Books

A New Start for the Wrens – Vicki Beeby

This is the start of a new series for the author and also for me. I was after a new saga to get stuck into and I have found it clearly with this series and the authors previous work.

Iris is also after a new start too, after presuming that she was about to be proposed to and live the life as lady of the manor, she makes a mistake and finds herself suddenly in Orkney as a WREN signaller. Joining her are Mary and Sally and whilst we learn about them, this story very much focuses on Iris. I took an immediate dislike to Iris, who ability to speak without thinking was clear and she really did have a problem with anyone who did not come from the same class and why would women want to do anything other than marry.

Of course as the book goes on, we see Iris prejudices challenged not just by her developing friendships with Mary and Sally but also the other people she meets along the way. Mechanic Rob is nothing like the man Iris should marry but something about him is enthralling. Stewart on the other hand would go down well with Iris’s parents. But is he really the caring doctor he makes out.

Then of course there is the Orkney Islands themselves, a vast landscape, nothing like the landscape of any of the girls homes. The weather is another battle to fight along with the Germans. The islanders welcome these girls into the homes and hearts and Irish can see that perhaps all she has held as ‘right’ is in fact wrong. When it looks like there could be a traitor in their midst, they find their purpose in their work will have huge ramifications.

This is a wonderfully written saga and I was hooked from the beginning. As someone who has a lot of knowledge of the Royal Navy and also coming from Portsmouth and working now where HMS Mercury moved to I can see plenty of names I recognised and nothing stood out for me as achingly wrong! I have seen that in previous novels and it really spoils the book for me.

I am already looking forward to catching up with the girls again soon.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

A New Start for the Wrens is out now.

Books

The Little Wartime Library Kate Thompson

Books, reading and therefore libraries are important at all times and in this novel, based on events during the Second World War, are important to the residents of Bethnal Green.

The unfinished underground station becomes the unlikely home of the Bethnal Green library as the original one was destroyed during the blitz. Librarian, Clara Button and her assistant Ruby Monroe have decamped underground to still serve the local residents with books, information , a shoulder to cry on and most importantly forms of escapism. But it is not just the locals, a whole world has opened up underneath he streets of London and bombed out residents are seeking shelter as well.

This is a forward thinking library, with bedtime stories for the smaller residents of the station as well as visits to local factories for those on shift work that cannot get to the library, a solace for overwhelmed mothers and an information point on being able to take control of your life. For some Clara and her ideas are a bit too forward thinking and it seems is cutting articles out of newspapers and spying on what is really going on amongst the bookshelves of stories.

A wonderful book full of so much, the impact of war on many different generations, domestic violence, female emancipation, sexual freedoms, loss, death, grief and that stoicism that seems to come out of these times.

An escapism to another time, which shows you the joy books bring no matter when we are reading them and under what circumstances.

For fans of books, libraries, reading and books based on the Second World War.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Little Wartime Library is out now.

Books

The Kitchen Front – Jennifer Ryan

I have read many books which are based around the Second World War and it is always nice to get a different perspective, a different aspect to telling a well versed period of history.

Jennifer Ryan certainly does it with this book and uses the war at home, the food shortages, rationing and cooking to create this wonderful story.

The BBC programme The Kitchen Front needs to relate more to its female audience and so decides to hold a competition for a new presenter. Enter four ladies from Fenley Village.

First is Lady Gwendoline, she knows her status within the village, as being married to the prominent factory owner puts her above everyone else. In here eyes anyway. If she could win, then she would go up in everyone’s expectations, especially her husbands.

Audrey, widow with three young boys is Gwendoline’s sister. And looked upon as the poorer of the two. Devastated by her husband’s death and struggling to keep a roof above her families head, she will do anything to make the extra pennies to survive.

Nell is the kitchen maid for Gwendoline and along with the cook Mrs Quince, well known already in the area for what she can create. Nell is wanting to break free and leave the life of service behind and be her own women. Whilst she has the encouragement from Mrs Quince, can she do something as scary as cook for a competition and potentially win? Confidence is all she needs and it can come from the most unexpected places.

Zelda has bucket loads of confidence, as a chef very much in a mans world and determined to be recognised in her own right. Zelda sees this as a way to further her career. Except war work has taken her to the factory owned by Gwendoline’s husband and her condition means she is about to stand out from the crowd for all the wrong reasons.

All these women are thrown together in the competition and outside of that as well. There ingenuity to create something out of nothing or something out of foul ingredients shows the pluck and determination that the home front employed during rationing. The strength of friendship and adversity means that by the end of the book, all of their lives have changed.

