The Alice Network (Kate Quinn)

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In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

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The Alice Network has become my favourite book of the year so far. I couldn’t stop listening to it. And I have already started trying to pimp it out to all my friends and family.

It was very interesting to learn more about the spy networks operating during WWI; this isn’t a subject matter that we touched upon when I was in school, mostly focusing on either the trenches or the homefront during the Great War, and then spending the majority of the semester on the Second World War. I had to keep reminding myself that this takes place during 1915. Thinking of how different times were back then … women didn’t even have the right to vote yet, so it is absolutely remarkable that there were real-life female spies operating throughout Europe.

The pace of this story is excellent. Detailed but quick and there were never any parts I felt like skipping ahead through due to boredom. The narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, did an amazing job. The characters were all very real to me, which led to heartbreak at times.

I know that The Alice Network has been a bestseller since its release in 2017, and there continues to be a long wait list at my library. It is also a book that has been covered in numerous book clubs and I can see why.

If you haven’t read this book yet, I strongly encourage you to do so ASAP. Push it to the top of your TBR list. I have heard from fans of Kate Quinn that this isn’t even her best book so I will definitely be listening to her others in the near future.

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xx

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Protecting His Own (Shadowlands #11)

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Landscape designer, Beth King survived an abusive husband and built a new life for herself with the help of Master Nolan, the strongest, most protective man she has ever known. She loves him with all her heart, but the one thing he wants, she can’t give him. To her grief, the damage from her abusive first marriage means she can’t bear him children.

As Beth and Nolan change their plans and pursue adoption, they’re already imagining a baby girl in the nursery. But when two boys from the local domestic violence shelter see their mother taken to the hospital, they call Beth in a panic. Agreeing to care for them temporarily, Beth soon falls in love with the two adorable boys.

Now Master Nolan has a new problem. How can he protect the children when their drug-addicted mother is released—and how the hell can he keep his sweet submissive’s heart from being broken when they leave?

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This is the 11th book in the Club Shadowlands series but the second book about Nolan and Beth. Book #3 is called Breaking Free and it tells the story of the two meeting and falling in love. Alas, it was a short novel, and I am super excited that Ms. Sinclair has FINALLY written a followup story. I always felt that we never got the full story from Nolan and Beth and we definitely did not get enough time with this strict and sexy full-time Dom.

To Protect His Own is a sweeter story than I am used to – and although there are multiple kinky scenes – it is more focused on family and relationships than on intimacy and sex.

There’s still enough time to introduce a new kink though – mummification!!

Fostering and adoption are topics that are near and dear to my heart. I loved seeing them included in a romance novel. Life isn’t all rose petals. Sometimes past abuses leave an enduring mark, physically and emotionally. Thankfully Beth has a devoted Master to help see her through them and together they have more than enough love for a couple of kids who haven’t had nearly enough of it in their short lives.

To Protect His Own has a unique plot that is a welcome change from the criminal romantic suspense that has been so popular lately. No bad guys chasing down the heroine, no undercover police operations … just love finding a way through bureaucracy and bullshit.

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xx

Girl, Stolen by April Henry – a book review

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Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of the car while her stepmom fills a prescription for antibiotics. Before Cheyenne realizes what’s happening, the car is being stolen.

Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne and once he finds out that not only does she have pneumonia, but that she’s blind, he really doesn’t know what to do. When his dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes–now there’s a reason to keep her.

How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare?

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I seem to be making a habit lately of unknowingly choosing young adult novels to read, whether they are marketed as such or not.

Girl, Stolen is another example.

It is a wonderful abduction/crime story – for tweens and teens. For that age group, I would rate it an excellent story. Friendship develops between Cheyenne and her reluctant abductor, Griffin, and the story has some twists and turns that are unexpected.

The fact that Cheyenne is blind is the most interesting aspect of the novel. I kept imaging what I would do if I had been the one kidnapped, and then realizing – oh, that doesn’t work because she is blind, she couldn’t follow that plan.

Listening to everything from her perspective really helps the reader to imagine their life as a person with a physical limitation, especially in an extreme situations when you can no longer rely on your usual aids and loved ones for assistance.

For me, Girl, Stolen was a little too tame and the characters predictable. I like tortured souls and dramatic confrontation in my books, and R-rated sex or violence goes along with that. Other than the PG-13 rating though, this book was very good, and there are lots of people who don’t share my preference for R-rated material.

I listened to Girl, Stolen on Audible. I’d recommend reading it instead, the voice performer was not very good. She did a great job of performing Cheyenne, but terrible at the multitude of male characters. Hopefully the author opts for dual narration next time.

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xx