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Code Name Hélène
Cover of Code Name Hélène
Code Name Hélène
A Novel
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"This fully animated portrait of Nancy Wake . . . will fascinate readers of World War II history and thrill fans of fierce, brash, independent women, alike." —LISA WINGATE, #1 New York Times...
"This fully animated portrait of Nancy Wake . . . will fascinate readers of World War II history and thrill fans of fierce, brash, independent women, alike." —LISA WINGATE, #1 New York Times...
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  • "This fully animated portrait of Nancy Wake . . . will fascinate readers of World War II history and thrill fans of fierce, brash, independent women, alike."
    —LISA WINGATE, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours
    BASED ON THE THRILLING REAL-LIFE STORY OF SOCIALITE SPY NANCY WAKE, comes the newest feat of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia, featuring the astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII.

    Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.
    It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.
    As LUCIENNE CARLIER Nancy smuggles people and documents across the border. Her success and her remarkable ability to evade capture earns her the nickname THE WHITE MOUSE from the Gestapo. With a five million franc bounty on her head, Nancy is forced to escape France and leave Henri behind. When she enters training with the Special Operations Executives in Britain, her new comrades are instructed to call her HÉLÈNE. And finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly MADAM ANDRÉE, where she claims her place as one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, armed with a ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and the ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces.
    But no one can protect Nancy if the enemy finds out these four women are one and the same, and the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed she—and the people she loves—become.

Excerpts-

  • From the book PART ONE

    Nancy Grace Augusta Wake

    The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.
    —Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

    Chapter 1

    Hélène

    Benson Military Airfield, England

    February 29, 1944

    I have gone by many names.

    Some of them are real—I was given four at birth alone—but most are carefully constructed personas to get me through checkpoints and across borders. They are lies scribbled on forged travel documents. Typed neatly in government files. Splashed across wanted posters. My identity is an ever-shifting thing that adapts to the need at hand.

    Tonight, I am Hélène and I am going home.

    It is February 29. Leap Day. The irony of this is not lost on me, because I am about to jump out of an aeroplane for the first time. I've only just been lifted into the belly of the Liberator bomber like a clumsily wrapped package. Me in slacks, blouse, and silk stockings beneath my coveralls, tin hat, and British army boots. The camel-haired coat and parachute pack don't do much to help the ensemble. But this isn't a fashion show and I'm not here to make friends, so I don't care that every man on this plane is looking at me as though I don't belong. Besides, I'm hungover. And I think I might throw up.

    There are only four of us on this flight: an RAF pilot, a dispatcher, "Hubert"—my partner on this mission—and myself. A motley crew indeed. I settle into the jump seat across from Hubert and we watch with trepidation as the aperture in the floor closes. There's a grinding of gears and the clank of metal and then we're locked inside. I very much regret that third bottle of wine I shared with the boys last night. Headquarters delayed the mission by an entire day so we would have extra time to memorize key details of our cover story, which meant that, for the second night in a row, we raucously celebrated our looming departure and likely death. By the end of it we were singing "Blood on the Risers" at the top of our lungs, and now I can't get the stupid song out of my head.

    "Gory, gory what a helluva way to die . . . ," I hum, only to find the pilot staring at me with a bemused grin. I shrug. It's the truth. This would be a helluva way to die. Too late now, though, because all four engines shudder to life with an angry bellow.

    I begin counting as the plane rumbles across the aerodrome. Ten. Twenty. Thirty—good grief, when will this thing ever get off the ground?—forty. And then my stomach drops as we lurch into the air like a drunken seabird. The Liberator heaves and rumbles its way into the low-hanging clouds over the English countryside, sounding all the while as though someone has tossed a pound of bolts into a meat grinder.

    Once we're through the clouds and the engines dim to a lesser roar, the dispatcher looks at me and shouts, "Witch?"

    Under normal circumstances I would be offended, but Witch is my code name for this flight. I nod in the affirmative.

    He turns back to his control panel and radios Command. "Witch on board"—a pause and then a glance at Hubert—"Pudding as well. Approximately two hours until the drop."

