Even in the darkest of times, she never gave up hope
Staffordshire, 1911. Ginnie Jones’s childhood is spent in the shadow of the famous Potteries, living with her mother, father and older sister Mabel. But with Father’s eyesight failing, money is in short supply, and too often the family find their bellies aching with hunger. With no hope in sight, Ginnie is sent to Haddon Workhouse.
Separated from everything she has known, Ginnie has to grow up fast, earning her keep by looking after the other children with no families of their own. When she meets Clara and Sam, she hopes that she has made friends for life… until tragedy strikes, snatching away her newfound happiness.
Leaving Haddon three years later, Ginnie finds work as a mouldrunner at the Potteries but never stops thinking about her friends in the workhouse – especially Sam, now a caring, handsome young man. When Sam and Ginnie are reunited, their bond is as strong as ever – until Sam is sent to fight in WW1. Faced with uncertainty, can Ginnie find the joy that she’s never had? Or will her heart be broken once again? An emotional, uplifting and nostalgic family saga that will make you smile, while tugging on your heart-strings.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review
Good historical family sagas require believable and complex characters who are easy to empathise. Detailed historical knowledge of the place and time, which filters into the story, making it authentic, and allowing the reader to share the sights, smells and sounds of the era. Finally, angst and hardship that allows the protagonist’s character to develop positively, giving hope that they will find a way out of their plight. ‘The Girl From the Workhouse’, encompasses all of the above and is a heartrending, heartwarming and motivational story.
Ginnie is a young girl who has always grown-up in poverty. Sadly, life becomes increasingly difficult and she and her parents have to go on Poor Relief and live in the workhouse. The family are split up and the first part of the story explores Ginnie’s experiences as a girl in the workhouse environment. Her motivations and emotions are in keeping with her years, and you feel for her, she is so alone. Despite, this she works hard and makes friends, and forms a new family which makes her days bearable. Her life continues to be dogged by hardship and tragedy until she finally leaves the workhouse to live with her older sister who is married and needs an extra wage coming into the household.
The second part of the story follows Ginnie’s transition into a young woman, how she copes with coming of age, and her reacquaintance with her workhouse friend Sam. At this point, you hope for some genuine happiness in her troubled young life, but WW1 draws Sam into its conflict and once again her future and happiness is uncertain.
The setting in ‘The Potteries’ gives the story its authenticity and richness, the author’ connection and feeling for the area make this fictional story more believable. The saga is enriched with historical detail and events, and its characters are authentic to the period and very engaging.
Lynn Johnson was born in the Staffordshire Potteries and went to school in Burslem, where the novel is set. She left school with no qualifications and got a job as a dental nurse (and lasted a day), a nursery assistant, and a library assistant before her ambition grew and she enrolled at the Elms Technical College, Stoke-on-Trent and obtained six O’levels. She obtained a Diploma in Management Studies and a BA Hons in Humanities with Literature from the Open University while working full-time.
Most of her working life was spent in Local Government in England and Scotland, and ultimately became a Human Resources Manager with a large county council.
She started to write after taking early retirement and moving to the north of Scotland with her husband where she did relief work in the famous Orkney Library and Archives, and voluntary work with Orkney’s Learning Link. Voluntary work with Cats Protection resulted in them sharing their home with six cats.
She joined Stromness Writing Group and, three months after moving to Orkney wrote a short story which would become the Prologue to The Girl From the Workhouse.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
What appeals about this story is its commitment and honesty. Georgina is a relatable, remarkable, yet ruthless character, who you would want on your side. Her love for her family and friends shines through, even though she commits and sanctions unspeakable acts as the head of a south London crime gang in the 1930s.
When her newly acquired gangland empire is under threat from men who think she should know her place, she only has one response; be better than them, and fight back. She symbolises the female fight for equality. The crimes are gritty, but the story is one of family, and this is why the protagonists are likeable.
A clever plot with plenty of depth and hidden twists complements the complexcharacters well and makes this a page-turning chapter of a compelling crime series.
Guest Post – Sam Michaels- The Birth of a Ruthless Woman
was born and bred in London and then lived in Surrey, Kent and Hampshire before
moving to Spain four years ago. It was here that I found I had the time to take
up writing. So, after lots of encouragement from my husband and mum, I sat on
my sofa and penned my first novel, Trickster.
probably imagine that living in a sunny climate is inspirational and blissful
for a writer but I doubt it’s anything like you might picture. There’s no
sitting in the sun, sipping sangria and dipping in the pool. It’s impossible to
use my laptop outside because I can’t see the screen. So instead, I sit at my
new desk in my spare bedroom with a ceiling fan on and the shutters closed.
