The Curfew by T.M. Logan

I’ve a confession. I’ve been meaning to read T.M. Logan’s books for ages and although I’m trying not to take on new blog tours I simply couldn’t resist taking part in this one for The Curfew because I’d heard such good things about his writing. My grateful thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to participate. I’m delighted to share my review of The Curfew today.

The Curfew is published by Bonnier imprint Zaffre on 17th March 2022 and is available in all good bookshops and online including here.

The Curfew

I should have known something was wrong. I should have sensed it. Felt it in the air, like the build-up of pressure before a thunderstorm, that heavy, loaded calm.

The curfew
Andy and Laura are good parents. They tell their son Connor that he can go out with friends to celebrate completing his exams, but he must be home by midnight.

The lie
When Connor misses his curfew, it sets off a series of events that will change the lives of five families forever.

The truth?
Because five teenagers went into the woods that night, but only four came out. And telling the truth might mean losing everything…


My Review of The Curfew

A teenager is missing.

New to T.M. Logan’s writing I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Curfew. What I got was a fast paced, twisty and compelling thriller that had me hooked and that I thoroughly enjoyed. I found it difficult to tear myself away because the narrative is exciting, meticulously plotted and totally entertaining. I loved the timed elements relating to the night of the action and the days subsequently as the reader is drip fed information that draws them in completely as they try to unravel what exactly has happened and to whom.

Much of the enjoyment in The Curfew comes from the fact that it’s not just a question of who has committed the crime, but that we don’t know precisely what crime has actually been committed, so that the compulsion to read on, to find out more becomes almost an obsession. I think I must have thought every character, almost including the dog, Toffee, was guilty of something at some point! The oppressive weather adds to the atmosphere too because it’s easy to imagine how rational behaviour can become altered by the heat giving a feeling that there’s a literal and metaphorical storm brewing for the characters.

I found the characterisation realistic and convincing. The exploration of family dynamics and what parents will do to protect their children shines through the presentation of all the adults, but is especially clear in Andy’s first person narrative so that whilst I didn’t always approve of his actions I could understand perfectly why he behaved as he did. I loved Harry unconditionally, but you’ll need to read The Curfew to find out why!

As well as an exciting, fast-paced story that races along, The Curfew considers themes that are incredibly pertinent to today’s society. The nature of guilt, moral responsibility and challenge, the influence of media, including social media in everyday lives, friendships and relationships, family, obsession and difference all spin through the story adding extra interest and depth.

The Curfew may be my first read by T.M. Logan but it wont be my last. I thought it was assured, convincing and thoroughly entertaining. I really recommend it.

About T.M. Logan

TM Logan’s thrillers have sold more than a million copies in the UK and been translated into 22 other languages for publication around the world.

His thriller, Trust Me, begins when a woman is asked to look after a stranger’s baby on a train – only for the mother to vanish. When she looks in the baby’s things, she finds a note that says: ‘Please protect Mia. Don’t trust the police. Don’t trust anyone.’

The Curfew, coming March 2022, follows the events of a hot midsummer’s night, when five teenagers go up to the woods to celebrate the end of exams, and only four come out…

Tim’s thriller The Holiday was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and spent ten weeks in the Sunday Times paperback top ten. It has since won a Nielsen Bestseller Award and been made into a four-part TV drama with Jill Halfpenny for Channel 5.

A former national newspaper journalist, Tim lives in Nottinghamshire with his family and writes in a cabin at the bottom of his garden.

For further information, exclusive writing, new releases and a FREE deleted scene from Tim, sign up to the Readers’ Club on his website. You can also follow him on Twitter @TMLoganAuthor, or find him on Facebook and on Instagram.

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Cover reveal: The Sinner by Caroline England

It was back in 2020 when I reviewed Caroline England’s novel Betray Her in a post you’ll find here.  I also welcomed Caroline England to Linda’s Book Bag when she wrote a guest post here all about secrets. Under her other writing persona of Caro Land Caroline has stayed in with me to chat about Convictions and you can see what happened then in this blog post.

Today it gives me enormous pleasure to help launch Caroline’s new book, The Sinner, into the world today with this cover reveal.

Published by Little Brown imprint, Piatkus, on 16th June 2022, The Sinner is available for pre-order through the links here. Let’s find out more:

The Sinner

‘Powerful . . . psychological menace and dramatic plot twists’ Daily Mail


To the unsuspecting eye Dee Stephens has a perfect life as the vicar’s wife: a devoted marriage to her charismatic husband Reverend Vincent, an adoring congregation and a beautiful daughter.


But beneath the surface, Dee is suffocating. Vincent is in control, and he knows her every sin. Desperate, Dee escapes into a heady affair with Cal, an old schoolmate.


But is Cal the saviour she thinks he is? What dark secrets does he harbour? And to what lengths will Vincent go to when he uncovers the truth?


Doesn’t that sound a corker? I’ll be reviewing The Sinner in June and I can’t wait to dive in!

