Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Shopping in my street as a child

My grandparents who had a hairdresser's shop
With Christmas approaching we all start to think of last minute shopping. I have fond memories of the street on which I lived as a child, and have used them in many of my books.

My grandparents ran a hairdresser’s shop just a few doors away from our shoe shop. Grandad was one of the first to do permanent waving, building his own machine which was clamped to the lady’s head with curling grips. What would have happened had there been a fire I dread to think. Women saved up in a club for a perm, queuing up the stairs for their turn.

My favourite shop was the bakers where there was always that tempting smell of freshly baked bread, a delicious array of cakes, muffins and currant tea cakes. A custard slice for our tea on a Saturday was our weekly treat, following a hot meat and potato pie, the pastry rich and crisp, the smell of it so intoxicating I can recall it to this day. The baker also sold cold ham, roast beef and tongue, potted meats, polony, raised pork pies, and sausage rolls. Queues would form outside the shop every lunchtime in eager anticipation of a delicious snack. Tuesday was roast pork day. I would ask for a quarter, thinly sliced, and the baker’s wife would take the chunk of pork over to the slicer and quickly carve some off then wrap it in greaseproof paper. She never weighed anything, except in her hands.

The ironmongers smelled of paraffin, varnish and firewood. There you could find everything from candles and scrubbing brushes to knitting wool, shoe polish, glue, torch batteries, bicycle pumps, and any size of screw and nail you might ever need. It was owned by a big, jolly man whose eyesight grew so bad over the years that he would have to hold the screw right up to his nose to judge its size. He wore a khaki apron that reached to his ankles and would take infinite care to find just the right size of screw to fit your bolt, or weigh out your pound of one inch nails till it bounced on the scales.

Jolly Mr Greenwood and plump Mrs Greenwood ran the little grocer’s shop. Grocers wore long white aprons, were very civil to customers if not always to children. If you happened to be in a hurry then you would just have to wait because he took his time as everything had to be cut and carefully wrapped. Butter would be cut in slabs and patted into shape with long wooden bats, then wrapped in grease proof paper. If a man was in a hurry, however, he would generally be served before a woman, even if she was there first. Her permission for this was never asked. Children were frequently overlooked completely. I was generally ignored until everyone else in the shop had been served, then Mr Greenwood would give me a few currants as if to reward my patience and say: ‘Now, Freda, I have some nice sliced ham your mother would like.’ Even mum had to be grateful for whatever he offered, so I never refused. I was great friends with their son who spent much of his time sulking in the back room, though he was a useful friend to have as he could provide a ready supply of sticks of liquorice and Coltsfoot rock. He was also allowed to stay up late and listen to the radio, and later a twelve inch television set, which we didn’t have. I was hugely jealous.

The milk cart called every morning. You knew the milkman was on his way when you heard the rattle of wheels and the clip of the horse’s hooves over the setts. He wore a trilby hat pulled right down over his ears, and he would call out in a loud voice, ‘Muilk, muilk! He ladled this from the big metal churns into the jugs the women brought to him. I certainly remember running to the back of his trap with my jug and watching as the frothy fresh milk was poured in, no doubt unpastuerised. Coal, fish, fruit and vegetables and many other things were sold in the same way. The horses were always trimmed up with bows and ribbons on May Day.

All the shops would decorate their shops for Christmas, and often display a nativity in the shop window.
 I remember the lady in the draper’s shop at the end of our row. She was a thin, very proper looking woman with tightly permed hair and a slight lisp. She sold ribbons and laces, knitting patterns and wool of every colour and hue. Her shop always smelt new and exciting, and she could measure a length of tape or blue ribbon without recourse to tape measure by stretching it from the tip of her nose, along the length of her arm to her fingers.

As for the man in the fish and chip shop, he was fat and blubbery in a soiled apron who fried the fish and chips to perfection, crisp and delectable on the outside, piping hot within. His head was bald and gleamed as if greased from the fat on his hands, and he never wore any other expression but a grin on his round face. He was called Charlie. Everyone would go to Charlie’s for their fish and chips.

Now Mrs Addison at the toy shop had the patience of Job. She’d stand for half an hour while a child agonised over how to spend their Saturday penny. Her shop was filled with treasures. Foreign stamps from countries with mysterious names like Mauritious, Aden and The Gold Coast. Dinkie cars, farm animals, plastic water pistols, marbles with swirling patterns on them, tops and whips and skipping ropes with coloured handles.

She also entered into the community spirit by stocking a library of romances for overworked mums. For a penny you could borrow the latest Ethel M. Dell for a week. And she also sold gob stoppers, dolly mixtures, aniseed balls, pear drops, Pontefract cakes, rose creams and Sarsaparilla. Perhaps this was my favourite when I was very young.

Later it was the record shop where you could stand in a booth and listen to the latest Elvis Presley number played to you before you bought it. But whatever my age, shopping in our street was always a joy.

Harriet, who works for her mother Joyce in a hairdresser's shop on Champion Street, does not have to deal with a risky perming machine, but she does have other problems.


It’s the day of her beloved father’s funeral and Harriet can hardly take in her grandmother’s words. Joyce, the woman she has always called Mam, isn’t her real mother after all. At least that explains why Joyce has always favoured Harriet’s brother, Grant – blood is thicker than water. Her emotions in turmoil, Harriet discovers a streak of rebellion that puts into jeopardy everything she holds dear. Can she come back from the brink or will her life be full of lonely teardrops?

You can find it here: Amazon 

Happy Christmas everyone, and do enjoy your shopping. 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

A Writer's Day

Hi Again,
I am often asked where I write and when and so on and what my average day is like, so here goes, though.  it's not exactly riveting stuff.  My routine varies depending on the seasons because, fitted into my day, I have to walk my dog and as early as possible.  This is no problem to me as I am a natural early riser. so in the summer I am on the beach or up the hills near my house.before seven.
Conwy Mountains.
The Great Orme where my grandsons were collecting Fossils

However, as the days grow shorter I have to go out later and later, so that now for example it is eight o-clock before it's light enough, but I wake at the same time, so in the winter I spend time at my computer before the walk.  But what ever time it is, that walk sets me up for the rest of the day.  It really wakes me up, gives me a chance to play with my dog, or catch up with fellow dog walkers, or to have some thinking time.
Once home again, and with the two of us fed and watered, I go up to my study and stay there until lunchtime.  My husband organises lunch and when I have that eaten I go back to the study to open emails, look on Facebook and Twitter .and edit work I have hopefully done hat morning. before returning to my work in progress.

I stop work  about 6.30 and return after dinner if I have a lot on, or a deadline looming..  If I do not need to go back to the study it's time to relax, gin and tonic in hand and listen to music, watch a bit of telly or read. As, like many writers, I spend a lot of time alone and so it's nice to go the Novelistas once a month and meet with fellow writers where I also feel supported and encouraged.  Check us out, we are a friendly lot Novelistasink.blogspot.co.uk .  I also like to go down to London occasionally to see editors and agents and for writing parties and functions, but however nice all this junketing is, a great deal of time needs to be spent at home to get any books written at all.

