Blog Book Tour | “The Girl in the Pink Raincoat” by Alrene Hughes

Posted Monday, 22 April, 2019 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: In February, I was invited to join the Head of Zeus blog tour for the Historical novel “The Girl in the Pink Raincoat” which I was overjoyed in having discovered. Although I love to dance and weave myself through different genres of interest each year, I must confess, one of my favourites to disappear inside is Historical Fiction! This is a new author and my first Head of Zeus novel I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I was quite thankful to be included on the blog tour for this title and I can’t wait to share my ruminations with my readers!

I received a complimentary copy of “The Girl in the Pink Raincoat” direct from the publisher Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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The reason reading ”The Girl in the Pink Raincoat” appealled to me:

I have a penchant for Women’s Fiction and a new interest for Historical Women’s Fiction which I felt this particular title fit into a niche rather perfectly as it is about one woman’s journey. I have a soft spot in my bookish heart for war dramas which is also what tipped my hat towards wanting to seek this out to read!

I’ve had a bit of a break from reading war dramas – I had to opt to seek out the human interest stories within the war dramas I was previously reading, as some of the harder hitting ones set within the scope of the war itself were becoming a bit too much for me to process. Thereby, I’ve been trying to re-focus on the kinds of dramas I am reading during the world war era and this particular one caught my eye due to the description and what I was hoping it would reveal of the journey Gracie took to sort out the truth of what happened to her beloved.

I love stories of this nature – the kind which take you on a journey and even despite the hard circumstances behind the drama, there is something to be said for how a writer approaches their narrative and how they capture your heart in the process of telling you a story you simply cannot put down. This is what I was hoping I’d find within the pages of the novel and quite happily as you’ll soon find out – this is exactly what I discovered inside The Girl in the Pink Raincoat!

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Blog Book Tour | “The Girl in the Pink Raincoat” by Alrene HughesThe Girl in the Pink Raincoat
by Alrene Hughes
Source: Direct from Publisher

In wartime it takes courage to follow your heart.

Manchester, 1939.

Everyone hated the heat and the deafening noise, but for Gracie the worst thing was the smell of chemicals that turned her stomach every morning when she arrived at the Rosenberg Raincoats factory.

Gracie is a girl on the factory floor. Jacob is the boss's charismatic nephew. When they fall in love, it seems as if the whole world is against them – especially Charlie Nuttall, who also works at the factory and has always wanted Gracie for himself.

But worse is to come when Jacob disappears and Gracie is devastated, vowing to find him. Can she solve the mystery of his whereabouts? Gracie will need all her strength and courage to find a happy ending.

Genres: Historical Fiction, Historical Women's Fiction, Women's Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781788543972

Also by this author: The Girl in the Pink Raincoat

Published by Head of Zeus

on 1st March, 2019

Format: UK Edition Paperback

Pages: 368

 Published By:  Published By: Head of Zeus (@HoZ_Books)

Converse via: #GirlInThePinkRaincoat, #HistNov and #HistFic
Available Formats: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Audiobook & Ebook

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About Alrene Hughes

Alrene Hughes

Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time.

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My Review of the girl in the pink raincoat:

When we first alight into Gracie’s life, she’s one of the line workers for raincoats turning out quantity for an order which puts everyone on a bit of an edge. Her boss’s nephew catches her eye, as he would due to his personality and charming features – however, it is her approach to lifting the workday by her presence which hugged me into the story. The comforting encouraging voice of her mother trying to forestall the panic of the pending war gave you a proper sense of where we were in History; as she assuaged their fears but also, relied the truths of their situation in a way which felt more uplifting than horrifying. This was when England was on the fringes of war – before the blitzing and before they would all become afeared of the skies for what they would bring into their lives. You could readily see where Gracie found her font of strength and how she had the courage to do what she was doing – as she came from strong stock, as evidenced by her Mum.

My heart took a clutching moment of realisation when it was revealled Jacob was Jewish – I knew there was going to be a probable cause towards what might separate Gracie and Jacob, as this is in effect a romance caught in the tides of war; however, is anyone ever really prepared for what happened during that particular era? I liked how Hughes dampened the pending circumstances by allowing us to see the young couple together ahead of everything which would soon begin. We could tuck into their lives before the start of war – seeing how the innocence of their attraction and the joyfulness of a relaxing weekend could bring a bit of happiness into their lives. It was quite foretelling on Jacob’s behalf what he remarks to Gracie in that particular moment – about how this could be the last day of spending their hours in idle reprieve? There were little nuanced observations like this which took you backwards in time – to a point where no one was fully aware of how much their lives would become altered as it was all too new to where they were not yet afflicted.

