Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband

A charming and witty novel, set in a small Australian country town in 1919



In 1919, thanks to the war and Spanish flu,

potential husbands are thin on the ground.


So four young women take an unusual course of action to solve all their problems...


It’s September 1919. The war is over, and everyone who was going to die from the flu has done so. But there’s a shortage of husbands and women in strife will flounder without a male to act on their behalf.


And in the southern NSW town of Prospect, four ladies bereft of men have problems that threaten to overwhelm them.


Thank God these desperate ladies have a solution: a part-time husband who will rescue them all. To find him, they’ll advertise. To afford him, they’ll share...





Published 29 January 2018



Order from Penguin Random House

The Four Respectable Ladies


'When Adelaide Nightingale, Louisa Worthington, Maggie O’Connell and Pearl McLeary threw caution to the winds in the most brazen way imaginable, disgrace was inevitable.’



Louisa Worthington

Beautiful Louisa whose dashing husband died for King and Country, is being ruined by the debts he left behind.



Maggie O’Connell

Young Maggie lost her mother in childbirth and her father to a redhead, is raising her two wayward brothers and fighting for land she can’t prove is hers.



Adelaide Nightingale

Adelaide has a husband, but he’s returned from the war in a rage and is refusing to tackle the thieving manager of their famous family store.



Pearl McLeary

Pearl, new in town and hired as Adelaide’s new housekeeper, must find her missing fiancé before it’s too late and someone dies.



About Barbara
Barbara Toner

Photograph Toni Ward

Barbara Toner -  Biog.

arbara Toner is an acclaimed author and columnist who has written extensively about the lot of women in all its manifestations and with all its glorious intricacies, both in fiction and non fiction. Her first two books, Double Shift, and The Facts of Rape were written at a time when there was demonstrably little fair play for women in the work force, the law courts or society in general.


With the arrival of her third daughter, Barbara chose to attack the iniquities in a lighter tone via a long-running column in Woman magazine. Tales from Tessa Wood, stories from a fictional marriage, charted the frustrations of a receptionist with a boring working life and an even less interesting marriage. It spawned two Tessa Wood novels, Married Secrets and The Infernal Triangle which led to contracts for Brain Street (tensions and upward mobility in South London) and The Need To Be Famous (a family‘s unseemly quest for the limelight).


Barbara wrote three further novels All You Need to Know (beautiful girl gets her looks into perspective), An Organised Woman (sisters struggle for supremacy) and Cracking America (fate versus circumstance in Nashville) while writing a column on home life for YOU magazine in the Mail on Sunday. That column inspired A Mothers Guide To Life (updated and renamed Because I Love You in 2012) and A Mother’s Guide to Husbands, each of which ignored the universal truth that advice should only be offered if sought.


After a stint as a columnist for the Guardian, Barbara began to divide her time between London and a house on the far south coast of NSW. She has since written What To Do About Everything, a modern household manual and her latest book, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband, (scandal and empowerment in rural NSW in 1919). This will be published on January 29th, 2018.


Barbara is married, has three daughters, five grandchildren and continues to live between homes in the UK and Australia.


Why I write
Barbara Toner

"Everyone in my family is good with words one way or another, probably because our father took such pleasure from them. He could transform Sunday lunch with ‘Propinquity and propensity- Discuss!’ As far as I can remember, no one took him up on the discussion but we all inherited his enjoyment in the niceties of language and it is a great gift. The downside is that we’re a family of pedants. Sticklers for correct pronunciation if nothing else. That I’m the only full-time writer in my generation is a matter of luck. I got in first, baggsing it with my poem Dan Dan The Ice-cream Man when I was four.


I knew at once I was no poet. I wanted to write books. When I was ten my mother asked what kind of books. She’d heard textbooks sold well. That’s what she said. What she meant was if I were going to write, in order not to starve I’d need an income. I became a journalist when I was 17 but I still wanted to be a novelist. Knowing how to become one was the issue. How had Thackeray produced Vanity Fair? (That’s where I was aiming!) How could a story so complete, so compelling and with so many words, exit a head and arrive perfectly formed on the printed page. It was a matter of mystery and awe.


