Saturday, 7 September 2013

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, the reception centre for all new immigrants to New York, newly opened in 1900 after the earlier wooden structure burned down. Ships arrived daily, filled with hopeful immigrants by the score, as many as 10,000 people to be processed. Russian Jews seeking escape from persecution, Hungarians, Slovakians, Poles, Italians, all speaking to each other in different tongues, eating strange foods, suffering the dangers and indignities of the crossing in grim silence. They came for free education, a free vote, low taxes, high wages, no religious repression, no kings or compulsory military service. They often left behind loved ones, poverty, starvation, unemployment, congested living conditions, oppression. In America they dreamed of living in a free land, with the hope of a good future.

Immigrants arrived laden with sacks, carpet bags, small trunks, rolled-up bundles tucked under their arm or balanced on their head. Luggage would be stowed on the ground floor while they proceeded up the stairs.

Everyone must first walk up the stairs to be inspected. Children over two had to walk unaided to prove they weren’t disabled. Anyone limping or short of breath was hauled out of line for further health checks. Anyone too carefully watching their step was suspected of having an eye problem. Fractious children or sulky teenagers could be pulled out of line and given a test for the feeble-minded. These stairs came to be known as ‘the six second exam.’

When they reached the top they would indeed catch their breath in amazement at what they saw. A huge, grand, high-ceilinged hall divided into railed channels along which they were herded like cattle.

After that came the inspections. There would be a long wait in a queue, often for hours. Some would strike up music on an accordion or banjo, and do a little impromptu dance, while waiting. At the end of each line a doctor, dressed in the blue uniform of the US Health Service, carefully scrutinised every man, woman and child for physical or mental defects. Hair, face, neck and hands were closely examined, including the scalp for ringworm. Coats were unbuttoned to check for a goitre or tumour, or pregnancy.

There would follow many more tests in which the immigrant would be asked for the details as outlined in the manifest: Name, age, sex, marital status, nationality, occupation, last residence, destination in America, how much money they had, and whether the immigrant could read and write. Also, had they paid their own passage, and did they have tickets through to their final destination. Had they ever served time in a prison or poorhouse, or suffered from any deformities or illnesses. A lone female, unless met by a man, would be returned from whence she came, although sexual favours could gain admittance to the US. If she was suspected of being a prostitute she would be forced to endure a bodily search by a female attendant.
There were any number of reasons for rejection. If the person failed any of these rapid and perfunctory inspections, or gave the wrong answer, a chalk mark was placed on their back. C for conjunctivitis; Ct for trachoma; K for hernia; L for lameness; Pg for pregnancy; S for senility; and many more. One in five failed. These people were pulled out of line, even if wrongly labelled, in a most callous and impersonal manner, and made to wait in a special holding area, namely a detention pen which was enclosed by wire screens. Then they would be sent back from whence they came, often alone, on the same ship which had brought them to America, and was now obliged to take them away for no extra charge.

Rosie Belsfield feels as if her life has ended when she is rejected from Ellis Island and has to return alone to England leaving her family behind. But having boarded the ship with one identity, fate decrees that she leave it with another. The promise of a new life beckons, one of riches and even a title in beautiful Cornwall, but it is also one fraught with danger as she becomes caught up in a web of lies not of her making.

Published by Allison & Busby

Buy on Amazon

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


Moon Cutters – Janet Woods
Severn House UK
Hardcover and electronic.
October 31st  2013

Miranda Jarvis and her younger sister find themselves without means in the middle of winter. In a desperate attempt to steal food from a Dorset country house, they are caught and taken into the care of the owner – unaware that the seemingly respectable middle-aged gentleman is actually the head of the local smuggling industry in the district.

James Fenmore has no scruples, or pity, and when his estranged and (reasonably) honest nephew, Fletcher Taunt, inherits the adjoining property, once part of James’ dealings, he begins to plot to relieve Fletcher of it, along with his legitimate shipping concerns.

When Miranda and Fletcher meet they fall in love . . . but James has other plans for the two innocent girls.

