Our Woman in Moscow

Written by Beatriz Williams
Review by Kristen McDermott

Williams has a gift for taking time-honored romance tropes – doomed love affairs, rebellious ingenues, disillusioned spouses, louche aristocrats, pretend husbands – and giving them sharply focused 20th-century settings observed by brave, energetic heroines with contemporary senses of humor. Her plot-rich, passionate novels often feature the far-flung Schuyler clan of New England, presenting the adventures of a dazzling and ever-growing cast of strong, fiercely intelligent women through the entire 20th century and beyond.

Her latest outing introduces the Macallister sisters, Iris and Ruth, whose story begins in Italy at the start of World War II and culminates in a harrowing attempt to extract Iris from Soviet Moscow in 1952. The two sisters alternate points of view; cynical, take-charge Ruth commands the 1952 plotline, while romantic Iris recalls her 1940 decision to tie her fate to her charismatic lover, Sasha Digby, a diplomat who becomes one of a high-ranking group of Anglo-American spies accused in the 1950s of betraying their nations’ secrets to the Soviets. A mysterious operative, Sumner Fox, has spent years tracking both sisters and offers Ruth a chance to save her sister’s life. The cynical Ruth, however, isn’t sure whose side of the Cold War he’s on, and must risk everything for the only person she has ever loved.

This is Williams at the top of her game. She handles multiple points of view brilliantly, and the propulsive plot doesn’t get in the way of her ability to make the inner lives of her heroines vivid and realistic. The balance between glamour and grit, humor and heartbreak are perfect, making this is an entertaining adventure for romance and spy-thriller fans alike.