The Mozart Code by Rachel McMillan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book follows two former Bletchley intelligence operatives, Simon and Sophia, as they navigate their way around the spy-ring in cold war era Vienna and Prague. Both from aristocratic upbringing and sharing a complicated past, their secrets, and the dangers that pursue them will be the ultimate test for their bond of friendship, loyalty, and love.
I received this as an ARC, courtesy of Edelweiss, and was very excited to read it. I really enjoy reading historical novels, especially WW2 and spy novels.
Rachel McMillan has done a brilliant job painting the historical setting, weaving in lots of authentic imagery, culture, and political tension for these locations and times, and she has given us two main characters with backstories that fit really well inside this arena.
The story is well written and engaging, but I found myself a bit lost trying to keep up with all of the secondary and tertiary characters; at least five of which contributed very little to the story or plot in my opinion and could have been eliminated entirely to recover some word count to flesh out the two main characters a bit more. There were so many names and small “side quests” that it was hard to pin down what was important and what wasn’t, so by the end when everything started to get serious, I wasn’t as connected with these characters and invested in their safety and well-being as I wanted to be for this lengthy of a book, especially Sophia who is renowned for finding rare objects, but then we never get to see how she does that, she’s just asked to find an item and then she magically has it in the next few pages. I didn’t feel really grounded in what was happening, who was making moves, or what the stakes were.
The relationship between Simon and Sophia was interesting and complex, and I really enjoyed the flashbacks into their past and the little clues revealed there that played into the present tension and what they were doing there together. I thought that was done well and gave us a really nice picture of how lives can be completely upended by war.
There was a lot of exciting suspense and buildup to the main romantic entanglement that got me really turning the pages to see what happened next, but the culmination of that tension was a bit underwhelming. I can respect that an author wants to write a clean romance, but this one could have gone a little further and still remained well within those boundaries. Their relationship for the rest of the book followed that vein. These two went through one challenging ordeal after the other in the last 40 pages but Simon and Sophia’s response in each case was a bit underdeveloped for me and hard to connect with.
Rachel McMillan is clearly a very talented author who knows how to weave a very complex narrative with lots of players and create a beautiful, authentic setting to immerse the reader in, but this one wasn’t as engaging for me personally, but for readers looking for a well-researched historical narrative and light romance, this is a good read.
The Mozart Code is being published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing and hits shelves 15 March 2022.
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~MJ & Petey
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