Six sparkling sagas for sunshine reading by various authors

Cuddle up with six compelling sagas – all brimming with drama and real history – as nostalgia and romance take centre stage in summertime reading.

Bridget’s War

Shirley Mann

When a young London policewoman is posted back to her roots in the Isle of Man in the midst of the Second World War, she finds that the island she remembers as a rural idyll has become a cauldron of resentment and fear.

Bridget’s War is the fourth story celebrating the role of women on the home front in a fascinating saga series from Derbyshire-based journalist Shirley Mann who follows up her compelling sagas, Lily’s War, Bobby’s War and Hannah’s War, with another exciting, emotion-filled story starring a wartime female police officer.

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Mann’s first novel, Lily’s War, was inspired by her mother who was a WAAF and her father who was in the Eighth Army. Her second book, Bobby’s War, features a young ATA pilot, and Hannah’s War has a wartime Land Army girl at its heart.

Here we meet Manx born and bred Bridget Harrison who loves the island and knows every inch of it like the back of her hand. But that doesn’t mean she wants to be there now in 1942 as war rages around the world. A newly-trained police officer, living in the vibrant and bustling city of London, she thought she had it all... a budding career, celebrity status as one of only a few female officers, and a busy social life.

Then the war strengthened its grip and she found herself posted back to the island, a stark contrast to the exciting streets of the capital. But, tasked with managing Rushen Camp, a women's internment camp where Jews have to rub shoulders with Nazi Germans, she unearths a cauldron of resentment and fear that brings a dangerous war right to the shores of the island.

Bridget realises the barbed wire around the camp is keeping in secrets that will test her training to the limit and what seems like a simple arrest leads her down a path that puts her and the island's security at risk.

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And then there are the two brothers... one she has adored since childhood who has become a war hero, and the other a brave lifeboatman and farmer. Bridget finds she is torn between being the adult she wants to be and the tomboy from her childhood... the girl who roamed the cliffs in the days when there were no boundaries.

Mann plunges readers into the challenges faced by a woman tackling not just a pioneering job but the dilemmas and dangers of policing under the extraordinary circumstances of wartime on a small, isolated island.

Set against a backdrop full of wartime period detail, including the perils of working in the restless confines an internment camp, a compelling layer of nostalgia, intrigue, romance and life in a little-known corner of the home front, Bridget’s War is a saga full of real history, heart and heritage.

(Zaffre, paperback, £8.99)

The Sixpenny Orphan

Glenda Young

The rollercoaster tale of two young orphaned sisters cruelly torn apart after the death of their parents is set to pull at readers’ heartstrings in an emotion-packed tale from one of today’s most exciting new saga writers.

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The Sixpenny Orphan is the work of Glenda Young who says that long bike rides along the coast near Sunderland have provided fertile ‘thinking’ territory for her gripping and gritty sagas set in the tough North East mining community.

This emotionally powerful new story opens in 1909 in Ryhope – a coastal village south of Sunderland where Young grew up and which she puts at the heart of her stories – and unfolds amidst tragic events in a farming community.

‘Please, sir, take us both. We only have each other. We don't know how to live apart.’ After the death of their parents, sisters ten-year-old Poppy and nine-year-old Rose are taken in by widow and local knocker-upper Nellie Harper at her home in an old cow barn. But whilst they have a roof over their heads, the girls are unloved, unwanted, and always hungry, with only one pair of boots between them.

Keen to make money, Nellie hatches a plan to sell the girls to the mysterious Mr Scurrfield. But when the day comes for them to leave, Scurrfield reveals he will take only one of the sisters... and he will decide which it will be on the turn of a sixpence.

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Ten years later, Poppy is married with three children. Not a day goes by when she doesn’t think about Rose but, after many years of searching, Poppy has accepted that her sister is lost to her. That is until a letter suddenly arrives, revealing Rose’s fate and breaking Poppy’s heart. Determined to be reunited with her beloved sister, Poppy sets out to bring Rose home.

Using her local knowledge and her eye for life in a small, close-knit community, Young creates a believable and richly colourful world in this moving and dramatic story full of hardship, struggle and family love, and with a cast of beautifully drawn characters. An unmissable saga...

(Headline, paperback, £7.99)

The Poacher’s Daughter

Margaret Dickinson

Much-loved author Margaret Dickinson – a writer who had her first novel published at the age of 25 and has since gone on to pen a raft of bestselling sagas – explores a forbidden love affair between two young people born on opposite sides of the tracks in a heartwarming new story set in the years before the First World War.

Dickinson is a born storyteller who knows how to immerse her readers in the past and a forgotten way of life, and in her thirtieth saga, she sweeps us away to the Lincolnshire Wolds in 1910 where we meet Rosie Waterhouse who lives with her father Sam, well known as the local poacher, in a cottage on the Thornsby estate.

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The land is owned by William Ramsey, a harsh and heartless man who is determined that his only son, Byron, should marry well and produce an heir. Rosie is quick to learn the tricks of her father’s trade and it’s when she’s poaching fish from the estate’s stream that she meets Byron.

They continue to meet in secret over the coming months and, as their friendship blossoms, they recognise that, despite their vastly different backgrounds, they are destined to be together.

But when William learns of their bond, he stops at nothing to ensure that they never meet again. As the years pass and the threat of war becomes a reality, Sam is involved in a tragic incident that will affect both his and Rosie’s lives more than they could ever have imagined. Life will never be the same in Thornsby, but will Rosie find the happiness she yearns for?

Filled with romance, heartache and page-turning drama, The Poacher’s Daughter is written with saga queen Dickinson’s signature warmth and insight, and delivers the kind of rich period detail that brings the past to life so vividly. A delight for all saga fans!