It’s so peaceful and this is where I wrote my second novel, Rivals, the follow
up to Trickster.
a series of five books has been such an interesting journey. Normally, after a
novel is completed and published, the author will leave the characters behind
and move on to the next story. But with mine, I’ve had the wonderful
opportunity to delve deep into Georgina’s Garrett’s life from birth, growing up
and into adulthood. When I’d finished Trickster and started writing Rivals, I
was so excited to meet Georgina again and couldn’t wait to move her character
on through her complex life.
came about as I was driving with my hubby. I remember turning to him and
saying, ‘Georgina Garrett, the birth of a ruthless woman.’ She started off as
just a short single scene in my head – A young woman, beautiful, tough and on
the wrong side of the law. I could see her eyes, hair and the shape of her
body. I knew when she was born and that she’d had many struggles to overcome.
In the scene, Georgina was dressed as a boy and was thieving with her father.
For the rest of the drive with hubby, I blurted out the whole story, from the
day WW1 was declared and the birth of Georgina until she came to rule the
streets of Battersea.
hubby was flabbergasted and so was I – Trickster just needed to be written now.
I began typing, I found Georgina’s character changed slightly. I gave her more
of a heart and made her more caring. After all, I wanted my potential readers
to love her as much as I did! And I found that once the book was finished, I
missed her. So I was keen to get on with writing Rivals and now I’m almost
finished writing the third in the series.
so much more for Georgina to yet experience – and I can’t wait to share it with
you in the coming books!
Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel. FacebookTwitter
ruthless is to be powerful, at least it is on the Battersea streets…
Georgina Garrett was
born to be ruthless and she’s about to earn her reputation.
As World War One is
announced a baby girl is born. Little do people know that she’s going to grow
up to rule the streets of Battersea. From a family steeped in poverty the only
way to survive is with street smarts.
With a father who steals
for a living, a grandmother who’s a woman of the night and a mother long dead,
Georgina was never in for an easy life. But after a tragic event left her
father shaken he makes a decision that will change the course of all their
lives – to raise Georgina as George, ensuring her safety but marking the start
of her life of crime…
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set in the early 20th-century ‘Trickster’ follows the fortunes of Georgina Garrett from her birth in 1914 when England declared war on Germany. Georgina knows tragedy from her first breath, she is no stranger to loss and falls foul of the depravity she is born into, despite the love and protection of her family.
This historical crime saga is characterised by well-researched historical detail, which brings the story to life. It’s easy to imagine the poverty, depravity and violence of the London slums. The writing is full of vivid imagery and dialogue which gives it an authentic feel.
The characters are believable and even though many of them are criminals, they are easy to empathise. Many are victims of circumstance, they commit crimes and act violently to survive. The strong family bond essential for gangland crime fiction is evident in this story, and it is this that makes it such an absorbing read.
The abuse, language and violence are graphic, but not gratuitous. They make this story an authentic reading experience, but there will be times when you will cringe or want to look away.
The plot is well- written and has many twists, that shape Georgina Garrett and her future self. The underlying theme of the story is based on a misnomer, which gives this story a refreshing uniqueness. This is an accomplished debut story and I look forward to reading book two.
Q&A with Sam Michaels – TricksterI
Sagas are popular in romantic fiction, but your story is a crime-based saga, what inspired you to write this? Are all the stories historically based?
I’ve always enjoyed sagas, been interested in early 20th- century history and fascinated with the criminal underworld. So, it made sense for me to combine the three, hence, Trickster was born. It’s been a good outlet for my ghastly imagination!
The stories in the Georgina Garrett series of books are historically based, though as they progress, the last one will end in the ’60s and ’70s.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
My main character always comes first, along with a small scenario which sets the scene for the rest of the book. I think the character comes first as I believe this is the most important part of the story. Good, strong characters make good stories!
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
My characters are mostly from my imagination although I do bring in aspects of real-life people I know. To make them realistic, I find myself acting out each character’s point of view – their voices, facial expressions and sometimes even their body movements. Obviously, I do all this in my head as I don’t want my husband to think I’m a lunatic!
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I’m a fan of true stories, especially tales of triumph over hardship or really gory crime. I’ve recently discovered Bill Bryson books which are not my normal ilk but I’m finding them very amusing and interesting.
When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?
I’ve been writing for the past few years since I moved from the UK to Spain. The best thing about being a writer is knowing that your work is bringing pleasure to someone, and that could be anywhere in the world. The worst thing is being sat indoors in front of my computer when the sun is shining outside.
What are you currently writing?
I’m nearing the end of writing the first draft of the next book in the Georgina Garrett series. It’s been wonderful to dip back into the first book and bring out some of the lesser characters and give them a more prominent role in this story.
Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel.
Extract from Trickster – Book 1 – Georgina Garrett series – Sam Michaels
dunno what to do, Mum. She needs a feed…’
Dulcie chewed her lower lip as her mind turned but then struck by an idea she said, ‘Don’t worry, Jack, I know someone who might be able to help. There’s a jug of ale in the kitchen. Go and pour yourself a glass. I’ll be back as soon as I can.’
left her house and hurried along the narrow street with the wailing baby in her
arms. She could ill afford to feed Percy and herself, let alone this poor
little mite, and a wet nurse didn’t come cheap. However, if her idea panned
out, she wouldn’t have to part with a penny.
minutes later Dulcie was in the roughest part of town. This was an area where
no person of good virtue would dare to frequent. Women hung out of windows with
their bosoms on display, vying for business, while others were drunk, vomiting
openly in the filthy streets. In a dark corner behind a cart, Dulcie glimpsed a
woman bent over with her skirt up, a punter behind her, trousers round his
ankles as he pounded hard for his pleasure.
wasn’t the sort of place where Dulcie felt comfortable carrying a small baby.
She held her granddaughter protectively close to her and tried to muffle the
child’s screams in the hope of avoiding any unwanted attention.
sun was still high in the sky. Dulcie was grateful, as she would have been
worried if it had been dark. A short, skinny man with bare feet and a bent back
walked towards her. His leering eyes unnerved Dulcie and she could see he was
trying to peer at the child she held. He stood ominously in front of her,
blocking her path. If she hadn’t had been carrying Georgina, she wouldn’t have
given a second thought to kneeing him in the crotch.
an evil sneer, he licked his lips, nodded towards the baby and then asked, ‘How
‘This child is not for sale,’ Dulcie said firmly, then sidestepped the man and marched on. It was no secret that in these streets, any desire could be bought for the right price, but it turned Dulcie’s stomach. It wasn’t unusual for a prostitute to fall with an unwanted pregnancy, then sell the child on, no questions asked. Dulcie didn’t believe it was something any woman wanted to do, but the desperation of poverty forced them into it. Gawd knows where those helpless babies ended up, or what they went through, Dulcie thought and shuddered. She reckoned the women would be better off killing their babies – something she suspected her friend Ruby had recently resorted to.
had seen many young women turn to drugs or booze to numb the pain and block out
the memories of what they’d done. Some went out of their minds and ended up in
institutions, a fate worse than death, and it was something she didn’t want to
see happen to Ruby. The girl was only sixteen, with bright ginger hair and a
sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Her fair skin was the colour of
porcelain, so when she’d turned up on the streets one day her purple and yellow
bruises had really stood out.
had taken her under her wing and learned that Ruby was homeless after running
away from her abusive father. Her mother had died when Ruby was seven, and her
father had forced her into his bed to fulfil the role of his wife. When he’d
filled her belly with a child, he’d beaten her until she miscarried, then
thrown her out to fend for herself.
did her best to protect the girl and would steer her away from the customers
she knew had a liking for wanting to rough up the women, but it hadn’t been
long before she’d noticed that Ruby was trying to hide a growing bump in her
stomach. She’d had a quiet word with her and found that Ruby was distraught,
fearing her secret would be discovered and she’d be sent to the workhouse.
Dulcie felt sorry for the girl but, struggling herself to make enough money to
live on, she could only offer a shoulder to cry on.
than a week ago and well into her pregnancy, Ruby disappeared, but then she’d
turned up again two days ago, her stomach flat. She refused to discuss the fate
of the baby, but Dulcie noticed her demeanour had changed. Where once she’d
been a chatty young woman with a wicked sense of humour, she was now mostly
silent, her eyes veiled in a darkness that Dulcie couldn’t penetrate.
lived in the basement of a shared house at the end of the street. It was
decrepit, with the roof caved in and the stairs to the upper level broken.
Dulcie thought the whole house looked unsound and had never been inside, but
she had to speak to Ruby and hoped to find her in. She took a deep breath and
braced herself for what she may find, then slowly walked down the stairs that
led to the basement door. It was open, so with trepidation, she stepped inside.
India, 1926: English Margaret arrives with her new husband Suraj at his family home, set amidst beautiful rolling hills, the air filled with the soft scent of spices and hibiscus flowers. Margaret is unwelcome, homesick and lonely, but her maid Archana, a young woman from an impoverished family, reminds her of her long-lost sister, a tiny glimpse of home in a faraway place.
