When Thomas Haupner meets Henry Reiter, the sparks between them are pretty immediate. But they meet in the midst of a world war and time is fleeting in more ways than one. London is caught under the Blitz and nightly bombings have become commonplace and taking the risk of loving one another seems more important than ever. In the city, despite the war, there are parties, Royal invitations, and musical performances that allow their romance to flourish. But Henry and Tommy are military men, each of them mired in spy craft for their respective governments and that leaves little time for romance. Especially when they are charged with a dangerous mission into enemy territory.
With national secrets on the line, Henry and Tommy, along with their small team, must survive in German-occupied France while untangling a mystery that involves friends and foe alike. They have to trust one another to stay alive in the face of incredible odds. And if they’re very lucky, Henry and Thomas might get a chance at forever.
Let me start by saying that if you like spies and wartime intrigue, then The Seventh of December is the book for you. This is very much the driving force of the novel and it results in a complex web of political lies and private interests. Henry and Thomas feel like the pawns of more powerful people, as all soldiers often are during times of war. The broader storytelling is good here and the author obviously has a real passion for the topic, which comes through in a positive way. Additionally, there is an excellent sense of place and time. Jones has done a wonderful job of portraying the uncertainty of life during the Blitz and about the importance of life going forward despite being under threat.
There’s a lot to like about The Seventh of December, but there are some frustrations as well. The book often serves as a vehicle for the author’s love of history rather than the romance between two soldiers. There are frequent info dumps and, at times, facts feel wedged into the text rather than actually seeming necessary to the narrative. I think because of this, it’s really hard to connect with Henry and Tommy. They often don’t seem like real people. That isn’t to say they aren’t defined, but rather they’re almost too stiff and plastic and their interactions don’t feel terribly believable. I think this ultimately stems from the overall focus being on the history rather than the actual story involved. When it comes to historical fiction, there is definitely a fine line between getting too wrapped up in the subject material and I think that’s what happened with The Seventh of December. Also, and this is a personal gripe, this is a book that relies too heavily on nicknames. Henry is, at various times, called Heinrich, Shorty, and Yank. Sometimes all on the same page. This is a habit that drives me nuts. Pick a name for your character and stick to it, please!
This is the first in a new series and while The Seventh of December tends to stumble a bit when it comes to connecting its characters to the reader and blending the history more smoothly into the story, there’s still a lot to like here. From the spy craft to the war time mood and setting, this is really going to appeal to historical fiction buffs. And I’m looking forward to reading what happens next for Henry and Tommy.