By: Elaine Aucoin Schroller
Publication Date: November 2021
Reviewed by: Risah Salazar
While taking a short break from his World War I duties, Australian soldier Joe Parker roams around the Eiffel Tower. He sees a lost boy in the crowd and manages to return him to his guardian - Sophie Holt. A nurse in the American Hospital in Paris, Sophie is used to seeing soldiers and saving them, not the other way around. She couldn’t possibly imagine what would have happened had she actually lost her toddler godson, Jean-Luc.
After a nice ice cream in the park with Jean-Luc, Sophie and Joe felt warmth in each other that they'd not felt for a long time. There and then they become friends and decide to exchange letters to help them cope - one from the battles on the field and one from the battles in the hospital. It’s clear in their letters how they are slowly falling for each other, but such a thing cannot be. Joe has a wife and son back in Melbourne, and Sophie knows that. They repress their feelings and hold on to their friendly letters as they keep their hearts imprisoned. After the war, before Joe returns to Australia, he learns that his wife has died from the flu and Sophie has married an English surgeon.
But as luck or love would have it, the two meet again just shy of a decade later in Sydney. Sophie, now a widow, is the key witness to a case Joe is investigating. Joe is now back to being a police officer - Detective Inspector to be specific. A few meetings following their reunion, they finally open up and declare their love to one another.
While on leave from Joe's job, the couple decide to take a trip, and their itinerary involves going back to France to reminisce about their very first meeting. But once in Paris, Joe’s nightmares from the war came roaring back. Joe would never tell Sophie what these nightmares are about which adds a level of tension to their relationship. But something bigger comes their way. Is there another world war coming? Joe and Sophie have to work together if they want to help uncover an alleged espionage plot.
At first, Elaine Aucoin Schroller’s Dare Not Tell appears to be your typical historical romance novel, but it can be real and "heavy" at times. A significant part of the story is told through letters, poems, and journal entries. Schroller is very articulate and is smart in her choice of words. There’s great imagery - layers of stimuli engaging the senses, as if the reader becomes the character. Even the side stories are rich and emotional. However, the dual perspective did have problems - it wasn’t always obvious whether it was Joe’s or Sophie’s turn to tell their side of the story since the tone remained the same.
Also, while there is a war going on when they first meet, somehow, the incidents, the deaths leading to them finally getting romantically involved in Sydney are too perfect. These circumstances did not happen consecutively or all at the same time but they felt like Schroller wanted them to pass quickly so the two could move on to the next chapter. Overall, however, it’s still an enjoyable, informative, and relevant read.