On the eve of World War II, two sisters embark on a journey that changes everything.
William Morrow Paperbacks (July 27, 2021)
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In 1937 two estranged sisters are sent by their dying grandmother on a European trip to deliver messages to people from their grandmother’s past. I was transported to Paris, Venice, and Vienna through these pages. The authors are wonderful writers, highly skilled at drawing readers into the times and places they write about. The sisters travel on the Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the Hindenburg, which indicated that the ending was going to be dramatic. But the inner journey each sister takes is more impactful. They learn what it means to be a family, even when the family looks different from what they imagined.
I liked the format, alternating between each sister’s point of view with a few chapters from their grandmother’s point of view as she waits for their return. The voices were distinct and effective at showing their different personalities and reactions to events. There is a love interest for each sister but the authors do not take the easy way out with either. The sisters do not instantly fall into a man’s arms because of the romantic setting, even though they are told many times it could happen. I love how talented, strong-willed, but not impulsive these characters are. This story explores the importance of relationships in the midst of challenges, dangers, misunderstandings, and mishaps. You’ll enjoy this one!
Inspired by her father’s historical recount and stories shared with her during her youth, The Road We Took: Four Days in Germany 1933 is the epic tale of an American Boy Scout who discovers by coincidence four desperate Jewish citizens attempting to escape Nazi Germany.
September 2nd, 1933
Mr. Darcy: Hello Buster! My name is Mr. Darcy, I work for the US Federal Government, Customs Division, and I will conduct your interview today. You’ll have to tell me even before we begin, I see by your passport Buster is not your real birth name. How did you come by that name? And, how old are you?
Buster: Buster is a nickname given to me by my mom, after the barber gave me a Buster Brown haircut. You know, the image of the boy used in advertising to sell shoes? His haircut reminds me of someone putting a bowl over his head and trimming what exceeded the rim of the bowl! And indeed, I had a haircut like that once, at age 3. My father howled with laughter when he saw it. At that point, he started calling me “Buster” and it stuck. My legal given name is Raymond Davis Wellington III. You can see why Buster is so much easier! My age, I just turned 17 three days ago.
Mr. Darcy: As you know, I’m a Customs Agent, and it is my job to interview passengers of the SS Bremen returning from Europe, especially Germany. Our government is interested in what you saw while traveling through. It’s my understanding you spent four days in Germany, is that correct? Can you tell me why you were there to begin with?
Buster: Six weeks ago, my Boy Scout Troop #814 from Rochester, New York began our journey through Europe with our destination being Godollo, Hungary. We were travelling there to attend the 4th Boy Scout World Jamboree. We camped in the Royal Forest on the grounds of the Hungarian Monarch’s estate for two glorious weeks. We camped, fished, played soccer against a number of foreign teams. Thanks to Wolfie, we won all of our matches. He’s a brilliant player. A natural for the sport. Wolfie was one of the best parts of the journey, finding him in Vienna while we were on our way to Godollo. After the conclusion of the Jamboree, we headed to Germany. The port of Bremen to be exact, where our ship docked, our ship back to the US.
Mr. Darcy: Can you tell me more detail about what you witnessed while in Munich?
Buster: Mr. Darcy, no disrespect meant, but there is only one way to describe what happened in Munich.
Mr. Darcy: Go on.
Buster: All hell broke loose. To begin with, after the jamboree, our plan was to first return Wolfie to Munich, his father would be waiting for him. However, when we arrived, that wasn’t the only thing waiting for him. Then to make matters worse, there was a huge parade taking place right in front of our hotel. There were tanks and trucks and thousands of foot soldiers marching.
Mr. Darcy: This is what is of particular interest to me, the parade. Tell me about the troops. According to The Treaty of Versailles, Germany could not re-arm but apparently, the treaty was of no effect. There is one force behind this-Can you tell me who led this armament, who was behind this parade and show of force?
Buster: That’s easy-Hitler and the Nazis. The troops, the number was astounding. And the way they marched, I believe they call it, “goose-stepping”. With thousands and thousands of troops marching like this, their boot heels hitting the pavement in synchronicity, it sounded like a canon going off with each step. And there were hundreds of tanks, and trucks. My father told me, “It was as if the treaty of Versailles never existed.” On top of this show of force, there were Nazi Youth, thousands of them, all marching the same way.
