Over the years I have read and enjoyed many or Rachel McMillan’s books! I especially loved her book The London Restoration that I read in 2020. It was a standalone novel with lots of historical detail and some romance. While I enjoyed her historical mysteries, it was the standalone novel that really made me love her writing!
When I saw that she was coming out with a new standalone piece of historical fiction, I was eager to get my hands on it. I love books about espionage and spies especially when they are women spies! I have read a lot of historical fiction with female spies in WWII and while that might be the hot ticket right now, I never get tired of reading books like that!
McMillan is a wonderful writer and I know how much detail she puts in her books not only with her characters but with her historical facts as well. If you enjoy historical fiction by Kate Quinn or espionage mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal, then you will no doubt enjoy this latest novel from McMillan! I waited and waited and waited for my copy to arrive and when it finally did, I had COVID. While I planned to read it during my quarantine, I ended up having a hard time focusing on reading so I saved it for my flight to Arizona. I quickly read this one in a matter of days once I started it on the plane—it was an excellent choice that’s for sure!
No matter how you might try to hide in a war to escape your past, it is always close at hand.
Lady Sophia Huntington Villiers is no stranger to intrigue, as her work with Alan Turing’s Bombe Machines at Bletchley Park during the war attests. Now, as part of Simon Barre’s covert team in post-war Vienna, she uses her inimitable charm and code name Starling to infiltrate the world of relics: uncovering vital information that could tilt the stakes of the mounting Cold War. When several influential men charge her with finding the death mask of Mozart, Sophie wonders if there is more than the composer’s legacy at stake and finds herself drawn to potential answers in Prague.
Simon Barrington, the illegitimate heir of one of Sussex’s oldest estates, used the previous war to hide his insecurities about his past. Now, he uses his high breeding to gain access to all four allied quarters of the ruined city in an attempt to slow the fall of the Iron Curtain. He has been in love with Sophie Villiers since the moment he met her, and a marriage of convenience to save Simon’s estate has always kept her close. Until now, when Sophie’s mysterious client in Prague forces him to wonder if her allegiance to him—and their cause—is in question. Torn between his loyalty to his cause and his heart, Simon seeks answers about Sophie only to learn that everything he thought he knew about his involvement in both wars is based on a lie. (summary from Goodreads)
So many of the WWII and post WWII historical fiction novels I gravitate toward are set in England, France or Germany. It makes sense since there is an abundance of research material available for those areas during that time period. What I loved about this book was it gave readers a new setting that felt fresh and unique but also familiar. The book was set in Prague and Vienna and having been to Prague myself I loved reading about the setting and history! I felt like I was right there on the streets of Prague again! The author really made the reader feel like they were there. If you haven’t been to Vienna or Prague you basically have been once you read this book. So well written and realistic!
The setting make the book feel very new and exciting but having Simon be from England made the story feel familiar at the same time since so many historical fiction novels of this era are set in England, readers will feel like they are getting something new with the setting but at the same time familiar with the characters being English. So much of WWII historical fiction focuses on the active war years but often the post war time period is skipped over but this to me is one of the most important time periods—-seeing the aftermath of the war and the impact and lingering issues that continued on into the modern age are important. I liked how McMillan included that in this book and I think it really gave readers a new perspective of the time period and post war Europe. While visiting Prague, I really felt like for them, the post war years are still very much a focal point of their culture. After all, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that this area of the world came out from behind the Iron Curtain. This book really provided a historically interesting part for me and I just loved reading all that history. The historical parts (as expected) were well researched and presented to readers and my favorite part of the book! Historic detail and research is where McMillan shines for me.
I love my historical fiction with a bit of romance too. McMillan has never left me wanting in the romance department and this book didn’t let me down! I loved the romance between Sophia and Simon. McMillan always writes a great romance but this one really stood out to me over her other books. I felt invested and excited with both characters and their witty banter showed their chemistry really well! The only thing I struggled with in regard to the novel was the amount of secondary characters and their motives to keep track of. There were quite a few other characters even if Sophia and Simon were the main focus. Some of the other characters were introduced without context which I think might distract some readers. Also I should note while this is a standalone read, if memory serves some of these characters were in The London Restoration. I don’t think readers would need to read the London Restoration to enjoy this one, I think it would help provide a background and context for some of the characters and reading. Ultimately I gave this one 4 stars, a great read full of historical detail, fans of historical fiction will find romance and a rich history in this book! Add to your TBR immediately!
Book Info and Rating
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 15th 2022 by Thomas Nelson
ISBN 0785235051 (ISBN13: 9780785235057)
Free review copy provided by publisher and author, Thomas Nelson, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: historical fiction, romance