Sunday, November 22, 2015

Books in paperback!

Over the last few weeks I've been creating some of my books into paperbacks so they are available on Amazon for those people who don't have Kindles. I'm very pleased with the results. I wish I had done it ages ago, but they are done now and I hope readers feel they are worth it. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Post-War Issues suffered by Women

When World War II ended there was a feeling of anti-climax, as if the bright blue, sun-filled sky had clouded over, leaving a feeling of uncertainty about the future. A grey chill seemed to hang over everything. But then the country was in a mess, near bankrupt. There were bombed areas and rubble everywhere, homes lost or wrecked, many empty shops and huge bomb craters everywhere.

Women had become much more hardened and independent, having worked hard jobs usually occupied by men, spending endless sleepless nights in shelters fearing they could be killed. And suffering years of anguish worrying over the fate of their loved ones in the war.

When the fighting men returned, these problems were not always taken into account, the husband too beset by his own problems. Women lost their jobs, expected to concentrate on being a wife and mother again by creating a family and home. Housework did take much more time in those days, of course. Even so, many of them resented this change in their lives. They were also urged to no longer wear plain looking suits, trousers or overalls, but to be bright and pretty females again.

She might also have to cope with a shell-shocked or injured husband, outbursts of violence, depression or infidelity. A soldier having been trained to kill was not always the same civilised a person he’d once been. He could be far too accustomed to giving orders and inflicting punishment in order to achieve his aim, for him to show much patience for her. Or he might feel in desperate need for peace and quiet and hardly move or speak.

Many men suffered from sleepwalking, nightmares, or shouting in their sleep. Settling back into Civvy street was not easy, nor was finding a home and employment. He might be missing his pals, decide she’s grown old and become bored with her. Lives had changed and relationships were often badly affected, not least because couples had seen little of each other as leave generally were quite short, and many men had gone overseas. Even letters were often late and much of them blacked out. Whatever his reaction to the traumas he’d suffered, she would largely be the one left to cope. There was little in the way of counselling or assistance.

Cathie is remarkably patient with her fiancé, perhaps a little too kind and vulnerable. She does her best to help by listening to the advice given out over the radio and from the WVS. But then finds there is a price to pay.

Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. 

When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. 

But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home… 

Published 17th November by Mira books.

Read an extract:

Buy from your local book shop or at:


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Victorian Dresses

There is a fantastic Facebook page called the The Corseted Beauty -
and it showcases the most beautiful fashion from different eras. I'm putting a few photos on this page of the Victorian era, which would be similar to what some of my characters would wear in my novels.

Evening dress, Scotland, ca. 1865

Evening dress, American, ca. 1865
Cincinnati Art Museum

Evening dress, ca. 1850s
Kerry Taylor Auctions

Evening dress, by Emile Pingat, ca. 1885
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Afternoon dress, American, ca. 1860. 

From the Mint Museum:
"In the 1860s, the fullness of the skirt moved to the rear of the dress with this volume of fabric supported by bustle pads, wire mesh frameworks or cage bustles. This afternoon ensemble includes a matching cool weather jacket lined in wool fleece, a short-waisted bodice, a bustled overskirt with a slight train, and an underskirt with a flat front and full back. The unique triangular-shaped large pocket on the overskirt is called a "parasol pocket" although it is a true pocket and was not intended to hold a lady's parasol. "

Ball gown, by Maison Soinard, Paris, ca. 1868-1869

From the McCord Museum:
"The date is substantiated by those of Caroline-Virginie de Saint-Ours-Kierzkowski's honeymoon in Europe and her documented Paris visits in 1868 and 1869, which determine when she bought the gown with the Paris label. 

Caroline-Virgine de Saint-Ours-Kierzkowski was fashion conscious. In a diary written during her European honeymoon in 1868-1869 she remarked on the dress of New York women, finding them, to her taste, over-dressed. In London, she commented on her enjoyment of window-shopping. And while visiting Paris, she wrote of La Messe des Élégants at the Église de la Madeleine : she wryly observed that at this late mess, people seemed to be moved more by the display of the toilettes than by the service. "

Ball gown, England, ca. 1850s
Christies' Auctions

Day dress, by Atelier A. Felix, Paris, ca. 1884
From the Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti / Europeana Fashion

Evening dress, by the House of Paquin, ca. 1895
Museum of Decorative Arts, Berlin / Europeana Fashion

Ball gown, ca. 1865. 
Wien Museum

Monday, October 19, 2015

New cover reveal for my Victorian historical novel, To Gain What's Lost.

