A #blogmas blog book tour | “Christmas is for Children” by Rosie Clarke – a review with an extract!

Posted Thursday, 19 December, 2019 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I was invited to join the Head of Zeus blog tour for the Christmas Historical Fiction story of “Christmas is for Children”. I was delighted on a few different counts – for starters, I’ve been seeing a lot of tweeting about Rosie Clarke amongst book bloggers I follow who read her stories and by other readers who appreciate her novels. I’ve been keen to think she might be a Historical novelist I would enjoy reading myself and when the chance came to read this novel, I was thankful it was going on a paperback blog tour! This is also one of the authors I see tweeted about during a new tag I found in the twitterverse #SagaSaturday!

I haven’t been hosting for this publisher for very long and each blog tour I am able to host I feel blessed as I love celebrating authors from the UK and the stories they are telling through the different genres Head of Zeus is publishing which encourages my bookish and readerly wanderings into Crime Dramas, Historical Fiction and Historical Sagas as well as other genres I’ve keenly become intrigued by over the years as I’ve been blogging.

I received a complimentary copy of “Christmas is for Children” direct from the publisher Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Enjoy reading this extract from “Christmas is for Children”:

3

It was the beginning of December now and the cake shop had pretty coloured lights in its windows when the two children approached hand in hand. They pressed their noses up against the glass, looking longingly at the delicate glass stands with their offerings of delicious cakes. There were all kinds of mouth-watering treats: sponge cakes dusted with icing sugar and filled with buttercream, soft buns covered in sticky pink icing, almond tarts, madeleines and rock cakes, crisp meringues filled with buttery cream, as well as the beautiful iced Christmas cake right in the centre. Also, piled up in little glass dishes, were chunks of coconut ice, chocolate truffles, fudge and, the best of all, right at the front of the window, two sugar mice: a pink one and a white one.

‘Look, Ben,’ Ruthie cried. ‘Sugar mouses… pink for me and white for you…’

‘It’s sugar mice, Ruthie,’ Ben said, looking at the sweet treat as longingly as his sister. ‘Perhaps Dad will get us one each for Christmas …’

Ruthie looked up at him, her eyes large and dark blue like her late mother’s but filled with knowledge that a child of her age should not have. A single tear slid down her cheek, because she knew they wouldn’t get a stocking this year. Their dad was out of work again; last night he hadn’t even had a shilling for the gas and he’d lit a candle to see them to bed. She knew he lined up down the docks every morning hoping to be given a job, because Ben had told her that was why he was so miserable.

Everything was horrible in Ruthie’s world. Ma had died nearly nine months ago and since then things had got steadily worse. The house was often cold and empty, no food in the pantry. No one looked after her any more; her clothes split and got dirty, and her pale hair tangled; she needed someone to brush and comb it and put it into plaits, because it was so fine that otherwise it went all over the place in the wind.

Mum had done her best while she was able. She’d cooked and scrubbed and looked after her kids, but over the last two years her cough had got worse and worse. The doctor said it was bronchitis and wanted to send her away to a place at the sea where she might get better, but they didn’t have any money and there was a long waiting list for such places if you were poor. Mum had finally died in March, and that had left them alone with their father.  He did his best but it wasn’t the same without Mum.

Dad got up early to give them breakfast before he went down to the docks to stand in line, but the work was scarce and more often than not he came home without even a shilling in pay – and when he did, he often stopped at the pub at the end of Fettle Street to have a drink. His mates who had worked that day shared a few pence when he was broke and so when he had work he repaid them by buying drinks he could not afford. Sometimes, when he was very down he didn’t stop at one drink, and when he came home, he was laughing but couldn’t stand up properly – and those days there was never any money for the gas meter and very little to eat.

Ben told his sister it didn’t matter. Their Dad wasn’t a bad man; he wasn’t a violent man who knocked his kids about and deliberately neglected them. Robbie did as much as he could for his kids, but recently he’d been passed over for all the better jobs. Ben had heard him telling Fred at the fish shop that the Gaffer didn’t like him because he’d stood up for one of the older men.

