A Name Unknown opens with England poised on the brink of World War I. Roseanna M. White aptly seizes upon the pre-war tension to set up her male protagonist, Peter Holstein. He is the target of anti-German sentiment and suspicion, creating an urgent need for Peter to locate documents which will prove his family’s loyalty to the crown. Unfortunately, the proof he needs is buried somewhere amid stacks of books and documents of his long neglected library. Furthermore, the woman he has employed to aid in the search is not exactly a librarian, but a thief.
White has long been an author I’ve desired to read, and this first book of her new Shadows Over England series left me with a remarkable first impression. Afterall, what book lover wouldn’t fawn over a story in which the main characters consist of an author and a librarian? Looking beyond the dream library, I was bowled over by White’s storytelling. The way Rosemary served unwittingly as Peter’s muse and how his manuscript mirrored their budding relationship made for a delightful story within a story. If I were to compare White’s style with that of her contemporaries, I’d say it’s reminiscent of Sarah Ladd or Elizabeth Camden. They all share a disposition for strong, often strong-willed, female protagonists and leading fellows who are the quintessential gentlemen.
Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl on the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets-now they focus on high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary’s challenge of a lifetime comes when she’s assigned to determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?
Rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can’t help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the crown-so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstep pretending to be a well- credentialed historian, Peter believes she’s the right person to help him dig through his family’s past.