Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner by Vicky Adin. Today, I have an excerpt for you to read and a chance to win a print copy of the book, so be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom!
Gwenna the Welsh Confectioner
Publication Date: 24 July 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
Against overwhelming odds, can she save her legacy?
Amid the bustling vibrancy of Auckland’s Karangahape Road Gwenna Price is troubled. For all her youth, she is now the master confectioner in the family business since her father died. She promised to fulfil her Pa’s dreams and open a shop, but with her domineering and incompetent stepbrother Elias in charge, the operation is on the brink of collapse.
In an era when women were expected to stay at home, Gwenna is a plucky young woman with uncommon ambition. She is determined to save her legacy. Despite the obstacles put in her way, and throughout the twists and turns of love and tragedy, Gwenna is irrepressible. She refuses to relinquish her dreams and lets nothing stand in her way. Blind to anything that distracts her, Gwenna risks losing the one person that matters most.
Inspired by a true story, Gwenna is a fascinating insight into life in Auckland at the turn of the 20th century.
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“An absorbing read. This fast-paced novel once again demonstrates the author’s trademark flair for telling great historical stories.”
“Adin is a master of her craft. Gwenna, the confectioner; charming, irrepressible and utterly unforgettable. A must read for those who love historical fiction.”
Awarded a BGS Gold Quality Mark – “This is a wonderfully well written, constructed, and edited book. The story moves along at a good pace and the reader is pulled into the world and time in the first chapter.”
Auckland New Zealand
With a start, she leapt out of bed and, grabbing her dressing gown, hurried towards the hallway. Before she’d taken three paces her head started spinning and nausea rose from her stomach. She slumped to the floor by the door jamb, trying to take deep breaths and gather her senses.
“Johnno,” she called, then again louder, but received no response. She willed herself to be still and quiet her breathing, straining to hear any movement. Anything, but no sounds reached her ears. Her heart was beating so hard she could feel it pounding and echoing in her ears. She pulled herself to her feet and, holding onto the wall, made her way down the dark, wood-panelled hallway leading to the kitchen at the back.
The early morning sun seeped in through the grimy window; an errant thought she’d have to clean it drifted through her mind as her eyes searched for evidence she wasn’t alone. Any sign. Anything to quell the mounting terror, but she found nothing. No signs. No note. No fire in the range. She’d never been this alone before.
Shaking, and with the queasiness mounting, she opened the back door, ran down the steps and across the grass to the outhouse before she realised she was barefoot. The stench emptied her stomach in seconds.
Wiping her mouth on her sleeve, she tiptoed back across the grass, her feet now sensitive to every stone and foreign object in her path, and into the dimness of the house. Her teeth started to chatter, despite the warmth of the morning, as she stood by the door surveying the room. Clamping her jaw tight, she folded her arms across her body trying to calm her nerves while her mind listed what she should do next.
The square wooden table was as she’d left it last night, so the men hadn’t had any breakfast. The hamper she’d packed for them had gone, so they’d not go hungry. Although why she should worry about whether they’d eaten or not when there were more immediate things to worry about, she couldn’t explain.
Light the fire. At least then she could have a cup of tea. That might help calm her. As soon as she moved the dizziness came on her again; she reached for a chair and sat down, scared she would faint. And then what? How long would she lie there before someone found her? The quivering and shaking started again.
Sunlight shining into the room highlighted its dinginess. The sagging scrim-lined walls, yellowed with age and darkened with soot from the fire, closed in on her. Despite her meagre efforts, ingrained dirt still lay on every surface. Doorknobs wouldn’t turn, window catches wouldn’t shut, and the cracked and broken floorboards let the vermin in. She loathed the place, but she felt so weak and shaky at the moment she doubted she had the strength to do anything about it.
How she would tackle the outhouse on her own she had no idea, and the thought of carrying the water from the rainwater tank up the steps at the back seemed impossible. Johnno had done that for her. Tears fell as she contemplated her lot. They would have to get out of here before winter – before the baby was born. She couldn’t, just couldn’t live here any longer. Giving way to her unbearable gloom, she laid her head on her arms and sobbed.
She must have dozed off because when she next stirred pins and needles prickled her arm and her back ached. She stretched, easing her strained muscles, and this time she did light the fire. Johnno had left a pile of kindling, a basket of logs and a scuttle of coal for her.
Sipping on a cup of tea, she weighed up her options, her mind spinning with questions to which she had few answers.
Should she stay here, not knowing how long Johnno would be away? Could she introduce herself to the neighbour so she’d have someone to talk to? But her strength had deserted her in the last few days. She’d never felt so weak. She didn’t know if she could walk the good half-mile to the nearest house.
And where were the shops? Johnno had collected what she’d needed when he’d taken the wagon out last time. Could she walk to the village to get fresh food?
Should she go to Bethan? She was sure her stepmother would be more than pleased to take her in, but Gwenna couldn’t risk upsetting the precarious balance that existed between Bethan and Elias right now.
Should she go to Tillie? Her sister had enough to do, with her expanding girth and seeing to Charlie as well as caring for Tom who had his job. She was sure Tillie would welcome her in, but she couldn’t put her in such a difficult position.
So, she was back to staying here – alone.
Every fibre in her body screamed, ‘No!’
But stay she did.
Her father’s words kept echoing in her head. “Gwenna, bach. We can do anything we put our mind to.”
It was the argument he’d used when they’d moved to the Valleys to live with the Hughes family in the first place. He used the same argument after Owen was killed and he married Bethan and rose to be head of the household. He’d said the same thing over and over to push his argument about coming to New Zealand. Pa had had such hope.
At first, thoughts of her father deflated Gwenna’s spirits further. If he hadn’t died, life would be so different, but then her mood lightened. Pa said she could do anything. She just had to get on with it.
From somewhere in the centre of her being, she would find the strength. She had to. She placed her hands over her stomach. “I don’t know who you will be yet, but you are Pa’s grandchild and that means something. You are the future. For your sake, I will fulfill Pa’s dreams. I will.”
About the Author
Multi-award winning historical fiction author, Vicky Adin is a genealogist in love with history and words.
After decades of research Vicky has combined her skills to weave family stories and history together in a way that brings the past to life.
Fascinated by the 19th Century women who undertook hazardous journeys to find a better life, Vicky draws her characters from real life stories: characters such as Brigid, the Irish lacemaker and Gwenna, the Welsh confectioner, or Megan who discovers much about herself when she traces her family tree in The Cornish Knot.
Vicky Adin holds a MA(Hons) in English and Education. She is an avid reader of historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories and enjoys travelling. Her writing has been compared to that Catherine Cookson.
For your chance to win a print copy of Gwenna the Welsh Confectioner, click on the link below! (Open Internationally)
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