today, I’m delighted to welcome Lelita Baldock and her new book, Where the Gulls Fall Silent to the blog #blogtour #historicalfiction

Today, I’m really excited to share an excerpt from Lelita Baldock’s new book, Where the Gulls Fall Silent. I hope you enjoy.

Mackerel Pasties

Porth Gwynn, Cornish Coast 1852

The high noon sun beat down on the port, a gentle breeze swirled about the rippling currents of the bay, and the children ran.

The white sand of low tide puffed beneath their feet, their squeals of laughter pealing out across the water. Two mothers, skirts hitched to their thighs, arms wet with the sea they’d walked out to meet, looked up from their nets, sun-browned hands shielding their eyes to watch the children pass, then, heads shaking, bent back to their task. The men did not look up from the slimy silver flash of pilchard bodies that squirmed within their catch.

Back on the shore the children closed in. The leader, Rewan Lobb, a boy of about ten summers, dark of hair and eye, whirled a kerchief above his head in defiance and grinned, before leaning to his task and putting on speed. He loved to tease the little ones. Near the back of the pack Kerensa Williams, small and fair, loped, her uneven gait hindering her pace, but not her determination. Gerens, a smaller, lighter version of the boy with the kerchief, kept pace beside her, uninterested in defeating his older brother and claiming the kerchief, just happy to be part of the group. Suddenly, Derwa lunged, hand brushing along Rewan’s untucked shirt, almost catching him. Rewan spun, running backwards for a few steps, taunting. Then, without warning, he spun round, feinted left then darted right up the naturally rocky outcrop that lined the bay. Long legs cleared the rocks quickly, landing on the pebbled streets of Porth Gwynn. On the top he paused, jogging on the spot, watching his pursuers as their shorter legs navigated the rocky climb. Derwa cleared the gap first, Rewan let out a laugh of delight and shot ahead towards the cluster of stone cottages that hugged the bay’s edge. Just coming to the rocks Kerensa looked up, a heavy frown on her face. She watched Rewan gliding fast along the foreshore, his eyes checking over his shoulder periodically, focused only on those upon his heels. The rocks would slow her, the pebbles too. Sand was more forgiving to her uneven gait. 

Kerensa decided. 

She shot left, running as fast as her mismatched legs allowed, skirting the line of the rock barrier. Confused, Gerens paused, one foot already placed to climb. He watched. The shoreline before him curved in. He saw Rewan moving along the curve, saw Kerensa matching his direction, but from the inside of the curve. He understood. Slowly Kerensa came up closer to Rewan, then in line, then, amazingly started to slowly pull in front. Rewan did not look down to the beach, his eyes saw only Derwa, closely followed by Cardor and Treeve. Letting loose a whoop of delight, Gerens set off along the beach, following Kerensa’s path.

Kerensa’s breathing was ragged and her right foot ached abominably, but she would not stop. Ahead of Rewan now, the end of the bay was approaching, changing suddenly from flat sand to rocky cliff face. Rewan would veer inland, circling through the cottages and huts, back towards the centre of town. She had to intercept him before then. It was time to make her move. Taking a deep breath and bracing herself for the pain, Kerensa bolted right, leaping onto the rocks, hands and feet splayed to scramble up the incline. A sharp edge caught her hand, slicing the tender skin of her outer palm. She didn’t notice, didn’t stop, eyes fixed on the top of the climb, on the street, on her goal.

Scrabbling she cleared the rocks, pulling herself up to standing. Rewan’s head was turned, watching the other children, his loping stride bearing down on her fast. Kerensa braced herself, feet planted firmly, hands out ready to snatch the kerchief.

She didn’t see Kenver, running down from the fish sheds, but Gerens did. Eyes wide he tried to call out a warning, but it was too late. 

It all happened at once. Rewan looked forward and saw Kerensa standing in his path, shock loosened his mouth as he tried to slow his forward pace. Seeing his body twitch, anticipating his next move, Kerensa lunged to the side, arms reaching, just as Kenver hit the pebbled streets, the momentum of his downward run affording him no opportunity to change direction and then – bam!

All three children came together at once in a ball of limbs, bones, scrapes and cries of shock. 

The pebbled street came up to meet Kerensa’s cheek bone. She rolled with the impact, the wind knocked from her lungs, coming to a stop on her side, the weight of someone else’s legs sprawled across her waist. The legs moved and Kerensa sat up. Kenver, whose legs had landed on her, stood up, shaking with rage. 

“What the hell Rewan?” he shouted. “Look where you’re bloody going!”

