London, 1926. Two baby girls are born just hours and miles apart. One you know as the Queen of England, but what of the other girl – the daughter of an undertaker named in her honour? Betsy Sunshine grows up surrounded by death in war-torn London, watching her community grieve for their loved ones whilst dealing with her own teenage troubles… namely her promiscuous sister Margie. As Betsy grows older we see how the country changes through her eyes, and along the way we discover the birth of a secret that threatens to tear her family apart.
My fourth novel with Legend Press is published today. (Hurrah!) ‘Betsy and Lilibet’ has been a long time coming. The first idea came to me about five years ago when I was browsing at a vintage fair in the grounds of Killerton House in Devon. I came across a local candle maker who uses vintage jelly moulds and china. I bought a Coronation Mug filled with her homemade scented natural soy candles. And when I read from her business card that her surname was Sunshine, I asked if I could possibly borrow that name some time in the future and she kindly said yes. It also turned out that our daughters went to the same school. The stars aligned that day.
I didn’t know then that I would be writing a novel about two Elizabeths but as the Queen approached ninety years of age, I felt drawn towards her story. And I wondered about another girl who might’ve been born on that same day, with the same name, and the path that she might’ve taken.
Betsy Sunshine is born into a family of undertakers, Sunshine & Sons. But there are no sons, just a troublesome younger sister, and that is how Betsy becomes the head of the family business, dutifully serving her community just as her namesake serves her country. Over the course of ninety years – oh, the births, marriages, deaths, war, terrorists and, of course, the coronation – the two Elizabeths will meet three times. And at the heart of the novel lies a secret that Betsy has kept in the shadows since 1947. As she approaches her ninetieth birthday, it is time that this secret is aired in the sunshine.
I’m really proud of ‘Betsy and Lilibet’, delighted that it is finally in the bookshops, and hope you get the chance to read it.
And if you are able, you are invited to the book launch at Hugh Mills and Gaye undertakers in King Street, Newton Abbot on Thursday 18th October at 6. Just RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Told with wit and warmth, this is a gritty, truly British, saga; from war time childhood fortitude though to a lifetime of love, loss and laughter. Dive in and enjoy! Paul McVeigh
A charming and funny look at family, loyalty and love during the Queen’s reign. I think Her Majesty would approve. Cathy Bramley
So atmospheric you can almost smell the Brylcreem… Laurie Graham
Clever and charming, I loved this look at the complications of family life. Katie Fforde