THE ENGLISH LADY by William Harrington

THE ENGLISH LADY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Adolf Hitler nuzzles her belly. Goering ineffectually gropes. Heydrich makes her his mistress. The Duke of Windsor (an old beau) depends on her advice. And Churchill secretly entursts her with a crucial WW II spy mission. Who is she? She's Lady Nancy Brookeford--the resourceful heroine of this surprisingly convincing and involving saga, 1931-42, which sometimes verges on a kinky Springtime for Hitler fantasy/farce. . . but always manages to seem reasonably believable. Young, beauteous Lady Nancy begins her notorious association with the Nazis early on: frustrated by her nobleman father's opposition to her passion for aviation, she learns to fly in Germany--from her cousin/lover Helmut, a pilot who introduces Nancy to Goering. . . and Chancellor-to-be Hitler. All the Nazis adore her sexy slenderness, her aristocratic Élan. She flies for Lufthansa. She calls Adolf ""Wolf"" as he childishly pants, sobs, confides, but stops short of grownup sex. (""It was ludicrous. Her black silk skirt was draped over his head."") And, though troubled by anti-Semitic violence, Nancy lives mostly in Berlin, going along for the Nazi ride in the mid-'30s. Then, however, she secretly rescues, hides, and falls in love with Jewish photographer Ernst. Also, just before the war, Churchill asks her to stay in Germany, gathering intelligence under pro-Nazi guise. And when Ernst is killed before Nancy can fly him to safety, she accepts the label of ""traitor"" and goes into her Mata Hari act with a vengeance. To consolidate her position, she marries Helmut. She becomes the mistress of charismatic, power-hungry, Machiavellian Reinhard Heydrich--and his accomplice in a plot to kill Hitler. She serves as go-between for the anti-Hitler generals and the British. But when Heydrich is killed in Czechoslovakia (a British-backed plot), Nancy is tortured by the Gestapo, the aeronautic Hitler assassination falls through, and her usefulness is at an end: she and faithful Helmut--now disillusioned with Nazism--escape to England. As in some of his other books, Harrington (Partners, Scorpio) occasionally dwells too leeringly on the sex here--while the aviation details (including one enchanting flying-along-the-Thames sequence) may not please the whole romance/thriller audience. And some readers, too, will be put off by Harrington's quasi-sympathetic Hitler. But the bulk of the storytelling is page-turner steady, the historical cross-references are teasingly twisty, and Nancy herself is a full-drawn winner--smart, sexy, essentially decent, and genuinely liberated.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1982
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row