Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson
Orion Books, 2012. ISBN 9781409108108.
Jasmine Nights is an entertaining love story for younger and older adults. It is told in the highly personal realm of a young woman whose voice, she is determined, will enable her to leave her small Welsh town to find fame. Singing to entertain the soldiers, Saba takes the eye of one soldier, Dom, who, while convalescing in a burns hospital in Sussex, is caught up in the spell of her beauty and her singing, and it is their story that Gregson tells.
Ironically, having paid for years of voice-coaching and her entry to singing contests, Saba's family shun the world of professional entertainment for which she seemed destined, and finally also shun their daughter. Discovering the war-time troop entertainment unit, when she runs away to London, she finds herself in the exotic cities of Egypt and Turkey. There she encounters more than just singing for soldiers, as she is exposed to the subtly threatening party set of Alexandria, and Istanbul, where fabulously wealthy promoters and seedy spies introduce her to the mixed world of Eastern singing and of European entertainment - a dangerous world where her beauty, naivety, and talents lead to an involvement in espionage.
Nostalgic and personal, Gregson's luscious tale tends to stay on the fringes of the war but takes us into worlds which might never again be as romantically uncomplicated as they were then. The love story is believable, excitingly fraught with hazards, and appropriately, ends well.