Sat in the dirt of the street Kerensa brushed down the front of her cotton dress, checking for tears, her nimble fingers finding one just above her knee. She inspected it quickly, it would need a patch. Something to do before mother comes home…

Kenver looked over at her, “You all right there Kez?” he asked, offering her his hand to stand. Kerensa ignored him, pulling herself to her feet, wobbling slightly. He looked away, back to Rewan, laying on his side, face away from them. He hadn’t moved. 

The rest of the children arrived, circling around the trio, Gerens coming up the rocks behind Kerensa. Silently he stood by her side, eyes quickly scanning to check she was all right. A small graze on her cheek was slowly welling with blood. He knew better than to say anything, though.

Still Rewan hadn’t moved.

“Rewan?” Kenver called again, voice wary now, his initial fury replaced with a twinge of fear. Slowly the children stepped forward, inching towards their leader. Rewan, the oldest of their group by at least two summers, son of the town’s most successful fisherman, who would inherit the fine boat known as the Silver Sea, whose last summer of childhood was now waning… what if?

Kenver reached down, gripping Rewan’s shoulder, “Rewan, say something,” he pleaded, then rolled his friend’s body onto his back.

Rewan’s face was split wide in a huge grin of amusement, his body shaking with mirth. He was laughing, laughing uncontrollably. And he laughed, and laughed, and laughed and laughed.

Here’s the blurb:

A small fishing village, a shunned healer, her daughter, tradition, superstition and a world set to change.

Kerensa lives with her mother, the healer Meliora, on the edge of a small fishing community on the Cornish Coast.

The townsfolk, who work the fish runs of pilchard and mackerel that make their way up the Atlantic coast, call on her mother for help with their ailments, but never for her company.

Kerensa does not know why.

Curses and superstitions whisper around her as she grows into a competent young woman, fighting for her place amongst the people of Porth Gwynn.

But what has caused the rift between her and the town?

And can their traditional way of life survive in the face of changing winds?

Where the Gulls Fall Silent is an historical fiction that explores the lives of the fishermen and women who made their living from the rough Atlantic Ocean; the hardship they faced; the secrets that divided them; and the community spirit that pulled them through.

A story of love, loss, hope and second chances.

Trigger Warnings:

Adult themes, mentioned sexual assault

Buy Links:

Available on #KindleUnlimited

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author

Lelita Baldock is an author of historical fiction and crime fiction.

She has a passion for dark stories, with an unexpected twist.

It was during her years studying English Literature at University that Lelita discovered her love of all things reading and writing. But it would be another 15 years before she would take up the challenge and write her own novel.

Her debut novel, the historical fiction Widow’s Lace, is an Amazon best-seller.

Her follow up, The Unsound Sister, saw her take a different direction in her writing, trying her hand at crime fiction and has been warmly received globally.

Her third novel, Where the Gulls Fall Silent, a traditional historical fiction set in mid-1800s Cornwall, is out now.

Lelita also runs a blog and newsletter featuring fellow authors and other creatives.

Connect with Lelita

WebsiteTwitterFacebook

InstagramAmazon Author Page

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Where the Gulls Fall Silent blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Widow’s Lace by Lelita Baldock

Today I’m excited to welcome Lelita Baldock, and her book, Widow’s Lace, to the blog, with a post about her approach to research as an historical fiction writer; a process that fascinates me. Widow’s Lace is set in both Australia and England, in two different time periods, so I imagine there was a huge amount of research to complete.

First and foremost, I want to say thank you to MJ Porter for including me and Widow’s Lace on this fabulous blog. I am especially excited about this post as I rarely get to talk about my research process and the resources I used to inspire the descriptions of the historical settings in my novel.

I find my research roughly divides into two major approaches: feeling the location and learning the details. 

To do this I like to visit the locations I aim to write about. Even though my story will detail the past, walking the streets of today, whilst thinking of what came before, allows me into the fabric of a time and place. 

But visiting locations is only part of their history. I also need books to learn more about the time period. When you aim to write a story set in the past it is quite extraordinary how many little things you need to check up on. Details like what people wore, ate and drank; which train stations and parks existed; did they have electricity or glass windows and so on. I will confess that Google is an invaluable tool for me in exploring how people of the past lived the everyday. Traditionalists often scoff at the use of the internet, certainly when I majored in History at the University of Adelaide it would have been frowned upon, and I agree that it must be used carefully. But it is such a rich source of articles, academic papers, photos and more, that it would be a shame not to tap into this resource. It’s just important to check who wrote the article and cross-check information to ensure your facts are reliable. Google is a wonderful resource to find these smaller details, all of which help you to bring the past to life.

