Review by Ellen Blake
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“Inspired by a real-life female spy, a WWII-set novel about a woman challenging convention and boundaries to help win a war, no matter the cost.”
1944, Rome. a new American spy agency recruits newlywed Niki Novotná to establish a secret branch in Italy’s capital. One of the OSS’s few female operatives abroad and multilingual, her job is to craft fake stories and distribute propaganda to lower the morale of enemy soldiers. The story is loosely based on the story of Barbara Lauwers, a Czech native who married an American and emigrated to the US in 1941.
I enjoy historical fiction, especially stories with strong female characters, and this one does not disappoint. Though a bit slow to start, it hooks you in once you get into the story.
Niki and a creative and scrappy team of artists, forgers and others, nicknamed The Lipstick Bureau, find success. despite their extremely limited resources. They unlikely crew form a bond amid the cobblestoned streets and storied villas of the newly liberated city. Her work is satisfying, but also serves as a welcome escape from the devastating truths about the world and family she left behind in Czechoslovakia. She also uses this opportunity as a way to distance herself from her controlling American husband. To complicate the situation, a colleague unexpectedly captures her heart.
As the war drags on, Niki begins to question her high pressure assignment. One misstep could mean life or death. The excitement builds throughout the story and had me on the edge of my seat.
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About the Author
MICHELLE GABLE is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, including A Paris Apartment and The Bookseller’s Secret. A San Diego native and graduate of The College of William & Mary, Michelle lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband, nearly grown daughters, and two Jindos rescued from the dog meat trade. Find her on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, @MGableWriter.