Because of past intrigue Fletcher has been kept in ignorance of his parentage. Since he can’t find any answers, he begins to fear the worst, especially since it seems that his uncle has turned against him.

What Fletcher has been told is completely different to what he discovers – that his father is alive - and with no memory of his past he has been living as part of a monastic colony in France. Two years before, his memory began to return. Adrian Fenmore is brother to Sir James, and his aim is to regain his title, take his revenge and get to know the son he’s never seen. The pair re-unite.

Thes sisters’ relationship with James Fenmore begins to deteriorate, and their curiosity leads them into trouble as well as danger. Lucy is writing a novel from a journal she found – and Miranda discovers that it uncovers some clues to Fletcher’s identity.

James hides the impressionable Lucy - the younger of the two girls - in the church crypt  – this to force Miranda into a marriage she doesn’t want. He then sends Miranda into the network of smuggling tunnels to find her. The girls are taken to safety – but not before Fletcher and Miranda wed.

James Fenmore loses his life in a last ditch effort to destroy the estate.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

ESCAPE BY MOONLIGHT They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but we do it all the time, don't we? It is the cover that first attracts our attention, the picture with its title and author's name. Does it make us want to look inside the book? We read the blurb and then the first paragraph or two and it is on that we make our decision. I am very fortunate that my publishers, Allison and Busby, have always given me lovely covers, The cover of The Summer House with its garden gate made you want to go through the gate and explore beyond it, that for The Girl on the Beach is eye catching for its bright colour and sense of peace that was doomed not to last, but the one for Escape by Moonlight is outstanding. It is so atmospheric, hinting at secrets and danger, which is so exactly right.

Escape by Moonlight is the story of two girls, Elizabeth de Lacey and Lucy Storey, both from the Norfolk village of Nayton, the one wealthy and privileged, the other the daughter of the local stationmaster, poles apart but linked by war. Elizabeth is holidaying with her maternal grandparents in Haute Savoie in 1939 when war breaks out and elects to stay. Along with her aunt, Justine, she becomes involved with the French Resistance helping allied airmen and escaped prisoners of war over the Swiss border, which becomes more and more risky as Germany takes over the whole of France. Her life is one of secrets, betrayal and danger culminating in a fierce battle between the resistance fighters hiding in the mountains and the Germans determined to wipe them out. The death of a cousin in the struggle, the demise of her grandparents and falling in love with Roger, an SOE agent, add to her anxieties. They are in terrible danger and the only way to save them is to fetch them home to England. But that is not as easy as it sounds. In England, Lucy works for her bullying father at the Nayton railway station. She secretly loves Jack de Lacey, a RAF pilot and Elizabeth’s half brother, but she knows he is way above her socially and in every other way and would not look twice at her. But war changes everything. It takes Jack’s other half sister, Amy, a nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, an inquisitive evacuee living with the de Laceys, a German bomb and an explosion on the railway line to bring everything to a head in Lucy’s world. Escape by Moonlight is published by Allison and Busby in hardback ISBN 9780 7490 1303 5 and as an ebook. The paperback will be out in February next year.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A Sense of Place

There is no better way of getting the feel of an industry, occupation or area than to talk to the people who have lived it. Ask them about their routine: daily, seasonal, annual. How they got started? How did they acquire their skills? How have things changed? What are the problems and dangers in the work? Where did they ache after a long day?

Oral history tapes and transcripts in local libraries are also a useful resource. These sometimes have to be booked in advance. Most libraries have a catalogue or summary sheets of what is available so you can choose before ordering which you actually need to listen to.

I often interview people when I’m working on a book, and they readily find time to talk to me and share their memories of times past, the work they used to do whether in the mill or munitions, farming or forestry, in war or peace. I like to be able to properly describe some activity for my heroine during a particular scene or while a piece of dialogue is taking place. What special skills, hobbies and interests does she have? Is she being interviewed for a job in a smart London office, learning how to ski, mowing a suburban lawn, operating a machine or building a dry stone wall? Show your character at work. Nothing can give a better feel for the place.

