Cover Image: The Lipstick Bureau

The Lipstick Bureau

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Member Reviews

This is a WWII story based on a true story, which I did not realize until the end of the book. The narrative focused on the end of the war, and the psychological propaganda used by the Allies to tip the war in their favor. I loved this part of the book - it was fascinating to see history from a different perspective. 
There are many themes that the book grazes that could have been further elaborated upon- that would have made the story richer. The first 3/4 was very slow - months were depicted in hundreds of pages- and then the book wraps up too quickly. It loses some of the emotion of the ending. 
I think this novel has great promise! Just needs some reconfiguration for my tastes. Many thanks to NetGalley, Author Michelle Gable, and Graydon House Publishers for this e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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I didn't realize this story was rooted in fact. It was a glimpse into an entirely different type of warfare, making this WWII story feel fresh. Knowing that it mirrors an actual woman's life made it even better.
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I’m always a fan of historical fiction, especially in WW II. This one was loosely based on true events, which is why I decided to give it a try. However, I never could get into the story or even root for the main character. It did make me want to look up Barbara Lauwers (who it was based off) and I found her story so intriguing. I just wish it could have been written better. 
So not the best book, but based off a great story.
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Oh my goodness was this good. So good that it is definitely a top 10 read for me for 2022. Based on a true story, it is about a group of ingenious people outsmarting the Nazis with everything they have - especially their wits. It is so fascinating how the OSS and all the secret services used everything they had to defeat the Nazis. not just in battle. Highly recommended!
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3 stars.*

Michelle Gable is one of my favorite Historical Fiction writers. She does detailed research, creates nuanced characters, and weaves terrific stories.

I expected The Lipstic Bureau to be something like Our Girl in Moscow by Beatriz Williams, but it was nothing like it. It is the story of Niki Novotna, a fictionalized version of famed WWII spy Barbara Lauwers. It tells of how the OSS, specifically the office "led" by Niki, created propaganda that helped bring an end to the war.

It is also a love story, a story of friendship, and a lesson in history.

I enjoyed it, primarily for the history, but didn't love it.

*with thanks to NetGalley for the Digital ARC in exchange for this honest review. (less)
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This is a good historical fiction book that switches between the present and the past during World War II. The book is a little hard to stay interested in and took me awhile to ready, which is not typically true. The characters were well-developed, but I was just not that invested in seeing where their stories went.
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A Czech immigrant helping spread propaganda during WW II made this book a very compelling read. My great grandparents immigrated from Czechoslovakia so this story has a strong familial connection with me, even if they we not in Czechoslovakia at this particular time in history. Niki is a very complicated, passionate and intelligent woman doing what she can for the war effort in the OSS, what eventually becomes the CIA in the future. When she get assigned to the moral operations department there she meets and shares a year of her life with a variety of dynamic cast of characters. The story goes between present elderly Niki and past young Niki working in Rome for the OSS. There is also a third viewpoint form a supporting character that changes POV as well intermittently throughout the story. I found this book to be fascinating with facts about WW II along with the romantic and gender discrimination subplots. This is a great historical fiction read, and don’t forget the author’s note at the end!
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The Lipstick Bureau
 by Michelle Gable

Based on the gorgeous cover, I couldn’t wait to dive into this historical fiction novel, the true story of a World War II female spy. 

Niki, a Czech national turned American citizen, held several degrees and was fluent in multiple languages. A member of the OSS—the CIA’s precursor—Niki was one of the women who performed non-combat duties to assist the war effort. 

Based in liberated Rome, Niki and her colleagues in the Morale Operations branch were propagandists. They crafted fake stories and spread disinformation to lower enemy morale.

But how far would Niki go to win the war and defeat the enemy?

I found the book’s premise exciting and enjoyed learning about this branch of the war effort. The fragmented story, told from the viewpoint of many different characters, didn’t flow for me. Although it crawled at times, I’m glad I didn’t give up and read to the end!

A huge thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for the copy of this book.
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I loved reading this title from Michelle Gable. It was presented in multiple viewpoints, and there were references to times and dates to keep the reader on track. The main character is Niki, who finds herself in a new place in war time, leading to numerous situations that make her have to choose between the appropriate ways to handle things or a new way to try and make things work. There's also a dynamic shift within her relationships with her peers and her husband and herself. We also get to see things from her point of view as a mother, many years later, relaying these events to her daughter. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who has bent the rules in a pinch, or perhaps can make the exception during wartime for survival.  She is clever, heartfelt and relatable.
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Nikola Novotna finds herself in Rome working for the OSS at the end of WWII. Her work helps set the stage for the end of the war while also shaping the rest of her life.
I had a really hard time getting invested in this but once I did I enjoyed the story. I really liked hearing about the work of propaganda in winning the war and that it was based in fact made it that much more interesting. The chapters were all really short and told from the viewpoint of many different characters making the story feel very fragmented. There was also very little character development so it was difficult to get myself invested in Niki as a main character and no one else really stood out either. At times things felt like they were happening out of order. Other parts went off on tangents that were distracting and didn't really add to the story. There were also some formatting issues I'm hoping get corrected in the final draft as they also took away from the story. I liked the plot and feel like it has potential but there were just too many issues taking me out of the story too make it a great book.
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The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable is historical fiction based on the life of Barbara Lauwers.  The main characters , Niki, is from Czechoslovakia and moves to the US with her American husband.  She is recruited to work for the OSS in the Morale Operations department.  As her marriage slowly falls apart, she finds herself falling in love with a fellow MO agent while stationed in Rome during the closing year of the war.