Mr. Darcy: Tell me about the citizens, what was the reaction? Also, this boy Wolfie, was he a German boy?
Buster: Every building hung a Nazi banner, you know, the swastika, and the people lining the streets all had armbands and held flags of the Nazi symbol. It was like they were all in a trance, cheering and shouting in approval, smiling and chanting. Even small children! Like they were drugged. Wolfie was supposed to join the Hitler Youth, it was the law. All boys of a certain age had to quit other groups and join. But he didn’t.
Mr. Darcy: Why not?
Buster: Well, he wanted to remain in the Boy Scouts to attend the Jamboree even though it was forbidden.
Mr. Darcy: We have information that states anyone in opposition to the Nazis, any kind of objector or political adversary, anyone that is Jewish would face severe treatment, even death, did you witness this?
Buster: Oh, yes, yes indeed. It’s difficult for me to discuss. My father can speak of that in detail, you know he works for The State Department as Counsel, right?
Mr. Darcy: Yes, of course we do. Can you tell me one last thing about your journey, sum it all up?
Buster: To begin with, I feel like my eyes have been opened to a hatred I never knew existed. I guess you could say I’ve led a sheltered life up till this point. I’ve never seen brutality such as the kind I witnessed, and not just one incident. It was happening all over Germany, and my father told me about the instances, the events we didn’t see. To think that a man can dictate who can live and who can’t. That a person would have such hatred for Jewish people, the infirmed, anyone that didn’t match the German image and identity astounds me. I can’t understand it.
Aren’t we all just people, with the same thing running through our veins? This trip made me aware of so many things and I’ve undergone a change as a result. I will now watch out for the younger scouts in my troop, making sure they never have to go through what Ricky and Walter went through. Such life changing abuse. And then, there’s Maddie. Beautiful, gifted Maddie. Because of her, I will never judge a person based on their background, their religion, or any kind of disability. I’ve learned the Nazis murder people that aren’t like them. They want to take over the world and spread their poison throughout the world as we know it. We cannot let that spread or our world as we know it will be destroyed.
Mr. Darcy: Wise words, Buster. This concludes our interview. Your father is next. Thank you.
Cathy has spent over 40 years as a professional chef after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She was the first female Executive Chef for the Servico Corporation, where she served The Philadelphia Eagles, The Philadelphia Flyers and The Philadelphia 76’ers. Over the course of her career, Cathy capitalized her creative talents as a restaurant owner and partner, conceptualizing and creating brands for three successful startup businesses, Food Works, in Pittsford, New York, The Bagel Bin in Penfield, New York, and The Nick of Thyme in Brentwood, Tennessee. It was at the Nick of Thyme that Cathy developed long standing relationships within the music industry. Her clients included Donna Summer Sudano, Naomi Judd, Wynonna Judd, numerous Christian and country music artists, world-renowned wine collectors Billy Ray Hearn and Tom Black. After the sale of her business, Cathy cooked for and traveled extensively to movie locations with actress and activist Ashley Judd and her husband, three-time Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti. She continues to cook privately for exclusive clients and friends.
When she is not working as a professional chef, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking for her family and special friends, taking photos of nature and food, gardening, watching open wheel racing, watching movie classics from the golden age of cinema on TCM, and chasing her two cats, Princess Poopie Peanut Head and Tout Suite. The Road We Took is Cathy’s first novel and partially conceived from her father’s journal of daily writings and documentations along with the narratives and tales he told Cathy as a young girl. https://www.cathyalewis.com
This article originally appeared in the Morning News in Haxford, England on Thursday, June 30, 1910.
An Interview with Pignon ScorbionBy Billy Arthurson
Our Chief Police Inspector, Pignon Scorbion, has been in town for just under two fortnights, yet in that short amount of time he has solved three baffling mysteries and apprehended the criminals responsible for those misdeeds. He has achieved near instantaneous recognition and celebrity with Haxford’s residents for both his prowess in solving difficult crimes and for his bespoke colorful linen suits and unique custom-made black and white shoes. I met with him recently to learn more about his background, his methods, and his unconventionality.
Chief Inspector, you cut quite the arresting figure around town. I wonder if you’d tell me about your attire.
