Publication Day Giveaway!

Upton House & the outdoor pool

As promised, to celebrate publication day (and erm, a little later than planned!) I’m back, to reveal a little about the background to my first novel, ‘A Wartime Secret’ and how I got the idea PLUS there’s a little 1940s-themed giveaway at the end.

The Idea For The Book
A few years ago, I visited an exhibition (‘Banking for Victory’) at Upton House in Warwickshire, not far from where I live.

There’s more about the exhibition and some great photos here.

The house, gardens and extensive art collection were donated to the National Trust in 1948 (and are well worth a visit) but at the outbreak of World War Two, Upton belonged to the wealthy, glamorous and philanthropic couple, Lord and Lady Bearsted.

When war was declared, Lord Bearsted decided to move his merchant bank, M Samuel & Co. from London to his country house in Warwickshire for the duration of the war and lots of staff went too! (They were, if you like, ‘adult evacuees’).

The Long Gallery became the banking hall, single employees were put up in dormitories within the house and married couples were billeted in the nearby village or in cottages on the estate.

Most of the workers came from London’s East End. What an experience it must have been, to move to the countryside, to live in a manor house, to ride bicycles, wear wellies and swim before breakfast in the outdoor pool. It must have felt a million miles from the Blitz. But there must have been a certain amount of guilt too and worry about those left behind.

For their 2015-6 exhibition, the staff and volunteers at Upton House did a marvellous job of turning back time, so that the house looked as it would have done during the war.

The view over the gardens

It was only after I’d visited the exhibition twice – and a year or two had elapsed – that the idea came to me, that the story of a bank moving to the countryside would make a great setting for a novel.

Of course, by then, the exhibition had finished but that didn’t really matter. I had my setting, now I just had to come up with characters and a plot.

I wrestled with the idea for quite a while.

A couple of summers ago I visited Upton House on my own and strolled around the gardens – where I took these photos – asking myself whether I thought it was going to be possible to come up with a story or whether I should forget the whole thing.

Obviously, in the end (and it did take me a long time!), I managed it.

So, to celebrate publication day, I have a little giveaway. In an ideal world, I’d give away signed copies of the book but obviously I can’t do that until the paperback’s out on March 17th, so instead, I’ve got this:

A ration book mug with a selection of 1940s sweets (not actually that old, obviously but ‘in the style of’!)

A ‘home front’ memorabilia pack which looks like fun: 20 pieces of artwork, including a clothing ration book, war emergency leaflet, ‘dig for victory’ information, trade cards and travel tickets and more. Interesting, perhaps if you write about WW2 (or want to) or might be nice to share with children or seniors. (Or scatter on tables if you’re having a WW2 ‘tea dance’ or similar event?)

A ‘couple on a tandem’ tea towel. The significance of this will become clear if you read the book!

One lucky person, drawn at random, will win all these goodies!

You don’t have to follow the blog, or buy the book (although obviously it would be nice if you did!).

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post no later than a week today, 21st January 2022 and you’ll be included. Sorry but UK only, because of postal costs. If you want to leave a comment but don’t want to be in the draw (or live in exotic climes so are excluded!) please feel free to comment but just add that you’re not entering the draw.

Right, I’m off to open the fizzy stuff now. Have a good weekend everyone!

This entry was posted in Cotswolds, Novels, West Midlands and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Publication Day Giveaway!

  1. Halkerstone says:

    Congratulations on the publication of your book.

  2. Lesley Smith says:

    Helen, how lovely to hear about your inspiration for A Wartime Secret, so pleased you persevered and created your wonderful debut novel, congratulations on your 1st publication day, here’s to many more in the future 🥂cheers

  3. Patricia Stowell says:

    What a brilliant story! I would love the mug when I snuggle down to read ‘A Wartime Secret.’

  4. Eirin Thompson says:

    What a great ‘story behind the story’! Happy Publication Day and congratulations! Will be ordering over the weekend and will post review ASAP. Really looking forward to reading ‘ A Wartime Secret’.

