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The Orphan Thief

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When all seems lost…

As Hitler’s bombs rain down on a battered and beleaguered Britain, Ruby Shadwell is dealt the most devastating blow – her entire family lost during the Coventry Blitz. 

Hope still survives…

Alone and with the city in chaos, Ruby is determined to survive this war and rebuild her life.  And a chance encounter with street urchin Tommy gives Ruby just the chance she needs… 

And love will overcome.

Because Tommy brings with him Canadian Sergeant Jean-Paul Clayton.  Jean-Paul is drawn to Ruby and wants to help her, but Ruby cannot bear another loss. 
Can love bloom amidst the ruins?  Or will the war take Ruby’s last chance at happiness too?

384 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 23, 2020

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About the author

Glynis Peters

6 books277 followers
I write historical novels set in WWII Britain, and live by the sea in Essex.

One More Chapter / HarperCollins


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5 stars
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794 (26%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 272 reviews
February 28, 2020
The era of this story is fascinating, set throughout the Second World War, and starting when Coventry was bombed by the German Luftwaffe in 1939. The only survivor of the Shadwell family is sixteen-year-old Ruby who starts to rebuild her life amongst the rubble and war-ravaged lives. The rubble is her salvation as she collects and restores items damaged during the bombing raids. Ruby acquires a business licence to resell the items and so begins a journey of interactions with various friendly and deceitful characters.

Fred, Helen, Beatty, Tommy and John all contribute to the sense of lives deeply affected by the war and the devastation of cities like Coventry. From the surrogate grandfather Fred, to the street urchin Tommy, the extent of issues facing survivors is addressed with diverse scope and interest. The community spirit can be seen at times of catastrophic events, but there will always be some who try to take advantage of vulnerable survivors.

The story will probably be categorised as a romance novel but because of the wider character threads and historical content, I think this is quite limiting. The balance generally worked for me but I can imagine the romance readers will want more of a love story and the general fiction readers will want more observational drama with the various characters. The romance thread is sparked when Ruby meets Canadian soldier and photographer Jean-Paul (John) Clayton when he stops by her shop to ask directions.

The storyline around Tommy is probably the most engrossing as we see a range of situations and characters that provide a spectrum of light and dark machinations. He is an intriguing character and we see how the surroundings and adult interactions can influence the direction of a young orphan boy.

The Orphan Thief is an easy read with an engaging story, although at times it felt mechanical and predictable. At the beginning of the book with the bombing of Coventry and the loss of Ruby’s family, I felt it lacked emotional impact. The canvas was there for high emotion, psychological turmoil and a challenging period in world history but it didn’t quite deliver for me. The last quarter of the book followed a more typical romance narrative, where the other characters played a supporting role, which I believe Glynis Peters is very adept at writing.

I would rate this book 3.5 stars and recommend it to readers that enjoy a splash of historical fiction, romance and an easy read with a good assortment of characters. Many thanks to One More Chapter and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the book in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Louise Wilson.
2,754 reviews1,617 followers
November 22, 2019
Set in Coventry, England during World War II. Ruby was just sixteen years old when the Germans bombed her neighbourhood and killed her family. She is forced to break into other peoples homes to find herself something to eat. She spends her days picking up items left after homes and businesses had been bombed. She also meets and makes new friends, they are all survivors. John is a Canadian photographer who Ruby develops feelings for. Ruby sells the items she finds from a shop. But then the shop is also bombed. What will Ruby do now?

This story deals with the obstacles that challenged many people during the Second World War. How people had to persevere in every day challenges for survival. I really ,liked the main characters: Ruby, Fred, Tommy and John, who all seemed realistic. Tommy is only six hears old but he does whatever is necessary to survive. This is a sad story at times ut there is so much love as well. Ruby had to grow up quickly and learn how to e resourceful at the same time. I lived this book.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Harper Impulse and Killer Reads and the author Glynis Peters for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Janet Newport.
471 reviews86 followers
November 24, 2019
Thank you NetGalley and Harper Impulse & Killer Reads for this arc.