‘You should go to Mr Penniworth,’ Fred had told him. I’m sure he doesn’t know how unfairly the Gaffer treats the men.’ Mr Penniworth was the overall manager for the East India Docks, but the men hardly ever saw him on the dock and no one went to his office unless invited.

‘I couldn’t do that, Fred,’ Robbie had sighed. ‘I’d be marked as a troublemaker and then I wouldn’t get work anywhere in London.’

‘Well, it’s a rotten shame, that’s all I can say. You’re a decent man, Robbie Graham, and you deserve a bit of luck.’

Dad had laughed and thanked him for his kind words, paying a shilling for two fishcakes and sixpence worth of chips. Fred had filled the bag right to the brim and Ben, his sister and their father had eaten well that night, but that was days ago now and it had just been bread and dripping since.

It didn’t matter to Ben that he had shoes that were down at the heel, holes in his socks and didn’t get a threepenny piece for sweets on a Saturday like some of his friends. He knew that times were hard and money was tight. Ben wasn’t the only boy in school with trousers bought off the second-hand stall and cut down to fit. Nor did he mind that he and Ruthie had to come home to an empty house after school. He could get their tea, a bit of bread and jam or some chips if Dad gave them three pennies. What made Ben unhappy was the way his father’s shoulders hunched when he came home at night with a few coppers in his pocket after working hard all day.

The old cottage belonged to Ben’s father, because it had been left to them by his grandfather, who had been a seaman all his life, and it was the reason they’d all come to live here, leaving the rooms they’d rented near his mother’s home in Yarmouth. It wasn’t really much of a place, but it was somewhere warm to sleep, because the range in the kitchen heated that room and the rooms above it. The only time they ever used the parlour was when Ben’s mother died and her coffin stood there for three days before the funeral.

‘Look,’ Ruthie pulled at Ben’s sleeve as the door of the sweet shop opened and the nice lady came out. ‘It’s Miss Flo…’

‘Hello, you two,’ Flo Hawkins greeted the children with a smile. ‘It’s cold this evening. You should hurry home, because I think it might snow.’

‘I like your sugar mouses,’ Ruthie said and gave them a last lingering look before Ben took her hand firmly. ‘When I see them, I think it will soon be Christmas.’

‘Yes, it will,’ Flo agreed. She held out a brown paper bag to them. ‘It’s almost time to close – and these won’t keep until the morning. I thought you might like them.’

‘Oo, thank you,’ Ruthie squealed in excitement and took the bag quickly before Flo could change her mind. ‘It’s ever so kind of you, Miss Flo.’

‘It’s perfectly all right,’ she said. ‘Perhaps your father will buy you a sugar mouse for Christmas.’

Ruthie shook her head sadly. ‘Dad can’t find a proper job,’ she said and pulled at Ben’s hand. ‘Miss Flo gave us buns with icing on top. I love your buns, Miss Flo.’

‘You’re very kind, miss,’ Ben thanked her a little stiffly, because it wasn’t the first time the cake shop lady had given them a cake she claimed wouldn’t last until the morning, but every time it was fresh and delicious. ‘I’ll clean yer windows for yer if yer like, miss.’

‘Thank you, Ben, but my sister does them every morning herself,’ Flo said. ‘One day I’ll find a job for you, but you don’t have to work to pay me for a cake I can’t sell…’

With that she went back into the shop and closed the door.

Ben took his sister firmly by the hand. ‘Don’t eat yer cake until we get home, Ruthie. It’s rude to eat in the street.’

‘I’m ’ungry,’ Ruthie grumbled and her tummy rumbled to prove it, but she kept the bag shut, holding on tightly so that she wouldn’t lose it.

‘Dad wouldn’t like us taking charity,’ Ben said. His eyes were stinging with the tears he was fighting. Miss Flo’s kindness always made him want to fling his arms round her and hug her, but his pride held him back.

