Catherine Rook takes her peaceful life for granted. Her days are spent at the village school and lending a hand on her family’s farm. Life is run by the seasons, and there’s little time for worry.
But rural unrest begins sweeping through Kent, and when Pa Rook buys a threshing machine it brings turbulence and tragedy to Wanstall Farm. With the Rooks’ fortunes forever changed, Catherine must struggle to hold her family together.
She turns to her childhood companion, Matty Carter, for comfort, and finds more than friendship in his loving arms. But Matty has his own family to protect, and almost as quickly as their love blossomed their future begins to unravel.
With the threat of destitution nipping at her heels, Catherine must forge a way out of ruin...
As part of the Half a Sixpence blog tour, Evie Grace has shared with us a character profile. Read on to find out more about Catherine Rook!
Half a Sixpence will be released tomorrow.
Character Profile: Catherine Rook
Thank you very much for hosting today’s stop on my blog tour with Half a Sixpence, the first book in a new series, a Victorian family saga set in East Kent. Half a Sixpence is the story of Catherine Rook, a country girl born in Overshill, East Kent in 1817, and I’d love to tell you a little more about her.
I took inspiration for Catherine’s character and way of life from my family tree, anecdotes passed down from my grandparents and great grandparents, and my experiences of the countryside. I was born in Kent and one of my earliest memories is of picking cherries with my grandfather in an orchard near Selling. He was a farm manager, and Wanstall Farm, Catherine’s home in Half a Sixpence has echoes of the place where he worked.
Catherine lives with Ma and Pa Rook and her brother, John. Her older siblings have already left home. She enjoys feeding the hens, collecting their eggs and looking after the pigs, especially when they give birth to their piglets. Pa is a great believer in the value of education, sending her to the village school where she learns the three R’s with her best friend, Emily. She aspires to marry for love one day, in spite of Ma’s rather embarrassing conviction that she should marry up.
Catherine’s life follows the seasons that come and go the same, year after year, punctuated by the regular sowing, harvesting and threshing of the corn, followed by rowdy harvest suppers and the hop picking. When Catherine needs new clothes, Pa Rook says she can have them ‘after ‘op-picking’, a saying that has been passed down through my family. My mum remembers her mother taking her, her brother and sister hop picking every summer to bring in desperately needed cash. My grandmother also went fruit-picking, taking a pram with a false bottom under which she hid apples to take home.
Catherine helps the Rooks’ maid in the kitchen, pickling and preserving the produce from the land, and learning to make the perfect pastry for plum pies. Living on the farm is hard, but in many ways Catherine leads an idyllic way of life that comes under threat when her father decides to invest in a threshing machine.
The fresh challenges facing the farm and her family serve to strengthen Catherine’s resourceful character, a recurring feature of my Victorian ancestors. One of my great-grandmothers had a reputation for being a particularly determined lady who brought up seven happy children in a tiny house on very little money with the help of her husband who grew and sold fresh vegetables from the garden to make ends meet. However, her background was tainted by rumours of illegitimacy, the consequences of which I have introduced into Half a Sixpence.
Catherine is resourceful, loyal and caring, and even at her lowest ebb, she finds the strength to carry on.
I hope you enjoy reading her story.