Welcome to my blog

My name is Helen Carey. I am the author of a number of novels (see menu above), some of which have managed to creep into the best-seller category! If you haven’t read them already, I hope you will enjoy them.

I have taught creative writing at university level and have, in the past, worked as a reader for a literary agent. I am also a bit of an artist and an avid environmentalist! I live in beautiful Pembrokeshire on a small organic farm which my husband and I run as a wildlife haven. Also living with us is a rather large dog who had spent ten years on a chain in Greece before we found her and brought her back to Wales.

I don’t post very often, but you will find pieces here about my books, my writing, my reading, my art, and sometimes about other elements of my life. I hope you will find something to interest you.

Please feel free to get in touch via the comments tab if I can answer any writing or reading questions. Or if you would like news of my upcoming book, a brand-new wartime adventure, click here.

With all best wishes, Helen

Happy Christmas

xmas bullfinchI would like to wish a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS to all my friends, readers and blog followers.

2018 has been a good year for me on the writing front, with lots of acclaim for my wartime LAVENDER ROAD novels, and several of them hitting the best seller charts. All six books are now out as paperbacks, eBooks and audio books worldwide.

For those of you who have read the Lavender Road books there is still the option to have a go at SLICK DEALS, the adventure thriller I wrote a while back to amuse my husband, which is set in Monaco, France, London and lovely Pembrokeshire where we live. For the more romantic of you there is also THE ART OF LOVING, a light romance set in Germany, which launched my writing career so many years ago by getting me short-listed for the RNA new writer award!

Many of you will know that we spent 12 years or so caring for my mother who was suffering with Alzheimer’s, and then, as soon as she had died, for two elderly dogs. Sadly both of these have also now left us. Our house suddenly feels very empty so we have decided to do some of the travelling that we’ve been unable to do over recent years. To that end we are setting off in January for a two and a half month voyage to Australia, taking in the Azores, the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mexico, Guatemala, French Polynesia (including the Marquesas Islands), Tonga and New Zealand on the way. I am afraid not very much writing is going to get done during that time, but I will be posting photos on my Twitter and Facebook pages and perhaps one of our adventures will give rise to a new novel in the future!

In the meantime I wish you all health and happiness for the New Year and I will be back in touch later on in 2019.

All best wishes, Helen



UK covers combined US titles together

AOL0-600       slick deals REVISE5.Biggerslick.deb

Please click on the images above to be directed to your local Amazon store

St Helena and other news

Hello everyone,Picture from top of Carningli

Greetings from sunny Pembrokeshire! I just wanted to thank you all again for your interest in my books. Over the last few months I have received an overwhelming number of kind messages and comments. It really is wonderful to know that my Lavender Road characters have brought so much pleasure to so many people! Thank you also for the wonderful reviews. If there are any of the books which you haven’t yet reviewed, and if you have the time or inclination, then it would be great if you could pop a few words and star ratings onto my books on Amazon or Goodreads sites, or indeed any other book sites you might use. It all helps enormously. And if you fancy a writing holiday on the remote island of St Helena, then it would be lovely to see you there – see below!

And now, here is the latest news from HELEN CAREY BOOKS:

  • All the Lavender Road books are now out in paperback in the UK.
  • THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET and the four preceding novels in the Lavender Road series are now available in paperback in the USA. The sixth and final book, VICTORY GIRLS, will follow in December this year.
  • All the audio versions are available from AUDIBLE in the USA, and as CDs from Ulverscroft / ISIS Soundings publishing, and libraries in the UK.
  • I am delighted to have been invited to be one of the inaugural tutors for a creative writing week on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic next May. The course will be a week long and will be suitable both for new and more experienced writers alike. The other tutor will be Louis de Bernières, of Captain Corelli fame. This is an amazing opportunity for participants to focus on creative writing with two very different authors in a remote, idyllic setting. For further details see the flyer below.

All best wishes,

Helen Carey

st helena

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To be directed to your local Amazon store, click HERE.


