22 February 2016
A spellbinding timeslip story of two young women, each with a secret. A ring unites them, a century divides them. An international bestseller, set in a seaside town in Devon in Victorian times and the present day.
After a whirlwind romance, Laura Marchmont marries the charming Charles Haywood. Leaving her old life behind, she struggles to fit into Charles’s world, and to be accepted by his young daughters from his first marriage. Laura also hides a terrible secret from her new husband, which casts a shadow over her life. Then, she discovers the story of a young girl who lived more than a century before. Laura is compelled to uncover the fate of Mary Rose.
1886. When Mary Rose Marchmont’s widowed father remarries it signals the end of her childhood. A series of tragic events leads Mary Rose to be accused of a shocking crime, after which her life will never be the same again.
A moving family story of history, romance and secrets.
Grace Macdonald is a pen name of the hugely popular romantic fiction author Sophie King.
HOW I DID MY HISTORICAL RESEARCH FOR ‘THE RUBY RING’
When I first started writing, I didn’t see myself as an historical writer, partly because I was daunted by the prospect of research. How could I make sure I got something right? My background is in journalism and, contrary to what you might read, most journalists try very hard to be accurate. But how could I know exactly went on in the past? After all, I hadn’t been there. I was also aware that some of my readers might well be experts in a particular period. If I got it wrong, I knew they wouldn’t be happy. And quite right too.
Then I went to a talk by a successful historical writer who pointed out that emotions don’t change over the years. We feel fear and happiness; worry and love; rejection and uncertainty, just as the generations before us did. We might be concerned about different things (smallpox has been replaced by more modern illnesses) but the deep-down feelings are still the same. So I could simply transfer the emotions of a modern-day heroine (or myself) into my characters.
But that still didn’t solve the problem of knowing how the world worked at the time of my novels. What was going on? How did people speak? How did they dress? The answer, I decided, was to pick a period of time where you could find out these facts fairly easily. I’ve always been fascinated by the late Victorian period, partly because I did it during my History A-level. I also had a great aunt who was born at the turn of the century who told some extraordinary stories to me when I was young. Luckily I remembered them.
I set about reading as much as I could about the 1860s onwards. Politics. Fashion. Religion. Laws relating to women’s control over property and children. And so on. At the same time, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. Journalists are used to writing about things that have really happened. So I wanted to base my novel on a real-life event. My second husband and I moved to the south west a few years ago and one of our local beauty spots is a lovely garden open to the public. It used to belong to a house that has since been demolished. In the gardens is a plaque describing how the owner of the house had had a daughter. She was accused of murdering her half-brother and was sent to prison for many years. On her release, she went to Australia.
The story fired my imagination. What if she was innocent? Supposing a mistake had been made? The real-life event had actually happened early in the nineteenth century but I shifted it to the 1860s through to the 1900s. Part of my plot involved Victorian prisons where my heroine was sentenced. So I rang up the local council and, after several more calls, found myself in the local archives centre. There I was actually allowed to look through huge albums - so big that I was given a pillow to prop them up on the desk. Inside was picture after picture of Victorian female inmates who were, apparently, always photographed when they came into prison.
It made for tragic reading. Some were sentenced for no more than stealing a loaf of bread. Their pictures pleaded with me. Tell my story. Mix it with the truth. Make people understand what we went through. One little girl in particular stared out at me. She had a half-smile. Was it defiance? Or nerves? The latter, I felt. But the danger was that it might have been read as being ‘difficult.’
It was then I knew I’d found my heroine.
You can read all about her in THE RUBY RING. I hope you like her.
Meanwhile, I’m back off to the library to research the next historical ...
Huge thanks to Grace Macdonald for this insightful guest post and to Corazon books for my review copy of The Ruby Ring.