Published: October 20th, 2015 by Balzer + Bray
*I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected the opinions stated below.
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.
I have, once again, made the mistake of waiting WAY too long to review this after I've finished the book, so pardon my vagueness. Hopefully I still manage to convey my overall thoughts of the book, but my brain has also been fried six times over this weekend, so we'll find out.
I am ALWAYS interested in spy books. And Velvet Undercover has a little bit of a different setting - World War I. I'm not really a history buff, so that wasn't what drew me in. I think if you are, though, you might be a little disappointed. I can't tell you how true it is to history but it felt pretty weak to me. Unsurprisingly, I know FAR less about the WWI than I do about II, but I still feel like we should have felt a little more presence from the war. Samantha is obviously removed from it - it's not like she's fighting on any frontlines. She's searching for someone in secret, and I imagine that the reality of that is far less thrilling than what I've come to expect from movies and books. But that's the thing. This is fiction, and I like a little thrill.
Samantha is certainly a great character. She's very intelligent, hard working, a positive and bright force during a dark time. She's not all dark and twisty like I've come to expect from a lot of characters. Most of the people in this book aren't, which I imagine can be a refreshing change for a lot of people. I didn't have a problem with this, but admittedly I think I usually feel a lot more emotions for the dark and twisty characters, which is totally a personal preference. I am basically a thundercloud 24/7 and so optimism can be hard for me to swallow. Samantha is resourceful, but I do feel like things kind of...fell into her lap, so to speak, and when it came to all the secondary characters, no one really felt developed. They felt more like props.
I think Velvet Undercover really just lacked any sparkle, if you know what I mean. It just felt like we were on a roadtrip, driving from point A to point B in the early hours of the morning when everyone is asleep and the road is silent. I wanted more thrill. I wanted Samantha to get more serious training, for her to be so deeply immersed in a mission that we almost forget who she really is. There was SO much potential there but it all just fell a bit flat.
There are two twists near the end, and thankfully, one of them was shocking. The other one? Not so much, but I think that's okay sometimes. The author left clues along the way and I do like when I can actually pick up on them.
tl;dr: It feels like a very flimsy spy story, but I think it's great if you're not a dedicated history person and you want a quick and fun read. Just as long as you don't expect too much Black Widow style thrill from it. 3 stars.