The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable review: A slow and disappointing read

The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable is released this week, but is it worth the purchase? I found it a disappointing read for the genre.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

I’m a big fan of this historical fiction genre. I love learning more about the women of the past, especially the work they did during the Second World War. You’ll know from my love of The Rose Code by Kate Quinn and all her other novels that this is a genre that immediately appeals to me.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable stood out. Sadly, it wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped for. In fact, I really struggled to get through the book in the first place. If I wasn’t reviewing it, I may have put it on the DNF pile.

What is The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable about?

The story is loosely based on Barbara Lauwers, a real Czech native who worked for the OSS Morale Operations in Rome. The OSS Morale Operations was the basic start of the CIA, and in the story, we get to see what this team of individuals had to face and do.

However, this is where the similarities to Lauwers ends. Niki, who is our lead character, is a rule-breaker. That wouldn’t usually be a problem, but there are no big gains to her rule-breaking at first. She’s doing it for her own ego and needs. Of course, she wants to find the family she left behind during the war, but she also needs to think about others around her. I don’t find her as a character I can connect to.

The other POV we get is Paloma, a prostitute who Niki befriends. She’s a little more relatable, doing everything she can to survive Rome toward the end of the war. However, I still didn’t find anything too exciting to make me need to read more.

The Lipstick Bureau review: A slow read

The first part of the book introduces us to Niki and Paloma. We get a sense of what the war has done, and we get to know a little backstory about who the two women are. It is immediately clear that Niki isn’t one to follow orders. She has no interest in understanding her husband’s point of view (although, I immediately dislike George) and she doesn’t really care too much about those around her unless they can help her find her family back in her home country.

Then we get this romance storyline between Niki and one of her colleagues. The two are married, and I detest affairs, so I couldn’t get behind Niki and Will at first. At least tell your spouses and be honest about it all! It hurts, but that Band-Aid is easier to rip off than the affair one.

The storyline itself is predictable. There doesn’t seem to be any threat to the lead character. After all, we know that Niki is alive in 1989. We get that part of the story. So, all we really get is a story about how she became the woman she is in 1989. Sure, Kate Quinn had done this with some characters, but there’s a mystery to solve or there is someone to track down. I just didn’t feel the sense of urgency to finish this book.

Something that did save the book from a one-star review is the research. Another reason I wanted this book is that I know Gable does her research and I appreciate it. That was there throughout The Lipstick Bureau.

Stars: 2 out of 5.

What did you think of The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable? Share in the comments below.

The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable is available on Amazon from Tuesday, Dec. 27.