One old lady I interviewed was 92 at the time. She started in the mill as a doffer at 14, knocking off the filled bobbins, or cops as they were called, replacing them with empty ones. Her real name was Mary Ann but she was more affectionately known to her family and friends as Dolly because she was so small.

‘I were the scrapings up off t’mill floor,’ she told me, chortling with glee. ‘Eeh, it marvellous it were in t’mill.’

Dolly wore a pinny, or apron, with a long pocket in front in which she carried the tools of her trade: sheers, for cutting the ends off; a piker, which was a long implement with a hooked end used to get the travellers out. She always carried a sharp knife to slip down the bobbin to get to where it was threaded. These were tied on to a string round her waist, or in her pocket, making her look permanently pregnant. She wore clogs, of course.

‘You could hear them coming a mile off up from the mill. Clattering on the setts,’ she said.

If I’d asked her what she’d had for her dinner she might not have been able to tell me but she recalled her days at the spinning mill vividly. She took me through her day, how the cotton was spun, fleas and all, the heat in the mill, the constant danger of fire. Where and how they had their dinner. And any number of anecdotes about meeting Gracie Fields, singing in a band as Dolores, climbing down a drainpipe with her dance frock over her arm, which her mother made for her, and the tricks they used to play on each other in the mill, one was when someone rolled a spindle on the greasy floor and sent her flying.

Dolly told me that she learned to be tough because she was put on and bullied for being small and felt the need to prove herself. As a small person myself I can identify with that. Her attitude to the bosses was: ‘I wouldn’t ‘humble meself to ‘em. They were always saying - don’t do this and don’t do that - but we got them round to our way of thinking in the end. We larned em.’

She very generously allowed me to name the character in my book after her, as it seemed so appropriate. Watch For The Talleyman is not her story, but I hope some of this fine lady’s spirit lives on in my character, Dolly Tomkins.

Here is an extract, following the incident with the spindle:

Dolly stood at her frame, concentrating on the task of winding yarn from hundreds of spindle bobbins on to the larger cones. She was skilled at her job after two long years but it still required concentration to control the speed and make any necessary adjustments, if breakages were to be kept to a minimum. She was hot and tired and ringing wet, the air full of cotton dust, the atmosphere uncomfortably humid from the steaming water sprayed between the rows of frames to keep the cotton damp and pliable. A constant working temperature of seventy degrees or more was necessary as otherwise the cotton threads would tighten and break, which meant that time, and therefore money, was lost.

For Dolly it had been a long and difficult morning, trying to avoid putting too much pressure on her strained ankle and worrying over the situation at home. Even so, she loved her work and enjoyed a bit of a laugh with her mates. Not that many of them were laughing today, the first day back following the disastrous strike. Tempers were short and morale low, and no one was saying much to anyone, with only the singing of the spinning frames to be heard.

On top of everything, her cotton this morning was of a poor quality, filthy with fleas and, as the yarn twisted and drew out, these were caught up in the slender rope of parallel fibres which was the roving, and wound onto the cones. Later, they would be woven into the fabric and finally dissolved and got rid of in the bleaching process but she hated the feel of them on her fingers. The older women, Dolly had noticed, were adept at feeling the cotton and choosing the best quality for themselves, probably because they were more dependant upon the wages than young girls such as herself.

Except that in Dolly’s case this wasn’t true at all. The Tomkins family needed every penny it could get, since most of it ended up in the bookie’s pocket. Only when they were free of debt to the talleyman would she be happy.

She’d seen Nifty Jack standing at the door deep in conversation with Mam, handing over more money and a new card, indicating that this strike had cost them dear. And poor Ma Liversedge was to be buried on Wednesday, her unexpected death coming so close after Nifty’s last visit it made Dolly shiver...

He’s after more than your money… Dolly Tomkins knows what it’s like to live hand to mouth. In the mean streets of 1920s Salford, the only one making a decent living is the talleyman - and Nifty Jack has a moneybag where his heart should be. Dolly’s mam is in hock up to her ears, but when Jack offers to wipe the slate clean in return for Dolly’s favours, she just can’t bring herself to do it. Instead, she takes him on at his own game, and in the process is in danger of losing the love of her life.

