Pam Howes comes to the blog today with the second book in her Lark Lane Trilogy, a story set just after the end of World War II.
The Shop Girls of Lark Lane
The first I’ve read from Pam Howes, I found that not reading the first in this trilogy wasn’t a hardship, as backstories and relationships for our main characters have been given context, and while I’m going to read the first, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of this one. War has ended and while the air is filled with hope, the adjustments aren’t always straightforward. Alice and Terry, having only spent one night as a married couple are back together, with Terry desperately trying to find a connection to the daughter he’s never met. But they are happy, if scraping to make ends meet, with Alice working in a shop downtown and also at a local pub on Saturday nights. With Terry finding work amidst the thousands of men searching, he’s decided he needs to get his motorcycle road worthy and starts (against Alice’s and his own mother’s wishes) to start the repairs with the help of Jack, the second in command at the pub where Alice works. Jack did not serve, an ‘injury’ that took half his foot made him unfit – and the first questions about Jack and his ‘honor’ enter the story.
Alice’s best friends, Millie and Sadie are also featured: Millie had met her new man at Alice’s wedding, and now they are marrying and moving to Bristol with plans to emigrate to Canada while Sadie is worried that the father of her child will return to take him away, a circus performer and Italian, the family and circus left when being Italian in England often meant being ‘secured’ in camps for national security. But with Sadie’s worries, and Millie’s moving away, Alice is steadily working to piece back her family and enjoy their time together. Everything is moving forward nicely until Terry is killed in an accident during his first ride on the bike. Cue Alice into ‘survival mode, working and struggling to make the life for her daughter and her younger brother who she has cared for since her mother’s death. With Jack stepping up and making it clear that friendship is not all he wants, it is decided that he and Alice will marry, and she’ll sell her house, investing her share of the money into a bond for the pub, so Jack can ‘take over” and with the flat above the business, everything looks like they can put money away, Alice’s dreams take a new direction. Much to the dismay of her mother-in-law and side-eye from many people in the neighborhood. Here is where Alice lost me a bit – she’s so unwilling to question Jack, or see his controlling and often erratic behavior as red flags – and his determination (and frequent statements) that kids are nothing he wants don’t deter her forward progress with their marriage.
Clearly pointing out the struggles and the limited choices available to women of the time, forget the additional pressures from wartime recoveries. It truly was a time when the best, and perhaps only, protections a woman had were those of husband and family – and Alice makes a choice, despite her own worries, to move forward and take a chance that life will improve. Where I understand the conditioning to allow the husband be the man of the house, Alice survived and managed a house, 2 children and a job while Terry was away at war, yet she’s willing to ‘let’ Jack be the lead in everything…. Surprisingly enough, she had kept paperwork and proof that if used, will allow her a bit of a say in the business and their life moving forward, and with a promotion at work, and that feeding her self-esteem and confidence, all is moving forward, if cautiously – until Alice finds herself pregnant. It would be nice to see actual changes in Jack during Alice’s pregnancy, but the ‘I’ll change” moment at the end, from someone who very clearly was EVERYTHING that people tried to warn her about wasn’t quite enough for me to find this chapter in the trilogy resolved with any sense of permanence. But – I loved Millie and Sadie, and the connection the three share, and hope that more will resolve for all three in the final book.
Title: The Shop Girls of Lark Lane
Author: Pam Howes
Also in this series: The Nurses of Lark Lane, The Midwives of Lark Lane
Genre: British, Family Saga, Historic Woman's Fiction, Post World War II, Setting: Britain
Published by: Bookouture
Published on: 12 December, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository
The war is over, but there’s heartbreak ahead…
As the war draws to a close, Alice and Terry Lomax are building a new life with their young daughter Cathy. After years away fighting, Terry is a stranger to his daughter and must work hard to win her trust and love.
Alice and old friend Sadie work in the haberdashery of Lewis’s department store, where bomb damage scars the walls and rationing is still in force. Yet Lewis’s remains open, a sign of strength in the midst of Liverpool’s post-war ruins.
Though memories of those lost in the war are fresh, Alice and Sadie look forward to the future. But then a tragic accident leaves Alice a widow, and the father of Sadie’s child – a man she hoped never to see again – is back in Liverpool…
With Alice struggling to start again alone, and Sadie desperate to protect her son, can these two shop girls overcome their troubles and keep their hopes alive – even with all the odds against them?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.