Review: The Lavender Keeper by Fiona McIntosh

Title: The Lavender Keeper

Author: Fiona McIntosh

Published: Michael Joseph March 2012

Synopsis: Are you German or are you French? Are you working against Germany or for it? Are you telling me the truth, or are you a very accomplished liar?’  Lavender farmer Luc Bonet is raised by a wealthy Jewish family in the foothills of the French Alps. When the Second World War breaks out he joins the French Resistance, leaving behind his family’s fortune, their home overrun by soldiers, their lavender fields in disarray.  Lisette Forestier is on a mission of her own: to work her way into the heart of a senior German officer – and to bring down the Reich in any way she can. What Luc and Lisette hadn’t counted on was meeting each other.  When they come together at the height of the Paris occupation, German traitors are plotting to change the course of history. But who, if anyone, can be trusted? As Luc and Lisette’s emotions threaten to betray them, their love may prove the greatest risk of all. Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 25 to 27, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Penguin Australia)

My Thoughts:

It’s likely I wouldn’t have chosen to read The Lavender Keeper because I am not a huge fan of historical novels, particularly those that feature war, but this showed up on my doorstep (courtesy Penguin Australia) so I added it to my reading list. I am glad I did as I enjoyed The Lavender Keeper very much.
A blend of action, adventure, romance and intrigue, The Lavender Keeper is set during WW2 during the Nazi occupation of France. Luc Bonet, a lavender farmer, joins the Resistance when his family is dragged away by Nazi collaborators and their farm in Provence is seized. His life is lived in the shadows sabotaging German forces, the threat of capture and execution ever present. Lisette Forestier, a French native with a facility for languages, is recruited by the London Home Office tasked to infiltrate the Reich and aid the downfall of the Nazi regime. Luc, known as Faucille amongst the Marquis, is Lisette’s escort upon her clandestine arrival in France and they are both shocked by their immediate attraction. War calls for sacrifices though and the pair have a mission to accomplish, to free France and bring the German war machine to its knees.
The growing horror of World War Two pierces the hills of Southern France when Luc’s family returns from Paris to their lavender farm, dispossessed, dispirited and branded by yellow stars. Still the terror of the Third Reich seems a distant threat until with the arrogance of youth, Luc unwittingly condemns his family to the Nazi camps. Swearing vengeance on the German regime and its supporters, Luc becomes involved in the Resistance working against the occupied forces. I felt for Luc who mourns his family terribly and must live with the dark shadow of guilt. McIntosh briefly sketches Luc’s life before the war portraying a young confident man devoted to his family and proud of the high quality lavender farms the family cultivates. Luc is almost crushed when he learns the true circumstances of his birth, both a blessing and a curse in such tumultuous times. There isn’t a lot of information about his actions once he becomes a member of the Marquis, though it can be inferred from hints about his reputation. Luc isn’t a terribly complicated character but he is appealing.
I really admired Lisette, no stranger to tragedy, she overcomes her natural reticence to join the London Home Office, putting herself at risk as a spy amongst the German. McIntosh gets the balance of Lisette’s trepidation and excitement just right and Lisette proves to be resourceful, smart and quick thinking. She is committed to ending the war even when complications arise as she grows closer to her target, a high ranking German officer. The conflicts and dangers Lisette faces are emotional rather than physical threats. Her concern for those that help her, even unwittingly, her attachment to Markus and her strong feelings for Luc are all features of the story.
Lisette has the larger role in the novel but the romantic attraction between Luc and Lisette ensures he is always an integral part of the narrative. Their relationship is not a traditional one, they spend more time apart than they ever do together but the link between the two is ever present.
McIntosh captures the details of the period and settings well. The tragedy of the death camps is touched on, as is the violence of battle and Hitlers bizarre policies but the focus of the story is on the protagonists experiences as she explores themes of trust, identity and patriotism.
The Lavender Keeper is a wonderfully entertaining story that is a surprisingly quick read. I believe that the author is currently working on a sequel and while this story has a satisfying ending there is certainly the scope for McIntosh to continue Listette and Luc’s story. I know I won’t be overlooking it.

Available to Purchase

Australia: @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia I @Readings

International: @Amazon US I @BookDepository

About the Author

Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980.  She has written fourteen adult and five children’s novels in a number of genres including fantasy, crime and historical sagas, since her midlife crisis in Year 2000, and her bestselling books sell worldwide and in various languages. She lives in Adelaide with her family but roams the world for story ideas and research.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marg
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 16:42:21

    See this is exactly up my alley. I love books set up against the world wars. I have this on my ereader by the author is coming to our local library next week so I am likely going to end up buying the actual book anyway!



  2. Mystica
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 17:23:45

    This not only sounds gorgeous, the cover looks gorgeous aswell.



  3. The Australian Bookshelf
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 17:39:47

    This probably isn’t a title that i would pick up either, perhaps the cover is a bit misleading- I wouldn’t have picked it as a historical novel. Sounds really interesting though as i do enjoy the historical genre.



  4. mpartyka
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 23:24:36

    I enjoy historical fiction, but am not drawn to books set during the war. This does sound good though, and it’s important to keep remembering our past. It’s so easy to forget.

    Glad you enjoyed this one.



  5. Trackback: Review: The French Promise by Fiona McIntosh | book'd out
  6. Trackback: Review: How To Write Your Blockbuster by Fiona McIntosh | book'd out

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