Monday, 15 July 2019

A Postcard from Italy
Alex Brown

I'm delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Blog Tour for Alex Brown's new novel, A Postcard from Italy. This novel starts in London, near to where I live! 
I have an extract for you and it sounds like this will be a great book to read whilst on holiday lazing on a sun lounger with a cocktail or two!...

Grace Quinn loves her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company, finding occasional treasure in the forgotten units that customers have abandoned. Her inquisitive nature is piqued when a valuable art collection and a bundle of letters and diaries are found that date back to the 1930’s. Delving deeper, Grace uncovers the story of a young English woman, Connie Levine, who follows her heart to Italy at the end of the Second World War. The contents also offer up the hope of a new beginning for Grace, battling a broken heart and caring for her controlling mother.

Extract - Chapter One

London, England, present day
Grace Quinn loved her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company. In fact, it was the only thing that gave her real pleasure these days. Alongside her knitting and a large mug of hot chocolate with a dash of cherry brandy dropped in of an evening as she escaped into one of her favourite old films. She loved the classics. The feeling of being swept away into a world of nostalgia and glamour, where nothing bad ever happened, or so it seemed. Musicals especially, with plenty of dancing. Fred and Ginger. Doris Day. Whipcrackaway! She was a big Doris Day fan and had learnt so much about timing and precision from watching Doris, which in turn had helped Grace hone her own dance skills. Gene Kelly too. Singin’ in the Rain. She’d never grow tired of watching that masterpiece. Although her absolute all-time favourite was – of course – the legendary Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. It really was ’S Wonderful, ’S Marvellous, as Audrey and Fred sang in the Technicolor scene where they floated down the river in the grounds of that idyllic chateau in Paris. But the magic could never happen for Grace until her bedbound mother, Cora, had eventually fallen asleep, which recently had been getting later and later.
So, slipping her shoes on as she brushed her hair, and then wound her rumpus of copper curls up into a more manageable bun, Grace kept one ear out for Cora upstairs in her bedroom, silently praying that she’d make it out the door to work without her mother bellowing again for more breakfast cereal and toast. Grace had already taken her a large bowl of cornflakes and two rounds of butter and jam, but the shop had run out of the extra-thick crusty bread, ‘so it takes more to fill me up, Grace’ is what Cora had said on calling out for yet more toast. And recently, Cora had been yelling too for the lamp right beside her on the cabinet to be switched on because her own hand, mere millimetres away, was ‘playing up’ again. That had happened four times last night.
But it wasn’t to be.
‘Grace. Grace. Grace. For the love of God where are you?’ Cora thundered in her dense Irish accent, thumping the floor with her walking stick and making the plastic lightshade, hanging from the ceiling in the lounge, sway precariously above Grace’s head.
She put down the brush. Gripping the edge of the mantelpiece with both hands, she closed her eyes, dipped her head momentarily and inhaled deeply before letting out a long breath, searching every fibre of her being just to find another iota of resilience somewhere within her. She was tired. So tired. After opening her eyes, Grace inspected her face in the mirror and saw bloodshot flecks around her green irises from lack of sleep and her fair, freckly skin seemed even paler, if that was even possible. Cora had had a bad night and Grace had been up until almost 3 a.m. This would be the third day in a row now that she would be late for work; even though her boss, Larry, was very under- standing, he was also getting on. And after his knee surgery last year it wasn’t so easy for him to do the rounds, walking the length of the warehouse corridors, checking the temperature controls and pushing the heavy metal trolleys back to their place in the bays beside the lift. Yes, he had been good to her, so the least she could do was to turn up on time. Grace really didn’t feel it was fair to leave it all to him.
But then nothing much was fair these days as far as she could see. Not for Larry. And not for her. How could it be fair when none of her siblings helped out? Cora had four grown-up children, yet it had been left to Grace, the youngest, to care for their extremely demanding mother, single-
