Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Wartime Christmas

I'm Carol Rivers and I write about London's historical docklands from where my family came. The book above was published in October 2013.

During the 1920’s, Grandad was given the chance to rent a small, three-bedroom council terrace with a front parlour, kitchen and yard. Having lived in just two rooms above a shop with a shared outside lavatory, this was paradise.

Grandad was a casual in the docks and often out of work. He was also a revolutionary after having been tied to a gun-wheel and flogged in the Great War – by his own side. He challenged the unions and the government and Gran feared his “principles” would forever keep them in poverty. Unfortunately they did.

The sense of community in the East End pervaded everyday life. Islanders were close then, as they are now. My Gran who had been in service was a true matriarch, employing what she had learned as a lady’s maid, in her own home. She gave birth to stunningly beautiful daughters and a strong, handsome son who left for sea and the Spanish conflict. This is why my books are peppered with home-grown politics – as seen from an East Enders viewpoint. Very basic, but absolutely spot-on when it comes to shrewd survival.

The Rivers novels reach back to the first half of the 20th century and are a mixture of family drama, politics, the underworld and at the heart of all my books, a romance. In October I have a Great War book published with Simon & Schuster. TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS, celebrates the Centenary Year.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kitty McKenzie re-released!

Kitty McKenzie, my Victorian historical novel, has been re-released with a new cover and under my name, Annemarie Brear.
It's now available in all ebook formats.

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

Available in Kindle from:
Amazon USA
Amazon UK
other ebook formats available at

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Broken Hero re-release.

I'm enjoying re-releasing my old back list into ebook formats on and Amazon sites.

The latest one I've put online is my World War II novel, Broken Hero.

Audrey Pearson's life changed dramatically when WWII broke out and her large home, Twelve Pines on the East Yorkshire coast, became a convalescence home for wounded soldiers. Her life is no longer lavish with entertainment, beautiful clothes and surrounded by a loving family. Soldiers, physically and mentally wounded now fill her home. The smell of disinfectant replaces her mother's perfume and gone are the friends and acquaintances - instead nurses roam the hallways. 
Captain Jake Harding, a doctor training in psychiatry arrives at Twelve Pines. Audrey immediately finds herself attracted to the Captain, but he is remote towards her. Puzzled by his cold behaviour, Audrey tries to learn more about the handsome Captain. He reveals that he's lost a wife and baby in childbirth and refuses to ever remarry. 
However, despite this, Audrey believes she can change his mind and make him aware he doesn't have to spend his life alone.The ice around Jake's heart begins to melt. For years he has rejected the possibility of finding love again because of the pain it caused him before, but the beautiful Audrey shows him her love and she needs someone to love her in return. 
Could he honestly walk away from her, from the love that could be his? 

Available for Kindle and all other online forms of reading devices.
Amazon USA $1.99
Amazon UK £1.25
Other formats at $0.99

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, the reception centre for all new immigrants to New York, newly opened in 1900 after the earlier wooden structure burned down. Ships arrived daily, filled with hopeful immigrants by the score, as many as 10,000 people to be processed. Russian Jews seeking escape from persecution, Hungarians, Slovakians, Poles, Italians, all speaking to each other in different tongues, eating strange foods, suffering the dangers and indignities of the crossing in grim silence. They came for free education, a free vote, low taxes, high wages, no religious repression, no kings or compulsory military service. They often left behind loved ones, poverty, starvation, unemployment, congested living conditions, oppression. In America they dreamed of living in a free land, with the hope of a good future.

Immigrants arrived laden with sacks, carpet bags, small trunks, rolled-up bundles tucked under their arm or balanced on their head. Luggage would be stowed on the ground floor while they proceeded up the stairs.

Everyone must first walk up the stairs to be inspected. Children over two had to walk unaided to prove they weren’t disabled. Anyone limping or short of breath was hauled out of line for further health checks. Anyone too carefully watching their step was suspected of having an eye problem. Fractious children or sulky teenagers could be pulled out of line and given a test for the feeble-minded. These stairs came to be known as ‘the six second exam.’

