Acquired Book By: I have always appreciated the authors who find my bookish ruminations and find my blog a refreshing visit whilst journeying through the book blogosphere. Especially if they take a moment to read and review my Review Policy and find that I might be a good fit as a reader for one of their stories or series. Imagine the joy I had when Ms Nelson contacted me about her new Love Inspired Historical release as one of my top favourite Love Inspired stories have always been the Historical and Suspense lines moreso than the Contemporary, though I still read Love Inspired Contemporary as well just not as often as the other two categories. Though technically the Suspense line is set in our Contemporary world.
I received a complimentary copy of “An Unlikely Duchess” direct from author Jessica Nelson in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I love reading Love Inspired Historicals:
My appreciation for Love Inspired has been developing over the years as I originally preferred reading the stories by Heartsong Presents alongside my Mum who nudged me to give those delightful little books a chance to win over my heart; and they surely did! When Heartsong went through a few mergers/changes and was finally dissolved by its current publisher (a very sombering day of news!) Mum and I shifted our focus into Love Inspired. Some of the same authors were featured by both publishers/imprints, too. It was there we started to read all three imprints of Love Inspired: Contemporary, Historical & Suspense.
Initially of course, our hearts settled into two different imprints: for me, the Historicals won me over the most and for Mum the Contemporaries. However, then, Love Inspired shifted away from publishing Historical Romances with an INSPY thematic and choose to strictly focus on Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense (ie. Suspense). Ergo, we shifted again and strictly read more of their Suspense line than the other two but still tried to gather the Historicals whenever a) they were available, b) able to be found second hand or c) awaited for new releases or reprints of older stories.
Imagine my lovely surprise finding out their releasing some new titles this New Year, 2022 for a select period of time and giving those of us who LOVE their Historicals a chance to ‘meet’ new authors and tuck into #HistRoms like we loved doing in the past by this lovely imprint.
As a reader, what drew me the most into the Historicals themselves were the gently told stories with an uplift resolution at the end of the story. I love reading INSPY Fiction and when it comes to Historical Romances – I love the dramas of life and the emotional journeys characters take in their lives but sometimes, reading a gentler told story of romance is just my cuppa and I am so dearly thankful there are a few new Love Inspired Historicals out there now to be read as they truly are a lovely lift of joy.
Widow Sophia Seymour never planned to marry again—let alone become a duchess. But with her father missing and her family impoverished, an old betrothal contract promising her hand to a notorious duke is her only hope. And Edmund DeVane intends to honor the agreement—in name only. After all, Edmund needs a wife with an impeccable reputation to protect his debuting niece. But as their arrangement starts to feel much more real, can their budding love survive Edmund’s deepest secret?
Note on Formats: Happily Love Inspired novels have the same kind of flexibility as Harlequin Heartwarming wherein you can receive these print copies in Regular Print, Larger Print or True Large Print for those who are vision impaired and/or have low vision. I personally love the Larger Print editions for Harlequin Heartwarming, Love Inspired Contemporary Romance & Love Inspired Suspense as it is much kinder on eyes of a migraineur! Generally I receive Larger Print copies of Love Inspired and/or Harlequin Heartwarming novels – however, I do on occasion receive Regular Print which I can’t read whilst in the throes of a migraine or shortly after one but when I’m migraine-free I can soak back inside them; hence why having different sized fonts available is a lovely gesture by the publisher for readers like me.
Converse via: #INSPYbooks and/or #INSPY, #SweetRomance and #LoveInspired
as well as #ChristFic, #ChristianFiction, #HistRom or #HistoricalRomance or #INSPYRomance
Gifted Book By: Last year, I had the chance to feature this lovely series by Impress Books UK twice – for a Spotlight & Extract as well as an author interview for the tour celebrating the sequel. I enjoyed hosting for the touring company attached to these tours, but during late (2020) I decided to pull back from a few of the touring companies I was hosting and re-focus on the blog tours, publishers & authors I regularly host more often. My memory is a bit foggy if I was conversing with the publisher about ‘Tree Magic’ before or after the second blog tour. In that conversation, I was mentioning the book wasn’t yet released stateside in a print edition and I wasn’t sure (at the time) when I’d be able to purchase a copy as 2020 was quite an adverse year for my family all told. Especially for medical emergencies and/or ER visits in particular. Thereby, when the publisher offered to send me a copy of ‘Tree Magic’ when it was available in print, I thanked them for their gracious offer and knew once my migraines calmed down, I wanted to dive into this novel!