Widow’s Lace is set across multiple timelines and locations. We explore late 1880s South Australia and England as well as pre-WW1 London. The research required for these locations was, naturally, very different. London is a major historical city, much has been written about its history and development. My other UK based locations: Derbyshire and Gloucestershire are similarly well documented. But the remote townships of Finniss and Goolwa in South Australia are less well known. 

I think the best approach to detailing my research is to divide this post by location, so I can try and do justice to the individuality of each setting and the work it took to capture it.

Goolwa and the Finniss River

The historical township of Goolwa is located around 50 miles from Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia. The town was originally established as a river port. One of the major river systems of the country, the Murray River, meets the sea just down from Goolwa. The idea was that cargo could be transported to a port at Goolwa and swapped between the river boats, called paddle steamers, that could travel up river owing to their flat bottomed hulls, and the large trade vessels that sailed up and down the coast.

As part of this commerce the first rail line in South Australia was built between Adelaide and Goolwa and eventually extended to Victor Harbor further along the Fleurieu Peninsular.

Goolwa Map. A map of the main locations in Widow’s Lace. Sketched by Lelita Baldock

Unfortunately, several factors conspired to undermine this vision and thus the town and trade route did not reach its full potential. In the late 1800s, the time of my novel, the river was tidal. This meant that the waterway that lead to the port was notoriously difficult for ships to traverse. But more importantly, and somewhat ironically, the emergence of the rail network across Australia soon replaced the paddle steamer trade, as it was faster and more reliable. 

This history is well documented on plaques around the town of Goolwa. There is even a glass  viewing box on the main street that houses a replica of the first train to run between Goolwa and Victor Harbor. 

As a child my family holidayed in Goolwa, so much of this general history was something I grew up learning about as we walked the streets, enjoying the area. But to write a novel you need more than just an overall gist. That is where my father, Trevor Baldock, comes in. My dad is passionate about history, and makes it a priority to learn all he can about areas he loves. When I was in my early twenties he purchased a book about the history of the Murray River and paddle steamer trade called The Murray River Pilot by Ronald Baker, Margaret Baker, William Reschke. It detailed the history of the river trade out of the port of Goolwa and surrounds and helped to paint a distinct picture of life in the town in the late 1880s. This book became my research go-to as I pieced together the experiences of my main character Edward Barrington and his wife Rosalind after they moved from England to this remote part of South Australia

The Finniss River. A Photo from the banks of the Finniss River Photo Credit: Lelita Baldock

In addition to The Murray River Pilot and the general information on plaques around the town, I visited the Goolwa museum, which houses all manner of artefacts from the region, ranging from machinery used to winch boats from the river, to kettles used in the kitchens of neighbouring farmhouses. All this was invaluable as a visual resource, a glimpse into what people of the time would have seen and used as they went about their lives.

Though Goolwa has expanded in the intervening years, becoming a favoured holiday location for Adelaidians, many of the original sandstone houses and hotels still line the main street, so it’s not difficult to imagine how the town would have looked all those years ago. 

Hathrone Farm on the Finniss river is based on a real property. Along the banks of the river there is an old sandstone farmhouse and sheds. I first saw this beautiful property as a child when sailing the river with my family. But in my early twenties it took on more significance for me. As we wound our way through the patches of reeds that line the river, I watched the farmhouse pass by and was engulfed by the sense of isolation and solitude. It got me wondering about who might have lived there and why? This ruminating inspired the story that would become Widow’s Lace, so it was only natural that this property should form the inspiration for Hathrone Farm.

Sandstone Buildings. Sandstone buildings along the Finniss River. Photo Credit: Trevor Baldock

Of course, there is also the very rich and important history of Australia’s First People in the area. It would not have been right to publish a story of Goolwa and not acknowledge the Ngarrindjeri people who called the Lower Lakes home. The name Goolwa is in fact a Ngarrindjeri word, meaning River’s Elbow, owing to the natural curve of the river in which the town nestles. The local library in Goolwa has a wealth of information on the history of the Ngarrindjeri, which I tapped into to make these aspects of my novel as true and respectful as I could. Additionally, there remains a strong Ngarrindjeri presence in Goolwa and many tradition ceremonies, such as the ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony are still held, offering an invaluable experience of these living traditions.

