Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Saga authors at the RNA Conference!

Last weekend the Romantic Novelist Association UK held their annual conference at Leeds University.
It is always a chance for authors to spend three days together to 'talk shop' and attend workshops about the industry of being a writer and publishing in general.
It is also a great opportunity to meet old and new friends. The authors of this blog were able to finally get together and, amongst the fun, we took a photo of us, which we thought to put up on this blog so our lovely readers can actually put a face to their favourite authors.


Gathering of the clan. — with Elizabeth Gill, Jean Fullerton, AnneMarie BrearFenella Miller Francesca Capaldi BurgessElaine EverestElaine RobertsSheila Riley.
Front row: Leah Fleming, Shirley Dickson Lizzie LaneFreda Lightfoot and Shirley Dickson. 

Monday, 16 July 2018

Cover reveal for my debut novel - Belle of the Back Streets


As a debut novelist,  I'm VERY proud and happy to be able to share the cover of my first novel Belle of the Back Streets.

The book comes out in hardback, audio book and ebook in November this year, and in March 2019. It is pubished with Headline. 


Belle of the Back Streets is set in the northeast coal mining village of Ryhope in 1919, which is where I grew up (although not in 1919... I'm not quite that old, yet!)

All details at The Headline website


Glenda Young

Website: glendayoungbooks.com
Blog flamingnora.blogspot.com
Twitter: @flaming_nora

Women Affected by World War One

More than 700,000 British men were killed during World War One, and women suffered badly from bereavement, grieving for their lost loved ones. More than a million women never found a man to marry, or the opportunity to bear children. They came to accept they never would have any, their lives having changed forever. They felt lonely with solitary lives and many lost their jobs, once the war was over. At least 750,000 women were made redundant in 1918. All men who returned were highly given priority, and even if a woman had children to care for, and no husband, she would still find it extremely difficult to gain a job.

Many began to seek careers, the facility to be able to vote and the opportunity to live their own life. They also wanted the freedom to enjoy themselves by going to the picture-palace or the palais-de-danse, if they wished of an evening. They weren’t interested in going back to being servants or maids, they either wished to keep the job they’d worked on during the war, or find a better one with good pay to care for themselves or any children they might have. Unfortunately they were not granted equal pay, and had no right to vote until 1918 when a law granted that ability to those over thirty who owned property.

Even those women who were married, their task now was to stay home, cook, clean and care for their family and be a dutiful wife. Their husbands generally felt ashamed of having her working and employers agreed and sacked them. Men saw themselves as the ruling section of society. But some men who had survived were likely to have been injured, maimed, or psychologically damaged, and their wives needed to be the one to work and care for them too.

There were many surplus women after the war. Those lucky enough to have secure financial independence often had no wish to hand it over to a husband and become ruled by him. Others felt desperate for a husband, but suffered loneliness, virginity, no children, grief for lost loved ones, or the loss of their job and rights. My books usually has a strong woman as the main character - who must succeed against all odds. She can be found fighting against the difficulty of her life, aspiring to better herself, and battling against the restrictions and prejudices of the time or whatever other dire circumstances she finds herself in. She must pit good against evil and win by her own efforts, no matter what she has suffered or lost along the way. Cecily greatly believed this, attempted to help her sister and women battling to achieve an improvement in their life. As a member of the suffragists, she was happy to assist local women who risked going on strike in order to earn more money.

Extract from Girls of the Great War: 