Four questions


Tregwynt Mansion

Tomorrow I will be joining three other authors for a Writers’ Forum at Tregwynt Mansion in Pembrokeshire. As well as talking about our books, part of the format is that we each answer pre-set questions, so I thought it might be a good idea for me to answer mine here on my blog as a kind of practice for the actual event. Apologies to anyone coming to the event, but I promise there will be lots of other chit-chat too!

Question One: How long does it take you to write a book?

My contract with my publishers, Headline (Hachette), gave me a year to write each of my Lavender Road novels. That included research and editing. And I have to say it was a push. I probably take three months to research and to create my characters and to work out the plot. I am a very careful plotter because I hate editing. I don’t see the point of writing thousands of words only to cross them out later. So I make sure my story and my story structure works before I start. Not every detail of course, but I make sure I know where I am going, what the ending will be. Actual writing time is perhaps six months, working 10am – 7pm every day.  And then I step away for a couple of weeks before going through the manuscript once or twice more for adjustments and tweaks, and to make sure it works as a story.

Question Two: How did you get published?

I was working as a management consultant, running courses in various British Universities. I was driving down the motorway one Friday after a particularly gruelling week and I said to myself ‘I’m sure there was something else I wanted to do with my life.’ I remembered that I had always had an ambition to be a novelist. Even as a child I had written pony stories, but somehow real life had got in the way. So I began writing – mostly rubbishy stuff , it takes time to learn how to create a page-turning novel – and after a while I was shortlisted for a new writers’ award. That led to my getting an agent. When we first met I had talked to her about an idea I had for a novel starting at the end of the Second World War, so when an editor at a big London publishers asked her if she knew anyone who might be interested on writing a series set in world war two she immediately thought of me. As it happened I knew very little about the war, but I was so excited about the idea of writing a series I did a massive amount of research in about five minutes and created a story outline which seemed to do the trick. The publisher commissioned me to write three books, and so the Lavender Road series was born.

Question Three: How important is the cover?

I think it is really important. And it is an issue which I am finding particularly interesting just at the moment. Book publishers are really into branding. And they love to jump on a lucrative bandwagon. It is much safer for them to add a book into an existing brand than to take the risk of starting a new brand, or genre as they would probably call it.

My UK publishers have taken the decision to put my books into the wartime romantic saga genre even though my books aren’t really like many of the other books in that genre. So, to fit the genre, they have produced covers with pretty young women’s faces on the front and a wartime scene in the background. Romantic sagas form a huge market in the UK, especially in supermarkets, and my publishers feel this is the best way of achieving the highest number of sales.

In the US we have taken a different approach. My American covers, with their wartime poster style, are designed to be perhaps more middle of the road, more historical fiction than romantic saga, and to appeal to a wider range of reader, including men.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating of course. There is also a big difference between the paperback market and the eBook market. Time will tell how the books all do longer term. But as it stands today, four of my novels are in the top 100 historical fiction chart on Amazon US. So the American covers are doing something right!

Question Four: Which books have inspired you? Who are your Favourite authors?

I am an eclectic reader. Over the last couple of months I have read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Leopard, the Italian classic, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child, a couple of spy thrillers, a Mary Stewart novel, and Eligible, the Pride and Prejudice pastiche, by Curtis Sittenfeld. I love beautiful or clever language, and compelling characters, but the books that most inspire me are books I can’t put down. My interest in story structure draws me to writers who can keep me hooked from beginning to end. I also love it when readers contact me complaining that my books have kept them awake all night.


The Writers Forum will take place in Tregwynt Mansion, nr Fishguard, Pembrokeshire at 7.30 on Thursday 26 July.

Helen Carey’s latest novel is Victory Girls, the 6th novel in the Lavender Road series. It is out now out worldwide as a Kindle eBook. The paperback will follow in October.

