A historical novel of a young woman’s return to Europe and her service in the French resistance.
The Cross family ekes out a living in hardscrabble Kelly Flatt, Mo., where they have been brought by their father, an opera prodigy who fought in the Great War. When a lightning-felled tree kills her father, her mother turns to drink, forcing the thrush-voiced and raven-haired Christina Cross to find work in a hotel. There, Senator Liam Caradine discovers her vocal talent. Christina accepts the Senator’s patronage and performs at West Point under the smitten gaze of one Laurent de Gauvion Saint Cyr, grandson of the eponymous World War I general, who has come to seek American collaboration against French horizons dark with Hitler’s rearmament of Germany. In love with the paternal senator, Christina rebuffs Laurent, an infamous paramour, only to find herself again in his company when Germany attacks Austria and she, following in her father’s footsteps, travels to France to serve in the war effort. She brings her sister Nicolette to keep her safe from their drunken mother. They arrive in France just as their uncle, General Philippe Petain, is being sworn in as vice premiere of France. At first loyal to Philippe, Christina soon rejects his complacency toward the Nazis and her loyalty turns to Laurent and the resistance. She joins Operation Cri de Coeur, rescuing babies from Hitler’s camps with a submarine based in North African catacombs. But then the unthinkable happens: Nicolette is captured and sent to a Nazi work camp, eventually becoming a test subject for secret Nazi bio-weapons. Christina mounts a mission to infiltrate the camp and rescue Nicolette. Written with brio and filled with ecstatic reveries and 11th-hour rescues, St. Sure’s prose has a passion that often trumps clarity. NaÃ¯vetÃ© suitable to the ingÃ©nue bleeds into other characters’ speeches, even those of ostensibly great men cribbed from history. This tendency, in combination with a poor farm girl’s implausible relation to a political titan, erodes believability and undermines what manages to be an often action-driven and enjoyable ride.
Equal parts romance, intrigue and history, a flawed but spirited work.