Friday, 18 May 2018

Extract from - Girls of the Great War

Prologue 1894 

She was running as fast as her legs could carry her, rocks constantly tripping her up, and a blanket of trees towering around so that she could barely see where she was going. The sound of heavy feet pounded behind, filling her with panic. Was he chasing her again? Would she be captured? Breathless with fear she ran all the faster, knowing what would happen if she did not escape. She could feel her heart hammering, tension freezing every limb. Then pain rattled through her back with merciless precision. She felt utterly powerless and vulnerable, petrified of what might happen.
    A hand tapped her cheek and she jerked awake in panic.
    ‘Wake up, Martha, it’s time for breakfast.’
    Staring into her mother’s eyes, the young girl gave a small sigh of relief. So this had been yet another nightmare, a trauma she suffered from constantly. The emotion attached to it always cloaked her in absolute terror. At least she had managed to sleep a little last night, which was never easy. Tension would mount within her whenever she went to bed, no longer a relaxing time. Now pain and fear escalated through her once more and she cried out in agony.
    It seemed that having spent nearly five months virtually locked away in her room, she was now about to give birth, although she had only just turned seventeen.
    A part of her longed to vanish into oblivion, to disappear back into the world she’d once enjoyed, not least her happy and privileged childhood. Why had that all gone wrong after her beloved father died? Would she now die? Many women did when suffering this traumatic event. Would the good Lord take her to heaven? Her soul having no real attachment to Him, it was doubtful He would trust in her innocence and accept her. Nor did her mother, who’d made it clear she didn’t believe a word her daughter said. She no longer viewed her as respectable and had offered no sympathy or support, declaring that no one must ever learn of her condition.
    Martha gazed up at the window, her blue eyes glittering with desolation. How she ached to catch a glimpse of the sun, the cliffs and the sea. Oh, and how she missed her life. Her mind flicked back to the young man she’d once grown fond of. He was most handsome, dressed in baggy trousers, and lived in one of the fisherman’s huts. Whenever he wasn’t away at sea working in smacks and yawls to catch fish, he’d be in a local pub eating, drinking or gambling. He also spent much of his time sitting by the harbour mending nets. They’d sometimes listen to the band down on the bay along with crowds of spectators, or watch a concert and dancing. Claiming he adored her, he’d give her sweet kisses and had her name tattooed on to his arm. Then one day, when she’d excitedly hurried to meet him, as usual, he’d told her he was off to America in search of a new life, having become bored with fishing. She’d felt utterly devastated. He was so charming and helpful over her family problems that she was almost falling in love with him. How she missed him, but if he were still around why would he ever agree to marry her?
    Now water suddenly flushed out of her and the sound of her screaming echoed around the room, bouncing against the shutters that blocked the window. Over the next several hours she sank into more agony with no doctor or midwife around to help, only Enid her maid and of course Mama. Whenever another bolt of merciless pain struck, she struggled to sit up in a bid to resist it, only to be pushed back down by her scolding mother.
    Finally, something solid slid out of her, leaving her breathless and exhausted. She felt hands pressing upon her belly and more stuff flopped out, including blood that soaked the bed sheets. Then she found herself being briskly washed, wiped, stripped and dressed by the maid, making her feel like a piece of dirt. Not a single word had been spoken to her, save for orders to push hard and stop screaming. And no comfort offered.
    Whatever child had been delivered was now swept up into her mother’s arms and she marched away, slamming the door behind her. Martha gave a small sob of distress aware she’d been informed the baby would instantly be given away for adoption. She certainly would not be allowed to keep it. If only her life could return to normal but the harsh, uncaring attitude of her mother proved that would never happen.
    It came to her then that with the agony of her imprisonment and this birth finally over, she had no desire to stay here any longer. In order to maintain her safety, she needed to go as far away from here as possible, and change her name. The time had come for her to leave home and build a new life for herself. Then she’d find herself a husband and become respectable again.

