On the same day in 1938, two young women, Hannah Morgenstern and Anna Morgan, arrive at the Liripip family estate, an enduring stronghold of British aristocratic sensibilities. Free-spirited Hannah, daughter of a Jewish cabaret owner and a distant relation of the Liripips’, seeks refuge when Kristallnacht prompts her to flee Germany. Self-absorbed Anna, daughter of a leading member of the National Fascist Front, has been sent to spy on the family in the guise of a servant, in hopes of gathering information about the British government’s plans as Europe teeters on the verge of war. When Lady Liripip mistakes Anna for Hannah, Anna jumps at the chance to play the role of the well-bred aristocrat rather than the lowly kitchen maid, while Hannah, expecting no kind treatment from the Liripips based on her mother’s warnings, is furious but resigned when she is sent below stairs to work. This case of mistaken identity leads to humorous antics that only escalate as both girls set their sights on the handsome Liripip heir, who is frequently abroad in Germany, spying for the British. Meetings under cover of darkness between would-be lovers do nothing to illuminate the confusion.
The mashup of over-the-top absurdity and World War II history makes Love by the Morning Star an original, if unusual, novel. Though Hannah has few religious or cultural attachments to Judaism, her concern for the well-being of her missing parents — and through them, all those persecuted by the Nazis — provides a touch of grounding pathos to a story that otherwise strives for the ridiculous.
Sullivan’s writing is witty, saucy, and well-pitched for farce. An eclectic cast of characters keeps the story lively. Love by the Morning Star is an entertaining read with all the humor and high-spirited raciness of a Shakespearean comedy paired with the romantic intrigue and class commentary of Downton Abbey.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.