This is a Mills & Boon from 1967 and honestly I don’t know what I’d do if I met someone and they said ‘with those hands she simply must play the piano’ but it would probably end in tears

For those asking, this is from ‘When Love is Blind’ by Mary Burchell, aka Ida Cook. My New Year’s Resolution is to try and read books by really interesting authors, and Ida Cook comes under that umbrella category because:

  • she was singularly and bizarrely obsessed with opera, along with her sister, Louise Cook
  • she wrote about 112 romance novels in her life 
  • during WW2, these two facts became incredibly useful because she and her sister were badass ladies who used the money that Ida earnt from selling romance books to smuggle Jewish people’s possessions across the border from Germany, helping Jewish refugees to satisfy Britain’s financial criteria for immigration
  • they literally used to go to Germany dozens of times a year to ‘see operas’, dressed in plain clothes, and would come back to Britain dressed in about eight layers of gold and finery
  • they did also actually see operas
  • when officials got suspicious about how many goddamn clothes and items of jewellery they were wearing at one time, they pretended that they were spinsters who didn’t trust their families at home not to sell their belongings, and so they wore all their best clothes and jewellery whenever they went abroad
  • they had to super carefully plan all their crossings so that the same people who saw them travelling to Germany with no luggage at all didn’t see them travelling back to Britain in completely different outfits, laden with baggage and suitcases
  • they did this so often that officials did begin to get suspicious about how many times in a year two women could actually go to Germany just to see operas, so the director of the Munich Opera House started to arrange specific performances on dates of their choosing so that they could prove their reason for travelling. He also let them choose which performance they wanted him to put on. They must have been bloody delighted
  • many of her romance novels are about operas
  • like this one 
  • she had a bit of an opera problem, really
  • she wrote an autobiography and only about a third of it is about her heroic work helping Jewish refugees. The rest of it is about her childhood
  • just kidding, it’s about operas

There’s a movie about the sisters in development. The filmmakers have uncovered some interesting stuff about them, including that they have sealed CIA files – so they probably have MI6 files as well – which strongly suggests that they were spying for the British government as well as helping Jewish refugees. It would help explain how they could afford all the travel – not to mention all those opera tickets!


this is incredible and only further confirms that no one should be allowed to make any new WWII movies about dudes until there are at least 8 new movies about WWI lady spies. Get on it, Hollywood.