Notes of Love and War is a historical novel full of dramatic flair. The tale by Betty Bolte borrows heavily from her own ancestral history. It spins a yarn of love and espionage in a way that will hold the reader captivated.

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  • Title: Notes of Love and War
  • Author: Betty Bolte
  • Publisher: Mystic Owl Publishing
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Pages: 382
  • Format: e-ARC
  • Rating: 4/5

Trigger Warnings: Rape, Violence, Emotional Abuse

I would like to thank Netgalley and Mystic Owl Publishing for providing me with a free copy of Notes of Love and War in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Available July 28, 2020, Preorder now from Amazon

Notes of Love and War

Synopsis of Love of Notes and War:

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.


My Review

This book is a slow burn. The mystery doesn’t start until after more than half of the book is over. Through the first half of the novel, we witness blossoming love and a taste of love gone wrong.

Littered throughout this section are small hints of the mystery, but they seem odd and out of place until you get to the second half where the mystery takes full form.


Notes of Love and War chronicles a patriotic family amidst a backdrop of WWII in Baltimore. The tale captures the story of two sisters and their involvement in love and a spy ring.

The landmarks mentioned are exciting and make me want to visit someday to see how things have changed since WWII compared to the pictures I have conjured in my mind.

There is a small part where the sisters visit St. Augustine, Florida, which melts my heart. I love the ocean, including how the author writes about the scenery. The attractions are spot on and relay my feelings earnestly.


Audrey – Audrey is the main character and narrator. She is the music critic for the local newspaper. Being treated equally in the workplace is her primary goal. Women were flocking to open jobs left by soldiers during WWII, and Audrey is no different. She has no interest in a romantic relationship, so she offers to be pen pals with a soldier she meets at a colleague’s party. This letter-writing adventure is one of the central premises of this book. The letters are fun and whimsical. However, being well versed in music, Audrey is also an essential character in solving the mystery.

I liked Audrey well enough. She was nice enough but became annoying when she was always in angst over whether to try to keep her job at any cost. It is overdramatic and suggests a broken record.

Stella Rae – Stella Rae, also known as just Rae and Audrey’s younger sister, is a violin virtuoso. She also finds work at the music school she attends. Rae is wild and a bit flighty. She jumps into things without thinking them all the way through. Her wild streak brings her euphoria that turns sharply to regret and then danger.

I loved Stella Rae. Rae was my favorite character. Headstrong and refusing to play to anyone else’s rules, she made her own way, even when she was wrong. But she owned her wrongs. She didn’t try to pawn them off on others.

Charlie – Audrey’s pen pal turned someone special. Charlie is a good guy, and he is fun-loving as well as funny. He is a good match for Audrey, who tends to be too serious at times. Charlie does tend to have patriarchal ideas when it comes to women. However, it fits well with the times when the men ruled the roost. He is incredibly romantic in a way that Audrey needs to break down her walls.

Charlie is also a favorite character because he has a great personality that the author brings it out so well. I think it is because his story is semi-biographical after Betty Bolte’s real-life grandfather. I would have loved to have met him. He sounds like a hoot.

Vick – Vick is your typical villain. He begins dating Stella Rae, and he is perfect in her eyes. Everyone else noticed his obsessive streak, but it didn’t matter to Rae. Turns out, he is emotionally abusive to Rae and incredibly controlling. When Rae changes her mind, he becomes nearly deranged. Vick makes a great antagonist, though he is a terrible man. He is shallow and controlling, and owning people is his sole purpose.

I hated Vick, but that is what makes him a good character. The fact that I could hate one man so much added drama and frustration while I read, and while I wanted to throw the book, it made for good reading.

My Opinion

I enjoyed this story, but it didn’t knock me off my feet. I think it had more potential, but the slow start was boring and somewhat annoying. However, I enjoyed the letters and getting to know the characters. However, this book could have been a lot shorter and really hit the reader in the gut.

Once the action from the mystery began, the book picked up the pace and was remarkably satisfying. I was on the edge of my seat, but I wish the rest of the story were as thrilling.

I did enjoy the double meaning of the title, which was a great spin. When I chose this book, I thought it would be all written letters that told the story, but it was so much more.

The way the mystery comes to light is fascinating and well-written. It took me by surprise that the author spun it the way she did. When Audrey learns how the spy ring communicated with the enemy forces, I knew trouble awaited.

The consequences of learning the mystery were horrible for Audrey and Rae. I cringed and cried throughout their ordeal. I must warn you that it was not pretty, and please pay attention to the trigger warnings.

My Recommendation

I wholeheartedly recommend Notes of Love and War to those who like historical fiction. The story is true to the period, and the writing was beautiful.

If you enjoy a slow rise to the action, this book is for you. I don’t particularly enjoy this method as I prefer to have some action interspersed throughout the story.

This book might also interest the reader who loves the friends to lovers trope. I enjoy this type of relationship, which made me pleasantly affixed to this story line.

In Summary

Notes of Love and War is a great book, and I am happy to award it 4 out of 5 stars. I hope you will pick up a copy for yourself and give it a read. It would make a fantastic poolside read.

4 Star Review for Notes of Love and War

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