It came to Cecily that having been involved with the suffrage movement for so long, she could possibly attempt to assist them in this battle.
    ‘Are you managing to resolve this problem?’ she asked Sally Fielding, one of her former tram workers. A group of them were standing on the Old Town Street holding posters high, one stating: Is a Woman’s Place in the Home? Another said: We Believe in Equality. ‘I can understand why I was not granted my job back on the trams, having been away entertaining the troops in France. Those of you who’ve worked for them throughout the war should have that right.’
    ‘Indeed we should,’ Sally agreed. ‘They accuse us of having less strength and more health problems than men. Absolute tosh! The bloody government treats us like servants. We were doing our bit for the duration of the war but are now being dismissed and replaced by men they consider to be more skilled. We women have worked damned hard and done well. They see us as less productive, which we’re most definitely not and surely have the right to the same pay.’
    ‘Did you join a trade union?’ Cecily asked.
    ‘We did indeed. Once we’d registered to work in the war, why would we not protect ourselves? It was recommended we do that when we were sent a leaflet issued by the War Emergency Workers’ National Committee.’
    ‘Are you managing to provide some funds for unpaid women on strike?’
    ‘Not very well,’ Sally said, pulling a face.
    ‘Right, I’ll help with that.’ She remained with them for the remainder of the day. Taking off one of her boots she held it out to passers-by, begging a donation as a token of their support . When dusk fell she handed over a fair sum of money to Sally. ‘I’ll try to collect more tomorrow. How long will this strike last?’
    ‘Maybe just a couple of days this week. Then if we don’t get anywhere, even longer next.’
    ‘I’ll be there to join you,’ she promised.
    Cecily continued to spend time each day assisting more women by raising money to provide them with an income, as they received none while on strike. It felt such a satisfaction, giving her a fresh purpose in life. Despite the troubles they were enduring she too sorely missed the work she’d been involved with during the war, and her talent. She wrote a brief letter to Boyd, to tell him of her satisfaction in helping these women on strike, being a suffragist. She sorely missed him too.
    ‘Can I do anything more to help?’ s

he asked her friend Sally.
    ‘Aye, you could write a newspaper report depicting our success and why we deserve to receive the same rate of bonus that is being given to men workers, as a result of the war.’
    ‘I’ll be happy to give that a go,’ Cecily agreed. She wrote at length about how many women during the war had worked in munitions, coal, gas and power supplies, factories, transport and various offices.


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

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

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

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Thursday, 12 July 2018

I can hardly believe that publication day is just next week, Wednesday18th July.








I’m very happy to say that the Amazon ebook of Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm, the 3rd book in the Lizzie Flowers series, will be published in just a few days time on Wednesday 18th July. Publication has seemed a long wait, but I wanted to make this story very special. Lizzie’s romance with Danny Flowers hasn’t run smoothly. After her traumatic experiences in The Fight for Lizzie Flowers, (book 2), she has to dig deep to face her most feared adversary of all, a masked man known as The Prince. A misnomer for a very dangerous character indeed!
It was great fun writing this book and especially the baddie. I've been asked if I'll write a fourth Lizzie book. I think I may, since we all know how popular wartime books are. Much love to everyone, Carol xx


Monday, 2 July 2018

Competition!

A paperback copy of my historical novel, Isabelle's Choice is the prize in a competition held on the Coronation Street blog this week.
Enter for your chance to win.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Soldiers in World War One

Their physical and mental stress was so strong at times that it blocked out their minds, filling them with fear, grim reality, tension, strain and anxiety whenever they approached a battle zone. They would fall into silence, asking themselves if they could cope with the dangers they were about to face. They always dreaded snipers, shell shock, infections and injuries, or to be damaged with shrapnel. It could make their mind go completely numb, particularly if they suffered the loss of a friend. Some could be walking wounded, or could only sleep on a groundsheet against the cold.

Infantry soldiers often knew very little about where they were or what was going on elsewhere. They lacked the facility of maps, news and information, relying on gossip and rumour. Food in Blighty was very much a problem. They might be given bacon and liver, brawn and kidneys, bread and dripping, but not too much food was available. They might have porridge with a few smashed army biscuits boiling in a mess tin with some water and sugar. Sometimes they were given a small drink of beer, and they would take a sip of rum and roll it on their tongue. Soldiers were also expected to keep their boots, caps, badges and buckles well-polished, and would hide them at night in case one of the other chaps might pinch them. Life was not easy, and they very much depended upon friends and letters from their family. It was a relief for them to be given a short break from the frontline when they were feeling worn out, perhaps to walk through the streets unthreatened by locals. Or to enjoy a performance.

War might drain men of energy, but Cecily firmly believed that their minds and spirit needed nurturing. Her team gave regular performances in the camp and at local hospitals. It was not unusual for wounded men to be wheeled out of the wards and lie on stretchers in order to watch, having been treated or were simply waiting for the necessary care. They often happily accepted they could be soaked as rain beat down on them. Cecily would regularly sing and on one occasion, they performed a play. Because some couldn’t be moved, following a concert Cecily would visit the hospital and sing to patients in their beds, or to one alone if he was blind or dying. It was exhausting but moving, her team’s situation ripe with danger too. They performed popular songs, poetry, Shakespeare, comedy and gave a glimpse of ‘Blighty’ often to an audience of thousands. The soldiers were always overjoyed to be entertained.