handedly. Apart from the occasional visits from her best friend, Jamie. He lived in the terraced house next door and they had grown up together here in Woolwich. He worked as a midwife now at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and popped in whenever he could to help turn Cora and pick up a pound to buy her a scratch- card. Cora loved a scratchcard and was convinced that her ‘big win’ was just around the corner. And when that day came she was going to ‘employ an expert carer and book into a suite at the Savoy Hotel in London where they know how to do things properly’.
Grace had heard it all before a million times over and, if the truth be told, she really hoped that ‘big win’ would hurry up and happen soon for both of their sakes. Cora flatly refused to consider a council run care home, claiming only a high-end one, akin to a five-star hotel, would do for her, and she wouldn’t let ‘riffraff’, aka strangers, in the house to help out either, so it really had all been left to Grace to deal with. And Grace knew that she was crumbling under the strain of caring for her mother and trying to hold down a full-time job, but couldn’t see another way. Especially since Cora had flatly refused to be assessed for any sort of carers’ allowance, so Grace’s income was all they had to get by on. Grace had tried getting her siblings involved, but they had moved away or had important jobs in banking in the City of London . . . well, more important than her job at the storage company on an industrial estate in Greenwich and only ten minutes to get to on the bus, is what they really meant. So Grace ploughed on . . . because she couldn’t just abandon her mother, turn her back on her when she was unable to leave her own bed unaided due to her health problems exacerbated by her bulk.
No, Cora needed her.
‘What is it, Mum?’ Grace asked, on entering Cora’s bedroom, near choking on the foggy air, thick with the fragrance of lily-of-the-valley talcum powder.
‘What did you get this one for?’ Cora complained, her doughy face wobbling into a frown.
‘What do you mean, Mum?’ Grace scanned the room.
And Cora lifted up the corner of the duvet. Her fleshy bare legs and arms and nightie-covered body were coated in white talcum powder. Grace’s heart sank. It was twenty-five past eight, according to the gold carriage clock on the chest of drawers, and she was supposed to be at work by nine. There was no way she could sort this out in time – strip the bed, being careful to turn her mother as she did so – just as the care assistant from social services had shown her, and then replace the talcum- powdered sheet with a clean one. Before finally washing the powder from Cora’s body and finding a fresh nightie for her to wear. Grace had taken the last nightie from the drawer earlier this morning before putting a load of washing in the machine, ready to peg out on the line to dry when she rushed back home in her lunch break. But she couldn’t leave her mother like this for a whole morning. Cora was already wheezing from inhaling the powder and her skin would sweat and then get sore which would involve more creams and extra-frequent turning to avoid painful bedsores.
So, resigned to letting Larry down again with another late start, Grace pulled her mobile from her jeans pocket and swiftly tapped out a text message to him before galvanizing herself into action. If she moved fast and Cora complied with her instructions to hold the handle of the hoist when she rolled her onto her side, then she might be in with a chance of making it to work before ten o’clock.
About the Author
Photo by Philippa Gedge
Alex Brown is the bestselling author of six books and launched her career with the hugely popular Carrington’s series set in a seaside town department store. Alex now writes warm, witty and heartfelt novels centered on the cosy community spirit of village life. Alex began her writing career as a weekly columnist for The London Paper, before trading in the rat race for the good life. When she isn’t writing, Alex enjoys knitting, and is passionate about supporting charities working with care leavers, adoption and vulnerable young people. Alex lives in a rural village in Sussex, with her husband, daughter and a very shiny black Labrador. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Forget Me Not
Claire Allan
Blog Tour

When Elizabeth is walking her dog early one morning, she comes across a woman lying in a ditch. She hurries over to her and finds her just clinging to life. She tries her very best to keep her alive, but hears the words "warn them" and then she fades away. The body is of a young woman by the name of Claire.

Rachel and Julie are Claire's close friends from their school days and are absolutely devastated to hear that their friend has been murdered and brutally at that.

Rachel is married to Paul but has a secret and is trying her utmost to keep it from her husband and two daughters.

