Catherine Cookson books in the 1970s twenty years after she wrote her first one. Not unlike her own life, each of the stories were about people (usually women) bettering themselves. They started with nothing and often by a chance acquaintance with a member of the gentry were uplifted to a higher place in society. Each of these were strong women with great determination - something Catherine Cookson herself was well known for. She wrote nearly 100 books in her lifetime and many of them became either a movie or mini series. As her books went on to sell millions, she became known as one of the great philanthropists of England.
Catherine Cookson grew up in a home which wasn't as it seemed. As an older child she found out her sister was her mother and her grandfather was actually her father. This type of family secret plays out in many of her books.
I came across the Black Velvet Gown DVD at the library today. If you haven't read any of Catherine Cookson's books, pick one up. They are well worth the read and you may, like me, get hooked.
A list of Catherine Cookson's books here