Jean Fullerton, the RNA-shortlisted queen of the East End, returns with the final nostalgic and heart-warming story of the Brogan family.
In the final days of the war, only love will pull her through . . .
Queenie Brogan wasn’t always an East End matriarch. Many years ago, before she married Fergus, she was Philomena Dooley, a daughter of Irish Travellers, planning to wed her childhood sweetheart, Patrick Mahone. But when tragedy struck and Patrick’s narrow-minded sister, Nora, intervened, the lovers were torn apart.
Fate can be cruel, and when Queenie arrives in London she finds that Patrick Mahon is her parish priest and that the love she had tried to suppress flares again in her heart.
But now in the final months of WW2, Queenie discovers Father Mahon is dying and must face losing him forever. Can she finally tell him the secret she has kept for over fifty years or will Nora once again come between them?
And if Queenie does decide to finally tell Patrick, could the truth destroy the Brogan family?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
The final chapter in the ration book series is predominately set in 1944 and explores the approaching end of WW2 and how it affects the Brogan family. The main focus is on Queenie, the matriarch who has a touching romance and tragic loss in her early life. Queenie’s viewpoint alternates between her early years in Ireland in the late nineteenth century and her present life in the East End of London in 1944.
Queenie’s story poignantly told shows how she became the woman she is, particularly her strength of character and love of her family. Billy also has a storyline that gives him defining character development.
I love the family dynamic, the flawed characters that give the story its humour and heartache and the wonderfully described setting that comes to life on every page.
Born and bred in East London Jean is a District Nurse by trade and has worked as an NHS manager and as a senior lecturer in Health and Nursing Studies. She left her day job to become a full-time writer in 2015 and has never looked back.
In 2006 she won the Harry Bowling Prize and now has seventeen sagas published over three series all of which are set in East London.
She is an experienced public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, plus for the past fifteen years, she has sailed all over the world as an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships.
*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the giveaway link above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for the despatch or delivery of the prize.
The sixth novel in a stunning series set in eighteenth-century Cornwall, perfect for fans of Bridgerton
Cornwall, 1800. Imprisoned on false pretences, Madeleine Pelligrew, former mistress of Pendenning Hall, has spent the last 14 years shuttled between increasingly destitute and decrepit madhouses. When a strange man appears out of the blue to release her, she can’t quite believe that her freedom comes without a price. Hiding her identity, Madeleine determines to discover the truth about what happened all those years ago.
Unsure who to trust and alone in the world, Madeleine strikes a tentative friendship with a French prisoner on parole, Captain Pierre de la Croix. But as she learns more about the reasons behind her imprisonment, and about those who schemed to hide her away for so long, she starts to wonder if Pierre is in fact the man he says he is. As Madeleine’s past collides with her present, can she find the strength to follow her heart, no matter the personal cost?
I received a copy of this book from Corvus Books in return for an honest review.
I was drawn in from the first page of this authentic historical fiction set in 1800 Cornwall. There are lots of characters, but if, like me, this is your first time reading a book in the Cornish Saga, a comprehensive list of characters is at the beginning of the book.
Full of historical detail and cleverly crafted characters, this is a compelling romantic saga of one woman’s captivity, liberation and quest for justice. The vivid sensory imagery brings the setting to life. The story shows how few rights women had in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and how vulnerable they were to abuse and loss of liberty.
Friendship, mystery and poignancy make this an engaging and, at times, heartbreaking story to read. Gentle romance riven with conflict, lies and secrets makes you empathise with Madeleine and Pierre.
The ending is climactic and satisfying.
Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She has always loved literature and completed an Open University degree in Humanities. She is a qualified adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. Together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure.
Everything will change, my love, she whispers to her only baby. I will make sure you are protected, looked after, loved. She commits his smell, the feel of him, to memory and fastens the gold St Christopher’s medal around his neck, tucking it into the blanket. Kissing him one last time, she lets him go. And with him go the pieces of her shattered heart.
London, 1940. Clara Knight grew up an orphan in the first world war and now is fighting to win the second. Nursing brave soldiers, she falls in love with one of her patients, whose warm brown eyes give her hope for a brighter future. But then he is sent to the front, leaving her alone with their child amidst the bombs raining down on the city… When she is offered the chance to give her son a better life, Clara makes the impossible choice to let him go. She leaves her mother’s precious St Christopher pendant with him, vowing to find him again when the war is over, so they can be a family once more.