When they reached the top they would indeed catch their breath in amazement at what they saw. A huge, grand, high-ceilinged hall divided into railed channels along which they were herded like cattle.

After that came the inspections. There would be a long wait in a queue, often for hours. Some would strike up music on an accordion or banjo, and do a little impromptu dance, while waiting. At the end of each line a doctor, dressed in the blue uniform of the US Health Service, carefully scrutinised every man, woman and child for physical or mental defects. Hair, face, neck and hands were closely examined, including the scalp for ringworm. Coats were unbuttoned to check for a goitre or tumour, or pregnancy.

There would follow many more tests in which the immigrant would be asked for the details as outlined in the manifest: Name, age, sex, marital status, nationality, occupation, last residence, destination in America, how much money they had, and whether the immigrant could read and write. Also, had they paid their own passage, and did they have tickets through to their final destination. Had they ever served time in a prison or poorhouse, or suffered from any deformities or illnesses. A lone female, unless met by a man, would be returned from whence she came, although sexual favours could gain admittance to the US. If she was suspected of being a prostitute she would be forced to endure a bodily search by a female attendant.
There were any number of reasons for rejection. If the person failed any of these rapid and perfunctory inspections, or gave the wrong answer, a chalk mark was placed on their back. C for conjunctivitis; Ct for trachoma; K for hernia; L for lameness; Pg for pregnancy; S for senility; and many more. One in five failed. These people were pulled out of line, even if wrongly labelled, in a most callous and impersonal manner, and made to wait in a special holding area, namely a detention pen which was enclosed by wire screens. Then they would be sent back from whence they came, often alone, on the same ship which had brought them to America, and was now obliged to take them away for no extra charge.

Rosie Belsfield feels as if her life has ended when she is rejected from Ellis Island and has to return alone to England leaving her family behind. But having boarded the ship with one identity, fate decrees that she leave it with another. The promise of a new life beckons, one of riches and even a title in beautiful Cornwall, but it is also one fraught with danger as she becomes caught up in a web of lies not of her making.

Published by Allison & Busby

Buy on Amazon

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Moon Cutters – Janet Woods
Severn House UK
Hardcover and electronic.
October 31st  2013

Miranda Jarvis and her younger sister find themselves without means in the middle of winter. In a desperate attempt to steal food from a Dorset country house, they are caught and taken into the care of the owner – unaware that the seemingly respectable middle-aged gentleman is actually the head of the local smuggling industry in the district.

James Fenmore has no scruples, or pity, and when his estranged and (reasonably) honest nephew, Fletcher Taunt, inherits the adjoining property, once part of James’ dealings, he begins to plot to relieve Fletcher of it, along with his legitimate shipping concerns.

When Miranda and Fletcher meet they fall in love . . . but James has other plans for the two innocent girls.

Because of past intrigue Fletcher has been kept in ignorance of his parentage. Since he can’t find any answers, he begins to fear the worst, especially since it seems that his uncle has turned against him.

What Fletcher has been told is completely different to what he discovers – that his father is alive - and with no memory of his past he has been living as part of a monastic colony in France. Two years before, his memory began to return. Adrian Fenmore is brother to Sir James, and his aim is to regain his title, take his revenge and get to know the son he’s never seen. The pair re-unite.

Thes sisters’ relationship with James Fenmore begins to deteriorate, and their curiosity leads them into trouble as well as danger. Lucy is writing a novel from a journal she found – and Miranda discovers that it uncovers some clues to Fletcher’s identity.

James hides the impressionable Lucy - the younger of the two girls - in the church crypt  – this to force Miranda into a marriage she doesn’t want. He then sends Miranda into the network of smuggling tunnels to find her. The girls are taken to safety – but not before Fletcher and Miranda wed.