About Caroline England


Caroline England was born and brought up in Yorkshire and studied Law at the University of Manchester. She was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer before leaving the law to bring up her three daughters and turning her hand to writing. Caroline is the author of The Wife’s Secret, previously called Beneath the Skin, and the top-ten ebook bestseller My Husband’s Lies. Betray Her was her third novel. She lives in Manchester with her family.

To find out more you can follow Caroline on Twitter @CazEngland and find her on Instagram and  Facebook or visit her website.

The Moon Over Kilmore Quay by Carmel Harrington

I’m horrified. It’s over four years since I last read the fabulous Carmel Harrington when I reviewed The Woman at 72 Derry Lane in a post you’ll find here. It was my privilege to host a guest post from Carmel and to review The Things I Should Have Told you here.

Today, I’m rectifying the fact that I’ve been missing out on Carmel’s books by reviewing The Moon Over Kilmore Quay. My grateful thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

The Moon Over Kilmore Quay was published in paperback by Harper Collins on 17th February 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Moon Over Kilmore Quay

When your heart belongs in two places, can you ever truly find home?

Brooklyn, New York,
Bea has grown up in the heart of the Irish community, always hearing stories of home. When she discovers a letter from her younger self, written years before, it sends her deep into her own family history.

Kilmore Quay, Ireland.
Years earlier, Lucy Mernagh leaves her much-loved home and family in search of the New York dream. The Big Apple is a world away from the quiet village she grew up in, and the longing for home aches within her.

When Bea uncovers a shocking secret, it takes her back across the water to Kilmore Quay, where – finally – long-buried truths will come to light. But fate has one last twist in store…

My Review of The Moon Over Kilmore Quay

A childhood letter to herself has repercussions for Bea.

Initially, it took me a while to settle in to the structure of The Moon Over Kilmore Quay, and I wondered if I would enjoy it as much as I have previous books by this author, but Carmel Harrington writes with such engagement for the reader that I was soon totally immersed in the story.

The plot is deceptive. It seems relatively straight-forward to begin with, with a focus on character, but there’s so much more to uncover than I expected. It’s quite difficult to say more without spoiling the story, but I loved the gradual uncovering of truths – both for the characters and for the reader. I thoroughly appreciated the way Bea’s own personal history was layered over her role as an investigator looking for lost family members. Indeed, The Moon Over Kilmore Quay, contains so many carefully wrought strata, from the role of immigrants retaining a cultural identity, through the way place affects our identity, to the impact of family folklore and narratives that make us who we are or who we want to be. Echoes from the past such as the Three Amigos of Maeve, Michelle and Lucy being reflected in the more up-to-date relationships between Bea, Stephanie and Katrina help the reader understand we are both more, and less, than we might believe. I thought Carmel Harrington’s understanding of human nature was pitch perfect. I was completely invested in Bea in particular because she felt so lost to begin with and so complete by the end. Lucy too has an authenticity that I found completely captivating.

The New York and Irish settings are so well balanced. I found myself transported back to my own experience of living in New York and equally desperate to discover Ireland. I want to sit and eat fish and chips looking out over the water, licking the salt and vinegar from my fingers!

The Moon Over Kilmore Quay is the kind of book that creeps up on you. It made me forget I was reading a work of fiction. Instead I felt I was being told two very personal stories through Bea and Lucy’s strands as if they were both confiding in me. The themes of friendship, family, secrets, truth and belonging are magnificently presented, making for a truly emotional and captivating read.

Having begun The Moon over Kilmore Quay feeling slightly detached, I ended it completely immersed in the story and a total snivelling wreck. It has all the hallmarks of Carmel Harrington’s trademark emotional writing with a touch of mystery I hadn’t anticipated. I thoroughly enjoyed it – even if I did need rather a lot of tissues!

About Carmel Harrington

Carmel Harrington is from Co. Wexford, where she lives with her husband, her children and their rescue dog. An Irish Times bestseller and regular panellist on radio and TV, her warm and emotional storytelling has captured the hearts of readers worldwide.

Carmel’s novels have been shortlisted for an Irish Book Award in 2016 & 2017 and her debut won Kindle Book of the Year and Romantic eBook of the Year in 2013.

You can follow Carmel on Twitter @HappyMrsHFacebook or Instagram and visit her website for further information.

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Discussing 100 Voices with editor Miranda Roszkowski on publication day

It was a real delight to find a copy of 100 Voices edited by Miranda Roszkowski in my parcel box recently and with the book published today by Unbound I simply had to invite Miranda onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a bit about it.

Staying in with Miranda Roszkowski

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Miranda. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought 100 Voices because it’s out today!

Happy publication day. What can we expect from an evening in with 100 Voices?

A noisy, vibrant night with people who have lots to say! The book is over 100 women’s stories of achievement – in what ever guise that is. The variety is the thing that makes it unique, these are real women from across the country and every one is different. But you’ll find a few common factors too.

Common factors?

