Rating: 5 Stars
Ages 15+ (some violence and torture)
I've read one other book by this author and really enjoyed it. The mixture of mystery and espionage, delightful characters and lots of action Helen McInnes uses is delightful. And since WW2 is an era of special interest to me, I was happy to discover this book was written at about the same time her story took place.
Richard and Frances Myles haven't been married very long. In fact, they're are still rather in the honeymoon stage. Life was pretty sweet, actually. Both were students at Oxford, where they were happily living their life together in their small abode. Both enjoyed traveling in Europe and had taken several trips in between their studies. Richard wanted to make one last trip to Europe before war erupted, so they were packing up for a few weeks abroad when Peter arrived.
Peter was an old friend of the Myles. He had always been involved with political work but he had suddenly become involved in something much more important and dangerous than his desk job at the British Embassy: espionage. In the spirit of The Scarlet Pimpernel, the network that Peter Galt was involved in smuggled anti-Nazis out of Hitler's Europe. But something was wrong. They had received some misleading information and two of the network's last 'packages' had been picked up by the Nazis. It appeared that the network had been infiltrated, way up at the top. The only way to know that for sure was to make contact with the man in that position. Due to a close call, Peter's face and name was known to the Nazis, so he was out for the job. He had sent a man in of his own, but he hadn't been heard from. It looked like the safest way to check on things was to get someone who was not a spy, and therefore, not suspected. “A couple of innocents abroad...” Thus, his visit to Richard and Francis.
Richard was not so sure he wanted anything to do with the mission but Frances was delighted at the prospect. Here was a wonderfully great adventure, just waiting for them. As with many others at the beginning of the war, she was very naïve about the situation and dangers in Europe and the Nazi regime. People loved to think of themselves as small heroes, making short dagger thrusts at the enemy, hurting him a little, but not enough to get into trouble. Little do they realize that when you take a stick to an ant's nest, all of hell breaks loose.
Peter assured Richard that there was little or no danger, if they followed his instructions, so after much deliberation, Richard agrees. But the neither Richard or Frances are the type to run away from danger if they can save someone, even if it mean going the 2nd mile and straight into the face of danger. For every ounce of their naivety, there are two of courage and devotion. And when it comes to following instructions... well, they're pretty good about them. ;-)
What I Liked:
1: Each character in this novel was so unique and different than the next.
2: The relationship between Richard and Frances was strong. I loved watching their love for each other deepen as they experienced difficulties and victories together.
3: Watching Frances mature into a wise and mature woman.
4: All the action. It was nearly a perfect mixture of excitement and peace.
5: The sequence of events was fairly realistic and very believable. I appreciated the author's insight on the war... even as it was happening. I can't help but wonder if she had eyewitness accounts or experienced some of the events herself.
6: Style, way of life, manner of speech, etc, in England is very well portrayed. It's interesting how in style it was to smoke. Several times, it's mentioned that everyone was offered and accepted a cigarette, or some other form of tobacco.
7: How many characters one doesn't know for sure about until you're right in the thick of it. Very exciting. :-)
8: The wonderful descriptions of European cities, living quarters, people, scenery, Nazi headquarters, etc. It delights the senses.
9: Humor always makes things slide down easier and so in the case of this story.
What I Didn't Like:
1: I couldn't cite one page or chapter, but occasionally, I got the feeling of the author's imagination... like she was filling in the blanks with what she thought should happen. It was rare, however.
I wish there were more of these books to read. Somehow, the authors of the 40's picked up a similar style to write with and it is a good one. It leaves the reader feeling warmed by good old fashioned morals, adventure, history, and clean romance. I will be looking for Helen McInnes' other books.