11/28/07

Perfidia (2007)

Perfidia by Elspeth McKendrick
By Morag McKendrick Pippin w/a Elspeth McKendrick

Sophie de Havilland fled London and her past, vowing never to return. In Germany she sought solace, with her aunt, and couldn't help but admire how the Third Reich had reclaimed a country so near ruin. But soon the veneer crumbled. Beneath the nightlife of 1939 Berlin, the swirling parties with the dashing SS in their night-black uniforms and their beautiful dames, she saw cancer growing. Stories of an impossible nature—terrible stories, terrible crimes—she began to believe.

These Nazis were Germany's demon lover: handsome, fearsome, faithless, murderous. Her aunt had been right to seek escape. But, was it possible? One man offered hope: a handsome half-American. But while his spicy scent and strong arms seduced her with safety, the lightning on his collar and his searing blue eyes reminded her that sometimes the handsomest faces hid perfidious intent.
Yay me! I finished reading a book! Props to Thanksgiving vacation, as I had a bit of time on the plane to wrap up what must be my first pleasure read in a couple months. I iz sad.

But really, who can resist that striking cover and the idea of an historical romance set in 1939 Berlin? Although I should clarify: The reason Morag used another name to publish this one is because it really is more romantic suspense than straight historical romance. I say this because a) she's one of our contributors over at Unusual Historicals and I've learned tidbits about how she wrote this one, and b) I've never read a romantic suspense and was not expecting the high level of violence. The heightened suspense made for a markedly restricted romantic arc.

And perhaps that's just the hallmark of romantic suspense. Characters are too busy trying to outrun badguys--generally serial killers and hitmen, but here they were SS officers and lots o' Germans with guns--which means the romance is pushed considerably to the background. So, a question to readers who are more familiar with romantic suspense: Is this always the case?

(And can I fit a third colon in this review? I'll try!)

I know Karl's actions and motives were supposed to be mysterious, but I love love love books heavy with male POV and missed the opportunity to spend time in his head. When things finally heated up between Karl and Sophie, I was a little puzzled as to their attraction. It seemed so sudden, lying beneath the danger and terror they faced. But again, that may just be the style. The central romance did not pack the emotional punch of the setting.

The story was at once tight and lush--does that make sense? Detail, conversation, and action all took place without rush or brevity, but the pace of the novel never slowed. I enjoyed the attention to historical detail, everything from the type of cigarette to the clothes to the use of television in 1939 Berlin.

Poor thing, Morag had to write a preface to state that, yes, the Nazis had television in the 30s. Apparently her beta readers gave her shash for that, but it's true. Hitler loved the technology and tried to broadcast as much of the early war updates as possible. The perfect propaganda machine. She also included a brief German language glossary that included info about the Nazi regime--all very useful to anyone unfamiliar with the period. The historian in me lamented that anyone would have to be told what Reich means or who Himmler was, but that's not her fault.

Quality stuff. Go forth and partake.

Up next: The Daddy Spell by Patti Ann Colt. (Yay for a third colon!)

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