Are the high-flying Bluebird Girls about to be grounded by the trials and tribulations of wartime?
Welcome back to Gosport, the Hampshire town with a long and distinguished naval and maritime history which has become familiar to an army of readers thanks to the wonderful novels of Rosie Archer, one of its proudest inhabitants.
In the second book of her captivating, music and nostalgia-packed Bluebird Girls series, Archer whisks us back to the south coast of England where the dreams, dramas and dilemmas of three young singers play out against the dark days of the Second World War.
Rainey Bird, Ivy Sparrow and Bea Herron, the trio of Gosport songsters seeking fame and fortune during the uncertainties of war, have won the hearts of thousands of readers and now they take centre stage again in the icy January days of 1941.
The sound of ‘screaming bombs’ may have become horribly familiar in the Gosport area but it hasn’t stopped the Bluebird Girls from a busy round of engagements, including an appearance at the King’s Theatre in Portsmouth where they received a standing ovation.
The three teenagers are now well on their way to stardom and their kindly chaperone, Rainey’s mum Jo, and loyal driver and manager, Blackie Wilson, think the time has come for the girls to pack in their jobs at the armaments factory.
From workingmen’s clubs to the glamour of the Savoy Hotel, the Bluebirds have a string of appearances planned and there is even talk of performing with ENSA, the newly-formed Entertainments National Service Association, whose aim is to entertain the troops at home and abroad.
But the war is raging on and reaching the top of their game will not be easy. Blonde bombshell Bea is still dealing with the fallout from a drunken episode with a sailor last winter, Rainey is determined to live up to her mother’s belief in her, but finds herself struggling with the whirlwind of life in showbusiness, and Ivy, usually so self-possessed, is hopelessly in love with Bea’s handsome older brother Eddie.
As bombs rain down and rationing bites even harder, it will take all their determination, good humour and the support of friends and family to see them through. Can the girls keep their dream alive or are they heading for a fall?
Archer’s warm, nostalgic and gritty wartime series sings out loudly about the power of friendship, family and community at a time when daily life was under threat from bombing raids, rationing was in full force, and the loss of loved ones was a real and constant possibility.
The trio of gutsy songbirds, Rainey’s loving and supportive mum Jo, and the long-suffering Blackie are a delightful cast of characters as they all work hard to keep smiling through the many hardships thrown in their way, and to boost morale both at home and with the troops abroad.
With period charm and nostalgia on every page – whether that’s wartime songs, rationed food, the dreaded black-out or the wail of air raid sirens – this is a super showcase of romance and drama for all saga fans.
(Quercus, paperback, £6.99)