     I always enjoy novels about the OSS, which later becomes the CIA.  This a part of WWII that isn’t so well known.  I did enjoy this one, but it was a little slow paced.  I almost put it down several times during the first half but then it picked up.  I am glad I continued reading because the second half was much better.  It just takes a while to get into.  I enjoyed the developing love story and the chapters told by Paloma, a prostitute Niki befriends in Rome.

     I would recommend this to all historical fiction and WWII fans.  It starts out slow, but keep reading.  You will be glad you did.
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I love World War Two books, and I love stories about espionage. This book, though, left much to be desired. There was a ton of chatter that I felt unnecessary. The main character wasn’t particularly likable. And the time jumps didn’t really add to the story. 

DO I STILL RECOMMEND IT? No.

——

The Lipstick Bureau was kindly provided as an ARC by Netgalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing. 

I was really excited to receive this ARC from Netgalley. I have read other books by Michelle Gable and loved them. This book, however, fell flat for me. I could not get into the story, and I did not find the characters to be all that relatable. I will still read other books by Gable, but this one was a pass for me.
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Set in the OSS during WWII, based on a true story.
In addition to spying, the OSS participated in  creating information, employing many women.
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The title, book cover, and book description all pointed to the kind of book I love to read. Unfortunately, this novel fell flat for me. I just couldn't get invested in the characters or the story. It's a slow build and I found there was a lot of telling. I did not end up finishing the novel.
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1944, Rome. Niki Novotná is recruited to be one of the OSS’s few female operatives abroad and she’s tasked with crafting propaganda to lower the morale of enemy soldiers. Despite limited resources, Niki and a team of artists, forgers and others—now nicknamed The Lipstick Bureau—find success. But Niki has to face the truths about the family she left behind in Czechoslovakia and her controlling American husband.

This story was inspired by a real spy, so it piqued my interest. I felt Niki’s desperation to get into Czechoslovakia but not any of the urgency that should have surrounded Operation Sauerkraut and her other MO work. Niki’s backstory was interesting, but i wouldn’t say I liked Niki. She was standoffish, disaffected, impatient, and hard know. It was a slow build and I often find myself leaving and coming back to this book. 

For something called the Lipstick Bureau, I expected more women, but Niki was the only woman working in Morale Operations in Rome. I never connected with the characters, and only Ezra seemed fully realized. I didn’t see character development at all and it was the plot more than the people that would pull me back in to finish.
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This was a great book. We’re taken on a journey into WW2 from the view of an OSS operative. It’s my first book by this author and I would certainly recommend it. I didn’t want to put it down once I got started. 

Niki Novotná is a native of Czechoslovakia. She’s recently married to an American when she’s recruited into the OSS during wartime. Niki knows several languages and can fit it just about anyplace. She’s soon transferred to the MO, a branch that creates and distributes black propaganda to the enemy. Living a life of lies, Niki will soon bend the rules and eventually question her choices. 

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was sent to me by Netgalley for review.  Thanks to the publisher for the electronic copy.  A female spy...the war...love and romance...friendship...enemies...this author is talented at writing a cannot put down novel.  Curl up in a comfy chair, grab a cozy afghan...a cup of herbal tea...a scone...be transported back in time...this is quick read about a time when life was different...the world was not as it is now...history was made...it is memorable.  enjoy.
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Thanks so much to Netgalley and Michelle Gable for an early copy in exchange for an honest review!

I loved the historical accuracy of this book - although I must admit it was hard to get a grip on the story at first. Though I have read a couple historical fiction novels based in WWII, I found that the Morale Operations were not something many of them touched on. Though there was not much character development throughout the novel, but the mystery of the protagonist's (Nikola) family kept me fairly engaged and made for a thoughtful read.
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I appreciate NetGalley for the opportunity to read The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable in return for an honest review.  Niki is from Czechoslovakia and is a whiz at languages.  She has recently married an American business man when she joins the OSS and is sent to Rome to work in the Morale Operations department dealing with crippling the morale of German soldiers by the passing of disinformation during World War II.  She and her colleagues manage to do their job well with little help from the government while she worries about what has become of her family left behind in Czechoslovakia.  The story was interesting and flowed well.  I especially enjoyed learning that it was loosely based on a real person.
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What a fascinating novel! I loved reading and learning about the OSS, the CO, and Barbara Lauwers (the inspiration for Niki.) The Lipstick Bureau is a great one to read digitally. I kept researching various topics and people introduced in the novel. The subject had me captivated. I will definitely read more by this author. If you love historical fiction and enjoy learning about new topics, you need to read this book.

Thank you NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing, Graydon House for this digital arc in exchange for my honest review which is not affiliated with any brand.
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