Thursday, 23 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: Shipyard Girls at War by Nancy Revell

Following her novel The Shipyard Girls, Nancy Revell is back with the next installment in the saga about Polly, Dorothy, Hannah and the other young women working in a shipyard during World War Two. Nancy has stopped by as part of her blog tour for The Shipyard Girls at War, and has shared with us the bios of the main characters. Read on to find out more (and about two newly-introduced characters!)

Shipyard Girls at War by Nancy is published by Arrow, and out now.


The Shipyard Girls – Polly, Rosie, Gloria, Dorothy, Hannah and Martha – start off as strangers, but end up forging an unbreakable bond of friendship in the most difficult times. 

The Shipyard Girls saga series is set in World War Two when many of the shipyard workers in Sunderland, County Durham have gone off to fight for King and country, and it has fallen to the womenfolk to step into the men's steel cap boots and get to work building ships.

Each of the women in the novel has their own story, their own reasons for choosing to work in the yards on the River Wear. They are all different and they all have their own personal struggles. As they learn to weld, their friendship grows, and we learn more about their lives, their loves - and their secrets.

POLLY is driven by her need to follow in the footsteps of her family’s shipbuilding heritage and to be a part of the war effort. Not long after she starts as a trainee welder, she falls for dock diver, Tommy Watts. She lives in the town’s east end with her widowed mother, Agnes, and her sister-in-law, Bel.

ROSIE is the welding instructor who leads a double life. By day she works in the shipyards, and by night she sells her body in an upmarket 'bordello' called Lily’s. Her parents died in a car accident when she was younger and since then, she has been desperately trying to earn enough money to keep her little sister, Charlotte, at an all-girl’s boarding school in Harrogate – and, moreover, out of the notoriously harsh and abusive children's home.

GLORIA is the mother hen of the squad. She signs up to escape her brutal husband, Vinnie, but finds she cannot run from her problems. Her two sons are in the Royal Navy and she lives in one of the newly-built council houses on the town’s Ford estate. Gloria purports to be working at the shipyards for purely financial reasons, but really it is to escape her cold and abusive marriage. Gloria enjoys her work at the yard and her verbal sparring with the group’s youngest welder, Dorothy, but she is troubled when she meets her old flame, yard manager Jack Crawford. There are obviously still feelings there. Will their love be resurrected? And will Gloria be able to break free from Vinnie?

DOROTHY lives for today and is the 'entertainer' of the group who loves nothing more than being the centre of attention and having fun. She left her job as a sales assistant in the town’s main department store to become a welder as she is obsessed with one of the riveters, Eddie. Dorothy gets her man but she has to learn the hard way that he is a no good womaniser. There is more to Dorothy than meets the eye, though, and it becomes apparent that underneath her ditzy, shiny exterior hides a more thoughtful and astute young woman.

HANNAH is the group’s ‘little bird’. She is just 19 and one of only a hundred or so Jewish immigrants living in the town. Her parents sent her to live with her Aunty Rina just before Hitler invaded Prague. She is small and fragile and struggles with the physical labour of welding. She comes from a well-educated Czech family, and like all the girls she too has her own reasons for working in the yard.

MARTHA is the squad’s gentle giant. To start with she rarely speaks, but gradually she starts to come out of her shell. She develops a fierce loyalty for the women who have accepted her for the person she is.

TOMMY is a deep-sea diver and has been brought up by his granddad, Arthur. The only love in his life has been the deep waters of the River Wear and the North Sea - until he meets Polly and falls hopelessly in love with her. But he is torn. He is desperate to go to war and use his skill to combat the Italian ‘frogmen’ who are putting limpet mines on Allied ships. He knows their love will be forever tainted by regret if he does not leave the shipyards for the war raging in the Atlantic Ocean.

JACK is married to Miriam Havelock, the daughter of one of the town’s richest families. She tricked him into marrying her twenty years previously when he was in love with Gloria. They have a daughter Helen. When Jack sees Gloria working in the yard it has far-reaching consequences.

LILY is the madam and owner of Lily’s bordello. She is a colourful character, with a heaving bosom and bird’s nest of orange hair. She loves all things French and tries to speak the language, but her cockney roots always prevail. Despite her eccentricities she is a successful business woman. She has a soft spot for her ‘favourite girl’ Rosie and worries when her Uncle Raymond turns up at the bordello. George is Lily’s friend/companion who is a decorated First World War veteran and spends most of his time at Lily’s.