Like – finding it hard to talk about success! When I set up the project -which was originally a podcast that I ran over 100 days in 2018 to mark the centenary of women’s votes in the UK,  I didn’t realise how hard it would be to get people to talk about achievement. But I’m happy that over 100 women answered my call. The stories genuinely surprised me and I am looking forward to hearing what you think!

I haven’t read it all yet Miranda, but I have been dipping in and finding a wide range of really interesting voices, including some names I recognise…

What impact has 100 Voices had on you as editor?

The best thing about the project for me – as well as this beautiful book – is the connection I have with the writers, and they have with each other. Crowdfunding the book took a long time but any time I started to doubt my motivation, I would get an email from a writer buoying me up. The power of the collective is incredibly potent – I think maybe women seek this out more. But having your community is vital in order to be able to feel empowered to use your voice – and I have sought to build that with this project.

That sounds brilliant. Where have the authors come from?

We are based all across the UK and I have been lucky to meet some of the writers travelling around the country on my narrowboat. During 2018 and 19 I and my now husband went from London up to Manchester via north wales and every where we went there was an interesting story about women making change happen. I dropped in on my writers when I could. We launched the crowdfunding campaign when I was in Manchester with the boat, at the Pankhurst centre. The writers were reading their work in the Parlour where Emiline Pankhurst sat with her daughters plotting! And the pandemic was actually really good for getting writers together at events – we presented at several literary festivals and ran lots of fun events to raise the funds on Unbound.

Amazing. 100 Voices sounds like the perfect embodiment of strength through unity.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought a copy of the Stylist magazine with a Suffragette on it to commemorate 6 Feb 2018 – the day the podcast launched. It felt like being part of a really big movement then, shifting the dial on how women were talked about, presented, considered. I think it did really change how we as women are in society. But then the pandemic exposed that a lot of that progress was easy to lose – it was largely women juggling the home schooling, care and chores during COVID.

I’m not sure recent global events will help sadly.

That’s why I’m really glad we’re publishing now – because we need to keep telling women’s stories, especially positive ones about success. And never stop.

I agree! Thanks so much for staying in with me Miranda to chat about 100 Voices.

It’s been a pleasure stopping in with you Linda, thanks so much for the invite. Oh hold on – sorry here come the 100 writers. They never miss a party! Hope you’ve got some more tea cups?

Crikey! I’m not sure they’re all going to fit. You look through those cupboards for some more mugs and put the kettle on and I’ll tell readers a bit more about 100 Voices:

100 Voices

100 Voices is an anthology of writing by women across the country on what achievement means for them, and how they have come to find their own voice. Featuring poetry, fiction and memoir, the pieces range from notes on making lemon curd, to tales of marathon running and riding motorbikes, to accounts of a refugee eating English food for the first time, a newlywed learning her mother tongue and a woman rebuilding her life after an abusive relationship.

The poignant, funny and inspiring stories collected here are as varied and diverse as their authors, who include established names such as Louise Jensen, Sabrina Mahfouz, Yvonne Battle-Felton and Miranda Keeling alongside a host of exciting new writers. Taken together, they build a picture of what it’s really like to be a woman in the UK today.

Published by Unbound today, 3rd March 2022, 100 Voices is available for purchase here.

You can also follow 100 Voices on Twitter @100voices100ye1.

About Miranda Roszkowski

Miranda Roszkowski is a writer and civil servant currently living on a boat on Britain’s waterways. She has worked with the National Theatre Wales and Royal Court playwrighting programmes and has had fiction in print and online, including Birkbeck’s Mechanic’s Institute Review which she has previously edited. She is the host and curator of the spoken word night There Goes The Neighbourhood in Hackney, London and is currently working on her first novel.

For further information, visit the 100 Voices website or follow Miranda on Twitter @Miranda_Roszko, and find her on Instagram.

Staying in with Jacob Keiter

I’ve stayed in with all kinds of authors here on Linda’s Book Bag, but today’s guest, Jacob A. Keiter is one of the most unusual. Find out why:

Staying in with Jacob A. Keiter

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Jacob and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Hello, today I have brought along my first self-published book, Notes From The Pen: A Collection of Essays, Poems, and Thoughts From Prison.  

I’ve not featured many ex-prisoner authors Jacob, but there have been a few. I like the word play on pen! How did you end up in prison?

For the last five years I spent my time inside a Federal Correctional Institution.  For the majority of my life I have suffered with addiction, as well as a strong desire to fulfil a criminal lifestyle.  I know it sounds silly and obscure, but I honestly thought it was what I wanted.  Until I heard that gavel slam down and I  lost my home, family, and freedom.  That’s whenever I realized I finally hit rock bottom, and in reality this is not the life for me.  It’s funny what rock bottom can do to you, you’re given two choices in that moment; stay where you are, or strive for the best you can make out of a situation.  In short, I chose the latter.

Good for you. So how does Notes From The Pen: A Collection of Essays, Poems, and Thoughts From Prison fit in?

