The heartbreaking true stories behind The Girl in the Letter

The heartbreaking true stories behind The Girl in the Letter

1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave.

Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret’s. Before it is too late.

Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret’s set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost for ever…

Read her letter. Remember her story…

Though not based on one particular story, The Girl in the Letter takes inspiration from true events that occurred in numerous Mother and Baby homes across the UK in the 1950s and 60s. The below extract was written by Rose Bell, and was taken from On her website, Rose details the tragic truth of Mother and Baby homes in the UK. She has given Bookends the below extract. To read more, please visit her site.

Discovering Pregnancy

” The women of this study were raised in an era when unmarried motherhood was truly reviled, had parents who refused to discuss such intimate matters as sex and pregnancy, had no access to abortion (though whether they would have chosen this option I could not say), and were forced without having too much choice in the matter to hide their pregnancies, carry and bear a child they were then made to give up for adoption.

“Many young women prayed it would go away if they just ignored it.”

That is the climate to understand when reading about the moment they discovered they were pregnant. There were no home pregnancy tests in the 1960s; these did not appear until 1978. A few experienced horrendous morning sickness, which they had to go to great lengths to hide as they shared bedrooms and bathrooms with family, waking extra early to be sick before the rest of the family woke. Or being sick in their bedrooms and having to hide it so no one would find out. For the majority it was the absence of their period that clued them in to the pregnancy. Some understood what this meant almost immediately, while others existed in a detached state of denial which kept them from truly believing the meaning of that absence. The women’s mothers were commonly the ones who purchased the sanitary napkins each month, and when the girls failed to show the mothers became aware of what was happening. Many young women prayed it would go away if they just ignored it.

Eventually they each were made to face the difficult reality of their situation, this often occurred in the doctor’s office. Either on their own or with their mothers the women were taken to the family doctor who confirmed their pregnancy. The news, even if they had already known it, was devastating. One recalled falling into a surreal state, like being underwater. The world moving past her while she was trapped in a dream. The doctors generally didn’t want to know anything, perhaps living in a small community they wished to avoid being involved in anyway. One said to the young woman, ‘Don’t tell me anything. I don’t want to know. I’ll give you the name of a social worker and she’ll sort you out.’ Another told the terrified mother-to-be, ‘Have some gin and a hot bath. Try falling down the stairs a few times.’ While a third said, ‘All I can do is give you a douche can and hope that works.’ The women did not explicitly ask for abortifacients, but their shock and the cultural understanding that unmarried pregnancy was unthinkable prompted their doctors to provide such advice.

The women were devastated with the discovery. For there were many young men and women having sex before marriage, but it was only the unlucky that found themselves pregnant. Their pregnancy marked them for their supposed moral transgressions, and set them on a path of heartache and loss. A moment, which for married women was one of joy and celebration, became instead a time of shame and guilt. They understood intrinsically the social climate in which they lived, they knew the mark this transgression placed upon them, and they feared what was to come. For some this weight of shame and guilt was too much and they attempted to induce a miscarriage, or at the more extreme end even attempted suicide. Fear of their parents finding out was tantamount to their desperate measures, and underscores the social conditions these women existed in.”

To read more about mother and baby homes in the UK, visit

The Girl in the Letter

The Girl in the Letter is out now. You can buy it here.

Read an exclusive extract of THE MOTHER-IN-LAW by Sally Hepworth

Read an exclusive extract of THE MOTHER-IN-LAW by Sally Hepworth

‘Fiction at its finest’ Liane Moriarty, Number One bestselling author

She has never approved of you. But it’s when her body is found the secrets really start to come out…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana was exquisitely polite, and perfectly friendly, but Lucy knew that she was not what Diana envisioned. Even so, Lucy wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana has been found dead, a suicide note near her body. Diana claims that she no longer wanted to live because of a battle with cancer.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.
The autopsy does find traces of poison and suffocation.

Everyone in the family is hiding something. But what? And where will the secrets stop?

With Lucy’s secrets getting deeper and her relationship with her mother-in-law growing more complex as the pages turn, this new novel from Sally Hepworth is sure to add to her growing legion of fans.

Read an exclusive extract here.

Pre-order now.

Read an exclusive extract from The Swap by Fiona Mitchell

Read an exclusive extract from The Swap by Fiona Mitchell

Read an extract from Fiona Mitchell’s gripping and heartbreaking new story, The Swap

Two women. Two children. But whose is whose?

When two strangers, Tess and Annie, undergo IVF at an American clinic, their embryos are mixed up and each woman gives birth to the wrong child.

The women only discover the devastating error three years later. Tess wants to swap the children back; Annie doesn’t. As the pair wrangle, neither of them expect what unfolds.

Read an extract, and pick up a copy of The Swap now.

Unwrapped – Q+A with debut author Beth O’Leary

Unwrapped – Q+A with debut author Beth O’Leary

Today we’re chatting to debut novelist extraordinaire Beth O’Leary about new reads, new beginnings and Easter. Her first novel, The Flatshare, is the uplifting story of Tiffy and Leon who share a flat, share a bed but have never met…

The Flat Share

When you’re on the hunt for a new read, how do you go about discovering one?
I get a lot of my book recommendations via Twitter and Instagram – I follow lots of bookish people with similar tastes to mine. If I’m in the mood for something specific, I might look at a Goodreads ‘Top 50’ list for that genre and browse through until a cover and blurb catches my eye. What I should do is go and choose something from my existing bookshelves, which are completely overloaded and have no room left on them for new books!

Easter and Spring are all about new beginnings. Tell us a little bit about how ‘new beginnings’ are discussed in your book.
Oh, The Flatshare is all about new beginnings. One of my main characters, Tiffy, has just left her toxic boyfriend and is trying to figure out what her life looks like without him; the other main character, Leon, is in desperate need of a fresh start. He’s stuck in a rut in his relationship and is dealing with the trauma of his brother being imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. But Leon can’t stay stuck for long once Tiffy moves in to his flat…

If you were to set up a bookish Easter egg hunt, which five books would you choose to hide?
What a phenomenal question! Now I want to set up a bookish Easter egg hunt. I’d pick five fun novels about fresh starts: One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk, The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella, The Cactus by Sarah Haywood, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pierce and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

If your characters were Easter eggs, what kind would they be?
Leon would be something very classy and simple, I think. Lindt chocolate, maybe… And it wouldn’t be hollow on the inside, because there’s much more to Leon than there seems, so maybe there’d be lots of truffles in the middle of the egg!

Tiffy would be a homemade Easter egg, for sure, with a really ambitious combination of flavours that shouldn’t work but totally does: ginger and lemon and strawberry chocolate, or something. Hers would come brightly wrapped, too.

How would your main character celebrate Easter?
Leon would be bemused by the idea of celebrating Easter – he’s not religious, so what’s it for? Chocolate? He can eat chocolate whenever he wants anyway? Plus he never gets the bank holiday days off at his work – he’s a hospice nurse – so he sometimes forgets it’s happening at all.

But Tiffy would be all over it. Any excuse to decorate the flat, wear bright colours and do some arts and crafts…

The Flatshare is available now!

You can follow Beth on Twitter @OLearyBeth and on Instagram @betholearyauthor

The Flatshare
This Easter, unwrap a debut author! | A Q&A with Juliet Grames

This Easter, unwrap a debut author! | A Q&A with Juliet Grames

This Easter, we’re introducing you to some of our most exciting debut authors for 2019.

Juliet Grames is the author of The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, a captivating and huge-hearted novel spanning rural Calabria and mid-century Connecticut, which follows the life (and deaths) of one exceptional woman.

We asked Juliet to share some details about Stella Fortuna, along with a few recommendations of her own, in a very special Easter-themed Q&A!

When you’re on the hunt for a new read, how do you go about discovering one?

My favorite way to discover books is passively—basically, if someone tells me to read something because they think I’ll like it, I try to read it, regardless of genre or obscurity. I also want to know as little as possible about the book before I start reading. I don’t like plot (even tiny details!) to be spoiled, so I don’t read synopses or cover copy. I’m a terrible bookstore browser. I either go barging in with a specific request or I just ask the bookseller to pick something out for me.

