Let me say first that coming to a far simpler read after finishing Anna Karenina was maybe not the best idea. It took me awhile to get into the swing of this book, but overall I don’t think it took too much away from the book.
Velvet Undercover Synopsis (Goodreads): Samantha Donaldson’s family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a Girl Guide and messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, high-level mathematics, and complex puzzles and codes, hoping to make him proud.
When Sam is asked to join the famed women’s spy group La Dame Blanche she’s torn—this could be the adventure she’s dreamed of, but how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband to the war? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes there’s no way she can refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.
Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known to the members of LDB only as Velvet. Deep undercover within the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Samantha must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she finds herself forming a forbidden attraction to the enemy-a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Samantha discover the truth and find Velvet before it’s too late…for them both?
From author Teri Brown comes the thrilling story of one girl’s journey into a deadly world of spycraft and betrayal—with unforgettable consequences.
I have very mixed feelings with this book. Don’t get me wrong, I highly enjoyed this book, but there were some aspects that fell flat for me or took away from the whole of the novel. One of the biggest things that did take away from the novel was that the overall feel of the book felt too modern for a historical fiction book, but that could just be me.
The story follows Samantha Donaldson, a character that I loved. She’s a very smart, witty, and brave seventeen year old with a strong love for her family. She ultimately refuses to become a spy, not wanting to leave her mother alone, but the opportunity to serve her country ultimately renews the hope of finding her father, leaving Sam unable to say no the second time. I love that she’s very family centered, that she didn’t jump into the opportunity without looking down first. Throughout the novel, she is a realistic mixture of nervous, scared, and excited.
For being a newly – and quickly – trained spy for the famed La Dame Blanche group at seventeen, I think she pulled it off well though not without a few missteps. But then wouldn’t make it a thrilling read, would it?
Unfortunately, Sam is the only character that I felt like I got to really know. All the other characters came in and out so quick, and it being in first person, didn’t allow me to get a good feel for the other characters. Some characters were a little more present than others, like the German guard Sam ends up forming the forbidden attraction to, who by the way, I really liked. I just wish I – and Sam – got to know him a little better. But I guess you can’t make real connections if you’re a spy right? This was the other part that left me disappointed, I didn’t a real sense of the forbidden attraction that was stated in the summary. Yes, Sam noticed how handsome he is and how comfortable she is around him, but those moments were few and Sam always brought herself back to the task at hand. I didn’t get the feeling the attraction was really developed.
I will give Teri Brown this though, I thought I knew who Velvet was every time, but was proven wrong until my last assumption, I just knew there was something interesting with the character who ended up being Velvet. I highly enjoyed all the spying and intrigue going on, I thought those parts were well written and easy to understand and kept me turning the pages until the end. There were definitely a couple twists that I did not see coming!
The other thing that I wished more of was the development of certain details. The descriptive details that were given, were details on things that I didn’t necessarily care about, like the kind of dress that Sam or another girl was wearing. I mean, that’s fine, but where are the details about the surroundings? A quick description of an intimidating door guard’s facial expression? The way the cold winter air felt icy, making spying in the middle of the night that much more tense? Brown gave enough details, but there were some things that I felt she could have developed more.
While it wasn’t a perfect read, I still thought it was well written and a very engaging and thrilling read; I would recommend it. I mean it’s a historical fiction spy novel with a strong female lead, how could you really go wrong?
Also, La Dame Blanche is real! How awesome is that?! And how come we never learned about them before??
Have any intentions of reading this? Read any similar books?