Another one. Another NetGalley book that I have been skipping over and really, really shouldn’t have. I might have read too many WWII novels a few years ago and burnt myself out a bit, but this one. This one is fantastic.
What it’s about:
From the Goodreads blurb:
Rhys Gravenor, Great War veteran and Welsh sheep farmer, arrives in Paris in the midst of the city’s liberation with a worn letter in his pocket that may have arrived years too late. As he follows the footsteps of his missing son across an unfamiliar, war-torn country, he struggles to come to terms with the incident that drove a wedge between the two of them.
Joined by Charlotte Dubois, an American ambulance driver with secrets of her own, Rhys discovers that even as liberation sweeps across France, the war is far from over. And his personal war has only begun as he is haunted by memories of previous battles and hampered at every turn by danger and betrayal. In a race against time and the war, Rhys follows his son’s trail from Paris to the perilous streets of Vichy to the starving mobs in Lyon to the treacherous Alps. But Rhys is not the only one searching for his son. In a race of his own, a relentless enemy stalks him across the country and will stop at nothing to find the young man first.
The country is in tatters, no one is trustworthy, and Rhys must unravel the mystery of his son’s wartime actions in the desperate hope of finding him before it’s too late. Too late to mend the frayed bond between them. Too late to beg his forgiveness. Too late to bring him home alive.
There is a lot going on with this book: secrets and flashbacks and multiple missions.
This book is so perfectly written, I found myself rereading passages just so that I could do that stare-off-into-space dreamy thing and then read it again. It’s not flowery and sweet… this is a war story, and it’s full of all the dark, gritty horrors that you expect. It’s just so well told that even the horrible is somehow beautiful. The descriptions of wartime Paris, the French countryside, the Alps, and the Welsh hills are so vivid and lovely.
The novel is obviously well researched and the story, which is most definitely a fast-paced thriller, feels very much like it could have happened. Patton even makes a brief appearance as the Americans have arrived to help liberate France. Side plots of priceless artworks being smuggled from Paris to keep them from the Germans, as well as a network to save Jewish children from Nazis, all while our main character races to find his son… there is so much going on here, and it all just perfectly entwines into a cohesive, engaging story.
Rhys is probably the most attractive white male lead in a book I’ve read for a long time. We aren’t talking Jamie Fraser level here, but it’s a near thing. He’s tough, flawed, and tortured, but he’s got such an incredible sense of what’s right and important. The flashbacks to his time in WWI and the losses of his family at home are heartbreaking and endeared him to me. The burdens that he quite literally carries throughout his life, and his relationship with his son, as well as the new relationships he forges with the people he meets in his search for that son, make for an amazing read.
I highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, especially WWII era. It may not be a bright, happy story from start to finish, but there is enough hope and love to make it worth the time and emotional investment.