Three super sagas for winter nights by various authors – book reviews –

The Ballroom Girls: Christmas Dreams by Jenny HolmesThe Ballroom Girls: Christmas Dreams by Jenny Holmes
The Ballroom Girls: Christmas Dreams by Jenny Holmes
Waltz into the wartime glitz and glamour of Blackpool’s famous Tower Ballroom, join a right royal celebration for the much-loved Woolworths girls, and meet the brave women who took part in a groundbreaking strike in an enthralling selection of sagas

The Ballroom Girls: Christmas Dreams

Jenny Holmes

As wartime wreaks havoc across the world, can the magic of Blackpool’s famous ballroom keep on helping three girls to dance away their troubles?

Welcome to the second book of a sparkling saga series which brings to life the glitz and glamour of the famous Tower Ballroom, the turbulent years of the Second World War, and the vibrant dancing scene of the resort in the 1940s.

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Ilkley-based Jenny Holmes, author of The Air Raid Girls series, works her storytelling magic on this empowering series which spotlights three very different women, all eager to prove themselves during a time of change, hardship and uncertainty.

It’s November of 1942 in the resort and so far, worries are failing to dampen the glitz and glamour of the ballroom in the run-up to Christmas. After all, life is for living. The bliss of newlywed Pearl –oldest daughter in a large, chaotic family who all work at the Pleasure Beach – is cut short when her beloved husband Bernie is called up into the Army. Will dancing at the Tower Ballroom take the edge off her heartache or will it throw temptation her way?

Unexpected news of an inheritance presents Joy – an evacuee who lost her parents in the Blitz – with a different dilemma. Should she move to Scotland in line with her parents’ final wishes or stay in Blackpool to dance with Tommy, the man she loves? Meanwhile, ambitious Sylvia – daughter of one of Blackpool’s pre-eminent and most ambitious ballroom dancing teachers – ditches Eddie, her loyal dance partner, and launches into a new career teaching jive and jitterbug. But regrets soon set in. Is this the worst mistake she has ever made? Change is in the air. Can the ballroom girls fulfil their dreams and make this a Christmas to remember?

Readers will love waltzing back into the turbulent lives of the Blackpool ballroom girls as they hot step through the dramas, dilemmas and romance of the war years in a series full of excitement, nostalgia... and the sheer thrill of dancing!

(Penguin, paperback, £7.99)

Celebrations for the Woolworths Girls

Elaine Everest

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Welcome back to life in post-war Kent in the entertaining fortunes and misfortunes of Elaine Everest’s ‘family’ of devoted and dedicated store staff who have become like friends to an army of readers.

Celebrations for the Woolworths Girls is the remarkable ninth book in Everest’s wonderfully nostalgic Woolies series which has brought new life and love for the famous stores that once graced almost every high street in the country, and taken us through the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a group of hard-working women during the turbulent war years.

Set once again in Everest’s home town of Erith in Kent, where she briefly worked as a Woolworths girl herself, we join the Woolies girls as they leave behind the war years and move into a brave new world... one that is full of changes and challenges which will test them to the limit.

It's February 1952, the nation grieves the death of King George VI and with a new monarch about to ascend the throne, the Woolworths girls face a very different world. At the Erith store, there is a new temporary manager and Sarah is getting more than a little concerned by problems he seems to be creating. The whole mess is enough to make her want to resign.

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Meanwhile, Ruby is extremely worried about her friend Vera, and with illness causing a problem from her past to come flooding back, Vera knows it’s going to take a lot of strength and willpower to do what needs to be done. Then there is Freda, looking forward to the arrival of her first child but sick with worry that her Tony won’t have returned home in time for the birth. As Coronation Day for young Queen Elizabeth ll approaches, the girls from Woolworths celebrate friendship, family and overcoming anything that life can throw at them...

Everest grew up listening to stories about the old Saxon town of Erith, which nestles south of the River Thames, and her love and knowledge of the people who live in this corner of the country shines through in these absorbing and nostalgic books.

Brimming with authentic historical and social history, an enchanting mix of drama, romance, friendship and family, lots of twists and turns, and the author’s storytelling magic, this new chapter for the irrepressible Woolworths Girls is the perfect escape for winter reading.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)

The Sewing Factory Girls

Posy Lovell

Inspired by the brave, hardworking women who fought to improve working conditions at the Singer Sewing Machines Factory in Clydebank, saga writer Posy Lovell brings us a moving story of female strength and resilience.

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In 1911, 10,000 workers at the Scottish factory went on strike in solidarity with twelve female colleagues protesting against a larger workload and no increase in pay, and it is these real-life events that Lovell (pseudonym for Kerry Barrett, author of several historical fiction novels) uses as the backdrop to The Sewing Factory Girls.

Like half of all the young women living in the Scottish town Clydebank in early 1911, Ellen works at the sewing machine factory. So does her big sister, Bridget, Bridget's fiancé Malcolm, and her new friend Sadie, who has come to work at the factory after the death of her father.

For Sadie, the factory is a way to make ends meet, but Ellen has sewing in her veins. She is even making Bridget’s wedding dress on her beloved sewing machine. But after the excitement of the wedding dies down, everything changes.

Ellen discovers that the work of the cabinet polishers – her job – is to be reorganised and they will be doing more work for less pay. Ellen feels betrayed because the sewing factory is her family and they have let her down.

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Sadie is more pragmatic but the women aren’t going to give in without a fight. They have been reading about strikes and they’ve got an idea... much to the disgust of manager Malcolm. Meanwhile, Bridget, forced to choose between her husband and her sister, has made a new friend and is fighting her own battle alongside the suffragettes.

The events of the strike will throw Ellen, Bridget and Sadie’s lives into turmoil but also bring these women closer to each other than they could ever have imagined.

Lovell’s cast of feisty workers lie at the heart of this revealing and uplifting story about the power of female friendship and the courageous stand of a group of women forced to take action over the inequity of their treatment by the factory bosses.

Rich in drama and authentic detail, The Sewing Factory Girls is the perfect stitching together of real history and compelling fiction.

(Orion, paperback, £9.99)