As the Sun Breaks Through by Ellie Dean #BookReview #BlogTour

Cliffehaven, June 1944

As the planes continue to circle over Cliffehaven, Peggy Reilly’s sister Doris must seek refuge after a V-1 blast destroys her home. Rita, Sarah and the other residents at Beach View Boarding House quickly find their peace disturbed and it’s not long before even Peggy loses her patience. But with more bad news to come, will Doris finally be forced to swallow her pride?
Meanwhile Peggy’s father-in-law Ron Reilly is delighted when his sweetheart Rosie returns home. Until a heart-breaking confession suggests things may never be the same between them.
With loved ones scattered far and wide across the globe, and tensions running high, the end of the war feels somehow further than ever. And yet with the long-awaited Allied invasion in sight, a glimmer of light is starting to break through...

I'm delighted to be hosting the first stop on the blog tour for As the Sun Breaks Through by Ellie Dean today. Many thanks to the author and Becky McCarthy from Penguin Random Ho…

#BlogTour #BookReview and #GuestPost - The Nightingale Christmas Show by Donna Douglas



It's Christmas, 1945. The war is over, but its scars remain.
 Matron Kathleen Fox has the job of putting the Nightingale Hospital back together. But memories and ghosts of those lost fill the bomb-damaged buildings, and she wonders if she is up to the task.
 In the name of festive cheer Kathleen decides to put on a Christmas Show for the patients. The idea is greeted with mixed feelings by the nurses, who are struggling with their own post-war problems. And the newly-formed rivalry between newcomer Assistant Matron Charlotte Davis and ward sister Violet Tanner isn’t helping matters.
 As rehearsals begin however, it seems the show isn’t just a tonic for the patients – could the Nightingale Christmas Show be just what the doctor ordered for the nurses too?

I really enjoyed District Nurse on Call when I read it back in July so was delighted to be asked to take part in the blog tour for The Nightingale Christmas Show, my thanks to the author, publishers and Jasmine Rowe for inviting me and for my advance copy of the book.
The Nightingale Christmas Show is Donna Douglas' latest book in her Nightingale series, set in an East End teaching hospital in the 1930s and 40s. Although featuring characters and mentioning events from previous books, this latest instalment can be enjoyed as a standalone novel.
I really enjoyed the structure of this book; rather than a single narrative novel, Donna Douglas follows the stories of a number of characters. It means that certain events are covered from multiple points of view which is fascinating and gives a clearer insight into how things can be perceived by how they are experienced.
The book opens with Matron Kathleen Fox trying to look to the future but if the hospital still shows the physical scars of the war, then, like many others, she bears the mental scars. She is struggling to work alongside new Assistant Matron, Charlotte Davis and has started to question whether she is the right person to lead the hospital now the war is over. When a face from her past reappears, Kathleen knows it is time for her to make a decision. Charlotte has plenty of drive and ambition but she lacks empathy and tolerance. Although dauntingly efficient, she is unpopular with the staff at the Nightingale who see her as cold and critical. However, a patient recognises the protective walls she has built around herself following her horrific experiences during the war. She has been tasked with organising the hospital Christmas Show but her methods leave a lot to be desired... Unfortunately Charlotte ends up upsetting too many of the participants and they walk out, leaving the show in doubt. Will she have to admit to Matron Fox that she was correct to doubt her and she wasn't up to the task?  She believes popular ward sister, Violet Tanner to be her rival, both for her job and her role as show organiser. It's true that Kathleen would have preferred her close friend to have been given the position of Assistant Matron but a letter from a solicitor means Violet soon has more to worry about than petty squabbles at work. She has brought up her son, Oliver single handed following the death of her husband but now she too is faced with a figure from her past and old wounds are reopened. Can she forgive and forget or is it too late? Meanwhile Peggy, a volunteer on the children's ward knows she must soon give up the work she loves. Although valued by staff and patients on the ward, her husband and controlling mother-in-law are both demanding that now the war is over, she should behave like the married woman she is and spend her days working in the family shop as well as running the home. She realises she has little choice in the matter if she wants her unmarried sister and her young son to be allowed to carry on living with them. The hospital though is a welcome reprieve from a home life where she feels little appreciated, particularly now she has formed a friendship with hospital porter, Bill and is to be the assistant to his magician's act in the Christmas Show. Miriam Trott is the no nonsense sister on the maternity ward, she is short tempered and strict with nurses, patients and visitors to the ward, even young children who have come to see their new sibling. However, she has a secret passion for romance novels and may even have found love herself after the charming Frank sweeps her off her feet. Is he too good to be true though? Third year student nurses, Daisy and Rose often bear the brunt of Miss Trott's wrath. They are best friends and so close they have been nicknamed the terrible twins. They may resemble each other physically but are very different personalities. Daisy is outgoing, vivacious and flirtatious. She is keen to take part in the Christmas Show in order to attract the attention of junior registrar, Tom Armstrong. Rose is still grieving the loss of her fiancee who was killed in a bombing raid just before Christmas last year. At first she is reluctant to join in with the show but she agrees to take part and soon strikes up a friendship with Tom. Before long Daisy and Rose's friendship is torn apart by jealousy and cruel words.
As the secrets and lies, fears and hopes are revealed, I was gently drawn into the lives of these women. Part one of the novel sets up the individual stories which are all linked through the characters' involvement in the Christmas Show. Part two sees the storylines resolved, with all the various strands coming together in an emotional finale. Being able to read their stories from their different perspectives meant I sometimes felt ahead of the characters and could guess the outcomes before they happened, however that never spoilt the pleasure of reading this warm-hearted novel. The Nightingale Christmas Show is the ideal book to read snuggled up with a hot chocolate this Christmas. It perfectly evokes the feeling of the immediate postwar period where people had started to tentatively look to the future while still shaped by the hardships they bore during the war years. Poignant, hopeful and with a gentle wit, I thoroughly enjoyed this visit to the Nightingale Hospital.

