Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Review of Black Roses by Jayne Thynne (Simon and Schuster, 2013)
Black Roses is set in Berlin 1933 shortly after the Nazis have come to power and are undertaking the first wave of sweeping changes. The main protagonist is Clara Vine, a young British actress who hopes to establish a career at the Ufa studios. Shortly after arriving in the city, she falls into the company of senior Nazi wives and enrolled into a new fashion state agency that aims to dress German women in appropriate clothes. Principled and determined, with little time for the Nazi ethos and behaviour, she’s found herself in a difficult situation. That is made more unpalatable when a British embassy employee, Leo Quinn, asks her to continue to meet the wives and collect and report any interesting information. As she works undercover, unfolding events centred on the secrets of Magda Goebbels are drawing her ever further into a dangerous situation, and at the same time she’s falling for Leo while also dating a senior Nazi. Giving a sense of authenticity, Thynne populates the book with many real characters, events and fashions (and there’s certainly a strong focus on the fashion), as well historical context and the geography/atmosphere of the city. Clara, the set-up and the real historical context are intriguing and the story should have fully captured my attention and imagination. However, I never quite got fully engaged with the tale until the last section. I’m not sure why – partly voice, style, focus, pace, I think. It was just one of those stories that was okay, without being a compelling, immersive read for much of it. I’ll probably still try next book in the series as there’s a lot of promise in the main character and premise and I often find the second book clicks more strongly than the first.