Book Review: The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable

About the Book:

1944, Rome. Newlywed Niki Novotná is recruited by a new American spy agency to establish a secret branch in Italy’s capital. One of the OSS’s few female operatives abroad and multilingual, she’s tasked with crafting fake stories and distributing propaganda to lower the morale of enemy soldiers.

Despite limited resources, Niki and a scrappy team of artists, forgers and others — now nicknamed The Lipstick Bureau — find success, forming a bond amid the cobblestoned streets and storied villas of the newly liberated city. But her work is also a way to escape devastating truths about the family she left behind in Czechoslovakia and a future with her controlling American husband.

As the war drags on and the pressure intensifies, Niki begins to question the rules she’s been instructed to follow, and a colleague unexpectedly captures her heart. But one step out of line, one mistake, could mean life or death…

Loosely inspired by real-life OSS operative Barbara Lauwers, The Lipstick Bureau is about a woman challenging convention and boundaries to help win a war, no matter the cost.

Published by HQ Fiction US

Released January 2023

My Thoughts:

I used to read a lot of fiction set during the World War II era, but in recent years, I have found myself fatigued by the topic, so my consumption has dwindled down to almost nothing. As can often be the case when you take a break from something, you can return to it with fresh vigour, and that’s what has happened here, with this book, The Lipstick Bureau. I found this to be an utterly fascinating read of an aspect of WWII history that I was unfamiliar with.

It follows a contingent of OSS operatives based in Rome in the final months of the war and details their efforts with disseminating ‘black propaganda’ to destabilise an already unstable enemy as the Allies and the Soviets swept closer and closer to victory. It’s a story charged with moral ambiguity and highlights the many ways in which women, both officially and unofficially, contributed to the war effort.

I enjoyed the characters, many of which are loosely based on real people, as per the author note, and the way in which they interacted with each other and the bureaucracy above them. The author writes with such an engaging and suspenseful style, and I was delighted to see that I have her previous release on my review bookshelf, just waiting to be read. I’ll be getting to that sooner rather than later, given how much I enjoyed this one.

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction and war fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable

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