LAVENDER ROAD SERIES – US & AMERICAS EDITIONS
Opening in September 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War, Lavender Road follows the entwined lives of the people who live in one south London street through the first year of hostilities. Everyone worries that the war will change their lives, perhaps for ever … and mostly they are right.
‘This novel, with its vivid portrayal of wartime life on the Home Front, creates a rich tapestry which depicts in all its fascinating detail the story of South London at war. Helen Carey’s characters are so real that they live on with you beyond the page.’
‘I’m really cross with you, Helen Carey, I read Lavender Road all night even though I had an important meeting this morning. I just couldn’t stop. Feeling like death now. Talk about page turning power!’
‘I live in New Zealand now but I spent my childhood in London and your story brought it all back. I’m sure I knew the people in your novel, they are so real, even the small characters like Mr Lorenz, I felt such nostalgia for it all. Thank you.’
‘I don’t normally like ‘sagas’, they are often so old fashioned and predictable, but Lavender Road really did it for me, it’s lively, funny and I was completely involved and can’t wait for the next one.’
One of the key characters in Lavender Road is Jen Carter who came to me after an interview with the wonderful actress and singer, Mary Morland, now sadly passed away, who had blazed a trail on the London variety stage all through the war and for many years afterwards too. I knew that Jen’s fantasy of becoming an actress, in order to escape from the family she despises, would make a nice contrast with the desperate efforts of her careworn mother, Joyce, to keep food on the family table. Joyce Carter ultimately became one of my favourite characters, I enjoyed developing her tentative relationship with rich Mrs Rutherford in the large house overlooking Clapham Common, and best of all is when she finally gives the ghastly Stanley (her violent, feckless husband) his come-uppance – but you have to read Some Sunny Day for that …
It is 1940 and as German bombs begin to fall on London the people of Lavender Road find themselves right in the thick of it. The railway interchange at Clapham Junction and the anti-aircraft guns on Clapham Common are a prime target for the Nazis which makes things increasingly difficult for local residents as they try to carry on their everyday lives.
‘Despite the privations and the danger, living and loving must go on. Some Sunny Day vividly depicts the courage, the grit, the emotion and the defiant laughter of war-torn London when, as friends and neighbours, men and women, rich and poor, the inhabitants of Lavender Road face up to the trials and tribulations of the London Blitz.‘
‘Reading Some Sunny Day was like coming home to old friends. I loved the way you change the focus onto different characters but still keep our interest in Jen, Joyce, Mick and all. I actually clapped my hands when Joyce got hold of that gun. And the ending, well, all I can say is get the tissues out.’
‘You’ve done it again. A really engaging read. Katy Parsons is a compelling character, so real, I lived her every emotion and now feel wrung out and uplifted at the same time!’
‘Funny, poignant, emotional and unputdownable, Some Sunny Day rips along, taking you with it into wartime London and the lives of these engaging and incredibly varied characters.’
The Blitz is what immediately comes to mind when you think of the second world war in London. There is also an idealised view that everyone pulled together to get through it. My researches show that although quite a lot of people did indeed pull together, quite a few didn’t. There are plenty of examples of looting and other callous behaviour which undermined the amazing courage and resilience that most people showed during the seemingly endless months of bombing.
Shy, asthmatic Katy Parsons, daughter of the local publican, takes a leading role in this novel. Longing to make something of herself, she enrols as a nurse, but finds the rigours of hospital life much more difficult to cope with than she imagined. My own mother was a nurse during the war. I also spent time talking to her old nursing friends about their experiences. The trials and tribulations that Katy Parsons suffers, and the characters she encounters (in particular the indomitable Sister Morris), are directly the result of these interviews.
I enjoyed creating Katy Parsons, her understated courage was interesting to write and, when real disaster does eventually strike, it was enormously satisfying to enable her to rise to the occasion.
On a Wing and a Prayer follows the war into its third year and the people in Lavender Road are now pushed to the limit. Everyday life is hard enough, but it becomes much harder when the constant anxiety for loved ones, the demands on courage and the privations of rationing are added into the mix.
And yet for one person, Helen de Burrel, the real implications of being at war become even more personal when she finds herself volunteering to join the Special Operations Executive. Nobody knows that her cool exterior conceals such courage … and such fear. But it is 1941, and, for her at least, the sense that each day could be her last spurs her on. It also means that love, when it strikes unexpectedly, is doubly dangerous.
‘In this dramatic and poignant novel, Helen Carey depicts the courage and resilience of ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary war.’