Cooking and a common goal and purpose may have brought these four unlikely women together, but it was love, respect and their strength of belief and friendship which will keep them together long after you have finished reading the book.

An excellent book, covering the home front and full of recipes for dried egg powder, whale meat and tins of spam! Not sure I would want to recreate some of them, but they are all brought to life within the pages of the book.

Thank you to the publisher for the opportunity via netgalley to read this book. Unfortunately I was too late to download my copy but I was interested, so I purchased my own copy and devoured it. Jennifer Ryan’s writing is wonderful and I look forward to reading more.

The Kitchen Front is out now.

Books

Three Cheers for Shipyard Girls – Nancy Revell

Three Cheers for the Shipyard Girls, should be followed by Three Cheers for Nancy Revell as this wonderful series of books comes to a conclusion, with this the final instalment. I have been with all the girls since the beginning and I am heartened and sadden to know that as soon as I picked up this book it was inevitably going to come to an end.

As the end of the Second World War, approaches the lives of these women welders in a Sunderland shipyard and going to change inexplicably once again. Gloria has finally found her happy ending and is going to marry Jack and unite her family once more.

Rosie, now happy that Peter is home from his secret missions abroad is finally starting to settle into married life but there is still her own secrets she needs to reconcile to be able to move on.

Angie is to be married to Quentin and with that the final escape from her family and the behaviours of her parents. Little does she know, she will end up with a ready made family as soon as she is married.

Dorothy whilst content with planning Angie’s wedding, does not want one of her own and is determined along with Gloria’s son Bobby to see the world once the world is available to be seen once again.

Polly and Tommy are reunited, their family complete. Along with all those who make the extended family as well, Agnes, Bel, Joe, Pearl and Lucille. All names you will be familiar with if you have been with the books from the beginning.

Of course there is some unfinished business with Helen and her family secrets which are still going to affect all the women she employs. Can she possibly keep it together to protect those she cares about. And will anyone ever care about her for who she is and not what she might bring to a relationship?

Nancy Revell does not hold back with the events in this book and I was positively hooked as I had to make sure all the bad and evil got their comeuppance. Some of the evil was never going to be reconciled and I adored the fact that Nancy sent Hannah, back to Austria, via the Red Cross to the liberation of the concentration camps to face those particular demons. Resonating so much reading this book in the world we currently live in.

The book came to the conclusion it rightly should have done. It is a double edge sword to come to the end of a series of books when you have been with them since the beginning. I want to know what happens next but on the other hand, I know that all of the Shipyard Girls lives will continue long past the final page and word written by Nancy Revell.

The best saga series I have read in many years and begs to be made into a television drama. I feel bereft that I am no longer going to take a peek at their lives anymore but I am so glad I did.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Three Cheers for the Shipyard Girls is out now.

Series Order

The Shipyard Girls

Shipyard Girls at War

Secrets of the Shipyard Girls

Shipyard Girls in Love

Victory for the Shipyard Girls

Courage of the Shipyard Girls

Christmas with the Shipyard Girls

Triumph of the Shipyard Girls

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls

The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front

Shipyard Girls Under the Mistletoe

Three Cheers for the Shipyard Girls

Books

The Twyford Code – Janice Hallett

If there ever was a book so difficult to write a review for – this is it. I was hooked by The Appeal and wanted to see if the second novel lived it up to. It did, but in a completely different way, I was expecting the same and got something totally different and it blew me away!

A famous children’s book, a famous author; Edith Twyford. Left on a bus and found by Steve Smith. It is 1983 and Steve can’t read so he takes the book to school to Miss Isles and she reads it out. Miss Isles is enthralled, the book contains a code and that leads Steve and his remedial English class to Bournemouth. Miss Isles never returns from that trip. What happened?

40 years later Steve is still puzzled by the mystery of Miss Isles, the book and what really happened. Having lived a life mainly behind bars, lost his wife, alienated from his own family and no longer part of anything, Steve wants to get to the truth. Although estranged from his son, he is given an old phone from him and Steve although still not as educated and well read uses it to record all of his thoughts and understandings of what happened all those years ago.

All the recordings are transcribed and this is what forms the book and we get to find out what happened to Miss Isles but also Steve’s past and how he has come to have been in and out of prison and the circumstances that have led him to record his past.

This is a complex book but fascinating and it draws you in and you find yourself being pulled back into the recordings and the voice of Steve. I admit it took me longer to get used to this novel than it did her first, but once I slipped into the way of the writing and the voice I was intrigued as the truth become closer and closer.

There are twists and turns and when the book reaches it conclusion, it had me wanting to go back and read from the beginning, knowing the ending to see the clues. A true sign of a thoroughly cleverly constructed mystery novel and I am still puzzling the final mystery.

