broken windows and ruined furnishings, but this . . .’ She clasped a hand to her mouth to stifle a sob. The remains of damask curtains flapped in a light breeze coming through the gaps where once there’d been floor-to-ceiling windows. All around the drawing room were scattered pieces of wood and fabric that Helen could only just recognize as her furniture. The desk where John had worked was intact, although scratched by debris, while a large breakfront cabinet had lost its upper doors. Books were everywhere, pages fluttering in the cold air. ‘He didn’t stand a chance.’ Shrugging off the porter’s attempt to place an arm round her shoulders, Helen took a deep breath. ‘I just need to collect . . .’

The Patchwork Girls

A moving story set during WWII, about how the strong bonds of female friendship can carry you through the most difficult times.

1939. After the sudden and tragic loss of her husband, Helen returns to her mother’s house in Biggin Hill, Kent – the one place she vowed she’d never go back to.

Alone and not knowing where to turn, she joins the local women’s sewing circle to find some companionship and comfort, despite being hopeless with a needle and thread. These resourceful women can not only ‘make- do and mend’ clothes, quilts and woolly hats, but the fast-formed friendship with Lizzie and Effie mends something deeper in Helen too.

When the reason for Helen’s husband’s death comes to light, her world is turned upside down yet again. The investigating officer on the case, Richard, will leave no stone unturned – but it’s not long before his interest in Helen goes beyond the professional. As she pieces together old fabrics into a beautiful quilt, will Helen patch up the rifts in her own life?

The Patchwork Girls is out on 14th October and published by Pan Macmillan

About Elaine

Elaine Everest is the author of bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls, The
Butlins Girls, Christmas at Woolworths and The Teashop Girls. She was born and
raised in North-West Kent, where many of her bestselling historical sagas are set.
She grew up listening to tales of the war years in her hometown of Erith, which
has inspired her own stories.

Elaine has been a freelance writer for 25 years and has written over 100 short
stories and serials for the women’s magazine market. She is also the author of a
number of popular non-fiction books for dog owners.

When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent. She now lives in Swanley with her husband, Michael and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry.

You can find out more about Elaine on:

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Follow the tour…

All in a Day’s Work

Francesca has a look at all the different topics she might end up researching during one day’s writing, for her historical novels set in World War 1 Wales.

It occurred to me recently, as I was writing the fourth novel for my Valleys series, that it’s amazing what diverse topics you can find yourself researching in just one day.

For instance, if I want a character to go out on a trip outside of the village, there are a few things to find out. Although my village of Dorcalon is imaginary (albeit heavily based on Abertysswg, in the Rhymney Valley), all of the towns and villages around it that I mention, are real. My characters have visited Rhymney, Tredegar, Bargoed, Cardiff, Monmouth, Barry Island and even a couple of places in London.

‘Dorcalon’ (Abertysswg) today. The mine was in the area where the rugby post is.

Under normal circumstances, it would be easy enough to go onto Google maps and have a look around the streets to see what a town looks like, and what kind of shops it has. I could look up train journey times on Network Rail journey planner.

The times they are a-changing

But of course, none of these would give me an accurate picture of what was in the towns, or how to get to them, in, say, 1918. I’ve managed to find train line routes at this time on Wikipedia, so know, by comparing them to today’s rail maps, that many of the stations, and branch lines, no longer exist. Then it’s a case of making a rough estimation of how long the journey might have taken. Rhymney to Cardiff, for instance, had about ten fewer stations.

If I want my character to walk down Castle Street in Cardiff, there’s no point at looking at a photographic map of the street today. Luckily, with most of the towns I’ve mentioned, I’ve found lots of photographs of the time, in books and online. Cardiff, I discovered, had a tram system, and the shops had wonderful canopies, the likes of which we never see nowadays.

A bit of local colour

As for the shops themselves, not always obvious on photographs, there are the marvellous Kelly’s Directories, and also local papers of the time. I’m particularly blessed where Wales is concerned, as the Library of Wales has the most wonderful catalogue of newspapers online. In fact, the newspapers have furnished me with information on many subjects, including theatre and cinema programmes, court proceedings, café menus and jobs. There’s also the census which, apart from revealing people’s occupations, tells you what names were popular, and the size of families.