Set early during WWII in Coventry, England this is a story focusing primarily on Ruby. She's sixteen years old when her family home including her family are totally bombed out while she's away from home running an errand for her mother. Same story with her Grandmother and Grandmother's house. So she scrapes up a new family and manages to find another home (coincidentally one owned by her father, but occupied by her father's friend, who managed to die of a heart attack during the bombings, thus leaving the property in a stable condition). There were a few too many coincidences/contrivances for me to really immerse myself in this read. I had a tough time connecting to the various characters as they variously felt more like plot contrivances than real people to me.

This was not an unpleasant read, more of a Hallmark movie meets WWII mash-up, but just too saccharine for my tastes and not enough WWII.

2.25 stars
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
386 reviews327 followers
November 30, 2019
Historical World War 2 Fiction, the hardship of the blitz and a blossoming love story – that’s what drew me to this book.

Author Glynis Peters is a historical romance author and has previously been shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award (UK) in 2014. This story follows the life of teenager Ruby following the loss of her family and home after being battered during WWII by the Luftwaffe in Coventry, England. Young Ruby needs to pick up her life amongst the heartbreak and devastation. Needless to say she needs to show resilience and resourcefulness in abundance to do this. Perhaps the most interesting character is a young streetwise Cockney lad called Tommy, who comes into and out of her life throughout the book. His character has an interesting story to tell, he proves to be pivotal. There’s also a sprinkling of various good hearted, resilient characters, and the odd villain thrown in for good measure.

This blend of characters in such a catastrophic back-drop should have produced a riveting narrative. Instead, I found the story to be a little too predictable, the dialogue too superficial, and the plot thin. I wasn’t really invested in these characters, and found myself not really concerned about their welfare, which for me, is a tragedy, as they were in such a precarious, sad, dramatic and interesting place at that time.

I’m not adverse to a good romance novel, and my reading list proves that, but this was my first real encounter of a syrupy sweet love story – and I’m afraid this lost me. Having said that, Ms Peters has sold plenty of books and is pretty popular. Her previous book, The Secret Orphan (also based in Coventry) sold plenty. So for those who delight in this type of romantic fare, this is the book for you.

This book wasn’t for me.

2/5 stars.

I would like to thank NetGalley and HarperCollins UK for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

Profile Image for Deanne Patterson.
1,829 reviews87 followers
July 9, 2020
It's fascinating to travel through yesteryear through books.
This one too me through Britain as a 16 year old girl fights for survival after her whole family is killed by bombs during ww11.

Published November 28th 2019 by One More Chapter
I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you.
All opinions expressed are my own.

Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,772 reviews133 followers
April 8, 2022

I enjoyed this book. It was another one of my historical fiction favorites.

The writer did a fantastic job of making the historical portion of the genre very accurate and touching.

I loved it for its honesty even though it was a little bit slow in the middle
Profile Image for Raven.
3,384 reviews53 followers
November 30, 2019
To be honest I found the plot thin and the characters were undeveloped. The style of dialogue did not match the times that the book was set in at all. Very disappointing.
Profile Image for Sandy Sullivan.
99 reviews
March 8, 2020
Although this book dealt with World War II Europe, which I normally really enjoying reading about, this book just didn’t hold my interest. There were way too many coincidences that were not exactly believable. Someone else suggested that it was like a Hallmark movie and I agree. The book was definitely an easy read, but way too predictable for my taste.
Profile Image for Stina.
1,101 reviews1 follower
January 13, 2020
★★★★ 4.5 stars

Glynis Peters is a new author to me and despite my ever-growing TBR list, I decided to take a chance on her because I'm a sucker for historical fiction. And I wasn't disappointed. THE ORPHAN THIEF was a delight to read from start to finish.

