Saturday, 10 March 2018

Alice's Secret Blog Book Tour

I am super excited to be doing something a little bit different today and to announce that I'm taking part in the Alice's secret blog tour! If you have followed my blog for a while you will know that reading is something I love to do however struggle to fit in to my university schedule. It's been one of my goals for the past few years and so far in 2018 I've been keeping it up. Reading in the bath is my favourite and recently I've been using my kindle a bit more which has made it so easy. One of my favourite genre's is historical fiction (definitely don't tell my history tutors this was part of the reason I chose to study history university - I just love the stories!)

Alice's secret is described as a "a gripping story of love, loss and a historical mystery finally revealed". It switches between the present, where Alys, confused about the direction her life is taking, travels to Yorkshire to help run her Aunt's cafe after she has an accident. Whilst there, she learns the of her ancestor Alice, who worked in the mills in the area and Alys becomes determined to discover the true story of what happened to Alice over 100 years ago. 
I love the way the past is intertwined with the present as we discover Alys and Alice's stories. It is clear that Lynne researched the area and I love the elements of industrialisation which influence the setting of the novel. The novel is easy to follow and both Alys and Alice develop distinctive character traits and their personalities definitely shine through in the writing. One thing I think the novel does really well is highlight some of the particular difficulties for women in the period and the Alice's situation really makes you think. It is part of a trilogy, however I hadn't read the previous one which I don't think impacted my reading of the book in any way. It was definitely an interesting read and I would say definitely one to add to your reading list if you are interested in either historical novels or love sagas. 
I was lucky enough to be able to ask Lynne some questions about her thought process behind the novel and for advice, so keep scrolling for my Q&A and a cheeky exclusive extract from the book!

You can download the e-book on amazon here

Q&A With Lynne Francis

First of all, thank you for taking part in the blog tour for ‘Alice’s Secret’ and for giving me the chance to share some insights into the writing process. 

How did you go about researching the historical elements of the novel? 
I visited a local history museum and a mill museum in the area and did a lot of online research into related archives. I also listened to some fascinating recordings of men and women who had worked in the mills in the early 20th century – some of them from generations of millworkers. They were from a later era but useful all the same. Malcolm Bull’s online resource the ‘Calderdale Companion’ was really helpful for appropriate names and local facts. I also read ‘Napier’s History of Herbal Healing’ to understand more about herbalism. 

Do you have any tips for bloggers that want to become novelists? 
In some ways you have a bit of an advantage in featuring and reviewing so many books. You get a feel for what works and what doesn’t in a particular genre – it’s a vital bit of research that a lot of authors don’t have time to do! But I think the best tip will always be: if you want to write, just do it. Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and get on with it. It may not work out quite as you hoped at first but there’s nothing like practice. Otherwise – see my answer to the question below! 

What writing advice would you give your younger self? 
Start earlier – or maybe don’t give it up for so long! I loved writing at school but gave up any form of creative writing when I went on to university and then followed a career as an editor in non-fiction subjects. I didn’t start writing again until about five years ago – a very long gap! On the plus side, I’ve probably squirrelled away a lot of material over those years and I think the editorial experience has come in useful, too. 

Do you think as a writer of historical fiction you have a duty to accurately represent the past? 
I do think it is important to do the research and to be as well prepared as you can be. I would be mortified to be caught out in a glaring error and I always try to check and double check things – not just mill procedures and dates, for example, but styles of dress, appropriate food, transport. I had an expert read a passage relating to train travel in my first book, ‘Ella’s Journey’, before publication, and he found a couple of important changes that needed to be made with regard to carriage types and stations that my research hadn’t uncovered. That said, I’m writing fiction so I try to absorb as much of the research as I can and let it filter into what I’m writing. My characters are my imagined versions of people who would have lived at that time but I doubt they could be totally accurate. That’s partly what ‘Alice’s Secret’ is about – Alys, the contemporary heroine, is trying to unravel the past from a present-day perspective, but she realises you can never fully know the truth of it. 

