Beneath a Starless Sky

Written by Tessa Harris
Review by Gail M. Murray

What begins as a sweeping romance between a Jewish ballerina and a dashing German-Italian officer soon develops into a political thriller. In 1930 Munich, 18-year-old Lilli Sternberg dances Giselle, enchanting Captain Marco Zeiller with her grace and beauty. They walk in the Englischer Garten, picnic by a lake, and share a love of opera at La Bohème. Their tender love story unfolds until his transfer to Leipzig. Sadly, a fateful telegram ends the affair. Lilli pursues a dance career in New York and Hollywood, dancing with Fred Astaire on Broadway and film until an injury ends her career. Recovering at Somerset Maugham’s villa on the Côte d’Azur, she is befriended by Wallis Simpson. Naïve Lilli is unaware of the growing Nazi dominance and persecution of the Jews in her homeland until her brother Leon’s letter.

When Lilli becomes an agent for the British Secret Service, the action and suspense intensify. We are aware of the Windsors’ fascist sympathies. Lilli Stern, secretly a Jew, places herself in grave danger by accepting Wallis’s invitation to accompany them to Hitler’s mountain retreat at the Berghof in Austria. What a shock when Major Marco Zeiller meets her train in Munich. He is formal and a model officer of the Reich. Will he betray her? Has he embraced Nazism? Appealing to their pride, the Führer plans to seduce the Duke of Windsor as an ally and puppet king.

Operation Willi, a plan to kidnap the ducal couple about to vacate Europe for a governorship in the Bahamas, is true. “We may never know the full extent of collusion between the Windsors and the Third Reich, so writers of fiction can always speculate,” says Harris. Weaving well-researched fact with her creative imagination, she has produced a gripping novel. Highly recommended.