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Cover Love . . . With Cass Grafton

Posted on 7th August, 2020
Today I am delighted to welcome Cass Grafton to my blog. Cass is one of my fellow Sister Scribes and is here today to share her Cover Love for one of her books.

 

Covers have become such a complex part of my publishing life of late. I’m what’s known as a hybrid author, in that some of my books are with a publisher and others are published by me, and a few of those books have had three different covers over the years.

 

This is mainly because my publisher (Canelo Escape) has the digital editions and I’ve retained the paperback versions, so between them producing new eBook covers and me updating the original paperback covers to reflect the newer styling—a work in progress, with four new paperback updates coming this month—there are almost too many covers to choose from.

 

To further complicate the cover love, I write in three distinct sub-genres of romance: historical, time-travel (co-writes with Ada Bright) and contemporary. It’s almost like having to pick one favourite from your all-time most-loved period movie versus a comedic TV series or a modern rom-com!

 

In the end, however, the decision became easy. Earlier this year, I released my first contemporary romance with the publication of The Cottage in a Cornish Cove, and as I finally, for the first time in several years, have matching covers for both the ebook and paperback editions, it wins for me.

 

 


 

It’s received fabulous feedback and was also the recipient of the Cover of the Month award from ‘Chill with a Book Awards’ back in March.

 

That’s all down to the designer, of course. Mary Jayne Baker (of oliphant-services.co.uk) did an excellent job of capturing everything I wanted the cover to say, even though she admitted she’d never been to Cornwall.

 

We had a lot of fun creating the cover, with several exchanges along the lines of:

 

Me: Can you add a black cat?

MJB: Of course; and would you like a boat in the water?

Me: Yes, please! Ooo, you added a lighthouse, I love it, especially the little one on the spine!

 

I’m sure Mary Jayne won’t mind my sharing that she admitted to having a thing for lighthouses! There were shutters taken off the buildings—and a few put back on again; there were trees uprooted and trailing plants added to buildings until finally the finished look was achieved, and I’m as much in love with it today as I was when I first saw it.

 

The Cottage in a Cornish Cove is an uplifting story about love, dreams and first impressions, and although Anna, the main character, is looking out to sea on this cover, lost in those dreams, Heathcliff the cat is staring fixedly at the reader as if to say, what are you waiting for? Doesn’t this cover make you want to jump right in and start reading?

 

I really hope it does!

 

 

* * * *

 

Blurb:

The Cottage in a Cornish Cove is a heart-warming tale of discovering all you never wanted is exactly what you need.

 

Orphaned as a baby and raised by uncaring relatives, much of Anna Redding’s happiness as a child came from the long summer holidays spent with an elderly family friend, Aunt Meg, in the charming village of Polkerran.

 

With Aunt Meg’s passing, Anna is drawn back to the West Country, relocating to the Cornish cove where she was once so happy. Filled with memories, she hopes to perhaps open a B&B—and perhaps cross paths with Alex Tremayne again, a local boy she used to have a major crush on and who only had to walk past Anna to make her heart flutter.

 

Settling into her new life, and enjoying her work for the older, reclusive and—to be honest—often exasperating Oliver Seymour, Anna is delighted when Alex reappears in Polkerran and sweeps her off her feet.

 

The stars finally seem to be aligned, but just as Anna thinks all she’s ever wished for is within reach, a shock discovery brings everything under threat, and she realises she’s living a dream that isn’t hers to hold.

 

Can Anna rescue the new life she has made for herself and, when the testing moment comes, will anyone be there to hold her hand?

 

 

* * * *

 

Cass’s links:

 

Cass's author page on Amazon   

 

Her blogs:

cassandragrafton.com

tabbycow.com

 

Her author page on Facebook  

 

Her Twitter page

 

 

 

Cover Love . . . With Maddie Please

Posted on 31st July, 2020

This week I am delighted to welcome Maddie Please to my blog. Maddie lives in Devon, where she writes contemporary romantic comedies. Reviews mention her "engaging writing style and page-turning plots peopled by wonderfully memorable characters" and her "deft touch and great turn of phrase, making you chuckle at every turn of the page."

 

Today she is here to share her Cover Love for one of her books.

 

* * * *

 

I’ve had lovely book covers on all four of my published books. The first three were a cute, distinctive style and I was happy with all of them, although I did have slight doubts about the second one, where the heroine was depicted riding a bicycle. And there isn’t a bicycle anywhere in the story.