Watch for the Talleyman is currently number 5 in Historicals in Kindle Store, having been as high as number 2 since it was published in April.
You can find it on Amazon. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A Noble Place

A Noble Place.
Blurb: Australia 1850. Phillippa Noble, strong minded, spirited, and adventurous, urges and encourages her parents and twin to emigrate to the distant land of Australia to begin again. In a new country they can put their tainted past behind them and Pippa can forget the unrequited love she felt for a distant cousin.
Pippa blossoms in the new country and is determined that their horse stud will be the finest in the land. 
However, circumstances ensure that not all is golden. For every success, she has to bear up under the challenges of bushfire, death, the return of an old love, and danger on the goldfields. Her strength is tested as she tries to find the right path to happiness, but it is the near loss of her dearest friend that makes her realise true contentment rests within her grasp and she must not let it go.

Available in ebook from Amazon USA and Amazon UK

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Excerpt from Virtue of a Governess

In 1867 Nicola Douglas attends a London lecture that inspires her to change her life. With no family, but a good education, she boards a ship to Australia with high hopes of a fresh start in a new country as a governess. But Sydney is full of young women with similar hopes and equally poor prospects. When Nicola is at her lowest, she meets Nathaniel West. Try as she might, her attraction to Nathaniel West grows. She also meets a visiting American, Hilton Warner. As both men shower her with attention, Nicola reaches a crisis. She came to Australia expecting to be a governess, but finding love, and being married, shows how empty her life has been since her parents' death. Her achievements at the Governess Home are vital to her. Can she have both? To reject both men would relegate her to spinsterhood, but if she makes that choice, would her career ever be enough to sustain her?

