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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Hidden Palace (Daughters Of War Book Two) by Dinah Jefferies


The Hidden Palace (Daughters of War Book Two) by Dinah Jefferies.

Published 15th September 2022 by Harper Collins.

From the cover of the book:

An island of secrets. A runaway. And a promise…

A rebellious daughter.

1925. Among the ancient honey-coloured walls of the tiny island of Malta, strangers slip into the shadows and anyone can buy a new name. Rosalie Delacroix flees Paris for a dancer’s job in the bohemian clubs deep in its winding streets.

A sister with a secret.

1944. Running from the brutality of war in France, Florence Baudin faces a new life. But her estranged mother makes a desperate request: to find her vanished sister, who went missing years before.

A rift over generations.

Betrayals and secrets, lies and silence hang between the sisters. A faded last letter from Rosalie is Florence’s only clue, the war an immovable barrier – and time is running out…


1944: Florence Baudin arrives in England with Jack, the SOE agent who helped her to escape from the dangers of war-torn France. She settles down in Jack's Devonshire cottage, unsure of their relationship, troubled by the fate of her sisters back in France, and feeling anxious about the reunion that awaits with her mother Claudette.

When she finally meets her mother some uncomfortable truths are confronted. Although their relationship is still very difficult, Florence promises to help her mother tie up some loose ends of her own by going in search of her missing sister Rosalie, who Claudette has not seen since she ran away from home in 1923.

1923: Rosalie Delacroix flees Paris and arrives in Malta to live the life of a dancer in a back-street club, but life here for a single woman is not quite as easy as she thought it would be. Despite the beautiful surroundings, there are dangers that lurk deep in Malta's charming winding streets.

With only a faded letter to go on, Florence and Jack embark on a new adventure among the battered ruins of post-war Malta to find out what happened to Rosalie all those years ago...

The story is told in two timelines through the narrative of Florence from her return to England in 1944, and Rosalie's account of her life from her arrival in Malta in 1923, which flip back and forth until the threads of their stories collide in post-war Mdina.

I have not read the first book in this series, Daughters of War, which tells the tale of Florence and her sisters, and this did make it a little difficult to navigate Florence and Jack's side of the story at times, because so much of what happens here harks back to events in the previous book - so this is one where I do recommend you read book one first to get the most out of the 1943 onwards thread of the novel. However, Rosalie's tale is self-contained, so if you are happy to take the references to Florence and Jack's adventures without the depth of their back story, then you can read this as a standalone.

Florence and Jack's side of the tale mainly paints them as solvers of the mystery of Rosalie's disappearance, making it rather less captivating than Rosalie's, although Jefferies does a good job of using their return from France to explore the attitudes and conditions in England at the end of WWII, and the sections in Sicily when they gradually come to terms with what they mean to each other are enchanting.

For me, it is Rosalie's tale that has most of the romance, intrigue and menace from the way Jefferies immerses you completely in the bustling life of 1920's Malta and beyond. There is such a wonderful feeling of time and place that makes the most of the bohemian vibe around the dancing clubs and back street life of Valetta, and this contrasts beautifully with the ancient atmosphere and traditional attitudes of the older parts of the island. Rosalie herself is an intriguing character, and although she does make questionable decisions along the way, I loved her firebrand personality and determination to fight against injustice towards women, which comes through more and more as the years pass. It was fascinating to read so much detail about a location that held out against the Axis powers so bravely too.

As Florence and Rosalie's stories unfold, Jefferies cleverly echoes engaging themes between them, especially when touching on past trauma, difficult family relationships, and the rights of women. I also really enjoyed the slow-burn suspense as their story-lines come together and head off into heart-warming reconciliation country, while also leaving some threads to hook you into the next Daughters of War book.

If you enjoy evocative stories that use historical timelines well, particularly when it comes to the female characters, then The Hidden Palace is sure to please. 

The Hidden Palace is available to buy now in paperback, ebook, and audio formats.

Thank you to Harper Collins for ending me a proof of this book in return for an honest review, and to Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

About the author:

Dinah was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine.

As a teenager she missed the heat of Malaysia, which left her with a kind of restlessness that led to quite an unusual life. She studied Fashion Design and went to live in Tuscany where she worked as an au-pair for an Italian countess. There was even a time when Dinah lived with a rock band in a ‘hippie’ commune in Suffolk.

Although Dinah and her husband spent five wonderful years living in a small 16th Century village in Northern Andalusia, she's happy to say they now live close to her family in Gloucestershire along with two crazy Maine Coon cats.

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