HELEN is a raven-haired beauty - and knows it. Her father is Jack Crawford, the yard manager, and her mother is Miriam, who is from one of the town’s richest families. Helen works in the shipyard offices and uses her starlet-like looks to her full advantage. Most of her life she has succeeded in getting just what she wants. Now she wants dock diver Tommy, but realises he is falling for the new girl in the yard. She is a jealous and manipulative character, who will do anything to stop Polly from being with Tommy.

BEL is Polly’s sister-in-law and best friend. She is married to Teddy Elliot and lives with Agnes and Polly. She works as a bus conductress and has a two-year-old daughter called Lucille. When she was a child she was taken in by Agnes due to her own mother’s drinking and neglect. Bel is an entertainer and loves nothing more than regaling her adopted family with tales and gossip. All she has ever wanted in life is to have a close-knit family.

AGNES is Polly's mum who has turned her home into a day nursery to help look after a small army of local children whose mums have had to go out to work. Her twin sons, Teddy and Joe, are Desert Rats fighting in North Africa. She was vehemently against Polly’s decision to work in the yards, as it is a dangerous place to work as well as a target for Hitler’s bombs. Agnes is a widow (her husband Harry never came back from the First World War). She is a strong maternal character, who has had to bring up her three children single-handedly in one of the poorest areas of the town.

ARTHUR is Tommy’s grandfather, who used to also work as a dock diver when he was younger. Arthur brought up Tommy after his mother, (Arthur’s daughter), committed suicide when Tommy’s father was killed during the First World War. Arthur’s wife, Flo, died when Tommy was just a nipper. Arthur and Tommy live together in the Diver’s House on the south dock.

In ‘Shipyard Girls at War’ two new characters are introduced: Pearl – Bel’s no-good mother, who turns up on the door step out of the blue. And Joe, Polly’s brother, who has been medically discharged after being blasted with shrapnel while fighting out in North Africa.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Finding Secrets by Lauren Westwood

One of this month's most intriguing reads is Finding Secrets, the new novel by Lauren Westwood (author of Finding Home).

When Alex Hart left university, she didn't think she'd see herself as the manager of an Elizabethan country manor. Getting the job at Mallow Court wasn't part of the medieval history graduate's plan, but things worked out just nicely. Maybe too nicely - Alex has spent so much time in the grounds of the house, hosting weddings and giving tours that she's seemingly forgotten to have fun.

When a mysterious, attractive stranger turns up at Mallow Court, Alex is suddenly swept up by feelings and the realisation that maybe she's missing something in her life. However, things immediately change when she finds a beautiful and unique silver locket in the old coat belonging to Mrs Fairchild, the owner of Mallow Court.

Before she knows it, Alex finds herself in the middle of in a mystery - one that she has to get to the bottom of. A mystery that involves the London Blitz and the Russian Revolution, and a diary. Can Alex help Mrs Fairchild, and also find her own path to happiness along the way?

I haven't read Finding Home, so this was the first novel by Lauren Westwood I'd picked up. And I was so happy I did. Finding Secrets is the perfect mix of romance and mystery, with an intelligent, compelling heroine that I was rooting for since the beginning. Alex is relatable, smart and fun, and it's hard not to want her to find the answers - and the life - that she's been looking for.

Finding Secrets is a wonderful read with great characters, plenty of intrigue and a generous helping of romance!

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

UNCOVERED PICKS: Five March Releases

As we make our way into March, it's time for a peek at what's new in female fiction. This month sees new novels from Christie Barlow (author of Lizzie's Christmas Escape), Sophie Nicholls (The Dress) and Cathy Kelly (Between Sisters).

Finding Secrets by Lauren Westwood
Alex Hart loves her dream job as manager of Mallow Court, a historic Elizabethan house, even if her friends think she needs to get out more. But a discovery in the pocket of an old coat – a jewelled mechanical locket shaped like a bird – changes everything, and Alex discovers that things are not as they seem.

From an old diary, to a handsome barrister, a mysterious clockmaker, and the darkest hours of the London Blitz, Alex must follow the trail of the jewelled bird to uncover the truth about the things she holds dearest – and someone is determined not to let sleeping dogs lie!

