REVIEW: A Song Unheard (Shadows Over England Book #2) by Roseanna M. White
Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I–to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales.
Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.
But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.
Dear Ms. White,
A few years ago you couldn’t find a World War I romance novel to save your life. Now, after Downton Abbey, you can’t get away from them. But the cover with the violin playing heroine caught my eye. The blurb about cyphers and cryptologists and Belgium made me think this wouldn’t be the standard aristocracy filled romance novel.
I haven’t read the first book in the series but then our heroine Willa Forsyth doesn’t appear to know much more than I do about the mysterious Mr. V who has enlisted her skills to get something England desperately needs. The plot gets fairly convoluted but after the Germans invaded Belgium, a well known violinist’s mother and sister were trapped and seeking to evade enemy attention. Lukas isn’t the only well known de Wilde family member – his father was a brilliant mathematician and the Germans and British want a “code breaking machine” that the elder de Wilde was working on before his death.
Now Lukas is in Wales with a group of Belgian musicians who have formed an orchestra to raise money for relief aid for their countrymen. Mr. V is sure that Lukas must have the code key with him and sends Willa to get it. V doesn’t know what this will look like but gives Willa vague hints about what it could be. As a member of one of the best thieving rings in London, she will be able to search for it without Lukas knowing.
What isn’t counted on is that Lukas immediately notices Willa and how closely she acts like his prodigy, younger sister. Then once Lukas hears Willa play the violin and learns that she is self taught and can learn pieces perfectly after only hearing them – Mozart’s talents in this area immediately sprang to mind while I read it – he is even more intrigued. Lessons follow and before long this roguish man is smitten.
But Willa is keeping her secrets from him and knows that – just like everyone else in her life who she ought to have been able to count on – Lukas would only end up leaving her. So she’ll cut off that avenue of hurt and try to keep him at arms length. When others appear also seeking the same code key and Lukas gets word that the only family he has left is in danger of betrayal to the Germans, he and Willa, along with a member of her self-made family of thieves, will have to figure out a way to outwit enemies from all sides.
I don’t think not having read the first book hurt my grade for this one. Willa and her “family” don’t know much more about the mysterious Mr. V than I do and there’s enough backstory told – almost too much at times – of Willa’s past and how she was abandoned then joined up with the others and are now such top notch thieves. Only as a salve to our consciences, it’s made clear that the family never take from anyone worse off then themselves and fiercely guard each other. Willa also loses her situational awareness several times which made me question just how good a thief she is.
Willa is a loner though, having learned as a child to shield herself from counting on people who ought to love her. She only counts on those she’s bonded with – which sort of negates the whole “nobody loves me” thing. To her a father is a source of betrayal, whether or not he’s her own father or God in heaven. Willa doesn’t come right out and say religion is for chumps but that’s her general attitude. Lukas believes but it’s more lip service, it’s something he was raised on rather than true faith. Other characters are much more deeply religious but both Willa and Lukas are allowed their doubts and time to come to their own belief without too much preaching or moralizing. There are “come to Jesus” moments which ultimately tip both towards faith.
I found I enjoyed the parts set in Belgium the most. Lukas’s brilliant sister Margot is a great character – a fourteen year old who can outthink most people and run brainiac circles around even the smartest. Mathematics is breath to her. I want to see what will happen to her in the future.
The second half of the book also worked better for me as there seemed to be a lot of repetition in the beginning. There were also things here and there that didn’t quite add up or made me stop to think about them and be annoyed by them. The rescue part made more sense and moved the story along more quickly for me. I hope there is a future book planned for Margot. I’d be on board for that. B-