#BlogTour #BookReview A Ration Book Victory by Jean Fullerton @rararesources

A Ration Book VictoryWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for A Ration Book Victory by Jean Fullerton. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Corvus for my digital review copy. Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, Rachel at Rachel Brimble Romance and Joules at Northern Reader.

There’s also a (UK only) giveaway with a chance to win one of 6 signed copies of A Ration Book Victory. Enter via Rafflecopter here.

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A Ration Book VictoryAbout the Book

In the final days of war, only love will pull her through . . .

Queenie Brogan wasn’t always an East End matriarch. Many years ago, before she married Fergus, she was Philomena Dooley, a daughter of Irish Travellers, planning to wed her childhood sweetheart, Patrick Mahone. But when tragedy struck and Patrick’s narrow-minded sister, Nora, intervened, the lovers were torn apart.

Fate can be cruel, and when Queenie arrives in London she finds that Patrick Mahon is her parish priest, and that the love she had tried to suppress flares again in her heart.

But now in the final months of WW2, Queenie discovers Father Mahon is dying and must face losing him forever. Can she finally tell him the secret she has kept for over fifty years or will Nora once again come between them?

And if Queenie does decide to finally tell Patrick, could the truth destroy the Brogan family?

Format: Paperback ( pages)        Publisher: Corvus
Publication date: 5th May 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

A Ration Book Victory marks the end of an era in more ways that one. Firstly, as the title suggests, it sees the end of the Second World War. Secondly, it’s the sixth and final book featuring the Brogan family. It’s a series I’ve loved since I picked it up at book two, A Ration Book Christmas. That was followed by A Ration Book Childhood, A Ration Book Wedding and A Ration Book Daughter. (There was also a novella, A Ration Book Christmas Kiss.)

A Ration Book Victory not only allows readers to catch up with the Brogan family as the end of WW2 approaches but also explores the early life in Ireland of the formidable matriarch of the clan, Queenie – or Philomena Dooley as she was known then. It’s a tender story of early love that might not have stood up on its own but works well alongside the goings-on in the Brogan household in the final months of the war. However, although the war in Europe may soon be over there’s still fighting continuing elsewhere and not everyone is yet out of danger.

What an extensive clan the Brogan family have become! The book gives us an endearing picture of a multi-generational household, where everyone pitches in and there aren’t many problems that can’t be solved over a cuppa.  It’s a family that includes a surprising amount of diversity including adopted and illegitimate children, and interracial relationships.

The book has a beautifully judged balance of humour – a case of mistaken identity during the VE Day celebrations springs to mind – and moments of sadness. I doubt many will have a dry eye as Queenie faces up to the impending death of the man she has known – and loved – for fifty years, Father Mahon. And I’m quite sure readers like me will be praying that characters such as Nora Mahon and Aunt Pearl get a suitable come-uppance.

I thought A Ration Book Victory was the perfect ending to the series with all of Ida’s and Jeremiah’s children branching out and moving on, as are they themselves. ‘The world had changed, and the Brogans had changed with it.’

In three words: Warm, emotional, engaging

Try something similar: The Woman with the Map by Jan Casey

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Portrait_Jean-1022 RNA resizedAbout the Author

Born and bred in East London Jean is a District Nurse by trade and has worked as a NHS manager and as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies. She left her day job to become a full-time writer in 2015 and has never looked back.

In 2006 she won the Harry Bowling Prize and now has seventeen sagas published over three series all of which are set in East London.

She is an experienced public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, plus for the past fifteen years she has sailed all over the world as an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships.

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#BookReview Fortune by Amanda Smyth

FortuneAbout the Book

1920s Trinidad. Eddie Wade’s truck breaks down and he’s offered a ride by businessman, Tito Fernandez. So begins Fortune, a novel based on a real-life event about love, money, greed and ambition.

