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REVIEW:  Aiding the Enemy by Julie Rowe

REVIEW: Aiding the Enemy by Julie Rowe

Aiding-the-Enemy

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

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers by Kim Knox

REVIEW: Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers by Kim...

Guest review from Mary Kate.

Dear Ms. Knox:

I have to say – once again you have delivered an absolutely toe-curling, delicious mystery wrapped in romance. I fell in love with Frost and Mason all over again! In this continuation of their story, we find Mason in a steampunk version of 1800s England wracking himself with guilt and self-sacrifice over Agamemnon Frost – his friend, mentor, fellow transfigured, and the man he is head over heels in love with. Unfortunately, not only is Frost engaged to the lovely, damaged Theodora, but they’re embroiled in a war against the Martians, who are trying to take over the world through superior technology and mind control.

Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers Kim KNoxThe first thing that really struck me about this installment was the progression of the relationship between the two main characters. It went from zero to steamy in a hundred. Not only were there a few passages that melted my computer screen and fogged up my glasses (in a good way, I promise), but the underlying tenderness between the pair was maintained. This wasn’t simply a hit it and quit it gay erotica, it was romance in the truest sense of the word. Despite their differing stations and the complexity of their working relationship, the genuine caring and love between the two was evident in every word written. It felt like a behind-the-curtain peek into the foundation of a legendary love story. My one very minor quibble with the relationship aspect was that there wasn’t enough sex. Oh, I know, more sex might have been over-indulging in a good thing, but what there was pegged my delectable meter off the charts.

The main plot was good – the story moved at a good pace without bogging down. The mystery was juicy enough to keep me turning the pages, though I did get lost every now and then in the more technical details. It felt as though some of those were glossed when they could/should have been explained just a little bit more. Whenever Mason and Frost discussed the people who had been “hollowed out,” because I had no real comprehension of the process, I could only imagine an evil Martian with a giant straw, hollowing out humans the same way we hollow out eggs during springtime.

 

The ending seemed a little abrupt, and while it wasn’t too pat, I wanted to see a bit more in the way of dialog with Pandarus. Every great story tends to have the villain making a mustache-twirling speech at the end, while cackling madly. Unfortunately, for as big an evil as Pandarus was made out to be, he was surprisingly ineffectual. It seemed as though the conclusion focused much more on the relationship aspect of the story and much less on the mystery / overall plot. A deux ex machina was employed which, despite phenomenal storytelling, left me feeling just a little bit cheated – though not cheated enough that I put the book down. In the grand scheme of things, it was a small blip on the radar. I was reading the book for Mason and Frost, mainly, with the plot secondary. I’m sorry, I admit it. My name is Mary Kate and I’m a big fan of a well-written love story.

 

There was one other small little thing you carried through from Hollow Ships to hint about in Crown of Towers that made me oddly happy. In Hollow Ships, Mason sees a desolate landscape that, to him, represents the end of the world – what happens if Pandarus isn’t stopped. In this book, Mason and Frost stand together and look out at a very similar landscape that seems to represent the Martian homeworld – also known as what could possibly happen to Earth. To me, it was a lovely bit of symbolism. In the first, Mason is alone. In the second, Frost and Mason are standing together. It’s a stunning and powerful visual, all by itself.

 

Thank you for writing such a wonderful series, filled with pride and pitfalls, relationships that aren’t always easy, and a stunning mystery! B

 

Mary Kate

 

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