    Poor guy, it's not his fault. He's not been given our real code names, much less our actual names. Need to know, etcetera, etcetera. I make a face at Hubert and he grins. We'd argued over which of us had the worse handle. Mine is sexist but his is stupid, so in...

About the Author-

  • ARIEL LAWHON is a critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, Indie Next, Costco, and Book of the Month Club selections. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, a black Lab, and a deranged cat.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2020
    A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake. Lawhon's (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it's the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades "Hubert" and "Denden"--two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. "I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen," she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog "will be the great love of [her] life," she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says "I wear my favorite armor...red lipstick." Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary! A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure--Lawhon's best book to date.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 24, 2020
    Lawhon, who masterfully combined fact and fiction in I Was Anastasia, does so again with this gripping thriller based on the life of Nancy Wake, an Australian expat who worked as a reporter for Hearst in Paris just before WWII and later as a spy for the British. Lawhon throws readers into the middle of the action, as Nancy, under the alias Hélène, prepares to parachute from an RAF plane into France to help the Resistance in 1944, carrying in her head memorized lists of vital data, including bridges targeted for destruction and safe house addresses. After she lands, the story flashes back eight years, as Nancy struggles for respect and recognition as a journalist; despite her firsthand observations of Nazi brutality in 1930s Vienna, her editor is reluctant to publish a story about what she’s seen. Frequent jumps in time draw out the arc of Wake’s remarkable life; despite her statement early on that women’s weapons of warfare were limited to “silk stockings and red lipstick,” by the end she’s proven herself skillful at physical combat as well. Lawhon’s vivid, fast-paced narrative will keep readers turning the pages, and a detailed afterword makes plain how much of the account is factual. This entertaining tale does justice to Lawhon’s larger-than-life subject.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from April 1, 2020

    In 1936 Paris, freelance journalist Nancy Wake meets two men. One is destined to be the love of her life; the other, a political refugee, changes the course of her life through his harrowing story. Traveling to Vienna, a city under the spell of Adolf Hitler and his Brownshirts, Nancy witnesses the torture and terror inflicted on Jewish residents and those who resist. In Berlin, she also stumbles upon a rally led by Hitler where she experiences the fanaticism that he inspires. She returns to Paris changed and determined to report what she has seen. As the Germans begin their march toward Europe, Nancy is unable to ignore the desperation of those fleeing or determined to fight. She joins the Resistance and leads dangerous escape routes through France and becomes one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance. VERDICT Based on the real-life exploits of "socialite spy" Nancy Wake, Lawhon's (I Was Anastasia) story presents Wake's heroism, alongside the bravery and sacrifice of all who fought, giving hope that even in the darkest times there are real-life heroes. Readers will be transfixed by this story of a woman who should be a household name.--Susan Santa, Shelter Rock P. L., Albertson, NY

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from March 15, 2020
    Lawhon's magnificent fourth novel dramatizes the valor of a gutsy, real-life woman molded by war, sacrifice, and love. In February 1944, sporting her trademark red lipstick, Nancy Wake parachutes into the French countryside on a Special Operations Executive mission to organize, fund, arm, and train the Maquis, bands of local resistance fighters, in preparation for D-Day. Back in 1936, with increasing dangers posed by Hitler, Nancy is a determined Australian expat journalist embarking on a tantalizing romance with handsome industrialist Henri Fiocca. As these separate time lines move forward, they play off one another masterfully, pivoting at just the right moment to augment tension. Lawhon carries us into the heart of the French resistance, with the beautiful Auvergne region covertly transformed into a gritty battleground, and into the mind of a badass heroine with uncanny instincts who takes on the Nazis and men's arrogant sexism with uncommon bravado. With her infectious laugh and occasionally profane dialogue, Nancy's fighting spirit shines through her propulsive narrative, and her comrades-in-arms are well-rendered secondary characters. Her journey to becoming a fierce, powerful leader is as emotionally stirring as her growing bond with Henri. Even long after the last page is turned, this astonishing story of Wake's accomplishments will hold readers in its grip. WOMEN IN FOCUS(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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