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  • Stella and Nicky are back!

    Stella and Nicky are back. It’s November, 1938. The Nazi tentacles are spreading and more and more countries are falling under Hitler’s spell, willingly or not. In the first book in the series, The Paris Package, Stella and Nicky are newlyweds, part of the young, American rich, married after a whirlwind courtship and still getting to really know each other. Unfortunately though, they are in Vienna on the eve of the Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass, and a dangerous journey begins for them as they discover passion and purpose for a cause and experience more than a little sacrifice and tragedy. Amazingly, given all they’ve been through, and a bit sadly, considering they are so young and so recently bright-eyed with great expectations, when Strangers in Venice begins they are still newlyweds. Even though so much has happened, not a lot of time has passed. They have learned a lot about each other, trial by fire if you will. Their marriage has shown them what it takes many marriages years to display: their love is strong and they can always count on each other. I am looking forward to seeing this relationship continue to grow through many more books. Stella and Nicky are deeply in love, but they are very different people. Both strong and determined and fiercely loyal but Nicky is very traditional and can’t believe some of the things that are happening to them and is surprised when he learns how Stella feels about some things. It’s just not the way things are done. He’s perplexed. He knew Stella was spoiled and strong-willed, but he still thought that as her husband he would be the one in charge and she would follow unquestioningly. That won’t be happening. Stella is very young and very old at the same time. Brave but often reckless. Determined and clever, but also unworldly and naïve. Sometimes they seem fearless, and sometimes it just seems as if because they are from the upper class they cannot conceive of people not doing what they want, of being in danger themselves, that things won’t just work out or be taken care of. In Strangers in Venice we see Nicky growing as a person. He was always brave and good but he was raised to be Nicky Lawrence and that is who he is. Now he will do his best to not appear weak or afraid in front of Stella. I think in future books we will learn even more about Nicky. As for Stella, she is carrying around a huge amount of guilt and thinks to herself at one point, there she went again, making a victim where there wasn't one. Sometimes it seems to her everyone she meets is then in danger. There is so much detail and history in these stories that I couldn’t wait to read Strangers in Venice, and as soon as I finished I picked it up and read it again to see what I might have missed. World War II was a real event and we can open the history books and read about it, but A. W. Hartoin does such an amazing job of capturing the tidal wave of Hitler’s roll through Europe and the escalating panic and despair. Such insight into people, and what they were feeling and fearing. I’m not sure if this was the meaning of the title, but Nicky and Stella truly are strangers in Venice. They don’t get to be the beautiful American couple with connections and lineage and money and safety in just being who they are. While they aren’t living in the street, they do need to conceal their identifies and experience more than their share of physical and emotional pain. I am learning that books as good as this are the hardest to review. Not because you can’t say I love it, I recommend it, read it now – all that is true. But because each and every plot point is so significant there isn’t much you can reveal without spoiling the story. Everything leads to the next thing, builds on something else. When you get to the end of the story you think, “Didn’t I see something about this in Chapter 1, and what exactly does it mean, and do I have to wait impatiently for the next book in the series to find out? I recommend you read Strangers in Venice. You really can read all of A. W. Hartoin’s books standalone. She does a fine job of providing backstory for what’s already happened and how you might expect her characters to act so that you never feel lost or confused but do yourself a favor and read everything she has written and read it in order, including her Mercy Watts series. It’s laugh out loud funny but this is also where the name Stella is first mentioned. Millicent and Myrtle are Mercy’s godmothers and it’s here that the notion Mercy might be a Bled is put into your head. As I have already said, there is so much detail and history and every single thing means something and ties to something else. What a joy these books are to read. I received a copy of Strangers in Venice in exchange for my honest review. I loved it, and as always will be purchasing a copy for my collection.

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  • Great Heroine!

    I have read the first two books and can hardly wait for book three. I hope it won't take too long! Excitement, romance, intrigue, espionage, tons of action which make for great page turners.

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  • stranger in Venice

    Loved this book and the first book. Couldn't put these books down. Real barn burners .

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  • Stella, you have done it again

    Hartoin has Stella growing into quite a strong young woman. With every turn of the page, twists and turns, the plot thickens. Who to trust? Are people who they say they are? Who knew that an attempt to send or retrieve a telegram would cause such chaos. If you enjoy a 'sitting on the edge of my seat' adventure, this book is for you.

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