When Franco, a teenager living in the monastery at Monte Cassino in 1944 uncovers a long-lost Roman Eagle, the fabled Aquila for the Jupiter Legion, he sets in motion a desperate struggle to prevent the Nazis from using it to win the war. In a do-or-die mission, Franco and Dulcie, a teenage mountain girl, must steal the Eagle back and escape before its deadly power is unleashed. Pursued by the implacable forces of the SS they will discover not just the secrets of the Eagle but also themselves.
I received a copy of this book from The Conrad Press in return for an honest review.
I like the staging of this story before the tale, set towards the end of WW2, begins. The legend of Jupiter’s Fire is retold in an exciting visual way. The story is fast-paced. with recognisable historical characters, and full of visual imagery, which allows the reader to see the events in their mind as they unfold.
The protagonists are youthful and the mix of courage and naivety is realistic. The ethos of the final months of World War two is well portrayed, and the historical characters add authenticity to the story. There is a strong thread of myth and supernatural in this story, which makes the conflict the young couple have to face harder and their chances of success less likely.
An interesting story in the style of the ‘mythical search for the holy grail’, against a background of evil, legend and war, full of dangerous secrets and self-realisation for the two young protagonists.
William Osborne – Born 1960 – educated at Greshams School, Holt, Norfolk and Robert Louis Stevenson, Pebble Beach, California, studied law at Cambridge,(MA), barrister at law, Member of the Middle Temple. Screenwriter and member of Writers Guild of America (West) – Author (published works, 1994, 1998, Hitler’s Angel, Winter’s Bullet, Jupiter’s Fire). Lives in Norfolk, enjoys life, film, dog walking, cold water swimming, lego, collecting odd stuff, driving his beach buggy.
In the darkest days of the Blitz, family is more important than ever.
With her family struggling amidst the nightly bombing raids in London’s East End, Ida Brogan is doing her very best to keep their spirits up. The Blitz has hit the Brogans hard, and rationing is more challenging than ever, but they are doing all they can to help the war effort.
When Ida’s oldest friend Ellen returns to town, sick and in dire need of help, it is to Ida that she turns. But Ellen carries a secret, one that threatens not only Ida’s marriage but the entire foundation of the Brogan family. Can Ida let go of the past and see a way to forgive her friend? And can she overcome her sadness to find a place in her heart for a little boy, one who will need a mother more than ever in these dark times?
I received a copy of this book from Atlantic Books – Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The sense of community, family and the austerity of wartime London is conveyed well in this historical family saga. Part of the ‘Ration Book’ series, none of, which I have read, it works well as a standalone. However, the engaging characters, historical detail and sense of place, make me want to read the earlier books.
1941, London has suffered two long years of war, rationing makes living difficult, and the ever-present threat of nightly bombing means that living each day to the full, and appreciating your family is vital. Ida Brogan is a character who does this, she values her family and still loves her husband, but the return of an old friend in need makes her question everything that has gone before. The main plot focuses on her struggle to come to terms with this unwanted knowledge, and how it affects the family she holds so dearly.
There are many subplots interwoven into the story that gives it authenticity, depth and variety, which keeps the reader turning the pages. Outstanding characters are Ida, Jeremiah and Queenie. They are complex and believably flawed. The plot is well-paced and gives enough detail for you to appreciate the ambience of London’s EastEnd in WW2, without slowing the pace. The relationships, rationing and sense of community are beautifully conveyed and relatable. They made me recall my grandparents’ and parents’ wartime experiences, retold on numerous occasions during my childhood.
A lovely blend of family drama and history, with a realistic balance of humour and poignancy.
Jean Fullerton is the author of twelve novels all set in East London where she was born. She also a retired district nurse and university lecturer. She won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006 and after initially signing for two East London historical series with Orion she moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing and is halfway through her WW2 East London series featuring the Brogan family.
Manchester: Newlyweds Helen and Jim Harrison have big plans – to leave the
family shop where Helen works and set up home together. But when Jim is
tragically killed in an air raid, Helen is heartbroken, her life in ruins.
Battling grief and despair, Helen resolves to escape her domineering mother and rebuild her shattered world. Wartime Manchester is a dangerous place, besieged by crime and poverty. So when Helen joins the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, working with evacuees, the destitute and the vulnerable, she finds a renewed sense of purpose. She’s come a long way from her place behind the counter in the corner shop.
there’s still something missing in her heart. Is Helen able to accept love and
happiness and find the courage to change her life?
I wanted to create a character – a young woman working in a
corner shop – who has little belief in herself. When her circumstances change
dramatically with the death of her husband, she is at her lowest ebb. The story
twists when she joins the police, finding strength in helping others,
especially women and children, and courage when she places herself in danger.