A section of Chapter One 

Christmas 1916 
Lights dimmed as a man dressed as Pierrot in a bright blue costume and pantaloons, peaked hat and a huge yellow bow beneath his chin, skipped merrily on to the stage singing ‘All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor’. He was quickly joined by a troop of dancing girls. They too were dressed like Pierrots, all of them looking ravishing in a pink costume with a wide frilled collar, long swirling skirt decorated with fluffy bobbles, and a tight-fitting black hat. They were complete visions of beauty who brought forth roars of excited approval from the audience. Pierrot waved his gloved hands at them, the theatre being packed with British and Belgian soldiers who responded with cheers and whistles.
    Cecily smilingly watched from the wings as she loved to do most evenings. A part of her ached to join the singers, something her mother would never agree to. Viewing herself as the star performer she expected her daughters to wait upon her hand, foot and fingers. Not that Cecily believed herself to be a good assistant, being too involved with working as a conductor on the electric trams now that most men were caught up in the war. Her mother disapproved of that. Cecily, however, firmly believed in making her own choices in life.
    Feeling a gentle tap on her shoulder, she found her sister at her side. ‘Her royal highness Queenie requires your assistance,’ Merryn whispered, her pretty freckled face wrapped in a jokey grin. ‘I’ve been dismissed, as she’s engaged in her usual bossy mood.’
   ‘Oh, not again!’ Stifling a sigh, Cecily accompanied Merryn back to the dressing room. Gazing in the mirror she recognised the familiar lack of focus in her mother’s blue eyes, proving she’d again been drinking. Despite seeing herself as a star, Queenie too often felt the need to overcome a sense of stage fright before she performed.
    ‘Merryn has made a total mess of my hair,’ she stuttered in a slurry voice.
    ‘I’m sure she didn’t mean to, Mama,’ Cecily calmly remarked, and reaching for a brush began to divide her mother’s curly blonde hair across the back of her head.
    ‘Never call me by that name. You know how I hate it.’
    She’d chosen to name herself Queenie years ago as she considered it more appropriate for her career than Martha, the name she was born with. And that was what she required her daughters to call her, having no wish to be reminded of her age. Merryn seemed to accept this. Cecily always felt the need to remind her of their true relationship, which irritatingly was not an easy one. She carefully twisted up a small strand of her mother’s hair and clipped it, then tucked the other portions neatly around before pinning them together with a glittering silver hair slide on the top of her head.
    Grabbing a curl, Queenie pulled it down to loop it over her left ear. ‘I’ve no wish for my hair to be all pinned up. Flick some over my ears.’
    ‘I thought you liked to look as neat and tidy as possible, Mama,’ Cecily said.
    ‘No, fluff it out, silly girl. How useless you are.’
    Cecily felt quite inadequate at this job and checked her success or lack of it by viewing her mother in the mirror. She was a slender, attractive woman with a pale complexion, pointed chin and ruby lips frequently curled into a pout, as they were doing now. But she was also vain, conceited, overly dramatic, emotionally unstable, selfish, overbearing and utterly neglectful. Queenie was never an easy woman to please, even when she was stone-cold sober. She was an exhibitionist and a star who demanded a great deal of nurturing and support, a task Merryn was extremely skilled and happy to do, save for when Queenie was completely blotto, as she was now. And having been scolded and dismissed countless times when her mother was drunk, her sister would sit in the corner reading Woman’s Weekly, taking not the slightest interest. Once Queenie sobered up she would happily treat her younger daughter as her favourite child in order to make Cecily feel unwanted, even though she’d done her best to help. Not that she ever felt jealous about this, always eager to act as a surrogate mother towards her beloved sister as Queenie could be equally neglectful of them both, wrapped up in herself and her tours.
    There came a rap on the door. ‘Three minutes on stage please,’ called a voice.
    ‘You should have a drink of water,’ Cecily quietly suggested. ‘It might help to mobilise your voice and cool you down.’
    ‘How dare you say such a thing! My voice is fine,’ Queenie snapped.
    Reaching for a jug, Cecily poured a glass and placed it on the table. ‘Do take a sip to improve it, Mama.’
    Filled with her usual tantrum she snatched the jug and tossed the water over her daughter’s head. Then she swept the glass of water, a box of make-up, brushes, jars of cream and all other items off the dressing table onto the floor, swirled around and marched away.
    Grabbing a towel, Merryn rushed over to pat Cecily’s damp hair and face.
    ‘Don’t worry, it’ll soon dry off,’ Cecily said, rolling her eyes in droll humour. ‘Come on, we need to make sure Mama calms down and performs well.’
    Giving a wry smile, Merryn nodded, and they both scurried after her.


Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancĂ© is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why?

