Drama and romance prove a compelling combination in Lizzie Lane’s novel set in Bristol in the lean years after the Second World War.
Warm and wise, funny and heartbreaking, Lane’s stirring stories never fail to capture the spirit of times gone by, and Wartime Brides takes us to the hardships and dilemmas faced by many families in the aftermath of a long conflict.
Post-war Bristol comes to vivid life as three women from very different backgrounds meet on Bristol’s Temple Meads station where peeling paint and shabby waiting rooms bear testament to years of neglect.
But despite the privations and queues, there is an air of bright expectancy on the faces of the young women who are waiting for the return of their loved ones.
Shy and troubled, Edna Burbage is watching out for her fiancé Colin Smith who has come home crippled and in a wheelchair. Life will never again be the same for either of them.
Vivacious Charlotte Hennessey-White can’t wait to be reunited with her doctor husband David but the once loving and gentle father returns a violent, disturbed man with no love for her, and even less for their two children.
And as for tough nut Polly, her Canadian airman boyfriend Gavin doesn’t come back at all, leaving her pregnant, alone and facing a scandal.
Adjusting to men who have changed beyond recognition and, in Polly’s case, to no man at all is at the heart of this nostalgic and gritty story.
For six years these women had to cope with what life threw at them and, in that turbulent time, they also changed. And all is not as it seems because they harbour secrets that would be best kept hidden...
Lane weaves an enthralling story with sensitivity, authenticity and a big helping of her trademark compassion.
A warm and engrossing read for those cold winter nights.
(Ebury, paperback, £5.99)