Read Wartime Sweethearts Online

Authors: Lizzie Lane

Tags: #Chick-Lit, #British & Irish, #Family Life, #Family Saga, #Fiction, #Historical, #Sagas, #War & Military, #Women's Fiction

Wartime Sweethearts

BOOK: Wartime Sweethearts
3.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Contents

Cover

About the Author

About the Book

Also by Lizzie Lane

Title Page

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Historical Note

Copyright

About the Book

The Sweet family have run the local bakery for as long as anyone can remember.

Twins Ruby and Mary Sweet help their widowed father out when they can. While Ruby dreams of life in London, Mary has no intention of leaving their small Somerset village.

But as war threatens there will be changes for all of the Sweet family, with brother Charlie off to serve and young cousin Frances facing evacuation. But there will be opportunities too, as the twins’ baking talent catches the attention of the Ministry of Food...

The first in the Sweets trilogy, a nostalgic blend of
Call the Midwife
and
The Great British Bake Off

About the Author

Lizzie Lane was born and brought up in one of the toughest areas of Bristol, the eldest of three siblings who were all born before her parents got round to marrying. Her mother, who had endured both the Depression and war years, was a natural-born story teller, and it’s from her telling of actual experiences of the tumultuous first half of the twentieth century that Lizzie gets her inspiration.

Lizzie put both city and rat race behind her in 2012 and moved on to a boat, preferring to lead the simple life where she can write and watch the sun go down without interruption.

Also by Lizzie Lane:

Wartime Brides

Coronation Wives

A Christmas Wish

The Soldier’s Valentine
(digital short)

A Wartime Wife

A Wartime Family

Home for Christmas

CHAPTER ONE

It was warm those last few days of August 1939 before the world went to war. The sun shone and Ruby Sweet was certain she would remember this time for the rest of her life. She couldn’t help smiling at the thought of what was about to happen, which had nothing to do with the worsening situation in Europe.

People in the village of Oldland Common, just a few miles from the City of Bristol, had been talking for weeks about the possibility of another war with Germany. The wireless broadcasts were going on and on too and Ruby had got to the stage where she could almost repeat what they were saying word for word.


it must be remembered that we are an island nation and unlike the landmass that is Germany, are unable to feed ourselves. Therefore, should war occur, the enemy will do its utmost to sink our merchant ships. Rationing will come in earlier than in the last war. Every crust of bread, every potato grown

Ruby grimaced. How to make a meal from crusts of bread! Potatoes cooked in their skins! For goodness’ sake!

Advice given in a plummy accent about making do with less expensive joints of meat had preceded the broadcast.

Consider using braising or even stewing steak instead of a more expensive cut
.

‘As if anybody round here can afford anything better than braising or stewing,’ Ruby muttered. Judging by her twin sister Mary’s expression, she was thinking the same thing.

The wireless broadcast droned on and on. Ruby was tired of hearing advice about food that didn’t form a regular part of most people’s diet.

Hopefully the war would never happen and then all this talk would be only so much hot air.

The Prime Minister, Mr Neville Chamberlain

Even now her brother Charlie and her father, and even her sister, continued to give the radio broadcast their full attention, more specifically to what was happening in Europe, especially Poland.

Ruby wasn’t interested in Poland. It was too far away and anyway, she had something else on her mind, something more important to her than a war that might never happen. Still, at least it kept them from noticing that she had dressed up prior to slipping out.

While they were engaged, she skipped up the stairs for one last look in her dressing table mirror. She applied a little more lipstick before patting her glossy brown hair, swinging it this way and that, loving the way it fell forward on to her left cheek. Strangers assumed her hairstyle merely aped some of the Hollywood vamps they’d seen at the movies, their silky hair half hiding their sexy smiles. Ruby let them think that. The truth was it hid a small mole on her left cheek. She hated that mole; she wanted it hidden.

‘Ruby, you look a picture,’ she murmured to her reflection, admiring the blue and rose-red dress she was wearing. This was her favourite dress and although it made sense to keep it for special occasions, she’d decided today
was
special, though only for her, not for anybody else – except for Gareth Stead.

Last night she had helped out behind the bar of the Apple Tree pub as she always did when it was busy. They’d exchanged lots of smiles and adoring looks, Gareth sometimes winking at her when he thought nobody else was looking, his hands brushing her hips when he passed behind her, supposedly to change a barrel or fetch a crate of brown ale.

She hadn’t minded him touching her so intimately because he was always whispering how lovely she was, how he couldn’t do without her, how he hoped she would be here forever. His kisses between the time when he shut the pub and she was expected home had been frantic and stolen. So had the touch of his hands upon her breasts and her bottom, furtive at first but becoming bolder when she’d raised no objection.

Nobody else had seen. Nobody else knew. Or so she thought, but the night before last, Mary had popped in just before closing time. Charlie had been with her, not that he’d noticed much, straightaway taking his pint and joining his friends in a game of darts. Although Ruby helped out in her father’s bakery, there weren’t enough hours to give her a living wage. Serving behind the bar helped bridge the gap, though her father had insisted that her brother and sister accompany her home. That way there were no wagging tongues and no chance of Gareth Stead getting his wicked way – or so her father thought.

