An Island of Secrets

Vis, Croatia


For fans of Dinah Jefferies, Victoria Hislop, Lucinda Riley and Rosanna Ley,  a stunning and sweeping WW2 novel that shows a side to the war not often seen before.

That was then…

Seventy-five years ago, British SOE spy Guy Barclay was forced to leave behind the woman he loved in war-ravaged Yugoslavia.

…This is now

As ninety-three-year-old Guy’s days draw to a close, he asks his granddaughter, Leo Holmes, to go looking for answers. Given that her marriage has imploded and her City job is on the verge of killing her, Leo agrees and rents a house on the island of Vis, where her grandfather was stationed in the Second World War.

But as Leo’s search takes her down unexpected roads – and into the path of a gorgeous local, Andrej Pintaric – she begins to wonder if this journey down memory lane might yield unexpected results for more than just her beloved grandfather…

The story behind the story

As I was finishing writing The Olive Grove I realised I wanted to stay in Croatia for a second book. The country continued to entrance me, and I was sure there would be many more stories to tell — I just didn’t know what or where. 

I have always been interested in World War Two and the era had already inspired and informed two contemporary romances I’d written as Jane Cable. Surely there was a little slice of Yugoslav history that would do the same? 

I started by reading about the difficult yet fascinating relationship between Churchill and Tito, which proved useful historical background, and I discovered that British troops had actually been based on a speck of an island called Vis, the only place in the country not to be occupied by the Germans. How could I find out more? 

Hunting for research books I came across a second hand copy of the intriguingly titled Island of Terrible Friends by Bill Strutton. It was a fictionalised account of life on Vis during the war from the point of view of one of the two army doctors based there, Jim Rickett, and provided the sort of detail about life on the island an author can only dream about. But where was my story? I found it on page 66:

“As the British soldiers stared, they saw that the group stood in a half circle around two women, one of whom screeched and sobbed hysterically. The other, moaning, gestured an appeal to the group. She was holding a spade.” 

The horrific execution that changes everything for my character Guy Barclay is real and although of course most of the book is solely the product of my imagination, I have tried to drop in a few little nuggets from my researches as well as being true to major historical events, such as Tito’s presence on the island and the wartime role of the commandos who fought alongside his partisans.

I was delighted to be able to find a corner of WW2 that hadn’t been written about in British romantic fiction and I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.