I find that the clothing worn in England in this day and age by the male members of our population is rather tedious and dull, with the hues of the garments they sport being drab and generally uninspired. It is not surprising to me that it is so, as the coloration of mammalian animals in general lack bright colors thereby allowing them to blend into their environment and be less prone to being observed and attacked. I, on the other hand, have no issue at all standing apart from the masses. I welcome being distinguished from the commonplace and the rabble as I find it to be beneficial that the good citizens whose existences that I safeguard can easily detect my presence.
My suits are fashioned by one of the finest couturiers in our fair land who has precisely followed my instructions to a fault in using only the finest linens and wools, tailoring them to fit me in a manner that leaves little gap between the fabric and my skin, and utilizing colorations that do set me apart when I am out and about. Each pair of the black and white shoes that I have now been sporting for well over two decades are crafted by an exceptional souter in Liverpool whose singular abilities, I am certain, will one day be recognized throughout the land and doubtless beyond the Continent.
I have at times been referred to as a fashion plate, and I vastly prefer that designation over being described as one who sports dowdy or uninspired clothing. Most fortunately, because of the athletics that I regularly participated in until quite recently, my frame can still support a close-fitting style of a wardrobe without it appearing to be inappropriate for a gentleman of my years.
Where did your tendency to be unconventional stem from?
That trait that was handed down to me by both my mater and my pater, although more so from the latter. Father did not conform to the norms of his times, and never allowed the scorn or derision of others to influence his decisions or actions. While he was initially ridiculed for the venture that that he initiated in which he hired out dromedaries to those wishing to traverse Egypt’s desert sands, he persevered in his belief that such an enterprise would be profitable and was proven correct. The same can be said for his excursions into the selling of chocolates and sailing from his native country to the lands at the far shores across the Atlantic Ocean. He never embraced the ordinary, nor shirked from taking risks. He was an individualist and through and through.
Mother was not quite as bold as he, but for all the years that I spent domiciled in their abode, she stressed upon me the importance of one thinking for themselves and espoused the belief that an individual need not conform to the commonplace to succeed in their life. She, like Thelma Smith, attired herself in costumes unlike those that the vast majority of her female contemporaries had clothed themselves in. She implanted in me the beauty of individuality and the richness of expressing the distinctiveness of one’s persona.
You are obviously quite skilled at detecting and solving complex enigmas. Have you ever been contacted to do so for Scotland Yard, especially now that they are in their new quarters and have expanded their force?
Rather than residing in our capital city, I much prefer the essence of the English countryside where the air is fresher, the people less jaded, and where I can devote greater attention to fewer crimes. It is in this environment that I am able to have more of an impact on, and truly better safeguard, the residents who I am sworn to protect. Additionally, as you have already observed, I am an individualist, and that is not a trait that sits well with, or is encouraged by, the Met.
I have been asked to assist, and lend my singular talents in observation and deduction, to investigations that were conducted by the Yard, both when I was but a constable in Chamfield and in my last chief inspector position prior to locating in Haxford, and I did so with productive results in both instances. However, my interest lies in serving the citizens of lesser-populated hamlets and towns than the major metropolises of our country.
Additionally, having now been reunited with Calvin Brown and greatly enjoying the company of the enchanting Miss Thelma Smith, I am rather pleased with my current situation in this locale, and envision myself remaining here for quite an extended period. After all, where else would I find such an interesting and capable group of associates as assist me in the barbershop? And, lastly, I would be remiss if I did not also comment on the pleasure I derive from your presence and the support and benefits I receive from your excellent chronicling, Billy Arthurson.
You have mentioned to me in a prior conversation that you regularly travel to London to attend the theatre. What type of performances do you most prefer?
I have a penchant for ones that contain music, first and foremost. That was fostered on me by my parents, as it was a passion of theirs, and I was initially captivated by that style of theatre by their gift to me on the occasion of my twelfth birthday. They brought me to an early performance of the marvelous HMS Pinafore by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The music, the scenery, the environment, and the staging were unlike anything I had witnessed up to that point in my life, and it left me with a hunger to have that experience on a more regular basis.