Only by finding the secrets of the past can Alex find the keys to her future – and her heart.

The Difference Between You and Me by Celia Hayes
Trudy Watts has everything she's ever dreamed of: a job that she loves, a successful boyfriend and an ultra-modern apartment in one of the most fashionable parts of London. With a long-awaited promotion due to come her way and her wedding just around the corner, Trudy's life is just perfect...

That is until catastrophe strikes and her life is turned upside down. She's transferred to Turriff, a remote Scottish town to manage a small, struggling bank branch.

Her arrival is traumatic and she wishes she was anywhere but here... Until she sees him – Ethan, the charming pub landlord, who seems to enjoy nothing more than to tease her. And it's right there, in that pub, that her life will suddenly change...

Evie's Year of Taking Chances by Christie Barlow
Evie’s job has always been her safe haven. As a librarian in the little town of Becton she loses herself in books - after all it’s far easier to read about other people’s problems than set about solving her own.

Then, one birthday, everything is turned upside down. A mysterious parcel containing a beautiful book with a poignant inscription arrives for Evie. It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Evie and she’s inspired to try and find her real mother. 

Evie’s search leads her to meet handsome author Noah Jones. Charming and intelligent, Noah seems the perfect catch but what Evie doesn’t realise is that he is hiding something – a key to Evie’s past. 

As Evie gets closer to Noah and discovering her mother, she must take a giant leap of faith. Can she embrace the new and make this her year of taking chances? And if she does, will she get her heart broken? 

Miss Mary's Book of Dreams by Sophie Nicholls
In historic York, Ella seems to have the perfect life. She's a published author, her bookshop is thriving, she's married to the man of her dreams and they've started a family of their own. 

But Ella is struggling. Motherhood isn't quite everything she imagined it to be, and she's worried that there may be cracks in her marriage. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, despite endless blue skies and a stream of eager customers in her vintage dress shop, Ella's mother Fabia finds that life in San Diego is not enough for her. She misses York, and can sense that Ella needs her, so she flies home. 

And this is when they meet Bryony. With a complicated life and secrets of her own, Bryony may have some of the answers they're looking for. 

Can Ella and Fabia help her find her way, whilst also working out how to find their own happily ever after?

Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly
Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess's stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won't replace the one she's been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn't unnerved by anything - apart from facing the man who left her at the alter, and he's on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since - but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage...but will they find out before it's too late?

Monday, 27 February 2017

BOOK NEWS: Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French

I absolutely adored Melody Bittersweet and the Girls' Ghostbusting Agency, and now a sequel is about to be released!

Out next month, Mystery at Maplemead Castle is the second book starring Melody and her hilarious colleagues, in The Chapelwick Mysteries series. This time, Melody is investigating the haunting of a trapeze artist, whilst trying to fend off her annoying ex and an intrusive reporter...

Welcome to Chapelwick, a leafy English town in the hills of Shropshire, where chocolate pecan cookies come with a helping of sabotage.

Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers...literally. 

A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?

Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.

Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?

Monday, 20 February 2017

COVER REVEAL: A Life Without You by Shari Low

Shari Low, author of The Other Wives Club, A Brand New Me and The Motherhood Walk of Fame, is back with a new offering! A Life Without You will be published by Aria on April 1st, and today we've had the pleasure of showing its stunning cover.

Dee and Jen have been best friends since their days of teenage crushes, bad 90's make-up and huge hair. 

They’ve passed every milestone of their lives together and now in their thirties own a successful boutique, sharing a bond that is as strong as the closest of sisters.

Until one day everything changes. 

Dee is gone, killed by a reckless driver, leaving Jen to face the harsh reality of a world without her. 
Jen vows to honour Dee’s dreams and take care of everything and everyone she loved. 

Until she realises that sometimes the only way forward is to let go of the past.

About the author
Shari lives in Glasgow and writes a weekly opinion column and Book Club page for a well known newspaper. She is married to a very laid-back guy and has two athletic teenage sons, who think she’s fairly embarrassing, except when they need a lift.


