Cover Image: The Lipstick Bureau

The Lipstick Bureau

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Member Reviews

An intriguing story, well-written.  It jumps back and forth from World War II to the 1980's.  In the World War II genre, the OSS is not as commonly written about, and especially a foreign national female working the OSS, so it's unique in that way.  It is not super believable with how the story transpires and the characters are not as multi-dimensional as I would like, but it is a unique novel.
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I enjoyed reading The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable.  The characters in this story will warm your heart.  Happy Reading!
**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**
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Read if you like: WW2 stories, women's involvement in the war. 
Based on true events, the book follows Nikki, a woman from Czechoslovakia, who married an American and immigrated to the states. There she is sought out due to her language skills and she ends up working for the OSS in Italy during the war. I really liked reading about her involvement in the war and her work with propaganda. She was a smart and innovative character who was not only fighting for the allies but for her family as well! Overall I liked the story!
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The Lipstick Bureau is about a group of OSS personnel in the Moral Operations unit, stationed in Rome after its liberation during WWII. Their responsibilities included development and dissemination of propaganda materials designed to decrease the moral of Germans at home and German soldiers still fighting in Italy.  The hope was that by increasing dissatisfaction with Hitler and conditions within Germany, the Germans would resist and speed the war’s conclusion.
I expected the book to focus on the moral ops and conditions in Rome.  What’s included is interesting and more than superficial, but the larger focus seemed to be on the personal lives of a few individuals assigned to the group and their principal Italian connection.  
The writing seemed disjointed and uneven.  The last 20% was the best part of the book and finally succeeded in making the characters stories more relatable.  For me this was too little, too late and as a result I never felt invested in any aspect of the book.  I found it interesting as the operations and some of the characters are based on actual events and real people but overall the book was disappointing.
Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review an ARC.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of 'The Lipstick Bureau' by Michelle Gable.

A fascinating read exploring the little known Morale Operations (MO) division of Allied wartime operations and its attempts to undermine enemy morale through the dissemination of 'black' propaganda in axis controlled areas.  Michelle Gable adapts the real lived experiences of Allied operatives working in Rome during WW2, creating a narrative that is both informative and gripping.  With ingenuity and a make do and get on with it attitude, the central character, Nikki, works tirelessly to distribute anti-Hitler/Nazi propaganda whilst battling supply issues, a lack of support from the higher ups, and a belief that her department is a waste of time and resources.

A must read for fans of Kate Quinn.
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The Lipstick Bureau - Michelle Gable 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love a book that introduces me to part of history that I wasn’t aware of or didn’t know much about.

Based loosely on the life of a female Czech born American turned spy, this one fit the bill. 

I knew about the OSS (the predecessor to the CIA) but I wasn’t aware of the Morale Operations division at all or it’s role in disseminating “black propaganda” into the axis troops with the express purpose of depressing morale and bringing down the enemy troops from within. I think my fascination over their missions and work is primarily what held my attention. 

I will say that there were places where it felt a bit disjointed. Gable begins the story from several perspectives and with two timelines. It felt like the one timeline - the current day timeline - was extra to the story until the very end when it was all tied together. If you read it and you’re feeling like you’re being taken on a bit of a tangent, bear with it. It will get there. 

I loved the main character, Nicki. She is complicated, bull headed, passionate, patriotic and doesn’t like to color within the lines…so much so that she is almost court marshalled for proceeding with missions that she deems critical to the war effort. 

All in all, I really enjoyed this one and am thankful to @netgalley, @michellegable and the publisher for my e arc in exchange for my honest review. 