So there you have it.  An average day in my life.  Didn't I warn you it wasn't interesting?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas Carol

On December 19, 1843, Charles Dickens’s ‘Christmas Carol’ was published. The story is one of my favourites. Not just because of the seasonal plot line, heart-warming characters and cracking dialogue, but because the real essence of Christmas is conveyed with a delightful simplicity. The story is about a family and one wealthy but lonely and disillusioned man. We join Scrooge in his misery and poor Bob Cratchit, in his hope of being released from his labours in time to celebrate Christmas with his family. There is crisp white snow falling, perhaps a piping hot succulent turkey to come. Dickens shows us it’s the love shared in a family who hardly have enough money to feed themselves, that is most important. And, more. At the heart of Christmas Carol is the promise of transformation. Scrooge, haunted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, mends his ways and brings to both himself and the once doomed Cratchit family, happiness beyond belief. A bright future. Just as the Bible tells of the hope of Christmas, a new life born into the world that will change our lives for the better. All religions, faiths and belief systems have wonderful, uplifting stories of their own to share. When times are hard, we have these stories to inspire us, none the least, A Christmas Carol. Thank you Charlie, for your gift, published well over a hundred and fifty years ago. So happy Christmas everyone! And, like the Cratchits, may we all remember to enjoy the small blessings just as much as the big ones. Very often, they are the most precious.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Where is it set?


One of my books, The Gentle Wind's Caress, is set in an area of Yorkshire known as Calderdale. The villages that feature in the book are Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall.

Hebden Bridge is the little bustling village that the heroine of the book, Isabelle, visits to shop and sell her wares on a market stall, but it is the farming countryside around Heptonstall, high up on the moors above Hebden Bride, where Isabelle lives on a run down farm which she tries to keep from going under despite the odds being against her.

Hebden Bridge

The area is naturally beautiful and running through the valley is the Calder River. This part of Yorkshire, like most areas, is steeped in history, and you can enjoy many local attractions, whether that be sipping coffee in Hebden Bridge, hiking along the many walking trails throughout the valley, learning the villages' history at places like Gibson's Mill (this is also Isabelle's surname, as I've made her a fictional distant relative of the mill owners), or visiting natural beauty spots like Hardcastle Crags.

For more information on Hebden Bridge: http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/tourist-info/index.html
For more information on Heptonstall: http://heptonstall.org/

A snippet from The Gentle Wind's Caress:


The cartwheel fell into a hole, jerking her back to the present. She forced herself to relax. Yes, she had married a stranger, but what had been the alternative? Living on the streets would have been much worse and she had to think of Hughie’s future too.
Isabelle raised her chin and concentrated on her surroundings. They’d left Halifax immediately after the wedding tea and driven straight to Hebden Bridge, where Len stopped to purchase goods, which for some reason, he grumbled about. Now, they drove up the steep, winding Heptonstall Road and her new husband had barely spoken to them. She couldn’t blame him really. Obviously, the situation wasn’t easy for him either. She expected that men become equally nervous as women when they married.
Craning to look past Hughie, Isabelle marvelled at the magnificent scenery of the valley below. The grey stone terrace houses of Hebden Bridge hugged the slopes as though they had been hewn from the valley sides. The silver ribbon of the River Calder coiled through the town like a lazy snake. Beside it, caught in glimpses between trees and buildings, lay the Rochdale Canal.
Familiar names in a new and unfamiliar life.  
The muted noise of the small village of Heptonstall greeted them like a soft caress on the wind. The narrow, quiet streets reflected the lateness of the day; many would be inside enjoying their tea. Isabelle took eager interest in the Old Church and Weaver’s Square, and counted seven public houses, but all too soon they left the stone thoroughfare of Towngate and headed northwest on Smithwell Lane and out of the village. She would have to investigate the village properly at a later date.
Isabelle stifled a yawn, she had been awake since before dawn. The day’s toll flagged her strength. She still couldn’t believe she was now married. Opening her eyes wide to keep alert, she surveyed the countryside as it opened up on both sides of the road. The higher they rose, the cooler the weather became and the bleaker their environment. This was moor country. The crisp autumn air awoke her senses. Her gaze lingered on the hues of the heather covered moor. How beautiful it is. Maybe being married and living in the country would be an enjoyable experience. Surely, nothing could be worse than living by Matron’s rules and spending her time hiding from Neville?

To learn more about The Gentle Wind's Caress, which is available in paperback and ebook, visit online sellers such as Amazon, and my Facebook author page.


Friday, 2 November 2012

The Great War and Theatre

Vesta Tilley
World War One caused a boom in theatre going, but not necessarily to see plays. Many serious plays had to be withdrawn as they lost money. Most companies broke up on the backs of theatre-manager’s greed. These men often lacked the paternal care exhibited by the old actor-managers. They were far more ruthless and would quickly call a halt to a tour if audiences began to dip, and rising rents were a nightmare.

The war naturally brought a new surge in patriotism, both in drama and cinema. There were plays written about the suffering, but the emphasis was more on the humorous to attract the masses. There were many songs about the war, even women dressed as soldiers (Vesta Tilley) as well as drama that was hostile to Germany. Soldiers on leave flocked to the theatres with their sweethearts, eager to be amused and entertained.

Chu Chin Chow was a huge success. Starting out as a pantomime it ran for over 2,000 performances at His Majesty’s. A Little Bit of Fluff, a popular farce, ran for three years at the Criterion. Critics were vociferous against this kind of ‘vulgarity’ as they termed it. Others would complain there was too much Shakespeare and time for a change.


One of the famous names at this time was Lilian Baylis at the Old Vic, who persisted in presenting Shakespeare. She also started a fine repertory company and established a permanent company for ballet. Miss Horniman, who ran The Old Gaiety Theatre in Manchester, transformed it into a modern repertory theatre and continued to do plays of a high quality, but it was not easy with so many of the ‘stars’ being taken away to go on tour. She had a reputation as a caring employer, anxious to achieve a good reputation for her actors. She even considered a trade union would be of benefit to enforce managers to provide clean and safe theatres, and pay for rehearsals. In 1913 one theatre in Manchester carried a notice which read “this theatre is perfectly ventilated, cleaned daily by the vacuum process and disinfected with Jeyes Fluid.” But on the whole, repertory companies suffered badly, largely because they persisted in presenting the same old Victorian melodramas, perpetuating the myth that anything was good enough for the provinces.

Films were the new popular treat, both at home and with troops in France, Charlie Chaplin’s in particular. It was estimated that by 1917 half the population went to the Cinema at least once a week as it was cheaper than a night out at the pub. Newsreels and propaganda films were also common. Performers would often entertain cinema audiences between films. Queues too would be entertained by performing dogs or a man playing a banjo or accordion. Then a collection would be taken up for the soldiers and sailors.

Benefit performances were held to raise money to entertain wounded soldiers; just as there were Tank Weeks, or fund raising for an ambulance. Matinees too would be held to buy x-ray or other first aid equipment.

The greatest rival to cinema was the music hall with concert parties and visits from famous artists to the camps and rest areas. Harry Lauder was a great favourite of the troops as he tirelessly toured France, getting as close to the front line as possible after his only son was killed there in 1916.

Having been involved in amateur dramatics all my life I love the theatre, and have collected many books on the history of it, famous actors and so on, so I love to write about it and have touched on this theme in other books.

But it was Harry Lauder’s story, and that of Miss Horniman, and also reading an old book called Travelling Players by Eleanor Elder, published in 1939, which gave me the inspiration to write Kitty Little.


