Sunday, 1 April 2018

Emma's Review: Shipyard Girls in Love by Nancy Revell

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Sunderland, 1941

With a brief break in air raids providing some much-needed respite from the war, things are looking up for head welder Rosie, who has fallen head over heels for Detective Sergeant Miller. But how long can their romance last in such uncertain times?

Life remains full of challenges for Gloria, who must face her abusive ex-husband and confront her own guilty conscience about baby Hope’s real father. The secret is tearing her apart but if she admits the truth, she will risk losing everything.

Both women are determined that their love and faith will be enough to keep the most difficult of promises, but nothing is as simple as it seems…

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Many thanks to Random House UK, Cornerstone for my copy of Shipyard Girls in Love to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

The Shipyard Girls series from Nancy Revell has to be one of my all time favourite family drama/ war time saga series. It's seems like only the other day that I first began writing about Rosie and co as they work in the shipyard helping to build magnificent boats which will help in the efforts to win the war. But here we are already with book four Shipyard Girls in Love and there seems to be no let up in the quality of the storytelling with lots still happening that has the reader drawn once again into the story very quickly. I loved how we picked right up from where we had left off at the end of book three, yet still there were plenty of refresher moments for those new to the series or for long time fans just to bring everything that had happened to the forefront of their mind.

All the girls featured in this series have become like firm friends to me at this stage. They all work together with one common aim – to work as many hours as possible welding or working in the crane so the shipyard can boost production. They are a united team but outside the confines of the shipyard and the harsh conditions they endure all year around, each girl has their own problems which they must battle with. Plenty of secrets abound throughout the story and various story lines which have been built upon since book one are further gathering pace which all make for an exciting read and perhaps the best book in the series so far.

I had thought previously that there were one or two characters who although they were mentioned never got much prominence as other characters such as Rosie and Gloria seemed to have more pressing issues. To some extent I felt the same existed here, Hannah, Angie and Martha needed to have some gritty plot like the other women and it is only towards the end where we are very much left on a cliffhanger that I felt this began to happen for these characters. But it was worth the wait as the secrets they have been keeping under wraps if uncovered and brought out into the open would only cause endless upset and further hardship and devastation for all involved. I sense in the next book if this particular can of worms is opened then the three women will have a more prominent role to play and this is what I have been looking for with regard to them.

In this book we really got an even further insight into the character of Gloria. Just when I thought she had been through the worst of times, and might be about to find some happiness with her cruel husband Vinnie kicked to the kerb, and now with new born baby Hope a ray of light can begin to  filter through the darkness she has endured. But fate has other plans in store for her and her true love Jack is still caught in the trap so maliciously laid down by his wife Miriam so many years ago. Miriam prays on his vulnerability after an accident in the Atlantic. One in which they thought he was lost forever. All the girls at the shipyard who know and love Gloria, who look to her for advice as a mother figure, who are always there for her when things get extremely tough know the outcome they want for her. So to does the reader especially if you have been with these characters since the very beginning. But I don't think the author is going to give any of her characters an easy ride and given we are only up to 1941 this series can run and run and it will be some time before any of them see light at the end of the tunnel. Just when I thought Gloria was beginning to emerge to maybe not a full state of happiness but more one of contentment than the apple cart is once again upset and in a major way. Such injustice and manipulation was laid down that I wanted to give the perpetrator a huge slap at what I was seeing unfolding before my eyes.

Miriam, Jack's wife will not let her husband go without a major fight. She has many cards which up until now had been played close to her chest and now she is centre stage and ready to lay them down. She is a woman more than willing to stick in the knife and twist it. I detest Miriam so much, if she is not happy she doesn't want anyone else to experience the feeling either. Now knowing more of the earlier background to Miriam, Jack and Gloria makes me feel for Gloria all the more. But I have to say when things start bubbling to the surface and revelations abound it did really make for exciting reading. OK I mightn't have wanted certain things to be known but it was like it was taken out of everyone's hands and this spiral of destruction was only getting going. Gloria was very much caught between a rock and a hard place. Loyalty to Jack and loyalty to her crew and the love she has for baby Hope are at the centre of her heart. But what can she do when she is so very much pushed even further into a corner? I can't wait to see what happens next for Gloria.

Shipyard Girls in Love didn't focus as much on the actual work the girls do in the yard as it had in previous books but this didn't matter in the slightest. I felt all the technical detail had been covered so now we are able to concentrate more on the girls lives and their trials and tribulations, of which there are many. Helen, Jack's daughter and now in charge of the shipyard was a character who inspired hatred in many but here I felt we really got inside her head like never before. We saw the other side of her coin as to how she feels - torn apart with the new knowledge she now has. Things become clearer to her but she does feel humiliated. At the same time a softer side of her character began to emerge but only teasing glimpses were given. After all she couldn't do a complete 360 so rapidly, I sense she would like to become 'friends' so to speak with the girls but given the way she has acted up until now I'm not so certain the tight knit group would be willing to let her into their confines.

Rosie's story is further developed and I feel she has changed since we first met her. She is still as hard working as ever as she has a loyalty to a certain someone but yet she is willing to reveal more of her background and the reasons for what she does. She has made numerous sacrifices and deserves nothing but admiration for this. Her burgeoning relationship with DS Peter Miller is one I am enjoying observing. For again similar to Gloria they are both caught between a rock and a hard place. Love should rule all but common sense and the structures and rules of the time and of course the war more often than not take over what ones heart is saying. When we first met Rosie she was very much a closed book but the fact that she can now open up to Peter and tell him everything demonstrates what she has been through and the fact she realises everything is better off one's chest. She feels relieved to have unburdened herself but still life and love is very much complex for her and I think it will remain so for quite some time to come.

Polly, Bel, Agnes and Arthur took more of a back seat in this story so I hope they will come more to the forefront in the next book. I understand Gloria and Rosie have big big things going on but it is important to keep all characters involved so readers do not forget them. I'm not saying they didn't have their scenes but I would have liked to have seen more of them. Overall, Shipyard Girls in Love was an excellent addition to the series and I was delighted I didn't leave it lingering too long on my Kindle before picking it up to read.

Nancy Revell has created a fantastic cast of characters, each so vastly different from the other but united in one aim to build vessels that will become warriors against Hitler and his army. But behind the day to day struggles of battling through the harsh wear years, normal life attempts to go on and the author has showcased this brilliantly against a backdrop of personal drudgery and arduous conflicts and issues. Victory for the Shipyard Girls arrives in September and I can't wait to see what happens next for all the girls and their extended families.

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