Cardigan Bay is both an old-fashioned romance and an espionage thriller. When I say “old fashioned,” I mean that the plot revolves around the idea of good versus bad—a black and white perspective of the Allies versus the enemy—and that there is a sexual modesty in this romance that is quite uncommon in our modern era. I found both of these elements refreshing.
The story revolves around a developing and precarious romance between the two main characters: a British Army officer, Charles Davenport, erudite, courageous, and cogitative, who is wounded in the fighting in North Africa at the beginning of the book, and Mary Kennedy, a young American widow seeking refuge from her losses in Ireland. Wrapped up in the plot are also the elaborate planning for the Normandy invasion, the top-secret code breakers at Bletchley Park, and the plot by anti-Nazi German military officers to assassinate Hitler.
Cardigan Bay takes the reader on a winding journey through these themes, with the plot thickening and intensifying in the last one hundred pages of the book, culminating in a satisfying conclusion.
The book is not perfect, however. I did feel there were several points where the story slowed to a crawl, but my curiosity to see the plot resolved overcame this distraction. At times Charles spoke like an American rather than a Brit, for example, using the word “sure” rather than “certainly” or “of course.” And the frank openness of Charles and his good friend Evan about their top-secret work was disconcerting. I would hope people with top-secret clearances would not speak this openly of classified projects these days, and I doubt they would have at that time, either.