Saturday, February 10, 2018

Inspiration For All Our Tomorrows

Why did the Yanks come to Cornwall? The river valley and creeks of Fowey were well defended, as they provided a relatively secure place to hide munitions which the enemy would more likely expect to find in Plymouth, surely never thinking to look in this secret, wooded hideaway. The docks, from where the ammunition was shipped and the china clay dispatched, were guarded around the clock, with nobody allowed in without a pass. There were guards stationed in the Pillbox at Whitehouse, and Albert Quay had tank traps across the centre with barbed wire along the seaward edge, as did many of the beaches. In addition, at St. Catherine’s, closer to the mouth of the river, there was a gun point, and one on the opposite side at Polruan.

The navy came first with their minesweepers and Z boats, armed trawlers and motor gunboats, swiftly followed by the RAF, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, plus many units doing jobs nobody quite understood or dared question. Situated as the town was, relatively close to the Channel Islands and to France, the movement of the French fishing fleet within these waters was common place, and who knew what they were up to half the time? Hush-hush boats, they called them.

 All my interviewees remembered the American soldiers with great affection, how they were great at throwing a party for the children, and Santa Claus would arrive in an army truck loaded with sacks full of presents, one for each child. The local girls clamoured to get to know them, as do the two sisters in my story. For fun, they went dancing to the Armoury, up near the doctor’s surgery, or to the flicks, which was near Berrill’s yard. So many lovely memories were told to me.

 Sara is asked if she would help organise the school children into collecting bagfuls of seaweed. This was a special commodity which the coastal towns of Cornwall could provide, being a variety known as gonothyraea, used in the making of penicillin. Janet, one of my interviewees remembers doing this as a girl – I think she quite enjoyed the excuse to miss school. By December Sara has been co-opted onto the War Weapons Week committee where plans were in progress for a major fund-raising event the following year. They also had something called Salute the Soldier Week.

In reality the town raised tens of thousands of pounds to buy boats and equipment although they had no real idea what operation was being carried out in Cornwall before their very eyes. They collected vast amounts of salvage, old magazines, letters, books and paper of every sort. Tin and other scrap metal, rags and bones. Jam jars, bottle tops and old iron bedsteads. Apparently the pavements were piled high with the stuff. The council paid 10 shillings a ton to the St John Ambulance for each ton of salvage they received. And all this from a population of no more than 2,000 living in 600 houses.

So many memories, of rationing and making do; colour prejudice, fights and love affairs; Fowey Home Guard who once sank the boat they were towing upstream; French Fishing boats and Secret Operations; the huge camp up at Windmill; the wounded being brought home on soiled and stinking mattresses and nursed back to health in lovely quiet Fowey; school children competing to collect the most salvage and being told off for straying under the coils of barbed wire.

There were tragedies, of course, much pain and suffering, fear and trauma, and no one will ever forget those brave men. But most of all we like to remember the good times, and the spirit that is essentially Fowey. So what was all the army efforts in aid of? Operation Overlord. The master plan for an Allied invasion of Europe. Everyone knew that something was going on, but nobody dared speak of what they saw or knew. Edna, another of my interviewees, remembers being brought from her bed as a young girl, and told this was a moment in history that she must see. We all know the heavy toll of their victory in reality. What it brings to the lives of my characters, I’ll leave you to discover for yourself.


Excerpt: 
‘Ships filled the River Fowey, so many that you could have walked from one shore to the other without getting your feet wet. A living mass of men and machines, seething with activity and noise: a throbbing, whining, whirring and rattling; a clattering of gas masks, canteens and weapons, and the endless chatter of hundreds, packed tightly into every corner, waiting for the order to leave. 

Hour upon hour they waited, cold and damp, sick to their stomachs with apprehension and fear, in full combat gear, weighed down with equipment. The loading had been done chiefly at night, scores of vehicles driving straight onto the LSTs; thousands of foot soldiers directed up the gangway and counted on board. 

It was June 4 and they left later that night but by the following day were driven back by the weather to spend yet another night in harbour. After all these months of preparation, all the careful planning and organising, the fate of Operation Overlord appeared to be at the mercy of the elements. There was a storm brewing and if the weather did not improve, there would be further delays. 

Twenty-four hours later the decision finally came. This time for real. On the night of June 5 they left the safe waters of Fowey, Falmouth and the Helford River, and all the other ports along the south coast for the last time and headed out to sea. Operation Overlord was underway at last.’ 