Years later. Indira’s life has taken an unexpected turn and her only solace is caring for her grandfather. As he lies in bed, weak and confused, he calls her ‘Clara’, begging forgiveness for an unknown terrible act, tears rolling down his face. Indira goes looking for the truth… and discovers a tattered box of unsent letters, a gold St Christopher’s medal and a photograph of a baby swaddled in a blanket. Who was Clara Knight? And who is the baby in the photo? Her quest will reveal a devastating secret spanning decades, and change everything Indira thought she knew about her family…
An unforgettable and heart-breaking novel set in World War Two about the powerful bond between a mother and her child and a betrayal that echoes across generations.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set across two continents and two world wars, this is an epic, and at times heartbreaking family saga full of betrayal, prejudice and sacrifice tempered with the power of love. This author writes from the heart with a myriad of emotions. Her writing is insightful and lyrical, riven with sensory imagery that transports the reader to the place and time. The two women face similar issues years apart determined, and driven they find a way through them.
Dolly Perkins and Jack Larkin have grown up in the notorious gin palaces of Birmingham.
It’s a world of happiness and friendship, but also violence and poverty. Now that Dolly runs the Daydream Gin Palace on Gin Barrel Lane she can finally control her own destiny, but sometimes fate still plays its hand.
Keen to expand her empire, Dolly and Jack take on a new pub, but they are in for a shock when a foul smell in one of the bedrooms turns out to come from a body hidden in the wall.
As the police hunt for their suspect, rumours abound, spread by the local urchins – happy to be used as runners for a little bit of food and a coin or two.
But rumours can be dangerous, and as one of the worst winters on record covers everything in snow, Dolly and Jack have to fight for the lives they have made for themselves, and for the urchins that they have come to think of as family. Will the arrival of a new baby on Gin Barrel Lane bring the promise of new hope, or will the long-awaited thaw uncover new secrets and new tragedies…
The Queen of Black Country sagas is back on Gin Barrel Lane with a rip-roaring, heart-warming, page-turning story of family, friendship and beating the odds.
Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children. She was born and raised in Wednesbury and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.
A boisterous, big-hearted, thoroughly modern family sagaset in Texas, in which marriages struggle, rivalries flare andsecrets explode.
When March Briscoe returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife, the Briscoe family becomes once again the talk of the small town of Olympus. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change?
But within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.
Olympus, Texas combines the archetypes of Greek and Roman mythology with the psychological complexity of a messy family. After all, at some point, we all wonder: what good is this destructive force we call love?
A big-hearted debut with technicolour characters, plenty of Texas swagger, a powder keg of a plot, Olympus, Texas is filled with all the ingredients of a great American novel: big family, dark secrets, adultery, betrayal, messy relationships, rage, grace, shocking revelations, addiction, pain and redemption. Perfect for fans of Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible andClaire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had.
I received a copy of this book from W&N Books in return for an honest review.
The story draws the reader into the Briscoe family’s life and the surrounding community, of Olympus Texas, with the first few pages of vivid description and vibrant characterisation. From the outset, it’s clear they are not a happy family, but despite this bound by powerfulemotions.
The parallels with mythological characters give the story added depth and interest. The family members are driven, and in most cases, unbending. Their behaviour mirrors the attitudes of the gods they represent.
The quotes, and chapters that explore the event that define the characters, are particularly illuminating. Whilst many of the characters are unlikeable, the story is addictive and compelling. The relatively fast pacing holds the reader’s interest.
This is an original blend of family drama and ancient mythology in a setting that complements both.
Stacey Swann holds an MFA from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She is a native Texan. Olympus, Texas is her first novel and will be published in the USA by Doubleday Books in May 2021.
Two women raised as sisters. Bound by a secret that could tear them apart . . .
Since childhood, Jen and South African-born Kemi have lived like sisters in the McFadden family home in Edinburgh, brought together by a shared family history which stretches back generations. The ties that bind them are strong and complicated.
