A Perfect 10
Ypsilon & Co. Press
ISBN: 978-0615868363
February 2014
Historical Fiction

Wiesbaden, Germany – 1945

The war is over. At least the fighting is. But for the average German, each day is a struggle to find food, water, shelter, and work in the ravaged cities. Anna Klein and her young daughter Amalia left the Russian-held sector and her husband for the safer American controlled part of the country. She works for the U.S. Army in a typing pool, scraping together rations to feed her daughter and the old family friend they are living with, keeping a secret from the military that could cost her her job, and possibly get her shipped back to where she came from. Anna prays to hear from her husband and hopes he can find them, but each day with no news from him makes her wonder if she'll ever see him again.

Anna works at the Collecting Point for the Army's Monuments Men, the people who are trying to recover art and artifacts stolen by the Nazis. It's a huge task, and soon it becomes known that Anna can speak English, so she is recruited as a translator by Captain Henry Cooper, an architect who just happens to be in the Army, but bucks the system every chance he gets. When Anna and Cooper accidentally discover a hidden cache of artwork in a local villa, Cooper's habit of breaking the rules puts both of them in jeopardy. At the villa they also find a young boy living there alone, and they take him to one of the intake centers for displaced people.

There are too many events happening to both Anna and Cooper that have them convinced there is something very odd, and perhaps very dangerous, brewing around their discovery. Anna will find that there are some people she can trust, and those who should be trustworthy are simply not who they appear to be. But others will discover the hidden strength in Anna in her resolve to not only protect her daughter, but to do the right thing—even if the truth about her secret is revealed.

Debut novels with this amount of intensity, character strength, not to mention the meticulous research that went into it, are rare. Readers will be hard pressed to put this book down once they reach a certain point. Anna grows throughout the story, leaving the scared young woman behind as she realizes that the only way for her people to move on is for them to face reality, learn to trust again, and take charge of their lives. Cooper is a likeable guy with the typical draftee's attitude that the military takes rules and regulations way too seriously. The historical significance of the work being done by the Monuments Men is still surfacing today as more hidden stashes of amazing art are unearthed.

Although it's rare to give a Perfect 10 to a debut author, I don't hesitate to do so. I highly recommend THE ROSES UNDERNEATH.

Jani Brooks