The months passed by and as 2021 started off with adversities of its own, I can honestly say, it wasn’t until May this year, during #WyrdAndWonder where I could read past the first few pages of ‘Tree Magic’!! I am overjoyed I could wait until now to talk about this novel and the series it begins as I felt such a strong attachment to this book and the world it is set in due to the showcases I hosted last year. I had eight migraines in September, 2020 after the five I had in May, 2020 – so betwixt and between both those months, I’m equally in the dark if I received this for review consideration or for my own personal readerly curiosity.
Thereby, I was gifted a copy of “Tree Magic” by the publisher Impress Books UK without being obligated to post an honest review. I am sharing my thoughts on behalf of this novel for my own edification and a continued journey of sharing my readerly life on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Note: I received the Press Materials last year from the publisher and vaguely remember asking if / when I was able to read this novel if I could re-use the materials given to me on both blog tours and being given permission to do that if / when the time arose. Therefore, this is why the Press Materials for this series are included on this review.
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
I have had a firm attachment to the natural world ever since I was a young girl – growing up with a fascination and wonderment about nature, wildlife and especially of trees! This is why when I first saw this blog tour being announced, I was super giddy about participating on the tour because any writer who can celebrate and champion the natural world in a pro-positive way is an author I would love to feature on Jorie Loves A Story!
I could immediately connect with the premise with this novel which is why I am trying to seek out a copy of this in print through my local library – there is something quite magical about how trees are the guardians within the natural habitats we visit whilst hiking or walking in natural landscapes; they know things and they remember everything. This is partially why it is soul-crushing whenever there are huge wildfire seasons like the ones that are affecting the Western United States right now and/or the fires in Australia at the turning of the New Year. Nature grieves for the losses those fires bring to those habitats but I oft felt the trees especially are full of the grief of what could not be protected and what fell at their feet due to how the forests have not been able to withstand fire as they had in the past. I still remember hearing about the old growth forests of the Redwoods recently and of how achingly hard it was to see them aflame.
I have regularly spoken about the natural world on Jorie Loves A Story – from the stories I am reading to the context of the stories which seek to bring an ecological mindset and heart for conservation onto my blog because I believe strongly those stories are necessary for today’s world. Not just due to the climatic changes we’re all experiencing but to help re-connect readers with the knowledge about the natural ecosystems they might overlook and not be as familiar with as I have become myself. Knowledge is the first step towards change and to remain connected to the connectivity of how the natural world and our world intersect is one step closer to finding better balance in how to keep Earth a healthier place.
There is one reason I held off reading this novel – it took me until May to reconcile how to read Tree Magic was because of a gutting loss of trees in my neighbourhood which were uncalled for and mercilessly butchered by a bulldozer rather than cut with respect with a chainsaw. The trees were sacrificed due to a ridiculous expansion of a sidewalk which had zero benefit to the neighbourhood and took out a total of seven trees for reasons NO ONE understood lest of all the trees! I will never forget that feeling of knowing the trees were trying to defend themselves and the murmuring after effects of their death. These were full-grown cedar trees – whose rings in their trunks showcased their years of life and the emptiness of their protective shade has never felt more absent than the arrival of Summer. I still feel affected by what happened and how it was done – why cities plan their designs to erase more of the natural world than preserve it is not something I’ll ever comprehend.
This is why I had to let this novel sit on my shelf even longer than planned – I just couldn’t bring myself to read about trees and our connections to them until I could deal with the loss of the majestic cedars which once stood silently against storms and sun and whose presence was a kind reminder of how quietly trees whisper to us throughout the year.
Thirteen-year-old Rainbow discovers she can communicate with trees.
But that’s just the beginning. Her magic hands can shape trees at her will, but her gift is dangerous and has fatal consequences. An accident that leaves Rainbow unconscious leads her mother to make a confession that will change Rainbow’s life forever. Are her abilities a gift or a curse? Can Rainbow really trust her mother? From England to France, through secrets, fears and parallel worlds, Rainbow’s journey to understand her powers takes her beyond everything she’s ever known.
Converse via: #YALit, #Trees and #Magic, #MagicalRealism, #YAFantasy
as well as #TreeMagic or #Fantasy
About Harriet Springbett
Harriet Springbett’s childhood on a small farm in West Dorset gave her an early exposure to nature, which continues to inspire her writing.
