I am writing literary historical romance. I have one book awaiting revision and another in the final stages of editing. I am not yet published and will shortly be seeking representation. I think that readers who enjoyed Mothering Sunday (Graham Swift), The Lie (Helen Dunmore) and Brooklyn (Colm Tóibín) would enjoy my books.
The original title of my first book was Rendezvous with Death, after a lovely poem by Alan Seegar, 1888-1916. I later changed this to The White Lady, which references the recurring motif of owls (barn owls are known as les dames blanches in French) and the code name for the resistance network in occupied France in the Great War.
The White Lady is a romantic thriller set in the First World War. It tells the story of Charlotte, an ex-suffragette, who has a profound encounter with a mysterious man only for him to walk away the next morning. She finds love elsewhere but her world is shattered by the outbreak of war. Charlotte is recruited for espionage work in occupied France where her resilience and courage are tested to their limits – until fate once more intervenes.
In its present form, The White Lady is too long and too convoluted. It’s superficial and sexy and contains enough material for at least two books. It’s the book I had to get out of my system in order to calm down and write something better. Understanding this was very painful – akin to abandoning ones firstborn in a forest – but I’m now at the stage when I look forward to revisiting Charlotte and adding some depth to her wartime romps.
The title of my second book is Best Beloved. ‘Best Beloved’ is how Rudyard Kipling addresses the reader of his Just So stories, in memory of his lost daughter, Josephine. My book’s earlier title was Soldiers from the Wars Returning, taken from a poem called Soldier from the Wars Returning by AE Housman and referencing the focus of my story on post-war lives. (Soldier from the Wars Returning is also the title of an excellent Great War memoir by Charles Carrington but I don’t think he’d mind. Choosing titles is such fun!)
Would I jinx it if I say that Best Beloved is already a far better book than The White Lady? Probably – but who cares! I learnt so much whilst writing TWL – a life-time’s worth of writing theory and Great War history and mythology – and now I’m taking it slowly; analysing, experimenting, thinking, planning and, above all, reading like a thing possessed.
Here is my 60 second summary of Best Beloved:
Best Beloved is set in the final year of the Great War and the first year of peace. It’s a visceral and throughtful story about surviving war and finding peace; seizing the opportunities of war, and living with shattered dreams and festering secrets.
The story is told through the eyes of a young woman called Hope; loyal to her childhood sweetheart Arthur, steadfast and dutiful, yet aching to break free and laugh and dance and find happiness again. Her protagonist is Gerard, arrogant and abrasive; a man who loved war and fears peace because the silence is unbearable and now he has to face the terrible consequence of Arthur’s death.
(This page updated March 2 2020)