The Railway Girls in Love by Maisie Thomas #BookReview #BlogTour


Manchester 1941

Love is in the air, and together the railway girls can overcome even the hardest of times.

Mabel has finally put the past behind her, and her relationship with the dashing Harry is stronger than ever. That is, until an old flame shows up, leaving Mabel questioning her future.

Meanwhile Joan has made amends with Bob - if only she could do the same with Gran. And there's still that family mystery she wants answer to, isn't there?

As a mother and grandmother, Dot has always put her family first. Her job as a parcels porter has brought new purpose to her life, so is it finally time to start following her heart . . .

Life as a railway girl is busy but as war rages on and air raids disrupt daily life, the women realise they need each other more than ever, especially when there might be wedding bells on the horizon.

I have the honour of hosing the final stop on the blog tour for The Railway Girls in Love today. Many thanks to Maisie Thomas and to Georgia from Penguin Random House for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

What a treat it is to be reunited with the Railway Girls in the third book in Maisie Thomas' wonderful wartime saga. This time, the novel actually opens back in February 1939 and finally allows us to discover what really happened between Mabel and her late friend, Althea. Returning readers will enjoy finding out more about the past but new readers needn't worry because everything they need to know is explained here. 
The Mabel who moved to Manchester wracked with guilt and remorse following her friend's death is a different young woman now but the arrival of her old flame encourages her to confront her mistakes. It's hard to be critical of her because she has clearly never been selfish or thoughtless but it's obvious that she has been carrying the weight of her actions since then and now she can finally make some amends, supported by her friends and her boyfriend, Harry. I must admit to still having some reservations about Harry despite his apparent love for Mabel; there are moments here where it seems that her head could be turned and I have an inkling that this particular storyline still has some twists and turns ahead of it. 
Life seems to be more settled for Joan and her wonderful boyfriend, Bob. If I'm not yet convinced about Harry, the same can't be said of Bob who has gradually become a character I'm really fond of. After a rocky time in the previous book, Secrets of the Railway Girls, this couple seem to have put any doubts behind them but poor Joan is still grieving the tragic loss of her sister, Letitia and her Gran is apparently as cold as ever. It's not just Mabel's past that we're enlightened about here as Joan finally decides to learn more about the mother who apparently abandoned her as a baby. I'm sometimes a little concerned  that storylines may become repetitive in longer-running series but  Maisie Thomas' beautiful writing  ensures the development of the ongoing plot over the course of the first three books, which results in some secrets being divulged at this point, has been consistently captivating. The deeper insights into the lives of the characters and the changes that are wrought in them are intriguing and this is clearly not a series which will become stale.
Meanwhile, Dot's marriage to Ratty Reg hasn't weathered as well and it's not surprising that she has feelings for the kind, thoughtful Mr Thirkle. However, as well as her own inner conflict, the behaviour of one of her daughter-in-laws, Sheila is also worrying her. Dot has always been one of my favourite characters and I'd love to see her find the happiness she deserves but as she proves time and again, family means everything to her and she is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep hers together. 
The nightly bombing raids across Manchester continue to inflict a heavy toll on the city leading to some moments of drama for the Railway Girls. The research that goes into these books is obvious and Maisie Thomas always writes with such authenticity, meaning that although there are scenes which had my heart in my mouth, there is also a sense of mundane realism - best typified by Dot preparing the house before yet another night spent in her shelter. 
Throughout all the tears, worries and doubts, the friendship between this disparate group of women is the beating heart of the novel. I was delighted to see Mrs Cooper and Mrs Grayson feature strongly again here; they might not work on the Permanent Line but their gentle impact on the lives of the characters shouldn't be ignored. As the title promises, love is the central theme in this instalment and though romantics will be delighted by the promise of wedding bells, I was most touched by the love shared between these women. The older and younger members of the group all care deeply for one another, as reflected by the way they come together to ensure a special day goes to plan. I'm sure I won't be the only reader moved to tears by the touching scenes that really underline just what they have come to mean to one another. 
The Railway Girls in Love never glosses over how hard life could be during the war - both emotionally and practically -  but it is also a heartwarming celebration of the persistence of hope. I absolutely loved it and can't wait to read Christmas with the Railway Girls.

The Railway Girls in Love is published by Arrow Books, purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookshops whenever possible.

Don't miss the previous stops on the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Maisie Thomas was born and brought up in Manchester, which provides the location for her Railway Girls novels. She loves writing stories with strong female characters, set in times when women needed determination and vision to make their mark. The Railway Girls series is inspired by her great aunt Jessie, who worked as a railway clerk during the First World War. Maisie now lives on the beautiful North Wales coast with her railway enthusiast husband, Kevin, and their two rescue cats. They often enjoy holidays chugging up and down the UK’s heritage steam railways.