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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #118

Dear Reader,

My Sam Smith mystery The Hermit of Hisarya has been included in academic lectures this week in Bulgaria, discussing cultural studies and world literature, and the interrelation between cultural identity and the imagination. What an honour, I’m blown away 😱

https://academia.edu/51152850/

My latest translation, The Hermit of Hisarya in Portuguese.

My article about my ancestor John Howe features in this month’s Seaside News.

c1926, five generations from the Iveson branch of my family. More about the Ivesons next week.

My 5 x great grandmother Jennet, aka Jane, Williams was born to David Williams and Mary Jones in 1787 in Newton-Nottage, Wales. In the eighteenth century Newton-Nottage was a rural community and the majority of its inhabitants earned a living from the land.

Nottage, 19th century tithe map. Source: The National Library of Wales.

Jennet married Thomas Morgan in nearby Laleston on 10 October 1815. The couple produced five children: William, Richard, Mary, Sarah and a second child called Richard. Sadly, infant mortality was common in the nineteenth century and parents often reused a favourite name.

Jennet and Thomas’ eldest son, William, was born in 1812, three years before their marriage. Their first Richard was baptised on 21 January 1816, which indicates that Jennet was six months pregnant with her second child at the time of her marriage.

The accepted wisdom is that bastard children and their mothers were cast out by Victorian society. For the middle and upper classes this might well have been true. However, for the lower classes and those living in rural communities the locals took a more pragmatic view. Producing babies, in and out of wedlock, was literally a fact of life. An example from my family tree: my 3 x great grandparents William Bick and Fanny Brereton had six children before their marriage on 13 December 1868 (they had five more children after their marriage). Obviously, they did not feel pressurised into marriage and were not ostracised by their community. Marriages were expensive and many people needed the money for food and shelter. That said, some women were embarrassed about admitting to an illegitimate child as we shall see shortly.

Jennet’s husband, Thomas Morgan, was a shoemaker while his father, Richard, was a victualer in Laleston. When Thomas Morgan was born in 1784 only seven children were baptised in Laleston (population 2011, 12,586), which indicates that it was a small community, and that a birth, marriage or death was a major event.

Laleston baptisms, 1784.

Thomas Morgan died on 28 December 1827. A widow, Jennet supported herself and her family by working as a stone cutter at the local limestone quarries. Women who worked with stone, iron or coal usually wore shorter dresses compared to the Victorian norm because of the danger of those dresses catching fire. ‘Shorter’ in this instance means just a few inches above the ankle, so they were hardly a huge advertisement for health and safety.

In 1829 Jennet met Thomas Harris and the couple produced a son, George, baptised on 8 December 1829. In the ten years before 1829 and the ten years after there was no one called Harris living in Laleston or surrounding villages. A family called Harris arrived in the 1840s, but they were not related to Thomas or George.

George’s baptismal record.

So, what of the mysterious Thomas Harris? It would appear that he drifted into Laleston looking for work, took advantage of Jennet, a lonely widow, then drifted out again. There is nothing to suggest that he acknowledged George as his son or supported him during his childhood.

Between 1829 and 1851 George was know as George Morgan and George Harris. In 1841 Jennet told the census enumerator that George’s surname was Morgan, even though her husband had died two years previously. Clearly, with this untruth she was trying to save face.

On 24 December 1853 George, now a blacksmith, married Lydia Williams and the couple took the surname Morgan. Indeed, George acknowledged Thomas Morgan as his father. Did he know the truth? Probably, because at various times before his marriage he did call himself Harris. Thomas Harris played no part in George’s life, so George decided to adopt his mother’s married name.

Lydia was a ‘minor’ at the time of her marriage to George and the couple were living at the same address. A ‘minor’ in this context means someone under the age of twenty-one; Lydia was twenty. During her marriage to George she gave birth to ten children.

On 9 April 1873 at the age of 86 Jennet died in Laleston. In her later years she lived with her daughter, and my direct ancestor, Mary, along with Mary’s husband and children. All of my Welsh ancestors during the Victorian era were tight-knit and supported each other. To date, I have not discovered any of them in the workhouse.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Categories
Dear Reader Sam Smith Mystery Series

Dear Reader #20

Dear Reader,

This week, I stumbled across a link for the Humanists on Twitter. Out of interest, I completed their questionnaire and discovered that I am “100% Humanist”. This did not come as a surprise because Dr Alan Storey, one of the main characters in my Sam Smith Mystery Series, follows Humanist principles as a psychologist. I believe in Humanist principles because I think they are good for the world. Equally, I have no problem if people choose to follow a religion. As the late, great comedian Dave Allen used to say, “May your god go with you.”

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Many thanks to readers in France, Germany and Italy for supporting my Sam Smith Mystery Series with more sales in those countries this week. Also, many thanks to readers in Germany for placing my Ann’s War Mystery Series in the top thirty 🙂

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Views of Llanmadoc, a location featured in my Sam Smith Mystery Series.

More thanks, this time to Adriana for her wonderful translation of Invasion. I’m delighted that she’s now working on Blackmail, book three in my Ann’s War Mystery Series 🙂

ANN'S WAR INVASION PORTUGUESE

Authors I admire: Ronesa Aveela. Ronesa writes about mythology, in particular Bulgarian and East European mythology. I am fortunate to have a number of Bulgarian friends so Ronesa’s books are of great interest to me. I am also fortunate to count Ronesa amongst my friends, but I say without any bias that her books are truly excellent. Here are some examples. Please check them out.

Evidence of autumn. Our liquid amber, now a teenager, has held on to its green leaves longer this year.