Solam Rhoyi is from South Africa’s black political elite. Handsome and charismatic, he meets both Kemi and Jen on a trip to London and sweeps them off their feet. Kemi, captivated by Solam and wanting to discover more about her past, travels to South Africa for the first time. Jen, seeking an escape from her father’s overbearing presence, decides to go with her.
In Johannesburg, it becomes clear that Solam is looking for the perfect wife to facilitate his soaring political ambitions. And as the real story behind Jen and Kemi’s connection threatens to emerge, Solam’s choice will have devastating consequences for them both…
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a compelling and complex, mainly historical saga that spans continents and cultures. At its core is the sisterly bond between two women who grew up together despite having different birthplaces, cultural identities and families. The story begins in Southern Rhodesia in 1921 and concludes in 2010 in Cape Town. Short chapters and parts propel the reader through family history and political change until we reach the time when the sisterly bond is tested and family secrets revealed.
Well researched historical details and realistically crafted characters make this an absorbing read. It does move through time quickly, but the story’s focus is on the sisters and how their bond is tested. Solam is a pivotal character who represents South Africa’s changing political climate. His political ambition makes him manipulative and ruthless, especially in his interactions with the soul sisters.
This book takes the reader on an emotional journey filled with betrayal, love and secrets. It explores culture, family, identity and political change with rich sensory imagery and believable characters that bring the story to vibrant life.
Lesley Lokko is a Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic and novelist, formerly Dean of Architecture at City College of New York, who has lived and worked on four continents. Lesley’s bestselling novels include Soul Sisters, Sundowners, Rich Girl, Poor Girl and A Private Affair. Her novels have been translated into sixteen languages and are captivating stories about powerful people, exploring themes of racial and cultural identity.
As the Americans enter the War, there is renewed energy in the war effort.
With husbands and sons fighting for freedom, the women of Harpers are left to tackle the day-to-day affairs at home and work.
With Ben Harper away, Sally fears she is being followed by a mysterious woman. Who is she and what does she want?
Maggie Gibbs collapses seriously ill in the frontline hospitals and is brought back to England close to death. Can she be saved and what does the future hold for her and her broken heart?
Marion Jackson’s father is on the run from the Police already wanted for murder. She fears he will return to threaten his family once more. And Beth Burrows is pregnant with her second child, worried and anxious for her husband Jack, who has been many months at sea.
As Christmas 1917 approaches what will the future hold for Harpers, its girls and their men at War?
Extract from Wartime Blues for the Harper Girls – Rosie Clarke
London, April 1917
Sally Harper turned to speak to her husband Ben and saw that he’d fallen asleep again in his chair. His newspaper lay beside him – the headlines declaring that America had entered the war – and the cup of tea she’d poured for him ten minutes earlier, untouched by his side. Despite several warnings to Germany from the USA, its submarines had carried on attacking neutral ships carrying cargo bound for Britain. The American President had therefore signed the declaration of war. The news had delighted Ben, who considered that his country ought to have joined long before this so that they could throw the weight of the United States behind her allies in a common desire to bring peace and stability. He considered himself British these days and thought the way an Englishman would that the Americans had dragged their feet.
Sally had no idea where her husband had been for the past couple of weeks but had immediately seen how tired he was on his return home late the previous evening. He was sleeping soundly and though she ought to be leaving for work soon, there was no reason why Ben shouldn’t snooze in his chair if he wished. He worked long hours in his job for the British War Office. She had hoped to have time to talk about what they needed to do for the best at Harpers, the prestigious store he and his sister Jenni owned in Oxford Street. Jenni had her own ideas, but Sally was their chief buyer and for once she wasn’t in agreement with her sister-in-law. Normally, they got on really well and were the best of friends, but just lately Sally had found that she didn’t agree with some of the things Jenni wanted to do in the store.
Her unease was partly due to the fact that Jenni seemed grumpy and distracted, which was probably down to problems in her own life rather than disagreements between them. Jenni now lived in her own apartment and had an entirely independent life after work. She was trying to negotiate a divorce from her husband, who was a General in the American Army, and Sally believed that it was proving difficult for her, though Jenni didn’t speak of it much. The problem at the store was simply that Jenni believed they should just fill the shelves of Harpers’ departments with whatever they could get, regardless of quality, including substandard goods, but Sally was wary of lowering standards too much. Yes, Jenni was right to say it was expected when there was a war on. People had to accept less than they’d been able to insist on in normal times and would be grateful for whatever they could get. While Sally agreed to a certain extent, she still felt they had to be careful. However, she was just the buyer and she needed Ben’s backup if she wanted to fight her corner. Jenni was part owner so therefore her opinion carried a lot of weight and if she insisted, Sally must, of course, give way. It would help if she knew what Ben felt about it.
