Meet Into The Unknown’s Kate Sheridan

Kate Sheridan

Kate Sheridan is an only child, born in Co Galway, Ireland to an Irish solicitor father and an English mother. Her father had wanted Kate to go to America in search of work and live with his cousin but her mother persuades him to let Kate go to London to live with Kate’s aunt and uncle, despite the threat of war.

Although Kate is only eighteen when she arrives in London on the morning of 3 September 1939, she is very independent, having been sent away from home to boarding school at the age of twelve. She has recently completed a course in a Commercial College so she knows short hand, typing and book keeping, which she hopes will help her in her search for work.

Unfortunately, Kate’s nationality and accent hinder her job search, as many people resent the Irish Free State’s decision to declare itself neutral. It is quite a while before she is employed by a local butcher, who thinks she’s Welsh, as his book-keeper. Mr Graham turns out to have wandering hands and by Christmas 1939, Kate has had enough of having her bottom pinched. She decides to leave and join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, known as the WAAF.

Kate meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler on Christmas Day when they both have the same idea to walk off their Christmas dinner. She is immediately attracted to him and agrees to go to the pictures with him but is put on her guard when her aunt and uncle tell her Charlie is a womaniser who only lives for the here and now.

When Charlie asks Kate out a second time, her aunt and uncle are shocked. Charlie Butler has never asked the same woman out twice and Kate’s aunt forbids her to go. Should Kate heed her aunt and uncle’s advice and turn Charlie down? Or should she trust her own judgement and risk a relationship with an RAF pilot whose life will probably be in danger? Find out what she decides in Into The Unknown.  

* * *

London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan, newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle, and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?

Read An Excerpt:

“What?” His head jerked up, making her jump. “You’re only nineteen?”

He seemed so horrified, her heart began to thump for all the wrong reasons.

“Yes. Why? What age did you think I was?”

“Twenty-two, twenty-three, at least,” he gasped. “Oh God.”

My clothes and make-up, she thought, getting to her feet. “Charlie, we seem to have been very much mistaken about each other.” She reached for her gas mask case, hoping she wouldn’t cry, and cursing herself for not believing Helen and Bob and letting her guard down. “I’m very sorry.”

“No, Kate, please?” He stood up so quickly his chair toppled over backwards, just missing his own gas mask case, and grabbed her arms. “Please stay?” he pleaded, his hands sliding down to hers and squeezing them. “Please?”

When she nodded, he released her hands, and she re-took her seat. Picking up his chair, he sat down, rubbing the side of his nose, and she waited for him to gather his thoughts.

“Kate, I’m sorry. I did think you were older. I mean, I’m twenty-seven. You don’t look or act like a nineteen-year-old.”

She gave him a weak smile. “When I arrived in London, I looked like a scarecrow and Helen refused to be seen out with me. As soon as she could, she bought me clothes, shoes, and make-up, and got my hair cut and styled. We thought it would help me to get a job but looking back I realise it was very over the top. I did get a job, but it brought me the trouble with Mr. Graham, so now I’ve modified my style so I don’t look like a scarecrow or a clown anymore.”

“Mmm,” he replied, and she frowned. “I saw you,” he explained. “I was driving back to base. I saw you getting out of a cab. I only saw a glimpse of you, but it was enough for me. Kate, can we start again? Please?”

Kate looked down at her hands and heard Charlie sitting back in his chair. It creaked, and he sighed. How should she answer? What about Bob and Helen’s warnings? What about what her father would say? What about her feelings for Charlie? There was no denying she had some and she bit her bottom lip. This was only the second time they had gone out together. Was this all happening far too soon?

“Be careful.” Bob and Helen’s words echoed around her head and she couldn’t ignore them so she leaned forward. “Are you really sure you want to go out with a nineteen-year-old girl from Ireland?” she asked.

Seeing indecision in his eyes, her heart sank. “I need to know, Charlie. I’ve let my guard down once and I’m not doing it again unless I know.”