I based the LTP’s on Eleanor Elder’s story, whose great wish was to bring the Arts to the masses, and on that of the old Blue Box, otherwise known as the Century Theatre. This was a collection of mobile blue vans that trundled around northern towns until the number of trailers grew so big and cumbersome that it parked up by the lake at Keswick, and stayed there. Now it has gone, replaced by the beautiful Theatre by the Lake, pleasing locals and tourists alike.

http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/theatre-by-the-lake.htm

I hope I have done justice to the enthusiasm and pleasure these wonderful people have brought to their own audiences in my fictional tale. I’d like to think that Kitty is there in spirit, acting on that wonderful stage.


Katherine Terry is fleeing from a marriage her ambitious mother has arranged for her, as well as a scandal that threatens to wreck her own life and the happiness of those she loves. 

Charlotte Gilpin can have any man she wants, and she wants Archie - whoever is standing in her way. 

Esme Bield is weary of a life filled with the placid duty she has known as a parson’s daughter; but can the quiet, trusting girl cope with the reality of a wider world? 

Against the theatrical backdrop of the Lakes, a real-life drama is played out: One that threatens to destroy the very dream that brought them together, and the close friendship they once enjoyed. Three girls seeking escape. Each captivated by the idea of a travelling theatre. Each pretending to be someone she is not. All are in love with the same man . . .

Monday, 1 October 2012

October and A Sister's Shame

 
October is a celebratory month for me. It’s when my latest novel, A SISTER’S SHAME is published in paperback and ebook. Simon&Schuster have designed another wonderful cover, showing the heroine, Marie Haskins, as she might have looked in those pre-war days. The details at Amazon read something like this. “London’s East End, 1934. Marie and Vesta Haskins would give up everything to dance on stage, but could they lose each other? The eighteen-year-old twins work at the local shoe factory to bring in a few pennies for the family, but they’ve never given up on their dream of treading the boards in the West End. When a brand new East End club opens its doors, the girls audition for the show and are over the moon to land two nights a week with their cabaret act. But little do they realise that the villainous Scoresby brothers are using the club as a front for a very different line of business. Seeing what is going on behind the smoke and lights of the stage, sensible Marie vows to leave her job at the club before it is too late, but headstrong Vesta has fallen for the Scoresby’s handsome right-hand man, Teddy, and unwittingly leads her whole family into the Scoresby’s clutches. Will Marie be able to save her family from disaster? Or will Vesta’s determination to become a star tear the Haskins family apart? I hope the book matches up to this exciting summary. Or perhaps, exceed expectations? It was a heart-felt book to write and I hope readers everywhere enjoy it and experience just what it would have been like in those glamorous days to achieve the promise of fame and fortune!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Apologies

I have called this entry an apology because that is exactly what it is.  I last posted three years ago and fully intended to post on a regular basis, but then life got in the way.  Many know this already, but for those who don't, not long after my last posting the chest infection my husband, Denis contracted turned to double pneumonia and pleurisy. He was incredibly ill and I was desperately worried about him.  He did begin to recover and then when the consultant conducted a bronchial endoscopy to check that all the infection had cleared from his lungs.  However a tumour was found that turned out to be cancerous.  Although small it was blocking two airways and so two parts of his right lung had to be removed and after he had semi recovered from this, there was there was a gruelling 16 weeks of chemotherapy.

During this time this time, though I managed to write the books, keeping more or less to the publisher's deadlines, thinking of doing anything else was quite beyond me.  Not only did I have little actual time for Denis was unable to do much for himself when he was suffering from pneumonia and recovering from surgery and he had quite severe after effects from the chemotherapy  I felt completely drained emotionally.

However life is much calmer now and I am able to lift my head above the parapet.  When I last posted I was quite excited about the final Sullivan novel, "The Child Left Behind," which wrapped up a  the three previous novels of the same family.  Since then I have written books that stand completely alone. I wrote "Keep The Home Fires Burning" when Denis was in the throes of cancer, I actually attended to the copy edits for this book while I was in the accommodation for relatives at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital in Liverpool where I stayed for the fortnight Denis was in having surgery in September 2010. and I was delighted he was well enough to attend the launch for this book in Feb 2011.  Everyone dressed up in costumes from 1940's and Denis was dressed as an old sea dog, one of the intrepid sailors who helped rescue the soldiers from Dunkirk.

The following year, the book  was called "Far From Home" and the launch party for that was tremendous too.  The books tells the story of a young girl forced to leave her home in rural Ireland because of the passionate love she has for her first cousin, forbidden for a Catholic.  Her sister joins her and as War breaks out she loves again a pilot called David.  He is posted missing and coping with the grief of that, she makes a discovery that.turns her word inside out and makes her question everything she has ever believed in and she wonders if she will ever find happiness again.

The next book, out in January 2013 is called,"If you Were The Only Girl".  The song tells the story for if Clive and Lucy  were the only boy and girl  in the world they wouldn't be constrained by duty or class.  As it is despite their love for each other, a wide chasm divides them.  Can it ever be breached?. Jacket cover to follow.  Here are the others and  a photo of me so that you all know what I look like.




Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Girl on the Beach

The idea for The Girl on the Beach came from something that happened to my husband in the second world war.
Crossing a ditch in Germany in 1944 he jumped on a mine and, according to witnesses, was blown sky high. He woke up in hospital in England with traumatic loss of memory. Luckily for him it came back after a few days but the story remained in my subconscious until I needed it.
 I imagine losing one’s memory must be hard to accept; you would worry at it all the time, trying to bring it back and wondering if images that suddenly come into your head are real memories.
 My heroine’s life is a mystery from the first. As a tiny baby she is found on the doorstep of the Foundling Hospital in London on a Monday in July 1918 with a note pinned to her clothing. ‘Husband killed in France. Can’t cope no more.’ She is given the name of Julie Monday and grows up in the orphanage.
When she meets and marries Harry Walker in 1938 and they have a son, George, her happiness is complete but for shadow of war hanging over everyone. At the outbreak of war, Harry joins the RAF and is sent to Canada for training. Julie is left to cope alone.
When the siren sounds for the first big raid of the London blitz, Julie is ushered into a shelter which receives a direct hit. Pulled out alive she is taken to hospital, but she cannot tell them who she is, where she lives or even if she has a family. Given a new identity, she must make a life for herself as Eve Seaton, and Harry, who believes his wife and child have been killed, must put his grief behind him and get on with his part in the war as a radio operator in a bomber crew.
 When Julie’s memory does return four years later in equally traumatic circumstances, Julie is left with a dilemma. Is she Julie Walker married to Harry or is she Eve Seaton engaged to Alec Kilby? Where is Harry? And who is buried in the grave alongside her son?

 Although I vividly remember the blackout and the blitz, the rationing and shortages, the long queues and the black market, I still had lots of research to do. Crucially for my story I discovered that it is a myth that loss of memory caused by a blow on the head would be cured by another blow, that most likely scenario for the return of memory would be if the person concerned was put in a similar situation to the one that caused the loss in the first place. I could call on my husband’s experiences in the Parachute Regiment for Alec Kilby’s role, but I needed to find out about the WAAF and the jobs they might be asked to do, about Bomber Command and factory work, though here again I could call on memory.
My father was production manager of a factory making radio parts and sometimes he would work on a Sunday and take me with him. All this delving into the past was great fun but there comes a time when you have to stop the research and write the book but before I could do that I needed a chronology of events, both real and fictional to make sure they bonded. And that is half the fun of writing historical novels, interweaving fact and fiction.

