As a young woman of twenty-one, Grace did not think it unusual to marry a man of forty. Although she wed a kind and respectful individual, something remained absent from their relationship. Before she could fully understand her growing despondency and restless emotions, England declared war on Germany. Like a jigsaw puzzle turned upside down, the pieces of Grace’s life scatter in different directions. When her husband leaves for France to fight for king and country, Grace is left behind to face years of loneliness, temptation, and loss. After the declaration of peace, the picture puzzle of her life is reassembled but paints a vastly different scene than it did before.
Amazon – Publishedon July 28, 2017, 4:09 PM – Available Now
My life would be so much easier if I just wrote in the twenty-first century where I’m familiar with everything around me. I can see why contemporary authors often pound out book after book of modern love stories. Unless they are focused on some particular subject, research is pretty much quick and easy. I’m sure in some cases, it’s not needed. The only book I’ve been lucky enough to write with little effort is my one contemporary romance.
However, I apparently love to torture myself by picking difficult subject matter. Lady Grace is no exception. Set during World War I in England from 1914-1919, I’ve been spending hours researching everything from aspirin to Belgian refugees in order to place this story in a believable setting. Research teaches me (a person who once hated history), and I am often fascinated about what I learn.
As I finish the first draft (yes, I’m writing the last few words), it dawned on me that I pretty much build stories around history. Of course, many authors do the same and take creative liberties along the way. Famous writers have rearranged history to make things more interesting. However, doing so can make you a magnet for criticism and one-star reviews. I get those one-stars regardless, but at least I know that I’ve done my homework for the most part.
In Lady Grace, I’ve built a story around history, which includes the Belgian refugees and Belgian soldiers convalescing in Britain. So what have I learned? If you haven’t been following my Ladies of Disgrace blog, here are links to the interesting facts weaved throughout the book. In addition to those noted below, I also used some personal books that I’ve amassed from my own ancestral research into the years of the Great War in England. One of my resources contained newspaper articles from the time period. Salford 1914-1920 – The County Borough and the First World War by Roy Bullock.
Lady Grace does contain many somber elements in the storyline, but I do leave a semi-sweet happy ending. My next lady will be much more lighthearted and set in the Victorian era. I defintely need a few laughs.
As part of my research for Lady Grace, I needed to know how families were notified of the death of their loved ones. The next of kin of officers often received telegrams, while the families of non-officers received a letter. The link to the article below talks more of the sad process during World War One and contains examples of correspondence.
From looking at the demise of my distant cousins in the war, I discovered that their bodies were never returned to their homeland. They were buried where they fell in the distant lands of France, Belgium, and Turkey. Not having their bodies returned to be buried near their families surely added to the grief.
I’m reminded of the movie Water Diviner, with Russell Crowe, that was released a few years ago. It’s a story about three of his sons who died in the battle at Gallipoli, Turkey (where Thomas Holland, my second cousin also fell). He travels to the far away land to search for their bodies and give them a proper burial. You can read my review about the movie at my entertainment blog by CLICKING HERE. (“This film is dedicated to all those who remain ‘lost and nameless’ and who live on in the hearts and memories of their families.”)
The book Lady Grace is a bit more somber than Lady Isabella and focuses on loneliness, young love, and grief as its themes. Grief can come in many forms and is not always about losing a loved one in death. We grieve over bad decisions, the things we never did, the love we never knew, and the love we lost, among other events in our lives.
When I set Lady Grace during World War I, there were two choices for her manor home. One was to take in wounded soldiers for recuperation like those in Downton Abbey, and the other was a lesser known occurrence during the war – the influx of 250,000 Belgian refugees integrated into society. In the end, I decided to take the second route, because I had read quite a bit about it during my own ancestral research in Manchester during the war years.
I discovered that Salford, where my grandparents were born, welcomed refugees. The city, at first, set up temporary housing using schools and other public buildings. However, as the wounded returned from the front and hospitals filled, the refugees needed to find other places to live. As the influx increased, many British households opened their doors to families and housed them until the war ended. A Belgian Relief Fund was established to aid in the expenses of their accommodations.
Linked to this post is an article that I discovered on BBC News, which is an excellent look into the refugees and how they were quickly forgotten after the war ended. The migration of refugees to foreign countries is not new by any means and often occurred during historical periods of world strife.
In my book, Lady Grace, her household takes in two families. They are the center of the story and the avenue upon which Grace discovers how easy it is to become a fallen woman during stressful times.
Researching this story timeline is an interesting and somewhat sobering journey.
I am aware of some things during that time period because my ancestors lived in the Manchester area during the war years of 1914-1918. I have a few reference books with newspaper articles that give insight into the times and struggles at home while the men were away fighting.
My ancestors lost sons and husbands to the war, which are my second cousins two times removed on the generational chart. (This means we share the same third great-grandfather. Their fathers were my second great uncles, Robert Holland and Henry Holland.) Since I’m an avid ancestry nut, I have been able to trace military records and references to their losses. Below is a sampling of the information I have discovered.
