Today I am delighted to be taking part in Tania Crosse’s blog tour for ‘The Candle Factory Girl’. Thank you to Aria Fiction for the blog tour invite. Here is an extract from Tania’s novel:
1930’s London – A backstreet saga full of hopes, dreams and the fight for survival.
Work at Price’s Candle Factory in Battersea is tedious for intelligent, seventeen-year-old Hillie Hardwick, but she knows she is lucky to have a job at all. Her home life is no better, as she constantly battles with her exacting and bullying father in order to protect her mother and five younger siblings from his abuse.
Her only solace is her loving relationship with the chaotic Parker family and her best friend, Gert Parker. When matters violently escalate for Hillie, smitten Jack-the-Lad Jimmy Baxter seems her only salvation.
But could this be the biggest mistake of her life, and should she be looking for protection nearer home?
A story that crackles with unease where courage and friendship are the only hope.
A Friday Morning in June 1932
‘Blooming heck, Hillie! Can’t you wait for us?’
As she neared the corner of the street, Hilda Hardwick heard the hurrying footfall
of her lifelong friend scurrying up behind her, and she slowed her own step. She
turned round, and though she itched with exasperation, she couldn’t help but smile.
Gert was rushing towards her, pulling on her old, fraying cardigan over her work
dress as she went. Hillie could see that one of her hastily tied shoelaces had already
come undone and was threatening to trip her up. To complete the chaotic image,
Gert’s naturally frizzy auburn hair stood around her head in a blazing halo, flying
about her shoulders in a fiery cloud. She always reminded Hillie of one of the Titian
paintings they had admired together on a rare trip to the National Gallery in Trafalgar
Square. It was 1932 and members of the fairer sex had been cutting their hair short for
nearly two decades. However, these two factory girls from the backstreets of
London’s Battersea had yet to catch up with the fashion.
‘I have been waiting for you,’ Hillie chided, pulling her lips back into a displeased
line and resuming her brisk pace now that Gert had caught her up. ‘If I’d waited any
longer, it would’ve made me late for work and I wouldn’t want to risk the
consequences of that. And some of us can’t afford to catch the tram. And my dad’s
already… well…’ She pulled herself up short, knowing she’d said too much. So
instead she finished the sentence with, ‘Gone on ahead.’
Gert’s jaw dropped as she guessed what Hillie had nearly let slip. ‘Oh, Hillie, you
don’t mean…? ’Cos I kept you waiting?’
Hillie instinctively turned to her with a brief, wistful grimace as they half ran along
Battersea Park Road.
Gert caught her breath as she glimpsed the tell-tale pink hand mark on Hillie’s
cheek, and she flushed with remorse. ‘Oh, Hillie, I’m so sorry.’
‘It’s not your fault my dad’s like he is,’ Hillie mumbled under her breath.
But Gert obviously still felt guilty. ‘You shouldn’t have waited for us, not when
you know what he’s like.’
‘Someone’s got to stand up to him.’
Hillie said it quietly, but Gert knew there’d be no arguing. They’d had the same
discussion on umpteen occasions before. Harold Hardwick was a bully and there’d
never be any changing him.
Gert knew the story by heart.
‘Me and Hillie’s mum’d been friends for years,’ her mother had told her, so many
times that Gert could repeat it virtually word for word. ‘She was the timid little thing
from the grocers’ round the corner, and I was the big girl trusted to do the shopping
for me mum. Used to make Nell laugh, I did. Always said it should’ve been the other
way around. She should’ve had the posh name of Evangeline, not me! Anyway, the
years went by, and when things got tough for her and she married that Harold, I got
them the house on the street. 1914 it was, just as the war broke out. Nell found she
was preggers the same time as I did, and you two popped out within days of each
other, May the next year, 1915. Both of you girls, too, except that Hillie was Nell’s
first and I already had Kit.
‘So you two was friends from the cradle. Just learning to walk, the both of you,
when they brought in conscription. Your dad and Harold found themselves together in
the same Pals’ Regiment as they called them. Only Harold’d always been a bully,
keeping poor Nell under his thumb. But he was just what they was looking for in the
army, someone to keep order. So he quickly rose through the ranks to sergeant.
Inflicted his rigid discipline on every poor bugger what came under his command, so
your dad says. Never got a scratch on him. Mind you, you know your dad only got a
bit of shrapnel in his leg in all the two years they was in the trenches. Kept his head
down did your dad, and I was grateful for that. And when he came home, he was his
old, lovely self. But Harold, huh! Remained a sergeant ever since, even if he was back
on civvy street. If he was strict with poor Nell before the war – and with Hillie, too –
he’s been a blooming tyrant ever since.’
Gert released a bitter, desperate sigh. A tyrant and a bully were good ways to
describe her best friend’s dad! But as Hillie had grown up, instead of giving in to him
like her mum did – anything for a quiet life – she’d started challenging him. The
consequences of Harold’s resulting temper were often dire. Gert so often wished, as she did now, that Hillie would hold back, but no end of persuasion could change her
Delaying her childhood dream of writing historical novels until her family had grown up, Tania eventually completed a series of published stories based on her beloved Dartmoor. She is now setting her future sagas in London and the south east.