Publication week for The Dressmaker!

I am thrilled to share this wonderful review at the start of publication week for The Dressmaker of Draper’s Lane:

‘I enjoyed Anna’s story in The Silk Weaver so I was looking forward to immersing myself again in this time period with Charlotte.

The prologue at the Foundling Hospital is heart-wrenching.  What makes this even more hard hitting is the fact that this scene could well have taken place in reality.  Liz Trenow certainly knows how to hook her readers in emotionally!

I was drawn in to Charlotte’s quest and found it frustrating when she kept hitting brick walls.  Louisa (her sister) obviously knew more than she was prepared to share and these scenes kept me intrigued.  I loved the family time on those visits, well, the ones where Ambrose wasn’t present …

Charlotte is a complex character.  Independent and fierce on the outside, she is full of doubts on an inner level.  She’s not afraid of confrontation though or of doing the right thing whether that’s for her business or in her private life.  I must admit I found her actions with the leeches rather daring, considering what the possible consequences could be.  She shows bravery visiting suppliers for payment of overdue bills, outstanding customer service and puts her life on hold when she’s needed by others.  Loyal and selfless.

You’ll find real historical people woven into The Dressmaker of Draper’s Lane and factual information at the start of each chapter.  The information at the start of the chapter details an item of clothing or fabric and what it is – all relevant to the chapter.  A fabulous idea and in my opinion, gives deeper understanding for the fashions and foibles of the time.

After the story, Liz Trenow has included links to the historical places and people should you wish to find out more.

I’ve loved walking through time with Charlotte.  If you enjoy historical fiction with secrets and intrigue with women at its core then you should add this one to your reading list.

A recommended read from me.

Shaz Goodwin, Shera’s Jamboree

Announcing my new novel and the fascinating world of 18th century dressmakers.

the dressmaker of draper's lane cover

In just over a month (21st February) my sixth novel, The Dressmaker of Draper’s Lane, will be published by Pan Macmillan (UK only, for the moment).

The story behind it came when I was writing a previous novel, The Silk Weaver,  inspired by the history of my family’s silk business, which started in East London in the early 1700s. The company, now based in Suffolk, is one of just three in the country still weaving today.

At first, Miss Charlotte was just a minor, character – a go-between, useful for taking the plot forward – but she soon grew in personality and importance, and I realised that her backstory was begging to be told. Most seamstresses were poorly-paid workers but a very few were fortunate enough to run their own businesses, allowing them financial freedom and an ability to move between the layers of society in a way not available to others according to the strict mores of the time.

Miss Charlotte is different: she is happily unmarried, and an independent businesswoman in the days when this was most unusual. She ought to be content, but something is missing, and the discovery of a rare piece of silk sets her off on a search that will change her life.

I loved returning to the setting of 18th century London.  It was a fascinating era, a time of much societal change: trade barriers were relaxed, the industrial revolution was about to begin, capitalism was on the rise as a newly wealthy middle class became consumers, and great thinkers and explorers of the Enlightenment were opening up their knowledge of the world. And of course, it was the time when the first Foundling Hospital was established in London.

Researching and writing my own family’s silk weaving history has brought a greater sense of connection to my ancestors and an appreciation of the remarkable fabrics they have created over three hundred years. As it approaches its 300th anniversary in 2020, Stephen Walters & Sons is certainly the oldest silk company and probably one of very few continuously family-owned companies of any kind in Britain, and I am very proud to be connected with that heritage.

Check out my events page for dates and venues when I’ll be talking about my research and inspirations.

 

It’s been a sobering day

Flanders 1919.jpg

Today I went to the Remembrance Sunday parade, wreath laying and two minute silence in my home town of Colchester – a garrison town – and was moved to tears by the Band of the Parachute Regiment and the ranks of proud soldiers and veterans, many literally weighed down by their medals.

Tomorrow (Monday 12th November) I’ll be talking about the ones they left behind, and the thousands who went in search of their loved ones in the devastated lands of Flanders and the Somme, and showing photographs of those very first ‘battlefield tourists’. It’s a field of research I discovered when writing my latest book In Love and War.

My illustrated talk, Searching for Remembrance, is being hosted by the fabulous independent Caxton Books at the Oasis Centre, Connaught Avenue in Frinton on Sea. Tickets are £5, and it starts at 3pm. See you there.

 

A quiet thought for Armistice Day

Tyne Cot cemetery 1920.jpg

When you are standing at your hero's grave,

Or near some homeless village where he died,

Remember, through your heart's rekindling pride,

The German soldiers who were loyal and brave.




Men fought like brutes, and hideous things were done,

And you have nourished hatred, harsh and blind.

But in that Golgotha, perhaps you'll find

The mothers of the men who killed  your son.




Reconciliation by Siegfried Sassoon 1918

Quoted as an inspiration for my novel, In Love and War


Searching for reconciliation

Honouring the dead in Flanders, 1919

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, millions of visitors will flock to the cemeteries and battlefields of Flanders and the Somme.

What is little known is that these tours actually began a hundred years ago.  In 1919, within weeks of the Armistice, thousands flocked across the Channel on what was then an extremely daunting and risky journey, in a desperate search for news of their lost loved ones.