‘An enthralling wartime page-turner.’ Historical Novel Society Review 

Available in books shops and online.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Friday, January 12, 2018

Evacuation Of Children in WW2

It began the first day of September 1939 due to the threat of bombing. Parents were expected to pay 6s per week. Those who were not so well off were charged less and assisted by the government and people taking in evacuees were paid around eight shillings or as much as sixteen, according to the age and needs of the children. Billeting officers helped find them foster homes. Some sent out by Operation Pied Piper at the outbreak of war, involving over a million children being moved to the countryside within just a few days. More were sent in 1940 when the phoney war was over and bombing really started.

Indication of the official return was sent out in May 1945 but permitted until the war was completely over in the east. Not all children chose to come when instructed to do so. Megan, in Peace in my Heart, much preferred to stay with the landladies she thought of as their kind and caring aunts, having lived with them for three years. This was very often the case. Some children hardly recognised their parents, looking and feeling like strangers, not having seen them for years. This was often because they had little memory of their parents, felt they’d been neglected and abandoned, or simply loved their surrogate parents more. Coming home often didn’t seem much fun.

The parents were devastated when they found little show of affection from the children they’d badly missed. And many had lost loved ones for whom they were grieving. In this story Cecily and Megan discovered that their home had been bombed and had no idea where their mother was living, or even if she was still alive. Evie was, but finding her children was equally difficult, as was locating a new place for them to live. And when they found them, would they ever agree to come home and would they still their mam and dad?

Settling in with their family after years away was never easy and adjustments had to be made by all. For some the place they’d been living during the war had been exciting, and they found it difficult to return to their previous life they considered more boring. Their personality too had changed as they’d gradually grown up with caring people in a different area. However, if they’d suffered problems as an evacuee, perhaps been overworked, neglected or abused, they ceased to trust anyone. Sometimes their class or religion could be considered wrong by their surrogate parents. Whatever problems they suffered could result in them feeling rife with stress and anxiety, depression or obstinacy. Nor had they any wish to discuss these problems with their parents, once they returned home, not wishing to recall what had happened. Evacuation had saved lives but in many cases did create yet more problems for the family.


 The war is over and Evie Talbert eagerly awaits the return of her three children from their evacuated homes. But her carefree daughters and son are barely recognisable – their education has been disrupted, the siblings split up, and the effect on them has been life-changing. Her son has developed serious behavioural problems and with her daughters, there’s jealousy and a nervous disorder that cannot be explained… 

Evie’s husband also has problems. Having returned from being in action, he suffers nightmares and fits of rage. He’s no longer the gentle, quiet man Evie married. Peace may finally be here, but Evie’s family is in shreds. Now she must rebuild a loving home to achieve the happiness she’s always dreamed of… 

Available at WH Smith and other good Book shops, also online.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A young woman braves remote New Brunswick, by Diane Scott Lewis

In my novel, On a Stormy Primeval Shore, a young woman is sent far from home to marry a stranger and forge a new life in a dangerous land.

During the American War for Independence, or American Revolution, the people who remained loyal to Great Britain were called Loyalists. They were persecuted for not joining the 'Patriots', their homes confiscated or burned, some of the men hanged.

When England lost the war, the Loyalists escaped north to the last held British territory--mainly to the western portion of the colony of Nova Scotia (New Brunswick) below Lower Canada.


My heroine, Amelia, arrives in this remote colony from England in 1784, just after hordes of Loyalists have flooded into a wilderness soon to be renamed New Brunswick. Amelia is to marry a lieutenant chosen by her father who is a captain at Fort Howe situated at the mouth of the St. John River on the Bay of Fundy.

Amelia knows at the grand old age of four and twenty that she's no beauty and will the lieutenant even like her. She's also strong-minded and refuses to be intimidated. Her 'betrothed' turns out to be a "Horrid man!" and she rejects him. Out in the wilderness she is growing fond of, she meets an Acadian man named Gilbert. The Acadians inhabited this colony, once called New France, until the British conquered the territory in 1763, expelling the French for refusing to assimilate. Later, they were allowed to return, but their brutal treatment has given Gilbert a hate for the English. He's also furious that his land might be stolen and given to the Loyalists who now invade and seek restitution from the British government.
The Coming of the Loyalists, by Henry Sandham

 Amelia and Gilbert face many obstacles, prejudices, and turmoil. They also must fight their inappropriate attraction.

