Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Alice Network" by Kate Quinn, Served with an Herbed Goat Cheese & Veggie Baguette Sandwich

I'm so excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, a wonderful new historical fiction book about two women of different generations and the amazing female espionage agents in the first World War. I devoured this book--not wanting to put it down-- and then I devoured this Herbed Goat Cheese and Veggie Baguette, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 6, 2017)

My Review:

I really loved this book--so much so that the 500+ pages flew by, I stayed up late reading it during a busy week and I didn't want to put it down when I had to work or take care of adult life stuff. The Alice Network turned out to be a 5 star read for me--it's a skillful blend of real life--people and events with well-drawn fictional characters that brought the story to life.  

I love historical fiction, especially when it is set in World War I or World War II. I also love war-time historicals that give me a different insight or perspective and The Alice Network did just that. Although I knew about and have read and seen bits and pieces about female intelligence agents and spy networks during the wars, I was not familiar with the real-life heroine Louise de Bettignies and The Alice Network, the spy ring that she led. (There is a great afterward with details about the history and further reading suggestions and I found myself googling for historical details several times throughout and after my reading.) Kate Quinn did an amazing job in using de Bettignies's story (Alice Dubois was one of her pseudonyms) as the core of her novel while creating two strong female leads in Eve Gardiner, a young recruit sent into a spy network in France in 1915, and Charlotte (Charlie) St. Cloud, an American college student looking for her missing French cousin in 1947 where their paths intertwine. Both characters are complex, somewhat lost, feel real, and are easy to root for and the supporting characters are also interesting and nuanced. Being a wartime novel, you know things are not going to end well for everyone, so being so vested in these characters was fairly nerve-wracking as I was biting my nails any time there was the scent of danger in the air. (My right hand is not pretty!) The two stories intertwine well as the book goes back and forth between the time periods and it was interesting to look at the similarities and differences of France during the thick of WW1 and right after the end of WW2. Quinn writes with enough detail to put you right into the setting, while not bogging down the story or the action. 

If you love historical fiction, you will love this book. If you think historical fiction is boring, I still think you will love this book as it reads just as much as a suspense novel as it does as a historical. If you like books with strong female characters and relationships, you will love this book. The Alice Network is gripping, intriguing and really well done. My only complaint--I wanted more time with these characters. This is my first Kate Quinn book and although her other books are set in time periods (Italian Renaissance and First-Century Rome) that I normally don't read much of, I will definitely be checking them out. If they are anything close to as good as The Alice Network, they are winners. 

Highly recommended--one of my favorites this year.


Author Notes: Kate Quinn is a native of Southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classical voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books set in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.
Find out more about Kate at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

Even in war times, there was food to be found in The Alice Network--helped along by the restaurant that featured in the story. Examples include: dry little scones and tea sandwiches, fried liver, an English breakfast of eggs, bacon, mushrooms, bread, and canned beans, baguettes, a mention of hot dogs and coffee, lemonade, sandwiches, boeuf bourguignon, toast made with good bread, real butter and strawberry jam made with real sugar, veal and béchamel sauce, roast quail, crème brûlée, Kirschtorte, chocolate mousse, croissant, bouillabaisse, tarte alsacienne, millefeuille, vichyssoise, lobster bisque, cherries jubilee, roasts, a hamburger, more bacon, fish and chips, biscuits, and fried courgette flowers. Alcohol included brandy, whiskey, sherry, elderflower liqueur, gin martini, and absinthe with a sugar cube and water.  

Since both sandwiches and baguettes were mentioned several times, I decided to make a sandwich for my book-inspired dish. There was one described as "thick sandwiches of goat cheese and prosciutto" and another of soft goat cheese and marbled ham, I was on board with the soft goat cheese, but since I don't eat meat, I decided to fill my sandwich with zucchini, sauteed in lemon-pepper and olive oil, sliced Roma tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves. I also wanted to make an herbed goat cheese to make my sandwich pop with flavor. 

Herbed Goat Cheese & Veggie Baguette Sandwich
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup soft goat cheese, at room temp
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice + zest of lemon
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl, stirring until the herbs and zest are well mixed into the goat cheese. 

Place into serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with bread or crackers or use as a sandwich spread.

To assemble sandwich: Use a mini baguette or length of a regular baguette, split. Spread both pieces of the bread with a thin layer of the herbed goat cheese spread.

Slice zucchini into ribbons with a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler. Saute in olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a generous sprinkle of lemon pepper until soft and starting to brown. Slice tomatoes, thinly, and separate 5-7 basil leaves. 

Layer the bottom baguette slice with the zucchini on top of the goat cheese, then layer on tomato slices and top tomato slices with the basil leaves. Place the other baguette slice on top and press lightly together. (Cut in half for easier eating.) Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: This is such a delicious sandwich that tastes of summer and has a ton of flavor. Spreading the herbed goat cheese on both the top and bottom baguette may seem like overkill but it's a thin layer, it tastes so good, and it helps hold all of the ingredients together. Since the sauteed zucchini and the tomatoes are so juicy, no butter or mayo is needed for moistness. I served the sandwich with grapes for sweetness, but if you wanted, you could add some apple or even plum slices to the sandwich itself. I did get hungry for bacon and other cured meats reading the book but this meatless sandwich had enough delicious flavor to satisfy me. I would happily make it again.(And since I have leftover herbed goat cheese, I probably will.) ;-)

I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

I am also sharing it with Novel Foods #30, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word and hosted by my friend Simona at Briciole. This deadline for this round of Novel Food ends Friday July 7th.

Finally, I'm linking up this tasty sandwich to Souper Sundays, hosted here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup 

Note: A review copy of "The Alice Network" was provided to me by the publisher Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



  1. Thanks for another great book review and another book for me to add to my list (which is infinity and beyond at this point). Love the sandwich!

  2. I can't wait to get that book. I was on the list at the library and had to pass, putting me at the bottom again. I had too much going on and knew I wouldn't get to it before it was due. So excited about it, I am only #10 in line now.

    Good sandwich there! I think that would make a good lunch for us one day during our long we end.

  3. Thanks for a great book review! I will be checking it out. Your sandwich looks delicious!
    I so want to return to Hawaii!!! It was a sad day when we had to leave after our visit. Beautiful water, scenery and on on, warm weather.
    I'm glad I found your blog and am looking forward to future posts!

  4. Great sandwich. Will be ordering this book. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  5. I've been wanting to read that book and you're stellar review has convinced me to get reading!

    That sandwich looks awesome. But with herbed goat cheese, what could be bad.

  6. Goat cheese is a favorite, especially from small producers -- we have a few nice ones near us in Michigan, and I've even visited the Surfing Goat Dairy on Maui in your state. I love sandwiches like yours!

    best... mae at

  7. Historical fiction is my absolute favorite genre, and the period of the two World Wars is one of my favorite settings. This book is a must-read for me.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  8. This book sounds like something I would enjoy as well and I know I would enjoy your delicious looking sandwich.

  9. It sounds like a great book. I like historical fiction and also suspense stories, so I can imagine I'd stay up late at night, the way you did, in which case a nice sandwich would be quite welcome, with the grapes, please ;) Thank you so much for contributing to Novel Food.

  10. Great review! This makes me want to read the book - definitely will be buying it for the remainder of my summer reading. Love the sandwich, too!


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