Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Shadow Ally by Dianne Ascroft - #review

America is not yet at war, but the country is preparing for it. And it is essential that this remain secret.

June 1941: Ruth Corey is puzzled by the attractive, enigmatic Italian-American civilian contractor, Frank Long, who is staying at her family’s hotel in Irvinestown, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Serious and reserved, he is nothing like the friendly, outgoing British and Canadian servicemen she knows. Nor, she discovers, does he even use his real surname.

War is a time of alliances and secrets. The biggest secret in the county is the construction of an American flying boat base outside Irvinestown. Since their country is not at war, the American contractors must conceal the building project. America’s neutrality will be destroyed if Germany discovers its existence.

Ambitious local reporter, and Ruth’s almost fiancé, Harry Coalter is consumed with curiosity about the new American airbase. But why? When Ruth finds a letter Harry has written about the flying boat base she fears he is pursuing a path that will land him in serious trouble. She enlists Frank’s help to stop Harry from making a terrible mistake.

Can Ruth safeguard a military secret that will have a profound impact on the course of the war and protect her beau?

A tale for fans of Annie Murray, Ellie Dean and Margaret Dickinson.

The Yankee Years series: During the Second World War Northern Ireland hosted American, British and Canadian troops. County Fermanagh welcomed Air Force squadrons hunting U-boats and defending shipping convoys in the Atlantic Ocean and Army battalions training and preparing for deployment to Europe’s Western Front. After the Allied troops arrived, life would never be the same again. The Yankee Years novels and Short Reads weave thrilling and romantic tales of the people and the era.



We live a relatively sheltered life here in the US.  Rarely, since the Civil War, have we been subject to military conflict on our native soil.  Much of the world has not been (and is not now) so fortunate.  My mother was in her early teens in a village in Switzerland when WWII was heating up in Europe.  While Switzerland was neutral, there was fighting all around and it can't have been a 'living is easy' situation.

So while Northern Ireland might not have seen the devastation that London did, they were a lot closer than the US was.  And when the US stationed soldiers there, life could become very dicey indeed, especially if the Axis powers learned of the new military targets nearby.  Such is the world at the beginning of The Shadow Ally.  (In fact, Ruth's story reminds me of a tale one of my mother's cousins told me - supported by photographic evidence - of some American soldiers in their village during the war years!)

I wish Ruth would have wised up to Harry's character a bit sooner.  Aside from the story Harry wants to write to put him on the world journalistic stage ... he lives 'it's my way or the highway' as a life mantra.  I don't think he was so much trying to work against England as advance his own situation and self-importance.  That's just sad, and not in a sympathetic way.  And, well, treason is treason.  He doesn't even have an excuse that he was duped into providing the information.  But enough about him.

I also liked reading how the Americans and the Irish interacted.  Most of my 'knowledge' of how Brits view Americans comes from my obsession with 'Brit-coms'.  And it appears that some of our commonwealth cousins don't think a lot of the American character.  (Maybe they just ran into some bad examples?)  Whatever the case, I was glad to see the 'we have to work together' spirit prevail.

If this story were an episode of The Dating Game, I would be voting for Ruth and Frank.  Just sayin'.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and despite the fact that I consider myself a 'Southerner', I will be watching for more of the Yankee Series!



Dianne Ascroft is a Canadian writer living in Britain. Since moving to Britain in 1990 she has lived in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

She writes both fiction and non-fiction and her fiction often has Irish connections. Her articles and short stories have been printed in Canadian and Irish magazines and regional newspapers including the Toronto Star, Ireland’s Own, Senior Times, Celtic Connection and Irish Connections Canada.

She is co-editor and a regular contributor to The Fermanagh Miscellany, the Fermanagh Authors’ Association’s yearly anthology and she also contributes material to other local history and writers’ anthologies.

Dianne is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Historical Novel Society, Writers Abroad, Fermanagh Authors’ Association and Fermanagh Writers.

Dianne started life in a quiet residential neighbourhood in the buzzing city of Toronto and has progressively moved to smaller places through the years. She now lives on a small farm in Northern Ireland with her husband and an assortment of strong willed animals. If she ever decides to write her autobiography the working title will be ‘Downsizing’.

For more information please visit Dianne’s website. You can also find her on her BlogFacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.


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(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my objective review.)

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