Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon: Your Preview Verdict.

Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon: Your Preview Verdict.

Code Name Hélène is a gripping and heartbreakingly moving story of extraordinary courage, unfaltering resolve, remarkable sacrifice – and enduring love.

Read some 5 star reviews from our Preview readers here:

This was a great novel. It was captivating from the start. Being based on a true story it was so compelling and made you feel as if you were a part of this historic moment. I didn’t want it to end. Code Name Hélène is a must read – Aleisha, QLD, 5 stars

I am woman, hear me roar! What an extraordinary life – add this to your list now! – Emma, VIC, 5 stars

Although I was already familiar with the legendary Nancy Wake prior to reading Code Name Hélène, this beautifully written and meticulously researched novel really brought her story to life for me. It was also a very pertinent book to begin reading on International Women’s Day, as Nancy’s bravery, remarkable character, and heroic feats are celebrated throughout the book.  The story switches between different timelines and places, corresponding with the different personas Nancy adopted during her time fighting against the Nazis in World War II. It also focuses quite a lot on her romance with Henri Fiocca, whose perspective is also presented throughout the book. Code Name Hélène is packed full of action, romance, and inspiration, and I highly recommend it – it was a five star read for me! – Amanda, QLD, 5 stars

Highly recommend this fast paced, moving and well-written historical fiction novel based on the true story of Nancy Wake – an inspiring and formidable woman. The author incorporates wonderful detail in the narrative allowing you to be fully immersed in a different period of time & place. I was emotionally invested in this touching story and had a hard time putting it down. Lovers of historical fiction will not be disappointed with Code Name Hélène!  Thanks to Better Reading Australia and Simon & Schuster Australia for providing a copy for review. – M Manelo, NSW, 5 stars

Even the most compelling true story, full of mystery and intrigue, can come across as a checklist of events in the hands of a lesser author. In Code Name Hélène, this is most certainly not the case as Ariel Lawhon weaves a tale that is utterly unputdownable. Nancy Wake is written in a manner that makes you say hell yes, with a slash of red lipstick and a dirty laugh hiding a complicated, intellectual woman with a nerve second to none. The spy thriller storyline, weaving in and out of points in Nancy’s life keeps the reader at a high level of tension, but the move is really brought to the next level by Lawhon’s exceptional character development. A must read for 2020, five stars – Angela, VIC, 5 stars

This book is something special and I really enjoyed reading it! Nancy is strong, willful and incredibly intelligent. The story is interesting and engaging – and it’s based on a real story (which makes it even more compelling). I love historical fiction, and this is no exception. I would not hesitate to recommend this this book. – Laura, SA, 5 stars

Code Name Hélène is based on the true story of the resistance fighter Nancy Wake. The story is told from four code names that were actually used by Nancy Wake. I love novels set during the World War and this novel does not disappoint. The story alternates between the story of her beautiful marriage to her French husband and love of her life, and her work as part of the Resistance Movement in France during the war. It is sad at times but beautiful to read. This is a well written historical novel and I highly recommend it. 5 stars!! – Brenda, NSW, 5 stars

WOW!  Having learnt about Nancy Wake at school, I had a basic understanding of what I thought she had done in the war.  I clearly had no idea! I just couldn’t put down Code Name Hélène, I was in awe of the amazing things that Nancy Wake, in her many guises, undertook during the Second World War. This book left me so inspired, I can’t wait to read her autobiography. While Code Name Hélène is a work of fiction, the facts that it is based on cannot help but inspire the reader. And while I am normally not a fan of books over multiple timelines, it definitely was perfect for this book, and I found midnight approaching and sometime passing on several nights as I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Ariel Lawhon has written a true masterpiece which will bring great delight to everyone who reads Code Name Hélène. I just loved this book – while we read of all of Nancy’s exploits, the underlying love story between Nancy and Henri is one to be admired and envied, for she could not have done many of her remarkable feats without such an amazing man by her side, and when they were apart, firmly holding her heart. A beautiful story. – Jane, NSW, 5 stars

