Review by Gabrielle

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Series Name: The Emmy Lake Chronicles #2

“My darling Em, I promise with every fibre of my body, I will come back. Never forget that. Nothing will stop me being with you.”

Emmeline Lake is back in this utterly charming sequel to Dear Mrs. Bird.

World War II continues and despite her past troubles Emmy has maintained her position with Woman’s Friend magazine. With a new editor in charge, she is given more responsibility when the Ministry of Labour asks them to help recruit more women workers for the war effort. Eager to do her part, Emmy sets out to interview some lady labourers for a series of articles. As Emmy gets to know the women, she discovers not everything is as easy breezy as the Ministry wants her to portray. Meanwhile her best friend Bunty recovers from the horrors of the Blitz and Emmy’s relationship with boyfriend Charles continues to grow.

I’ll be the first to admit that historical fiction, particularly WWII era fiction, is not my thing. The truth is I often don’t enjoy it. I tend to get frustrated and upset with the lack of diversity and the role of women at the time. That being said, my mom convinced me to read Dear Mrs. Bird when it came out in 2018 and I loved it. So I was very excited for this sequel. Although this book does stand up by itself, it is definitely a continuation of Emmy’s story and there are a number of continuing plotlines. I would recommend reading Dear Mrs. Bird first in order to enjoy the full context of this book.

I wouldn’t say this is a typical romance book. While there is a lovely romantic plotline in Emmy’s blossoming relationship with her dreamy boyfriend Charles, that is not the sole focus of the story. It is more of a testament to female friendship and the power of women sticking together than anything else. And in that, the women in this story are real role models! I just loved the ways the various women became friends and supported each other during some pretty terrible circumstances from losing jobs to losing husbands. They are also there for each other in the good times and help each other celebrate. It made me think of my best gal pals and be grateful for them all over again.

At the centre of this story is a larger one about the women’s labour movement at a time when it was just starting. With the men away, many women were entering the workforce for the first time whether out of a sense of duty or real financial need. While they were critical to the war effort, women were treated very differently than their male counterparts being paid less, unable to join unions, and on their own to manage childcare and household duties alongside their 12 hour work days. My only disappointment is that AJ didn’t take this further. Although we hear about the issues through the experiences of the women going through them, it still felt a bit surface level. Overall though, I enjoyed AJ’s exploration of the issues and how women coped during this critical time in women’s rights history.

There is a whole cast of characters to love in this book. You’ll adore kind-hearted, funny and clever Emmy. She is just terrific. I liked how she always wanted to help people. Her best friend Bunty is equally great. She is warm, generous and brave. Boyfriend Charles is definitely a swoon-worthy match for Emmy. Their playful but wholesome chemistry is so gosh darn sweet, they will have you grinning. Emmy’s boss Mr. Collins plays a significant role in the story and I appreciated his thoughtful and wise approach to leadership of the magazine. A nice reversal from the previous book’s Mrs. Bird.

In the end, I enjoyed revisiting the world of Emmeline Lake. If you love historical fiction (or even if you don’t!) on the lighter, more wholesome side, give this book a try.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster, Inc. for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.