PS. Don’t forget the author’s note. It’s worth it.
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Loosely inspired by the story of Barbara Lauwers, Michelle Gable introduces the reader to Nikola Novotna, a brilliant former lawyer, skilled linguist, and the frustrated wife of American George Clingman. World War II continues to devastate the world as Niki joins the Office of Strategic Services, where her language skills and keen mind benefit her career and the Allied efforts. The novel jumps between World War II and 1989 and follows Niki and her Morale Operations (MO) colleagues during the final phase of the war in Europe. Gable brings her cast of vibrant personalities to life and successfully highlights their conflicting feelings about their propaganda’s role in the war. Niki in particular wars with her emotions, her loyalties, and her relationships as she tries to manage her work and her life. Gable makes these emotions and morally gray actions tangible for the reader, who feels Niki’s struggle for fulfillment throughout the book. The ups and downs of Niki’s life and time in the MO keeps the reader on their toes throughout the book, and the flash-forwards to Niki’s future reveal more and more of her core values and morals. Overall, Gable successfully immerses the reader into this wild, morally gray world alongside Niki, whose struggles and successes are absorbing.
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This was a very interesting story, made even more enjoyable by the fact that it was based on a true story. However, I feel there were too many side points that made this a little too long. I didn’t see the need for the present day point of view; I think the dual POV from the 1940s was enough to fully tell the story. 

I received an advance copy. All thoughts are my own.
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I wanted to love this one but for some reason it was just an okay read that I couldn't really fully get invested into. I liked that it was loosely based on a real person and the OSS organization. It was interesting learning about their work overseas in countries we that don't typically get featured in WWII historical fiction too. But for whatever reason this was just an okay read for me and won't likely be too memorable. Recommended for fans of women espionage stories like The Black swan of Paris or The secret society of Salzburg. Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early digital copy in exchange for my honest review!
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I wanted to love this one but for some reason it was just an okay read that I couldn't really fully get invested into. I liked that it was loosely based on a real person and the OSS organization. It was interesting learning about their work overseas in countries we that don't typically get featured in WWII historical fiction too. But for whatever reason this was just an okay read for me and won't likely be too memorable. Recommended for fans of women espionage stories like The Black swan of Paris or The secret society of Salzburg. Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early digital copy in exchange for my honest review!
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2 stars

This is the first book I have read from this author and to be honest I am unsure if I will pick up another at this point. I read a lot of WWII Historical fiction and this one kind of fell flat for me. It took me a long time to get into the story and even when I finally did get into it I still had a rough time because it felt so jarring at times. things didn't really fit together the way they should have. I didn't find any of the characters to be likable or ones I could find any connection with. 

I did find the parts about the effects of propaganda that was used in winning the war to be interesting and the actual historical parts were fascinating. The short chapters made it very readable. there were a lot of things that didn't add to the story like side stories that didn't particularly fit. 

Overall I was just kind of disappointed.
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Gable is one of the best authors at historical research.  I have loved all of her books.  She delves deep into women's psyches in this book and highlights surveillance and spying.  Excellent!
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I love Historical Fiction specially the ones set in WWII. I know it was not the most fun of times but I am grateful for the brave writers that keep their diligent research to tell the story that serves as a reminder for all of us never to forget. 

Nikola was a Czech immigrant married to an American Citizen, versed and fluent in seven languages and has three college degrees to her name found herself working for the OSS and the propaganda during the WWII. I know that stories and names similar to the real people back then can be purely coincidental but knowing that this was inspired from the real heroes who worked with the propaganda back then was something so outstanding! 

Told is multiple voices, this book was a joy to read. I had a hard time in the beginning but ones I have the connection with the characters it became interesting and smooth flowing. I love and adore Nikola- she was very passionate, strong willed, determined and can sometimes impulsive! Yet, these were her traits that made her for what she was. I enjoyed  reading about Maggie too. She was a fun one and her side of story made the plot a little more interesting. Paloma on the other hand can be a friend one needs to have. Always in the background but a good foundation for everything a friendship needs. The whole book screams of girl power and the title being Lipstick Bureau was so fitting!

This was beautifully written from start to finish. Fast paced once the story starts to unfold. I am thankful to have received a copy from Netgalley in exchange of my honest review! I am giving 3.5 stars rounding to 4.
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I was unable to finish the book. 
The writing style did not appeal to me, so I lost interest quickly.
I very rarely DNF a book so it always pains me when it happens. 
I really wanted to like this one.
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This historical novel is set during WWII, with the characters and some of the events being inspired by real life characters and events. When the book begins, main character Niki is an older woman in 1989, being honored at a gala for the women who worked in the OSS, a spy agency which was a precursor to the CIA. The book then flashes back to Nikki’s recruitment and training, and her service during the war, where she was involved in planning, producing, and distributing “black propaganda” - essentially a form of psychological warfare of sorts in which the US produced fake German newsletters and other similar materials. There are also some chapters from the perspective of Paloma, an Italian woman Niki met in Rome.

