When should you trust your heart?
It’s 1942 when Cassie Taylor reluctantly leaves Birmingham to become a land girl on a farm in Dorset.
There she meets Robert and Stephen Denham, twins recovering from injuries sustained at Dunkirk. Cassie is instantly drawn to Stephen, but is wary of the more complex Robert – who doesn’t seem to like Cassie one little bit.
At first, Robert wants to sack the inexperienced city girl. But Cassie soon learns, and Robert comes to admire her courage, finding himself deeply attracted to Cassie. Just as their romance blossoms, he’s called back into active service.
Anxious to have adventures herself, Cassie joins the ATS. In Egypt, she meets up with Robert, and they become engaged. However, war separates them again as Robert is sent to Italy and Cassie back to the UK.
Robert is reported missing, presumed dead. Stephen wants to take Robert’s place in Cassie’s heart. But will Cassie stay true to the memory of her first love, and will Robert come home again?
I'm thrilled to be able start off The Penny Bangle Interviews by interviewing the hero of this book, Robert. Welcome to the Plotting Shed, Robert.
When Cassie first arrived at your family farm you didn’t take to her straight away. What was it that made you realise she had more about her than you’d first thought?
I’d asked the Ministry of Labour to find us a new land girl, and I was expecting to be sent someone strong, healthy and with lots of experience. So I was livid when this skinny little waif from Birmingham turned up. When we asked where she’d been before she came to us, it turned out she’d worked in a factory. She’d never been out of Birmingham, and she’d never seen a cow, let alone milked one.
At first, she was absolutely terrified of the cows. She shook every time she went near them. But she soon learned, and she made it clear she was much tougher than she looked. One day, she did something really stupid and was quite badly hurt. I still feel sick when I think about it. But she got up the following morning and said she was fit enough to go back to work. I got used to seeing that stubborn expression on her face, the one that said I’ll show you, Robert Denham – and she did.
Sometimes, I’d catch her smiling at me. She has a gorgeous smile. Soon, I realised I had liked her from the moment we’d first met, and it wasn’t long before I fell in love.
Can you tell us a bit about how you must have felt to discover that Cassie was volunteering for dangerous missions?
I didn’t like it at all!
I was in the army, Cassie had joined the ATS, and I’d been sent to North Africa. I was horrified when I heard she was on her way to Alexandria on a troopship ploughing through the Mediterranean, being attacked by German U-boats and dive-bombed by Italian planes.
But, even if I’d known what she was plotting, I wouldn’t have tried to stop her doing anything. It would have been a waste of time. I was relieved when they sent her back to the UK, but she was furious. She wanted to go to Italy with the army, and settle Mussolini once and for all.
Had you always hoped to stay on the farm, or did you have ambitions for adventures elsewhere?
I’d always admired my father, who was a professional soldier before he became a farmer. But I didn’t want to be a soldier myself until the war began.
If there hadn’t been a war, I’d probably have wanted to do something other than farming, anyway. I enjoyed being in the army, but you’ll have to read the story to find out what I’m doing now!
What was the hardest thing about meeting up with Cassie and then having to leave her again?
She never had the opportunities I had as a child, but she’s as smart and clever as anyone I know. She’s also very vulnerable, however, and I saw that side of her for the first time when we were in Alexandria together. I understood that beneath all her toughness, cockiness and cheekiness was a girl who didn’t actually think much of herself. She couldn’t quite believe it when things went well. I found I was determined to make sure things would always go well for Cassie.
Why was it hard to leave Cassie? Well, because I wanted to see her again in this world, not the next, and I didn’t know if I would.
You sound a very different personality to your twin brother Stephen, so it must make it very difficult when someone so close to you also decides that they want to be with the woman you love?
It’s difficult to know someone like Steve. On the surface, he’s confident and cheerful. But, deep down, he’s insecure and needs plenty of reassurance. He’s a bit like Cassie in that respect. What you see first of all isn’t necessarily what you get.
Cassie liked Steve from the start, long before she liked me. Well, everybody likes Steve. He’s a nice bloke. But, when Cassie and I fell in love, it caused a lot of tension between Steve and me.
The one really big row I had with Cassie was about Steve. I asked her if she’d gone to bed with him while I was in Italy and they were both in the UK. She lost it completely. Then she told me to get out of her life. That was when I realised she meant the world to me and I had to find some way to get her back.
Thank you, Debs – it’s been a pleasure to talk to you.
As a thank you for Robert agreeing to be interviewed in the Plotting Shed Choc Lit are kindly giving away one large Victorian Penny to a lucky winner who leaves a 'Pick Me' comment on this blog. (The winner will be chosen at random next weekend).
The rest of the interviews will be as follows:
Interview with Cassie - 23 April at the Book Babes
Interview with Margaret - 30 April on the Romaniacs
Finale and Publication Day on 7 May at the Authors' Corner at Choc Lit