Nat shook the sweat from his eyes, ducking his head and weaving to the side, making sure he kept his shoulders and fists up high to protect his chin. From the corner of the chalked square, he made out the old hunched-back man, who stood and, holding the brass bell aloft, rang it heartily three times. Cheers and shouts went up, there was a surge towards the fighters but the organiser’s men held the rowdy mass back.
 “Christ man, what’s taking you so long?” Tristan thumped Nat’s back, laughing. “You should have had him in the first minute. The man is lead-footed.”
Nat wheezed the air into his lungs and wiped the sweat from his eyes. “I want to keep out of his reach, he can hit like a hammer.”
“Nonsense, man. He’s like a windmill, arms everywhere.”
“Shut up will you, and get me some water.” Nat closed his eyes for a moment, trying to block out the sight and noise of men baying for his blood. What possessed him to agree to this fight? He was no longer a young man of twenty. It’d been a few years since he celebrated his thirtieth birthday, which should have been enough warning to give up this sort of sport and stick to cricket. He hadn’t been practising in months, and it showed.
Tristan thrust a crude tin cup into his hands and water sloshed over his wrist. “It’s only water, perhaps you need something stronger.”
“Sod off.” He gulped the water down just as the hunchback rang the bell again. Surging to his feet, he berated himself once more in agreeing to this madness. Already his opponent, some dockland fellow with missing teeth, had jabbed him in the ribs, which ached when he moved. Another lucky punch had caught his eye and likely tomorrow he’d have the bruise to show for it.
He raised his fists, keeping light on his feet as he’d been taught as a schoolboy back home in England. His wiry opponent gave a little jab, testing the way it was to be in this round, but Nat was tired of the game. It’d been a spur of the moment decision to enter the square, a desperate need to burn off some restless energy that bedding with his current mistress didn’t do last night.
Weaving, ducking, he circled the opposite man, looking for a way to end the match so he could return to his club and drown his sorrows for another day. He thought of her then, the woman who’d haunted his mind. Nicola Douglas. His blood grew thick in his veins as an image of her face swarmed before him.
He never saw the punch, just felt the intense pain of the other man’s fist hitting his jaw. The impact made him bite his tongue and the stinging pain joined the thudding ache of his face. He staggered, tasted blood. The crowd, mainly all working class, shouted encouragement to their champion and jeered at Nat when he readied himself again.
Anger cursed through Nat and brought him awake and into focus. Thinking of that damned woman had been his downfall. He’d be on his back if he didn’t concentrate.
Uttering a filthy swear word, he pivoted on one foot, danced a side-step and taking the fellow unawares gave him a quick three jab attack that sent the man to his knees. Nat jigged away, hopping from foot to foot at the edge of the square, waiting to see if he regained his feet, but the fellow knew he was beat and surrendered the purse.
Declared the winner by Mr Kent, the organiser, Nat was given the purse of four guineas. The unruly crowd went into a frenzy, the shouts and yelling growing into a deafening roar, as not many had backed Nat. He knew their thinking, a workingman’s strength up against a toff who did nothing but sit around in his club all day. But who’d got the last laugh this time? Little did they know that he enjoyed physical pursuits and had been fighting since he was a small boy. Not many had the better of him.
“Excellently done, West.” Tristan once more thumped his back and gave Nat his shirt and coat. Nat winced, moving his shoulders to ease on the shirt over the wet stickiness of his sweat-soaked body.
“Let’s get out of here.” Nat grabbed the rest of his belongings from Tristan. Now the fight was over, it wouldn’t pay to stay in this rough neighbourhood. The four guineas was hardly worth it really, but then it’d never been about the money, just the sheer joy of beating another. However, today the win left him with a sour taste in his mouth that had nothing to do with the bloodied tongue and lip.
“Wait, I’ve yet to collect.” Tristan disappeared into the press of workingmen.
Nat groaned in frustration. Hanging around would only be asking for trouble. Already he was sensing a change in the atmosphere. He kept his head down but managed to glance around, taking in the situation. Mr Kent was arguing in the corner with five men, all baying for blood. They’d lost heavily by the looks of it. Shrugging on his jacket, Nat walked backwards a bit, heading towards the barn doors and the alley beyond. Damn Tristan, where was he?
“Mr West!”
Nat swung around and waited for Kent to wield a path through the thick of the crowd towards him. “I’ve an appointment, Kent, got to go.”
“Can I book you in for another fight next month?”
“No, not this time.” He wasn’t stupid. Kent had scored a high profit today.
Tristan joined them, hurriedly stashing coins into his bulging pockets like a child stealing sweets. “Nice afternoon’s entertainment,” he said with a grin.
“Let us go.” Nat made for the door, glaring at any man who made eye contact with him. Lord, he was stupid to risk his neck at these back alley fights. If anything happened to him, Frances would be alone.
Once clear of the old barn, he squinted in the harsh sunlight. The squeal of pigs came from the slaughterhouse on the right. He shivered, despite the mild spring warmth of the September day.
“Shall we have a drink at the club?” Tristan replaced his hat as they headed left. 
“I don’t particularly care. I just want to be clear of that lot in there.”
“You think it could have turned ugly?”
“I’m sure of it. Too much money changed hands. Kent has pulled a fast one I think. He’s seen me fight before but that was a new crowd.” As if to justify his words, a shout came from behind them. When Nat turned and saw the dozen or so men spilling out of the barn, yelling fit to be tied, his guts squeezed dread. He turned to Tristan and had to smile at the shock on his face. “Well, friend, I hope you can run fast.” 

Buy for Kindle or paperback from Amazon UK or Amazon USA:

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Virtue of a Governess available now in ebook!

It's new release time for me again.
My historical novel, Virtue of a Governess, is set in the Victorian era and now available in ebook from Amazon UK and USA.

