Blog Tour for Rosies Clarke’s new book Love and Marriage at Harpers, the second book in the Harpers Emporium saga.
Published by Boldwood Books in paperback and ebook on March 3rd 2020.
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 spot on the tour.
Oxford St, London, 1913.
The shop girls of Harpers Emporium on Oxford Street are happy in their work and their lives are moving on at quite a pace.
United by the suffragette cause and now living under one roof, some will find love and marriage whilst others experience heartache and
Harpers is the bond that holds them together, bringing strength through hardship and pain and friendship and love.
‘Oh, it’s warmer in here,’ Maggie, the youngest of them, exclaimed. ‘Sorry we’re late, Rachel. We went to buy some tinned fruit for afters and missed our bus so we had to wait twenty minutes for the next one.’
‘The wind goes straight through you out there,’ Beth said. She and Sally were both in their early twenties and Rachel was in her mid-thirties, a widow and supervisor for the hat, accessories, bags and jewellery departments. Beth was a senior salesgirl but Sally had risen swiftly to the position of buyer because Ben and Jenni Harper had taken a liking to her. ‘Are you two going to that suffragette meeting this evening? I intended to come, but I’m not sure I can face that bitter cold again…’
‘The meeting has been cancelled until further notice,’ Rachel told her. ‘Because of the arrest and coming trial of Emmeline Pankhurst, the sisters think that there will be agitators in the crowd. So we’re waiting until some of the fuss dies down… and both Sally and I have decided not to attend the WSPU meetings in future. What Emmeline did was just too much… too violent. Innocent men might have been hurt.’
‘Yes, I saw something in the paper…’ Maggie put in. ‘A man left his evening paper lying on the seat when he got off the bus so I brought it home. I haven’t read the whole article but it says she looked pale but calm as she was arrested. She pleaded guilty to the bombing and to other disturbances.’
‘They will put her in prison,’ Sally said. ‘I just don’t see the point of what she did – and I think it puts men who might agree with our cause, against us.’
‘I agree,’ Rachel said, ‘but you know that Emmeline thinks we have to do something drastic to make them listen to us, otherwise they will just go on ignoring us. I spoke to her a few weeks ago at one of our meetings because I wanted to know her opinion – and she is always open to all members, as you know. She said that even those who are not against us treat us like children or pets to be humoured. I asked her if she thought it worth the risk personally and she said she was willing to give her life if she had to… I admire and like her so much, but I fear she will lose support for both branches of the Movement if she goes on this way…’
Rachel looked at Beth, sending her a silent plea, because Sally was evidently angry and she wanted an end to politics. ‘Will you make the tea while I mash the potatoes? The carrots have butter on them already…’
‘Lovely, I’m hungry,’ Beth said and went to pour boiling water into the teapot. ‘I definitely want to join the Movement instead of just attending the meetings once they start again, Rachel, but not the WSPU…’
‘Yes, me too,’ Maggie agreed. ‘I think it is time women had equal rights with men. Why shouldn’t we? They’ve had it all their own way for too long…’ She looked angry, pink spots in her cheeks. ‘However, I agree with you and I do not want to see innocent people hurt…’
Rachel understood that some of the anger in the younger girl’s voice was because of her break-up with her boyfriend Ralf the previous autumn. After a big quarrel over Maggie’s visit to her dying and estranged mother, Ralf seemed to have disappeared from the picture. Yet it was ironic that the trouble between them had been caused by Ralf’s mother, who had wanted to dominate the girl she thought would be a docile bride for her son. Maggie had a mind of her own and she had not put up with Ralf’s mother’s interference for long. Instead, she’d left her lodgings at his home and come to join her friends at the flat. Although Ralf had tried to apologise, Maggie had refused to accept his remorse and told him she did not wish to see him, since then he’d stopped coming to the store where she worked and waiting for her outside when she left at night. However, she was still smarting from his refusal to take her side and her anger sometimes came out in other ways.
Rachel reflected on the changes in the young girl since she’d started to work at Harper’s. The death of her father and the suspicion that her mother might have had something to do with it had helped to turn her from the shy child she’d been to the determined young woman she now was, a woman quite capable of standing up for herself.
Maggie’s arrival at the apartment and then Beth’s after her aunt’s marriage, had made them a little crowded, for there were only two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom and sitting room. Each bedroom had two single beds, but there wasn’t a lot of room for personal possessions. Their efforts to find a larger flat had been unsuccessful for the reason that landlords preferred married couples or families and tended not to trust women living together.
Fortunately, they had the use of a shed in the yard at the back in which Rachel had stored some things that she’d kept from the home she’d enjoyed before her husband had died so painfully and bitterly. His illness had gradually become worse over several months, causing her much grief and distress until his death and after. It was just some boxes of mementoes she was reluctant to throw out and a few bits of furniture.
‘I saw an advertisement for a larger flat today,’ Sally said as they all sat down to eat. ‘I think we might just have afforded it between us, but when I rang from the office they said it had gone…’
‘Do you think it really had?’ Rachel asked. It had taken time to find a landlord who would let to them in the first place and Sally was pretty sure they’d got their present flat because Mr Harper had stood guarantor for them and it was situated just round the corner from Harper’s in Berwick Street, making it easy to walk into work on fine days.
‘I’m not sure,’ Sally replied and made a wry face. ‘I think next time I’ll lie and say I want it for my husband and myself…’
‘Your non-existent husband would have to sign,’ Rachel said with a sigh. ‘That’s why we have to get recognition that women are more than just their husband’s belongings…’
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rosie Clarke is a #1 bestselling saga writer whose most recent books include The Shop Girls of Harpers and 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 Twitter @AnneHerries
Rosie’s profile on our website: https://www.boldwoodbooks.com/contributor/rosie-clarke/
Rosie’s website: www.rosieclarke.co.uk
Amazon link to Love and Marriage at Harpers : https://amzn.to/2QZH0Ds