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hi, I am a 40+ year old who loves jewellery and all things sparkly. I also enjoy trying out and reviewing new makeup products, finding stylish walking sticks, reading and writing book reviews. I will review anything from bird tables/ hedgehog houses to the latest fashion! My Instagram account is @sparkling_magpie

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Mills & Boon Insider + First Review: Kommandant's Girl

 I first became aware of Mills & Boon when I read them to my grandma when she was in hospital in the early 1990s. I then forgot about them until I was a student whilst working at my local bookshop. A pair of elderly ladies wandered over, made their selection and told me in all seriousness that I should get a cat, chocolate, rocking chair and a few of these books (brandishing their selection at me) and I would be set for life! (They were right). I didn't take much notice until I became chronically ill and was looking for some light reading which I could dip in and out of. My first thoughts were how many series M&B now publish - 16 including Blaze, Nocturnal and Modern, equalling 120 books per month.. 

The tone and style of the books have also changed since I read them to my gran in the early 1990s. The heroines aren't as wimpish, there isn't the same skirting around the sex scenes, they are now more explicit, but the end result is still the same - hero and heroine get together.

First Review: Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff.

Kommandant's Girl was first published on 1st March 2007 by Mira and was nominated for a quill award. It was published as an e-book by Mills and Boon in 2011.

Emma  Gershmann is the heroine, an eighteen year old Orthodox Jew who works as a librarian at Krakow University.  She meets Jacob Bau, a physics student, who is from a wealthy secular family and is passionate about politics   They date/court and quickly get married. Three weeks later the Nazis invade Poland.

Immediately Jews were made to take part in forced labour and in November 1939 they were forced to wear yellow armbands, the synagogues in Krakow were shut down and items of value handed over to the Nazis.  The Krakow Ghetto was established in 1941 with fifteen thousand displaced Jews crammed  into an  area that had been home to three thousand.

Young leftists, including Jacob Bau, organised resistance in the ghetto, published an underground newsletter and organised the bombing of the Cyganeria Cafe, a Nazi officer meeting  place.

Bau disappeared soon after the establishment of the ghetto and Marta (the main character in The Diplomat's Wife, the next book in the series) becomes Emma's close friend, introducing her to like minded young activists who oppose the Nazi regime.

Bau has Emma smuggled out of the ghetto and taken to stay with his Catholic Aunt, Krysla Smok, in a small village just outside Krakow.  Emma is given a new name, Anna Lipowski and a new identity, as an orphan from Gdansk.

Krysla is a queen of Polish society and feels that Emma/Anna will be safer hiding in plain sight.  She introduces her to both high ranking Nazi officers and Polish sympathisers.  This is when Anna meets the handsome and  charismatic Kommandant Georg Richwalder, second in command to the Nazi-General of Poland, Hans Frank.  Anna realises she should hate him but instead she is drawn to him. Georg asks Anna to work for him as a special assistant at Nazi headquarters.  The Polish Underground resistance encourage her to take the job so she can pass on information to them.  The relationship between Anna and Georg becomes more involved as the book progresses.

Anna gets pregnant, Krysla tells her not to tell Georg. he finds out and wants her to go with him to Austria. Anna flees back to the ghetto to see her dying father who gives her her marriage certificate and rings.  Georg finds her as she leaves the ghetto and the items fall from her pocket.  The truth is revealed. Georg is betrayed.  He threatens to kill her but Marta shoots him dead.  Anna goes back to Krysla's but she has been killed by the Gestapo.  Anna leaves with Lucasz to find Bau who has been hiding not far from Krakow.

The Kommandant's Girl reveals what Jewish life was like in Krawkow before and during the Holocaust.  Emma/Anna grows as a person as the story progresses, revealing what her life was like as she struggled in the ghetto and then fighting her attraction to Georg, whilst at the same tme spying for the underground resistance.  Georg, Kommandant Richwalder, does not come across as the archetypal shadowy Nazi, but a person with feelings, who can be hurt.  He is presented as someone who thinks he is a cultured gentleman who enjoys classics,art and culture.  He rules from Wawel (a castle) which is away from the actual killing. He is a complex character who has the potential to kill thousands of Jews with the swipe of his pen but ironically and unknowingly enters into a relationship with a Jewess (and maybe falls in love with her).

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