A Beautiful Spy
By Rachel Hore
What it’s about?
From the Sunday Times bestselling author of Last Letter Home, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick, comes a thrilling novel about a woman with an extraordinary life, based on a true story.
Minnie Gray is an ordinary young woman. She is also a spy for the British government.
It all began in the summer of 1928…
Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all.
She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.
Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions
not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist
She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the
movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her
relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians
are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion. What if they find out?
Full of suspense, courage and love, A Beautiful Spy is a stunningly written story about resisting the norm and following your dreams, even if they come with sacrifices.
What I think:
This is such an interesting story.
Minnie Grey is looking for independence and adventure. She can’t see herself settling down in the suburbs and raising a family. When she is given the opportunity to work for MI5 and infiltrate the Communist Party in London, she decides to serve her country.
Throughout the book Minnie is conflicted about her espionage work. She likes the excited it brings and the chance for new experiences. She moves to London and meets new people who open her mind to new ideas. She is also fiercely patriotic and has a strng sense of duty.
However, throughout the story she struggles with the deception. Her friends and family have no idea what she is really doing, believing she is just a secretary.
Minnie realises that that undercover work requires her to make sacrifices. As she can never reveal the true nature of her work she feels unable to commit to a relationship and often finds herself feeling lonely. Her most enduring relationship within the book is with her handler Max. her feelings for him become complex as she sees him as someone she can be honest with and her friend, while he retains his distance.
This book is slow burner. It covers a number of years and shows the real nature of under cover work relating to matters of national security. There are few really thrilling moments James Bond style. Instead it is all about stamina and believability – Minnie finds herself under constant pressure as she juggles the need to find out information with the need to be discreet and trustworthy.
The story is a fascinating insight into the role that women play in the world of espionage and the impact that leading a double-life can have. Minnie is courageous and self-sacrificing but maintains her wit, dignity and charm.
This was a really enjoyable read that fans of historical fiction with strong female characters will love.
About the author:
Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a full-time writer. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her last novel, The Love Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller.
Praise for Rachel Hore:
‘Absorbing’ Barbara Erskine ‘Emotive and thought-provoking’ Rosanna Ley ‘Poignant…rich in period detail’
Sunday Mirror ‘Hugely compelling, poignant and moving’ Jane Johnson ‘Engrossing, pleasantly surprising and
thoroughly readable’ Santa Montefiore ‘Her women are brave and good and you desperately want them to win’
Daily Mail ‘Rachel Hore’s research and mastery of the subject is deeply impressive’ Judy Finnigan ‘…stirs the
deepest emotions’ Woman and Home ‘An elegiac tale…’ The Daily Telegraph ‘pitched perfectly for a holiday read’
A Beautiful Spy is out now. Thank you Simon and Schuster for the gifted copy and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.