Published 22 May 2018
Amazon UK

Amazon US


Sunday, 6 May 2018

Researching WWI

I do enjoy writing about the World War I era. My characters are living through a changing world and the first world war was the biggest war, involving more countries, than had ever been before. It gives writers great scope for their storylines.
I find the research fascinating and thankfully there is a lot of information available.
Recently I went to York Castle Museum and the exhibition there is very good.
Mural on the wall depicting the role horses had in the war.

This reminded me of a scene in my novel, Southern Sons.

Such good research material.

The journey a wounded soldier takes.



Sunday, 22 April 2018

LIZZIE FLOWERS AND THE FAMILY FIRM



My July saga set in the East End of London is now up on Amazon's shelves for pre-order. In LIZZIE FLOWERS AND THE FAMILY FIRM (book three) it’s time for Lizzie to gather family close as dark clouds on the horizon threaten her new business enterprises. 
We are reacquainted with Lizzie’s darling little niece Polly who is the apple of Lizzie’s eye - and for whom, in this book, Lizzie makes a huge sacrifice. 
Then of course, there is Danny, and his adopted son, Tom. Young Tom and Polly are inseparable, but there are rumours abounding that ‘coming up in the world’ after the humiliating and scarring experience with Leonard Savage in FIGHT FOR LIZZIE FLOWERS, (book two) has made Danny a changed man.
And Bert, dear loyal Bert, Lizzie’s brother, he’s there as always, by Lizzie’s side. But surely he deserves a romance of his own!
All Lizzie’s old pals, Lil and Doug and Ethel and some new ones too, jump in from the very start. And, dare I mention the name Frank Flowers? Eek, no one trusts this scoundrel, but I wonder, is he a complete rotten apple? Remember, he is related to Polly and with Lizzie’s help, could he reform? Who knows? Certainly not Frank!
My central theme is Lizzie's struggle to outwit the vice gangs of the East End. She's just invested in the notorious pub on East India Dock Road, called The Mill Wall, and she's determined to clean it up. 
But everyone and everything has it's price so they say and The Mill wall is no exception.
A great book to write, as Lizzie matures, and I've loved every minute. I hope readers will too.
There's an excerpt on the home page of my website, www.carolrivers.com together with my free stories and newsletter.
AMAZON pre-order

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Introducing new saga writer, Glenda Young


Hello there! I'm a new historical saga writer and have been signed up by Headline to write three novels, the first of which is published in November 2018.

My name is Glenda Young and I was born and brought up in the north-east ex-coalmining village of Ryhope. It's situated outside of Sunderland and is right on the coast.  All three of my novels are set in the village of Ryhope at the end of the first world war in 1919.   That's me, pictured above, next to one of two statues in Ryhope which commemorates the pit ponies.

My first book will be called Belle of the Back Streets and it's about a young girl called Meg Sutcliffe who learns the ropes from her dad in his rag and bone business after he returns from the War. But when tragedy strikes, Meg had no choice but to continue alone, with only her trusty dog Spot, and beloved horse Stellar, for company.  The book is released in hardback, audio and ebook in November 2018 and in paperback in early 2019.

My website is here if you'd like to take a look: http://glendayoungbooks.com and I blog regularly at Flaming Nora.

I write short stories for women's magazines and a weekly soap opera, called Riverside, for The People's Friend magazine.

I also edit two Coronation Street fan websites, corrie.net and the Coronation Street Blog.

And I'm on twitter @flaming_nora

Do come and say hello!

Glenda

Monday, 9 April 2018

Inspiration for Post War sagas

I’m always on the look out for ideas, finding inspiration from many sources: family memories, history of the places I’ve lived in including the beautiful English Lake District and Cornwall. I’ve dipped into interesting parts of my own life, such as when we had a smallholding and tried the ‘good life’. Having fully exploited those ideas, I then moved on to interviewing people for other fascinating stories.

I begin by talking to people who either can recall such times themselves, or retell that of their own parents or siblings. I’ve met some fascinating people over the years, and what a joy it is to listen to their stories, so real and personal, vividly recalled and rarely recorded anywhere. Memories are fallible, of course, and facts need to be checked against whatever documentary evidence I can find such as newspaper reports, letters, diaries, biographies, as well as history books. The walls of my office are packed with books covering all the topics I love.