He’d carried on with his war work throughout these past months, leaving Sally to run the store with the help of the manager, Mr Stockbridge, and various supervisors, though Jenni was a big help now she was living in London. It was her stubborn refusal to return to America that had widened the rift between her and her husband, and her feelings for Mr Andrew Alexander, a brilliant surgeon, that had made her ask for a divorce. Something her husband seemed reluctant to grant.
Jenni’s problem with her husband was perhaps the underlying cause of her recent moods, but the problem with Harpers was ongoing. As the war bit ever deeper, and Britain was more and more reliant on home-produced goods, it was becoming harder to find enough decent stock to fill their departments. Of late, one or two of their regular suppliers had let them down, supplying either poor-quality materials that Sally had had to return or sending only partial orders. Sally wasn’t sure which annoyed her the most. Jenni said she was too fussy and that they needed to keep their shelves stocked even if some goods were not as good as they were accustomed to selling.
‘We’re in the middle of a war,’ Jenni was fond of reminding her. ‘If a customer complains, remind them of that fact, Sally. It’s not your fault the Government has ordered manufacturers to cut down on production of certain goods – or that we can’t get enough imported goods these days.’
‘No, it’s the Kaiser’s and our Government,’ Sally had replied the last time Jenni had brought it up. ‘Why they had to start fighting and ruin everything, I do not know…’
Jenni had simply laughed at her frustration. ‘That’s men all over! It’s centuries since your last civil war, not so very long since ours back home in America – and that’s even worse, when you fight your own people. Shortages are annoying, Sally but it isn’t like you to let it get you down?’
‘I know—’ Sally had sighed deeply. ‘I think it is just Ben being away so much of the time – and Jenny has been a bit fractious recently. It must be because she misses Ben. She is far more aware of the fact that he isn’t home now than when she was just a baby.’
Their lovely little daughter was now a lively toddler of three years and into all sorts of mischief. Named after her aunt, she was everyone’s little darling. Sally was no longer able to take her to work and settle her in a cot in her office, because she wanted to be into everything. Pearl, her nurse, still came in a few days a week, but also worked three days at the hospital, where the wards were overflowing with injured men sent home from the war. Mrs Hills, Sally’s housekeeper, was very good with little Jenny, but whenever she could, Sally tried to work from home. However, that was not always feasible and sometimes she did take the little girl into the office. Jenny loved it because all the staff fussed over and she was thoroughly spoiled, not least by her adoring aunt and namesake.
‘She’s an absolute imp but adorable,’ Jenni had replied, because she loved her niece and was always indulging her with little gifts and treats of all kinds. ‘If Ben being away is getting you down, you should tell him, Sally. I’m sure if he knew, he could cut down on these trips. I mean, have you any idea what he does when he is away?’
‘None at all…’ Sally had frowned. ‘He says the official title for his job is logistics controller – whatever that is.’
‘It means he’s buying and moving stuff on behalf of the Armed Forces, as you well know,’ Jenni had replied with a frown. ‘But why can’t he do that from an office in London?’
‘He says that he needs to prod officious store managers into sending what is needed for the troops,’ Sally had said and made a wry face. ‘Ben says that if he simply puts a chit in for them to send ammunition to a certain location, it might take weeks for it to be actually sent. By going himself and overseeing the packing and transportation, choosing the men escorting it himself, he gets results in a tenth of the time…’
Jenni had nodded her agreement. ‘Yes, I can see how that would work. We like to get on with things back home, Sally. You English tend to take your time – and the amount of red tape is maddening.’
‘Yes, Ben is forever complaining about that…’ Sally had laughed. ‘You two are so alike in so many ways. Did you know that?’
‘We’re both Americans,’ Jenni had shrugged and then smiled. ‘And we did have the same father. I suppose we may think alike in many ways…’
Jenni had just laughed, clearly pleased to be compared to her brother.
