Monday, October 19, 2015

All Things Halloween Review - Velvet Undercover

Velvet Undercover

By: Teri Brown

Expected Publication: October 20th 2015 by Balzer + Bray

336 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Spy, Thriller, Mystery

Source: Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!!)

( Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository )

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Goodreads description--Samantha Donaldson’s family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a Girl Guide and messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, high-level mathematics, and complex puzzles and codes, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women’s spy group La Dame Blanche she’s torn—this could be the adventure she’s dreamed of, but how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband to the war? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes there’s no way she can refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known to the members of LDB only as Velvet. Deep undercover within the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Samantha must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she finds herself forming a forbidden attraction to the enemy-a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Samantha discover the truth and find Velvet before it’s too late…for them both?

From author Teri Brown comes the thrilling story of one girl’s journey into a deadly world of spycraft and betrayal—with unforgettable consequences.

I picked up Velvet Undercover because I loved Code Name Verity so much. Granted these are written by two totally different authors, but they both have similar aspects. We’ve got teenage females playing huge roles in World Wars (Verity in World War 2, and Sam in World War 1). Plus…spies. I mean come on! And the one thing that Code Name Verity didn’t really have…romance (which it didn’t need).

We start out Velvet Undercover with Sam being in a competition as a Guide Girl. They compete in all kinds of areas like the description mentions. Samantha’s performance in the competition as well as her previous work with the Guide Girls has caused her to stand out. Only when she’s offered an opportunity of a lifetime, she’s torn. Her father was abducted in the war and is presumed dead by many. She doesn’t want to leave her mother alone. But when information about her father is dangled in front of her, Samantha can’t turn down the opportunity to trade for answers. She’ll join the LDB in exchange for information on her father.

Samantha is then taken through a brief training period to prepare her for her first undercover spy operation—exposing and recovering another spy, Velvet, lodged deeply undercover in the Kaiser’s household. Personally, I found the amount of training Samantha was given for her mission to be extremely lacking and in no way realistic, but I didn’t dwell on that too much. And so Samantha takes the place of a distant relation to the duchess and will be acting as an assistant governess to the prince’s children. The LDB have narrowed down “Velvet” to two possible people—the governess and a close personal friend of the duchess. The role of assistant governess gets her close to the governess, and the distant relation will get her close to the duchess’s friend. While Sam does have a knack for solving puzzles, I wasn’t all that impressed with her actual spy work. I can’t imagine that you aren’t fearful even if you are a spy, but Sam was often clumsy and let her fear get the better of her.

Early on Sam finds herself feeling trusting and friendly with one of the prince’s personal guards who made her feel calm and welcome. But getting close to Maxwell isn’t the best idea, especially under the circumstances. Maxwell is a loyal guard and Sam isn’t who she pretends to be. Plus she’s on a mission. Yet these two have multiple encounters that spur them along toward one another.

I actually picked out “Velvet” from very early on as well as another twist. Even though these were things I predicted, I didn’t feel like the book was really predictable and I wasn’t 100% certain that I was right. I read Velvet Undercover very quickly. Part of that was because I was really into the story and the other part was because I had opportunity to keep reading and wasn’t forced to put it down. I do see where some might find this one more on the slow side. I won’t say that Velvet Undercover was as good as Code Name Verity, but I think it was a very well done spy book. It had a few flaws, but nothing to hold it back too much. I’m giving Velvet Undercover 4 Stars. Have you read Velvet Undercover? What did you think? Let me know!

This review is part of my All Things Halloween event--a month of paranormal, supernatural, mystery/thriller, etc reviews and books.

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