The final moment has come

victory girls show card + me in france

UK edition

And so the final moment has come! VICTORY GIRLS, the sixth and final book in my Lavender Road series, is published today. In hardback in the UK and as eBooks in the UK and USA. The Audio versions will follow very soon, and the paperbacks later in the year.

I can hardly believe that after writing over a million words, I have finally brought the series to an end. And although everyone is asking for more, I really do think a million words is enough! The series starts in 1939 just as the Second World War began, and it finishes in 1945 on VE Day just as Victory in Europe is declared. I like the symmetry of it, six books over six years. And I very much hope all my readers will feel that I have brought the story to a satisfactory end. I will of course miss my long suffering characters, Jen, Joyce, Helen, Molly, Louise, Katy and Mr Lorenz (not to mention the ever gorgeous Ward Frazer, Henry Keller and André Cabillard!) but they will be there in print, and on our Kindles, for perpetuity, available for revisiting and rereading at any point.

me and us victory girls

US edition

So all I am going to say now is that I very much hope you enjoy VICTORY GIRLS, and hope that if you do you will post reviews and star ratings on Amazon and other social media or historical fiction groups. And, if you have time, for the earlier books in the series too! It really does help, and might even persuade me to write the next book!!!


VICTORY GIRLS is published by Headline in the UK and TSAP Books in the USA on 19th April 2018. (Click here to find it in your local Amazon store.)

It’s August 1944. Allied forces are finally making headway in Europe. But continuing rocket attacks on London are a chilling reminder that the war is not yet won. Victory may be just round the corner, but the fighting is far from over for the residents of Lavender Road.

 Sweeping from London to France and on into Germany as Hitler’s army begins to retreat, Victory Girls is full of emotion, excitement and suspense, which will hold readers on the edge of their seats.

  Praise for the Lavender Road novels:

 ‘A tale of ordinary people living extraordinary lives.’ Inside Soap

 ‘Told with real excitement and a passion for the foibles of character and behaviour.’ Andrew Rissik

‘I never got so involved in the lives of book characters as in this series of books.’ Amazon review

 ‘Helen Carey’s Lavender Road novels are written with a lightness of touch, an emotional integrity and an historical accuracy which has brought her respect from critics and readers alike.’  Louis de Bernières

 ‘Funny, poignant, emotional and un-putdownable!’ London Evening Standard

 ‘An incredible tale of bravery, love and trust. A must read.’

Mrs Carter’s wartime pies

ww2_cooking_breakfastAs it is National Pie Week, I thought it would be fun to offer you some Second World War pie recipes.

These are all the kind of pies that Mrs Carter, one my Lavender Road series characters who runs the local café, would have created. (See especially LONDON CALLING for the cooking competition in which she gains notoriety by inadvertently setting Wandsworth Town Hall on fire!)

On the whole wartime recipes are healthy as they contain little fat and sugar. Of course they also contain very little meat due to the rigours of wartime rationing, but wartime cooks worked wonders in compensating for shortages. So feel free to improvise with the recipes below. Mrs Carter found that a handful of stinging nettles, dandelions added a certain amount of excitement to her cooking.

‘With so little in the shops,’ she said, ‘I started looking around for other nourishing things I could use. And when I discovered that my tortoise was partial to dandelions, daisies and stinging nettles, I thought, well, if they are good enough for Monty, they are probably good enough for me. So I tried them last week and I’m still here to tell the tale.’

Distracted by the audience’s chuckle of amusement, Mrs Carter unthinkingly delved into a bag to draw out the edible weeds she had mentioned. But she had forgotten about the stinging nettles. As soon as her fingers closed on the vicious leaves, it felt as though her entire hand had caught fire. With a shriek of shock and pain, she jerked her arm out of the bag and rushed over to the sink, scattering stinging nettles, dandelions and daisy leaves in her wake.

meatMy first recipe is Mrs Carter’s Meat and Veg Pie (a meatier version of the famous Woolton Pie – introduced by the so-named Minister of Food to encourage nutritional thrift in the kitchen.)

All the following recipes serve 4.


