by J H Schryer
Published by The History Press Ltd
Judge this book by its cover and you won't be disappointed. Goodnight Vienna is a soppy romance set within the Secret Service in pre-World War 2 Europe. It was, disappointingly, exactly what I expected: Mills and Boon crossed with a History textbook.
War and romance are two topics which totally disinterest me, so the two together struck me with dread. I have never read a romance novel, and I can count the number of war novels I've read on one hand. However, I persevered and read the whole book, always with the naïve hope that it would get better. But it didn't.
The story is mildly compelling, if totally predictable, with one dimensional prototypical characters. There is the man's man with a deep voice, strong sense of duty and hidden emotional depths. There is the young, beautiful, intelligent, seductive woman. There is the confident, handsome, charming ladies-man. And, of course, there is a fraught and torrid love triangle.
All this is set on the background of Jewish persecution and Hitler's rise to power in the late 1930s. The most engrossing parts of the book were those which sensitively portrayed the struggle of individual Jewish people and families. However, the gravity of these very real and truly horrific struggles was undermined by the trite romantic plot. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at sentences like '...she moved tightly against his thighs, his manhood giving up the ghost of respectability' and feel uncomfortable at the author's decision to merge these two topics. One is a light-weight genre, while the other is a part of our world history. Can the two be merged together with sincerity?
Perhaps I'm looking too deeply into the issue. Since starting to read Goodnight Vienna I have been talking about it with friends. I was genuinely shocked to discover that Historical Romance is a well-established literary genre. So I guess many serious historical events have been used as a background for many romantic affairs.
I must conclude, then, that Goodnight Vienna does what it does brilliantly. It is historical, it is romantic and it is a good ol' story.