The book definitely felt well-researched, and as someone who has read a lot of WWII novels, it’s always great to find one with a new setting and topic I haven’t encountered before. And Niki was an interesting character, a Czech woman who had become a US citizen through marriage (though no longer a happy one), worrying about her family back in Czechoslovakia, and an independent, smart, and determined woman.

I loved Michelle Gable’s first four novels, but was disappointed by her last book, The Bookseller’s Secret, so was glad to see this one was a stronger effort. It did have a different feeling from her early books which I’d compare to Beatriz Williams, whereas this one felt a little more Kate Quinn. It was a bit slow though, and then the end was kind of anticlimactic, and was just a tad light on emotion for me. I did enjoy it though and would recommend to WWII historical fiction aficionados.

3.75 stars
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I truly enjoy a good historical novel based on real people, and after reading Michelle Gable's last novel, The Bookseller's Secret (which featured a fictionalized Nancy Mitford), I knew I would want to read her new novel, The Lipstick Bureau.

The novel opens in May 1989 as Niki and her daughter Andrea are attending a black tie dinner in Washington DC to honor the "Ladies of the O.S.S.", or as Niki says a "deceptively quaint title, like a neighborhood bridge club."  Andrea knew that her mother worked for the O.S.S., the precursor of today's C.I.A., but she was shocked to learn that her mother was not an interpreter or secretary, but she was an important member of the propaganda team called Morale Ops.

The story turns to 1943, when Niki, who speaks eight languages, manages to get herself assigned to a Morale Ops team in Algiers. A few years earlier, Niki tried unsuccessfully to convince her parents and beloved young brother Pasha to leave Czechoslovakia with her as the Nazis were moving to annex the country. 

Niki's team is soon sent to Rome during the last few years of the war and Niki hopes that she can get assigned closer to her home country where she can find out what has happened to her family. In the meantime, Niki uses her brains and creativity to find ways that Morale Ops can convince German soldiers and citizens that Hitler is losing the war and they should turn against him.

I liked Niki's creativity and her out-of-the-box thinking, even if it skirts military rules. Sometimes her ideas backfire, and when they do, she gets the blame. When her ideas succeed, her partner Will get the credit and promotions that she deserves.

Niki is brilliant, headstrong, and a terrible driver. She encourages a local Italian housewife-turned-prostitute Paloma to help her with some of her plans, and when her sister-in-law Moggy turns up (possibly to spy on Niki for Nicki's husband), Moggy becomes involved in as well.

Niki is based on the real life of Barbara Lauwers, and some of the operations in the story (code names Sauerkraut, Cornflakes, and Monte Rosa) actually happened. Gable brings her characters to vivid life, especially the women, and she gives Niki a great sense of humor. (Niki calls the O.S.S.  "a hodgepodge of army castoffs and every rich family's one stupid son.")

I didn't know much about Rome after the Nazis were driven from there, and found Gable's description of it and the Morale Ops fascinating. If you are a reader of Susan Elia MacNeal's wonderful Maggie Hope WWII series, as I am, The Lipstick Bureau is a must-read.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on Michelle Gable's tour.
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Normally, I’m a big fan of author Michelle Gable’s. I fell in love with her work with her debut novel, “A Paris Apartment;” then again with her fourth (“The Summer I Met Jack”) and fifth (The Bookseller’s Secret”) novels. This woman can write historical fiction!

In this, her sixth novel, we get a World War II saga that is based on the real life OSS operative Lauwers. It never fails to surprise me that with all the WWII-era books out there based on real figures that there is anyone left to influence a novel.

