Book review: Always In My Heart by Freda Lightfoot
A young woman's return to England from France after years of wartime hardship is not the homecoming she had planned'¦
Falsely accused of fraternising with the enemy and with her beloved child missing, Brenda Stuart will have to dig deep into her reserves of determination and courage to weather the aftermath of conflict.
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the countryside she knows so well, much-loved Lancashire author Freda Lightfoot brings us an emotional, rollercoaster tale of hardship, heartbreak, romance and redemption in her beautiful new novel.
Lightfoot was born and brought up in the mill towns of Lancashire and her moving and compelling family sagas draw upon memories of her own childhood in the county and on the years she lived in the Lake District bringing up her family.
After being held in an internment camp in France during the war, Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband Jack’s home – the stately Trowbridge Hall at Saddleworth in the Pennine hills – in 1944 to be reunited with her young son Tommy.
Raised in an orphanage in Manchester’s Castlefield, Brenda had originally arrived at the house as a scullery maid in 1939, aged just seventeen, and even though they were both aware the Stuart family felt she didn’t belong in their world of wealth and privilege, Brenda and the Trowbridge heir Jack fell madly in love.
Forced to flee Trowbridge Hall to live with Jack’s estranged French mother Camille in Paris, the young lovers settled in her apartment and married. But when the Germans took over the city, Jack was killed fighting for the Resistance, leaving his pregnant wife devastated.
And just weeks after giving birth, Brenda faced the heartbreak of leaving her baby son Tommy in the care of his grandmother when the Germans sent her to an internment camp in the south of France simply because of her British nationality.
Still grieving for her beloved husband but relieved to be back at Trowbridge, Brenda finds her precious son is missing. And to make matters worse, she is wrongly accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans during her time in Paris, and comes under suspicion from Jack’s brother Hugh who now runs the estate.
Her life in turmoil, Brenda’s only ally is Prue, Jack’s sister who is also a war widow but has now fallen in love with Italian PoW Dino who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family and the nation.
Pulling together to work on the land, the two friends must find the strength needed as they search for happiness, love and Brenda’s lost son…
Lightfoot, the queen of romance and family drama, weaves seamlessly between past and present as Brenda’s tumultuous journey unfolds against the horrors of war and the despair of loss, poverty and rejection.
Brimming with emotion, heartache and intrigue, this is the perfect read for long winter evenings…
(HQ, paperback, £7.99)