Kate Quinn’s latest novel is a World War II story with current relevance: it is about Mila Pavlichenko, a young woman from Kyiv, Ukraine, who gives up her quiet life as a mother, librarian, and grad student writing a dissertation on the history of Ukraine to help protect her homeland against brutal invaders. She becomes such a proficient sniper—with 309 official kills to her name and many more unrecorded—that she becomes a national hero known as Lady Death.
Mila is sent on a goodwill tour to the United States, where she develops an unlikely friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt (which really happened) and gets involved unwittingly in a plot to assassinate FDR (a fictional device with enough historical precedent to be plausible).
This is one of my favorite novels by Quinn. Instead of the multiple perspectives / time lines she has employed so often, this novel sticks with Mila throughout, and I thought the laser focus was well suited to a story about a sniper who had a legendary “diamond eye” with a rifle sight.
I also enjoyed the journey Mila takes from a frustrated, somewhat helpless young woman, unable to stand up against her domineering and thoughtless older husband, to a military officer who knows her abilities and is able to win the respect of the men under her command.
The detail about the sniper’s craft and the descriptions of the settings also serve to make this a riveting tale.
I enjoyed the first novel in this series, so I was glad when I learned that Jane Steen had written a sequel. When I found out that part of the story dealt with Victorian artists, I was even happier. I especially enjoy novels that touch on the lives of painters. Sir Geraint’s subject matter is interesting, and I found it easy to visualize his paintings from Steen’s descriptions.
In some ways, this is closer to a historical cozy than a hard-boiled murder mystery, but the novel doesn’t veer too far in that direction. It’s doesn’t dwell on the cute, quaint, eccentric features of the setting that so many cozies do. Instead, it’s as concerned with the intertwined relationships in the Scott-DeQuincy family as the crimes that disrupt their lives. Lady Helena is a very likable character—the overlooked baby of an aristocratic family, forced by the death of her beloved husband to develop a stronger backbone and more independent spirit than she might have otherwise.
Odelia is Helena’s much older and favored sister, who spends most of her time in London working as an artist. The secret referred to in the title puts enormous strain on the sisters’ relationship and forces Helena to make choices about her values even as she tries discover who is stalking her sister with malicious intent.
I’d be remiss not to mention that Fortier, the intelligent and attractive French doctor, is back, and Helena learns a bit more about the problem marriage that has made their growing attraction an impossibility. I’m sure that readers will meet him again in future installments.
I recommend this book without reservation as well as its prequel.
Readers’ Favorite Gives The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte the Gold Medal!
You have reached the author website of Ruth Hull Chatlien, author of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, based on the true story of Betsy Bonaparte, and Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale, based on the tale of Sarah Wakefield, taken captive during an Indian war.
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The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte and Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale may be ordered at Amika Press or Amazon.
The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte Blood Moon: A Captive's Tale
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