Title: The Secrets of Latimer House
Author: Jules Wake
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: August 30th, 2021 (Harper Collins UK)
Synopsis: In the war against Hitler every secret counts…
Society heiress Evelyn Brooke-Edwards is a skilled interrogator – her beauty making her a non-threat in the eyes of the prisoners.
Farm girl Betty Connors may not be able to type as she claimed, but her crack analytical skills soon find her unearthing covert connections.
German ex-pat Judith Stern never expected to find herself listening in to German POW’s whispered conversations, but the Nazis took her father from her so she will do whatever it takes to help the Allies end this war.
Billeted together in the attic of Latimer House – a place where secrets abound – Evelyn, Betty and Judith soon form a bond of friendship that carries them through the war. Because nothing is stronger than women united.
Tucked away in the Buckinghamshire countryside, Latimer House, a grand country estate, stands proudly – a witness to some of greatest secrets of WW2.
Used by the SOE to hold Nazi prisoners of war, this stunning historical novel is inspired by the untold story of the secret listeners of ‘M Room’ who worked day and night to help the Allies win the war. A must-read for fans of Dinah Jefferies, Fiona Valpy, Elaine Everest, Jean Fullerton and Deborah Burrowes.
Thank you to the publisher, One More Chapter, Harper Collins UK, and Edelweiss for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Latimer House, a country estate in Buckinghamshire, becomes a base to hold high ranking Nazi POWs during WWII while they are interrogated. Three women are brought together by the top secret work undertaken here. Heiress Evelyn Brooke-Edwards, with her fluency in German, is a skilled interrogator. Local girl Betty Connors is initially brought in as a typist, but her analytical skills soon have her working on much more important things. Judith Stern, a German Jew who escaped Nazi Germany after Kristallnacht, listens in on the conversations between the POWs for any useful information. The three women soon become fast friends despite their different personalities and backgrounds as they each work through their own trials.
The story behind ‘M Room’ was new information to me and I really enjoyed getting to learn about this endeavor that was so important to the war effort. It was fascinating to learn about this undertaking that was conducted under such high secrecy and the first thing I did when I finished reading this book was to look up the topic for more information because I was so curious about it! The three main characters in this book, Evelyn, Judith and Betty were interesting and their easy camaraderie despite coming from such different situations was wonderful to see as they supported each other through tough times. The author has done a great job with the narration and POVs for all of them and I liked how the plot explored how the war affected each of the characters albeit in very different ways and the realistic feel to the story. The book is clearly very well researched as shown in several of Evelyn’s POVs about how the POWs were handled.
The initial chapters of this book reminded me a lot of The Rose Code, which I really enjoyed reading earlier this year, so I was hoping that this would be just as good. However, this wasn’t remotely as exciting as the blurb implies. The work at Latimer House becomes more or less a backdrop as the relationships of the three characters take focus, and while it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t what I was expecting from a WWII novel. The fact is that, when I pick up this kind of book, it’s because I’m interested in the historical context and all the work that went in behind the scenes to win the war – and there was very little of that. At the very least, I expected that the pace would pick up at some point, or a major twist in the plot, but it was far too sedate.
Overall, while this was an interesting read, it didn’t really live up to the synopsis. Unfortunately, after all the amazing WWII books I’ve read so far, this kind of falls short despite being an easy read. I think though, that this book would be a good choice for anyone new to the genre and time period. This was the first novel by this author I’ve read and I’m looking forward to checking out their other works as well.
The Secrets of Latimer House releases on August 30th, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!