Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Women of Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke: Review, Extract and Giveaway!

Welcome!  Rosie Clarke is happily married and lives in the village of East Anglia.  Writing books is her passion but she also likes to read, watch good films and enjoy holidays in the Spanish sun.  Rosie also loves shoes especially those with impossibly high heels that are impossible to walk in.  She has a pair of Jimmy Choos that she cannot wear that sit in a place of honor on her mantlepiece.  For more information about Rosie Clarke and her books, visit her website.
The Last of the Mulberry Lane Books

I was asked recently if I was sorry that the series had come to an end in “The Women of Mulberry Lane,” and the answer is that it is always a wrench to leave behind characters you’ve come to know so well.  So yes, I shall miss them, and perhaps one day I might write a standalone book entitled Reunion at Mulberry Lane.  At the moment that is far in the future as I am writing a new series.
The Girls of Mulberry Lane: A heart-warming, war time family saga (The Mulberry Lane Series Book 1) by [Clarke, Rosie]
The Mulberry Lane title was arrived at between my editor and I.  My editor wanted it to be Something at a certain place so that we could give a sense of being a part of somewhere.  I liked Mulberry Lane and so it began to take shape.

When I first had the idea, it was for three women’s lives during the war, but it grew and grew and became a community. The people of the lane were so real to me and certain bits were based on facts I knew about true lives, though altered and changed.  Because they reflected what I knew and heard and experienced, they became real.  The characters dominated the books and the stories came from the folk brought to life in the first books.  It is for me the only way.  If I don’t believe in a character he or she doesn’t live and must be ruthlessly scrubbed out. 
A Wedding at Mulberry Lane: A heart-warming, war time family saga (The Mulberry Lane Series Book 2) by [Clarke, Rosie]
Much of my London life scenes come from the visits and holidays I spent with my grandmother and Uncle Tom in one of the London suburbs as a young child.  I visited many of the places that feature in my various books, including Petticoat Lane, where I was told to keep tight hold of my purse. I saw the vacant spaces, grass growing through concrete where they had not yet been built over after the destruction of the war, rode on buses and went down the Mall for the coronation.  I also went swimming in the local lido.
Mulberry Lane Babies: New life brings joy and intrigue to The Lane! (The Mulberry Lane Series Book 3) by [Clarke, Rosie]
So, although I try to research areas and can make mistakes, the feel and atmosphere is in my memory and I have a sympathy with those folks, because I too remember the shortages, which went on after the war, when I was a small girl.  We queued for fruit and we queued for sweets and had very little until the 1950’s.  Mum gave me a precious ten shillings to buy sweets the day rationing ended!
New Arrivals at Mulberry Lane: Full of family, friends and foes! (The Mulberry Lane Series Book 4) by [Clarke, Rosie]
Saying goodbye to old friends is always sad and I know some readers will want more of Mulberry Lane, but I’ve given you all a happy ending and I hope you will continue to love my future books.

Best wishes, Rosie
Women line up outside a butcher shop to buy scarce meat in North Cheam, Surrey, England, on April 17, 1942. - [3000x2262]
My Summary

The Women of Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke returns readers to the East End of London towards the end of 1944.  Peggy Ashley is the matriarch of Mulberry Lane.  She also runs the Pig & Whistle, the local pub, while caring for her three year old twins.  Since Peggy learned that Able Ronoscki was still alive, she has written to him at various addresses, but she has yet to hear from him.  Laurie is still away recovering and, while family is not allowed to visit or write, Peggy did receive an unexpected letter from him.  Rose is looking forward to her wedding just before Christmas to Capt. Jimmy Morgan.  Tom Barton has loved Rose since the moment he met her and will have to content himself with being her friend.  Tom has finished training and has a short leave before being shipped overseas.  Maureen worries about her husband, Gordon since his leg is not healing properly.   Gordon’s spirits have been low since he is unable to work or be a proper husband to Maureen.  Janet is engaged to Ryan and, after the wedding, she will be leaving the pub.  She is worried how her mother, Peggy will manage the twins, the baking and the pub without her help.  The war is still raging on and the Germans are now dropping their new V2 bombs on the East End.  What happens when one hits Mulberry Lane?  
Sisters Rose Walsham & Susan Lawrence, lifelong customers at the Duke of Fife, East End, London, 1960s. (from London’s East End, a 1960s album). Photo by Steve Lewis.
Extract--The Women of Mulberry Lane

