I’m delighted to be taking part in the tour for A Thimbleful of Hope hosting author Evie Grace with a post about Dover, the setting for her story and sharing Alice-Jane’s thoughts.
Dover, 1864: Violet Rayfield leads a happy life with her family in a beautiful terrace on Camden Crescent.
But Violet’s seemingly perfect world is shattered when her father makes a decision that costs her family everything. Now Violet must sacrifice all she holds dear, including the man she loves.
As Violet strives to pick up the threads of her existence, a series of shocking revelations leaves her feeling even more alone.
But where one door closes, another opens, and the embroidery skills Violet perfected while a young woman of leisure win her vital work.
If she can find the strength to stitch the remnants of her family back together, there might just be a little hope after all…
A Thimbleful of Hope is published by Arrow (10th January 2019) and is available to purchase in digital and paperback formats.
Victorian Dover, the setting for A Thimbleful of Hope
Dover was one of my grandfather’s favourite places, and whenever I went to stay with him, he would take me to the top of the iconic White Cliffs to look down on the cross-channel ferries sallying back and forth. Sometimes, we would go and walk around the castle and the Western Heights, the history of which I didn’t fully appreciate until I started researching Dover’s heritage for A Thimbleful of Hope.
Miss Violet Rayfield’s story is set in the 1860s, and I found researching the geography of the town at this time quite challenging, because many of the buildings no longer exist, due to redevelopment of the harbour, slum clearance in the early 1900s, and bombing in World War II. In the end, I decided that the Rayfields would live in a grand house with a sea view, settling for a four-storey terrace in Camden Crescent, which was built on the site of former herring hangs and a ropewalk.
I can picture the three sisters strolling along the promenade – with a chaperone, of course – twirling their parasols in the sunshine as they pass the street-sellers who are selling seafood, strawberries and lemonade. At night, the streets would have been illuminated by gaslight and the sisters would stay indoors, mindful that there would be unsavoury characters about: drunken sailors, ladies of ill-repute, and thieves.
The Cinque port of Dover grew quickly in the nineteenth century with the arrival of the railways and the expansion of the maritime industries, particularly shipbuilding. In the 1860s, the mail was carried by steam packet between Dover and Calais. Any ships needing repairs would dock opposite the Packet Yard where many men worked as engineers, clerks and blacksmiths. In A Thimbleful of Hope, William Noble – the son of a sea-faring captain and an acquaintance of the Rayfields – is an apprentice engineer at the yard. It must have been an incredibly noisy place, what with the sound of men shouting and hammering metal into shape, the roar of furnaces, and the hissing and throbbing of the steam engines.
The great and good of Dover started to develop the town as a seaside resort. They built hotels, such as the Clarence, and the Lord Warden Hotel (now known as Lord Warden House) which faces the Admiralty Pier, to encourage cross-channel visitors to stop and spend their money there rather than using it as a stepping stone for trips to and from the continent. There were annual events such as the Dover Regatta, which brought in the crowds, but the town lost out to places like Margate which became renowned for sea bathing.
For entertainment, I was delighted to find out that Violet would have been able to visit Dover museum in Market Square. The residents of the town could attend lectures and look at collections of butterflies and rather macabre stuffed kittens, while trying to ignore the unpleasant smells emanating from the market below. It was also possible to join Dover Rowing Club for both leisure and racing.
I hope you enjoy Violet’s story and get a taste of what Victorian Dover was like.
I thoroughly enjoyed this engrossing story!
Evie Grace manages to entrap the reader into Victorian society with all its beauties and sorrows, meaning that when turning the last page, one is left wanting to know more!
The heroine Violet, though raised in polite and wealthy society and has a rigid understanding of what is considered fitting of a girl of her standing, begins to question this with her life experiences.
Evie Grace allows the reader to see the extremes of poverty and wealth and social prejudices so popular of the Victorian era, through the lives of all in the story. Violet and her sisters’ experiences of bending to a man’s will can be seen as the doom of all female characters in the book. Though it isn’t necessarily wealth, or lack thereof that frees Violet into making her own choices, it is her hard determination to make a way forward that finally allows for her life to flourish!
A definite must read!
Evie Grace was born in Kent, and one of her earliest memories is of picking cherries with her grandfather who managed a fruit farm near Selling. Holidays spent in the Kent countryside and the stories passed down through her family inspired her to write her Maids of Kent trilogy. Evie now lives in Devon with her partner and dog. She has a grown-up daughter and son. She loves researching the history of the nineteenth century and is very grateful for the invention of the washing machine, having discovered how the Victorians struggled to do their laundry.
Connect with Evie Grace
Don’t forget to check out the other hosts on tour.
Read all posts in the historical fiction genre on Jera’s Jamboree.