I’m really delighted today to be joining the publication day push for The Secrets of Latimer House by Jules Wake: published by One More Chapter, it’s now available for kindle and as an audiobook, with the paperback to follow on 25th November (available for preorder). My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
Last year, I could easily have included two of Jules Wake’s wonderful novels in my Books of the Year list, had it not been for my entirely arbitrary rule of including only one book per author. I decided to include The Saturday Morning Park Run – that strong sense of community, wonderful characters, that perfect balance of tears and humour (you’ll find my review here). But it could just as easily have been The Spark – filled with moments I’ll never forget, heartbreaking, joyous, tear-filled and quite gloriously uplifting (and you’ll find that review here). But this book promised to be something very different indeed – the author’s first (and rather brave) foray into historical fiction, with a book about the hidden secrets of WW2.
Let’s take a closer look…
In the war against Hitler every secret counts…
Society heiress Evelyn Brooke-Edwards is a skilled interrogator – her beauty making her a non-threat in the eyes of the prisoners.
Farm girl Betty Connors may not be able to type as she claimed, but her crack analytical skills soon find her unearthing covert connections.
German ex-pat Judith Stern never expected to find herself listening in to German POW’s whispered conversations, but the Nazis took her father from her so she will do whatever it takes to help the Allies end this war.
Billeted together in the attic of Latimer House – a place where secrets abound – Evelyn, Betty and Judith soon form a bond of friendship that carries them through the war. Because nothing is stronger than women united.
Tucked away in the Buckinghamshire countryside, Latimer House, a grand country estate, stands proudly – a witness to some of greatest secrets of WW2.
Readers will be drawn to this book fo a number of different reasons – wartime stories are, I know, immensely popular, and the publishers are calling this book “a treat for lovers of this genre”. Indeed it is, but there will be others who are drawn to it because it’s written by an author they’ve loved before – and others will be intrigued by the secret history of Latimer House, the interrogation unit the Buckinghamshire locals believed to be a distribution centre, the inspiration for the story. And then there’ll be the saga readers, who simply enjoy reading about the lives of women in wartime – and they most certainly won’t be disappointed by this one. But whatever your reasons for picking it up, I can promise you have rather a treat in store.
This is the story of three women, who find themselves working at Latimer House, carrying out different roles, sharing a room. Evelyn is from a privileged background, an officer in naval intelligence, both intelligent and striking to look at, speaks fluent German, her self-confidence perhaps a little off-putting to some – but her family has been touched by the impact of war, and she’s been separated from the man she’d hoped to marry. Judith is German, and Jewish – she has no family now, fled from the Nazis as a refugee having witnessed some of the horrors, and finds it difficult to trust others and to forge new friendships. And then there’s Betty – with film star looks, a bubbly personality, a girl from a nearby village but aspiring to a better life than marriage to her family’s thug of a landlord.
Evelyn becomes an interrogator of the prisoners of war who pass through Latimer House on their way to the prison camps: Judith is a listener, working in M Room, noting and recording conversations between prisoners covertly monitored in their cells. Betty arrives as a rather inept typist, but proves to have other skills, and ends up analysing transcripts of conversations looking for links between them – but she also has die Helligkeit, the ability to light up a room, and you really can’t fail to take her to your heart.
The historical background to this book is simply fascinating, and I can see why the author was inspired to write it – I’d never heard of Latimer House before, and you might well want to turn to Google in the same way I did to find out more. The surrounding community were wholly unaware of the pivotal part both the house and its grounds played in the collection of crucial wartime intelligence, and its secrets aren’t anything like as well known as other locations like Bletchley Park. The author’s research is simply superb, and she brings the location and its day-to-day activities vividly to life.
But this is also the story of the strong friendship that develops between the three women, the trials and tribulations they all experience, their shared moments of joy, their bravery and determination – and I have to say I loved every single moment. It’s a cracking story, the characterisation is excellent – there’s a really strong supporting cast too, with some convincing villains and a few particularly well developed good guys – and I was more than happy to be carried away by it all for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of reading. There’s plenty of drama too, a good touch of romance, a few unexpected twists and turns… and there are more than a few moments of particular emotion, often accompanied by music, that brought a tear to my eye. And it’s a real page-turner too… I really loved it, and recommend it really highly.
About the author
Jules Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury brands and not so luxury brands. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to hone her writing and creative skills penning copy on a vast range of subjects from pig farming and watches, sunglasses and skincare through to beer and stationery.
She writes best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for One More Chapter as Jules Wake and was shortlisted for Romantic Novel of the Year 2020 with The Spark. Under her pen name Julie Caplin, she writes the Romantic Escapes series. Between them, the two Js have written eighteen novels, The Secrets of Latimer House being the latest.
For Jules Wake
For Julie Caplin