Today I’m delighted to be first stop on the blog tour for Kate Thompson’s new novel, The Wedding Girls which is published on 9th March by Pan Macmillan. Kate is a journalist with twenty years’ experience as a writer for the broadsheets and women’s weekly magazines. She is now freelance and, as well as writing for newspapers, she’s a seasoned ghostwriter. The Wedding Girls is her third novel, following the Sunday Times bestseller Secrets of the Singer Girls and The Secrets of the Sewing Bee. You can find out more about Kate and her books at: http://www.katethompsonmedia.co.uk/
Read on for an extract from the book and the chance to win one of five copies!
It’s 1936 and the streets of London’s East End are grimy and brutal, but in one corner of Bethnal Green it is forever Hollywood . . .
Herbie Taylor’s photography studio is nestled in the heart of bustling Green Street. Tomboy Stella and troubled Winnie work in Herbie’s studio; their best friend and hopeless romantic Kitty works next door as an apprentice dressmaker. All life passes through the studio, wishing to capture that perfect moment in time.
Kitty works tirelessly to create magical bridal gowns, but with each stitch she wonders if she’ll ever get a chance to wear a white dress. Stella and Winnie sprinkle a dusting of Hollywood glamour over happy newly-weds, but secretly dream of escaping the East End . . .
Community is strong on Green Street, but can it stand the ultimate test? As clouds of war brew on the horizon, danger looms over the East End. Will the Wedding Girls find their happy ever afters, before it’s too late?
18 january 1933
St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, London
A fine frost covered the churchyard in a glittering blanket of silver as the first flecks of snow began to drift from an ivory sky.
To some, January might have been a queer month in which to tie the knot, but to Kitty Moloney it was perfect.
Married when the year is new, he’ll be loving, kind and true, or so went the old rhyme. The bride, Miss Nancy Beaton, would enter the church, but she would emerge, quite transformed, as Lady Smiley, wife of Sir Hugh Smiley, a Grenadier Guards officer and baronet. There was something irresistibly romantic about starting the New Year with a new name, especially one as grand as that, Kitty thought.
Stamping her frozen feet on the flagstones to keep out the cold, she tried her hardest to nudge her way to the front of the crowd for a better view, but it was impossible. Everyone loved a wedding, and no one could resist the sight of a bride, especially a well-known society one such as Nancy.
Kitty was hemmed in on all sides by stout matrons in damp wool coats, all clamouring for the best spot from which to view the bride enter the church.
A whiskered constable was holding back the crowds, a disapproving figure in black, his cloak spread wide like a bat, with the Palace of Westminster arching up into the skies over his helmet.
‘Mind yourself, girlie,’ tutted the woman in front; a dressmaker, judging by the sketchbook and pencil in her hand. ‘Us hoi polloi gotta keep a respectable distance.’
Kitty felt foolish. Her gaze slid down and a flush of pink washed over her pale cheeks. What was she even doing here? She was just a girl from the wrong side of town, a shabby fourteen-year-old in cardboard-patched boots and her big sister’s hand-me-downs. And then she remembered. She was somebody. In five days’ time, she was to start an apprenticeship under the tutelage of wedding dressmaker Gladys Tingle at her Bethnal Green workshop.
Gladys’s voice when she had hired Kitty while she was still at school, not two and twenty days previous, rang through her mind as clear as a bell in the chilly churchyard.
‘If a wedding marks the first day of the rest of your life, then the story starts with the dress. Immerse yourself in wedding gowns, my girl, leave no stitch unturned, ’cause it’s the society sorts from up West that the girls from the East End wanna look like. It’s pictures of their wedding gowns in the Daily Sketch they’ll be bringing in for us to copy!’
After a brusque examination of Kitty’s hands and nails, Gladys had dismissed her with orders to start at 9 a.m. prompt the first Monday morning after the new school term began.
A sudden burst of handclapping and the distant thud of horses’ hooves brought Kitty back from her wonderings.
‘I say! There she is,’ called out an excited voice. ‘God bless you, Nancy!’
