Three great sagas to read by the fireside by various authors – book reviews –
Many people have been captivated by the story of the Bletchley Park codebreakers, but perhaps few know the work of the heroic women who worked in secret, transcribing and decoding the encrypted German messages as they arrived.
Inspired by her visit to the magnificent Raven Hall Hotel, which sits 600 feet above sea level in Ravenscar, near Scarborough, and boasts sweeping views of Robin Hood Bay, Mollie Walton dug into the war history of this beautiful region.
Walton, pseudonym of historical novelist Rebecca Mascull and author of the fascinating Ironbridge series, discovered that Raven Hall, built in 1774, was used as a cantonment for war forces with many women working at Station Y, an intelligence site electromagnetic, near Scarborough.
And as the wartime home front has often been compared to people’s lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, in terms of anxiety, fears for the future, restrictions on civil liberties and the grieving process of families who lost loved ones, Walton set out to explore the experiences of women in society, at work and at home.
In September 1939, widow Rosina Cavert-Lazenby summoned her five daughters – Grace, Evelyn, Constance, and twins Daisy and Dora – to Raven Hall, the ruined ancestral home of the Lazenby family, of which Rosina is the only living member.
As war with Germany is declared, Rosina’s eldest daughter, Grace, 21, who is studying at Oxford, informs her mother that she will join the home front effort as a wireless telegrapher based in a Y station in Scarborough and soon she was doing some very valuable transcription work.
And when the RAF moves into Raven Hall, Rosina finds herself intrigued by their charismatic, albeit young, Sergeant Harry Woodvine, but is there time for love with the war looming? With so much at stake, Rosina and Grace must learn to outdo themselves and muster the courage to lead those around them into the unknown.
A Mother’s War is the first book in what promises to be a gripping trilogy featuring Rosina and her five daughters as they are forced to adjust to a new and complex way of life in which love and Friendships flourish, and the dangers and losses of wartime are never far away.
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the North Yorkshire coast, and with her rich and authentic depiction of the changing role of women and the pressures they face on the home front, Walton brings us a moving and insightful story of strength, resilience and change. ‘forbidden love.
(Welbeck, hardcover, £12.99)
Add a welcome spark to the last days of winter as Rosie Goodwin, one of Britain’s most beloved saga queens, conjures up more storytelling magic for her Precious Stones series.
The star of each stand-alone story in this scintillating collection is named after a gemstone and follows Goodwin’s enchanting Days of the Week series which won the hearts of its army of readers and a handful of accolades.
A former social worker and adoptive mother, Goodwin wrote more than thirty beautiful, heartwarming novels, exploring life and love in the past and selling a million copies. She has also secured the rights to follow three of the late Tyneside great writer Catherine Cookson’s trilogies with sequels of her own.
And now A Daughter’s Destiny – a gritty, dramatic tale featuring the struggles and struggles of two sisters to stay afloat after their privileged lives are snatched away – delivers the same winning mix of romance, intrigue, characters fascinating and richly detailed, authentic and atmospheric settings.
Our newest gemstone star is Emerald Winter who lived a privileged life with her parents and younger sister Abigail at stately Astley House in Warwickshire. But all that changed abruptly in 1875 when his father disappeared, leaving the family in debt.
The sisters and their mother Dorcas are forced to throw themselves at the mercy of Emerald’s cold and indifferent uncle, Bernard, who reluctantly allows them onto his farm. Desperate to find work, Emerald must leave her family and travel to London to become the companion of a distant aunt she has never met.
Meanwhile, rebellious Abigail is unwilling to stoop to menial farm chores and instead flees to London, finding work as a hostess at a Soho club where she soon gets into trouble.
Torn by fate, the sisters must learn to survive against the odds in an unforgiving city. Will Emerald ever find happiness and reunite her family again?
Unsurprisingly Goodwin is one of the 50 most borrowed authors from UK libraries and here she packs all those recognizable people, events and dramas – births and deaths, loves and losses, good and bad people – that have made her novels so loved. by readers over the decades.
Emerald and her sister Abigail’s battle to survive after their father’s disappearance proves to be an engrossing emotional rollercoaster with many twists and a story that takes us to the real-life rural village of Astley in the heart of northern Warwickshire.
Full of Goodwin’s wisdom, warmth and wonderful storytelling, and with the author’s ingredients and advice for a traditional Victorian picnic basket to tickle the taste buds, it’s a tale to be enjoyed with. snuggle up by the fire and get lost in history, heartbreak and romance.
(Zaffre, hardcover, £12.99)
A young singer with a heart-melting voice stars in a dramatic saga set in beautiful West Country.
A Songbird in Wartime comes from the pen of Karen Dickson, an author who began writing stories as a child and has always had an interest in social history. His heartwarming sagas may be set in the hills of Dorset, but are inspired by the stories of his grandparents who lived in the North and grew up in the early 20th century.
Drawing on their descriptions and vivid memories, Dickson’s new roller coaster tale stars a girl whose loyalty to the man she loves is tested by enmity, fame, misunderstanding and the uncertainties of war.
In Shaftesbury in 1936, the prestigious Mansfield House Hotel has been the refuge of 20-year-old Emily Baker since she was orphaned at the age of sixteen. Not only did they give her a job as a maid, but it was also where she met her fiancé Tom Harding, the hotel groundskeeper.
Emily’s greatest gift, however, is her singing voice of rich intensity and unfailing purity, a talent recognized by the hotel manager who makes her the star of the hotel, drawing in the audience. surrounding villages and towns.
But when Bristol’s ruthless theater agent, Roland Thurston, stays at the hotel and hears Emily singing, he’s determined to take her to Bristol and make her a star. And when he learns that Emily will never leave her fiancé, he hatches a plan to keep her away from Tom.
Six years later, Emily has made a name for herself as the Bristol Songbird. Her love for Tom is still going strong, but she hasn’t heard from him since a fateful night long ago when her life changed forever. And with the world now embroiled in a war, it seems unlikely that the two will meet again.
Will Emily and Tom ever find each other again, or will the war – and Roland – keep them apart?
Beautifully written with what quickly becomes her warmth and empathy, Dickson’s new page-turner introduces us to a brave, determined and inspiring heroine in a gripping story filled with emotion, heartache and intrigue.
With a cast of dynamic and authentic characters, the evocative backdrop of war and the world of theater, and a story that will have you booing bad guys and cheering on our heroine, it’s a gritty and ultimately uplifting story with friendship, family and love. in his heart.
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)