Blog Tour – Pearl of Pit Lane

Glenda Young is an author who I have really come to like, and who has quickly become one of the main names in saga/historical fiction genres, but unfortunately she seems to have an irritating habit of releasing books at times when my life is too busy to give them the attention they really deserve. How inconsiderate of her. I did find time to review her first novel, which I loved, the second was devoured in the midst of my wedding plans and so was overlooked on my blog, and the third clashed with a frantic Christmas. However, her third novel was recently released in paperback, so it seemed like the right time to finally give it the hype it deserves; and, as we all know, I’m never one to shy away from an opportunity to get excited about great books within a blog tour!

Even though I’ve just listed them choronologically, Glenda’s novels can be read in any order, and would no doubt be enjoyed just as much in any combination. Personally, I would suggest a binge-read if you haven’t tried any of them; and if the news is anything to go by at the moment it seems like the safest place to be is at home with some great books, so why not get the Kindle stocked up?
‘Pearl of Pit Lane’ follows orphaned Pearl Edwards, who has a tough life with her aunt Annie, who has to walk the ‘pit lane’ to keep a roof over their heads, but as times get harder Pearl finds herself faced with few other options than to follow in Annie’s footsteps. However, her strong will and fearless independence helps Pearl to find her own way in a difficult world, even learning more than she had bargained to about herself along the way.

“Put me to work on the pit lane, would you? Is that all you think I’m worth?”

Like its two predecessors, ‘Pearl of Pit Lane’ takes place in 1919, a time period which I find is generally quite overlooked within historical fiction. It’s understandable that it would be, I suppose, since it can reasonably be assumed that it was probably a ‘lull’ after the massive events which dominated the previous four years (like that weird week between Christmas and New Year when nobody knows what the hell is going on), but that’s what makes these stories all the more interesting. We all know a lot about what happened between 1914 and 1918, but what happened after that? I was naive enough to think that things probably went back to ‘business as usual’, after this, but as this story in particular informs us, that was certainly not the case. Set in the North East village of Ryhope, which is just next to where I grew up, I initially thought that ‘Pearl of Pit Lane’ would have a degree of familiarity for me, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover Glenda’s words breathing fresh life in to a familiar place, to the extent that I felt as though I was being transported into a totally different world. So, her novels are absolutely not just for the attention of those of us who are lucky enough to be able to relate to some of the landmarks which still stand today.

Even though I grew up close to where the novel is set and studied history for a good few years, I had absolutely no idea about the history of ‘pit lanes’; so it was really intriguing to learn about a darker side of the past. That’s one of the many wonderful things about Glenda Young’s writing; all of her novels take a fairly dark element of the time period in which they are set, but her fierce female protagonists always manage to take those struggles and turn them into inspiring and heartwarming triumphs which have the reader holding back tears by the end. It’s a difficult balance to get; managing the tipping points between the more gritty and unpleasant aspects of history with the warming romance which comes with this genre, but she always seems to achieve it perfectly, and with the added bonus of totally inspirational characters.

“Her clothes might be worn and shabby, but she had a heart the size of Ryhope itself.”

Although this post is specifically focused on ‘Pearl of Pit Lane’, I thoroughly recommend reading all of Glenda Young’s novels; I definitely enjoyed all three in equal measure and am looking forward to the next, and, if you keep the characters from each one fresh in your mind; you might find a few bonus surprises in the other stories. The only thing which I feel Glenda has left her readers without is a spin-off novel in which all of her formidable female leads join together to overcome some huge adversity, because that would be absolutely epic; like ‘The Avengers’, only actually enjoyable and inspiring.

thumbnail_Pearl of Pit Lane blog tour card

Blog Tour – Triumph of the Shipyard Girls

“It has been, and probably always will be, a constant battle for us women – having to prove our worth just because we’re female – and made so much worse by the knowledge that we’re actually so much better than the men.”

Becoming emotionally invested in a series, regardless of its format, is a risky game. There is always a feeling of inner conflict between a sense of loyalty to the characters and their stories, which you become so emotionally invested in, and the (sometimes questionable) choices of the writers; not unlike the whole Rachel and Joey getting together debacle on ‘Friends’, which seemed to have been clumsily thrown into the mix just to pass the time until the final series. Thankfully, I’m starting to feel quite certain that Nancy Revell is never going to put her loyal ‘Shipyard Girls’ fans through such trauma; since each instalment seems to be even better than the last. On that note, now that this series has a fairly established following, what are we calling ourselves? If Taylor Swift has ‘Swifties’, does that make us ‘Revellers’, perhaps? We’ll find it.