Less is More

While all the above is just touching the surface, I only ever end up using a fraction of what I learn while I’m researching. For instance, I mostly don’t need to mention how long a train journey took, but I need to know, so that I don’t have the character leaving early afternoon on what should be an hour’s journey, and arriving late evening! Much of the information used is ‘set dressing’, to give a flavour of the time and the people, not to overwhelm with it.

An example of some of the items I had to research for one scene in Cardiff:

I’ve visited the city many times (my mum was brought up there), and some things are the same, but I had to assume I knew nothing, so, among other queries, I needed to know:

What was the train route? (Direct from Rhymney, as it is today.)

Where was the station? (Queen Street station was where it is today.)

What were the major stores etc Gwen would likely visit?  (Marments, David Morgan’s, and Howell’s department stores and the arcades.)

What fabrics were available to buy in 1918? (Linens, cottons, silks, organzas, chiffons, crepes and even the new artificial rayon.)

What did the market look like back then? (A lot like it does today!)

Was there a well-known café and what did it look like inside? (I could have made one up but finding The Dutch Café on Queen Street meant I could have something authentic.)

What you would have seen walking down Queen Street and Castle Street? (Old shops on Queen Street, not the modern ones of today, the castle, the tram.)

Could you visit the castle? (No. It wasn’t open to the public then.)

Cardiff Castle in the 1960s, taken by my father.

It’s a good job I enjoy research, isn’t it? 🙂

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Into The Wild Blue Yonder…

Francesca and Elaine are thrilled to welcome Mick Arnold for a chat about the things that interest him, as his latest novel, Wild Blue Yonder (Broken Wings Book 2), is out in the world.

If you were stuck on a desert island with one person/record/book who or what would it be and why?

I’ve always wanted to be on Desert Island Discs!

Music plays a huge part in my life. I even have to have music on whilst I’m editing. Sorry, weird, but there’s nothing I can do about that, it’s too late for me. Ever since I first heard the songs of the Beach Boys back in 1978 whilst driving across France and Spain to Morocco – I hasten to add, I wasn’t driving as I was way too young – I’ve been in love with their music, but especially that of their main songwriter, Brian Wilson.

So the question is, would I prefer the company of Brian or his masterpiece, the album, Pet Sounds? It’s quite a difficult question as Brian is a genius songwriter, it’s often been said, he’s an amateur human. I’ve met him twice and would have to agree with that assessment. So, Pet Sounds it is.

Pet Sounds is full of fantastic songs. It first came out in 1966 and contains, for instance, God Only Knows, Sloop John B and Wouldn’t It Be Nice (you’ve all heard it on the adverts). Famous for their harmonies, The Beach Boys never sounded as good as on this album. The music and orchestrations are sumptuous and you only have to listen to it once and you’re hooked; or I believe you will be.

This is an album, which I never tire of hearing, and still sounds as fresh to me as when I first tracked it down in 1980. Yes, I remember the date I first obtained this record. At last count, I think I have it on four or five different versions of cd, dvd and blueray, plus an original 1966, which I bought for lp!

Paul McCartney, you may have heard of him, as he used to belong to some British rock group (I forget their name), once said that ‘God Only Knows’ is the greatest song ever written and that Pet Sounds inspired them to come up with Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Pet Sounds stands up to anything, at any time and listening to it always puts me in a mellow mood. Simply put, I will never tire of listening to this album and so long as there’s a way for me to listen to it, I’ll be very happy having this with me on my desert island.

How do you select the names of your characters?

You’re going to love this! Usually by looking around where I happen to be writing and seeing if any books (there are usually some around everywhere in the house) have interesting names on their covers. Sometimes though, the names simply come to me as I’m writing. I do have the usual baby name and surname books, but they never seen to be around when I need them.

Do you have a favourite writing place?

Strange as it may seem, just sitting on the sofa, with my laptop on my…um, lap. I’ve tried sitting at a desk and/or table, but it doesn’t seem to work for me. I can’t seem to write if it’s totally quiet either so I’m quite happy with either a good movie on or some music in the background.

Other than writing what else do you love to do?

Listening to music and watching films are two of my favourite things to do, if I’m not writing. I also love just watching my two Romanian Werecats play. Mind you, I’m not quite sure if they aren’t actually just testing out plans for taking over the world!

