The book has my favorite writing style and that is alternating point-of-view (POV) that switches between World War I London and post World War II London. The majority of the details in regards to spy work is during World War I. We soon discover that in spite of two very different women being showcased, their lives are going to connect at some point and it is pretty incredible when they do.
Character one is Charlie St. Clair, a young American with French ties. She struggles with the expectations of her family to fit in a neat and tidy box that was so common in the late 40s. In her quest to blaze her own trails, she ends up pregnant. The beginning of the story talks about the details on this baby or "little problem" as she calls it and a clinic in Switzerland where these "little problems" can be taken care of in a timely manner. Charlie is very torn about what she should do in life and deeply mourns the loss of her cousin Rose. Rose was lost in the war and the family has presumed she is dead after all this time, but Charlie is never convinced. She starts to do her own research and figures out there is a woman, living in London, who she can talk to who might have some information regarding Rose. In steps character two....Eve Gardiner. Eve is now an old woman with deformed hands and tries to intimidate people away by being grouchy, drunk and a recluse. But, Eve has a story and a long list of reasons why she is grouchy, drunk all the time and a recluse. Two words: the war. The first one.
Where do I even begin on Eve Gardiner? Her tale is one that can't be adequately described in a short blog without giving the book away. Eve is a trailblazer of her own when the first world war breaks out in Europe. She wants to do her part to serve her country and against her family's wishes she joins the Alice Network, a network of female spies in Europe. These women are some of the fairest of them all, those who can lure the evilest leaders to their bedrooms and coax them to share war secrets. The sacrifices each of these women make for each other and their country is beyond humbling. I can honestly say this book drew me in and hooked me emotionally because these women were fiercely loyal to each other and didn't give up. While we are learning about Charlie and her interactions with old lady Eve, we are also learning about Eve's heroic efforts as a spy. It took awhile for me to realize how they would ultimately connect with the cousin Rose, but they do. When it's all said and done you will feel like you've been through it with them. It is straight-up intense.
The stories that are shared in this book are based on factual women and events. That being said, it's gnarly. There is a lot of sex for secrets, lots of drinking and plenty of violence. If that's not your cup of tea, this book is not for you. It's INTENSE. But, it is SO good and very humbling. As I said before, I enjoy reading books set in wartime because it reminds me that my life is pretty damn good because of my freedom and the ability to make choices about my body. I struggle with any plot lines that include rape culture and this one came pretty close to me calling it at one point. However, it was real and I knew this piece of world history was something I needed to continue reading about so I could get to the end. So, just be forewarned.
My recommended reading group is definitely 18 or over. It's a solid Rated R for the reasons I listed above.
The moral of the story: Even the daintiest of flowers can do what is right, face their fears and overcome evil.
Happy reading, my amazing, geeky lovelies!
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