Samantha Donaldson's family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, mathematics, and complex puzzles, hoping to make him proud. When Sam is asked to join the famed women's spy group La Dame Blanche, she's torn—while this could be an unbelievable adventure, how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes she can't refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity. Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known only as Velvet. Deep undercover in the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Sam must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she must fight a forbidden attraction to the enemy—a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Sam find Velvet before it's too late . . . for them both? A thrilling story of one girl's journey into a deadly world of spy craft and betrayal—with unforgettable consequences.
Samantha Donaldson's family lives in England at the time of WWI, and she and her mother are worried that her father hasn't been heard from and is feared missing. When she nearly wins a Girl Guide competition, where she has excelled in all manner of things, including knowledge of foreign languages, she is approached by a spy organization, La Dame Blanche to be one of their operatives. She is a little conflicted, knowing that if she joins the organization and goes to spy in Germany, she might well die. Captain Parker persuades her, however, by mentioning that he might be able to help locate her father if she is willing to help him. After accepting, Samantha is trained by her "handler", a talented spy named Letty Tickford, who teaches her the finer points of codes, being followed, and disguising oneself. She does well, and is soon sent to Luxembourg to take on the identity of a young woman who has died in order to infiltrate the royal household and extricate a fellow spy. Now Sophia von Schonburg, she must memorize her backstory, locate the operative known only as "Velvet", and serve as governess to the children of the family as well! Samantha soon finds out that her assignment is quite dangerous when her fellow teacher is killed, and she must decide if she can trust one of the German soldiers, Maxwell, in order to survive and to possibly find her father.
The only thing that didn't thrill me about this book was the cover. I would have rather seen a silhouette of a girl in WWI era clothing set against the background of a Luxembourg street of that era. This cover looks too modern.
My favorite part of this was the fact that Samantha learns that the world is not all black and white. The war is not necessarily divided into "us" and "them". This makes it hard to know whom she can trust, but she is young enough that she can still see Germans as good people, no matter what her government tells her. It helps that she spent some time in Germany as a child and has good memories of being there. Her struggles in assessing her feelings and weighing them against her loyalties to La Dame Blanche as well as her country are realistic and poignant.
Readers of spy adventure mysteries like Lee's The Body in the Tower as well as Carter's The Gallagher Girls will be enthralled with this story of divided loyalties, romance, and intrigue set against the backdrop of upper class society during World War I.