Thank you so much for chatting to us, it’s clear that you not only have a love of writing but the Beach Boys as well.

About Wild Blue Yonder (Broken Wings Book 2)

Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Doris Winter is accused of stealing a valuable item from a famous Hollywood movie star, now a Captain in the US Army Air Corps, after a dance at the air base in England where he’s stationed. Gathering her close friends together, she’s determined to clear her name.

Ruth’s POW son suffers a life-changing injury just as her own cottage takes damage in an air raid and Penny’s estranged little sister unexpectedly turns up, having run away from school. Together with the ongoing thefts of items of clothing and surprise personal revelations, these all threaten to hamper their investigation.

In spite of the worsening war situation, they must band together to rise above their troubles and prove love and friendship is worth fighting for.

Buy links:

Amazon UK – Wild Blue Yonder (Broken Wings Book 2)

Aamzon US – Wild Blue Yonder (Broken Wings Book 2)

Amazon AU – Wild Blue Yonder (Broken Wings Book 2)

Amazon CA – Wild Blue Yonder (Broken Wings Book 2)

iBooks         – Wild Blue Yonder (Broken Wings Book 2)

Nook           – Wild Blue Yonder (Broken Wings Book 2)

Kobo          – Wild Blue Yonder (Broken Wings Book 2)

A word about the author…

Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elizabeth II in the Royal Air Force before putting down roots and realizing how much he missed the travel. He’s replaced it somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and supporting fellow saga and romance authors in promoting their novels.

He’s the proud keeper of two cats bent on world domination, is mad on the music of the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. Wild Blue Yonder is the second novel in his Broken Wings series and he is very proud to be a part of the Vintage Rose Garden at The Wild Rose Press.

Contact/Social media links –

FaceBook:            https://www.facebook.com/MWArnoldAuthor

Twitter:                @mick859

Instagram:           mick859

YouTube channel: M A Arnold

Welcoming Elaine Everest with A Mother Forever

Elaine Everest has popped in today to tell us all about her latest saga, A Mother Forever, featuring Ruby Castelton from the Woolworths series

Welcome, Elaine! It’s great to have you visit us once again.

Thank you both so much for inviting me to your blog today.

First of all, can you give us an insight into your main character?

The main character in A Mother Forever is Ruby Castelton. We join her as she is moving into her new home in Alexandra Road, Erith and hoping for a better future for her husband, Eddie and young son, George after living in rooms in an unpleasant area of London. Her mother, Milly is joining them which causes problems – her husband is not enamoured of his mother-in-law.

Collapsing in the street and taken in by neighbour, Stella Green, events unfold that are to shape Ruby’s future.

What inspired you to write A Mother Forever?

For a long time, readers have asked about Ruby Castelton as they’ve only known her since 1938. Gradually the idea came to me of events and family situations that would have made Ruby the strong woman we knew when she was in her later years. Ruby was born and lived through interesting times and it was my job to show this in my story.

How do you select the names of your characters?

Whether I write novels or short stories I know that a character’s name is extremely important. The Christian name must be ‘of the time’ and not stand out as too modern for a historical novel. Of course, there are always evergreen names that seem to stand the test of time. I once had a student who only ever used the name Sarah for her main character. Fortunately for her it was a name that stood the test of time, but would that name suit every character. A name is like a favourite pair of shoes in that it has to feel right and be comfortable for the reader.


Surnames and a few first names I like to take from my own family history. Tomkins, Sayers, Caselton, and many more are also local to the area where my stories are set. I will add that when I visit my online family history charts I can see stories and adventures in so many names, that three hours later I’m no further forwards in my writing.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

For me research is an ongoing project. When I start to think about the plot of a book I will start my research. When this is for a future book I can enjoy reading books, watch documentaries and attend talks (oh, how I long to return to attending talks) and digging into history. This can mean I have a pile of books taken from my vast stock of non-fiction book, or indeed I may be browsing second-hand shops and online sites for new gems I can delve into in the name of research. A recent delivery containing books about the way people die, bastards in history, and crimes set in Kent had my husband asking what I was up to!

I do like a fancy box, so have a stock of them, which I label for a certain project and stash away cuttings, notes and books – that’s when I’m being tidy. I usually have three book ideas on the go at any one time so there are boxes and piles of books everywhere.

What does success look like to you?

To be honest the word ‘success’ embarrasses me. It is so big headed to believe one is successful, but isn’t that what writers strive to be, and why our agent, publisher, and publicist aim for as they build our brand?

For me success means people recognise my books and want to read more. These readers are supportive of what I write and appear at my talks and frequent my Facebook author page while signing up for my newsletters via my website.

What new writers need to understand is that a successful writer also earns above the average income for our profession – and that can be hard!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Now where did I put that list…?

There is the usual advice to keep reading and write new words every day. I would add to that to not be afraid to read your own genre and if you don’t enjoy doing just that ask yourself why you are writing it?

It is never too early to start studying publishers and agents and keeping a list for when you are ready to submit.

Keep attending talks, workshops classes as we never stop learning.

Most importantly be prepared for rejection as it’s is a rite of passage and don’t ever believe that everything you write is going to be published. All the best authors have books languishing on hard drives that should never see the light of day.

Thank you so much Elaine & Francesca for inviting me today.

Elaine xx

Thank you for that, Elaine, and the very best of luck with A Mother Forever.

A MOTHER FOREVER

1905: Ruby Caselton may only be twenty-five years old but she already has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Heavily pregnant with her second child, penniless and exhausted, she is moving her family into a new home. The Caseltons left their last place when they couldn’t pay the rent, but Ruby’s husband Eddie has promised this will be a fresh start for them all. And Ruby desperately hopes that this time he will keep his word.

With five-year-old George at her feet and her mother having a cross word for everyone and everything, life is never dull at number thirteen Alexandra Road. It doesn’t take long before Eddie loses another job and once again hits the bottle. It’s up to Ruby to hold them all together, through thick and thin. She remembers the kind, caring man Eddie once was and just can’t give up on him entirely. What she doesn’t know is that Eddie has a secret, one so dark that he can’t bear to tell even Ruby . . .

Through Ruby’s grit and determination, she keeps food on the table and finds herself a community of neighbours on Alexandra Road. Stella, the matriarch from across the way, soon becomes a friend and confidante. She even dreams that Ruby will ditch the useless Eddie and take up with her eldest son, Frank. But when war breaks out in 1914, the heartbreaks and losses that follow will fracture their community, driving both Stella and Ruby to breaking point. Will their men ever return to them?

A Mother Forever is the moving story of one woman’s journey through the worst trials of her life – poverty, grief, betrayal – but through it all is the love and comfort she finds in family: the family we’re connected to through blood, but also the family we make for ourselves with neighbours and friends.

Paperbacks are available now from all supermarkets and booksellers and all good online sellers.

About Elaine

Elaine hails from North West Kent and grew up listening to stories of the war years in her hometown of Erith, which features in her bestselling Woolworths Girls series. A former journalist, author of non-fiction books for dog owners, and qualified creative writing tutor. Elaine has written well over one hundred short stories and serials for the women’s magazine market. When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent.

Elaine is currently published by Pan Macmillan for her Sunday Times Bestselling historical sagas including the Woolworths Girls series and The Teashop Girls series. She is represented by Caroline Sheldon at the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency and lives with her husband, Michael and Polish Lowland Sheepdog Henry.

You can find out more about Elaine on:

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Welcoming Rachel Brimble with Trouble for the Leading Lady

Today we welcome Rachel Brimble to talk about her latest Victorian saga novel, Trouble for the Leading Lady

Hello Rachel, it’s great to have you drop by. First of all, can you give us an insight into your main character?

Nancy Bloom is a good time girl who is hiding a secret dream and an even deeper pain – she is funny, caring and loyal. Her friends and the Carson Street house, where she works as a prostitute, is her foundation, her anchor and her haven. Trouble For The Leading Lady tells her story and it was a joy to give her a much-deserved happy ever after.

What inspired you to write Trouble For The Leading Lady?

This book is the second in my latest Victorian trilogy (both books can be read as single titles), so the inspiration was for the series, rather than each individual book. After reading Hallie Rubenhold’s fascinating book, The Five, a non-fiction book about the five victims of Jack The Ripper, I was inspired to write a series about three very different women, with very different stories, who find themselves entering the world of prostitution. No woman chooses that life, so what happened?

Tell us about your setting and why you chose it?

The Ladies of Carson Street series is set in Bath, England which is where I choose to set all my historical romances. The reason? I live just a short 30 minute drive away! Bath is a famous city, rich in history and I like being able to bring this wonderful place to the attention of readers who might not have been there or want a different setting than London. Hopefully, my books are enjoyed by all!

What are you working on at the moment?

I have just sent the third book in the Ladies of Carson Street series (Octavia’s story) to my editor and, fingers crossed, it will be released in the autumn. So, it’s onto the next series – I am writing the initial draft of the first book in a royal themed series which will be set in the court of Queen Victoria – so far, I am having a wonderful time!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The best advice I was ever given was, ‘Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.’ Once I fully embraced this mindset, my enjoyment and output increased enormously, and this way of working has become part of my process ever since. Following drafts can be used to polish, strengthen and create the best work possible 😊 I also love helping aspiring writers which is why I set up my First Chapter Critique series – here’s the link

Other than writing what else do you love to do?

Knitting is my second obsession! I wouldn’t say I am an expert, but it is something that I am happy to do for hours in front of the TV… usually watching a favourite period drama! If I’m not writing or knitting, there is nothing I love more than a long dog walk in the countryside with my family or friends… followed by a pub lunch!

Thank you for taking the time to come to talk to us Rachel. The very best of luck with Trouble for the Leading Lady.

Trouble For The Leading Lady…

Bath, 1852.

As a girl, Nancy Bloom would go to Bath’s Theatre Royal, sit on the hard wooden benches and stare in awe at the actresses playing men as much as the women dressed in finery. She longed to be a part of it all and when a man promised her parents he could find a role for Nancy in the theatre, they believed him.

His lie and betrayal led to her ruin.

Francis Carlyle is a theatre manager, an ambitious man always looking for the next big thing to take the country by storm. A self-made man, Francis has finally shed the skin of his painful past and is now rich, successful and in need of a new female star. Never in a million years did he think he’d find her standing on a table in one of Bath’s bawdiest pubs.

Nancy vowed never to trust a man again. Francis will do anything to make her his star. As they engage in a battle of wits and wills, can either survive with their hearts intact?

The second in Rachel Brimble’s thrilling new Victorian saga series, Trouble for the Leading Lady will whisk you away to the riotous, thriving underbelly of Victorian Bath.

Available on:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

About Rachel Brimble

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 25 published novels including the Ladies of Carson Street series, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

In 2019 she signed a new three book contract with Aria Fiction for a Victorian trilogy set in a Bath brothel. The first book, A Widow’s Vow was released in September 2020 followed by book 2 Trouble For The Leading Lady in March 2021 – it is expected that the final instalment will be released in the Autumn 2021.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click here

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Welcoming Rosie Hendry with The Mother’s Day Club

Today we welcome Rosie Hendry to the blog, to talk about her fabulous new saga, The Mother’s Day Club

Hi Rosie, it’s great to have you visit us.

First of all, can you give us an insight into your main character?

Pregnant Marianne Archer, is a young woman who’s been let down by the man she loves and is determined to do everything she can to protect her unborn baby. Her evacuation out of London, is the perfect opportunity for her to start afresh and provide her child with the start in life that she never had.

What inspired you to write The Mother’s Day Club?

I was at the Imperial War Museum in London, doing some research for another book, and stumbled across an account written by an expectant mother who was evacuated on the day war was declared. She told of how they’d been waved off by their East End family and neighbours, and described the siren going off as they walked to the station. Rather than seek shelter, they’d kept on walking not knowing whether they were about to be bombed. It was such a powerful scene that I knew I wanted to write about it one day. Also, the fact that I hadn’t known that expectant mothers were evacuated as well as children, before I came across this account, made me want to tell their story which has been largely forgotten.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I must get characters’ names right before I can start writing. They need to fit with the person I have in mind and I might go through several different options before I settle on the right one. For the sisters in the Mother’s Day Club, I wanted names that sounded quite formal but could be shortened. They also needed to be typical of the era in which the characters were born.

Tell us about your setting and why you chose it?

The setting for the Mother’s Day club is in a village in rural Norfolk, halfway between the city of Norwich and the north coast of the county. I know it well having grown up in such a village, and heard many tales about what it was like during the wartime from my father. Often books focus on what was going on in major cities, but the war had huge effect on rural life too, and I wanted to show that.

For historical sagas, there’s often a lot of research involved. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I research in a wide variety of places from books, museums such as the Imperial War Museum, online sites, by visiting places or watching programmes. One of the best research sources are first-hand accounts, such as oral histories, which give the small details that are so important in conveying what the time was like. How long I spend doing research varies, perhaps up to a month, although I also do some as I go along as things crop up while I’m writing.

What do you find the most difficult part of writing process?

Keeping going day after day with the writing. It’s like running a marathon, and at the start the prospect of writing 95,000 words seems very daunting. But if I chip away at it day after day, I will eventually get a first draft written, then I can start to bash it into shape with editing, which I really enjoy.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t get it right, get it written! That’s the best piece of advice I ever had as I used to spend ages trying to perfect the first page and getting nowhere fast. Your first draft does not have to be perfect! If you can get the story down, you can work at it and improve it.

We’ve all got to have interests outside of our work. So, other than writing, what else do you love to do?

I love doing crafts, especially knitting and crochet, and always have a few projects on the go. I sometimes even do them while I dictate my books, as I find keeping my hands busy helps the flow of words.

I’m also passionate about nature and love getting out walking in the woods and fields all beach around my home village, looking at plants and animals, and what’s going on. And I love reading too!

If you were stuck on a desert island with one person/record/book who or what would it be and why?

My husband, Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending, as it’s such a beautiful piece of music and reminds me of the glorious skylarks that sing on the cliffs in our village. And just one book… that’s such a hard choice! Can I be cheeky and have two? They would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one copy as I love the sweeping story of it; and Cathy Kelly’s The Honey Queen which is a favourite feel good read. There are many more I could choose.

Thank you again for coming to talk to us Rosie and giving us an insight into your book and your life. The very best of luck with The Mother’s Day Club

 

The Mother’s Day Club

Will friendship and motherhood keep the Women on the Home Front safe from war?

Norfolk, 1939


When the residents of Great Plumstead, a small and charming community in Norfolk, offer to open their homes to evacuees from London, they’re expecting to care for children. So when a train carrying expectant mothers pulls into the station, the town must come together to accommodate their unexpected new arrivals . . .

Sisters Prue and Thea welcome the mothers with open arms, while others fear their peaceful community will be disrupted. But all pregnant Marianne seeks is a fresh start for herself and her unborn child. Though she knows that is only possible as long as her new neighbours don’t discover the truth about her situation.

The women of Great Plumstead, old and new, are fighting their own battles on the home front. Can the community come together in a time of need to do their bit for the war effort?

The Mother’s Day Club is the perfect wartime family saga, filled with heart-warming friendships, nostalgic community spirit and a courageous make-do-and-mend attitude.

Available on:

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Apple Books   

 

About Rosie Hendry

Rosie Hendry lives by the sea in Norfolk with her husband and children. A former teacher and research scientist, she’s always loving reading and writing. She started off writing short stories for magazines, her stories gradually becoming longer as her children grew bigger.

Listening to her father’s tales of life during the Second World War sparked Rosie’s interest in this period and she’s especially intrigued by how women’s lives changed during the war years. She loves researching further, searching out gems of real life events which inspire her writing.

 

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The Beauty of Old Photographs

Francesca takes a look at an old (ish) photograph that helped inspire her village of Dorcalon

I’ve talked often of how my mother’s family, and in particular, a great grandfather’s First World War record, were instrumental in me starting the Valleys series. Some of you may have noticed a few of the photographs I’ve used in my publicity for the books. Most were taken by me, but there is one old (ish) one, taken by my father.

My mother and grandmother were born in the village of Abertysswg in the Rhymney Valley, which forms the basis of my imaginary village of Dorcalon. When I was a child, although much of the family had moved by then (some as far as Australia), we still had cousins in Merthyr Tydfil, who we stayed with from time to time. They used to love driving us around Wales, and consequently I got to see the village where my mother was born.

The photo above was taken by my father in 1973, and although not nearly as old as the setting in the novels, it does show buildings that were there in World War 1, that have since disappeared. The original is in black and white, but I managed to find a site to colourise it. The tall Ainon Baptist Chapel (attended by my great grandparents and their family), built in 1906 in the Romanesque style, had the large front portion demolished in 1997, leaving now only a single storey building at the back. The Workmen’s Institute, opened in 1910, has since been demolished. The McLaren Arms (The McKenzie Arms in my novels) was demolished in 2005.