Writing also demands a need to investigate natural history, geography, geology and topography. My farm or village might be fictional but the mountains, forests and lakes have to be entirely accurate; the walks my heroine takes are actually trodden by me. The flowers must be in season, the birds on their migratory flights south from Scandinavia, carefully checked. The agricultural law of the period must be studied as well as weather reports. I cannot say 1945 was a beautiful summer if it rained all through July and the harvest was ruined. Nothing can be fudged, because unlike Medieval times, someone will remember.

The gritty northern street saga has its own requirements, format and boundaries and usually concerns a strong woman fighting against the poverty of her surroundings, as well as the trials and tribulations of the times in which she lives. My family have been weavers (or websters as they were once called) for generations on both sides of the Pennines. My mother wove parachutes during the war, and lived with her widowed mother while her husband was away fighting.

When the war ended, new problems arose. Some men were less than impressed with their welcome home in a society gone to pieces. Relationships had changed, jobs and homes hard to come by, shortages and austerity still prevalent. Mothers often still treated their sons as boys, instead of grown men. Husbands were unprepared for a more tough and independent wife, or could be suffering injuries, nightmares or depression. The effects of war are extremely traumatic and it’s fascinating to learn how such problems were dealt with, and to write about them as I’ve done in Home is Where the Heart Is, first in a Post War Series.


1945: Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancĂ©, 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…

Available in most good book shops and online:

WH Smith 

Amazon UK 

Friday, 6 April 2018

Ear-wigging on the Grown-ups.



World War ll had ended and Dad was de-mobilized from the navy. He'd spent five dangerous years at sea and was eager to start a new life with Mum. But they'd lost everything in the Blitz. The East End was devastated by the bombing. Their house, furniture, belongings and possessions, all those precious photographs and letters, all gone up in a puff of smoke. Still, my parents were alive and together - and expecting me! So they left London for fresh pastures and wherever they travelled Mum somehow managed to recreate the "Island World" she loved so much.
Many Londoners spent memorable holidays hop-picking in Kent. But I was lucky enough to have an aunt and uncle who owned a small hotel and after a brief spell here we were off join Mum's evacuated family in Oxfordshire. My aunts and uncles were a musical bunch with fine singing voices and threw lots of parties. My cousins and I loved listening to the grown ups getting merry as we huddled in our den beneath the table watching various sets of feet trip past accompanied by howls of laughter. Dad and Mum developed itchy feet once more, but this time we headed south. I was sent to a small convent on the coast where the nuns were kind and softly spoken, quite a contrast to my lively family background. One of the nuns, Sister Patricia, inspired me to write. She sat at a fabulous oak desk and daily placed a thick, creamy candle to burn on its leather surface. As she called the register the liquid wax bubbled down the sides and the bright blue Parker ink oozed from her gold tipped fountain pen. Her longhand flowed effortlessly across the page and I was hooked! I can still smell the candle, hear the rustle of the register page and see her beautiful slim fingers clasped around the pen. Now I often burn a scented candle as I write and I still arrange my desk, books to the left, pens and pencils to the right.

And that was where writing began for me; scribbling, diaries, doodles, little stories and big ones, recording all those tales that drifted down under the table when I was a child and ear-wigging on the grown-ups.
www.carolrivers.com