This story is very close to my heart as it was the first historical I wrote back in 1997 when I was at home with my small children. The characters Anna, Matt and Brenton, whom had been in my head for years, suddenly demanded to be written or I should say typed. I had an electric typewriter I used to work on my family genealogy, and one day I put a clean white piece of paper into the machine and started to reveal their story(and thankfully six months later I got my first computer!). It took me two years to write and it turned out to be a huge piece of work - over 150,000 words - too big!
Over the next few years I edited it, gave it different titles, put it through a critique group, and tried to sell it to agents. The novel was published twice by two small publishers, both went out of business, then it was published by Black Opal Books a few years ago, but I asked for my rights back and now I'm re-publishing it wit a new cover and hopefully a new audience. It's time for this story to shine properly.

She thinks her life has changed for the better, her dark secrets hidden, but little does she know…

The daughter of a wealthy landowner in Yorkshire, England in 1864, Anna Thornton leads a privileged life. But she is not content. She wants her life to mean something and longs to be accepted for the free-thinking, independent woman she is. When the dashing, adventurer Matt Cowan sweeps her off her feet, she thinks she has finally met her soul mate. However, he’s not the man she thinks he is. After he sails for South America, leaving her behind in England, Anna discovers she’s pregnant. Heartbroken she flees her family home, determined to keep her child’s illegitimacy a secret. 

He has a few dark secrets of his own…

Brandon O’Mara is a strong, independent man who wants to make his own way without relying on his father’s wealth. He comes to Anna’s new home looking for work and convinces the reluctant woman to hire him. But Anna's wary of men, of love, and treats him as nothing more than the penniless labourer she believes him to be. Then, just when Anna seems to feel she is getting on with her new life, and Brandon believes he is breaking down her barriers, the past rears up to confront them and their future hangs in the balance.  

Available on Kindle at Amazon.
USA and UK and all Amazon countries.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Guest Post: Historical author Liz Harris!

A special welcome to fellow Choc Lit author Liz Harris!
Liz's new release is a historical set in Wyoming in 1887, but this story is not your usual story, please read on to find out more about Liz and her wonderful story.


What’s so special about Wyoming, I’ve been asked on a number of occasions.

It’s a fair question – I’ve set three historical novels in Wyoming. A BARGAIN STRUCK, set in 1887, tells the story of a second generation homesteader who lives on agricultural land south of the railroad. My novella, A WESTERN HEART, set in 1880, is located in ranching country north of the railroad. My latest novel, THE LOST GIRL, is set in the 1870s and 1880s, and is located in SW Wyoming, an arid, non-agricultural region, but one that is rich in coal.

The answer is easy – I fell in love with Wyoming, its openness, its endless wide blue sky, its history and its people when I visited the State a few years ago. Not to mention the wrangler on the ranch where I started my trip, who filled me in on many historical details. A rugged, good-looking man he was, tanned from days on the range. Not that I noticed any of that - I was there for a greater purpose; namely, to research Wyoming in the 1880s.

Photo: Me at the border between Colorado and Wyoming

So what did I learn that I hadn’t been able to find in any of my research books?

I’ll start with the title I gave this guest blog. I learned that anyone approaching a homestead should holler, ‘Hello, the House!’ if they valued their life. The westward-bound pioneers of the mid 19th century often settled on land which had once been the home of native peoples, thus giving rise to potential strife. Also, there was growing tension at that time between the large cattle ranches and the small homesteads. A quaint desire to avoid being shot on sight would encourage a person to identify himself thus.

I hadn’t been able to find out how far mechanisation had reached outlying homesteads and settlements by the late 1880s. Earlier than that would have been easy – they had nothing – but a few years after they’d started their settlements, the answer wasn’t so clear.
Did isolated homesteads have any form of running water, for example, or did all water have to be brought in from an external well outside the house? The answer, to my surprise, was yes, there was a rudimentary form of running water.

