Passion, War & Deadly Secrets…
Wartime France, 1944
Trust absolutely no one.
This is the only advice newly recruited SOE agent Elisabeth Shepherd is given when faced with the impossible.
Her mission: to enter Nazi-occupied France and monitor the Germans’ deadly long-range missiles.
Betty is celebrating her 100th birthday when she receives an invite from the Century Society to reminisce on the past.
She remains mysteriously tight-lipped about her past, however.
And then her carer, Tali, discovers a box full of maps, letters and a gun…
Nostalgic, heart-pumping and truly page-turning, Operation Moonlight is both a gripping read and a novel that makes you think about a generation of women and men who truly knew what it meant to survive.
Listen to an audiobook extract
“Wonderfully moving. A book to curl up with.”
“An enthralling reminder of the remarkable women who played a part in winning the war.”
Fanny Blake, Daily Mail
“I absolutely loved this heart-warming story of wartime secrets, love and redemption.”
“Enthralling from beginning to end.”
“Well researched and extremely moving. I really enjoyed it.”
“A fresh and captivating tale of secrets and bravery … her contemporary love story is just as compelling.”
Book Club Questions
1. How much did you know about the subject of the book before you read it?
2. What surprised you the most about the book?
3. Which elements of the book did you find the most thought-provoking?
4. Did the book change your opinion about anything, or did you learn something new?
5. Who was your favourite character? Were there any characters you particularly liked or disliked?
6. From your point of view, what were the central themes of the book? How well do you think the author explored them?
7. How would you adapt this film into a movie?
8. Who would you cast in the leading roles?
Operation Moonlight was inspired in part by an article I read in a newspaper archive back in 2018, about a recluse who had been hiding a secret past. Eileen Nearne died in Torquay in 2010, and when the council came to clear out her flat, they discovered letters and medals from the war. It transpired that Eileen had once been a secret agent with the Special Operations Executive, but had kept her past secret ever since.
As I delved further into Eileen’s story, I became fascinated by the tales I discovered of the other female secret agents. These were ordinary women who achieved extraordinary things, and their stories reminded me of my late gran, although to our knowledge gran hadn’t been an SOE agent!
Born in 1908, my gran lived through two world wars, survived the 1918 flu epidemic, breast cancer and a bigamist first husband. She was a huge part of my life growing up, and the inspiration behind my character of Betty. I even gave my fictional Betty my gran’s old house, on the riverside in Guildford.
Operation Moonlight tells the story of Betty Shepherd, a reclusive centenarian who lives with her Mauritian carer, Tali. Both women are hiding secrets, both from each other and the world. Betty once worked as a secret agent for the Special Operations Executive, a clandestine organisation set up by Winston Churchill in 1940 to, in his words, ‘set Europe ablaze.’
Many of my characters in the 1940’s chapters are based on real people who were involved in the SOE. For instance, Lena Watkins is inspired by the real Vera Atkins, who helped the female agents during their training, prepared them for their missions in enemy-occupied countries, and welcomed those of them who made it home again. Vera Atkins was a formidable asset to the SOE, and after the war she took it upon herself to track down those agents still missing in the field.
Tosca, Betty’s dog, is partly based on my own dog (who is also elderly and a bit overweight), and also a dog called Tosca who I lived with in my first year at university.
Research is one of my favourite parts of writing a novel, and I undertook a lot of it for Operation Moonlight. I visited many libraries, and read over 200 books on all aspects of the war, spies, occupied France, and Mauritian culture. I went to museums such as Beaulieu, Bletchley Park, and Tangmere Air Museum, and I even travelled further afield to places like Arisaig in the far north west of Scotland.
It was here that the agents underwent the paramilitary stage of their training, and were taught to live off the land, survive and navigate the remote moors, and even blow things up on the secluded, windswept beaches.
All the training that Betty undergoes in Operation Moonlight is based on the real training the agents endured. Betty’s mission in France, although fictionalised, is also based on actual missions that the agents underwent.