So, here we are in book eight and with the story lines still feeling as fresh as ever (phew). I believe ‘Triumph’ is book eight of twelve, but I could also be making that up – Nancy please feel free to shout at me if I just accidentally either sold you short or added to your workload. I’ve said it before, and will no doubt continue saying it every time a new ‘Shipyard Girls’ book drops, but it must be a really difficult task managing to keep a set of familiar characters and story lines feeling new and exciting for loyal readers over so many instalments; I don’t know how Nancy Revell manages this, but whatever she is doing is working perfectly. I’m a classic binger of everything; books, T.V. programmes, Haribo fizzy cola bottles – my patience (or lack of) never allows me to savour anything, so if this were my series, the story would definitely have been rushed through in a maximum of two fairly low quality installments. Infuriating as it was to finish ‘Triumph’ and still not have some of the answers I wanted, this frustration has now been channeled into unrelenting excitement for the next book.

The great thing about having a longer series is of course that it gives the author plenty of scope to play around with character development. I’m not entirely sure how this happened, it seems to have emerged as mysteriously as the lower pack pain which emerges as one approaches thirty, but I’m somehow now firmly pro-Helen. The biggest step towards this was of course within ‘Courage of the Shipyard Girls‘ and the dramatic final scenes in that book, but the drip-drip effect has continued and for some reason all of my earlier bitterness towards her has gone. Like when Geri re-joined the Spice Girls, it just…works. All the nastiness seems to have been forgotten, or just doesn’t feel important any more. Kudos to Nancy Revell, because that cannot have been an easy manoeuvre to orchestrate, sort of like trying to parallel park uphill.

“She had a habit of plunging into life – and more so, love – head first, only to resurface and find herself surrounded by chaos.”

Although I have a soft spot for all of our girls in this series (obviously except you, Miriam), Polly and Rosie have always been my two favourites; and both of them taking more of a central role within ‘Triumph’ suited me perfectly. Like most readers of this series, I’d always had my theories about Rosie’s past so it was nice to have that curious itch scratched within this instalment; and to see some continuation of positive things happening to our lovely Polly, finally! Of course Nancy Revell has once again served her readers a hefty dose of drama with a side of increased blood pressure whilst it unfolds before your eyes, but I feel like ‘Triumph’ may have been the most positive book in the series yet. By ‘positive’ I don’t mean that the others are all rubbish, far from it, but it felt like having a nice catch up with old friends and was lovely to hear that things are, generally speaking, going well for all of my girls at the moment. With all the other horrible things which have gone on, both within the lives of our Shipyard Girls and in the scary real world at the moment, it was nice to have a little pocket of positivity to enjoy within all the hideousness, and very much needed.

Triumph of the Shipyard Girls Blog Tour Banner

Why not have a look at the rest of the blog tour for more ‘Shipyard Girls’ hype?

Review – Christmas with the Shipyard Girls

“Sometimes in life, love has to be sacrificed for a greater love.”

Yes, that time of year seems to be upon us once again. No, not just me getting prematurely excited about Christmas before the clocks have even changed, but me getting excited about a new installment of my favourite saga which features the best girl-power tribe since the Spice Girls. Although, The Shipyard Girls is set fifty years before Girl Power stormed into our lives one platform shoe at a time, so maybe our squad of welders were actually the original? The timeline boundaries between fictional and non-fictional feminist heroes are not entirely clear.

As usual, I digress. Christmas with the Shipyard Girls is, maybe second only to the Gavin and Stacey reboot, the Christmas special we have all been waiting for. I love Christmas, and as you’re all well aware by now, I love this saga; so I felt an odd mix of excitement and apprehension ahead of reading it, with my main thought being “please, please don’t mess this up, Nancy.” Needless to say, of course Nancy Revell has once again, smashed it. I love a Christmas spin-off of an existing saga – like a TV special, it’s always exciting to see your favourite characters against a festive backdrop, but a common mistake with Christmas editions is to have a short novella which, although usually festive enough that you can practically smell the roasting chestnuts diffusing from the pages, don’t actually have much of a ‘point’. Christmas with the Shipyard Girls however, I was pleased to discover, is actually a full-length novel with a good, meaty plot which happens to take place around the festive season; i.e. not one of those mistletoe-infused, pointless novellas which are clearly just marketing ploys to boost royalties (she says like she doesn’t also buy those whenever they come out).

