Continuing with Mormon authors this week, I present The Rules in Rome by A.L. Sowards.
The story begins when a pack of Allied soldiers ambush a German officer’s car bounding along the road in Italy. As the men examine the dead officer now slumped in the seat, they notice how thoroughly he resembles one of their own, Bastien Ley. Daringly, Bastien assumes the dead man’s identity and reports for work at the Gestapo headquarters in Rome.
His Allied superiors saddle him with Gracie Begni, an American of Italian descent and a crack radio operator. They must play like they’re a couple while Bastien gathers Gestapo information and Gracie transmits it.
One look at Gracie and Bastien makes it clear that she’s a bother, he doesn’t want her along and, furthermore, has she any idea what will happen to her if she can’t pull off this mission?
Gracie puts her hand on her hip, assuring him she cannot be dissuaded, picks up her suitcases and catches the train to Rome.
And off we go, into a world where Bastien has to Heil a Hitler he hates and Gracie has to stand in long lines for food and water, along with the citizens of Rome.
All while they act like they’re in love.
The key word is ACT.
Didn’t we discuss seismic kisses last week?
Well, this week, the kisses are at least good enough to make one set of lips wonder if the other set of lips might just have stopped pretending.
Oh, how Sowards tests that act. She gets them spending the night in the same hotel room — chastely, for Gracie’s a good Mormon girl and Bastien knows it. She inflicts bloody injury, triggering things like sympathy and the impulse to rescue/flutter with concern.
All this act made me think of Rex Morgan, M.D. (Is that comic still around? One of my sisters said of old Rex, “He doesn’t have an emotional bone in his body.”) Anyway, the act and all the attempts to trip it up worked on me about as well setting a Pot Belly sandwich in front of me. I could take or leave the old dry-breaded thing. (A Firehouse Sub though . . . )
My hat is off, however, to Sowards’ for her substantial research. Read her book and it will fill your head with fascinating things to talk about at your next dinner party.
And if Rules in Rome ever turns into a movie, the actress who snags the part of Gracie will have the time of her life shooting pistols, riding motorcycles through Rome (Rome!!) and meeting secret contacts in secret places to exchange secret code words.
The Rules in Rome won the Whitney Award, one of the plum prizes in Mormon letters. If you like it, Sowards has enough published books to supply a good two-month reading binge, depending on how fast you can turn the pages.