Now, on this sunny morning, Sally’s thoughts were interrupted as Ben opened his eyes and smiled at her. ‘You look pensive,’ he said and yawned. ‘Something wrong, sweetheart?’
‘In a way… but it needn’t concern you, Ben…’
He held out his hands to her, indicating she should sit on his lap. ‘Come and tell me what is wrong, Sally.’
‘Oh, just a little niggle concerning Harpers. It’s the quality of some of the stock these days… it isn’t what we’re used to, Ben.’
‘Ah…’ He nodded but looked resigned. ‘I know just what you mean. I made a stink about some boots that were delivered to an Army depot while I was there. The leather was not up to standard and they will probably fall to pieces after a couple of weeks of marching. I sent them back, but the quartermaster was furious. He said he’d been on to the suppliers every day for months to get them and what was he going to do now…’
‘What did you say?’ Sally was interested.
‘I went to see the factory myself and inspected what they were doing. We sorted out the problem between us and we’ve been promised replacements for next month.’
‘How did you manage that?’
‘Part bribery, part threats,’ Ben said. ‘It is a game we play all the time, Sally. They will pass off faulty goods if they can, but if you put your foot down hard, they normally come through. I threatened to take the contract away from them unless they pulled their socks up sharpish.’
‘Could you do that?’
‘Yes.’ Ben’s mouth set hard. ‘I’ve done it before now. Men need decent boots to march in, Sally – just as they need to get their ammunition when they require it and to be sure that the rations they receive are enough to keep them fighting fit.’
Sally nodded and smiled at him. She supposed she’d always known that what he was doing was important work, but she’d never seen it in terms of men’s lives before, but now she understood more of what he had to do. ‘No wonder you look worn out when you get home sometimes.’
‘It isn’t always easy,’ Ben said with a smile. ‘It involves a lot of driving from one end of the country to the other and hundreds of forms to fill in – and that’s when everything goes to plan. When it doesn’t, I have to spend ages trying to find the right person and that is sometimes more difficult than it sounds.’
‘And then I worry you with my trivial complaints…’
Ben pulled her on to his lap and kissed her. ‘Nothing you do or say is trivial to me, my love. Is anything else worrying you?’
‘What happens if I can’t find enough of the right stock to fill our shelves? Harpers is a big store, Ben, and our stockroom is getting emptier by the week – soon we shan’t have any reserves.’
‘Remember what you did to raise money for the wounded?’ Ben asked. ‘You bought seconds cheaply and sold them for very little, giving a contribution to the fund for wounded men. Do something similar again… take the poor-quality goods but at a lower price and make a thing of civilians sacrificing for the sake of our men over there…’
Sally nodded, looking at him with respect. It was more or less what Jenni was saying. ‘Yes, that could work. Those boots you rejected for the Army for instance—’
‘Would probably last civilians for a few months – bought cheaply enough they would be fine.’ He grinned at her. ‘I think a certain factory manager would be delighted to sell them to you very cheaply, Sally…’
‘Good. I’ll get on to it in the morning,’ she said, smiling and feeling much better than she had in a while. ‘Yes, I can just see the signs we’ll put up – and for each pair of substandard boots we sell, we’ll give something to the wounded fund again…’
Rosie Clarke is a #1 bestselling saga writer whose most recent books include The Mulberry Lane series. She has written over 100 novels under different pseudonyms and is a RNA Award winner. She lives in Cambridgeshire. Rosie’s brand new saga series, Welcome to Harpers Emporium began in December 2019.
Cathy was a happy, blushing bride when Britain went to war with Germany three years ago. But her youthful dreams were crushed by her violent husband Stanley’s involvement with the fascist black-shirts, and even when he’s conscripted to fight she knows it’s only a brief respite – divorce is not an option. Cathy, a true Brogan daughter, stays strong for her beloved little son Peter.
When a telegram arrives declaring that her husband is missing in action, Cathy can finally allow herself to hope – she only has to wait 6 months before she is legally a widow and can move on with her life. In the meantime, she has to keep Peter safe and fed. So she advertises for a lodger, and Sergeant Archie McIntosh of the Royal Engineers’ Bomb Disposal Squad turns up. He is kind, clever and thoughtful; their mutual attraction is instant. But with Stanley’s fate still unclear, and the Blitz raging on over London’s East End, will Cathy ever have the love she deserves?