Notes From The Pen: A Collection of Essays, Poems, and Thoughts From Prison, is just that; a collection of my time and experience within the federal criminal justice system.  My story has been shared through other publications, and I felt it necessary to expand to a wider audience to help others understand the reality of my situation and others in a similar position.

I think reading about other people’s experiences can be incredibly helpful Jacob.

Notes From The Pen: A Collection of Essays, Poems, and Thoughts From Prison in layman’s terms, are my raw thoughts about prison.  Surprisingly some will find when reading my story, that even as an inmate I don’t completely bash the prison system.  Rather than an inmate complaining and whining about the entire situation, I give credit where it’s due.  The book isn’t necessarily a tell-all account of the prison system but rather just my personal experience and what I felt necessary to share with the general public.

Notes From The Pen started as a column for a local newspaper where I shared accounts on a weekly basis, and has been well received by my local community.  One of my major fears of being released was the possible judgement from others and not being accepted back into society.  Due to my honesty and my platform I think I made a positive impact on my community as a whole.  I have been welcomed home by strangers and loved one with open arms and presented with opportunities I honestly didn’t expect to come my way.

That’s just wonderful to hear. I expect they realised that your addiction was at the root cause of your behaviour.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

In addition to writing I also do creative art.  At the moment I am pursuing copper moulding and making plaques.  This is mostly a hobby and a way to express my artistic side in another fashion.  I mostly use this as a way to personalize gifts for my loved ones, but one day I would like to pursue further projects.

It sounds to me as if you’re a highly creative and positive individual Jacob. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Notes From The Pen: A Collection of Essays, Poems, and Thoughts From Prison.

Stay tuned for additional work as I have several novels written while I was in prison just yet to convert digitally!

We will. In the meantime I’ll give readers a few more details about Notes From the Pen:

Notes From The Pen: A Collection of Essays, Poems, and Thoughts From Prison

Jacob Keiter entered federal prison on January 18th, 2018. At first glance he thought his life was over, little did he know his life was finally beginning. Throughout his incarceration he had one goal in mind, to grow into a better person than he ever thought he could be. In “Note From The Pen” Jacob explores a variety of topics throughout his incarceration, that allowed him to become the person he is today. Articles include previously published material, as well as brand new exclusive material!

Notes From The Pen: A Collection of Essays, Poems, and Thoughts From Prison is available for purchase through your local Amazon site.

About Jacob Keiter

Jacob Keiter is an author, husband, and dreamer.  Throughout his life he has fallen victim to addiction, criminal lifestyle, and incarceration.  Rather than continuing to play the victim card he made the conscious decision to rise up and grow from his experience.  Today he continues to write about his experiences, construct elaborate stories, and display his artistic side in other fashions.  He doesn’t allow his past to define him, but rather embraces it and chooses to strive towards a brighter future.  He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, and a home full of bunnies and cats.  He enjoys eating pizza and playing Pokemon in his free time!
For further information, find Jacob on Facebook, Tiktok, Twitch and Instagram or follow him on Twitter @JacobAKeiter.

An Extract from A Mother’s War by Mollie Walton

You know, blogging is a very strange occupation. There are favourite authors who simply don’t appear often enough on the blog, even though I know their writing is just wonderful. Such is the case with Mollie Walton. I’m delighted to remedy that today by sharing an extract from Mollie’s brand new Ravenhall Saga series, A Mother’s War. as part of the blog tour. My enormous thanks to Maddie at Welbeck for inviting me to participate and for sending me a copy of A Mother’s War which I’m very much looking forward to reading.

A Mother’s War is published by Welbeck on 3rd March 2022 and is available online and in all good bookshops including here.

The last time I featured Mollie was here when I was reviewing her book The Daughters of Ironbridge. I’ve also interviewed Mollie writing as Rebecca Mascull here and reviewed her outstanding The Song of the Sea Maid here, which was also one of my books of the year in 2015. Rebecca Mascull also completed Miss Marley, begun by her much missed friend Vanessa Lafaye and which I reviewed here.

A Mother’s War

North Yorkshire, September 1939.

Rosina Calvert-Lazenby, the only surviving member of her family and widowed by forty-four, has lived at Raven Hall all her life. With war approaching, Rosina must be strong for her daughters, five confident young women who are thick as thieves.

When the RAF come to stay at Raven Hall, Rosina finds herself intrigued by their charismatic, albeit young, officer. But is there time for love with the war looming and her eldest daughter leaving home?

Grace Calvert-Lazenby, twenty-one years old and newly graduated from Oxford, is determined to live a fuller life. Leaving behind her mother and sisters at home, she joins the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

Trading the safety and familiarity of Raven Hall for exhausting drills, difficult training and conflicting acts of secrecy will not be easy. But Grace knows that everyone has a part to play in the war and she is ready for a brave new adventure.

With so much on the line, Rosina and Grace must learn how to push themselves and have the courage to lead those around them into the unknown . . .

This heartwarming, dramatic World War II saga is perfect for fans of Vicki Beeby, Kate Thompson and Rosie Clarke.

