Brighton Belle review

17 Apr

Post War Glamour?

Check.

Beautiful Brighton Scenery?
Check.

Kick arse, Single, Strong, intelligent female protagonist?

Check, check, check and CHECK!

Brighton Belle by Sara Sherian is a perfect post war story, designed for the nostalgic, the inquisitive and for people after a flawed but fabulous, strong female lead character. Well two  kick arse women by the end of the novel, but the more the merrier.

bellecover

It’s 1951 and we start off at a train station with a young woman travelling down from London to Brighton. At first glance you know that there is something up, and this young woman is going to be the cause of the merry dance around Brighton that our heroine gets mixed up in. This is accentuated when she steals a ration book. The first chapter also gives us one big story curve; the young woman, Romana Laszlo, is heavily pregnant.

My first thought was “I know where this is going”.

How wrong was I?

Well, I can tell you, incredibly. Whatever you’re thinking the storyline might be right now, I’ll tell you good and square that you can forget about that. You may have it half right, but I can guarantee that you won’t have all of it sussed.

Anyway, we then get introduced to the heroine, Mirabelle Bevan who is a secretary for a debt collector- Big Ben McGuigan. Mirabelle however hides an interesting past for during the war she was employed in the Secret Service in Whitehall, London as part of Intelligence. Although she wasn’t a field agent, this makes her instantly interesting and urges the reader to keep turning the page to find out more about her.

I mentioned the word “Single” earlier, and quite quickly we are privy to the reason for this key statement about Mirabelle’s status. We learn that her other half, Jack died from a heart attack a little time after the war, leaving Mirabelle bereft and lonely. By one large she keeps herself to herself, working for McGuigan as an efficient secretary.

However, when Ben McGuigan goes missing and a very interesting case involving the young woman Romana Laszlo comes to Mirabelle’s attention, she starts following leads without much thought.

As the mystery starts to pull her in, and Mirabelle gets tangled up in the threads, she befriends a girl in the next office, Vesta- a black girl in Brighton, who although doesn’t get treated too badly, still gets ignored and shunned. Mirabelle takes a liking to her and Vesta turns out to be a worthy, kick arse woman herself, gutsy as well.

With a helping hand with a priest friend of Mirabelle’s the women discover what is going on in Brighton in regards to Romana Laszlo to a very satisfactory conclusion.

Brighton Belle has all the charm of a post-war novel with the strong plot that goes with it. The mystery just keeps turning in and in on itself until you can’t see a way out. The setting of Brighton is perfect, with its twisty seats and sea side views. We desperately want Mirabelle to come out on top, and as the book nears its end we’re caught up in the drama and the action.

There are a few places where the writing may fall a little flat but it carries through fine enough. If I’m honest I got excited about the book because of the storyline, and read it mostly for research on my own story skills.

It has made me realise that not only has my work got a long way to go to be half as good, but what a strong female lead can really do for a book.

Not that I didn’t know that before, but if you consider this story as being written in 1951 there were not a huge number of strong independent women strolling about without being over shadowed by a man in some shape of form.

The good thing about this book is that there is no man to take over from Mirabelle and it’s women’s work through and through. They may be hampered by not being listened to a lot, but that gets sorted fairly quickly.

If you love crime writing, strong heroine’s and a post war feel to the books you read, Sara Sheridan’s Brighton Belle is for you. It gets a healthy 4 out of 5.

About the Writer: Stef is a 21 year old graduate who has a lifelong obsession with books and reading who also loves music and live theatre. You’re most likely to find her in a book shop or out in London standing at a theatre stage door. She can be found on twitter and running The World of Blyton.

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