Eddie has spent the last years in the oilfields of the US and now he has returned home and is looking to sink his own well and make his fortune. He knows how dangerous it can be, but he feels lucky and Trinidad is rich in oil. Over the last months, like other oilmen, he has been wooing Sonny Chatterjee, a difficult man whose failing cocoa estate, Kushi, in South Trinidad, is so full of oil you can put a stick in the ground and see it bubble up. The morning before Eddie meets Tito, Sonny has finally given him the go-ahead to see what he can do. Unlike the big corporations drilling nearby, in his gut, Sonny trusts Eddie. Now all he needs is someone foolhardy enough to invest.

The fortuitous meeting between Eddie and Tito, leads to a business deal and a friendship that will make and break them both. Tito invests in Eddie’s confidence and although they are hindered by mosquitoes, heat, terrific rains, and superstitious fears, they find their fortune shooting out of the ground in thousands of barrels of oil, not once but three times. But their partnership also brings Eddie into contact with Ada, Tito’s beautiful wife, and as much as they try, they cannot avoid the attraction they feel for each other. With everything in the balance and everything to lose Tito and Eddie decide to go for one more well before Sonny sells the estate. How can this end well?

Format: Paperback (266 pages)   Publisher: Peepal Tree
Publication date: 15th July 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

Fortune is one of the four books on the shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2022.

Fortune, in the many senses of the word, is a recurring theme of the book. The most obvious is the chance meeting between Eddie and Tito that opens the book.  It brings about a partnership that offers the possibility for both of them to make a fortune through exploiting the oil reserves to be found beneath the soil of Trinidad.  For Tito, it offers the opportunity to address his precarious financial situation, one which he has kept hidden from his wife, Ada, and wider society who see only a cigar-smoking, luxury loving man of the world.  For Eddie, an instinctive risk-taker, it appeals to his ambitious nature. ‘In Trinidad you can be the first, a pioneer.’

The cocoa trees on Sonny Chatterjee’s estate are dying and though he is reluctant to allow drilling for oil on his land – he has repeatedly resisted offers from a large oil corporation – he wonders if perhaps this is the opportunity he has been waiting for. ‘What if, through meeting Eddie, his luck had changed?… What if he could show her [his wife, Sita] is was her good fortune to be married to him?’

Tito is keen to include Eddie in his social circle which eventually leads to Eddie being introduced to Tito’s  family. You sense the immediate attraction between Ada, disillusioned with her relationship with Tito and her life in general, and Eddie, starstruck by the beautiful, bewitching Ada. For Eddie, Ada is ‘a woman who could make people stop what they are doing to look at her’.  Eddie, with his energy and film star looks, is like no-one Ada’s  ever met before. ‘It seemed to Ada he could have fallen out of the sky.’

However, there’s also a sense of foreboding as their relationship seems reckless on both their parts: Ada, because it threatens her marriage, and Eddie, because it threatens his lucrative business partnership with Tito. I felt there was a real The Great Gatsby vibe to the triangular relationship.  Drawn together by a seemingly irresistible force, the risk of discovery is a game of chance that Ada in particular seems willing to play.  The author injects a real sense of eroticism into the descriptions of their sexual encounters. ‘He searched her body like a thief, looking for something.’

Of course, drilling for oil is a risky venture – a game of chance – and not without its dangers as is demonstrated when a small act, provoked by an act of betrayal, has unintended consequences. ‘The little things you do sometimes change your destiny.’

Based on real events, Fortune is a fascinating glimpse into an aspect of Trinidad’s history that was completely new to me. It’s a skilfully crafted story that explores how strong emotions – passion, despair, ambition – can make people risk everything.

In three words: Eloquent, compelling, immersive

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Amanda SmythAbout the Author

Amanda Smyth is Irish-Trinidadian. Born in Ireland, she is the author of Black Rock (2009) and A Kind of Eden (2013).  Black Rock won the Prix du Premier Roman prize, was shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize and selected as an Oprah Winfrey Summer Read. Amanda teaches creative writing at Arvon, Skyros in Greece, and at Coventry University. She lives in Leamington Spa with her husband and daughter. (Photo/bio: Publisher author page)

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