Tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and grew up in Birmingham, which is a big industrial city in the heart of England. My mother died when I was a baby, and nobody knows where my father went – not that we miss him, anyway. My grandmother Lily brought me up. She’s very religious and she worries all the time about my body and my soul.
I was working in a factory making tanks, having a good time and earning good money, when Lily decided that if I stayed in Birmingham I was going to be killed in a bombing raid. She nagged me into applying to join the Land Girls, which meant I’d have to go and work on a farm. I knew nothing about farming and I didn’t want to go, because apart from anything else I’d earn half what I was earning in the factory.
But Lily wore me down – she’s good at wearing people down – and in January 1942 I was on a train to Dorset, setting off into the unknown.
When you first arrived in Dorset, what did you think of it?
I hated it. I’d grown up in a city where there were shops and trams and houses and people, and in the countryside there was just – nothing. I took one look at the place where I’d be living – a tiny little cottage in the middle of nowhere – and decided this Land Girl stuff wasn’t for me.
When I met the Denham family, I could see they didn’t think much of me. I must admit I didn’t think much of them, either – they all talked like members of the Royal Family, and I’m sure they looked down on me.
Did they grow on you?
Mrs Denham turned out to be all right, and so did her son Stephen, who was kind to me from the start. But Robert did nothing but scowl and glare and shout and criticise. Okay, Robert looked like Clark Gable, but handsome is as handsome does, and all that stuff.
He mellowed a bit when he could see I was doing my best to learn. But it took me a long time to realise he was a really nice person – a man I could love. You have to stand up to men like Robert Denham, even if you’re terrified, and Robert could be pretty terrifying! But he could also be very kind. When he noticed my work boots were too big, he bought me a pair that fitted perfectly.
Robert and Stephen are twins, but they sound very different?
Stephen’s quiet and sweet and considerate. Robert’s loud and aggressive and confident – too confident, in fact. But, as I got to know them better, I realised Stephen was very complex and difficult to know well, while with Robert everything was on the surface. He also knew how to turn on the charm! When Robert realised he liked me, I couldn’t help but find him irresistible.
Rob and Steve are both very good-looking, both tall and dark and handsome, but they’re not absolutely identical. Rob’s nose is straight, but Steve’s has a bump in it – he must have broken it when he was a child. Steve’s ears stick out a little, but Rob’s sit close to his head. I’m so shallow that I’ll always go for the man with the straight nose, but Rob is just that bit more attractive. He’s bigger and stronger than his brother, and he’s a natural leader. There’s a confidence about Robert that draws people to him, even if he’s shouting at them.
You came to like the countryside, didn’t you?
Yes, I did, because it’s clean and pretty and there’s no way Birmingham could be called clean or pretty. I’m happy to live in the countryside as long as I can escape to a town now and again, go shopping and feel the buzz of a big city. I love London and am glad my sister-in-law lives there, because this means I can go and stay once in a while.
What’s been the proudest moment of your life?
I grew up in a very poor part of Birmingham among people who knew nothing about the world, and I was so happy when we opened Charton Minster as a holiday home for children from the big cities – children who had never run along a beach, never paddled a canoe, never climbed a tree, never caught a fish. I love knowing I can change these children’s lives like the Denhams changed mine.
I asked her to describe some scandalous knickers she lost on a train platform, but she clammed up. :) Ladies just didn't talk about things like that during WWII.
And this book...I assume you're all wondering at this point...is about a land girl during WWII. A city girl taking to life on a farm, making new friends, milking cows, and yes, finding love in the middle of all the heartache and fear.
This is the third book in a series, but I'm pleased to say it can stand all by itself. I hadn't read the first two, but never at any point did I find myself confused, actually, I was just curious about the other two books and they've moved up the TBR pile now.
Anyone interested in WWII, what went on on the home front and I mean England, should take a gander at it. It's in both print and ebook. And today, a lucky commentor will virtually walk away with a paperback copy of this book. :) Leave a comment and a winner will be randomly chosen at the end of a week.
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