Extract of Cecily’s first performance in Girls of the Great War. 

There was no proper stage, no curtains, dressing rooms or footlights, but they did have acetylene gas lamps glimmering brightly around the boxes. They worked for hours rehearsing and enduring more instructions from Queenie on what and how they should perform. Cecily suffered a flutter of panic as she became aware of hundreds more men gathering in the audience. A few were seated on boxes or benches, the rest of the area packed with a solid mass standing shoulder to shoulder. Many had been patiently waiting hours for the concert to start. Looking at the state of them it was evident that many had come direct from the trenches where they’d probably been trapped in horrific conditions for months. Those unable to move from their tent pulled the flaps open so that they too could hear the concert.
    Heart pounding and nerves jangling, Cecily felt the urge to turn and run as the moment for the concert to start came closer. Was her mother right and she couldn’t sing well at all? Would they roar and boo at her as they had that time at Queenie?
    She steadied her breathing, smoothed down her skirt with sweaty fingers and when she walked on stage the men gave a loud cheer of welcome. The excitement in their faces filled her with hope and as she stepped forward to the front of the boxed stage the audience instantly fell silent, looking enthralled and spellbound. She exchanged a swift glance with Merryn, counted one, two, three, four . . . and her sister and Johnny both began to play, sounding most professional. Cecily started to sing:
         
          There’s a Long, Long Trail A-winding. 
          Into the land of my dreams,
          Where the nightingales are singing 
          And a white moon beams: 

    As she sang, her fears, depression and worries vanished in a surge of elation, soaring into a new life, and bringing these soldiers pleasure and relief from the war. When the song was over she received a tumultuous applause, cheers, whistles and roars of appreciation from them. Smiling broadly she went on to sing ‘Roses of Picardy’, followed by ‘Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag’ and many other popular favourites. Most of the Tommies would readily join in to sing the chorus whenever Cecily invited them to do so. Others would weep, as if fraught with emotion because they were homesick and felt greatly moved by this reminder of England. Then would again cheer and roar with happiness at the end, urging her to sing an encore.
    ‘You are doing quite well,’ her mother casually remarked during the short interval, a comment Cecily greatly appreciated. ‘Now sing some of those jolly music hall songs that I recommended.’
    ‘Right you are.’
    Cecily went on to sing ‘Burlington Bertie From Bow’and ‘Fall In And Follow Me’. These brought bright smiles and laughter to all the Tommies’ faces. She finished with ‘Your King and Country Want You’, bringing forth loud cheers of agreement. How she loved singing to these soldiers. If she hadn’t been a star before, she certainly felt like one now.


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

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

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

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Elaine Roberts: The Foyles Bookshop Girls

Hi, I’m Elaine Everest and I’m thrilled to be interviewing Elaine Roberts about her writing and her debut novel. Having already read the book I can say it is a wonderful story and I hope you all enjoy it.

Welcome, Elaine.

When planning your book what drew you to the time of the First World War?

In The Foyles Bookshop Girls, the main character’s mother was originally a child in my previous Victorian novel, which still sits on my laptop. Someone I know really well suggested I moved the family forward to a different era. With the centenary of the end of World War One approaching, I decided that would make a good backdrop for my saga. I started researching the Great War and gathering historical information, to form a timeline for my character’s story to be woven into.

You have three girls as your main characters, Alice, Victoria and Molly. Do you have a favourite?
This a tricky question because I like them all for different reasons. Victoria is the person that I feel sorry for the most, and I can relate to the guilt Molly is carrying around with her. Alice has a lot to learn, as she has been sheltered from the reality of what life can throw at someone. On that basis, I would probably say Alice, because her journey in The Foyles Bookshop Girls is the greatest.

Why did you pick Foyles Bookshop as the main setting for your books?
I have a love of books, so I was playing with the idea of having my main male character working in, or owning, a bookshop. This evolved as I planned the novel and it was only when I was trying to think of a name for a bookshop that it occurred to me to have Foyles. It is a shop I have been in on numerous occasions. I’ve attended two of their Discovery Days, which enabled writers to have a one to one with an agent. I started to look into their history and that fascinated me, so then there was no going back.