Applause and cheers rang out and the crowd stirred into life. The dressmaker gasped and dropped her pencil. A small space opened up in the crowd as she bent to retrieve it. Seizing her chance, Kitty wriggled through the sea of stockinged legs and found herself at the very front.
She opened her eyes wide, then wider still and just like that, her grumbling tummy and frozen feet were forgotten. For gliding down the flagstones on the arm of her father was the bride, and what a marvellous bride was she!
Nancy emerged dreamlike from the snow, a tiny ethereal vision in a long sweep of buttery silk, its diaphanous overskirt shimmering with silver embroidery and hundreds of tiny pearls. In her pale fingers she clutched a spray of chalk-white flowers.
Kitty gazed in wonderment, for Nancy looked like no other woman she had ever seen: a perfect china shepherdess, her brown eyes large and liquid, her lips full and rosy. Atop her gleaming curls, tiny white flowers and a dusting of snow. In her wake, two pageboys in white satin breeches and tails, holding the train as if it were made of glass. In the swirling snow, looking like they had stepped straight from the pages of a children’s fairy tale, they drew a collective sigh from the crowd of admiring matrons.
And then came the bridesmaids: tall, slender and serene in white tulle and taffeta. Kitty counted seven – no, wait, eight of them – and oh, how dreamy, how utterly dreamy. As they slid past like a bevy of swans, she realized they were all connected by a long continuous garland, smothered in snowdrops, which looped from one maid to the next like a maypole. Everywhere Kitty looked there was light, snow-white blossom: encircling slender waists and trailing over shoulders.
Kitty felt her heart turn over. It was a performance, a thrilling, spectacular show with a Snow Queen its star. She sighed deeply. If the walk to the church door could be this glamorous, Kitty could only guess how heavenly the interior of the church must look. How dashing the groom, how regal the guests, to what impossible height the ceiling must soar.
The bride was drawing closer now, so close Kitty could almost reach out and touch the hem of her ermine-trimmed gown. Instead, she gazed up at her with shining eyes and realized she was holding her breath.
Please look at me, Kitty from Bethnal Green. Notice me.
But the Snow Queen bride passed on by, poised and unreadable, leaving in her wake a scented trail of allure.
Kitty sagged and scuffed the toe of her boot on the ground. Who was she fooling? Girls like Nancy were born to glide on marble floors bedecked with roses. Girls like her were consigned to watch them from the damp darkness of the crowd, anonymous and unseen.
But as the bride reached the church porch, something magical happened. She turned. Flickered those large dark eyes over the crowd and settled on Kitty. A whisper of a smile, the flash of a diamond as she raised her hand. And then she was gone, stepping into the church, off to meet her glittering future, leaving Kitty as pale and faint as the January sky. Nothing could ever come close to the lavish, romantic dream Kitty had witnessed.
As the crowd dispersed and she reluctantly began the long walk back to the narrow streets of the East End, Kitty made a vow in her secret heart. She wouldn’t just be the wedding seamstress. One day, she would be the bride.
Kate’s lovely publisher has given me five paperback copies of The Wedding Girls to give away to lucky readers.
This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Wednesday 8th March. Good Luck!
Tomorrow is the paperback release day for The Map Of Bones, the excellent second book in Francesca Haig’s Fire Sermon Series. To celebrate the new release HarperVoyager has given me two copies of the book to give away to lucky readers!
The second book in Francesca Haig’s incredible Fire Sermon series.
The Omega resistance has been brutally attacked, its members dead or in hiding.
The Alpha Council’s plan for permanently containing the Omegas has begun.
But all is not entirely lost: the Council’s seer, The Confessor, is dead, killed by her twin’s sacrifice.
Cass is left haunted by visions of the past, while her brother Zach’s cruelty and obsession pushes her to the edge, and threatens to destroy everything she hopes for.
As the country moves closer to all-out civil war, Cass will learn that to change the future she will need to uncover the past. But nothing can prepare her for what she discovers: a deeply buried secret that raises the stakes higher than ever before.
This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Monday 30th January. Good Luck!
