07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bringing the Past to Life

Born to Yorkshire parents, Anne Whitfield loves history and the beauty of England. She is a keen genealogist and one of her greatest loves, apart from her family, is creating exciting fiction characters. Anne lives in Australia with her family. Her website is http://www.annewhitfield.com

Being a descendant from Yorkshire parents, my historical romances are mostly set in the cities of Yorkshire, England. Some of the places in Yorkshire where I have set my books are York, Gargrave, Hebden Bridge and Leeds, in West Yorkshire.   Leeds is only 9 miles from my  parent's hometown of Wakefield. In order to make the settings historically accurate, I have studied the history of Leeds.
There is a belief that tribes roamed the area in Roman times and it became more populated in the Anglo-Saxon period when it was called Loidis.
During the middle ages Leeds started to become a famous wool-making centre. With the substantial River Aire flowing through town and trade links to the sea via the River Humber, Leeds continued to grow and the cloth trade grew with it.  In 1730 Leeds was described as one of the 'largest and most flourishing towns in the country'. Its expansion continued into the Victorian age. 

Progress brought the building of industries such as weaving mills, sugar refineries, brick making and potteries. With the building and opening of the canals which linked Leeds to other major towns such as Liverpool, another sea port, the town grew rapidly. By 1841 the population of Leeds was eighty-eight thousand.
My latest historical release, The House of Women, is set in Leeds during the Victorian Era. Please enjoy the blurb and excerpt that follow. I've included a Traditional Yorkshire Pudding recipe. Growing up, we had Yorkshire Pudding every Sunday as part of a full roast lamb dinner. :)

BLURB for The House of Women
Leeds,1870. Lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own.
The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her. Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster’s future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father’s infidelity, one sister’s alcoholism, and another’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match.

Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life.  All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?

The House of Women is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all good bookstores.


Traditional Yorkshire Pudding Recipe
(we had Yorkshire puddings every Sunday when I was growing up to accompany a full roast lamb dinner)
Equipment and preparation: You will need a solid roasting tin measuring 28x23cm/11x9in.
Preparation method
1.     Pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
2.     Begin by placing a sieve over a large mixing bowl, then sift the flour in, holding the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing as it goes down into the bowl. Now, with the back of a tablespoon, make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Add the salt and pepper.
3.     Now measure the milk and water into a measuring jug. Then begin to whisk the eggs wth an electric whisk and as you beat them the flour around the edges will be slowly incorporated. When the mixture becomes stiff simply add the milk and water mixture gradually, keeping the whisk going. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula so that any lumps can be pushed down into the batter, then whisk again till all is smooth. Now the batter is ready for use and although it's been rumoured that batter left to stand is better, I have found no foundation for this - so just make it whenever is convenient.
4.     To cook the Yorkshire pudding, remove the meat from the oven (or if it's not ready place it on a lower shelf) and turn the oven up to the above temperature. Spoon two tablespoons of beef fat into the roasting tin and allow it to pre-heat in the oven. When the oven is up to temperature remove the tin, using an oven glove, and place it over direct heat (turned to medium). Then, when the fat begins to shimmer and smoke a little, pour in the batter. Tip it evenly all round and then place the tin on a high shelf in the oven and cook the Yorkshire pudding for 40 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serve it cut into squares presto pronto.

