review by Maryom
It's August 1938 and Europe is preparing for war while still hoping it can somehow be avoided. Clara Vine, half-British, half-German actress, and part-time British spy, is in Paris filming her latest movie for the German Ufa studios. Mixing with the beautiful and powerful at Coco Chanel's salon, she encounters two very persuasive men; Max Brandt, a German cultural attache to whom she feels almost irresistibly attracted, and Guy Hamilton, from British intelligence, who'd like her to be-friend Hitler's girlfriend Eva Braun and pass on any inside information she can pick up. Clara's no stranger to mixing among the wives of the Nazi elite but Eva Braun is kept very much out of sight as she's deemed bad for Hitler's public image. How is Clara is even meet her, let alone strike up a friendship?
Meanwhile, Clara's godson Erich holidaying on a luxury Nazi cruise ship, believes one of his fellow passengers has disappeared - the only real option being that she fell overboard. Despite assurances from the captain that nothing untoward has occurred, Erich won't let the matter drop and asks Clara for help.
The third of the Clara Vine series is set at the time of Germany's annexation of Austria, the War of Flowers of the title, when Europe was on the brink of war but some politicians still believed that Hitler's aims would soon be achieved and a certain level of stability return. Any information about his intentions would be valuable, and who should know his plans better than Eva Braun? Clara is again thrown into danger as her knack of listening in a way that makes others pour out their hearts proves so very useful. I actually found I felt rather sorry for Eva, forced to live an almost isolated life hidden away from the world, with no friends allowed past the guards, and only her dogs for company.
The story has a lot of threads weaving round each other, and sometimes they're a little difficult to keep straight, or one is dropped for a while as the others progress, but everything sorts itself nicely in the end. The whole book is filled with suspense with Clara constantly aware that she could be being followed at any point in time, and never being quite sure who she can trust; is the rather dashing Max Brandt merely interested in her romantically or does he have other more sinister plans? The tension cranks up an extra notch when Clara is taken to visit Hitler's mountain retreat Berghof. The views are wonderful but the atmosphere chilly and threatening.
I'm really liking this series with its slant on history, and spying, from a female perspective. I'm just hoping now that it won't end when WW2 actually starts..
Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Simon & Schuster
Genre - thriller, historical fiction
If you haven't read the earlier Clara Vine novels, check them out here - Black Roses, The Winter Garden