Cover Image: The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club

The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club

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Member Reviews

Thank you so much to the publisher and to Netgalley for this unexpected ARC!

I really enjoyed this lovely novel. A story of England directly after WW1 when women have to give up the employment they had during the war for the returning soldiers. Our main character, Constance, is sweet but not saccharine, stalwart but not perfect. A young adult who has little prospects as a poor but genteel woman but who must have employment (hopefully as a bookkeeper as she was trained to be one) she is granted a seaside holiday at a hotel as a lady's companion before being forced on her own in the world.

Constance becomes friends with Poppy, a wealthier young woman who runs a local motorcycle club and ladies conveyance service. We meet Poppy's injured brother and flamboyant mother, her working class motorcycle friends, and a variety of other hotel guests and regulars who are all struggling in their own ways after the war. The author gently acknowledges the misogynist, classist and racist tones of the times.

I loved the author's writing style and enjoyed the occasional change in character point of view. Though never maudlin, the book does have a certain bittersweetness to it. I didn't want to put it down and was cheering for Constance to find her happy ending.

I did find the ending a little rushed and felt a little betrayed by one of the major characters. Four stars. Definitely recommend for historical fiction lovers.

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Such a fun story! It is a little bit historical fiction, a little bit love story, and a bit of family drama. The characters are perfect for this plot as they are basically really nice, good people or nasty, bigoted, and closed minded. I loved the setting of just after WWI when women were beginning to push for more fulfillment in their lives and men were aghast at the scandalous shorter dresses that dared bare the ankle and some ladies even wore pants—gasp! Nothing hard to understand here—just good entertainment reading.

Thanks to NetGalley and The Dial Press for the ARC to read and review.

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Quite a read! A perfect picture of the adventures of a retinue of female Tom Swifts with more than a touch of Lizzy and Darcy, all within the manners and mores of a Downton Abbey.

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I. Loved. This. Book. The writing is top-notch, with excellent flow that pulls you in and makes you feel like you're right there with the characters. She has some amazing, thought-provoking, pithy lines, and I highlighted way more passages than usual.

Back to the characters. They are richly drawn and real, each of them having their own personality that shines through in the dialogue. Some you love and some you love to hate. But you really root for the good people. Still, there's a lot of nuance, with one particular character that well-illustrates how most people are trying to be good and it's not always so simple. And there are so many sharp one-liners that kept me grinning.

While in some ways it's a typical plot about the new girl in town and young people finding themselves, the vehicle of a women's motorcycle club was fresh and vibrant. I kind of saw the end coming, but I was gripped, wanting to know how it would play out. She definitely took me further than I thought she would! While for some characters the ending seemed happily ever after, there was thought given to how that's not how things work out for everyone. I think for a feel-good book, which this is, the ending needs to end on a high note. But that doesn't preclude sensitivity to things not always working out the way you think they will.

She really brings out the idea of how post-war women had a hard time supporting themselves. It's a lot more than a feminist novel, but a concept not typically discussed; after the war, many women couldn't find men to marry but were also not allowed to work in many industries. And she turns to "feminist" rhetoric on its head; it doesn't always have to be love or self-fulfilment.

I couldn't put it down and was anxious to get to the end, but at the same time, I didn't want it to end and couldn't imagine separating from my new friends. Sometimes toward the end of a book I start to skim to get to the resolution, but I wanted to read every word. Every single word added to the beautiful tapestry of this creative and unusual story. I think I'm going to go back and reread some passages.
I hadn't read this author yet, but now I'm going to find all her other books.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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This is a charming story that takes place in the early 1900s in a small town of England. Just after WWI, the men were coming home – many needing rehabilitation and jobs. Everyone had to adjust with their new roles in life.

Constance was working for the summer at a seaside hotel as a companion to a lovely, elderly woman: Mrs. Fog. Her parents were no longer living and her brother and his wife now owned the family farm. She, however, had skills from correspondent courses in accounting but the jobs were given to the returning soldiers. Constance was stuck in a situation and wanted to find a bookkeeping job in London yet it wasn’t easy.

While walking around the hotel, she met Poppy who was starting a business of transporting people in motorcycle side cars. There was an instant friendship and Poppy invited her to dinner with her mother and brother who lived at the hotel. Her brother, Harris, was a pilot during the war and returned with a serious injury. He was missing his left leg from the knee down and many times feeling a lot of agony and frustration. He was one of my favorite characters with a lot of spark in his dialogue. It was Constance who encouraged him along.

The story is engaging, entertaining and full of surprises. The handful of characters made this a worthwhile read with their ongoing conversations about what it would be like with food shortages and hardships for employment. It touched on the realistic side of women wanting their independence and on the racial and class divisions. It’s well written and unforgettable showing the ups and downs in life.