Mrs Carter’s Meat and Veg Pie

  • 1 tin of spam or other tinned meat, or small chunks of fresh meat if available
  • 1lb potatoes
  • 1lb parsnips
  • 1lb carrots
  • 1lb cauliflower
  • 6 radishes
  • A sprinkle of chopped spring onions (if available)
  • Dandelions/ stinging nettles/ or other edible weeds
  • 2 teaspoons of Marmite/Bovril
  • One tablespoon of porridge oats
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley (fresh or dried)

For the pastry: (Or if you want to cheat – use Jus-roll)

  • 6oz wholemeal flour
  • 6oz cooked mashed potato
  • 3oz fat (Margarine or lard)
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • salt and pepper


  • Chop the vegetables into small chunks.
  • Fry briefly with the meat.
  • Then place in saucepan with two cups of water and bring to boil.
  • Add the Marmite and oats, season and cook until tender.
  • Place mixture in ovenproof dish and sprinkle with parsley

For the pastry:

  • Mix the flour with salt and baking powder and rub in the fat.
  • Mix in the mashed potato to form a dough. Knead to combine, add some water if necessary.
  • Roll out on floured board (or, in Mrs Carter’s case, an old roof tile) to form a covering and lay over filling. Brush with milk (if available)
  • Place in oven at 190C for 40 mins until topping is nice and brown.


Mrs Carter’s Cottage pie

  • 1 lb minced beef (or any minced meat or poultry you can get your hands on)
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 2 oz cheese (if available)
  • herbs (rosemary/sage/thyme)
  • 3 cups rich beef stock/Bovril/marmite/Bisto
  • Finely chopped carrots and onion (if available)
  • Edible garden weeds (chopped finely)
  • Small amount of butter/marg
  • salt and pepper
  • Generous splash of Worcestershire sauce


  • Fry the mince to brown
  • Add the carrot and onion
  • Add salt and pepper and herbs
  • Add the stock, bring to boil, then simmer for 15 minutes until sauce is nice and thick then place in deep ovenproof dish
  • Meanwhile cook potatoes in salted hot water until tender.
  • Drain and mash with butter or margarine, add plenty of salt and pepper and a dash of milk to soften
  • Spread mashed potato over meat filling
  • Sprinkle with 2 oz of grated cheese
  • Place in oven for 30 minutes at 190C


Mrs Carter’s Tomato and potato loaf

  • 1 lb cooked new potatoes
  • 12 oz tomatoes
  • Tablespoon flour
  • Half a pint milk (or reconstituted milk powder)
  • Knob of butter/marg
  • 4 oz grated cheese (more if available)


  • Make cheese sauce: Melt butter in small pan, add flour and stir until smooth. Cook briefly until bubbling then take off heat, and slowly add milk and cheese stirring all the time until smooth then add dried herbs.
  • Cut potatoes into quarter inch slices
  • Cut the tomatoes into slices
  • Grease a deep ovenproof dish
  • Build pie with layers of potatoes, cheese sauce, tomatoes, in that order, finishing with top layer of potato
  • Top with grated cheese
  • Bake at 170C for 45 minutes until brown


Mrs Carter’s Leek and Lentil Pie

  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 4 cups stock/ Marmite/Bovril
  • 6 chopped leeks
  • Garden herbs/edible weeds
  • Mashed potato
  • Corn-flour or flour
  • Extra salt/pepper/dried herbs
  • Slice of  butter/margarine


  • Rinse the lentils then place with leaks into a pan. Cover with the stock, put on lid and cook on a slow heat until tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Melt margarine and add corn flour to make thickener then stir into to the lentil mix.
  • Put into a greased ovenproof dish then cover with mashed potato.
  • Bake at 190C for 40 mins until nicely brown


And now for desert:

Mrs Carter’s Almond fruit flan

As there was a general lack of fresh fruit on the shelves, carrot was often used as a substitute.

