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Washed ashore as a baby, Beatrice grows up in the Mariner’s Orphanage to be a spirited, intelligent woman. While a servant in Dr. Pragnell’s house, she begins a secret romance with the son Albert, a naval officer. In the midst of their affair, she chances to meet Joseph Forrest, an able seaman, and his enthusiastic wooing wins her to him. Set in Victorian Portsmouth, the novel teems with lively characters, including a rare appearance by Charles Dickens.
The Jutland telegram steals Lily’s birthday with the news of her brother’s death. Meanwhile Miriam must make a new life for herself after a terrible betrayal. Neighbour Mary Vine sees her mother taken to an asylum. Gradually, the women of Lemon Street pull their lives together with humour and steely determination. Set during the last days of World War 1, this story follows on from the story of Beatrice, now a grandmother, through her descendants.
After the jollity at Grandma Beattie’s second marriage, granddaughter Lily must keep her romance alive with absent sailor Michael through paper kisses. Dora writes to her partner Harry, but is seduced by a soldier, then becoming almost consumed with guilt. Into their lives come the eccentric Dahlia, accompanied by a blind sailor and Algie, who plays with matches. The women survive disappointment, fire and passion while they await the return of their menfolk.
Mary Vine crosses the water to Gosport to get engaged to her submariner boyfriend Matthew. Her friend Cissie is sinking into poverty and camps out in her ex-employer’s home. When he returns, Captain Clements shoots Cissie, mistaking her for an intruder. Matthew dies in a submarine disaster, leaving Mary a widow with a baby, Hope Elisabeth, to care for. Meanwhile, twins Faith and Mercy join a dance troupe. With guts and humour, they endure these turbulent times.
The residents of Nelson Street are plunged into World War II. Continuing the Forrest family saga, Rosie joins the Wrens. Here she meets her old neighbour Blyth, now a swordfish pilot, sending her into a helter-skelter romance, while Daisy and Pearl work in a munitions factory. Miriam and Alec run the local pub, the Nile, and try to keep their neighbours’ spirits up. The war takes every ounce of courage and the women of Nelson Street fight back with grit and full teapots.
Drill Sergeant’s daughter Fidelis is captivated by Lieutenant Daniel Herrick. In the hierarchal world of the Royal Marine Barracks, their romance is doomed from the beginning; Daniel is only amusing himself. Away in the West Indies, Fidelis’ faithful fiancé Harry sends home frequent letters, but he returns to find her pregnant with Daniel’s child. He and Fidelis must make a future together. Adding much needed humour is music hall artiste Shamrock O’Shea.
© Julia Bryant 2014