Code Name Hélène is one of my top reads of 2020 so far. Lawhon has written an intriguing historical fiction novel based on the real life story of Nancy Wake. While I had heard of Nancy Wake in passing, I was not aware until reading this novel of her amazing life and the courage and resilience she had shown as a trailblazer in the face of war. I struggled as I did not want to put this book down, but wanted it to just keep going and going. It is apparent Lawhon has spent a considerable amount of time researching for this novel, and has skilfully written Nancy’s story with facts without it coming across as an autobiography or newspaper article. My appetite has definitely been whet though and I cannot wait to read more about Nancy’s life. I am currently chasing down some of the research books that Lawhon used for her research. – Mel, NSW, 5 stars

For me, Ariel Lawhon’s Code Name Hélène is exactly what historical fiction should be – enthralling, exciting, and fascinating tales based on true events that vividly bring another era to dramatic life!  The escapades, adventures and challenges of Nancy Wake are skilfully drawn and staggering to imagine in those times when women were more generally confined to the kitchen.  I loved learning about a fascinating and inspiring Australian, Nancy Wake, in Code Name Hélène, the perfect read for International Women’s Day!    – Imogen, VIC, 5 stars

Oh my what a great read plus my favourite kind of book historical fiction and based on true events/person.  I loved her and felt so sad when she went through so much and happy when things went right.  I did go read more about her while and after I finished reading this as I wanted to know a little more.  I cried when her husband died but was happy she still had her other little Love her little dog.  I love Ariel Lawson books she is a great writer.  I would recommend it to anyone to read it’s a great interesting true story. – Beth, TAS, 5 stars

I love a good historical fiction story and Code Name Hélène did not disappoint.  This powerful and thrilling WWII story is fictional but it’s based on the remarkable young socialite Nancy Wake who went off to war while her French husband stayed behind.  I loved Nancy’s character she was a feisty and independent woman who used profanity liberally and with flair and could drink any man under the table, she even killed a Nazi with her bare hands!  Nancy applied her lipstick like a badge of honour in the shade of Victory Red. Code Name Hélène is an enchanting story of a beautiful marriage, friendships, war, bravery, tragedy and the sacrifices made by both Helene and Henri. An extremely well written story this is full of heart, soul and excitement – Gloria, SA, 5 stars

I went into this novel knowing a little, but not a lot about Nancy Wake. I come out of it more than enamoured both by the real life Nancy and the one depicted in this story thanks to my extensive google searches of interviews/articles while reading this. I’m also now listening to “Nancy Wake” by Peter Fitzsimmons on audible and will be keeping an eye out for her autobiography. Nancy was a woman “with gumption” as they say. She wanted to be on the frontlines of the war effort, despite at one stage being told she’d be more useful picking up a ladle and serving at the canteen. She used her perceived weaknesses to her advantage and even utilised red lipstick as a weapon – if men are distracted by your lips they’re not paying attention to anything else. I just love her. For fans of historical fiction and kick arse women. – Simone, NSW, 5 stars

What a story! What a woman! I give this book ALL of the stars! It was just brilliant. To think this book is based on a real person and real life events is just phenomenal. This story was inspiring, sobering, exciting, and at times even laugh out loud funny. It was written so well I could almost hear Nancy’s character in real life. The particular topic of this book might be a bit confronting, and there are parts that are even quite shocking, but I appreciate the authors honesty of these accounts. I quite enjoyed the way the book was written to create a full circle, feeding you bits of backstory as the present story played out and how, amidst it all, a beautiful love story unfolded. Such a well written, intriguing story that will stay with me for some time.  – Belinda, VIC, 5 stars

Draws you in from the very start and takes you on a thrilling ride through the war in France. It’s incredible to think that everything she did is based on real events! – Jacqui, NSW, 5 stars