If you want to try something different, it you want to be challenged, if you love word games, puzzles and have an understanding of language then pick up this book, you will not be disappointed.

I cannot wait to see how the author tackles this genre in her third novel, I know she is going to blow us all away with it.

The Twyford Code is out now.

The publisher via netgalley gave me the opportunity to read this book. However, I went an purchased my own copy as I wanted to make sure I experienced it as it was printed and formatted and sometimes with advanced review copies the formatting can be a bit off and that can spoil the impact of the book.

Books

Murder in First Class – Helena Dixon

If you have been following my reviews or blog you will know that I have been with this series of books since the beginning. The delightful sparky Kitty Underhay is still keeping everyone including her fiancée Matt Bryant on their toes and as readers we get to see it all played out with the delightful backdrop of Dartmouth as well.

Of course it wouldn’t be a murder mystery series unless there was at least one murder involving a train! Hoping for a quiet week off, Kitty and Matt find themselves called to help in the murder of Simon Travers on a train from London to stay with Matt.

Simon Travers was one of the passengers in the first class compartment, the others being a travelling salesman, a singer, a vicar, a young flapper, a poorly missionary and just to add to Kitty’s headache, Mrs Craven. Long term friend to Kitty’s grandmother and who always has an opinion of everything. The murder on this train is no different.

It all points to the travelling salesman but then his body is washed up.

Can Kitty and Matt find the truth as it appears at first that none of these people have any connection between each other. However as truths are uncovered and secrets from the past exposed, it leads Kitty nearer to the truth. But can she get there in time when she is suddenly face to face with her own past?

Another excellent book in the series, and if you discover it now you have some great mysteries to go back and solve. Kitty is very much before her time and it is always great to read books with strong female protagonists. Familiar characters to the series still feature, like Alice the maid and faithful companion to Kitty. We get to see more of her Alice’s family which is always a delight.

For fans of historical mystery fiction and those that want to lose themselves in a series well written and that keeps you hooked from beginning to end. I heartily recommend and look forward to the next as always.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Murder in First Class is out now.

Books

The Dressmaker’s Secret – Lorna Cook

What do you know about Chanel? The iconic image, the perfume, the black dress pretty much sums up what I knew about her. This is not a book about that, this is a book about a nasty dark secret which impacts Adele, Chanel’s personal assistant.

In present day, Chole is working in France to help a friend in a boutique full of vintage items, whilst healing her heart from her divorce. She knows her grandmother Adele was French and that at one time had worked for Chanel and lived in The Ritz but she is reluctant to say much more. Chloe wants to know the truth.

Moving back to the past we are taken to the occupation of Paris by the Nazis in the Second World War. The Hotel Ritz, the living place of Chanel and Adele is full of Nazis, German Officers are everywhere and the resistance to this occupation is death. A nasty death.

Then of course there is those that don’t fit in, fuelled by whatever influences Chanel is quite clear of her views of these types of people. One day Adele witness the consequences of this hatred and watches as a women is taken away, a pleading look in her eyes to Adele. That one action leads Adele to risk her life by finding this woman’s child and getting her to safety.

Who do you trust? Who can you trust? The American Doctor? The French Secretary? The Concierge of the hotel? The Famous Fashion Designer? Adele finds herself mixed up in at all, can she really know what she knows and get out of the situation on the right side?

In present day, Chloe has no idea of the background of Chanel and is surprised by what she learns. When she encounters Etienne she finds that his knowledge of Chanel and how her behaviour during the war influenced his grandmother’s life, it seems that there were two very different outcomes depending on what side of the resistance and support you were on. It did not do to show your true colours. Chole and Etienne find themselves showing their true colours and perhaps everyone can move on now knowing the past.

Whilst Adele’s story is fictional, the rest is very much real and clearly the author has done her research as the passion for what she learnt jumped off the page. Some of the actions and descriptions in the book, make for uncomfortable reading and my heart was in my mouth sometimes as the story moved on. I learnt so much and it is a book which made me stop and think, made me question and made the odd tear run down my cheek as I realised what really happened to the many thousands of people at the hands of the Nazis, the collaborators and all the conspirators. It does not seem all that long ago.

If you are looking for a well written, thoroughly researched historical fiction book then this one to look out for in 2022. You will learn a lot, I promise you.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Dressmaker’s Secret is out now.

Do check out Lorna Cooks other novels as well – my reviews can be found below

The Forgotten Village

The Forbidden Promise

The Girl from the Island

Books

A Fatal Crossing – Tom Hindle

As a fan of the Golden Age of Crime, this new murder mystery set on an ocean going liner seemed the perfect book to lose myself in.

