Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Flora Maguire Mysteries Locations

I am often asked if I use actual locations for my Flora Maguire Mysteries, and the answer is - definitely.  As an historical fiction writer I always try to place my stories in places which exist and try to create the nostalgia for a past time.


FLORA'S SECRET

Stateroom on the SS Minneapolis

The first story was set on an actual steamship called the SS Minneapolis which left New York on a sort of test run with under a hundred passengers before the actual maiden voyage which left from London a few weeks later. The ship was a min-Titanic, but according to the promotional material of the times was just as luxurious, with a glass roofed dining room, electric lighting, and one of the first ships to carry wireless telegraphy.
BETRAYAL AT CLEEVE ABBEY

Pittville Gates, Then and Now

Although the family Flora worked for lived in a real place, I invented the actual house they lived in. However the setting of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in the summer of 1902 when the town was celebrating the coronation of King Edward VII, was as authentic as I could make it. Flora travels by tram past the gates to the park which then charged a penny entry. She also seeks advice from a building that is now a wine bar, but was once a pharmacy.

A KNIGHTSBRIDGE SCANDAL

The Grenadier Public House, Old Barrack Yard, Knightsbridge

In No 3, Flora investigates a murder where the body of a young woman is discovered outside a public house. I went exploring and found the perfect location at the end of an alley called Old Barrack Yard off Knightsbridge. The Grenadier,  built in 1720 was known as the Duke of Wellington's Officers Mess and was frequented by King George IV.  It also houses a famous ghost called 'Cedric' which I couldn't resist including ion the story. [Click on the picture for their website]

THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN
[Scheduled for Release November 2017]

The locations below are included in the upcoming mystery story scheduled for release in November - but I leave these as a taster of what is to come.

The Evelina Children's Hospital


The Tower Subway

Thursday, 27 April 2017

REVIEW-The Second Chance Teashop by Fay Keenan

Fellow Aria author, Fay Keenan has brought out her debut novel, perfect to pack in your suitcase for your summer holiday


Publisher's Blurb

Following the tragic death of her beloved husband, Anna Hemingway decides it's time for a fresh start. So Anna and her three-year-old daughter Ellie move to a picture-perfect cottage in the beautiful village of Little Somerby, and when she takes over the running of the village tea shop, Ellie and Anna start to find happiness again.

But things get complicated when Matthew Carter, the owner of the local cider farm, enters their lives. Throughout a whirlwind year of village fetes and ancient wassails, love, laughter, apple pie and new memories, life slowly blossoms again. But when tragedy strikes and history seems to be repeating itself, Anna must find the strength to hold onto the new life she has built.

This beautiful, life-affirming debut novel marks the beginning of the Little Somerby series, and promises to make you smile, cry, reach for a cream tea, and long for a life in the perfect English countryside.

Review

An easy to read story where the main character, Anna, is getting over a sad loss but appears to have got her life sorted out and onto a new path to success – she has even met a handsome new man. I thought I knew where the story was going, however as it progressed there was a great deal more to the storyline which made it unputdownable.

This is the perfect light-hearted romance designed for a sunny day on a lounger with a cool drink, or   read curled up in front of the fire with a hot chocolate. A surprisingly well crafted debut novel, which tells me there will be more to look forward to from this author. The prose flows beautifully and the portrait of the village of Little Somerby, its characters and the celebration of blessing the apple trees is brilliantly authentic.

Anna and Matthew have a shaky start to their relationship, but instead of the misunderstanding/split scenario, what follows is a charming love story which takes a few bends and bumps but is always interesting and turns which keep you engaged throughout. I was delighted to see a sequel is in the mix and look forward to re-visiting this setting, in the hope of reading more about Anna, Matthew, Meredith and Ellie.


Fay's Website
Twitter @faykeenan

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Sticks, Stones and Bad Reviews

Negative reviews carry a sting which lingers whether an author likes to admit it or not.  A few sharp comments rushed off online can nullify months, even years of work as savaging an author takes little skill and a lot of venom - and to what purpose? To deliberately injure a writer they have never met simply because they can?

We have all read books we have hated - a character we didn't take to, a storyline we thought unbelievable and over simplified, or a plot which didn't work. However most of us choose not to air our views public at the expense of an author.

Trashing a book with scathing personal criticism or hyperbole against an author says more about the reviewer than the reviewed. It's also instinctive for a writer to respond to a bad review with an answering tirade but it’s best to remember that reviews are a single person's opinion and nothing more. Most of us have read an author’s response which have turned into online back and forth rant between attacker and attacked, and neither of them come out of it particularly well. 

We all read different things into books. They either touch us or they don't and what is one persons 'OMG best book ever' is another's 'This is rubbish'. And are they all bad? A negative review amongst a page of five star ones has piqued my curiosity on occasion and made me buy the book.  Authors cannot control a reader's expectation of a novel, so liking or disliking a book is often a question of personal taste.  

