The Winter Promise by Rosie Goodwin: A gritty, drama-packed tale featuring 19th century orphan girl - book review -

In the cold, snowy winter of 1850, 16-year-old Opal Sharp from Fenny Drayton finds herself and her younger siblings suddenly orphaned and destitute. Their mother died in childbirth nine weeks ago and now their father has succumbed to a fever.

Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 12:30 pm
The Winter Promise
The Winter Promise

There’s an extra sparkle to the autumn days as Rosie Goodwin, one of Britain’s best-loved saga queens, conjures up more storytelling magic for her brand new Precious Stones series.

The star of each standalone story in this glittering collection will be named after a gemstone and follows on from Goodwin’s enchanting Days of the Week series which won her an army of readers and a fistful of accolades.

A former social worker and foster mother, Goodwin has penned thirty-eight beautiful, heartwarming novels exploring life and love in days gone by, and was awarded the rights to follow three of the late, great Tyneside writer Catherine Cookson’s trilogies with her own sequels.

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And now, The Winter Promise – a gritty, drama-packed tale featuring 19th century orphan girl Opal Sharp – delivers the same winning blend of romance, intrigue, fascinating characters, and richly detailed, authentic and atmospheric settings.

In the cold, snowy winter of 1850, 16-year-old Opal Sharp from Fenny Drayton finds herself and her younger siblings suddenly orphaned and destitute. Their mother died in childbirth nine weeks ago and now their father has succumbed to a fever.

After being turned out of their cottage which was tied to their father’s work on a farm, the lives of Opal, 15-year-old Charlie, six-year-old Susie and two-year-old Jack have suddenly been reduced to no home, no parents, no money and no prospects.

Opal is determined to keep the family together and they find refuge in a derelict cottage in a wasteland of fields known as Rapper’s Hole. But just when they thought things couldn’t get any worse, Opal and the two youngest children are struck down with the illness that took their father, and her brother Charlie is forced to make an impossible decision.

Unable to afford a doctor, he knows the younger children will not survive. So against the wishes of Opal who is too ill to realise what is happening, Charlie takes Susie and Jack to the workhouse where he hopes that at least they will be fed and cared for until he can return to take them both out.

When she finds out the two children are in the workhouse, Opal is heartbroken and Charlie starts taking risks to try to support what is left of the Sharp family and earn Opal’s forgiveness. But his gamble fails and he finds himself in trouble with the law and on a convict ship for the long voyage to Australia.

As heartbroken Opal is forced to say goodbye to the final member of her family, she makes a promise to reunite them all one day. Will she ever see her family again?

Unsurprisingly, Goodwin is one of the top 50 most borrowed authors from UK libraries and here she packs in all those recognisable people, events and dramas – births and deaths, loves and losses, good people and bad people – that have made her novels so beloved by readers over the decades.

Opal’s battle to keep her family together after they are cruelly turned out of their home is a true emotional rollercoaster with plot twists aplenty and a story that stretches from the dark wintertime streets of a Leicestershire village to the sunshine of Australia’s penal colonies.

Full of Goodwin’s wisdom, warmth and wonderful storytelling, and with the author’s own delicious recipe for French onion soup to tickle the taste buds, this is a tale to cuddle up with on winter nights… and guaranteed to leave readers hungry for An Orphan’s Journey, the next book in the series.

(Zaffre, hardback, £12.99)