I was completely captivated by the sassy, independent, brave and fierce character of Nancy Wake. Code Name Hélène was a true historical delight that I enjoyed immersing myself in. The pace of the story was fabulous also. A fabulous read! – Kelly, QLD, 5 stars

Wow, I loved this book from start to finish. I love that this book is based on the life story of a real female heroine. Nancy’s story was thrilling, breath taking, heart breaking, heart stopping… so many feelings and emotions in 460 pages. I enjoyed the story being told alternately between different periods in Nancy’s life and each chapter flowed seamlessly into the next and came together beautifully at the end. The characters were relatable, likeable and believable and had depth and spark. The author uses beautiful imagery and adjective to paint a picture in the readers mind throughout the various settings. I’m not usually a fan of WWII fiction, but this is not your standard WWII fiction. It’s the inspiring story of a brave and courageous woman who stepped up and made sacrifices in her life in order to fight for what was right. – Bree, NSW, 5 stars 

Historical fiction at its best – WONDERFUL edge of your seat fascinating reading.  I have read many books on Nancy Wake, this is by far the best.  Told with such conviction and admiration for a strong, intelligent, brave,  incredible women.  You will love this book and the ride it takes you on.  Some parts were quite graphic but this did happen and we can not shy away from the past and those who suffered it.  I would recommend this for anyone even if Historical fiction and WW11 is not your usual choice, you need to read this. Thank you Ariel Lawhon for this amazing book. – Debbie, VIC, 5 stars

This was the first book I’ve read in the past year and it did not disappoint.  It had a little bit of everything – romance, comedy, drama, action, history. I could totally relate to Nancy, she reminded me a bit of myself, a no nonsense strong woman who knew her mind and would not back down from a fight. But also her vulnerable side with her relationship with Henri, who is every woman’s dream man. I enjoyed reading the story from the 2 different time periods and the author also managed to make me feel like I was there with the characters. Thoroughly enjoyed it and now I want to know more about the real Nancy. – Katrina, VIC, 5 stars

This book was amazing I wasn’t sure what to expect but found I Couldn’t put it down once I started reading – Nicky, NSW, 5 stars

Code Name Hélène is a great book – it is particularly interesting due to fictionalising the life of a genuine heroine – Nancy Wake.  Nancy Wake, born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, was a key member of the French resistance during the Second World War.  Prior to this, Nancy was instrumental in moving people at risk through Vichy France. Ariel Lawhon researched Nancy Wake’s life extensively and has used realistic imagination to create compelling dialogue and situations using known facts and people.  I enjoyed reading this book because it ‘brought to life’ a woman who was both fascinating and courageous.  I read through the night because I couldn’t put the book down.  I highly recommend Code Name Hélène. – Sandra, ACT, 5 stars

An awesome book! I loved the story of an Australian woman during WW2. – Katarzyna, VIC, 5 stars

‘I have gone by many names.’  This novel was inspired by the story of Nancy Wake, one of the most highly decorated war heroes of World War II.  Ms Lawhon weaves her story between each of the four identities Nancy assumed while working for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) in France and as a leader of the French Resistance.  Nancy Wake was a fighter, a smuggler, a spy and (as ‘The White Mouse) a target.  The Nazis wanted her dead.  While I knew parts of the Nancy Wake story, Ms Lawhon’s novel brings to life the woman behind the war hero. By writing this novel in the first person, Ms Lawhon brings the reader into the story, sharing the heartbreaks and hardships, feeling the tension. Nancy Wake was a remarkable woman, courageous, determined and feisty.  I loved this novel and would recommend it to anyone interested in well written historical fiction.  Ms Lawhon provides an author’s note which is best read after you’ve finished the novel.  ‘War is a calamity.  It brings sorrow and loss of life.’  Note: My thanks to Better Reading for a copy of this novel.  Jennifer Cameron-Smith – Jennifer, ACT, 5 stars