 Excerpt:
The young lady in the hospital bed was finally coming out of her comatose state and the nurse designated to watch over her called the ward sister. 'She's stirring, Sister. I saw her eyes flicker.'
'Good. Now perhaps we'll find out who she is.' The patient had been dug out of the ruins of the Linsey Street shelter with a broken left arm and left leg, abrasions to her face and a bump on the head. The broken limbs had been plastered and would heal and so would the grazes, but the head injury was worrying. They did not know what to expect when she regained consciousness, if she ever did. She might be living the rest of her life as a cabbage. She had no means of identity on her when she had been brought in but that was hardly surprising, since almost everything and everyone about her had been blown to smithereens. Bags and papers had been scattered everywhere and there was no way of telling which body they belonged to, even supposing you could piece together the bodies. In any case the chaos as the ambulance crews dashed back and forth ferrying casualties meant possessions frequently became separated from their owners.
Sister stood and looked down at the still form in the bed, watching the flickering of the eyelids, waiting with a fixed smile of reassurance until the eyes opened fully. They were forget-me-not blue. 'Hallo,' she said. 'Where am I?'
'In St Olaves's hospital, Bermondsey. You were in a shelter that was bombed. Can you tell us your name?' 'It's…' She stopped suddenly and tried again. 'It's gone. My name has gone.' Tears filled her eyes. 'How can I forget my own name?'
'Easily, my dear. You have sustained a nasty bump on the head as well as the other injuries and temporary loss of memory under those circumstances is not uncommon. It will come back.'
'Do you know who I am?'
'Unfortunately, no. You were pulled out of the rubble of the shelter on Linsey Street after it was destroyed by a bomb. There was nothing on you, certainly nothing arrived here with you.'
'Bomb?'
'Yes. There's a war on and we're being bombed. Do you remember that?'
'I remember being very frightened. And noise, a lot of noise and darkness.'
'That's something, I suppose.'
'How long ago was that?'
'Over three weeks now.'
'Hasn't anyone been looking for me?'
'There have been several people looking for lost relatives who came and saw you, but unfortunately you did not belong to any of them.'
'What about other people in the shelter? Didn't any of those know me?'
'There weren't many survivors and those that did get out said you were a stranger and not one of the people who usually used that shelter. You may have just been visiting the area when the siren went. Do you remember anything about yourself?'
'I'm trying, I really am. I suppose I must have had parents, brothers and sisters, a husband even…'
'You are not wearing a wedding ring.' She felt her wedding ring finger which was sticking out of the plaster that encased her broken arm. 'Oh, no husband then.'
'But you have given birth, though not recently.'
'I've had a child? What happened to it?'
'We don't know. There were no unidentified children in the shelter. It may have been stillborn some time ago, or it might have been adopted or put into a home, since you 're not married.'
'A home?' She was silent, struggling to recall something, anything that might help. 'That rings a bell. I seem to remember something about a home and lots of children. And the seaside. Was the home at the seaside? Oh, why can't I remember? Surely I must have loved the child. I would not have put it in a home unless there was no alternative.'
'Sometimes it's the only thing you can do, especially if the father won't face up to his responsibilities and your parents were not prepared to help.'
'That would have been cruel.'
'Yes, but some people are strict like that. Of course you may not have had parents alive. It would have been a struggle to manage in that case.'
'But I must have tried. Are you sure my memory will return?'
'Pretty sure.'
'When?'
'That I cannot tell you. In a day or two, a week, maybe longer. The brain is a funny thing and we don't altogether understand how it works.'
'What have you been calling me?'
The sister smiled. 'C10. It's the number above your bed.'
'What will happen to me now? Where will I go? I can't even remember where I live.' The blankness of her mind was worrying, but it wasn't exactly blank; her brain was going round and round trying to grasp at something, anything, to tell her who she was and where she came from.
'You will have to stay in hospital until your plaster comes off and then you will need exercises to get your muscles working again. If you still cannot remember after that, you will be re-homed, but until then we are moving you to another hospital away from the bombing. We need the beds here for new casualties. With every raid there are more and more. We are rushed off our feet.'
'When will I go?'
'Tomorrow by ambulance.'
'What's the date?'
'Friday the twenty-seventh of September.'
'I shall have to remember that.'
'Oh, I think you will. It's only your past you have lost.'
Only my past, she thought as the sister left her. Her past was what made her who she was; without it she was nothing, a number. C10. What sort of person was she? How had she come to have a child and not be married? Did that mean she was wicked? Had she loved the child's father? Why hadn't they married? Was it a boy or a girl? How old would he or she be? Come to think of it, how old was she? Had she got a job, employers who might wonder why she had not reported for work? Why had no one come forward to claim her? If only someone would come she might not feel so isolated and frightened. She nagged and nagged at her memory until she was exhausted and fell asleep.

 THE GIRL ON THE BEACH is out now in paperback published by Allison and Busby price £7.99 ISBN: 978 0 7490 1218 2 www.marynichols.co.uk


Thursday, 26 July 2012

A previously published book - new cover - new title!



East End Jubilee - previously published as Rose of Ruby Street. With the Queen's amazing 2012 "Jubilee Journeying" I thought I'd recap on one of my re-published titles.

June 2nd, 1953. The residents of Ruby Street in London's East End are celebrating the new Queen's coronation. It's a day of joy and laughter, a new beginning for a nation still in the grip of rationing, still sufferng the aftermath of the Blitz. But for Rose Weaver, the day ends in tragedy when her husband Eddie is arrested on suspicion of theft. It's only the first of several shocks as Rose discovers some unpleasant facts about the man she married eight years before, the man she thought she knew so well. Struggling to provide for herself and her two daughters, Rose realises that she'll need the help of family, friends and the good neighbours of Ruby Street if she's to have any chance of pulling through. And when a handsome salesman knocks at her door, it's hard to resist temptation ...
I liked writing Rose - she was a gutsy heroine. And has enjoyed her second life this year at a very appropriate time. Notification made clearer on the books, by-the-way, for those who read her first time around.

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Gentle Wind's Caress released


My historical novel, The Gentle Wind's Caress, has been released in paperback and in digital formats. Yay!

The Blurb:Halifax, 1876. On the death of her mother and sister, Isabelle Gibson is left to fend for herself and her brother in a privately-run workhouse. After the matron's son attempts to rape her, Isabelle decides to escape him and a life of drudgery by agreeing to marry a moorland farmer she has never met. But this man, Farrell, is a drunkard and a bully in constant feud with his landlord, Ethan Harrington. When Farrell bungles a robbery and deserts her, Isabelle and Ethan are thrown together as she struggles to save the farm. Both are married and must hide their growing love. But despite the secrecy, Isabelle draws strength from Ethan as faces from the past return to haunt her and a tragedy is set to strike that will change all of their lives forever.


The except:‘He’ll be here soon.’ Hughie sat by the fire darning a sock. ‘The snow has likely held him up.’