 

I queried this with my editor and was told it was a metaphorical bicycle. So I left it there.

Then for the 4th book, Harper Collins decided to change the house style and came up with a striking design that initially I liked and then had doubts about.

 

The story focussed on two successful writer sisters, Lulu Darling and her sister Jassy Sutton who decide to take a mini-break in the depths of Dartmoor in order to stimulate their writing mojo. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that neither of them is in the slightest way equipped to deal with the reality of life in the country; poor internet connection, solitude and mud.

 

The first cover Harper Collins offered seemed to me to belong on a story about a beach holiday. Beach bag, flip flops, sunglasses. It didn’t work for me although I loved the idea and particularly the colour scheme which I thought was ideal. I’ve always liked pink!

 

Lulu begins to realise there is more to life than an endless round of parties and socialising with other celebrities, a U-turn which is in part prompted by her growing friendship with local farmer Joe Field.

 

The turning point is when Lulu buys some chickens, so it seemed to me that there should be a chicken on the cover and happily Harper Collins agreed. The result was everything I could have hoped for. It adds such a touch of humour and I love how the chicken is pecking curiously at the book on which it’s standing.

 

Spot the difference!

 

Some readers commented that it was more ‘grown-up’ than the previous ones, others that they didn’t like how the style had changed! You can’t please everyone!

 

* * * *

 

Book blurb:

 

Lulu has it all; a romance writer at the height of her career, she can often be found attending glittering parties or spending time with her good-looking, health-fanatic boyfriend Benedict.

 

When writer’s block strikes, she welcomes a mini-break to Devon which proves just the tonic she needs. But on her return to London, she finds Benedict has been up to no good, and her perfect life is suddenly no more.

 

Will escaping back to the countryside be the answer? Or will life become even more complicated when Lulu runs into handsome, brooding farmer Joe?

 

A funny, feel-good read that will take you on a trip you never knew you needed.

 

Have you packed?

 

Perfect for fans of Zara Stonely and Heidi Swain.

 

* * * *

 

Maddie Please's links:

 

Her author page on Amazon   

 

Her Twitter page  

 

Maddie's website  

 

Her author page on Facebook

 

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Cover Love . . . With Kitty Wilson

Posted on 24th July, 2020

This week, I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow Sister Scribe, the lovely Kitty Wilson, who is here to add her voice to the Cover Love series.

 

Kitty is the author of the Cornish Village School series set in the seaside town of Penmenna. With five books in the series, and five very pretty and appealing covers courtesy of her publisher, Canelo, which book is Kitty going to choose as the one for which she feels that special Cover Love. . .?

 

* * * *

 

When Susanna asked me to write about my favourite cover for this series, I got desperately excited as I am very fond of my covers and the way they work together. They please me aesthetically all lined up in a row and please my business brain as they are a clear brand that, hopefully, promises the reader a comforting, warm read about a school and its place in the community.

 

Then I realised I had no idea which cover was my favourite.

 

The first book in the series, Breaking the Rules, should rightly win the title. It was my first published book so symbolises the point where I turned from aspiring author to published writer. I was in the village pub when I first saw it (hmm, I know, just a quick workday break) and showed everyone there, no-one was allowed back to their pint until they had cooed over it. So that should be my favourite. But…it’s pastel and while pastels are lovely and this book cover is awesome, it can’t be my favourite as I’m a strong colour palate kinda woman.

 

 

My favourite colour is green, so surely that makes Christmas Wishes a shoo-in. All that lovely green and red, and I adore Christmas, am absolutely potty for it and that cover made my heart so happy. I loved it to pieces. But, still not my favourite.

 

 

Summer Love, the third book in the series is sunshine and bunting and summer in Cornwall. The colours are bold and bright and conjure up the tone of the book perfectly with it featuring two of my peppiest characters in the main roles, but when I think about it, it doesn’t win the title.

 

 

The last book of them all is Happy Ever After, it’s where the characters from the very beginning eventually tie the knot and where I was able to give the absolute gorgon of the series, Marion, her very own story of personal growth and a happy ending. It was the toughest to write, it featured a heroine in her forties (yes!) and is probably my favourite book of the lot, but it is not my preferred cover.

