In 1939, with the world on the brink of war, one woman faces a future more uncertain than she had ever imagined…
Georgie – when the man she has always loved is sent to France on a secret war office mission every knock of the door fills her with dread of it being the feared telegram boy…
Beth – orphaned as a child, Beth is coming of age and determined to do her bit for the war effort. Caught up in a whirlwind romance, she marries only to become a war widow….and one expecting a baby who will never know his brave father. Can she find happiness again?
Hetty – desperately trying to make her way back from Paris to her beloved family in England, a fateful and tragic encounter brings Hetty to Chateau de Faubourg where she joins the resistance and risks both her heart and her life fighting for charismatic resistance leader Stefan Lefarge…
However dark the times, courage, determination and the power of friendship can overcome the hardships of war.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is the third book in the ‘Women at War’ series, for those readers, like me who haven’t read the previous two books, there is a comprehensive summary at the beginning of the book, with character details and significant events explained and noted.
The story reads well as a standalone, but the characters are complex and the previous storylines intriguing, so that I wish I’d read the whole series. There is a distinctive writing style, in keeping with the time period and some of the dialogue seems a little stilted, but you get used to this, as the characters are believable and easy to like and the plot has many twists.
There is a satisfying balance of action, angst, historical detail and surprisingly sensual romance in this story. Focused primarily on Hetty as she fights a secret war in occupied France, the story also features, Georgie, Beth and to a lesser extent Annabel and Jessie, characters featured in more detail in previous books. Hetty’s story is exciting and shows her character development well.
The plot is interesting and well-paced and the characters are authentic to the time period but endear themselves quickly to the reader, so you become absorbed in their stories and want them to find happiness and peace as World War Two draws to a close.
An enjoyable, historical read, with notable characters and an intriguing plot.
Extract From Hetty’s Secret War
‘War imminent! Children evacuated from London!’
Beth shivered as she heard the strident tones of the newspaper boy standing outside the railway station. She’d had to change trains in London and, having an hour to spare, had gone for a quick shopping trip. Now she saw that the station was crowded. A party of young children were being herded at one end by a harassed-looking woman, who was obviously in charge of getting them to their destination in the country. But most of the travellers appeared to be young men; several of them dressed in army uniforms. Some were saying goodbye to family or girlfriends; others were obviously together and in a boisterous mood.
As she watched them jostling and shoving each other in a good-natured manner, she wondered if one or two had been drinking a little too much. Or perhaps it was a mixture of excitement and nerves. One of them had noticed her glance their way and a loud wolf whistle made her turn her head aside, her cheeks pink.
It wasn’t the first time she’d been whistled at, but being a reserved girl, except with her close friends, she didn’t particularly care for it and decided to make sure she entered a different carriage to the one picked by the party of boisterous young men.
When the train arrived, Beth chose a carriage already occupied by a woman and teenage boy and another young man, who was dressed in the uniform of an army officer. He didn’t look at her as she sat down and Beth settled herself to read a magazine she had bought. However, the train had a corridor rather than being individual closed carriages and she heard the laughter of the noisy young men as they made their way along the train but thankfully bypassed her carriage.
‘Terrible news, isn’t it?’ the woman sitting opposite said to Beth, obliging her to lower her magazine. ‘All those children being evacuated. I shouldn’t want my Marcus to be shipped off to strangers like that. I’m taking him to my sister’s and I’m going to stay put until all this nonsense is over.’
‘I think that’s a good idea,’ Beth said. ‘But I think you may be in for a long visit.’
‘Oh, don’t say that!’ the woman exclaimed. ‘My husband says once they get to grips with the Germans it will all be over in a matter of months. He joined up a couple of days ago, but he’s sure he’ll be home for Christmas. That’s what Daddy said, isn’t it, Marcus?’
‘I want to go and fight the Germans,’ the lad said, giving her a mutinous look. ‘Don’t want to stay with Auntie Peggy.’
‘You’ll like it when you get there. It’s nice in the country.’ She nodded at Beth. ‘Ask that young lady – it’s nice in the country, isn’t it?’
‘I like it,’ Beth replied, eyeing the sullen lad doubtfully. ‘You’ll enjoy exploring and climbing trees, I dare say.’
His mother looked horrified. ‘For goodness’ sake, don’t put ideas in his head. Climbing trees are much too dangerous.’
‘Want to go to the toilet,’ Marcus said. ‘And I feel sick.’
‘You went before we came,’ his harassed mother said and frowned at him. ‘I suppose I’d better take you.’ She looked at Beth. ‘Would you mind keeping an eye on my parcels? I don’t want to cart them all the way to the toilet and back.’
‘Yes, of course,’ Beth said and smiled as she went out.
She happened to glance at the man in army uniform sitting opposite and he grinned at her. ‘I wouldn’t be in her shoes,’ he said. ‘That young chap has been spoiled if you ask me.’
‘Yes, I think he has,’ Beth agreed and looked down at her magazine. She was just beginning to get interested in one of the articles when the door was thrust back and three of the noisy young men she had noticed on the platform entered.
‘Don’t mind if we sit here, do you, darlin’?’ one of them asked with a cheeky grin.
‘Two of the seats are taken,’ Beth said, ‘but there are two available.’
‘Thanks, darlin’,’ the soldier replied. ‘That means you’re out, Charlie. Get orf down the train and we’ll see yer later, mate.’
‘Who are you givin’ yer orders?’ the other replied, but seeing that neither of his friends were about to oblige by giving up the seats they had taken, he scowled and went out.
The soldier with the cheeky grin had chosen to sit next to Beth, his companion sitting in the corner near the door. She felt the pressure of the soldier’s warm body as he deliberately pressed his thigh up against hers. She resisted looking at him, returning to her magazine, although it was only a pretence now because she was conscious of the leering looks the soldier was sending her way.
‘All on your own then, darlin’?’ he asked. ‘Me and me mates are on our way to Torquay. We’ve got a couple of days leave before we join our units see – going to make the most of our time if you get my meaning?’
‘Really,’ Beth said, her heart sinking as she realised that she would have to endure his presence all the way home. ‘That will be nice for you.’
‘Yeah – find ourselves a few girls, have a bevvy or two,’ he said. ‘Do you come from round there, darlin’?’
Rosie is happily married and lives in a quiet village in East Anglia. Writing books is a passion for Rosie, she also likes to read, watch good films and enjoys holidays in the sunshine. She loves shoes and adores animals, especially squirrels and dogs.