On a Stormy Primeval Shore is available on: Amazon
For more on my books, please visit my BWL Author Page
or my website: dianescottlewis.org

Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the word with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Work on the land in World War II

At the start of the war because of the blockade around our shores, there were fewer imports, and farming exports fell. The amount of food people could find went down and people turned their flower gardens into vegetable plots. They would keep hens and maybe a pig too. Women and youngsters would go out each autumn to pick acorns, collecting those that had fallen from the oak trees and use them to feed pigs. Children often had plots at school where, with the help of teachers, they too grew vegetables.

Throughout the war the government maintained good prices and strived to avoid a post-war farm recession, as happened following World War I. Farm labour shortage did become a problem, most men having enlisted. A farmer’s first reaction was to get his wife and children to work with him, being required to produce more food. Eventually an emergency appeal was made to recruit members for the Women’s Land Army. Many had not worked on the land before, some having been hairdressers, shop assistants or simply wives and mothers, so had a great deal to learn. It could be difficult at times for them to cope with the cold and mud of winter, the long hours and heavy work involved in the vital tasks of digging, weeding and ploughing, but the land girls grew proud at being able to contribute to the war effort.

Later, the government allowed German and Italian prisoners of war (POWs) to be used as farm labourers, which is what happens in this story. Were they welcomed, and were there rules that had to be kept? They were often involved in caring for sheep and hens. I too have experienced that when running a smallholding. I found that great fun, if quite demanding and took me a while to learn how to do it.

A friend supplied me with a number of sheep and battery hens, which I could give the freedom to be free-range. Being a lass from the mill towns of Lancashire I barely knew how to deal with them, except for a vague memory of helping my grandfather with his hens when I was a small child. She explained the routine, reminding me to shut them up last thing at night. What she didn’t tell me was how to get them safely into the hen hut. I diligently attempted to pick them up. They ran around avoiding me and I finally fell headlong, catching none on them. I went off to have a cup of tea to puzzle over how to resolve this issue, then saw them forming an orderly queue. Presumably in correct pecking order they hopped through the pop hole and onto their perches. So simple! I used this experience in the story, just for fun.

Despite rationing of raw materials for farm equipment, farmers during the war became keen on new technology. The arrival of the Ford Tractor provided valuable equipment for the task of food production. When the war was over, most of their previous hired labourers did not return to the farm. By then most farmers were much better equipped, having used their increased income to buy machines, so they no longer required anywhere near as many workers.


Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans. Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least is safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil. 

Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation. The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy. 

Available in most good books shops and online.

WH Smith https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/always-in-my-heart/9781474037938

Amazon UK 

Amazon US

Kobo
 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

New Cover!

Eden's Conflict - My Victorian saga has had a revamp.  I felt the old cover wasn't getting the right response from readers. So I worked with Josephine, a graphics designer (JB Graphics) who is wonderful in my opinion, and after telling her about the story and what I envisioned, she came up with the cover you see below.
I love it. Those who have read the story will see how much the cover represents the story as well.

I've asked Amazon, Apple iBook and Kobo, etc, to change their listing to the new cover, which will take a few days or so to filter through online. Hopefully, this lovely new cover will soon be able to be seen by everyone.


Eden's Conflict
Blurb:
1901 - A new century brings change to the carefully ordered world Eden Harris maintains, change that threatens all she holds dear. Despite years of devoted service to the Bradburys, the leading family of the community, Eden hides a secret that would affect them all. When an enemy returns, her world is shattered and her secret exposed. Torn and provoked, she strains to protect her family until a devastating accident leaves her alone and frightened. As the threat against her grows, Eden takes her precious daughters and flees from the only place she's called home, to live amongst masses in York. 
Her attempt to start anew is not so simple as the past haunts her, and the one man she thought lost to her so many years before, returns to claim what has always been his. Eden must gather her strength and look into her heart to accept what the future offers. 
Can she find the happiness she longs for?

Eden's Conflict is available now.
Purchase 
Amazon: myBook.to/EdensConflict
 
 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Secret Purpose of Masques at the French Court.

Catherine de Medici is reputed to have imported the fashion of masques to France from her native Italy, along with works by the Italian dancing masters. Her festivals and tournaments were famously lavish and spectacular entertainments. She spared no expense and employed the finest artists, musicians, choreographers and skilled craftsmen to create the necessary dramas and effects. A highly talented and artistic woman, she took a major role in planning and devising the most elaborate festivities, which she liked to call her ‘magnificences’.