The House of Women Excerpt

Grace brought her hands together under her chin in deep thought. “He had no money until his marriage.” Her eyes widened as she realized his meaning. “He used his wife’s money?”
‘It is his money now, Miss Woodruff.” Swindale’s gaze darted away. “I reveal too much. Mr Ross will be angry.”
An overwhelming sense of humiliation filled her. “We’ve been living on Felicity’s money …” Grace felt the bile rise to her throat.
“Miss Woodruff, it’s Mr Ross’s money and he used it to keep your family from going under. He is a gentleman, and takes care of his own. You must not censure him on this. He was thinking of you all and did the only thing he could do. His married state meant he could do much good to his own affairs and those of his family. It’s quite a natural thing to do.”
“Are you telling me that without his input of money after his marriage, we would have lost what businesses remained to us?”
“Yes, and more likely the estate as well.”
 His words were like a physical blow to her stomach. She reeled, staggering back towards the nearest chair and sunk onto it breathing heavily. Her mind was numb; refusing to comprehend the debt they owed him, owed Felicity. Tears stung behind her closed lids, but she denied them release.
Some minutes passed by in strained silence until Grace gave herself a mental shake, pushing all thoughts of William and Felicity to the back of her mind. She would deal with that later. Now, her family’s future must, for once, be firmly decided. For too long she had let the present state of affairs linger. Well, no more! It was she who had cared for them all for years, not her father, not her mother and definitely not William! She would rather burn this house to the ground than live on Felicity’s money. ‘If we were to live more frugally, maybe close up most of the house and cut all staff, except perhaps one or two would that work?”
‘It would help, certainly,” Swindale agreed with haste. “I have written to Mr Ross about the sale of more of the estate’s land. The south quarter around to the western boundaries cover many acres. It’s favourable farming land and should bring a good price.”
 “How can we keep the house, if not the estate?” Grace was clutching at straws, she knew, but if they could redeem something, however small, it was better than nothing.
“I have thought of that. If Mr Ross agrees, then all the surrounding parcels of arable and woodland can be sold, leaving the house, outer buildings and say twenty acres. Enough land to grow crops for the few beasts you’ll retain. If we can achieve a good price then you might be able to maintain a cook, housemaid, one gardener, and carriage driver.”
“An enormous change for us all,” Grace said, her voice barely audible above the crackle of the shifting logs in the fireplace. Her thoughts were racing ahead. Such a transformation in their lives was not going to be easy, but it could be done. She would make sure of it. “By doing this will the house then be unencumbered?”
“Yes. Hopefully. What profits are made will be enough to sustain the family and house. Unless there is a fall in the market.”
“Good. Then it will be done.”
‘It will?” Swindale looked at her strangely as if doubting her word.
Grace’s gaze was steady and cool. She knew what he thought. “There will be no more tantrums and tears, Mr Swindale. I shall begin the changes immediately.”


Judith Ashley said...


Did you grow up in Leeds and then move to Australia? I would think doing the research for your books would add some insight on the lives of your ancestors thereby enriching your own sense of your family's history.

The recipe for Yorkshire pudding, which I see mentioned in many of the historical romance novels I read, looks daunting. But then, I'm not one to do much in the kitchen. lol

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about Leeds and letting us see a little of your life. (We always had hamburgers on Saturday night and a roast lamb dinner was a Special Event reserved for a couple of Sunday's in the Spring).

Anne Whitfield - author said...

Hi Judith.
No, I was born in Australia but my parents and siblings are from Wakefield, near Leeds in Yorkshire.

Do try to make the Yorkshire pudding.

Barbara Elsborg said...

I feel like a cheat with my Yorkshire Puddings now. My recipe is just like batter mix!!! Mind you, they never look right when they're cooked! I also like them with treacle!
I actually live nine miles from Leeds but to the north-west not near Wakefield in the south. The odd thing is I tend to set my novels in the south of England. I think I only did two in this neck of the woods.

Sarah Raplee said...

Anne, thank you so much for Guest Blogging here at RTG! Your blurb is intriguing and the excerpt enthralled me! I'm adding The House of Women to my To Be Read Shelf at GoodReads. :)

Judith Ashley said...

I was amazed at where Leeds is on the map of England you included. When my granddaughters and I were in the UK in 2009 we toured Leeds Castle which isn't anywhere near Leeds the city.

Our trip from London to Edinburgh was by train so we watched the English countryside slide by. I'll have to look at the itinerary and see how close we passed by Leeds the city.