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A Wow of a Book

Posted on 11th August, 2022

This week I'm sharing my review of The Drowned Village by Norma Curtis and the first thing I want to say is - wow! So much plot packed into just 250 pages - and not just plot, but emotion and vivid characterisation.

 

 

 

This atmospheric and beautifully-written book is a dual-time love story with the present day at the beginning and the end, and the past sandwiched in the middle.

 

In a letter to her readers at the end of the book, Norma Curtis says: "There are many things in our lives that get covered over as time passes," and this is the theme that runs throughout the book, seen in the choices made by various characters years ago, and also in the build-up to the flooding of the village of Capel Celyn, a village whose occupants were forced to leave so that it could be flooded and turned into a resovoir to provide water for Liverpool.

 

The writing is warm, honest and compassionate as the author explores her characters' deepest hopes and fears in this tale of lost love, long-held regrets and the search for happiness.

 

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Blurb:

Based on an incredible true story... How could a once beautiful and lively village just disappear?

Britain, 1954.The Second World War has ravaged the country, and for years families had been forced to go without to help the war effort. Even in the tiny stone village of Capel Celyn – where time seemingly stands still in the lush beauty of the surrounding hills – the war has left behind empty tables and broken hearts. But then the residents learn that their beloved village is at risk of being taken from them, and in the most shocking way imaginable. Who will be brave enough to save it?

Present day. Al Locke, retired Navy Captain, sets off up the well-worn track through the valley, towards the pretty village of Capel Celyn, determined to find the girl he once loved. Elin Jenkins: the dark-haired Welsh beauty he was going to marry after the war… until tragedy tore them apart.

But what he finds in that silent valley is a mystery greater even than their own. The village, once lively, is underwater. A shimmering ghost town in the depths of a vast lake. How can he find Elin when all trace of her has vanished? And will she be capable of forgiving him for his part in their tragic loss?

 

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The Drowned Village on Amazon  

 

 

 

One of the Joys of Being Maisie.

Posted on 5th August, 2022

Just a quick blog this week, as I simply want to show off a photograph. One of the joys of writing as Maisie is that I get to be consulted over each book's cover picture, which is a real delight to me and something I never case to be grateful for. It's unusual for an author to be allowed the level of input that I'm given.

 

When a model has to be chosen to be one of the characters, I'm always asked to provide details regarding colouring and appearnce as well as more personal details - such as, with Joan, I specified that she should have a young-looking face.

 

With the cover of Courage of the Railway Girls, which comes out in October, I was also asked about what the three models should wear. There is always a choice between the character's own clothes and her work clothes.

 

And so we come to the photo. I'm delighted to show you the dresses that the three cover characters will be wearing on the front of Courage.

 

Isn't that one in the middle utterly gorgeous?

 

 

 

 

Welcome to a new series called Why, why, why, in which I ask an author three 'why?' questions. Jane Cable, aka Eva Glyn, is here to answer the first set of questions.

 

As Eva Glyn, she is the author of emotional women’s fiction inspired by beautiful places and the stories they hide.

 

I love the three questions Susanna has asked me, because the answers throw a spotlight on the relationship between author and editor and how important it is to the publishing process. My editor is Charlotte Ledger at One More Chapter, and having met her at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference in 2019, she signed me with a completely different book a year later.

 

 

WHY EVA GLYN?

My real name is Jane Cable and under that name I self published my first two novels and now have a deal with Sapere Books, for whom I write romance with one foot in the past and a ghostly twist. The ghostly twist is important, because it was the one thing Charlotte did not want from me. So when I suggested I use a pseudonym for my OMC books, it’s fair to say she was enthusiastic, although she also made it clear the choice was entirely mine.

 

I had always thought I would take one of my grandmothers’ names. The gran I knew and loved was known a Hettie, although the name on her birth certificate was Esther. However my father’s mother, who died before I was born, was Eva, and that resonated with me.

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The surname was a harder decision. I thought about using my mum’s maiden name, or a family name of my dad’s, but while I was pondering I had a revelation. In fact, it was almost as though my parents were nudging me. Both had been close friends with Welsh novelist and poet Glyn Jones – in fact, on the morning my mum died we’d spent some time reading his poems. Suddenly it seemed the obvious choice.

 

WHY CROATIA?

