#BlogTour #BookReview The Sweetheart Locket by Jen Gilroy

The Sweetheart LocketWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Sweetheart Locket by Jen Gilroy. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orion Dash for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Do check out the posts by my four tour buddies for today, Kylie at Kitty-Kat Chronicles, Marg at The Intrepid Reader, Linn at Ellesea Loves Reading and Faye at imreadingmybook.

WinThere’s also a giveaway with a chance to win one of two Kindle copies of The Sweetheart Locket. Enter via Rafflecopter here.

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The Sweetheart LocketAbout the Book

What if the key to your present lies in the past?

London, 1939. On the eve of the Second World War, Canadian Maggie Wyndham defies her family and stays in England to do her bit for the war effort. Torn between two countries, two men and living a life of lies working for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Maggie’s RAF sweetheart locket is part of who she is…and who she isn’t.

San Francisco, 2019. Over twenty years after Maggie’s death, her daughter Millie and granddaughter Willow take a DNA test that’s supposed to be a bit of fun but instead yields unexpected results. Willow has always treasured her grandmother’s sweetheart locket, both family heirloom and a symbol of her grandparents’ love story. But now she doesn’t know what to believe. She embarks on a search for the truth, one she doesn’t know will reveal far more about herself…

Format: ebook (358 pages)             Publisher: Orion Dash
Publication date: 17th March 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The Sweetheart Locket on Goodreads

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My Review

The book alternates between Maggie’s story starting at the outbreak of the Second World War and Willow’s in the present day (2019) as she searches for information about her grandmother’s life. It’s a search that initially will raise just as many questions as answers but possibly serve to lessen the distance that has developed between Willow and her mother, Camilla.

I found Maggie’s story particularly compelling, especially as it shines a light on the vitally important contribution women made to the war effort both at home and abroad, a contribution that often placed them in great personal danger. Willow’s research into her grandmother’s life allows the author to provide the reader with information about a secret wartime role performed by women not fully known about until recently. Inevitably, because of the book’s structure, the tension surrounding Maggie’s wartime experiences is lessened because we know she will survive the war. However, that’s not the same for other characters, injecting a welcome sense of jeopardy.

I liked the way the author brought out connections between the two women, despite the many decades that divide them. Both Maggie and Willow change over time, becoming more independent and determined to forge their own direction in life, even if that involves making a life in a new country. They become more willing to take risks in other ways too. There is a romantic aspect to both storylines although I thought Maggie’s was more believable, reflecting the fact that in wartime people have to live in the moment and snatch any chance of happiness.

I thought it was clever of the author to reflect the differences between then and now. For us, London at night with a sky bright with stars might be magical but for Maggie and others who lived through the Second World War it meant ‘bombing weather’, something to be feared rather than enjoyed. And for Maggie, clear skies has an additional significance linked to her wartime work.

Those who enjoy a mixture of tears of sadness and of joy in their historical fiction will find themselves well rewarded. There are also poignant, bittersweet moments and a few surprises, some more foreseeable than others, but given the fog of war not completely implausible. And after all, this is fiction. A neat touch is the epilogue which acts as a ‘what happened next’ for many of the secondary characters featured in the book.

The Sweetheart Locket is an absorbing dual timeline novel combining wartime drama, the uncovering of family secrets and new beginnings.

In three words: Romantic, engaging, heartwarming

Try something similar: The Girl From Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl

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Jen Gilroy Author Photo Spencer Studio Website Square 1080pxAbout the Author

Jen Gilroy writes sweet contemporary romance and dual timeline historical women’s fiction – warm, feel-good stories to bring readers’ hearts home. A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist and shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon award, Amazon named her third book, Back Home at Firefly Lake, a ‘Best Book of the Month: Romance’ in December 2017.

A dual British-Canadian citizen, Jen lived in England for many years and earned a doctorate (with a focus on British cultural studies and social history) from University College London. Returning to where her Irish family roots run deep, she now lives with her husband, teenage daughter and floppy-eared rescue hound in small-town Eastern Ontario, Canada. When not writing, she enjoys reading, ice cream, ballet and paddling her purple kayak.