Julie is struggling with Claire's death and is falling apart before everyone's eyes.

Elizabeth is trying to keep her own past private, having lost her own daughter to suicide two years previously, but little does she know that Claire knew her daughter Laura and that the killer is linking all the school friends together. Does this mean that they are all in danger?...

Another fabulous read by Claire Allan and one that, given the time, I could read in practically one sitting! It made me suspect everyone and is a real page turner of a book! I'm not giving away any spoilers, so you will just have to get yourself a copy!

I really can't wait to read more from this author.

To buy a copy from Amazon click here

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Happiness for Beginners
Carole Matthews

I've been a huge Carole Matthew's fan for many years now since reading It's a Kind of Magic. I think it's safe to say that I have read nearly all of them now!

Every year I wait with anticipation for her new one to come out and this year was no exception. I was going to wait for the paperback version of this to come out before buying it, but my very dear friend and fellow reviewer, Julie Williams, very kindly gifted me a copy of the hardback that she won in a competition! Thank you Julie, you are a true friend and I don't know what I would have done without you, especially over the past few months.

You can find my review below along with some photos of when my daughter and I went alpaca walking at Easter this year. They truly are wonderful creatures and have their own personality (as you will find out if you read this book!). Thanks to the lovely people at Unicorn Alpaca Walks, Suffolk for a fantastic tour! 


Molly lives on Hope Farm with only her dilapidated caravan and lots of dysfunctional animals. She inherited the farm from her Aunt Hettie and along with Bev and Allen, she helps children with different kinds of behavioural, learning and mental health problems. They go along to the farm and help with the feeding and upkeep of the animals as well as learning at the same time.

This sounds like an idyllic lifestyle, but Molly doesn't have a proper shower, always smells of animals and although she won't admit it, she is lonely.

When Shelby Dacre brings his son Lucas along to the farm Molly has no idea who Shelby is, but Bev knows he is an actor in a very popular farm soap, but as Molly has no tv, she is none the wiser! She only knows that he is drop dead gorgeous!

Shelby's son Lucas is a typical teenager, but Molly takes an instant shine to him and he to her and together they rub along quite nicely. Lucas even opens up to Molly that he likes to write and perform poetry, something he wouldn't dream of sharing with his father, who is finding it hard bringing up a teenager on his own. Lucas is grieving after losing his Mum to cancer and growing further and further apart from his Dad isn't helping.

Molly tries her best to bring Shelby and Lucas closer together, but has other things on her mind when a letter arrives saying that the farm is being sold off to make way for a high speed train line.

Could all Molly and Bev's hard work trying to make the farm a success really be in jeopardy?

I have been in a real reading slump over the past 6 months, but this book really got me back into the swing of things. It's a great read with some very witty stories (especially about the naughty alpacas!). It is also the first time that I have had a weep at a Carole Matthew's book as Lucas wrote a poem about losing his Mum to cancer and sadly, I lost my Mum too in February to this awful disease .

Thank you Carole for another great read. I have always loved the short chapters and on several occasions, I read "one more chapter" and before you know it, you have read nearly half the book!

I'm ready for the next one now...

Thursday, 6 June 2019

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
Elif Shafax
Thank you so much to Penguin for letting me kick off the Blog Tour for this book. Today, I have an extract for you, but this sounds such an interesting read that I am adding this one to my TBR pile and hope to get to read it sooner rather than later! Sit back and enjoy a teaser of this one!