My thanks to The Dial Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book with an expected release date of May 7, 2024.

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This story is about the expectations of women post- WWI. Should they just be ladies? Should they have jobs? What kinds of jobs are appropriate. Overall, I enjoyed the story, but it was dreadfully slow. I found myself skimming at times just to get to a part where something actually happens. This would be good for someone who enjoys a long, leisurely read.

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3 Charming Flying Stars

This charming historical fiction put a fun spin on the fringe of change following World War 1, with loveable characters and left inspired admiring the bravery of these young woman.

"But at the same time, should these times not teach us to seize life and live it now , while we can?"
"I've decided that a woman should always aim to be competent rather than be decorative"

Read this Story if you like:
* Historical Fiction
* Multiple POV's
* Hotel Seaside Settings
* Brave Woman
* Coming of Age
* Little bite of Romance

It's the summer of 1919 and Constance Haverhill is faced without a job and almost homeless and has only several weeks to get her life in order . Where upon she stumbles and meets a very brave and courageous and stubborn young woman named Poppy Wirrall , who is the owner of The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle Club soon to be Flying Club !

It's through this friendship we see something beautiful and magical happen making headways for woman during a time when the men came back from the war and woman were only to be seen and not heard .

The power these young woman form together is organic and poetic and their perseverance despite all the push back and trials and tribulations along the way.

What didn't work for me was the really long chapters and the repetitiveness throughout the book , often I felt myself nodding as I felt I was reading the same thing over and over again. However I do think there is an important message about a time that I don't know enough about and appreciate all the woman before me that has helped us find our way in this world !

Thank you Netgalley , Random House Publishing Group and Helen Simonson for this Digital ARC.

Respectfully Another Read by Angie

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The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club, by Helen Simonson

Thank you to Dial Press/Random House and NetGalley for an advance reader’s copy of this book.

This sparkling seaside story takes place just after the end of WWI, around the time of the Treaty of Versailles. In Britain a group of smart, talented young women see their competence become irrelevant once military men return. This is not a new story, but one told with humor and sympathy, varied and engaging characters, and some suspense and romance, for both the young and old.
There also is a dark undertow, focusing on the war injured, class and race prejudice, and the plight of naturalized German citizens, seen as enemies despite their blameless lives in Britain.
There are some rather odious stock characters among the upper class, but the heroine, Constance Haverhill, a farmer’s daughter brought up in the household of her mother’s aristocratic friend, remains a thoughtful, charming ballast, moving between all levels of society with compassion and common sense.
A very engaging and satisfying read!

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I loved The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club, by Helen Simonson! Set in post-WWI England, where the status quo of society is being overturned, you will find characters you love, and characters you love to hate. You will cheer for the women who are trying to make their way when they are turned out of jobs in favor of returning veterans. You'll hurt for returning veterans who are injured, scared both physically and mentally, and who are viewed as less than competent. You'll want to spank some of the "Ladies" who are snobs, but there are a few who are more egalitarian and want to help others. In a summer spent by the sea in Hazelbourne, lessons are learned and lives are changed.

In a time when our country seems to be more fragmented than ever, may we learn from the characters in this book that everyone is a human being and to be valued.

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Five stars for The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club!

After way too many recent DNFs, it was such a joy to start this novel and immediately be swept away. This one packs such a girl-power punch! I enjoyed the deeper dive into a slice of time I was aware of but completely unfamiliar with: the years immediately following WWI.

Much attention is given to the years of active combat, but you don’t find too much about the dragging efforts of recovery and rebuilding after everything is over. Women had been so empowered during the war, stepping up and filling all sorts of roles traditionally held by men….and then when the war is over, they were expected to quietly retreat back into what society viewed as their more subservient, traditional responsibilities.

The women in this novel were fighters - refusing to be pushed back into a box they no longer fit in. I found myself mentally cheering for Iris and Poppy and Tilly….but Constance (and Mrs. Fog!) stole my heart.

This one made me both tear up and laugh out loud. There were moments of high tension and high stakes, and everything doesn’t always end tied up in a pretty bow (which I think is more realistic anyway), but it’s ultimately so hopeful and uplifting. A perfect blend of heart and humor with weightier social and gender themes.