Since that time, I have attended every major production of the works of Gilbert & Sullivan, with The Mikado, being the one I treasure the most. Others that I cherish are Clarke and Slaughter’s Alice in Wonderland, Monckton and Talbot’s The Arcadians, and The Proflgate, which I attended at the very opening of the Garrick Theatre. I do also attend and enjoy – albeit to a lesser degree – those plays that are bereft of a score, with my singular favorite being The Importance of Being Ernest by that great dramatist, Oscar Wilde.
Do you keep any animals as pets?
While I would enjoy the companionship of a foxhound, beagle, or a paisley or bull terrier, the hours I keep, and the daily routine of my position are not conducive to maintaining a tail-wagger. Felines have never truly appealed to me as I possess more than enough independence for one household, and other manner of fish, amphibians or warm-blooded creatures do not inspire me to possess one as an accompaniment to my life. Possibly at such time as I no longer am active on the force, I might consider augmenting my existence and quarters with a four-legged, obedient friend.
When you are not engaged in enforcing our laws, what diversions do you enjoy?
I do rather enjoy a fine brandy, as does Calvin Brown I might add, and I engage in a game of chess whenever Arnold Hill and I have schedules with matching periods of inactivity – which is much too infrequently. My former spouse, Katherine, provided me with an appreciation of art, especially paintings done in oils, and as a younger lad I was an accomplished hooker in the sport of rugby. I consume as many books as I am able on as many varied subjects as I can find – and in that regard, Miss Smith’s bookshop is a treasure trove – and lastly, I do particularly relish a well-cooked repast, especially a succulent Yorkshire Pudding and hearty Sunday Roast.
Rick Bleiweiss started his career in music as a rock performer, producer of over fifty records, songwriter, and record company senior executive, and worked with Clive Davis, Melissa Etheridge, the Backstreet Boys, Kiss, U2, Whitney Houston, the BeeGees, and other industry legends.
Since 2006 as a publishing company executive, he has acquired works by bestselling and award-winning authors including James Clavell, Gabriel García Márquez, Rex Pickett, Leon Uris, and Nicholas Sansbury Smith, among others.
In his latest creative endeavor, Rick has crafted the Pignon Scorbion historical mystery series—blending his love of the past with the twisty deliciousness of a whodunit.
Hello Bella. I hear you’re about to move to Italy?
You heard correctly! I’m moving to the beautiful coastal town of Portofino to open a very special hotel. Not just me, of course. My family will be accompanying me: my husband, Cecil, and our grown-up children Lucian and Alice.
Why are you opening a hotel?
It’s always been a dream of mine. And our lives in London had begun to feel rather stale and unprofitable. I’ve loved Italy ever since I was a girl and… to tell you the truth, we all need a change. Lucian was badly wounded in the Great War. Alice’s husband lost his life. I’m hoping this new venture will restore us and bring us closer together.
You and your husband included?
[Blushes] That’s a difficult subject. It’s true, we don’t always see eye to eye. And Cecil can be quite unpleasant when he’s had too much to drink. But he’s been very supportive of my hotel idea… I don’t know. People are complicated, aren’t they?
Tell me about your guests.
We’re fully booked all through the summer, which is quite an achievement. We have Cecil’s old flame Julia Drummond-Ward coming with her daughter, Rose. She’s supposed to be very beautiful and we’re hoping she might prove a suitable match for Lucian. Then there’s Lady Latchmere, a grand old dowager who I must admit is rather demanding. (I say ‘old’ – she can’t be much older than me.) We have a couple of Americans arriving next week: an art collector called Jack Turner and his wife, Claudine. At least, I *think* she’s his wife… She’s a singer in Paris. I hoped we might attract some Italian guests and I’m pleased to say we’ve had a booking from one Count Albani and his son, Roberto. The Count is something of an Anglophile and studied at Oxford, I believe.
With so many guests, there can’t be much room for friends.
That’s true, though we do have Lucian’s close friend Anish staying. He’s a charming Indian gentleman. Very clever and kind – it’s no exaggeration to say he saved Lucian’s life. In a funny sort of way I count our cook, Betty, as a friend. I know one shouldn’t say such a thing, but she’s been with the family for such a long time. Sometimes I feel I know her better than my own children.
How are you finding Italy so far?
It’s exquisite – the climate, the view, the people. The political situation troubles me, of course. Mussolini is a thoroughly unpleasant character. But I’m an optimist by nature. As far as I’m concerned, Italy has always stood for truth and beauty and I can’t see that changing any time soon.
