Mrs. Porter Calling, by A.J. Pearce

This third installment of the Emmy Lake Chronicles is a delightful choice for the long evenings and short, cloudy days of winter.

It’s 1943 London, and Emmy’s new husband is away fighting fascists offstage. The Blitz, fore-fronted in Dear Mrs. Bird, is now in the background. But enough bombings are still taking place to precipitate a tragedy among Emmy’s closest comrades. In its aftermath, Emmy, her neighbors, and we as readers wrestle with the fallout of war.

But as usual, Woman’s Friend has other causes to rally round as well. This time the staff must save save their beloved publication from the devastating “improvements” designed by its new owner, Mrs. Porter.

Perhaps the questions raised here have prodded author Pearce as well: What does it means to serve the readers? How important is a polished veneer and high-profile image? What if frills and furbelows prove to be at odds with readers’ down-to-earth realities and messy lives?

In book two of the series, Yours Cheerfully, Emmie’s circle of friends took up the cause of women factory workers. It would have been nice to see some of those characters resurface here, but perhaps Pearce is holding them in reserve for the next book. Mrs. Porter Calling constitutes another endearing foray into the vexed but compelling era of WWII Britain.

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