I do enjoy a saga, especially those set in England during WWII, so I was very keen to read Tracy Baines’s Variety Girls series. The fact it was set in Lincolnshire (where I’m from) and was about theatre just jumped it to the top of my pile.
This is the second book in the Variety Girls series, but can easily be read as a standalone.
The story begins in Cleethorpes in September 1939. Frances O’Leary (23) and Jessie Delaney (18) are both Variety Girls, but are now worrying that war is approaching. Jessie’s fiancé Harry is in the RAF, so she is worried about his future safety. As it is indeed announced that the country is at war, it is also declared that all places of entertainment are to be closed. That includes the Empire Theatre and the Variety Girls are suddenly without a job.
Frances and Jessie live in Geraldine’s terraced house in Barkhouse Lane along with Grace (Jessie’s mother) and a former ballerina, Eddie (Jessie’s younger brother, nearly fifteen) and Geraldine herself.
The third Variety Girl is Virginia (Ginny) Thompson who is 19 and a dancer. Rita, Kay and Sally make up the rest of the troupe, but those three leave when the war is declared. Frances, Jessie and Ginny vow to continue singing and dancing somehow and include Dolly too, who works at the theatre. It turns out Frances and Ginny may both be hiding a similar kind of secret…
The girls are all wonderful characters, very believable and you quickly start to care about them. The book is full of ups and downs, friendships and relationships, secrets and drama – and all beautifully written. I do enjoy books where there’s a great group of female friends.
I loved seeing all the little normal bits that make up the women’s days – household chores, cooking and preparing food, etc. It sets the scene really well for everyday life at the start of the war and is very evocative. But then we have the more exciting side of the theatre, all the singing and dancing to provide escapism from the horrors of the war to come.
Hopes and Dreams for the Variety Girls
As war is declared can The Variety Girls keep smiling through…
Cleethorpes – September 1939
Struggling to keep their spirits up as the reality of war hits home and theatres are closed, friends Jessie Delaney and Frances O’Leary search for work to see them through until they can sing and dance again.
Frances, once upon a time followed her dreams of becoming a dancer but soon found herself with a broken heart and a precious secret when her lover abandoned her. Keeping her secret from her friends grows more difficult as time passes and their friendship grows..
But with her lover returning to England from a successful tour of America, how long will it be before the truth comes to light?
Secrets aren’t good for anyone and Frances isn’t the only one hiding things from her friends. Ginny Thompson, another Variety Girl is hoping for the best. But is hope enough?
Can the Variety Girls pull together to help each other through the tough times or will their secrets tear them apart?
A gritty and heart-warming saga perfect for readers of Elaine Everest, Nancy Revell and Pam Howes.
Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3Nb8ujy
Author Bio –
Tracy Baines is the bestselling saga writer of The Variety Girls series, originally published by Ebury, which Boldwood will continue with. She was born and brought up in Cleethorpes and spent her early years in the theatre world which inspired her writing. The first title of her new saga series for Boldwood – set amongst the fisherfolk of Grimsby – will be published in October 2022.
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