The Fallen Women by Lindsey Hutchinson

Guest Post

I would like to welcome Lindsey Hutchinson to my blog and thank you very much for agreeing to write a piece for me.

Born and raised in Wednesbury in the heart of the ‘Black Country’ in middle England, I worked most of my life as a secretary. My skills came in useful when my mother,Meg Hutchinson, retired from a life of teaching and became a very successful author. I spent many happy hours typing her manuscripts in readiness for the publisher. Without realising, I learned many lessons regarding the writing of novels.

            Although I had written stories for my children as they grew, I never considered writing seriously until the passing of my mother. It was a while later when I decided I would ‘try my hand’.  It’s thanks to the support of my family and friends as well as my Agent, Judith Murdoch, and the Aria team that I am now a published author under my maiden name of Lindsey Hutchinson.

            My stories come from fictional ideas which are peppered with true life facts. I find the internet invaluable for checking dates and details; the promotion of e-books too is a godsend to those such as myself. However, I still love the feel of a printed book in my hands.

            Setting a work-time schedule is impossible for me as I have to put my ideas on paper as soon as they come to me. I keep a pen and notebook in my handbag, one by the bed and yet another on my armchair – just in case an idea strikes. It might be talking to someone which gets the creative juices flowing, or overhearing a snippet of conversation; then again it may be a smell or a tune.

            Certainly whatever sets me on the path of writing will ensure I have many hours of swea tand tears but also the greatest enjoyment.

            I was once given a piece of advice, ‘Write about what you know’, but I think it’s also important to value everything one learns along the way. 

            Research excites me too and I love learning about new things; I often get lost down the different avenues which can ignite the fires of imagination. I enjoy uniting historical facts with fictional ideas and to see them come together eventually in book form gives me the greatest thrill.

The poverty in the Victorian/Edwardian eras is well known but the resolve of the people to endure is remarkable; coming together in the face of adversity.

            Grabbing the reader at the outset with a ‘hook’ to hold their interest is, for me, an exciting way to begin my novels. When ideas come thick and fast I can write all day, then at other times I’m dry. Sitting in the garden quietly with my dog usually helps to stimulate my thought processes once more.

            Reader sand bloggers – keep up the good work, as I for one am grateful to you all. I really hope you enjoy The Fallen Women – do please let me know.

Lindsey Hutchinson lives in Shropshire with her husband. She has a son and a daughter and three beautiful grandchildren. She is now a full time author.

The Fallen Women by Lindsey Hutchinson

Blog Tour 

Since the death of her parents when she was just a girl, orphan Ann Felton has had to struggle to survive. The grimy and gruelling Black Country is no place for a girl all alone and Ann is relieved when she gets works at The Bell public house, and is befriended by the local ladies of the night.

These bawdy, brave women take Ann under their wings, but with poverty gnawing hard at the people of Wednesbury life is a continual struggle.Ann can’t bear to think how her friends make their money, but their friendship keeps her safe.

Victoria Beckett and Viscount Richard Wyndham have none of Ann’s worries. Both grew up with silver spoons firmly in their mouths, and neither can understand Ann’s struggles. But before long Ann will change both their lives forever, and in turn one of them might just save Ann from a fate worse than death…

Chells and Books Review: 

This is truly an unbelievable historical read. I could not put it down.   

I totally adored Ann who is our main heroine. She goes from being on the streets to working a job she doesn’t much enjoy nut she is off the streets, which is somewhere you do not want to be especially in the Black Country. Ann makes friends with the ladies of the night, who I have to say despite the job you cannot help but feel empathy for them. Lindsey writes in such a away that all the characters despite thinking you should maybe not like them you cannot help but like them. If you think Anna start in life was bad wait until you read what happens next. Her life is anything but boring with loads of twists and turns in the plot. 

I can’t get enough of Lindsey’s writing style and will be hunting for more books by her. 

See my next post for a lovely guest post by Lindsey herself. Thanks Lindsey. 

About the Author:

Lindsey lives in Shropshire with her husband and dog. She loves to read and has recently discovered photography. Lindsey is the daughter of million-copy bestselling author Meg Hutchinson.

