It’s ball season in Vienna, and Maria Wallner only wants one thing: to restore her family’s hotel, the Hotel Wallner, to its former glory. She’s not going to let anything get in her way – not her parents’ three-decade-long affair; not seemingly-random attacks by masked assassins; and especially not the broad-shouldered American foreign agent who’s saved her life two times already. No matter how luscious his mouth is.
Eli Whittaker also only wants one thing: to find out who is selling American secret codes across Europe, arrest them, and go home to his sensible life in Washington, DC. He has one lead – a letter the culprit sent from a Viennese hotel. But when he arrives in Vienna, he is immediately swept up into a chaotic whirlwind of balls, spies, waltzes, and beautiful hotelkeepers who seem to constantly find themselves in danger. He disapproves of all of it! But his disapproval is tested as he slowly falls deeper into the chaos – and as his attraction to said hotelkeeper grows.
Synopsis source: Goodreads
The glitz and glam of Imperial Vienna comes to life in this decadent novel. Equal parts romance, humor, and mystery, this charming and sweet story kept me enthralled and reading past my bed time.
I will say that if you are expecting a deep-thinking historical fiction, this isn’t it. It is purely a pleasure read and I would almost compare it to a Regency Romance type book but in a Viennese setting and with a way better cover. Can we just talk about the cover for a minute? How beautiful is the contrast between those shades of gold and teal? The bokeh effect to replicate the glitz and magical feeling of the ball that Maria is trying to capture with her Fairyland theme? Sigh. I love it.
I really loved Maria, an independent woman with a strong will to make her dreams a reality. She knows what she wants and what she’s about and she isn’t going to let a little thing like attempts on her life slow her down. I loved her resilience and how every time she got knocked down, she got right back up again and kept moving toward her goal. Her particular family situation gives her a freedom that most women of the time were unable to experience, and I really liked that she was no demure virgin but experienced and unabashedly so. Her type of character is so often reserved for the men of these sorts of period novels. In fact, the whole gender stereotypes of that particular trope are turned on their head in this story and I am here for it!
Eli…sigh. Curmudgeonly and straight-laced, his bark is worse than his bite, and that tough shell hides a soft underbelly. I loved watching him descend into the chaos of Imperial Vienna, upsetting everything he previously held true, bending rules, and falling in love with Maria against his better judgement. And his courtesy toward Maria in those steamy scenes only served to make him even hotter.
I really enjoyed this medium-paced romantic suspense. It had everything I would look for in a historical romance and now I really want to go to a ball.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Until next time,
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