An Extract from A Mother’s War

Prologue September 1939

The house stood at the edge of nowhere. It was perched on the cliff above the endless sea, surrounded by grounds peppered with hiding places. When the fog rolled in, it became a seat in the kingdom of the clouds. When the sun was out, it was a throne to the best view in the world: the sweep of the bay, bordered by cultivated fields and wild moorland tumbling steeply down to the beaches. Beyond it stood Robin Hood’s Bay; from here one could spy just a hint of its intricate network of alleys and lanes crowded with fisherman’s cottages. To the north lay Whitby, to the south, Scarborough. And here, above the village of Ravenscar, the gulls chattered and swooped beyond the walls of the grounds of Raven Hall, mocking the generations that had made their home there, hemmed in by walls, feeling safe against encroaching nature: the bracken and nettles bristling against the stone, the sea below crashing against the rocks ceaselessly, the salty wind assaulting the planted trees by the border walls causing them to bend over like women picking strawberries, the lowering sky frowning down upon the house and its ordered grounds. The battlements that were built upon the walls acted as though the house imagined itself a fortress against nature, but everywhere nature encroached, the rock walls mottled with lichen and creeping ivy. The gardens of Raven Hall were tamed and orderly: box hedges, fuchsias and roses. Domesticated, yet surrounded by wildness, the sound of the constant, distant roar of the sea below a reminder of the abandon beyond these safe walls. The undercliff below the house was replete with thick foliage, sweeping down to the rocks below. The lush plants looked soft, as if they’d cushion a fall, but of course the ravine was steep, jagged and deadly.

Rosina stood on the path, inhaling the sharp smoke of her cigarette, gazing out towards the bay, watching the tiny waves break harmlessly on the shingle below. The sea fret was patchy that day, rolling in like playful clouds, revealing a perfect patch of blue sky or a swathe of many-hued green fields, replaced by white fog in an instant. She could hear the sheep bleating in the fields that surrounded her home, the gulls calling and the little brown birds twittering in the trees and she watched the swifts dip down for insects on the wing. The sky was vast, the sea looked endless, a glimpse of the horizon revealing it misty and mysterious. The fog rolled in, silent and stealthy. Rosina shuddered, slightly from the chill held in the mist, yet partly too from the feeling that unseen forces were moving over the sea towards her home, just as the fret trespassed on her land beyond her control. She glanced back at the house and exhaled a puff of smoke that obscured the view as one of her daughters appeared at a window then disappeared again. All five of them were home for the announcement. All of the servants were assembling in the servants’ hall too. Rosina needed to get back inside soon. But she wanted these last few moments of peace to herself. Peace from the busy household and all its demands, but peace too from the historic moment that was about to be played out on the wireless. For the family and servants were all gathered for one reason only: to hear the Prime Minister announce what they had all feared for months.

Rosina finished her cigarette and stubbed it out on the stone wall. She didn’t wish to litter the rose bed so took it in with her and dropped it in the ashtray on the hall table that was emptied periodically. She could hear the girls inhabit the house. They weren’t making much noise yet their presence was as obvious as sound to their mother. For mothers are always on duty when their children are around, even if they’re not doing much, even if they’re asleep, even if they’re grown up. Rosina was happy to have her brood all back under one roof. It didn’t happen much these days, what with Grace down at Oxford and Evelyn over in France until recently, whilst Constance and the twins Daisy and Dora were mostly away at school. She’d need to walk the house over to summon all five of them, or send one or two to find the others. She found Grace at the writing desk in the window of the study. A quick look over her shoulder confirmed that her eldest daughter was working on her modern rewrite of the Greek myths. She’d just finished her degree in Classics and her head was still buried in that ancient world.

‘It’s nearly time, darling,’ Rosina said.

Grace looked up, her grey-blue eyes concerned, her long, straight russet-brown hair draped in a curtain across her back. ‘All right, Mummy,’ she said and nodded, placing the lid carefully on her ink pen. She looked younger than her twenty-one years and seemed younger too, Rosina thought. Three years at Oxford had seemed to have had little impact on her experience of life. She was still the reserved, modest girl she’d been when she’d left school.

Rosina walked back out into the hallway and along the corridor to the stairs, past the lounge through whose windows the sun now streamed in defiance of the sea fret. She took the steps up to the small landing, standing beneath the stained-glass window there, the coat of arms of her family name Lazenby emblazoned in rich coloured panes.

‘Evvy?’ she called

‘All right, Mummy,’ came her second daughter’s strident voice from the room on the first floor that had once been the playroom and had now become the art studio when Evelyn was at home.

‘Is Connie with you?’ Rosina called.

‘Yes, driving me mad with her incessant ball throwing against this wall.’

‘I am not driving you mad!’ Rosina heard Constance’s throaty voice exclaim. ‘You said the rhythm helps you concentrate, you big, fat liar!’

‘Oh, do shut up, Connie!’ snapped Evelyn.