Her name was Leila.
Tequila Leila, as she was known to her friends and her clients. Tequila Leila as she was called at home and at work, in that rosewood-coloured house on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac down by the wharf, nestled between a church and a synagogue, among lamp shops and kebab shops – the street that harboured the oldest licensed brothels in Istanbul.
Still, if she were to hear you put it like that, she might take offence and playfully hurl a shoe – one of her high-heeled stilettos.
‘Is, darling, not was . . . My name is Tequila Leila.’
Never in a thousand years would she agree to be spoken of in the past tense. The very thought of it would make her feel small and defeated, and the last thing she wanted in this world was to feel that way. No, she would insist on the present tense – even though she now realized with a sinking feeling that her heart had just stopped beating, and her breathing had abruptly ceased, and whichever way she looked at her situation there was no denying that she was dead.
None of her friends knew it yet. This early in the morning they would be fast asleep, each trying to find the way out of their own labyrinth of dreams. Leila wished she were at home too, enveloped in the warmth of bed covers with her cat curled at her feet, purring in drowsy contentment. Her cat was stone deaf and black – except for a patch of snow on one paw. She had named him Mr Chaplin, after Charlie Chaplin, for, just like the heroes of early cinema, he lived in a silent world of his own.
Tequila Leila would have given anything to be in her apartment now. Instead she was here, somewhere on the outskirts of Istanbul, across from a dark, damp football field, inside a metal rubbish bin with rusty handles and flaking paint. It was a wheelie bin; at least four feet high and half as wide. Leila herself was five foot seven – plus the eight inches of her purple slingback stilettos, still on her feet.
There was so much she wanted to know. In her mind she kept replaying the last moments of her life, asking herself where things had gone wrong – a futile exercise since time could not be unravelled as though it were a ball of yarn. Her skin was already turning greyish-white, even though her cells were still abuzz with activity.
She could not help but notice that there was a great deal happening inside her organs and limbs. People always assumed that a corpse was no more alive than a fallen tree or a hollow stump, devoid of consciousness. But given half a chance, Leila would have testified that, on the contrary, a corpse was brimming with life.
She could not believe that her mortal existence was over and done with. Only the day before she had crossed the neighbourhood of Pera, her shadow gliding along streets named after military leaders and national heroes, streets named after men. Just that week her laughter had echoed in the low-ceilinged taverns of Galata and Kurtulush, and the small, stuffy dens of Tophane, none of which ever appeared in travel guides or on tourist maps. The Istanbul that Leila had known was not the Istanbul that the Ministry of Tourism would have wanted foreigners to see.
Last night she had left her fingerprints on a whisky glass, and a trace of her perfume – Paloma Picasso, a birthday present from her friends – on the silk scarf she had tossed aside on the bed of a stranger, in the top-floor suite of a luxury hotel. In the sky high above, a sliver of yesterday’s moon was visible, bright and unreachable, like the vestige of a happy memory. She was still part of this world, and there was still life inside her, so how could she be gone? How could she be no more, as
though she were a dream that fades at the first hint of daylight? Only a few hours ago she was singing, smoking, swearing, thinking . . . well, even now she was thinking.
It was remarkable that her mind was working at full tilt – though who knew for how long. She wished she could go back and tell everyone that the dead did not die instantly, that they could, in fact, continue to reflect on things, including their own demise. People would be scared if they learned this, she reckoned. She certainly would have been when she was alive. But she felt it was important that they knew.

Friday, 31 May 2019

The Sewing Room Girl
Susanna Bavin

I am so pleased to be a part of the blog tour for Susanna Bavin's new novel, The Sewing Room Girl. I am taking this one on holiday with me to Turkey next month as her first novel, The Deserter's Daughter was fabulous and I am hearing nothing but great reviews about this one! I want to thank Lesley at Allison & Busby for thinking of me and sending a copy for review.

