#BookReview A Ration Book Daughter (East End Ration 5) by Jean Fullerton @rararesources @CorvusBooks

A Ration Book Daughter

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for A Ration Book Daughter by Jean Fullerton, the fifth book in her series featuring the Brogan clan and set in World War 2 London. 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 via NetGalley.

I’m delighted to say there’s also a giveaway (UK only) with a chance to win one of six paperback copies of A Ration Book Daughter. Enter via this link.

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  • I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

A Ration Book DaughterAbout the Book

Not even the Blitz can shake a mother’s love.

Cathy was a happy, blushing bride when Britain went to war with Germany three years ago. But her youthful dreams were crushed by her violent husband Stanley’s involvement with the fascist black-shirts, and even when he’s conscripted to fight she knows it’s only a brief respite – divorce is not an option. Cathy’s only solace is her little son Peter.

When a telegram arrives declaring that her husband is missing in action, Cathy can finally allow herself to hope – she only has to wait 6 months before she is legally a widow and can move on with her life. But in the meantime she has to keep Peter safe and fed. So she advertises for a lodger, and Sergeant Archie McIntosh of the Royal Engineers’ Bomb Disposal Squad turns up. Kind, clever and thoughtful, their mutual attraction is instant.

But with Stanley’s fate still unclear, and the Blitz still raging in London’s East End, will Cathy ever have the love she deserves?

Format: Paperback (416 pages)  Publisher: Corvus
Publication date: 6th May 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find A Ration Book Daughter (East End Ration #5) on Goodreads

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My Review

I’ve enjoyed all the previous books in this series that I’ve read having first been introduced to it by winning a copy of A Ration Book Christmas in a Readers First giveaway.

One of my favourite characters remains Queenie, Cathy’s grandmother and matriarch of the Brogan clan, who has a particularly interesting way of marking Sunday worship and family celebrations. Fiercely protective of her family, you definitely do not want to get on the wrong side of Queenie. This is amply demonstrated in the book when the recipient of Queenie’s ire results in someone returning home ‘with a face like a gargoyle with a wasp stuck up its nose’. However, she does have a softer side, demonstrated by her tender care for ailing priest Father Mahon.

The introduction of new characters such as Glaswegian widower Sergeant Archie McIntosh and vicar’s wife Mrs Paget allows the author to explore prejudice in its various forms. I also liked the way Archie’s artistic talent challenges the expected stereotype and, in fact, comes to play an important role in the plot. Providing the characters we love to hate this time are Violet Wheeler, Cathy’s horrendous mother-in-law, who refers to ‘that nice Mr Mosley’ and will hear no wrong when it comes to her vile son Stanley, and Archie’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Monkman, who was definitely away the day they conducted discrimination awareness training.

Archie’s role in the Royal Engineers’ Bomb Disposal Squad provides a timely reminder of the courage of those who quite literally took their life in their hands every time they were called out. And while we’re talking about Archie, can you blame Cathy for her reaction when she first gets a glimpse of the ‘corded muscles of his back, shoulders and arms’ as he washes at the kitchen sink? No, neither can I.   Cathy’s role in the Women’s Voluntary Service and her sister Jo’s work in a munitions factory also reveal what a vital role women played in the war effort.

The atmosphere of wartime London simply oozes from the page whether that’s the spread at a christening party – sardine and spam sandwiches or eggless fruit cake anyone? – or the menu at the Brogans’ favourite East End pie and mash shop – stewed and jellied eels or individual beef pies served upturned, all accompanied by a pile of mashed potato and smothered in parsley sauce.  And it being 1942 there’s the sound of the almost nightly air raids on London with the ‘ear-splitting clamour of falling bombs…joined by the whistles of the ARP wardens, police claxons and fire engine bells’.

As with previous books in the series, A Ration Book Daughter contains a wealth of fascinating information. For example, that the distinctive taste of the sauce just mentioned can be attributed to the water having been used beforehand to stew the eels. Or that responsibility for dealing with unexploded bombs was split between the Royal Engineers and the Royal Navy depending on the type of bomb involved. Or that there is such a thing as a camouflet when a bomb explodes underground creating a pocket of deadly carbon monoxide. The author also takes the opportunity to introduce real events into the story resulting in one particularly memorable and dramatic scene, the true scale of which was kept under wraps for fear of its effect on morale.

It was a joy to catch up with the seemingly ever expanding Brogan clan. As is said more than once in the book, ‘If it wasn’t for the Brogans, people would have nothing to talk about’. It was also wonderful to be introduced to new characters like Archie.

