Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

While I was annoyed that Teri Brown was writing something other than a new book in the “Born Of” series (book 2, Born of Deception, was reviewed here), I was totally up for reading something new by her, too. I have found that Teri Brown is always a good read. Her historical heroines are exactly my cup of tea (pun intended).

Velvet Undercover Front Cover (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)

Velvet Undercover Front Cover (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)

THE PLOT: Samantha Donaldson is an exceptionally intelligent 17-year-old English girl who impresses the heck out of certain judges at the Girl Guides competition. After all, German is only one of the five languages she speaks and reads. While she plans to study mathematics at the university when WWI ends, she spends her free time as a messenger for the government in London.

Then Sam is recruited for female spy organization La Dame Blanche. While Sam is understandably hesitant to jump in, she’s offered incentive: if she joins, military intelligence will investigate her father’s disappearance during a diplomatic mission. Her trainer/mentor, Miss Tickford, prepares her for her new role, but also seems to have secrets of her own.

Sam’s mission: impersonate Sophia Therese von Schonburg, a person with family connection to the Kaiser’s family. Living with the royal family in the heart of Berlin will enable her to find and extract a missing spy code named Velvet. Velvet’s handler has disappeared, and she’s so far undercover that no one is left who knows her true identity. She could be one of a few different people. Sam will have to tread carefully in her part, even while developing a tentative relationship with German Corporal Maxwell Mayer.

MY TWO CENTS: The success of this book hinges on the likability and believability of its main character, and Teri Brown has created a winner. Sam is, thankfully, no Mary Sue character. She may be exceptionally intelligent and willing to do anything for her father, but she’s also young, scared, naïve, and fully aware that she’s out of her depth. All of these things play well into the story as Sam gradually learns what her mission really is.

There’s mystery as Sam investigates the various people who might be Velvet. I don’t think it was glaringly obvious. I thought I knew, and then I thought I was wrong, so it’s certainly not like I knew the whole time.

There’s also development in the relationships between Sam and various people…her mentor, Miss Tickford; her maybe-possible love interest, Maxwell; and the young ladies who might be Velvet.

I also like the inside look we get at Berlin in 1915. I’m definitely not as up on WWI history as I am with other historical periods, so that information was interesting to me AND made me want to learn more. That’s exactly what historical fiction should do.

 BOTTOM LINE: Very enjoyable Young Adult historical/mystery with an engaging heroine and interesting insight into WWI Germany. I don’t know if there will be a sequel or series, but if there is, I’d definitely pick it up.

TEACUP RATING: This book gets four out of five teacups from me.

ON SALE DATE: Velvet Undercover is available now in hardcover and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Born of Deception by Teri Brown

This sequel to Born of Illusion finds magician and psychic Anna van Housen (possibly Harry Houdini’s illegitimate daughter) in danger across the pond.

Born of Deception Cover (Harper Collins)

Born of Deception Cover (Harper Collins)

THE PLOT: Anna has moved to London to be with boyfriend Cole, tour Europe performing her magic act, and possibly work with the society of “sensitives.” She’s not too sure about the society, which seems to be in chaos. Then there’s a murder, Anna is the target of psychic attacks, she and Cole seem to be drifting apart, there’s a new cute guy, and, worst of all, Anna’s mother comes to visit.

MY TWO CENTS: I read book 1, Born of Illusion, in August 2013. I didn’t retain lots of details from that book, but I still enjoyed this one. I would say if you haven’t read that one, you really should to get a true picture of Anna’s background and the start of her relationship with Cole. However, I think the mystery in this book is enjoyable even if you didn’t read Illusion first.

I DID pick up early on who was behind the psychic attacks, but maybe a younger reader wouldn’t. Plus, I was expecting yet another reveal in conjunction with the perpetrator, but that didn’t pan out. Or maybe just hasn’t panned out YET. (Please tell me there will be a book three!)

BOTTOM LINE: Fans of the first book may be really annoyed at Cole in this book, but Anna is still a captivating and sympathetic heroine. You want to see her succeed and be happy, no matter what twists and turns her life path takes. Fans of supernatural YA who are sick of vampires and angels should give this one a try.

TEACUP RATING: Between three-and-a-half and four teacups. It certainly keeps you reading, but may not be as memorable as other YA series. Nevertheless, I’m hoping there’s another book in the series.

ON SALE DATE: Born of Deception will be available in hardcover and e-book formats on June 10, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.


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