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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

East End Angel by Carol Rivers



June 1941, Isle of Dogs, London. In the dark days following the Blitz, happiness visits young Pearl Jenkins as she celebrates her marriage to Jim Nesbitt. But what should be a joyful occasion is marred when a fight breaks out between Jim and Ricky Winters, an unwelcome visitor from Pearl's past. And to Pearl's horror, the new beau of her wayward younger sister Ruby. Increasingly uneasy at staying at home when other men are off fighting for their country, Jim enlists, leaving Pearl at home - alone, pregnant, and at Ricky's mercy...Together, Pearl and Ruby must bring up baby Cynthia while struggling to make ends meet and dodge the doodlebugs. And all the time, Pearl must hide the dark secret she harbours, one which would tear the two sisters apart as well as her marriage. Then tragedy strikes both on the home front and in the trenches and Pearl is forced to fight like never before to keep her family safe.


Pearl glanced at her husband and searched his face. She knew that the two men had always competed fiercely at sport and there had been no love lost between them. Jim had been a popular member amongst his team mates but not so Ricky, a loner. Jim had never possessed any of  Ricky’s smooth charm that seemed to set him apart from the others and had turned all the female heads.
‘You could say we were acquaintances, yes,’ Jim muttered coldly.
‘It’s been a long time,’ Ricky nodded. ‘Congratulations.’ His eloquent tone had Pearl’s heart banging against her ribs as his gaze travelled slowly towards her.
‘You two was much older than us,’ Ruby burst out, seemingly unaware of the tension. ‘I was only just left school when you rowed for the club, Ricky. Pearl, you must’ve been what - sixteen?’
Pearl nodded. ‘Yes, about that.’
‘We used to watch the boys in the gym, remember?’ Ruby giggled, nudging Pearl’s arm. ‘ Those other two girls liked a good gander through the window too. That Stella Burns and her mate. They was always throwing themselves at anything in trousers. Dunno what happened to her. Someone said she got - ’ Ruby looked embarrassed. ‘Anyway, that was a long time ago now, but how strange that me and Ricky met up at the pictures again? Remember that film Captain Fury we saw last year, Pearl? Well it was showing again a few weeks ago and Ricky was on a weekend’s leave with one of his mates. I was with Irene Naylor from work. Don’t know how he recognized me but it was that flashy gold band on his arm that caught my eye.’
Pearl had already noted the sub-lieutenant’s gold braid and it was clear that Jim had too.
‘So you’ve joined the reserves?’ Jim said icily.
‘The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve,’ Ricky corrected in the same tone.
‘Yeah, the wavy navy,’ sneered Jim and Pearl cringed at the derogatory expression. She was not surprised when Ricky retorted, ‘And you, Jim? No uniform?’
‘You’d better help yourselves to something to eat before it’s all gone,’ Pearl suggested quickly, giving Ruby a little nudge.
‘Good idea,’ Ruby nodded as she slid her hand through Ricky’s arm. ‘And I want to introduce Ricky to Mum and Dad. Dunno if they’d remember him, but they might.’
But when they were alone, Jim turned on Pearl. ‘What did you do that for? I can speak up for meself.’
‘I didn’t do anything.’ Pearl was shaken. ‘And don’t bite me head off, Jim. I was only telling them about the food.’
‘They could see the grub clearly enough, couldn’t they? There’s enough to feed the five thousand. Didn’t you see he was having a go at me? And I certainly don’t need you to fight me battles.’
‘You started it, Jim,’ Pearl retaliated. ‘Saying about the wavy navy.’
‘Are you taking his side?’
Pearl went scarlet. ‘Course not. But I don’t want a row on me wedding day.’
‘Wedding or not,’ growled Jim, ‘I’m fed up with every Tom Dick and Harry thinking a man in civvies has no backbone. It’s people like Winters that get my goat. A bloody reservist, I ask you! They think they’re God’s gift to the country. And what the heck is he doing here anyway?’
Pearl shrugged dismissively. ‘I’ve no idea.’
‘You didn’t know she was seeing him?’
‘No, she never said.’ Pearl wondered why her sister had not told her about Ricky. They spoke about everything and had shared the same room since they were kids. They’d gone to the same school, had the same friends and only gone their separate ways when Pearl started her job in the council offices. Later Ruby had joined Brewer’s the wholesalers on the wharf. When war broke out, Brewer’s was requisitioned by the war office and Ruby had stayed on and joined the assembly line. Ruby was her best friend. They had no secrets, except it seemed, for Ricky...  

ISBN 978-1847398420 Available in paperback from Amazon and Kindle Ereader. Published by Simon & Schuster.
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