‘It isn’t chari— whatsit…’ Ruthie said and pulled on his hand. ‘Miss Flo is just a nice lady and she told us the cakes wouldn’t last until the mornin’…’

I was thankful I could share an extract from Christmas is for Children – as I personally enjoy reading these when I am seeking out a #newtomeauthor! This particular scene is rather a poignant one as it helps set you inside the heart of the novel and into the lives of the two children the novel affects directly. This reading marks my first introduction into the saga styling of Rosie Clarke and I am thankful I could be on the blog tour this December featuring a new Christmas set story of hers as it truly was a beautiful story to read.

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A #blogmas blog book tour | “Christmas is for Children” by Rosie Clarke – a review with an extract!Christmas is for Children
by Rosie Clarke
Source: Direct from Publisher

Times are hard in London... dare they hope for a miracle this Christmas? Perfect for the fans of Katie Flynn and Dilly Court.

December 1930.

Christmas should be for the children – but with the Depression biting deeper, it looks like many in the East End will wake up to nothing on Christmas morning. Widower Robbie Graham is out of luck and work. Some weeks, he earns just enough to put food on the table for his children, Ben and Ruthie. A treat for their Christmas stockings is a distant dream for his little family. Local cakeshop owner Flo Hawkins can't bear the thought of any child having nothing for Christmas. Along with her beloved sister Honour, she hatches a plan to bring some festive cheer to the community. But maybe this year, it will be Flo who receives the greatest gift of all...

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781788549936

Also by this author: Book Spotlight: Love and Marriage at Harpers

Genres: Christmas Story &/or Christmas Romance, Historical Fiction


Published by Head of Zeus

on 7th February, 2020

Format: UK Edition Paperback

Pages: 280

Published By: Head of Zeus (@HoZ_Books)

Converse via: #ChristmasIsForChildren, #HistNov or #HistFic

Available Formats: Trade Paperback & Ebook

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About Rosie Clarke

Rosie Clarke

Rosie is happily married and lives in a quiet village in East Anglia. Writing books is a passion for Rosie, she also likes to read, watch good films and enjoys holidays in the sunshine. She loves shoes and adores animals, especially squirrels and dogs.

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My Review of christmas is for children:

When I was younger, one of my favourite films aside from Annie was The Adventures of Natty Gann – wherein you saw first hand how hard it was on the men who had to wait to be called for jobs, how scarce they were to give out and how desperate everyone was make enough just to have food much less to maintain the rent on their rooms. It was an interesting film from all perspectives and one I dearly loved – I must’ve watched it til the VHS was nearly unable to be seen any longer and that’s after I rented it from the rental shop to the brink of it being owed. Those memories came back to me as I began reading Christmas is for Children because I had a visual reference to the heartache of Robbie – similarly to this story, Natty Gann’s father was widowed, left with his teenage daughter and like Robbie was struggling to carve out a decent wage to sustain his family.

What truly was difficult about this story and others like it from the Depression is how the economy didn’t just bottom out – it allowed for bullies to be bourne into places of power which magnified the oppression for those who were at the worst straits of being pushed down further into the despair of the crisis itself. It is here where we enter into Robbie’s life and begin to get to understand his plight and the lives of his children – whilst understanding what happened to his wife and how tragic it was for her departure to be premature. And, although their circumstances tug at your heart its the conditions in how they live which truly breaks your spirit a bit because of how senseless some of their situations are when you think on it. For instance – when you first meet Ruthie when Ben picks her up from school – just reading about the power trip her teacher was on over a dress needing a bit of thread and mending was above and beyond. It truly sounded realistic from the standpoint there are clueless teachers who don’t always go the mile to understand the lives of their students but how crass and brass does it take a person to mistreat a child whose spirit is already half broken by the loss of their Mum? You’d think the teacher would have the decency to at least have half a heart of empathy but apparently that was asking a bit too much of her in that instance.

The way in which Ben and his sister Ruthie were being raised by Robbie was humbling because you could tell he wanted to instill in them a sense of pride in a good day’s work coupled with the kind gestures of unexpected joy they could instill in others by sharing the things they had to give without expecting anything in return. It was a good mindset to have and a beautiful way to be raised because it didn’t just keep them humble in the right places of their soul it also allowed them to grow through empathy and compassion for their peers, their fellow working class families and to better understand the plight of two nations. They recognised their hardships but they still felt compelled to reach out to others which re-strengthened their own humanity and that was part of the beauty I enjoyed reading in this novel as the rest of the background of the central theme of the novel is truly gutting.