 

 

Which leaves us with Second Chances, the second book in the series and an utter firework extravaganza with a bold deep purple on the cover. Purple is my least favourite colour in the world, followed closely by orange (I know, I’m an odd one). But still, this cover with its explosion of fireworks filling the night sky, this is my favourite. I love it. I think it is so vibrant, so alive and packed full of colour and perfectly conjures up Bonfire Night. My publishers did a little gif when they first released it - I am terribly blasé about them now - but at the time I played it and played it and played it like an adolescent girl mooning over her first crush.

 

 

 

I think though, what makes this cover extra special to me is that on publication day I was staying with my writer friends, Susanna is one, in a townhouse in Bath where they presented me with a giant cake with this beautiful, very purple cover on it and filled me full of champagne for breakfast. This may have coloured my judgement.

 

 

But still Second Chances, despite being purple and orange and only having a little bit of green on it, reminds me of the power of friendship every time I see it. This is the cover closest to my heart.

 

* * * *

 

 

Kitty Wilson's author page on Amazon  

 

Her Twitter page  

 

Her Facebook page

 

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Cover Love. . . With Rosie Hendry

Posted on 17th July, 2020

This week, I'm delighted to welcome a new visitor to my blog - the saga author Rosie Hendry. Before she became an author, Rosie had careers in both teaching and scientific research. She has written a four-book series about the East End Angels - women ambulance drivers in London during the Second World War - as well as a series about land girls. Her latest WW2 series is about pregnant mums who are evacuated from London to Norfolk.

 

Today, as part of my Cover Love series, Rosie shares a book cover that is dear to her heart - and she has plenty to choose from!

 

 

* * * *

 

It’s so hard to choose a favourite cover, but Victory for the East End Angels, just wins, not only because I love the look of it, but because of what it represents to me. Victory is the fourth and final book in the East End Angels series, and over the four years of working on the books; living with the characters, going through their ups and downs in wartime London, finally coming to the end was a bittersweet time. It was wonderful to see the girls story completed, but at the same time I knew I was going to miss writing about them. And I do!

 

To me this cover sums up all that I went through writing the books, the many hours of researching, plotting, planning, writing and editing and creating the world of Ambulance Station 75 and all the characters. It feels like a celebration of all that as well as the culmination of Winnie, Frankie and Bella’s stories.

 

The origins for Victory’s cover started before any of the book covers for the series were designed, as the photo shoot for all four books was done at the same time. I was sent pictures of a selection of models who matched the descriptions of the three main characters in the books, and had to choose which ones I thought best fitted them.

 

Unlike a lot of the services, the Auxiliary Ambulance Service crews didn’t get their uniforms until sometime into the war, and I asked my publisher to reflect that on the covers. So, on the covers for the first two books in the series, the girls are dressed in normal clothing, while the final two have them wearing ambulance crew uniform. I supplied my publisher with details and photographs of the uniform to make sure it looked right.

 

It’s always nerve-wracking when an email arrives from my editor with the cover attached, but I was thrilled with this one. I love the image of the three girls, arm in arm, the best of friends having gone through so much. Victory’s cover always makes me smile, and I hope it does the same for readers, too.

 

* * * *

 

Blurb

As the war comes to an end, can the East End Angels keep the home fires burning?

 

 

Frankie's fiancé, a doctor, is away looking after the troops in Europe - will he return safely home?

 

 

Winnie has a happy secret - but can she carry on at Station Seventy-Five when she's going to have a baby?

 

 

Bella is intrigued by her new friend, a Polish airman.

 

 

As the war ends and victory is in sight, what next for the girls of Station Seventy-Five?

 

 

* * * *

 

 

Rosie's

 

My website is https://rosiehendry.com/ where readers can sign up for my newsletter and a free ebook of short stories.

 

Follow me on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/RosieHendrybooks/

 

Twitter - @hendry_rosie  https://twitter.com/hendry_rosie

 

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rosiehendrywriterbythesea/

 

 

My Favourite Authors: My First Favourite.

Posted on 10th July, 2020

To intersperse with my Cover Love series of guest blogs about authors loving a particular front cover of theirs, I am today starting a personal series concentrating on my favourite authors. I have had a different favourite author at different times in my life - and the very first author to claim that position was, unsurprisingly, Enid Blyton.

 

I loved her books almost to the exclusion of books by other writers.