Initially this was driven by my second book for OMC, The Olive Grove. In 2019 I went on holiday to Croatia and our tour director, Darko Barisic, told us about growing up in Bosnia during the Balkan war in the 1990s. His story was one of the most moving I had ever heard and afterwards I asked him if he would mind me putting it into a book. But I knew it had to be the right book, for the right publisher. Luckily Charlotte loved the idea too.

 

My first deal with OMC was for two books and when it came to discussing a new contract I presented Charlotte with three ideas, one of which was set in Croatia. It was a dual timeline looking back to a single shocking incident during the Second World War and she loved it. This was published as An Island of Secrets (Charlotte titles my books, by the way – I’m useless at it) and there is a third Croatian tale on the way for the summer of 2023.

 

 

So there are two main reasons for staying in Croatia. From my point of view it’s a country with so many stories to be told and is constantly inspiring. I also have Darko to help make sure my Croatian characters and their lives are authentic. But the second reason is author brand. It sounds cold and hard, put like that, but it’s actually about readers knowing what to expect when they pick up an Eva Glyn, which I hope is an emotionally gripping story that will whisk them away to a beautiful Mediterranean location.

 

WHY CHANGE FROM THE PRESENT TENSE?

When I first started to work with Charlotte I asked her what her editing process was and she told me it was however I wanted to play it. Given The Olive Grove was the first book I had written for her I decided to submit a partial manuscript of around 30,000 words, in the main to check if I was actually writing the book she thought she’d acquired. The structure was the same as I my first OMC book, The Missing Pieces of Us, with two first person narrators, one in the present tense, but Charlotte didn’t think it was working and very politely suggested I might like to think about going into the third person past tense instead.

 

Now when an editor suggests something like that, you do it. And Charlotte was right; it changed the feel of the book and seemed to somehow allow me a different sort of depth. It’s really hard to explain but it seems to be working.

 

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Eva Glyn's links:

Her author page on Amazon  

 

Her author page on Facebook  

 

Her Twitter page  

 

 

 

 

Following on from my review of A Maid's Ruin by Lynne Francis in last week's blog, I'm delighted this week to welcome Lynne herself.

 

One feature of her book that I loved was the vivid descriptions of the various locations and Lynne has written a piece to introduce the various places that inspired the novel.

 

A big thank you to Susanna, for inviting me to write a guest post for her blog.

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I write historical sagas, set mainly in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and have completed two trilogies: one set in Yorkshire, the other in Kent. Place is key in all my novels – it’s usually a visit to a location that sparks an idea for a story, or an element of a story. Then a character or two pops into my head, and off I go!

 

 

The inspiration for the first book in The Margate Maid trilogy, A Maid’s Ruin, came when I visited particular streets in the seaside town of Margate, east Kent, to discover where my own family members had lived in the early 1800s. One of my ancestors had owned a cow barn and sold milk, and Molly, my main character and a dairymaid at the start of the book, was inspired by this discovery.

 

Amongst all the research I did to imagine what life might have been like back then, I looked at etchings and paintings. William Turner, the artist, had stayed and studied in that location at the same time, and painted St John’s Church, the big church local to my ancestors, when he was only around eleven years old. This led me to create the opening scene of the novel, in which I imagined Molly meeting the young Turner. Two other early paintings of the area by Turner inspired me to create scenes in the novel ­– one of two ladies outside a shop in the High Street, another of the rather wonderful Dent de Lion.

 

 

 

Margate harbour, seen today, is very different from the way it would have looked in Turner’s time – but the skies and the light are still exceptional.

 

 

Gardens are key locations in all three books of the trilogy: in A Maid’s Ruin, Charlie is initially a gardener at the poor house, where he is visited by the young Molly on several occasions. I love walled gardens, which would have been predominantly kitchen gardens in the past. The one shown here is at Mt Ephraim, near Faversham – Charlie’s garden would have grown far more food than flowers.

 

 

 

There is a fascinating set of underground tunnels in the heart of Margate, their walls encrusted with over 4 million shells in ornate patterns. Known as the Shell Grotto, its history is shrouded in mystery. I paid the Grotto a visit and it, too, found its way into my story, playing a key part in the development of Molly’s infatuation with her cousin, Nicholas.

