Berlin, 1942: for four years, the men in field grey have helped themselves to country after country across Western Europe. For Werner Nehmann, a journalist at the Promi—the Ministry of Propaganda—this dizzying series of victories has felt like a party without end. But now the Reich’s attention has turned towards the East, and as winter sets in, the mood is turning. Werner’s boss, Joseph Goebbels, can sense it. A small man with a powerful voice and coal-black eyes, Goebbels has a deep understanding the dark arts of manipulation. His words, his newsreels, have shaken Germany awake, propelling it towards its greater destiny and he won’t let—he can’t let—morale falter now. But the Minister of Propaganda is uneasy and in his discomfort has pulled Werner into his close confidence. And here, amid the power struggle between the Nazi Chieftains, Werner will make his mistake and begin his descent into the hell of Stalingrad.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.
Stories like this stand or fall on the quality of the author’s research, understanding of the historical events and the ability to weave fact into fiction believably. This story has authenticity, adrenaline-pumping pace, intricate and vivid historical detail, and creates a believable world of atrocity and war that is both addictive and shocking for the reader.
This story explores the power of propaganda from two protagonist perspectives. One a pilot, the other a journalist both with powerful masters. The story that unfolds is an intriguing balance of action and introspection immersing the reader in the story before delivering the horrors of war and the twists of evil minds.
It’s a pacy read, harrowingly graphic in parts but it’s addictive and stays with you after the last word.
Graham Hurley is the author of the acclaimed Faraday and Winter crime novels and an award-winning TV documentary maker. Two of the critically lauded series have been shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Award for Best Crime Novel.
The first Wars Within novel, Finisterre, was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize.
I received a copy of this book from the author via Helen Richardson PR in return for an honest review.
This story highlights the role of female spies in WW2. Their commitment and courage is something often overlooked, but many died in service of their country. This story parodies a well-known male fictitious spy as he finds himself in an uncomfortable alliance with a female spy who is everything he isn’t, but would like to be.
Lemming’s major contribution to the war effort appears to be working his way through the females who work alongside him until he meets his match in Margaux. She flatters his ego but makes him uneasy. When they meet again, he realises why.
Thrown in an uneasy alliance the unlikely couple travel to occupied France where Margaux shows Lemming what really happens behind enemy lines. Comically, and once you get to know him predictably, Lemming retreats into his vast imagination and rewrites the story covering himself in glory.
The immersive writing style and relatable characters draw the reader into the fictitious world from the start. Good use of sensory imagery brings the history and location vividly to life, so the reader feels they are on the mission too.
Humour and satire underpin this story making it an enjoyable read with characters, events and places that resonate.
Guest author Post – Stephen Clarke – The Spy Who Inspired Me
My new novel The Spy Who Inspired Me is a reaction against the old-fashioned Bond girl. The most Bond-girlish of them all, for me, is the dubiously named Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. In the original novel, she’s the feisty leader of a lesbian criminal gang, one of the key players in a plan to rob West Point. Then she meets 007, decides he’s cute, and suddenly she’s betraying her criminal chums and turning straight. It’s the same with the clairvoyant Solitaire in Live and Let Die – she sleeps with Bond (her first lover), loses her powers and becomes more or less enslaved to him.
The suggestion is that a woman will abandon all her ill-advised feminine foibles as soon as she meets a “real” man. It’s old-school gender nonsense.
This is why for The Spy Who Inspired Me, I decided to reverse the roles. The spy on the cover, Margaux Lynd, is a tough, highly-trained agent with plenty of mission experience. But when she lands in Occupied France in April 1944, she gets saddled with a scared, inexperienced, older male sidekick who just wants to go home to his clean shirts and his limitless supply of handmade cigarettes. The man is modelled on, but – for legal reasons mainly – not named after Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming. My character’s name is Ian Lemming. (You see, nothing at all like “Fleming”.)
The real Fleming was a suave playboy who spent most of the war in a comfortable Admiralty Office, a world away from the harsh everyday realities of spying. Meanwhile, dozens of women were being sent undercover into Occupied Europe. And they were the inspiration for Margaux Lynd. These real-life heroines joined up with the Resistance and acted as radio operators, go-betweens, recruiters and spies. Many were caught by the Gestapo, and then there was no Bond-like banter with their interrogator before a miraculous dash for freedom and a finale in a luxury bed. It was usually a short trip from the torture chamber to the firing squad.