The very first organised trips were run for ‘pilgrims’ by church groups, but companies such as Thomas Cook and Michelin soon realised their commercial potential. Their involvement was highly controversial; furious arguments raged in the letters pages of newspapers about the way in which these ‘sacred places’, where so many died, were being so distastefully ‘desecrated by the spectre of commercial tourism’.

Others believed they provided a vital way of remembering and honouring the sacrifice made by that ‘lost generation’, arguing at the same time that visitors brought much-needed income to areas in desperate need of funding to rebuild their shattered lands.

I will be talking and showing photographs of the research into early battlefield tourism carried out for my latest novel, In Love and War, (published in the United States as The Lost Soldiers) at the Roman River Festival  in my home town of Colchester UK next week (19th September). Click on the link for more details. The talk is free, but booking is advisable.

 

The Lost Soldiers (aka In Love and War)

Ever get the feeling you’ve seen something somewhere before? The image on this cover is the same as the UK version, but my US publishers, Bookouture, have changed the title of In Love and War to The Lost Soldiers because they believe it will have more appeal for American readers. And so it has already proved – sales are now moving faster!

The Lost Soldiers

This seems a good time to apologise for the wrong posting of my previous novel, The Silk Weaver for sale on UK Amazon under the different title given to it by my US publishers, The Hidden Thread. Of course it should only have been available in the US (on Amazon.com). Several people have bought it in good faith thinking it was a new title, only to be quite naturally disappointed to discover they had already read it.

Both American and British publishers apologise for this problem and have been trying to fix it. You’d think it would be simple, but as with all things Amazon, it never is. Something to do with ‘leaking territories’ (sounds painful), algorithms, blah blah blah. Apparently it is not uncommon.

If you have been caught out I suggest you return it to Amazon and ask for a refund. I can only apologise again and hope it doesn’t happen with this new title.

In Love and War reaches US and Canada

In Love and War - Square Graphic - 7

I am proud to announce the publication of In Love and War in the United States and Canada by publishers Bookouture this week. It is available as ebook and paperback via Amazon.

In Love and War is tells the little-known story of the first ever ‘battlefield tourists’, intrepid travellers who visited the devastated areas of Flanders and The Somme almost as soon as the WW1 armistice was signed, almost a hundred years ago.

Among my characters is a feisty American woman whose brother who, frustrated with their government’s dithering, bravely joined up to fight with the Canadian forces. Desperate to discover what happened to him she undertakes the harrowing journey to Ypres, little realising how much the journey will change her, too.

 

A new version of Maria’s Quilt!

Maria's Quilt by Mel Terpstra

It’s a source of great pleasure to me that even now, four years after my novel The Forgotten Seamstress was published, quilters all over the world are still beavering away making the quilt from the pattern devised by Lynne Edwards, based on my story about a fictional quilter, Maria.

This one has come from Mel Terpstra in the US.

She writes: ‘I have read The Forgotten Seamstress twice and loved every bit of it! I am myself a seamstress and quilter. I have made the quilt and for me it was a labour of love and healing after a difficult time in my life. I incorporated my mom’s and grandmother’s vintage hankies and some pieces of bobbin lace my mother-in-law made. Although you can’t tell from the photo, there are bits of bobbin lace on the small half moon shapes in the fan blocks as well as the medallion in the center.’

‘Of all the quilts I have made, it is my pride and joy.’

Thank you, Mel, for your lovely quilt and moving words.

You can view more interpretations of Maria’s Quilt here.

 

The story of two covers

In Love and War PBB amended (1)

Two covers for the same book: on the left, the original devised by my UK publishers Pan Macmillan for the book published in January. On the right, the amended version developed by my US publishers Bookouture ready for publication on 12th July.  I like them both! Which do you prefer?

PS US readers can pre-order from Amazon now at 

How a postcard inspired a novel

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Ypres 1919003

When I was just starting to research my novel In Love and War, I read to my astonishment that within months of the end of the First World War several thousands of tourists undertook arduous journeys to Flanders and the Somme in a desperate search to find out what had happened to their loved ones.

Why was I so astonished? Because these areas were inhospitable: the towns shattered, their roads and railways destroyed, fields and woodland churned up into hundreds of square miles of mud, trenches, shell holes, barbed wire, broken tanks, unexploded ordnance and . . . bodies. A quarter of all those whose died were never found.

Some tours were run by church groups but commercial organisations like the travel agency Thomas Cook were quick to respond to the new market, which was extremely controversial because many thought it distasteful to make money from people’s grief.

I wanted to write about people who undertook this tour, but I just couldn’t picture it.

So imagine my delight when, on a research trip to Ypres, I discovered this postcard. It shows the devastation of the beautiful town square with its medieval cloth hall and the cathedral in ruins. There, in the bottom right hand corner, is a bus with the words Excursions to the Battlefields written in English along its side. Inside, waiting for the tour to begin, it is possible to see a few ladies looking oh so Edwardian in their wide brimmed hats.

Suddenly, my novel had come to life.