Ironically for a Christmas story, I think this is possibly the darkest intstalment in this saga so far. Not in a depressing way, but we’re now almost half way through the war and that is clearly starting to take a significant toll on our characters. We’ve had some really impactful, emotional moments in previous stories (still not over the air raid at the end of ‘Victory’), but this was the first time I’ve read a Shipyard Girls book, or anything for that matter, and felt consistently emotional throughout – I found myself reading the entire thing with tears prickling in the back of my eyes. Having said that, I think it’s definitely important to include the darker or more challenging sides of the characters’ journeys, it would’ve been really easy for Nancy Revell to turn this into a Bing Crosby-esque yuletide scene of all our principal characters enjoying the festivities by a warm fire as if they were drawn on a Christmas card. Unfortunately, although they certainly made the festive season as magical as possible, the sad fact remains that this is a group of people who are existing in one of, if not the most, tumultuous and challenging periods of modern history.

The relationship between Polly and Tommy is very much in the foreground at this point in the saga, and although I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t finished yet, I initially found myself firmly cemented on ‘team Polly’. It reminded me of an ongoing discussion within my friendship group, in which most of us are in agreement of ‘I could never have a boyfriend who was in the army, imagine that lifestyle and periods of not knowing where he was, why would you do that to yourself?’. Thankfully, we are all lucky enough to live in a period where we have that choice, but unfortunately for Polly, and most other women of her time, sometimes that choice was taken away from them, and the context in which she is living intensifies every emotion like petrol on a bonfire which, as always, Nancy Revell evokes perfectly for the reader.

“Polly and Tommy’s love had become another casualty of this damned war.”

Despite the darker elements of the story, as always Nancy Revell has graced us with yet another gripping plot, which is also peppered with little pockets of emotion which remind us of the intense bond shared by these characters. My favourite part was when Martha and her parents receive the gift basket in true ‘A Christmas Carol’ style. Although this made little, if any, difference to the overall plot, it was the most genuinely touching moment – and Martha going to bed on Christmas Eve with her hot chocolate and biscuits gave me an image of her as Tiny Tim which, for any existing Shipyard Girls reader, is just heartwarmingly hilarious.

Although Christmas with the Shipyard Girls isn’t explicitly ‘Christmassy’ throughout every chapter; the generosity, selflessness and love between all the characters flows through every page, showing the ‘true’ meaning of the season of good will, before building up to the festive finale which is sure to ignite that warm, festive feeling in even the most ‘humbug’ of grinches.

Why not have a look at the rest of the blog tour?

“Reader, I married him”

As now seems to be a ‘Clyde’s Corner’ tradition, I’ll begin with this month’s attempted justification for my lack of recent blogging activity. At least this time I have a legitimate excuse because….drum roll please….I got married last week! Yes, the ‘Bridezilla Diaries’ element of this blog will sadly be no more, so let’s make sure it has a good send off. Planning my wedding was, in many ways, the worst experience of my life – it plunged my mental health and relationship with my now-husband to depths so low they could only be seen by the Kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean. I came very close to falling out with pretty much everyone in my life at some stage or another, did not sleep for weeks at a time and seriously discussed cancelling the whole thing on at least four or five occasions that I can remember (probably more). People kept telling me “it’ll all be worth it in the end” and I just could not conceive of that actually being the case, especially since the majority of people providing this reassurance were either unmarried or had had much smaller weddings than mine. However, I can confirm, as a married person who recently had the experience of a wedding (they do say you forget trauma if you talk about it too long after it happened), I can confirm that, if done correctly, it is absolutely and utterly worth it (even if it is so windy that your veil hits the registrar directly in the face during the vows).

