2012 HIGHLIGHTED REVIEW: THE LAVENDER KEEPER BY FIONA MCINTOSH

THE LAVENDER KEEPER
Author: Fiona McIntosh
Michael Joseph RRP $29.95
Review: Monique Mulligan

The Lavender Keeper‘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?’

The heady scent of lavender pervades my house as I write this morning, a fitting tribute to Fiona McIntosh’s beautiful book, The Lavender Keeper. I picked this book up only to find that it was very hard to put down again, such is the power of the story it contains.

Set during the Second World War, an unexpected love story unfolds in France at the height of the Paris occupation. Raised by a wealthy Jewish family in the foothills of the French Alps, Luc Bonet is a lavender farmer turned French Resistance fighter following the capture of his family. Lisette Forestier is working for the War Office as a spy – her mission is 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. And what Lisette hadn’t expected was the strength of her feelings for two very different and politically opposed men. As German traitors plot to change the course of history, as Luc and Lisette get drawn into dangerous territory, as their love proves riskier than life, the two are forced to ask who, if anyone, can be trusted.

Full of intrigue, romance and action, The Lavender Keeper is a book as strong and memorable as the scent of lavender itself. At times haunting in its depiction of wartime events, this is a beautifully written narrative that engages the reader with a strong and moving story line, a romance that artfully combines heartbreak and passsion, and leaves the door open for more. The story takes place over about two years, but is fast-paced without appearing to trivialise wartime events; once hooked, it was hard to put the book down and I happily endured less sleep just to find out what happened.

I liked the main characters and the way they developed through the book, maturing as they faced the excruciating emotional angst of the war. Lisette is a strong female character, fitting for her role as a spy. No pushover, she matches Luc’s brooding intensity well. The unanticipated love triangle between Luc, Lisette and Markus was bittersweet; I won’t spoil things here, but I could well imagine Lisette’s dilemma. I’m looking forward to reading the continuation of this story in the upcoming Luc’s Promise.

The Lavender Keeper is my first McIntosh book. It won’t be my last; there are bound to be more sleepless nights ahead as I delve into more of her excellent storytelling.

Available from good bookstores. This copy was courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.