Velvet Undercover – Espionage, History, and Romance in a twisty little YA read about WWI

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Velvet Undercover – Espionage, History, and Romance in a twisty little YA read about WWI

I have never been able to resist a lady spy, so Velvet Undercover had me at the premise.  Samantha reminded me a bit of Veronica Mars, without the loveable snark, but if you enjoy espionage and historical settings with a little romance thrown in the mix, you will probably find this book engaging.  I was particularly glad to find a WWI setting since the Victorian Era has been done so much in this genre.  Four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

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.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this YA historical spy thriller.  It was well paced to keep the action moving and the threat of discovery alive.  I was particularly intrigued by the setting – WWI isn’t a big time period in YA books, and it was a nice change from the usual WWII.  Samantha is a good heroine.  She is smart but she still makes a few mistakes, as any teen would, so she came across like a real rookie spy.  The romance in this story is entirely too rushed.  I liked the romantic interest, and he will be a character that other readers will consider very charming and attractive, but little time is taken to establish a believable relationship between him and the protagonist.  I enjoyed the way the story was set up, which allowed for a little training, and a lot of time in the field.  This was just twisty enough that I got turned around for a little while.  Who can trust a spy, after all?  However, when it was time for the big reveal, I wasn’t quite as satisfied by the explanation as I could have been.  There just wasn’t enough of a backstory to allow readers to put the pieces together on their own, and that always feels a little like a cheat to me.  This story reads quickly and it is compelling.  I think it could have been longer to flesh out a few more of the details, but overall, it is a good read for middle school and high school girls who like lady spies.  I would be interested in seeing Samantha in a few more adventures.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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