‘What keeps him out night after night?’ She stamped her foot in frustration. ‘He drinks more than a sailor does on his first day back at port!’
 Hughie grinned.The sound of scratching made Isabelle frown. The snowstorm grew in intensity. She could no longer see the outbuildings. The scratching sounded again. ‘What is that?’
Hughie shrugged. ‘The trees on the window upstairs?’
Isabelle stepped away from the window, nibbling her fingertips. There would be no market day today. She went to walk into the scullery when a thump hit the back door. She opened it and cried out as Farrell landed at her feet.
Hughie dashed to her side and together they stared at her husband’s bloody form.‘Heaven’s above!’ Isabelle bent to touch him. He stirred and moaned. ‘Help me bring him inside, Hughie.’
They grabbed him under the arms and dragged him down the step and onto the kitchen floor. His coat was missing and his wet woollen vest cloaked him like another skin.
Farrell opened and closed his eyes. ‘Isabelle…’
‘What happened to you?’ She took a dishcloth from the table and knelt to wipe the blood oozing from a cut in his forehead. She gestured to Hughie. ‘Get me some blankets off the bed and a pillow too. He’s too heavy to lift, so I’ll have to make a bed in here for him.
As Hughie ran to do as she bid, Isabelle quickly made him a cup of sweet tea and held his head up to pour a little into his mouth. Next, she rubbed Farrell’s cold hands between her own. Hughie ran into the room with the items she asked for, and Isabelle placed the pillow under Farrell’s head. ‘Heat a warming pan, Hughie.’
Farrell’s eyes fluttered, he moaned between blue lips.
Isabelle ran into the scullery and found an old pair of gloves. She returned and tugged them onto his icy hands. ‘Lord, what have you done to yourself?’
He murmured and opened his eyes. She tucked the blanket around him more securely. ‘Lie still.’
‘No…’She put the cup to his lips again. ‘Drink this now. You need to get warm.’
He slowly eased himself up onto one elbow. ‘Got to hide.’ He wheezed and then coughed. His split lip began to bleed freely again.
‘Hide?’ She frowned. ‘Why?’
‘They’ll find me here!’ He tried to get up, but she pushed him back down. 
‘Who?
‘Had to run…’
Hughie knelt down beside them. ‘Has he lost his mind?’
‘Heaven knows, silly man. It’d be hardly surprising if he has, being out in this weather all night.’ She made Farrell drink again. ‘Take his boots off, Hughie.’
‘No!’ Farrell reared up. ‘I must hide.’ He gripped Isabelle’s arms until they hurt. His eyes were wide and frightened. ‘I can’t hide here. They’ll find me.’
In a panic, Isabelle glanced up at the door as though the riders from Hell would burst through it any moment. She flung away his hands, alarmed. ‘What have you done?’ Her voice sounded high to her ears.
‘They nearly caught me. Had to run.’ Farrell panted, throwing off the blanket, struggling to sit up. ‘They saw my face. I must go!’
Isabelle stood and hugged herself, fighting rising terror. ‘Tell me,’ she whispered.



To Purchase:

Amazon USA
http://www.amazon.com/Gentle-Winds-Caress-Anne-Brear/dp/1908483326/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338918193&sr=1-5
Amazon UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00705A120

Saturday, 5 May 2012


Secrets and Lies - Janet Woods (A stand-alone sequel to Tall Poppies)

A destructive secret is guarded by a network of lies  . . . until they begin to unravel.

1933. Nurse Esmé Carr travels to Australia with her friend Minnie in search of adventure. Left behind is Esmé’s adolescent niece. Meggie Elliot. After a broken engagement to a dancer on a cruise ship, who literally swept Esmé off her feet, in the light of day he is exposed for what he is – a deceiver.

Minnie goes a step further, marrying a dreamer and gambler who proves to be little more than a wastrel. The two women nurse his mother back to health and they become good friends. While Minnie tried to make her marriage work Esmé is torn between her family and her independence.

The two women move to an outback medical centre to work, and fate throws a former acquaintance into Esmé’s lap. Leo Thornton is an outgoing Australian doctor and aviator who works as a locum for the flying doctor service. When they fall in love Esmé realizes she must follow her heart.

Esmé’s teenage niece, Meggie Elliot, is of imaginative and independent frame of mind, but there is a mystery surrounding her birth – one she intends to unravel, despite her mother’s warnings to leave the past alone. When the truth surfaces it’s not what Meggie wants to hear, and Esmé must reconcile the rift that developes between mother and daughter. 

“A lovely and thoughtful historical romance.”
Booklist on Lady Lightfingers

A fine, fine novel!
Historical Novels' Society Issue 58 

A gentle, pleasant romance about a woman whose grace is justly rewarded.
Booklist on Tall Poppies

Friday, 27 April 2012

Free novel: The House of Women


Free historical novel: The House of Women is available for free on Amazon Kindle USA and UK from Friday 27 until Sunday 29th April.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

EAST END JUBILEE

Out next month, my novel EAST END JUBILEE is timed for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and is by no means a royal intrigue, but more an East End drama and family conflict. The plot is set against the backdrop of the present Queen’s coronation in 1953. One of the reasons I wrote this story was because of the post-war changes to our countries and the spread of  a new dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit that my lead male figure, market trader Eddie Weaver, possesses in abundance. Unfortunately this enthusiasm gets Eddie into trouble and tests the love and trust of his nearest and dearest. The 50′s were full of such stories, one of the most famous being Rebel Without a Cause, where James Dean played a mixed-up and defiant teenager, challenging the system. My Eddie isn’t as glam or moody, or oozing Dean’s on-screen chemistry, but he’s a wheeler dealer, a Dell Boy, and has his own charm. Sadly, the police have marked his card and in the midst of all the celebration, Eddie is nicked! Now it’s down to my heroine to prove his innocence. Bring on the heavies to test her resolve and Rose Weaver either has to bow to the bad men, or – and need I say more? – fight tooth and nail to resist them. I like to think I’ve drawn inspiration from the greats;  Ava Gardner, Kim Novak, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Kirk Douglas – the list of 50′s stars is endless. So I hope that the cocktail I serve up in EAST END JUBILEE (formerly titled Rose of Ruby Street) will do justice to this celebratory year and bring back a little of the 1950′s magic and everything that was so excitingly new and inspirational, after the seemingly endless years of war.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

What's in a name?

Last year, my historical novel, The House of Women was released under the name of Anne Whitfield, like all of my previous books since I was first published in 2006.
However, due to life changes, I've decided to use a new pen name for my novels. Some of my older works will remain under the Whitfield name, mainly my short stories and modern romances. But my historical novels will be released, or re-released, under the name of Anne Brear.

A re-release is The House of Women, now under the name of Anne Brear.


Blurb:
As the Victorian Age draws to a close, lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters' rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own. The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her. Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster's future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father's infidelity, one sister's alcoholism, and another's out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match. Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish -and murder- when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life. All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness? 