The Secret by Jennifer Wells

Blog Tour Extract 

A tightly woven story full of secrets and lies with a breathtaking finale.

London 1920 – Troubled young dancer, Lily, is invited to remote Elmridge House, home of the wealthy theatre benefactor Dr Cuthbertson to escape her troubled past. An isolated guest room and a surprise pregnancy leave her longing to return to the stage and her London life. She soon discovers that Elmridge House is not all that it seems – the house holds secrets which make it difficult for her to leave.

Missensham 1942 – Young nurse Ivy Watts is called out to a patient at Elmridge House, home of the aloof Mrs Cuthbertson and reclusive Dr Cuthbertson. Ivy is entranced by the opulence of the house and its glamorous past, but when she tells her mother about Mrs Cuthbertson, her mother becomes fearful and forbids her from returning to the house.

What secrets does Elmridge House hold? And why does Lily’s mother live in fear of the mysterious Mrs Cuthbertson?

Perfect for the fans of Lesley Pearce and Susan Lewis.

Extract: 

I could not sleep after the woman’s visit. I lay awake in the darkness listening to the scrape of the ivy on the window and watching the dapple of moonlight on the ceiling. Even the knowledge that I had checked the locks several times did little to help my sleep and my thoughts were filled with memories of the desperate woman with the wavering eyes who had let herself into the kitchen and demanded drugs in return for money.

The sound of footsteps outside made me jump, but then came the jangle of keys and a curse as Bridget dropped them on the doorstep. I squinted at the clock – the hands were clumped together over the twelve. Bridget was due on the early morning shift and would get very little rest, but I was glad she was home and that I was no longer alone in the house. I drifted off to sleep.

*

Bridget rose to the drill of the morning alarm bell with a groan and, when I did not hear the clank of the water pipes, I knew that she must have put on her uniform without washing. I went into the kitchen in my housecoat but found her staring at a triangle of toast. Her usually delicate features now seemed drawn and pale and she had pinned her long chestnut hair tightly under her cap without styling it. She shook her head when I offered to make her tea, but when I asked her if she’d had a nice evening, her face broke into a wide grin, although she said nothing further and walked shakily to the front door, letting it bang behind her.

There had been a time when I first moved in to the nurses’ house that I had admired Bridget – she was only a few years older than me but was able to speak to both the patients and doctors with the authority typical of her class. Her face had a daintiness to it, and she had a warm smile for those she favoured. In those early days, Bridget had chatted to me about her life – of her smart family home in west London and the society parties she frequented with her sisters and cousins, but when I told her that I had only ever lived with my crippled mother in a tiny house in Missensham, her friendliness had faded to politeness and all that I learned about her life after that was what I overheard as she sat on the stairs and gossiped to her friends on the telephone.

Bridget’s short exchanges with me made it quite clear that the friendship I had longed for would not grow and we moved separately,inhabiting the same space but nothing more. On that morning, with her messy hair and her hangover, it had not seemed right to mention the woman who had visited in the night.

I watched Bridget through the sitting room window as she walked to work, the blue of her uniform flashing through the trees at the back entrance of the hospital. Had we been closer, she might have asked for my help that morning, but she did not and I felt that it was not right to offer it, so I consoled myself with the thought of her facing the stench of the morning round of bedpans alone.

I returned upstairs slowly. A glance through the open door of Bridget’s bedroom told me a little of her evening – there was an imprint of mascara on her pillow and an evening dress left on the foot of her bed where she had fallen in a drunken stupor. On her nightstand was an expensive bottle of perfume, still in a bag from Partridge’s Department Store.I wondered how she might have afforded it, but then I remembered the unwelcome night visitor and how she had thrust money at me, saying that I was just like my silly friend. I imagined Bridget taking the little rolled pound notes and folding them carefully into her purse.

I washed, dressed and ate breakfast. Then I remembered the little bottle of Luminal that I had put in my pocket the previous evening. I fished it out and returned it to Bridget’s bag. I felt that she was suffering enough that morning so did not need the extra worry of a little bottle of pills that was at worst stolen and at best mislaid. I walked down the path to the hospital in time to join the doctor on his morning rounds.

