This nicely detailed wartime romance story surprised me in a good way. Expecting more “arms” in terms of wartime violence, I was pleased to find it more of an action-filled cat and mouse, chess match. The blurb is pretty much right on. I entered the tale to find Frank, a veteran of the United States World War II effort, returning to Germany to attend the Nuremberg trials. He’s hoping his testimony will save one of the top German officers, a man who still holds his heart. Well, this got my interest right away, an American and a top ranking German…in love? I was very curious as to how the author was going to make this boat float.
I’m happy to say Osiris Brackhaus did a very fine job. Not only did the boat float, it cruised, then sped up and showed off its stylish lines, beautifully detailing an insta-love that was not only believable but was skillfully underplayed. Told largely from Frank’s point of view, captivating hindsight scenes of the two men’s romance, provides a nice balance for the stimulating mental games played during the “now” scenes of the trial. In short order I found out that Captain Frank Hawthorne was an assassin during the war and had been assigned to parachute into Germany under the cover of night. The Allies had intel that the top ranking brass of the German military are scheduled to gather in one place to attend an big meet. Frank has been ordered in to take out as many as he can, starting with the most important. One of his intended targets was Johann von Biehn.
Johann is, among other things, a brilliant strategist whose work has helped the Nazis stay ahead in the war effort. Tall, blonde and handsome, Johann could be the poster boy for the Aryan race, and is seriously smart and creative. I really enjoyed Johann, he had quite a few eccentric quirks which were skillfully revealed throughout the story and despite my initial misgivings…I found him quite lovable.
Frank on the other hand was fantastic. He started as kind of a soldier with a “Don Draper” (Mad Men) type casualness that had me wondering if he had the right stuff to be an assassin. Well, within a few pages, I and some young GIs got the answer to that question. Later, during the romance, well, I’ll just say…Frank is hot. Shortly after a scene in which the idyllic private spot where the men’s romance takes place, is invaded, Johan orders Frank upstairs to hide. There is a brilliant portrait in words of Frank smoking a cigarette that had to be the sexiest non-sex scene I’ve read in a while.
But the real surprise of this lovely piece is that the masculine edge of the romance and lovemaking is matched, if not beat, by the clever unfolding of the trial and the solid characterizations of the supporting players. There is a lot of smart storytelling within these pages and they kind of sneak up on you. By its end, I was sorry to let the story go and days later found myself mentally replaying bits. This let me know…I’ll be reading this one again. Thank you, Osiris Brackhaus, for this sleek, edgy wartime romance; in a word: smart.