Jasmine Nights

Julia Gregson

1942 and the world is at war. It is a war that has already shattered families and devastated countries. But for some, it will also mean the greatest of adventures. In a burns hospital in Sussex, a beautiful young singer performs to a ward full of injured soldiers. Saba is captivating and one pilot, Dom, shudders as her gaze turns his way. He can't bear her to see his scars but resolves to write to her once they have healed. The world is on the brink of enormous change. Saba's journey as a singer with ENSA takes her to the fading glamour of Alexandria and the heat and decadence of Turkey. On the glamorous Middle Eastern social circuit, Saba rubs shoulders with double agents and diplomats, movie stars and smugglers. Some want her voice, some her friendship, and some the secrets she is perfectly placed to discover...

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Jasmine Nights is a powerful and intoxicating love story set in World War Two, in the exotic cities of Cairo and Istanbul.

Saba Tarcan is a half Turkish, half Welsh teenage girl living in Tiger Bay, Cardiff. Her Turkish father is charismatic but domineering, her Welsh mother is downtrodden.

Saba knows that her voice is exceptional (think a young Shirley Bassey, herself a mixed race girl from Tiger bay). She longs to escape Cardiff and her narrow life there, but her father is furiously opposed to his daughter getting involved in ‘show business’.

Saba travels around British hospitals singing for wounded soldiers, in one, she meets a handsome RAF pilot, Dom Benson, as he recuperates from a horrible plane crash in Suffolk.

Before their relationship can really begin Saba is invited to audition for ENSA, the entertainment branch of the armed forces who’s task it is to perform for the troops fighting in far off countries. To her father’s fury, she accepts and runs away to embrace adventure.

But the beautiful young Saba, now in Cairo, is soon approached by British intelligence officers. She agrees to help the Secret Service by encouraging rich and influential foreign men to confide in her, using her charms to intoxicate them.

She keeps her new role a secret from Dom, who has pursued her to the Middle East. Her secrecy jeopardises their relationship and also her own safety.

Jasmine Nights is based on the true stories of female entertainers who were encouraged to spy for Britain in the Second World War. It is exotic, powerful, and full of the colour and atmosphere of the Middle East.


I thoroughly enjoyed Jasmine Nights, especially the characters that Saba meets in the Middle East. The women in ENSA are vividly and compellingly drawn; a real pleasure to get to know.

Julia Gregson is a former journalist and foreign correspondent, and her assured knowledge and confidence in writing about the Middle East is infectious and riveting.

Saba is a modern heroine, determined to make her mark and escape from her father’s old-fashioned ideas about women. Dom too, is a complex and different – a genuinely refreshing hero-figure.

From start to finish, Jasmine Nights is lush, gorgeous and glamorous. The main characters are determined to live life to the full, despite the appalling danger they face daily. The descriptions of life in Cairo, both among the poor and the privileged, are beautifully drawn. As are the steamy depictions of Alexandria, Giza and the Bosphorus. The book is a hugely original take on World War Two.

You will enjoy a story that is dangerous, exciting, witty and warm. In fact, remarkably endearing.

We both thoroughly recommend it.

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