Shifting into the bakery run by Flo and her secreted daughter Honour felt like coming home a bit as I have a baker’s soul. Always have – as before I took into cookery delights, it was the ambrosial side of the baking which struck my fancy the most! I loved seeing what you can whip into shape and then allow to bake – seeing what charming delight could emerge from your oven and tuck into this sinfully delish concoction at the end of your labours in the kitchen. Whenever I find a story set round a bakery, I get a bit giddy over it and that is one reason I’m hoping to read a bakery series with Mum at the start of New Year. She devoured them ahead of me and now we want to have a bit of a read through together – those memories of her readings ran through my mind as I read the passages of where Flo was encouraged by her products despite the frowning glow of the Depression. It was enough to affect anyone’s spirit but Flo knew she was still filling a trade worth keeping with her bakery and that you could tell is what inspired her forward. The toils with her father on the other hand were sympathetically understood for anyone whose had someone recover from stroke and/or has had an infirmed member of their family to take care of when their health was compromised.

Although I had empathy for Flo’s circumstances with her father, I was thankfully blessed the same were not my own after my father’s recovery from stroke. Hers is a story I’ve heard oft to familiar – about how a stroke can become like an earthquake causing a fissure of change in a person’s personality and how it can effectively alter the way they communicate – all the scenes with Flo and her father are difficult to read because of the knowledge I have about stroke victims and how sometimes the recovery from a stroke doesn’t go the way a family would hope; this is one instance where the stroke was unkind and the effects of it are long lasting because of the drain it takes on a person who has to keep strong despite the hardship they are facing with the person who doesn’t even realise how altered they’ve become post-stroke. In this instance, Clarke truly captured the realism of families who are struggling with personal care issues for their loved ones and the fine line between keeping focused on their care and realising you’ve reached your limit.

What is stirringly convicting is how Ben has reversed the roles in his family – he might be a small boy of ten years but within those ten years, he’s found the courage of a man. He even surprised his father by his confession of what he gets up to whilst his father is out scouring for work and how he helps his neighbours and sister alike not feel the everyday effects of the Depression. It charms your soul how resourceful Ben is and how attune he is to what needs doing without being asked. I could sympathise with his father – you could feel the anguish bubbling in his Dad’s heart – of how knowing what a son was willing to do for his family and how the father felt dearly inadequate on the other end of it all.

This is definitely a family who wants to pull together but they sometimes have a few missteps in realising their all in it together rather than dealing with it separately. It might be a matter of pride for Robbie but for Ben, it felt more like a matter of honour. Of doing what he could whenever he could and not expecting much after – which of course went back to credit Robbie for how he was raising him and how his influence on his children was more positive than negative. Then, if you took into consideration the neighbours – from the couple who tucked in Ruthie and Ben like their own grandchildren under their wings whenever they could find a reason Ben would believe to have them over to the ordinary kind graces of Flo who by outside appearances was a baker who liked to give away leftover baked delights to the minister who felt the Depression head-on and vowed to intervene however he could to make as difference in their lives – you felt the full girth of this world as Clarke illuminated it.

The drama continues to entangle a bit in the choices each of Clarke’s characters makes to re-align their individual destinies – from young Ben seeing a different side of street life to his father sorting out his pride and nearly putting the family in jeopardy of further poverty. To Honour’s misunderstandings about life, love and the ways of the world to the misplaced loyalty of Flo’s heart and the churnings of a minister who wants to do more for his outreach efforts but finds his hands tied consistently with either budget issues or the suspicions of a volunteer nurse becoming his undoing. The sad bit is – each of them are striving towards a tomorrow they can nearly see and taste but each of them has a harder path to walk before they can reach closer to that future.

