22.7.18

Our latest cruise

We’ve recently enjoyed a wonderful cruise to Iceland. Absolutely fascinating and the weather managed to stay fairly calm and not too cold. We started with a visit to Hamburg, then on to Alesund, Godafoss, Isafjordur, Reykjavik. Loved seeing thermal springs in Iceland.



And the wonderful waterfalls at Godafoss. Beautiful!


We particularly liked the Sunmore Museum in Alesund in Norway, and going up to the top of a hill to view the harbour and surrounding area. You can have to climb up over 400 steps, but we took a bus. Much easier.


We also enjoyed exploring museums and land etc., in Reykjavik and other places, often using a hop on and hop off bus.




Our final stop was in Faroes, very quiet and remote, with a cloudy sky as we were taken round to emplore it on a coach.



Spending time on the ship, Queen Victoria, attending interesting talks, eating good food, dancing and watching shows, was a delight. Plus having plenty of time to read and relax. We are looking forward to our next cruise in 2019.


18.7.18

2018 RNA Conference

I enjoyed a most interesting conference with RNA this last weekend. The first thing I had to do was take part in a talk about sagas, together with Lizzie Lane, Jean Fullerton and Diane Allen. We all gave some interesting comments on this subject. A saga is generally a multi-generational story, about relationships, a sweeping tale of courage and bravery, pitted against evil. Families lived together in the past, forming close-knit communities. This is something we have lost in the modern world, family members often having to travel far to find work, family break-ups, and partners choosing not to marry at all. I’m sure it was equally difficult back in the old days, but it’s somehow easier to consider such issues back in the nostalgic past. Study the history of the period you choose. The genre should also use a multi-layered viewpoint and a page-turning plot, dealing with universal themes in a small domestic setting, and social history. The setting must be an intrinsic part of the book, a genuine sense of place that we know well and readers can recognise and identify. It’s not simply a question of painting pretty scenery. People love to read about a place they know, but do study the reality of the period involved in your story. I have fortunately written 35 sagas and 11 historicals, which have done well. Always enjoy writing those.

After that we were welcomed by Nicola Cornick, then listened to various talks given by other writers. On Friday evening I was welcomed by the Indie group, having supported them in the past to help them become full members of the RNA. We had a lovely glass of champagne and a good chat. I love to spend time with them and hear about the success of their self-publishing.

 
On Saturday there were plenty more talks on various subjects, including self-editing, romance, and adding mystery to your history novel. My favourite speaker was Barbara Erskine, interviewed by Nicola. I’ve heard her speak once before and loved her books from her very first one, Lady of Hay, many years ago and lots of others since. We then went on to experience a classic RNA evening meal, provided with a free drink before it. I was seated with a group of my friends, which proved to be delightful, as we kept on chatting till quite late at night.


Then on Sunday my favourite talk was given by Liam Livings and Virginia Heath about sensual love scenes. I generally do try to put some sex into my books, but they gave a reading of a written version that was absolutely hilarious. Such great fun! They then gave us good information and we had time to discuss with each other how to plan such love scenes in our next book. The last talk I heard was given by Patricia Rice, Mary Jo Putney, and Andrea Penrose. All from the US and excellent writers, giving us fascinating details of how they work. Then after lunch it was time to take the train home, which was sad and took quite a while from Leeds. But the whole conference had been excellent. Always good to meet up with old friends as well as remind ourselves how to keep writing.

13.7.18

A View of Characters

Creating characters, their names and making them believable in whatever book I’m writing, is always fascinating. Their appearance and behaviour comes into my head as I write, but I do try to work out in advance what kind of people they are. What is their main characteristic, and their major flaw? Often the two facets are linked. Independence can easily slip into stubborn obstinacy. Everyone has faults and it is these human failings which can bring a character alive for a reader, and explain their motivation for behaving as they do. Their backstory is also important, and how they relate to other people. Mothers do not treat their daughters in the same way as their father, certainly not in Girls of the Great War, but why? She’s a difficult woman who says nothing about her husband. Considering the various problems and viewpoints in a character can help to round them out.

To me, characters always come first. Also, they won’t always perform to my bidding. In Gracie’s Sin, I planned for one of the Timber Girls to have an affair, fearing she’d lost her husband in the war, but she loved him and determinedly remained loyal. Once I know a character thoroughly, who starts to live in my mind, I have to accept who they are and their plan in life. All I have to do is listen to their voice, write down their comments and the rest follows. I know it sounds crazy but that’s how it is. If I try to plot too much in advance, I somehow lose the drive to get the story down.

Though my characters often live in a fictitious village or street, which allows plenty of scope for my imagination about who lives in it and what they do, I put this into as accurate a setting as I can. I enjoy research and spend a great deal of time seeking out those little details to create a sense of reality. I take a great many photographs, draw maps and talk to people who have been involved in the type of industry or lifestyle which I am trying to recreate. I find inspiration and ideas from many sources: family memories, history of the places I’ve lived in such as the beautiful English Lake District and Cornwall. I also interview people, pick up ideas from newspapers, TV, and I have hundreds of books, old magazines, memoirs and documents of all kinds that I squirrel away in case they come in handy one day. A strong sense of place is essential for the kind of sagas and historical fiction I write.

Getting started on a new book takes time. I always have an overview, a beginning, middle and end, although how I will get there takes time for me to decide. I’m not a great plotter and planner. Once I have an idea of the main characters and the premise, I start writing into the mist and see what comes. Usually, by chapter four and five, I know what the next section will be about. When I reach three-quarters of the way, knowing all the characters well, comes the desire to write the book at greater speed, and then to edit, of course. And of course, I do lots of edits and rewrites once the original section is finished.

Extract from Girls of the Great War: 