Do you enjoy the research involved in your work and where do you start?
I wouldn’t say I enjoy it, but it is a necessity of writing an historical novel and it’s  important to make sure the events and the flavour of the times are true for the readers.  When I do research, I always involve my husband, Dave, because I have a tendency to get lost in all the information gathering, especially on the internet. I prefer to use reference books for that reason.  When doing the research for The Foyles Bookshop Girls, it was in danger of turning into a war novel, so I had to pare back the information I had.
Libraries are a great source of information and I’ve attended several talks on World War One. Their archive material is priceless. I can also be seen scouring secondhand bookshops. I have collected quite a library now, and in some instances, I just find one little gem that gets me excited and I want to use it. I have several old maps, which I use when I’m planning my novel, mainly because road names can have a habit of changing over the years.

As a new author in the saga world whose work do you admire most and do you mix with other saga writers?
When I decided to change from writing modern to historical, I started reading sagas. I’ve read many but I’m not going to name them, because I know too many of the authors personally. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoy Dilly Court’s novels and it was when I read Christmas Card that I got excited and wanted to give writing a saga a go. That was when the idea for my Victorian novel first came into being and of course The Foyles Bookshop Girls followed it.

I can see from Amazon that there are three books in the Foyles series and are very much looking forward to publication. Can you see yourself taking the girls into any other books?
This is something I would love to do, as they are very much a part of my life. I know their characters inside out, so therefore, know how they think. The book I’m planning after The Foyles series may well contain one of the characters, but that has yet to be decided.

How did you celebrating publication day?
Time suddenly seems to have flashed by and it’s upon us. I thought long and hard about how best to celebrate and decided to do it in the essence of The Foyles Bookshop Girls, Alice, Victoria and Molly. I celebrated the day after the book was released, and this obviously involved wine and cake. I enjoyed afternoon tea with my friends and family.

About Elaine Roberts:
Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way until circumstances made her re-evaluate her life, and she picked up her dream again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. She was thrilled when many more followed and started to believe in herself.
As a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, progressing to full membership from the New Writers Sceme, and The Society of Women Writers & Journalists, Elaine attends many conferences, workshops, seminars and wonderful parties. Meeting other writers gives her encouragement, finding most face similar problems.
Elaine and her patient husband, Dave, have five children who have flown the nest. Home is in Dartford, Kent and is always busy with their children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting. Without her wonderful family and supportive friends, she knows the dream would never have been realised.

Book Blurb:
London, 1914: one ordinary day, three girls arrive for work at London's renowned Foyles bookshop. But when war with Germany is declared their lives will never be the same again... 
Alice has always been the 'sensible' one in her family – especially in comparison with her suffrage-supporting sister! But decidedly against her father's wishes, she accepts a job at Foyles Bookshop; and for bookworm Alice it's a dream come true. But with the country at war, Alice's happy world is shattered in an instant. Determined to do what she can, Alice works in the bookshop by day, and risks her own life driving an ambulance around bomb-ravaged London by night. But however busy she keeps herself, she can't help but think of the constant danger those she loves are facing on the frontline... 
Alice, Victoria and Molly couldn't be more different and yet they share a friendship that stems back to their childhood – a friendship that provides everyday solace from the tribulations and heartbreak of war. 
Links:

Amazon Link:                The Foyles Bookshop Girls

Kobo Link:                     The Foyles Bookshop Girls


Twitter:                           @RobertsElaine11



Thank you, Elaine. Good luck with your lovely book.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Kitty McKenzie

Kitty McKenzie is now available in all ebook formats and paperback.



Blurb:
1864 - Suddenly left as the head of the family, Kitty McKenzie must find her inner strength to keep her family together against the odds. Evicted from their resplendent home in the fashionable part of York after her parents’ deaths, Kitty must fight the legacy of bankruptcy and homelessness to secure a home for her and her siblings. Through sheer willpower and determination she grabs opportunities with both hands from working on a clothes and rag stall in the market to creating a teashop for the wealthy. Her road to happiness is fraught with obstacles of hardship and despair, but she refuses to let her dream of a better life for her family die. She soon learns that love and loyalty brings its own reward. 