James Fenmore loses his life in a last ditch effort to destroy the estate.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

ESCAPE BY MOONLIGHT They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but we do it all the time, don't we? It is the cover that first attracts our attention, the picture with its title and author's name. Does it make us want to look inside the book? We read the blurb and then the first paragraph or two and it is on that we make our decision. I am very fortunate that my publishers, Allison and Busby, have always given me lovely covers, The cover of The Summer House with its garden gate made you want to go through the gate and explore beyond it, that for The Girl on the Beach is eye catching for its bright colour and sense of peace that was doomed not to last, but the one for Escape by Moonlight is outstanding. It is so atmospheric, hinting at secrets and danger, which is so exactly right.

Escape by Moonlight is the story of two girls, Elizabeth de Lacey and Lucy Storey, both from the Norfolk village of Nayton, the one wealthy and privileged, the other the daughter of the local stationmaster, poles apart but linked by war. Elizabeth is holidaying with her maternal grandparents in Haute Savoie in 1939 when war breaks out and elects to stay. Along with her aunt, Justine, she becomes involved with the French Resistance helping allied airmen and escaped prisoners of war over the Swiss border, which becomes more and more risky as Germany takes over the whole of France. Her life is one of secrets, betrayal and danger culminating in a fierce battle between the resistance fighters hiding in the mountains and the Germans determined to wipe them out. The death of a cousin in the struggle, the demise of her grandparents and falling in love with Roger, an SOE agent, add to her anxieties. They are in terrible danger and the only way to save them is to fetch them home to England. But that is not as easy as it sounds. In England, Lucy works for her bullying father at the Nayton railway station. She secretly loves Jack de Lacey, a RAF pilot and Elizabeth’s half brother, but she knows he is way above her socially and in every other way and would not look twice at her. But war changes everything. It takes Jack’s other half sister, Amy, a nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, an inquisitive evacuee living with the de Laceys, a German bomb and an explosion on the railway line to bring everything to a head in Lucy’s world. Escape by Moonlight is published by Allison and Busby in hardback ISBN 9780 7490 1303 5 and as an ebook. The paperback will be out in February next year.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Sense of Place

There is no better way of getting the feel of an industry, occupation or area than to talk to the people who have lived it. Ask them about their routine: daily, seasonal, annual. How they got started? How did they acquire their skills? How have things changed? What are the problems and dangers in the work? Where did they ache after a long day?

Oral history tapes and transcripts in local libraries are also a useful resource. These sometimes have to be booked in advance. Most libraries have a catalogue or summary sheets of what is available so you can choose before ordering which you actually need to listen to.

I often interview people when I’m working on a book, and they readily find time to talk to me and share their memories of times past, the work they used to do whether in the mill or munitions, farming or forestry, in war or peace. I like to be able to properly describe some activity for my heroine during a particular scene or while a piece of dialogue is taking place. What special skills, hobbies and interests does she have? Is she being interviewed for a job in a smart London office, learning how to ski, mowing a suburban lawn, operating a machine or building a dry stone wall? Show your character at work. Nothing can give a better feel for the place.

One old lady I interviewed was 92 at the time. She started in the mill as a doffer at 14, knocking off the filled bobbins, or cops as they were called, replacing them with empty ones. Her real name was Mary Ann but she was more affectionately known to her family and friends as Dolly because she was so small.

‘I were the scrapings up off t’mill floor,’ she told me, chortling with glee. ‘Eeh, it marvellous it were in t’mill.’

Dolly wore a pinny, or apron, with a long pocket in front in which she carried the tools of her trade: sheers, for cutting the ends off; a piker, which was a long implement with a hooked end used to get the travellers out. She always carried a sharp knife to slip down the bobbin to get to where it was threaded. These were tied on to a string round her waist, or in her pocket, making her look permanently pregnant. She wore clogs, of course.