Where do you find your inspiration? 
For ‘Alice’s Secret’, it came from staying in the area where the book is set, on a writing course (at Arvon’s Lumb Bank centre). I walked every morning before breakfast in the wooded valley below, where there is the ruin of an old mill. We did a writing exercise, creating a character and placing them in that landscape, then describing them and their life. The book’s prologue is pretty much that exercise, and the whole historical story developed from there. The contemporary section of the story grew out of buying cakes from a stall at my local carnival on the day I got home from the course! In ‘Ella’s Journey’, some of the inspiration came from researching my own family history, and that’s also the case with something else that I’m writing at the moment. 

Is there a character in the book you feel particularly drawn to? 
I might have to have two! I think I identify with some elements of Alys’ character – prevaricating, not getting on and doing the things that you want to do – so it was lovely to be able to have her life come together once she is in Yorkshire. But I’m rather drawn to tragedy, too, so I had a lot invested in the story of Alice and in her romantic entanglement. I like the idea of this long line of Yorkshire women finding their own path through history, often a little unconventionally. There’ll be more of that in Book 3 of the series, ‘Sarah’s Story’!

Exclusive Extract!

The approach to Bradford held both mosques and mills. It seemed like an odd juxtaposition, the graceful exteriors and gleaming domes of the mosques standing out against the soot-blackened and forbidding Victorian architecture, smoke stacks and minarets paired. No sign of towering office blocks or cranes creating yet more high-rises: this was a landscape new to her. The train rested at the station for longer than usual and, with only a few stops to go now, Alys suddenly felt a flutter of apprehension. What had she done? 
Rain was still coursing down the train windows when they pulled into Alys’s stop. She heaved her suitcase onto the platform. She had received a text from her aunt on the train, saying that she’d send someone to pick her up and that there was no need to get a taxi. Alys headed into the car park and looked around. She hadn’t thought to ask for any further details, she’d been so caught up in her thoughts. She’d have to call her aunt and find out who she should be looking for. 
She dug into her rucksack, feeling around. She couldn’t locate her phone. ‘Damn’, Alys cursed under her breath, panic rising in case she’d left it on the train. She rested the rucksack on top of her case and began to dig deeper. It was then that a battered Land Rover, the old, green variety, roared into the car park, and pulled up beside her. 
‘You must be Alys,’ said the driver, leaning across and flinging open the passenger door, without switching off the engine. ‘Hop in.’ 
Alys was rather taken aback. ‘How do you know I’m Alys?’ she demanded suspiciously. The driver was a man of about her own age, casually dressed in jeans and a jumper, and apparently oblivious to the weather. 
He looked her up and down, taking in her rain-soaked hair, the escaped strands which were plastered to her cheeks for once, rather than springing wildly in all directions, the crêpe-de-Chine dress only partially covered by a rather horrid red-and-grey cagoule that had once belonged to her brother, and the army-type boots. 
‘Your Aunt Moira gave me a pretty accurate description when she asked me to collect you,’ he said, with a wide grin. 
Alys, feeling her cheeks redden, and trying to hide her embarrassment, attempted to pull her suitcase closer to the Land Rover. There was a grinding noise as one of the wheels caught in the paving stones. She tugged impatiently. The suitcase pulled free of the paving, but left a wheel embedded there and keeled over. Her open rucksack flew off the top of the case and upended itself, scattering her possessions everywhere. Alys watched, horrified, as her phone – clearly not left on the train after all – skidded along the ground and came to a halt perilously close to the grille over a drain. 
‘Oh crap!’ Alys bent down and scrabbled around, trying to gather all her belongings before the rain soaked everything, stuffing them haphazardly back into the rucksack. 
‘I’m Rob, by the way,’ said her driver, who’d now hopped out of the Land Rover, leaving the engine still running, and was trying to help Alys gather her things. She rather wished he wouldn’t – the emptying of the rucksack had exposed a muddle of dirty tissues, receipts, scribbled shopping lists, half-full packets of chewing gum and sweets, coins, a pine cone and a less-than-clean comb.