The church bell struck nine as I entered the backdoor of the hospital. I just had time to straighten my cap and run into the hallway and stand next to Bridget to welcome Dr Crawford as he entered through the main entrance.

The local doctor’s rounds were always a formal occasion, yet there was rarely anything that could not be handled by a good nurse. Most patients just needed the reassurance that only a man in a white coat could give. We trailed after Dr Crawford smiling and saying very little as he squinted at charts, held wrists and listened to chests.

Missensham Cottage Hospital only had two wards – one for men and one for ladies, each with eight beds. There was one toilet and one bathroom and a sluice room which also housed the medicine cabinet. There was also a little room at the back with only one bed, secreted away from the unknown to most. It was cleaned regular ly and the bed made, but then the door would always be shut again – it was a room kept clear for an emergency,the serious case that we hoped we would never see.

As for staff, there were few for the doctor to inspect. The matron had left for Queen Alexandra’s military hospital in London,leaving only Bridget, and I had joined fresh from a hurried period of training.There was a local girl, Violet, who covered the gaps in our shifts, but she had received no training other than the instruction to run to the nurses’ house should a problem arise.

Meals were brought in by a local woman, who also cleaned once a day, and the doctor from the surgery on the village green visited twice a week. There was also the odd visit from a district nurse or midwife. For the most part it was only Bridget and myself who staffed the wards. We would even take most of our breaks in the nurses’ house in case there was an emergency which required us to return to the main hospital building.

The doctor’s rounds were usually brief, but in recen tweeks the war had provided a little more interest and Dr Crawford took an unusually long time tending to the patients. There were a couple of soldiers –local men who had been brought back from their postings, the nature of their wounds meaning that they would survive but would not be returning to combat –and some bronchial patients, transferred from London to make way for the wounded. Otherwise, the patients were what could be expected in a small town that straddled the London suburbs and countryside – a farm hand whose leg had been crushed by machinery, old women with swollen ankles and a pregnant farmer’s wife who always ignored the doctor and said she would rather wait for the midwife.

I noticed that Bridget was lagging behind the doctor,her face was still pale and strands of hair crept from her cap on to her moist brow. Dr Crawford glanced at her disdainfully over his spectacles and, after the rounds were over, he permitted me to end my shift but asked Bridget to stay behind and help him with the medicines. She complained that she was due off shift, but he was insistent and I realised that he had a lecture on appearances planned for her as they dispensed the medicines.

I returned to the nurses’ house and made a cup of tea to take up to my bedroom, but as I passed Bridget’s room, my eye fell on the bottle of perfume again. Bridget was from a good family but the war meant that everything was becoming scarce and few people could afford such things. There were really only a couple of places that her good fortune could have come from,but only one place where I might find out.

I went back downstairs to the kitchen and opened the cupboard under the stairs. It was the place that we kept the medicine chest for our lady visitors, but it also contained equipment that Bridget would sometimes use when the ladies had come to us too late. As a nurse who had trained in wartime, most of my experience had been with the wounded and I lacked Bridget’s knowledge of such things. My role had always been limited to private adoptions– finding suitable homes for infants whose mothers had no alternative but to give them up – and the contents of the kitchen cupboard seemed strange to me. I did not know what the rubber tubes and syringes were for and it was something that Bridget would not tell me. When she had a patient in need of them, she would send me upstairs and I would hear nothing more than the grate of the kitchen table as it was pulled away from the wall and I would return to find nothing amiss except a strong smell of Dettol.

The City of Second Chances by Jane Lacey-Crane

Guest Post 

Thank you Jane for appearing on my blog and talking about your amazing new book. 

When I decided that my second book, ‘The City of Second Chances’, was going to feature Christmas, I knew there was only one location (other than my hometown of London) that I wanted to write about – New York.

