After losing her beloved family in the Great War, Nell is grateful to marry Stan Hibbert, believing that with him, she can recapture the loving family feeling she has lost. Five years on, she is just another back-street housewife, making every penny do the work of tuppence and performing miracles with scrag-end. When she discovers that Stan is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start elsewhere.


Two years later, in 1924, Nell has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbours believe she is a respectable widow, as do her fellow-workers in the garment factory where she is a talented machinist. Even her children believe their father is dead. Nell lives for her children and tries hard not to fall in love with Jim Franks, the handsome window cleaner who does so much to help her. After all, she is really a married woman.


When a figure from the past turns up, Nell has to face a court case. Will the respectable life she has fought for be enough to allow her to keep her children or will her lies mean she will lose them forever?


* * * *


A Respectable Woman was chosen as one of the Most Enjoyable Reads of 2019 on the Waggy Tales book blog. Louise Capper, who runs the blog, said: " Lovers of historical fiction will adore this book. I can't recommend it highly enough. Susanna Bavin has quickly become one of my favourite authors."


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The audio version of A Respectable Woman is read by Julia Franklin, who read The Deserter's Daughter.


Here is a short clip of the beginning of the story.


You may also enjoy this short clip in which Julia explains why she loves reading audiobooks.



This is the cover of the large print edition, published by Magna.

More About A Respectable Woman:


To find out more about the plot and characters, click here to read two more blurbs I wrote for the book. See which of the three blurbs you like the best.


To find out more about Nell as a person, and what makes readers warm to her, click here.





To find out how Nell, the heroine, came by her name, click here. Why the picture of books by Victoria Holt? Click the link and find out!

Places in A Respectable Woman



Edge Lane


This is an old photograph of Edge Lane. On the left hand side, you can see the trees that edge the grounds in which stands St Clement's Church.


On the other side of the road on the right, and further down (it would take you five minutes to walk that far), is where Mrs Randall and Mrs Marsden live in the story; and where Nell helps look after the girl when she is knocked down.


There were lots of trees along Edge Lane. Here is the start of the accident scene in Chapter 16.


"The foliage overhanging the garden walls on Edge Lane was young and fresh. Jim pushed his barrow, enjoying the variety of greens shifting in the breeze, the deep green of the horse chestnut complete with its candles of white flowers, the glossy green of the laburnum with its fluid tassels of golden blooms, and the bright green of the good old beech. That exhausted his knowledge of trees. He ought to learn more, just as he had learnt the names of the wildflowers on the meadows. Living this simpler life had given him the time to discover an interest in nature."


Market Street



This picture shows Market Street, where Nell finds work at Ingleby's.


Here is the descritpion of Nell entering Ingleby's on her way to her interview:


"Nell sucked in a deep breath before walking into Ingleby’s. The ground floor sold ready-made garments for the well-to-do middle-class: pretty day-dresses and smart evening wear, warm coats for motoring and cool linens for sports; the sort of garments Nell made at the factory, fines fabrics and attractive styles that weren’t for the likes of her. A notice on the wall informed her that Drapery and Haberdashery were to be found on the first floor. Below it, another notice invited her to visit ‘our new Sewing Machines Department.’


Beside a caged lift stood a uniformed lad, but today of all days was a time for sticking with what she knew, so she went up the stairs into an Aladdin’s cave of ribbons, braids, beads and buttons. It would be a joy to linger and explore, but she saw a sign for the Sewing Machine Department and wove her way towards it, her heart speeding up."




Publishers Weekly

"Escaping one’s past is at the heart of this endearing historical romance...Bavin’s character-driven narrative, peppered with colloquial dialogue, rings with authenticity... The sweet attraction between [Jim] and Nell give the story heart, while Bavin’s finely sculpted cast of secondary characters, most of whom are struggling with postwar poverty, give the story true substance. The focus on historical and emotional authenticity will leave readers heartily satisfied."


Booklist Online - website of the American Library Association

"...complete with a jaw-dropping twist near the end, this is a well-crafted novel with a strong, compassionate lead character and a splendid sense of time and place."


Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays

"As the pages turned I was outraged at the treatment of women in the 1920s and desperate to know how Nell would resolve her problems... Susanna Bavin’s first book The Deserter's Daughter kept me awake until the small hours as I was so keen to find out what happened and A Respectable Woman was no different.  If you love a saga this is a book for you. If you don’t classify yourself as a saga lover (and I don’t), the themes and the twists of the story will have you hooked."


You can read the full review here.


After the Rain Comes the Sunshine

"With her second book Susanna Bavin has cemented her place as one of the country’s leading family saga writers. Following the success of her debut, The Deserter's Daughter, it must have been quite a feat to come up with a story equally as good but, in my opinion, she’s produced something even better.... From the first page, Susanna pulls you into the backstreets of 1920s Manchester so that when you’re done you’ll be wanting to scrub your front doorstep and send your children out to play in the street with their mates (although no noisy games on a Sunday).

...Then there’s the villain. Susanna seems to have a particular skill for conjuring up nasty pieces of work and Edmund is up there with the best of them. Thinking about him still makes my blood run cold..."


You can read the full review here



Waggy Tales Book Blog  

"A few weeks ago I read Susanna Bavin’s latest novel and I was so blown away by the amazing storytelling that I just knew I needed to read more from this author.... There is an amazing supporting cast and her friend Leonie’s story is equally captivating. Of course, there has to be a villain and some of Edmund’s actions literally sent chills down my spine. The historical content is accurate and shocking, it highlights just how hard and unjust it was for women in this era. There is a warmth, kindness, and humour about this story that just stole my heart and the children just made me want to reach inside the pages to give them a huge hug.... Lovers of historical fiction will adore this book, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Susanna Bavin has quickly become one of my favourite authors."



Books And Me Book Blog

"I'm a recent convert to the genre of Sagas and if they're all going to be this good then I'm glad to have finally started reading them! I found this to be such an enthralling read that I had to read it in one sitting and have taken the character of Nell to my heart..... The more you find out about him (Edmund) and how he treats his own family, the more it made my blood boil!!.... You always find yourself cheering Nell on in her battles but always fearful that the attitudes of the time would go against her.... There were some vile characters in this book that were brilliantly described, and the character of Posy was just a delight - the author really captured the children in this so well! Naive in many situations, but wise beyond their years in others and their storylines really added extra depth to this story of triumph over adversity."