Mary had stayed by the bar sipping at a port and lemon. She had often offered to help Ruby clear up, but her sister had always declined citing that it was her job and she would do it. The moment they left the pub she had commented pointedly that Gareth Stead should learn to keep his hands to himself.

‘I couldn’t help noticing,’ she said in that disapproving manner she sometimes had. ‘I know you’re sweet on him, but do you think you should be letting him take such liberties?’

‘We’re engaged,’ Ruby had replied hotly.

‘Says who? Him in there?’

Ruby bridled at her sister’s tone. Mary had a cynical streak in her that was completely absent from Ruby’s nature. As twins, they were alike in looks and some character traits, both were strong-willed and stood up for what they wanted, but in other ways they were as different as it was possible to be.

Ruby was convinced that Gareth Stead was in love with her and that meant marriage. He’d told her he never wanted her to leave. She felt obliged to convince her sister of his interest.

‘Are you trying to tell me that he’s in love with you?’ Mary had demanded.

‘I think so.’

Mary had persisted. ‘You mean he’s told you so?’

‘Not in so many words, Mary—’

‘Not in any words!’ Mary snapped. ‘Ruby, stop being such a goose. You know what he wants and it isn’t marriage. Gareth Stead is the sort who wants his cream cake now and once eaten he’ll be fancying a slice of bread pudding. When he’s tired of you, he’ll move on to pastures new.’

Ruby congratulated herself that she’d chosen to ignore her advice. She knew better. Gareth loved her, and last night before she’d left, he’d told her to come to the pub at eleven o’clock this morning. ‘Not before. There’s something boiling between us, Ruby my love. We can’t ignore it any longer.’

Her blue eyes sparkled at the thought of this meeting. The ‘something boiling’ was their passion for each other. And he was right. They couldn’t ignore it any longer.

All night she’d tossed and turned, pondering what he’d really meant by that, and then it came to her in a flash.

‘He’s going to ask me to marry him,’ she exclaimed. After that she turned over and fell asleep.

This morning the thought had come to her anew.

‘He’s going to propose,’ she whispered breathlessly to herself, resting a white-gloved hand over her fluttering stomach. ‘That’s what he’s going to do.’ He’d hinted as much at the harvest dance last Saturday evening after he’d apologised for asking her twin sister Mary to dance in the belief that he was asking her, Ruby.

‘Once I was close up to her, I knew it wasn’t you. We’re made for each other, you and me.’

Mary would have none of it. ‘He propositioned me, Ruby. He’s that sort.’

‘I don’t know what you mean!’

Mary had given her that piercing look she sometimes had, as though she was years older than her twin sister and not just a few minutes.

‘He’s not a one-woman man. He likes to think he can have any girl he wants and plenty of them.’

‘He wants me to stay with him forever! He told me he did.’

‘Did he? Are you absolutely sure?’

‘Yes. He did.’

Mary had shaken her head dolefully. ‘Ruby, I just don’t see what you see in him. He’s been married once already …’

‘His wife died.’

‘That’s what he says. I’ve heard—’

‘She died!’ Ruby had repeated, barely resisting the urge to cover her ears with her hands. Gareth Stead was thirty-five years old, sixteen years older than she was and far more interesting than the young men closer to her own age in the village. Gareth was almost as old as her father, but her father still treated her as a child. Despite comments from her sister and friends that the landlord of the Apple Tree was too smooth and too confident for his own good, she ignored it all. Gareth made her feel special and she was convinced he felt the same way about her. He’d once said that if she truly loved him she wouldn’t protest when his fingers caressed the bare skin between the tops of her stockings and the legs of her knickers.

She didn’t even protest when he made overtures to her sister or to other local women. They all said he was a saucy so and so, and he’d assured her there was nothing in any of the rumours she might have heard that he was a Jack the Lad, a man who’d had more women than hot dinners.

‘Sweetheart, it’s jealousy. That’s all it is. Just jealousy.’

So she ignored the fact that some of those women blushed and lowered their eyes, as though afraid their sparkle might betray the absolute truth. She also ignored the warnings from her sister and her brother, Charlie.

Charlie was three years older than the twins and worked alongside his father in the family bakery.

‘Be warned. He’s a man that won’t be tamed,’ Charlie had said to her.

Ruby’s smile and the gleam in her eyes had lit up her face. ‘Nonsense, our Charlie. It’s just a case of him finding the right woman.’

Like her twin, Charlie had shook his head and only smiled. He had a passionate nature just like his sisters, though he couldn’t get serious about village girls. He flirted and got to know one or two on an intimate level, but he wasn’t serious about anyone and certainly not Miriam Powell who ran the grocery shop with her mother and blushed profusely whenever Charlie was in range.

BOOK: Wartime Sweethearts
3.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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