I have read many of Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope books. From the first one on, each has brought the desperation and conspiracies of London in the first days of WWII into focus for me. Maggie Hope, British by birth and raised in America, has the ability to ferret out those who would see England destroyed by the Nazis. “The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent” finds Maggie recuperating in Scotland at a training base for SOE agents. Her past escapades have finally gotten to her soul and she is in despair.
An invitation to see an old friend perform in the ballet in Edinburgh brings Maggie into the investigation of a double murder and the almost-murder of her friend from the ballet, Sarah Sanderson. The murder agent is a top-secret biological virus, anthrax, which is clandestinely being researched for warfare if needed. Maggie and her partner from MI5 must solve the murders without endangering the top secret research.
In the time frame of this book, Pearl Harbor is bombed which brings the United States into the war. Mr. Churchill is determined to talk to President Roosevelt and needs someone to be not only a secretary, a typist, a translator (of all things American) and a bodyguard. He wants his former secretary, Maggie Hope to fill that role. We end the story with the promise of yet another exciting Maggie Hope mystery. I can’t wait.
“The Runaway Wife” by Rosie Clarke is a story set in 1920’s London amidst the angst of The Great Depression. Annabelle Tarleton’s family desperately needs money to keep their estate soluble. The Tarleton matriarch is an unfeeling, selfish woman more enamored by her status in the gentry than in the happiness of her children. Annabelle’s brother Ben is expected to marry a bitchy woman for her money. Annabelle is being coerced into marrying an up and coming Member of Parliament…with lots of money. Hetty, their younger sister, is determined to escape her mother’s tyrannical moods and find her own way.
Annabelle finds her love, but she knows that her mother will not see that he is good enough for her and sends him away. She then marries the pompous ass with the money and is sorry from the first day of their marriage. Richard is a brutal man who loves to hurt women. After one too many beatings, Annabelle flees, and must hide herself because of his obsession with her. She knows that he will kill her eventually.
Given the story line of this novel, I kept reading to see if all would be well with Annabelle and her loved ones. I must say that I think the story plodded along in too many places. The main character was so indecisive in the face of fear of her husband, that I felt irritated with her. In fact, I was irritated with many of the characters and their seemingly helplessness in the control of their own lives. If you want a possibly true depiction of what life among the upper crust in London was during the depressive years, then you might like this book. Though I do enjoy novels giving glimpses of the past, this one was not my favorite.
I downloaded a Kindle copy of this novel from NetGalley.com in return for my honest review.
Jennifer Delamere wrote “The Captain’s Daughter” which takes place in London around 1873. We find Rosalyn Bernay venturing out on her own from the orphanage that has been home for her and her two sisters since their parents dies. Becoming a lady’s maid was a good job and provided an income and place to stay for Rosalyn until the lady married a no-good rake. His dastardly designs on Rosalyn and his lies about her thievery cause her to run away. Attempting to avoid detection by this rogue, she made her way to London. There she was immediately taken in by a local Madame to a brothel. She escaped, but lost her money and belongings along the way. She stopped at a doorway and was taken for a new hire in the theater. Unknown to her, the ex-soldier who attempted to help her at the train station also worked at this theater, where Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta H.M.S. Pinafore was playing. Rosalyn became the dresser, all the while looking over her shoulder for the lady’s husband to find her and cause trouble.
I thought this was a really interesting story and I loved the references to the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas that were so popular at this time. London seemed a dirty and dangerous place, especially for a young woman on her own. The rewarding part of this novel is the generous help Rosalyn had along the way. I know you will enjoy this story. It is a little out of the norm, but I thought it was well written.
In “The Hidden Thread” by Liz Trenow, Anna Butterfield is traveling from Suffolk to her aunt and uncle’s home in London. Her mother is dead following a long illness, and Anna has cared for her and for her father and sister, Jane during this time. In order to be able to provide for her family it is necessary for her to marry well. To this end, she is sent to her aunt and uncle’s home in London. Her uncle is a very successful silk merchant and it is hoped that Anna will be presented to society and thus find a desirable husband.
These are turbulent times in London in 1760. Silk is being smuggled into England at a reduced price and the weavers and cloth makers are losing their jobs because the price of goods has dwindled to the point that people are starving. Smuggled goods bring in no taxes, so the merchants are getting richer while the poor workers are destitute.
On her way to her new home, Anna is aided by two young Frenchmen, whom she later finds to be weavers of fine cloth. This class of society is beneath her, or so her aunt warns. She is forbidden to have any contact with them. Instead, she is paraded in front of a friends’ son, a pompous dandy. The novel continues as we discover how Anna uses her talents to design cloth and is in partnership, secretly, with one of the French weavers to produce silk cloth. After the silk riots threaten her family’s security, she must decide if she wants to be a proper lady in society or pursue her dreams.
You can always count on Ms. Trenow to write an engaging story. Her family had been silk weavers in Suffolk for three hundred years, which inspired this story set during the 18th century.
I was sent a complimentary Kindle copy by NetGalley.com.
“The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom” by Alison Love is a novel of the love between Olivia, a British ballroom dancer and Antonio, an Italian singer. They meet by chance at the Paradise Ballroom, which is a not-so-nice club in London. This is in the days before the war with Germany is official. Rumors of war permeate the Soho area where Italian immigrants live. Mussolini has set up a Fascist government in Italy and a group is formed in London whose members are pro-fascism. Olivia is just trying to make her life better and when she meets Bernard, Antonio’s patron, she eventually marries him. Since her husband is Antonio’s patron and is providing singing tutoring for him, they meet again and a romance begins. Antonio has a pregnant wife and family, whose members are pro-Mussolini, and are therefore under the radar of the British government. When war is declared Britain rounds up all German and Italian men and sends them to internment camps. They are separated from their families and most do not know where they’ve been sent. Olivia and Antonio are of course separated as well. The rest of the novel deals with the consequences of the actions of Olivia, Antonio and their families during and after the war. If you enjoy reading about peoples’ loves and loyalties, you will really enjoy reading this novel.
I received a print copy of this book from BloggingforBooks.com in return for my honest review.
I was lucky enough to be chosen to review “Lizzie’s War” by Rosie Clarke. I love her series, The Workshop Girls. This book is the second in the series. Although Ms. Clarke brings you up to date and the novel can stand alone, I am glad that I read the first book in the series before I did this one. This story develops the lives of Lizzie Larch and Beth, her best friend as they continue to struggle with all the hardships and disappointments that life can offer, especially during wartime. I was so interested in the characters that Ms. Clarke created and their involvement with each other and the plot that I could not put the book down. I eagerly await the next in the series.
I received a free Kindle copy of this book from NetGalley.com in return for my honest review.
I love to read novels that are set in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. I marvel at how those caught up in the war and before managed…those fighting and those left at home. Rosie Clarke has written a wonderful series called The Workshop Girls. This series is set in London right before and during the war. “Lizzie’s Secret” is about Lizzie Larch, a twenty-year-old hat maker in London. She is well liked and has acquired a good job at a shop where her designs are selling well. Unbeknownst to Lizzie, she has a secret. This secret has been kept from her by her aunt and uncle with whom she has stayed since her parents’ passing. When she is finally told of this nightmare, consequences of this secret occur which are tragic for Lizzie. The story is one of triumph in the face of adversity and the unflagging spirit of one girl, determined to better her life.
I love the way Ms. Clarke brings her characters to life. I also am enamored by the British way of life and their resourcefulness in the face of wartime deprivation. I will be reading all the books in this series. This is my favorite genre and Ms. Clarke’s writing truly fits my interest.