Review copy provided by publisher
Pan Macmillan, May 2013
Synopsis- This historical romance/crime is set in Perth during the Second World War. Nell is an Australian journo, and quite the fashionable lady, and Johnny is a captain with the American Press Corps who has a bit of a shady romantic past.
Johnny’s ex-lover, Lena Mitrovic, has been convicted of the murder of caddish artist Rick Henzell. Convinced of Lena’s innocence, Johnny ropes Nell in to help him find the truth. During their investigation, they uncover a seedy and unsavoury side to wartime Perth. British, Australian and American servicemen are in the city looking to have a good time and many of the local girls are seeking excitement and romance. What they find is less wholesome. Some of these young girls fall into prostitution and become “Lost Girls”.
Nell hopes to improve conditions for these Lost Girls and for the women in Fremantle Gaol. Johnny hopes to find the true killer of Rick Henzell. The chemistry between the two main characters is immediate. They are both attractive, witty, sassy and willing to throw themselves into the fray. But Nell is “engaged” to an Australian lawyer and suspicious of Johnny’s reputation. As well she might be…
Review- Taking a chance is Deborah Burrows second novel set in Perth, Australia during wartime featuring an intriguing crime element. It’s the 1940’s and Nell Fitzgerald is an aspiring journalist, currently working on a fashion column for The Marvel.
Nell’s quite content with life, writing her column and awaiting the return of her boyfriend Rob until she meets war correspondent (and her idol) John “Johnny” Horvath at a local murder trial where they are both reporting on the outcome of the defendant, Lena Mitrovic. There’s an instant connection and attraction between Jonny and Nell even though Nell doesn’t want to admit it at first. The two inquisitive minds agree to work together to uncover the truth behind the murder of Lena’s wife and to delve into the Perth underworld to discover the “Lost Girls”.
During their investigations Nell and Johnny discover brutes, runaway young girls and a prostitution ring. Nell and her Aunt adopts the “uncontrollable child” Evie whose an orphan and at risk of detention. Some dangerous situations draw Johnny and Nell closer together as emotions run high and there’s pressure to not only solve the case but potentially save some young women’s lives.
Nell’s increasing attraction to Johnny and their obvious connection on an emotional level and an intellectual level causes her much confusion. Her head tells her to marry the sensible, financially secure Rob, but her hearts telling her to follow the passion and uncertain future that Johnny could offer. He’s a bit of a flirt and she has her reservations about whether she can really trust him.
Nell and Johnny are great characters. With Nell who hides her shyness behind her sophisticated attire, she fears failing the big feature story and she’s seriously reconsidering what she wants in a relationship, does she want to be sensible or does she want passion? Nell is strong and ambitious but also feminine and nurturing. Then there’s Johnny who is quite vague about his past but he is completely open about his feelings for Nell at the outset and he proves time and time again that he is reliable and trustworthy and will treat Nell as his equal. Once I got past the first chapter of adjusting to the first person viewpoint, I was hooked.
If you enjoy old school mysteries and examining a time period where so much societal and political change around women’s rights and roles was taking place, then take a chance on this book (pun intended!). I really enjoy Burrows’ writing style and how she brings her characters to life. After reading her first novel A Stranger in My Street and now Taking a Chance I think it’s safe to say that she’s making a stand in the historical genre and drawing on elements of mystery, suspense and romance to make it even more enticing. I’m looking forward to what she brings out next!
Taking a Chance can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers
This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge: