Exciting news… the best-selling historical and romantic fiction author, Katie Flynn, brings us a brand new trilogy starting with the first book in the series, The Rose Queen (Cornerstone, PB, £7.99) out on March 17.
In this brilliant new series set in 1938, we meet Cadi, who is chosen as the Rose Queen in the annual Rose Fete. She’s thrilled at the honour but deep down she’s desperate to stretch her wings and explore beyond the confines of the Welsh mining community where she has grown up.
It’s not long before new adventures beckon for Cadi and her friend Poppy when war is declared and they see a chance to escape. Leaving behind her family and local boy Aled, Cadi sets off for Liverpool with Poppy.
However, city life isn’t quite what they’d hoped for – too young to join the forces, the girls find themselves alone in a big city in need of work and money.
Soon they find jobs in a local pub, and it’s not long before Cadi finds herself falling for a handsome dock worker after he comes to her rescue.
However when Aled from her hometown unexpectedly appears in uniform, Cadi discovers he’s joined the RAF and it’s not long before her heart is being pulled in two directions. Who will become the Rose Queen’s King?
Here’s your chance to read the prologue of The Rose Queen… so make yourself a cuppa, sit back and enjoy!
Prologue – The Rose Queen by Katie Flynn. Cornerstone. PB. £7.99
Cadi sat in front of her bedroom window admiring the lace roses her mother had painstakingly sewn onto her white cotton dress. The Williamses were a coal-mining family, so by no means had they the money to splash out on a new dress or even material, but Cadi’s mother Jill, who was an excellent seamstress, had used her skills to make a dress out of sheets that she had bought from a jumble sale. Determined to make sure her daughter’s dress was perfect, she had stayed up late every night sewing each delicate stitch by candlelight and hiding any imperfections with the lace roses she had made from old doilies.
The day of the fete had arrived and Jill had pinned her daughter’s fair hair into place, so that the crown of roses would sit perfectly when Lady Houghton inaugurated her later that day.
‘This is your day, my darling child, and you are going to be the best Rose Queen the people of Rhos have ever seen,’ cooed Jill as she stood back to admire her daughter.
As Cadi was the youngest of the four siblings and the only girl, this date had been marked on the Williamses’ calendar for many months, and expectations were high. Especially with her father, Dewi, who couldn’t wait to see his daughter take pride of place in the parade.
Alun, the youngest of her three brothers, suddenly appeared from around the side of the curtain that separated Cadi’s part of the bedroom from her brothers’. He blew a low whistle. ‘Blimey! Who’d’ve thought such a skinny little wretch could scrub up so well?’ He winked at his mother. ‘You must have a magic wand hidden somewhere.’ He chuckled, before being instructed to ‘get out’ by both Cadi and her mother.
‘He’s only teasing, Cadi,’ said Jill as she held up a mirror for Cadi to inspect her appearance. ‘You know what boys are like.’
Twisting her head from side to side in order to see her hair from all angles, Cadi smiled at her reflection. ‘I certainly do, and I hope you see what I mean about needing a room of my own. Alun didn’t even call out, Mam – I could’ve been in my vest and knickers, or even starkers, for all he knew!’
‘I don’t know what you want us to do, darling, because we can’t afford to rent a bigger house.’ She looked around the musty-smelling room. ‘We can barely afford this one.’
‘I don’t mean to moan, and I know you and Dad work all the hours you can – the boys too – I just wish…’
‘I know, sweetheart, but it won’t be for ever,’ assured her mother. ‘You’ll be moved out and married with kiddies of your own one of these days.’
‘I’m only fifteen, Mam! I’ve years ahead of me yet, and I’m not even certain I want kids.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘Knowing my luck, they’d all be boys.’
A man’s voice yelled out to them from the bottom of the stairs; it was her father. ‘Are you two going to stay up there all day?’
Jill called back, ‘Coming.’ She smiled at her daughter, who stood in front of the window, a shaft of sunlight emphasising her silhouette. ‘You wait till your father sees you – he’ll be that proud.’
She opened the door and they descended the stairs to where Dewi and Cadi’s brothers stood waiting. Cadi blushed as her father nodded approvingly. ‘By God, we’ll have to fight them off with sticks.’
Pleased to see that the rain had eased off and the sun was breaking through the clouds, Cadi started as a familiar voice called out from behind, ‘Let’s have a look at you then…’
Beaming, Cadi turned to greet her best friend and neighbour, Poppy Harding. Holding the sides of her skirt, she pulled them out so that Poppy could marvel at the detail of her dress.
‘You look beautiful,’ breathed Poppy. Stepping forward, she linked her arm through Cadi’s. ‘We’d best get a move on, there’s a lot of folk waiting for their queen to open the fete.’
The Rose Queen Fete was a special day in the Rhos calendar, and everyone who could do so attended. It was a chance for people to let their hair down and forget about work. The girls would wear their finest dresses, and the boys would be on the lookout for a future wife. Deals would be done, new friendships made and old ones strengthened. Cadi would be seen by people from miles around, something that was very unusual when you lived in such a rural area.
Being a mining village, Rhos was normally a rather drab and dowdy place, but today the houses were adorned with bunting, and baskets of flowers hung outside the village hall and local pub.
‘They should do things like this more often,’ mused Cadi as they passed her old school, which had also been festooned with decorations. ‘It really brightens the place up.’
‘Stuff like this costs money, and Rhos isn’t wealthy, like Wrexham or Chester.’
‘Or Liverpool…’ added Cadi.
‘Be fair! Liverpool’s a big, important city with a huge port; even Wrexham and Chester can’t compete with the likes of a city with that kind of status.’
‘I know, I’m just saying it would be nice,’ said Cadi. She glanced towards Rhos mountain, which loomed in the distance. In some respects she was lucky to live deep in the heart of the countryside, but to Cadi the mines ruined everything. You couldn’t escape the coal dust, which seemed to invade every part of daily life, whether you worked down the mine or not; as for the slag heaps, they were a horrible blot that marred the landscape. She said as much to Poppy.
‘It’s like they say – coal’s a dirty old business, which is why I’m amazed your mam’s managed to keep that dress so pristine. It’s whiter than a cloud. As for the detail,’ she gently ran her finger over one of the many roses that adorned the dress, ‘your mam’s a genius when it comes to her sewing. I reckon she’s good enough to work in one of them high-end shops you was on about, last time you came back from Liverpool.’
Cadi nodded knowledgeably. ‘Me too – certainly too good to be working for peanuts, but people in Rhos can’t afford to pay good money, so Mam ends up burning both ends of the candle to make ends meet.’
‘You’re very lucky to have someone so talented in your family,’ enthused Poppy. ‘No one would ever guess your dress had once been used as a sheet. And coal dust aside, how she managed to keep it free from mould, in a house what’s riddled with damp, is more than I’ll ever know. Hats off to your mam is all I can say.’
‘Mam’s been wonderful,’ agreed Cadi. ‘She made a sort of bag with the leftover bits of sheet. Every time she’d finished doing her alterations, she’d pop it in that and tuck it away in the back of her wardrobe.’ She gingerly patted her normally unruly bob. ‘As for my hair, I’ve Mam to thank for that too. She’s worked so hard, Poppy. I’d never have managed it without her.’
‘Mind you, she’s had a good muse in you,’ said Poppy. ‘When I was Rose Queen my poor old mam had the devil’s own job making me look half decent.’
A picture of Poppy as Rose Queen entered Cadi’s mind. As she was considerably stouter than Cadi, the dress had not been kind.
Cadi shot her friend a reproving glance. ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself; what with those big blue eyes of yours, and your sleek black hair, you were simply stunning when you were the Rose Queen – everyone said so.’
Poppy squeezed Cadi’s arm. ‘And that’s why you’re my best pal, Cadi Williams, cos you always know the right thing to say.’
As they approached the back of the stage, Cadi placed her hand to her tummy, which was fluttering with anticipation. She nodded to a man with a clip-board who had beckoned for her to step forward. She smiled nervously at Poppy. ‘Wish me luck.’
Poppy kissed her on the cheek. ‘Good luck.’
The crowd of people who had been chattering amongst themselves fell silent as Lady Houghton delicately placed the crown of roses onto Cadi’s head, whilst announcing her to be the new Rose Queen. Cadi blushed to the tips of her ears as the crowd erupted into spontaneous applause, and just when she thought she couldn’t feel any more embarrassed, a couple of boys in the throng wolf-whistled their approval, causing her colour to deepen.
As the crowd quietened down, Lady Houghton declared the fete open, and people began to drift off to the various stalls.
‘So,’ said Poppy as she stepped onto the stage beside her friend, ‘how does it feel to be the Rose Queen?’
Cadi sighed happily. ‘Wonderful. Deep down, I was dreading all the attention, but it’s really quite pleasant.’
Poppy laughed. ‘Especially when the fellers show their approval, eh?’
Lowering her gaze, Cadi tried to swallow her smile. ‘Not necessarily. Besides, it’s uncouth.’
‘Uncouth my eye!’ grinned Poppy. ‘I saw your face when them lads whistled.’