Excerpt from Chapter One of The Sewing Room Girl
Saturday morning, not long after six and already the dew had burnt off. The sky was the soft blue of harebells and there was a brightness in the air, though it would be hot again before long. Just like last Saturday morning – and not in the slightest bit like it, because back then, when Juliet set off for the Dancys’ cottage, Pop had headed in the opposite direction to work on the drystone walls at the home farm. How could they not have known? Last Saturday, how could they not have known that by this Saturday . . . ?
She let herself into the Dancys’ cottage, where Mr Dancy sat in the rocking chair, pulling his boots on. Ella popped her head round the kitchen door.
‘Morning, chick.’ She didn’t ask impossible questions like ‘How are you?’ but her soft eyes and rueful upside-down smile revealed her concern. It was a shame she would never be free to marry because of looking after her father and grandmother – not that she looked after old Mrs Dancy much. That was Juliet’s job and had been since the morning after she left school.
She went upstairs, the soles of her ankle boots tapping on the wooden treads. The instant she opened the bedroom door, the stench slapped her. Old Mrs Dancy might be no bigger than a corn dolly but, by crikey, she produced enough motions to fertilise the top field and still have some left for her ladyship’s rose beds.
‘There you are, girl.’
Some folk said ‘Good morning’. Some said ‘How are you today?’ Old Mrs Dancy said ‘There you are, girl.’ Every morning for the past three years.
‘Morning, Mrs Dancy.’
Holding her breath, Juliet dug out the chamber pot from under the bed. Her scalp prickled as the tang swarmed round her. She hurried downstairs – but not too fast: it would be infinitely worse if she spilt it – and out the back door to the earth closet, chucking the pungent contents through the hole in the seat. For one head-spinning moment, it seemed the contents of her stomach might follow, but she retreated into the patch of garden and her nausea settled.
Dumping the chamber pot on the grass, she returned to lug the wooden pail downstairs. The pail into which old Mrs Dancy evacuated her bowels had a worse smell, but at least today it was just stools inside. Sometimes she peed in it as well and the pee seeped through a tiny crack, then Juliet would have to mop the floor.
She rinsed the chamber pot and pail under the water pump, then carried them back in.
Ella was about to put on the straw hat she wore in summer. She was lucky because she could dress her hat with flowers without the village busybodies calling it inappropriate, because her job was with flowers. She stopped with the hat halfway to her head.
‘Thank you.’
She always said thank you, unlike her grandmother, who was more likely to say ‘Now rub ointment into me bunions.’
Upstairs, Juliet slid the chamber pot under the bed and positioned the pail so that old Mrs Dancy would be able to slither off the mattress and hang onto her bedside table while Juliet helped her wriggle her nightdress up her scrawny thighs, before she plonked herself down on the pail for one of her noisy bowel movements.
Hearing the door shut downstairs, Juliet went to the window to watch Ella on her way. When she had started here, she had been happy to help the beautiful Ella. Now her ribs tightened in envy of Ella’s job down the hill. Ella worked for a florist and came home smelling of petals and greenery. Oh, for a proper job! But, as Mother, Mrs Grove, the vicar and Uncle Tom Cobley were fond of pointing out: ‘We all help one another in Clough’ – so there was no hope of it. Juliet spent long days filing toenails as thick as piano keys, removing earwax with a funnel of oil, applying pennies to warts and feeling the back of old Mrs Dancy’s hairbrush across her knuckles when the old lady’s wisps of hair refused to stay put in a meagre bun. Every hour, she read verses from the Bible because, as old Mrs Dancy said, ‘You never know when you’ll gasp your last.’
But it was Pop who had gasped his last. After his fall, he had been carried home on a door and put to bed, where he had lain motionless. The women who trooped in and out, providing cups of tea and unwanted food and much-needed company, said he looked like he was fast asleep. To start with, Juliet had taken comfort from it, then she realised that you moved in your sleep, even if it was just a little wriggle. Pop lay flat on his back, the way they had arranged him.
‘I’ll fetch your breakfast.’
She ran downstairs to make the thin grey gruel the old lady swore by.
‘Keeps me regular. You’ve got to be regular when you’re bedfast.’
It was the start of another interminable day, made heavier by grief and shock. Anxiety too. What was to become of them without Pop? Juliet balled her fist around the saucepan handle. It wasn’t right that they should have that worry. They should be allowed to concentrate on their loss.
And on top of all that, there was the boredom. No matter how often she swore to be cheerful, the irksome routine ground her down, leaving her brain sticky with tedium and her skin caked in stale air. Thank heaven Ella came home more or less when the children were let out of school.
Often, when Ella returned and set her free, Juliet would stride off along the tops to fill her lungs with clean air, but today she went straight home. Heat bounced up from the path. Her feet were hot and tight inside her boots. Doors and windows stood open, not that there was any breeze to be caught that way.
In the cottage, Mother and Mrs Grove were huddled together looking inside the tall cupboard in the alcove beside the fireplace.
‘That’s heavy, so it’ll need to go at the bottom,’ said Mrs Grove.
‘I don’t need telling how to pack, Beatrice,’ said Mother.
‘Pack?’ Fear streamed through Juliet, which was daft, because she knew the rules about tied cottages.
Mother turned round. Her face, which had been drawn all week, was brighter. ‘It’s good news. Mrs Whicker wanted to see me because her ladyship has heard of my reputation with a needle and wants me to be her personal seamstress.’ She laughed and a couple of tears spurted from her eyes. ‘It’s a live-in position. Imagine that. There’s never been a resident seamstress at Moorside before.’
If Mother went to Moorside . . . ‘Will I have to move in with old Mrs Dancy?’
‘You’re coming with me. It’s a sign of how much they want me that they’re prepared to take you as well.’
Mrs Grove snorted. ‘It’s a sign of what a sensible body Mrs Whicker is, more like. Say what you like about her being a slave-driver, but she guards those housemaids more closely than their own mothers. She wouldn’t dream of setting you adrift, Juliet, not at your age.’
‘So I’m not going to work at Moorside?’
‘No, you’ll stop with old Mrs Dancy.’ Mrs Grove sounded as knowledgeable as if the whole thing was her idea. She talked about everything that way. ‘Nowt will change for you, except for living in a different place.’
Nowt will change? It had already changed. Pop was dead, and she and Mother were to move out of the cottage Mother had moved into as a bride on the day Pop planted the climbing rose.
‘We have to pack and give the cottage a thorough spring clean,’ said Mother.
‘It’ll keep you busy,’ said Mrs Grove, ‘and that’s no bad thing.’
Whether it was good or bad was beside the point. There was no choice.

