Book Review: Velvet Undercover
ashley | Sadly, I’m not a big history buff, Veronica is more into the historical fiction genre than I am, so I was worried that Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown would be a stretch for me to pick up. But I do love strong female leads and I find espionage pretty fascinating. Lady spy groups? That trumps historical fiction in a heartbeat.
It could have been really easy not to take this book seriously. This could have been really hokey, I saw a very possible slip off the side into silly and unnecessary high-school drama overshadowing any solid story, but Brown has written a very tight, thrilling spy book here, where the spies just happen to be teen girls, as opposed to teen girls who just happen to be spies.
Plucked from service as a Girl Guide, we follow Sam through training and mysterious missions, all of which she’s really only putting up with so authorities will look into her father’s disappearance. The training aspect was interesting as we were walked through fight, flight and tracking techniques, but it seemed like this training period was brief and not at all the in depth training you would imagine for the real life MI6, a little brushed over and rushed.
Regarding the historical fiction aspect, yes, this is set somewhere in the middle of World War I, but it’s in London, a place that I’m at least somewhat familiar with. So the whole thing is a little less intimidating and actually works really well as the backdrop for this story. The war also helps explain away the concept of teenage girls as spies, which I’m sure could be argued that it wouldn’t ever be considered for that time period. But the historical setting is a minor character in the story and my hesitance about historical fiction was totally unnecessary. (That said, if you’re seeking a heavy historical fiction novel, this probably isn’t it.)
If Brown was once a spy, do you think she would tell me? She writes about it very naturally without any complex spy garble. Almost as if she’s reciting a firsthand experience, which definitely adds to the overall appeal of the book. Like I said, this easily could have been really cheesy, but it’s not. It’s not overly dense either, like other spy books I’ve read that are heavy on the espionage technicalities and end up reading like a text book. There’s a wonderful blend of a casual story with the seriousness of certain life and death situations mixed in.
I actually enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. Sam is a spunky character, especially for her time, which I enjoyed. But it was also interesting to hear her moral inner dialogue about this whole business as she learns her way and how certain situations require manipulation and otherwise guilty actions. I haven’t read many spy books, but when I do, they’re usually seasoned spies who are already cold to the moralities of their tasks.
But most of all, I loved the ending. I was about to write all this off to a happy gift all tied up pretty in the end and then Brown throws in one last surprise that I honestly didn’t see coming, but made me smile ear to ear. Of course, things do all tie up nicely in the end, but I haven’t enjoyed a read like this in a while and I am so happy I picked this book up.
October 20, 2015