In addition to the main well on the pre-1890 ranch where I started my trip, there was a 28 foot deep, stone-lined well sunk right next to the kitchen wall. A pipe attached to a pump next to the kitchen sink ran down to the well. Bingo! They could pump water into the kitchen. PS. On winter mornings, they had to wait for the ice to melt on the pump arm before using it or they’d break it.

                                            Photo: The pump beside the sink

Call me trivial, but I was curious about the sanitary arrangements. I knew there’d be an outhouse, but did it have a can inside – a sort of porta-potty de luxe - or what? No book answered this, but the friendly wrangler did. The hole in the ground was filled in when full, and the outhouse structure lifted up and moved to a different place.

Photo. An outhouse

Interested in getting the feel of how it was to ride between the outlying towns, farms and around their ranchesI emulated the women of the American West and vaulted into the saddle.

Having been brought up on Hollywood westerns, I had always assumed that women at that period rode astride, but apparently not so. A museum curator told me that women had only ridden side-saddle until late in the 1880s. The change to riding astride hadn’t come about until there was a relaxation in the restrictive nature of women’s clothing. 
As you can see, I’m not sitting side-saddle, my skirts and petticoats tucked under me.  Rather, I’m wearing trousers and sitting astride my bucking bronco. Yes, bucking bronco. Minutes before the photo was taken, the horse had been rearing and snorting, desperately trying to unseat me. It had been all I could do to hang on. Yes, indeed!

The reason why women’s clothing became more relaxed in the late 1880s is an interesting one. Basically, Esther Morris, the first female justice of the peace in the US, appointed in 1870, wanted Wyoming Territory to become a State. A certain number of votes was required for this to happen, and because the population was so small, she needed women to go out and vote. Esther Morris, therefore, subtly let it be known that women could relax their style of clothing. Goodbye, tight, restrictive corsets; hello, divided skirts and trousers. Effectively, she bribed women to vote, and it worked. In 1890, Wyoming Territory became the 44th State of the Union.

Photo: The Indian Paintbrush, the State flower of Wyoming, courtesy of wikipedia

But women didn’t have the vote as early as 1890, I can hear you cry.

Oh, yes, they did. In 1869, Governor John Campbell extended the franchise to women. Wyoming Territory was the first in the US to give the vote to women. And it was the first for other women-related things, too: the first women jurors, 1870; the first female court bailiff, 1870; the first US State to elect a female governor, 1924. Wyoming is known as the Equality State with good reason.

But there was no such equality for the Chinese migrants, who started arriving in San Francisco from the Canton province of China in the 1850s. Until well into the twentieth century, thlaw ensured that the Chinese were very much second class citizens, with restrictions on their movement and with a ban on them becoming US citizens.

Ironically, the very State that was the first State in the US to promote the rights of women, albeit for pragmatic reasons, vigorously denied basic rights to the Chinese who lived and worked in that State. The history of Chinese and Americans in Wyoming is one of growing tensions between the two races, and it is against this background that I’ve set my love story, THE LOST GIRL.

Blurb for the novel:

What if you were trapped between two cultures?
Life is tough in 1870s Wyoming. But it’s tougher still when you’re a girl who looks Chinese but speaks like an American.
Orphaned as a baby and taken in by an American family, Charity Walker knows this only too well. The mounting tensions between the new Chinese immigrants and the locals in the mining town of Carter see her shunned by both communities.
When Charity’s one friend, Joe, leaves town, she finds herself isolated. However, in his absence, a new friendship with the only other Chinese girl in Carter makes her feel as if she finally belongs somewhere.

But for a girl like Charity, finding a place to call home was never going to be easy.

To read more about all of Liz's novels, please visit her author page on Amazon:

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Historical Research: Inside a Manor House

Another blog post on my visit to Normanby Hall, in North Lincolnshire. 

My visit was for research to help write my historical novels, which usually include a manor house or two! It is wonderful to walk in the past's shoes. To see the furniture used in the days of my characters. I can feel the atmosphere in my mind and absorb vibe of the era, which I hopefully transfer into my stories.

 This photo I took half way down the driveway, from the rad to the village. You can just see the gate posts right at the end. The drive continues to go through an avenue of trees until it passes the stables, then the trees finish to open up in a park in front of the house, see photo above. 