Like Christmas, there was so much anticipation and build-up to the day that, despite it being utterly amazing, I never really got ‘the feeling’ of it being my wedding day. Even whilst walking down the aisle with all my friends and family staring awkwardly at me, my heels sinking into the mud, veil blowing all over the place and my husband sobbing uncontrollably in the distance, it still didn’t feel like it was my wedding. That is one thing which I do wish other married people had told me – ultimately, it is just a day with your friends and family where you all have a party together, and that’s fine! That is still a great day, but if you’re waiting and waiting for it to ‘hit’ you that it’s your wedding, you’re probably going to be disappointed. I think I’m still in denial that it even happened and wasn’t all just a dream, because let’s face it, moshing out to Evanescence and My Chemical Romance in a gorgeous dress and sand-covered Converse is literally the dream. Or maybe it’s because marriage is too big a thing to really imagine; like outer space, it’s just too mind boggling to really think about so in the same way we describe infinite space as being “pretty big”, my wedding day was “pretty amazing”.

Having said that, it was a wedding, we have a big family and (let’s face it) this is me, so obvioiusly there was some drama. The night before, I remember sitting in my beautiful big room, finally able to enjoy some peace and quiet after spending all day and night with friends and family, and just sobbing uncontrollably. Every worry which I’d managed to suppress during the months leading up to it, every snide comment I’d faced and the overwhelming feeling that I was being a massive, selfish diva by having a wedding at all just came pouring out of my eyeballs like the lava at the end of Hunchback of Notre Dame. Through every conflict I’d kept reminding myself that it was ‘our day’ and ‘we should do it how we want’, but when the push came to shove I felt a horrible sense of guilt that the day ahead should be about other people, and that I was letting everyone else down. Inevitably, as is the case with most weddings, we did disappoint people in some ways – there is always something more that people want to do for you, or some other way they want to be involved and you do have to become comfortable saying “no”, which is really hard to do to family and friends.

However, despite the guilt, everyone who attended my wedding (even people who I never expected to admit it) made some reference to how amazing it was that me and my husband had had the day that we wanted, and how it had been ‘so us’. At the time I was obviously just so relieved and happy that everyone was enjoying the day as much as I was, and revelling in the fact that people finally understood why I’d made the decisions I had in the run-up; but now I’ve had time to come back down to Earth and reflect on the day, I do find it a bit sad that people had to say that at all. Of course the wedding is about the couple getting married – without them the day wouldn’t be happening at all! It’s 2019 and usually couples pay for their own wedding (or at least a large part of it), so where is the sense in dropping the average spend of £30,000 on a day that you’re not going to enjoy? It should be a total given that it’s the couple’s day, and I do genuinely find it sad that people were surprised by this – if people had accepted this a year ago I would have been saved from so much anguish.

Our day was made completely perfect by our wonderful venue and suppliers (in particular our amazing photographers who ensured we had free drinks in our hands at all times throughout the day), so I feel incredibly lucky to have made it through what is arguably the biggest, most stressful day of a person’s life, without a long list of regrets; but the one thing I would have absolutely done differently is how we managed the day before. Our wedding venue is an hour and a half drive away from our home, so a large chunk of the day before was spent packing our car and driving up the A1 with some family, and since a lot of our friends were staying locally we arranged to meet for dinner the night before to catch up. Although this was a lovely meal and a great time spent catching up with people and introducing everyone who hadn’t met before, I was totally knackered. Being tired before your wedding has even properly started is never a good thing, and I basically didn’t see my husband-to-be at all. We also had beautiful rooms booked  and paid for, which we had no time to really enjoy. I remember settling into bed, later than I would’ve liked, dimming the lights and getting tucked under the covers with my book and thinking “I wish I had more than an hour to sit and enjoy this”. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that you see very little of your new spouse on the wedding day, and even though our venue were wonderful about ensuring we had enough time to enjoy each other’s company on the day, I do wish we’d had some quiet time together to relax and really take it all in the night before.

So, much like getting into the North Sea on a windy day, your wedding day really isn’t that bad once you get into it, and even though it can feel like you’ve royally pissed off every person you’ve ever met throughout the planning process, it is indeed worth it in the end; as long as you stick to your guns and blow everyone’s naive minds by ‘having the day you really want’. And if it all goes a bit pear shaped; photos can be edited, most people probably weren’t paying enough attention to notice the mistakes anyway, and you can always just get divorced.

Exhibit A of things going wrong, aka “we did not notice this cake has ribbon on each layer”