Vivienne's husband is a soldier who is gone fighting. They had a troubled relationship before he left and one has to wonder if they will have a relationship at all when he gets back. See, Vivienne has taken up with the enemy. This is the passionate part. Germans have taken over the house next door as most of the islanders left for England before the Germans arrived. Vivienne at some point (it's not clear where) fell in love with Gunther and proceeds to take him secretly into her bed each night. This was supposed to be passionate, but I didn't really feel this romance between them. It was implied more than experienced.
I was in a turmoil over this aspect of the novel. I couldn't help but think that what Vivienne is doing would be the equivalent of me bedding down with the Taliban whilst my own soldier husband was over in Afghanistan.. However, I also seen the moral behind it: Soldiers are just doing their jobs and you cannot hold the actions of a country against a single man.
Troubles arise with the building of labor camps.. Many islanders wish to help the starving, beaten prisoners but to do so puts one's own family at risk...
Despite the Occupation, Vivienne's daughters still grow up. Her teenage daughter disobeys Vivienne to consort with the enemy herself before seriously stopping to think of what she is doing. The younger daughter makes a special friend and inadvertently causes her own mother to "grow a pair" as I like to say and stand up for what is right.
A couple issues I had: 1) The lack of passion in the romance department. It came from nowhere and all of a sudden. 2) The heroine is a wimp until the end. When her little daughter hurts her leg, Vivienne doesn't even have the balls to poor medicine on it. Throughout the entire novel, her daughters have her "whipped." 3) WAY too much description. Everything from the flowers to the sea to her bedroom is described in detail. If I won't remember it once I turn the page, please don't waste my time describing it.
What I liked: 1) The mother in law's dementia added an interesting and sad twist. 2) The book is very well written despite being overly descriptive. I was entertained. 3) The moral I mentioned above about soldiers. "You do your job. You do what you have to do. You don't always look around you. You don't always think about everything..."
I received two ARCs of this book (oops), one from the publisher and one via Amazon Vine. My bad.