In a play on the locked room mystery, The Endeavour sets sail from Southampton to New York. It is 1924. The social class system is in full swing and clearly evident and I think this novel shows it well.

When a man is found dead at the bottom of the staircase, the captain thinks it was a mere accident. Anything else would cause concern among the passengers. However step forward James Temple, an Inspector from Scotland Yard on his way to New York for what purpose we don’t know for a long time. Conveniently he is keen to solve this mysterious death – convinced it is murder. The captain agrees but only if he is accompanied by Tim Birch one of the ship’s officers.

A very unlikely pairing with secrets of their own, Temple and Birch find themselves investigating a missing painting, a scratch on a car and mysterious women all somehow connected to the dead man.

It becomes a race against time to find out the truth about what is happening on The Endeavour and the plot whilst complicated at times, throws in lots of twists, turns and a plentiful of red herrings that when you reach what you think of the dénouement, you are swept off your feet by the actions that happen next. Thrilling.

This debut novel has all the hallmarks of being a book everyone will be talking about. Taking the classic murder mystery and pretty much sticking to the genre, it does not pastiche any of those that have gone before. It is worthy of standing along amongst the greats and I for one am looking forward to the next book by this author.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Fatal Crossing is out now.

Books

The Girl in the Maze – Cathy Hayward

How much can you learn about someone when they have died? For Emma Bowen, in the last few years of Margaret, her mother’s life she has been distant and removed. Her mother was clearly a difficult woman. But Emma discovers some letters that it seems her mother had a past and one that she least expected.

It seems the will is the first of the surprises for Emma and when a painting is left to a friend of Margaret’s, Emma is trying to piece together everything from her mother’s past which she knew nothing about. The solicitor seems to know more than he is willing and allowed to say apart from one thing “some things are better left in the past”.

Then there is the discovery of a birth certificate, a sister, and actions that are wrong at any point in history. The story that the author tells is from the point of view of Emma in the present and Betty, her grandmother, Margaret’s mother in the late 1930s.

As the past is revealed in the present, Emma learns a lot about what happened to the generation before and how it has shaped the generations that follow. I was shocked by events and the secrets that come tumbling out and the ones that are still kept because the truth does not always help resolve the present.

This is with out a doubt a powerful and disturbing novel and not for the fainthearted, with some powerful subjects which will undoubtedly upset. The impact of the storyline will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Girl in the Maze is out now.

Books

The Mitford Vanishing – Jessica Fellowes

Following the fifth Mitford, Jessica we are back with Louisa Cannon who it seems cannot escape the pull that the Mitford Sisters seem to have on her.

Louisa, settled and married to Guy a former policeman and with a small daughter, life is full and busy. With their own private investigation business starting to prove busy, Louisa finds herself intrigued by a client who comes to ask about her missing sister when she has no luck with the police. Having watched how sisters can relate to each other Louisa says she will help.

Then Nancy Mitford contacts Louisa and says that her younger sister Jessica, known as Decca has gone missing. What are the chances of two cases at work to do with missing sisters? Knowing the pull that the Mitford’s have both Louisa ang Guy concentrate on trying to locate Jessica.

But the world is rapidly changing, it is 1937. Negotiating peace seems to be the order of the day between Britain and Germany to prevent a war, whilst in Spain a civil war is already raging. Louisa and Guy find themselves travelling to Spain both separately and together to where it seems Jessica has decided to run away to.

Along with Jessica’s cousin, Esmond Romilly, the pull of doing the right thing and supporting what you believe in is a driving factor in this race across Europe. Despite war, wedding bells are mentioned and it seems both the Mitford’s and the Romilly’s have a lot to lose in this potential partnership.

Can Louisa and Guy give everyone the answers that they are looking for? Will Jessica realise the conflict she has brought on an already divided family? And what of the other missing women, does she know Jessica Mitford?

Following the previous novels, Jessica Fellowes cleverly blends, factual events, the truth, real life characters with fiction and gives you a crime story that you can lose yourself in as well as learn some history along the way. Whilst I don’t think this is the stronger of the books, it is still a good read, but unless you know your history and the story of the Mitford’s then a lot of it may be lost on you. I recommend starting at the beginning of this series and indulging.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Mitford Vanishing is out now.

If you wish to start this series then you need to go back to

The Mitford Murders – Jessica Fellowes – Nancy Mitford

Bright Young Dead – Jessica Fellowes – Pamela Mitford reissued as The Mitford Affair

The Mitford Scandal – Jessica Fellowes – Diana Mitford

The Mitford Trial – Jessica Fellowes – Unity Mitford