Available in paperback and ebook.
Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Kirilov Star



THE KIRILOV STAR
Mary Nichols: www.marynichols.co.uk

The Civil War is raging in Russia and Count Kirilov decides to take his wife and two children, Andrea and Lydia, to Yalta and see them onto a ship to England. With their family jewels sewn into their clothes, he and the Countess set out in the carriage and the children and their nurse go in the droshky, driven by Ivan Ivanov. The droshky is held up by bandits and Andrea and the nurse are killed. Ivan takes Lydia to the rendez-vous but her parents never arrive. She is put into the care of Baron Simenov who is also taking his wife and son, Alexei to England. He takes her to Sir Edward Stoneleigh, a British diplomat who has been instructed to oversee the evacuation of the refugees and then leave himself. Sir Edward is left with the dilemma of what to do with her. He refuses to send her to a Russian orphanage, which are notoriously dreadful places, especially for someone who appears to be of aristocratic stock.
He and his wife are childless, something they both regret, could Lydia fill that gap? He could give her a good life, but would his wife accept her? Would Lydia later blame him for taking her from her homeland? Would the pull of her Russian roots be strong enough to make her abandon a comfortable life to go in search of them? And when it does, many years later, she finds herself in Russia at the start of the Second World War, searching for her baby son who has been abducted by his father and her situation becomes desperate.

Excerpt
Sir Edward Stoneleigh’s temporary office overlooked the harbour. He was standing at the window looking out on a seething mass of humanity, all hoping to be evacuated. Some had run along the pier in the hope of being first to board any vessel taking off refugees. There were abandoned motor cars everywhere, some with doors left open and engines still running. There was nothing worse than a mob in a panic, he told himself, unless it was an aristocratic mob, unused to discipline and orderliness. Edward could see British ships standing by to take people off, but so far the order had not come for them to come into the harbour and begin loading.
He had his own orders to see as many off as he could and then leave himself. How many could be safely taken he was not sure and if they could not all go, what order of priority was he to use? There were more ships on the way and he hoped all who wanted to leave could be accommodated.
He turned away from the window as his clerk announced Baron Simenov. Another aristocrat claiming kinship with the Tsar, he supposed, and hoping for preferential treatment. He smiled and went forward to offer his hand. ‘What can I do for you, Baron?’
Pyotr shook the hand. ‘A place on board one of your ships for myself, my wife and son would be greatly appreciated, Sir Edward.’
‘There is a protocol…’
‘I am aware of that, Sir Edward, and I would not ask to go out of turn, but I can furnish you with telling evidence that I have been of use to the British government in an intelligence capacity, for which the Bolsheviks would dearly love to shoot me.’ It was said with a hint of dry humour which Edward liked.
‘Then we shall have to see what we can arrange.’
‘That is not the only reason for my visit, Sir Edward, I have another problem. I have been asked to look after a little girl, supposedly the daughter of Count Kirilov, though I have no way of verifying that. She appears to be all alone in the world and I am at a loss to know what to do with her.’
‘There are dozens of children in Yalta who have become detached from their parents. Husbands have lost wives, wives their children. I have no idea how it will all be sorted out. What is so special about this child?’
Pyotr told him succinctly all he had learned from Stepan Ratsin, which was little enough. ‘Her parents were supposed to meet her and her brother in Simferopol, but they never turned up. I could not leave her with that uncouth peasant, and so I brought her to Yalta. According to the servant who took her to the peasant, that was where the family was heading.’
‘Has she means of identification?’
‘None at all. But she is dressed like a little aristocrat. Except for the blood stains. Her brother's and her nurse's, who were shot in front of her, so I was told.’
‘What does she say?’
‘Nothing. She has not uttered a word, except to croak her name and age. She seems to be in shock. Hardly to be wondered at, is it?’
‘No.’
‘I was hoping you might have news of the Count, or some message as to what was to be done with her. I can hardly carry her off to England when her poor parents might be searching for her. And what would I do with her when I got there?’
‘I see,’ Edward murmured. 'Where is she now?’
‘Outside in the vestibule. I have taken a room in a hotel for my wife and son. They are charging the earth for rooms and I was lucky to obtain one for all of us, but we cannot accommodate the little girl. She is, not to put too fine a point on it, somewhat smelly. You can see how we are fixed?’
Sir Edward did see. ‘You had better bring her in. I’ll see what I can find out.’
‘Thank you. And you will remember a place for us on one of the British ships?’
‘I will remember.’
They shook hands again and Pyotr fetched Lydia, his step lighter than when he arrived. Katya had always been a soft-hearted woman, but the last few months had hardened her and, like everyone else, she looked to her own safety and that of her darling son first. They had no idea who Lydia Mikhailovna was. She could be an impostor or a member of the Romanov family and, until they were safely in England, Katya would do nothing to risk being arrested; the penalties would be dire. He could hardly blame her. She would be glad the child could be handed over with a clear conscience.
Lydia was ushered into the office, more terrified and bewildered than ever. The man who had brought her here, promising to find her father, disappeared and she was left facing another man, who was still not Papa. He had a light moustache but no beard, his brown hair was parted in the middle and had a slight wave to it. His blue eyes regarded her kindly. He squatted down beside her so that he was on her level. ‘Well, Lidushka, we shall have to see what we can do to help you.’ It was said in perfect Russian, with hardly a trace of an accent. ‘Are you hungry?’
Lydia was not sure if she was hungry or not, but decided it was polite to nod that she was.
‘Good.’ He rang a bell on his desk. ‘First things first, eh?’ Then to his secretary, Richard Sandford, who had arrived in answer to his summons. ‘Richard, ask Madame Molinskaya to come here, will you? And then see if you can find out what has happened to Count and Countess Kirilov. The Count, according to the information I have been given, is a Colonel under General Wrangel. Or he was. He may have decided to call it a day. That would account for him saying he would meet his family in Simferopol. He may, of course, have assumed his daughter perished along with her brother and the nurse, so we need to reassure him on that score and tell him we have her safe.’
‘It won't be easy, Sir Edward. Everything is a complete shambles. We have tenuous communications with the White command but that is becoming more and more difficult as their posts are over-run.’
‘Do your best.’ Edward bent again to Lydia. ‘How old are you, sweetheart?’
‘Four.’
‘Four, eh? Then you are a big girl, aren't you? Perhaps you know where you live. Do you know the name of the place?’
‘Kirilhor,’ she said.
‘Where is that?’ Richard asked, but that was more than she could tell him.
‘See what you can discover,’ Edward told him.
He disappeared and a few moments later, a fat motherly Russian woman arrived and Lydia was given into her care. ‘Get those clothes off her and give her a bath,’ Sir Edward murmured, handing her Lydia's bag of clothes. ‘Then feed her and put her to bed. After that…’ He shrugged, having no clear idea of what he would do.
‘Come, golubchick’' she said, taking Lydia by the hand and leading her from the room. ‘We shall soon have you feeling more comfortable.’
‘Mama.’ It was a refrain Lydia was to repeat over and over like a mantra. ‘Where is my Mama?’
‘Sir Edward, will find out for you. You know who Sir Edward is, don’t you?’
Lydia shook her head.
‘He is the English gentleman we have just left. He is a baronet in England and what they call a diplomat. He is a very important man and very busy, so we must not trouble him if we can help it. I will look after you until we find your mama and papa. Now, you are going to be a good girl, aren’t you? A good girl for your papa and Sir Edward.’ As she spoke she led the child through the house to her own quarters above the kitchen. They consisted of a sitting room, a bedroom and a bathroom. She rang a bell and when this was answered by a maid asked her to prepare food for their guest. Then she ran a bath.
It was then the struggle began. Lydia did not want to be undressed. She was afraid the Star of Kirilov would be found and it was her bounden duty to hang onto it; Mama had told her not to let anyone see it. But Madame Molinskaya was hard to resist. She spoke softly, saying there was nothing to fear, everyone was her friend, and all the time she was unbuttoning, untying, stroking the little one’s face, reassuring her. It was when she managed to remove the bloodstained petticoat and threw it on the bathroom floor and heard the heavy thud, she realised something was hidden in it.
She picked it up again to examine it. ‘Ah, my little one, what have we here?’ The secret pocket was found and the Star extracted, while Lydia, filled with a sense of her failure, cried salty, silent tears. ‘I see it all now. This is meant to pay your way. Now, why would anyone do that unless they knew you were going to be all alone? We shall see what Sir Edward says, but for now, I shall put it here.’ She laid the jewel on a table against the wall. ‘It will be quite safe while you have your bath and some supper, and then we will take it to Sir Edward. Now into that warm water with you. There is some nice smelling soap here.’ She sniffed it and held it to Lydia's nose. ‘Violets. You like it, don’t you?’
Lydia nodded and was lifted into the bath. It was heavenly to be soaped with the luxury soap, something she had not seen since leaving Petrograd, but she remembered Tonya bathing her there and how she always enjoyed it. Her matted hair was shampooed and when that was done, she was lifted out and dried with a big fluffy white towel. This was more like it used to be, before they went to Kirilhor. Down in the bottom of her smelly bag was a nightdress which had escaped the staining. It was slipped over her head.
‘Now you are civilised again,’ Madame Molinskaya said, picking up a hairbrush from the table and, standing Lydia between her knees, began brushing the hair dry. It fell about her face in little corkscrew curls. ‘My, you are a pretty little thing.’