  • 1 lb small carrots finely grated
  • A few drops almond essence
  • 5 tablespoons of jam or marmalade (or stewed fruit if available)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 8oz short crust pastry/oatmeal pastry/ (made as in recipes above, or cheat with Jus-roll)


  • Roll out pastry
  • Grease a flan dish or pie dish and line with pastry
  • Bake empty at 180C for 20 minutes until golden brown
  • Meanwhile put grated carrots, jam, water and almond essence into a saucepan
  • Bring to a boil and simmer gently stirring all the time for around 20 minutes until nice and thick
  • Pour into the cooked flan case and return to oven for 5 minutes
  • Serve with custard (if available)

I very much hope you will try some of these recipes out, although I’m not sure if I would use them to impress any gourmet dinner party guests! Nevertheless they all make a tasty mid week supper, so do let me know how you get on! And while you are cooking, spare a thought for those wartime cooks like Mrs Carter who had to spend six or more years in very primitive kitchens, in the most adverse circumstances, rustling up tasty meals with the most meagre of ingredients.

Wartime kitchen


Helen Carey’s next novel, VICTORY GIRLS, will be published on the 18th of April.




Listening v. reading

9781407960739Some of you will already know that my Lavender Road novels are now available as audio books too. In the USA you can find them on Audible, and from Ulverscroft. In the UK you can get them from ISIS Soundings, and from public libraries in both countries.

Having my books produced in audio form is an interesting experience. I haven’t listened to  them all the way through yet, but I have heard enough to know that actress Annie Aldington has done a great job reading them. I am very fussy about audio book readers, sometimes a narrator’s voice will get on my nerves right from the start. Other times I can listen to a boring book just because the reader has such a lovely voice. Hugh Quarshie is one of those, I could listen to his voice all day (and all night)! I think Annie brings a nice combination of warmth and humour to her reading, with a little bit of South London thrown in for good measure.

Listening to a book being read is a completely different experience from reading it yourself. In some ways it is more passive, but in others it requires more concentration because it’s not so easy to flick back to check a detail or to catch up after a break. There is also the issue of where you are when you are listening. It’s much easier to keep track of the story when you are spending the afternoon lazing on the sofa than when you are clinging to a strap in a crowded underground train, driving, or snatching a few moments on your phone between meetings, or indeed if the reader is not speaking in a familiar accent!

It would be fascinating to know if people remember the content of audio books more or less clearly than if they read them themselves. I know, for example, that people find it much harder to remember the names of books they’ve read on Kindle. But that is perhaps more to do with the fact that we don’t see the cover and title every time we pick up and start reading as we do with a physical book.

I didn’t write the Lavender Road books with audio in mind. I had no idea when I began that these wartime stories would become so popular world wide. But I’m hoping that the fact that I spent a lot of time working on my plots, making sure that my characters were suitably memorable and (hopefully!) engaging, and the historical detail as interesting as possible will keep my new listeners as involved as my readers seem to have been.

What has already happened is that having been clamouring for audio versions for the last year or so, now people are beginning to ask if there’s any chance of a TV version! Well, not so far, but it would be nice, wouldn’t it? I just need someone to tip off a suitable producer!!

US editions of the Helen’s audio books:

CD Lavender Road  CD Some Sunny Day 2  CD On A Wing and a Prayer  CD London Calling 2  CD The Other Side of the Street 2

UK editions of Helen’s audio books:

9781407960647 97814079606789781407960708  9781407960616  9781407960739

Helen’s next lavender Road novel, VICTORY GIRLS, will be published on 18 April 2018.

Christmas Update

Hello and Happy Christmas to all my lovely readers and fans,

xmas xnoopy reading


As we are nearly at the end of the year I wanted to bring you up to date with all the latest news and developments about my books.

In the USA, all my current novels, including THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET (Lavender Road book 5), are already available as eBooks, and LAVENDER ROAD itself, and (very shortly) SOME SUNNY DAY, have now also been published as paperbacks. So do seek them out if you are looking for gifts for friends! The other books will follow these two into paperback over the next few months.