JP O’Connell is a writer and editor. He lives in south London with his wife and two children.
JP O’Connell has worked as an editor and writer for a variety of newspapers and magazines including Time Out, The Guardian, The Times, and the Daily Telegraph. JP has also written several books including a novel, a celebration of letter-writing, a spice encyclopedia, and, most recently, an analysis of David Bowie’s favorite books and the ways they influenced his music.
Publication Information Title: HOTEL PORTOFINO Author: J.P. O’Connell Format: Trade Paperback Original ISBN: 9798200875047 Pub Date: January 18, 2022 Price: $17.99 Genre: Fiction/Historical
Welcome, Jennie. I’m so glad you could join us today for an interview.
Jennie: The pleasure’s all mine. Granny sakes alive, I’m glad to be taking a break from a hot day of weeding in the garden, snapping beans, and watering my azaleas and buttercups. There’s always a slew of chores awaiting, but I love it. The kids and I dug up dandelion roots for coffee. We wash and peel them, then roast and grind them. We’re fixing to scrub sassafras bark, then peel and boil it for tea. And add a right heap of sugar, of course.
Sounds like you keep quite busy.
Jennie: As busy as a one-armed wallpaper hanger with the seven-year itch. If not the garden, it’s the cooking and cleaning and other chores around the farm. Today I’ve a hankering for pork stew, beans with bacon, and hushpuppies—my husband Drew’s favorite meal. And I reckon I should practice our clogging routine for the town’s Fourth of July Festival.
I’ve heard that you favor doing things the traditional way.
Jennie: Perhaps to my detriment. I’ll blame my mother for that. She says I do her proud because I still cling to the old ways, the home remedies, and spring tonic that cures whatever ails you. I take it over to the neighbors, too, every week. The kids and I string beans for leather breeches, and I fancy an old fashioned potato hole for winter storage. I still plant by the signs, too. And in 1968, that’s saying something.
Seems like Nick and Tina help out a lot, too.
Jennie: Nick’s eleven, and he’s a right smart helper when he’s not wearing out his arm trying to master the fastball with his friend Todd. And Tina, well, she’s ten and not given to much hard work yet. She preferslollygagging. But kids need a lavish of play time. As her Uncle Ross says, he does more work by accident than Tina ever does on purpose. Sometimes she claims she doesn’t hear us at chore time. Things rose to such a pitch last week, her daddy took her to the doctor to have her ears checked. That cured her.
No doubt it did.
Jennie: Truth be told, I kinda hope she’s deaf to all the goings-on around here. I mean all the talk about the proposed theme park. Folks are buzzing like bees in a tar tub about Phil Kepler and his new-fangled ideas.
Who’s Phil Kepler?
Jennie: He’s a northerner, from New York City, the getting-aroundest man I know. He’s been living down here for a spell but has all those connections up north. The trouble is, Phil Kepler could talk a fellow into buying a heater for the desert. Why, last year he convinced me to ignore the signs and plant my beans on the new of the moon. The few beans that did grow plumb rotted and specked. Did you ever hear tell of that? That’s the last time I’ll abide such an addlepated notion.
Why, there’s Tina now, traipsing in the back door. Two hours late for chores like usual, and probably wants a molasses cookie to boot. Tina, come on over and talk to the nice lady while I check on those squawking chickens. I’ll be right back.
Hello, Tina. You seem out of breath. Where are you coming from in such a hurry?
Tina: I just rode my bike home from the sandlot, down the road apiece. I’m the only girl on the team ’cause they were one short. The boys tease me, especially that bully Stan Randall.
Sounds rough, all that teasing. What do like about being on the team?
Tina: I love baseball, and I’m a good hitter. And not everybody’s mean. Todd’s gonna owe Nick an ice cream sundae at Simpson’s Ice Cream Parlor come autumn if Denny McLean gets thirty wins this season. He’s a Detroit Tiger, in case you don’t know. Oh, man, I gotta sit down. I’m all tuckered out.
Baseball and bicycling will do that to a body.