Chapter One 

Christmas 1916 
Lights dimmed as a man dressed as Pierrot in a bright blue costume and pantaloons, peaked hat and a huge yellow bow beneath his chin, skipped merrily on to the stage singing ‘All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor’. He was quickly joined by a troop of dancing girls. They too were dressed like Pierrots, all of them looking ravishing in a pink costume with a wide frilled collar, long swirling skirt decorated with fluffy bobbles, and a tight-fitting black hat. They were complete visions of beauty who brought forth roars of excited approval from the audience. Pierrot waved his gloved hands at them, the theatre being packed with British and Belgian soldiers who responded with cheers and whistles.
    Cecily smilingly watched from the wings as she loved to do most evenings. A part of her ached to join the singers, something her mother would never agree to. Viewing herself as the star performer she expected her daughters to wait upon her hand, foot and fingers. Not that Cecily believed herself to be a good assistant, being too involved with working as a conductor on the electric trams now that most men were caught up in the war. Her mother disapproved of that. Cecily, however, firmly believed in making her own choices in life.
    Feeling a gentle tap on her shoulder, she found her sister at her side. ‘Her royal highness Queenie requires your assistance,’ Merryn whispered, her pretty freckled face wrapped in a jokey grin. ‘I’ve been dismissed, as she’s engaged in her usual bossy mood.’
    ‘Oh, not again!’ Stifling a sigh, Cecily accompanied Merryn back to the dressing room. Gazing in the mirror she recognised the familiar lack of focus in her mother’s blue eyes, proving she’d again been drinking. Despite seeing herself as a star, Queenie too often felt the need to overcome a sense of stage fright before she performed.
    ‘Merryn has made a total mess of my hair,’ she stuttered in a slurry voice.
    ‘I’m sure she didn’t mean to, Mama,’ Cecily calmly remarked, and reaching for a brush began to divide her mother’s curly blonde hair across the back of her head.
    ‘Never call me by that name. You know how I hate it.’
    She’d chosen to name herself Queenie years ago as she considered it more appropriate for her career than Martha, the name she was born with. And that was what she required her daughters to call her, having no wish to be reminded of her age. Merryn seemed to accept this. Cecily always felt the need to remind her of their true relationship, which irritatingly was not an easy one. She carefully twisted up a small strand of her mother’s hair and clipped it, then tucked the other portions neatly around before pinning them together with a glittering silver hair slide on the top of her head.
    Grabbing a curl, Queenie pulled it down to loop it over her left ear. ‘I’ve no wish for my hair to be all pinned up. Flick some over my ears.’
    ‘I thought you liked to look as neat and tidy as possible, Mama,’ Cecily said.
    ‘No, fluff it out, silly girl. How useless you are.’
    Cecily felt quite inadequate at this job and checked her success or lack of it by viewing her mother in the mirror. She was a slender, attractive woman with a pale complexion, pointed chin and ruby lips frequently curled into a pout, as they were doing now. But she was also vain, conceited, overly dramatic, emotionally unstable, selfish, overbearing and utterly neglectful. Queenie was never an easy woman to please, even when she was stone-cold sober. She was an exhibitionist and a star who demanded a great deal of nurturing and support, a task Merryn was extremely skilled and happy to do, save for when Queenie was completely blotto, as she was now. And having been scolded and dismissed countless times when her mother was drunk, her sister would sit in the corner reading Woman’s Weekly, taking not the slightest interest. Once Queenie sobered up she would happily treat her younger daughter as her favourite child in order to make Cecily feel unwanted, even though she’d done her best to help. Not that she ever felt jealous about this, always eager to act as a surrogate mother towards her beloved sister as Queenie could be equally neglectful of them both, wrapped up in herself and her tours.


Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Amazon UK

Amazon US 

6.7.18

Cecily worked for the Suffragettes

A section of this book is about the suffragette movement Cecily is involved in. originally focused in Manchester, that was where Emeline Pankhurst and her family had lived. The general election of 1905 brought it to the attention of the wider nation when Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenny interrupted Sir Edward’s speech with the cry: ‘Will the Liberal Government give votes to women?’ Many women were very much in favour of that, and some were charged with assault and arrested.

They further shocked the world by refusing to pay the shilling fine, and were consequently thrown in jail. Never before had English suffragists resorted to violence, but it was the start of a long campaign. Their headquarters were transferred from Manchester to London and by 1908, by then dubbed the suffragettes, they were marching through London, interrupting MP’s speeches, assaulting policemen who attempted to arrest them, chaining themselves to fences, even sending letter bombs and breaking the windows of department stores and shops in Bond Street. They went on hunger-strikes while incarcerated, brutalised in what became known as the ‘Cat and Mouse Act.’ This ‘war’ did not end until 1928 when women were finally granted the vote in equal terms with men. They showed enormous courage and tenacity, were prepared to make any sacrifice to achieve their ends.

Fortunately, Cecily managed to avoid the risk of jail as she went off to France to entertain the soldiers in the war. But she believed very strongly in working for the suffragists and happily helped to organise a meeting before this idea came to her. Later she met one or two people who greatly intrigued her.

Excerpt from Girls of the Great War: 

This afternoon, being a Saturday, they were attending a Suffrage meeting, which offered much satisfaction. Cecily had worked alongside this organisation from before the war, taking part in parades and demonstrations. She’d always felt a sore need to help, as she strongly believed in the rights of women. She’d spent every evening the previous week happily delivering notices to encourage people to come to this meeting.
    ‘The place is packed,’ Merryn, who was seated beside her on the front row, softly remarked, glancing around. ‘You did an excellent job encouraging so many to come.’
    ‘Thank goodness there are plenty of women here.’ This had been helped by the fact that Annie Kenney, a most special lady, was attending the meeting. As a working-class factory girl who started to follow the Pankhursts she was now almost as famous as them and she certainly gave excellent talks, being very down-to-earth. ‘Unfortunately, some working women are unable to attend these suffrage meetings because they have families to feed after they finish work, or else they fear to offend their bosses or family. Irritatingly, the occasional sour-faced father or husband would toss away the notice I delivered!’
    ‘Men can be very commanding,’ Merryn agreed.
    ‘I would never allow one to control me,’ Cecily sternly remarked.
    ‘I can understand that your sense of independence is partly the reason you enjoy working with the suffragist movement to help them seek the vote. Me too, although I am in favour of marriage and willing to be a fairly obedient wife to make my husband happy.’
    Cecily chuckled. ‘Hang on to your rights, darling. I have no doubt that we will achieve the vote one day and find the love of our life.’
    ‘Exactly.’ Stifling their giggles they listened to Annie Kenney explain how Lloyd George, who had always been supportive, was now helping ladies achieve their goal, having finally replaced Asquith as Prime Minister last December. ‘We have every reason to believe that a vote will soon be granted, if only to women of a certain class who own property and are over thirty,’ she announced.
    ‘Why is that?’ Cecily quietly asked her sister, only to find herself hushed.
    She firmly disagreed with her mother’s attitude against the working classes, particularly regarding her beloved Ewan. It seemed politicians were equally disapproving. How would she, Merryn, and most other women, ever achieve the right to vote unless they succeeded in improving their status and raised enough money to buy themselves a house? Deep in some secret part of her soul, there lurked the hope that by stimulating the new talent she’d discovered in herself during that one performance on stage, it might happen again one day and earn her an independent income. Shutting down these dreams she realised Annie Kenney was explaining the reason for this puzzle.
    ‘The government is wary of the fact that women are in the majority. Men have been in short supply for some years. Many went to work in the colonies before the war in order to find employment, a situation that could grow worse once this war is over, as so many young men have already been killed. Therefore, the number of surplus women will increase.’
    ‘Is this lack of a vote for all women, whatever their age or income, because the government has no wish to be taken over by us?’ Cecily asked, giving a wry smile. Others in the audience laughed and cheered at this remark.
    ‘I’d say that is the reason, yes,’ Annie replied with a cheerful nod. ‘As a young Yorkshire lass wishing to help women get the vote, I packed my little wicker basket, put two pounds safely in my purse - the only money I possessed - and started my journey to London to join the Pankhursts. Fortunately, Lloyd George and Asquith both now agree that the heroism of hard-working women doing men’s jobs during the war has made them reconsider our situation. This bill will make a start on improving our rights. Given time and more effort, we will hopefully succeed in widening its scope.’
    As the meeting came to an end, Cecily joined the group of stewards to help collect donations from those women able to contribute. Some carefully ignored this appeal, not being well enough off, but she did manage to gather a fairly large sum.