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As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Categories
Sam Smith Mystery Series

Europe by Book

Today, I’m launching a new venture, Europe by Book. I’m starting with a Facebook page. A website and more outlets will follow.

This year, Plovdiv is the European Capital of Culture, so it is a good place to start our tour of Europe by Book.

In 1855, Hristo G. Danov created the first Bulgarian publishing company and printing-press. Furthermore, the city can boast Bulgaria’s first public library, the Ivan Vazov National Library, founded in 1879 and named after the famous Bulgarian writer and poet Ivan Vazov. Today, the library houses over 1.5 million books.

Do you have a favourite Bulgarian author, either from the past or present? Please comment so that I can share your favourites with my readers 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/EuropeByBook

Categories
Sam Smith Mystery Series

The Muse #2

Welcome to The Muse, the latest news from bestselling author, Hannah Howe

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The opening chapter of The Devil and Ms Devlin finds Sam still working, against her will, from her office houseboat. However, when a Greek billionaire shows up wishing to hire Sam, does this mean a change of fortune?

The billionaire wants Sam to discover who is sending death threats to his lover, the superstar actress Dana Devlin, who after suffering emotional problems is making a comeback. However, the death threats are sent on postcards containing hearts, angels and flowers. What could this mean? Sam enters the glamorous world of movie making to uncover the truth, a truth clouded by murder, blackmail, fetishes and crooked business deals.

Meanwhile, Sam’s psychologist husband, Alan, encourages Dana to talk about her life, uncovering a closely guarded secret about her daughter and the root of her emotional problems.

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I’m researching a novel, which will be set in Bulgaria in 1944. My novel will be based on true events and the lives of two individuals, Ivan Danev, an eighteen year old resistance fighter imprisoned by the fascists, and Frank Thompson, a British officer who assisted the partisans. Along with biographies of Frank Thompson, Ivan Danev’s memoirs, Nest of Heroes, (pictured) will form the centrepiece of the story. The novel will also feature Ivan‘s sister, a young woman caught up in the conflict.

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Laura has started work on the French translation of Amour et Balles, Love and Bullets, book two in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. Our aim is to develop this series in French and explore the French book markets this year.

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A great start to the year for Tradimento, the Italian version of Betrayal, #2 on the Historical Fiction chart 🙂

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What a lovely review from a Canadian reader, for Sam’s Song 🙂

“Initially, I had a bit of trouble getting into the book, probably because the premise was not something I was familiar with, i.e. a rock star with a problem. Not a fan of rock music, or the lifestyle, it was the protagonist, Sam, that drew me in. Don’t you just love it when a book grows on you? Three-quarters of the way into the story I was routing for Sam and hoping she would make sound decisions. It takes a good writer to draw one into a story that is hard to put down, especially if it isn’t something you relate to.”

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Another wonderful review from Canada, for The Big Chill 🙂

“I love the Sam Smith series! She is feisty and funny and determined. Sam is shot in her office and as part of her recovery, she is not going to rest until she finds the person who did it. The list of potential suspects is unnervingly long. I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the last page, and now I’m a little sad it’s over. I highly recommend this series. They just keep getting better!”

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I’ve never been drawn to fame, fortune, glamour or celebrity. This book explains why. It tells the story of many beautiful, extremely rich and privileged people. The common thread is the sad and vacuous nature of their lives. When Gene Tierney suffered a mental breakdown and couldn’t remember her lines, the only person who tried to help her was a common maid. Gene Tierney had hired the maid to look after her daughter. Instead, she looked after the movie star. As Gene Tierney candidly admits, she had ‘everything’, a glamorous existence, while the maid had ‘nothing‘, except the happier life.

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Ann's War Mom’s Favorite Reads Sam Smith Mystery Series Saving Grace The Muse

The Muse #1

The Muse

#1

The Devil and Ms Devlin eBook Cover

The Devil and Ms Devlin, Sam Smith Mystery Series book fifteen, will be published on Easter Sunday. The book will be available for pre-order from 21st January 2019.

A lovely quote from Gene Tierney, discovered while researching her life and career, “A romantic picks the rose and is careless with the thorns.”

My books have sold well in France over Christmas with several making the top 💯. Also, a lovely review for Secrets and Lies, in French.

Beaucoup de plaisir à lire cette série qui n’a guère de prétention autre que de distraire le lecteur avec des personnages attachants et des histoires variées. C’est un roman policier variante eau de rose (l’harlequin du polar) qui fait passer un bon moment sur une plage ce qui n’a rien de méprisable, les bons moments sont toujours bons à prendre!

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I’ve read so many excellent books this year, it’s impossible to pick a favourite. However, if forced to nominate one I would select A Study of Household Spirits of Eastern Europe. Check it out. It’s truly delightful.
https://www.amazon.com/Household-Spirits-Eastern-Europe-Creatures-ebook/dp/B07H7V5KX6/

I love movies from the 1940s through to the 1970s. I also love Dana Andrews as an actor. Therefore, I was delighted to receive a DVD of Fallen Angel for Christmas. I’m sure this movie will influence a novel I’m researching. Set in 1948, my novel will feature one of the characters from my Ann’s War series and will have a noir feel, similar to The Third Man.

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One of the highlights of the past year has been working with my team of talented translators. In particular, I would like to send Christmas greetings to: Cristina, Anita, Tais, Irene, Laura D, Luc, Zachary, Laura N, Minea, Jill, Silvia, Eva and Christina. Thank you. I look forward to working with you again in the new year.

I’m co-founder and co-editor of Mom’s Favorite Reads. Lots of great seasonal content in our December magazine. It’s FREE. Check it out 🙂