Friday Reads – The Secret Sister by Liz Trenow

A warm welcome to Liz Trenow, my guest author for this week’s Friday Reads. Liz is going to talk to us about her latest World War Two novel, The Secret Sister, which was published by Bookouture on 3rd April.

So grab yourself a cuppa, get comfy and let’s have a chat with Liz.😊


Lizzie tried to put herself into her brother’s shoes, imagining how she might feel facing those same dangers he’d witnessed. Scared as anything, she thought. But if that was what was needed to win the war, she’d do it. As she looked at herself in the mirror, wearing her brother’s coat, she knew in that moment what she must do to protect him.

England, 1944: As Lizzie looks around her twin brother’s room, she’s in a state of shock. In the middle of the night Ed vanished, leaving no forwarding address. Lizzie knows that he was tormented daily by what he witnessed at Dunkirk four years before, helping his father steer their tiny boat to rescue thousands of injured soldiers. He was never the same after that.

Then, Ed’s call-up letter arrives. Instead of being assigned to one of the forces, he’s been told to report for work at a coal mine – one of fifty thousand ‘Bevin boys’ chosen to help produce the fuel to power the nation through the war. If he fails to turn up he will be arrested and tried as a deserter. Staring at his abandoned clothes and knowing how alike they are, Lizzie realises there is a way to save him.

Arriving for training, she meets a fellow Bevin boy named Peter and is instantly drawn to his quiet, thoughtful nature, so unlike the other men who share her dormitory. And as the two start to adapt to their new lives underground, they develop a strong bond.

Lizzie knows the risks she is taking to save her brother. If she grows too close to Peter her secret will almost certainly be revealed, and they will both be imprisoned. But with the war raging and her beloved country at risk, how much is Lizzie prepared to sacrifice to save those she loves the most?

A completely gripping and heart-breaking story of love, courage and a sister’s sacrifice which shines a light on the forgotten heroes of World War Two. Perfect for fans of The Alice NetworkThe Nightingale and anything by Rhys Bowen.

The Secret Sister is available in print, ebook and audio versions. Buy here:

Welcome to my blog, Liz. Can you tell us what gave you the inspiration for this story?

Thanks, Karen, delighted to be here. My publisher offered a two book deal, for two Second World War books. The first was already written, and I’d already mined my family’s memories, diaries, history and letters, scoured the photo albums my granny had so carefully compiled but found nothing further that excited me.  I was all out of ideas!

As a former journalist I love finding stories no-one else has yet told. But the Second World War is such a popular subject that almost every aspect of it has been written about many times over. If I couldn’t produce a proposal for a second book there’d be no deal. I was starting to despair when my friend told me about the scars her late father bore, the dark seams of coal dust beneath the skin of his back from his from an accident in a coal mine.

‘A coal mine?’ I was shocked. ‘I thought he was a dentist.’

‘In the war,’ she said. ‘He was a Bevin Boy.’

The story of these so-called ‘forgotten conscripts’ is little known and barely recognised. By 1943 so many men had joined up to fight that a shortage of labour in the mines had caused a crisis: there was not enough the coal desperately needed to make steel for planes, tanks and other armaments.

When a plea for volunteers failed Ernest Bevin, the Minister for Labour, devised a scheme for compulsory conscription into the coal mines, insisting that they should be chosen by ballot to make it completely fair. On average, one in ten young men of call-up age were chosen from all regions of the UK, all backgrounds and all levels of education.

The work was poorly paid, hard and dangerous; accidents were common and near misses an almost daily event.  The fifty thousand ‘Bevin Boys’, as they came to be known, enjoyed none of the kudos or perceived glamour of fighting for their country. Worst of all was the stigma of not being in uniform; they endured taunts for being cowards and ‘conchies’, because some genuine conscientious objectors had actually volunteered to go down the mines.

Until as late as 2004 they were not invited to march in Remembrance Sunday parades and it was not until 2007 they received a ‘Veteran’s Badge’ medal , fifty years late. Five years after that the Bevin Boys memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire was unveiled. 

There’s a twist to my story, though: my Bevin ‘Boy’ is actually a girl! You’ll have to read it to find out why – and what happens to her.

The Secret Sister is available in print, ebook and audio versions. Buy here:

Meet Liz

Biog:  Liz Trenow is a former journalist who spent fifteen years working for regional and national newspapers and BBC radio and television news before turning to writing historical fiction. The Secret Sister (published by Bookouture 3rd April) is her tenth novel. Previous titles have reached the USA Today and NY Times best seller lists, and been nominated for national awards. They are published all over the world, translated into many languages.

Social Media: Find out more at or join her on Facebook or Twitter @liztrenow.

Lovely to talk to you today, Liz. Your book sounds fascinating! I wish you lots of luck with your writing.

Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
Amazon Author Page:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s