 
Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

29.6.18

Soldiers in World War 1

Their physical and mental stress was so strong at times that it blocked out their minds, filling them with fear, grim reality, tension, strain and anxiety whenever they approached a battle zone. They would fall into silence, asking themselves if they could cope with the dangers they were about to face. They always dreaded snipers, shell shock, infections and injuries, or to be damaged with shrapnel. It could make their mind go completely numb, particularly if they suffered the loss of a friend. Some could be walking wounded, or could only sleep on a groundsheet against the cold.

Infantry soldiers often knew very little about where they were or what was going on elsewhere. They lacked the facility of maps, news and information, relying on gossip and rumour. Food in Blighty was very much a problem. They might be given bacon and liver, brawn and kidneys, bread and dripping, but not too much food was available. They might have porridge with a few smashed army biscuits boiling in a mess tin with some water and sugar. Sometimes they were given a small drink of beer, and they would take a sip of rum and roll it on their tongue. Soldiers were also expected to keep their boots, caps, badges and buckles well-polished, and would hide them at night in case one of the other chaps might pinch them. Life was not easy, and they very much depended upon friends and letters from their family. It was a relief for them to be given a short break from the frontline when they were feeling worn out, perhaps to walk through the streets unthreatened by locals. Or to enjoy a performance.

 War might drain men of energy, but Cecily firmly believed that their minds and spirit needed nurturing. Her team gave regular performances in the camp and at local hospitals. It was not unusual for wounded men to be wheeled out of the wards and lie on stretchers in order to watch, having been treated or were simply waiting for the necessary care. They often happily accepted they could be soaked as rain beat down on them. Cecily would regularly sing and on one occasion, they performed a play. Because some couldn’t be moved, following a concert Cecily would visit the hospital and sing to patients in their beds, or to one alone if he was blind or dying. It was exhausting but moving, her team’s situation ripe with danger too. They performed popular songs, poetry, Shakespeare, comedy and gave a glimpse of ‘Blighty’ often to an audience of thousands. The soldiers were always overjoyed to be entertained.

Excerpt of Cecily’s first performance in Girls of the Great War. 
There was no proper stage, no curtains, dressing rooms or footlights, but they did have acetylene gas lamps glimmering brightly around the boxes. They worked for hours rehearsing and enduring more instructions from Queenie on what and how they should perform. Cecily suffered a flutter of panic as she became aware of hundreds more men gathering in the audience. A few were seated on boxes or benches, the rest of the area packed with a solid mass standing shoulder to shoulder. Many had been patiently waiting hours for the concert to start. Looking at the state of them it was evident that many had come direct from the trenches where they’d probably been trapped in horrific conditions for months. Those unable to move from their tent pulled the flaps open so that they too could hear the concert.
    Heart pounding and nerves jangling, Cecily felt the urge to turn and run as the moment for the concert to start came closer. Was her mother right and she couldn’t sing well at all? Would they roar and boo at her as they had that time at Queenie?
    She steadied her breathing, smoothed down her skirt with sweaty fingers and when she walked on stage the men gave a loud cheer of welcome. The excitement in their faces filled her with hope and as she stepped forward to the front of the boxed stage the audience instantly fell silent, looking enthralled and spellbound. She exchanged a swift glance with Merryn, counted one, two, three, four . . . and her sister and Johnny both began to play, sounding most professional. Cecily started to sing:

          There’s a Long, Long Trail A-winding.
          Into the land of my dreams,
          Where the nightingales are singing
          And a white moon beams:

    As she sang, her fears, depression and worries vanished in a surge of elation, soaring into a new life, and bringing these soldiers pleasure and relief from the war. When the song was over she received a tumultuous applause, cheers, whistles and roars of appreciation from them. Smiling broadly she went on to sing ‘Roses of Picardy’, followed by ‘Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag’ and many other popular favourites. Most of the Tommies would readily join in to sing the chorus whenever Cecily invited them to do so. Others would weep, as if fraught with emotion because they were homesick and felt greatly moved by this reminder of England. Then would again cheer and roar with happiness at the end, urging her to sing an encore.
    ‘You are doing quite well,’ her mother casually remarked during the short interval, a comment Cecily greatly appreciated. ‘Now sing some of those jolly music hall songs that I recommended.’
    ‘Right you are.’
    Cecily went on to sing ‘Burlington Bertie From Bow’and ‘Fall In And Follow Me’. These brought bright smiles and laughter to all the Tommies’ faces. She finished with ‘Your King and Country Want You’, bringing forth loud cheers of agreement. How she loved singing to these soldiers. If she hadn’t been a star before, she certainly felt like one now.


Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

22.6.18

Women Caught up World War One

More than 700,000 British men were killed during World War One, and women suffered badly from bereavement, grieving for their lost loved ones. More than a million women never found a man to marry, or the opportunity to bear children. They came to accept they never would have any, their lives having changed forever. They felt lonely with solitary lives and many lost their jobs, once the war was over. At least 750,000 women were made redundant in 1918. All men who returned were highly given priority, and even if a woman had children to care for, and no husband, she would still find it extremely difficult to gain a job.


Many began to seek careers, the facility to be able to vote and the opportunity to live their own life. They also wanted the freedom to enjoy themselves by going to the picture-palace or the palais-de-danse, if they wished of an evening. They weren’t interested in going back to being servants or maids, they either wished to keep the job they’d worked on during the war, or find a better one with good pay to care for themselves or any children they might have. Unfortunately they were not granted equal pay, and no right to vote unless they were over thirty and owned property in 1919.

Even those women who were married, their task now was to stay home, cook, clean and care for their family and be a dutiful wife. Their husbands generally felt ashamed of having her working and employers agreed and sacked them. Men saw themselves as the ruling section of society. But some men who had survived were likely to have been injured, maimed, or psychologically damaged, and their wives needed to be the one to work and care for them too.