All five Lavender Road novels are also now available in the USA as audio books read by the wonderful British actress Annie Aldington, and are available from bookshops, libraries and on

In the UK, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET has just been released as a paperback, like the others, published by Headline Books.

All five books are also available as CD audio recordings in the UK from libraries or for sale from ISIS Soundings, but unfortunately not yet on

Other UK news is that earlier in the year LONDON CALLING, the fourth in the series, was shortlisted for the RoNA Award, Best Historical Novel.

But the BIG NEWS is that coming on the 19th April next year (2018) in the UK and the USA will be the sixth book in the Lavender Road series, VICTORY GIRLS.

VICTORY GIRLS will sadly be the final novel in the Lavender Road series. It will bring the story up to the end of the war. It was a poignant moment for me when I typed the last few words. But I worked out that readers who have read all six books will, by the end of VICTORY GIRLS, have read over a million words about the characters of Lavender Road, and I felt that was enough!

The VICTORY GIRLS covers for each region have just been revealed. Pre-ordering is already available in the UK and will be available in the USA in the New Year.


USA Edition

victory girls

UK Edition









I know many of you are eager to get your hands on VICTORY GIRLS and I’m sorry it is such a long wait but I hope you will feel that the wait has been worth it!

In the meantime, if you haven’t read them already, there are two other Helen Carey novels available, SLICK DEALS, a pacy, fun, contemporary thriller, and THE ART OF LOVING, a light, sexy romance set in Germany.

Wishing you a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS and a NEW YEAR filled with lovely things,


Helen Carey

Is history repeating itself?

When I finished writing and editing VICTORY GIRLS, the last of my wartime Lavender Road novels, I realised I could finally emerge from the 1940s. Writing the last three books of the series to my publishers’ tight, one-book-a-year schedule has kept me incredibly busy, and somewhat preoccupied, and it has been quite a delight to be able to re-engage with the real world!
But it is a world worryingly different to the one that I (figuratively) left four years ago. Over the summer we have had about 50 visitors to stay (that’s what happens when I stop writing books!) and I think almost every one of them has in one way or another commented on the general world-wide increase in intolerance, nationalism and xenophobia.
These words ring extra loud alarm bells for me because they are exactly the sentiments that were so prevalent in parts of Europe prior to the Second World War. I can hardly believe that, having spent so long researching the mood in Europe and the UK during the late 30s and early 40s, I now find the world moving, apparently blindly, in an unnervingly similar direction.
I am clearly not the only person concerned. Lots of readers have written to me, both from the UK and the USA, making the same point. Quite a few have remarked that watching the late night news was causing them anxiety and disrupting their sleep. Others have kindly said that my books have brought them hope that, even in very dark times, good sense and humanity can prevail.
Let’s hope that is the case! It is certainly important to remember that there are lots of good things about the world, so many lovely places, amazing wildlife, wonderful architecture, music, photography, art, theatre, films, fabulous books (never forget those!) and millions of good, kind, generous-spirited people. And although we do need to keep a wary and watchful eye out for extremist attitudes, it is not all doom and gloom. Sometimes, for our own peace of mind, we need to focus on that too.
So now, having probably depressed you at the beginning of this blog post, I am going to try and redress the balance by leaving you with some uplifting images from my wonderful post-writing summer!


Maisie admiring the view in the Brecon Beacons


The moated entrance to Lower Brockhampton


An Exmoor pony foal in Devon


A day’s picking from our veg patch


A puffin on Skomer Island


Our shadows on a walk in the Black Mountains


Magnificent Mount Snowdon


A Blue Morpho at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Picture from top of Carningli

View from Carningli (Mount of Angels) behind out house.



The wonderful Roger Federer!


Helen Carey’s latest novel THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET is now out in Hardback and eBook format in the UK and USA. The paperback withh be published in November 2017.