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#BookReview Tomboy by Shelley Blanton-Stroud

TomboyAbout the Book

It’s 1939. On the brink of World War II, Jane Benjamin wants to have it all. By day she hustles as a scruffy, tomboy cub reporter. By night she secretly struggles to raise her toddler sister, Elsie, and protect her from their mother. But Jane’s got a plan: she’ll become the San Francisco Prospect’s first gossip columnist and make enough money to care for Elsie.

Jane finagles her way to the women’s championship at Wimbledon, starring her hometown’s tennis phenom and cover girl Tommie O’Rourke. She plans to write her first column there. But then she witnesses Edith “Coach” Carlson, Tommie’s closest companion, drop dead in the stands of apparent heart attack, and her plan is thrown off track.

While sailing home on the RMS Queen Mary, Jane veers between competing instincts: Should she write a social bombshell column, personally damaging her new friend Tommie’s persona and career? Or should she work to uncover the truth of Coach’s death, which she now knows was a murder, and its connection to a larger conspiracy involving US participation in the coming war?

Putting away her menswear and donning first-class ballgowns, Jane discovers what upper-class status hides, protects, and destroys. Ultimately – like nations around the globe in 1939 – she must choose what she’ll give up in order to do what’s right.

Format:  Paperback (312 pages)   Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication date: 28th June 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find Tomboy on Goodreads

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Hive | Amazon UK
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My Review

Tomboy is the second in the author’s historical mystery series featuring cub reporter Jane Benjamin. I can reassure readers who, like me, haven’t read the first book in the series, Copy Boy, that Tomboy works perfectly well as a standalone. The references to events in the earlier book provide new readers with a tantalising glimpse of Jane’s colourful journey to date. I say colourful but much of that colour is of a pretty dark hue as the occasional flashbacks to her early life demonstrate. She’s had a tough upbringing, witnessing violence and neglect as part of a family with an itinerant lifestyle. It’s given her a strong survival instinct.

Jane is feisty, resourceful, ambitious and determined her gender shouldn’t be an obstacle to achieving her journalistic ambitions. She’s had to learn to rely on herself from an early age but now finds herself with responsibility for her baby sister, Elsie. It’s a responsibility she feels quite conflicted about; she loves her little sister but she also wants to advance her career and the two don’t mix well. Jane’s clear-eyed about her own shortcomings and honest enough to admit she often makes decisions that adversely affect other people.

I really enjoyed the lively writing style and how the author recreated the atmosphere aboard the ocean liner Queen Mary from the luxury suites to the celebrities hobnobbing in the exclusive Verandah Grill (such as Charles Boyer, Irene Dunne and Fred Astaire) and, at the other end of the scale, the crew members in the bowels of the ship making their own amusement in the ‘Pig ‘n’ Whistle’.  Thrust into an unfamiliar luxury lifestyle through her friendship with tennis star Tommie O’Rourke, Jane finds herself at sea, both literally and metaphorically. A bang on the head and a broken nose don’t help.

The mystery at the heart of the book is not quite of the ‘locked room’ variety as the suspicious death has already occurred before the Queen Mary sets sail, but all the people who might have been involved are amongst the passengers and as Jane delves deeper she uncovers some unexpected things, not always by legitimate methods. I thought things got a little jumbled up towards the end of the book (or perhaps that was just me) and Jane’s angst over whether she was doing the right thing seemed to overshadow the unravelling of the mystery. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my first encounter with Jane in whose company life is never going to be dull.

Tomboy is published today as an ebook and will be available in paperback on 11th August 2022. My thanks to Tabitha at She Writes Press for my digital review copy via NetGalley.

In three words: Lively, characterful, intriguing

Try something similar: The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

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Shelley Blanton-StroudAbout the Author

Shelley Blanton-Stroud grew up in California’s Central Valley, the daughter of Dust Bowl immigrants who made good on their ambition to get out of the field and into the city. She taught college writing for three decades and consults with writers in the energy industry. She co-directs Stories on Stage Sacramento, where actors perform the stories of established and emerging authors, and she serves on the advisory board of 916 Ink, an arts-based creative writing nonprofit for children. She has also served on the Writers’ Advisory Board for the Belize Writers’ Conference. Tomboy is the second book in her Jane Benjamin series. Her debut novel, Copy Boy, was the first. Shelley and her husband live in Sacramento with an aging beagle and many photos of their out-of-state sons.  (Photo: Goodreads author page)

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