 

An unexpected development in the early stages of writing the story came on a trip to the Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square, London. The very moving information I found there about the Foundling Hospital, set up by Thomas Coram in the mid-1700s in Lamb’s Conduit fields, sparked an idea for a development in the story, which led Molly on a journey to London.

 

 

 

 

Poring over an old map of London from the era, and imagining Molly moving through the streets, I found the Apothecary’s Garden on the bank of the Thames in Chelsea. It’s now the Chelsea Physic Garden, somewhere I had visited some years previously. Out of that grew the idea for an important scene and location in the latter part of the novel, where Charlie comes across Molly in unexpected circumstances.

 

The end of the novel takes us back to Margate and to the Woodchurch Manor estate, which is loosely based on Quex House and the Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington, east Kent.

 

 

The garden there which is such an important location in the next two books, is an amalgamation in my head of many of the beautiful gardens I have visited throughout the UK – this one is Goodnestone, which Jane Austen used to visit.

 

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Lynne Francis grew up in Yorkshire but studied, lived and worked in London for many years. She draws inspiration for her novels from a fascination with family history, landscapes and the countryside.

 

Her first saga series was set in west Yorkshire but a move to east Kent, and the discovery of previously unknown family links to the area, gave her the idea for a Georgian-era trilogy. Lynne’s exploration of her new surroundings provided the historical background for the novels, as well as allowing her to indulge another key interest: checking out the local teashops and judging the cake.

 

When she’s not at her desk, writing, Lynne can be found in the garden, walking through the countryside or beside the sea.

 

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Lynne's links:

Lynne's author page on Amazon   

 

Lynne's Twitter page

 

Lynne's author page on Facebook  

 

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The Coming-of-Age Story at its Best

Posted on 15th July, 2022

This week it's a great pleasure to share my review of a saga I loved reading - A Maid's Ruin by Lynne Francis.

 

 

 

This thoroughly engaging and enjoyable story follows the fortunes of young Molly Goodchild, a dairymaid whose life is one of unrelenting hard work. She dreams of better things, but this doesn't mean she isn't a practical person, well versed in the demands of everyday life and family responsibilities. One of the things that makes her so likable is that while she is definitely ambitious, she also has a certain naivety which is very appealing. Unfortunately for her, this is what also leads to her downfall.

 

I was enormously fond of Molly. She is a naturally strong character who shows both determination and tenacity in the face of adversity, but at the same time, her youth and inexperience make her vulnerable. I found her utterly believable and I rooted for her all the way.

 

This emotional and dramatic story is set in Georgian times and Lynne Francis has filled the pages with period detail and beautfully written descriptions of the various settings. A lot of research has gone into this book, adding vibrancy, immediacy and depth to the telling.

 

This is the coming-of-age story at its best.

 

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Blurb:

Margate, 1786. Dairymaid Molly Goodchild dreams of a better life. Up at the crack of dawn to milk her uncle's cows, the one comfort of her day is her friendship with apprentice gardener, Charlie.
 
When dashing naval officer, Nicholas, arrives in town, Molly's head is turned by his flattering attentions and she casually spurns Charlie - believing this is her chance to escape a life of drudgery. Yet when Molly needs Nicholas most, he lets her down.
 
With her hopes in tatters, Molly is forced to flee Margate for London, where she finds herself struggling to survive.
 
What will she risk in her search for a better life? And will she ever find the love she deserves?

 

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Amazon links:

A Maid's Ruin on Kindle and in paperback

 

Kobo link:

A Maid's Ruin as an ebook  

 

 

Cover Reveal for New Beginnings

Posted on 8th July, 2022

It is a huge pleasure to show you the cover of the forthcoming Surplus Girls book, New Beginnings for the Surplus Girls. Isn't it gorgeous? The designer is Justinia Baird-Murray at Head Design.

 

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New Beginnings for the Surplus Girls can be pre-ordered from Amazon here. The Kindle price is £2.39 and the paperback is £7.99. If you order in advance and then the price goes down before publication, you will pay the lowest price.

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Blurb:

Manchester, 1923. Jess Mason is determined to make her own way in the world. When she's appointed manager for Holly Lodge, a new home for old soldiers, she must convince the owner that she can run things just as well as any man - if not better.

To everyone around him, Tom Watson seems a cheerful and sociable man, but he has secretly vowed to go through life alone. However, when he takes on the renovation of Holly Lodge and meets Jess, the walls he has built around himself start to crumble.