As Margaret and Archana spend more time together, an unexpected friendship blooms. But in British India the divide between rich and poor, English and Indian, is wide, and the clash between Margaret’s modern views and the weight of tradition on Archana will lead to devastating results…
England, 2000:Emma is at a crossroads. She has discovered the lie at the heart of her relationship, and she worries over the right choice to make for herself and her beloved daughter. When her grandmother gives her a mysterious painting, and asks her to take a message of forgiveness to an old friend in India, Emma is relieved to have some time and space to make a decision about her future. But as she fulfils her grandmother’s wish, a secret kept for over seventy years is finally revealed – the story of a day spent painting by a stream full of water lilies, where a betrayal tore three lives apart forever…
Will the weight of her grandmother’s regrets push Emma towards a mistake that will stay with her forever, or give her the courage she needs to make the right choice?
I received a copy of this book from bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘The Girl in the Painting’ and all of this author’s books are always thought provoking, rich in literary and visual imagery, full of historical detail, and unashamedly emotional. They are a true escapist read, written for the pleasure of writing, and this love and dedication comes across in every word.
The plot is divided between the early twentieth century, particularly the 1920s in England and India, and the end of the twentieth century when Margaret, at the end of her life, asks her grandaughter, Emma, also at a crossroads in her life to seek out an old friend and right a wrong.
The historical plot moves between England from Margaret’s perspective and India from Archana’s perspective, the stories seem so divergent, there are common threads, but it’s only in the late 1920s, when the two women’s lives become inextricably joined.
The story highlights the culturial differences from a unique point of view and allows the reader to better understand , what from a westen perspective may seem unthinkable. The similarites in the outlook and empowerment of women is also explored in this story. At the time when English women were campaigning for equality. They were in many ways as powerless to determine their own destiny, as the women in India at that time. The importance of sisters in their lives, is another thing Margaret and Archana have in common.
The characters are relatable and easy to empathise, you feel their pain and guilt and want them to find some solace. All three women and those who touch their lives are changed by heartbreak.
The historical detail gives the story depth and vivacity, whether it be in India or England, where Margaret tastes life with ‘The Bloomsbury Group, artists and writers who care little for social conventions and eptiomise the 1920s in England.
‘The Girl in the Painting’ is an emotional, evocative , escapist journey for everyone who likes to lose themselves in a story..
Do our secrets make us who we are? Santina is spending her final days at her home, Villa San Vito, in the beautiful Italian town of Positano. As she decides the fate of the magnificent eighteenth-century palazzo, she must confront the choices that led her here.
In 1949, hoping to escape poverty, young Santina becomes housekeeper to a distinguished British major and his creative, impulsive wife, Adeline.
When they move to Positano, Santina joins them, raising their daughter as Adeline’s mental health declines. With each passing year, Santina becomes more deeply entwined with the family, trying to navigate her complicated feelings for a man who is much more than an employer―while hiding secrets that could shatter the only home she knows . . .
‘The Secret Legacy’ is a saga of Santina’s life in the twentieth century against a vividly described Italian setting. Varied and detailed with plenty of rich imagery of Italy and its food coupled with historical detail from Santina’s early life there is a pleasing authenticity to this story. The forbidden romance is everything you could wish, and the characters develop believably. Perfect summer reading.
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares, the victims were buried…ALIVE.
Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.
Did she get it wrong all those years ago? Or is there something much darker at play?
Catching him will make her career – and change her forever.
August 1999 On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.
June 1969 13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.
August 1999 As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks’ old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy – one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in-store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?
An ordinary setting is in stark contrast to the horrific events that take place in a 20th-century Lancashire town, which has a bloody history that many can’t let go. Maybe Florence Lovelady had no choice but to return to the place that changed her and nearly cost her life over thirty years ago?
There are a lot of facts to assimilate in the early chapters. What seems abstract becomes more evident as you travel back over thirty years to the late 1960’s when Florence Loveday was the town’s first WPC.
The story’s ethos is dark and menacing even before the possibility of supernatural influence. The larger than life characters are believable and compelling. Florence is an outsider, a curiosity and a threat to the town’s establishment. She suffers prejudice in her personal and work life. Her isolation increases the suspense as she struggles to solve the missing teenager’s disappearances.
The author creates vivid images of murder with a twist. You are left wondering whether the deaths are the work of a deranged murderer or something less definable but no less menacing. The fast pacing complements the detail, and every line builds towards a hold your breath moment.
The well-constructed plot has many twists incorporating historical fact and myths. While needing your concentration, the storyline holds its secrets well. The clues are there if you want to play detective, but you are unlikely to be prepared for the final twists which leave you with a chill down your spine and menace imprinted on your psyche.
I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing Group – Trapeze via NetGalley in return for an honest review.