Last month I was very lucky to receive a fab bookish party pack in celebration of the excellent books to be found at MyKindaBook. I’ve been a fan of MyKindaBook for a long time so I jumped at the chance to be part of the #MKBParty weekend at the end of November and I had so much fun that I’m carrying on the party this New Years Eve with a party round up and a lovely little giveaway to get 2017 off to an excellent start!
So, here are the three brilliant books that I received as part of the pack – what a fab trio! I ran a little poll on Twitter to see which book my fellow readers would recommend that I tried first and the winner was Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard so this was the book that I read over the #MKBParty weekend and I loved it.
Beautiful Broken Things is the story of best friends Caddy and Rosie and what happens to them and their friendship when a new girl moves to town. This book took me straight back to my own teenage years and how close and brilliant those friendships can be but also how fragile, emotional and heartbreaking. There was so much that I related to in this book and Sara has done a brilliant job of creating believable characters and situations.
This is a very readable and gripping story, yet with so many important messages and tackles a painful topic (domestic abuse and its effects) in a way that is thought provoking and understandable and importantly, focuses on the wide ranging repercussions without being overly dramatic or sharing the disturbing details. Much of this books impact on me was in what was left unsaid and I can’t wait to read more from Sara. Luckily, I won’t have long as her new novel, A Quiet Kind of Thunder is out on 12th January!
The second book in my box of treats was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I’m a big fan of Rainbow Rowell and already own all of her books. Fangirl is a brilliant example of what Rainbow does best; putting wonderful characters on the page with great dialogue and quirky romance. In Fangirl identical twins Cath and Wren go off to university and whilst Wren decides to embrace the new experience in full to the point of separating herself from her sister for the first time, Cath struggles. I loved Cath and again could relate to the situations that she found herself in (including being too scared to go to the dining hall) and her shyness. Cath writes amazing fan-fiction and this element of the story is also brilliant and her love of her characters struck a strong note with me. Fangirl is a great book about coping with change and growing up and do check out Rainbow’s other books both Adult and Young Adult if you haven’t already. As I’ve already got a lovely copy of Fangirl I’m going to offer the copy I received in this pack along with some other goodies in a giveaway at the end of this post so please do enter!
The final book in my party pack is this gorgeous new blue cover edition of The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. This book won the Costa Book of the Year award for 2015 and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. I haven’t read it yet but will be soon as my book club has chosen it as our book for our March meet up! here’s the synopsis – I can’t wait to read it!
Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.
The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .
As well as more info, extracts and interviews on the books in my party pack, you can find lots more great reads on the MyKindaBook site and sign up for discussions, giveaways and more – do pop over there! In 2017 I’m looking forward to Heartless by Marissa Meyer (February), The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas and Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (May).
I wish you all a very happy new reading year!
To be in with a chance of winning all of the goodies pictured below just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.
This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Saturday 7th January. Good Luck!
I’ve got a fantastic giveaway to end 2016 and get 2017 off to a brilliant start. To celebrate the release of A Monster Calls, in cinemas New Year’s Day, I’m giving you the chance to win one of two merchandise bundles shown here.
The fantastic bundles include an A4 artists wirebound notepad, with natural bock cover gold foiled with the film title and strap line including 15 heavyweight 300gsm sheets of Bockingford drawing and watercolour paper and a high quality range of 12 graphite pencils ranging from soft to hard for all applications.
This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Friday 6th January. Good Luck!
About the film:
A Monster Calls is a visually spectacular drama from acclaimed director Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”), based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel by Patrick Ness. 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) attempts to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that explore courage, loss, and faith. Also featuring Liam Neeson who will star in performance-capture and voiceover as the nocturnally visiting monster of the title, and Sigourney Weaver as the maternal grandmother.
Create and share your holiday reading list for a chance to win the books on it! To enter the contest, simply:1-Sign up at Bookwitty.com2-Create a reading list of five books that you want for the holidays by clicking on Add content/Reading list.3- Link your new reading list to the topic page: Holiday reading list contest.And you’re all set! The competition will run from December 6th to the 22nd. The winner will be announced on December 23rd. Good luck!