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)

The Strawberry Field Girls

Karen Dickson

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As three young women prepare for a summer season of strawberry picking in 1913, they little suspect that love may soon be knocking on their door... just as the drums of war start to slowly beat across Europe.

The Strawberry Field Girls comes from the pen of Karen Dickson, an author who started writing stories when she was just a child and has always been interested in social history. Her heartwarming sagas may be set in the south of England where she now lives but are inspired by the stories of her grandparents who lived in the North and grew up in the early part of the twentieth century.

And this new rollercoaster tale, set amidst the glorious strawberry fields of Hampshire, recalls the county’s reputation as the ‘Strawberry Coast,’ harvesting high quality, flavourful strawberries which would be picked every day and over 20,000 berries loaded on to a daily train bound for Covent Garden and top hotels in London.

The strawberry harvest is finally ready. The delicious fruit makes up the main source of income for the small hamlet of Strawbridge in Hampshire. Good friends Leah Hopwood, Alice Russell and Dora Webb are ready to spend their summer months working as strawberry pickers on Isaac Whitworth’s farm. But when Leah takes a fancy to young seasonal farm hand Harry White from London, and Alice catches the eye of the handsome new curate Samuel Roberts, the two girls find themselves falling fast.

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This leaves Dora on the outside, struggling with the weight of being her family’s sole breadwinner and caring for her sickly father. But the summer months are long and the surprises are far from over. Away from the fields, a war is brewing which risks everything the girls can dare to dream about.

Beautifully written with what is fast becoming her signature warmth and empathy, Dickson’s new page-turner brings us three resourceful, determined and inspirational young women in a gripping story packed with emotion, drama and romance.

Featuring a cast of vibrant and authentic characters, the evocative backdrop of a country heading into war, and the charms of a forgotten rural world, this is a compelling and ultimately uplifting tale with friendship, family and love at its core.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £8.99)

The Orphanage Girls Come Home

Mary Wood

A group of girls who met when they were trapped by circumstances in the cruel confines of notorious London orphanage take centre stage again in the heartbreaking conclusion of an emotion-packed trilogy from favourite saga writer Mary Wood.

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Inspired by her own childhood in the East End of London, Wood sweeps us back to the early years of the 20th century and into the trials, tribulations and hard-fought victories of three friends who helped each other to survive the privations of a Bethnal Green orphanage.

These heartbreaking but also inspirational tales are full of the grit and hardship that have become hallmarks of a storyteller who writes straight from the heart. Wood worked in the probation service in both Lancaster and Blackpool, and her hard-hitting and moving historical sagas reflect her own experiences with people from all walks of life, helping her to bring a rich authenticity to her writing.

Here, we meet up again with Ellen and Ruth who fear that they may never again find their good friend Amy after she was taken from the orphanage and put on a boat to Canada with the promise of a new and better life across the ocean.

In London in 1910, Amy was chosen to be a part of a programme to resettle displaced children in Canada but her great sadness was saying goodbye to Ruth and Ellen, the friends who became family to her during the dark days at the orphanage. As she stepped aboard the ship to Montreal, the promise of a new life lay ahead but during the long crossing, Amy discovered a terrifying secret.

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In Canada, as the years pass, Amy’s Canadian experience is far from the life she imagined. She always kept Ruth’s address to hand – longing to return to London and reunite with her dear friends.

But it’s 1919 and after the world has been ravaged by war, it seems an impossible dream. Separated by oceans, will Amy the orphanage girl ever come home?

Wood ratchets up the emotional temperature in this final, gripping tale of the orphanage girls which comes packed with heartbreak, drama, rich period detail, and the harsh realities of life in the early 20th century and during the years of the First World War.

Written with insight, warmth and the empathy gained from her years working with a cross-section of society, Wood’s story is a moving and enthralling rollercoaster from first page to last, and a thrilling final chapter in the lives of three memorable friends.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)

The Nursemaid’s Journey

Sheila Newberry

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When high-spirited, unconventional girl Molly Sparkes leaves her convent school in the heart of rural Kent in 1906, she is eager to embark on the journey of a lifetime to Australia... but what does the future hold for a girl who can turn her hand to anything?

Sheila Newberry, the Suffolk-born author who died in 2020, knew a thing or two about the ups and downs of family life. A mother of nine children, and with twenty-two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, this much-loved writer has left a legacy of beautiful sagas – including The East End Nurse and The Winter Baby – which have enthralled readers across the decades.

In The Nursemaid’s Journey, we join the irrepressible, 18-year-old Molly on her big adventure as she accompanies the formidable Mrs Alexa Nagel on a tour of Australia, acting as her companion and nursemaid to Alexa’s motherless granddaughter, Fay.

After a long voyage at sea, they finally arrive in New South Wales but living in rural Australia, and far away from everything she knows, Molly is forced to do some rapid growing up. Fascinated by cool, laconic stockman Henny Rasmussen – a man who, like many others, has come to Australia to lose himself and to forget – Molly is heartbroken when he tells her he is about to return to his native Denmark.

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Desperate to forget him, she turns her attentions to Rory Kelly, a circus acrobat. Will Molly flout convention and be tempted by the romance of a circus life and will her ultimate decision be one she comes to regret?

The Nursemaid’s Journey is packed with emotion, warmth, a cast of vibrant characters, and an addictive sense of youthful charm as Newberry explores the unexpected twists and turns of Molly’s eventful life, and the struggles, separations, loves and friendships that she encounters along the way.

With its rich period detail and nostalgia, and written with Newberry’s natural empathy and insight into what it meant to live through times of change and personal challenges, this uplifting story is a saga to savour.

(Zaffre, paperback, £8.99)