VICTORY GIRLS will be published in April 2018.


dunkirk promo pic

Today, as I know that many of my blog followers are interested in the events of World War Two, I am writing about Dunkirk, and to bring you news about a fabulous offer:

The DUNKIRK WEEK WWII EPIC BOOK SALE which starts today, 21 July, for one week only (21 – 27 July).

To celebrate the opening of Christopher Nolan’s movie Dunkirk this Friday, more than 50 authors of the Facebook Second World War Club have joined together to offer you their WWII novel at a reduced price, most at 99¢/99p.

The novels range from military war tales, home front drama and sagas, harrowing accounts of the Holocaust, gripping spy thrillers, moving wartime romances, and much, much more.

lav rd headline

UK Edition

It is a great opportunity to stock up your Kindle with a fantastic range of wartime novels, and if you don’t already have my novel LAVENDER ROAD, this is your chance to pick it up at the bargain price of 99p (UK edition), 99¢ (USA edition)! So do share the news with your friends, the offer closes 27 July.


USA Edition

For me, Dunkirk a particularly fascinating wartime event. Instead of remembering the poor military planning, horrific defeat and catastrophic losses of both men and equipment as British and French troops rapidly became encircled by advancing Nazi battalions on mainland Europe, the word ‘Dunkirk’ (in British minds at least) generally conjures up the dramatic rescue of the survivors by a fleet of naval and small private vessels, and has entered the collective consciousness as an amazing example of British resilience, courage and resolve.

It was indeed an extraordinary and magnificent effort. On the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the week, a total of 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats.

The drama of the Dunkirk rescue, and the heroic involvement of so many civilians who risked their lives to pilot their tiny craft over the English Channel has inevitably made it the subject of numerous films and books.

It gave me, in LAVENDER ROAD, the opportunity to have one of my minor male characters to show unexpected grit and resolve, not to mention courage. When the novel opens Alan Nelson had been turned down by the military for a trivial medical reason. As a result he had lost his confidence and the respect of his wife, and had become a figure of fun for one or two local boys who felt he should be doing something for the war effort, instead of tinkering about on little canal boat he kept on the river in London.

But when the call for boats comes, Alan Nelson rises to the occasion.

Here is the scene from LAVENDER ROAD when his wife, Pam, first finds out what he has done.

For the hundredth time, Pam glanced irritably at the clock.

Where on earth was Alan? She needed his help in dealing with Sheila over the road. The news from Dunkirk was appalling. German planes were machine-gunning the exposed men on the beaches. German artillery was pounding the small town and the adjacent sand dunes where the shattered forces waited for their chance of rescue. Mercifully the brave rearguard of the Allied troops was still valiantly holding off the German tanks. But that small fragment of good news didn’t help Sheila Whitehead. Sheila was convinced her Jo was trapped on a Dunkirk beach, dying or about to die. She wouldn’t or couldn’t stop crying. She wouldn’t or couldn’t listen to reason.

In desperation Pam had called the doctor. But when he had eventually come, he had been typically unhelpful, saying carelessly that everyone was living through difficult times. There was nothing he could do.

If only Alan had been there. Doctors always took more notice of men. And, give him his due, Alan had a good way with people like that. Quiet but firm.

Pam checked the clock again. Where was blasted Alan? She had promised to go over to Sheila’s again in a few minutes and she didn’t think she could face it alone.

When she heard the knock on the door she dimly assumed it must be Sheila and was astonished to find young Mick Carter standing awkwardly on the step.

He looked odd. Flushed and unusually scruffy even for him. He was breathing hard.

Pam wondered for a second if he was ill but then she realized he had been running.

‘What?’ she asked harshly as the hairs on her arm began to prickle. ‘What is it? What do you want?’

‘I-it’s your husband, Mrs Nelson,’ he stammered out. ‘It’s Mr Nelson.’

Pam’s mouth dried as she stared into the dirty, freckled face of Alan’s former tormentor. ‘What about him? What’s happened to him? What have you done to him?’

