‘Beneath A Starless Sky’ is the latest book by Tessa Harris.
Lilli Sternberg longs to be a ballet dancer. But outside the sanctuary of the theatre, her beloved city is in chaos and Munich is no longer a place for dreams. The Nazi party are gaining power and the threats to those who deviate from the party line are increasing. Jewish families are being targeted and their businesses raided, even her father’s shop was torched because of their faith. When Lilli meets Captain Marco Zeiller during a chance encounter, her heart soars. He is the perfect gentleman and her love for him feels like a bright hope under a bleak sky. But battle lines are being drawn, and Marco has been spotted by the Reich as an officer with great potential. A relationship with Lilli would compromise them both. Will Lilli be able to escape the threats facing her family, and how much is she willing to risk for the man she loves?
Over the last while, I’ve come to have read a few historical novels and what was originally a romantic tale transformed into a spy story.
The story is primarily seen through the perspective of Lillian Sternberg, a Jewish dancer. She’s got a bright future ahead of her and is fortunate to have fallen in love with an Italian officer called Captain Marco Zeiller. But one day he has to go ahead and though they promise to stay in touch, Lillian’s heart is broken when he sends her a telegram breaking off their relationship. Heartbroken, she sets her sights for America where she establishes her career as a dancer and even stars in films with Fred Astaire. It’s whilst she’s in America that Hitler comes into power and the mistreatment of Jews begins and Lillian begins to fear for her family back home in Germany but they refuse to leave their homes. When Lillian’s career suddenly ends, she finds herself falling in love with James, a kind English man who can offer her a good life in England but wants her to become a spy when she befriends Wallis Simpson, the mistress of the Prince of Wales.
Through this undercover work, Lillian unravels a whole load of secrets and lies and finds herself face to face with her beloved Marco, who is now a Nazi.
The story is a romantic novel but reads like a biography, with the inclusion of real people such as the famous Wallis Simpson and the whispered comments about her relationship with the Prince of Wales as well as being a Nazi sympathiser.
The story is fascinating in its content, not only the love story aspect but the work of an undercover spy as well as the historical parts such as the rise of Nazism and sad decline with the treatment of the Jews and how simple pleasures like a radio where forbidden. It’s small inclusions like this in the story that make for genuinely upsetting reading as it’s factual events and not something the author has conjured up.
Lillian is a wonderful character with tremendous spirit, she’s brave and fascinating as she puts her life in jeopardy for the sake of her family and has to hide to her heritage from the world to do so.
With a stunning cover and a heartbreaking plot, ‘Beneath A Starless Sky’ is a cleverly crafted story, encompassing fact and fiction with historical figures and a brave protagonist that makes for compelling reading.
You can buy ‘Beneath A Starless Sky’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.