Edwardian Romance and History Gains a Twist of Suspense
Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?
Peter Holstein, given his family’s German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.
But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors’ scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he’s more than his name?
Why This Book:
Having previously read and enjoyed Roseanna M. White‘s Ladies of the Manor series, I felt confident that I would enjoy this A Name Unknown as well. Added to my confidence in the author was the uniqueness of a heroine who is a thief and a hero who writes novels. Such a unique combination promised an interesting read.
Rosemary Gresham may have been a thief, but she was a thief who preferred to work in broad daylight.
This novel pulled me in the from the very first line. The first scene throws the reader immediately into danger and the first chapter adeptly sets up the rest of the novel. We immediately understand what is at stake and are given strong reasons to care about the heroine and root for her despite her profession. The second chapter introduces the hero and we immediately connect with him and his plight as well. The fact that the hero and heroine are secretly (at least on her part) at cross purposes, yet you want to root for them both, makes for quite a compelling start.
Rosemary Gresham is a deservedly complex heroine, with a well-developed backstory that supports who she is and why she makes the choices she does. She cares for her “family” to a point of self-sacrifice and it’s this very love which causes her such internal conflict as she begins to grow and change throughout the story.
Peter Holstein is a quieter style of hero. In fact, he and the heroine do a significant amount of communicating through hand-written notes because his stress-aggravated stutter makes speech difficult for him. It could be annoying reading stuttered dialogue throughout an entire book, so when I first realized he had a stutter I was on guard. However, I am happy to report that his stutter in no way detracts from the story, and in fact is handled so well, it becomes a positive quality in this character which highlights his positive virtues. Peter is a noble yet human hero you can admire, sympathize with, and root for.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
From the first scene, this novel held my attention and I never wanted to put it down. While it didn’t make me laugh out loud or cry, I cared strongly for the characters and wanted to see things work out for them in the end.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
I especially enjoyed seeing street life in 1914 London through Rosemary’s eyes. Her views on social injustices struck similar chords in my mind and heart and made me root for her all the more.
Peter’s unique position as a man with both German ancestry & royal friendships during a time of impending war provided a very interesting perspective on the events leading up to the first World War. Though I am unsure if it was a conscious intention of the author, I did note that several of the issues he faced were eerily similar to certain things going on in the United States currently or which have occurred here in the past. It provided solid food for thought.
This ending came as a surprise to me – or at least, the way everything happened was surprising. The author managed to throw in some twists that I did not see coming, yet they still made complete sense in hindsight. That is certainly my favorite type of ending, but extremely difficult to pull off. If you ever read this, well done, Ms. White. Well done.
5 out of 5 stars (I honestly can’t think of a single thing I would change about this novel.)
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Have you read A Name Unknown? Share your thoughts!
What other novels have you enjoyed which featured a hero and heroine at cross purposes?
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Materials Note: I did receive a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, but I was not required to write a review – only to provide feedback to the publisher.