Chapter One


York, England, November 1864

From an upstairs window, Katherine McKenzie looked out over York’s rooftops into the distance. The pale grey clouds parted, allowing weak sunshine to filter through the bare trees and banish the gloom. Below, two weighty men filled the back of a wagon with the furniture from the house. Her gaze shifted to linger on the sorry cluster of her brothers and sisters. Ranging in age from sixteen to two years old, they stood as one on the lush lawn with their small carryalls placed neatly in front of them. Their pale faces peeking out from beneath hats showed little emotion while stern-looking men came and went from their once warm and happy home. Of course, there was no evidence of that now.
Kitty leaned her forehead against the cool glass and fought the tears that gathered as she stared sightlessly down at her remaining family. All morning, the children had watched and listened as strangers invaded each room, taking notes and sizing up all the possessions once important to the family. They understood little of what was happening, but she had told them to wait outside while she and Rory sorted everything out. So, her brothers and sisters, shocked and confused, did as she instructed, not daring to talk about what they saw. Talking would come later.
Inhaling deeply to calm herself, Kitty turned away from the window. Downstairs a variety of men roamed about, murmuring in hushed voices, making notes on what was left to take and how much money each item would bring.
Vultures, that’s what Rory called them, but Kitty knew it was all about the cycle of life. She had learned a lot about life in the last few weeks. None of it very encouraging, but nevertheless, it had to be endured.
She sighed, rubbing the back of her neck, stiff with strain. The enormity of what faced her left her cold. Responsibilities had never been hers. There had always been others to care for her comfort. Could she do it? Could she steer the children through this difficult time? As her parents coffins were lowered into the ground, she promised them she’d keep the family together at all costs. She’d do whatever it took to keep her remaining family safe. As the eldest it was her duty to look after them, but secretly she wondered who would look after her.
Hearing shouts coming from below, she left her parents’ empty bedroom and hurried across the landing and down the main red- carpeted staircase.
In the hall, a small gathering watched as two so-called gentlemen wrangled over a large Chinese-painted vase on which each held a firm grip. Making her way to them, Kitty did her best to be polite, even though her anger simmered like a kettle on the stovetop. “Gentlemen, please. What is the problem?”
A large bearded man turned his florid face to Kitty. His knuckles turned white as his grip tightened on the vase. “Miss McKenzie, this man is insistent it belongs to him when in actual fact it is reserved for my services rendered.”
The man’s breath reeked of alcohol and the fumes washed over her in sickly waves.
“That is a downright lie!” The other man’s beady eyes glared at his opponent. “It says here on my itinerary this particular vase is awarded to my company.”
Kitty ached to be released from this nightmare. Today marked the end of her family’s lives as they knew it, and not one of these vultures cared enough to be the least sympathetic. Taking a step closer to the two warring men, Kitty smiled with false sweetness. “I may be of assistance then.” Without hesitation, she took the vase out of their hands and dropped it onto the hall’s marble floor. The shattering porcelain silenced everyone’s chatter and the two men gasped in unison.
“There now, gentlemen, no more need to argue over it.” With the last of her dignity and her head held high, she strode down the hall and into the kitchen.
A warmer atmosphere prevailed in the kitchen, as no debt collectors lingered here. A small fire burned in the range and Mrs Flowers, the cook, brewed a pot of tea. Unpaid for many weeks, the kind woman had stayed until the end to help Kitty and the children through this difficult time.
Sitting on an overlooked stool, Kitty smiled gratefully as the older woman gave her a cup of tea.
“How’s it goin’ in there, miss?” The cook nodded in the direction of the front end of the house.
“Dreadful,” Kitty answered with a sigh, pushing back a stray strand of hair from her face.
Mrs Flowers stirred the milk on the stove in readiness to make hot cocoa for the children. “‘Tis indeed a sorry time. Thank the Lord your dear mother didn’t live to see this day, it would have broken her heart.” A wistful look crossed her face.
Kitty refrained from commenting. She blamed both of her parents for letting their financial affairs fall into such a state. Now she and Rory must mend the damage. She had adored her parents, but their loving and generous natures not only cost them their lives, but their children’s future and happiness. Her parent’s inability to manage their funds over the years now left tradesmen and merchants braying for their dues. Now, at nearly twenty-one, she was responsible for not only herself, but also for six family members.