The Kirilov Star is out in paperback published by Alison & Busby. ISBN 9780749009496. Also available as an ebook download.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 struck San Francisco and surrounding towns over a distance of almost three hundred miles on the coast of California at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906. The tremors were felt as far north as Oregon and as far south as Los Angeles.

Due to the San Andreas fault, and the Hayward and San Jacinto faults, San Francisco had always been prone to earthquakes. The city suffered countless tremors each year as the plates constantly shifted against each other and stress built up, and still does. But nothing of this magnitude had been experienced for almost half a century before 1906. Strict codes on construction had been put into place. Sadly it wasn’t enough to save them.



Even more devastating than the earthquake itself was the fire that followed which ruptured gas mains, destroyed approximately 25,000 buildings, and 3000 lives were lost.

In this short extract from The Promise we see Georgia attempting to escape and save the lives of her mother and sister.
 

All night the city burnt. By dawn the sky was blood-red, marred by a thick pall of smoke in shades of ochre, rose and lavender. There seemed little hope of ever seeing the sun again. Whole buildings were broken, tilting at impossible angles; twisted columns and pillars stood as if petrified by the flames. 

And over all lay a brooding air of silence. 

I’d never witnessed anything like it. With not enough water to fight it, and the dynamite blasts to create firebreaks often making matters worse as surrounding buildings couldn’t be damped down, the fire had swept the entire district below Sansome. We heard that it had jumped Kearny then devoured Chinatown, gobbling up shops and houses with their pretty balconies with as much ease as it did the paper lanterns and carved wooden dragons which gave the district its unique character.

Hand in hand, we stumbled on. As did hundreds of others, many dragging their trunks and luggage, their children and themselves, up and down San Francisco’s unforgiving hills, only to meet a wall of flame at the top and have to run for their lives in the opposite direction, often leaving everything behind. 

The fire scorched down the corridors of Frisco’s long streets, destroying all in its path and leaving gutted ruin in its wake. The very heat of the flames cracked solid stone, crumbled great pillars, and bent iron and steel into a newly sculpted art form. 

Finally we reached Union Square where we managed to grab a few hours sleep huddled together on the grass, along with our fellow refugees. The lucky ones slept in government tents, cooking supper on stoves they’d salvaged from their homes. 

‘No point in trying for the ferry yet,’ they told us. ‘The roads are blocked all around with hundreds of refugees desperate to get a boat for Oakland.’

‘And the authorities are being hampered by crowds of sightseers pouring off the ferry,’ someone else put in. ‘Coming to gawp at the scenes of horror and cluttering up the roads and sidewalks. “Earthquake tourists”, they’re calling them. And tempers are growing ugly.’ 

I had no wish to have Mama caught up in an affray, and my fragile sister was suffering yet another fit of weeping that might never stop. I thought her close to a breakdown and certainly too exhausted to walk another yard. 

It seemed that for now we must stay put. 

Ten days later we had set up camp in Golden Gate Park. The fires had died at last, leaving our city a smoking ruin, in parts little more than heaps of ash. Some streets were already being cleared of rubble and trailing wires, burst pipes mended, but few buildings were safe to enter, so here we were, sleeping in makeshift shelters or government-issued tents, our throats parched with the acrid taint of smoke, our clothes blackened. Every morning I would stand patiently in the bread queue while Prue did the same in the soup line, and Maura would go off to find a grocery store that might be open and bargain for a scrap of meat or fish. Even if she was successful the task always took her hours, but she was so restless she persisted in her daily search, quite unable to sit still.

Mama sat beneath a piece of corrugated iron atop a pile of boxes and broken chairs, demanding that Prudence, Maura and myself wait on her hand, foot and finger, in lieu of the servants she’d lost. 

‘I am bored with fish soup,’ she would complain, as if we might conjure up a little caviar for her instead. ‘And do find me a proper bed, dear. I really cannot tolerate lying on this heap of old coats for much longer.’ 

‘There are no beds, Mama. The fire burnt them all, remember?’ 

‘Then something must be done.’

Poor Cecilia Briscoe. Not a woman accustomed to making do, or suffering any sort of discomfort. Her life had been near perfect until the quake, one of the city’s well-to-do with impeccable European bloodlines. More importantly, her daughter Georgia’s life too was about to change for ever.

I began to research the earthquake following a wonderful holiday we’d enjoyed in the town. I discovered that people did strange things in the face of disaster, such as marry in haste, or commit atrocities. Life goes on, babies are still born even as people are dying. And keeping track of your loved ones when the world is falling about your ears could not have been easy.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I began to dream up the plot of The Promise. I have set part of the story some fifty or so years on, in post war Lakeland where Chrissie is struggling to understand why she has no contact with her grandmother, and what is the big family secret that her mother refuses to reveal.


SAN FRANCISCO 1904 
Georgia Briscoe, in love with British sailor Ellis Cowper, is unwillingly betrothed to Drew Kemp. Her husband is mired in the San Francisco underworld, with a penchant for gambling and other women. Georgia plans to escape to be with the man she loves but Drew has other ideas. And then comes the earthquake… 

LONDON, 1948 
Chrissie Kemp travels to the Lake District to meet her grandmother for the first time, only to discover a shocking family secret. As the truth unfurls, the passion, emotion and astounding love that blossomed in San Francisco is revealed forty years earlier, and three generations of one family are tested to their limits. 

ebook available from Amazon

Paperback published by Allison & Busby coming in September.

Friday, 9 March 2012

To Take Her Pride by Anne Brear

My latest historical novel, To Take Her Pride, has just been released in paperback.


