Title: Velvet Undercover
Author: Teri Brown
Series: No Series – Stand Alone
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: October 30th, 2015
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)
The summary of Velvet Undercover from 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.
It wasn’t too difficult to grab my interest when it came to this book. Historical fiction? Check. (Plus it’s about World War I…a period I’m really interested in, in terms of literature) A female lead who is confident? Check. The twists and turns any good spy novel would have? Check.
Shortly after starting the novel, I had to do a quick Google search for La Dame Blanche. I had never heard of it before and wanted to know more about it. I think the idea of a network of spies that included women was a genius idea, and it was well executed in the book.
World War I has long interested me because of the type of warfare that was developed. It was the first real use of airplanes in war. The tank was developed and used during this war. And, perhaps the most inhumane development, chemical warfare became a highly valuable tactic in battle.
Even though the book takes place during the war, the war itself does not play a large part. Velvet, the spy Samantha is sent to recover, has information on the German’s newly developed weapon. That’s the main connection to the war, although some characters referenced play large roles in the war.
I liked Samantha. She wants to serve her country and be the best she can be. She doesn’t want to sit idly by as war covered Europe. She wants to play a part in helping defeat the Central Powers. She’s a quick thinker who does not act on emotion. She understands that first instincts might not be correct, and she takes the time to think out her options when she can.
The other characters, even though we don’t really get the ability to connect as much with them, are just as interesting. It’s clear that many people are not who they seem. There are always secrets, including the ones Samantha holds on to, and it creates an atmosphere of mystery. Even as the reader, we don’t know everything and we’re left guessing with Samantha.
There were just a few pieces of the story that didn’t really feel connected together. I can’t really say anything without giving spoilers, but a major reason Samantha agrees to be a spy doesn’t feel entirely resolved. The situation itself finds resolution, but I was still left with questions about how the situation started and the people involved.
This is a good novel for anyone who loves historical fiction, especially the World War I period. I’m guessing the spy aspect isn’t as tightly woven as some might like, but I still think it created enough mystery to keep people engaged and guessing.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.