The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.
This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.
Travel back in time to 1946 London and Paris. The second World War has ended, but a new, chilly war of clandestine meetings and shifting alliances has just begun. It’s unclear who to trust and which side is in the right — and it’s all just what our heroine Livy needs.
Olivia ‘Livy’ Nash has been in a muddle for a year, alive but not really living. Her days are spent proofreading an inane lady’s column for the newspaper, and she wiles away her nights with just a bottle of off-brand vodka for company. Then Ian Fleming makes her an irresistible offer.
Livy spent the war fighting in the resistance. It gave her purpose and the love of her life — until betrayal left her with nothing except a hardened heart. Now she’s alone and jaded, left behind by the more respectable war heroes and doomed to a life of… what? A single woman in a world that wants her to return to her pre-war, lady-like situation of looking pretty and doing as she’s told.
Then Ian Fleming buys her a drink and throws her a lifeline that proves to be more complicated than it seems: He offers her a job as a foreign correspondent, but Livy soon realizes that typing stories is not what he has in mind. Fleming is recruiting an espionage unit to fight ‘the next war’ which ‘began before the last even ended.’ He sends Livy to Paris on a mission to track down a traitor and, perhaps, find the fierce version of herself that she lost.
In the post-war days, the cities of Paris and London are glamorous and treacherous; champagne and threats flow with equal abandon. As Livy meets with contacts and follows clues, we traverse the streets of Paris with her, dashing under bridges, drinking wine, eating chocolate pastries by the Seine, and outrunning Russian agents on the cobblestones.
The plot is rife with double-crosses, intrigue, action-packed set pieces, and the wry humor of agents, veterans, diplomats, and government officials who approach every conversation with ulterior motives and healthy cynicism. And through it all, there’s Livy, a heroine to believe in: mouthy, distrustful, slightly broken, but determined, a woman who cares just enough — and too little — for herself that she strides brazenly into danger at every opportunity.
Tonight at the French Embassy, there’s a soiree, and you are cordially invited… I trust you’ll keep that Lancashire sass under wraps. You enter the party as Mademoiselle Bélanger, and you leave the party as the same. It’s a simple assignment. Maintain your cover at all costs. Like falling off a log for you, darling. Oh, and you’ll be receiving microfilm from an operative at the party. Only trouble is, we’ve no idea who it is. — M.L. Huie
This thrilling spy story (312 pages) was published in January of 2020 by Crooked Lane Books. The book takes you to post-WWII Paris. Melissa read Spitfire and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
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