Set in Coventry between Christmas 1938 and May 1945, THE ORPHAN THIEF begins during the Blitz - a terrifying time for England when the Germans attacked large populated cities with constant air raids day and night. Coventry did not escape unscathed. And when 16 year old Ruby Shadwell returns to the crater where once her home had stood, she knew without a doubt that she had lost her entire family in one fell swoop. Even her grandmother who lived on another street was found amidst the rubble that had once been her home.

Shocked and devastated, Ruby was surprised to find someone she knew had escaped the German's wrath. Fred, who lived across the street from her gran, stood shell shocked in the midst of the rubble surrounding him until a medic lead him away to an awaiting ambulance. Fred's house still partially stood so Ruby made her way through the remnants and put aside some mementos for Fred to keep. But as she had nowhere to stay and she was essentially underage, Ruby made herself something to eat and a bed for the night in the corner of Fred's kitchen. It wasn't until she heard voices outside the next day, she was certain the enemy were coming back to finish the job, so she grabbed Fred's mementos and hurried away without being seen.

When Ruby found herself on the street of her father's accountant, she decided to go to him for help, knowing Stephen would be more than happy to oblige. However, when she got there she discovered Stephen slumped over his desk. He had been dead some time, possibly his heart gave out. Upon writing to Stephen's sister to inform her of his death, Ruby received the news that his sister had passed a couple of years before. However, the sister's husband wrote a letter stating permission for Ruby to stay at the flat whilst clearing out Stephen's office and belongings, selling everything to pay off any debts and to keep anything left for her trouble. Ruby had no idea who Stephen's landlord was and had no way of contacting him to pay any rent that may have been in arrears.

After sorting through his paperwork into piles and matters of importance, and with some help from her friend Helen, she was shocked to discover that her father had in fact been Stephen's landlord - which explained why no one was around to collect the rent - and that as his only surviving relative, she inherited the property. Not only that, but Helen discovered that Ruby's father had a tidy sum stashed away in a bank account of which would no pass to Ruby...although she had to get her papers in order first since they would have all been destroyed in the bombing.

It was sifting through the rubble and remnants that gave Ruby an idea...which she shared with Helen. To find items that could be salvaged or repaired from the rubble, tag them and either return them to their owners or, if there was no one, sell them. Ruby decided she wanted to open a shop to keep the Shadwell name going from her family's grocery store.

Before long, Ruby was reunited with Fred who, with no real home to return to, moved in with Ruby and became an honourary grandfather to her. Along the way, we meet Beatty whose home was also destroyed, and Fred and Ruby welcome her into their home also. And once again, Ruby feels like she has a family surrounding her.

Then she meets street waif Tommy, who couldn't be more than 6 years old. Ruby suspects he is up to no good but she can't resist his boyish charms and his strange cockney accent. And in a way, she reminds him of her little brother, so she decides to take him under her wing. So when Tommy brings her pieces of jewellery he claims belongs to his auntie who needs money for them to pay the rent, Ruby is suspicious but couldn't see the boy out on the street with no food and takes the items in return for £2.

As time goes on, and Tommy keeps bringing more and more items to her to sell, Ruby begins to wonder about his family. The pieces were exquisite and obviously worth a lot of money so Tommy's family must have come from a wealthy background and fallen on hard times. But whenever she asked to meet his mother, Tommy would either deflect her questions or get angry and storm away.

Throughout the time from when she was rendered homeless to owning and operating Shadwell's Buy and Sell, Ruby meets Canadian Jean-Paul Clayton, a photographer who captures the war through his camera lens for the Canadian RAF. More than once, he has caught Ruby in her private moments of grief for which she is enraged with him. And although THE ORPHAN THIEF is not a romance, Ruby finds herself falling in love with Jean-Paul who is known to her as John, the English derivative of his name. But when John goes missing, Ruby fights to keep herself going with the love of her new family around her.

As Ruby's story unfolds, you see her grow from girl into a young woman - a woman wise before her time. But with Ruby's is also Tommy's story and his life as an orphan thief. Their stories will make you laugh and make you cry.