About the author
Susanna Bavin lives on the beautiful North Wales coast. Moving there five years ago was a childhood dream come true. She lives with her husband and their two rescue cats. Susanna is originally from Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester, where her family has lived for several generations and which provides the setting for her family sagas.

Susanna started writing as a child and has been writing all her life, but for most of that time she didn’t submit anything to literary agents. Instead, she got rather hooked on getting feedback and worked with a writers' advisory service for some years. Then she decided to aim for publication and wrote three novels so as to have a body of work to offer a literary agent.

She is represented by MBA, who introduced her to the publishing world in their pre-Frankfurt Book Fair newsletter. Allison & Busby immediately asked if they could read The Deserter’s Daughter when it was ready. They bought The Deserter's Daughter and also bought a second, unwritten, 1920s saga on the strength of a synopsis - A Respectable Woman. They subsequently bought her next two books - The Sewing Room Girl and The Poor Relation.


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Thursday, 30 May 2019

Girls on the Home Front
Annie Clarke

Today, it's my turn on the Blog Tour for Girls on the Home Front by Annie Clarke. I'm afraid that I couldn't get a review done in time, but to compensate, I have an extract for you.

August 1941, North East England
Arrival at the factory…
One, a woman of about thirty, whose frown was deep, stepped forward. She smiled, and her face was transformed. ‘Welcome, ladies,’ she said. ‘Mrs Raydon and I are security officers. Some of you are new, so will the others forgive me as I go through the usual pep talk, or perhaps that’s too optimistic a description. You see, new girls, I have to tell you what it is you’ve signed up for.’ She held up her hand, only it wasn’t a hand, it was an arm that ended at the wrist. ‘I made a mistake. I became careless and had a mishap with a detonator, and you may well find yourself working with these, so be careful.’
Fran gasped, along with several others. Miss Ellington continued to smile. ‘This is a filling factory, and it is work which is simple, but needs total concentration and steady hands for you will be filling armament cases of varying descriptions with explosive powders. These cases include detonators, shells, bullets, rockets, bombs. You are not only handling these powders, you are breathing them in and they can cause rashes, changes in skin and hair colouring and so on. Not always, but they can. We do our best to transfer you to the sewing shop or somesuch if this becomes a problem to you. Sometimes you feel sick, sometimes you get a bit emotional, sometimes . . . Well, let’s not dwell on it, but we do what we can to give your bodies a change of scene.’
She pointed to Mr Swinton’s overall. ‘Yes, made by a “resting team”. Not Mr Swinton, just his overall. We had no pattern for Mr Swinton so he created himself, indeed he did.’ As the others laughed, Mrs Oborne whispered, ‘Miss Ellington’s a devil for riling the old bugger. Gets right up Swinton’s nose.’ Fran could see Swinton glowering beneath his bushy, grey-tinged eyebrows as he moved his weight from foot to foot, and then rose on his toes, before subsiding and repeating the pattern.
Mrs Raydon took over. ‘Now, ladies, a few crucial rules. You must not – ever – say where you work, not to your mam or da, not to the lady in the corner shop. Do remember we have to assume that even walls have ears, or so the posters tell us. Also remember that if our troops have no weapons capable of firing, they are in mortal danger, and what’s more, we will lose the war. If you do your work efficiently, diligently, you will be part of the process that allows them to survive and crush the enemy.
‘You need to know very little except your own particular task. The less you know, the less you can inadvertently discuss. Here, in this sector, you are likely to be working with one of the following: a fuse pellet – which helps the detonator to spark the explosive in a shell, or the detonator itself, and not forgetting the explosive, which we call The Yellow. You will come to understand why. All of these are badtempered little beggars and need careful handling.’
