Reviews & Recipes, Life in 1918 Part 2

Here we are, it’s out and it’s getting some lovely reviews already: I couldn’t put it down. Not sure what I liked best, but I really liked the way you tell your story, even when the themes were most serious, with a touch of humour which somehow lightens the atmosphere all round, although we never underestimate the hardships either – I found myself laughing out loud at times. I saw a resemblance to the Cazalet series, but even more, I saw many shades of Angela Thirkell there. A lovely read.’
And while I’m about it, here’s another one: Another excellent cosy mystery by Nicola Slade. Not only is this a jolly good story with a cliffhanger ending it portrays life on the Home Front in 1918 without being mawkish or sensationalist. I love the details of the food; the struggle was real!

My 1918 heroine writing!

Even though the War opened up the prospect of many hitherto male-only jobs for women, middle-class girls with no particular training were still hampered by expectations of what was ‘suitable’. Christabel, the narrator of The Convalescent Corpse, contributes to the family income by writing Boys’ Own-style books aimed at young men in the army,with exciting titles such as ‘Prefects on Picket Duty’ – but she manages this by using a male pseudonym.

I’m glad that the reviewer above loved the details of the food and the shortages and rationing that made shopping for groceries a test of endurance and hope.Hampshire Pie is an example of shameless misrepresentation! on the part of the Home Chat editor who produced their March 1918 supplement: Plain Puddings & Cakes. It has no visible link with Hampshire and it’s not a pie! I had to include it, of course, considering the book is set in Hampshire – in Ramalley, a small market town halfway between Winchester and Southampton, that bears a surprising resemblance to Romsey!

Hampshire Pie – 1918

Hampshire Pie (Hot, Baked)

Apple is the nicest fruit to use for this but it is very good with rhubarb or any other fresh fruit

1 lb apples or soaked dried apple rings

1 pint water

2 ounces custard powder

1 tbs golden/amber/or ginger syrup, or other sweetener

Saltspoonful powdered cinnamon or nutmeg

Peel, core and slice apples. Boil the cores and peel in the water till quite soft, then drain off water, and save it.
Cover apples in a pan with water to half cover them. Simmer till soft, beat free from lumps with a fork. Add cinnamon and syrup and spread the pulp in a piedish.
Meanwhile, boil up the apple water. Mix the custard powder smoothly and thinly with a little cold water, pour it into the boiling apple liquid and stir for about five minutes, or according to directions on the packet.
Sweeten this mixture if necessary; a drop of vanilla is generally an improvement. Pour it over the apple pulp and bake in a moderate oven for about half and hour or until browned.
NB Ground rice or cornflour and just a little custard powder can be used if you like, instead of all custard powder. A scrap of margarine improves the flavour and increases the food value of the pudding.

Verdict – I love stewed apple so I was happy with this, though I made custard with skimmed milk instead of the apple water suggested – I felt that was a step too far towards authenticity! It’s a cheek to call it a pie, though I suppose it is cooked in a pie dish!

You can find The Convalescent Corpse in ebook and paperback all across Amazon. This is the UK link:https://amzn.to/2OskEpV
Please tell your friends – and if you enjoy this story of family struggles in wartime, a review on Amazon would be fabulous.

A New Book – About Life, Rationing, and Inconvenient Corpses!

This year is proving to be all about books! No surprise there – my Granny used to say, ‘That child always has her nose in a book,’ and so I did, and still do. However, 2018 is different in that six of my books are being republished and – drum roll, please – Crooked Cat Books have just taken on my NINTH BOOK! the very cosy mystery, The Convalescent Corpse. The ebook should come out around the end of the year, followed shortly afterwards by the paperback.

This is the publisher’s announcement, not the actual  cover for The Convalescent Corpse, it’s too soon for that. Set in 1918, in Ramalley, the same fictional version of Romsey as The House at Ladywell, this book charts the efforts of three young sisters to cope with WW1 wartime shortages, difficult parents, lack of money, a houseful of lodgers – and inconvenient corpses practically on their own doorstep!

I’ve always loved Romsey, ever since I spent all my summer holidays visiting my aunt who lived quite near. My cousins and I used to cycle to Romsey and I’d drag them into King John’s House and the Abbey, to make sure they were still there, so it was a particular delight to find myself living only about five miles from the town. It’s still one of my favourite haunts and I drop in to say Hello to the poignant relic of a young Saxon girl buried in the Abbey. How strange that the only acknowledgement of a life should be her hair in a glass case – who was she? Nobody knows, but I loved her at first sight when I was about seven (I was a weird child, I admit) These days I wander round town, conscious of Freya, from The House at Ladywell, talking in one ear, and now Christabel, whose diary forms The Convalescent Corpse, in the other ear. They’re good company though.

As if that isn’t enough excitement, I’ve also signed with Endeavour Media to republish my first-ever novel, Scuba Dancing, as an ebook, probably early in the New Year. The first book I set in ‘Ramalley’ – this was first published in 2005, followed in 2013 when I self-published  it as an ebook, slightly tweaking a few inconsistencies. I’m delighted now, to have a chance to introduce this very quirky novel to a new audience and was very touched recently, to receive a message from a reader, that Scuba Dancing had ‘helped her through a bout of serious illness.’ 