Peggy met Maureen as she was leaving the corner shop a few days later and her friend had the new baby in the pram. Peggy cooed over the lovely little boy, saying that he was going to be just like his father. 

‘Have you been in to the clothes shop yet? Maureen asked and Peggy nodded.  ‘Yes, I bought something the other day.  You’ve got some nice things in, Maureen.’ 

‘Vera is trying to take only good things, because we don’t want rubbish. Some women are annoyed when we refuse their things, but Vera advises them to try the market.’  ‘How is it going? Are you selling much?’ 

‘We’ve had a reasonable turnover. It just depends what people bring in. Some women have lovely things they just don’t want and they go as soon as they’re put out, but other things hang around for ages. If I bought them I might be out of pocket, but by taking commission and paying when they sell I can’t lose.’ 

‘What a good idea,’ Peggy exclaimed and nodded.  ‘Oh, before I forget, I’d love you and Gordon to come to the Christmas Eve party – do you think he will feel up to it?’ 
Two barmaids at a pub in London, 1949
‘I’m not sure,’ Maureen said and Peggy thought she looked anxious. ‘Some days he seems to be a lot better – and others he slides right back. The infection from the wound has healed, but it is taking time to get his leg working properly. He refuses to use the wheelchair the hospital loaned us and that means he stands too much and his leg just gave way the other day and he went down on his backside at the foot of the stairs. A few bruises, but it made him angry…’ 

‘Yes, I can see how it would,’ Peggy said and smiled. ‘Men and small boys are much the same. They think they can do more than they can and when they take a tumble it hurts their pride more than anything else.’  ‘Freddie been up to his usual mischief then?’ 

‘He never stops,’ Peggy laughed, because she was proud of her adventurous son. ‘He tumbled all the way down the stairs yesterday and never shed a tear. Maggie was at the top of the stairs and so was Fay. I think one of them may have pushed him, but he just glared up at them and didn’t say a word.’ 

‘Oh dear, I don’t envy you that problem,’ Maureen sympathised. ‘I’m lucky. Shirley dotes on both her brothers and Robin does whatever he can manage of what she does. He follows her everywhere when she’s home from school, but it makes things easier for me, because she’s such a help…’ 
Peggy nodded. There had been a time when Shirley was a spoiled only child and she’d made life difficult for Maureen, but a spell away from home and some harsh treatment from her grandmother’s relations had made her realise how lucky she was. Maureen had taken care of her long before she’d fallen in love with Shirley’s father, Gordon, and married him, and the girl was devoted to her. 

The two friends parted on the best of terms as always. Peggy reflected that in all the time she’d known Maureen they’d never had a cross word and that was unusual. She and Janet had argued more than once, but Maureen had always been there for her, even though she’d had her share of problems. 
WW II ration book
As she neared the arch that led through to the back of the Pig & Whistle, Peggy had seen a tall soldier come walking round the corner. She stared at him for a moment and then smiled as she recognised Tom Barton. 

‘Tom!’ she exclaimed. ‘How are you? You seem to have shot up since you left to join your unit.’ 

‘I’m forever training that’s why,’ Tom said and laughed with pleasure. ‘You look wonderful, Peggy. I’m on five days leave, so I thought I’d come back to the lane in the hope that someone has a bed they can lend me for a few nights…’ 

‘You can stay with us,’ Peggy offered as he swung his kitbag over his broad shoulder. ‘Anne’s husband is home on leave from the army for two weeks. He has been on officer trainin’ and they’ve gone away somewhere, so you can use her room.’ 

