By C. J. Carey; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman
Rose Ransom has managed to escape arrest in the wake of the Leader’s assassination but she’s living in a much more dangerous world.
The handsome, Eton-educated Douglas Powell, who interrogated Rose and then released her following the Leader’s assassination, has become her frequent social companion. The editor of The Echo newspaper, he is the epitome of an English gentleman. He has been pushing Rose toward marriage but without asking her for intimacies or sexual favors.
For Rose, it is as if the past two years “had been spent in limbo, watching and waiting, alert to each unexpected footfall, very glance from a stranger in the street, each friendly contact. Two years in which vigilance became not so much habit as muscle memory. In which she had become her own secret policeman, observing every move she made. Two year in which she had cultivated a demeanor so impassive, it was as if some calcifying malaise had turned her to stone and she was only waiting for some enchanted touch to reanimate her.”
She has been promoted from editing novels to revising poetry to reflect the values of The Protectorate. But every time she goes home to her apartment, it feels “almost as if the place had been ransacked and then everything replaced in an identical position.”
There’s new leadership on the mainland: SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler has succeeded the Leader; and Martin Bormann, a convicted murderer and formerly the Leader’s secretary, has become the new Commissioner of Culture. His cultural interests are minimal.
At his first all-employee meeting, Bormann announces that the President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie will be visiting the Alliance in two weeks.
The U.S. Embassy has been shuttered since September 1940, but Bormann tells his staff that the goal of the Eisenhower visit is to seal an international friendship treaty between the Anglo-Saxon Alliance and the United States.
Mrs. Eisenhower has expressed an interest in the lives of women in the Alliance so the Culture Ministry will be emphasizing “the feminine virtues the Alliance cherishes. Subservience, obedience, submission to male authority. Purity,” Bormann tells his staff. The Queen will be centerpiece of this push, he adds.
Through the influence of Powell, Rose is given two special assignments. The first is to attend and report on underground poetry readings, which the Alliance believes are being used to fuel the resistance movement. The second is to meet with Queen Wallis and report on her mental state and whether she can be trusted to meet alone with the Eisenhowers.
Each assignment takes Rose deeper into danger and closer to the resistance movement and reconnecting with her love, Oliver Ellis.
Hope is hard to come by in a world where tanks rumble down main streets, memory “retraining” is a regular event and those who don’t follow the rules can be “bleached,” removed from photographs, jobs and all social support.
The term “Queen High” of the title refers to a poker hand with one high card — a Queen.
The American-born Queen Wallis is a poker player in her own right. A horrible item she won in a game with Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Foreign Minister, proves to be the perfect weapon against its previous owners.
This is definitely a series that should be read in order. The first book ended with such finality, it was hard to believe a sequel could be written. It takes some patience at the opening of this book to understand how and why Rose has survived the past two years.
QUEEN HIGH ends as triumphantly as WIDOWLAND. My only question is will there be a third book?
The Author: C. J. Carey
C. J. Carey is a novelist, journalist and broadcaster. She has worked at The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and the BBC, among other media outlets.
Under the pen name Jane Thynne, she writes a series of mysteries featuring Clara Vine, a young Anglo-German actress, who goes to Berlin in 1933 to find work at the famous UFA studios.
WIDOWLAND was the first novel she wrote under the name C. J.Carey.