In a world of secrets, can Esme find the courage to be her true self?
Happily in love, Esme Colborne is about to marry Richard Trevannion, descendant of one of the oldest families in England. But when Esme learns she is adopted – from a working class family – she cannot allow Richard to marry so far beneath his station.
Fleeing the life she knew, a chance encounter leads Esme to work as a ‘decoy woman’, testing British undercover operatives who may otherwise reveal secrets in a moment of weakness. As dangerous as it is thrilling, she is soon captivated by this world of subterfuge – one wrong move, however, and Esme could lose everything.
With her feelings for Richard as strong as ever, should she go back to him and reveal the truth of her birth? Is she brave enough to risk having her heart broken again?
An enthralling Second World War saga for fans of Rosie Archer and Annie Murray.
I’m a huge fan of books set in this era, so it was hardly surprising that the theme of Decoy Women would grab my attention.
When Esme Colborne learns her true identity only days before she’s due to marry Richard Trevannion, she suffers a huge crisis of conscience. Convinced that her real background makes her no longer “suited” to Richard (his family is one of the oldest and wealthiest in England) she packs up her things and leaves home with no plans or destination in mind.
She finds a place to live but has no idea what to do to earn a living since her own savings won’t last forever. When, by chance, she spots a distraught woman with her son speaking in French at the station, Esme asks if she can help, assuming the woman is lost and needs directions. Having been to finishing school herself, Esme is fluent in French but soon realises the woman’s husband is coming to meet them.
That conversation, no matter how brief, is the catalyst of her story from thereon. Someone overheard her speaking French and suggests she call the number on a business card where the opportunity to serve her country awaits.
And so she is recruited as a decoy woman. Her job is to test men who have recently completed their training as Special OperationS Executives before they are sent to France. Esme is set up at the Hotel Aurelian where she is to meet these men and see if they hold up to scrutiny, albeit done in the most subtle and seductive way. If they fall foul of her methods and blow their cover stories, then her report will deem them as unsuitable. If, however, they pass her test, then they are sent onwards to fight the good fight in France as spies.
Esme excels at her job, but she also gets too close to some of those she is supposed to be testing, in particular to Marcus. As the bombs are dropped more frequently, Esme suffers the loss of her closest friends, and it makes her reevaluate her life. What will become of her once the war ends – she’ll have no job, and has lost the only true friends she has made since leaving home. Can she pick up the threads with her family, and maybe even with Richard, or should she hope for a new life with Marcus?
This is an interesting and enjoyable read with an original plotline centring around the decoy women. My thanks go to Netgalley and Canelo for the advanced reader copy.