“Bob warned you about going out with me again, didn’t he?” he asked instead of answering. “No, it’s all right, I’d be amazed and disappointed in him if he hadn’t. Charlie Butler—be careful, he gets through more women than hot dinners. Kate, if you just want to be seen with a pilot on your arm, who makes you feel all grown up, then I will find a cab and send you back to Dunstan Street right now.”

“Bob warned me the first time, it was Helen who warned me about going out with you again. And I can also hear my father shouting at me in my head. You’re British, Charlie, and you’re in the British armed forces, so he’s going to hate you.” His dark eyes widened in shock, but she continued. “Charlie, I don’t need someone like you to make me feel all grown up. I’ve been all grown up since the age of twelve when I was sent away from home to boarding school. I’m here, despite Bob, despite Helen, despite my father, and despite my own reservations because I like you very much and I want to get to know you better. So, if you aren’t all grown up enough to handle that, then I will be the one calling a cab and sending you home.”

He stared at her. She returned his stare defiantly before he leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “Yes, I am grown up enough,” he said. “And, yes, Bob’s right, Helen’s right, my father’s right, I have been with a lot of women, but none of them have ever had the effect that you have on me. So, Kate Sheridan, aged nineteen, from Ireland, would you like to go out with me?”

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Into The Unknown is currently unpublished and will be republished in due course.

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Operation Pied Piper

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When Kate Sheridan arrived in London on the morning of 3 September 1939, the evacuation of children out of the city and into the countryside was well under way. The evacuation during World War Two was designed to save civilians in Britain, mostly children, from the risks associated with aerial bombing of cities by moving them to areas thought to be less at risk. Some of the children Kate saw at Euston Station were sent to stay with relatives, but others were sent to live with complete strangers.

At the station, children had labels attached to them and they didn’t know where they were going to or if they would be split from their brothers and sisters. The government recommended that in addition to their gas mask and identity card, the child evacuees had the following items with them:

Boys:

2 vests

2 pairs of pants

Pair of trousers

2 pairs of socks

6 handkerchiefs

Pullover or jersey

Girls:

Vest

Pair of knickers

Petticoat

2 pairs of stockings

6 handkerchiefs

Slip

Blouse

Cardigan

Other items packed in their suitcases included:

Overcoat or mackintosh

Comb

1 pair of Wellington boots

Towel and facecloth

Soap

Toothbrush

Boots or shoes

Sandwiches

Packet of nuts and raisins

Dry biscuits

Barley sugar

Apple

The children arrived in the countryside, tired, hungry and uncertain of whether they would ever see their families again. They were taken to the village hall, where they were met by the billeting officer and the host families haggled over the most presentable children while the sicklier and more scruffy children were left until last.

There were no big bombing raids on Britain in the first months of the war (known as The Phoney War) and as a result by early 1940 many children had returned home. They were evacuated again when heavy bombing raids began in the autumn of 1940 (known as The Blitz) and then again in 1944, when Germany attacked Britain with V1 Flying Bombs and V2 rockets.

Over the course of World War Two, Operation Pied Piper relocated more than 3.5 million people including 827,000 schoolchildren, 524,000 mothers with children under the age of five, 12,000 pregnant women and some disabled people.

* * *

London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan, newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle, and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?

Read An Excerpt…

Kate Sheridan opened the train door and, with butterflies fluttering in her stomach, stepped down onto the platform. London at last. Her journey from Ireland had taken three days. Where could she hear the latest news? The ultimatum to the Germans to withdraw from Poland was due to run out this morning. War was all but inevitable.

Glancing up and down the platform for her aunt and uncle, all she could see were hundreds of sobbing children, clinging for dear life to their equally upset parents. She knew it was rude, but she couldn’t help but stare.

“Come on, my love,” a voice from behind her shouted and she jumped. “You’re in the way.”

Picking up her suitcase, Kate moved aside as a man in an army uniform jumped down from the train with a sack-like bag slung over his shoulder.

“Why are all the children here?” she asked.

“The evacuation began the other day,” he explained, lowering the sack to the ground, and taking off his side cap. “They’re all being sent to the country for safety. You’re not a Londoner, are you, Miss? What part of Wales are you from?”