When you write what comes first the characters, the plot, or the setting?
I always know the wider setting, to begin with. In my first three novels, it was Belfast and my last two books have been set in Manchester. I’ve lived in both cities and I know the geography well but, more importantly, I have a sense of the atmosphere of the place and the character of the people. Almost at the same time, I focus on the main character, but it’s important as the story develops that she grows and changes with the events she experiences. As far as the plot is concerned, I don’t have a detailed story, just an idea to set it going and a possible ending with a few ideas in between. The detail comes when I’m immersed in the story. It’s almost as though the characters suggest what’s going to happen as it’s being written.
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mixture of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
They’re all bound up together, I think, but I never transfer
a real person into a novel. It’s more like a Rubik’s cube, twisting a complex
character into being. You aim for an authentic, believable person who is
memorable, even if they only play a small part in the novel. Overall, I think
dialogue is one of the best ways to make characters realistic.
If you could live in any time period which would it be? Why?
As a writer of WW2 sagas/romances, I would love to spend a day or two in Belfast during the war, just to see the city as it was when my family lived through that period. I would have no desire to stay any longer because, through my research, I know full well the hardships they endured.
What made you decide to become a writer and why this does this genre appeal to you?
I began to write in my thirties and for over twenty years I
wrote poetry and short stories. I didn’t have the time to write anything longer
because I had children and I worked as an English teacher and Assistant Head.
Eventually, I decided I would write a family saga set in WW2 based on the story
of my mother and her sisters who were singers, like the Andrews Sisters,
entertaining the troops. That novel ‘Martha’s Girls’ was a success and I went
on to write a trilogy.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I like books that are well written. If I’ve read 3-4 chapters and it hasn’t grabbed me, I don’t persevere. I like historical novels, with elements of romance, and the occasional crime novel.
What are you currently writing?
I’m working on a third Manchester novel set in WW2. It’s the story of two sisters and their completely different experiences of war. The youngest is conscripted into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, where she is part of the exciting Parachute Training School. The older sister stays at home looking after their invalid mother, enduring the hardships of the home front.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story focuses on women in WW2, how their lives changed, and how many were exposed to deprivation, uncertainty and violence. The writing is full of vivid historical details and believable characters, some you dislike passionately, but most you admire, and can empathise.
Helen is newly married, living and working at her mother’s corner shop in Manchester. After a tragedy, leaves her widowed, and she finally rebels against her controlling mother in the midst of her grief, she finds herself jobless and in a home, she can’t afford.
Offered a lifeline by her godmother, she finds that not everything is as it first appears. Her brush with the seedier side of life, makes her rethink, can she give something to society and fill her lonely hours? Joining the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps seems an opportunity too good to miss.
Helen naivety is shortlived, and her compassion and courage make her an excellent police auxiliary. The story is interesting and full of emotion and historical insight that make this wartime saga a page-turner. The challenges for Helen and women in war are realistic and give this story its authenticity.
This is a compelling story with great characters and a lovely hesitant love story that gives the story its hope for the future.
Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time. Facebook Twitter
Grace Quinn loves her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company, finding occasional treasure in the forgotten units that customers have abandoned. Her inquisitive nature is piqued when a valuable art collection and a bundle of letters and diaries are found that date back to the 1930s.
Delving deeper, Grace uncovers the story of a young English woman, Connie Levine, who follows her heart to Italy at the end of the Second World war. The contents also offer up the hope of a new beginning for Grace, battling a broken heart and caring for her controlling mother.
Embarking on her own voyage of discovery, Grace’s search takes her to a powder pink villa on the cliff tops overlooking the Italian Riviera, but will she unravel the family secrets and betrayals that Connie tried so hard to overcome, and find love for herself?
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Grace needs to escape from her daily life, she has a broken heart, a controlling mother and a family who take her for granted, no wonder she enjoys her work, where she is appreciated. Finding some letters and treasures in a storage unit whose payments have lapsed, Grace finds a kindred spirit in Connie. She finds both, courage and solace whilst learning her story and tracking down her heirs.
There is a good mystery to solve, romance, but most of all a journey of self-discovery for Grace. The Italian scenes are vividly described and give the story added interest. The historical aspect of the story is well-written and shows the problems faced by women in the 1940s. There are obvious similarities between Connie and Grace’s stories, but some important differences too.
This is an emotion-driven story, you feel for both Connie and Grace as they are constrained by their circumstances, familial demands and society’s expectations.
There is a detailed epilogue, which draws the drama together well, and gives Grace the hopeful ending she deserves.