‘You could hear them coming a mile off up from the mill. Clattering on the setts,’ she said.

If I’d asked her what she’d had for her dinner she might not have been able to tell me but she recalled her days at the spinning mill vividly. She took me through her day, how the cotton was spun, fleas and all, the heat in the mill, the constant danger of fire. Where and how they had their dinner. And any number of anecdotes about meeting Gracie Fields, singing in a band as Dolores, climbing down a drainpipe with her dance frock over her arm, which her mother made for her, and the tricks they used to play on each other in the mill, one was when someone rolled a spindle on the greasy floor and sent her flying.

Dolly told me that she learned to be tough because she was put on and bullied for being small and felt the need to prove herself. As a small person myself I can identify with that. Her attitude to the bosses was: ‘I wouldn’t ‘humble meself to ‘em. They were always saying - don’t do this and don’t do that - but we got them round to our way of thinking in the end. We larned em.’

She very generously allowed me to name the character in my book after her, as it seemed so appropriate. Watch For The Talleyman is not her story, but I hope some of this fine lady’s spirit lives on in my character, Dolly Tomkins.

Here is an extract, following the incident with the spindle:

Dolly stood at her frame, concentrating on the task of winding yarn from hundreds of spindle bobbins on to the larger cones. She was skilled at her job after two long years but it still required concentration to control the speed and make any necessary adjustments, if breakages were to be kept to a minimum. She was hot and tired and ringing wet, the air full of cotton dust, the atmosphere uncomfortably humid from the steaming water sprayed between the rows of frames to keep the cotton damp and pliable. A constant working temperature of seventy degrees or more was necessary as otherwise the cotton threads would tighten and break, which meant that time, and therefore money, was lost.

For Dolly it had been a long and difficult morning, trying to avoid putting too much pressure on her strained ankle and worrying over the situation at home. Even so, she loved her work and enjoyed a bit of a laugh with her mates. Not that many of them were laughing today, the first day back following the disastrous strike. Tempers were short and morale low, and no one was saying much to anyone, with only the singing of the spinning frames to be heard.

On top of everything, her cotton this morning was of a poor quality, filthy with fleas and, as the yarn twisted and drew out, these were caught up in the slender rope of parallel fibres which was the roving, and wound onto the cones. Later, they would be woven into the fabric and finally dissolved and got rid of in the bleaching process but she hated the feel of them on her fingers. The older women, Dolly had noticed, were adept at feeling the cotton and choosing the best quality for themselves, probably because they were more dependant upon the wages than young girls such as herself.

Except that in Dolly’s case this wasn’t true at all. The Tomkins family needed every penny it could get, since most of it ended up in the bookie’s pocket. Only when they were free of debt to the talleyman would she be happy.

She’d seen Nifty Jack standing at the door deep in conversation with Mam, handing over more money and a new card, indicating that this strike had cost them dear. And poor Ma Liversedge was to be buried on Wednesday, her unexpected death coming so close after Nifty’s last visit it made Dolly shiver...

He’s after more than your money… Dolly Tomkins knows what it’s like to live hand to mouth. In the mean streets of 1920s Salford, the only one making a decent living is the talleyman - and Nifty Jack has a moneybag where his heart should be. Dolly’s mam is in hock up to her ears, but when Jack offers to wipe the slate clean in return for Dolly’s favours, she just can’t bring herself to do it. Instead, she takes him on at his own game, and in the process is in danger of losing the love of her life.

Watch for the Talleyman is currently number 5 in Historicals in Kindle Store, having been as high as number 2 since it was published in April.
You can find it on Amazon. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Noble Place

A Noble Place.
Blurb: Australia 1850. Phillippa Noble, strong minded, spirited, and adventurous, urges and encourages her parents and twin to emigrate to the distant land of Australia to begin again. In a new country they can put their tainted past behind them and Pippa can forget the unrequited love she felt for a distant cousin.
Pippa blossoms in the new country and is determined that their horse stud will be the finest in the land. 
However, circumstances ensure that not all is golden. For every success, she has to bear up under the challenges of bushfire, death, the return of an old love, and danger on the goldfields. Her strength is tested as she tries to find the right path to happiness, but it is the near loss of her dearest friend that makes her realise true contentment rests within her grasp and she must not let it go.

