My Books

Victoria’s Victorian Victory is the first in the Ditchley Farm series and is available from Amazon as a paperback and ebook.

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Fourteen year old Victoria Bloom is great at having ideas, but they don’t always go to plan. Now her mistakes will have bigger consequences than ever before, as it has fallen to her to run the family farm. With the harvest fast approaching, it’s urgent she makes it profitable again, or they will lose it altogether.

It’s not an easy task, especially with concern for her brother distracting her, not to mention a runaway apprentice boy. Hardest of all, the people she must do business with just don’t take teenage girls seriously. Can she change their minds before her family ends up in the workhouse?

Excerpt from Victoria’s Victorian Victory

Ma guessed something was wrong as soon as Sam and Vicky walked into the yard.

“What’s happened to the cart, Vicky?”

“I drove it into a ditch. I’m really sorry Ma.”

“Is it broken?”

“The front wheel. Drew and Tommy are fetching the wheelwright.”

“Sounds expensive.” She spoke lightly but Sam seemed to think he should go.

“I’ll be gettin’ back to work then.”

“See you later, Sam.” They both watched him walk away. Regretfully, on Vicky’s side. Not on Ma’s. His presence was holding her back.

“Vicky, how could you be so careless? You know we have no spare money just now.”

“I’m sorry.”

“‘Sorry’ isn’t going to mend the cart or pay the rent! I’m assuming we now have a choice between the two?”

Vicky nodded.

“Perfect. A farm with no cart, or a cart with no farm? It’s my fault. I should never have let you try and run things. What was I thinking?”

Her voice broke up and she hurried inside. Vicky went and sat inside the stable with Dolly.

Vicky’s Diary 

  Dear Diary,

  Ma made it sound like we have a choice, but we don’t really. If we don’t have the cart mended then we will lose Mr Haddow’s business and a sizeable chunk of our income. We simply can’t let that happen. But how can we pay the rent in the meantime? It’s due on Thursday. I feel so, so bad. But being sorry doesn’t help. I need to sort this. But how?

 

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Reviews:

Victoria’s Victorian Victory is a well-written story that will carry you back to rural Victorian times. It is very well researched and the story comes to life with the mention of food eaten, everyday life including using a copper boiler to wash the clothes and much more.

The strongest aspect of the book is its main character, Victoria Bloom, who has just lost her father, and then her elder brother goes to London for work. Victoria is only fourteen but the drastic changes in her life make her realise she loves her home, her family, and she is going to do everything she can to, not only save it, but to improve it. It’s her sheer determination to succeed that makes her a great character but Victoria also knows she has to work hard to achieve her plans.

Abigail Shepherd portrays the Bloom farm as idyllic but also gives a very realistic and true representation of the hard life of domestic Victorian times.

We, in our present time, often say that things were better and less complicated in the good old days. I think this book shows that contentment and a sense of achievement come from dedication and hard work, no matter the era.

I highly recommend Victoria’s Victorian Victory as a story for all ages. Victoria is an inspiration.

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Every time I opened this novel, I felt I was stepping back in time to an era many of us view as simpler, somewhat mellow, and irresistibly romantic. The author (who clearly knows her subject inside out!) does a splendid job making pastoral Victorian living realistic, showing contemporary readers that life back then wasn’t so simple and laid-back after all, but was in fact filled with as much hustle and bustle as today’s world is. At the same time I was discovering what life was like on a working farm through the eyes of precocious Victoria, I was breathing in the refreshing air of a time that was indeed simpler than today in many ways, namely in its strong sense of community, the love and loyalty of family, as well as the pure joys of little things, such as homemade pound cake with pink icing and fresh-picked flowers.

I loved the spunk and courage of the heroine and found her a tremendous example for women of all ages. She proves that determination, vision, and a healthy dose of stubbornness can defy the odds and make dreams come true.

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A very nice gentle but absorbing story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

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 I very much enjoyed this charming tale of a farming family on the outskirts of a small English market town in the reign of Queen Victoria. Abigail Shepherd interweaves her very detailed research with a light touch, opening a window on a vivid world that blew in through my senses and made me feel as much at home in Ma’s kitchen as I am in Laurie Lee’s.
Victoria and the other main characters are varied and individual, and the dynamic relationship between farm and town is fascinating, particularly the world of the shop-girls. I was only sorry that the story stopped short of developing the potential for conflict implicit in some of the relationships – and there are some minor characters with sketchy but intriguing backgrounds who I’d love to read more about. A sequel, perhaps…?
Abigail is subtle in pointing up the contrast between ordinary daily life then and now, never hammering the reader over the head with history, but leaving the images to stand for themselves. Though they never deflect focus from the narrative, major social themes are the bones of the story: attitudes to women, poverty, exploitation of children, class differences, death and disease – not to mention the fine line between producing food and the reality of living hand-to-mouth in a world without a single Tesco van to deliver your online order.
I feel this book is a perfect fit for the top end of MG or lower YA age ranges, and would be a fantastic topic read for classes studying the Victorians, or looking at sustainability issues like food sourcing, local v. global, throwaway clothing culture, etc. That said, it’s not at all a ‘preachy’ book, but rather a great piece of time travel.

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Victoria’s Victorian Victory is a charming, old fashioned novel set in Victorian times and reminded me very much of the writings of L.M. Montgomery, the Lark Rise to Candleford series and the Flambards trilogy by K.M. Peyton.

Extremely well written, the novel is nicely paced with well developed, believable characters and a strong plot line. The author has obviously researched the period thoroughly, because the details were absolutely spot on, adding so much depth and authenticity you could almost smell the fresh cut hay and hear the mooing of the cows.

Victoria’s Victorian Victory is about 14 year old Victoria Bloom, whose life is turned upside down after the death of her father. Expecting her older brother to take up the challenge of running the family farm, things take a turn for the worse when her brother Charlie is seduced away by the bright lights of London, leaving Victoria and her family to cope alone, with the rent due, a harvest to get in and the very real prospect of the workhouse looming before them.

However, Victoria is not a girl to take adversity lying down and I think her character is one of the book’s main strengths. Almost modern in her thinking and outlook, Victoria is determined her family will keep their home. Not only that, she is convinced she can make the farm thrive and become more prosperous than ever.

In this age of “kick ass” futuristic heroines, all in love with vampires or werewolves, it was a refreshing change to read a book where the heroine was just strong minded and independent because that’s her character. Not because she has super powers, or a destiny to fulfill, but just because her sheer grit, determination and stubbornness will never let her admit defeat. In Victoria’s eyes, an obstacle is there to be got around, and get around them she does. Often with a cheek and inventiveness that had me chuckling.

If there is one tiny flaw with the book, it’s that it ended too abruptly, leaving me wanting more of Victoria and her family. I am hopeful that the author has a sequel in mind as there is definitely, in my opinion, far more of Victoria’s tale to be told.

All in all, a thoroughly lovely book, highly recommended.