Love by the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan
Pub. Date: June 3, 2014
Source: ARC via publisher (thank you, HMH!)
Summary: On the brink of World War II, two girls are sent to the grand English country estate of Starkers. Hannah, the half-Jewish daughter of a disgraced distant relative, has been living an artistic bohemian life in a cabaret in pre-war Germany and now is supposed to be welcomed into the family. Anna, the social-climbing daughter of working-class British fascists, is supposed to be hired as a maid so that she can spy for the Nazis. But there’s a mix-up, and nice Hannah is sent to the kitchen as a maid while arrogant Anna is welcomed as a relative.
And then both girls fall for the same man, the handsome heir of the estate . . . or do they?
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Love by the Morning Star is one of those rare books that kept me up far later than I intended and the only way I managed to get ANY sleep that night was to physically force myself to set the book down. Bravo, Ms. Sullivan!
Anna Morgan wants nothing more than to be accepted into the arms of high society. Her father, a mere grocer, has started gaining a following with his political viewpoints and Anna welcomes any and all publicity. She’s worked hard to look and sound right and now, as far as anyone’s concerned, she can pass for a wealthy young woman. Her dreams collapse however, when she’s called upon to take a position at Starkers Castle as a lowly kitchen maid – servants were virtually invisible – and spy on the household, looking for any possible pro-Hitler leanings.
Hannah Morgenstern loves singing and dancing in her family’s cabaret. All around them Berlin is falling, and the only reason this particular Jewish family has managed to stay afloat is because Mr. Morgenstern’s clientele includes many high-standing politicians and members of the Nazi Party. Their luck could only hold out for so long though, and eventually the Morgensterns make the decision to send Hannah to a relative in England. Lord Liripip had once been married to Mrs. Morgenstern’s sister and the family never quite forgave her for running off to Germany to buy a nightclub. Family is family however, and Hannah packs her things.
In a classic case of mistaken identities, Anna is presumed to be the family’s niece, while it’s Hannah who’s sent down to the kitchens. Anna can’t believe her good fortune, while Hannah believes her position is Lady Liripip’s form of punishment. Add in a few cute boys, a fantastic cast of characters, and an assassination plot and you’ve got the makings of quite a story!
The more I think about this book, the more I love it! Love by the Morning Star was intriguing, it was surprisingly raunchy in some parts, it was thought-provoking. I’m a big fan of dual narratives and while that’s employed to great effect, Hannah is largely the focus. To be honest, that was perfectly fine with me; Anna was insufferable at times and her self-centeredness brought out some woefully pathetic opinions (the poor wouldn’t be poor if they just went out and got jobs; some songbirds were too loud – hey! the poor people can be hired to hunt songbirds and maybe make a pretty hat out of the feathers; years before the story takes place she had been in love with a florist, but wouldn’t admit it – a girl like her couldn’t possibly lower herself to be a florist’s wife).
Hannah, on the other hand, was a delight! She was funny, she was cheerful, she took to rambling on and on – sometimes at the most inopportune moments! So many times she wants to leave Starkers, but it’s the only place she can receive word of her parents’ safety and for that reason alone she’s determined to stay.
While the reader knows from the start the two girls aren’t who they’re supposed to be, the truth doesn’t come out until the very end. And I mean very end – and what a reveal it is! I delighted in every minute of that scene. It’s all the more confusing when two boys enter the picture: Teddy, their heir to the Liripip fortune (and title), has fallen for the girl he believes is Anna (their meetings have only ever been in the dark, dead of night); and Hardy, the charming gardener. If you’re a reader who is not a fan of love triangles, have no fear. While the lines are pretty blurred at times, each person is really in love with only one other…they just might have some trouble figuring out who that person truly is!
Although WWII is looming and Hitler is in full control, this isn’t a war novel. Yes, Hannah’s family had to flee. Yes, Anna’s father has some extremely anti-Semitic views. These very real things don’t exactly take a backseat to the novel, but they’re also aren’t at the forefront. Instead, Love by the Morning Star is a story about two girls who are thrown into positions they weren’t quite expecting and how they manage to carry on. It’s a shame I haven’t seen more buzz about this novel – I absolutely adored it and hope others will do the same! I know this is one I’ll be recommending to many people. It has just the right amount of humor and drama to appeal to readers of so many genres: YA, Historical, Romance, War Fiction, character-driven stories, I could go on and on.
“Hate is like hunger, I think. When one person feels it and talks about it, suddenly everyone feels it, even if they didn’t before.”
“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” Anna moaned, calling on a diety more primal and powerful than the benevolent uncle of the C. or E. For this, she needed one of those old gods who came to earth with their spites and jealousies and vengeance. She needed Zeus. She needed Loki. Nothing less than divine intervention would save her from this.