Thursday, March 18, 2021

Blog Tour: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Every now and again on social media you will see a conversation which asks the question "are there too many WWII books?" or "do we need yet another WWII book?". I do understand why people might have these thoughts because there are a lot out there, but when you read a book like this then the answer is no there aren't too many and yes we do! There are still so many fascinating stories to be told, often based on true stories.

In this book we are taken into the super secret world at Bletchley Park, home of the British code breakers during WWII. Two young women meet on the train as they take up their appointment at Bletchley, with no idea what their work will be. Canadian Osla is a young debutante whose well-to-do mother keeps a suite at Claridges just in case, and who is currently dating a dashing young Prince Philip. She has a good grasp of languages including German and wants to be seen as something more than a "dim-witted deb". Mab comes from the East End of London, and she has done everything she could to improve her lot in life, and that of her mother and sister. She's taught herself to talk differently, to dress like a lady and is always working to become a better version of herself.

Once at Bletchley the two women sign documents to say that they will never speak of the work that they do, even amongst themselves.

Do not talk at meals. Do not talk in the transport. Do not talk travelling. Do not talk in the billet. Do not talk by your own fireside. Be careful even in your hut.

They are billeted with the dysfunctional Finch family. Daughter Bethan is firmly under the thumb of her abusive, controlling mother. Whilst Beth has very little in the way of social or life skills, she is able to solve crosswords very quickly. Soon she too is working at Bletchley, using her particular mental strengths working hard to solve the puzzles of the Enigma code. If they can break the codes they will know exactly what the Germans are up to and can save lives.

The code breakers work hard - very hard. Beth isn't the only code breaker who works days on end, round the clock to find the key to the code, unlocking the secrets.  But within the park, there are also the opportunities to play hard. Illicit romances, pranks, book clubs and more are the things that help keep everyone sane. Not to mention the newsletter whose author seems to have their finger on the pulse of everything that is going on at Bletchley.

The German's are not the only ones with secrets. Even though they are working closely together, there are still so many things that the women hide from their friends and co-workers. 

There are two strands of this story, the first during WWII and the other in the lead up to the marriage of then Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip of Greece. A couple of weeks before the wedding that the whole nation is determined to celebrate, Osla and Mab receive a coded message which leads them back to their code-breaking days, and to each other. Together they have to try and unveil a traitor. The war might be over, but the damage caused by the traitor still resonates in the everyday life of the three women.

I really enjoyed how the author slowly unveiled the story with great skill. As the story progresses, for example, we know that the one of the women is married with kids but she tells us the story without revealing the name of her husband. Whilst in this case, his lack of identity isn't crucial to the story by using this technique in multiple scenarios, there are several moments of genuine surprise when those identities are revealed.

I really enjoyed Mab's war time love story. She was so determined to bag herself an educated man who could provide her with a degree of financial security so she made very clinical decisions, so it was a delight to watch her as her feelings began to grow. In fact, all the women grow albeit because of different circumstances.

We also got a glimpse inside the walls of a mental institution in the 1940 - cold, brutal and experimenting with new surgical techniques such as lobotomies. In fact, there are several other issues that are explored within the pages of this excellent book, including the role of women before and during the war, racism, trauma and loss and so much more.

This book has so much to offer. It has a fascinating story, great characters, interesting history, drama, loss and so much more. I had previously listened to The Alice Network, which I enjoyed, but I loved this one, and now I really need to read The Huntress.

Rating 4.5/5

Thanks to Random Tours for inviting me to take part in this tour and Netgalley

About the Book

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. 

Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart. 

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter--the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger--and their true enemy--closer...

About the author

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.


  1. I very much enjoyed this book and thought it was very interesting. How about that ending?! I’d love to know more about Mab, Bethan & Osla, maybe she’ll write another book as follow up?!

    1. It was a cracking read from beginning to end Tina!

  2. Love the sound of this! Been rewatching Foyle's War so am in the mood for more WW2 stories. Excellent review, Marg.

    1. I've never watched Foyles War Cath! Maybe I should.

  3. Thanks so much for the blog tour support x

  4. I loved this book too. It does sometimes seem that there are too many WWII books, but I think this one really stands out from the others. This is my first Kate Quinn and now I can't wait to read The Alice Network and The Huntress!

    1. Enjoy exploring Kate Quinn's backlist Helen!

  5. Great review, Marg! I love WWII books and don't think there can be too many. I've added this to my list.

  6. Hi there Marg! Oh I'm so jealous! How marvelous to be part of this blog tour! Your review is excellent and I can't wait to read The Rose Code. I loved The Alice Network.

    Have a good weekend!

    Elza Reads

    1. I definitely jumped on the opportunity to be part of this tour!