A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore

Thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour today. Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the stunning proof copy to read. Last year I read and enjoyed the Love Child by Rachel Hore (my review can be found at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/05/13/the-love-child-by-rachel-hore-bookreview/)

Synopsis:

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Last Letter Home, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick, comes a thrilling novel about a woman with an extraordinary life, based on a true story.

Minnie Gray is an ordinary young woman. She is also a spy for the British government.

It all began in the summer of 1928… Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.

Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.

She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion. What if they find out? Full of suspense, courage and love, A Beautiful Spy is a stunningly written story about resisting the norm and following your dreams, even if they come with sacrifices.

My thoughts:

Minnie Gray is going to be one of my favourite book characters. In 1928, she knows her own mind and it doesn’t involve settling down just because everyone expects it. Minnie is looking to make a difference to the world, and through a chance encounter, she finds herself in a very different world.

When we think of a spy, of course, we tend to think of James Bond. We never see him wrestling with trying to keep the very different elements of his life apart or find out how emotionally draining it is to keep so many secrets, or to miss out on having proper friendships with work colleagues and neighbours.

I enjoyed the way this story was written, so that we could understand the emotions Minnie felt during the various stages of her journey from living in Edgbaston, travelling to India and appearing in court. She had to deal with a large number of changes and secrets with very little help. I also loved the ending of the book, which reminded me how spirited Minnie is. A fascinating book that I will be awarding 5 star reviews to.

Author Bio:

Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a full-time writer. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her last novel, The Love Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller.

http://www.rachelhore.com │Twitter: @RachelHore │Instagram: @Rachel.Hore

The Love Child by Rachel Hore #bookreview

A young mother’s sacrifice. A child’s desperate search for the truth . . . 
London, 1917

When nineteen-year-old Alice Copeman becomes pregnant, she is forced by her father and stepmother to give up the baby.  She simply cannot be allowed to bring shame upon her family. But all Alice can think about is the small, kitten-like child she gave away, and she mourns the father, a young soldier, so beloved, who will never have the chance to know his daughter.

Edith and Philip Burns, a childless couple, yearn for a child of their own. When they secretly adopt a baby girl, Irene, their life together must surely be complete. Irene grows up knowing that she is different from other children, but no one will tell her the full truth.

Putting hopes of marriage and children behind her, Alice embarks upon a pioneering medical career, striving to make her way in a male-dominated world. Meanwhile, Irene struggles to define her own life, eventually leaving her Suffolk home to find work in London.

As two extraordinary stories intertwine across two decades, will secrets long-buried at last come to light?

My thoughts:

4.5 stars

Thank you to Simon and Schushter UK for a digital copy via NetGalley during lockdown 2020 – my thoughts are my own.

This is the first book I’ve read by Rachel Hore although my Kindle tells me that I have bought (but not read) A Week in Paris and The Dream House – I have now bumped them up my tbr (to be read) list.

I enjoyed this historical fiction, set between the First World War and the start of the Second World War. Life was very different and an unmarried mother would be frowned on, so Alice is encouraged to give up her baby, Stella. The book follows the lives of Alice and Irene (formerly Stella).

The book covers adoption, mental health, challenging male dominance in medicine, birth control, family secrets, and the social changes after the end of the war. It is well written, full of historical detail and makes you care for the characters.

If you enjoy historical fiction and/or watching shows such as Call the Midwife, then I believe that you will also enjoy this book.

The author, Rachel Hore:

I’m the author of ten novels, the most recent of which is The Love Child. I came to writing in my forties, after a career in publishing in London. My husband and I had moved out to Norwich with our three young sons and I’d had to give up my job and writing was something that I’d always wanted to try. I originally studied history, so it was wonderful finally to put my knowledge to good use and to write The Dream House, which is partly set in the 1920s in Suffolk and London.

Most of my novels are dual narrative, often called ‘time slip’, with a story in the present alternating with one set in the past. I love the freedom that they give me to escape into the past, but also the dramatic ways in which the stories interact. My characters are often trying to solve some mystery about the past and by doing so to resolve some difficulty or puzzle in their own lives.

The books often involve a lot of research and this takes me down all sorts of interesting paths. For The Glass Painter’s Daughter I took an evening class in working with coloured glass. My creations were not very amazing, but making them gave me insight into the processes so that my characters’ activities would feel authentic. For A Week in Paris I had to research Paris in World War II and the early 1960s through films and books and by visiting the city – that was a great deal of work for one novel. Last Letter Home involved me touring a lot of country houses with old walled kitchen gardens in search of atmosphere and to explore the different kinds of plants grown there.

Places often inspire my stories. The Memory Garden, my second novel, is set in one of my favourite places in the world – Lamorna Cove in Cornwall – which is accessed through a lovely hidden valley. A Place of Secrets is set in a remote part of North Norfolk near Holt, where past and present seem to meet. Southwold in Suffolk, a characterful old-fashioned seaside resort with a harbour and a lighthouse, has been a much loved destination for our family holidays and has made an appearance in fictional guise in several of my novels, including The Silent Tide and The Love Child.

Until very recently I taught Publishing and Creative Writing part-time at the University of East Anglia, but I’ve just become a full-time writer, which feels a bit scary. My boys are all grown up now, but we still see a lot of them, and our black labrador, Astra, gets much more attention. My husband David is a writer, too (he writes as D.J. Taylor), so we understand each other’s working lives.

I find I have to have a regular routine with my writing, not least to keep the book in my head. My aim is to sit down at 9am every morning and write till lunchtime, then again the afternoon, but there is often something ready to interrupt this so I go with the flow.

I hope that you are able to find my books easily and enjoy them – I am always happy to hear from readers!

Happy reading!  

Visit Rachel at http://www.rachelhore.co.uk, or follow her on Twitter @rachelhore or Facebook



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