Michelle Cooper combines the drama of pre-War Europe with the romance of debutante balls and gives us another compelling historical page turner.
Sophia FitzOsborne and the royal family of Montmaray escaped their remote island home when the Germans attacked, and now find themselves in the lap of luxury. Sophie's journal fills us in on the social whirl of London's 1937 season, but even a princess in lovely new gowns finds it hard to fit in. Is there no other debutante who reads?!
And while the balls and house parties go on, newspaper headlines scream of war in Spain and threats from Germany. No one wants a second world war. Especially not the Montmaravians—with all Europe under attack, who will care about the fate of their tiny island kingdom?
Will the FitzOsbornes ever be able to go home again? Could Montmaray be lost forever?
I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my copy of this book. I had adored the first novel, A Brief History of Montamaray and loved the FitzOsborne family. Was it what I expected? Quite frankly, it was fabulous -- better than the first book, even.
The story picks up after the events of the first novel. The jacket copy gives the spoiler away but I'll still hide it:)[The island of Montmaray was bombed by German soldiers and the FitzOsbornes had to escape ]. Now living in London with their Aunt Charlotte, the FitzOsbornes struggle to escape. Michelle Cooper sets up subplots once again: their aunt desperatley wants Veronica and Sophie married in the London Season; Toby is trying to understand his sexuality; Henry is annoying her governess; Simon is trying to understand himself as a person and his mother's opinions; and Veronica is becoming braver.
The big arc of the story focuses on Veronica. I'm not crazy -- Cooper said that on her blog as well. The story focuses on Veronica coming into her own, becoming braver, fighting for her country and understanding herself. It was a great arc and I didn't mind, as Veronica is an awesome historian girl.
The characters, as always, are wonderful. The characters are really what holds this series up. The plots are great, very action packed and exciting, but the reason people seem to enjoy this series (and I see this cited in plenty of Goodreads reviews) ae the characters. Everyone loves Simon, Toby, Veronica, Henry, and Sophie, their flaws, their actions. You really yearn for the characters, really hope they'll be alright and survive the war. And besides that, they're funny! All of them are always messing up. Sophie and Veronica mess up their fancy Season balls; Henry is annoying to her governess; Toby cracks jokes all the time but can't seem to stay serious; and Simon gets hilariously angry. You love them for their hilariousness and their screwups. (In fact, I knew I would love this book when eleven-year-old Henry started making sex jokes. I know.)
The plot, as I mentioned, is great. It's very exciting and action packed and interesting, as they fight to regain control of their country and get assistance from other nations (specifically from the League of Nations). There are more refrences to famous people in this one -- the author lists them all in a VERY long author's note -- but it colors the story and makes it very interesting. The only thing that I found quibbling were the politics, which sometimes grew confusing. The author's device for discussing politics was having Veronica and Simon, who both knew politics well, argue about politics. This made it harder, but I understood things pretty good and I loved the story so much I didn't really care.
The story is written in journal format, in a very nice and sweet way. I felt less detached from the scenes this time, as I mentioned in my review of the first novel, and really felt like I was there with all of the characters. The main difference with the use of journal formatting was the time skips; the entries are often months away from each other. For instance, Sophie journals in January and then doesn't journal until mid-February. The story also crosses across a long period of time -- two years, unlike the first novel's three or four months of entries. This isn't a big deal, though it forces you to think harder and the truth is, you can just ignore the dates if you want.
I adored the story and if you love historical fiction this is a must-read. I'm so glad I bought this story and I can't wait for the third installment in the series, The FitzOsbornes at War which comes out this spring. Also: I totally <3 the FitzOsbornes. Just saying.