As the opening of the new soldiers' home proves to be less than straightforward, Jess must fight tooth and nail to hold on to her precious new role. And with her affections for Tom growing stronger by each day, she can't help but wonder if there is room in her life for both love and the career she's always dreamt of.

Some 'Miracle' News

Posted on 30th June, 2022

 

This week, I have two pieces of news to share with you regarding book 6 in The Railway Girls series, A Christmas Miracle for the Railway Girls, which comes out in October.

 

 

The first is that Miracle was featured in The Bookseller, which is the journal of the book trade in the UK. They were runnning a piece called Northern Powerhouse about forthcoming books set in the north.

 

 

 

And the next is that the proofs have arrived and I am working on them at the moment. At this point, the book is still on the computer, but now it looks like the finished thing. It is always such an exciting moment seeing it like this for the first time.

 

 

 

 

Miracle will be published on October 13th. It can be pre-ordered here.

 

 

 

Five Years On ...

Posted on 24th June, 2022

 

This has been a special week for me. Five years ago, on June 22nd 2017, The Deserter's Daughter, was published.

 

Five years on, and with twelve books now out there and more in the pipeline, it's lovely to look back on how it all started.

 

Here I am opening my very first box of author copies, which arrived a couple of weeks prior to publication day. I wore that silly grin all day long! This photo made my editor laugh - she said Alf was letting the side down by not looking interested.

 

 

 

And on publication day itself, my friends presented me with a marvellous bouquet, including an S in pink roses, some cotton-wool 'flowers' made by the florist (cotton = Manchester, the setting for the story), all housed in a genuine 1920s mixing-bowl to reflect the time the story takes place.

 

 

Here are a few of the reviews that I'm especially proud of:

 

"A strong and powerful family saga which kept my attention from start to finish." (Jaffa Reads Too)

 

"Powerful, complex... a delicious saga and an excellent read for fans of historical famiy novels featuring strong female characters." (Norther Reader)

 

"What a corker of a saga it is! ... At one point I was holding my breath and eager to turn the page to read what heppened next." (Boon's Boocase)

 

"Nuanced, believable characters... along with an absorbing and colourful narrative." (After the Rain)

 

 

Here is The Deserter's Daughter on Amazon.

 

 

Last week I shared my review of Tania Crosse's The Street of Broken Dreams. This week, I am delighted to welcome Tania to my blog so she can tell us where the inspiration comes for for her riting in general and The Street of Broken Dreams in particular.

 

 

With fourteen historical novels under my belt, I am often asked where I get so many ideas from. I often wonder myself, but it does appear that I have been blessed with an exceptionally fertile imagination. I even have the occasional totally unexpected flash vision that gets my mind working. But as an experienced author, I’m also well aware of the ingredients that make for a magical novel, and much of that requires a great deal of thought and exercising of the old grey matter. Engaging characters with natural dialogue, a gripping story with sub-plots that weave around the main theme, maybe a secret or an adversary, and most definitely oodles of inner conflict are all essential.

 

My main source of inspiration, however, is a mix of location and personal experience. Each of the ten books in my Devonshire series set out to illustrate in fictional form different aspects of the fascinating history of West Dartmoor and the surrounding area. I simply allowed myself to imagine what it would really have been like to scrape a living from the moor in the past, but the savage beauty of the moor itself is part and parcel both of my characters and the passions that shape them.

 

The same is true of the new Twentieth Century sagas I wrote for Aria Fiction. The first mini series comprising Nobody’s Girl and A Place to Call Home was inspired by a visit to Winston Churchill’s home of Chartwell, where the great man himself spoke to me in a vision. And the two books in my Banbury Street series are definitely inspired by both location and personal experience, as I lived there myself as a small child many decades ago.

 

 

The Candle Factory Girl is set in the 1930s and is based around Price’s Candle Factory that was just down the road, although many other childhood memories also came into the story, the creepy railway arches at Clapham Junction Station being one example. The second book in the Banbury Street series, The Street of Broken Dreams, is set at the end of the Second World War, and as such is much closer to the period when I lived there. I remember well the camaraderie among the neighbours, which I hope to have conveyed in this second tale.