Women agents were valued by the Allies because they exploited Nazi sexism – most Gestapo officers thought that German Frauen existed to breed Aryan babies, and found it hard to believe that a woman would do perilous “male” work like spying. In many ways, that is what Ian Lemming in The Spy Who Inspired Me believes, too. Only gradually does he come to respect, and then fear, the ruthless female secret agent he is forced to work with.
And as the two of them sneak across Occupied France and into Paris, Lemming begins to fantasize about a world in which a suave male spy would lord it over the ladies, while enjoying all the comforts he’s missing from back home – champagne, hot water, a change of underwear. As a reaction to the humiliations and deprivations he’s suffering, we sense that a macho superhero is being created in his head. And while Lemming fantasizes, his female mentor Margaux Lynd has to concentrate on completing her mission – and begging him never to attempt real undercover work ever again.
The Spy Who Inspired Me published on November 12 by pAf Books.
Stephen Clarke is the bestselling author of the Merde series of comedy novels (A Year in the Merde, Merde Actually, Dial M for Merde et al) which have been translated into more than 20 languages and sold more than a million copies worldwide.
Stephen Clarke has also written several serious-yet-humorous books on Anglo-French history, such as 1000 Years of Annoying the French (a UK number-one bestseller in both hardback and paperback), How the French Won Waterloo (or Think They Did), and The French Revolution & What Went Wrong. He lives in Paris.
As archaeologist Rachel excavates a World War Two airfield, could a love story from the past hold a lesson for her as well?
After yet another disastrous love affair Rachel has been forced to leave her long-term position for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University. Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out. But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…
She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney. He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…
As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past. Could a wartime love story have any bearing on her own situation? Could this time be different?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This story immerses the reader into the history and poignancy of WW2 as a pilot returns home from a mission. He is in love and hopes to marry soon, but you wonder if he makes it.
In the present day, Rachel is a well-qualified successful academic whose personal life appears to be on self-destruct mode. She is contained, keeps her emotions on a tight rein and appears to seek out unsuitable lovers, one of which explains her presence as a visiting lecturer in archaeology at Lincoln University.
It’s evident she’s emotionally damaged. The reasons for this apparent, as the story progresses. It’s her consultancy job with a local property developer that brings her into contact with a Lincolnshire airfield and its poignant memories that echo her life and help her to heal.
The descriptions are vivid, and Lincolnshire and its WW2 history come to life. Character-driven Rachel meets diverse individuals who help her and add to this lovely story. She goes on an emotional journey and is a more settled happier woman at the end of it.
This story believably melds the past and present with a hint of the supernatural. The romance echoes across the years and the characters are realistic and relatable in this lovely escapist tale.
I write romance with a twist, that extra something to keep readers guessing right to the end. While my books are character driven my inspiration is always a British setting; so far a village in Yorkshire (The Cheesemaker’s House), a Hampshire wood (The Faerie Tree), gorgeous Studland Bay in Dorset (Another You) and rural Lincolnshire (Endless Skies).
I was born and raised in Cardiff but spent most of my adult life living near Chichester before my husband and I upped sticks and moved to Cornwall three years ago.
I published my first two novels independently and have now been signed by Sapere Books. I am an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and contributing editor to Frost online magazine.
Secret agent Phil Cullen is upset when he discovers that the young woman he rescued from Mrs Newbody’s establishment has absconded from his housekeeper’s care without a word. Thinking he has been deceived, he resolves to forget about her… something easier said than done.
The man she wants to forget
Sophia Turner is horrified when she is duped into entering a notorious house of ill-repute. Then a handsome stranger comes to her aid. Desperate that no one learns of this scandalous episode, Sophia flees to the one friend she knows she can trust. With luck, she will never see her mysterious rescuer again.
But fate has other plans…
Months later, Phil is on the trail of an elusive French agent and Sophia is a respectable lady’s companion when fate again intervenes, taking their lives on a collision course.
Traitors, spies, and shameful family secrets – will these bring Sophia and Phil together… or drive them apart?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is the third book in the Gentlemen series, but it is a complete story and so reads as a standalone. This is a quality Regency romance with an independent female protagonist and a well-meaning but overbearing male protagonist. There is slow burn conflicted romance and dangerous edge to this story.