 

Yes, I did read books by other children's writers - though not many.

 

In particular, I remember reading The Hundred and One Dalmations over and over again one rainy summer holiday and loving it just as much every single time. . .

. . . . and I enjoyed books by Mabel Esther Allan as well.

 

I also remember a book called Emma and the Awful Eight, though I can't remember who wrote it.

 

But the author I unquestionably loved the most was Enid Blyton. I started off with Noddy books and books of short stories (Tales of Toyland, The Enid Blyton Book of Fairies etc), then moved on to her circus stories and adventure stories. The two adventure series I enjoyed the most were the ...of Adventure series (The Ship of Adventure, The Mountain of Adventure, etc) and, of course, the Famous Five. You either loved the Secret Seven or else you loved the Famous Five.

 

 

 

Talk about wish fulfilment. Enid Blyton had the most remarkable imagination.

 

I adored her boarding school stories as well and they inspired me to write my own boarding school books when I was at primary school. Although I loved the St Clare's stories, my favourite series was Malory Towers because there was a book for each of the forms Darrell and her friends were in, which appealed to my sense of completeness.

 

Enid Blyton had a thorough understanding of children's feelings.

 

 

I remember reading First Term at Malory Towers and getting to the part where Darrell slaps Gwendoline for ducking Mary-Lou, whereupon Katherine orders Darrell out of the swimming pool and she goes storming back to school.

 

"Hateful Gwendoline! Horrid Katherine! Beastly Malory Towers!"

 

I've never forgotten that line. It stopped me in my tracks. I remember thinking: She knows how it feels to be a child.

 

And that was what made Enid Blyton such a wonderful writer.

 

 

 

Cover Love . . . With Kirsten Hesketh

Posted on 3rd July, 2020

Today I'm delighted to welcome Kirsten back to my blog.If you are a long-time visitor, you'll know her well.

 

She is joining in the Cover Love series to tell us what it was like when she saw the cover of her debut novel for the first time.

Like all authors, I was curious - no, make that on tenterhooks - to see the cover for Another Us. I’ll also admit to a certain amount of trepidation.

 

I’ve run my own marketing company for over twenty years and, as such, I know exactly how crucial packaging is to the marketing mix. Get that wrong and, no matter how good the product, the whole thing can fall apart and never reach its full potential. In other words, everyone says don’t judge a book by its cover – but then everyone does exactly that! But that wasn’t what I was worried about. Having worked with Canelo for the past few months, I’d already learned that their marketing instincts are spot on. I knew that whatever cover I was presented with would have been carefully briefed to maximise impact and sales.

 

But supposing I didn’t like it?

 

Even if the cover helped to propel the book to a bestseller banner, Another Us is still my baby and I wanted it to look … right. Authentic. True to itself.

 

I needn’t have worried.

 

 

It took a brief moment to marry reality with anticipation - for some reason I had been convinced there would be a boat on there – but then my reaction was simply ‘of course’. There they were, my lovely characters. Emma and Daniel, whose marriage is under strain, are standing with their backs to one another and Jack, unwittingly one of the causes of that strain, is standing between them looking quizzical.

 

That’s the story.

 

How could the cover have been anything else?

 

And it’s red! I love red! I love it so much that I dyed my hair red to match the cover on launch day in order to raise money for Mind!

 

Are there things I would have done differently? If I had been brave enough, I might have suggested Jack was facing the front – oblivious to all the drama – or facing his mum as the main protagonist. But then others have interpreted Jack facing his Dad as looking for reassurance and clarity – and I can see that that makes sense.

 

Happy days!

 

xx

 

* * * *

 

 

PS. If you'd like to see Kirsten with her red hair . . . .

 

 

* * * *

 

 

Kirsten's links - and her publication day cake...

Kirsten's Twitter page     

 

Her Amazon author page    

 

Her website and blog  

 

Her Facebook author page

 

                                   

 

July 1st is National Northern Authors Day and I'm celebrating my northern roots and Mancunian stories with a prize giveaway over on Twitter, so those of you who use Twitter, get over there straight away and join in!

 

Here's the link to my page: https://twitter.com/SusannaBavin

 

The two books I am gving away are signed paperbacks of The Deserter's Daughter and The Surplus Girls, written as Polly Heron.