 

The main plot of what happens to Cissie in the opening prologue was inspired by a true wartime incident which fortunately failed to develop into the terrible ordeal she suffers. The person in question was a nurse making her way home late at night after her shift, but I sought a different reason for the circumstances. I decided to make my main character a dancer walking home after a performance, since dance has been a life-long passion of mine.

 

 

I first began ballet classes when I was four years old and living in Banbury Street. Later, we moved to Surrey, and I started at a new dance school. At this point, there was nothing I yearned for more than to attend tap and modern classes as well. Just like Cissie, though, my parents couldn’t afford it.

 

When I was eleven, we moved again. After a spell at ballroom school, I insisted on returning to ballet, and my mother took me along to Miss Doris Knight’s to assess which grade to start me in. In later years, my mother admitted to astonishment at how much I knew. As for myself, I recognised what a brilliant teacher Miss Knight was, little realising this was to become a life-long friendship.

 

I studied under Miss Knight until I went to university. I was never going to be good enough to audition for the Royal Ballet School, but I loved my dancing with a passion. Miss Knight only produced a show every two years – but my, were they shows! Her husband, Mr Lightowler, was a conductor. So when it came to the main performance, we were accompanied by a full orchestra at – wait for it – prestigious Wimbledon Theatre. Which is why it features in the book!

 

I was lucky enough to do three shows with Miss Knight. I was seventeen at the final one, and danced the role of The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Miss Knight choreographed a wonderful solo for me. I remember leaping across the stage to a dramatic score, black cloak swirling around me. I felt as if I was flying, putting everything I had into that dance, and received a roaring applause. That moment was the pinnacle of my dance career, so I know exactly how Cissie feels when she performs to Tristan and Isolde in the book – even though her career continues to flourish and mine did not!

 

After university, I returned to Miss Knight’s for three years until my husband’s job took us sixty odd miles away to live in the country. My one and only regret was having to leave Miss Knight’s. However we corresponded regularly for over thirty years. When I began writing, she was a huge fan and bought every one of my books.

 

Sadly, in her late eighties, she was diagnosed with Parkinsons. She knew I hoped one day to write a novel about a dancer set possibly in the 1940s, and told me all about her wartime experiences in a repertory company which inspired Cissie’s career in my story. I so wish she had been alive to read it for herself, but her friendship and all that she taught me will remain in my heart forever.

 

My own ballet days are long over, although peek through the window and you might catch me spinnning a few posé turns across the kitchen floor. So throw into the melting pot my love of dance and the street where I lived, and sprinkle with imagination dust, and you will see why The Street of Broken Dreams is probably closer to my heart than anything I have written before.

 

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Tania's links:

 

The Street of Broken Dreams on Amazon  

 

Tania's other books on Amazon   

 

Tania's Twitter page   

 

Tania's Facebook page

 

A Rich and Compelling Plot

Posted on 10th June, 2022

As you may remember, I always have two books on the go - a print book and an audio. Recently I've been listening to The Street of Broken Dreams by Tania Crosse, which won the 2020 award for Romantic Saga of the Year.

 

The audiobook is read by Emma Powell and produced by Magna Story Sound.

 

 

The Street of Broken Dreams is set at the end of the Second World War and concerns two families in London, the Parkers and the Cresswells. Each family has a daughter with secrets and troubles. Mildred Parker is awaiting the return of her soldier fiancé, but is very aware of the way she rushed into getting engaged. How well do they really know one another? And how does she really feel about him? Meanwhile Cissie Cresswell has a dark secret that overshadows her life.

 

After a disturbing and harrowing opening scene, the book quickly draws the reader into the goings-on in the lives of the two families and the story is awash with period detail that brings the setting to life. Alongside the developing friendship between the two families, there are the daily problems of wartime and post-war life. 

 

Writing with compassion and honesty, Tania Crosse tells her story with sensitivity and atmosphere backed up by thorough reseach. The plot is rich and compelling, the characters well-rounded. This is an engrossing tale.

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Emma Powell narrates the audiobook of The Street of Broken Dreams with warmth and clarity, switching seamlessly from character to character. Her voice has a very slight huskiness in it that makes it appealing to listen to and she captures the essence of this story perfectly.

 

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The Street of Broken Dreams on Amazon   

 

The Street of Broken Dreams on CD, MP3 & in large print 

 

Tania Crosse on Twitter