Tell us a little bit about how ‘new beginnings’ are celebrated in your book.

My book is about starting over—and over, and over, etc—not always by choice, but sometimes by sheer force of will. When my main character, Stella Fortuna, emigrates to the United States in 1939 from a very socially conservative village in remote Southern Italy, she and her sister, Tina, decide they want to cement their new identity as Americans by cutting off their long hair and getting trendy American perms. It was something my grandmother did when she first arrived in America, and I have taken inspiration from her and chopped my hair short to celebrate a fresh start on several occasions.

If you were to set up a bookish Easter egg hunt, which five books would you choose to hide and why?

I’d pick my 5 favorite intergenerational sagas!

1. Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club (can’t believe it’s the thirtieth anniversary this year!)
2. Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing
3. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
4. Tea Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife
5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

How do you think your main character might celebrate Easter?

With homemade cavatelli and tons and tons and tons of cookies (especially pizzelle)! Probably arrayed in silver trays on a hand-crocheted lace table cloth.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna is published on the 7th of May, and is available for pre-order now.

Pick up an eBook for just 99p this April!

Pick up an eBook for just 99p this April!

Team Bookends have got the eBook bargain for you this April, whether you’re searching for an uplifting read to get lost in, or on the hunt for some 99p food inspiration from some of the biggest names in cookery – including Gordon Ramsay, Mary Berry, Liam Charles and Donal Skehan!

Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Fit Food by Gordon Ramsay

The dream combination – a Michelin-starred superchef who is also a committed athlete. Gordon knows how important it is to eat well, whether you’re training for a triathlon or just leading a busy active life. And just because it’s healthy food you don’t have to compromise on taste and flavour.

The book is divided into three sections, each one offering breakfasts, lunches, suppers, sides and snacks with different health-boosting benefits. The Healthy section consists of nourishing recipes for general wellbeing; the Lean recipes encourage healthy weight loss; and the Fit section features pre- and post-workout dishes to build strength and energise.

This is the ultimate collection of recipes that you’ll enjoy cooking and eating, and will leave you in great shape whatever your fitness goals.

Fast Cakes by Mary Berry

Fast Cakes is an unmissable, definitive new baking book from Mary Berry. Proper cakes that take 10 minutes or less to make and under an hour to bake. If you miss Mary’s wisdom and inspiration in The Great British Bake Off, or want a brand-new companion to Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, this is the cookbook for you with over 200 easy recipes to make with confidence.

There are scones, buns and biscuits that you can whip up for tea, traybakes and fruit loaves perfect for a school or village fete and of course fool-proof cakes for every occasion from everyday recipes such as a Honey and Almond Cake to Mary’s First-Rate Chocolate Cake. Not forgetting recipes you can make with your kids from Happy Face Biscuits to Traffic Lights and Jammy Buns.

Straightforward recipes you can trust, Fast Cakes is a must-have for all busy bakers.

Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist

In this smart, funny novel of second chances and reinvention from the author of The Rosie Result, two misfits walk 2,000 km along the Camino to find themselves – and, perhaps, each other.

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.

In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal – physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover along the way.

The Maid’s Room by Fiona Mitchell

This is where she sleeps. A cupboard. A bedroom. A windowless box.

Sisters Dolly and Tala have never felt further from home. In the blistering heat of Singapore, they spend their days enabling ex-pats to have lives they could never afford for themselves.

Even though she has little freedom, Dolly can just about live with her job if it means she’s able to support her beloved young daughter back in the Philippines. One day – if she’s lucky – Dolly may even be able to go back and see her.

Tala, however, just can’t keep her mouth shut about the restrictive, archaic rules maids are forced to abide by on pain of deportation. She risks everything to help her fellow maids, who have struggled to have their voices heard for far too long…

The Key by Kathryn Hughes

A hidden note. A lost love. A second chance…

It’s Ellen Crosby’s first day as a student nurse at Ambergate Hospital. When she meets a young woman admitted by her father, little does Ellen know that a choice she will make is to change both their lives for ever…

Sarah is drawn to the now abandoned Ambergate. Whilst exploring the old corridors she discovers a suitcase belonging to a female patient who entered Ambergate fifty years earlier. The shocking contents, untouched for half a century, will lead Sarah to unravel a forgotten story of tragedy and lost love, and the chance to make an old wrong right . . .