There were many surplus women after the war. Those lucky enough to have secure financial independence often had no wish to hand it over to a husband and become ruled by him. Others felt desperate for a husband, but suffered loneliness, virginity, no children, grief for lost loved ones, or the loss of their job and rights. My books usually has a strong woman as the main character - who must succeed against all odds. She can be found fighting against the difficulty of her life, aspiring to better herself, and battling against the restrictions and prejudices of the time or whatever other dire circumstances she finds herself in. She must pit good against evil and win by her own efforts, no matter what she has suffered or lost along the way. Cecily greatly believed this, attempted to help her sister, and women battling to achieve an improvement in their life. As a member of the suffragists, she worked hard for them and met some interesting people who, as a consequence, had an effect upon her own situation

Extract of Girls of the Great War: 


It came to Cecily that having been involved with the suffrage movement for so long, she could possibly attempt to assist them in this battle.
    ‘Are you managing to resolve this problem?’ she asked Sally Fielding, one of her former tram workers. A group of them were standing on the Old Town Street holding posters high, one stating: Is a Woman’s Place in the Home? Another said: We Believe in Equality. ‘I can understand why I was not granted my job back on the trams, having been away entertaining the troops in France. Those of you who’ve worked for them throughout the war should have that right.’
    ‘Indeed we should,’ Sally agreed. ‘They accuse us of having less strength and more health problems than men. Absolute tosh! The bloody government treats us like servants. We were doing our bit for the duration of the war but are now being dismissed and replaced by men they consider to be more skilled. We women have worked damned hard and done well. They see us as less productive, which we’re most definitely not and surely have the right to the same pay.’
    ‘Did you join a trade union?’ Cecily asked.
    ‘We did indeed. Once we’d registered to work in the war, why would we not protect ourselves? It was recommended we do that when we were sent a leaflet issued by the War Emergency Workers’ National Committee.’
    ‘Are you managing to provide some funds for unpaid women on strike?’
    ‘Not very well,’ Sally said, pulling a face.
    ‘Right, I’ll help with that.’ She remained with them for the remainder of the day. Taking off one of her boots she held it out to passers-by, begging a donation as a token of their support . When dusk fell she handed over a fair sum of money to Sally. ‘I’ll try to collect more tomorrow. How long will this strike last?’
   ‘Maybe just a couple of days this week. Then if we don’t get anywhere, even longer next.’
    ‘I’ll be there to join you,’ she promised.
    Cecily continued to spend time each day assisting more women by raising money to provide them with an income, as they received none while on strike. It felt such a satisfaction, giving her a fresh purpose in life. Despite the troubles they were enduring she too sorely missed the work she’d been involved with during the war, and her talent. She wrote a brief letter to Boyd, to tell him of her satisfaction in helping these women on strike, being a suffragist. She sorely missed him too.
    ‘Can I do anything more to help?’ she asked her friend Sally.
    ‘Aye, you could write a newspaper report depicting our success and why we deserve to receive the same rate of bonus that is being given to men workers, as a result of the war.’
    ‘I’ll be happy to give that a go,’ Cecily agreed. She wrote at length about how many women during the war had worked in munitions, coal, gas and power supplies, factories, transport and various offices.


Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Amazon UK

Amazon US 

15.6.18

Entertainers in World War One

Entertainment was a place where soldiers could escape the harsh realities of their dangerous life. They were always overjoyed to see these performances.

Concerts took place to liven up the troops. Two or three concerts a day were often available and most popular. Drama too presented a particular challenge: contemporary comedies and romances were played with canteen furniture, and the scenery was often a backdrop of night sky. Violin solos, string quartets, operatic arias, all were performed behind the front lines. It was not unusual for the audience to be in their hospital beds, or wheeled out of the wards, even if rain beat down upon them. Shows were also given on ships, and out in the wild country or desert.

Even back in England the war naturally brought a surge in patriotism, both in drama and cinema. Music hall was one of the dominant forms in World War One. Theatre managers, newspaper editors, civic leaders and even clergymen insisted that people wanted cheering up and were not expected or even allowed to use their brains or be presented with serious matter. The war was expected to end by Christmas. Many plays were written about the suffering, but the emphasis was more on the humorous to attract the masses. There were many songs about the war, even women such as Vesta Tilley dressed as soldiers, as well as drama that was hostile to Germany. Soldiers on leave flocked to the theatres with their sweethearts, eager to be amused and entertained. There were many famous performers such as Harry Lauder, Vesta Tilley, Gertie Gitana and many others who were popular with troops out in the war or for soldiers and their families back home.

After the war, popular tastes began to change. Entertainment then preferred Charleston, jazz and syncopation. Performers would often entertain cinema audiences between films. Queues too would be entertained by dancing dogs or a man playing a banjo or accordion. Then a collection would be taken up for the soldiers and sailors. Benefit performances were held to raise money to entertain wounded soldiers; just as there were Tank Weeks, or fund raising for an ambulance. Matinees too would be held to buy x-ray or other first aid equipment.

In Girls of the Great War, Cecily, having lost the love of her life, eagerly goes to entertain the soldiers in France, filled with the need to help and overcome depression, Her sister, mother and Johnny, a drummer friend, accompanied her, a part of which proved to be a problem. I was inspired to write this because I’d been involved in amateur dramatics for much of my life. I still love the theatre, and have collected many books on the history of it and famous actors. Writing about it was a joy, and have touched on this theme in one or two other of my books.

Here is a short extract of Cecily’s first performance.

There was no proper stage, no curtains, dressing rooms or footlights, but they did have acetylene gas lamps glimmering brightly around the boxes. They worked for hours rehearsing and enduring more instructions from Queenie on what and how they should perform. Cecily suffered a flutter of panic as she became aware of hundreds more men gathering in the audience. A few were seated on boxes or benches, the rest of the area packed with a solid mass standing shoulder to shoulder. Many had been patiently waiting hours for the concert to start. Looking at the state of them it was evident that many had come direct from the trenches where they’d probably been trapped in horrific conditions for months. Those unable to move from their tent pulled the flaps open so that they too could hear the concert.
    Heart pounding and nerves jangling, Cecily felt the urge to turn and run as the moment for the concert to start came closer. Was her mother right and she couldn’t sing well at all? Would they roar and boo at her as they had that time at Queenie?
    She steadied her breathing, smoothed down her skirt with sweaty fingers and when she walked on stage the men gave a loud cheer of welcome. The excitement in their faces filled her with hope and as she stepped forward to the front of the boxed stage the audience instantly fell silent, looking enthralled and spellbound. She exchanged a swift glance with Merryn, counted one, two, three, four . . . and her sister and Johnny both began to play, sounding most professional. Cecily started to sing:
   
                 There’s a Long, Long Trail A-winding. 
                 Into the land of my dreams, 
                Where the nightingales are singing 
                And a white moon beams: 

    As she sang, her fears, depression and worries vanished in a surge of elation, soaring into a new life, and bringing these soldiers pleasure and relief from the war. When the song was over she received a tumultuous applause, cheers, whistles and roars of appreciation from them. Smiling broadly she went on to sing ‘Roses of Picardy’, followed by ‘Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag’ and many other popular favourites. Most of the Tommies would readily join in to sing the chorus whenever Cecily invited them to do so. Others would weep, as if fraught with emotion because they were homesick and felt greatly moved by this reminder of England. Then would again cheer and roar with happiness at the end, urging her to sing an encore.
    ‘You are doing quite well,’ her mother casually remarked during the short interval, a comment Cecily greatly appreciated. ‘Now sing some of those jolly music hall songs that I recommended.’
    ‘Right you are.’
    Cecily went on to sing ‘Burlington Bertie From Bow’and ‘Fall In And Follow Me’. These brought bright smiles and laughter to all the Tommies’ faces. She finished with ‘Your King and Country Want You’, bringing forth loud cheers of agreement. How she loved singing to these soldiers. If she hadn’t been a star before, she certainly felt like one now.


Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why?

Amazon UK

Amazon US

7.6.18

An excellent review of Girls of the Great War

https://bookishjottings.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/girls-of-the-great-war-by-freda-lightfoot-blog-tour-review/

A heart-breaking, engrossing and riveting novel set during the First World War, Girls of the Great War is a captivating historical tale from one of the UK’s best-loved and most popular writers of sagas and historical novels: Freda Lightfoot!

Cecily Hanson yearns to live life on her own terms and to be the mistress of her own destiny. Although her overbearing mother seems keen to control and manipulate every aspect of her life, Cecily yearns to escape the claustrophobic confines of the family home and be free to do as she pleases and marry the man she loves once he returns from the Great War. But when tragedy strikes and this future is shattered forever, a distraught Cecily finds herself desperate to look for meaning and purpose again. Realizing that the troops need entertainment and escape from the barbaric and shocking atrocities they witness every day, Cecily decides to go to France and perform for them. But hardship and heartache await Cecily amidst the falling bombs and tragedies that become a daily part of her life…

Danger might be round every corner for Cecily, but despite all of the risks, life on the front line is satisfying and invigorating. She soon becomes more involved than she initially thought possible and when her family follows her to France, further trouble is in store. Her sister Merryn soon finds herself falling head over heels with a young drummer. But could their fledgling romance be ruined by the skeletons from the past that are clattering in his closet and threaten any chance of future happiness he might have? Their mother, Queenie, who had once enjoyed great success on the stage has her own secret heartache and disappointments and as she seems to be trying her utmost to destroy whatever happiness might come her way, her daughters begin to wonder whether they can ever manage to unravel the truth about their mother’s past. What is Queenie’s real story? What has she hid from them for so long? And can Cecily and Merryn ever get to the bottom of the mystery of their mother’s past?

With the war finally coming to a close, Cecily and Merryn begin to look to the future. But will they ever manage to find the fulfillment which they crave when there are so many obstacles standing in their way? Is happiness within reach? Or are they destined to spend the rest of their lives being held hostage by secrets of the past?

Whenever you pick up a novel by Freda Lightfoot, you know that you are in very safe hands, and she has outdone herself with her latest novel. As always, Freda Lightfoot’s attention to detail and her meticulous recreation of the past is spot on and readers will be blown away by the evocative descriptions of the past that will effortlessly and deftly immerse readers into the early part of the 20th century. Girls of the Great War is a wonderful story of hope, secrets, second chances and healing from the past that is absolutely impossible to put down. The characters in this book are wonderfully realised and believable and they leap off the pages and straight into readers’ hearts from the very beginning.

A superb historical novel from one of the best writers in the business, Girls of the Great War is a compulsively readable novel I highly recommend!


Amazon UK

Amazon US

3.6.18

Review of Girls of the Great War

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 
by Ruth 
http://mydevotionalthoughts.net/2018/05/girls-of-the-great-war-by-freda-lightfoot-book-review-giveaway-guest-post-ends-6-8.html

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.

First of all, I absolutely LOVE historical fiction. It is my favorite fiction genre. I tend to have high expectations for this beloved genre of mine, and I will tell you that this book never disappointed. From the beginning, I was hooked. Be advised this is written by a British author, but that only added to the charm of this tale.

I have almost no cautions concerning the content of this book. There is no overt profanity. Sex is implied, and the reader gets a brief glimpse into the bedroom at times, but I never felt it was offensive in any way. It was tasteful without the detailed description sometimes found in contemporary and historical romances.

I salute the author for creating such phenomenal, three-dimensional characters. I adored Merryn and Cecily. There was mystery, intrigue, romance, romance, and a few heart-tugging moments. The author did an incredible job of setting the stage and truly drawing the reader into the world of WWI. In one sense, the tale is rather ordinary, and perhaps in the hands of a less-skilled writer, it would be a bit flat and boring. However, Freda Lightfoot’s expertise made the story entertaining and never vapid in any way. Even until the very end. While I simply adored so many moments within this well-crafted tale, I loved the fact that the plight of women was emphasized as it demonstrated just how strong these women were during the time. In fact, we should bless each and every one of them who stood up for themselves and broke cultural stereotypes to ultimately push us into the modern era where women were allowed and even encouraged to work.

My other favorite part is the twist the author propels into the mix towards the end of the story. I won’t spoil it here, but I advise all readers to read all the way until the conclusion of the book. You’ll be glad you did!


30.5.18

How I came to be a writer.

I longed to become a writer but this was considered rather an exotic ambition so my parents encouraged me to get an education first. No one in my family had ever stayed on for further education before, so I was elected to blaze the trail. I qualified as a primary teacher and worked for a number of years. I married in 1969 and a few years later we moved to the Lake District with our two daughters. I then ran a bookshop for ten years and secretly wrote late in the night.

Later, when I sold my bookshop, I tried anything and everything. Short stories, serials, a children’s novel, picture scripts and a few Mills & Boon contemporaries, although I gained more rejection slips than cheques. The aim was to send material out faster than it came back, which wasn’t easy. We had a brilliant postal service and all the rejections would come bouncing back with remarkable speed. But at last the day came when I sold my first short story to D.C.Thompson. It was a red letter day indeed. That was also the name of the magazine, now defunct. Following this breakthrough I seemed to develop the knack for I went on to sell many more stories. With renewed confidence I tried again for Mills & Boon, this time with a historical, Madeiran Legacy, which was accepted. I wrote five historical romances as Marion Carr for Mills & Boon which greatly taught me my craft. Only later did I have sufficient confidence to try for the mainstream fiction market, selling my first saga, Luckpenny Land, to Hodder & Stoughton in 1993 on a three book contract.

I was fortunate back in 2010 to get the rights of many of my backlist reverted from a couple of publishers. Hearing about ebooks in the US I set out to learn how to produce them, finally achieved that and regularly self-published some. Sales began quite slowly, which didn’t trouble me as I was also writing for another publisher. But once Kindles arrived in the UK in Christmas 2011, I must say my sales shot up surprisingly well and I was amazed by my success. As a consequence in 2013, I was contacted by Amazon Lake Union for an interview, then later offered a contract by them. My first book with them, The Amber Keeper, soon sold over a hundred thousand, and has now sold more. Such a thrill. Selling ebooks is now much higher for me than print books. My second book was Forgotten Women, which is also doing quite well. Now comes publication of Girls of the Great War, which I loved writing too. This book was such fun to write, if sad and heartbreaking when Cecily lost the love of her life. She was concerned for herself, and also for her sister Merryn, who was engrossed with a young man Cecily did not approve of. He was not an easy young man.