I welcome Code Name Hélène to my all time favourites list. I can’t describe how much I love this book. The interweaving timelines adds to the suspense and I just needed to keep reading. Quite simply, this is a wonderfully written story about an amazing heroine we should, as Australians, be proud of. What a wonderful role model for women and girls. I knew of Nancy Wake, but to my chagrin I did not know enough. I am currently compiling my reading list to correct this. If only I could give this novel more than 5 stars. I loved it, loved it, loved it! – Alice, NSW, 5 stars

Whilst admittedly not my favourite genre, I am quite fascinated by the compassion and bravery demonstrated by various individuals during this terrible time in history. Interestingly, I’d not previously heard of ‘The White Mouse’ – Nancy Wake, though Lawhon has ensured that I won’t forget her.  Through two interweaving timelines we get to know a woman who is both tender and tenacious, as she gives (almost) all for what’s right and just. Make no mistake – the author doesn’t gloss over the grit in this novel. Bad things happened, and we need to know. But this is counteracted with the knowledge that there was still good. This good being Nancy Wake.  Lawhon writes well with good attention to detail, and the two storylines come together easily as the reader is drawn towards the conclusion. I hate when a writer doesn’t know quite how to end a novel, but there’s none of that here, and you won’t be disappointed. One word: engrossing. – Katrina, WA, 5 stars

The Nazis knew she existed but they couldn’t find her. She was bold and bawdy, laughed often, and was known as l’Australienne de Marseille. The White Mouse was anything but mousey. She was the larger than life Nancy Wake, who begins our tale bluffing her way into a job as a journalist for the Hearst Newspaper Group in Paris. Following a story to Vienna she witnesses first-hand the evil of the Brownshirts.  Like the typical war story this telling is full of heroes and villains, betrayals and close calls, atrocities and small kindnesses. There are dastardly characters: the depraved Obersturmfuhrer Wolff, Gaspard the despicable Maquis, malevolent Marceline and fiendish neighbour and collaborator Police Commissioner Pacquet.  It’s well researched, but neither a dry biography, nor typical in that as Lucienne Carlier, or Mme Andree (code name Helene) the operative who obtains weapons and supplies and leads a Resistance force does so with the heart and skills of an extraordinary woman. Nancy Wake was a decorated heroine who learnt the very useful lesson of holding her drink and to ride a bicycle, and wore Elizabeth Arden Victory Red lippy as her armour. Ariel Lawhon’s portrayal is stirring , and just like France’s richest playboy Henri Fiocca the reader will fall in love with Nancy too. – Anita, QLD, 5 stars

Nancy Wake aka The White Mouse plus many other code names Ariel Lawhon congratulations on writing this superb book readers of historical fiction will love this book – Deborah, NSW, 5 stars

I recently received a copy of Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon thanks to #BRPreview and @Simon and Schuster. It is a tale based on the real life story of the famous Australian spy Nancy Wake aka (The white mouse). Who helped rescue and smuggle many allied troops and Jewish civilians away from certain death at the hands of the Nazi’s during the second world war. Some of the characters in the book are fictional and some events have either been abbreviated to make the storyline flow however all events mentioned happened. She became one of the most effective and ruthless leaders of the French resistance after being redeployed under another alias after being forced to flee from the Gestapo because she had a five million dollar bounty on her head as they realized what a dangerous and effective operative she was. She was a master at changing her appearance and personality and was quite the chameleon. She was an amazing war hero who achieved much for love and patriotic duty way beyond what most men thought she was capable of. It is a story of love, trust and the best and worst of humanity. She is someone our country should always be proud of. I loved this book immensely and learned so much about her life and sacrifes for love and country. Thanks for the opportunity to read this riveting book. – Janet, NSW, 5 stars