A masque was a tableau or pageant in which the courtiers, often in some form of disguise or costume, would dance and perform. It could be anything from a simple ceremony or procession with torchbearers, to an elaborately staged classical story or mythological fable. They took place at Christmas, Easter and other festivals, would celebrate a wedding, christening or betrothal, or welcome visiting guests to the French court. They might include ballet or other dances, dramatic tales and songs, and even offer gifts to the spectators, often followed by a masked ball. These sumptuous court rituals sometimes incorporated martial sports and tournaments, which Catherine used as a means of allowing her feuding nobles to express their grievances with each other without reverting to open warfare, thereby maintaining her own power over them.

As queen mother of three sons who became King of France, Catherine used her entertainments to dazzle and impress visiting delegates and political leaders, the more fantastic and extravagant the better. At Bayonne she organised a water festival to take place on the river with an artificial whale leaking red wine from a supposed wound, and King Neptune riding his chariot pulled by sea horses. This was her way of showing the strength and riches of France, her adopted country. Her ‘magnificences’ certainly cost an inordinate sum to stage, but Catherine, being the wily operator she was, always had a political purpose behind them. Once her distinguished visitor had been sumptuously entertained, as with the Duke of Alva in Bayonne in ‘Hostage Queen’, the first of my Marguerite de Valois trilogy, she then embarked upon political discussions which, in this case, proved to have dire consequences.

Masques also provided an opportunity for a young lady to show herself off to advantage. Gabrielle d’Estrées in ‘Reluctant Queen’, second in the trilogy, chose the prettiest, most lively ladies of the court to take part in the ballet. She herself, splendidly attired as a queen in cloth of silver and ice blue satin, led the dance and was hailed la belle des belles.

Flirting and dalliance was very much a part of the scene, of which Henry of Navarre, later Henry IV of France, was an expert. The nymph-like figures would often be scantily dressed. In ‘The Queen and the Courtesan’, last in the trilogy, on seeing the King watching her, pretty little Charlotte tossed back her blonde tresses and pirouetted gracefully across the room, then lifting her bow aimed the arrow at the King’s breast. She struck his heart not with the arrow but with love, which was not good news for his official mistress, Henriette d’Entragues.

Henriette, or Madame la Marquise as she was known, has her hopes set on a crown, but is devastated when she hears that Henry IV is considering marriage to the Italian princess, Marie de Medici. The masque, with all its busy hubbub and noise, was an excellent place to involve herself in a little subtle intrigue on how best to rid herself of this rival. But whether it will gain Henriette what she most desires, or lead her into mortal danger is a risk she is willing to take.

Extract: 
Even as she let him peel off her silk stockings and pleasure her beneath her skirts, her mind was busily devising how to dispose of the Italian threat. Assistance soon came in the shape of Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, a son-in-law and ally of Philip II of Spain. He arrived at Fontainebleau on the fourteenth of December with an entourage of his most important ministers and nobles, and twelve hundred horse. Henriette took a dislike to him on sight.
      ‘What a strange little man he is,’ she whispered to her brother as the court gathered in the cold courtyard to receive him. ‘Like an ugly dwarf with that humpback, and over-large head with its abnormally broad brow.’
     ‘Hold your waspish tongue, sister. He is a powerful man, and whatever his deficiencies, rumour has it that he has enjoyed as many mistresses in his time as Henry of Navarre, and consequently acquired as many children.’
     ‘Poor souls,’ Henriette giggled. ‘I trust they do not resemble their father. His head looks like a brush with that great tuft of bristled hair atop it.’
     ‘Be nice to him,’ Auvergne warned. ‘He could be important to us. He bears many grudges against both France and the King. Apart from ongoing disputes about land, he had hoped to marry one of his daughters to Gabrielle’s son, little César, whom, had she lived, would have become the next Dauphin. Now that alliance has been lost, which he sorely regrets.’
     Henriette considered this tidbit of gossip with eager interest. ‘You think he might help us then?’
     ‘It would not be in his interests for the Italian alliance to go ahead as the huge dowry offered might well be deployed by France to start a war against himself. Much of the territory he once captured from the French in the religious wars has now been restored, save for the Marquisate of Saluzzo. We, of course, regard that piece as of great strategic importance to our nation, being situated as it is on the Italian side of the Alps, but he resolutely refuses to surrender it. So guard that virulent wit of yours, sister, and practice more charm.’
     The Duke was given a warm welcome by the King, and made much of with endless balls, jousts, masques and hunting-parties. After a week of this the court moved to Paris where the festivities, many devised by Madame la Marquise herself, continued over Christmas and into the New Year of 1600. Henriette was striving to be agreeable, and to please Henry, which was in her own best interests, after all. She even allowed the Duke to lead her out in a dance, although she returned to her brother’s side with a sardonic curl to her lip.
     ‘I do not care for that odious little man. Small of stature, large in ego.’
     ‘Remember what I told you. Ah, he is coming for you again, now put on your best smile and be gracious.’