Excerpt from Girls of the Great War: 

Later that afternoon Merryn eagerly hurried over to the Palace Theatre just a short distance away. The young drummer was fully engaged in rehearsal, the bandleader constantly hammering his baton to stop the musicians playing while he issued more instructions to them. She knew she would have to wait a while before he was free, so taking a seat she watched him. He was a cheerful young man with reddish hair, soft grey eyes that were constantly alight behind his spectacles, a slightly gap-toothed smile and a chiselled chin. Being a bit of a joker, Johnny Wilcox was great fun. When finally he was allowed a break, Merryn offered to buy him an afternoon tea at a nearby café.
     ‘There’s something I’d like to discuss with you over a little tiffin,’ she said with a smile.
     ‘That sounds good,’ he grinned, his expression filled with curiosity.
     As they sat enjoying tea and biscuits, Merryn told him of her sister’s plan to create a small concert party and entertain the troops in France.
     He looked a little taken aback. ‘Blimey, that’ll be a challenge. I wouldn’t want anything dreadful to happen to either of you two girls.’
     ‘I don’t think we’ll be anywhere near the front line where the fighting is going on. We just plan to entertain the soldiers at their bases. I know you appreciated how Cecily discovered her talent to sing. Oh, and by the way, I can play an accordion.’
     He gave another wide grin. ‘What a brick you are, a real sport. As you know, I play drums and cymbals, so can I come too?’
     Merryn blinked in surprise, amazed by this instant offer, having fully expected she’d need to persuade him. ‘You most certainly can. I was about to ask if you’d be interested, as we’d welcome your support. I doubt there’ll be any wages paid since we’ll be volunteers fed and accommodated by the army.’
     He creased his lips into a pout then gave a little smirk. ‘I’ll do my best to accept that fact. You’re a girl with great talent, as is Cecily. I’d love to work with you both.’
     The weather being sunny he walked with her to the beach, talking about the music they loved to play and how long it had taken each of them to learn these skills. ‘I’ve been playing drums all my life, ever since Dad bought me one for Christmas when I was ten. It kept me sane when I was suffering his loss.’
     ‘Oh, how dreadful. How did that happen? I know very little about your past.’
     ‘I was born in Barnsley in Yorkshire; part of a working class family who became even poorer after Dad was tragically killed in a mining accident. Such bloody bad luck. Following his death my mam worked as a cleaner, earning barely enough money to feed her six children, all of them younger than me. I eventually was able to help by getting myself a job playing my drum kit at a local pub. I was so thrilled with Dad’s present that I was determined to improve it and learn how to play well. Thankfully I succeeded.’
     ‘Good for you, Johnny, I’m glad to hear that. My father sadly drowned in the Thames when we were quite young, although how that happened has never been explained to us and we have little memory of him. Queenie refuses to say anything on the subject, not even explain why her marriage went wrong.’
     ‘My mam didn’t talk much about her early life either. Far too distressing for her.’
     Merryn decided that they had a great deal in common and could be well suited to work together, both being musicians. ‘I’m delighted to hear that you wish to join our team.’
     ‘Why would I not, when you’re so attractive?’
     Merryn rolled her eyes in amusement, having no belief in her own looks. She saw herself as quite plain, a little too round and simply practical, interested mainly in fashion, sewing, make-up and hairstyles. Cecily had always been the pretty one with talent and plenty of young men falling for her, whereas she’d never found a boy who really took a shine to her. Merryn adored her sister and felt quite proud of her famous mother too, readily willing to deal with Queenie’s problems. His next words startled her out of those thoughts.
     ‘Can I give you a little kiss of thanks,’ Johnny murmured.
     ‘I’m not sure that would be a good idea,’ she stuttered. He was a most pleasant young man, if a little flirtatious.
     ‘I must confess that I’ve always felt the need for more closeness between us.’ Taking hold of her hand he gave it a gentle little kiss.


Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

22.5.18

Publication of my latest book


I was very fortunate back in 2010 to get the rights of many of my backlist reverted from a couple of publishers. Hearing about ebooks in the US I set out to learn how to produce them, finally achieved that and regularly self-published some. Sales began quite slowly, which didn’t trouble me as I was also writing for another publisher. But once Kindles arrived in the UK in Christmas 2011, I must say my sales shot up surprisingly well and I was amazed by my success. As a consequence in 2013, I was contacted by Amazon Lake Union for an interview, then later offered a contract by them. My first book with them, The Amber Keeper, soon sold over a hundred thousand, and has now sold more. Such a thrill. Selling ebooks is now much higher for me than print books. My second book was Forgotten Women, which is also doing quite well.

Now comes publication of Girls of the Great War, which I loved writing too. I was always supported by my parents, but Cecily in this story had enormous problems with her mother. And there was no sign of her father, which was a great worry to her and her sister Merryn. Queenie was a most difficult woman, refusing to speak of him. She also greatly objected to her boyfriend and plan not to marry a rich man. Her attitude did not please Cecily at all, particularly as the love of her life was currently involved in the war. And when she lost him, she very much wished to perform for soldiers in the Great War

Extract from Girls of the Great War:
Ewan Godolphin was tall and athletic with powerful shoulders and long lean legs, dark brown eyes and gloriously good looking. His face had appeared a little more rugged and tired than usual, as a consequence of all he was suffering in this war. His expression was still filled with warmth, compassion and love. Once he’d returned to his battalion Cecily continued to write to him most days and received regular letters in response. There were periods when she heard nothing at all from him in ages, as had been the case recently. A quiver of fear would rustle through her until his next letter arrived.
    ‘That boy has little hope of ever earning a decent living,’ Queenie sternly announced. ‘And do not assume for one moment that I will supply you with the necessary funds if you do marry him. I have quite enough expenses, not least dealing with the upkeep of this fine mansion house. You need a man with money and status who can provide you with a wonderful life.’
    The irritating thing was that she seemed perfectly content for Merryn to remain at home as her carer, while constantly urging Cecily to marry a rich man with whom she could live her life elsewhere. She’d no intention of obeying such ridiculous instructions, while Merryn was most keen to marry.
    ‘Happiness in marriage is not about money,’ she remarked dismissively, giving a little chuckle in the hope of lightening her mother’s temper. ‘I really have no wish to be a domesticated, stay-at-home wife with a man I don’t love. I fully intend to live the kind of life that suits me. Ewan is not against my working for a living and proud of the job I do for the electric trams. It’s not quite what I would have chosen to do, but with this war on, I feel it’s right to do my bit. I accept it won’t be easy to find more interesting employment once it is over, or earn sufficient money, particularly as women do not get equal pay let alone the right to vote. That could change with time, and I’ll find something that appeals to me.’
    ‘Why would you? A young woman’s job should end once she marries.’
    Cecily groaned. ‘You sound so Victorian, Mama.’
    ‘Nonsense! Once a woman is married, she must devote herself to being a good wife and mother. I mistakenly did not do that.’
    ‘How brave of you to admit that, Mama. What was it you did wrong?’ Cecily asked, surprised to hear her confess this fault.
    ‘There were times when I felt as if life was treating me like a piece of rubbish. I encountered endless problems, not least the lack of love from my husband. I have no wish to remember his dismissive attitude towards me. You should do what is right and proper in order to find happiness and prosperity.’
    Cecily had constantly asked questions about what sort of a man her father was and why he had left them and tragically drowned, receiving no response. Both girls felt bereft at losing a father over whom they had very little memory. There was no point in harassing her further on this subject. ‘Please don’t assume that because your marriage failed, mine will too. Ewan and I are happy together and will make a success of it. If you made the wrong choice of husband, do tell me why?’
    Giving a frown Queenie again turned away, avoiding meeting her enquiring gaze. ‘Your father was not an easy man and I was most thankful to see the back of him.’
    ‘If that is the case, why do I still find you crying for him sometimes, even in your nightmares?’
    ‘I’m not weeping for him or longing for his return. I’m merely furious at the mess he made of my life, which is why I advise you to ensure yours is better. When I was young I was entirely naïve and dreamed of a perfect marriage. Nothing worked out quite as I’d hoped. Dean ruined my life and I was left feeling in desperate need of love and care. As a consequence, I am extremely thankful for my success on stage and have no desire to discuss this issue further, with you or anyone.’
    Cecily stifled a sigh. Was that because her mother had little patience with other people’s points of view, being obsessed with her own opinions and insisting upon complete control of her life? She suspected Queenie might have acquired the art of adjusting her life story by making up false tales in order to avoid revealing certain heart-rending facts. Cecily found it so frustrating that she refused to confide in them about what went wrong with her marriage, and whether their father had suffered an accident or killed himself.


Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

1.5.18

Extract from - Girls of the Great War

Prologue 1894 


She was running as fast as her legs could carry her, rocks constantly tripping her up, and a blanket of trees towering around so that she could barely see where she was going. The sound of heavy feet pounded behind, filling her with panic. Was he chasing her again? Would she be captured? Breathless with fear she ran all the faster, knowing what would happen if she did not escape. She could feel her heart hammering, tension freezing every limb. Then pain rattled through her back with merciless precision. She felt utterly powerless and vulnerable, petrified of what might happen. 
     A hand tapped her cheek and she jerked awake in panic.
     ‘Wake up, Martha, it’s time for breakfast.’
     Staring into her mother’s eyes, the young girl gave a small sigh of relief. So this had been yet another nightmare, a trauma she suffered from constantly. The emotion attached to it always cloaked her in absolute terror. At least she had managed to sleep a little last night, which was never easy. Tension would mount within her whenever she went to bed, no longer a relaxing time. Now pain and fear escalated through her once more and she cried out in agony.
    It seemed that having spent nearly five months virtually locked away in her room, she was now about to give birth, although she had only just turned seventeen.
     A part of her longed to vanish into oblivion, to disappear back into the world she’d once enjoyed, not least her happy and privileged childhood. Why had that all gone wrong after her beloved father died? Would she now die? Many women did when suffering this traumatic event. Would the good Lord take her to heaven? Her soul having no real attachment to Him, it was doubtful He would trust in her innocence and accept her. Nor did her mother, who’d made it clear she didn’t believe a word her daughter said. She no longer viewed her as respectable and had offered no sympathy or support, declaring that no one must ever learn of her condition.
     Martha gazed up at the window, her blue eyes glittering with desolation. How she ached to catch a glimpse of the sun, the cliffs and the sea. Oh, and how she missed her life. Her mind flicked back to the young man she’d once grown fond of. He was most handsome, dressed in baggy trousers, and lived in one of the fisherman’s huts. Whenever he wasn’t away at sea working in smacks and yawls to catch fish, he’d be in a local pub eating, drinking or gambling. He also spent much of his time sitting by the harbour mending nets. They’d sometimes listen to the band down on the bay along with crowds of spectators, or watch a concert and dancing. Claiming he adored her, he’d give her sweet kisses and had her name tattooed on to his arm. Then one day, when she’d excitedly hurried to meet him, as usual, he’d told her he was off to America in search of a new life, having become bored with fishing. She’d felt utterly devastated. He was so charming and helpful over her family problems that she was almost falling in love with him. How she missed him, but if he were still around why would he ever agree to marry her?
     Now water suddenly flushed out of her and the sound of her screaming echoed around the room, bouncing against the shutters that blocked the window. Over the next several hours she sank into more agony with no doctor or midwife around to help, only Enid her maid and of course Mama. Whenever another bolt of merciless pain struck, she struggled to sit up in a bid to resist it, only to be pushed back down by her scolding mother.
     Finally, something solid slid out of her, leaving her breathless and exhausted. She felt hands pressing upon her belly and more stuff flopped out, including blood that soaked the bed sheets. Then she found herself being briskly washed, wiped, stripped and dressed by the maid, making her feel like a piece of dirt. Not a single word had been spoken to her, save for orders to push hard and stop screaming. And no comfort offered.
     Whatever child had been delivered was now swept up into her mother’s arms and she marched away, slamming the door behind her. Martha gave a small sob of distress aware she’d been informed the baby would instantly be given away for adoption. She certainly would not be allowed to keep it. If only her life could return to normal but the harsh, uncaring attitude of her mother proved that would never happen.
     It came to her then that with the agony of her imprisonment and this birth finally over, she had no desire to stay here any longer. In order to maintain her safety, she needed to go as far away from here as possible, and change her name. The time had come for her to leave home and build a new life for herself. Then she’d find herself a husband and become respectable again.

