The Front de l’Indépendance is determined to print the truth free from Nazi control in 1943 Belgium. After being threatened by Gruppenfuhrer August Wolff, journalist Marc Aubrion and colleagues agree to put out a pro-Nazi issue of Nazi propaganda La Soir. Instead, they intend to put out an anti-Nazi satire issue, a “Faux” Soir, effectively condemning them to death. Based on a true story, this novel is told from the perspective of the street urchin chosen as gopher and pet by Aubrion, who gives Helene, a girl pretending to be a boy for safety sake, missions for her fellow street urchins to support their endeavor. Helene’s perspective oversteps her boundaries of knowledge throughout the book, making Dear Reader wonder why the author chose her as the 1st person narrator. Ramzipoor does brilliantly include a Nazi government official in the Faux Soir caper, with the inevitable question of where his loyalty lay, and credible gay characters, one of whom outshines the main character. The twist at the end feels delayed—it seems as though that information would have been given right up front, making the timing awkward and the twist a bit anti-climactic. Despite its flaws (unrealistic dialogue, over the top characters) in the craft, Ramzipoor is a natural storyteller, and in choosing a unique tale from the oft-drawn-from well of the WWII era, she has presented an unforgettable story of unexpected heroes where the lesbians survive. I was fortunate to receive this fascinating debut novel from the publisher Park Row through NetGalley.
Grace Kelly brought British journalist James Henderson into French parfumeur Sophie Duval’s life when she hid in Sophie’s shop to avoid another paparazzi, setting in motion the tale of the star-crossed lovers, resurrecting the Duval family business, and laying the foundation for the parallel story of Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Gaynor and Webb paint a lush, yet pragmatic picture of Monaco, the Monegasques, and the Princess, with foremost the blossoming emotions of Sophie and James, characters clearly not products of their time, but who stand out from the crowd. Francophiles, parfum lovers, and Grace Kelly fans will love this novel, though other readers will appreciate the descriptive details of the setting and the intriguing characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Anna finds a teenage girl’s body on the beach in Lithuania while on a business trip to her textile factory. Prevented from leaving by a natural disaster, she meets a journalist named Will, who moves into her carefully constructed life. He and her friends warn her against pursuing the girl’s murder, but her own past urges her on, until she finds herself in danger, and Will is incommunicado. Beard portrays a workaholic with repressed emotions and memories vividly, though Anna seems to throw up a lot and has quite a few anxiety attacks, not to mention the breakdown from grief. The story seems as self-oriented as Anna, focusing on her distress throughout, when it could have explored the horrors of sex trafficking further. Even as Anna is justified in her wavering faith in Will, his character is not developed enough for the reader to make a judgment call either way. Though the story is a good one, it could have given a little more weight toward other characters, and even considered location a main character in its cultural presence, but Anna simply comes across as too neurotic to notice anything else. I was graciously given a digital copy by the publisher through NetGalley.