Henriette d’Entragues isn’t satisfied with simply being the mistress of Henry IV of France, she wants a crown too. Despite his promises to marry her, the King is obliged by political necessity to ally himself with Marie de Medici, an Italian princess who will bring riches to the treasury. But Henriette isn’t for giving up easily. She has a written promise of marriage which she intends to use to declare the royal marriage illegal. All she has to do to achieve her ambition is to give Henry a son, then whatever it takes through intrigue and conspiracy to set him on the throne.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Monday, October 23, 2017

New review for Anita Davison


A wonderful review from Jennifer Wells for Anita Davison's novel, which is part of her Flora Maguire series.


 USA cover                     
PUBLISHER’S BLURB

Flora Maguire's life is perfect – a beautiful home in Belgravia teeming with servants, a loving husband, and new baby Arthur to enjoy. But when she is invited to tour St Philomena's Children's Hospital in deprived Southwark, she gets a harsh insight into the darker side of Edwardian London.
Shocked by the conditions people are living in, she soon uncovers a scandal with a dark heart – children are going missing from the hospital, apparently sold by their own families, and their fate is too awful to imagine. With the police seemingly unable or unwilling to investigate, Flora teams up with the matron of the hospital, Alice Finch, to try to get to the bottom of it.
Soon Flora is immersed in the seedy, dangerous underbelly of criminal London, and time is running out to save the children. Will they get to them in time, or was their fate decided the day they were born poor...


                                            
 UK cover
REVIEW  


Flora’s life seems perfect. She has a loving husband, beautiful baby and servants to help run her opulent home, but when she receives an invitation to a charitable tour of a children’s hospital, she is soon reminded that life for most Edwardian Londoners can be much harder. When a student nurse is murdered at the hospital, Flora unearths a plot concerning the abduction of patients. Flora’s perfect life is contrasted with some brilliant descriptions of the deprived areas of the city. There are hooks on almost every page that draw the reader deeper and deeper until they are fully immersed in the mystery. The final chapters are action-packed. I had read the first book in this series and regret not returning to them until now (book 4). The first book briefly introduced Flora’s childhood, specifically the disappearance of her mother - something which had me intrigued. Luckily the author skilfully weaves the mysteries of Flora’s past throughout the series. Both books that I read work well in isolation – but readers should be aware of tantalising flashbacks and cliff-hangers that will make them want to read all of the Flora Maguire series.


Reviewer: Jennifer Wells
twitter:  @jenwellswriter



Friday, October 20, 2017

Romance Reviews Magazine: Regency

Romance Reviews Magazine: Regency: Reviewed by Fran. Set in London 1821, the Unmasking of Lady Helen is a sweet tale of the young lady Helen who fears an incident...

A novel setting...a peek inside...

My latest release, Southern Sons, is set in Australia and France during the Great War.
It's about the grandchildren of Kitty McKenzie, who live on a large cattle property (or cattle station) called Blue Water.
I set Blue Water in the country area of Northern New South Wales, near the town of Grafton which sits on the mighty Clarence River. A smaller river runs off the Clarence, called Orara. Blue water sits on the edge of the Orara River.
In a chapter in Southern Sons, Tilly learns to drive her father's motor car and she drives it miles from Blue Water to Grafton to do some shopping. She has to cross the Clarence River on a steam ferry, and I have found a picture of the actual ferry.



The picture below is something similar to the motor car, Tilly would have learned to drive while the men were at war.

Tilly also went on a cattle muster, to bring in the cattle that grazed the hundreds of acres of Blue Water...


and at night they would camp by the fire.


Read Tilly's story in Southern Sons.



