The Lavender Keeper

Written by Fiona McIntosh
Review by Marina Maxwell

Luc, the adopted son of Jewish parents, runs a lavender farm in Provence. In 1942 his life is shattered when his beloved grandmother is murdered and the Nazis send the rest of the family to the camps. Luc vows revenge and joins the French resistance movement, the Maquis.

Lisette works as a waitress in England. Her European background and language skills come to the notice of the Special Operations Executive, and she trains for a secret operation in Paris that involves Colonel Markus Kilian, a disenchanted German officer. She is parachuted into France and together with Luc manages to keep one step ahead of collaborators and the Gestapo.

Fiona McIntosh is a popular fantasy author who has branched into historical fiction. She certainly proves her mastery of fast-paced narrative. The French locations and history appear to have been well researched, but the wartime tone is inconsistent, and there are anachronisms, such as London trains being operated by 1960s “British Rail”.

The moral and idealogical dilemmas of both Luc and Markus are sympathetically explored, but Lisette is unconvincing as a disciplined SOE agent. Her transformation from apparent inexperience with men into a sexy mistress is difficult enough to accept, but when she dithers between Markus and Luc, one loses all patience with her. The contrived love triangle becomes increasingly melodramatic until real events thankfully force it to its predictable conclusion. At least Lisette regains a snippet of credibility by the time Paris is liberated. There are unresolved plot issues, but the author’s notes indicate a sequel is on the way.

Readers of historical romances will probably enjoy this in spite of its flaws, but with restraint and a more believable 1940s heroine it had the potential to be a really good World War II novel.