Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wednesday Wonders: THE RULES IN ROME

This week's Wednesday Wonders features 
The Rules in Rome 
by A.L. Sowards

Praise for the Book

Readers who hunger for a great espionage thriller with an extra helping of romance will devour The Rules in Rome. A.L. Sowards is at the top of her craft with this terrific WWII suspense novel. It is definitely a book not to be missed!
Gregg Luke, author of Bloodborne and Deadly Undertakings
Book Summary:

With Hitler’s forces firmly entrenched in Europe, countless heroes seek to end the madman’s reign. Bastien Ley is one of the best. Working in Italy for the Office of Strategic Services, he’s been tasked with sabotaging German convoys. When his team kills an officer headed for Rome, the man’s similarity to Bastien is undeniable, and seeing an opportunity to turn the tide of the war, Bastien makes a bold decision: he will assume the dead officer’s identity. He becomes Dietrich, an Iron Cross–wearing German officer—an ideal position from which to infiltrate the Nazi ranks in Rome. To help with his stressful assignment, his superiors send him a reinforcement in the form of the lovely Gracie Begni, an intelligent and eager radio operator with absolutely no undercover experience.

With a gulf of resentment between them, these two agents must find a way to portray a couple in love. Soon their reluctant alliance becomes much more as Bastien and Gracie find themselves getting lost in their feelings for each other. But as they engage in battle against the deadliest foe the world has ever known, the pair quickly realizes their love may be doomed. As the Rome Gestapo threatens to destroy all they’ve worked for, will Bastien and Gracie survive their charade?


     Marcello walked around the car to stand next to Bastien. “So no one in Rome has ever met him before?”
      Bastien shrugged. “How should I know?”
     “How’s your German?”

     “Better than my English or my Italian. Why?” But Bastien already had an idea of what Marcello was about to suggest.
     “Do you have any idea how valuable it would be to have a plant inside German headquarters in Rome?”
     Bastien shook his head. “I’d be dead in two days, Marcello.”
     Marcello fingered the thin black mustache on his upper lip. “No, I think this could work.”
     “It’s not your neck on the line, is it?” But even as his instincts argued against it, Bastien could see the value in having intimate knowledge of the massive defenses being built to stall the Allied push north. And what other information could a German officer learn? Which convoys to attack? Weaknesses in the supply chain? Battle plans? Impending roundups targeting Italian partisans and the OSS men working with them? I want to do something more effective than watch Nazi convoys drive by, don’t I? It was a calculated risk; if caught, he’d be killed. But the potential was huge, and in comparison, the value of Bastien’s life seemed small. “Find his papers.”

My Book Review:

The Rules in Rome is the fourth book written by A.L. Sowards I’ve read and it didn’t disappoint.

From the start the author develops strong characters with personalities and attitudes that become as much of the action as the setting and the plot. The overall theme is espionage, and Bastien is able to pull off the role he takes on because of being a native German who was forced to flee the country after his father was killed for speaking out against the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930’s. Due to a fortuitous event, he is encouraged to assume the role of a German officer over engineering projects who was killed while traveling to his new assignment in Rome. Bastien agrees to do so, knowing he does not have enough intelligence about the history of the man. It could put him in danger, and it does.

Gracie is an intelligent, Italian-born college grad who, after losing her fiancé to the war, decides to pull her education and skills to use in service to her country. She is recruited by the OSS to become a radio operator. Since she lived in Italy until she was eleven and is a native speaker, she is assigned to Rome. Both she and Bastien find themselves assigned to work together. Both find reason to resent the other, yet their mutual danger prompts them to look out for each other.

One thing I like about the author’s style, and this one is no exception, is the manner in which she describes some of the enemies as sympathetic characters, real people doing their best while being loyal to their country. Even as Bastien works to thwart the Nazi effort to win the war in Italy, he is friends with some of the men he is spying on. He recognizes their humanity. The moral dilemma with which he is often faced adds to the tension and suspense of the book.

The romance elements are clean and proper. Although I saw it coming, there were a few surprises at the end that added to my overall satisfaction with the story. I highly recommend it.

Author Biography:

A.L. Sowards has always been fascinated by the 1940s, but she's grateful she didn't live back then. She doesn't think she could have written a novel on a typewriter, and no one would be able to read her handwriting if she wrote her books out longhand. She does, however, think they had the right idea when they rationed nylon and women went barelegged.

Sowards grew up in Moses Lake, Washington. She graduated from BYU and ended up staying in Utah, where she enjoys spending time with her husband and children or with her laptop. She does not own a typewriter. She does own several pairs of nylons.

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