We’re going back in time this week, to before and during the first World War, to meet Rose from Ros Rendle’s fascinating historical saga, Flowers of Flanders.
Let’s find out a bit about the book before we talk to Rose.
Rose rivals her beautiful, mercurial sister for Michael’s love but calculated lies and misunderstandings alter the young peoples’ course. War breaks and Michael is as eager as the others to go.
Maybe Rose will settle for second best with Thom even though she cannot get Michael out of her soul.
Does a man need the grace of serenity to rediscover his own or is it frivolity and seduction he craves when he has been through the darkest places of war? Michael’s experiences in the trenches gradually alter his perceptions.
This is a story about deceit and loyalties, complex relationships and loves developing from youth to adulthood during a cataclysmic time in history.
Good morning, Rose. Thank you for allowing me to ask you a little about yourself and your experiences during these last few troubled years.
Firstly, would you tell me about your family?
I am the eldest of three girls and we had brother who was the third sibling. He would have told his own story, his motives for going to France before he was old enough, but that cannot be any more, sadly.
My middle sister, Delphinium or Delphi, is very head-strong. It has got her into serious trouble. She has tried to make amends since, but I’m still trying to forgive her for the trouble she caused with that one little malicious lie. My youngest sister, Iris, we call her Izzy, is still very young. I’m sure she will have a story to tell, however, when she is old enough.
You and your sister, Delphi, seem to have been friendly with Michael Redfern. How did you meet?
Yes. We all knew the family. Their department store was quite innovative and grew significantly in the last few years. I believe Mr Redfern would like Michael to have gone into the family business, but it wasn’t really for him. He seemed to crave a greater adventure. He certainly got that, as did we all, of course, after 1914.
What did your Papa think when your sister joined the WAACs?
Naturally, he was scandalised at first. Mama was very frightened too. My brother, Hector, had already disappeared. We assumed he went to France even though he was too young, but we weren’t certain. Stories filtering back were so mixed, we weren’t sure exactly what was happening. Delphi would have her way, of course, as she always did, trading on her beauty and her winning ways. She knew how to twist everyone to her will. She got more than she bargained for over there, though, in more ways than one.
It must have changed you and your sister, surely, that experience?
We were all changed. The uncertainty, the shortages, the work we had to do. Perhaps Delphi was changed most of all. The price she had to pay was, indeed, very high. I have altered too. I’ve always tried to understand the motives for what people do and to forgive where necessary. However, that can make one seem soft and open to be walked over and taken for granted. I’ve learned to be true to myself, stand my corner, while still being compassionate.
Do you think it was a good thing for women to take employment while the men were away?
Mm! Good question. We had to but it has changed society, that’s for sure. My Papa was always forward thinking. That’s why he allowed me to go and study at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford. I know I still wasn’t allowed to gain a degree, as a woman, despite getting honours in all the classes. Now things are moving on. Women are gaining some better parity. You never know, we may even be allowed to vote one day. I think that’s because we were doing jobs the men had to leave. There comes responsibility with that freedom though.
Will you speak with Delphi again?
Maybe, if we ever meet. Who knows whether she will return. She’s so far away. The other side of the world. Probably best under the circumstances. I suppose she may return in the future. She is my sister, still.
Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Rose. I do hope things work out between you and your sister, Delphi.
Here’s a short extract from ‘Flowers of Flanders’.
Rose came with Izzy through the trees that bordered the lane. Her gaze, generally gentle and myopic, took in the situation and she looked on in horror. The sun through the branches slapped the group with searing tiger stripes. Michael stood with head bowed. The deep gash on his forehead was a slash of vermillion vividness which dripped unheeded; a violent splash on his shirt, so white. A long log of wood lay at his feet and three other lads stood and looked aghast but clueless.
Delphi’s voice rose as she berated them all for their stupidity but Crispin, as the main culprit, received her full wrath.
“You’re fighting with sticks! What on earth for?” Delphi demanded. “Hector, you should know better,” she continued, looking at her brother who had got back to the scene of the crime ahead of her. With the full force of her words again upon Crispin she added, “That’s a dirty great log. It’s not even a stick, you dolt.”
Rose saw Crispin regard Delphi. She recognised the look he gave, admiring her beautiful face with its prominent high cheekbones. Rose felt a pang of envy. Everyone looked at Delphi that way including Michael. At that moment, though, Delphi was frowning yet it still didn’t detract from her exotic looks. Her lovely dark eyes, so often dancing with fire lights glared at the culprit.
Crispin rediscovered his voice.
“The British are horrid to their own cousin. Kaiser Wilhelm wants to be their equal, that’s all.”
Hector tilted his head at Crispin and pointed.
“He’s a filthy rotten traitor to support them.”
Rose stood, taking it in. She understood her brother’s determination to show Delphi that his side of the incident was justifiable.
“Oh, for goodness sake, Hector,” Delphi chided her sibling. Then, “Stop it the lot of you.”
Silence followed her vehemence.
The tableau fixed itself in Rose’s mind but as the eldest of the family, she came to her senses and took control.
“Delphi, hush now. Take Izzy and go to Mama. Tell her what occurred. Ask her to prepare warm water and clean cloths,” she said.
Delphi turned to stare at her sister in surprise.
“Hurry! Go! Hector, you can run fast. Go to the department store and fetch Michael’s mother to our house. Don’t panic her though. Michael will be fine,” she continued although the sight of so much blood was horrible.
She turned with a cold stare to Crispin and his friends. Although the same age as they it was her turn to give them what for.
“You three, clear off to your homes if you know what’s good for you. Fighting with sticks at almost seventeen years of age,” she snapped.
“They started it,” Hector called over his shoulder as he departed, showing his immaturity among the group of boys.
Left alone with Michael a flutter passed through Rose somewhere deep down. She looked at this good-looking boy with the desire she’d held for such a long time, but he didn’t look at her the way he did at her strikingly beautiful middle sister. Rose tucked a stray strand of her wayward hair behind her ear and pushed her spectacles back up her nose.
With her heart bumping she said, “Michael can you see well enough? We’ll take the track through the trees to our house. It’s closest and Mama will patch you up.”
Want to read more? You can buy Ros’s books here:
Having worked as a Headteacher, Ros has been used to writing policy documents, essays and stories to which young children enjoyed listening. Now she has taken up the much greater challenge of writing fiction for adults. She writes both historical sagas and contemporary romance; perfect for lying by a warm summer pool or curling up with on a cosy sofa. Her books are thoroughly and accurately researched. This is her third book.
Ros is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novelists’ Society.
She has lived in France for ten years but has recently moved back to the UK with her husband and dogs. Ros has two daughters and four grand-daughters, with whom she shares many heart-warming activities.
You can find out more about Ros here:
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