Available in ebook from Amazon USA and Amazon UK

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Excerpt from Virtue of a Governess

In 1867 Nicola Douglas attends a London lecture that inspires her to change her life. With no family, but a good education, she boards a ship to Australia with high hopes of a fresh start in a new country as a governess. But Sydney is full of young women with similar hopes and equally poor prospects. When Nicola is at her lowest, she meets Nathaniel West. Try as she might, her attraction to Nathaniel West grows. She also meets a visiting American, Hilton Warner. As both men shower her with attention, Nicola reaches a crisis. She came to Australia expecting to be a governess, but finding love, and being married, shows how empty her life has been since her parents' death. Her achievements at the Governess Home are vital to her. Can she have both? To reject both men would relegate her to spinsterhood, but if she makes that choice, would her career ever be enough to sustain her?

Nat shook the sweat from his eyes, ducking his head and weaving to the side, making sure he kept his shoulders and fists up high to protect his chin. From the corner of the chalked square, he made out the old hunched-back man, who stood and, holding the brass bell aloft, rang it heartily three times. Cheers and shouts went up, there was a surge towards the fighters but the organiser’s men held the rowdy mass back.
 “Christ man, what’s taking you so long?” Tristan thumped Nat’s back, laughing. “You should have had him in the first minute. The man is lead-footed.”
Nat wheezed the air into his lungs and wiped the sweat from his eyes. “I want to keep out of his reach, he can hit like a hammer.”
“Nonsense, man. He’s like a windmill, arms everywhere.”
“Shut up will you, and get me some water.” Nat closed his eyes for a moment, trying to block out the sight and noise of men baying for his blood. What possessed him to agree to this fight? He was no longer a young man of twenty. It’d been a few years since he celebrated his thirtieth birthday, which should have been enough warning to give up this sort of sport and stick to cricket. He hadn’t been practising in months, and it showed.
Tristan thrust a crude tin cup into his hands and water sloshed over his wrist. “It’s only water, perhaps you need something stronger.”
“Sod off.” He gulped the water down just as the hunchback rang the bell again. Surging to his feet, he berated himself once more in agreeing to this madness. Already his opponent, some dockland fellow with missing teeth, had jabbed him in the ribs, which ached when he moved. Another lucky punch had caught his eye and likely tomorrow he’d have the bruise to show for it.
He raised his fists, keeping light on his feet as he’d been taught as a schoolboy back home in England. His wiry opponent gave a little jab, testing the way it was to be in this round, but Nat was tired of the game. It’d been a spur of the moment decision to enter the square, a desperate need to burn off some restless energy that bedding with his current mistress didn’t do last night.
Weaving, ducking, he circled the opposite man, looking for a way to end the match so he could return to his club and drown his sorrows for another day. He thought of her then, the woman who’d haunted his mind. Nicola Douglas. His blood grew thick in his veins as an image of her face swarmed before him.
He never saw the punch, just felt the intense pain of the other man’s fist hitting his jaw. The impact made him bite his tongue and the stinging pain joined the thudding ache of his face. He staggered, tasted blood. The crowd, mainly all working class, shouted encouragement to their champion and jeered at Nat when he readied himself again.
Anger cursed through Nat and brought him awake and into focus. Thinking of that damned woman had been his downfall. He’d be on his back if he didn’t concentrate.
Uttering a filthy swear word, he pivoted on one foot, danced a side-step and taking the fellow unawares gave him a quick three jab attack that sent the man to his knees. Nat jigged away, hopping from foot to foot at the edge of the square, waiting to see if he regained his feet, but the fellow knew he was beat and surrendered the purse.