This one is a little different. Instead of resistance groups, concentration camps and those left behind on the home front, author Gable takes readers into the moral operations within the OSS (predecessor to the CIA).
Czech-born Niki Novotna has become an American, a newlywed with a failing marriage, and stationed in bomb-shattered, yet liberated Rome.  Her job is to write false propaganda that can dropped behind enemy lines. Looking as if the leaflets were produced in Germany, they disseminate such false information that Hitler is dead, the Allies are closer than then they think and the end of the war is very near. 

Then Niki’s job is to get the prepared publications in the enemy’s hands.  That is the hard part! She comes up with a rather unorthodox way to get the information to the enemy, especially since the Air Force and the Army are more interested in dropping bombs than dropping propaganda. Her new idea borders on violating the Geneva Convention. 

This book looks at the interactions of the Special Operations: Rome than how the enemy perceives the information. 

Niki and her officemates are referred to as “The Lipstick Bureau,” but there were as many men in the office as women. Maybe it includes the “other” group of Italian women Niki paid to get the information out. 

Y’all know how I love dual narratives. Most of the book takes place from 1943-45 and 1989. It doesn’t work. It wasn’t necessary and could have easily been deleted. However, it had to stay because this book is loosely based on the real-life operative, Barbara Lauwers, and their efforts to help win the war.

I found the office workings often tedious and lacking a forceful plot. Therefore, “The Lipstick Bureau” received 3 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.
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This novel was inspired by a real-life female spy. Be sure an read the authors note to find out more.

Nikola is from Czechoslovakia and is recruited to a secret governmental agency. She is highlight educated and speaks several languages. She ends up working for the OSS Morale operations department near the end of the war in Rome. Part of her job was to create “fake news”, to confuse the German armies.

A riveting story where Nikola tells her story in 1989. This story-line was unique from other WWII novels I have read.

Thank you Graydon House, NetGalley and author Michelle Gable. Out now.
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This is the fictional story of Niki Novotna, born in Czechoslovakia, inspired by the life of real-life WII spy Barbara Lauwers. 

Niki isn’t a particularly likable person. She is a shoot-from-the-hip type person and acts without thinking of the consequences, especially to those around her. But I did like her creativity and her passion. Despite very limited resources, her team of artists and forgers were successful.

It is obvious that Gable did a lot of research for this novel. I enjoyed reading about the propaganda tactics used in WWII. These tactics proved to be successful in helping bring an end to the war. Niki, being multilingual, creates fake stories and distributes propaganda to lower the morale of enemy soldiers.

While the story is set mostly in Italy, Niki is trying to locate her brother fighting in Czechoslovakia. There is little written about what was going on in Czechoslovakia during the war, so I found the references to it very interesting.

I enjoyed the chapters written from Paloma’s viewpoint. Paloma, a prostitute, befriends Niki. It is from Paloma that we learn what WWII life is like for the people of Italy.

The book is also a love story, a story of friendship, and a story of survival. The ending was predictable, but I enjoyed the journey the book took me on. It had its exciting moments that had me on the edge of my seat.

I recommend this book to historical fiction fans.
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Niki Novotna, a Czech native, with multiple degrees and speaking many languages, is married to an American from a prominent family. Inspired by the true story of Barbara Lauwers, Gable has written a gripping novel about the OSS Moral Operations in Rome during WWII. Not your typical WWII novel, we have a behind the scenes view of a small propaganda operation that provides big results in affecting the morale of the German soldiers and citizens in Italy. Using prisoners of war to infiltrate and distribute flyers, handouts, etc. Niki who plays a pivotal role in designing operations with the nicknames of Sauerkraut, Cornflakes, and Monte Rosa, fears that she may have crossed the line in paying prostitutes to keep the select POWs happy and will be charged with violating the rules of the Geneva Convention. With her career in jeopardy, her marriage in name only, her parents and brother unaccounted for, Niki is facing some harsh realities as the war is ending. 
I read this book in one weekend and didn't want to put it down. Gable presents the realities of war alongside the personalities and desires of the main characters. Survival is the name of the game and it's not always predictable or pretty. Historical fiction fans will enjoy a glimpse into how propaganda works and the OSS. An excellent Book Club selection for the many moral and ethical discussion points. This is the first book I have read by Gable and it won't be the last.
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