Always at each other’s throats, those two, yet when it came to boys, they were thick as thieves and knew all of each other’s secrets. Rosina walked upstairs and stood in the doorway, noting the floor strewn with paint tubes, brushes, canvas and paper.

Evelyn looked up at her mother and said, ‘We’re coming! Don’t fuss!’

She was a messy genius, that one. Nineteen going on twenty-nine, with strawberry-blonde hair and a freckled, peachy complexion, a lipstick-wearing, cigarette-smoking, adventure-seeking beauty. Rosina smiled and shook her head, glad in a way that Evelyn had been in France for a year, beyond her mother’s reach, where she had little knowledge of what scrapes her daughter had got herself into and thus could only worry vaguely from a distance. Constance started up her ball throwing again and the ball hit the wall hard, straight and true. The girl had an excellent aim. At sixteen, she was captain of the lacrosse and hockey teams, as well as a keen shot-putter. Stocky and strong, she had none of Grace’s tall gangly frame or Evelyn’s curves. Her straw-coloured hair in a perpetual bob since she was eight, she despised preening or make-up of any kind. Still striking in her way, her skin creamy- pale and freckled, she would be the perfect model for a government poster about rude health. Rosina chuckled at the thought.
‘Come on then, you two. And clear up that mess on the floor later, Evvy. The last thing we need is paint stains on the carpet.’

She went back down the stairs and turned right to walk along the passageway to the games room. There she found her twins, Daisy and Dora, identical in appearance with their mid-blue eyes and long, wavy fair hair, yet alike as two snowflakes in character: same design, different details. Now fifteen years old, they had come as a surprise so soon after Constance. This meant that the three of them grew up inseparable, especially Connie and Dora. Daisy was the odd one out of the whole family in some ways, more similar to her eldest sister Grace than anyone, both pianists, both a little awkward in company. Daisy was playing at the upright piano, a little piece by Bach that had her fingers in a twist. She kept on at the same phrase, over and over, forcing her muscle memory to learn it. Rosina smiled at how much better a pianist her daughter was than she herself. That should be the way of things, that your children outshine you, she thought. She glanced over at Dora, who was making notes on her latest natural experiment: this time, an ant farm in a glass case. Dora loved living, breathing things and studied them, sometimes killing them to study them further. A scientist’s cold eye had that one and an analytical brain, yet when it came to matters of the heart, she was as hopelessly romantic as Connie. How different all her girls were and yet how much they overlapped and echoed each other, as well as having aspects of herself and, of course, their father, dead three years now.

The thought of George Calvert made Rosina shudder. Though she missed virtually nothing about him, his death being a blessed release from an ill-conceived and poorly executed marriage, she realised that his absence now gave her a slight feeling of panic as she felt more alone than ever. Usually, this sustained her because she valued her independence above everything, but now that history was moving its shadowy purpose towards her own door, as it was to every house in Britain that morning, she suddenly felt wholly alone – the matriarch, in charge of these five girls, this vast house and grounds and all the servants and farmers and tenants who made it work. After three years of widowhood and years before that of orphanhood, Rosina thought she’d be used to this by now. And so she was, in peacetime. But change was coming and fear gripped her. She swallowed it down and tapped on the door to alert the twins.

‘It’s time, girls,’ she said, and they stopped what they were doing and turned their heads in the same way, with the same slight tilt to the right.

Rosina turned and walked back along the passage towards the lounge. On the way, she heard footsteps behind her and turned to see a housemaid, head down, clutching a dustpan and brush. The girl stopped dead at her mistress’s notice and dropped her gaze to her feet.

‘Hardcastle, hurry back to the servants’ hall,’ said Rosina.

‘Yes, ma’am. Sorry, ma’am,’ said the maid, bobbing a curtsey, eyes still down, too shy to look at her mistress.

‘It’s only that you’ll miss the Prime Minister’s broadcast if you’re not careful. And it’s important that you hear this. Everyone should hear this.’

‘Yes ma’am. Sorry, ma’am,’ the girl said again. Only fifteen years old, Rosina recalled, younger than Constance. Rosina reached the lounge and found Grace about to switch on the wireless. Evelyn and Constance came in, still bickering, the twins arriving quietly behind. They were all gathered together and found seats around the fireplace to sit on and wait. Rosina hoped that at the other side of the house, the housekeeper and butler had managed to gather all the servants together around the kitchen wireless, as families all over the country must be doing at that very moment. A nation acting as one – how rare that was. How admirable. And how terrifying.

The Home Service announced its star speaker, the Prime Minister. The girls’ slight restlessness was stilled and every head in the room was bowed slightly, eyes intent, ears pricked. They’ll remember this moment for the rest of their lives, thought Rosina.

‘I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10, Downing Street. This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by eleven o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.’

There it was. They all knew it was coming but it was truly shocking to hear it spoken aloud by Chamberlain himself.

‘Oh, good lord,’ muttered Grace and Evelyn hissed, ‘Ssh!’, as Chamberlain went on about assurances and settlements and Hitler and the Poles and France, about God and the Empire, about evil and force and injustice.