Virtue of a Governess.
In 1867 Nicola Douglas attends a London lecture that inspires her to change her life. With no family, but a good education, she boards a ship to Australia with high hopes of a fresh start in a new country as a governess. But Sydney is full of young women with similar hopes and equally poor prospects. When Nicola is at her lowest, she meets Nathaniel West. Try as she might, her attraction to Nathaniel West grows. She also meets a visiting American, Hilton Warner. As both men shower her with attention, Nicola reaches a crisis. She came to Australia expecting to be a governess, but finding love, and being married, shows how empty her life has been since her parents' death. Her achievements at the Governess Home are vital to her. Can she have both? To reject both men would relegate her to spinsterhood, but if she makes that choice, would her career ever be enough to sustain her?

Amazon USA - Kindle

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

An Adventurous Lady by Anne Brear, free short story.

Free short story is available on my publisher's website, An Adventurous Lady, set in 1922. If you've read my other short stories on the Knox Robinson Publishing website, you'll notice characters appear from the other stories.
Blurb: London 1922. Lady Alice Mayton-Walsh has always been a free independent spirit, a woman ahead of her time. She has always been a risk taker, grabbing life with both hands and living it to the full after the premature death of her new husband in the Great War. With wealth and position, having travelled the world, Alice boldly defied convention and created, Sheer, her women’s magazine to rival Vogue, but despite always getting what she wants, she finds that her life isn’t as complete as she expected it to be.
Vince, a family friend, and an asset to Sheer, reveals plans to marry an heiress to save his family’s fortunes, the news shocks Alice. She knows he is throwing away his life by marrying a woman he doesn’t love, and what’s more, she realises that she wants more than just friendship with him, but is it too late? Can she bravely put her heart on her sleeve and win over Vince to her way of thinking?
Download for free:

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Day Embroidered is released.

Well, it's a special day in the calendar for me as my historical novel, The Day Embroidered is released today.
It's always a great feeling knowing that your book is now out there in the world for readers to purchase. However, it is also a scary time because you want the book to do well and be enjoyed. Obviously you can't please everyone, there will be people who won't like the story for whatever reason, but hopefully, the majority of those who buy my book get what they want - a good read and a few hours of entertainment. If that happens, if I can transport the reader to another era, another lifestyle and give them engaging characters and a good story, then I'm happy because it means I've achieved my goal.

Anyway, enough rambling, let's get down to the reason of this blog post, the book, and the celebration of its release, which is not an every day occurrence, and should be enjoyed as the special occasion it is.
So, without further ado, behold The Day Embroidered!

The Day Embroidered blurb:
1899. A life altering event led Catrina Davies to hide from her family and society. Alone in The Highlands she exists in a lonely world cared for only by her saviour, a kind old gentleman. When she receives a surprise visitor, Travis Millard, the man she used to love, her head and heart are thrown into turmoil. Travis is determined to save her from this poor life and return her to her family where she belongs. No one is more surprised than he when she agrees to marry him. When Catrina arrives back at her family estate, Davmoor Court in Yorkshire, she is stunned to see the changes. While her father clings to life, Davmoor is nearly ruined by her brother's gambling obsession, and there is something strange about his new wife. As Catrina adjusts to her regained position in society and being with Travis, her marriage comes under attack from Travis's grandmother, who has her own secrets and reason for loathing the Davies family. When one of her brother's adversaries comes to stake his claim on the estate, the resulting chaos threatens not only Catrina's home, but the very lives of those she loves the most. Can she find the strength to fight once more for the right to be happy?

Available in ebook or paperback:
Amazon USA and Amazon UK and at The Book Depository, which always has good deals and free postage around the world. It's my favourite place to book shop! 
It currently has 25% off my books, including The Day Embroidered! Good value.

 So, here's to raising a glass to the success of The Day Embroidered and to myself on my newest release. Cheers!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


Severn House
Feb. 28th 2013
ISBN 978 0 7278 8272 1

 I'LL GET BY is the final book in the Tall Poppies/Secrets and Lies trilogy, a saga that features the women of the Elliot family.

 Meggie Elliot is a young woman of above average intelligence, and on the brink of adulthood. Living with her aunt and uncle in London at the outbreak of World War Two she’s set her heart on pursuing a career in law. She is encouraged in this by her solicitor – a man she develops a crush for. Too old for her, he lets her know it.

