Cosy up this autumn with two wartime sagas by Rosie Archer and Kerry Bell - book reviews -

As the dark nights draw in, pull the curtains and escape into two nostalgia-packed sagas set in the final, tumultuous years of the Second World War.

Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 3:45 pm
Victory for the Bluebird Girls
Victory for the Bluebird Girls

Victory for the Bluebird Girls

Rosie Archer

The Bluebird Girls singing trio have been flying high for five long years of wartime… but as the conflict draws to a close, will the winds of change blow their lives off course?

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Welcome back to the rollercoaster lives of three young women from Gosport, the Hampshire town with a long and distinguished naval and maritime history which has become familiar to an army of readers thanks to the wonderful novels of Rosie Archer, one of its proudest inhabitants.

After a series of compelling novels featuring the women who work on the south coast of England during the Second World War, Archer’s emotional Bluebird Girls sagas have been following a group of singers whose fates and fortunes play out against real-life events.

And now the final chapter in the tumultuous lives of songbird trio, Bea Herron, Ivy Sparrow and Rainey Bird, is beckoning as the lights come back on across Europe, and a hard-fought victory and peacetime are finally in sight.

So much has happened over the years for the Bluebird Girls, but in 1944 they are back together and singing for the troops. The Allies are making one final push in Europe and Bea, Ivy and Rainey are travelling across the country to boost the morale of the troops and factory workers. After everything they have been through, it’s good to be singing again.

In their rise to fame over the course of the war, the girls have faced down bombs and looked tragedy in the eye. They have also found love, created their own families and established careers that they never thought possible.

But now an end to the war is finally on the horizon… what will the new world order hold for the south coast’s favourite singing trio?

There is always a gritty edge of realism to Archer’s sagas and this final, drama-packed chapter for the tough and resilient young women is a stark reminder that wartime brings trials, triumphs and tragedies for those on both the battlefield and the home front.

It was a time when death was only ever a heartbeat away, and daily life in industrial cities like Gosport was under constant threat from bombing raids. But wartime also saw communities come together, and friends, neighbours and family became the solid bedrock which helped many through the best and worst of times.

Over four compelling books, the trio of gutsy songbirds have won the hearts of thousands of readers as they keep smiling through the many hardships thrown at them.

With period charm and nostalgia on every page – whether that’s music, rationed food, the dreaded blackout or the wail of air raid sirens – Archer’s sparkling Bluebirds series ends on the high note we have come to expect from this much-loved author.

(Quercus, paperback, £6.99)

The Emmerdale Girls

Kerry Bell

For forty-eight years, TV viewers have been tuning in to share all the drama, joys and heartbreaks of the residents of Beckindale, a village tucked away in the heart of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

Emmerdale Farm, or Emmerdale as this hit ITV series is now known, is the nation’s second-longest-running television soap opera after Coronation Street, and still attracts millions of viewers every week.

And now this enthralling and nostalgic saga series, which explores the fictional lives of Emmerdale’s much-loved families during wartime, including favourites such as the Sugdens and the Dingles, is capturing the hearts and minds of readers with its compelling stories of community, friendship and love.

In The Emmerdale Girls, the fifth book in the much-loved series, the Second World War has reached the dark December days of 1944 and the hard-pressed families of Beckindale are trying their best to cope with life on the home front.

The success of the D-Day landings earlier in the year has brought some hope to the village but, after five years of drama, change, tragedy and turmoil, many can’t believe that they are heading for yet another wartime Christmas.

Against a backdrop of rationing, blackouts, evacuees and military training camps, the women of Emmerdale are navigating their own lives, loves and dreams and as the war draws to a close, they realise things will never be the same again.

The Emmerdale girls are fast learning that things are rarely dull where love is concerned…

Just as in the TV series, family life is at the heart of this engrossing story as the personal dramas, passions, triumphs and disasters play out amidst all the anxieties and uncertainties of wartime in a tightly-knit village community.

Beautifully written and researched by Kerry Bell, the pseudonym for Kerry Barrett, author of contemporary and time-slip novels, and filled with warmth, real-life dramas, rich period detail and fascinating characters, this is the perfect Christmas gift for both Emmerdale and saga fans.

(Trapeze, hardback, £12.99)