#BookReview The Rose Code by Kate Quinn @fictionpubteam @RandomTTours

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour and to Harper Collins for my digital review copy via NetGalley.

The Rose CodeAbout the Book

1940. Three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything – beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses – but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of East End London poverty, works the legendary code-breaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Awkward local girl Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles beneath her shy exterior.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter – the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together…

As the nation prepares for the royal wedding they must race against the clock to save one of their own.

Format: Hardcover (656 pages)       Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: 18th March 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

The book opens in 1947 on the eve of of the royal wedding between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. It coincides with the arrival of a coded plea for help from the inmate of an asylum to two former friends. It’s a while before the identity of the inmate is confirmed, although readers may have reached their own conclusions some time before that. What takes longer to discover is the cause of the rift between the three friends and the reason for the confinement of one of them.

At over 600 pages, The Rose Code is a chunky read but I was quickly drawn into the stories of Osla, Mab and Beth. Reflecting their different backgrounds and life experiences, the author creates a distinctive character for each of them. Whilst Osla may have attended glittering high society parties and been romanced by Prince Philip (yes, that Prince Philip), she’s surprisingly unworldly in other respects. Conversely, Mab has experienced life’s darker side. I found Beth the most intriguing character because of her very different way of looking at the world, seeing patterns where others do not, making it easy to appreciate why her potential for code-breaking work might have been spotted. And I sure I’m not the only reader to give a little cheer when Beth eventually ‘pokers up’ (as Osla would say) to her mother, the tyrannical Mrs. Finch.

I particularly enjoyed the parts of the book set at Bletchley Park and found myself enthralled by the details about the secret code-breaking work carried out there, how it was organised, and the various machines and decryption methods used. The highly confidential nature of the work carried out at Bletchley Park required the utmost level of secrecy with those involved unable to discuss their work with anyone outside their own section, let alone family or friends. As we now know, many of those who worked at Bletchley Park in real life never talked about their work, taking their secrets with them to the grave.

The author does a great job of conveying both the insular atmosphere this demand for secrecy created and the psychological toll imposed on those involved in the work, aware their success or failure could mean the difference between life and death, even the outcome of the war itself. I can only imagine the pressure of possessing information about the progress of the war – good or bad – and being unable to share any inkling of that knowledge with anyone else. But, on the other hand, the thrill of achievement whenever a breakthrough is made.

Perhaps it’s no wonder those employed at Bletchley Park seek any opportunity for amusement whether that’s a game of rounders on the lawn or membership of the various societies that exist, such as the book club set up by Osla and Mab – christened The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  In the author’s imagination, Bletchley Park even has its own scandal sheet, Bletchley Bletherings, occasional excerpts from which are scattered throughout the book. (Unfortunately, the formatting of my digital copy of the book was not kind to these.)

There are walk-on parts for several well-known historical figures who either worked at or visited Bletchley Park, such as Alan Turing and Winston Churchill. (At the online book launch, Kate revealed there was nearly an appearance by James Bond author, Ian Fleming, another real life visitor to Bletchley Park. Sadly, this had to be left on the literary equivalent of the cutting room floor.) I wasn’t familiar with Dilly Knox before reading the book but came to appreciate what a vital role he played in the breakthroughs in code-breaking.

In the second half of the book, the focus is more on the personal lives of the three women; like many others who lived through this time, it involves both love, loss and a need to apportion blame or assuage personal feelings of guilt. As the book reaches its gripping climax, there’s one last reunion of The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in an effort to bring to justice the traitor who, unsuspected, lived and worked beside them at Bletchley Park.

Although the mystery of the identity of the traitor was absorbing, the most compelling element of The Rose Code for me was the fascinating insight it provided into the work undertaken at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Thanks to the author’s evocative descriptions it didn’t take too much imagination for me to picture myself there alongside Beth, Mab and Osla working around the clock at their deciphering work or snatching the odd break. ‘It was two-thirty in the morning, middle of the night shift, and the converted dining room smelled of Brylcreem, stale fat and kidneys on toast.’

Although the three women in the book are fictional, I felt the story served to shine a spotlight on the important role their real life counterparts played in code-breaking but whose contribution up until now has perhaps been overshadowed by their more celebrated male colleagues.

In three words: Compelling, authentic, intriguing

Try something similar: The Cypher Bureau by Eilidh McGinness

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Kate Quinn Author PicAbout the Author

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs names Caesar and Calpurnia.