I had to smile and chuckle when Gracie criticised her Mum for using too much vinegar on her hair! I hadn’t heard of this trick to keep the shine in your locks – I love rooting out this kind of trivia from the past – of how women sorted out ways to do things with ingredients we might not think of using today. Some of which, of course, still has merit as not every new way of doing ordinary things is the better option even today. It was keen to see where Jacob took Gracie on her first date as well – I liked how she was off-put at first by his choice and then, how she fell at ease with realising ‘where’ he was taking her wasn’t quite what it appeared on the surface. It spoke to how they both had different impressions and reactions to the same situations but also, how he hadn’t taken the time to disarm her concerns before he surprised her with a nice night out.

There is a lovely ebb and flow to this story – I felt so caught inside the goings-on of Gracie’s life – from the antics of her co-workers to how smitten she was with Jacob. Jacob was a bit of a Renaissance man – preferring the cultural offerings of theatre and music than most men their age. It was a special treat for Gracie to be treated to these kinds of luxuries and it was whilst she was listening to Jacob talk passionately about his love of the theatre where she realised how uniquely different he was from the other blokes she was previously interested in knowing. I felt for her it marked a turning point – about the kind of person she wanted to date and also, the kind of man who could introduce her to the joys in life she hadn’t been exposed too previously.

In the back of my mind, I did worry – about when the impeding war was going to start to circumvent their joyful rituals of dating and the carefree sense of adventure as they took a train out of Manchester to explore another nearby city. There was a happiness in their young lives – as they spent the time together to get to know each other better, it felt like the war was far off even though it was just beginning. You were reminded of it when Gracie was at work – where the factory was being retrofitted and expanded to handle the new contract they had secured for the war itself but in other ways, life was trickling along as if not too much had changed. And, perhaps that was the truth of it – in those early days, it would be hard to see the stark changes as it took time for every aspect of their lives to change their course.

Outside of the romantic gestures and the budding romance, Hughes placed a well-timed domestic violence thread into the story-line which befit the era and the circumstances. It was a moment where Gracie lost a bit of her innocence but also, how it showed how quickly things can change when your out with your friend. It was quite a harrowing sequence but I appreciated how Hughes approached it and how she showed the reactions from both Gracie and Maria. What was a bit more surprising of course, is how Jacob reacted to this situation once he found out about it! I was gravely disappointed in him and in many ways, his ire which was flaring out of his anger didn’t seem to court well with his previous behaviour. If anything, it painted him the fool and a man with a brooding temper – one who wouldn’t listen to the truth of the girl he was dating and in many ways that didn’t broker well with me as I thought for sure he was made of sterner stuff than to listen to the wilds of a bloke like Charlie! It was one of the most disturbing scenes because I couldn’t sort out why he wouldn’t believe Gracie when he knows what kind of girl she is vs the one he was being told she had been. Talk about a character who rankles your own ire for his senseless arrogance!

Shortly after this misunderstanding between them, Hughes picked up the pacing with the war looming over their young shoulders – to such an extent, I wasn’t quite prepared for what happened next in regards to Jacob. I’ve read stories of internment previously however, this particular story was funnelled through a different lens of observation than the stories I had read in the past. The difficulty of course is how all of this affected Gracie. She was emotionally vulnerable and quite spent from the arduous uncertainty of what had become of Jacob. One moment they are communicating and the next, there is a blank space of non-communication – even his family and her friends are at a proper loss to explain what could have become of him.

This is where the poignancy of the story comes into play – as we draw closer to the angst Gracie is working through and the strength her Mum has to try to encourage her out of her depressive state, we’re recognising the harder truth about what the war was doing to the country. Gracie had to find courage in moments when she felt none and it was through the work the war effort at home was providing which gave her a sense of pride. She had to dig hard to find a will to live and to find work to help provide a living wage for her and her mother – all whilst, her emotions were at sevens and fives. She couldn’t wrestle her spirits to be calm when there were unanswered questions surrounding Jacob yet at the same time, she was opening herself to new friends, even if some of them might be wolves in sheep’s clothing, Gracie was attempting to live again.

One of my favourite supporting characters is Gracie’s Mum – whom has her own story-line which I felt was of equal importance to Gracie’s. Her Mum had immigrated from Ireland to begin anew in England – not coming from the best of families and of having her own heart broken in young love. It is interesting too, how the mother had had experience with star-crossed love inasmuch as her daughter – almost as if history was repeating itself for both women. Wherein Hughes talks about the hardships between falling in love with men of a different religion, she also points out how sometimes you have to find the inner strength to stand against the distrust of a society. In this instance, the harder part of the story is the year it is set – 1939 as being at war changed everyone’s perception about everything.