I’ve never wanted to spend Christmas anywhere other than home, but I’ve always said that if I absolutely had to be somewhere else on Christmas Day, it could only be The Big Apple. Ice skating in Central Park, snow falling on Fifth Avenue and the giant Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Centre; after years of watching films set in that amazing city, those iconic images of Christmas are burned into my brain and imagining my main character Evie’s excitement at being there, was easy peasy.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit New York twice (with a third visit planned for the New Year! I’m not made of money or anything, my sister lives in NY so I get to save on hotels!) and it’s the most amazing place. Every time you turn a corner, it’s like stepping onto a movie set. And the perfect place for running into a heartthrob movie star, as Evie does in the book. This chance meeting is the spark that sets the story alight and sends Evie on personal journey that will change her life. The movie star, Daniel Roberts, is an old friend from way back, someone she knew before he became famous. This idea came from a personal experience of mine – I went to college with a lovely fella who is now a famous actor with women swooning at his feet! I don’t like to namedrop– let’s just say he was recently voted ‘The Sexiest Man Alive’ and he’s about to appear in a new series of ‘Luther’ for the BBC. As teenagers we went on one date – a trip to the local cinema followed by a drink in an awful wine bar –then decided we liked each other better as mates. But when he became really famous, it always struck me as weird to think that I’d known him before all that. Would he have changed much? Is he happy having his private life splashed all over the papers and how do you conduct a relationship in the spotlight like that? I wanted to explore the idea of what happens when an ordinary person is thrust into that world. All with the twinkling Christmas lights of New York as a backdrop to Evie’s adventure.

I hope readers will enjoy sharing Evie’s journey as much as I enjoyed writing it. And I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Much Love xx

The City of Second Chances by Jane Lacey-Crane

Blog Tour 

She’s already met The One, it was just that Mr Right came along at the wrong time….

Evie Grant is forty-five years old, a widow, and single mum of two children about to leave the nest. Suddenly alone in the family home, Evie realizes she hates her job, hardly goes out and hasn’t had a date since who knows when…

So it feels like fate when the opportunity arises for a girls trip to New York City. Staying with her sister on the Upper East Side, Evie is enchanted by a snow-covered city consumed by preparing for Christmas. Bobble hat firmly on, Evie is walking through the city one day when she bumps into Daniel Roberts, Hollywood heartthrob and one-time boyfriend of hers.

It’s now or never for Evie – but she open her heart to the possibility of a new beginnings and true happiness once again….?

Funny, real and wonderfully romantic, this is the perfect feel-good read to keep you warm this winter!

Chells and Books Review:

If you love Christmas in New York then this is a book for you. I found this read to be pure escapism. I couldn’t help but feel festive while reading this.

 The story begins quite dramatically which I loved. I was hooked. The beginning then leads onto our main character Evie having to work through live while overcoming a traumatic event. I really don’t want to give to much away here as it will spoil the read. Jane writes brilliantly capturing all the emotions that Evie has to work through to come out the other side. I also enjoyed the other characters story lines, Evie’s friends. It makes the read more believable to have that element. With all this greatness you properly couldn’t believe that The City of Second Chances couldn’t get any better well it can as its all set at Christmas and in New York too. Jane explians why she used the citu of New York in a brilliant Gruest post she has done for me, so thank you for that Jane. (See next Blog Post for it).

 I would highly recommend this book for anyone who would like a magical festive treat this Christmas.  

About the Author:

Born in London, Jane’s writing career began in cable TV, writing true crime documentaries. More recently, Jane has contributed to an anthology of short stories and written two weekly crime serials. When she’s not writing, Jane loves to read good books, binge watch TV box sets and drink tea. And wine.

Follow Jane:

Twitter handle: @JaneLaceyCrane

Facebook:@JaneLaceyCraneAuthor

Love at the Northern Lights by Darcie Boleyn

Second Blog Tour

Runaway bride Frankie Ashford hops a plane to Norway with one goal in mind – find her estranged mother and make peace with the past. But when a slip on the ice in Oslo lands her directly in Jonas Thorsen’s viking-strong arms, her single-minded focus drifts away in the winter winds.

When it comes to romance Jonas knows that anything he and Frankie share has an expiration date – the British heiress has a life to return to in London that’s a world away from his own. But family is everything to Jonas and, as the one man who can help Frankie find the answers she’s seeking, he’ll do whatever it takes to help her reunite with her mother.

