Lately I have been taking a few gambles on the books that request via NetGalley, and hot dang, I was not disappointed by Loyalty: Secrets! Filled with action, suspense, wit, and perfectly timed snark from a strong female lead this novel hits in all the right places.
Title: Loyalty: Secrets
Author: David Wiltcher
Publisher: Cameron Publicity & Marketing Ltd
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Themes: WWII, Cold War, Espionage, Orphans, Family, Spies
Features: Historical timeline
My Rating: 5/ 5
Kathy, an orphaned and feisty child and young woman, instinctively rebellious, drawn to challenges, a chancer but an idealist, is compelled to confront these issues, making choices and commitments that have major political and personal impacts on herself and others who are drawn to her.
The story follows her journey from quiet East Anglia to the growing nightmare of 1930s Berlin, meeting an inspirational agent, thenfighting her way out and across Europe to confront new challenges and dangers in wartime and post-war London. Here she discovers her true identity, a name change, and is compelled into an ideological choice of allegiance.
These are worlds of dreadful violence and hatreds, of nationalisms and developing Cold War conflicts, of treachery, paranoia and endless intrigue, of secrecy and deadly ideological rivalries, times of lethal danger.
There isn’t much about this book that I don’t love. After having read a good number of texts lately that have alternating perspectives, following a single character from childhood through to maturity was as refreshing as it was beautifully executed. The mixture of memory and event creates a believable balance and you really get the sense of who Kathy is and why she does what she does. I love her bold, bolshy, attitude and found myself laughing at the spectacle of this precocious girl saying exactly what aggravates the most.
Loyalty: Secrets had all of the elements that you come to expect from a WWII novel – persecution, loss, a daring escape and the depravity of many of those in power, as well as all of the key elements of a Cold War espionage adventure – subtle recruiting, corporate and government infiltration, a touch of poison, and more than a few clandestine meetings. Although either could have a been a stand alone tale on it’s own, these two elements are perfectly married through the tale of orphan Kathy, his discovery and loss of her family, and the exploration of the moments that defined her life. I really appreciated the subtle interweaving of major historical events such as crucial radio broadcasts, key newspaper articles, and the trickle-down reporting and even the tactful misrepresentation of certain events. The inclusion of a historical timeline was a really nice touch as it helps to contextualize the tumultuous atmosphere in which Kathy was raised.
And, just as this book had all of the elements that you would expect given the time frame, it also had enough twists and turns that I simply couldn’t stop turning the pages. Trying to avoid spoilers, but man! Wiltcher got me right in the feels more than I thought he would. I was ready for so horrible concentration camp/ captured spy torture, and instead I found myself bawling when Hanne wasn’t a drunk, broken after the passage through the mountains, and furious with the American in the Foreign Office. I was shocked, I was angry, and ultimately I was thrilled with how everything turned out.
I loved the writing style and found it easy to engage with. The vocabulary was playful and had a beautiful and challenging variety that I haven’t come across often enough. I enjoyed how difficult concepts and word were introduced as it allows for readers to learn alongside Kathy if they are unfamiliar with the concepts, as well as humour, innuendo, and abounding personality and snark. I particularly loved the use of the word ‘bolshy’, the prevalence of dictionaries and definitions (they make my librarian heart sing!), and subtle message that all news should viewed through a critical lens and with constant questioning.
Would I recommend this book? Oh, heck yes! I have already ordered a few copies to give as gifts to family and friends. Loyalty: Secrets is the perfect marriage of historical facts, espionage, and feminism. For anyone who loves WWII, Cold War spies, or even just lovers of strong female leads this book is an absolute must read.
Many thanks to David Wiltcher and Cameron Publicity & Marketing Ltd for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.