Blurb: 1914, Australia. As war is declared, the idyllic world of Blue Water Station is torn apart when Oliver, the eldest grandson and heir, shares his desire to enlist in the army. His enthusiasm ignites his brother, cousins and friends to do the same, but upsets his sister, Tilly. After a tragic family incident, Tilly is left to run the cattle station and take care of the older folk. A chance meeting with a sophisticated Lieutenant opens up a friendship through letters, but it’s a rogue stockman who attracts her attention with dire consequences. With the men at war, and her heart pulled in two directions, Tilly must grow up quickly and face the consequences of her rash decisions. Will She find her own happiness?Surviving a baptism of battle fire in Gallipoli, Turkey, Oliver and the men are sent to France and feel the brutal force of the Western Front. The only glimmer of light for Oliver is his relationship with Jessica, an army nurse. But as the terrors of war impact him, he feels the heavy guilt of encouraging the others to follow him into combat. Will he, and they, ever make it home to Blue Water.

Can the grandchildren of Kitty McKenzie survive the horrors of war?


For those who have read the Kitty McKenzie books, the third book, Southern Sons, about Kitty's grandchildren, is available in ebook and paperback.
If you've read and enjoyed it, I'd love it if you left a review on Amazon please. Thank you.
Southern Sons
Will they survive the war?
#WWI




Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review of The Murderess by Jennifer Wells



PUBLISHER’S BLURB

The Murderess is a heart-stopping story of family, love, passion and betrayal set against the backdrop of war-ravaged Britain. Perfect for fans of Lesley Pearse and Dilly Court.
1931: Fifteen year old Kate witnesses her mother Millicent push a stranger from a station platform into the path of an oncoming train. There was no warning, seemingly no reason, and absolutely no remorse.

1940: Exactly nine years later, Kate returns to the station and notices a tramp laying flowers on the exact spot that the murder was committed; the identity of the victim, still remains unknown.

With a country torn apart by war and her family estate and name in tatters, Kate has nothing to lose as she attempts to uncover family secrets that date back to the Great War and solve a mystery that blights her family name.

REVIEW 

I enjoyed Ms Wells ‘The Liar’ and this book was just as well written, also intriguing in that at first, I couldn’t tell where the story was going.. The author left me guessing as to which character I was supposed to feel empathy with. The betrayed Millicent whose only wish was to bear her husband’s child, Kate, who had been lied to for so long that when the secrets started to unravel, as they always do, was left to make sense of it all.

Or was Rosalie the one who deserved pity, the one who betrayed and was eventually betrayed? Halfway through the story I had a sense of inevitability which even though it played out, did not detract from the impact of the story.


Ms Wells certainly has a knack for portraying women whose obsession for motherhood changes their personalities and in some cases is used as justification for the things they do.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Oppression of Women in Historical fiction

Women’s oppression across history has been written about constantly, even during the 60s, in an age of strong feminism. The desire for power, male domination, violence and control, and captive women, have been recurring themes from Jane Eyre to the present day. Drabble, Byatt, and Jean Rhys in her retelling of Jane Eyre in Wide Sargossa Sea have all used this theme. As have countless gothic and romantic suspense novels. Is this because women fear reliving the fates of their mothers?

‘Happy women, like happy countries, they say, have no histories,’ says Harriet in Victoria Holt’s Menfreya in the Morning.

Eleanor Hibbert, in her different incarnations, as Jean Plaidy, Holt, and Philippa Carr used this theme constantly. Her Plaidy novels were written in the 3rd person, which gave them a rounder, more objective viewpoint, if slightly distanced. Her others were in 1st and therefore more personal and emotional.


Gregory too writes about the lot of women. About primogeniture and how women are ignored. Even her biographical fiction is about exploited women, forced to marry for political reasons, or used by their political ambitious fathers. Her early novels also deal with the theme of exploitation in other ways, such as the agricultural peasant after the enclosures. Writing these novels in the 1980s, during the time of the miners’ strikes, this would strike a chord with readers, as it tuned in with the radical political consciousness of the time.

As with Gregory, so with Susan Howatch, who wrote about wealth and inheritance, stating that women were considered a possession as was a house or land. But she plunders history for her stories: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine for Penmarrick, and Edward I, II and III for Cashelmara. She is saying that nothing changes. She used history itself as her inspiration, disguised and relocated while echoing the universal truth of her theme of exploitation of women in dysfunctional families. Both Howatch and Gregory teach us that history does not exist in a vacuum, that nothing really changes about human nature, despite progress in other fields.

