When Caroline Meadows discovers a beautiful quilt in her mother’s attic, she sets out on a journey to discover who made it, and the meaning of the mysterious message embroidered into its lining.
Many years earlier, before the first world war has cast its shadow, Maria, a talented seamstress from the East End of London, is employed to work for the royal family. A young and attractive girl, she soon catches the eye of the Prince of Wales and she in turn is captivated by his glamour and intensity.
But careless talk causes trouble and soon Maria’s life takes a far darker turn.
Can Caroline piece together a secret history and reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?
The Forgotten Seamstress was published by Avon (Harper Collins) here in the UK in ebook format on 5 December, and in paperback on 16 January 2014.
This is a cleverly interwoven story, with many layers that has at its centre, a beautifully crafted quilt. Caroline Meadows has come to a crossroads in her life. Her relationship is over, her career is not what she planned, her elderly Mother is becoming more and more vulnerable. When Caroline discovers an old, but wonderfully made quilt in the attic of her Mother's house, she is intrigued and determined to find out more about its history.
Maria Romano was a patient at Helena Hall, an asylum that houses the mentally ill, she was admitted to the hospital at the very end of World War One. Maria had worked as a seamstress at Buckingham Palace after being raised by Nuns at a local orphanage. Maria had not known love during her short life, so when the handsome Prince of Wales befriended her, she was overwhelmed. Their friendship developed but Maria found herself disgraced and packed away to Helena Hall.
Caroline's modern-day story and Maria's time at Helena Hall are cleverly mixed together. Liz Trenow has worked a little bit of magic with this story, enabling the reader to hear Maria's side of things straight from the horse's mouth.
I was incredibly impressed by The Forgotten Seamstress. The characters are so well developed and detail of Helena Hall creates a wonderful sense of place. I'm not a quilter, in fact I can barely sew, but I was caught up in how the quilt was created and it is clear that the author has researched her subject very well indeed.
I am delighted to take part in the Blog Tour for The Forgotten Seamstress, and thrilled to welcome the author, Liz Trenow to Random Things today. Liz has kindly answered a few questions for me ~ thank you Liz!
The Forgotten Seamstress is her second novel. She lives in East Anglia with her artist husband, and they have two grown-up daughters.
Find out more at www.liztrenow.com and join her on Twitter @LizTrenow
1. Do you read reviews of your novels? Do you take them seriously?
I can’t resist flicking through Amazon reviews from time to time and mostly they are very encouraging (largely 4 or 5 star) but there is the occasional horrible one which I try not to take too seriously. Poor grammar and shocking spelling usually gives them away!
2. How long does it take to write a novel?
My first took two years and then another two years of rewriting before it got accepted by my agent and then a publisher. Since then I’ve written two more novels, each of them completed in a year. The Forgotten Seamstress is being published in January 2014 and The Poppy Factory in August 2014. Because my novels are set in historical periods research takes up a lot of time, so writing a novel in a year means writing full time and not taking more than a couple of weeks off. It’s hard work but I love it!
3. Do you have any writing rituals?
I always write in the morning and carry on until lunchtime. Before I start, I make a cafetiere of coffee and then shut myself away in my office. Mid-morning I make a fresh pot. I rarely write after lunch but will do admin, blogging or research and, towards the end of the process, editing and proof reading.
4. What was your favourite childhood book?
Winnie the Pooh and, later, Wind in the Willows. I also loved Eudoria’s Broomstick, written by Victor Knowland, an old friend of my parents. It’s now out of print, sadly, but available as an ebook at www.eudoriasbroomstick.co.uk.
5. Name one book that made you laugh?
Any book by David Sidaris makes me cry laughing.
6. Name one book that made you cry?
Sophie’s Choice. Also, re-reading the final chapters of my first novel, The Last Telegram, can make me cry, because the characters are based on real people in my life, and it reminds me of them.
7. Which fictional character would you like to meet?
Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. Firstly, she’s intelligent and independent in an era when women were not meant to be. Secondly she’s a great flirt. Finally, she married Mr Darcy, so I would probably get meet him too, preferably in the shape of Colin Firth. More seriously, I love the novel because it’s clever and funny, and about a woman’s search for herself.
8. Which book would you give to your best friend as a present?
The next novel by William Boyd. We both love his writing.
9. Are you inspired by any particular author or book?
Lots of authors inspire me. Rose Tremain for her historical contexts; Tracy Chevalier for teaching me that arts and craft (paintings, tapestry and quilts) provide fascinating backgrounds for a novel; Kate Morton and Victoria Hislop for their inter-generational plotting.
10. What is your guilty pleasure read?
Anything by Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones still makes me laugh, all these years later). Of more recently published pleasures I love Stella Newman’s Pear Shaped and Leftovers because they are funny and all about romance and food (she was a taster for a major retailer and really knows her food). More at www.stellanewmansblog.blogspot.com.
11. Who are your favourite authors?
My favourite writer is William Boyd, just for the power of his prose. But see Q 9 above for my other inspirational authors, who are also favourites.
12. What book have you re-read?
Pride and Prejudice. Sorry to be so predictable, but it’s the truth.
13. What book have you given up on?
I don’t want to name it because it is by a well-known and popular author whose other novels I have really enjoyed. But in this one she seems to have adopted the habit of using half-formed sentences. Of course all writers mess around with grammar to get the right effect – I do it too, just not all the time. But what about this: ‘A noise and Eliza froze. Held her breath’. Or this, just a couple of pages earlier: ‘A noise from behind and Eliza turned.’ And this: ‘Eliza scrambled on to the window seat and looked outside. Was forced to squint.’ Is this supposed to make the prose more exciting? For me it just ruins the flow of the paragraph, catches me off guard and makes me grumpy! After about sixty pages I gave up.
The Blog Tour continues through until Tuesday 10 December