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“The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club” by Helen Simonson takes place after WW1 and speaks to how it reshaped the lives of the women who were left behind doing the jobs of the men at war. It tells the story of a women who lost her child & family because of the Spanish Flu pandemic, who takes a job as a governess/housekeeper since not much else is open to her because of the class system during that time. She is eventually introduced to the woman who runs a motorcycle taxi service and flies planes. The story becomes complex because of differences in economic and social standing of these women, and the love interest of a returning Vet who is suffering from PTSD. This book deals with the dark side of war and was for me was very long in the second half but with a heartwarming ending.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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During the Great War, women stepped in and worked many jobs while the men were off at war. Penny Wirral, a privileged young woman, was a dispatch rider, which made her fall in love with motorcycles. As men return from war and reclaim their jobs, Penny knows that there are many women who can’t just quit working. Her idea is to establish a motorcycle taxi company for the English seaside town where her family lives.

Constance Haverhill is on an extended holiday in a hotel at the same seaside town, working as a ladies’ companion. Constance has lot her job managing an estate now that the men have returned, and this is her last hurrah before finding permanent employment—which she hopes will not be as a domestic. She meets Poppy and is immediately fascinated by her club. She is taken under the wing of Poppy’s mother, who lives at the hotel, and introduced to Poppy’s brother Harris, a pilot who has lost a lower leg during his wartime service as a pilot. Harris wants to continue to be a pilot, but finds that nobody believes a wounded war veteran can pilot a plane.

Helen Simonson tackles many social issues in this novel, including civilians’ desire to avoid facing returning servicemen who have visible war injuries, hostility to women having any employment other than as domestics, racial and ethnic prejudice, and restrictions based on social class. Maybe “tackles” is too strong a word, though. Simonson describes many incidents of these issues, but until the very end of the book, descriptions are all we read.

For me, the first three quarters of the book are a bit of a slog. After the initial fun of Constance meeting up with the women of the motorcycle club, the story turns its focus largely on Constance’s experiences with the Wirrals, the lady to whom she is a paid companion, Mrs. Fog, Mrs. Fog’s insufferable snob of a mother, Lady Mercer, and others from the hotel and town. The motorcycle club fades far into the background. With this change in focus, the book starts to feel almost like a Harlequin romance. Only in the last quarter—or a bit less—does the plot tighten up and become more serious, particularly with regard to the consequences of the various social issues.

I loved Ms. Simonson’s first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and the characters in this book are appealing—except in the cases of the few love-to-hate characters. The plotting isn’t quite up to the same level.

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Years ago, I read Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by the same author and enjoyed it, so I decided to give this one a try. I liked the characters and the exploration of what happened to the women in England who had taken over the jobs of the men who were fighting in WWII and then told they had to give them up when the men returned. I didn't get as invested in the story as I wanted to be, but an enjoyable read overall.

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I knew that I wanted to read this novel as soon as I saw the beautiful cover and the name of the author. Many may recognize Helen Simonson from her book Mr. Pettigrew’s Last Stand. In that work and this, Simonson writes with her own distinctive sensibility.

The Hazelbourne story begins not long after WWI has ended. Readers may think that the armistice resolved everything; however, for many figuring out a life post-war was not always easy. In this novel, the author spends time with some of those folks.

Constance grew up somewhat beholden to the family of her mother’s best friend. There were class differences between them but a relationship endured. During the war, Constance managed the family’s estate. Once the war was over, her sense of purpose was taken away since the job was given back to a man.

Poppy is a happily unconventional young woman. She seems to live as she likes. A big part of this is her motorcycle business. Riding along in one of these vehicles when driven by a woman was not expected at the time.

Poppy’s brother served and lost a limb. All he wants to do is fly again but no one will look at him as capable as the story opens.

The lives of these characters come together at a seaside hotel when Poppy asks Constance for a favor. Poppy’s mother, brother and she have seemingly taken up long term residence there While Constance is visiting as a companion to an older woman.

In addition to these main characters, many others are in these pages. In this way, the author creates a broad canvas for her story.

Lots happens as readers get to know the characters in this novel of manners that unfolds at its own leisurely pace. Issues are covered that are reflective of the time period.

Readers will become attached to many in this story and will wait to see how things l turn out. They will enjoy every bit of this over 400 page book.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for this title. All opinions are my own.

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Thank you NetGalley and Helen Simpson for the arc of this great novel!This historical fiction novel was super fun and sweet! The authors writing was spectacular and kept the reader wanting more! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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“The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club” is by Helen Simonson. This is a post-WWI historical fiction book. What I really liked about this book was that it was post-WWI and post-Spanish Flu. Ms. Simonson tackles head on the fact that women who worked during the war “for the boys,” found themselves at loose ends when “the boys over there” returned home and were given back their jobs. While the war, in some respects, gave women opportunities they had never had before (Factory Worker vs Nanny; Delivery Girl vs Laundress) and to have those opportunities yanked away from them must have been tremendously difficult to take. My two complaints about this book are that there were a lot of characters, including a number who were minor characters at the hotel. The other thing was that this book moves incredibly slowly with minute descriptions of things that really didn’t matter to the story. I found myself skimming parts of this book a bit. I think the idea was a great one, but it didn’t always work.