Perhaps it is easier for us to view these problems through the prism of nostalgia. Class/sexual inequalities/social differences/violent abuse/illegitimacy and other strong themes, are often best viewed at a distance. They work because they don’t have to be defended, criticised or judged. People like to think - ah yes, that’s how it was back then. They are aware the issue still has a resonance today, yet it is easier to think of it with the benefit of hindsight. Its awfulness is often stressed quite strongly, yet as it is safely in the past, this allows a slight air of unreality or fantasy in the way the subject is depicted.

In the 1970s the theme of exploited women was turned on its head and the liberation of women became a popular theme in racy historicals. Known as bodice rippers these started with Kathleen Woodiwise: The Flame and the Flower. Rosemary Rogers: Sweet Savage Love. They depicted accurate sex in inaccurate history. History was pure fantasy, a mere backdrop. Women were still incarcerated, degraded, violated, and yet they maintained their sense of adventure and spirit of defiance and independence. The strength of the abused woman resonated throughout, giving women the right to enjoy sex, and to exploit men just as they had exploited women throughout history. Ultimately they tamed the hero. They conquered evil with love, a theme which was picked up by Mills & Boon at the time, and has featured strongly in romantic fiction ever since.

Marguerite de Valois in ‘Hostage Queen’ was most certainly an oppressed woman, bullied by her mother, Catherine de Medici, and imprisoned by her husband, Henry of Navarre, but never defeated. She remained a strong woman, a feminist before her time demanding equal rights, and far more intelligent than her mad brothers. She was the Queen that France needed but never got. Gabrielle d’Estrées who takes the lead in Reluctant Queen, was sold by her mother, twice, to different men, so quite a different sort of oppression. Fortunately she was adored by Henry IV, whose mistress she became, so things improved, at least for a time. In ‘The Queen and the Courtesan’, I set out giving Henriette d’Entragues the benefit of the doubt, that she was used by her father and brother. But while they were certainly complicit in all the intrigue in which they were engaged, I soon decided that she was no innocent victim. She was the very opposite of an oppressed woman, one who manipulated events to win herself the crown she craved. But did she succeed?

BUY

Amazon UK

 Amazon US

Friday, October 13, 2017

Australian Historical Novels Don't Sell...?

Three of my novels are in the top 10 of Australian category. Kitty McKenzie's Land, Nicola's Virtue & Southern Sons.

I'm so pleased that they are doing well because I feel that a lot of the time the reading public ignore the region of Australia and southern countries and islands, when in truth they are wonderful places to learn about and enjoy. I suppose everyone has their favourite areas where authors set stories, as they do by having favourite genres and historical eras. However, there is room for more, less known countries to be featured and explored, and I really encourage readers to try something new and different.

Throughout the many years I've been writing, I've been told constantly that Australian set historical novels don't sell outside of Australia. Well, I beg to differ. Agents who have said in the past to me to not bother writing Australian historical novels may not have been willing to take a chance, and I think that is a mistake.
I'm excited by the fact that people may be branching out and trying books set in other areas outside of the main countries that are so popular. If you are one of those readers, thank you!

Amazon UK. Australian & Oceania category. 13th October 2017. 9:48 am.
Proof that sometimes readers buck the trend.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book Fair at Morley

Last Saturday I attended the Morley Lit Festival, which held a book fair in the Town Hall. Unfortunately the turn out wasn't great, perhaps due to the awful cold wet and windy day. But that didn't stop all visitors.








A selection of my books.
 

I met some lovely readers and signed some books. The highlight was meeting Deborah, an avid reader and supporter of authors, who runs a couple of Facebook pages promoting historical fiction authors like myself. I was so pleased to see her and have a chat in person - and of course we had a photo taken!




Deborah and myself

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Baxendale Sisters Anthology is available for pre-order!

Hi, Maggi here,

I'm excited to announce that The Baxendale Sisters Series is now available for pre-order in a 5 Book Box Set! books2read.com/u/4jwoBX On Amazon. Coming soon to Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBooks.
T
HE BAXENDALE SISTERS 5 BOOK BOX SET
A Regency Romance Family Series
Five sisters find love during their London season. Five short novels and novellas. A guaranteed happily ever after. Nominated for several awards.
Lady Honor's Debt.
Lady Faith Takes a Leap.
Lady Hope and the Duke of Darkness.
The Seduction of Lady Charity.
The Scandalous Lady Mercy.