“I’m from Ballycarn,” she replied, wincing as a little boy—he couldn’t have been more than six—was pulled screaming away from his mother. “It’s not in Wales, it’s in the west of Ireland.”

The soldier laughed. “Sorry, I thought you were a Taffy, but you’re a Paddy instead. Still, you’d like to hear what old Neville has to say, wouldn’t you?”

“Neville?”

“Neville Chamberlain? The…our Prime Minister. Let’s find a wireless so we can hear him, though I know what he’s going to say.”

Replacing his side cap and hauling the sack onto his shoulder, he grasped Kate’s arm without asking permission, and she had to grab her suitcase. They hurried along the platform, weaving in and out of distraught families and porters, until they came to a railway guard who took their tickets.

“Is there a wireless nearby we can listen to?” the soldier asked.

“Yes, there’s one in the ticket office,” the guard replied. “Wait outside.”

“Good. Come on, let’s find a seat.”

They sat down outside the ticket office, Kate glancing anxiously around for her aunt and uncle. Had they given up after she hadn’t been on yesterday’s train? If only she hadn’t listened to that woman and followed her ridiculous advice. Still, if they were here, it wasn’t surprising they couldn’t find her in all this chaos.

“Shh.” The soldier nudged her arm even though she had been quiet. Don’t talk to any strange men, unless you absolutely have to, her mother had warned, and now look at her. Not five minutes off the train and she was sharing a bench with a soldier, listening to the wireless, expecting Chamberlain to tell them Britain was at war.

Her father had wanted her to go to America to find work and live with his cousin and family. America was the land of opportunity for so many Irish people, far away from Europe and the threat of war. Her maternal aunt and uncle then offered to take her and help her find work in London. So, despite her father’s grumblings, close family in London were chosen over a cousin she had never met in Philadelphia.

“…and against them, I am certain that the right will prevail.” Chamberlain’s speech ended and a long silence followed.

“You picked a great day to arrive.” The soldier turned to her with a wry smile. “There’s another train going out in a few minutes, you can get on it if you’re quick?”

“No,” she replied. “I’m staying.”

Hearing the opening bars of God Save The King, the butterflies in her stomach began to riot. Should she stand or not? She was Irish but Mummy was English, so she stood respectfully as the small group around the wireless sang the anthem as if the Germans were watching them at that very minute.

When the wireless was switched off, the soldier smiled at her. “What are you Paddies doing in Ireland now, eh? Do you have a National Anthem?”

“Yes, we have an anthem,” she told him. “It’s called The Soldier’s Song.”

He roared with laughter. “That’s priceless. We could do with an anthem like that now. Do you want to swap?”

“No.”

“Please yourself.” He saluted her and Kate wasn’t quite sure if he was poking fun at her or not. “I’d better be off. Good luck.”

“Thank you. You too.”

Feeling very alone, she watched him go. No-one had come to meet her so she would have to continue on to her aunt and uncle’s home herself. Wondering if she should take the underground train or the bus, she heard a loud wailing sound, and people began hurrying past her.

“Oi, Irish?” It was the soldier beckoning to her. “Quick.”

Fighting the urge to cry with relief, she grabbed her suitcase again, and ran to him on shaky legs. “What, what is it?” she stammered.

“Air-raid siren,” he said, pulling her out onto the street. “Come on, down here.”

Taking the suitcase from her, he pushed her in front of him, and down some steep steps. “This is an air-raid shelter; you’ll become familiar with them now you’re staying.”

They sat down on one of two benches parallel to each other and she took the suitcase back.

“Thanks for coming back for me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I knew you wouldn’t know what to do.”

The shelter quickly filled with people. By their white faces, they felt as frightened as she did.

“How long do these air-raids last?” she asked.

“Don’t know,” he replied, lighting a cigarette. “But take my advice, Irish, go to wherever you’re going—and fast. Who knows what’s going to happen now.”

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Into The Unknown is currently unpublished and will be republished in due course.

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