Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: The Ambassador's Daughter by Pam Jenoff

The Ambassador's Daughter
by Pam Jenoff
Release Date: January 29th, 2013
2013 Harlequin MIRA
Softcover Edition ARC: 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1509-4
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review Copy from Harlequin via BookTrib

3 / 5 Stars

Paris, 1919.The world's leaders have gathered to rebuild from the ashes of the Great War. But for one woman, the City of Light harbors dark secrets and dangerous liaisons, for which many could pay dearly.

Brought to the peace conference by her father, a German diplomat, Margot Rosenthal initially resents being trapped in the congested French capital, where she is still looked upon as the enemy. But as she contemplates returning to Berlin and a life with Stefan, the wounded fiancé she hardly knows anymore, she decides that being in Paris is not so bad after all.

Bored and torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances: with Krysia, an accomplished musician with radical acquaintances and a secret to protect; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who gives Margot a job—and also a reason to question everything she thought she knew about where her true loyalties should lie.

My Thoughts
The Ambassador's Daughter takes place in Paris during one of those pivotal time periods when Europe is trying to rebuild itself after a devastating war.  As it's a general interest of mine, I was intrigued when this novel came to my attention, and I was interested in reading a story set during the time period of the Treaty of Versailles, when the various factions came together to discuss the future of Europe, and to read about the turmoil in Paris during this time.  I was somewhat disappointed on several levels, even if I did find the story to be entertaining.

Margot is a young, relatively young and inexperienced girl thrown amidst the chaos and machinations of the political atmosphere of Paris during this time period.  I actually found her rather frustrating as she seems to be swept up by the major events surrounding the Peace Conference of 1919, but doesn't seem to realize how important they are or how much they can impact the larger world in which she lives.  For a girl who is both Jewish and German not to realize the significance of the events that surround her and to remain somewhat naive and ignorant, despite the fact her father is involved politically as an "ambassador", a term loosely associated with a job that was not clearly delineated, made me somewhat frustrated with her.  She just did not seem to grow and challenge herself to learn much more beyond the small boundaries of a world that she set for herself, despite the fact that she has lived abroad for much of the war.  And I quickly grew tired of her "oh, poor little me" attitude when there was so much more going on around her.

To add to this naivety, Margot's dad confided in her some information that really should not have gone beyond the walls of his work, and she naively released this information to people she had only just met one night in a desperate act to fight in.  Unfortunately, this information was used against her and she was forced to used her position to try and gain further information.  And yet, trying to get more information was just an act so that she wouldn't have to face a beloved father and admit to what she had done; it was all about her and her naivety.  I didn't really buy into the whole storyline though, as it seemed forced and didn't really make a lot of sense to me as she could have easily have refused.  It seemed more like filler to try to get some suspense into the novel rather than a true situation and didn't really seem to go anywhere.  

One of the things I did like was her romance with Georg Richwalder, a German naval force commander, who was in Paris to try to help the German cause in the Peace Conference.  A bit of a broken man since the war, he is trying to rebuild his life the best way he knows how, but isn't sure which way is the best way, although he does feel sure that the German military and navy can be of assistance to help keep the peace; they are one of the best in the world, after all.  Totally crushed after the terms of the Treaty are revealed, I found his character development quite fascinating.  What does a man do when all of his hopes and dreams are crushed?  How does a man continue living when everything he believes in is stripped away?  And how vulnerable is he to coercion when approached to continue the arms trade and building of a navy secretly?   You know, throughout the book, even though I know the results of the Treaty rather well as I teach this subject to my students, I was hoping for an alternate ending?  As an alternate ending would not have resulted in WWII?  I would have loved to learn more about this man, Georg.  Margot was definitely not as fascinating.  And her deception with regards to her fiance, just compounded the lies she told to the people around her made me wonder more and more about her character.  You would think that with everything like this happening to you, it would make you stronger and grow as a character, but I didn't really see anything like this and I was disappointed.  

One little piece of historical significance that I picked up on; the use of the radio.  I'm not sure how many people would have picked it up, but because I teach this in class, Margot mentioned that her uncle heard the news of WW1 on the radio which caught my attention.  First of all, most of the radio technology was taken over the by U.S. in 1917 in order to prevent the enemy from having access. Then in 1919, the Marconi group took over and consequently built a number of stations in late 1919, long after the Paris Conference, and tested them, and by 1920, more stations were built.  The original BBC was created in 1922.  One little thing that kind of rankled.

The Ambassador's Daughter is one of those books over which I have mixed feelings.  I did enjoy the romance between Margot and Georg, but I felt sorry for Georg because of the deception involved and I was in his court the entire time, wondering when Margot was going to grow up and face the fact that she can no longer live in her little dream world but has to face reality one day.  I would have liked to have experienced a bit more of the conflict and chaos that the Peace Conference would have evoked during this time period as I don't really feel that the author nailed it in this one.  So, would I recommend it? Yes and no.  If you are looking for something meatier in your historical fiction novels, then probably not.  If you like your historical novels light and entertaining, then this one is for you. I do however, feel there is potential for Georg and Margot's story to grow and develop and I would like to see what happens next to these two people.

About this author

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. Following her work at the Pentagon, Jenoff moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Jenoff developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Having left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenoff is now employed as an attorney in Philadelphia.

Pam is the author of The Kommandant's Girl, which was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award, as well as The Diplomat's Wife and Almost Home.



  1. Interesting about the radio. If there is a historical event as a backdrop to a story, Iwant to know how it affects the characters. I would probably have the same mixed feelings that you had.

    1. I did enjoy the novel on some level, but there are some things I just couldn't get past, you know? I did really love Georg's character though and would love to learn more about him.