‘Oh wow! This story broke my heart then filled it with joy then broke it all over again! I adored The Letter and The Secret but this I have to say was my favourite. Heartfelt and poignant an absolute joy’ A reader of The Key

Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

The new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of The Confession, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty.

In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale, people’s lives appear as perfect as their beautifully manicured lawns. Money, success, privilege – the residents have it all. Life is good. There’s just one problem. Olive Collins’ dead body has been rotting inside number four for the last three months. Her neighbours say they’re shocked at the discovery but nobody thought to check on her when she vanished from sight.

Cheeky Treats by Liam Charles

The debut cookbook by the breakout star of The Great British Bake Off 2017 and the host of Channel 4’s brand new show, Liam Bakes.

When you bake you want the results to be mouth-watering and jaw-droppingly good. You want gasps of awe followed by silence as your friends and family munch their way through your genius creations.

No one understands this better than Liam Charles. Who else could bring you a Caramel Peanut Millionaire’s Shortbread, an Oreo Chocolate Brownie Freakshake or a Christmas Dinner Pie? It has to be Liam and in his first book, he introduces his latest inventions and favourite bakes that are guaranteed to get you in the kitchen.

EAT. LIVE. GO. by Donal Skehan

The quick and easy cookbook from Irish TV star and Saturday Kitchen host Donal Skehan.

EAT. LIVE. GO. – Fresh Food Fast is a collection of quick and easy recipes for busy and energetic lifestyles. Donal’s healthy approach to eating provides big flavour, the optimum nutrition the body needs, plus delicious treats.

Donal offers up brilliant recipes to cook at home, from everyday eating with family and friends, to restorative meals to nurture and nourish, including dishes from Donal’s travels in Europe and South East Asia. EAT. LIVE. GO – Fresh Food Fast is a cookbook for anyone who loves good food and eating well.

Tilly’s Kitchen Takeover by Matilda Ramsay

Inspired by the third series of hit CBBC cookery show Matilda & The Ramsay Bunch and the family’s adventures around California, the first cookbook from Tilly Ramsay includes 60 simple, delicious, and nourishing recipes to make for family and friends – plus tips and tricks from Tilly’s superstar chef dad, Gordon.

Impress all your friends with a Green Goodness Picnic or throw a fun-filled Ramsay-style Feast of Pulled Pork and Smokey American Beans, with Surprise Rainbow Cake and Hollywood Raspberry Fizz for dessert!

This book will encourage Tilly’s fans, tweens, and teens to start cooking with easy-to-follow recipes that can be enjoyed by all.

The Last Thing She Told Me by Linda Green

The Richard and Judy Book Club Bestseller

Moments before she dies, Nicola’s grandmother Betty whispers to her that there are babies at the bottom of the garden.

Nicola’s mother claims she was talking nonsense. However, when Nicola’s daughter finds a bone while playing in Betty’s garden, it’s clear that something sinister has taken place.

But will unearthing painful family secrets end up tearing Nicola’s family apart?

When You Read This by Mary Adkins | Friends of Bookends Reviews

When You Read This by Mary Adkins | Friends of Bookends Reviews

Iris Massey is gone.
But she’s left something behind.

Funny and moving in equal measures, When You Read This is a sparkling novel about love, life, and all the emails you really wish you’d never sent.

Find out what the Friends of Bookends thought about Mary Adkins’ warm and funny debut…


‘Death. It’s pretty final, isn’t it? Yet as Mary Adkins demonstrates in this remarkable debut, a person’s death is not necessarily the end of their story; particularly in the modern digital age.’

‘Whilst this book will entertain you and make you laugh, it will also cause you to question your own mortality.’

‘I loved this book. Set out as it is in email and blog form, it is an incredibly easy and entertaining read. Difficult to stop, in fact; and I could easily imagine this being adapted for the screen.’