Tina: It’s not just the bicycling . . . it’s . . . well, since Mom left the room, I’ll tell you. Don’t go telling nobody, but Nick and I, we’re all wore out from visiting Ole Joe yonder on the mountain. We got up in the middle of the night to swipe the neighbor’s vegetables and deliver them to Ole Joe in a wheelbarrow. It’s our secret, and we’ll be in big trouble if anyone finds out. We didn’t get home till six in the morning.
Why do you do that?
Tina: We don’t rightly have a choice. No telling what Ole Joe will do if we refuse. He’s good to us, though. He tells us stories and he’s gonna—never mind. I can’t tell you that part. Nick and I swore not to tell anybody. But we have mighty fine visits with him.
So long as Mom and Dad don’t find out, we’ll be okay. It beats getting caught after that egg pitching contest in the chicken coop last summer. That was Nick’s idea, not mine. Oh—never mind. Mom’s back. I’m going outside now.
Jennie: I’m back! And off she goes. That girl . . . she’s always flitting about, like she knows I’m gonna get after her for missing chores.
Glad you could return, Jennie. Are you worried about the proposed theme park?
Jennie: Just a smidgeon. Drew’s on town council, and he’s given out to be the best one for talking sense into folks. Some say Phil doesn’t have a chance, like a bug arguing with a chicken.
How would this park affect the small town of Currie Hill?
Jennie: The park would swallow us up, like a fox after chickens. Phil says the experts studied on the situation and found this area to be best suited for such a park. Plus, good for the economy and all. Providing much-needed jobs. But that would be the end of Currie Hill as we know it. And most folks don’t want such drastic change. Fortunately, Drew’s been serving this town for twelve years now. Folks listen to him.
Twelve years? That’s about as long as he’s been back from New York, right? What do folks think about his time up north?
Jennie: Nowadays, nary a soul makes mention of it anymore. But back then, folks didn’t know what in the Sam Hill to make of him. It took a powerful long time to win back their trust. Nobody here confidences someone who’s spent time in the big city, and he was gone a coon’s age. Fifteen years, to be exact. Four years serving in the Army, then eleven more attending school and working as an architect.
What did people say when he got back home?
Jennie: Everything you can think of. Speculations and assumptions flung all over the place, most of it slack talk for certain. Some say Drew was surely living high on the hog, or living a life of crime. Y’all know how the city corrupts.
My parents cautioned me about courting him. “As fickle as the wind,” they said. “Taking up city ways and coming back here. Those who succeed in the city don’t belong to the mountains anymore. Those who fail don’t belong to either them or us.”
But I latched onto Drew like a cocklebur in sheep’s wool. With no regrets. Loving him is as easy as falling off a log.
Folks aren’t bothered anymore by his previous absence?
Jennie: He’s proven he’s one of us. But—well, I have to admit . . . I fear there are folks on both sides of the fence. And sometimes his mother shakes her finger at him about those mysterious years of his as if he were still a little boy, as if it were as simple a matter as returning stolen cookies from the cookie jar.
The thing is, he won’t talk about his time away, never did. It’s behind him now. That’s how it is. . . . We can only look forward. One day at a time.
It’ll be a relief for certain after the town council votes in a few weeks. Then I reckon Phil Kepler and that park will hightail it out of town. For good.
Laura DeNooyer thrives on creativity and encouraging it in others. She spotlights creatives of all kinds on her blog, Journey To Imagination, and highlights authors and their novels in her Standout Stories blog. A Calvin College graduate, Laura taught middle school and high school for nine years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and currently teaches writing to home schooled students. Between those two jobs, she and her husband raised four children as she penned her first novel, All That Is Hidden. An award-winning author of heart-warming historical and contemporary fiction, she is president of her American Christian Fiction Writers chapter. When not writing, you’ll find her reading, walking, drinking tea with friends, or taking a road trip. Visit Laura at https://lauradenooyer-author.com or on Facebook, BookBub, and GoodReads.
Are secrets worth the price they cost to keep?
Ten-year-old Tina Hamilton finds out the hard way.
She always knew her father had a secret. But all of God’s earth to Tina are the streams for fishing, the fields for romping, a world snugly enclosed by the blue-misted Smokies. Nothing ever changed.
Until the summer of 1968. Trouble erupts when northern exploitation threatens her tiny southern Appalachian town. Some folks blame the trouble on progress, some blame the space race and men meddling with the moon’s cycles, and some blame Tina’s father.
