Math, science and history were my least favorite subjects throughout elementary school, high school and college. When it comes to my reading choices, I tend to avoid books with those subjects. My brain has some kind of block against them. I'm worried I might have to think too much. I was glad to be wrong after reading Heart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm.
We meet a young Hungarian, named Leo Hoffman. He's working to rebuild his life in the aftermath of World War I. Leo has carved a career for himself working at a hotel in Budapest. His career aspirations at the time go no further than upper-level management at the hotel. But a group of influential men want Leo to tap into his hidden talent. His gift to speak several languages. He is reluctant to do so, but the possibility of a financial boon is too much to pass up. The start of the adventure takes Leo to Paris.
While in Paris he falls in love with the beautiful Martha Levy. After just a few days the two are already talking marriage. Their relationship is extremely romantic and beautifully told. Their love scenes are very sensual, but are told very tastefully. From a realistic standpoint, I did find it a little hard to swallow. Perhaps because I'm looking at it from a 2010 perspective and not 1925. I guess relationships just moved a lot faster back then. Their romance is put on hold when Leo gets caught up in a counterfeiting and murder plot. Fleeing to Shanghai, Leo builds a new life. Martha is initially heartbroken, but Leo sends for her. Marriage and a child, Maddy, soon follow. They live in a big house, attend lavish parties, and all the while Martha doesn't ask too many questions. But no matter what Leo cannot escape his past. His marriage and life with Martha is built on lies.
Some writers have a tendency to ramble on and on before they get to the point, but not M.L. Malcolm. The story is very fast-paced. For me, the historical references serve more as backdrop to the overall story. Malcolm's in-laws were part of her inspiration for the novel. It is heartbreaking to read about the bombings in Shanghai. One minute you have your family with you and the next you don't. But in the end it all comes back to Martha and Leo, their relationship is at the heart of book.
Notes: I received a copy of Heart of Lies from the publisher at the request of The Book Report Network (http://www.bookreporter.com/). To learn more about M.L. Malcolm visit: http://www.heartoflies.com/ We also have copy of the novel available for a giveaway. Details at: http://asiturnthepages.blogspot.com/2010/07/heart-of-lies-giveaway.html. I'm also hosting a giveaway for Mara's Flowery Arrows at: http://asiturnthepages.blogspot.com/2010/06/book-giveaway.html