A moving story with characters so heartwarmingly real, THE ORPHAN THIEF is a different type of tale in the WW2 genre. Whilst it described the terrifying events during wartime England and the horrific conditions the survivors endured, it also portrayed hope where there is none and the strength and endurance of the human spirit.

THE ORPHAN THIEF is engaging from the first page that you won't want to put it down as you feel every emotion as if you were there living the moment alongside Ruby, Fred, Beatty and Tommy.

The only thing keeping THE ORPHAN THIEF from a 5 star rating was the ending. There was a bittersweet end which I won't spoil but I thought could have happened if events had taken place in the correct order. Whilst many women did find themselves unmarried and pregnant, they generally married soon after. And didn't go on to have another two children before walking up the aisle two years later. Ruby had plenty of opportunity to marry in those subsequent two years and didn't so that lacked believability for me. It was a different time and while it is acceptable practice now it certainly wasn't then. So I am dropping half a star because of that...and the bittersweet ending that could have been much happier done the right way around. I'll say no more, but those who have read it will know what I mean.

Compelling, emotional and bittersweet, THE ORPHAN THIEF is definitely worth reading. You will fall in love with everyone (except Earl) and want to take them all home to tuck up safely forever. And despite never having read Glynis Peters before, I would definitely look out for her again. It was a pleasant surprise.

I would like to thank #GlynisPeters, #NetGalley and #HarperImpulse and #KillerReads for an ARC of #TheOrphanThief in exchange for an honest review.

This review appears on my blog at https://stinathebookaholic.blogspot.com/.
Profile Image for Kirsty.
22 reviews
January 3, 2022
Ngl the storyline went a bit slow for me, but it was an easy read which made it enjoyable

But other than that I loved it a lot, Tommy’s backstory was sad but needed in understanding the character’s personality

And the romance in this was so cute and adorable :)
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,243 reviews121 followers
November 20, 2019
It’s WW2 in Coventry. Hitler’s bombs are raining down on the city. 16 year old Ruby Shadwell comes home not only finds her home gone but, also her family too and a crater in the ground left in its place. With the shock of what happened she goes to her Grandmothers house only to find she also has had the same fate. Ruby still grieving but is determined to get on with her life and build a future for herself. Along the way she meets Fred, Beatty and little Tommy, her own little family. She builds a business of buying and selling things until the shop is bombed and she does her own bit for the war with several of the other survivors of the war they knit things for the troops.
One day while searching for things through the debris she meets a Canadian soldier photographer John Clayton they become friends and later sparks fly. But this is not a romance novel more about how people coped in the war in Coventry.
I thank you NetGalley and Harper Impulse for a copy of this book. I have read many historical novels like this one. But this is slightly different than others I have read. For a start it’s set in Coventry. It’s about courage, growing up and having the determination to get a better life in the times of the war. I really enjoyed this, and I will be looking out for more books from this author in the future. 4 stars from me.
90 reviews1 follower
July 16, 2020
I enjoy historical fiction but this book was a big disappointment to me. I found the storyline unbelievable especially in the beginning when she loses her entire family and moves on so quickly to rebuild her life and start a business. It just didn’t ring true to me. Where was the grief? At times I wondered if I wanted to finish reading it or not. Plot was very thin indeed.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
1,129 reviews55 followers
October 14, 2019
I cannot express how much i enjoyed reading 'The Orphan Thief'. This must easily be one of my favourite reads this year! Loved the main characters, especially Ruby. It did bring back memories of stories told by my late parents who were slightly younger than Ruby when the bombs rained down. So true to life! Glynis Peters is an author whose books i shall be watching out for. A well deserving five stars from me. Highly recommended.

My thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for my copy. This is my honest review, which i have voluntarily given.
Profile Image for Megan Byrd.
102 reviews2 followers
February 6, 2020
Was very confused the whole time as to why it was named the orphan thief. But it was a good story
Profile Image for Karen Smolders.
18 reviews
June 25, 2020
This was one if the most poorly written books I've read in a long time. If it weren't for the fact that I bought it new (I had high expectations) I wouldn't have finished it.
Profile Image for Sandy  McKenna.
674 reviews16 followers
October 13, 2020
A very emotional and moving story.