In the end, I dived in without grace or form or any idea at all as to method.


On the strength of a couple of successful non-fiction books, which I’d approached as very long pieces of journalism, I applied for and was given a young writer’s Commonwealth Literary Scholarship. With Catch 22 on the desk next to me for guidance, I wrote an untitled novel about a woman who grew a penis and was consigned to a clinic for the restoration of sexual normality. My then agent liked it and so did the friend who typed it up for me. But no one else. And here I learnt the single most important thing a novelist in waiting needs to know. Rejection isn’t the end. You chuck it aside and press on. I pressed on.


I crept up on novels via characters invented for a magazine column until finally I found a method that suited me. I don’t know if it produces good books or just books that I start and finish. I’m rarely pleased with them. But I love the process, even on days when it has nothing to recommend it other than the fun of choosing what to say and how best to say it "


Barbara Toner 2018




Writing courses

How to write the book that’s in you


"Because I remember my own confusion and floundering, I occasionally run a course for up to five people explaining how a book can be converted from a pile of mush in your head to a coherent body of work on a page.


It’s not a creative writing course. It an explanation of the method I use which gives me a kind of template that guides me from my beginning, through the middle to the end. It isn’t how everyone works, just how I work. It’s run over two days and there is homework."



Get in touch


To make an enquiry about Barbara's writing courses in detail please write to:


Former students say...


"Barbara Toner’s two day course is worth its weight in gold. Within a day of finishing it, I had a clear idea of tone, theme, storyline and structure and I had written my first thousand words."  AN


"I believe your format was excellent along with the way you handled each student. Very personalised.  I was nervous but you put each of us at ease. You offered the practical side of writing a story." VC


"You are an excellent teacher … I enjoyed the hands on approach and … how you’ve equally engaged with all of us. I certainly learned a lot and you’ve done a good job of getting the basics of story into our heads." SF


"By far, the best investment I have made in my future and mental health was a course with Barbara. After only two days with her, I have the knowledge, tools, confidence, and passion to unleash the book in me."  TG




Barbara Toner's current and back catalogue of published fiction and non-fiction books

are available to buy or order from book stores and on-line booksellers.



Cracking America

Barbara Toner | Published by Hutchinson | 2003

Country-singing orphan from Cockfosters pushes her luck one step too far seeking stardom in Nashville


Cracking America,  Barbara Toner

Twenty year old country singer, Honey, is addicted to trouble and attracted to dangerous men. She sings of love and loss like a girl from Tennessee, although she lives in Cockfosters at the end of the Piccadilly line. She dreams of Nashville and of a man who is decent and true. Her best friend says dreaming will be the death of her.


"Like Catcher in the Rye... funny dark and original, this is a wonderful read"

Sainsburys Magazine


Cracking America by Barbara Toner.  Available to buy from America by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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An Organised Woman

Barbara Toner | Published by Hutchinson | 1996

Control freak running a rehab centre is sabotaged by family


An Organised Woman.  Barbara Toner

The story of a woman who runs a successful addiction clinic. Her personal life is a mess, and she must confront her own demons, in particular her relationships with her father and sister, in order to come to terms with own frailties.


"Wickedly funny novel – murder, accusations, lies, lust and betrayal – who could ask for anything more "

Marie Claire


An Organised Woman by Barbara Toner.  Available to buy from Organised Woman by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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All You Need To Know

Barbara Toner | Published by Hutchinson | 1997

Teenage beauty wreaks havoc in Sydney suburbia as she discovers looks aren’t everything


All You Need To Know by Barbara Toner

It's 1958. Sydney's upper north shore is a model of refinement and harmony. Then along comes Kitty Page, a 17-year-old platinum blonde with a sharp eye for beauty and truth.