In wartime, it takes courage to follow your heart.
Everyone hated the heat and the deafening noise, but for Gracie, the worst thing was the smell of chemicals that turned her stomach every morning when she arrived at the Rosenberg Raincoats factory.
Gracie is a girl on the factory floor. Jacob is the boss’s charismatic nephew. When they fall in love, it seems as if the whole world is against them – especially Charlie Nuttall, who also works at the factory and has always wanted Gracie for himself.
But worse is to come when Jacob disappears and Gracie is devastated, vowing to find him. Can she solve the mystery of his whereabouts? Gracie will need all her strength and courage to find a happy ending.
Guest Post – WHY I WRITE WWII NOVELS – Alrene Hughes
I think it was inevitable. If I was going to write a novel, then I would write about the second world war. For a start, my mother, aunts and grandmother had lived through the hardships and dangers of that time. The war had ended only seven years before I was born and, growing up, I somehow absorbed their memories second-hand.
My home city of Belfast in Northern Ireland – an industrial
city of shipbuilding, aircraft manufacture and heavy engineering – was crucial
to the war effort. Needless to say, it was heavily bombed. Later, when the USA
entered the war, it was to Northern Ireland that the GIs came to train before being
As a child, I knew the gaps between the buildings were bomb sites. Once on a bus going into the city centre with my mother, she pointed out a street where she had seen the dead bodies laid out on the pavement on her way to work after an overnight bombing. But she had happy memories too of her time as a factory girl building Stirling bombers. As a housewife after the war, I remember she wore her factory clothes, trousers and a turban, to clean the house. But the biggest influence in my post-war childhood was the music.
My mother and aunts had been popular singers, in the style of the Andrews Sisters, and throughout the war, they entertained in the concert and dance halls, as well as the military camps. After my mother died, I found an old scrapbook among her possessions. It contained many concert programmes listing the acts and the Golden Sisters, as they were known, often had the titles of songs they sang next to their billing: Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree; Chattanooga Choo Choo … And then there were all the photos.
I just had to tell their wartime story. The personalities of
my mother, aunts and grandmother were etched in my brain, the snippets of wartime
memories had been passed on to me and I had the scrapbook. Add to that my
research of life in the city and the ideas that flooded my mind and it was
enough to turn it into a novel. In the end, their story became a popular WWII family
saga, the Martha’s Girls trilogy.
Now I’ve written WWII novels set in Manchester, the city
where I’ve lived most of my adult life. It’s a lot like Belfast in some ways:
the heavy bombings; the industry; the no-nonsense, resilient people. The women
in my new novels The Girl in the Pink
Raincoat and The Girl from the Corner
Shop, face tragedy and danger, experience love and loss but, throughout, their
courage shines through.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.
Gracie is an endearing character, young, naive, but optimistic and full of life, with a smile never far from her face. It is this bubbliness that attracts Jacob, even though he realises that any relationship between them would be fraught with conflict.
The setting and era of this story are vividly portrayed, you can imagine the raincoat factory, the bombsites and the people, as they try to live their lives during wartime. Anyone who has listened to their grandparents and parents stories about ‘the war’, will recognise familiar concepts, and it is this relatability that makes the story so powerful.
The plot is well constructed, with a mystery and romance. The prejudice rife at the time is evident and is an important theme. Wartime romance with a twist. Family drama, strong friendships and a menacing undercurrent of betrayal and obsession, something for everyone in this wartime tale.
Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time. Facebook
Extract – The Girl In The Pink Raincoat – Alrene Hughes
to the sound of crying, and it was a moment before she realised it was coming
through the paper-thin walls of the house next door. Then she remembered it was
Friday morning and still Doris had not come to terms with her children being evacuated.
She lay for a while, watching a shaft of sunlight coming through the gap in the
curtains, and when the crying was replaced by the squeals and laughter of
excited children, she got up.
By the time the children were ready to walk to school, a crowd had gathered in the street to see them off. Gracie and Sarah stood next to Doris as she held back her tears, hugged her two little girls and told them to be good and to write every week. An older boy, John Harris, took charge and it was clear that the evacuees had been drilled for this moment. At his command, they left their mothers and lined up like little soldiers, with their gas masks and belongings, each with a brown luggage label fastened to their coat. Gracie scanned their faces: some were filled with excitement, others apprehensive; and little Gladys Clark, with no mother to see her off, was sobbing her heart out.
raised his hand and all eyes turned to him. ‘One … two … three!’ he shouted,
and what happened next made the hair stand up on the back of Gracie’s neck –
the children began to sing.