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I was delighted to receive the ARC from Netgalley and the publisher. Its author, Helen Simonson, wrote Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, which remains high on my list of all-time favourite books.

The story takes place in England in 1919 following the end of WWI and the Spanish influenza pandemic, which resulted in many deaths. It examines women's plight after the men's return from the war. The women worked in jobs usually held by the absent men but were now being replaced by males. The class system was in place with its snobbery, prejudice, and ideas for what constituted conventional, proper conduct. Social restrictions were placed against women, disabled servicemen, people of mixed race, and members of the colonies due to their racial or ethnic origins.

This book was entertaining and informative. At 432 pages, I felt it could have been shorter. There were lengthy chapters with abundant descriptions, making it an uneven, slow-paced read. The characters were wonderfully written, memorable, and came alive on the page.

Constance Haverhill worked in wartime as a proficient estate bookkeeper. She was evicted from her cottage and profession at the war's end. With the death of their parents, her brother inherited the family farm and its lands. His wife unreasonably blamed Connie for the death of their child from influenza, and she no longer felt welcome. Her only prospects seemed to be a governess, housekeeper, and similar low-paying work or marriage with little hope of supporting herself. Her efforts to find work as a bookkeeper were met with failure.

It also follows the sad story of Klaus, a German who is now a naturalized British citizen. He works as a waiter but needs to keep a low profile due to his accent. He meets with scorn, public humiliation, and brutality.

Connie manages to find a position as a companion to an elderly family friend, Mrs. Fog, who is recovering from influenza, at a seaside resort. She learns that many years ago, Mrs. Fog hoped to marry a man of mixed race from Barbados. She was also good friends with his sister. Her father put an end to their romance. She is now visiting with him and his sister after having no contact for years.
This gives Connie the freedom to explore Hazlebourne-by-the-Sea. She learns the strict social restrictions women must follow. A woman cannot eat in the hotel dining room alone; she must take meals in her room. They need a chaperone for social events. She meets and is befriended by Poppy Wirall, a member of the social elite. Poppy is unconventional and outspoken. She is denied entrance to the dining room because she is alone and wearing trousers. The horror! Poppy runs a delivery service and taxi by motorcycle, employing women, and they are members of The Ladies Motorcycle Club. She has the intention of training the women to fly planes.

Poppy has a handsome brother, Harris, a pilot who lost a leg in the war. He is despondent as no one will employ him as a pilot, even giving him a chance to prove he is still capable. Applying for an office job or a shop job is futile because injured veterans are considered unsightly and may upset clients or other workers. He had been engaged, but the woman couldn't cope when he returned disabled and has made herself absent. With the encouragement of the Ladies Motorcycle Club members, Connie is finding projects that interest Harris and draw him out of his depression. Are they developing romantic feelings?

Mrs. Fog has a daughter who is very conventional, prim and proper, and highly critical of those who don't follow what she contends is appropriate behaviour. Her rudeness often falls on Connie. Perhaps she will be even more shocked by her own mother! Bigoted, inconsistent behaviour involves ignoring two former members of the Indian division whose many soldiers helped Britain in the war. They become much sought after and honoured once it is discovered one is a Maharaja. Class and racial divisions not only surface among the British. Connie has a cousin marrying an American, and his divisive statements make him very unpopular and obnoxious.

What will be the outcome for the Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club? The War Practices Act has been established, banning women from many professions. What will the future hold for Connie, Harris, Klaus, and other prominent characters? This compelling book is due to be published on May 7th, and I recommend it. This is an interesting examination of the morals, manners, customs, and conduct after WW1 and the influenza pandemic, with fascinating characters.

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Simonson writes the kind of thoughtful, cozy historical fiction I most enjoy—and this novel is no different. It has a cast of fleshed-out characters and a plot that is light on action but rich in detail. Would certainly recommend!

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A wonderful, comfortable story that made me want to settle in and forget the world. People I cared about, issues of the time that mattered, and an intriguing plot line. So much to like! It all took me back to what were not idyllic times, but it made me enjoy an idyll of reading. The pace lagged slightly at some points, but the characters drew me back in.

Publication May 7, 2024. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House | The Dial Press for an advance copy.

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A whimsical journey into post WWI England. The novel is historical fiction of the highest order,, a coming of age story, ,a tender romance, and a look at a nation on the brink of change. Delightful.
Many thanks to Random House and to Netgalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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