Why Velvet Undercover Didn't Work For Me

Author: Teri Brown 
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Page Length: 272 Pages
Publication Date: October 20th, 2015
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Source: eARC via EW (Thanks Harper!)

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Donnelly and Libba Bray comes this page-turning historical spy thriller from Teri Brown, author of the Born of Illusion series.
Samantha Donaldson's family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, mathematics, and complex puzzles, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women's spy group La Dame Blanche, she's torn—while this could be an unbelievable adventure, how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes she can't refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known only as Velvet. Deep undercover in the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Sam must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she must fight a forbidden attraction to the enemy—a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Sam find Velvet before it's too late . . . for them both?

A thrilling story of one girl's journey into a deadly world of spy craft and betrayal—with unforgettable consequences.
I feel as though Velvet Undercover could have been a great book. It had all the necessary elements, it just failed to live up to its potential.
A gifted student especially in math and languages, Sam is recruited to be a spy for British intelligence during World War I. She must impersonate a distant cousin of the Duchess Cecile and infiltrate the German's royal palace. Her task is to locate and extract a British operative, Velvet, who has information on a new German warfare weapon and is in danger as a result. She doesn't know who Velvet is though. Thrust into Berlin, the proverbial lions' den, Sam must keep her wits about her to stay undercover, save the operatives and potentially the world. 

Being a bit of a history junkie, I really liked the World War I aspects incorporated into the story. It's fascinating when authors build their stories around a time in history. Those elements of the book were well done. The espionage aspect brought lots of fun and intrigue to the premise. At the beginning of each chapter, a new espionage term is defined. I really liked learning about what spies do and their lingo and actions. And that's where the likes ended...

Five Reasons Why Velvet Undercover Didn't Work For Me

1. Although learning about espionage was exciting, the actually spying aspect was so weak and underwhelming. Samantha is a horrible spy!! She messes up all the times and the number of faux pas and mistakes she makes is cringe-worthy. It's totally unrealistic that she lasted so long. Anyone could have noticed how awkward and fumbling she was. All of the so-called spying she did was really coincidental. It was more being at the right place at the right time than spying.

2. The characters were fair, yet they lacked personality. I didn't get to know any of them. Maybe that's the whole point, in a life of espionage you lose yourself. You're so busy trying to be someone else that we don't see your own character? Whatever it is, I am not impressed. I couldn't get a firm read on anyone. 

3. The romance in the title is soooo played up. There's hardly any romance or "attraction" at all in this book. I was cheated! 

4. The pacing was definitely an issue. Although this one was a quick read, there were so many slow moments. 

5. The writing was fair, but some parts of the plot were confusing. There's a continuous theme of "don't trust anyone" which takes a whole new meaning near the end of the book. Everything is topsy-turvy, and I'm just like "what's going on?!" This one was a complete and utter letdown that I really did not enjoy. 
Rachel is a teenaged unapologetic fangirl and perfectionist.

She loves reading for the escape it gives from reality and enjoys crying over books, swooning over characters, and laughing out loud over funny lines. She is a semi-recovering Netflix addict and a middle child of three.

You can find her on Twitter @yaperfectionist & Goodreads.


  1. This just sounds disappointing, especially since I was so excited upon seeing that it had historical elements as well. And I absolutely love that gold on the cover too, so this just makes me sad.

  2. Dammnnn!! This book definitely sounds like it has a heap of potential, but hasn't been executed very well.... I've actually read quite a few YA espionage books like that which is a shame because I'd love to read some great books about spies.

  3. Oh no, another book that didn't work out lately! I have this one but I have yet to read it. Like you, I like when historical fiction is done well in a book so I was sincerely hoping it was going to be done well here. Which it seems like it was - just that everything else wasn't quite up to par. Shame...

  4. Hmm, this was on my wishlist but I don't know if I'll read it anymore. I like books that have even/fast pacing and I need characters with personalities. I still love the premise of this though, so perhaps if my library gets it in I'll read it but otherwise I won't go out of my way to read it.

    Wonderful review, Rachel!

  5. I love all things WWI & II but someone, after reading the summary and looking at the cover, I thought I pass this one. Reading your review just made me even more sure in it. I just wish that every amazing plot would be written into an awesome book.

  6. Awww that's a shame that it didn't work out for you, Rach!! I am a huge fan of spy books and historical, and this book sounded so promising! I hate when characters lack depth and personality and hate when pacing is slow though, so I can understand why it would not work for you. I'm probably going to pass on this one. Nice review!

  7. Oh, so sorry to see you didn't enjoy this one!!! I'm reading it soon and I hope to enjoy it!!

  8. Spies who can't spy does seem like quite a disappointment. Might as well make ME a spy! :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  9. So, I am usually terrible at predicting which books I will like. But for some reason, lately I have been on fire! There are a handful of books that gave me a really bad vibe for absolutely NO reason, and this is one of them! I liked the synopsis, but I don't know why, I just did NOT want to read it. And now, I am glad ;)

    Like, if the book is about being a spy... don't have the character be a bad one! How is that a thing? The book should go: Chapter 1: Spying Chapter 2: Dying. I mean, really! I am sorry that this was such a disappointment for you, and I hope your next book is much better!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

  10. NOOO. No romance? :( But that was part of the reason as to why I chose this book, sigh. But anyway, I'm sorry you didn't like this book ><

    Maryam @ Once Upon A Story

  11. This book is completely new to me, and I'll probably be okay without this one in my life. If a book claims that there is going to be romance, I expect romance! And characters MUST have personalities. Ugh.

  12. I'm sorry this didn't work for you Rachel, but at least I know not to pick it up lol I think you would enjoy A School For Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin if you haven't already read it! It has a lot of the spy/espionage elements in it but does it really well.

    Jamie @ Books and Ladders

  13. I love historical fiction too. Though for some reason, nothing about this book grabs my attention. Even the cover is meh to me. I also hate when we're told there's going to be romance and it's hardly there. That's like my favorite secondary genre and I really look forward to it. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this :/

    ~Karina @ A Reader Under The Sea

  14. Spy novels sort-of annoy me with a passion. Robin Benway did one and it was so cliché-y. I'd almost wanted Velvet Undercover, though, because of the cover! The covers are what grab me, really. And ooh, a lying blurb. Honestly, I think there's nothing worse. Shame, this didn't work for you, Rachel. Hope your next read it better!

  15. Wow, looks like this book is definitely one to stay away from! No romance, pacing issues, shallow characters and confusing plot are all that makes a bad read for me. Weak spying aspect too! Sorry this turned out to be so awful- hopefully your next read would be great!:) xx


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