‘I look forward to more from Mary Adkins in
the future, bravo!’


‘Although the subject of cancer and of death is not a cheerful one, the book doesn’t drag you down whilst reading about it. It is sad and moving of course, but the book interlaces the humorous sections just right so you never feel as though you can’t go on. In fact, I couldn’t put it down (except only once because I had to sleep).’

‘Carl was a great side character, he provided such humour with his well-meaning initiatives, trying to help Smith and often landing him in trouble.’

‘I recommend this book to anyone who can find hope in the darkest of situations.’


Whilst about grief in its many manifestations, this is in essence a love story. It is about the love between siblings, of parental love in whatever form that takes, of romantic love and how some can only show love in toxic ways.’

When You Read This is available to buy now!

Unwrap a new debut author this Easter! | Emily Gunnis exclusive Q&A

Unwrap a new debut author this Easter! | Emily Gunnis exclusive Q&A

Emily Gunnis previously worked in TV drama and lives in Brighton with her young family. She is one of the four daughters of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi. The Girl in the Letter is her debut novel.

When you’re on the hunt for a new read, how do you go about discovering one?

I usually ask friends or family if anyone has read anything good lately.  I always find the best seller charts a bit of a mixed bag.  And friends usually have the same tastes.  My sister recently recommended The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson which was incredible – I was so bereft when I finished it. 

Tell us a little bit about how ‘new beginnings’ are celebrated in your book

So the story’s protagonist is Sam Harper, who is the journalist on the hunt for the truth about The Girl in the Letter.  Her career, and personal life, is stalling at the start of the book, and by the end of the book she has overcome some tough hurdles and discovered some bitter sweet truths about herself and her family, which give her the strength to leave some baggage from the past behind, and start the new life which she has always dreamed of. 

If you were to set up a bookish Easter egg hunt, which five books would you choose to hide?

Hmmmm, I’ve been reading a lot about psychosis and the NHS for book two, so I’d say This is going to Hurt by Adam Kay, An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, Asylum by Patrick McGrath, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O’Farrell and I’ve just read Steven King On Writing again which is totally brilliant for any budding writers.

If you were an Easter egg, what kind would you be?

A Lindt Bunny, once you start you can’t stop – hopefully how my readers feel about TGITL!! 😉 

The Girl in the Letter is out now. Buy it here:

Read an exclusive extract from The Mummy Lessons by Helen Wallen!

Read an exclusive extract from The Mummy Lessons by Helen Wallen!

Read an extract from The Mummy Lessons, the frank and hilarious new novel by award-winning blogger Helen Wallen.

The rules:


2) Try to eat when the baby sleeps. (SEE POINT ABOVE)

3) Try to get basic household chores done when the baby sleeps. (ABOVE!!)

4) Batch cook food and freeze in individual portions for easy re-heating. (OR DELIVEROO . . . WITH WINE. AND CRYING)

5) Try hiring a cleaner to take the pressure off. (OR JUST USE BABY WIPES)

6) Take time to shower or bathe in the evenings when you can leave the baby with your partner. (OR JUST USE BABY WIPES)

7) Make tea or coffee in the Thermos so it stays hot. (WHAT IS THIS ‘HOT’ OF WHICH YOU SPEAK?!)

8) Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or ask people to leave. (COMMUNICATION VIA WHATSAPP ONLY)

9) Remember to look after and take time for yourself. (AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)

After a tough pregnancy, Emily is determined to tackle motherhood like a pro. But she quickly learns that Insta-Perfect-Parenting (and sleep) is hard to come by, no matter how much money you spend in Mothercare.

Irritatingly, her friend Molly seems to be breezing it. But with a business venture as well as a baby, is she taking on too much?

Liz looks as though she might have it all worked out. But when a tragedy derails her new relationship, she has some serious decisions to make.

Celebrating female friendship, the highs and lows of motherhood, and the lifesaving power of a jumperoo, The Mummy Lessons follows a year of highs and lows for Emily, Molly and Liz as they learn the hardest lesson of all: life doesn’t always follow the rules . . .

Read an extract, and pick up your copy of The Mummy Lessons now.