I’m really enjoying all the recent reads from Bookouture and The Stolen Letter is another gripping and emotional WW2 historical novel.
The Stolen Letter
The longer her imprisonment went on, the more she cast her mind back to the stolen hours they had spent together. His love had blown in like an unexpected breath of warm summer air, giving her the promise of life and joy. But now they had been torn apart and she was tormented by the thought that they might never be reunited.
Italy, 1938: When Stella arrives in Florence, it’s love at first sight. She is wowed by the rolling hills dotted with olive trees, the buttermilk villas with shuttered windows and terracotta roofs that glow gloriously in the sunlight. Even the breeze holds the scent of freedom – freedom from England, where the shadow of her past haunted her.
Then there is Ted, an American journalist who is wild and mischievous, with an arrogance bordering on rude. Stella is infuriated by him – but she cannot deny the lure of the danger and excitement he promises.
But there is something dark under the bright surface of this beautiful country, with unspeakable tragedies just around the corner. When the Nazis take control of Italy, Stella and Ted – and whatever dreams the future held for them – are ripped apart. As bombs descend, destroying everything in their wake, there is nothing to do but sit in darkness, praying to see tomorrow.
And it seems that even in Italy, Stella’s past has found her. Somewhere in the winding streets of Florence there is a letter that could change the course of her fate. Unknown to her, it holds a secret with the power to rewrite her past, and everything she has been running away from. But will she live to find it? And with the odds stacked against her, will she ever see Ted again?
This beautifully spun and stirring tale is about the impossible tragedies of war and the miraculous possibilities of love. Fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, Rhys Bowen’s The Tuscan Child, and The Letter by Kathryn Hughes will be utterly captivated by this spectacular historical page-turner.
I’ve been reading a lot of WW2 historical novels of late and The Stolen Letter, like The Wartime Nanny, is a coming of age story of a young girl. Stella is however, an English girl whose wartime experience takes place in Italy.
A lot of the story revolves around the clandestine movement pieces of art during the war, as the Germans sought to acquire masterpieces from all the places they laid siege too. Stella’s late father, her stepmother and her second husband, and Stella’s husband are all in some way or the other deeply involved in art. The story reveals how people were willing to curry favour with the Nazis the greed and sheer callousness that many people displayed.
The story starts with Stella being a naive young girl, heartbroken at the loss of her father and all at sea in Florence where she is visiting at the invitation of her stepmother. She shows sparks of spirit when she ventures into Florence on her own and later when she finds out and keeps hidden her father’s secret. However, her need for love and attention allows her to fall prey to and marry a man who abuses her and gains access to her money.
Stella is forced to grow up and she displays great courage and resilience through the German occupation of Italy and the devastation caused by the Italian Fascists.
Stella’s climb back to a real life, even if it is fraught with terrible pain and hardship, starts when she falls in love with the American journalist, Ted. How the war and other factors keep them apart and how they find their way back to each other is one thread of this story.
Another thread that runs through the story is Stella’s fears about her father being involved in the illegal buying of art and how she discovers the truth about her father.
The story has elements of romance, murder, deception, loss, forgiveness, friendship, courage and the triumph of good over evil. Overall, a riveting read.
Buy The Stolen Letter
Clara Benson is the author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries and Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures – traditional English whodunits in authentic style set in the 1920s and 30s. One day she would like to drink cocktails and solve mysteries in a sequinned dress and evening gloves. In the meantime, she lives in the north of England with her family and doesn’t do any of those things.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Bookouture, for the opportunity to read and review this book.