I received a copy of this book from Atlantic Books -Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I always enjoy reading books in the Ration Book series because of the authentic settings, historical detail and believable characters. The simple plot allows this character-driven story to draw the reader into London during World War two, making it an immersive reading experience.
This story follows Cathy, a young mother, married to an abusive and bigoted man currently fighting in North Africa. The story reads fine as a standalone, but the series is engaging, and it’s best to read all the books in the series.
This is a story of forbidden love and making the best of your life. Cathy is a courageous and likeable character, as is Archie, her new lodger, and the reader empathises with them. Realistically paced and well-researched. It’s easy to visualise the setting. It incorporates serious issues but manages to keep the story entertaining.
Born and bred in East London Jean is a District Nurse by trade and has worked as a NHS manager and as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies. She left her day job to become a full-time writer in 2015 and has never looked back.
In 2006 she won the Harry Bowling Prize and now has seventeen sagas published over three series with both Orion and Atlantic all of which are set in East London.
She is an experienced public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, plus for the past fifteen years she has sailed all over the world as an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships.
*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the giveaway link above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
Let bestselling author Lindsey Hutchinson take you back in time to the Victorian Black Country, for a tale of love, hardship and fighting against the odds to succeed.
Life is tough for Ella Bancroft. After her father, Thomas, is wheelchair-bound by an accident at the tube works, the responsibility for keeping a roof over their head falls to Ella. Ella’s mother died when she was ten, and her sister Sally lives with her no-good, work-shy husband Eddy, so is no help at all. If she and her father are to keep the bailiffs from the door, then Ella must earn a living.
But Ella is resourceful as well as creative, and soon discovers she has a gift for millinery. Setting up shop in the front room of their two-up, two-down home in Silver Street, Walsall, Ella and Thomas work hard to establish a thriving business. Before long, the fashionable ladies of the Black Country are lining up to wear one of Ella’s beautiful creations, and finally Ella dares to hope for a life with love, friendship and family.
Meeting the man she longs to marry should be a turning point for Ella, but life’s twists and turns can be cruel. As the winter grows colder, events seem to conspire to test Ella’s spirit. And by the time spring is approaching, will the hat girl of Silver Street triumph, or will Ella have to admit defeat as all her dreams are tested.
The Queen of the Black Country sagas is back with a heart-breaking, unforgettable, page-turning story of love, life and battling against the odds.
Extract from The Hat Girl From Silver Street Lindsey Hutchinson
Ella Bancroft looked down at the tangled mess in her fingers and stifled a sob. She pulled at the ruined hat in an effort to rectify her error, but the steaming process had set the blunder in place.
A tear slipped from her eye and rolled down her cheek. This was her second mistake in a week. Her first was sticking her finger with a pin and leaving a blood spot on a piece of white tulle. Ivy had ranted and raved as she had snipped off the offending piece of material to rescue the hat.
Now Ella had spoilt the crown of a felt winter hat, having steamed it into the wrong shape entirely. Thinking quickly, she wondered whether, if she held it over the steamer again, she could re-form it.
About to try, Ella caught her breath as she heard footsteps on the bare wooden staircase. It was too late, Ivy was on her way up.
Ella had been employed at Ivy Gladwin’s shop for two years and yet suddenly she had begun making errors. Why? Was it because she was unhappy in her work?
‘How are you getting on with that order?’ Ivy called as she entered the bedroom, which had been converted to a work room.
‘Erm… I…’ Ella mumbled as she looked again at the floppy felt monstrosity.
‘What the…?’ Ivy gasped. Snatching the article from Ella, she held it up between thumb and forefinger. ‘How on earth…? Good grief, girl, can’t you do anything right?’
The sob Ella was holding back escaped her lips. ‘I’m sorry, Miss Gladwin, I don’t know what happened.’
‘Neither do I!’ Ivy snapped, throwing the felt onto the table. ‘It’s completely ruined! An expensive piece of material at the outset and now it’s a – oh, do stop snivelling!’
The sharp slap to her cheek caused Ella to catch her breath and she raised a hand to cover the stinging skin.
Ella sniffed and tried hard to halt the sobs racking her body.