Phil rescues Sophia from a brothel, but she is quick to leave his protection and make separate arrangements with a trusted friend. Phil is surprised at her behaviour, but she is difficult to forget. Their paths cross again, and a passionate romance begins against a setting of intrigue and menace.
The historical detail brings the danger and vibrancy of the Regency period alive. The characters are authentic and relatable and draw the reader into their world.
This is an enjoyable Regency romance filled with secrets, seduction and spies.
Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.
Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a historical mystery/romance and the first in The Gentlemen Series. An Officer’s Vow soon followed and the latest in the series is A Bachelor’s Pledge.
But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.
Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).
From Washington Heights to Washington D.C. comes a true American Herstory. Filled with intrigue, lust, and betrayal, this is the fight for sexual equality.
1868, on the eve of the Gilded Age: Spiritualist TENNESSEE CLAFLIN is smart, sexy, and sometimes clairvoyant. But it’s her sister, VICTORIA WOODHULL, who is going to make history as the first woman to run for President of the United States.
It starts with the seduction of the richest man in America. Next, they’ll take New York City and the suffragist movement by storm, because together, Tennessee and Victoria are a force of nature. Boldly ambitious, they stop at nothing, brushing shoulders with Harriet Beecher Stowe and Susan B. Anthony, using enough chutzpah to make a lady blush.
That is, until their backstabbing family takes them to court, and their carefully spun lives unravel, out in public and in the press.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This story is a blend of fact and storytelling about two sisters in America in the late nineteenth century and how they took on the male-dominated political world. This is feminist history currently popular in literature and other media and is a riveting read.
The sisters are bold, notable, relatable characters. The story woven around them explores their lives and personalities. It shows how they coped with the betrayal and injustices they faced. It is indicative of society’s attitude at the time that is so little is known about them.
Over the years, Carrie has tried a lot of things. She’s sold vacuum cleaners, annuities and sofas. She’s lived at the beach and lived in Europe. She’s taught school and worked in film. For a while, she was an aspiring librarian, but she fell in love and threw her life away instead. Back in the States, she started over, then met an architect who said, “Why don’t you become a kitchen designer?” So, she did. Eventually, she designed interiors, too. And all that time, she was reading. What mattered was having something to read. Slowly, she realized her craving for books sprang from her need to know how things would turn out. Because in real life, you don’t know how things will turn out. But if you write it, you do. Naked Truth or Equality the Forbidden Fruit is her first book.
The Fitch children are finally safe, after they and their friends were rescued from the grim orphanage Reed House by Minnie and Billy Marshall. Their children’s home Marshall’s is full of love and laughter, and a world away from their terrible ordeal of being sold to Una Reed for five shillings.There are many more children who still need a home, especially in a world where the workhouse is the last option for desperate families, and so Minnie makes it her mission to build Marshall’s into a refuge for all the waifs and strays.
But kind hearts can be taken advantage of, and before long, Marshall’s in under attack. Can Minnie and Billy keep their family together and keep all the children safe, or will they be torn apart again?
The Queen of the Black Country sagas is back with a heart-warming, unputdownable and unforgettable tale of triumph against the odds.
Adam Fitch and Billy Marshall stood waiting at the front of Stafford Gaol as they had done once a month for the last five years.
The door in the huge brick-built gatehouse was firmly locked and was flanked either side by a tall concrete wall.
Adam’s eyes glanced over the women leaning against the wall, awaiting a visit to their menfolk inside. Dressed in rags, some had scruffy children clinging to their worn skirts. Others stood alone as if trying to hide from the stigma of being a convict’s spouse. No one spoke. They simply waited patiently for the echoing sound of the key grating in the lock which heralded that their visit time was imminent.
Shuffling from foot to foot, Adam was eager for the wrought iron gates to swing open. He shivered. The spring sunshine gave very little warmth, but Adam realised it was anticipation which was making him shake rather than the cool air.
Lifting his flat cap, he pushed his dark hair back before replacing it. He heard a whisper from a small girl hiding behind her mother.
‘Is he a peaky blinder?’
‘Don’t be so daft!’ the woman scolded, but she eyed Adam warily nevertheless.