Declared the winner by Mr Kent, the organiser, Nat was given the purse of four guineas. The unruly crowd went into a frenzy, the shouts and yelling growing into a deafening roar, as not many had backed Nat. He knew their thinking, a workingman’s strength up against a toff who did nothing but sit around in his club all day. But who’d got the last laugh this time? Little did they know that he enjoyed physical pursuits and had been fighting since he was a small boy. Not many had the better of him.
“Excellently done, West.” Tristan once more thumped his back and gave Nat his shirt and coat. Nat winced, moving his shoulders to ease on the shirt over the wet stickiness of his sweat-soaked body.
“Let’s get out of here.” Nat grabbed the rest of his belongings from Tristan. Now the fight was over, it wouldn’t pay to stay in this rough neighbourhood. The four guineas was hardly worth it really, but then it’d never been about the money, just the sheer joy of beating another. However, today the win left him with a sour taste in his mouth that had nothing to do with the bloodied tongue and lip.
“Wait, I’ve yet to collect.” Tristan disappeared into the press of workingmen.
Nat groaned in frustration. Hanging around would only be asking for trouble. Already he was sensing a change in the atmosphere. He kept his head down but managed to glance around, taking in the situation. Mr Kent was arguing in the corner with five men, all baying for blood. They’d lost heavily by the looks of it. Shrugging on his jacket, Nat walked backwards a bit, heading towards the barn doors and the alley beyond. Damn Tristan, where was he?
“Mr West!”
Nat swung around and waited for Kent to wield a path through the thick of the crowd towards him. “I’ve an appointment, Kent, got to go.”
“Can I book you in for another fight next month?”
“No, not this time.” He wasn’t stupid. Kent had scored a high profit today.
Tristan joined them, hurriedly stashing coins into his bulging pockets like a child stealing sweets. “Nice afternoon’s entertainment,” he said with a grin.
“Let us go.” Nat made for the door, glaring at any man who made eye contact with him. Lord, he was stupid to risk his neck at these back alley fights. If anything happened to him, Frances would be alone.
Once clear of the old barn, he squinted in the harsh sunlight. The squeal of pigs came from the slaughterhouse on the right. He shivered, despite the mild spring warmth of the September day.
“Shall we have a drink at the club?” Tristan replaced his hat as they headed left. 
“I don’t particularly care. I just want to be clear of that lot in there.”
“You think it could have turned ugly?”
“I’m sure of it. Too much money changed hands. Kent has pulled a fast one I think. He’s seen me fight before but that was a new crowd.” As if to justify his words, a shout came from behind them. When Nat turned and saw the dozen or so men spilling out of the barn, yelling fit to be tied, his guts squeezed dread. He turned to Tristan and had to smile at the shock on his face. “Well, friend, I hope you can run fast.” 

Buy for Kindle or paperback from Amazon UK or Amazon USA:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Virtue of a Governess available now in ebook!

It's new release time for me again.
My historical novel, Virtue of a Governess, is set in the Victorian era and now available in ebook from Amazon UK and USA.

Virtue of a Governess.
In 1867 Nicola Douglas attends a London lecture that inspires her to change her life. With no family, but a good education, she boards a ship to Australia with high hopes of a fresh start in a new country as a governess. But Sydney is full of young women with similar hopes and equally poor prospects. When Nicola is at her lowest, she meets Nathaniel West. Try as she might, her attraction to Nathaniel West grows. She also meets a visiting American, Hilton Warner. As both men shower her with attention, Nicola reaches a crisis. She came to Australia expecting to be a governess, but finding love, and being married, shows how empty her life has been since her parents' death. Her achievements at the Governess Home are vital to her. Can she have both? To reject both men would relegate her to spinsterhood, but if she makes that choice, would her career ever be enough to sustain her?

Amazon USA - Kindle