She qualified as an engineer but, during a Raleigh International expedition in Chile, she realised she preferred words to numbers. She abandoned her profession, moved to France, studied French and then worked as a project manager, feature writer, translator and TEFL teacher. She now lives in Poitou-Charentes with her French partner and their teenage children.
Since her first literary success, aged 10, her short stories and poetry have been published in literary journals and placed in writing competitions, including a shortlisting in the 2017 Bath Short Story Award.
Harriet leads writing workshops, has judged the Segora international short story competition.
Acquired Book By: I’ve come to know this series [Heroes of Shelter Creek] through hosting the blog tours celebrating releases within the series with Prism Book Tours. However, this September in lieu of an organised blog tour Ms McEwen was seeking book bloggers who were interested in her series and wanted to read the fourth novel in the series “Rescuing the Rancher”. Whilst I was conferring with the author about receiving this for review, I asked if I could receive the second novel in the series “After the Rodeo” as I never had the chance to read Jace and Vivian’s story! I was thankful that Ms McEwen was also available to be a featured guest during my @SatBookChat wherein I celebrate Romance, Women’s Fiction, strong female characters across genres and Feminist Lit on Saturdays each month.
I decided to read and feature “After the Rodeo” ahead of her #SatBookChat appearance and run my review during my #RomanceTuesdays feature wherein I love to showcase Harlequin Heartwarming and Love Inspired authors as they are writing the kinds of Romances I am appreciating most to be reading right now.
I received a complimentary copy of “After the Rodeo” direct from the author Claire McEwen in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
This is one of my top favourite #CowboyRomances by Harlequin Heartwarming:
When I was checking my feeds on Twitter a short while ago, I stumbled on an announcement by Ms McEwen who was seeking book bloggers to read and review her latest release of the Heroes of Shelter Creek series – wherein I was most excited seeing the notice posted as this is one of the Western & Cowboy Romance series I love reading the most published by Harlequin Heartwarming!
I wasn’t sure if I would be in time to request the book for review, but I immediately emailed the author and the rest knitted together out of that conversation! I am so thankful I contacted her when I had as it lead me to being reading this second of the series I had missed between books one and three as much as I have been wanting to host more of the authors I love via Harlequin Heartwarming and/or Love Inspired Suspense – having the Blackwell Brothers / Sisters authors booked during @SatBookChat in October, it was a lovely surprise to have Ms McEwen booked for early September!
If you’re a ready reader of Westerns and Western Romances, I hope this showcase might inspire you to give Harlequin Heartwarming a chance at winning over your love of Westerns because the authors who are writing these stories are writing wicked brilliant characters with stories which lift your spirits as you’re reading them! Plus, the settings alone are awe-inspiring and give you the kind of Western experience you are hoping for in a Western Rom!
One interesting turn at the beginning of the novel was learning about the changing tides of the cattle industry – how traditional cattlemen and ranchers wanted to turn towards a greener and healthier way of producing their product and why that was an important resurgency in how they could maintain their ranches. Not that all ranchers were open to innovative changes which McEwen happily discloses within Liam’s own family as his brothers are spilt on the issue whilst their father is keenly invested in learning more – hence, how we find Liam is the chosen one to visit with Jace in Shelter Creek!
I, for one love all sorts of Western Romances however it is a bit rarer when within a Contemporary Western we get to talk about how ranching is trying to change its habits and become a more sustainable industry. Across the board farmers and ranchers are having to diversify their yields yearly due to different issues in climate and how to sustain themselves during leaner years wherein I felt broaching the topic of how they approach ranching their land and their cattle is also a valid point because there is a stark difference between big industry and keeping family ranchers in business by modifying their practices to reach a more educated consumer about the differences in those practices. To say I was wholly intrigued by how this novel began is putting it mildly!
Liam is at a cornerstone of his life – where he has to choose to step forward into his future rather than constantly think he cannot handle what life has to offer. This is an intriguing story about redemption – how a man can redeem his own image and identity of himself post trauma and addiction and redirect his own life back onto a purposeful path which renews his own spirit. The foundation of how McEwen laid that down for us to find was lovely because there was a moment where I felt Jace could inspire Liam simply by someone who had gone before him and had to re-alter his own opinion about what life could involve for a man who had a determined view of his own path. Even though I hadn’t had the chance to read After the Rodeo, McEwen gave some lovely hints toward Jace’s own story where I felt I could intuit why she wanted Liam closer to Jace during this transitional period of his own life.
