Nightingale – Aleksandr Voinov
In Nazi-occupied Paris, most Frenchmen tread warily, but gay nightclub singer Yves Lacroix puts himself in the spotlight with every performance. As a veteran of France’s doomed defense, a survivor of a prison camp, and a “degenerate,” he knows he’s a target. His comic stage persona disguises a shamed, angry heart and gut-wrenching fear for a sister embedded in the Resistance.
Yet Yves ascends the hierarchy of Parisian nightlife to become a star, attracting the attention—and the protection—of the Nazi Oberst Heinrich von Starck. To complicate matters further, young foot soldier Falk Harfner’s naïve adoration of Yves threatens everything he’s worked for. So does Aryan ideologue von Grimmstein, rival to von Starck, who sees something “a bit like a Jew” in Yves.
When an ill-chosen quip can mean torture at the hands of the Gestapo, being the acc;laimed Nightingale of Paris might cost Yves his music and his life.
Damn! I found myself sympathizing with (and rooting for) Yves and his Oberst and finding myself annoyed with Edith as a hassle and Falk as an unnecessary complication. Which is crazy because if this had been Edith’s story, I would be tsking at Yves and his stupid affairs and if Von Starck was not in the picture, I would be OK with Yves and Falk.
Stories really have a way of getting under your skin. Perspective is everything.
Coincidentally, the book model above is the same one as on Provoked, the last book I read in 2017.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
Unhinge the Universe – Aleksandr Voinov & L.A. Witt
SS Lieutenant Hagen Friedrichs is the sole survivor of a party sent to retrieve his brother—and the highly sensitive information he’s carrying—from behind enemy lines. But his daring rescue attempt fails, and Hagen becomes the prisoner.
Allied command has ordered Captain John Nicholls to extract critical intelligence from their new Nazi POW. His secrets could turn the tide of the war, but are they real? John is determined to find out … and to shatter the prisoner who killed his lover during the attack on their tiny base. The deeper he digs, though, the more he realizes that the soldier under the SS uniform is just like him: a scared, exhausted young man who’s lost loved ones and just wants to go home.
As captor and captive form an unexpected bond, the lines quickly blur between enemy, friend, and lover. And as horrifying rumors spread from the front lines and American soldiers turn their sights on the SS for vengeance, John may be Hagen’s only hope for survival.
I’m a science major but for me, the most important thing I learned from my university is not quantum mechanics or any major science stuff but perspective. From whose perspective is a piece written? For whom it it written? This is what particularly attracts me to Aleksandr Voinov’s works set in WWII. Germans were the bad guys at that time as everybody knows so to have the point of view of Nazi soldiers from a German writer is definitely something. It is also an added bonus that Voinov is a great writer. I totally loved Witches of London – Eagles Shadow and Skybound was beautiful so I was excited to read Unhinge the Universe.
This is an enemies-to-lovers story revolving around Hagen an SS officer and John an American military captain who interrogates him. And the story is really just the two of them with barely any memorable secondary characters (Siegfried and Michael don’t count because they were just there to make these people feel something).
I was disappointed with Hagen. After what John was saying about the SS being the worst type of prisoner, I expected Hagen to be all subtle menace and mind games (ala Hans Landa) but heck, he squealed at the slightest provocation. Even after John felt the predator/prey relationship seemed reversed, I didn’t feel any danger. Ok, maybe I should give the guy a break, he had a rough day and also maybe that was the point, that he was not a monster but I couldn’t help feeling let down after all that build up. I was also looking forward to John being a terror of an interrogator but meh, he was too nice. He was stroking the prisoner’s head tenderly for crying out loud. Ok, this is my fault for approaching a book the wrong way and watching too many Tarantino movies.
There were some pretty tight, intense scenes in the book especially those involving razors. The hospital scene was pure fluff <3 But sometimes I wondered if they became attracted to each other only because they discovered they were both men who notice men. If they met at a different time and place, would they be together?
Overall, points for the history and backdrop but story-wise, the book didn’t really unhinge anything.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
Skybound – Aleksandr Voinov
Germany, 1945. The Third Reich is on its knees as Allied forces bomb Berlin to break the last resistance. Yet on an airfield near Berlin, the battle is far from over for a young mechanic, Felix, who’s attached to a squadron of fighter pilots. He’s especially attached to fighter ace Baldur Vogt, a man he admires and secretly loves. But there’s no room for love at the end of the world, never mind in Nazi Germany.
When Baldur narrowly cheats death, Felix pulls him from his plane, and the pilot makes his riskiest move yet. He takes a few days’ leave to recover, and he takes Felix with him. Away from the pressures of the airfield, their bond deepens, and Baldur shows Felix the kind of brotherhood he’d only ever dreamed of before.
But there’s no escaping the war, and when they return, Baldur joins the fray again in the skies over Berlin. As the Allies close in on the airfield where Felix waits for his lover, Baldur must face the truth that he is no longer the only one in mortal danger.
Lots to love about this. WWII from the German POV, men in uniform, beautifully written story, pacing that didn’t feel rushed, historical authenticity, poetic imagery, the atmosphere of fire, smoke and steel plus a gripping and suspenseful climax. Even without the romance this is already a gem. The romance itself was full of longing and love. I love the subtly of actions and the tender moments, the sharing of cigarettes, the tinkering of the piano, the clinking of the safety belt. Never had I wished so hard for a story to have a happy ending.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits