A Name Unknown
Roseanna M. White
Bethany House Publishers, 2017
Rosemary Gresham is a talented member of a ragtag ‘family’ of thieves that have been supporting themselves since they were children in the harsh city of London. And it appears that her skills have been noticed, for she has been contracted by the mysterious Mr. V for a very high-paying job. Her task? To infiltrate the home of one Peter Holstein and find evidence that he is still loyal to his German roots.
With Europe on the verge of war, Peter Holstein suddenly finds himself in an untenable position in regards to his citizenship. With a German last name and various holdings remaining in his family’s native country, there are some who doubt where his loyalties lie. It doesn’t help that he has made an enemy in the king’s court who will stop at nothing to see Peter and his reputation destroyed. It also doesn’t help that Peter has a publishing deadline looming for his next novel, resulting in long hours at his typewriter instead of looking through his catastrophe of a library to find the documents to prove his English citizenship. When a librarian by the name of Rosemary Gresham arrives out of nowhere to take on the task of organizing the library, he hands the task over to her with relief – despite the hesitations of some of his friends.
Determined to accomplish her mission, Rosemary plunges into her new job with enthusiasm, searching through endless books and correspondence for the proof Mr. V requires. But what she learns about her new employer, and ultimately about herself, is not at all what she expected. In the end she is forced to make a very difficult choice that will change the course of both her and Peter’s lives forever.
This post contains affiliate links. Read more about that here. This book was provided to me for review by Bethany House Publishers.
A Name Unknown was fantastic. I was hooked from the very beginning by the concept of a young woman who was raised as a thief among fellow orphans attempting to enter a world that she was almost completely unfamiliar with. But Rosemary is charming, friendly, clever and resourceful and has a talent for blending in wherever she goes. Peter is pretty much the opposite. Self-conciousness about his stammering combined with his desire for privacy to keep his identity as an author secret combine to make him seem standoffish to many. Of course as she gets to know him she discovers that this isn’t really the case, which makes her feel guilty about her mission.
There were four main things that I really admired about this book. First off, I liked that is was set just before the beginning of World War I. That seems to be an underrepresented time period in the historical fiction genre, at least in my experience. Second, I liked the witty dialogue. You might have heard me mention before that good dialogue is big deal to me, and A Name Unknown wins in this department. Third, I liked the strong, but not intrusive thread of faith that was woven into the fabric of the story. As a Christian I appreciate when an author is able to work faith in organically so that it feels natural instead of preachy. Fourth and finally, I did not see the twist coming. I don’t mean to flatter myself, but I’ve read enough books in my lifetime that I can very often predict endings, but not so with A Name Unknown. I was definitely caught off guard in a good way.
This story is built around secrets held by every character, which makes for some great tension. Anticipating the potential destruction that could occur if those secrets were to be discovered at the wrong time or by the wrong people keeps you reading as well. And all those secret keeping characters are endearing instead of maddening. It’s easy to understand why they are choosing to keep somethings hidden.
So the short version is that A Name Unknown is an engaging pre-WWI story with secrets, romance, and a little danger – and plenty of fun dialogue leading up to a surprising twist. I give this one two thumbs up and I’m trying to decide which friend or family member to pass it to first, because its one of those books that I just have to get other people to read. This book is also the first in a series, so I can’t wait to find out what might be coming next!