 

 

 

There are two separate giveaways. All you have to do is retweet the relevant tweet(s) and follow me if you haven't already. Please note, there is a separate tweet for each book.

 

You'll need to scroll down a short way.

 

The tweet for The Surplus Girls giveaway has this photo. . .

 

 

. . . and the tweet for The Deserter's Daughter giveaway has this picture:

 

 

The give away closes at midnight on July 1st, BST. Good luck!

 

 

Cover Love . . . With Jane Cable

Posted on 26th June, 2020

This week I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow Sister Scribe Jane Cable to my blog to continue my Cover Love series by sharing one of her own book covers.

 

Jane writes contemporary women's fiction that mixes recognisible and compelling situations with romance and a twist of mystery. Her new book, Endless Skies, will be published on July 27th.

* * * *

 

When I first saw Sapere Books’ cover for Another You, I cried. I remember it now; I was sitting on the sofa on a Sunday evening and it popped into my inbox. And I cried.

 

I am not generally a weepy person but I just knew as soon as I saw it whoever briefed the designer knew the story inside out. The soldier walking away, head bent, summed up my character Paxton so perfectly – a proud man broken by war. The concrete blocks on the beach stretching out into sea not only brought to mind D-Day, but also the Dragons’ Teeth stretching through the dunes at Studland where the book is set.

 

Another You was a reissue and even although the original cover was quite good the woman on it was not Marie. Marie would never have worn a mini skirt and hat. On the Sapere book she has a simple cotton dress, something I was sure I would have found rummaging through her wardrobe. Perhaps her hair was blonde not black, but I was still doing my final edits at the time so it was a detail easily changed.

 

I started life as an indie author and had a great deal of input into my covers, but none had been as perfect as this. It boded well for my relationship with my new publisher. They understood the book as well as I did. And I suppose that was what made me cry.

 

* * * *

 

ANOTHER YOU

 

When the present is unbearable, can you be saved by the past?

 

Marie Johnson is trapped by her job as a chef in a Dorset pub and by her increasingly poisonous marriage to its landlord. Worn down by his string of affairs she has no self-confidence, no self-respect and the only thing that keeps her going is watching her son turn into a talented artist.

 

But the sixtieth anniversary of a D-Day exercise which ended in disaster triggers chance meetings which prove unlikely catalysts for change. A charming American soldier walks into Marie’s life, but it becomes clear nothing is really as it seems.

 

Could the D-Day re-enactments be stirring up something from the past? Or is the answer to Marie’s problems much closer to home?

 

* * * *

 

Jane's links:

 

Her author page on Amazon    

 

Jane's Twitter page  

 

Her author page on Facebook  

 

 

This week, I'm delighted to welcome to my blog Juliette Lawson, whose debut historical novel, A Borrowed Past, has been described in reviews as having "captivating descriptions, strong narrative and relatable and believable dialogue" and "clever storytelling that never becomes predictable".

 

Before she turned to writing fiction, Juliette wrote non-fiction books under the name Julie Cordiner. Here, she tells us how she made the change.

All my life I’ve been a logical left-brained accountant, with my creativity more or less limited to knitting and sewing. My first attempt at writing came out of the blue in 2011, when for no apparent reason I volunteered to produce a parish history book to support my church’s Restoration Appeal. Luckily it was successful, and I loved the experience so much that I decided to try my hand at a novel. I started to learn writing craft through books, festivals and courses, and worked on a draft of a historical saga, but my work as an Assistant Director of Education was incredibly busy, so I abandoned it.

 

Fast forward to 2018; I’d become an independent education funding consultant and had published two non-fiction books for school leaders. But the ambition to write fiction was still niggling at me, so I decided it was now or never. I dug out my draft, finished the story, then sought a manuscript assessment from the lovely writer/editor Stephanie Butland. Her ideas for improvements were excellent, and I attended her writing retreat in February 2019, which was inspiring. Our last activity was to make a writing manifesto:

h

 

 

I embarked on the re-write but found it hard to create the emotions and character arcs I knew it needed. Nonfiction was easy by comparison! It became obvious that I needed to dig deeper and release the creativity which (I hoped) was lurking inside me.

 

How did I do it? Mainly by changing my mindset. I created a different persona for my fiction, not only in the sense of a pen name, but in my preparation for writing, by carving out time for activities that stimulated my creativity. I joined a regular creative flow practice (meditation and free writing) led by Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). She has a blog post which explains more: https://www.ornaross.com/morning-creative-flow-practice/. The Facebook sessions aren’t live now, but there are lots of replays.

