Christmas with the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell #BookReview #BlogTour

Sunderland, 1942

Christmas is fast approaching and with it comes a flurry of snow and surprises… Against all odds, Polly’s fiancé has finally returned home from the front line. If they can keep things on an even keel, she might get the winter wedding she’s always dreamed of.

Meanwhile shipyard manager Helen is determined to move on after a turbulent year. Her sights are set on breaking the yard’s production record and no one, not even the handsome Dr Parker, is going to get in her way.

And head welder Rosie’s little sister Charlotte has turned up unannounced. Why is she back and so set on staying? Join the shipyard girls as they navigate through life, love and war this Christmas.

It’s such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Christmas with the Shipyard Girls today.
Many thanks to Nancy Revell and Rachel Kennedy from Arrow for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

The exciting and emotional scenes at the end of Courage of the Shipyard Girls saw Polly finally reunited with her fiancé, Tommy after fearing he had been killed in action. Christmas with the Shipyard Girls, the seventh book in the series, takes us back to June 1942 when Tommy was drifting in and out of consciousness and being tended for by a Red Cross nurse. A lone bomber targets their ship and the devastating result ends up haunting Tommy as he recovers from his physical injuries back in Sunderland.
Although this is a series which highlights the work of women during the Second World War, it also gives readers an insight into the courageous work of the men, both overseas and back home. Before he was injured, Tommy had been an navy diver who checked for limpet mines attached to ships in Gibraltar Harbour. The bravery of these men isn't as well-known as it should be and so I applaud Nancy Revell for drawing attention to their work here. As with many men who returned from war, Tommy is also mentally scarred by his experiences. He and Polly are looking forward to their wedding but both are keeping secrets from one another which could end up spoiling their happiness. As the readers we know their secrets ahead of the couple and it's heartbreaking to see two genuinely good people burdened by a sense of guilt and risking what is clearly something very special.
The storyline doesn't just follow Polly, of course and Rosie has her hands full with the return of her little sister, Charlotte (Charlie). Rosie is initially desperate for her to return to her boarding school, partly because she understandably fears for her safety - this was a period when Sunderland was still being heavily bombed  - but also because she is concerned that Charlotte will find out about her past. Rosie once worked as a prostitute to fund her sister's school fees and she still does the bookkeeping for Lily's bordello. It's clear, however, that Charlotte is as inquisitive as she is resourceful and she is fascinated by Lily and the women who work in the bordello, particularly Vivian and Maisie.
The other women in Rosie's team of welders continue to support each other through their various dramas and I especially liked seeing how Helen's relationship with them is changing now she has broken away from her toxic mother. Her friendship with Dr Parker is hugely enjoyable aspect of the story, albeit frustrating at times with the will-they-won't-they nature of their relationship. Both are obviously attracted to one another but for various reasons are not willing to make the first move. It's rather touching to see Helen so vulnerable and unsure but I hope she is eventually able to become as confident in her personal life as she is professionally in her role as shipyard manager.
It's probably obvious that each new book in this series is like meeting up with old friends. I have become invested in their lives and have become emotionally attached to them all; I feel desperately sorry for Gloria, kept apart from her lover, John; my heart breaks for Hannah, who is Jewish and receives devastating news about her parents; I love seeing how Dorothy and Angie manage to embrace being young even when they are completely exhausted by the demands of their job and I adore gentle Martha whose parents are so concerned about her and in one of the most emotive scenes in the novel, finally realise how proud they should also be of their daughter. Newcomers to the series may be concerned as to whether they can start here - the answer is a definite yes as Nancy Revell always ensures she includes enough back story to quickly bring new readers up to speed with what has occurred previously. However, this is such a beautifully written series which captures the sense of time and place so evocatively that really I would recommend reading the previous books if possible.
Christmas with the Shipyard Girls is perhaps best summarised by the words of the vicar in his Christmas sermon, 'Hope. Faith. Peace. Joy. And Love.'  This engrossing, poignant and perceptive look at the lives of these characters, who so warmly encapsulate the essence of the real people of wartime Sunderland, is a sheer delight to read from start to finish. I cannot wait to read Triumph of the Shipyard Girls next year.

Christmas with the Shipyard Girls is published by Arrow, purchasing links can be found here.

Don’t miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author 

Nancy Revell is the pen name of writer and journalist Amanda Revell Walton, who has worked for the national press for the past 25 years, providing them with hard-hitting news stories and in-depth features. She has also worked for just about every woman’s magazine, writing amazing and inspirational true life stories.