As the drums of war begin to beat louder on the continent, and life becomes more dangerous in cities, seventeen-year-old Jeannie McIver leaves the comfort of her Aunt’s house in Glasgow, to head to the wilds of the Scottish Uplands to start life as a Land Girl.
Jeannie soon falls in love with life on the busy Scottish hill farm, despite all of its hardships and challenges. She feels welcomed by the Cunningham family who values and cherishes her far more than her own rather remote and cold parents, and the work is rewarding.
She even finds her interest piqued by the
brooding, attractive Tam, the son of the neighbouring farmer, and a sweet
romance between them slowly blossoms. But even in the barren hills, they can’t
avoid the hell of war, and as local men start disappearing off to fight at the
Front, Jeannie’s idyllic life starts to crumble.
Those left behind try desperately to keep the home fires burning, but then Jeannie makes one devastating decision which changes the course of her and Tam’s lives forever.
believe her luck when she sees the ‘For Sale’ sign attached drunkenly to the
front gate. It is unclear from the dilapidated state of the cottage whether its
most recent resident is living in a similar state of neglect or has given up
the unequal battle and departed to pastures new, either in this world or the
next. What is
clear is that the cottage, whatever its current decrepit appearance, has the
best view in the village. And although Liz has often heard quoted the maxim
‘Never buy a house for the view’, she feels certain that, in this case, there
will be a queue of would-be purchasers.
estate agent seems taken aback by the speed of her response. He agrees to show
her round and they arrange a time and a day.
two days later, she steps into the cottage she sees that the description of it
being ‘in need of some modernisation’ is no exaggeration. But she is not put
off by the paucity of rooms – two in fact, with what is little more than a
corridor squeezed between, quaintly described in the brochure as a galley
kitchen. The meagre space of the cooking area is further depleted by a rusty
metal ladder that leads up into the attic. Liz peers up the ladder and is met
by darkness and a cold draught of musty air.
A row of blackened pans hang from hooks beneath a shelf running the length of the kitchen. On it are ranged baking trays, rusting metal biscuit tins, jars and containers of various sizes, a glass demijohn, furry with grey dust, and a set of weighing scales, their copper surface tarnished and dull. It seems to Liz as though she has stepped back several decades into the kind of house beloved of museum curators. A stone sink stands in the corner beneath a small window and, next to it, an electric cooker. On the floor, linoleum, cracked and lifting round the edges, reveals glimpses of the stone floor beneath. All that is needed, she thinks, is the model of a cook, in a black dress, frilly apron and starched hat, standing uncomfortably angled at the stove, wooden spoon poised over a never-boiling double pan of hollandaise sauce. Although, she realises, even as she imagines it, that a maid of that generation would not have had the advantage of electricity. This amenity has been listed with others as contributing to part of the cottage’s ‘modernisation’. Looking up at the metal lampshade suspended from a frayed twist of wire, Liz considers the word overstated.
hope the owner doesn’t mind us looking round when she’s out,’ she says, seeing
the further signs of habitation in the stained tea towel on a hook beneath the
window and a greasy oven glove hanging by its side. She turns to Kenneth
Mackie, the young man from the estate agent’s, who has ventured no further than
the front door. He sniffs.
was a “he”, actually. I believe the old chap died, so I’m sure he won’t mind
you looking round.’
I’d no idea.’ She scans the room, seeing it with new eyes. ‘Did he live here
doesn’t look as though he had many visitors. That’s sad.’
companion glances at his watch. ‘Perhaps you would like to see the rest of the
cottage.’ His voice is bland, disinterested. It is clear that he has no opinion
on the previous resident, dead or otherwise, or the property in his charge.
yes please.’ Liz follows him into the bedroom. It’s sparsely furnished, but the
heavy, old-fashioned pieces fill the space. The bed is situated within a
recess, where it can be closed off with a curtain. The curtain has been pulled
back and hooked behind a chair and the bedcovers are crumpled, as though
someone has been lying on top of them. This intimacy comes as a shock to Liz.
She glances towards the door, eager to leave the room and look elsewhere.
The living room is a little more welcoming. In it, she can picture the old man going about his tasks. He must have been very old, she thinks, given the antiquity of the furniture. His favourite chair is drawn up to the fireplace. Ashes lie cold in the grate and litter the hearth. On a rag rug, down-at-heel slippers wait for their departed owner. A naked light bulb hangs from the centre of the ceiling. Against the wall opposite the fireplace stands a bookcase, stuffed with volumes in identical orange-brown covers and with indecipherable titles. A small sash window adorned with cobwebs rations the light entering the room. She walks over to it, examining the deep recess with its eighteen-inch-thick walls. Hopefully, these will keep out the chill of winter.
windowsill is propped a solitary photograph. It is sepia and blotted with age.