London, Derbyshire and Gloucestershire

My research for the English locations of Widow’s Lace was similar in many ways. I always visit the locations I intend to use for my novels and have been fortunate enough to be able to move to the United Kingdom and travel widely here, which has exposed me to many beautiful locations that are perfect for historical novels.

In 2010 my husband and I explored the Cotswolds and Bath, and I found the setting for the early 1900s parts of my story. The tranquil beauty I experienced as we explored the windy, cobbled streets was the perfect juxtaposition to the tension and bustle of wartime London.

Cotswolds. Photo of Kingsbridge. Photo credit: Lelita Baldock

Journeying the Cheshire Ring on a narrow boat in 2016 allowed me to dive into the history of the industrial north which formed the backstory for Edward Barrington. Again, the research came naturally, visiting factories and reading about the experiences of workers. 

It was also on this trip that I visited Lyme Hall. I loved the feel of this old manor. It felt at once big and formal, but also intimate and homely, mirroring the twin experiences of Edward Barrington. It was the perfect location on which to model the manor house of Hathrone.

Lyme Hall. Lyme Hall, England, Pemberly in the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice. Photo Credit: Lelita Baldock

As these locations are widely visited tourist sites, it was easy to find information about everyday life in the past by reading the provided tourist information. Google was my main go to as a quick reference for important dates. 

My research for Widow’s Lace was both active and subconscious. Growing up exploring the Goolwa region and travelling parts of the UK,  I learnt much of the history I used passively. This formed a strong backdrop for my story, actively inspiring the storyline, and giving me a platform from which to launch into the more detailed research required to truly bring history to life.

Overall I think I prepare to write a novel through reading widely and by spending time in a location. Walking the streets and talking to the locals adds an authenticity and enables me to get a feel for the place. When combined with research on little details I believe this gives rise to the most effective and realistic portrayals of a different time and place and thus a richer reading experience. At least, that is my hope!

Thank you so much for sharing your research processes. It’s fascinating to discover what inspires people to write their stories. And I agree, the internet is an amazing resource for finding out those weird, and strange little obscure facts that you just can’t write a book without.

Here’s the blurb for Widow’s Lace.

A hundred year old mystery, the widow left behind, a fallen soldier, the abandoned fiancée, an unnamed body and the young student determined to find the truth.

In 1886 famous English poet Edward Barrington moves from Derbyshire, England to a farm on the Finniss River, in South Australia. Two years later he disappears.

25 years later Archie Hargraves abandons his fiancée Clara and travels from England to meet with Edward’s widow, Rosalind. He plans to write a biography and make a name for himself, independent from his wealthy father. Returning to England in 1914 he abandons his work to join the war in Europe. His journal of notes from Australia is never released.

Ellie Cannon, a young PhD candidate at Sydney University, is writing a thesis on one of Barrington’s last known poems, The Fall. It’s not going well. Struggling with her relationship with her mother and loss of her father, Ellie is on the brink of failure.

Then a body is found by the Finniss River, 130 years after Edward’s disappearance. Could it be the famous poet?

The discovery draws Ellie into the worlds of Edward, Archie and Clara, taking her across Australia and England in her search for the truth.

Covering life in remote South Australia, the social pressures of 1900s Britain and the historical role of women, Widow’s Lace is an historical fiction, mystery cross-over dealing with themes of obsession, fear, love, inner-secrets and regret. But also the hope that can come from despair.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK • Amazon US • 

Amazon CA • Amazon AU • 

Barnes and Noble

Widow’s Lace is also available on Kindle Unlimited.

Meet the Author

Lelita has a passion for stories, especially those with a dark undercurrent, or a twist to be revealed. 

She hopes to tell interesting stories that people will find themselves drawn into. Stories that are for entertainment and escape, and hopefully a little thrill of the unexpected. She truly enjoys the experience of writing, exploring human traits and reactions as well as the darkness that can lurk unexpectedly inside anyone.

Born and raised in Adelaide, Australia, Lelita holds a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and History from the University of Adelaide and a Bachelor of Education from The University of South Australia. During her twenties she worked as an English teacher in both Australia and the United Kingdom, working with the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Now Lelita and her husband run a web development business, and she makes time for writing after hours and on weekends. It can mean long days and late nights, but she doesn’t mind, stories are her passion.

Lelita’s long term goal as a writer is to be able to publish her stories regularly and hopefully appeal to a wide range of readers.

Lelita currently resides in the United Kingdom with her husband Ryan and beloved rescue-cat, Jasmine.

Connect with Lelita

Website • Twitter • Instagram • Facebook • Book Bub • Amazon • Goodreads

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for Widow’s Lace.