Thursday, 5 April 2018

Interview with Ellen O'Casey-Heroine of No Cure for Love


It's just after ten in the evening and I've just popped into the Angel and Crown on Whitechapel High Street to have a quick chat with Ellen O'Casey the popular supper room singer of the establishment.
I know you're due on stage soon, Ellen, but would you mind if I had a quick chat?
Well, my friend Kitty’s doing her turn at the moments, so we should be all right.  But I can’t be too long or Danny’ll be after us.
I know you came here from Ireland when you were quite young, but can you remember anything about your homeland? 
I can remember things like the rough stone walls of the cottage we lived in and lying in bed listening to the mice scurrying about but one day dose stick in my mind.
It must have been spring because I can still see the swallows in my mind’s eye as I think of it.  A rare day it was, with the sun warming you and the smell the dew still fresh on the grass. Pa piled us all into the old rickety cart and took us all to the county fair.
We were so excited me and my brother Pat and Mike hadn’t slept all night with the thought of it.  Me and Pat argued all the way like a couple of cats in a sack, and if Ma threatened to make us walk once, she did it a dozen times.
When we got to Wexford, sure, I’d never seen so many people. I didn’t think there were that many in the world let alone Ireland. There were dancers and travellers in their brightly painted wagons and the men distilled potchine in kettles and tin baths or what ever was at hand.
The fiddles were playing while young girls whirled in their new clothes laughing and smiling. The fellas in their rough working clothes and heavy boots danced like feather in the breeze and catching their lasses as they passed.
Ha! Pat and Mike sneaked off and drank some homebrew and were as sick as dogs but instead of a whacking, Pa laughed and bundled us all back in the cart to take us home
I don’t remember getting into bed that night but I’ll never forget it.  It was less than a month later we all piled into the cart again and left our old home forever and came here.  But that day sometime comes back to me in that moment between sleeping and waking and I can smell the new spring grass once again.
It must be difficult for you as a widow to keep a roof over yours and your family’s head?
It’s almost impossible and without my Ma I’d have been in the poor house long before now. We both up before dawn to fetch water from the pump at the bottom of the street. Then I go and collect the washing from the big houses while Ma heats the copper.  All morning we scrub our knuckles raw on the washing board before drying and ironing it and then taking it all back at the end of the day.
At night we sit by candlelight and sew collars from Miller factor. We get thrupence for two dozen.  It barely keeps us, what with the rent and food being so dear. That’s why I have to sing in this place and sometimes down at the White Swan or Paddy’s Goose, Danny’s other pub. And if you think it’s grim in here, you should see that hole down on the Highway.
I understand you’ve been alone for almost ten years so I’m a bit surprised you’ve not remarried?
That’s a bit of a question and I’m not saying now, that I haven’t had the odd offer or two but there’s been no man who’s taken my fancy enough for me to want to make it permanent.  But I wouldn’t say no to the right man. But he’d have to be the right one because I’ve been married to the wrong one before and don’t want to repeat the experience.
This area of East London is notorious for crime and violence aren’t you frightened of living here alone?
For the most part I'm safe enough in Knockfurgus, the part of the dock where I live and most of us Irish are settled.  It’s in walking distance of the riverside where there’s work to be had when the ships are in.  Our street can be a bit rough, I grant you, but we all look out for each other.  We share what little we have and that’s not much. There’s none of us who would let a child go hungry even if we had to skip supper ourselves.
It’s the drink that makes it hard on a woman. I mean, no one would argue that a man entitled to a drink at the end of the day, to clear the dust from his throat but some, well; they don’t know when to stop and its his wife and children who feel the force of it, as often as not.
As to the danger. The Italian and Irish gangs are after each other not us so when they are cutting each other up in the streets and alleyway we shut ourselves in.  Our house is very small, two room on top of each other really, but there is only me, Ma and Josie so we’re snug enough. Some houses have three or four family living in and then there can be trouble.
Of course, I’m often scared out of me life when I have to walk home after singing here. But I keep to the main roads and go as fast as me legs will carry me.  Sometime the beat officer will walk away with me and I can relax then. But I have to work here so there’s no point wailing about it.
I notice that a number of women in the same situation as yourself often... well, how can I put this delicately?...take to the street.
It’s true. If you peek though curtains you can see them sitting at the back of the room now. They are easy to spot with their bright dresses and red lips. Sad souls. And I for one, don’t condemn them for what they do. I mean, most of them have a child or two to feed and sometimes it the streets or the workhouse.  And it can look easier that scrubbing sheets all day but there’s always a man lurking around who takes their money, not to mention the danger of being found by the peelers in the gutter with you throat cut.  And if you live long enough you’ve got the pox ward at the hospital to look forward to.