A section of Chapter One 


Christmas 1916 
Lights dimmed as a man dressed as Pierrot in a bright blue costume and pantaloons, peaked hat and a huge yellow bow beneath his chin, skipped merrily on to the stage singing ‘All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor’. He was quickly joined by a troop of dancing girls. They too were dressed like Pierrots, all of them looking ravishing in a pink costume with a wide frilled collar, long swirling skirt decorated with fluffy bobbles, and a tight-fitting black hat. They were complete visions of beauty who brought forth roars of excited approval from the audience. Pierrot waved his gloved hands at them, the theatre being packed with British and Belgian soldiers who responded with cheers and whistles.
     Cecily smilingly watched from the wings as she loved to do most evenings. A part of her ached to join the singers, something her mother would never agree to. Viewing herself as the star performer she expected her daughters to wait upon her hand, foot and fingers. Not that Cecily believed herself to be a good assistant, being too involved with working as a conductor on the electric trams now that most men were caught up in the war. Her mother disapproved of that. Cecily, however, firmly believed in making her own choices in life.
     Feeling a gentle tap on her shoulder, she found her sister at her side. ‘Her royal highness Queenie requires your assistance,’ Merryn whispered, her pretty freckled face wrapped in a jokey grin. ‘I’ve been dismissed, as she’s engaged in her usual bossy mood.’
     ‘Oh, not again!’ Stifling a sigh, Cecily accompanied Merryn back to the dressing room. Gazing in the mirror she recognised the familiar lack of focus in her mother’s blue eyes, proving she’d again been drinking. Despite seeing herself as a star, Queenie too often felt the need to overcome a sense of stage fright before she performed.
     ‘Merryn has made a total mess of my hair,’ she stuttered in a slurry voice.
     ‘I’m sure she didn’t mean to, Mama,’ Cecily calmly remarked, and reaching for a brush began to divide her mother’s curly blonde hair across the back of her head.
     ‘Never call me by that name. You know how I hate it.’
     She’d chosen to name herself Queenie years ago as she considered it more appropriate for her career than Martha, the name she was born with. And that was what she required her daughters to call her, having no wish to be reminded of her age. Merryn seemed to accept this. Cecily always felt the need to remind her of their true relationship, which irritatingly was not an easy one. She carefully twisted up a small strand of her mother’s hair and clipped it, then tucked the other portions neatly around before pinning them together with a glittering silver hair slide on the top of her head.
     Grabbing a curl, Queenie pulled it down to loop it over her left ear. ‘I’ve no wish for my hair to be all pinned up. Flick some over my ears.’
     ‘I thought you liked to look as neat and tidy as possible, Mama,’ Cecily said.
     ‘No, fluff it out, silly girl. How useless you are.’
     Cecily felt quite inadequate at this job and checked her success or lack of it by viewing her mother in the mirror. She was a slender, attractive woman with a pale complexion, pointed chin and ruby lips frequently curled into a pout, as they were doing now. But she was also vain, conceited, overly dramatic, emotionally unstable, selfish, overbearing and utterly neglectful. Queenie was never an easy woman to please, even when she was stone-cold sober. She was an exhibitionist and a star who demanded a great deal of nurturing and support, a task Merryn was extremely skilled and happy to do, save for when Queenie was completely blotto, as she was now. And having been scolded and dismissed countless times when her mother was drunk, her sister would sit in the corner reading Woman’s Weekly, taking not the slightest interest. Once Queenie sobered up she would happily treat her younger daughter as her favourite child in order to make Cecily feel unwanted, even though she’d done her best to help. Not that she ever felt jealous about this, always eager to act as a surrogate mother towards her beloved sister as Queenie could be equally neglectful of them both, wrapped up in herself and her tours.
     There came a rap on the door. ‘Three minutes on stage please,’ called a voice.
     ‘You should have a drink of water,’ Cecily quietly suggested. ‘It might help to mobilise your voice and cool you down.’
     ‘How dare you say such a thing! My voice is fine,’ Queenie snapped.
     Reaching for a jug, Cecily poured a glass and placed it on the table. ‘Do take a sip to improve it, Mama.’
     Filled with her usual tantrum she snatched the jug and tossed the water over her daughter’s head. Then she swept the glass of water, a box of make-up, brushes, jars of cream and all other items off the dressing table onto the floor, swirled around and marched away.
     Grabbing a towel, Merryn rushed over to pat Cecily’s damp hair and face.
     ‘Don’t worry, it’ll soon dry off,’ Cecily said, rolling her eyes in droll humour. ‘Come on, we need to make sure Mama calms down and performs well.’
     Giving a wry smile, Merryn nodded, and they both scurried after her.


Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Published 22 May 2018

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

15.4.18

Book Fair

Enjoyed a visit to the Book Fair at Olympia in London, which was fascinating. I attended on Tuesday first then happily met my Agent, Amanda Preston, on the Wednesday morning for a chat about what I hope to write next.


It was good to meet Victoria Connelly, a good friend, plus new ones Julianne Maclean, Imogen Clark and Jo Furniss. There I am in the centre with them.


Later, I met Victoria Pepe, my Amazon editor, which was delightful, having worked with her for some years and greatly appreciate her suggestions, help and assistance.


At six o clock I attended Lake Union Amazon Publishing party in Chelsea, which was fascinating and great fun to meet people I work with as well as other writers and friends. We were given a drink and lovely food to eat, a talk from the man in charge and when we left were given a free bag of books. Absolutely delightful. Here's a photo taken my Roy Connolly of his wife Victoria standing next to me, plus Mark Dawson and Becah, who is a great worker for Amazon and most friendly and helpful with we authors. A great experience.




1.3.18

Some Reviews of Post War Series- Published by Harper Collins

Home is Where the Heart Is 
Amazon UK

Review by Westmorland Gazette
'FREDA Lightfoot draws upon family sagas from her own childhood in Lancashire and her time spent living in the Lakeland fells for inspiration in her work.'

Review by Scunthorpe Telegraph.
'Lancashire-born teacher-turned-author Freda has come up with yet another winner with this heart-tugging tale set in Manchester at the end of the second world war.’

Review by A Spoonful of Happy Endings.
'The novel is quite fast-paced and had some twists and turns which didn't necessarily surprise me but which definitely managed to keep the story going at a good pace and made me want to keep on turning the pages. … Home Is Where the Heart Is' is a poignant, emotional and captivating wartime romance novel which I really enjoyed and I look forward to checking out more of Freda Lightfoot's work in the future!'

Review by Pam Norfolk:
‘Lightfoot brings to life the realities of the post-war period with a country ‘stony broke’ and rationing and shortages still in force, some families coping with their losses and others happy to see their loved ones home again. Love and friendship, loyalty and betrayal, hope and despair all play leading roles in this tender and sometimes disturbing tale that is sure to delight Lightfoot’s army of readers and warm up the long winter nights.’
 

1945
Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander
Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. 

 But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home… 


Always in My Heart 
Amazon UK

Review by Blackpool Gazette
'Lightfoot, the queen of romance and family drama, weaves seamlessly between past and present as Brenda’s tumultuous journey unfolds against the horrors of war and the despair of loss, poverty and rejection. Brimming with emotion, heartache and intrigue, this is the perfect read for long winter evenings…'

Review by Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
'The book does deal with some heavy things, but at the same time because of how it is written it never feels dark or anything. It's like there is always hope and light at the end of the tunnel. And there will be happiness, at the very end.'

Review by  Emma Crowley Shaz's Book Blog
'Fans of historical fiction will love Always in my Heart as it's only as you reach the end do you realise what an apt title that is. People new to Freda Lightfoot's will enjoy this book particularly now as a nice alternative to all the Christmas books published at the moment. I was sad to reach the end of Brenda's story but I am already looking forward to what compelling tale Freda Lightfoot may bring to us in 2017.'

Review by The Book Trail 
'This was a really unique and fascinating angle on the wartime saga story. So much unspoken. So many layers to this. And written in a lovely, heartwarming way. A homage in fact to the real Brendas and women of the time. A novel of many emotions.'

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. 



Peace in My Heart 
Amazon UK

Review by Lancashire Evening Post:
'Lightfoot, the queen of romance and family dramas, weaves a compelling and moving story which offers readers a glimpse into the often unseen impact of wartime evacuation and the struggle to return to normality after years of estrangement and conflict. Brimming with heartache, secrets, romance and Lightfoot’s special brand of magical storytelling, this is the perfect winter warmer for the Christmas season.'

A heartwarming story of life after the war. 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…