The colliery, dating from 1895, stood on the grassed area on the right of the photo and was closed in 1959 (or 1969, depending on which source you read!). Most, if not all of it seems to have disappeared by 1973.

The two public buildings that have survived from that time are the school (which my grandmother and her siblings will have attended) and the parish church.

There are some very much older photographs of Abertysswg that have been massively helpful in picturing what it was like. I don’t have the copyright to them to be able to put them on the blog, but here are some links to them: Workmen’s InstituteAbertysswgMcLaren Mine

The next photograph is one I took in 2014 of Abertysswg, though it’s side on to the village.

It’s easy to see that the most imposing buildings have gone. Despite this, apart from a few added domestic buildings, the houses are much as they were a hundred years ago. At the forefront of the photo, slightly to the left, you can see McLaren House, where the colliery manager lived (McKenzie House in the books) and either side, McLaren Cottages (McKenzie Cottages).

What a shame most of the wonderful old public buildings have now disappeared. They would have all been hubs of the mining community, the Workmen’s Institute in particular, with its library and staged talks, plays and musical events. Today there is a much smaller Working Men’s Club on the edge of the village. Times change, but it’s great to have these old photographs to allow us to glimpse into the past.

The original photograph taken by my father in 1973

 

A competition for you to enter, to win signed copies of Heartbreak in the Valleys and War in the Valleys

The celebrate the publication of the paperbacks of Heartbreak in the Valleys and War in the Valleys, I’m running a couple of easy-to-enter competitions this week and next to win signed copies of both books.
Just follow the link below to my author page and follow the instructions there for the current competition that runs until 6pm on Saturday 6th March. Pob lwc! (Good luck!) 😀

 

The books can be purchased HERE

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Publication Day and Competition Time!

Francesca celebrates the paperback publication of her Valleys novels with a competition

Today I’m utterly delighted to report that my first two Valleys novels, Heartbreak in the Valleys and War in the Valleys are published in paperback today. It’s been lovely seeing them as ebooks, and, in the case of Heartbreak, hearing it as an audio, but there’s still something special about holding a paper book in you hands.

Back in World War 1, when the books are set, they would have been amazed at ebook technology.  I wonder what my imaginary bookseller, Mr Schenck, would have had to say about it, though being a philosophical sort, he’d probably have taken it in his stride.  All the same, he may well have been relieved at the opportunity to sell a physical copy.

To celebrate the paperback publications, there are two chances this week to win copies of both novels in competitions over on my Facebook author page. The first one is up from today. All you have to do is like or follow the author page, then answer a simple question on the thread.  You’ll find the thread HERE

Good luck, or as Anwen and Violet might say, pob lwc!

Buying links
Heartbreak in the Valleys:

Amazon              Kobo              Apple

War in the Valleys:

Amazon              Kobo              Apple

 

 

 

 

 

Exciting News of an Award Nomination for Heartbreak in the Valleys

Francesca still can’t quite believe her latest piece of good news…

I have some absolutely thrilling news, which I really must share on here. My first historical saga novel, Heartbreak in the Valleys, has been shortlisted for one of the Romantic Novelists’ Association awards, know as the RoNAs: the Goldboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award.

I was aware that my lovely publisher, Hera Books, had entered it, but I didn’t think in a million years I’d be shortlisted. Well, most people don’t, do they? It’s really exciting to be up against some wonderful novelists, such as Julie Cohen and Elizabeth Chadwick, both of whom have won RoNAs in previous years. No pressure then!

The ceremony takes place on 8th March at 7pm. Unfortunately, it won’t, as usual, be held at a lovely venue in London as in previous years but will be a virtual event online (more details later!). But at least that means it’ll be open to those who wouldn’t normally be able to watch it.

Now I’ve got to think about what I’m going to wear, because despite being online, it looks like people are going to town and making a big effort. Wonderful! I heartily approve.

