Author: Anne Barwell
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon Buy Link Genre: Historical M/M Romance/Action/Adventure
Length: 266 pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: Would the mission of delivering formulas for creating a dangerous weapon to the Allies during Second World War succeed or not? Which members of the anti-Nazi resistance will survive the mission, find love and manage to get out of Berlin alive? Read this story to find out.
Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.
When Michel contacts the Allies, hoping they can work together, it isn’t long before the so-called “simple” mission becomes anything but. With both men realizing they can no longer ignore their growing feelings for each other, Kristopher and Michel must fight—not just for a chance of a future together, but for their very survival.
Warning: I really dont know what’s wrong with me and why I did not put up this warning right away. The story contains couple torture scenes, which are while far from being the most graphic and detailed scenes I have read, are still torture scenes. Stay away if any torture bothers you. It is vital and necessary to the story, not gratuitous IMO.
I was both excited and worried to start reading this book. The blurb did not look as if I will be reading a romance about two Nazis, but blurbs could be misleading and just to stay my biases very clearly and upfront — I don’t do those well (romances between two Nazis that is; I actively avoid them and probably would have returned the book had it happened in it). Thank goodness that did not happen as basically Shadowboxing is about anti-Nazi resistance and I thought it was for the most part very well done, although I had some issues with this story.
The blurb gives you the idea what the story is about, even though it never stated clearly what weapon Kristofer was developing. I thought it was very clearly based on the developments of the nuclear bomb in Germany and then the author wound the love story around the attempts to get the formulas to the Allies. Let me stress though, that this is purely my own interpretation, and perhaps you will arrive at different one (I do not think the word “nuclear” was said even once in the book).
I thought the story was full of tension and danger, which of course makes sense given the time and the place where it was happening. I also thought it showed very well how some ordinary German people tried to do what they could to help the resistance, even if it may not seem as it was enough; people tried and people died trying to do the right thing.
I liked both main characters, I thought their attraction was very well done (he and Michel just clicked from the very beginning) and the fact that it was fast did not bother me as much as it would have bothered me in the story taking place in peaceful time and place. I also felt Kristopher’s misplaced guilt about working on the weapon was beautifully-written.
There is a lot of action taking place in this book, and all the action/adventure stuff is of course tied together by the attempts to get the formulas and papers about this weapon to the Allies, which as I said it made it an interesting and exciting read for me. I was, however, less impressed by a secondary love story that was developed between two other characters, which I felt took up almost much page space all together as Kristopher and Michel’s story (I do not want to specify more for the fear of spoilers). Let’s just say that their transformation from comrades-in-arms to lovers did not quite work for me. As I said, I am usually much more okay with people being attracted to each other at the times of war — and going for — it because there may be no tomorrow, but here some more foreshadowing would have been appreciated, especially for one of the guys. Your mileage may vary of course.
My other issue, which was quite possibly related to my biases, was what I perceived as completely idiotic conduct by one of those characters, which is again so hard to describe without spoilers, so I shan’t try. Let’s just say that he lets the main Gestapo creep live, when it was very possible to let him die without even doing it themselves. The explanation of why he lets this happen was not satisfactory for me at all, and instead of making the guy look noble, it made him look narcissistic and self-indulgent in my eyes. I guess I should be happy that at least we don’t see the Gestapo creep deciding to pay them back with a good deed, but I was even more frustrated because I thought that as a direct consequence of his actions, two good people get arrested and we all know what usually happened to anti-Nazi fighters who got arrested by Gestapo. I was just shaking my head, because on one hand I was pleased that the author was so ruthless to her characters, and the theme of “they knew the risks when they decided to fight” is painful but true one, but then the guy decides not just to let the monster live, but actively save him. I was ready to scream at him and could not think of him as anybody else, but “the idiot”. As I said, there is an explanation given, but no, it did not work for me at all.
Lastly, I did not understand the title, unless it was a metaphor for fighting evil from the shadows in as much secrecy as possible? But then what does boxing have to do with it?
Despite my niggles, overall it was a good book.