‘London Belles’ Book Review

Many of the books I’ve read have been romances set in WW2 and having read 3 previous books by Annie Groves, decided to read her latest novel, London Belles. This book is the first of a new series set in London during the war years, and is the first book I’ve read by her which is not set in Liverpool.

London Belles is about a group of women/girls all living together in Holborn. Mother Olive, in her mid-thirties, decides to rent out her spare bedrooms to young lodgers. The first is young nurse, Sally, a Liverpool lass who moved to London brokenhearted after her father married her former best friend, Morag, a mere 3 months after Sally’s mum’s death. Secondly, there is orphan Agnes, shy and naïve, who is quickly befriended by Olive’s pretty teenage daughter, Tilly. Finally, there is beautiful but sharp-tongued Dulcie. Virtually neglected by her mother who favoured her younger sister Edith, Dulcie became cynical and brash, making a hobby of flirting with handsome young men.

Rather predictably, each girl found a potential love interest, but as dear Billy Shakespeare tells us in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, “the course of true love never did run smooth”, so I expect each young woman will have to overcome a number of obstacles before they finally get their Happily Ever After. How long it takes, of course, will depend on how many books there are in the series…

I like Groves’s attention to period detail, such as references to Charlie Kunz, the Joe Loss orchestra and the Hammersmith Palais. However, I can’t help thinking that all of her characters are rather too pretty. I readily admit that when I write, my heroines are usually passably pretty but not drop-dead gorgeous, but it seems that all of the girls and even Olive range from very pretty to stunningly beautiful. Agnes is described as quite plain at the beginning, but when she puts on a party dress and cheers up a bit – voila! Beautiful young woman in their midst. Now, I don’t generally mind beautiful characters, but Groves’s heroines never seem to be anything but, and I think it would be interesting to see what chances one of her girls would have in the Game of Love if they were more ordinary, or even plain-looking. Fairly minor quibble, however.

On the whole, I enjoyed reading this book for what it is: a light cosy read with enough dollops of romance to keep me happy on a summer evening. I look forward to reading the sequel…


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