‘And against them I am certain that the right will prevail,’ he said and then there was a pause. He had come to the end of his speech. They listened to the announcer say important details would follow, then they heard the bells ring out of the wireless, tinny and eerie in the lounge. There followed a list of directions for the foreseeable future, about places of entertainment being closed until further notice and that people should not crowd together for any reason. It went on about air-raid warnings and how they would sound; about shelters and what people should do in a gas attack; sirens, rattles and handbells would be used. Schools would be closed for a week but thereafter open again. Many children would be evacuated. Everyone must carry gas masks. There were other things they could have listened to after this, but Rosina stepped over and turned off the wireless to silence it. She did not wish to hear any more at the moment. The fact of war was enough, that morning. Glancing outside at the gardens she saw how the sun was now completely free to shine down on their house, all morning mists having dissolved away into the warmth of a balmy September late morning. It seemed to mock the sombre mood of the room, of the country, of Europe and beyond.

‘What does it all mean, Mummy?’ asked Dora, always questioning, always wanting to know more.

‘It means the end of every bloody thing,’ said Evelyn in a grump. Selfish as ever, she thought only of her art studies in France coming to an end.
‘Evvy, language,’ chided her mother, though gently. ‘Oh, who cares about words now!’ cried Evvy, dramatic as ever.
‘Come on, girls,’ said Grace, sitting upright and forcing a smile. ‘Now is not the time for strife, but for togetherness. Mummy needs us to help her. And so does our country.’

‘Thank you, Grace,’ said Rosina, at which Evelyn huffed and folded her arms. Rosina went to Evelyn and gave her long, red-blonde hair a single, affectionate stroke, which soothed her a little. ‘Grace is right, girls. Now is the time to think not of ourselves, but of others. Of what we can do to help, to support, to provide and to manage without. It won’t be easy. Remember that I have lived through a war before and never thought to see it again in my lifetime.’ She shuddered inwardly at the thought of it, the horror of the Great War burned into the memory of her late teens and early twenties. Her mother had died the year before the war started and Rosina could chart the downward spiral of her life, and indeed the world’s it seemed, from that moment. ‘But here it is. And here we are. And we must make the best of it.’

‘Will we have to fight?’ asked Daisy, her face unreadable. Rosina couldn’t tell if she liked the idea or not.

‘I’ll fight ’em!’ cried Constance.

‘I was going to say that!’ added Dora.

‘Nobody will be doing any fighting,’ said Rosina. ‘Now—’ But she was talked over by another daughter.

‘I’ll be off to London,’ said Evvy. ‘They’ll need artists there, I’m sure of it. To design posters telling us all to do our duty.’

‘I’m not sure that London—’ Rosina began and was interrupted again.

‘I’ll join the Air Force then,’ announced Constance, ‘and fly planes and gun down Germans floating on parachutes into the sea and a watery grave.’

‘Don’t be a dunce,’ scoffed Evvy. ‘You’re far too young.’

‘Am not!’ cried Constance, her cheeks colouring, eyes blazing.

Rosina noticed that Grace had been sitting quietly and staring at the fireplace, pensive.

‘Are you all right, darling?’ Rosina asked her eldest daughter. ‘I know it’s a lot to take in.’

Grace turned round and surprised her mother by giving her a bright smile. ‘Actually, Mummy, I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few months, since we knew that war was inevitable. And I’ve come to a decision: I want to join the Wrens.’

‘Really?’ said Rosina, quite shocked. ‘I’m not sure the Navy would be right for you.’

Evvy added, ‘It’s rough and ready in the Navy, Gracie. Sure you’re up to it?’

This is what Rosina feared too. Grace was so … unworldly. Evelyn often said the thing that Rosina herself was thinking, but didn’t have the nerve or did have the tact to keep it quiet.

‘I’m not sure I’ll ever be up to it,’ said Grace thoughtfully. ‘But I’d like to do my duty. And duty is never easy. It’s not meant to be easy, I think. They say the Wren uniform will be the nicest, with a smashing hat! But seriously, I feel it’s about time I saw a bit of the real world, don’t you, Mummy? And when I was a girl, living on the edge of a cliff, I always loved the idea of running away to sea.’

‘Ooh, can I come?’ piped up Constance.

‘Oh, Connie, do put a sock in it,’ said Evvy, with a toss of her hair.

‘Will school be closed forever?’ added Daisy, hopefully. Her twin adored school but Daisy had never found boarding school easy. All those people in close quarters . . . She was the kind of person who found small talk horrifying and sharing her space utterly draining.

‘No, dear,’ said Rosina. ‘Only for a week or so while they sort all the evacuees. But your school is deep in the countryside and will be safe, so you will go back there. Life must go on, you know, the things that matter must prevail. Grace and Evelyn, we will discuss your plans later. Connie and twins, you will study at home this week. I’ll see to it you will have plenty to keep your mind occupied. Now, girls, I must go and see the staff for there will be things to discuss. I’ll see you all at luncheon in an hour and we’ll talk everything through then. Try not to fret too much; some things will change, but many will stay the same, school being one of them! Take comfort in that, my darlings.’

