Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Foyles Bookshop Girls: The Foyles Girls

Welcome!  I am featuring debut author Elaine Roberts today.  Ms. Roberts said one of the challenges with writing a historical novel is the research.  She said it is easy to get lost in the events (and end up with too much material).  When her research is done, she constructs a timeline of events.  This will be the basis of her story.  Her characters lives and what happens to them are woven around the historical events.  Foyles is a real bookstore chain located in the United Kingdom.  There is a store on Charring Cross Road in London.

The Foyles Bookshop Girls by Elaine Roberts is the first story in The Foyles Girls series.  Alice Taylor works at W & G Foyles Bookstore on Charring Cross Road in London with her friends Victoria Appleton and Molly Cooper.  Victoria is responsible for her two younger siblings since their parents died four and a half years earlier.  Molly is in love with Tony Fletcher who likes to flirt with every woman he encounters.  Alice comes from a well-to-do family and her father, Luke has very rigid ideas for women which makes life difficult for Lily, Alice’s spirited sister.  Alice loves her job at Foyles and spending time with her beau, Freddie who is a police sergeant.  Then England declares war against Germany and the men rush to enlist including Freddie.  Before Freddie departs for training camp, he proposes to Alice.  The wedding will have to wait until he gets leave.  As the war continues on, Alice, Victoria and Molly want to find a way to help the war effort at home.  Alice learns to drive an ambulance and transfers passengers from the train station to the hospital.  She likes to keep herself busy to avoid thinking about the danger those she loves are in.  Will Freddie make it home from the war?  Are her brothers safe?  Will the war ever end?  Venture back to 1914 in The Foyles Bookshop Girls.

The Foyles Bookshop Girls takes readers back to 1914 when World War I begins.   We see how quickly life can change.  The story focuses on Alice but includes her family and friends.  Alice comes from a more affluent household than her friends.  The author did a wonderful job at setting the stage for the book.  Elaine Roberts  descriptions brought the book alive for me.  I could envision the characters, their homes, and Foyles Bookshop.  Alice is a spirited, strong intelligent woman. She was the anchor for her group of friends.  I like how the characters developed over the course of the story and the friendship between the ladies deepened.  Alice matured and developed new insights and a stronger voice.  I just loved the accounts of Foyles Bookshop.  It sounded like a magical place with all the wonderful books.  When Alice mentioned the smell of the books, I completely agreed and understood.  It was interesting how the bookshop operated (how people purchased their books, how the payment system operated).  I would have liked more about the Foyles Bookshop.  It was not central to the story.  I wanted to know more about Victoria and Molly.  I am hoping that they will be featured more prominently in the next two books in the series.  The Foyles Bookshop Girls contains good writing and it is gently paced.  Elaine Roberts is off to a promising start with her debut novel of The Foyles Bookshop Girls.  I have included an extract for your enjoyment:

Alice sighed with relief. Foyles Bookstore frontage was unmissable. The message was clear. They were the largest booksellers in London, with six floors. If a novel was purchased and returned after it was read, there would be a refund of two thirds of the price for each book. They had created quite a name since William and Gilbert Foyle started selling their own unwanted books in 1903. Everyone who started working there was told about their vision of having a bookshop for the people.

She paused for a moment to take a couple of deep breaths, hoping to lessen the heat on her face, catching sight of her reflection in a shop window. Her slender figure was slightly distorted by the glass as she patted down the wide, black-edged lapels of her white blouse. Her hand automatically ran down the small black buttons, twisting each one in turn. She took a deep breath, patted her pinned up hair and stepped towards the open doorway of the shop.  The shutters were being lifted and bookstands were being placed by the entrance and to the side of the store. Customers of all ages were already gathering.

‘Morning, Miss Taylor.’ A slim man towered above her. ‘You only just made it on time.’ He frowned.  Her heart pummelled in her chest. She looked up at his stern expression. His grey hair was greased back. ‘Sorry, sir, I foolishly went to St Thomas' before I came to work.’ Colour flushed her cheeks; Mr Leadbetter was a stickler for timekeeping.  ‘Oh.’ His face softened. ‘Nothing wrong I trust?’
‘No, sir, I’ve so many books indoors, I wanted to give some to the hospital…’ Alice's voice faded to a mumble. ‘For the patients.’

Mr Leadbetter raised his eyebrows. His hands linked behind his back, making his dark grey jacket gape revealing more of his blue tie and lily-white shirt. ‘Very commendable.’ He paused for a moment. ‘You do know we sell second-hand books as well as new ones, don't you?’  The corners of Alice's lips lifted slightly. ‘Of course, sir, I’ve worked here for a few years now. I just thought it would be a good thing to do, but I should have waited until my day off.’  Mr Leadbetter nodded and stepped aside for Alice to walk through the store to the staff room. Having removed her hat and left it with her shopping bag, she stood in front of a large white clock face with its wooden surround and pulled her clocking-in card from the individual slots next to it. She dropped it into a hole in front of the clock and pulled it out again. Alice looked down at the time stamp, realising she had only just made it on time. Quickly placing it back, she hurried into the shop.

Foyles had an air of a library about it as men, women and children lifted books from the shelves to look at the covers and read the first few pages. People whispered to each other, some louder than others, as their excitement grew. The bookshop had become a popular meeting place. There were shelves upon shelves of old and new books, priced from tuppence upwards. She took a deep breath, never tiring of the smell that came from them. She smiled, remembering how Mr Leadbetter had caught her with her nose in a book, her eyes shut, savouring the smell. He hadn't questioned her; he understood and they spent ten minutes trying to work out how to describe it. Was it woody? But then there was a trace of something else; maybe it was the ink or dust. If the previous reader had been a smoker, then that also clung to the pages. No one in the store thought it was odd; they were book lovers, after all.

I hope that snippet has enticed you to pick up The Foyles Bookshop Girls.  The next novel in The Foyles Bookshop Girls series is The Foyles Girls at War which will be out in January 2019.  It will focus on Molly Cooper.  Christmas at the Foyles Bookshop will feature Victoria Appleton (June 2019).  Thank you for stopping by today.  Tomorrow I will feature Ruff Justice by Laurien Berenson.  It is the 22nd book in The Melanie Travis Mystery series.  I hope you have a pleasing day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

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