The story of Lady Grace will include two men in the military – Grace’s husband Benedict and Arabella, her friend, whose husband Thomas has left for war. What happens to them while they are away, of course, you’ll find out when you read the story. However, the main focus will be the women left behind during turbulent times.
In honor of my relatives who lost their lives during World War I, which I hope you don’t mind me sharing with you, are noted below. When I think about them, it saddens me that they perished at so young an age never able to live out their days. May we never forget the sacrifice of the millions who died during this world conflict and others. You will note that their bodies never returned home and are buried where they died in France, Belgium, Turkey, and India.
Name: Thomas Douglas Holland
Death Date: June 5, 1915
Death Place: Gallipoli
Buried: Helles Memorial Cemetery in Gallipoli, Canakkale, Turkey
Rank Private – Regiment Manchester Regiment – Battalion 1st 6th Battalion
Type of Casualty Killed in Action – Theatre of War Balkan Theatre
The National Roll of the Great War (Entry)
“Holland, T. D. Pte. 6th Manchester Regiment. He volunteered in August 1914, and sailed for Egypt in the same month. From Egypt he proceeded to Gallipoli in April 1915, and took part in the famous landing at Cape Helles, ever memorable for the magnificent bravery displayed. In the second Krithia Battle in June 1915, he fell fighting gallantly and was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, and the General Service and Victory medals. “Great deeds cannot die.”
Frederick John Holland
Died May 8, 1918
Killed in Action France
Place of Burial: Perth Cemetery (China Wall), Leper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Regimental Number: New Zealand Expeditionary Force, 2nd, Service #57847, New Zealand Entrenching Battalion, 2nd
Major George Henry Holland
Died May 15, 1918
Killed in Action France
Buried Euston Road Cemetary, Colincamps, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France
New Zealand Army
Corporal John Holland Sapsford Died November 4, 1918
Killed just one week before the end of WW1 in India.
Buried C W G cemetery in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan).
Royal Field Artillery
Name noted on St. James War Memorial along with Thomas Holland, both grandsons of Robert Holland.
Private Harry Walton Died February 6, 1917
Killed in Action France
Lancashire Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion
Private Gilbert Hough Died October 9, 1917
Killed in Action Belgium
Lancashire Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion
Buried Tyne Cot Memorial – Zonnebeke, Arrondissement Ieper, West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen), Belgium
Lady Isabella is out for editing, and it should be ready for release February 1 in eBook and print.
After mulling over a few story lines and time eras, I felt compelled to backtrack to the time period of World War 1 for my next story entitled Lady Grace. I had thought about choosing other names for the title, but the name Grace stuck with me because of the personality of the young woman that I will be writing about.
In 1914, Grace has given birth to her first child and her husband, Benedict Russell, has left for the front. Of course, anytime that I decide to write about something new, I’m strolling down research lane. The premise of this story is going to make me study more than fashion, makeup, and hair. It’s also going to cause me to research England during World War I and the sacrifices that its citizens made while men gave their lives on the battlefield.
Already, I have chosen a cover for this new work and hope that you find the picture of Grace dressed in red, standing among a field of poppies, a poignant reminder of the times. Gazing at the cover helps me develop the character as I write the story. I can’t tell you how many times I will pause in a portion of a book, glance over at the face of my heroine or hero, and wait for the inspiration to know what they would say or do next. It’s a way of looking into their faces and becoming who they are so I can bring them to life on the page. Hopefully, each of these fallen ladies in this series of books will have vastly different personalities.
In the meantime, stay tuned for Isabella! For her story, too, set in 1930 will hopefully be an entertaining one. I will let you know when it’s release. Those on my mailing list will get an email, too. If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter for release notices, you can do so by following this LINK.
When I’m almost finished with the first draft of a book, I start to get giddy. Especially when I think to myself — this is a good story. Even if some readers do not enjoy it, I’ve learned that if I enjoy it, it usually comes out okay. However, if I write something and struggle with the process, it doesn’t do as well. I suppose it has to do with inspiration, though I don’t often understand the muse that drives writers.
I have two more chapters to complete! It’s currently at 35,000 words, so I’ll be close to my goal of 40,000. Word count often fluctuates, too, when you begin editing.
Here is a list of the final chapters, which I hope continue to pique your interest. Also, if you haven’t been following my Ladies of Disgrace blog, you’ll be missing out on all of my research from horse racing in the United Kingdom to makeup and hairstyles of the 1930’s. You can find me at LADIES OF DISGRACE on WordPress.
As some of you may know from my past endeavors, I like to do book blogs as I write. They are informative tidbits of information regarding my research behind the book and also a therapeutic respite for me while writing.
I’ve decided to start a blog elsewhere to track my journey and hope that you will come and join me as I work my way through the various characters of fallen women in different eras. I’m stretching a bit and jumping into the 1930’s to give you Lady Isabella. While living in the turmoil of English scandals and fearing the rise of the Nazis in Europe, she finds herself personally struggling with the consequences of her own indiscretions.
Please join me over at Ladies of Disgrace at this link on WordPress to follow by email. Ladies of Disgrace.