I’m pleased to say I’m on the blog tour for Diney Costeloe’s The Married Girls, which is the sequel to The Girl With No Name. On here today you will find an extract of The Married Girls, to tickle your taste buds! and a giveaway at the end to try and win yourself your very own copy. How exciting is that!
First, I want to share a bit about The Married Girls with you.
Wynsdown, 1949. In the small Somerset village of Wynsdown, Charlotte Shepherd is happily married to farmer Billy. She arrived from Germany on the Kindertransport as a child during the war and now feels settled in her adopted home.
Meanwhile, the squire’s fighter pilot son, Felix, has returned to the village with a fiancée in tow. Daphne is beautiful, charming… and harbouring secrets. After meeting during the war, Felix knows some of Daphne’s past, but she has worked hard to conceal that which could unravel her carefully built life.
For Charlotte, too, a dangerous past is coming back in the shape of fellow refugee, bad boy Harry Black. Forever bound by their childhoods, Charlotte will always care for him, but Harry’s return disrupts the village quiet and it’s not long before gossip spreads.
The war may have ended, but for these girls, trouble is only just beginning.
Read on for your fantastic extract from The Married Girls
Next morning, Charlotte put Edie in the pram and with Johnny dancing along at her side, set off down the lane to the village shops. As soon as she walked into the post office she was greeted by an excited Nancy Bright. The postmistress, always the fount of information, was bursting with news.
‘Oh, Charlotte, you’ll never guess. Felix Bellinger’s getting married. Isn’t that exciting news? He’s such a lovely young man, isn’t he? And I hear he’s bringing his bride-to-be down to meet Squire and Mrs Bellinger very soon. Such a handsome man!’
Charlotte smiled and said, ‘Is he? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him.’ Nancy clapped her hand to her mouth. ‘Oh my dear, haven’t you? But never mind, I know you’ll like him when you do. He looks just like Clark Gable!’ ‘Does he now?’ Charlotte smiled. ‘Very handsome, then.’
When Charlotte had done her shopping she continued along the track leading out of the village and across the fields to Charing Farm, where Billy had grown up and his parents still lived. It was a beautiful September morning and her heart lifted as she pushed the pram along the well-worn path between hedgerows burgeoning with blackberries, rosehips and sloes.
She had come to love the Mendip countryside, its wide open spaces where trees dressed in autumn colours 14 diney costeloe stood against the clear blue sky; the sweep of the hills, the hidden hollows, its fields divided by age-old dry-stone walls, covered in moss and ivy. It was the place she’d been happiest in her life, the place where she could put the misery of the past behind her and look forward to a peaceful future. She had Billy, Johnny was running along beside the pram delighted to be going to see Gr’ma and Gramp, and baby Edie was blissfully asleep after her bath and a good feed. Who could ask for anything more?
They arrived in the farmyard and were greeted by the dogs, prancing round them, barking their delight. Johnny, who was always entirely unfazed by this excited welcome, ran between them to the kitchen door and his grandmother.
‘Gr’ma,’ he cried as he ran and clasped her round the knees. ‘We comed to see you.’ ‘So I see, darling,’ cried his grandmother as she swept him up into her arms and gave him a hug. ‘Billy said he thought you’d be over.’ She smiled across at her daughter-in-law. ‘You’ll stay for dinner?’ ‘We’d love to, if there’s enough.’ Margaret Shepherd laughed.
‘There’s always enough! Come on in. You can leave Edie out there in her pram if she’s asleep. She’ll come to no harm, ’tis warm enough.’ She bent over the pram and looked down fondly at her granddaughter, fast asleep, the fingers of one hand curled round the blanket that covered her. ‘Come your ways in,’ she said, taking Johnny by the hand, ‘and we’ll see what I can find in my pantry. Gramp will be in shortly for a cup of tea.’ ‘Can I go out with him?’ demanded Johnny. ‘I want to go out with Gramp and see the an’mals.’ They went into the big farm kitchen and Margaret pulled the kettle on to the range’s hotplate, ready to make the tea. the married girls 15 Charlotte sat Johnny up at the table and Margaret found him a piece of cake to go with his drink of milk.