‘I… I’m really sorry,’ she managed at last.
‘Well, you will have to pay for it out of your wages. Now, start again and for God’s sake mind what you’re doing!’ With that, Ivy strode from the room, her long bombazine skirt swishing against her side-button boots.
Ella stared at the hat on the table and thought about the last two years of her life. She had seen the advert in the local newspaper for an apprentice hat-maker. Having applied and been interrogated by Miss Gladwin for over an hour, she was given the post on a month’s trial. The pay, she was told, would be one pound and ten shillings a week but she must work a week in hand first. Any damages would be taken out of her money before she received it.
Now she was halfway through this week and already there would be two stoppages from her salary. Ella sighed as she worked out just how much she would have in her hand come Friday.
The gold flecks in her hazel eyes were accentuated as more tears brimmed before falling. Pushing a stray dark curl from her forehead, Ella moved to the workbench. With a sniff and a sigh, she began her work again, this time selecting the correct block to steam the material over.
Ella thought once more about her earnings – would there be enough to feed herself and her father? The food in the larder was running desperately low, and she knew if there was only enough for one of them to eat she would make sure it was her dad.
Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children. She was born and raised in Wednesbury and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.
July 1914: Britain is in turmoil as WW1 begins to change the world. While the young men disappear off to foreign battlefields, the women left at home throw themselves into jobs meant for the boys.
Hiding her privileged background and her suffragette past, Constance Copeland signs up to be a Clippie – collecting money and giving out tickets – on the trams, despite her parents’ disapproval.
Constance, now known as Connie, soon finds there is more to life than the wealth she was born into and she soon makes fast friends with lively fellow Clippies, Betty and Jean, as well as growing closer to the charming, gentle Inspector Robert Caldwell.
But Connie is haunted by another secret; and if it comes out, it could destroy her new life.
After war ends and the men return to take back their roles, will Connie find that she can return to her previous existence? Or has she been changed forever by seeing a new world through the tram windows?
Guest Post – Lynn Johnson – Wartime with the Tram Girls
I cannot believe that, as I write this post, I have two books out in the big, wide world, a scary but happy situation to be in. Before I start, I would like to introduce to you an acquaintance of mine who would like to have a few words.
“My name is Connie. Don’t call me Constance. It is important that everyone knows me as Connie. I have a secret, you see and if it becomes known, I will most probably lose everything. Besides, I like being Connie, the Tram Girl. She is far more interesting than Constance Copeland who has little if anything to do with her life. Connie has more freedom for a start and Father has less control over me. I like it that way. The name change was partly Ginnie’s idea. You might know her as The Girl from the Workhouse. She thought that Constance sounded too posh for my plans. I thought Connie would be just about perfect. Ginnie’s younger than me but she makes an awful lot of sense sometimes.”
This is the voice of Constance Copeland, and Wartime with the Tram Girls tells her story against the backdrop of WW1. As with the first book in my Potteries Girls series, I wanted to write about the Homefront, what happened to the families and friends of those who kept the country going during the Great War, and how they managed when their men came home again, many of them changed forever. Coming from a different social class, writing about Connie gave me the opportunity to look at many events, both good and bad, from a different perspective. I loved getting inside Connie’s head and looking at the world through her eyes – always asking the question – what would Connie do?
When I really want to know my characters, particularly major characters, I interview them – perhaps a result of my past life as a personnel manager. By asking characters what they like, don’t like, favourite pastimes, which books they read – or can’t read, I really have to delve deep inside their psyche. A key part of my process is to get each of these characters to talk about their backstory. What they say and what their feelings are about other characters can often give pointers to where the story is/should be going.
When writing from an individual character’s point of view, it is important to relate only thoughts, feelings and speech that that character would be aware of. This makes it rather difficult to get input from others, so writers need to find creative ways to overcome that through such using more than one point of view character, showing through actions and letters and so on, seeing behaviour and emotions reflected through the demeanour of others. An omniscient narrator might tell the reader a lot about the events leading up to the denouement. How much more exciting it becomes when your characters are happy to communicate with you directly.
I love seeing my characters come to life in this way. It’s as if they are sitting on my shoulder watching the words become sentences, paragraphs, chapters, stories. And woe-betide me if I get it wrong!
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.