It seems an easy way but when I see what poor Kitty has to do to keep Danny sweet I think I’m better off on my own.   Although, if I were honest with you now, I do miss the arms of a strong man around me when I snuggle under the blankets .
I notice you get a fair few doctors from the London Hospital nearby take their supper here. In fact, that new medic, Doctor Munroe, is at one of the tables and keeps looking this way. Perhaps he’s someone you might consider giving up your widow’s weeds for?
Oh, go away with you! Whatever are you thinking? A man like that, you know, fierce handsome enough to tempt the angel themselves, isn’t for the likes of me.
There’s a lot of toffs who come down East slumming. I avoid them ‘cause all their after is a quick night’s fun for a few shilling and I’m not interested.
Mind, I’ll not have you thinking Doctor Munroe’s is one of those because he’s not.  He’s a proper gentleman and not just because of the way he dresses and speaks.
But no. He’ll marry some pretty lady with money and who speak right. Not a pub singer with an ageing mother and gangling daughter.  In a better world perhaps his smiles and kind eyes might become more but not in East London, not in 1832.
I hear also that although he’s only been here a month or two Doctor Munroe is already making his mark by introducing all sorts of health reforms, like a providing a proper water supply and sanitation to the slums. I also hear Mr Donovan, as chairman of the workhouse board isn’t too pleased with him looking into the workhouse accounts. Although, trying to improve the lot of the poor is very admirable Perhaps you should warn him he’s fishing in dangerous waters as far as Mr Donavan is concerned.
Ho! Doctor Munroe’s ruffled Danny’s feathers and no mistake. Good job too. Danny’s got his fat finger in every sticky pie around here. On the Parish Committee and the Board of Governors at the Workhouse.  It a disgrace how he runs the neighbourhood. Letting the water pump break and you can smell the workhouse before you see it. I pity the poor souls forced to live in there.
I do admire Robert….I…  I mean Doctor Munroe.
Ellen you’re blushing.
I’m not. It’s just a little warm in here that’s all. Anyway, it’s a brave thing that Doctor Munroe’s doing and his surgery in Chapman Street where he charges only what he has to.  But your right, he need to be careful. Danny’s been top dog around here for years and he doesn’t stay there by being nice to people who cross him. For his own sake, I wish Doctor Munroe would watch out for himself. It would fair break my heart if anything should happen to him.
Know you work hard to pay for your daughter Josie to attend school but is it worth it seeing as how the only opening for a girl of her class is to enter service or marry a docker?
Josie as bright as a button and with her brains she could teach school or work in a shop.  I don’t mind her going into service because she would learn things I could never teach her, but it would mean her going away as there are no big houses around here.  But to do any of those things she need her letters and figuring. My Pa knew that which is why he taught us all to read and do arithmetic.
I don’t suppose I want any more for Josie than any mother. I want her to find a good man who’ll treat her right be he a docker or sailor or anything
She had a fella, Patrick Nolan. He’s the son of my friend Sarah and he’s a good lad. dependable and hard-working but I’ve told him I’ll be after him if he takes advantage. I don’t want Josie to make the same mistakes as meself so I’m keeping a close eye on them just to be sure.
You sound bitter when you talk of your husband. Was your marriage so bad?  
Michel O’Casey had grand curly hair and a smile to warm you on a frosty day but he thought he could solve his problems at the bottom of a glass.  I was only fourteen when I met him and too young to see him for what he really was.
I don’t know if cheated is the right word but I’m sad that me and Michael went sour so quickly.  I realise now that a love like Ma and Pa’s only comes once in life time.  I thought Michael was that love but it didn’t take me long to find out my mistake. I hope that someday such a love might happen to me.  but I’m getting older now and so it might be too late.
Have you ever considered returning to Ireland? After all you must still have family there.  
No. It’s worst there than when we left. People dying in empty field and eating grass to keep the hunger from their bellies.  There’s no future for us there especially Josie.
Besides, most of our family are over here in Liverpool and Bristol and my brother, Pat’s in America. He’s doing grand, so he is, and we're hoping to join him soon.
What do you think life will be like for you, Josie and your there?
I don’t think it’ll be easy but my brother Pat got his own business in New York. He told me in his last letter that he would be looking to buy himself a bit of farm land north of the city in the Bronx.
He also wrote that in the wild territory the government give away land just to have someone on it. Can you imagine that? He’s says he’d saddle up his ole mule and dash for it.
I’m not afraid of hard work either, so I’ll just do as I’ve done when I get there and do whatever I have to do to keep my family.
Whatever I do at least I won’t have to be dodging Danny’s straying hands while I earn a few coppers, but until then I’m afraid I’ll have to sing for all the O’Caseys’ suppers in the Angel and Crown.
Thank you so much for talking to me, Ellen. I hope you do get to America, if that’s what you decide you finally want.  Now I see Mr Donovan glaring at us. He doesn’t look pleased, perhaps it’s time for you to sing now.
Buy No Cure for Love and the other books in Jean's Victorian series at: http://goo.gl/G9Dgds
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Twitter @JeanFullerton_



Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Victorian Fashions


On a recent trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, I took some photos of the fashions featured in my books.
 1860s

1870/80s

























Monday, 12 March 2018

Poverty during the War

Little remains of the original Ancoats save for a handful of decaying factories and the dark red brick edifice of the old hospital. But this was once an area of row of back to back houses, where Irish and Italian immigrants jostled side by side with fiercely proud Lancastrians; a tight knit community where folk had a loyalty to their particular street and a dread of being accused of ‘getting above themselves,’ or ‘mekkin’ out they were summat.’ For a man to lose his job in the late 1920s was bad, though sadly quite common, but to lose his dignity and pride as well was unthinkable.

In a world with little or no interest in women’s rights over their children, no free medical assistance or welfare benefits, workers’ long hours and low pay, life was tough during the depression and war years. The laws of renting property, wills and insolvency, the means test, the dole, rationing, being bombed out or evacuated, would all create problems. Even a middle class family could fall into difficulties. If the father lost his job, as frequently happened, or he died leaving a young family, who would support his wife and children? The family might be split up and farmed out to reluctant relatives, put in an orphanage, or find themselves facing the workhouse.

And what if someone in the household was sick, or giving birth? How could they afford a doctor when only the man as the wage earner of the family could be insured? Unmarried mothers suffered the asylum, institutions and reformatories of various kinds, or simply had their children taken away.

Social issues are a vital ingredient of a saga. Readers love to discover how women coped. Even domestic life was hard, doing the washing with a mangle and dolly tub, no central heating, vacuum cleaner, fridge or similar household gadget, and a privy down the yard. Perhaps some look back on hard times with a rose-tinted view, remembering when a community pulled together, didn’t need to lock their doors as they’d nothing worth stealing.

I try to lighten the tragic nature of the tale with a little humour, because that’s what helped people to cope. The Lancashire sense of humour was rarely lost, women stood ‘camping’ on their donkey-stoned doorsteps, arms folded over their apron-fronted bosoms with their own set of morals, as if handed the tablet of stone by Moses himself. Yet despite the hardships, or perhaps because of it, neighbours stood by you, giving you a pinch of sugar or cup of milk because it might be them needing it next week, and when poverty yawned and hungry stomachs ached, even children must learn to live by their wits.

The gritty northern saga usually concerns a strong woman fighting against the poverty of her surroundings, as well as the trials and tribulations of the times in which she lives. Disasters abound, but the heroine must win through against all odds, stronger in spirit than before. I seek out stories of the social under-classes in towns and rural backwaters. I’ve interviewed so many old folk with fascinating and deeply disturbing stories. That, to my mind, is what history is all about.

My family were weavers for generations on both sides of the Pennines. I have vivid memories of my grandmother black-leading her range and donkey-stoning her doorstep. You could have eaten your dinner off her stone flag floors for although she was poor, she was scrupulously clean. Therein lay her dignity. She would tell of how my grandfather, confined to a wheelchair, couldn’t work so in addition to caring for her children, one of whom was scalded to death while in the care of a child minder, she minded her six looms throughout a long working week, sang "I Shall not Want" three times every Sunday in chapel while worrying about what to find to eat for their tea. I linked Flo in Polly’s Pride to her character to a certain degree.




Living in the deprived area of Ancoats, Manchester, Polly Pride feels luckier than most … until her husband, Matthew, loses his job and her life is thrown into turmoil. In a desperate act to save her family from starvation, Polly sells all the family goods and buys a handcart from which she sells second-hand rugs and carpets. But struggling to deal with poverty and her husband’s hurt pride are only the start of her problems. For when tragedy strikes, Polly must summon all her courage to keep herself and her family from falling apart. 

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Sunday, 25 February 2018

Researching York

I've been deep in research for the current novel I'm writing which is set in York. I've bought some books to help in getting the feel of the city again, as it's been a while since I wrote my last book set in York (for those interested Kitty McKenzie and Aurora's Pride are set in York). It's so lovely to be writing in the Victorian era again, after a few books set in WWI.
I've been studying old maps which is so helpful to figure out where my characters would live and the areas they would shop and socialise. This novel heavily features the poorer areas of the city, and it's been fascinating reading about workhouses and the slum areas.

York is a beautiful city full of history and I enjoy going there and walking the streets, and now I have the perfect excuse to keep going there - for research of course!