As you’re reading their story, there are moments where you hope against hope they won’t make a wrong choice or take a path that would place them in harm’s way – even as you observe why they are choosing to do certain things and turning away from other choices altogether, there is a part of you rallying behind them, encouraging them and hoping their lives will turn out in the end for the better of their efforts. Each step of the way, Clarke gives you more reasons to feel connected to Ben, Ruthie, Flo, Honour and Robbie – whilst at the same time, more reasons to feel thankful the Depression hasn’t repeated itself in the same levels of angst as it once afflicted America and the UK. It was truly a time of desperation and desperate choices – where ordinary people ran into more than a few pickles whilst they sorted out the kind of person they wanted to be in the short term whilst they planned for the long term.

I was also rightly surprised about a revelation about Honour – I hadn’t connected the dots in the way Clarke might have suspected we would have as I was caught up in the dramas of their lives. It played out like a proper soap opera in some regards and a Historical saga in another – you became lost in that vacuum of space where they kept striving for better days, hoping for the good of the world and found some peace along the way with how they found improvement in the everyday struggles they each faced both alone and/or together. The beauty of course is how the key message is about giving more than you receive and how this can be carried through all the months of the year and not just at Christmastime.

I loved how the concept of peace was also explored – peace with the past, peace with the present and a peaceful respite from criticism, anger and regret. Clarke etches out a story which tucks in affirmative truths which are fitting to be read at Christmas whilst layering it in a realistic entry into Depression-era London. Her characters will curl into your heart and pull at your soul – giving you a reason to feel thanksgiving in your own heart as you walk close in hand with characters who give a lasting impression about what they learnt the Christmas we entered their lives.

on the historical narrative styling of rosie clarke:

I had a suspicion from the moment I started reading Christmas is for Children this might be a tear jerker of a read moreso than an uplifting novel at Christmastime; especially given the circumstances of the narrative and the scope in how Clarke pulls you into her vision for it. As I began reading the novel, it was hard to swallow in some places – because of how realistically edgy the story is writ and how authentically it felt to be placed into the shoes of Ben, Ruthie and their father Robbie. Their stories felt alive with the disparity of the Depression and the effects of the crisis resounding through the working class – I’ve read stories set in America during this era but this is one of the first I’ve read where the Depression hit London.

Clarke has a deft hand at giving lilt to how her characters speak and sound whilst anchouring you into the horrors of how the Depression was not for the weak nor faint of heart. It was for those who had courage to strengthen them and faith in ordinary kindnesses to sustain them who made it – as you see through how Clarke tells her story. She also has found a way to tuck you into a novel which you know will be an emotional read and give you characters to rally behind and to find a reason to cheer after as they find Christmas blessings hidden in ordinary hours of joy.

These are the kind of Christmas stories which reflect the graces of life – similar to why I love watching It’s A Wonderful Life every year because some stories truly give you a pleasant respite from your own difficulties and re-affirm the truer blessings in life whilst giving you an emotional story to cry over and celebrate all the same. Especially because its not just about the family you’re bourne into or the family you marry into – its about the family you find along the way of your life and the people who mean the most to you are sometimes the surprising few who support you unconditionally. This applies not just to to the sentimental reasons I loved Capra’s classic but also why reading Christmas is for Children is a benefit of joy to be read at Christmas.

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This blog Tour is courtesy of:

head of Zeus

Christmas is for Children Blog Tour Poster provided by Head of Zeus.

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Sharing this lovely blog tour with the following book bloggers:

The Avid Reader | Chells and Books

I would have linked Little Miss Reader
however I’m unsure if this is a blog | booktube or bookstagram stop?

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Be sure to visit the Twitter feeds for Head of Zeus

to find the rest of the bloggers taking part on this lovely blog tour!

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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Reading this novel counted towards some of my 2019 reading challenges:

2019 HistFic Reading Challenge banner created by Jorie in Canva.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Christmas is for Children”, book synopsis, author photograph of Rosie Clarke, author biography as well as the extract from “Christmas is for Children” and the blog tour banner were all provided by Head of Zeus and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #blogmas 2019 banner, 2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 19 December, 2019 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Fathers and Daughters, Head of Zeus, Historical Fiction, Publishers & Presses (Direct Reviews), Realistic Fiction




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