The entrance hall of the house is square with rooms coming off to the right and the staircase to the left. The above photo is taken from the doorway leading into the drawing room, which is shown in photos below.

Beautiful silk wallpaper

 Modernisation comes to the Hall.

 The Dining Room

The Library

Architect's table

Next time, I'll blog about the upstairs.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cover Reveal: New cover for Broken Hero, WWII novel.

I'm enjoying re-releasing my old back list into ebook formats on all 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
Amazon UK

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Historical Research: Estate Garden and workers

To continue my research on manor houses and their estates, specifically showcasing Normanby Hall where I spent the day a couple of weeks ago. (See previous blog post)
The Walled Garden of Normanby Hall, supplied the fruit, vegetables and flowers for the hall. It was built in 1817, the high wall protected the plants and the glass houses were built along the south wall to take advantage of the sun.
 Details on the Gardeners and their accommodation

The Greenhouse

The family would visit the greenhouse after church on Sundays and the Head Gardener would have something special each week to show them.

Splayed fruit trees. Even pineapples were grown in the greenhouses.

The next post will be on the house itself.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

On the best seller's list!

Just had to share my news, Kitty McKenzie's Land, (it's a sequel to Kitty McKenzie) is #20 on the best seller's list on Amazon Australian historicals! Yay!

Kitty McKenzie's path has taken her from the slums of York to the inhospitable bush of colonial Australia. Yet, when she believes her dreams will never be attained, she is shown that sometimes life can be even better than what you wish for. 
Kitty McKenzie is gifted land in the far north of New South Wales. Life at the northern property is full of hardships as she learns how to become a successful landowner. 
However, Kitty’s strength of will and belief in herself gives her the courage most women of her time never realize they have. A decided thorn in her side is the arrogant and patronizing Miles Grayson, owner of the adjourning run. He wants her gone so he can have her land, but he wants her even more.

Available on 
Amazon USA
Amazon UK 

This book is the sequel to Kitty McKenzie, the start of Kitty's journey when her world is turned upside down by the death of her parents, and she is left penniless and must take care of her siblings in a world totally unknown to them.
Find out more about Kitty on Amazon USA  or Amazon UK

Thank you to those readers who take the time to leave reviews. They are so important to authors! Thank you!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Historical research: Horses, carriages, stables and automobiles.

On a recent trip to Normanby Hall, a local historical manor house a few weeks ago, I spent a lovely few hours in the sun strolling around the estate and gaining knowledge that will come in handy for writing my historical novels.
I thought I would write a post on each part of the house and grounds, and I'm starting with the stable block.

Horse stalls, made of brass and timber, and note the floor for easy cleaning. The stable block was built in 1818, and was a walled square with open arches. It was a hive of activity and the meeting place for hunts and shooting parties.

The daily duties of a Groom or Coachman

 Feed and Muck out the horse.
Breakfast at the Hall.
Rub down and groom the horses.
Clean and put away any tack (riding and carriage equipment used).
Prepare the coach for the family.
Feed the horses.
Lunch at the Hall.

Afternoon and Evening:
Get horses ready for any family members wishing to ride.
Sweep out the stableyard.
Clean and put away any tack used.
Exercise any of the horses that have not been ridden that day.
If carriage not needed again, carry on with any odd jobs around stable.
Feed horses.
Supper in the servant's hall.
Rub down and give the horses water and hay for the night.
Maintenance work on the carriage - cleaning, brass polishing, and touching up paint.
Soak wheels of carriage to prevent wood from shrinking and spokes becoming loose.

Carriage Lanterns

                                                                                                                                    Carriage interior, with glass windows.   
 Early forms of transport.

The estate had its own horse drawn fire engine, with working water pump. The unit was used for the local village as well. It was officially retired in 1953.

The grooms and coachman lived in housing above the coach house but ate with the household in the Servant's Hall. The groom had to sometimes act as a footman if the family held a large dinner party.

Census records between 1841 - 1891 show that none of the grooms or coachmen were local Lincolnshire men. They came from neighbouring counties, and as far away as London. This shows that people were prepared to travel for work.

By the 1920s, only one side of the stable block was in use as a stable. With the introduction of the motor car in the early 1900s, the stable block was adapted to house up to six motor vehicles.

Normanby Hall.
North Lincolnshire

Next post will be on the estate's garden.