Title: Eleventh Hour
Author: Elin Gregory
Publisher: Manifold Press
Length: 195 Pages (Kindle)
Category: Historical, Mystery/Thriller
At a Glance: Gregory displays a deft hand at crafting historical espionage with a classic touch, which is then enhanced by the touching romance.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Borrowed from the Secret Intelligence Service cipher department to assist Briers Allerdale – a field agent returning to 1920s London with news of a dangerous anarchist plot – Miles Siward moves into a ‘couples only’ boarding house, posing as Allerdale’s ‘wife’. Miles relishes the opportunity to allow his alter ego, Millie, to spread her wings but if Miles wants the other agent’s respect he can never betray how much he enjoys being Millie nor how attractive he finds Allerdale.
Pursuing a ruthless enemy who wants to throw Europe back into the horrors of the Great War, Briers and Miles are helped and hindered by nosy landladies, water board officials, suave gentlemen representing foreign powers and their own increasing attraction to each other.
Will they catch their quarry? Will they find love? Could they hope for both?
Review: Action, danger, espionage and a dose of romance play beautifully alongside one another in Elin Gregory’s historical thriller, Eleventh Hour.
I love a novel that offer readers the opportunity to become ensconced in time and place without it turning into a full-fledged history lesson about the era. Set in post-World War I London, this story allows for just enough detail to ground readers in its setting, delivering a welcome touch of realism without the historical aspects becoming cumbersome or bogging down the pace of the story. The circumstances in which Briers Allerdale and Miles Siward find themselves portraying husband and “wife” are at the heart of the spy game they’re involved in, and I loved the way this tied into not only their budding romance but offers the dual suspense of their possibly being outed amidst the already inherent danger of their mission.
It’s the innate poignancy in the history of gay relationships that resonates throughout this story—the clandestine encounters in backrooms and bathhouses, the absolute need for Briers and Miles to hide—that play out so well when juxtaposed with “Brian” and “Millie” and their ability to show small but significant public displays of affection as a married couple. It’s also a nice reminder of how much gender roles have evolved over the decades (hallelujah), in the concept of masculinity and femininity and the way Miles, as Millie, emerges. This relationship has its share of bumps and missteps along the way; there’s friction aplenty between Briers and Miles, so watching them simultaneously thaw out and heat up, all while the trust and respect and subsequent affection grew between them, was a nice addition to their story.
Of course, a spy thriller wouldn’t be much without a life threatening confrontation between opposing factions to kick up the adrenaline, which Eleventh Hour delivers, and I appreciated the way these scenes gave Miles himself the chance to be the hero in this story. And to add to the list of things I liked about this novel, I also respect the fact that there were no pat answers and manufactured happily-ever-afters as wouldn’t have been befitting of the time, place, or historical accuracy of the piece. Gregory displays a deft hand at crafting historical espionage with a classic touch, which is then enhanced by the touching romance.
You can buy Eleventh Hour here:
As promised, Naylor provided Briers with a passport, carefully aged, with visa stamps for France and Switzerland. He also handed over a bank book and an envelope with expenses. As Briers retraced his steps to the lobby, he flicked the envelope open and calculated the amount in notes inside. If the largesse was commensurate with the size of perceived danger, someone must be scared stiff of Andrija and his nasty band of cut throats. With good reason, too. Briers had to admit to an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach at the thought of facing some of Andrija’s nastier henchmen backed only by a professional pen pusher in skirts.
On the half landing, Briers looked over the bannisters to see Siward waiting close to the doors. Rarely had Briers seen a man who looked more miserable. He was watching over two large suitcases and a portmanteau, with a bowler hat in his hand and a very fine cashmere paletot coat over his arm. A much taller, somewhat beefy man in tweeds was puffing on a meerschaum pipe and chatting to him while Siward made terse responses, his knuckles whitening as he gripped the brim of his hat. The beefy man grinned and leaned a little closer, murmuring something that brought blood flooding to Siward’s pale cheeks. Briers scowled. There was something threatening about the way the other man loomed over Siward, who Briers assumed he should begin to think of as his partner. Briers had no particular affection for him, but if anyone was going to bully the poor little clerk, it would be him and nobody else. Briers hurried down the stairs and strode across with a cheery, “There you are, Siward. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting.”
“No, not at all,” Siward replied, his tone polite rather more than relieved, so perhaps this bullying was routine.
“No need to fret. Siward’s good at waiting.” The other man thrust out a hand. “Mortlake. Siward tells me you two are off on a course.”
“Yes, Ukrainian.” Briers took the proferred hand and wasn’t surprised when Mortlake attempted to crush his knuckles – the secret handshake of the society of obnoxious asses. Briers applied equal pressure and Mortlake freed his hand with a jerk.
“You language wallahs do a useful job.” Mortlake’s tone managed to be both derisive and patronising. “It wouldn’t suit me, of course, but we field agents appreciate your back up.”
“Wouldn’t know what to do without us, at a guess.” Briers grinned at him. “And it warms my cockles to hear how much you cherish us.”
Siward’s bland expression didn’t waver as he said, “Indeed, that makes it all worthwhile. Allerdale, our cab is here. Sorry, Mortlake, no time to gossip.”
Mortlake ignored Siward, nodded to Briers and strolled across to the desk.
“Let me guess,” Briers murmured. “London-based and has never been east of the Channel?”
“It would be unprofessional of me to comment.” Siward’s stoop to pick up one of the cases wasn’t quite quick enough to hide his smile. “Where did you leave your luggage?”
About the Author
Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and works in a museum in a castle built on the edge of a Roman Fort! She reckons that’s a pretty cool job.
Elin usually writes on historical subjects, and enjoys weaving the weird and wonderful facts she comes across in her research into her plots. She likes her heroes hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow. Often they are in danger, frequently they have to make hard choices, but happy endings are always assured.
Current works in progress include one set during the Great War, another in WW2, one set in the Dark Ages and a series of contemporary romances set in a small town on the Welsh border.
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