I don't claim to be a literary giant writing award winning books that carve a niche in society and touch souls. I write light-hearted stories with a beginning, middle and an end where the good triumph and the bad get their just desserts - mostly. I do know that anyone who has ever written a book is unlikely to deliberately and cruelly trash anyone else's work - we know too well what goes into producing one.

Therefore I take the stance that if readers don't like my books - don't read them. I can live with that. 

Here are some interesting links to some famous books which attracted unfavourable reviews. One from The Saturday Review which says of Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird'

'Miss Lee's problem has been to tell the story she wants to tell and yet to stay within the consciousness of a child, and she hasn't consistently solved it.'

Even Classics Get Trashed

Shockingly Bad Reviews

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Hon Charles Stewart Rolls


In my fourth Edwardian Cosy Mystery, my heroine Flora, is taken ballooning by her father who introduces her to a fascinating young man who lived a fast and adventurous life which was to be cut short tragically soon.
Charles Stewart Rolls was an archetypal upper class young man whose name most people have heard of but about whom we know very little, and yet his name graces the radiators of some of the most exclusive cars in the world.


Born in 1877, the Hon Charles Stewart Rolls was an impressive 6ft 5ins tall, handsome and from a wealthy family, the third son of John Allan Rolls, 1st Baron Llangattock, an Army officer, Justice of the Peace and High Sheriff of Monmouthshire. Their country home was The Hendre, [Welsh for Winter Dwelling or main house] near Monmouth.

His eldest brother, John Maclean Rolls was destined to be the 2nd Baron Llangattock but died of wounds received at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The second son, Henry Allen Rolls, was a Lieutenant in the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) who was wounded in WWI and died in 1916. A daughter, Eleanor Georgiana Rolls married Sir John Edward Shelley, the sixth Baronet Shelley and died in 1961.

Motoring
Fascinated with engines and electronics, he installed a dynamo at The Hendre while in his teens, and wired part of the house before entering Trinity College, Cambridge. At 18, Charles went to Paris, where, with his father's assistance he bought a 3 3/4 hp Peugeot Paris-Bordeaux Phaeton for £225 - the first ever car based in Cambridge and one of the most powerful available at the time. When he took the 140mile trip home to Monmouth in his new motor car, the townspeople waited two days and nights to catch a glimpse of him as he drove over Monnow Bridge - only the third car owned in Wales.
Charles left university in 1898 with a degree in Mechanism and Applied Science, earning the nicknames "Dirty Rolls" and "Petrolls" because of his love of messing with engines. He worked on his father’s  steam yacht ‘Santa Maria’, after which he obtained a third engineer's (marine) certificate. He worked at the London and North Western Railway at their main locomotive engineering workshops.

In 1896, he joined and a group of auto enthusiasts, and campaigned against the 4mph speed limit, helping it's increase to 12 mph. A founding member of the Automobile Club of Great Britain in 1897 where he served until his death, Rolls was an enthusiastic racing driver. His first race was in France in 1899, finishing fourth in his class, driving an 8hp Panhard and Levassor.

Despite the inaugural London to Brighton Run in November 1896 there were still few automotive vehicles on the roads of Britain, so in 1900, Lord Northcliffe organised a ‘Reliability Run' over 1,000 miles from London to Edinburgh and back. This was intended to show detractors of the ‘horseless-carriage’ that the internal combustion engine could replace horse power.

Run on bumpy, unmade roads with no signposts and in open cars whatever the weather, no windscreen, the drivers wore 'autocoats', hats and goggles. Charles drove his Panhard Levassor and won the gold medal for best car in any class. Frank Hedges Butler, wine merchant and 1st hon. Treasurer of the RAC, took part, accompanied by his daughter, Vera, who became Charles Roll’s girlfriend. In 1902, the pair were on a drive when they collided with a horse-drawn trap in traffic from the Barnet Fair.
 
That same year, Charles started one of the first car dealerships in Britain. With £6,600 of financial backing provided by his father, C.S. Rolls and Co imported high-class French Peugeot and Belgian Minerva cars which they sold  through their ‘showroom’ premises in Fulham, London.

In June 1902, Charles entered the  Paris-Vienna three-day race covering 990km - legendary as being one of the toughest because it included the Arlberg Pass, a 6000ft climb up a wagon road, crossed by drainage ditches; and a dangerous decent which burnt out brakes and caused more than a dozen accidents.

In February 1903 Rolls competed in the fateful Paris to Madrid town-to-town race which claimed the lives of thirty-four drivers and spectators. He held the unofficial land speed record in 1903 piloting his 80hp Mors, a French car which he imported and distributed, to nearly 83 mph along the course in the Duke of Portland’s Clipstone Park.

After a slow start, Rolls’ business was doing well and he opened a showroom in Brook Street, West London and wrote for ‘Car Illustrated’, owned by a friend.

In May 1903, Charles entered the 800 mile race from Paris to Madrid in May which was intended to be a triumph of speed but ended at Bordeaux in chaos and disaster. 
Despite starting the faster vehicles first, the disparity of speeds meant there was over-taking on the road. Due to a lack of rain, the first cars raised huge clouds of dust which hampered the vision of following drivers as well as the crowd, some of whom strayed onto the roads trying to get a better view of the oncoming cars and several were run down.