 

My busy mind found meditation tricky at first, but gradually learned to go deep. Free writing helped me resolve plotting dilemmas and strengthen characterisation, by posing and answering lots of questions.

 

Indie author Joanna Penn https://thecreativepenn.com talks about ‘filling the creative well’. I started taking regular walks on the beach nearby, and I bought an annual pass to Durham Botanic Gardens so I could visit regularly to walk, take photographs, and write, enjoying nature throughout the seasons. Location sparks my ideas, so I loved my research trips to York, Scarborough and Whitby. Here’s my blog page with two recent articles about Scarborough: https://juliettelawson.com/category/blog/

 

My next step was to find a mentor to guide me through the re-write. She provided invaluable support and challenge and without her, I doubt I’d have finished the book.

 

I reinvented my writing process too, rising early for creative flow practice and getting my words down first. An app called Brainwave puts me in the writing zone instantly; it mimics the brain’s activity, overlaid with sounds from nature (I like thunderstorms). I made a personal commitment to write every day, ticking off the days until I had completed my pre-edit draft. Writing in a different place also helped: in parks, coffee shops (pre-Coronavirus), libraries, and in the garden. Here’s my garden set up for the deepening stage of my editing!

 

 

 

At last, in February 2020, I published ‘A Borrowed Past’, and I’ve been delighted with the reviews. I’m about to publish a fourth nonfiction book and will then return to my partial draft of book two in the Seaton Carew Sagas series; I can’t wait!

 

I’m sure my success in awakening my creativity has come from being intentional about developing it and making time to relax more. I am so glad I persisted.

 

Links:

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/095745791X

Ebook: https://books2read.com/u/3yEEq6

Website: https://juliettelawson.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliettelawsonauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/juliette_author

Reader Club sign up: www.subscribepage.com/a7f7t3

 

 

 

Where I Wrote ...

Posted on 11th June, 2020

It's time for another Where I Wrote . . . blog. This week, I'm ging to show you where I wrote a scene from A Respectable Woman. It's the scene where Nell visits the Fairbrothers' house for the first time.

 

Next to the pier in Llandudno, there is a small bay, whih happens to be my favourite place in the world. To get into it, you go down a flight of stone steps. The bay is all shingle and rocks. I sat on the rocks here to write this scene.

 


 

Here is a picture of the little bay as seen from the pier when the tide is in.

 


 

And here is the scene . . .

 

* * * *

 

The Fairbrothers’ front door stood beneath a protruding porch at the top of a flight of stone steps. To either side was a vast bay window, above each of which was another bay; and above those was a floor with ordinary flat windows. You could get the population of Wilton Lane in this house and still have room to wriggle.

    Nell knocked. The door was opened by a maid wearing a black dress not unlike an Ingleby’s dress, only she had a bibbed apron over it, and a white cap.

    ‘Good morning. Mrs Hibbert to see Mrs Fairbrother.’

    ‘I shouldn’t think so,’ was the blunt reply.

    Be professional. Nell kept her smile in place. ‘She’s expecting me. I have an appointment.’

    ‘I’ll see if madam is home. Wait here… please,’ she added at the last moment, and flounced away.

    Ridiculous: as if she didn’t know whether her mistress was in. Nell turned to admire the garden. Imagine having a garden that size. It must be a lot of work, but the Fairbrothers wouldn’t care about that. They would employ a gardener. The lawn was a square with four paths leading into the middle, creating four smaller squares. In the centre was a fountain, with spray spurting from a fish’s mouth. Sunshine caught the water, transforming it into a shower of diamonds.

    The door swished and she turned back to the maid.

    ‘You’re here to see madam’s lady’s maid, Miss Preston. Round the back.’

    The door shut, leaving her stranded. No point being vexed. No time either. Her appointment was for ten o’clock and if she didn’t find this Miss Preston in two minutes flat, she would be late. She ran down the steps and found her way to the back door. It was standing open on this fine June morning. She knocked and walked in.

    ‘...the front door, bold as you please, and asked for madam herself – oh, look who it isn’t. Visitor for you, Miss Preston.’

    ‘Thank you, Daphne.’