Mr Swinton now stepped forward. ‘Don’t be fooled. There are those within our own population, our own community, who would do us harm, so if you are vulnerable to flattery, to blabbing, you might be drawn into certain actions, or into explaining how the site is protected. If you do reveal what you are not supposed to, if it is discovered that you have spoken of your work, or helped the enemy in any way at all, you will be arrested and imprisoned.’
Fran thought of how she’d told Davey she had signed up for war work in a factory, and swallowed. She had told him nothing about what it was, or where it was, because she didn’t know. All she’d known was that it was secret and this is what she’d said. It was then that Davey, Sarah’s brother, had come up with the idea of calling it Spark Lane between themselves because the canny lad had guessed. Now, listening to Swinton, she felt it better to just call it ‘the Factory’.
Miss Ellington was speaking again. ‘Of course, there are rumours of our existence as we have so many employees – we Geordies aren’t daft – but no details have been leaked. So make up your own fibs if you have to say anything.’
Miss Ellington then explained that the Factory complex covered hundreds of acres, and that it was none of their business to know how many workers were required, or their tasks. ‘When you arrive at the start of each shift you will come to this room, or one similar, for every section has its own facilities. Once here you will divest yourselves of anything metallic, including wedding rings, and put them in the envelopes provided, and these will be kept safe until you leave at the end of your shift.’
Mrs Raydon took up the thread. ‘You will also leave matches in the envelope provided. You will wear only cotton for fear of static. We canna say any of this too often, and you will hear it often, believe me.’ Mrs Raydon explained that all the buildings were well spaced out so an explosion would cause minimum damage to any of the other sectors. Each wall had a strong skeleton structure, but with a centre constructed to give way easily in order to minimise the effect of an explosion. ‘In order for work to continue, in other words.’ There was a pause. Mrs Raydon finished, ‘That’s what’s important, pets. The work must continue, whatever happens.’
Beth muttered, ‘And bugger the workers.’
Fran sighed, but Miss Ellington had heard. ‘Exactly, young lady. An explosion is usually your own mistake, but it might be something worse. If, for instance, you take a hairgrip into a work area, it will in all likelihood be considered sabotage. Therefore, if that grip is discovered upon your person once you are clear of the changing rooms, you will be removed from the premises and will, probably, face serious criminal charges. Throughout the shift, we, or others concerned with security, will float around keeping an eye out for lack of concentration or carelessness. That is our job. We do it well.’
Mr Swinton waved his hand around. ‘While you’re in this sector, this is where you’ll change into the overalls provided, wearing them over your day clothes which should be cotton. Checks will be made. You will don turbans and felt boots, if required, since we can’t have any sparks from shoes. Over there, along that bench against the wall, are the envelopes for your dangerous articles. Place your shoes beneath if you are required to change them. Mebbe in time we’ll get a separate security room for your articles. Miracles happen.’
He coughed. ‘Today the trainees will start in the sewing shop, the others will follow me. Trainees, there’s no need for you to know any more than that they are following me.’
Miss Ellington took over. ‘A hint. If anyone asks, you are working in a factory making thingummybobs, and then change the subject.’ Miss Ellington waved her hand to Mr Swinton, Mrs Raydon and herself, and then encompassed the room – ‘At the start of every week you will be reminded of all that’s been said today. Remember, you know nowt. You say nowt about nowt. You work eight-hour shifts, or longer if needed. These shifts rotate weekly – mornings, afternoons or nights. You do not complain if we have to work a seven-day week. We have a war to win.’
Mrs Raydon stepped forward. ‘Any questions?’
Valerie, from Sledgeford, where Beth now lived, put up her hand. ‘We get fed, I ’ope, otherwise it’s a bliddy long day. The bus takes near on two hours.’
Miss Ellington grinned. ‘Don’t you worry, you won’t fade away. There’s a canteen.’ Mr Swinton pointed to the clock. Miss Ellington nodded, serious now. ‘Time to get on and take the place of the night shift. Remember: “Be like Dad, keep Mum”, “Walls have ears” and . . . Well, bear in mind every other poster you’ve seen. And end the war with two hands, I beg you.’