The hardest part of reading The Girl in the Pink Raincoat is for me, I had an extreme distaste for the character Alan – as I couldn’t understand why Gracie had to survive yet another disastrous encounter with a man after what had happened previously. This story didn’t need another lingering bout of drama either – it was solid enough without Alan interfering with Gracie’s mental state and of giving her more trauma to overcome. It was singularly the one sequence of the story I wished hadn’t been inclusive as what came next truly brought the whole story back to centre.

It wasn’t until Gracie met Sam where I saw the lingering light of Jacob still fuelling the spirit of Gracie. The beauty of the anchouring of both of these men into Gracie’s life is how much growth and self-awareness they brought into her experiences. I felt they were both a fitting presence to give Gracie a chance at finding her true self and the life she was always meant to lead. It was a beautiful love story too from that angle – of how one man’s gift of love enabled Gracie to find the courage and freedom to seek out love on her own terms? The joyfulness of finding someone who sees you and believes in you without putting conditions on it and not subjecting you to abuse or violence. I am unsure why there had to be an undercurrent of domestic violence throughout the main backbone of the story – as like I said, I much preferred lingering through the scenes where we are seeing what happened during the war itself – from the blackouts to the start of the blitzing – where Manchester’s residents were having to live on faith to endure what was happening to them.

The truer strength of the story is not just surviving through your life but of finding a way to curate your own happiness out of the life you’ve been given to live. The secondary story arc involving Gracie’s Mum was one of my favourites and this very much is a story of redemption as much as it is about enduring love. Both mother and daughter have quite the story to share with readers who find this war drama and I hope they give it a chance to reveal the secrets of how healing and second chances can wash away the moments of adversity which might seek to hold you down.

on the historical writing styling of alrene hughes:

As this is my first Historical novel by this publisher and author, one of the first things which struck me as I was reading the story is how approachable Ms Hughes wrote Gracie’s story! Quite immediate from the first chapter, as the first pages start to come into sight, I liked how Gracie was as real and believable on page as someone whom you could be chatting with IRL. She was simply going about her day, settling into the work grind of making raincoats at a factory whilst entertaining her fellow workers with a dash of fiction to give them something to chew on whilst they are working. It was interesting, too, to see how Gracie fit into this world but also, felt a bit removed from it as well.

Hughes represents the era well. Including how she eludes to what is going to be happening before you can blink past the horrors of what came next – she gives measure of place and setting for how lives were starting to become affected by the war and how the war was going to change the lives of those who lived in England and the surrounding countries. In small ways, she gave you a chance to navigate those changes – as she lent observations of what was happening in regards to what Gracie saw or how intuitive those round her were becoming of events yet known. Quite a smart way to approach writing a war drama as those of us who read a heap of these can appreciate this approach. It is the calm before the pending storm but it is also instinctive of human nature.

This is a very evolving story-line – at the heart of it is a young girl who is caught in the throes of first love on the fringes of the second world war. You find yourself following in her footsteps as she moves from one factory to another, trying to carve out a living wage at a time where jobs are scarce and there is a boiling effect of fear running through the undertone of society. No one understands what is going to happen next and with everything on the brink, it paints a solid portrait of how ‘life at home’ during the war years was just as trying as those who were fighting it. The women in the factories were oft-times placed in danger due to the kind of co-workers they found in those factories, which I felt Hughes highlighted well. However, rather than keeping this a darker tale of intrigue wrapped inside a war drama – she also etches out a lot of light, random joys and a sense of community amongst the friendships Gracie is able to maintain throughout the ordeal she finds the strength to survive.

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This book review is courtesy of:

head of Zeus

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Be sure to visit the Twitter feeds for Head of Zeus

to find the rest of the bloggers taking part on this lovely blog tour!

OR happily find the route on these lovely blog tour banners below!

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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Reading this novel counted towards some of my 2019 reading challenges:

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2019 New Release Challenge created by for and is used with permission.

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{SOURCES: Book covers for “The Girl in the Pink Raincoat”, book synopsis, author photograph of Alrene Hughes, author biography and the blog tour banners were all provided by Head of Zeus and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. 2019 New Release Challenge created by for and is used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #HistoricalMondays banner Historical Fiction Reading Challenge banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 22 April, 2019 by jorielov in #HistoricalMondays, 20th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Content Note, Domestic Violence, England, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Publishers & Presses (Direct Reviews), Realistic Fiction, the Thirties, The World Wars, War Drama, Women's Fiction

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