When world war 2 breaks out, in a burst of patriotism she joins the WRNS to do her bit for the war effort. Sent to work in a decoding unit she meets the dangerously exhilarating young aristocrat, Nicholas Cowan, who sweeps her off her feet. But she suspects him to be the man who burgled her aunt's home, something he doesn't deny. To expose him would ruin a lot of lives, including her own, for she has no proof. Against all reason Meggie and Nick begin to fall in love. 

Meggie asks Nick if he'll use his influence to discover if her brother-in-law, a pilot who is missing in action is still alive. Nick stages his own rescue mission and risks his own life to bring the man home.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Mapping it out

When writing a historical novel, research is naturally a vital instrument in making the story rich in detail and as authentic as possible to the reader, sweeping them up and transporting them back in time to a place that is as true to the real thing as we, the writer, can make it, then allowing the reader's imagination to take them the rest of the way.
Part of my research that I find very important and enjoyable is studying maps of the areas I set my books. I have spent hours pouring over the smallest details on printed maps that I've managed to find drawn from the eras I write. By having maps of those eras at hand, I am able to send my characters down the correct roads, across the right rivers, and climb the named moors and mountains of the area. To my characters, who have lived in that area they need to know the places, roads and rivers as well as if they actually lived there, as do I.
A good map will always be of valuable use to a writer, and in turn, that information will be of great benefit to the story and hopefully make it more enjoyable and real for the reader.

For example, in my book The House of Women, which is set in Leeds, West Yorkshire, I have found maps of 1870 to help me get a feel of the area my characters would travel.

The House of Woman, example:
The rumble of the carriage wheels sounded loudly in the slum quarters of the town. A half moon shone in the star-littered black sky, etching the town in long shadows. They passed revellers and private parties where the light and noise spilt onto the street, but the chill of the cloudless night kept most indoors. Too many of the town’s inhabitants, New Year’s Eve was an ordinary night and tomorrow’s start of another year gave them no cause for celebration. Nothing was going to alter their circumstances, no matter what the year date proclaimed.
A tomcat’s cry rang out through the narrow lane as Doyle assisted Grace from the carriage. Back-to-back hovels lined either side of the lane. She lifted her skirts from the sludge-covered stone flags.
‘This way.’ The messenger showed them towards an archway between the houses. No glow of light filtered from windows to help them to find their way through the cut. Its limited width forced them to walk single file. The short passage opened onto a square yard bordered by rundown houses that seemed to lean against each other for support. Even in the shadowed gloom, the filth and waste was visible. A lingering stench assaulted their noses, making breathing unpleasant.
‘Your aunt lives here?’ Grace was alarmed to think of the dapper Mrs Bates living amongst such conditions.
‘No, she lives a few streets away, she covers the whole area,’ the man replied, opening a door. He waited until they were beside him in the dark stairwell. ‘This is a place where people go who’ve a penny to spare for a bed.’
‘A penny for a bed.’ Grace shook her head as they followed him up the rickety stairs to the next landing. There, he paused, before opening another door and stepping back to allow Grace and Doyle to enter on their own.
‘Oh my…’ Grace breathed. She stared at the bunks of beds lining the walls and grouped in the middle of the room. Women and children lay huddled together; some coughed the phlegm cough of the dreaded tuberculosis. Few spoke in low voices, but most slept letting their weary bodies get what rest they could. As Grace passed the beds, those awake clutched at their meagre belongings thinking they might be stolen.
‘Put your handkerchief to your nose, Grace.’ Doyle muttered. ‘I hate the thought of you within the confines of this hideous house.’
A single lantern, suspended from a beam, issued a weak light. Grace walked on. Her eyes, now accustomed to the dimness, picked out Mrs Bates at the end of the long room. She hurried to her side, only to stop short upon seeing the figure on the bed. Stifling a cry, Grace bent low to stare at the woman on the bottom bunk. Mrs Bates is wrong. This cannot be Letitia.

The House of Women can be purchased in paperback or in ebook formats from various places such as Amazon USA and Amazon UK.