I am lucky enough to live almost opposite our local library so I can read the latest releases without paying a penny (unless I forget to take the book back on time!!). This is the first book I have read by Madge Swindells who is by all accounts, an 'internationally- renowned author'. The blurb on the back claimed a "spell binding read" and "...tear inducing romance with "...edge of seat suspense". It sounded like my kind of read, so I decided to check it out. As it is a recently released book it is a 'Fast Back' loan which means you only have a week to read it. I usually have no trouble reading a book in this length of time, providing I am enjoying the story. So would I get it finished in the week?
The blurb .......
This story of passion and courage is set against a backdrop of World War II. Helen Conroy is happily married with two teenage children and a husband she adores, when war is declared.The Blitz leaves her homeless but she holds her family together and they go back to her father's house, in a Dorset village. Helen is shattered when her husband leaves her for another woman. In September, 1942, US troops settle into Mowbray on Helens fathers land, and life will never be the same again. The GIs bring hope and fun along with their coffee, chewing gum and nylons. Brits and GIs alike, live and love for the moment and unlikely relationships are formed. Captain Simon Johnson, a US military intelligence agent, is billeted with the Conroy family. Helen and Simon fall deeply in love but this leads to explosive consequences.....
Helen Conroy, is first and foremost a mother. She is a hard worker and does her bit for the war effort. In the first chapter we see her devastated by her husbands desires, but we soon realise that she has a strong and resilient character. She will do anything to protect her family from harm. She shows true British grit in the face of adversity and as a reader you are drawn into her world and want her to find love and true happiness. I liked Helen - she had 'guts' and a selfless quality that I think many women during this period in history probably showed.
Miroslav (Miro)Levy - Helens foster son is a Jewish boy from Czechoslovakia, was saved by the Kinder transport from almost certain death in a concentration camp. At 13 he is a nervous, introverted young man with a guilty secret. As the story develops, so does his character and we see how the atrocities of war have moulded his personality. I don't know too much about this period in history and was truely shocked to realise that the SS used children as spies. Coercing them under the pretence of keeping their parents alive. I think the author could have developed Miros character even further given the traumas in his life. I think he does however come across as a little too weak.
Daisy Conroy is Helens beautiful teenage daughter. She gives her mother more than cause for concern as she shows true teenage impulsiveness and selfishness. Again a likeable and believable character. She falls in love with the first GI she meets and this has huge consequences.
The hero of the story is Captain Simon Jones a lawyer and US military intelligence agent. He is of course handsome and self assured. He builds positive relationships with all the main characters in the story. His character is really too good to be true. He has no real flaws and I felt his character was too one dimensional. He comes across as your stereotypical 'All American Dream Boy'. I imagined him to have pearly white, perfectly straight teeth!
All in all the characterisation was OK. Each character was satisfactory, but there was room for further development.
Is it any good?......
I did finish this book in the allotted week. In fact it only took me four days to read the 277 pages. I did think that I might not make it past the first two chapters as I found the early pages of the book confusing and had to go back and check what I had read to ensure that I knew who each of the characters were, and how they fitted into the story. However once I had established relationships and plot I enjoyed the story. However it did not really contain 'edge of your seat suspense' and nor was I induced to tears at any point. I did enjoy the historical information that was included about the war, and the relationships between the American GI's and the English. I also got a real sense of why people were told during the war that 'careless talk costs lives'.
I felt the ending, although satisfactory, was rushed with the end of the war and subsequent years being squashed into the final chapter. It's almost as if the author ran out of steam.
Altogether an average wartime romance novel, with a few historical titbits thrown in for good measure. I would read other books written by Madge Swindell, but I wouldn't pay out good money!
ISBN 978 0 72786663 9
Released March 2009
Hardback copy available on Amazon for £19.99