blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: After the Rain – Susan E Jones

It is the late summer of 1910 and Bessie Hardwicke, thirty-nine years old and single, has just started work as a lady’s companion to widowed Fanny Grist in London. 

The change is momentous for Bessie and she constantly questions whether the move was a big mistake. 

Life in London is so different from what she’s been used to and she desperately misses her dear nephew Walter, whom she looks upon as a son.

There is no denying that she is badly in need of a change. Even after twenty years, she is still grieving the loss of her fiancé Arthur and beloved sister Ethel.

But she is not alone in her grief. 

Those she comes into contact with in London are no less afflicted by the loss of loved ones than she is. And through her compassion and selflessness, Bessie bestows on others the priceless gift of irrepressible hope.

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I grew up in Stroud in Gloucestershire but was always keen to travel and embrace new experiences. For many years I lived and worked abroad – in Brussels, Rome, Abidjan and Washington DC – working mostly with international organisations in various roles ranging from editing to budget preparation.

When I finally decided it was time for me to return to the UK, I chose Penzance in Cornwall as my home and was able to devote most of my free time to writing. This had long been my ambition. Long daily walks along the South West Coastal Path give me both a sense of wellbeing and an opportunity to think about ideas for my next novel.

I self-published three novels between 2016 and 2020. These were, however, basically fictionalised autobiographies and would not have attracted an audience beyond family and close friends. After the Rain is the first purely fictional novel I have written. It was inspired by the contents of my great-great aunt’s postcard album, which somehow ended up my possession. Many of the postcards are from her nephew and they captured my imagination, giving me a glimpse into life in the early 1900s.

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My thoughts: this is a gentle novel set in the 1900s about a woman who, after a long career in service, takes a new role as a lady’s companion in London and finds her whole life starts to change.

Bessie Hardwicke is a kind, friendly soul, her one great love, Arthur, a thatcher, died and so she never married. She has a few close friends and is particularly fond of her nephew Walter, who sends her postcards and letters from his travels as a stonemason, specialising in repairing in old buildings, like churches.

Inspired by the author’s own great-great-aunt’s postcard collection from her nephew, Bessie’s life blossoms when she becomes involved with two young orphans and is befriended by the local pharmacist. While her employer is somewhat mercurial, these new relationships, and that of her close friend Patty and her family, bring a new lease of life and happiness to Bessie’s quiet world.

While I wouldn’t call it action packed, this is a sweet story about life in 1900s London during the early reign of George V, ordinary people, and the fact that life is never so short as to be without happiness and surprises at any age.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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