Almost immediately John Shepherd came in and Johnny was off his chair again, pulling at his hand and begging to be taken to see the an’mals. ‘Let Gramp have his tea first,’ laughed Charlotte, ‘then he might take you.’ John was given enough time to gulp down his mid-morning tea before he and Johnny set off for their usual tour of the farmyard.
‘I’m glad he’s gone for a minute,’ said Charlotte as she and Margaret sat at the table to drink their tea in peace. ‘I wanted to talk to you about Edie’s christening. The vicar’s suggested two weeks on Sunday at the morning service. Would that suit you both?’ ‘Of course it would,’ said Margaret. ‘We’d be at church then anyway.’ ‘And Jane?
D’you think she’ll be able to come?’ ‘I don’t know about Jane, depends if she’s on duty, but I’m sure she’ll do her best to be there. You can ask her on Sunday. I’m sure she’ll want to be there for little Edie Martha’s christening.’ Jane had been surprised at Charlotte and Billy’s choice of names for their new daughter.
‘They’re both very old-fashioned names,’ she remarked to her mother when she’d heard them. ‘Well, Edie’s for Miss Everard who was Charlotte’s foster mother, here in Wynsdown, and Martha for her real mother; you know she died at the end of the war.’ ‘Yes, I know that, but they haven’t even chosen Martha as the name they’ll call her by. I’d have thought they’d have named her after you, rather than that funny old Miss Everard.’ ‘It’s their choice, my dear,’ Margaret pointed out.
‘Miss Edie was very important to Charlotte at an extremely difficult time in her life. She took her in when she was evacuated here and over the years they became very close. When she died, Charlotte was devastated.’ Margaret gave her daughter a smile. ‘And let’s face it, “Margaret Martha” would be an awful mouthful, wouldn’t it?’ ‘I suppose,’ Jane said, thinking that Edith Martha was as well. It was clear that she didn’t approve. Margaret could only hope she didn’t say so to Billy. ‘Of course, we’ll see her on Sunday,’ Charlotte said. ‘I thought we’d invite you and the godparents and the vicar and Mrs Vicar back to the house for something to eat afterwards. Jane, too, of course. Make a party of it.’
‘Sounds a lovely idea, Charlotte, and we can all help with the food. Who are the godparents?’ ‘We’re asking Clare and Caroline Morrison to be godmothers,’ Charlotte said. ‘And godfather?’ ‘I rang Uncle Dan last night, and asked him,’ Charlotte replied. ‘He said he’d be honoured and so he and Aunt Naomi and Nicky are coming down to stay.’ When she’d phoned Dan the previous evening as Billy had suggested, he hardly knew what to say.
‘Oh, Lisa, are you sure, me duck? I mean, well you must have lots of friends what’d do a better job of godfathering than me.’ Charlotte had heard an emotion in his voice that matched her own. ‘Uncle Dan,’ she said, ‘I can’t think of anyone else who could possibly be a better choice. Billy and I would love you to be Edie’s godfather, her special uncle… like you’ve been mine.’ the married girls 17 ‘Then I’ll be there, Lisa. Your aunt Naomi and Nicky and me.’
‘The pips’ll go in a minute,’ Charlotte said. ‘I’ll write to you with all the details, but we’ll expect you to stay with us for the weekend.’ The pips did go then and the call ended, but Charlotte, known to Naomi and Dan by her German name of Lisa, had realised during the three-minute call how much it meant to Dan to be asked and how much it meant to her that he’d accepted. Her London family would all be there. ‘How lovely,’ Margaret said. ‘Will you be able to fit them all in?’ ‘With a squeeze,’ Charlotte laughed. ‘But I can’t wait to see them.’ Since she’d been hustled out of Germany on a Kindertransport train as a child of thirteen, Charlotte’s life had been one of continual change.
As the war had swirled her through the blitzed streets of London, into a hospital, out to a children’s home, it had finally washed her up in the village of Wynsdown. The lifelines to which she’d clung for her very survival in the turmoil of her life had been Naomi and Dan Federman, a boy named Harry Black, Miss Edie Everard and Billy. Miss Edie had died and Harry had vanished, but they, and the others who were still there, were woven into the very fabric of her life.