‘Are you sure she wouldn’t mind?’ He hesitated, not wanting to offend anyone. 
‘Quite sure,’ Peggy assured him. ‘I shan’t take no for an answer, Tom. You’ve helped me so much in the past. I’ve got a guest room free, but it is piled up with Janet’s clobber. She has been collecting furniture for her new house when she’s married – and I let her have the room to store it.’ 
Tony Hall’s Pub Photography | Spitalfields Life
‘Is Janet gettin’ married?’ Tom asked. ‘Maureen told me she thought she might be when she wrote to me a couple of months back.’ 

‘Not until the spring,’ Peggy said a little ruefully, because in some ways the sooner Maggie was around less, the better. It was her presence that seemed to cause most of the arguments between the twins. ‘Have you heard from Jack recently?’ Tom’s father, Jack Barton, was also in the army, but it was unlikely the two would meet on duty. 

‘I had a postcard three months ago, but he’s overseas somewhere and you know how erratic the post can be in wartime.’  Peggy did indeed know that letters were often delayed and even lost in the post.
The Mulberry Lane Series
My Thoughts

The Women of Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke is the fifth and final novel in The Mulberry Lane series.  When I pick up a Mulberry Lane novel, it is like visiting old friends.  I am sad that this is the last time I will get to spend time with Peggy, Maureen, Tom, Janet, Shirley and the rest of the residents of Mulberry Lane.  The Mulberry Lane series does need to be read in order.  I thought The Women of Mulberry Lane was well-written and engaging.  I was drawn into the story from the very first page and I stayed up very late to finish it.  Peggy Ashley is such a wonderful character with her big heart, friendly smile and ever ready cup of tea.  Peggy deserves a happy ending after everything she has been through.  She is a strong woman with a positive outlook.  Tom Barton is one of my favorites.  He has come a long way since the beginning, and he is liked by everyone on Mulberry Lane.  There are, of course, those disagreeable characters (i.e.—Rory and Laurie) and I keep hoping that they will get their comeuppance.  I like how the people in the lane stick together.  They are there to help each other in good times and, most especially, in bad.  The Women of Mulberry Lane is an emotional novel and you will need to have a box of tissues nearby.  There is love, heartbreak, joy, grief, and anger as the residents of Mulberry Lane struggle to survive the war.  Rosie Clarke captures the time period with the way the characters speak, the clothing, the war work women had to do in addition to their other responsibilities, and rationing (food, clothes, petrol).  Life is never easy for the residents of the East End, but the struggle was even more intense during the war.  You will not want to miss this final installment in The Mulberry Lane series to see how our characters stories play out.  The Women of Mulberry Lane has squabbling siblings, booming bombs, wounded soldiers, boundless tea, and forever friends.  

Reverend Joseph Stephens (back to camera) stops in a grocer's shop in Silvertown to buy some cherries. The shop assistant behind the counter on the right of the photograph is preparing to scoop some of the fruit from a box into the scales. To the left of the photograph, two women are weighing vegetables into a sack. The shelves are lined with food, such as 'Force Wheat Flakes', 'Welgar Shredded Wheat' and 'Peter's Cocoa'.
The Women of Mulberry Lane is available at Amazon, Kobo, and Google Play. The first four books in The Mulberry Lane series are The Girls of Mulberry Lane, A Wedding at Mulberry Lane, Mulberry Lane Babies and New Arrivals at Mulberry Lane. Thanks to Aria (the publisher), I am able to giveaway a digital copy of The Women of Mulberry Lane.  To enter the contest, please leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you if you win.  The contest is open until August 12 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  Good Luck!  Thank you for stopping by today.  I will be sharing my review of Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns next time.  I hope you have a joyful day.  Take care, stay cool and Happy Reading!

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