August 1941: As war sweeps across Britain and millions of men enlist to serve their country, it’s up to the women to fight the battle on the home front.

Fran always thought she would marry her childhood sweetheart and lead a simple life in Massingham, the beloved pit village she has always called home.

But with war taking so many men to the front line, the opening of a new factory in the north-east of England presents an opportunity for Fran to forge a new path.

Against her father’s wishes and with best friends Sarah and Beth by her side, Fran signs up to join the ranks of women at the factory. It’s dangerous work but as the three friends risk life and limb for their country, they will discover that their lives are only just beginning…

Monday, 20 May 2019

I Know Who You Are
Alice Feeney

Guest Review
Julie Williams

Today, it's my turn on the Blog Tour for I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney and I am delighted that my lovely friend, Julie Williams, offered to review this one as I know this is an author she really likes.

Having read this Author’s debut Sometimes I Lie last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, I had great expectations for her new novel and I can say it didn’t disappoint.

It is a book with two time lines and stories which slowly emerge, unravelling so many disturbing things along the way. 

Aimee Sinclair is an up and coming actress, who, to an outsider, comes across as having the perfect life, but looks can be deceiving as we find out when she arrives home one day to find her husband Ben missing, her acting talent really does come into its own.

Aimee has so many hidden secrets, but the one thing she yearns for is a child of her own, this is something that controlling Ben is adamant is not going to happen. 

Aimee soon becomes a suspect when a body is discovered and she is more determined than ever to conceal her past. 

The chapters of Aimee in the late 1980’s are spoken with her childlike honesty. When she is kidnapped away from her family and home in Ireland to a new life in Essex I found her words particularly disturbing as she describes the terrifying ordeal.  Aimee’s childhood is certainly not a happy one, but then neither is her adult one.

No one is who you think they are and with so many twists I could not predict what was coming next, which of course is perfect reading for this genre of book. 

My thanks to HQ for the copy of this book and to Julie Boon for sharing my review on her blog as part of the blog tour.