After the midday meal John took Johnny out to the paddock where Barney the Shetland pony was grazing peacefully. ‘Can I ride Barney today?’ Johnny asked, skipping along beside his grandfather. ‘Can I, Gramp, can I?’ Ever since his dad had put him up on Barney the first time, Johnny had been begging to ride him again. ‘I should think so, old son. Shall we fetch him in, then?’ ‘Yes, yes,’ Johnny cried, prancing round in delight.
The little boy was almost bursting with excitement as his grandfather collected Barney’s tack from the stable and got him ready for Johnny to ride. Together they spent a wonderful half-hour in the paddock, John leading Barney round with a triumphant Johnny sitting on top crowing with delight. However, after a while John looked at his watch and said, ‘I’m afraid it’s time to get off now, Johnny.’ ‘Oh, no, Gramp! I don’t want to,’ Johnny cried in dismay. ‘I want to go on riding him. Barney likes it.’
‘I’m sure he does,’ John agreed with a smile, ‘but it’s time to feed the pigs. They’ll be getting hungry.’ He led the pony back into the yard and lifted Johnny down. ‘You’re coming for your dinner on Sunday, if you’re good you can have another ride then. All right?’ Johnny nodded. ‘When’s Sunday?’ he asked. ‘Four more bedtimes and then it’s Sunday.’ ‘Can I ride Barney with Daddy?’
‘I’m sure you can. He’ll want to see how well you ride.’ ‘Then can I go out riding with Daddy?’ Johnny asked, brightening at the thought. ‘When you’re a bit bigger, old son,’ replied his grandfather, ‘but I’m sure Daddy will help you with Barney on Sunday. Now, come and see how big our piglets have got since you were here.’ He picked up the bucket of swill and taking Johnny by the hand, led him towards the pigsty. ‘Gramp says I can ride Barney again on Sunday,’ Johnny announced when they came back into the kitchen. ‘He’s promised.’
‘Then I expect you can,’ Charlotte agreed. ‘Just me and Daddy,’ Johnny said firmly. ‘You’ll be looking the married girls 19 after Edie. And anyway,’ he added as a truthful afterthought, ‘Daddy’s a better rider than you!’ Charlotte laughed at that. There was no denying that he was right. When they’d got married, Billy had tried to teach her to ride, but she was not a natural horsewoman and she was never comfortable in the saddle. These days she was happy enough to use Edie as her excuse to keep her feet firmly on the ground. ‘You’re right,’ she said. ‘You can go riding with Daddy, Edie and I’ll stay here.’
At the end of the afternoon, Billy joined them in their walk back to the village. As they reached the village green, Charlotte said, ‘Will you take them on home, Billy? I just want to go to the grave for a few minutes. Give it a tidy. I won’t be long.’ The grave was Miss Edie’s, and Charlotte occasionally went, ostensibly to keep it tidy, but actually to tell Miss Edie what was going on in her life.
Billy had followed her once and heard her apparently talking to herself, but realised as he listened that she was speaking to her foster-mother. Ashamed of himself for eavesdropping, he’d slipped away, unnoticed. Since then he’d got used to Charlotte going to Miss Edie’s grave and telling her things. At first he’d thought it a bit macabre to go and talk to a woman who’d been dead these seven years, but he’d seen how much it meant to Charlotte occasionally to have a few minutes alone at the graveside and he’d accepted that it was just something she needed to do. She had nowhere to mourn her real parents, and Miss Edie’s grave supplied the need. ‘Yes, fine,’ he said, lifting Johnny down from his shoulders where he’d been riding.
‘Come on then, Johnny, let’s take Edie home. Mummy won’t be long and you and I can find ourselves a biscuit and a drink.
The lovely people at The Head of Zeus have given me one copy of The Married Girls to giveaway. To enter, all you have to do is fill in the Rafflecopter below.
*Terms and Conditions – There is one copy of The Married Girls to giveaway. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter.com from all valid entries and be notified by Twitter. The winner will have 28 days to respond with a valid email address before a new winner is selected. Open to all UK entrants aged 18 or over only. Facebook and Twitter are in no way associated with this giveaway. The prize will kindly be arranged by Head of Zeus publishers.