    A middle-aged woman with an oval face above a double-chin rose from the pine kitchen table. She wore black with white collar and cuffs – did everyone in the lower orders wear black with white? It was the uniform of the respectable working woman; Nell had run up a black-with-white dress for herself. Miss Preston wore a narrow black belt and Nell caught a flash of silver hanging from it that brought to mind housekeepers in novels, who carried the keys of the house about their person, before she realised the objects included a pair of scissors and a small box, like a cigarette case, only it must contain pins and needles.

    ‘Mrs Hibbert? How do you do? I am Miss Preston, lady’s maid to Mrs Fairbrother. I’m sorry about Daphne’s manners. She picked up some unfortunate ways in the munitions.’

She gave Daphne a look; Daphne gave her one right back.

    Miss Preston led the way upstairs by a back route into a room with a child’s bed – but what a bed! A four-poster, only not a four-poster; a two-poster, if there was such a thing, with an arch of delicate voile over the head of the bed; and a coverlet that cascaded in lacy frills to the floor. Nell would have given five years of her life for Cassie a bed like that. Mind you, the little minx would probably use the posts for climbing practice and build a nest in the fabric at the top. Even then, it would be worth it. Any mother would think so.

    ‘This used to be the nursery,’ said Miss Preston.

    ‘Used to be?’ Nell wrenched her gaze away from the fairytale bed.

    Miss Preston sounded amused. ‘Miss Roberta hasn’t slept here for a long time.’

What did she have now? A real four-poster? With a wooden chest at the foot, crammed with toys and puzzles and dolls with real hair and eyes that shut when you laid them down?

    ‘Here comes Miss Graham, who is Miss Roberta’s maid.’

    Nell exchanged nods with the newcomer. The young miss was grown-up enough for her own maid. Sixteen? Seventeen?

    ‘You’ll be teaching both of us,’ said Miss Preston.

    ‘I see,’ said Nell. Start the way you mean to go on: by making money. ‘If you’re both to have supervised practice, our sessions will have to be longer.’

    ‘That will be satisfactory,’ said Miss Preston.

    ‘Shouldn’t you ask Mrs Fairbrother?’

    Miss Preston’s eyes showed understanding. ‘Please don’t worry about your bill not being paid.’ She said it kindly, not as a put-down.

    ‘I’ll show you the basics of the machine and we can talk about what you want to make.’

    ‘We shan’t be making clothes,’ said Miss Graham in a snooty voice.

    ‘Mrs Fairbrother and Miss Roberta are dressed by Mademoiselle Antoinette,’ Miss Preston explained.

    ‘Mademoiselle Antoinette’s is one of the most exclusive salons, if not the most exclusive, in all Manchester,’ added Miss Graham.

    ‘I see,’ said Nell. ‘So you’ll be..?’

    Did Miss Preston smother a sigh? ‘In the attics, there are trunk upon trunks of old garments of the highest quality but hopelessly out-of-date. Mrs Fairbrother wants to adapt some of them into new garments.’

    ‘It was Miss Roberta’s idea,’ said Miss Graham. ‘She thinks that because styles today require less fabric, it shouldn’t be difficult to make use of the old stuff.’

    Really? This young girl was dressed by Mademoiselle Antoinette, and she still wanted more clothes? Miss Roberta was beginning to sound like a spoilt brat. Just wait until she got home and told Leonie.

    ‘We know how to mend and do alterations,’ said Miss Graham. ‘All we need from you is a lesson on how to use this machine.’ She eyed the Singer with dislike – and wariness. Another of Miss Roberta’s ideas?

    ‘I’m afraid it’s not as simple as that,’ said Nell. ‘You have to know how to use it for different fabrics. I used to work in a garment factory and believe me, you wouldn’t set a beginner to work on velvet. But don’t worry: there’s nothing to be scared of.’

    ‘I’m not scared.’

    But she was. Nell had seen the uncertainty in her eyes.

    One thing soon became clear. Teaching the two ladies’ maids side by side was a clumsy arrangement.

    ‘Instead of longer shared lessons,’ she said, ‘I suggest separate sessions.’

    Miss Preston agreed. ‘Could you do two two-hour lessons next time? We’d provide luncheon, naturally.’

    ‘I have my diary with me.’ Nell spoke calmly, though fireworks were going off inside her. What a start to her venture.

* * * *