Earlier in the year I posted that Williams & Whiting were to reissue my first five mysteries – previously published by Robert Hale Ltd – and they’re now all available as ebooks and paperbacks: all three Charlotte Richmond Victorian mysteries, and the firstt two Harriet Quigley contemporary tales. (The third Harriet book was published by Endeavour Press in 2016) Amazon link – https://amzn.to/2uI7UEi

And finally, something non-book related. In January this year The Resident Engineer and I celebrated our Golden Wedding. Fifty years in which we’ve achieved three children, eight grandchildren, lots of travelling, and a great deal of (mostly) cheerful bickering! This is a typical photo, him beaming at the world and me watching to make sure there’s no catastrophe looming. It’s not hard to- guess who is the cautious Capricorn and who the optimistic Leo! (I must have been standing oddly, I’m not really that weird shape!)

I know I make jokes about him, and he winds me up all the time, but my heart still lifts when I hear his key in the door! He drives me mad, but he keeps me sane – which is a pretty good testimonial.

 

Writing and talking, what else?

First of all – the book. ‘The House at Ladywell’ now has a date, Tuesday, 14th November – which is when Crooked Cat Books will publish it simultaneously as an ebook and a paperback. This really, really exciting! It’s a contemporary romantic novel with historical interludes, quite a change for me! Here’s a taster…

‘A hare carved in stone and the scent of flowers in a house full of echoes – can Freya’s inheritance help her leave the past behind


And no, the house in the photo has nothing to do with my fictitious house apart from being a Tudor house in Hampshire (this one’s a pub that’s being revamped). My ‘real’ Tudor house is, like my characters, a patchwork of reality and fiction. And set in a different version of Romsey! Below is the Old Manor House in Romsey which is now a restaurant but which is about the right age for ‘my’ house.

Details of the cover and more info about the book and – most important of all – how to buy it! will be forthcoming in the early autumn. There are several running themes in this book: rowan trees, sacred springs, the scent of flowers, and hares – which have always fascinated me and which I paint occasionally. Here’s one I did earlier!

Secondly – the talk. Sunday, 16th July at the Romantic Novelists’ Association 2017 Conference at Harper Adams University, Telford, Shropshire.

The talk – From Kissing to Killing – is about changing over from writing romantic novels to writing murder mysteries and this is what the programme says about me! ‘Why do romantic novelists so often shine at writing mysteries? Having made the leap (more of a sidle) herself, Nicola Slade discusses what a cosy mystery actually is, some statistics about real-life murders and examples of fictional ones, and she also talks about other romantic novelists who’ve gone over to the dark side…’          One very well-known crime writer also wrote romantic novels under the name of Mary Westmacott – and if it’s good enough for Agatha, it’s certainly good enough for me!

 

 

The House at Ladywell

Would you fall in love at first sight – with a house?

When my second Harriet Quigley mystery was published, blogger Geranium Cat said, in what is still my favourite review: ‘Not listed in the Dramatis Personae at the start of A Crowded Coffin is the Attlin family’s farmhouse, although you feel it should be there; once known as the Angel House, Locksley Farm Place dates back centuries, perhaps to a Roman villa on the same site. The author conveys the sense of the house’s age and antiquity seamlessly… and the reader is left with an impression of great solidity and warmth which permeates the whole book…’

It’s such a perceptive comment and I hope readers will feel the same about this new book because – in The House at Ladywell – the house is clearly the main character. We first ‘meet’ it when Freya, the protagonist, goes to view her inheritance and falls head-over-heels in love with the house. As she settles in the reader gradually learns the history of both the house and the family down through the ages.

I’m delighted to be able to say that I’ve now signed a contract with Crooked Cat Books and they will publish The House at Ladywell as an ebook in the autumn, to be followed by the paperback.

For a change, this book isn’t set in Winchester but not far away in my fictitious town of Ramalley, the small market town where my first published novel, Scuba Dancing, was set. It’s not a follow-up but the town is recognisably the same. It’s also recognisable to sharp-eyed readers who contacted me when Scuba Dancing came out and said, ‘It’s Romsey, isn’t it?’ Of course it is – but it’s Romsey with added extras!

I usually have a picture of the characters inside my head and for some reason Richard Armitage popped up whenever I wrote about Patrick, the contemporary hero. I can’t imagine why but it’s true: that’s exactly how I see him!  (And because one of the historical ‘echoes’ in this book involves the Battle of Waterloo, here’s a gratuitous photo of Sean Bean as Lt Richard Sharpe. And why not?)

In case you’d like to see some of the other inspirations for this book, here’s my Pinterest board for The House at Ladywell. https://uk.pinterest.com/nicola8703/the-house-at-ladywell/I  (Oops, doesn’t seem to work, but here’s my Pinterest account and you’ll find the Board for The House at Ladywell there: https://uk.pinterest.com/nicola8703)