"Sparkling, acutely observed, gripping and wickedly funny"

Mail on Sunday

"Toner’s grasp of rebellion and seduction is unique"

Good Book Guide

All You Need To Know  by Barbara Toner.  Available to buy from You Need To Know by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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Brain Street

Barbara Toner | Published by Macdonald Futura | 1986

Barbarity among the upper middle classes as South London is gentrified


Brain Street - Barbara Toner

Everyone knows what goes on behind the bookshelves in the Harveys’ loft extension. Giles Parker did run over the whippet from No. 3, and Jill’s pot-au-feu may well have been responsible for the untimely death of the greedy lady from Putney. Tempers fray, friendships curdle and revenge spreads among the upwardly-mobile, tree-lined terrace that is Brain Street.”


"The funniest novel I have read this year, a true comedy of manners"

Sunday Telegraph

"A really hilarious tale . Barbara Toner’s fast funny style has you laughing out loud in delight"



Brain Street -  Barbara Toner.  Available to buy from Street  by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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The Need To Be Famous

Barbara Toner | Published by Macdonald Futura | 1988

Showbizz family goes to extreme lengths to maintain high profile


The Need to Be Famous- Barbara Toner

This book is a biting satirical look at the desperate desire to be famous by a family of very privileged, very interesting characters. It cuts close to the bone of modern society's obsession with their 15 minutes of fame. Funny, current and incisive.


"Barbara Toner is funny, sharp and uncomfortably perceptive"

Evening Standard

Wildly funny, sharply honed satire … a hilarious cautionary tale of our self-centered times, a treat of a novel"

Daily Mail


The Need to Be Famous -  Barbara Toner.  Available to buy from Need to be Famous  by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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The Infernal Triangle

Barbara Toner | Published by Macdonald Futura | 1987

Fantasy breeding suspicion threatens happy family life - second Tessa Wood novel


The Infernal Triangle - Barbara Toner writing as Tessa Wood

The tortured genius and housewife known and loved by millions of Woman readers

The second Tessa Wood novel.


"Barbara Toner is excellent at the trivia of domestic life"


"This chronicle of mayhem is a delight from start to finish … funniest book in ages"

St Albans and District Observer


The Infernal Triangle -  Barbara Toner writing as Tessa Wood.  Available to buy from Infernal Triangle by Tessa Wood (Barbara Toner)  Available on


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Married Secrets

Barbara Toner | Published by Futura | 1984

...the first ten years are the worst - the first Tessa Wood novel


Married Secrets - Barbara Toner writing as Tessa Wood

Based on Barbara Toner's fictional 'Tales from Tessa Wood' column for WOMAN magazine.


Read a sample: Tales from Tessa Wood


Married Secrets -  Barbara Toner writing as Tessa Wood.  Available to buy from Secrets by Tessa Wood (Barbara Toner)  Available on


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Because I Love You

Barbara Toner | Published by Allen & Unwin | 2012

Revised and updated mother’s guide to life


Because I Love You.  Non-fiction by  Barbara Toner

Ignoring the universal truth that advice should only be offered if sought, here is one mother's funny, witty, wise guide to dealing with life's eternal dilemmas.


An indispensable guide to be shared by mothers and daughters of all ages everywhere


Kindle E Book edition

Because I Love You  by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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What To Do About Everything

Barbara Toner | Published by Hardie Grant | 2011

A manual for domestic life


What To Do About Everything.  Non-fiction by  Barbara Toner

The guide to 21st century living. It covers everything from changing a tire to surviving divorce, and addresses all kinds of households, not only the traditional nuclear family.


Applying researched information and empathy to all aspects of domestic life, this book ensures that anyone with a roof over their head can find the help they need—whether it’s learning to mend a sock, hire a plumber, light a fire, leave their husband, or even decide they’re gay after all.


What To Do About Everything  by Barbara Toner.  Available on To Do About Everything  by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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A Mother's Guide To Life

Barbara Toner | Published by Hodder | 1997

Based on Barbara Toner's weekly column in You magazine, a supplement of the Mail on Sunday


A Mother's Guide To Life.  Non-fiction by  Barbara Toner

Of appeal to mothers and daughters of all ages, this manual provides wit and wisdom on the eternal dilemmas of life.


