My Most Borrowed Book

Posted on 23rd April, 2021

You may have heard of PLR - this stands for Public Lending Right. It means that each time you borrow a book - whether it's print, audio or electronic - from the public library, the author earns something. So do the readers and producers of audiobooks, as well as book illustrators. The PLR year runs from July 1st until June 30th. This meant, for example, that when my first novel, The Deserter's Daughter, came out on 22nd June 2017, it spent one week in the PLR year 2016 - 2017.


At the close of each year, PLR puts together every author's/narrator's/illustrator's statistics and early in the following calendar year, you receive your statement, followed in due course by your payment.


The latest complete year was July 2019 - June 2020, the final three months of which saw libraries being closed because of the pandemic.


Of my books, the one that was borrowed the most inthat year was The Sewing Room Girl, my 1890s saga about lost love, the struggle for independence and the long shadow of the past.




Here is the review that appeared in the Historical Novels Society magazine:


This story is as much about English Northern grit as it is sewing, with needles a-plenty! Victorian teen Juliet Harper is already “a competent little needlewoman” who can design and fabricate all manner of garments. She aspires to become a top seamstress running her own fashion salon, but circumstance, family and others consistently conspire to hinder her progress with malice and violence. Whatever did she do to deserve such treatment? “There was nothing wrong that darned hard graft wouldn’t get them out of.” This mindset, however, exemplifies Juliet’s steadfast resolve, which underpins a narrative that whirrs along like a well-oiled treadle sewing machine. The finished article’s eclectic cast enables us to explore child labour, male authority, women’s rights, adult responsibility and various abusive behaviours including what’s now known as ‘grooming’.


A strong illustrative examination of the greatest shame of all, those born out of wedlock in the late 19th century, runs throughout. Threads of love and loyalty constantly cross swords with hate and treachery. Never far from the surface, the latter are always ready to pounce when Juliet least expects. Nevertheless, she continues to search for that which every seamstress, indeed every human, requires: “good light.” Just how she stitches together the attitude, strength and bravery it will take to transport her from village slops maid to pursuing her dream is a tale told well. Noticeable, too, is an appealing and authentic nod to the natural world in almost every outdoor scene, whether country path or town garden; skies are the blue of harebells or cornflowers, the year’s turning is described through a variety of wildflowers, shrubs and trees that blossom then fade as the seasons pass. Prepare for yearnings, spite, redemption and sewing, with a nice touch.


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The Sewing Room Girl on Amazon 


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