Blog Tour for Rosie Clarke’s new book The Shop Girls of Harpers. Published December 3rd 2019 by Boldwood Books.
It’s my stop on the blog tour today and I am delighted to share with you an extract from the book. Thanks to Megan of Boldwood Books for my place on the tour.
When Sally, Beth, Margaret and Rachel meet at a job interview for the wonderful new store in Oxford Street they have no idea they will become lifelong friends.
When all four girls are lucky enough to be selected as sales staff their exciting new adventure begins.
Join them as they overcome heartbreak and grief, find love and happiness and remain united in their friendship, whatever life throws at them.
Beth took a deep breath as she crept past her aunt’s front parlour that sunny but cold morning in March 1912, but the harsh voice stopped her before she could reach the back door. She sighed and went to the parlour door, where Aunt Helen was busy at her sewing machine, her left foot working the black metal treadle in a steady rhythm.
‘Let me look at your shoes before you go,’ her aunt commanded without looking up. Beth smothered her anger, her blue-green eyes smouldering with suppressed passion. She was a woman, not a careless child, and would hardly leave for such an important appointment with dirty shoes. They were smart shoes that fastened with two buttons at the side and made of black leather, which shone so she could see her reflection in them
‘I spent ages on them last night,’ Beth said. She stood where her aunt could see her in her neat grey ankle length skirt, white blouse and darker grey jacket that nipped in at her slim waist. Her thick pale tresses were swept up neatly at the back of her head and she wore a black velvet hat that shaded her face and hid her hair. She carried black gloves to match her highly polished shoes. The colour did nothing for her pale complexion, but Beth had not yet ceased mourning her mother, who had died less than four months earlier. Besides, she would be expected to wear grey or black for work, or perhaps a uniform.
‘You look washed out, girl,’ Aunt Helen frowned, ‘but I suppose you can’t help that. You will merely be a salesgirl, so I dare say it does not matter.’ She removed her sewing from the machine and snipped the thread with a small pair of fancy silver-plated scissors. ‘Come straight back when your interview is over.’ She looked at Beth over the glasses she wore for her sewing.
‘Yes, Aunt,’ Beth replied meekly, though inside resentment stirred once more.
She was almost two and twenty and this was the first time she’d had to apply for a commercial situation. Beth’s mother, Jessie Grey, had been an invalid for most of the past ten years, since her husband died of a terrible fever. Mr Grey had been a brilliant doctor and their lifestyle had been comfortable, though after his death the money had been tight. When Jessie Grey’s inherited income died with her, Beth was left with very little. The news that her mother’s few possessions would be sold to pay their debts meant Beth was forced to accept an offer to live with her aunt, whom she knew through her infrequent visits over the years, though she sensed her aunt’s resentment and wondered at it. She could only think that Aunt Helen resented the fact that for a while Jessie had been loved and happy, while she had never married.
‘But why did she never tell me we lived beyond our means?’ Beth had asked her aunt when the solicitor had told them the awful news. The inheritance in her mother’s name was finished and nothing was left for Beth. ‘I could have perhaps worked…’
‘Jess was ever a little fool,’ Aunt Helen had said sharply. ‘She might have married anyone with her looks and background, but she chose a doctor who devoted his life to the poor and consequently left her nothing but a few pounds. Your mother lived off what our father left her and never thought of the future. You may live with me, but you must find work for I cannot feed and clothe you.’
‘I am perfectly happy to work, Aunt,’ Beth had said proudly, but unfortunately thus far she had not been able to find a suitable job. She was properly brought up and from a decent family, which meant she could not work in an inn or a factory. Aunt Helen thought she ought to look for work as a lady’s companion but, although Beth had applied for two such positions, she had not been lucky enough to be chosen from amongst the many applicants.
‘Well, I do not know why you were not chosen,’ her aunt had grumbled when she was told Beth had not been selected. ‘You’ve looked after an invalid mother for years and are capable of running after an old woman, I imagine.’
‘Lady Vera said she wanted someone with experience and Mrs Thompson said I was too attractive, because she has sons…’
‘Tush!’ Aunt Helen had looked disgusted, for it was obviously unfair. ‘Well, you must work, Beth – we shall look through the newspaper this Friday and see what is advertised…’
The large advert wanting staff for the new department store in what Aunt Helen said was the wrong end of Oxford Street took up half a page of the local paper. There were all kinds of positions on offer, including cleaners, office staff, as well as a floor walker, salesgirls and supervisors. The advert made it clear that Harpers was to be a prestigious store, set over four floors, with lifts, a café on the top floor and, it said, merchandise to rival anything in London.
‘It says here that training will be given,’ Beth had read aloud. ‘We are invited to write an application for an interview…’
‘Shop girl…’ Her aunt’s mouth had twisted in disapproval. ‘I must say that I never expected my niece would work as a common shop girl…’
‘I don’t think it is a common shop,’ Beth replied. ‘Harpers is to be a prestigious store.’
Rosie Clarke is a #1 bestselling saga writer whose most recent books include The Mulberry Lane series. She has written over 100 novels under different pseudonyms and is a RNA Award winner. She lives in Cambridgeshire. Rosie’s brand new saga series, The Shop Girls of Harpers begins in December 2019.