On 4 May 1904, Charles met Frederick Henry Royce at the Midland Hotel in Manchester to discuss selling Royce motor cars. Royce was fifteen years older and had worked hard all his life, unlike the wealthy Charles, though despite this they became friends. Royce wanted to build the best cars, Charles wanted to sell the best, and both wanted them to be British.


Legend has it that when Royce showed Charles his motor car, he climbed aboard and asked Royce to go ahead and start her up, Royce replied, “My dear fellow, she’s already running!”  Charles borrowed one of Royce’s cars for his return journey to London; where he announced he had:-“...found the greatest motor engineer in the world”.

Thus Rolls-Royce was born; the first cars offered to the public in December 1904, with Charles as Technical Director. 
In 1906 Rolls won the Tourist Trophy and also broke the Monte Carlo-to-London record. When the staff at the Rolls-Royce plant in Derby heard the news, they hoisted Henry Royce aloft in triumph. That same year, Rolls exhibited Rolls-Royce cars at the New York Motor Show and was introduced to the Wright Brothers.

Ballooning

Charles’ first ascent aboard a balloon, was on the ‘Wulfruna’  in 1896 on a sixteen mile flight from Crystal Palace to Epping Forest.

Charles Rolls and Vera Hedges Butler
In 1901, Vera Hedges Butler had arranged a trip for her father, Frank,but before they were due to set out, Vera’s Renault 4.5 caught fire and the trip was cancelled. Instead, Charles suggested a trip with their friend Stanley Spencer in Spencer’s balloon, ‘City of New York’. They took off from Crystal Palace and whilst sipping champagne over Sidcup, Kent, discussed starting an Aero Club along the lines of the Royal Automobile Club, but allowing women as equal members. They leased a clubhouse at 119 Piccadilly, which it retained until 1961 and in 1910 became the Royal Aero Club.

Every weekend, weather permitting, he and his friends, and his girlfriend, Vera, could be seen at The Hurlingham Club at Ranelagh, or the Crystal Palace to ascend in balloons.

The Club membership quickly grew to nearly three hundred, The Hon. Lady Shelley – Charles Roll’s sister, Eleanor, was a member as well as being a keen motorist. The club owned three balloons where trips were charged at two guineas each. Races, contests, and exhibitions of aeronautic subjects and machines were held in the Club grounds.

Charles’ friend, Leslie Bucknall, invented a sport where balloons were chased by motor cars; originally intended to show the military that dispatches could be moved more quickly by balloon.
 Charles made over 170 balloon ascents and in 1903 won the Gordon Bennett Gold Medal for the longest single flight time and held the record for the Paris to Berlin flight.

His interest turned from balloons to powered flight, and in April 1910, he purchased the French Wright with a Wright Bariquand engine - not Rolls-Royce powered because Royce was yet to design a Rolls-Royce aero engine.

Together with the Wright brothers in America and the Short brothers, balloon makers to the Club, Charles acquired a Wright license for the first aircraft production line in the world at Leysdown and later at nearby Eastchurch.

From 1910 the Royal Aero Club, issued Aviators Certificates, Charles Rolls was issued with Certificate No 1. The Club trained most military pilots up to 1915, when military schools took over.

On June 2nd, 1910, Rolls flew his Wright biplane across the English Channel to France, was spotted over French territory without permission, and returned to England without landing. The trip was the third Channel crossing by air, Bleriot having made the first, and Jacques de Lesseps the second. Charles became the first man to fly non-stop across the English Channel both ways.

On the 12 July 1910, around twenty of the world’s most famous aviators travelled to Hengistbury Head, at Christchurch, Dorset which attracted approximately 2,000 visitors.

With a gusting wing speed of 20 to 25 mph, Charles came in to land. He shut off his engine, intending to glide in a broad circle down onto the target spot. He saw he would undershoot, so pulled back the controls to lift the nose and began a turn, when a stiff wind hit his plane beam-on. The 
two rear rudders broke loose from the tail plane which bent upwards, crumpled and snapped off. The tail boom broke away and the plane overturned and nose-dived into the ground.

Although Rolls fell only 20 feet, he fractured his skull, and died in the arms of a distraught friend, US colonel and aviator Sam Cody.

He was 32 years old

Charles was Britain`s first aircraft fatality in a powered aircraft, and the eleventh internationally. Lord Montague of Beaulieu interrupted his speech in the House of Lords to announce his death. Charles was buried at St. Cadoc's Church on 16 July 1910. He had a philosophical outlook towards the danger he courted, saying:

“All good engineering calls for casualties—so why not?”

As a symbol of mourning, the intertwined “RR” logo on the Rolls-Royce radiator plate was changed from red to black and his name retained as a mark of respect.



Sources:



 

The Flora Maguire Mysteries Locations

I am often asked if I use actual locations for my Flora Maguire Mysteries, and the answer is - definitely.  As an historical fiction writer...