In A Ration Book Daughter, Jean Fullerton once again skilfully combines a convincing picture of daily life on the ‘Home Front’ with an engaging love story that, for me, stayed just on the right side of sentimentality. In fact, I’ll admit to becoming a little tearful towards the end of the book. For fans of historical sagas set in World War 2 this is a series I can’t recommend highly enough. Although I was delighted to learn there is another book on its way soon, I was sad to learn it will be the final one in the Ration Book series. I’d better keep my spirits up by putting the kettle on for another brew.

In three words: Heart-warming, authentic, emotional

Try something similar: The Walls We Build by Jules Hayes

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Jean FullertonAbout 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 with both Orion and Atlantic 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 The Tuscan House by Angela Petch @bookouture

Blog Tour - The Tuscan House

I’m delighted to welcome you to the opening day of the blog tour for The Tuscan House by Angela Petch. My thanks to Sarah at Bookouture for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy via NetGalley.

The Tuscan HouseAbout the Book

Corbello, Italy, 1947. A woman and a little boy stagger into the ruins of an old house deep in the forest, wild roses overwhelming the crumbling terracotta walls. Since the war, nowhere has been safe. But they both freeze in shock when a voice calls out from the shadows…

For young mother Fosca Sentino, accepting refuge from ex-British soldier Richard – in Tuscany to escape his tragic past – is the only way to keep her little family safe. She once risked everything to spy on Nazi commanders and pass secret information to the resistenza. But after a heartbreaking betrayal, Fosca’s best friend Simonetta disappeared without trace. The whole community was torn apart, and now Fosca and her son are outcasts.

Wary of this handsome stranger at first, Fosca slowly starts to feel safe as she watches him play with her son in the overgrown orchard. But her fragile peace is shattered the moment a silver brooch is found in the garden, and she recognises it as Simonetta’s…

Fosca has always suspected that another member of the resistenza betrayed her. With Richard by her side, she must find out if Simonetta is still alive, and clear her own name. But how did the brooch end up at the house? And with a traitor hiding in the village, willing to do anything to keep this secret buried, has Fosca put herself and her young son in terrible danger?

Format: Paperback (384 pages ) Publisher: Bookouture
Publication date: 31st March 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The Tuscan House on Goodreads

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Hive | Amazon UK
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My Review

Although a standalone novel rather than part of a series, The Tuscan House is the fourth book by Angela Petch to be set in her beloved Tuscany. The author’s love of Italy and its culture is clear to see, not least in the delicious descriptions of its landscape: ‘cypress-lined avenues meandering up to hilltop villages perched on ridiculously steep rises, churches and little chapels holding ancient treasures, simple shrines by the side of the road.’ And talking of delicious, surely only in Italy could a meal such this be served by monks in a monastery: ‘A first course of home-made tagliolini pasta, with a source made from slivers of truffle sourced from the woods was followed by tripe… tender, succulent slices flavoured with tomatoes, olive oil and herbs’.

Alternating between 1947 and the final years of the war, the story is told from the perspective of three characters – Richard, Fosca and Simonetta.

Haunted by memories of what he witnessed during the war serving as a non-combatant in the Friends Ambulance Unit, Richard’s return to Corbello represents the opportunity for a new start, a way of wiping the slate clean and leaving behind the grey skies of England. I liked the way his project to renovate an old tobacco factory acted as a metaphor for his own physical and mental recovery. That recovery is echoed in the return to life in the surrounding landscape, with poppies blooming where there were once trenches and fields cleared of mines returning to cultivation.  However, the impact of the war still remains, not just in the damaged buildings but in the fractured minds of people, the rifts that persist between families, the recriminations for actions taken, and the witch-hunts against those suspected of collaborating with the enemy.

The parts of the book told from the perspectives of Fosca and Simonetta powerfully depict the horrific realities of war, such as the harsh winters when food and fuel was in short supply, and the village was cut off from the outside world by deep snow on the perilous mountain roads.  The dangers of working for the resistenza, or even assisting its members by offering shelter or gathering information, become all too apparent and will have lasting repercussions, especially when not everyone can be trusted.  Fosca’s and Richard’s search for answers to the mystery of Simonetta’s disappearance is sure to keep readers glued to the book until the very last page.

The Tuscan House is a skilfully crafted story demonstrating that not only does courage come in many forms but so does love.

In three words: Emotional, immersive, dramatic

Try something similar: The Secret by Katharine Johnson

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Angela PetchAbout the Author

Angela writes: “I’m an award winning writer of fiction – and the occasional poem. Every summer I move to Tuscany for six months where my husband and I own a renovated watermill which we let out. When not exploring our unspoilt corner of the Apennines, I disappear to my writing desk at the top of our converted stable. In my Italian handbag or hiking rucksack I always make sure to store notebook and pen to jot down ideas. The winter months are spent in Sussex where most of our family live. When I’m not helping out with grandchildren, I catch up with writer friends.

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The Tuscan House