Now, as Christmas draws closer and the northern lights work their magic Frankie and Jonas will have to make a choice…play it safe or risk heartbreak to take a chance on love.W

Previous Books: Love at the ItalianLake, Christmas at Conwenna Cove, Forever at Conwenna Cove, Summer at ConwennaCove and A Very Merry Christmas

Chells and Books review: 

 Love at the Northern Lights is an exceptional read. I am a very big fan of Darcie Boleyn’s and love all her stories but this one is now my firm favourite story. I was super excited to be asked to review and to be apart of the blog tour and would like to thank Canelo.

Before I get into the review I just want to make note of the beautiful cover and title of this book. It just screams ‘you must read me now’ it has a lovely Christmas vibe to it.

I was totally blown away by the depth to the characters. Darcie always creates great characters but there is something about Frankie, Freya and Jonas that is special. Love is at the heart of the plot and not just shown through a romantic relationship but with family relationships as well.

The setting Norway is lovely I wont give too much away here as it is just amazing reading it and discovering it for yourself as a reader but it’s very romantic and Christmas in London sounds so cosy.

This is a must read for any one who loves a good romance with elements of family pressures. It is full of love and hope for the future.

Go to my Facebook page @chellsandbooks to be in for a chance to win these goodies below and the eBook! 

A Very Lucky Christmas by Lilac Mills

Guest Post

Thank You Lilac Mills for writing this lovely guest post for my blog. I hope you all enjoy.

We’ve all got a Christmas jumper, haven’t we? Go on, Scrooge, admit it, you’ve got one somewhere. Even the bah-humbugs among us tend to have one lurking in the depths of a cupboard and can bring it out when strong-armed into joining in the festive fun.

It’s become quite a thing in the UK over the past few years, this wearing of a Christmas jumper on a specific day (who decides when it’s going to be Christmas Jumper Day, I wonder…?), and I suppose the trick is to find one you really like and stick with it, rather than buying a new one every year. You can call it a tradition, in the same way you might bring out the same table decoration year after year or hang the same baubles on the tree.

However,this is one tradition I have yet to come to grips with. I’m still searching for that perfect mix of wearabilty – not too knitted, else I might melt; not too scratchy (some of them make you itch like you have a severe dose of fleas, and there’s nothing that kills the Christmas spirit quite so much as when you’re scratching like mad every few seconds); fashion (i.e., I don’t  look like a poorly wrapped present when I’m wearing it); and exclusivity (I don’t want to turn up for work in the same jumper as twelve other people, else we look like we’re some kind of synchronised jumper wearing team). Let’s face it, it’s the vast variety of jumpers which makes the day so much fun, and I don’t know about you, but my workmates are quite ferocious in trying to outdo one another.

I started my Christmas jumper-wearing days a few years ago with a thick, itchy number, which sported a reindeer’s head with a pair of antlers spreading out across the top of it. I really, really should have tried it on in the shop before  I bought it. I really, really should have checked myself in the mirror before I went out in the morning, because the reindeer’s head was roughly in the area of my tummy (not an issue), and the antlers were across the top of my chest(definitely a problem). It took a couple of double-takes from my colleagues and a fair bit of tittering (excuse the pun) before I understood what they were laughing at. Unless you looked carefully, it appeared that a pair of hands had been placed strategically over a certain part of my anatomy.  Those antlers didn’t look like antlers at all.

The following year saw me wearing a jumper dress which looked like the body of an elf. Not at all itchy, and vaguely flattering as long as I pulled it in with a belt. Teamed with thick, black leggings and some knee-high boots, I thought I looked fairly merry and rather cool.  But when it started to unravel due to an incident with one of those little contraptions that you use to remove staples from paper, I was forced to go home to change before the whole thing fell apart.

Last year, I settled on more of a long-sleeved, T-shirt than a jumper. It was a sort of dove-grey with the darker grey stylised outline of a reindeer. Subtle, I thought, understated. Maybe not as festive as some and certainly not as colourful as most, but I thought it elegant and comfortable. It was meant to be comfortable, I realised,when someone pointed out that it had ‘Sleepwear’ embroidered on the back. Ah,well, I suppose it saved me from changing into my PJs for bed. There’s always a silver lining, eh?

I’ve yet to pluck up the courage to make a purchase for this forthcoming Christmas Jumper event. I might just buy some deely boppers and a length of tinsel and call it a day!

Lilac Mills