‘Won’t be long now, lad, and then we’ll not be coming again, God willing,’ Billy whispered as he laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
Adam nodded and glanced around again at the small group of people who were also waiting. Young men with their own flat caps pulled low over watchful eyes, everyone keen to see whoever it was they had come to the prison to visit.
As he attempted to quell his excitement, Adam’s mind ran swiftly over the last few years of his fifteen-year-old life. His natural father, a pugilist, had been killed in the boxing ring. Adam and his sister were sold to Reed’s Orphanage by his stepfather, who died by the hand of his brother James in a freak accident. When Polly was then sold again to a wealthy family, Adam and his friends broke out to rescue her.
Feeling strong fingers squeeze gently at his arm, Adam glanced at the big man at his side. Billy Marshall, champion pugilist, now retired, had taught him how to box and so defend himself if and when the need arose. Billy had married Adam’s mum Minnie four years previously, and they had bought a massive property in Major Street, which was now a children’s home.
Whilst on the run from Reed’s, Adam and his friends had met up with three boys who were living together, thieving and scavenging to survive. Two of them, Echo and Flash, had joined Adam’s ever-expanding family; the third had been apprehended by the police, which was the reason for their visit here today. Adam and Billy were awaiting the release of Digit, who had served five years for theft.
So lost in his thoughts was he that Adam had not heard the warder come to unlock the doors. The squeal of hinges drew his attention and he again glanced at Billy.
‘They will let Digit out today, won’t they?’ he asked in barely more than a whisper.
Billy nodded confidently, and the two watched the small group of people shuffle forward into the yard. Then the huge wooden doors began to close and Adam felt his stomach lurch. Where was Digit? Had something happened since they had last seen him? Was he ill – had he died? Adam pushed the thought aside as he stared at the huge wooden doors, willing them to open.
‘Bloody hell, Digit – come on!’ Adam muttered.
‘Patience, lad – all in good time,’ Billy said.
Suddenly the door opened, and a young man stepped out into the yard. Toby Hanley, aka Digit, stood for a moment with the sun shining on his thick black hair, which was long and lank and badly in need of a wash. His dark eyes blinked at the bright sunlight, then they searched for the two friends who had promised to be there on his release. His clothes hung on his frame which had once been thickset and muscled but now after five years in gaol, appeared to have lost a little of that mass, although there was still strength beneath the bedraggled appearance.
Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children. She was born and raised in Wednesbury and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.
1851. After her merchant husband saved her from a life of prostitution, Louisa Hill was briefly happy as a housewife in Bristol. But then a constable arrives at her door. Her husband has been found hanged in a Bath hotel room, a note and a key to a property in Bath the only things she has left of him. And now the debt collectors will come calling.
To a new life as a madam.
Forced to leave everything she knows behind, Louisa finds more painful betrayals waiting for her in the house in Bath. Left with no means of income, Louisa knows she has nothing to turn to but her old way of life. But this time, she’ll do it on her own terms – by turning her home into a brothel for upper class gentleman. And she’s determined to spare the girls she saves from the street the horrors she endured in the past.
Enlisting the help of Jacob Jackson, a quiet but feared boxer, to watch over the house, Louisa is about to embark on a life she never envisaged. Can she find the courage to forge this new path?
A Widow’s Vow is the first in a gripping and gritty new Victorian saga series from Rachel Brimble. You won’t be able to put it down.
I received a copy of this book from the author and Aria in return for an honest review.
Set in Victorian Bath, this is a story about women who survive the danger, deceit and depravity of the time. Louisa recently widowed, reluctantly returns to her old life but this time on her terms. She experiences angst and conflict as she forges a new living for herself and the young women she saves from the streets. Jacob regrets not saving his mother, from his father. Despite his reputation as a tough fighter, he respects and protects women. It is these qualities that draw Louisa to him.
There is a good insight into what life was like for women in Victorian England with stark contrasts between the genders and social classes. It is an emotional read with gentle romance.
This book is recommended for fans of Victorian history and romance, believable characters and an absorbing plot.
Her next project is a Victorian trilogy set in a Bath brothel which she recently signed with Aria Fiction. The series will feature three heroines determined to change their lives and those of other women. The first book. A Widow’s Vow is due for release in September and available for Amazon preorder now.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.
To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click on link Newsletter Sign Up
I received a copy of this book from The Imperial War Museums in return for an honest review.