Blurb:  To Take Her Pride

1898 Yorkshire.
Aurora Pettigrew has it all, a loving family, a nice home, a comfortable life. She’s waiting for the right man to offer her marriage, and the man for her is Reid Sinclair, heir to the Sinclair fortune and the love of her life.
But, Reid’s mother, Julia, is against the match and her ruthlessness unearths a family secret that will tear Aurora’s world apart.
Unwilling to bring shame on her family and needing answers to the allegations brought to light by Reid’s mother, Aurora begins a long journey away from home. She leaves behind all that is familiar and safe to enter a world of mean streets and poor working class.
Living in the tenements of York, surrounded by people of a class she’d never mixed with before, Aurora struggles to come to terms with the way her life has changed. By chance, she reconnects with a man from her past and before he leaves with the army to war in South Africa, he offers her security through marriage.
Aurora knows she should be happy, but the memory of her love for Reid threatens her future.
When tragedy strikes, can Aurora find the strength to accept her life and forget the past?


Excerpt:

Aurora walked along the streets of York, head down against the wind. The end of summer was proving difficult this year and warm days would be followed by squalls of rain and blustery winds such as today. Since Ethel Minton’s visit six days ago, Aurora had gone out looking for work and new accommodation. Each day she had come home despondent on both issues. Without a wage they couldn’t look at the better houses, and the poorer areas were the likes of Edinburgh Yard, which she and Sophia were adamant not to go back to. Noah and Lily had spoken as one offering their home to them, but Aurora was reluctant to agree as they’d be on top of each other, especially when the two babies came.
Aside from the anxiety of finding money and lodgings, she had become aware over the last few days of someone watching her. She couldn’t define what made her so sure someone was, but instinct told her she didn’t walk the streets alone. Then, last night, while closing the curtains a stranger lingered in the lane looking at her windows. As yet she hadn’t mentioned it to Sophia, who after the attack was nervous enough and jumped at any loud bangs or sudden shouts. Perhaps she should mention it to Noah, ask him to keep an eye out, and just hope that she was imagining it all.
Her feet throbbed as she turned into Coney Street. The baby kicked, a new sensation that Aurora marveled at in secret joy. She rubbed her stomach and hurried on. She needed to buy some buttons and thread, as Sophia was letting out all her skirts. She’d have liked to buy some linen material too, for a blouse, but every penny had suddenly become precious now neither of them was working.
She passed a tailor’s shop and was bumped into by two men coming out of the doorway. She apologized, even though it wasn’t her fault, at the same time the gentleman did too. Then she stopped and stared. Tom Sinclair stood gaping back at her, open-mouthed.
“Aurrie?” He frowned, puzzled.
She was the first to recover. “How are you, Tom?”
“My God!” Tom enveloped her in a tight embrace and for a moment she relished being held by him. It’d been a long time since a man had held her, and Tom was as close as she would get to Reid. He stared at her in amazement. “What are you doing in York?”
“Shopping.” She smiled brightly, acting as though them bumping into each other was an everyday occurrence. “And you?”
“Oh this and that.” His gaze roamed over her and his grin faltered as he took in her appearance. He’d never seen her in anything but beautiful clothes and neatly groomed. She put a hand to her hair escaping from her felt hat and blushed. He’d noticed her faded clothes beneath her coat, which also needed a sponge and brush. Her shoes hadn’t seen polish for weeks.
Tom turned to his companion. “Hal, my friend, I’ll meet you back at the hotel.”
Hal, a tall, healthy-looking young man winked, a devilish smile in his eyes. “As you wish, my good fellow, but remember we leave on the evening train tomorrow.”
Aurora’s blush deepened, imagining what Hal would think of her. “You should have introduced me, Tom. He thinks the worst judging by that remark.”
“That’s more exciting than the truth though, isn’t it?” Tom’s smile flashed, but the amusement in his eyes had vanished completely. “There’s a tearoom on the corner. Let’s go.” He took her elbow and so shocked was she to see this serious side of him that she let him escort her into a small tearoom and assist her onto a wooden chair in the corner. He sat on the other side of the square table and lifted his hand to the passing waitress. “Tea and a plate of-of cakes…er…food, sandwiches and the like.”
“Tom, I—” The words dried in her mouth as she saw the agony in his eyes. “What is it?”
“I cannot believe it.” He shook his head and looked as if he was going to cry.
Her heart leapt to her throat and she leaned forward. “Good God, Tom, what?”
“What happened to you?” His voice came out on a whisper.
She sat back in her chair, again conscious of her appearance. “You must be shocked.”
“Shocked?” he squeaked and then clearing his throat, he held his hands out as if in question. “I thought you were travelling with your father’s aunt? That’s what your mother is telling everyone. Is this aunt without funds? Doesn’t your father know—’
“Please, Tom, stop.” She rubbed her forehead, wondering how to tell him, whether she should tell him. “I’m not with my father’s aunt.”
“I don’t understand.” He scratched his chin. “Aurrie, dearest, you look like hell. You’re so thin and…and shabby.”
She wanted to laugh at being called thin, especially when the front fastening corset she’d bought only two weeks ago no longer fitter her. The top button of her blue skirt was left undone and her white blouse strained across her breast, which she hid with her coat, but his expression of horror wiped the laughter from her instantly. Apart from the parts of her body concern with the child, the rest of her was thin, her hands and arms especially. “It’s a long story.”
“And I’ve got all day.”
“But I haven’t.” She stood. “I must go. It was nice seeing you again.”
“No.” He grabbed her wrist and forced her to sit down, causing the other customers to glance in their direction. “Don’t go, not yet.” He let go of her as she sat and the waitress brought over a tea tray, which she set out on the table. Tom watched Aurora the entire time and she knew he was full of questions. “I want to hear it all, Aurrie.”  
“Do you?” She pulled off her gloves, revealing her red and work-chapped hands and ignored his gasp of surprise at the sight of them. Dropping a cube of sugar into her cup, she then stirred it slowly with a teaspoon. “I don’t think you want to know, Tom, not really.” She gave him a sad smile, knowing his personality as one of fun and laughter, never taking anything seriously.
“I thought we were friends?”
“We were. When life was simple.”
“Aurrie, please. I can’t bear to see you like this.”
“This?” She waved at her worn clothes. “Good lord, Tom, this is a good day.” Her chuckle was brittle. “We had enough water last night for a bath so I washed my hair…’
“We?” He leaned forward over the table, cradling his teacup in one hand and took her hand in his other.
“My mother, Sophia. We live together.”
“Your mother Sophia?” His eyes widened. “Dearest, are you ill?”
“Mad you mean?” This time she did laugh. “I wish I was, but alas I’m quite sane.” She bent over the table until their faces were nearly touching. “Can you cope with knowing the truth, Tom Sinclair? The man who has never had a moment of responsibly in his life?”

Review:
If you're looking for a fairy tale with a twist, then look no further than To Take Her Pride. The characters may not fill out all the classic roles precisely, and you'll get to meet the entire townspeople around the "castle", but they are beyond a doubt entertaining and very adeptly written. It's a great read that reminds the little girls in us that sometimes the princess has to become Cinderella in order to be a good queen one day.
Books N Beans

 To Take Her Pride is available in paperback from Amazon.com and Amazon UK