Trisha has such a unique job at the wildlife center – I remember visiting those whilst growing up and wondering about the people who worked there. As I was fascinated how close the handlers could get to the wild animals and how much trust was between the handler and/or trainer and the animal themselves – this is one reason why I love watching shows and series like Crikey! It’s the Irwins because you get to see inside this hidden world of where animals and humans have united together for their own protection and conservation. Trisha has a heart of gold though – even though her life’s story is unconventional – it just suits her personality because she adapts to whatever is happening in her life in the moment. I liked her instantly where we find her in Her Surprise Cowboy because of how earnest she is about finding what Jace and Vivian share between them and how confident she is in her own abilities to give back to the center.
It was humbling coming into Jace and Vivian’s life a bit second-handed to get to know them in such an interpersonal way – because a lot of what anchoured Liam and Trisha together was through the fusion of friendship with Jace and Vivian. They really stepped up to the plate to help out their friends whilst they also offered a lot of heartfelt mentoring. Jace especially gave a lot back to Liam – as I had a feeling they would relate to one another as I was first starting to read this story – both lived the same kind of life in their prior lives and I believed that gave them each a unique perspective on the other. Liam and Trisha needed friends like them because they each were muddling through their own struggles where having a kind friend to lean on would go the extra mile towards finding resolution to what troubled them. Now more than ever I can’t wait to settle into the story of what drew Jace and Vivian together – as there are pieces of their romance peppered inside Her Surprise Cowboy but one day I’ll appreciate reading start to finish!
There is a certain layer of joy in reading a story about second chance romance, new beginnings and the redemption quality of forgiveness. Not just the kind of forgiveness others can give to you themselves but the kind of forgiveness that comes from within the person. A lot of the story is hinged on whether or not Liam and Trisha can find solace from their past and find a way to give themselves the leverage of understanding who they were in the past is not an indication of whom they could become in the future. That’s the rub about the human condition in us all – in not allowing ourselves the wallowing periods of never seeing past mistakes or wrong turns on our path and to continue to seek out the future with an optimistic impression of what we can achieve. By following the footsteps of Liam and Trisha you’re set to find out how forgiveness of one self can lead to a greater freedom than either Liam or Trisha could have envisioned for each other.
McEwen has conceived of a realistic Contemporary Western Romance series wherein each of her characters are struggling through and/or are transitioning through a difficult period of their lives. The realism is brilliantly layered as despite their obstacles and the hurdles they have to overcome there is a defining thread of individual courage and moxie uniting them. McEwen writes soul lifting Contemporary Romance which gives you what you want out of a modern Western Rom whilst grounding you in realistic lives which you can identify with due to how her characters are self-transitioning through the challenges which arise in all of our lives. The circumstances might differ between us and them but its their resolve to fight through to tomorrow which connects us.
Her passion for her job...
could cost him everything...
Former rodeo champion Jace Hendricks has six weeks to turn his run-down ranch around or he could lose custody of his nieces and nephews. But biologist Vivian Reed has to survey his land first - and she won't be rushed. Vivian's optimism and wonder start to win over the kids... and even Jace. But with all that's at stake, can he risk getting any more involved with Vivian?
Rescuing the Rancher – Aidan & Jade’s story (book four)
Second Chance Cowboy – (book five) – featuring ?? → forthcoming April, 2021!
I’ll admit – I was a bit worried this was ending as a quartet until I spied the release for 2021 via FantasticFiction which is my main resource for sourcing advance notice about series I am reading when new installments of those series will be revealled in forthcoming months.
Published by: Harlequin Heartwarming (@HarlequinBooks) | imprint of Harlequin Books
Formats Available: Paperback* and Ebook
*Harlequin has the luxury of offering Regular, Large & Larger Print editions which I personally can attest are lovely to be reading! Especially after a migraine or when my eyes are fatigued.
Converse via: #CowboyRomance, #WesternRomance & #ContemporaryRomance
as well as #HarlequinHeartwarming with #HeroesOfShelterCreek
This story received my award for Best Western Contemporary Romance:
subniche Cowboy & Ranchers Romance series
Acquired Book By:I receive quite a few lovely review requests throughout the different seasons of the year. Some of the more recent ones (from May-July) were a bit harder to respond to as various authors failed to leave me their contact details whilst at the same time, after searching for them online myself to seek a way to respond to their enquiries – not all of them had a website. Blessedly – Ms Thorne had a website and I was able to connect with her via her Contact Page.
