Title: The Number of Love
Author: Roseanna M. White
Series: The Codebreakers, book 1
Major Themes: Code, Cyphers, England, Mystery, Spy Novels, World War I
Synopsis: As a cryptographer, Margot has an immensely important job in the war effort—but what happens when she meets a distracting young man and her world begins to fall apart?
A few weeks ago, I woke up and started preparing for my day in the pitch darkness of an early winter’s morning. I had just been reading The Number of Love the night before—had just started it, really, and found myself practicing the time’s table for no apparent reason. Well, aside from the fact that I was thinking about how Margot runs through them to calm herself down at times. Ever since school, let’s just say that the mathematical side of me could use some help. Still, it struck me as funny—in the foggy moments when my brain was half-asleep, the book I’d been reading inspired me to practice something that I hadn’t gone over in years, and it was kind of neat!
Whenever I think about it, The Number of Love makes me smile—perhaps because of that way-too-early times tables practice, I don’t know! Though this is a book about the First World War, and has its dangerous bits, the characters in here—and especially my very favorite one, Margot, have a certain special charm about them. Margot’s wit makes me laugh, her perception of life—so different from my own—makes me think, and her determination gives me pause to reflect. I went into this book expecting to enjoy it—after all, I loved nearly every scene I read about her in A Song Unheard!—and in the end, I thoroughly did.
Now a well-established codebreaker in Room 40 in London, Margot’s days are busy as she and the other cryptographers decipher and transmit information to the Admiralty. She has little time for anything or anyone else—when her days aren’t full of numbers and codes, she loves spending time with her brother, sister-in-law, and niece, but her heart is fully in her work. Enter Dorothea Elton, and her tease of a brother Drake. Dot needs friendship, but more than that, she needs understanding. There are some days she can barely leave her house, let alone face the many people in the world outside. Can Margot figure out how to encourage her? What should she do about this strange urge to pray for someone related to the number eighteen that she’d read about in one of the many messages she’d deciphered? When mathematics and the world seem to be falling around her, can she still trust in and get her guidance from the Lord?
This was such an unusual book—and such a loveable one. I heard from someone somewhere that Margot is autistic, and I’d partially believe it, though I haven’t had a whole lot of contact with autistic people before. Numbers were her thing, though, and I loved seeing how the author wove that into the plot. At first, her thinking in numbers was strange, but then I remembered how White portrayed Willa’s character, and realized that one had thinking in music—which was something I could really relate to. I do have to wonder if other people think in numbers or not? At one point, I wondered where the book was going with the numbers thing, because it almost seemed to be getting a bit kooky—like the Lord communicated with Margot in numbers—but as I think about it, I suppose He uses any number of things to get our attention, so it could be possible that that’s how it works for some people.
In all, though The Number of Love had some pretty unusual characters, it had a great story. I loved the suspense here—it wasn’t too much, but just enough to keep the story moving and had me guessing as to what the bad guy would do next, and how the characters would find protection (or not). I’d love to know more about how they did their codebreaking, but I appreciated how real the descriptions in this book made it sound—they weren’t overdone, just enough to satisfy me even though I’d love to know more. Some may struggle with some of the things in here—I didn’t appreciate the portions where others were required to fight to protect themselves, even though I know that happened, too. I did appreciate the romantic element—without saying too much, it was absolutely perfect for this character, and didn’t have me nearly gagging! Yay! If you want to learn more about World War I, and like some spying and codebreaking, this might just be the perfect book for you.
(Note: One reviewer mentioned the feministic leanings in this book, and I would have to agree. It wasn’t overt all the time, but one of the characters did lean that way more than I appreciate. I understand why the author made the choice she did, though, and I think I would make the same—but if this is something you watch out for, do know that it is here somewhat.)
I requested a free review copy of this book from NetGalley, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: There is lying in ch. 2, 4, and 32. The words “blast” or “blasted” are used repeatedly throughout the book—I counted 37 instances. The words “drat” or “dratted” is used in ch. 5, 10, 21, 23, and 24. A man curses multiple times in ch. 2 (not explicitly), also 4, 7, 25, 26, and 33. A man swears in ch. 7, and 8. The word “blighted” is used in ch. 13, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 29, 32, and 33. The words “blazing” or “blazes” is used in ch. 16 and 23. The phrase “hurt like the dickens” is used in ch. 13 and 16. The phrase “how the devil” is used in ch. 19.
A man remembers almost drowning in ch. 2. People shoot someone else, are shot, or shot at in ch. 4, 8, 31, 32, and 33. People die or are found dead in ch. 7, 27, 31 and 32. A man is injured in ch. 8 and 32. A man commits suicide in ch. 9. Women use self-defense in ch. 27 and 32. A man tries to hurt different women in ch. 27, 30, and 33.
A man admires a woman’s features in ch. 14. An unmarried man and woman touch in ch. 24 and 27. There is kissing in ch. 24, 28, and the epilogue.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults