Fri
Oct 21 2011 10:30am

Fresh Meat: The Time in Between by Maria Duenas

The Time In Between by Maria DuenasI love reading about women spies in exciting settings.  The Time In Between’s heroine, Sira Quiroga, journeys from Madrid to Tangiers and thence to Tetouan and to Lisbon in a deeply involving historical saga.  The young seamstress grows up poor in Madrid in the shadow of the Spanish Civil War.  Her first great romantic adventure leads to her betrayal and abandonment, far from home.  But from the depths of despair, she recreates herself, making new friends and a new life for herself in Morocco, at that time a Spanish colony, and rife with intrigue leading up to World War II.  The intrigue is lavishly described in deep historical detail; the author provides some of her wide-ranging bibliography at the end of the book.

…in this strange, dazzling city, filled with color and contrast, where the dark faces of the Arabs with their djellabas and turbans mingled with those of European settlers and others fleeing their past in transit to a thousand other destinations, their suitcases filled with uncertain dreams.

Tangiers, with its sea, its twelve international flags, and its striking vegetation of palms and eucalyptus, with Moorish alleyways and new avenues driven by impressive motorcars with CD license plates: corps diplomatique…where minarets and the scent of spices lived comfortably side by side with consulates, banks, frivolous foreign women in convertible cars, and the aroma of Virginia tobacco and duty-free Parisian perfumes.

In Tetouan, Morocco, after a series of hardships and risks, Sira is able to open an atelier to make use of her only skill, sewing.  Through the foreign women for whom she sews couture dresses, she becomes involved in the political struggles of Spain and the world, passing on information to an English friend who’s the lover of an important Spanish politician.  Running her own business and working for the benefit of her country repairs Sira’s self-confidence that had been crushed by her earlier romantic betrayal.  For Sira, confidence and knowledge go hand-in-hand.

Night by night, I learned about Tetouan and its people: where they had come from and for what reasons. All those families in this alien land; who those ladies were that I sewed for; who had power, who had money; who did what, and why, and when and how…Félix…amused himself by looking for snippets of information to create their profiles: who they were, their families, where they were going, where they’d come from… I learned where they lived, what they did with their time, how wealthy they were, and where they were ranked in the local hierarchy.

Sira’s journey towards adulthood and finding her own power takes place in response to her increasingly more dangerous activities as a spy.  Her English friend comes to her again, asking for her help.

“We’re trying to set up a network of underground collaborators in Madrid linked to the British secret services. Collaborators with no connection to political life, to the diplomatic service or the military. People who aren’t known, who under the appearance of a normal life can find out about things and then pass them on to the SOE…The Special Operations Executive. A new organization within the secret services that has just been created by Churchill…We thought that you could set up an atelier in Madrid and sew for the wives of the high-ranking Nazis.”

Though afraid of the increased danger, she agrees to return to Madrid to spy on the Nazis who flock there.  She takes risks, but is rewarded with more important information to pass on to the English:  “…when a seamstress does her job well, she looks out for every little detail.”   By the end of the novel, she is no longer hiding her own strengths, instead using them to benefit both herself and the world.


Victoria Janssen is the author of three erotic novels and numerous short stories.  Her latest novel is The Duke and The Pirate Queen from Harlequin Spice.  Follow her on Twitter:  @victoriajanssen or find out more at http://victoriajanssen.com.

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3 comments
Deborah Lacy
1. DeborahLacy
The title and the subject are intriguing, so I looked up the author. This is her debut novel and she's a Spanish professor. The title in Spanish (the language she wrote the book in) the Time in Between the Stiches, which links back to the protagonist being a seamstress. I just thought that was interesting.
Victoria Janssen
2. VictoriaJanssen
I wish they'd kept closer to the Spanish title - the seamstress bits, and how she used that for spying, were my favorite parts!
Ilene Harris
3. redhead
This is such a wonderful book, the main character Sira is so festy, I loved her she know's how to take care of business.
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