The Paris Seamstress packs in mystery, intrigue and romance in two intertwined timelines, present day and World War II, from New York to Paris.
The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester
It’s 1940 and the Nazi army is approaching Paris. Seamstress Estella Bissette finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Within just 24-hours, her world is turned upside down, with new truths revealed about her family and herself. Her mother forces her to flee. Estella boards one of the last ships to the U.S. before the Nazis reach Paris.
Estella arrives in New York City with little money, her mother’s sewing machine, and the gorgeous gold dress that she wears. Her mother dreamed of her safety and her success as a seamstress and a designer – but can she do it alone? And what will her journey look like?
The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers is a fiction novel set in a fantastical world with just a little bit of mystery and romance. Sayers created a world that sucked me in, with beautiful writing and a plot that kept me guessing.
The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers
For over 80 years, there were rumors that a Secret Circus – le Cirque Secret – existed in Paris in the 1920s. A spectacular show of animals and acrobatics, circus tickets were delivered to a chosen few; the circus hidden from the uninvited. While there were rumors and stories from those that were lucky enough to attend, the circus’s existence was never confirmed. As far as anyone knows, there were no photographs or paintings, old tickets or posters… no material proof of that the circus was real. But it was never forgotten.
Bletchley Park may look like a mansion in a quiet country village but it’s one of Britain’s most important assets during World War II. Bletchley Park (BP) is where hundreds of men and women worked to break Axis encrypted messages, the Enigma codes.
Wartime Britain brings together three unlikely women at the secretive estate – debutant Osla, self-made Mab, and the quiet and awkward Beth. Together, these woman make a life for themselves while serving their country. But like all BP employees, the women are sworn to secrecy, hiding their work and much of their everyday lives from loved ones.
As the war drags on, the three friends are torn apart – first by tragedy and then by treason. Someone locks Beth away at Clockwell Sanatorium to prevent her from revealing the existence of a traitor at BP, someone selling secrets to the Soviets. She is still there in 1947, and the traitor is still at large. Beth manages a desperate plea to Osla and Mab for help. She may have survived more than 3 years locked up, but in just a handful of days, she’ll undergo surgery and become a vegetable if Osla and Mab can’t come to her rescue. And maybe, just maybe, the women can identify the traitor and bring him or her to justice.
I became a big fan of Kate Quinn’s historical fiction novels when I read The Alice Network and The Huntress, and Quinn’s latest was no disappointment. Like her earlier books, Quinn took creative liberties in the characters, timeline, and plot but remained true to major themes, historical moments, and social aspects of the time. For example, all three WWII-era books stem from true stories and historical figures. In The Rose Code, some of the characters are fictional versions of those that worked at BP. Others represent a few different individuals or were created to exemplify a group of people. The Author’s Note clearly explains where Quinn deviated from history and what was true.
The Rose Code alternates between two timeframes – WWII, starting in 1940, and post-war 1947, as Britain counts down the days until the wedding. Most of the novel focus on wartime Britain, where we follow Osla, Mab, and Beth as they develop their friendship and their careers. BP was a place that recruited all sorts of quirky and/or nerdy people and thus, fostered a more openminded and accepting atmosphere than common at that time. The alternating 1947 timeframe tracks the trio after the war, uniting old friends to help Beth and identify the BP traitor.
The Rose Code has a little something for everyone – history, love, and mystery. It’s a fascinating story of the secret codebreakers of BP (the predecessor to today’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ), who are credited with ending the war more than a year earlier and saving many lives.
If you like historical fiction, this one (and Quinn’s others) are definitely worth a read. Once I picked it up, I didn’t want to put it down.
One day, Zachary Ezra Rawlins takes a book out of the library… and suddenly finds himself reading about a moment from his childhood – a moment when he stands before a painted door and chooses not to open it. That library book changes the trajectory of his life. Why was he in this book? What did it mean?
Lucien Bernard is a struggling architect. Germany occupies France, and work was scarce. Then one day Bernard is offered a job – he is to create a hiding place for a Jew. In return, not only will he earn a handsome some of money but he’ll also be granted a commission to build a factory. Bernard debates the offer – holding no affinity for Jews but intrigued by the money, the idea of outwitting the Nazis, and the promise of a job that could make him famous some day, so he accepts.
That decision will not only change his future, but alter his way of thinking in a manner he never thought possible.