Michelle Rawlins, a Sheffield-based journalist and author, published Christmas Hope for the Steel Girls, the second book in her Steel Girls trilogy, earlier this month.
The novel, a direct sequel to the first installment, The Steel Girls, follows Sheffield women, Nancy and Betty as they face their first Christmas without their husbands, who are away at war. Patty is excited to be with her partner Archie with her over the festive season, but worries that he is hiding a secret.
As a freezing winter draws in and rationing is introduced, the women must rally together to keep up each other’s spirits and make the first Christmas of the Second World War a festive one.
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Michelle said: “The book is fictional but it’s steeped in fact. I had written Women of Steel (a non-fictional account published in 2020) and I wasn’t ready to give them up. I had invested a lot of time into researching and interviewing these women.
“My style of writing is always very factual. I have been writing for women’s magazines like Take A Break and I think that is actually perfect training for writing this style of book.
“The characters carry on but there are different events - it is the women’s first Christmas without their loved ones. It looks at rationing being introduced and the impact on women of the worry of being able to feed a family. There are a lot more factories and they are bigger. There is that realisation that the war wasn’t going away.”
During the early days of the Second World War, many soldiers expected to be home by Christmas, and few believed that the war would last for six years.
Michelle added: “When I started my research the whole point was to tell these stories. It had to be authoritative and representative and I wanted to make sure it did the women justice.”
Michelle revealed that the last book in the series, The Steel Girls on the Home Front, set for release next year, will feature the reaction to Dunkirk.
Christmas Hope for the Steel Girls can be purchased from Amazon as well as Sheffield’s Waterstones and The Book Vault in Barnsley.
For an exclusive extract, see this week’s Sheffield Telegraph.