Heartbreak in the Valleys is available as an ebook and on audio, and also for pre-order in paperback (published on 25th February). Available here

 

I’m up against a wonderful group of nominees

Welcoming Lynne Francis with A Maid’s Ruin

Lynne Francis has dropped by today to tell us about the inspiration for her newest novel, A Maid’s Ruin and her favourite writing place

Welcome Lynne. First of all, tell us about your setting and why you chose it?

The setting for A Maid’s Ruin, the first book in my second saga series, was the result of a family history discovery. I’d been living in east Kent for a year or so when I realised, quite by chance, that ancestors on my father’s side had lived in Margate in the early 1800s. One of them was listed on the census as owning a cow barn and the other was involved with farming. Intrigued, I went to visit the area armed with their addresses, expecting to find the streets much changed. The cow barn had long gone, but even though the town was a great deal bigger than it had been in the Georgian era, it wasn’t hard to find traces of the past.

Where do your ideas come from?

A trip to the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate around the same time led me to a painting of cows by the artist William Mallord Turner, and further research online showed me work he had done close to my ancestor’s homes when he was studying in the town as a boy.

(You can find out more about how Turner’s paintings of the town inspired my story in this short film I made for Kent libraries, for Libraries Week here. )

My main character, Molly, took shape in my head as a dairymaid who comes across the young Turner, sketching, on the way back from milking her uncle’s cows. I wrote the first few pages and the rest followed on from there – my characters inhabiting the world where my relatives had lived and walking the same streets as them. A chance visit to The Foundling Museum in London gave me an idea for another strand of the story, and so Molly’s destiny was mapped out.

Speaking of maps, I find historic ones a real source of inspiration – the one of London at that time, for example, shows Chelsea as a village, separated by fields from the city, while Bermondsey was also right on the edge of town. Both these places have a role to play in the book, as does the Physic Garden, which I visited many years ago, and the Shell Grotto in Margate, visited more recently but long before I had any thoughts of writing about it. It feels like serendipity when all these disparate ideas and memories come together to form a complete story.

How do you select the names for your characters?

The name Molly just popped into my head, as did Charlie, another main character. Nicholas was a link to the ancestors who had inspired the setting, but other names and surnames were researched using directories of the era. These are such a useful source of information – they list all the local businesses and residents at the time, along with details such as the departure points for the mail and stage coaches. I also made a lot of use of an internet list of baby names popular in the Georgian era. We have a much wider variety of first names to choose from today but back then, they truly were Christian names, drawn from the Bible.

Do you have a favourite writing place?

I write by hand first, then type up either the next day or in a batch at the end of a week, so in theory I can write anywhere. I need quiet, though, so I tend to write either at my desk in the spare bedroom, or in the garden in summer. I used to live quite close to Goodnestone House, which Jane Austen visited as a child, and it has beautiful gardens. I always thought I would go there to sit and write but I never did. Maybe this coming year I will be more adventurous – I now live just one road back from the sea so perhaps I will take up writing on the beach.

Thank you for dropping by Lynne, and good luck A Maid’s Ruin and the whole series.

A Maid’s Ruin

A saga of love and betrayal in late 18th century Kent and London

Margate, 1786. Dairymaid Molly Goodchild dreams of a better life. Up at the crack of dawn to milk her uncle’s cows, the one comfort of her day is her friendship with apprentice gardener, Charlie.

When dashing naval officer, Nicholas, arrives in town, Molly’s head is turned by his flattering attentions and she casually spurns Charlie – believing this is her chance to escape a life of drudgery. Yet when Molly needs Nicholas most, he lets her down.

With her hopes in tatters, Molly is forced to flee Margate for London, where she finds herself struggling to survive. What will she risk in her search for a better life? And will she ever find the love she deserves?

Published by Piatkus in hardback, ebook and audiobook, with the paperback published on 21st January 2021

Available on Amazon 

 

About Lynne Francis 

Lynne Francis grew up in Yorkshire but studied, lived and worked in London for many years. She draws inspiration for her novels from a fascination with family history, landscapes and the countryside.

Her first saga series was set in west Yorkshire but a move to east Kent, and the discovery of previously unknown family links to the area, gave her the idea for a Georgian-era trilogy. Lynne’s exploration of her new surroundings provided the historical background for the novels, as well as allowing her to indulge another key interest: checking out the local teashops and judging the cake.

When she’s not at her desk, writing, Lynne can be found in the garden, walking through the countryside or beside the sea.

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