Set in Coventry during World War II, this very poignant story tells of the devastation, loss and suffering caused by the constant bombings of this city.
At the age of sixteen, Ruby loses everything, but is determined to survive on her own; however, she soon meets up with some people who will change her life.
A thoroughly enjoyable read which I can't recommend highly enough.
Profile Image for Amber ☁️ (bookswithamb).
28 reviews16 followers
November 22, 2019
The Orphan Thief is a heart wrenching tale set in World War Two Coventry during the blitz, focusing particularly on the effects of the attack on 14th/15th of November, 1940.
It follows a young girl who loses her whole family in the attacks, and it is a story of how she rebuilt her life in the wake of such devastation. It is a tale of found family, inter-generational friendships, and first loves.

The main character Ruby is fiercely independent, despite only being 16 at the beginning of the book. She remains positive and selfless in her darkest hours, and sets out to help rebuild the community she grew up in.
I really enjoyed reading about the friendships that develop between her and some of the elderly residents of the city, particularly the one between her and a man named Fred.
I also think the love interest was well done, and I enjoyed watching the romance blossom.

One criticism I have with it is that at times I found the dialogue to be a little bit unbelievable and that sometimes brought me out of the story slightly.

However, the easy-to-follow writing style made for a very quick read. This is a lovely tale, and if you are already a fan of historical fiction, you may think about picking this one up.

A huge thank you to Netgalley and One More Chapter for sending me the E-arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jeanie.
2,851 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2020
The War brought us all together.

Ruby is suddenly an orphan when her families home is destroyed by a bomb in England. As a young girl of 15, she slowly picks up the pieces of her life along with a family friend. Together Fred a father figure and Ruby meet others including Tommy a little boy that captures their heart. Tommy seems to be lost in this war and under the care of an uncle that poorly mistreats him. Ruby is encouraged to set up a store of recovered items that Fred fixes and she shelves in hopes of getting the items to their rightful owners or selling them. The war brings much uncertainty but Ruby finds certainty in her friendship with a Canadian Photographer. Their relationship develops as they try to build hope of the future.

The handful of people in Ruby's life brings clarity and Tommy the orphan thief.

I struggled with reading this as it was hard to believe and by that, I just could not have empathy for the characters in their struggles. Towards the end and the relationships begin to be more bonded, the story became more captivating. My struggle was more of character development than the story.

A Special Thank you to Harper Impluse and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review.
Profile Image for Heather.
134 reviews3 followers
July 26, 2020
I wish there were half stars, I’d give this a 2.5.
This is pretty light reading, I think someone else compared it to a hallmark movie and I totally agree. You know in the end everything will work out, there will be a bad guy and a moment where it appears all hope is lost but then it turns around.
This would be a perfect book for an autumn weekend, a pot of tea and a comfy chair.

Title of this book could have been better, has very little to do with the story especially when there are so many orphans in the story! Family of Orphans or Collection of Orphans would make more sense (yes eventually there is mention why/who the title is).
Profile Image for Gina.
257 reviews
May 15, 2020
This book certainly stays in the shallow end of the pool. The depth of emotion portrayed for a war-time story with themes of loss, grief, trauma and resilience was seriously lacking. I did not find any of the characters to have been described robustly enough to identify with them, or advocate for the protagonist's cause. The antagonist character and situation seems unrealistic. Not sure what kept me going until the end of such a flat story.
52 reviews
January 27, 2021
I struggled to finish this book - the lack of depth made it challenging for me to engage with this story. The writing didn't convey the grief, trauma, and tragedy of WWII. The characters weren't particularly compelling or even interesting - the main villain seemed like a caricature and the explanation of the title was buried in the backstory of a secondary character. This author's style is not for me.
166 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2020
This book did not do it for me. The premise of the story was good - a girl orphaned at 16 after the bombings in Coventry and her strength to survive and find a life for herself therafter - but if found it a boring read and skimmed many pages to get to the end.
Profile Image for Lucy Martinez.
183 reviews2 followers
February 17, 2020
Did not capture my imagination.