‘I haven’t done nothing,’ Mick said, momentarily aggrieved. ‘He’s done it. He’s gone, and he wouldn’t take me with him.’

Pam swallowed and tried to breathe normally. ‘What do you mean he’s gone? Gone where?’

Mick shuffled his feet. ‘Gone to France.’

‘To France?’ Pam repeated blankly. ‘To France?’

Mick nodded. ‘On his boat. To rescue them soldiers what are trapped. He heard it on the radio they needed help getting them off, smaller boats and that.’

For a second Pam stared at him in disbelief. She couldn’t take it in. Alan. Alan gone to France. To Dunkirk. In his little boat. The Merry Robin. He had never taken it further than Henley before. And that was years ago. One summer holiday for a week. Soon after they were married. It had been a kind of honeymoon. They’d made love every night in that little cabin.

Even as she quickly blocked that thought from her mind, it occurred to her that Mick Carter, of all people, was an unlikely recipient of Alan’s plans. ‘How do you know this?’ she snapped at him.

Mick shuffled his feet. ‘I was on the boat,’ he admitted.

Pam stared. ‘On Alan’s boat?’ She felt her mind spin. Trying to breathe slowly, she steadied herself on the door frame. ‘What were you doing on Alan’s boat?’

‘Mam threw me out the other night and I hadn’t got anywhere else to go. It was cold.’ He bit his lip. ‘I had to sleep somewhere, didn’t I?’ He shrugged bravely even as his chin wobbled. ‘Anyway I was still there this afternoon when Mr Nelson turned up.’

Pam was just trying to absorb the fact that Mick had been sleeping on Alan’s boat when to her utter astonishment, the boy burst into tears.

‘He wouldn’t take me,’ he sobbed. ‘I wanted to go, Mrs Nelson. I could of helped. But he said I was too young.’ He sniffed violently as the tears dripped unhindered off his nose and plopped on to the path. ‘He said there would be much more useful things I could do for the war than getting myself killed crossing the Channel. But I don’t know what they are, Mrs Nelson, them useful things. Nobody wants me to do anything.’

Pam was hardly listening. ‘Alan said that?’ she said tremulously, as tears threatened her own eyes.

Mick nodded and scrubbed at his eyes. ‘And now the boat’s gone, I’ve nowhere to go. I don’t know what to do, Mrs Nelson. I can’t go home because my mam won’t have me.’

Pam found she was shaking all over. ‘You’d better come in,’ she said. ‘You’d better come in. I think we both need a cup of tea.’

Those of you who have read LAVENDER ROAD will know whether Alan comes back safely or not. For those of you who haven’t, I won’t spoil the story!

There will be plenty of other stories in the film, and of course in the other fabulous books in the special DUNKIRK offer. So don’t miss the opportunity to treat yourself to a few Kindle bargains.


All best wishes, Helen


The special 99¢ one week only US kindle version of LAVENDER ROAD can be found here.

For UK, Europe and Commonwealth the 99p (or equivalent) deal can be found here.

And click here to see all the other books in the DUNKIRK EPIC BOOK SALE, 21 – 27 July …

As part of the DUNKIRK Promo there are also some great giveaway prizes, including the Grand Prize of a paperback copy of Joshua Levine’s Dunkirk: The History Behind the Motion Picture. No purchases are necessary to enter the draw.
We’re also bringing you:

1. A two-part blog series about Dunkirk. You can read these excellent blog posts by two of our authors, Suzy Henderson (The Beauty Shop) and Jeremy Strozer (Threads of War), here:

2. Readings by The Book Speaks podcast of excerpts from All My Love, Detrick by Roberta Kagan plus another novel, both of which are part of the Dunkirk Week Book Sale:

3. Our authors’ pick of the Top 40 WWII Movies:



THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, Helen’s latest novel in the LAVENDER ROAD series is now out in hardback and eBook versions (US edition / UK edition). The paperback edition will be published in October.


USA edition

The Other Side of the Street HB

UK edition

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