  5. Fiona says:

    Congratulations and loved hearing the inspiration for your novel too!

  6. christinemhowe says:

    Congratulations, Helen, and how interesting to read about the background to the novel! I’ve begun reading it and was drawn in immediately.

  7. Helen Lowry says:

    What a story! I love history and am looking forward to reading your book. Lovely prize!

  8. lyndajanemcmahon says:

    Congratulations! The ebook arrived today! Looking forward to reading it.

  9. jbettany2013 says:

    Congratulations, Helen. I absolutely love your book and send good luck wishes on publication day. xx

  10. How interesting! Congratulations too! Mx

  11. oeillade1 says:

    I love Upton House too! The banking exhibition was fascinating x

    • It was, wasn’t it? Just wish I’d had my idea a bit sooner (ie: when the exhibition was still on) and I could have asked the volunteers lots of questions and taken lots of photos. Ah well.. .it wasn’t meant to be!

  12. Meena Kumari says:

    Fabulous read. I love reading books about WW2

  13. gill Chilton says:

    Well done Helen. Fascinating to read how your idea began. When I nest go Upton, I will picture your characters Maggie, Ray and all amidst the grounds!

  14. ados123 says:

    Congratulations on your debut novel. Book premise sounds really interesting – and different!

  15. Helen, congratulations! So exciting to be published. Loved the insight into how your idea evolved. 🙂


    Congratulations Helen. I thoroughly enjoyed the first four chapters.

  17. Gail Aldwin says:

    So lovely to hear about the setting which inspired your novel. Congratulations, Helen!

  18. Christine Cherry says:

    Congratulations Helen..well deserved after all that war work. May your books never be rationed… Enjoy celebrating your success. Looking forward to D day March 17th and holding that book in my hand!

  19. Lovely to read about how you had the idea for the book and what a great idea to share that story! Looking forward to reading ‘A Wartime Secret’.

    • Thanks, Ninette! I’m hoping Upton House might decide to stock the book – when it eventually comes out in paperback – in their shop. But I expect they need to read and approve it first!

  20. Jane Wharmby says:

    Congratulations Helen. I am loving your book – it’s so atmospheric. And I’m learning a lot about life during WW2 in the process!

  21. Angela Paull says:

    Enjoy the fizz – you deserve it. Sounds like a wonderful book

  22. Sherri Turner says:

    Congratulations Helen. I’ll be buying the paperback when it comes out!

  23. Jo Derrick says:

    I love Upton , so can’t wait to read your novel. The property belongs to the same portfolio as Canons Ashby where I volunteer. We should meet for lunch at Upton sometime. Happy Publication Day! Xx

  24. banksywrites says:

    Hi Helen. I’ve been looking forward so very much to reading your novel and now have it on my Kindle. Yay! When the paperback is out, we might just have to have a meet-up so you can sign a copy for me 😉. Hope all’s well with you.

  25. Huge congratulations on your book launch, Helen. I really enjoyed reading it and can thoroughly recommend it to others.

    The giveaway mug made me smile. I have my grandma’s old ration book from WW11. There are so many basic food stuffs that we take for granted that they couldn’t get then, or at least not in any quantity. We don’t know how lucky we are!

    • Thanks for your comment Jane and I agree about the rationing. Dried egg! Yuck! And no butter or sugar (or hardly any). The more I read about WW2 the more I’m grateful for everything we’ve got now. Even the dreaded ‘C’ isn’t as bad as what they all went through back then.

  26. Roger Hancock says:

    Sounds good Will buy

  27. Karelann WRIGHT says:

    Thanks for sharing your inspiration and process. I have the book on my Kindle but will also buy the paperback. Big congratulations to you on ‘sticking with it’ and getting there in the end. Hoping to graduate from the RNA -NWS sometime soon x

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