I struggled to complete this novel about a 16-year old who loses her whole family in the bombardment of Coventry and how she survives the war.
19 reviews
February 22, 2020
I was not a fan I thought the writing was almost like an old fashion ladies home journal article or Grace Livingston Hill
Profile Image for Norah Gibbons.
834 reviews8 followers
November 20, 2019
I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. The Orphan Thief by Glynis Peters is a story that takes place during World War II when Coventry, England was under siege from the Blitz. Sixteen year old Ruby Shadwell lost her entire family when a bomb hit the house they were living in. All alone in the world Ruby creates a family of her own with others who have been displaced by the bombing. Fred Lester her Gran’s neighbour becomes her honorary Grandfather, Beatty Price who’d lost her husband and home comes to live with them, Tommy Jenkins an orphan who’d been tricked by a Fagin like criminal and young Canadian soldier Jean-Paul Clayton. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking Ruby’s story is one that will inspire you with her grit and determination during a time of great difficulty and loss. Publishing Date November 28, 2019. #NetGalley #TheOrphanThief #GlynisPeters #HarperCollinsPublishers #HarperCollinsCanada #bookstagram #historicalfiction #harperimpulseandkillerreads #onemorechapter
Profile Image for Booklover BEV.
1,302 reviews9 followers
December 15, 2019
Another winner

As we join Ruby Shadwell story once again, it's Coventry 1940 and sirens are going off, enemy bombs were destroying the city, Ruby is rushing back to the shop Shadwell Groceries in eagle street after running an errand for her mother. Getting close to Christmas she finds the shop and her home flattened and her family all dead. In deep shock she flees to her grans in Kirby Road that has also been hit and fears at such a young age she will be put into an orphanage. This book is about a girl all alone fighting for survival, it pulled at my heartstrings, for such a young girl to have to cope with during wartime, Ruby is such a strong wild spirit girl, this means she has to grow up fast. The orphan thief has many characters along the story, but Tommy I took to my heart as my favourite, a character that hold many secrets in his tragic young life. I loved this book written from the heart by the author, superb from the beginning to a beautiful ending.
Profile Image for Jena Henry.
Author 3 books328 followers
November 30, 2019
When you read the first chapter of this book, you feel as if you are reading a dystopian sci-fi fantasy. A sixteen girl lives in a ruined, grey nightmare landscape, and survives by her wits, while avoiding capture by the authorities. But it’s not dystopian, this book is based on true events, and really is a historical romance. I prefer to call it a sweet fairy tale as it is a simply told, but lovely tale.

The book is set in Coventry, England. Coventry was bombed many times during the Second World War by the German Air Force. The most devastating of these attacks occurred on the evening of 14 November 14, 1940, and continued into the morning of November 15. The book begins at this point in time. Ruby Shadwell is a plucky girl, raised in a loving family. Her parents operated a grocery store. All this is wiped away by the horrific bombings. She like many others, has lost all she had, although she comes to learn that inside her she still possesses a strong will to live and love.

The characters are so precious, and you will bond with them. They reminded me of Charlie’s family in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. From nothing, they create a life together, an old man, an older lady, and a puzzling you boy from London. Their world is a proper and plain world, a different time than now. Their “once upon a time” story spreads love and good will to themselves and others. A handsome Canadian soldier appears, like a Prince Charming in the eyes of Ruby.

The book closes with the end of the War. Love and the birth of new babies has replaced the grey skies. As I read the touching conclusion, I thought that surely babies born as the War ended must have been the most loved children, as bombs gave way to hope.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Harper Impulse and Killer Reads/One More Chapter for this digital advance review copy. This is my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Kate Shank.
172 reviews1 follower
May 28, 2021
Very Hallmark feeling. Anything that could go wrong will but with a little love, everything is forgiven. Lots of eye rolls from this reader.
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