‘I suppose it’s better than the alternative,’ said Cadi. Poppy gently smoothed one of the lace roses on Cadi’s dress. ‘Your mam’s so talented – this is much better than a new dress. I don’t know why you ever thought people would poke fun.’
Cadi touched a couple of stray curls, which had escaped their pins and were now hanging just above her jawline. ‘Because my dress is made out of sheets, and Cindy Holland’s dress was made out of taffeta. Not only that, but you know what my hair can be like: half the time I look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. No matter how hard I try to make my curls behave, they have a life of their own. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t wake up with a face full of pimples.’
Poppy gave her friend a wry smile. ‘Cindy Holland fell lucky with her dress cos her sister works in the city. As for you breaking out in spots, I’ve never seen so much as a blemish on them fair cheeks of yours, never mind a pimple.’
‘Like I say, it’d be just my luck. Besides, we all know that if summat’s going to go wrong, it’ll be me that gets it in the neck.’
Poppy furrowed her brow in confusion, until the penny dropped. ‘You’re not still harping on about that business with Aled Davies, are you?’
Cadi folded her arms across her chest. ‘Yes, I jolly well am! That boy tried to run me over in his honking great tractor, and it’s not the first time he’s tried to hurt me, neither. Remember when he pulled the chair away as I was about to sit down?’ She rubbed her coccyx as she recalled the incident.
Poppy hid her smile behind the palm of her hand. Aled Davies was the son of the local farmer, and he was considered by most to be quite the catch. Cadi, however, had him down as a big-head who believed himself better than everyone else, something that she now affirmed.
‘I’m glad he’s not bothered coming today because he’d probably do something to ruin it for me.’ She fell into quiet contemplation before adding, ‘Like he always does.’
Poppy gave a shrewd smile. ‘I really believe he didn’t know you were about to sit down when he took that chair away; he wasn’t even looking in your direction – just like when he drove past with the tractor.’
‘Balderdash!’ snapped Cadi irritably. ‘That boy knows exactly what he’s doing. He simply feigns ignorance so that he can pretend it was an accident.’
Believing in fairness, Poppy cut Cadi short. ‘I was there both times, and the first time, Aled was talking to one of his teachers—’
Cadi cut across her. ‘Swot!’
Sighing, Poppy continued, ‘With his hand resting on the back of the chair, he had no idea you were about to sit down because he wasn’t looking at you, and it was the same when he drove past with the tractor – he was busy looking where he was going and it’s just a shame he didn’t see the puddle…’
‘Puddle?’ cried Cadi. ‘I’d hardly call manure that’s fallen off the back of the muck-spreader a puddle.’
Poppy grimaced. ‘At least he stopped to apologise.’ Cadi folded her arms across her chest. ‘I never heard Aled apologising, and neither did you. You couldn’t have, because he was laughing too hard.’
Poppy turned away as she tried desperately to straighten her face. Poor Cadi had been engulfed in the manure, and unfortunately the overall effect had left her looking rather comical. ‘You must admit it was a little bit funny, and you did get the day off school.’
‘That’s as may be, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Aled’s a mean, spoilt, spotty little oik.’
Tutting, Poppy wagged a reproving finger. ‘Spotty little oik? That’s not like you, Cadi. Besides, he must be getting on for six foot, so I’d hardly describe him as little.’
‘He brings out the worst in me,’ pouted Cadi. ‘It’s the way he struts around like he’s the cock of the walk.’
Laughing, Poppy shook her head. ‘Honestly, Cadi, how your father ever hopes to marry you off to that boy, I’ll never know.’
A Perfect Gift For Mother’s Day
This historical romance, the first in a brand new trilogy by Katie Flynn, would make a lovely gift for your mum on Mother’s Day. Available in paperback for £7.99, the book is on sale from March 17.
Introducing this springtime romance from Katie Flynn…
About The Author
Katie Flynn is the author of 47 bestselling novels which have sold over 5 million copies. Her first book, A Liverpool Lass, was published in 1993. Katie Flynn was the pseudonym of the author Judy Turner, who was inspired to write the novels after hearing family recollections of life in Liverpool during the early twentieth century. Judy sadly passed away in January 2019 at the age of 82. Her daughter Holly worked as her assistant for many years and together they co-authored a number of Katie Flynn novels, including Christmas at Tuppenny Corner. The Katie Flynn legacy now lives on through Holly who writes new books, often based on ideas she discussed with her mother.
Holly lives in the north east of Wales with her husband Simon and their two children. When she’s not writing she enjoys walking her two lurchers, Sparky and Snoopy, in the surrounding countryside, and cooking forbidden foods such as pies, cakes, and puddings! She looks forward to sharing many more Katie Flynn stories with readers in the years to come.