Liz steps up to it slowly and stares at the smiling girl with a frizz of hair
encircling her face. She is standing in a field and holds a bucket in one hand,
a rake in the other. Around her and in the distance are sheep. But the girl has
eyes only for the view in front of her. She is looking not at the photographer
but to one side. The young face is radiant. But it is not this that causes her
heart to leap. It is the familiarity of the image in front of her.
It is a photo of Liz’s own mother.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Told from several points of view, from a historical and current day perspective, ‘God’s Acre’ creates a vivid picture of life in rural Scotland during World War 2 and in the twenty-first century. It ‘s a story of coming of age, working in the Land Army and finding out that love and family are not always bound by blood.
Jeannie is a free spirit, she is clever, but is not allowed to follow the same educational path as her brothers. Her clergyman father feels she should help in his parish, but she wants independence and freedom. Joining the Land Army means living in a rural setting, but the people are friendly and she finds she fits. Meeting Tam is love at first sight, but he is troubled and she is young and naive and it seems their love story is doomed to fail.
Liz knows little of her mother’s background when she visits the Scottish village her mother often talked about. Finding a cottage for sale, she visits and finds a tenuous connection. She buys the cottage and tries to rebuild her life and discover what she can about her mother’s past.
The historical viewpoints of this story are poignant and page turning, there is so much heartache, but a real sense of family. Jeannie is a lovely woman but so naive and this flaw in her character changes her whole life.
Believable, complex characters drive this story forward and make it an excellent read. The setting is full of visual imagery and you can imagine what working on the farm at this time was like for Jeannie. The mystery of Jeannie is revealed in a letter to her daughter, it is full of sadness and transparency and underlines the heartbreaking waste, caused by misunderstanding and the inability to trust. Despite this, the ending is hopeful for Liz in the present day and ends this lovely story in a satisfying way.
Born and brought up in the south of England, the eldest girl of nine children, Dee moved north to Yorkshire to study medicine. She remained there, working in well-woman medicine and general practice and bringing up her three daughters. She retired slightly early at the end of 2003, in order to start writing, and wrote two books in the next three years. In 2007 she moved further north, to the beautiful Southern Uplands of Scotland. Here she fills her time with her three grandsons, helping in the local museum, the church and the school library, walking, gardening and reading. She writes historical fiction, poetry and more recently non-fiction. Occasionally she gets to compare notes with her youngest sister Sarah Flint who writes crime with blood-curdling descriptions which make Dee want to hide behind the settee.
When widow Milly Sanger finds injured enemy pilot Lukas Schiller on her farm, the distant war is suddenly at her doorstep. Compassionate Milly knows he’ll be killed if discovered and makes the dangerous decision to offer him shelter from the storm.
On opposite sides of the inescapable conflict, the two strangers forge an unexpected and passionate bond. But as the snow thaws, the relentless fury of World War Two forces them apart, leaving only the haunting memories of what they shared, and an understanding that their secret must never see light.
As Milly’s dangerous act of kindness sets them on paths they never could have expected, those closest to them become their greatest threats, and the consequences of compassion prove deadly…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return or an honest review.
An interesting historical fiction book set in WW2, England. The fear of invasion is on everyone’s minds at this time and the fate a German airman crashing to earth if he survives is understandably precarious.
Milly, guilt-ridden over the death of her husband, doesn’t want to help but she sees a fellow human in need of care and lets her humanity rule her head. What follows, is intense, suspenseful and ultimately heartbreaking for the young woman, but the threat of repercussions last for the duration of the war.
The forbidden romance aspect of this story is poignant and sensual. Milly acts from the heart and out of loneliness but also with courage. Lukas wants to fly, but he doesn’t understand the consequences of his youthful choice for many years.
The story spans five years of war and explores what it is like for the rural communities trying to feed Britain, the Londoners bombed and the children evacuated to the relative safety of the countryside. Military intelligence, prisoners of war camps and Britain’s population’s perception of the war, Germans and those who helped them is an important theme of this book.
The bond between Lukas and Milly connects all events in the story, it affects both their lives and happiness in unforeseen ways. They are complex and in many respects tragic characters. Like all the characters in this story, they are authentic and allow the reader to glimpse what Britain at war was like.
The plot is detailed and spans many Britain at war themes. The historical information and imagery make the characters’ actions and motives realistic and the story engages the reader’s emotions as they turn the pages.
My only criticism is that I find it a little slow in parts, but it is an enjoyable yet heartbreaking read. The ending implies rather than shows hope for the future and it is beautifully written.