I'm very grateful to Donna Douglas for providing me with a guest post today where she discusses the structure of The Nightingale Christmas Show and reveals a little more about Assistant Matron Charlotte Davis.

Guest Post
The Nightingale Christmas Show is something new for me. Rather than writing one novel, I thought it might be fun to put together a collection of interlinked short stories based around a central event. 
It’s Christmas 1945, and the staff of the Nightingale Hospital are putting on a festive show to cheer up the patients. But rehearsals have barely started before the sparks start to fly and old rivalries resurface. Can the nurses overcome the shadows of the past and pull together in time to save the show?
Each story looks at the same event from a different nurse’s viewpoint. Some, like Matron Kathleen Fox and ward sister Miriam Trott, will be familiar to Nightingale fans. But there are some new characters, too, and I’d like to introduce to you one of my favourites. 
Charlotte Davis has just started at the Nightingale as Assistant Matron. The former military nurse has taken over the post after the death of the formidable Veronica Hanley, who was killed during a bombing raid. Charlotte has some big shoes to fill, and it doesn’t help that Matron Kathleen Fox seems to have taken against her. 
It’s true, Charlotte doesn’t go out of her way to be liked. She is a very chilly, highly efficient young woman, a loner who finds it difficult to make friends. So when Matron gives her the job of organising the Christmas Show, she finds herself at a complete loss. How does a girl with no people skills and no sense of humour manage to put on a show? 
You’ll have to read The Nightingale Christmas Show to find out. But as we – and the Nightingale staff – find out during the course of her story, there is much more to Charlotte than meets the eye… 
I’ve put it together so that each short story can be enjoyed on its own, but they all link together at the end for a dramatic finale that hopefully will make you laugh – and cry. 
I had so much fun writing The Nightingale Christmas Show and I hope you enjoy reading it. Happy Christmas!

The Nightingale Christmas Show is published by Arrow Books, an imprint of Penguin Books. Don't miss the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.


About the Author

Donna Douglas is the Sunday Times bestselling author of the Nightingale novels, set in an East End hospital in 1930s. She has recently published the second in the Steeple Street series, about a district nurse in 1920s Yorkshire. A born Londoner, Donna now lives in York with her husband and family. In her spare time she enjoys reading, going out for coffee and cocktails, and binge-watching TV box sets. 

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