Amazing. Thanks to Kelly Rimmer’s book The Things We Cannot Say I have gotten into books set in WWII & I was over the moon to get an advance copy from Better Reading of Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon.   There are time jumps in this book just like in the other book I mentioned but it adds to the book & I’m enjoying books with it as well. This book is amazingly written & I couldn’t put it down. Helene’s strength with the resistance is powerful as is her love for her husband. It’s a book that keeps you from the beginning & won’t let you go.  The historical work in this is amazing. I’m someone who loves descriptive books & this is one for me. There is a good chance I’ll get this on audible as I love hearing this being described.  A wonderful book that’s 5 stars all the way. – Terry, NSW, 5 stars

Wow, this book was absolutely brilliant! Nancy Wake and her aliases went on an epic adventure and I felt like I was right there amongst the danger and excitement. Each chapter beginning has the date and place and the story bounces between different years and gradually merges together. She was one ballsy, brazen, potty mouthed woman, bluffing her way into jobs and out of dangerous situations. Around the halfway mark I was thinking “How many more things could she do?” The author’s note at the back are worth reading, but after you have read the book. I loved the characters and some of the situations were hilarious and some really sad. Highly recommended. – Tracy, WA, 5 stars

I could not put this book down and read it cover to cover in one sitting. A fascinating tale of a female spy in Hitlers occupied France. Really loved the writing style and it drew me in right from the first page. – Danielle, VIC, 5 star

Oh wow, Code Name Hélène is the first historical fiction book since reading Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It was full of bravery, courage and grit. I absolutely loved and would recommend to everyone. Based on a true story about Nancy Grace Augusta Wake and her red lipstick. You learn about her pre-war career, her training and her role in the Resistance. She was known under four different code names ‘Madame Andree’, ‘Lucienne Carlier’, ‘Helene’ and ‘The White Mouse’. I now do want to go out and learn more about Nancy and especially because she was from Australia. I did not know we had a female involved in WW2 before.  Some of the scenes were very descriptive about the torture that was inflicted on people during the war and I did have to stop to take a breath. I did like the descriptions of France could close my eyes and felt like I was visiting the country again. Ariel Lawhon would have done so much research into writing this book. I loved the book so much that I am going to read some more of Lawhon’s books. Definitely one of the best historical fiction reads that I have read. – Maria, SA, 5 stars



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            Publisher details

            Code Name Hélène
            Ariel Lawhon
            Simon and Schuster
            Fiction, Historical Fiction
            31 March, 2020


            February 29, 1944: I am about to jump out of an aeroplane for the first time …  I don't care that every man is looking at me as though I don’t belong. Besides, I'm hungover. And I think I might throw up ...In 1936 Nancy Wake is living in Paris after bluffing her way into a job as a foreign correspondent and witnessing firsthand the terror of Hitler’s rise in Europe, firing her determination to do anything she could to fight the Nazis. When Nancy falls unexpectedly in love with handsome French industrialist and playboy Henri Fiocca in Marseilles, no sooner has she agreed to become Mrs Fiocca than the Germans invade France and Nancy takes yet another name, a code name – the first of many.As Lucienne Carlier Nancy helps smuggle people across borders and creates such a successful escape network for Allied soldiers that the Nazis hunting down an elusive female operative dub her ‘The White Mouse’ and put a five million franc bounty on her head. Forced to escape France, Nancy is trained in espionage with an elite special forces group in London and gains a new codename, Hélène. Finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly Madame Andrée.Nancy goes on to become one of the most powerful and ruthlessly effective leaders in the French Resistance. But the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed Nancy – and the people she loves – will become.Code Name Hélène is a gripping and heartbreakingly moving story of extraordinary courage, unfaltering resolve, remarkable sacrifice – and enduring love.
            Ariel Lawhon
            About the author

            Ariel Lawhon

            Ariel Lawhon is cofounder of the popular website A novelist, blogger, and lifelong reader, she lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons and black lab—who is, thankfully, a girl.

            Books by Ariel Lawhon


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