As Rosina left the room, she heard Constance tut and Daisy sigh, probably at the thought of school going on as normal. She knew she ought to stay with the girls and let them bombard her with their inevitable questions, but the truth was that she felt as clueless as them. She even wondered if Grace knew more about the state of affairs than she did. Rosina read The Times each day, but she did not pay such close attention to worldly matters as Grace did. Evelyn was worldly in a different way, had more knowledge of the streets than herself or her other daughters had. The others were young and foolish, except Daisy, who had a kind of otherworldly peace about her. She’d be stoic, Grace would be sensible and the other three would probably go wild, falling in love with soldiers and sailors and airmen.

Rosina sighed as she walked down the passageway that led towards the ballroom and, further on, to the servants’ hall, kitchen, scullery and outhouses. Again, she felt very alone walking down that long corridor that stretched the depth of the house, facing away from the sea beyond. She saw, through the ballroom’s glass-panelled doors, the trees of the driveway stretching away in parallel lines and thought of the horses she and the girls had ridden on, ambling down that driveway on to the moorland they would gallop across for fun. She’d probably have to sell some of the horses, if all the grooms were called up. She thought then of her two gleaming motor cars parked in the garage, of petrol and food, of how both would probably be in short supply. The land and the farmers surrounding her estate – how crucial they would be! How could she be crucial too? What could she do to help her nation?

As she approached the servants’ hall, Rosina could hear the hubbub of her staff discussing the news. She knew her entrance would hush them all and, for a moment, she had a strange desire to be one of them, amidst colleagues and friends, talking about their families, their futures, relying on each other for advice and hearsay. As she arrived at the door to the servants’ hall, in the moment before her appearance was noted, she saw a kitchen maid – Nancy, her name was, Nancy Bird – stand up from the table and announce something to the room.

‘I’ll be joining t’Wrens!’ she said and beamed a beautiful smile.

She was scolded by Cook, MrsBairstow, who told Nancy to think on, that she’d be beaten with a rolling pin before she left them all in the lurch like that. But as the servants near the door noticed Rosina’s presence and the customary hush fell, Rosina realised that while Nancy might be the first to announce her role in the new world of wartime, many other servants would also leave – the young first, of course, but if the war dragged on past Christmas, as the last war had, then perhaps this room bustling now with staff would dwindle and empty, leaving only the middle-aged to keep the big house and estate from grinding to a halt. That would be her task, to keep all this going, with little to no help. She’d have no time to be noble and aid the nation. She’d drown in the responsibility of Raven Hall and all its hungry needs. The thought both energised and exhausted her.

‘Now then, everyone,’ she said brightly and smiled. But nobody else was smiling, except the kitchen maid, who looked extremely pleased with herself. My Grace will join the Navy with Nancy Bird, thought Rosina and in this one bare fact, she saw how the world would be changed forever by this war, bringing some together, separating others. And she felt as if the room would tip, that she’d lose her footing and slide down into nothingness. But it didn’t and she didn’t. She heard herself talking to her staff calmly, reassuringly. Whatever changes came, she knew that through all the years of loneliness since she’d lost her beloved mother, she had built an iron spine for herself to see her through the hardest of times. War would be no exception. Whatever the world threw at Raven Hall, would dare to aim at Rosina Calvert-Lazenby, she would face it. And prevail.


And now, of course, I’m going to have to find out if indeed she does prevail!

About Mollie Walton

Mollie Walton is the saga pen-name for historical novelist Rebecca Mascull.

She has always been fascinated by history and on a trip to Shropshire, while gazing down from the iron bridge, found the inspiration for what became her debut saga trilogy titled The Ironbridge Saga, published by Bonnier Zaffre: The Daughters of Ironbridge, The Secrets of Ironbridge and The Orphan of Ironbridge.

Under the pen-name Rebecca Mascull, she is the author of four historical novels and co-author of a novella.

Her first novel The Visitors (2014) tells the story of Adeliza Golding, a deaf-blind child living on her father’s hop farm in Victorian Kent. Her second novel Song of the Sea Maid (2015) is set in the C18th and concerns an orphan girl who becomes a scientist and makes a remarkable discovery. Her third novel, The Wild Air (2017) is about a shy Edwardian girl who learns to fly and becomes a celebrated aviatrix but the shadow of war is looming. All are published by Hodder & Stoughton.

She has also completed the final chapters of her friend and fellow novelist Vanessa Lafaye’s final work, a novella called Miss Marley, a prequel to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. This novella was published by HarperCollins.

Her latest book as Rebecca Mascull is a stand-alone historical novel set in London and Poland during WW2. The Seamstress of Warsaw was published by SpellBound Books in September 2021.

For further information, visit Molly’s website or find her on Facebook. For Rebecca Mascull, visit her website, find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @rebeccamascull and Instagram.

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