Dear. Mrs Pippin,
I enjoyed your first novel, Blood Moon Over Bengal last year and have been looking forward to what you’d write about next. I’m glad to say this one is just as good if not better. I think the war time setting is great and well done. You again use lots of slang and throws in day to day details which really add to the story’s historical “feel” but, and here’s a little niggle, once again, it’s almost too much, especially in the first third of the book. It does tone down somewhat once the trip to Cornwall begins but it’s almost as if you wrote the story first then went back and tried to insert as much of this as possible. At times it felt a wee bit awkward. For instance, you refer to stoves as “Agas” which I think I remember is a brand name. I could see doing that a time or two but afterwards, I think you should have stuck with using “stove.” I mean, how many times do I say to myself, “got to remember to clean/turn on/turn off the Kenmore?” Nope, I think “stove.”
You did an excellent job inserting everyday facts of life in war torn Britain without it sounding like a history lecture. Your characters do these things rather than just tell us about rationing, food coupon books, the black market, train travel, bombing raids in London, etc. I also like how you show how patriotic the entire country was, how willing to put up with all these restrictions and depravations in the true belief that this helped their fighting men overseas.
The love scenes aren’t purple (and the heroine isn’t a virgin!) but I did have to wonder at the fact that both take place while hero and heroine are fleeing for their lives across Britain and during both, they go at each other like wild sex monkeys all night long. One nice touch though is Cicely worrying that Alistair will view her badly for enjoying sex as did her first fiance.
I like Cicely. She’s a beautiful woman and knows it, unlike so many clueless heroines. But she’s a strong person who grows even more so during the course of the story. And she takes an active part in saving herself, Alistair and the vital information she carries. I did wonder at how quickly she reveals some vital information to Alistair about her job but other than that, she never acts stupidly just for the sake of the plot. Alistair is a strong person as well though his character portrayal is a bit more uneven. He is suspicious of Cicely and horrified at what she reveals about the enigma information and how the government uses it. He also has a moment of stupidity during the journey that plays into the hands of the enemy but what jarred me most was how, all of a sudden, he and Cicely both think they’re in love. I guess wartime reveals character in ways not seen so quickly during peacetime but still it seemed too quick.
The suspense part of the book is great. You keep us guessing about just who’re the good guys and there are a few characters I guessed wrong about. But what really worked for me was the slow build up to the final climactic scene during which I was madly flipping pages to see what would happen next. You arrive at that point by cutting back and forth from several different viewpoints and it works wonderfully.
So, overall I’d give this a B/B+. I do think this is a stronger book than the first and I’m looking forward to seeing what you will write about next.