Synopsis: Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.
Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.
Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she’s just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…
I think I have just found a new favorite author. Of course, you may be wondering how I could be making this a favorite and not have given it 5 stars, but I’ll get to that later 😉. This book took me by such surprise in it’s wonderfulness I’m still sitting here reeling from reading it just moments ago. The atmosphere, the characters, the pacing…everything was just crafted so perfectly I can’t help but want to shower so much praise on this gem of a book. So, here we go (strap in, this will likely be a long one)…
Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for anything related to the World Wars. That may sound macabre, but I am a history buff so I like reading fiction that intertwines some truth into the fantasy. So when I read the description for this book on NetGalley my little history loving heart just couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! But so many authors have the tendency to muck up the history in favor of drama, or to not even mention anything historical, which is the whole fun of setting something in a particular time period vs. modern day. Kowel is not one of these authors. She does an AMAZING job of staying true to the history while weaving in the fantasy elements and not making everything seem ridiculous or overly far-fetched. I never found myself rolling my eyes or thinking that anything was implausible. Actually I kept thinking “what a fantastic idea” over and over. In fact, I don’t think this plot idea (mediums getting info from dead soldiers) would’ve really worked except in this particular time period, when spying and intelligence were of the upmost importance, not that they aren’t now of course, but the human element was of much more use then than it is now.
Without getting bogged down in the details, Kowel gives her audience credit and assumes that they know enough about World War I not to explain every detail about the setting so that the book can fill in other details that are more important, which is something I appreciate. Sometimes in historical books, you end up feeling like you’re reading a history textbook instead of a fiction book because the author has the characters or the narration explain everything that is happening with the battles or the setting, but that was not at all a problem with this book.
Along with the fabulous historical setting came her masterful crafting of characters that were so easy to love from the get-go. Being a woman of this time period, I adored the fact that Ginger was still a woman of manners and propriety but that she was headstrong and bold too, making her own choices and not afraid to stand up for herself and the people she loved. All of her actions made complete sense with her character and yet she remained ever the lady of the times. And don’t even get me started on her fiancé Benjamin. Be still my heart, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen faster for a leading man then I did for him. So sweet, protective and the picture of a devoted solider. Wow does Kowel know how to write her heartthrobs, haha! Even the “side characters” were fantastically written to the point that I had so many emotional moments with even them as the book unfolded, Merrow in particular. I’m still reeling from that one 😱.
Honestly, there were so many things about this book I could rave on and on about but the one thing that had me glued to the pages from the start and had me sobbing at the end was the beautiful and tragic romance between Ginger and Ben. If you don’t read this book for the history, or the fantasy or anything else, please pick it up for these two characters. I had no idea when I started reading how attached to them I would get and how much their story would affect me given how short this book actually is, but it is one of the most well written love stories I have read and I don’t say that lightly. The way that Kowel weaves little pieces of their backstory from the beginning to the end is just stunning and I was left so in love with their story that I still wish there was more.
The ending of the book is why I gave 4 stars instead of 5. It was too bittersweet for me. If you read it and my review, you’ll probably understand why that is. Or you can just spoil yourself here, *spoiler* I was really hoping they would find a way to keep Ben with Ginger, his final passing was so sad and heartbreaking. After falling in love with them it was so heartbreaking to see him have to really leave.* But of course, not every ending can be a happy one. Although I sometimes vehemently disagree with that in the world of fiction.
Overall this was one of the best books I have read recently. The pacing was fantastic, the characters were realistic, well-rounded and beautifully written and the plot was one that kept me guessing and intrigued from beginning to end. If the author is considering making a sequel to this, I am definitely on board to read the next one! One caveat though… *spoiler* I would suggest she bring Ben back if there is a sequel. Seriously, bring him back.*
*I received a free copy of this ebook through NetGalley from Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review*