by A L Sowards
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Page Count: 304
How got: personal library
First attention getter: I love a good spy story!
With Hitler’s forces firmly entrenched in Europe, countless heroes seek to end the madman’s reign. Bastien Ley is one of the best. Working in Italy for the Office of Strategic Services, he’s been tasked with sabotaging German convoys. When his team kills an officer headed for Rome, the man’s similarity to Bastien is undeniable, and seeing an opportunity to turn the tide of the war, Bastien makes a bold decision: he will assume the dead officer’s identity. He becomes Dietrich, an Iron Cross–wearing German officer—an ideal position from which to infiltrate the Nazi ranks in Rome.
To help with his stressful assignment, his superiors send him a reinforcement in the form of the lovely Gracie Begni, an intelligent and eager radio operator with absolutely no undercover experience. With a gulf of resentment between them, these two agents must find a way to portray a couple in love.
Soon their reluctant alliance becomes much more as Bastien and Gracie find themselves getting lost in their feelings for each other. But as they engage in battle against the deadliest foe the world has ever known, the pair quickly realizes their love may be doomed. As the Rome Gestapo threatens to destroy all they’ve worked for, will Bastien and Gracie survive their charade?
Star Rating - 4 Stars
Knowing how to keep the suspense quotient up, the story keeps the reader engaged with a continuous sequence of getaways, rescues, and secretive meetings in dark corners, interwoven with great characterization moments. I think this book excels in the spy/Resistance portion of the story. I never knew what was going to happen next or how soon the Germans would catch onto our dynamic duo.
There were parts that seemed a bit far-fetched or eyebrow-raising. Flimsy backstories, plans of action put into motion with no forethought, and some stupid decisions do call into question the intelligence of our spies and Resistors more than once. Thankfully, though, these didn’t overtake the whole book and only reared their ugly heads rarely.
Where this book really shines is in its characterizations, both for the main leads and the secondary characters. Gracie and Bastian are immediately relatable, distinct, and you just can’t help rooting for them. Both change and adapt as the story progresses, keeping the reader engaged each step of the way.
Yet, it’s the secondary people that really stand out here. Both Bastien’s fellow Italian Resistance fighters and the Germans make for a vibrant background of people for our leads to play off of. I liked that the author made the Germans more human; I could see a author easily falling into the trap of portraying them all as goose-stepping emotionless bad guys. Yet, Sowards gives us men who experience love, friendship, loyalty, and decency just as much as our lead.
The biggest gripe I have with this book is the main relationship. It touts itself as a romance. However, for the first half of the book, the characters have absolutely no chemistry, as much energy as a pooped out puppy, as much chemistry as distilled water. There are a few heated glances but for the most part, they are two individuals just acting out parts in a bad play. The latter half is better, with some nice scenes of sweetness and devotion. But there’s no development up to there, just presto-chango romance!
For the most part, the action parts of the spy/Resistance storyline was very well done. Characters shined in their individuality, even the bad guys. But the romance? It’s almost like “what romance?” for the first half and then suddenly they’re in love. That could have been handled better. I’d recommend this book for lovers of WWII spy stories, with a side of romance. Just don’t go looking for a strong romance quotient ‘cause it ain’t there for the whole book.