If there is one era that is overrepresented in historical fiction, it has to be World War II. I get it, it’s an important period in the world’s history, where more soldiers (and civilians) died than in any other war. But after you read a hundred or so books that are so similar, it becomes rather an uninteresting era to read.
I’m currently at that point when it comes to fiction books set during WWII. However, against my better judgement, I spotted this indie book free on Amazon and I decided to read it. And I’m actually happy to say it felt fresh and original.
Release: January, 2019
Synopsis: Claire Baudin is a talented musician and singer, traveling to France in 1940 to visit her aunt and uncle. Michael Reiner is an undercover spy for the British army, disguised as a Nazi captain in a small town in occupied France. When the two happen to meet, their lives will radically change as the world fights its bloodiest war.
I am not a huge fan of romance, though I do love learning about WWII. And I found this book to be a happy mixture of the two. It does not sacrifice an interesting plot for too much romance. I absolutely loved the first half of the book and though the second half was a bit predictable and underdeveloped for my tastes, the entire novel was enjoyable to read.
Michael Reiner was by far my favorite character. He has a strong sense of justice, but he is also intelligent, compassionate, and knows how to make sacrifices for the good of his nation and those he cares about. Claire was interesting in the beginning as well, though I thought her character growth stunted around the halfway mark. She is a girl who has a sheltered life, and yet shows immense courage in situations she has no experience with. She is not fool, but she is also not incredibly wise, at times putting herself and others in danger. I didn’t hate her, but I found her rather naïve, which is more a criticism of herself and not the actual development of her character.
Most of the story feels almost like a cozy thriller (or cozy mystery minus the murder). It is not an extremely serious book, only glossing over serious topics. In that way, it is different than many of the WWII books I have read. It is not meant to be horrifying and shocking and instead sweet and happy. Some readers might prefer a more serious book, but as this is a cozy mystery/romance, I didn’t mind it.
I also like the fact that Ciesielski (what a cool name, by the way) took the Nazi captain and French peasant trope and turned it on its head. In the beginning, Claire believes Michael to be a real Nazi, only later learning he is a spy. Similarly, Michael believes Claire to be French at first, only later learning (mostly through her accent) that she is American. It’s an interesting twist on the Nazi/prisoner trope that I’m not so fond of.
I also really enjoyed the dialogue filled with slang terms and phrases of the 40s, making it feel as if these characters are really a product of their time. One of the biggest issue I have with many historical indie books I read is that the characters feel like modern people thrown back in another time. And yet I sincerely appreciated the attention to detail when it came to understanding how people thought and acted during the 1940s.
The romance also felt…pure? That’s the best word I can think to describe it. There’s no sex scenes, and I’m not fond of erotic romance of any kind, so I appreciated this. Both Michael and Claire always have the best of intentions when it comes their feelings, even if they are still fallible humans who make mistakes. Though, after they fell in love, I felt as if their relationship just became stagnant and I would have liked for them to grow pass that initial “we’re in love” stage. But not every romance can be as good as Gaudy Night’s!
My main and only criticism is that the ending was extremely predictable. But, to by honest, I have never read a romance without a predictable ending, simply because the genre indicates that the ending must be happy and the two main leads must end up together. The only way to add a twist is to have someone die or they end up separated, both of which doesn’t fit into this genre.
Besides that, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It was light (especially for a wartime romance) and mixed perfectly with action and romance. If there had been more romance, I would have been bored with the plot and if there was less this would no longer feel like a romance. I will definitely have to put this author on my TBR and read some of her other books!
Have you heard of this book? What is your favorite book set in WWII? What is your opinion of wartime romance novels? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,