Barbara covers areas from psychic flashes, childbirth and seduction to beauty tips, time management, hitting people and getting a mortgage. Home-craft doesn't get much respect, but what it means to be a mother does.


A Mother's Guide To Life  by Barbara Toner.  Available from  Amazon.comA Mother's Guide To Life  by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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A Mother's Guide To Husbands

Barbara Toner | Published by Hodder | 1998

A follow-up to A Mother's Guide To Life


A Mother's Guide To Life.  Non-fiction by  Barbara Toner

This amusing and entertaining guide to husbands includes advice on honeymoons, handymen and marital fatigue, how to argue in public and keep a social life and the true meaning of Christmas.


After all, marriage - and all it entails in separating from the family of one's birth to embrace a man whose family's ways may include slurping - is no mean undertaking ...


A Mother's Guide To Husbands  by Barbara Toner.  Available from  Amazon.comA Mother's Guide To Husbands by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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The Facts of Rape

Barbara Toner | Published by Hutchinson | 1977 | Reprinted 1981

An outspoken and controversial report


The Facts of Rape.  A report by  Barbara Toner

During the Seventies, Barbara Toner was so shocked by the appallingly low conviction rate for rape that she wrote a book exposing the weaknesses in the system. It covers a controversial trial that tested the interpretation of consent as well as an in-depth examination of the crime’s social and cultural connotations.


The revised and updated edition of this outspoken and controversial report


The Facts of Rape.  A report  by Barbara Toner.  Available from  Amazon.comThe Facts of Rape.  A report by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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Double Shift

Barbara Toner | Published by Arrow | 1975

A Practical Guide For Working Mothers


The Facts of Rape.  A report by  Barbara Toner

When Barbara had her first child at 23 she found herself looking for advice on how to juggle a career with motherhood. She found nothing, so she wrote her first book, Double shift: A Practical Guide For Working Mothers. The book caused a stir – mothers were not supposed to take jobs outside the home - and earmarked Barbara as "a feminist writer before feminist writers were being taken seriously".





Double Shift. A practical guide for working mothers  by Barbara Toner.  Available from  Amazon.comDouble Shift.  A practical guide to working mothers  by Barbara Toner.  Available on


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"There’s a school of thought that journalists make lousy novelists and there might be plenty of evidence for it, but it doesn’t stop a great many of us from having a go because it’s what we wanted to do in the first place. I love being a journalist and remain extremely grateful for all the opportunities the job has given me, including the chance to write columns and bang on to my heart’s content. It’s a far tougher arena now than it used to be but the way in has never been easy.


In Australia in the late sixties it was via a ladder which started on a bottom rung laden with a copy boys and girls and ended in death. Someone died at the top of the ladder (or just fell off), so everyone moved up a rung and the person who’d been a copy boy or girl longest was promoted to a cadetship which lasted four years. I never became a cadet because, after 18 months as a copy girl waiting for the death, I quarrelled with a sub-editor and resigned in lowish but irretrievable dudgeon.

Shortly afterwards I was offered a graded journalist’s job on Pix, a magazine devoted mostly to fishing and pin-ups, whose excellent editor was a huge fan of great interviews as seen in Esquire. He invited me to try my hand at the great interview and suggested I read for inspiration Gay Talese’s ‘Frank Sinatra Has A Cold’. I was seventeen so pretty sure I could pull it off.


This editor was patience itself and published my interviews. He also encouraged me to write humorous pieces about me looking silly doing something and a column called Toner Talking. The column was abysmal. I had no thoughts worth relaying. However, he gave me a great start and since then I’ve written for most of the UK nationals. I don’t always write about the lot of women, but I like to, not because I understand it better than anyone else but because I don’t and would like to."


Barbara Toner

Contact & Publishers


Literary Agent

Fiona Inglis


Publicity Officer

Emily Cook



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