Check out the other stops on the Alice's secret tour for more exclusive extracts and reviews!


Monday, 5 March 2018

February Favourites

February Favourites, Jimmy Choo Blossom, Henry London Watch

After January being quite literally the longest month of my life, February has gone by in a flash. It's been quite a busy month with uni in full swing and pretty much a constant stream of deadlines and readings. Despite thinking I had made some really bad module choices, I am slowly starting to enjoy my rogue Victorian Science classes which is a surprise to everyone including myself. I've had some nice dinners out with friends, cosy movie nights in and a sadly large amount of hours spent in the library.

The first thing that absolutely has to be in my favourites is that we won our netball league! Netball is such a huge part of my university life, we train twice a week, have an extra fitness session, have socials once a week then play matches at the weekend. It takes a lot of time and effort and I love it! We have now won enough matches that nobody else in our league can catch us, so although the season is over we have already won the league! Alongside our league we also compete in a knock-out cup, where we have just beaten the team that is currently top of the league above us to reach the semi-finals! It's so rewarding seeing all our hard work from training pay off in matches and I just love it!

I haven't been taking much time in the morning to do my hair and makeup recently, so instead of either straightening or curling my hair I have been reaching for a texture spray to spray and go. I have a few but the one I have been loving recently is the VO5 Texture Spray, it feels nice and light and doesn't leave the hair crunchy which I sometimes find texture sprays do, but voluminous and gets rid of that freshly washed too soft and frizzy hair feeling. It is so much cheaper than some of the more famous texture sprays, so I would definitely say if you are looking for one on a budget then definitely give this a try!

Feb was also the month that saw me whip out the fake tan for the first time in a long time. I love a cheeky fake tan, there's something about feeling bronzed and glowy that gives me such a confidence boost. I have been saving up my boots club card points for a long time now, so I splashed out and picked up the Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam light/Medium and I was so impressed! I normally use the St. Tropez gradual tan to avoid making any mistakes and going streaky, however I needed a quick fix and a deeper colour so decided to just go for it. It was so easy to apply, I did one coat and left it overnight and it didn't really rub off too much on my sheets which I was so thankful for and after showering it off the next day I was a lovely deep but natural tan. I got so many compliments on how natural it looked and there were no streaky disasters! Definitely one to pick up going in to Summer if that's your thang.

If you saw my post about feeling like I didn't have any time, you will have seen my beautiful Henry London watch which I was very kindly sent by the team. I have been loving wearing it throughout Feb, there's something about wearing a watch that makes me feel so smart and put together! It's definitely a favourite that I can see myself wearing throughout the year and for a long time to come.

On a slightly more random note, Camilla Cabello has also been a favourite this month. I have been loving her album 'Camilla'. Favourite songs are definitely 'She Loves Control', 'Real Friends' and 'Never Be The Same.'

My final favourite has been the Jimmy Choo Blossom fragrance. I was given this for Christmas and after wearing nothing but YSL Mon Paris for well over a year I wasn't sure if I was going to be tempted away from it, but oh my goodness this is basically me in a perfume. I love the cocktail of fragrances, it's simultaneously floral and musky and a little bit citrusy. I know a lot of bloggers have been talking about this as part of Jimmy Choo's campaign, however I'm here to say believe the hype. The hype is real. It's beautiful.

One thing that is definitely not making it on to the favourites list is the bloody snow. With a lot of my classes already disrupted due to the current strike action in UK universities, having more classes cancelled and moved around due to the snow has just been a pain. I haven't even gotten to make a snowman or go sledging grr.

Let me know in the comments what you have been loving throughout Feb! March always feels like the start of Spring and with half of it falling in our Spring Break from university I am excited to see what I get up to. Currently I have a lovely afternoon tea and a wee trip away planned (not abroad sadly, but I'm still excited!) so I'm really looking forward to having a small break from uni although sadly due to most of my modules being all coursework I will be spending a significant portion of my time in the library. Which is also not a favourite. Definitely not.

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