I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Half A Sixpence by Evie Grace with my review. Half a Sixpence is Evie’s first novel in her Maids of Kent trilogy. Half a Heart and Half a Chance will follow.
Half a Sixpence was published on 13th July by Arrow Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here. As well as my review of Half a Sixpence, I’m thrilled to have a character profile of Pa and Ma Rook from Evie too.
Half a Sixpence
East Kent, 1830
Catherine Rook takes her peaceful life for granted. Her days are spent at the village school and lending a hand on her family’s farm. Life is run by the seasons, and there’s little time for worry.
But rural unrest begins sweeping through Kent, and when Pa Rook buys a threshing machine it brings turbulence and tragedy to Wanstall Farm. With the Rooks’ fortunes forever changed, Catherine must struggle to hold her family together.
She turns to her childhood companion, Matty Carter, for comfort, and finds more than friendship in his loving arms. But Matty has his own family to protect, and almost as quickly as their love blossomed their future begins to unravel.
With the threat of destitution nipping at her heels, Catherine must forge a way out of ruin . . .
Joint Character Profile of Ma and Pa Rook
A Guest Post by Evie Grace
I’m very grateful to you for hosting today’s stop on my tour with Half a Sixpence, the first book in a new series, a Victorian family saga that follows the fortunes of three generations of women from the hop gardens and orchards of East Kent to the squalid slums of Canterbury and brickfields of Faversham.
Half a Sixpence is the story of Catherine Rook, a country girl born in 1817, who lives at Wanstall Farm in the village of Overshill with Pa and Ma Rook, and her older brother, John. Catherine’s other siblings have moved out. Her sister Ivy is married to Overshill’s blacksmith, and her brother, Young Thomas Rook, farms some land that Pa acquired in payment of a debt.
Pa grows barley, hops and apples at the farm, and also decides to introduce a small flock of sheep. He is so dedicated to improving the farm and keeping the tenancy in the Rook family that he even makes notes when he is at church on Sunday mornings. He is one of the pioneers in the mechanisation of agriculture, and invests in new machinery in the hope that it will impress the squire, and improve the lives of his family and labourers. Sometimes it seems – to his wife anyway – that he is too generous with his favours towards the Carters whom he employs to work on the farm.
Pa is short and quick-witted with a wiry-body, tanned complexion and hooked nose. In contrast, his wife is well-spoken but sometimes slow of thought. She was born and bred to be a farmer’s wife, although she does aspire to better things, one of her aims being to arrange for Catherine to marry up. She churns the best butter in the parish, runs her household with the help of a maid, and carries out visits to the poor and the sick with the vicar’s wife.
While Pa Rook prefers to plough any money they receive back into the farm, his wife complains that she would like new clothes so as not to let the side down while she is out doing her ‘good works’ around the parish. Although they have their differences, the couple are fond of each other and fiercely protective of their family’s reputation.
It was while I was thinking about Pa Rook’s character and what his life would have been like as a conscientious tenant farmer who cared about his labourers – people who lived on the breadline and then lost their jobs with the arrival of the threshing machine – that I came across the colourful Sir William Courtenay, and the Battle of Bossenden in 1838, the last armed uprising on British soil. I decided I could use this quite shocking historical event in Half a Sixpence, and show what effect it would have on the Rooks and Wanstall Farm.
I hope you enjoy getting to know the Rooks in Half a Sixpence!
My Review of Half a Sixpence
The events of the 1830s will impact on Catherine’s life more than she could ever think
I have a confession to make about Half a Sixpence. I didn’t really like the protagonist Catherine. I thought she was too proud, often too rash in her attitude to others, and at times she really annoyed me. However, I think it proves the quality of Evie Grace’s writing that I still cared about what happened and by the end of the book I was desperate for Catherine to have some good luck in her life!
Indeed, there’s a smashing cast of characters and Evie Grace writes with such visual dexterity that I could picture them all and they came alive as I read. I have a feeling I may have met a few Mattys in my life! I really hope someone picks up this book for television as I think it would make a fabulous series.
The settings are so vividly depicted so that there is a real sense of rural Kent in the 1830s. I loved the way in which the society of the time was so cleverly woven into the story so that there is a real feeling of credibility and era when reading Half a Sixpence. It is a book that manages to inform and educate without the reader realising at the same time as being hugely entertaining.
Half a Sixpence has a plot that romps along at breakneck speed. There are so many twists and turns in Catherine’s life that I didn’t like to put down the book in case something happened when I wasn’t looking.
Half a Sixpence is the perfect embodiment of an historical novel. Readers who are looking for a tale of peril, love and history will adore it.
About Evie Grace
Evie Grace was born in Kent, and one of her earliest memories is of picking cherries with her grandfather who managed a fruit farm near Selling. Holidays spent in the Kent countryside and the stories passed down through her family inspired her to write Half a Sixpence.
Evie now lives in Devon with her partner and dog. She has a grown-up daughter and son.
She loves researching the history of the nineteenth century and is very grateful for the invention of the washing machine, having discovered how the Victorians struggled to do their laundry.
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