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Julie Rowe

REVIEW:  Aiding the Enemy by Julie Rowe

REVIEW: Aiding the Enemy by Julie Rowe


German-occupied Brussels, Belgium
December 1915

Rose Culver is in grave danger. For months the Red Cross head nurse has been aiding Allied soldiers caught behind enemy lines, helping them flee into neutral Netherlands. It’s only a matter of time until she’s caught. Which makes it the wrong time to fall in love with a handsome German military doctor as devoted to the sanctity of human life as she is.

The Great War has caused Dr. Herman Geoff to question everything he once believed. He knows Rose has been hiding British soldiers in her hospital—he’s even treated some of them, refusing to go against his own Hippocratic oath. As a doctor, he admires Rose’s skill and conviction. As a man, he can no longer deny his attraction to her. But when Rose is arrested for treason, Herman must choose between love for her and duty to his country…

Dear Ms. Rowe,

I read and was disappointed by the first novella in this trilogy last year. Despite the WWI setting in Belgium, it relied on far too many clichés for my liking. I didn’t make much effort to seek out the next story but when I saw this one listed at Netgalley and realized the hero would be the German doctor who appeared briefly in the first book along with the heroic English nursing matron, I decided to give it a go.

This one worked much better – so much better – for me. Since it is a novella, the fact that Herman and Rose have worked together, side by side, through the difficulties of running a hospital treating war casualties helps me believe in a quicker than usual declaration of love. But poor Herman had his work cut out for him in getting Rose to even consider marrying him much less telling him she loved him.

Rose has finally been arrested by the German military and charged with aiding the enemy. Herman had known all about it but winked and nodded and pretended to see nothing. But now that the woman he’s openly admired and – in turns out – secretly loved since he met her has been sentenced to death. He had already questioned the actions of the German military but this action, coupled with the drafting of his younger brother into the army, seals his determination to help Rose.

By a believable escape, he gets her free and then convinces her that marriage is the only way to hide from the military police searching for her. I was very impressed that both of these events make sense and don’t come off as contrived for the plot. Rose resists saying “I do” but it’s not because she’s holding out for “twue lurve” or any of the usual rot we see in romances. No, she admires Herman and doesn’t want to see him potentially throw away his career or become hunted by the police either. She also doesn’t want to see his family suffer because of him aiding her. Again, this actually makes sense to me.

But wait! There’s more. A dash for freedom during which Rose’s quick thinking and actions save the day and then a choice both make that allows them to continue helping those in need and not end up in a country where either would be arrested. I will admit to going into the novella with a “wait and see” attitude but by the end I was happily convinced that all ended well. Well done. B


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REVIEW:  Saving the Rifleman by Julie Rowe

REVIEW: Saving the Rifleman by Julie Rowe

Dear Ms. Rowe,

It used to be that books set in the early years of the 20th century were few and far between. This situation has changed a little but whenever I read a blurb or description for a story set during this time frame, I still get excited and will always investigate it further. “Saving the Rifleman” takes place in 1914 and – for double bonus points – it’s set during WWI and takes place behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, it also relies on a lot of tired cliches before it’s over.

saving-the-riflemanNurse Maria Hunt and the entire staff at the Belgian hospital were she works lives in dread of the German army. The hospital has been searched several times and the staff harassed about any involvement with sneaking English military personnel to freedom. During one such search, the head nurse sends Maria to hide in a closet due to fact that the German officer in charge has made sexual advances towards Maria in the past. When Maria backs into the closet, she’s grabbed and silenced by a wounded man in an English uniform.

Silent communication between the two followed by quick thinking gets Lieutenant John Bennet hidden in the nurses’ quarters but when the German officer attacks Maria, John has no choice but to step in. Now the two of them will both have to flee and try to make the border with Holland in order to avoid being arrested and shot and also for John to deliver the vital information he carries. Can John keep the two of them moving and out of German hands? And can Maria trust a man from a higher social class to behave as a gentleman should and not as another such one did to her in the past?

I mentioned the use of tired cliches earlier but first I wanted to talk about the hero – the aristocratic third son of a nobleman – John Bennet. Early on we discover that John is shocked – shocked! – that there are lots of noblemen out there who would take sexual advantage of lower class women. True, his uncle was one but he never imagined that there were more like that beast. My immediate thought was, “Has John been living under a rock all these years?” Apparently for the sake of the plot, this is so or something nearly so.

Initially Maria impressed me more. She’s has had actual contact with just such a lecherous nobleman and her sister had it even worse but she knows how to defend herself. I was delighted when she astounded John with her tricks for getting rid of a man who won’t hear the word “no.”

“She sighed. ‘A knee to the genitals usually does the trick.’”

Maria also immediately understands that John is in danger and doesn’t scream of faint. She acts quickly and doesn’t hesitate to boss John around if needed. Which made her eventual “deer in the headlights at the sight of his manly chest” reaction so disappointing. After all, she’s a nurse and this isn’t the first manly chest she’s seen but this one strikes her dumb at times and leads to other indiscretions.

Now, let’s dig deeper into the cliches before moving on to the indiscretions. John and Maria of course eventually get lost in a haze of desire and begin to act on it. It starts with being rendered immobile at the sight of bare chests and meanders to kisses. Yeah, yeah, yeah. This lead me to two conclusions about John – one good and one bad. The good one is that he is as far from the standard historical hero rake as possible. He truly is an honorable man. The bad is that he also leaps at the chance to be a martyr. One kiss and, mah Gawd, he’s as bad as his raping uncle.

On to the indiscretions/cliches and it’s probably fairly obvious what it’s going to be. Here are Maria and John, on the run for their lives from the enemy, with John also injured and what do they eventually do? Why stop and make love, of course. Maria, who’s a virgin and who has some damn credible reasons not to give it up to any man but especially not a man of higher social status, throws caution to the wind for a night of whoopee. And just as of course, the next day she’s aghast at her actions and begins to berate herself. Lots of “What was she thinking?” Yet, later on when John indicates that he wants them to get married, cliche number two gets trotted out – she will only marry for love and won’t consider tying any man to her just for conventions. John, meanwhile, turns up the martyr music before a final improbable scene winds everything up for the novella.

And while John and Maria have a current HEA, I’m not sure how well their different social stations bode for life after the war. John is a third son who is supposed to make his career in the military and whose family wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with Maria as his future spouse. Things are happy and rosy at story’s end but in years to come? I’m skeptical.

One final thing irked me. Could the Germans be any worse here? Honestly with the exception of one lowly private, they are all scum of the earth. I had to keep reminding myself that this was WWI instead of WWII. Now, granted I don’t know as much about WWI, and the German doctor who worked at the hospital was an honorable man willing to do the right thing but I didn’t think that, as a whole, during WWI the entire German army went around acting like the gestapo. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong. I do realize that WWI was the beginning of the turning point from the age of paroles and gentlemanly civility in war.

I will admit to enjoying the lively discussions John and Maria have about a person’s station in life and views on war. John certainly had advanced views about some things while also ascribing to a man’s view – at the time – that war was no place for a woman. John ends the book truly admiring Maria’s dedication to her work and willing to take her at her word that she can be as patriotic and helpful as a man during wartime. Still, the cliches and the fact that I’m not convinced of a long term HEA busted this one for me. C-