Like other books in the wartime classics series, It’s a fictional story based on the author’s first-hand experiences. Originally published in 1955, it focuses on a week during the Summer of 1940, the Battle of Britain. The book is prefaced, by an introduction describing the historical background to the Battle of Britain.
The story focuses on everyone on the airbase, pilots, ground crew and ancillary staff. Everyone played an essential role in this iconic victory in WW2. The camaraderie is evident, as is the commitment and courage from young individuals. With little life experience, their bravery and skill thwarted an enemy and possible invasion.
The book captures the claustrophobic, intense atmosphere at the airbase. The frenetic periods of the missions contrasting with long periods of waiting. Both defining life on the airbase during the Summer of 1940.
Authentic relatable characters endear themselves to the reader, you fear for their safety, and admire them. The perfect read if you are looking to explore the people behind the headlines. The wartime ethos is well described and gives the reader an omnipotent view of this WW2 event.
I received a copy of this book from The Imperial War Museums in return for an honest review.
This story is an authentic representation of what life in the Women’s Land Army (WLA) was like for many. The land girls worked on the land and maintain the food supply chain for Britain at War. They endured relentless work and ridicule until their vital contribution to the war effort was recognised.
This story prefaced by an introduction from the Imperial War museum which provides salient historical, and social details. Historical details of farming in the war years provides the backdrop for a lovely story of acceptance, friendship, romance, and humour.
Told from Bee’s point of view, the story shows how three young girls coped or didn’t with life in the land army. The author employs sensual imagery allowing the reader to imagine the characters, events and setting.
There are some important social differences in this book, compared to contemporary society. Women were doing men’s work and seen as filling in. After the war, many women didn’t remain in the workforce especially in the farming industry.
The book highlights the importance of working as a community and the hardships faced by the land girls and the country as a whole from rationing. It shows another often overlooked contribution to women in the workforce in the 1940s. It provides a dramatic representation of historical facts through relatable characters and events.
MARGARET HAZEL WATSON (writing under the pseudonym Barbara Whitton) was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1921. She was educated at the Church High Girls School in Newcastle, and later sent to St Leonards School in St Andrews. Due to study Art in Paris, her training was curtailed by the outbreak of the Second World War.
Having volunteered for the Women’s Land Army (WLA) in 1939, she worked as a Land Girl for around a year before moving to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and later joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a driver, where she remained for the duration of the war. Her novel Green Hands is a fictionalised account of her time spent as a Land Girl, detailing the back-breaking hard work and intensity of her experience with good humour and an enchanting lightness of touch. During her time with the ATS she met her husband Pat Chitty and they were married in 1941. After the war, she wrote a number of accounts of her wartime experience and retained an interest in art, literature and horticulture throughout her life. She died in 2016.
THREE GIRLS GO THE EXTRA MILE TO DO THEIR BIT FOR THE WAR EFFORT.
1943: three very different girls are longing to do their bit for the war effort.
Frances – her life of seeming privilege has been a lonely one. Brave and strong, stifled by her traditional upbringing, she falls for a most unsuitable man. Prudence – timid and conventional, her horizons have never strayed beyond her job as a bank clerk in Croydon until the war brings her new experiences.
Rosalind – a beautiful, flame-haired actress who catches the eye of Frances’s stuffy elder brother, the heir to an ancestral mansion.
The three become friends when they join the band of women working the canal boats, delivering goods and doing a man’s job while the men are away fighting. A tough, unglamorous task – but one which brings them all unexpected rewards…
I received a copy of this book from Transworld Publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Told from three young women’s points of view The Boat Girls highlights the largely unsung contribution this female workforce made to the second world war effort. The three women are from diverse backgrounds in terms of social class and life experience. They form strong friendships as they train and work on the inland waterway ferrying essential supplies from the docks to the factories in the Midlands.
The characters are relatable and easy to empathise, their experiences are interesting as they try to gain acceptance from the traditional boating communities. There’s friendship, laughter, poignancy and romance for the three women who mature and emerge independent and stronger than before.
There are some interesting historical details, in this character driven historical saga which add depth to an enjoyable story.
Margaret Mayhew was born in London and her earliest childhood memories were of the London Blitz. She began writing in her mid-thirties and had her first novel published in 1976. She is married to American aviation author, Philip Kaplan, and lives in Gloucestershire.