A very well written, engaging historical novel

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In the Shadow of the Past by J.E. Leak

A very well written, engaging historical novel

Review of In the Shadow of the Past by J.E. Leak

In the Shadow of the Past by J. E. Leak is an atmospheric lesbian noir. I think the style and language are more like noir-ish or noir light, but the author inserts plenty of intrigue into the plot. The stunning Kathryn Hammond, she of the sultry looks and the dark and troubled past, is my favorite character. She is the strongest on the page even though she keeps an air of mystery about her. She is an OSS spy on an undercover mission, playing the mistress of powerful industrial and suspected gangster Marcus Forrester. That role brings her on the path of young Jenny Ryan, a journalist with the Daily Chronicle, who has sworn to bring Forrester down.


I loved the game of seduction coming from both sides, although Kathryn was better at it. There is a lot of smoldering but it never ignites into a raging inferno. Not even a small campfire. I guess that is (maybe, hopefully) going to happen in the next book. I think, however, when you consider the story that this was the best way to go. Several plotlines are ongoing and this really feels more of an introduction to the main players, giving us their back story, paving the way for bigger adventures.

There is plenty of character development on both sides. Kathryn experiences real feelings thought to be dead and buried and Jenny has some maturing to do. I found her very young and rash in her actions. Maybe it was emphasized by Kathryn repeatedly referring to her as the kid, a bit odd when you consider them only a few years apart in age. Maybe she meant she was an innocent?

“The words struck Kathryn in a soft spot. She longed for that life. A life without secrets. A life of looking into someone’s eyes and finding only innocence and trust. She had nothing but secrets from Jenny, and that would never change. One more reason on the long list of reasons to end this assignment quickly and move on.”

All the cloak and dagger are detrimental to a relationship. Not that Kathryn needs one, she fights it with all her might. Caring for someone in her profession is deadly and she knows it.

I am very curious as to what will happen in book two when Kathryn and Jenny are on a more even keel. There are still plenty of questions that need answering, but lucky for us we don’t have to wait for long. The second book in the Shadow series, called In the Shadow of Love will come out in November of this year.

I thought it was very well written, engaging, with good use of period slang, and a great cast. Jenny and Kathryn had emotional depth and there is plenty of reason to expect these women to be truly epic together. You can’t rush these things.

f/f be prepared for a very slooooow burn right into the next book

Themes: New York City 1943, OSS mission, The Grotto, nightclub singer, gangster moll, a car crash, secrets and lies, a dark past, the smoking gun, Jenny repeatedly sticks her foot in it, uncle Paul, a career change.

4.5 Stars

*ARC provided by the author to lezreviewbooks.com in exchange for an honest review

In the Shadow of the Past by J.E. Leak

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