Twitter: @ShariLow

Follow Aria
For more information about A Life Without You or other Aria novels, check out their website and social media:
Twitter: @aria_fiction
Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

Monday, 13 February 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Some Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe

What do you do when the gorgeous rock star you're dating might only be with you because of a perfume that's effectively a love potion? Biochemist Eden Sinclair is faced with  with a difficult predicament in Mary Ann Marlowe's debut novel, Some Kind of Magic.

Single Eden's life is generally going well. She's a scientist. She' has a successful and lovely musician for a brother. An apartment and prospects. The downsides? She's not exactly doing the work she dreamed of, and her mother's constantly on a mission to set her up with unsuitable men. Eden isn't too lucky in love, but that soon changes when her lab colleague hands her a vial of perfume.

Eden doesn't know it, but the perfume is designed to enhance pheromones. And after attending one of Micah's gigs, starts to hit it off with a cute musician.

Little does Eden know, he's none other than Adam Copeland, internationally famous guitarist with millions of worldwide fans. When Eden finally realises that the cute guy she slept with is a rock star, tension rises. Especially when she also finds out that the perfume she's wearing is designed to have a bit of an effect on men...

Is Adam attracted to her because of the perfume, or is it due to a different kind of chemistry?

Admittedly I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped. I'd fallen for the blurb (and its gorgeous cover!), intrigued by the perfume premise which sadly seemed to be overshadowed by the 'good girl falls for the rock star' element of the book. I expected a bit more of a twist as I tend to look for more in novels than just a love story, and this one was, sadly, quite predictable. I also found it very hard to like Eden, who came across as snobby and a bit childish at times, especially with her reluctance to date men based on their occupations (doesn't want to date a dentist or gynecologist because, you know, ew. Even though she's a fully grown woman. And a scientist.) I wasn't sure if I was meant to find this fussiness endearing, but it was just grating.

Even though I love Mary Ann Marlowe's writing style, I just didn't really fall for this book. However, that's probably just due to personal preference. If you're a fan of romance novels, this might be a good read for you; it's light, with some funny moments and some great characters, such as Micah and Adam. I was just expecting a little bit more.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, 10 February 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Whatever Happened to Vicky Hope's Backup Man? by Laura Kemp

Sometimes, life just doesn't go to plan. For Vicky Hope, life is crashing down very quickly indeed, when she finds herself dumped, jobless and back at her parents' place on her thirtieth birthday.

It wasn't what she expected; at twenty-one, Vicky was preparing for her future, about to jet off around the world to embark on a life-changing experience and a bit of fun with her sensible and privileged friend Kat before real life and study took hold. Worrying about her young single status and what the future holds, Vicky and Mikey Murphy made a pact on the night of her farewell barbecue - that if they were still single at thirty, the pair would marry.

Now, eight years later, Vicky's alone. Something she hadn't envisioned all that time ago. And with her life currently in disarray, she decides to track down her former best pals Kat and Mikey, who she hasn't spoken to for years. Only to discover that life has gone on for the others too. Once-quiet Mikey is now a highly successful app designer. Kat, who was always destined for greatness, didn't exactly achieve the glowing future in finance that she had hoped for, and harbours a big secret. Even though they've been separated, Vicky and her friends still share a bond, and it's up to her to not only get her life back on track, but also get back her friends. Including Mikey - but the Mikey that she once knew.

Whatever Happened to Vicky Hope's Back Up Man was a good read. Sweet, nostalgic and warming. Admittedly it did take me a little while to get into it at first - when I began to read about Kat's story, I felt that the book started to pick up. However, it's obvious from the very beginning that Vicky and Mikey share a close bond that's more than friendship, however much they deny it. The chapters are set both in present-day, and also in the past, as we learn more about Vicky, Kat and Mikey's lives throughout their twenties and what happened after the girls went travelling. I did enjoy the sense of nostalgia.

The book includes more than just romance - there is drama, betrayal and tested friendships. I'm not going to reveal any spoilers here, but there are twists in this book that I did not see coming, even though the main plot is quite a predictable one. One thing I particularly liked about the novel was the development of Vicky's character from the beginning to the end, and the prospect of reality. Let's face it, many of us had big dreams when we were twenty-one. Then the real world gets in the way. Laura Kemp has done an amazing job of portraying that young-adult naivete and combining it with the realities of thirty-something life.

Rating: 4/5

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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