‘This is a great book. It’s unusual to find a novel that encompasses so much, the London sections are thoroughly engaging, and the French sections are exciting and dramatic. The whole novel is beautifully constructed. It never flags. Storytelling at its best.’
‘My wife told me to read this and although I was sceptical at first, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am going back to read the other books right now.’
I always rather fancied the idea of being a spy, so when Helen de Burrel decides to apply to join the Special Operations Executive, I found myself delving into the shadowy world of wartime espionage with some relish. But although highly enjoyable, my research was also humbling. Those wartime agents and saboteurs took the concept of courage to a whole new level. They knew what would happen if they were caught or betrayed and yet they were still prepared to put themselves in danger for their country.
My favourite scene in this novel is when Helen comes back to Toulon after giving the injured Ward Frazer her place on the rescue plane and finds André Cabillard sitting in her room. I think the whole novel is worth reading just for that one scene!
LONDON CALLING takes up the story of Molly Coogan who longs for change in her mundane life as a trainee nurse. But we all know we have to be careful about what we wish for, and as 1943 gets underway and the war in Europe intensifies, Molly soon finds herself in far more trouble than she ever could have anticipated …
London Calling was shortlisted for the RNA Historical Novel of the Year.
‘Probably my favourite novel ever. Jen and Molly are fantastic characters. Their adventures kept me on the edge of my seat, and awake nearly all night. Kudos Helen Carey.’
‘What an amazing read! Helen Carey’s LONDON CALLING sets the bar very high for other saga writers.’
‘I couldn’t put it down. It thrills from beginning to end.’
I loved writing London Calling. The acrimonious relationship between Jen and Molly gave me so much opportunity. Sending them to Europe and forcing them to co-operate in order to escape from the worst kind of danger made for an exciting and poignant story. Adding in a little bit of magic also gave it a slightly different dimension.
The Other Side of the Street is set in 1944 London. This time, as well as the inevitable problems of a prolonged war and the danger of bombs and rocket attacks, one of the themes is about Louise Rutherford trying to become a nicer person. That is not an easy thing to do, especially in wartime, and when posh, pretty Louise finds herself having to join the ATS, the Women’s Section of the British Army, she finds that the rigours of military life make it even more challenging.
‘I hated Louise Rutherford in Lavender Road so how did it come about that I was rooting for her all the way through this book? It’s because the characters in these novels are completely three dimensional, there are no ‘goodies and baddies’ here, Helen Carey understands what people are really like and creates a world where her characters are forced to act in ways that show their true colours.’
‘Superb London wartime saga. Fantastic storytelling.’
‘Will keep you turning pages long into the night.’
‘Simply the best author I have ever read.’
Having created Louise Rutherford as a rather annoying, selfish character in the previous books, it was a challenge to turn her into the key protagonist in this one. It was fun to put her through some gruelling experiences in the ATS! I served briefly in the British army which allowed me to draw on some of my own (albeit somewhat more recent) experiences. I also had a lovely neighbour (now sadly passed away) who had served in the ATS during the war and although her character was entirely different, many of Louise’s trials and tribulations were based on her memories.
It’s August 1944 and Allied forces are finally making headway in Europe. But VI and V2 rocket attacks on London are a chilling reminder that the war is not yet won. Victory may be just around the corner but the fighting is not yet over for the residents of Lavender Road.
Helen de Burrel knows from bitter experience how dangerous things are in war-torn France. But it is a long time since she heard from her French boyfriend and nothing is going to stop her from going back to track him down. Molly Coogan, meanwhile, feels the time is right to learn more about her family history, specifically why she was consigned to an orphanage when she was four years old.
Sweeping from London to France and on into Germany as Hitler’s forces begin to retreat, Victory Girls is full of emotion, excitement and suspense, which will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.
‘I absolutely …LOVED IT!’
‘An amazing series!’
‘I have never read a series I enjoyed more. Wonderful from start to finish. The characters have become friends, they will stay with me for ever.’
I was quite sad as I wrote the last pages of Victory Girls. I had written over a million words about the residents of Lavender Road and the characters were engrained in my mind. My main aim was to bring their stories to a satisfactory close, and I hope with the tragedies and triumphs the characters experience during the last traumatic year of war I managed to achieve that!
I know readers want me to take the story into the post war era, but I am a great believer in rounding things off neatly and I felt six books covering six years of war was just about right!
Published by Cambria Books/ TSAP, available as paperback, ebook, audio/whispersync.