Such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl, published for kindle by HQ Digital on 7th August, and available from Amazon in the UK and US. And those of you who read in paperback don’t have too long to wait – it’ll be available from 17th October, and is available for pre-order. My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to HQ for my advance reading e-copy, provided through netgalley.
When I reviewed The Forgotten Secret back in March – you’ll find my review here – I remembered how very much I enjoyed Kathleen’s writing, and I was rather delighted to find that I didn’t have too long to wait for her next…
As the last train leaves, will life ever be the same?
Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance. Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for her.
But soon the railway is forced to close and a terrible accident occurs within the station grounds, Ted finds his job and any hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…
Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset to stay with her dad, Ken. When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that changed his life forever.
But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in the past.
Kathleen McGurl is a quite wonderful story-teller – and I think this might be her best book yet. There’s a strong contemporary story, but I will admit I did struggle a teeny bit at the beginning. Tilly isn’t particularly likeable, and I found her less than sympathetic – we all have tough times, but she really does behave like a spoilt teenager. But I really loved her father, supporting her throughout, grieving gently for his wife three years on, finding a reason to go on through his involvement in the restoration of the local railway.
The story does develop beautifully – and it wasn’t too long until Tilly entirely won me over. You’ll see things hinge on the finding of a diary – and I really liked the way it played a key (and rather shocking) part in uncovering the truth and helping both the contemporary and historical stories reach resolution.
And then there’s the historical story – 1935 Dorset quite magically recreated, a world that’s now largely disappeared. The research that went into the railway setting and its exceptional detail must have been immense – I see it was based on the work and history of Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Association, but relocated to a beautiful and vividly described Dorset between the wars – and it really brings the setting to life.
Ted won my heart from his first appearance – such a lovely man, stationmaster at Lynford taking pride in his home and job, enjoying the day-to-day routine, friendless other than his visiting sister and her children, and lacking in confidence. He falls head over heels in love with Annie who catches the same trains daily to her job in the bank. It’s a wonderful love story, from those tentative first conversations after he finds out her name, his tender care in repairing the sleeve of her red coat, through making cups of tea and making iced buns for her tea.
Love blossoms, but there are major obstacles – the whole story made me ache, and I always had a really uncomfortable feeling that things might not turn out quite as I wanted them to. The author has a really perfect touch with the conventions and expectations of the time, but equally so with the emotional content: the story as it unfolded absolutely broke my heart.
The whole book, both threads moving together, builds to a dramatic and unexpected climax: all the issues, past and present and the grey areas in between, are clarified and resolved – with a few real surprises – and it’s quite superbly done.
If you like to escape into the books you read, this might just be the one for you – after the halfway point, I didn’t emerge for breath until I’d tearfully finished the last page. Wonderful stuff – and highly recommended.
About the author
Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband and elderly tabby cat. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.