Old London Bridge c1710Polack, Joel Samuel, 1807-1882 :Kororareka, Bay of Islands, New Zealand


Barbara Ewing

The Petticoat Men


The Petticoat Men was shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Thriller Award 2015



London, 1870.  The Stacey family, running a boarding house near Kings Cross, suddenly find themselves involved in what the newspapers are calling “THE SCANDAL OF THE CENTURY”: two of their gentleman boarders are arrested, dressed as society women, in the audience at a London theatre.  Immediately disgust, gossip, rumour and alarm swirl round the city (and it is known by many that certain members of the nobility are also involved with these dangerous ladies.)  Shocked newspaper headlines and editorials abound; both spiritual and temporal gentlemen gather in secret rooms; meetings are held at the highest levels of society and power, about saving reputations. But the landlady’s daughter, Mattie, has her own idea: she wants to save people she cares about from ten years’ hard labour, and she will take any risks to do so.  She and her mother and her brother, staring penury in the face, become involved not only in the trial, but in the lives – and deaths – of some of those involved.

A historical novel taking a new and startling look at a real trial which reached both the corridors of power and the darkest alleys. A novel which shows that when so much is at stake loyalty, love and friendship sometimes – but not always – exist at both ends of the social scale.

Click here to buy The Petticoat Men on Amazon











If you want to take the temperature of a culture, look at its scandals. Barbara Ewing's strange and fascinating novel zooms in on one of the greatest scandals of the Victorian age - and manages to shed new light on it. Mattie Stacey has two charming lodgers named Freddie and Earnest, and she admires their extravagant collection of gorgeous gowns and hats. She loves hearing their outrageous stories about attending grand balls in the clothes of their alter egos, "Fanny" and "Stella". Then the two men are arrested for homosexuality and the press has a field day. So far, this is well known territory. While researching accounts of the trial, however, Ewing found "forgotten" evidence that took the case into the very heart of the establishment, right up to the edges of the royal family. The tone is warm and compassionate without being too modern. Terrific.

"…..Related by the shocked and sympathetic landlady’s daughter, this is a well-told account of a scandal and the horrible treatment meted out to those sentenced, like Oscar Wilde, to punishment for their sexuality."

"…..this is a generous and spirited reconstruction of a 19th-century cause célèbre "

"Taking a fictional stance on the celebrated case that took Victorian England by storm, Ewing showcases the infamous transvestites, Stella and Fanny. Their case may be the current 'cause célèbre' but these are dangerous times. I first heard of 'Stella and Fanny' at a talk last year and was intrigued to see what Ewing had done with these stars that shocked Britain. This is a book well-worth investigating!"
Crime Squad Top Ten

"Ewing's enormously readable novel reconstructs this 19th-century cause célèbre in vivid detail... This is a rich, warm-hearted novel which champions ordinary human decency against the corruption of the powerful.... a moving and compelling narrative." 

".....The Petticoat Men is told from three points of view: Mattie, her mother, and a dispassionate, very Victorian omniscient narrator. Between the three of them, they tell the story effortlessly, with the right amount of tabloid breathlessness, while staying near enough to the characters most affected by the scandal. An excellently written and interesting novel."








One Minute Crying Time

The Petticoat Men

The Circus of Ghosts

The Fraud

The Mesmerist


The Trespass

A Dangerous Vine

The Actresses


Being an Actress


Contact Me



Barbaraewing.com 2020