The outside door to the kitchen banged back against the wall. Rory marched in, his usually handsome face red with anger and his blue eyes blazing. “Do you know what that pompous ass, O’Brien, thinks the horses are worth?”
“No, and neither do I care.” Kitty wiped her hand over her eyes. Tiredness stung them. “It will not make any difference to us as we’ll not see a penny.”
“Father spent good money on them,” Rory defended the animals he adored.
Kitty shot up from her seat, knocking the stool over. Thumping her fist on the table, she glared at her brother. “Well, if Father had not spent good money on them and other non-essential things, we’d not be in the trouble we are.”
Taken aback by her outburst, Rory’s temper rapidly dissipated and he hung his head. “I’m sorry, Kitty. You are right, of course. None of it is ours anymore and so it doesn’t matter a jot. I’m just heart sorry to say goodbye to them, that is all.”
“I know.” She nodded, knowing the shock of all that happened in the last few weeks had not yet taken effect. Losing their parents so unexpectedly not only devastated them, but frightened them too. Then, to learn on the day of the funeral that they must relinquish their home and possessions caused even greater upset. They lived in terror for weeks waiting for this day. No friend or distant relative came to pluck them away from this horrid ordeal.
“Here, Master Rory, will you be kind enough to take this cocoa out to the young ones? They’ll be ready for it by now,” Mrs Flowers said with motherly attention. “I’ve to be gone in a few minutes to catch the coach.”
Rory left, balancing a tray of steaming cups of hot cocoa, and while Mrs Flowers cleaned up, Kitty went back through the hall to have one more look around her home. The vultures had gone at last. Silence descended like a winter’s mist.
In her mind’s eye, Kitty could still see the crystal chandeliers. She ran her fingers along the expensive timber panelling and silk wallpaper, which decorated each room of the large house. She toured the drawing room, parlour, front sitting room and library. Laughter and music of previous parties rang in her ears. Her mother was renowned for filling the house with exciting and interesting people. Kitty saw it all as it once was, not as it was now, a combination of cold, empty rooms. She turned to go upstairs just as a wagon driver caught her attention from the front door.
“Excuse me, Miss. This fell out of one of the cupboards when we moved it. I thought you’d like to have it.” He held out a framed painting of her parents on their wedding day.
“Thank you.” Kitty smiled at him and, doffing his cap, he went on his way.
Left alone once more, she gazed down at her parents as they innocently stared at her from their picture. Her father, Jonathan McKenzie, tall and proud in his wedding suit stood behind his new bride, who sat straight and dignified on a chair a little to the left of him. Both Jonathan and Eliza McKenzie had found true love and never hesitated to show it to each other or anyone else. For twenty-two years their love and contentment wrapped a web of happiness around not only themselves but also their whole household. The McKenzie family once held an esteemed position in the community with money, handsome looks, good health and a beautiful house full of children.
The only thing lacking was prudence concerning their finances.
Her mother inherited a large sum of money after the death of her grandmother. Jonathan trained as a doctor, but instead of opening a practice for wealthy clients he preferred to attend the unfortunates of York. Soon enough, Mother’s money ran out. Consequently, they borrowed heavily with the bank, hoping a rich bachelor uncle of Jonathan’s would pass away and leave Father, as his heir, his fortune. As luck would have it though, the rich uncle still lived and enjoyed his fortune, while her parents became mired in debt and then died premature deaths.
Was it merely four short weeks ago that her father, after visiting patients in the slums, had unwittingly brought death home? Kitty shivered at the memory of how fast the Typhoid took him, her mother and little sister, Davina, just four years old.
The day after their funerals, the collectors of debts, both large and small, came to give her their bills. Father’s solicitor, Mr Daniels came to her aid and advised her on the best course of action. Unfortunately, the only solution left was to sell everything. Now they weren’t only homeless, but also poor, desperately poor.

Available in paperback and ebook from Kindle.
Kitty McKenzie Book 1
She must keep her family safe.


Friday, 18 May 2018

Extract from - Girls of the Great War

Prologue 1894 

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

A section of Chapter One 

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


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

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

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

Published 22 May 2018
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