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#BookReview The Consequences of Fear (Maisie Dobbs #16) by Jacqueline Winspear @AllisonandBusby

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I’m delighted to welcome you to the first stop on the blog tour for The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear. My thanks to Christina at Allison & Busby for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy via NetGalley.

The Consequences of FearAbout the Book

London, September 1941. Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Hiding in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at his next delivery address, he’s shocked to come face-to-face with the killer.

Dismissed by the police when reporting the crime, Freddie turns to private investigator Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must exercise caution given her work with the French resistance. When she spots the killer in a place she least expects, she soon realises she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill – reasons that go back to the last war.

Format: Hardcover (352 pages)       Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 23rd March 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Crime

Find The Consequences of Fear (Maisie Dobbs #16) on Goodreads

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My Review

I was a late arrival at the party when it comes to Jacqueline Winspear’s hugely popular series, my first introduction being The American Agent, the fifteenth outing for the intrepid and resourceful Maisie Dobbs. Ardent fans of the series will have been eagerly anticipating Maisie’s next adventure but even if – like me – you’re a recent convert, or indeed if The Consequences of Fear will be your first foray into Maisie’s world, I guarantee you’ll quickly be drawn into the story.

Although there are brief references to Maisie’s previous cases and it may take a bit of time to sort out the various members of her extended family, The Consequences of Fear can definitely be enjoyed by readers new to the series. Those familiar with her previous adventures will be pleased to see the return of characters such as Billy Beale, Maisie’s assistant in her private investigation business, intelligence chief Robert MacFarlane and Anna, her adopted daughter. Not forgetting, of course, Maisie’s ‘gentleman friend’, Mark Scott.

As well as the ever reliable Billy, Maisie has a number of resources to call upon to help with her investigation, including her friends Priscilla and Gabriella. As Maisie observes, ‘She had her worker bees, valuable contacts who would seek whatever information she needed, buzzing around their gardens of endeavour until they found the pockets of intelligence she had requested.’ Unfortunately, being one of Maisie’s ‘worker bees’ can sometimes be a risky business. And when all else fails, Maisie can call on her memories of the wise advice of her former mentor, Maurice Blanche.

The book’s title is cleverly explored in various ways. For example, as one character remarks early on in the book, “where secrets reside, so does fear – it’s the unknown.” It transpires there are indeed secrets to be revealed some of which go longer back in time than anyone might imagine. Whilst fear can be ‘the scariest of emotions…a seed in the fertile seed of doubt’, it can also bring much-needed alertness. ‘Fear had to be handled with care, managed so it became a tool, not a weight.’

Increasingly, Maisie feels the tension between the important but secret work she undertakes alongside the cases that come to her private investigation business, and her new caring responsibilities. It doesn’t help that her secret work involves potentially life or death decisions about others, or that Mark Scott’s equally confidential work takes him away frequently. Naturally, like the rest of the population, she’s also concerned about her family’s safety –  the threat of further bombing raids and the possibility of invasion. ‘She realised that she had never trusted the world to keep herself or those she loved safe.’ It all leads at one point to Maisie concluding, “I think I’ve had enough”.

By the end of the book, I think even new readers will have come to the conclusion that Maisie doesn’t easily give in to fear when it comes to pursuing her investigations. But what about fear of commitment in her personal relationships? Should Maisie heed the advice that ‘Love is always worth the leap’? (I know my answer in Maisie’s case!)

The backdrop of wartime of London is vividly evoked: checking the blackout curtains as darkness falls, listening to the rumble of bombers overhead, navigating streets of bombed out houses, seeing young boys like Freddie Hackett running through the dark streets carrying messages between Air Raid Precautions depots.

The book’s conclusion sees scenes of both sorrow and joy, and – tantalizingly – a world on the brink of a new phase of the war.  As a now committed Maisie fan, I say roll on the next book!

In three words: Gripping, intriguing, atmospheric

Try something similar: The Mathematical Bridge by Jim Kelly

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Jacqueline WinspearAbout the Author

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in Kent and emigrated to the USA in 1990. She has written extensively for journals, newspapers and magazines, and has worked in book publishing on both sides of the Atlantic. Her acclaimed Maisie Dobbs crime series, set in the aftermath of WWI, is beloved by readers worldwide.  (Photo/bio credit: Publisher author page)

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