This is a gentle reminder that if you’re filling out a Review Request form on a book blogger’s blog – kindly include your email address and/or if you know the book blogger is active on Twitter (like I am) – offer your handle so they can DM you. It is the kind of courtesy we appreciate – plus, it goes from moving your request to denied to accepted and in this case, it led to me hosting her three times: two reviews and a guest spot on @SatBookChat.
I received a complimentary copy of “His Daughter’s Prayer” direct from the author Danielle Thorne in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
NOTE: This is one of two novels I’ve received from this author. The other title was one of my choosing as this one [His Daughter’s Prayer] was the one she submitted for consideration via my Review Request Page. The other novel is “Josette” – a Jane Austen inspired Historical Romance which I happily marked as my first read for #AustenInAugust!
Why I took a leave of absence reading Love Inspired Contemporary Romance
and exchanged it for Love Inspired Suspense – until now, of course!
The fuller backstory about how I found #LoveInspired Contemporary, Historical and Suspense novels was briefly mentioned in a tweet I shared recently via @SatBookChat in response to the publisher asking about how we discovered their stories. (see also tweet) Initially, Mum discovered the lovely novellas published by the now defunct Heartsong Presents – as you see back then, these were stories you could purchase through their mail-order subscription services. After Heartsong struggled to continue in the height of the launch of Love Inspired (all 3x of their imprint focuses), Heartsong discontinued and Love Inspired took over the niche of the market where Heartsong once flourished.
We leaned more towards the Historical Love Inspired stories – reading more of those than the Contemporary but then, when we took a chance on the Suspense novels – all bets were off! We were beyond smitten and were devouring them as soon as we could find! Most of our Love Inspired Suspense novels are second-hand copies with a few exceptions as we had a subscription for a few months before we had to cancel it. Not for lack of wanting it – but for budget constraints.
In regards to the Contemporary side of Love Inspired – for awhile, I gathered the ones I felt would be a good fit for me but after awhile I noticed for x amount of the Contemporaries I felt I would love reading, I was surprised to find a lesser few resonated with me instead. Thus, I shifted into reading *only!* the Historicals (whilst they lasted) and/or the Suspense novels. I encouraged Mum to start reading the Suspense novels when she needed a break whilst on 12 hour shifts a few years ago. The novels were just the right length and provided a keen respite from long shifts. This also rekindled my own interest and interest to read them – thus, we predominately read them in tandem and have a lot of fireside chats about the characters and the writer’s styles.
Not to long ago I was blogging about Contemporary Romances – from both the mainstream and INSPY markets (see also Post) whilst I knew I was feeling drawn to certain authors who were not connected to Harlequin or Love Inspired for Contemporary Rom, I did question if there were some new voices in the imprint I might feel drawn to read now (within the last few years). I’ve been finding some copies of Love Inspired Contemporaries (and Historicals!) secondhand in recent months and it has re-inspired me to try reading them again to see which authors are writing the stories which appeal to me the most.
Thus, when I received a review request for “His Daughter’s Prayer”
– it felt like everything was come together quite serendipitously!
One little girl has a very big wish… A mother is all his daughter wants… Might an old love be the answer to her prayers?
Struggling to keep his antiques store open, single dad Mark Chatham can’t turn down his high school sweetheart, Callie Hargrove, when she offers her assistance in the shop. But his daughter is wishing for a mommy, and she’s convinced that Callie is the perfect match. As they work to save the business, will their little matchmaker reunite Mark and Callie for good?
Note on Formats: Happily Love Inspired novels have the same kind of flexibility as Harlequin Heartwarming wherein you can receive these print copies in Regular Print, Larger Print or True Large Print for those who are vision impaired and/or have low vision. I personally love the Larger Print editions for Harlequin Heartwarming, Love Inspired Contemporary Romance & Love Inspired Suspense as it is much kinder on eyes of a migraineur!
However, the edition I received for His Daughter’s Prayer was regular print.
Genre(s) of Interest: Second chance romance, small towne romance & Inspirational Romance
Converse via: #INSPYbooks and/or #INSPY, #SweetRomance and #DanielleThorne
as well as #ChristFic, #ChristianFiction, #ContemporaryRomance or #INSPYRomance
This story received my award for Best INSPY Contemporary Romance.
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.
Enjoy reading this extract from “Christmas is for Children”:
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.
Times are hard in London... dare they hope for a miracle this Christmas? Perfect for the fans of Katie Flynn and Dilly Court.
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...
Converse via: #ChristmasIsForChildren, #HistNov or #HistFic
Available Formats: Trade Paperback & Ebook
About 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.