A past he has hidden catches up to him as his secret settles in like an unwelcome guest. The clash of progressive ideas and small town values escalates the collision of a father’s past and present.
Standout Stories blog with author interviews and book reviews:
A stunning cover to go with a stunning story. I love learning history I wasn’t familiar with before. I love time slips when a lesson is learned from the past. I love it when an author dares to write something a bit different from typical wartime fiction. Just when I thought I’d read all the WWII fiction I cared to, this book comes along, not about Nazis, not about soldiers, not about the Holocaust, although all those things are mentioned because all those things affect the characters greatly. This is a story about how the people who were affected, the innocents, dealt with what they experienced for the rest of their lives.
Grace Tonquin is an American Quaker working to rescue Jewish children in France during the war. Decades later Addie Hoult is looking for the Tonquin family because her mentor is dying from a genetic disease. But these women from the different storylines and time periods also need rescuing in ways they don’t truly grasp until the end of the story. All the characters are deeply wounded from both what they did and what was done to them. Restoration doesn’t come easily, but there is hope.
I think it’s fair to say no one does time slip novels better than Melanie Dobson. Many times I prefer the historical timeline to the contemporary one but this one had me totally engaged with both. I highly recommend you read this one!
*I was given a copy by the publisher for the purpose of review without compensation or expectation. I have given my honest opinion.
Published October 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks
This story, told mostly as an epistolary novel, was so well done and so touching that I was completely engrossed by the characters of Evie and Thomas as they corresponded throughout the war. The letters are filled with humor and fun banter between childhood friends and as the war progresses they turn more serious at times and deep with soul-searching thoughts and ideas and finally with desperation. Sprinkled throughout we see the elderly Thomas in 1968, obviously without Evie but it isn’t until the end we understand why he’s come back to Paris to read all the letters they had exchanged plus a new one he doesn’t open until he finishes the wartime letters. The description of the agonies the characters endured plus their hopes and dreams feels so real as I imagine they were, although not usually spoken, for those who lived through those times.
I can imagine these two authors, quite successful as solo novelists, took on particular characters as the voices are as distinct as they would be with real people, and that is the strength of this novel, in my opinion. It’s a love story, but not just a love story. It’s filled with history, as we who love to read historical fiction look forward to when we open a book.
Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.
Thank you for having me. It is a pleasure to be here.
Tell us something about where you live:
I live in Gwynedd Wales in Great Britain in the 13th century. It is cold, and wet. Wales has the most rain for all of Britain. I live in a castle with servants, where the source of heat is a fireplace in every room which the servants keep going all the time to make sure none of us freeze. Beyond the castle there is a small town and beyond that a village that supplies everyone with food. To keep the castle safe from people breaking in there are a number of guards that patrol the grounds dressed in armour and carrying pikes and swords.
Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?
I don’t know if there is anything particularly special about my name. I was named after my grandfather, Llywelyn the Great who was ruler here until he died at a ripe old age. Maybe my parents named me after him because they thought I shared some similar characteristics with the old man. I have never asked my parents about it though so I don’t know for sure.
Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?
I am a warrior and I am the ruler of Gwynedd Wales. My job is to help keep the people of the land safe from invaders. I love being able to help my people, but having to deal with the small day to day problems of the people can feel a little tedious sometimes.
Who are the special people in your life?
I am very close to my family. I always looked up to my grandfather and my father is very like him. My mother is kind and noble and she has always taught me to trust my instincts. I love my younger brothers, Dafydd and Rhodri. Dafydd is very witty and is very mature for his age and Rhodri is sweet. My older brother, Owain, is an interesting person. He is very hot headed and often speaks when it would be better to keep quiet. It is probably because he is so passionate. He has never had any trouble making himself heard. Now my uncle on the other hand, well I wouldn’t say I am close to him. My uncle, Dafydd, is a strange man. I never really know where I stand with him and so I have never been able to trust him. Oh, and I can’t forget my man-servant, Olan. My father found him at an orphanage when he was a child and brought him back to the castle to be my servant and companion. He is my only true friend and I can talk to him about anything and everything. Even things I can’t talk to my family about.
What is your heart’s deepest desire?
My heart’s deepest desire is to do the best I can for my family and my people.
What are you most afraid of?
I think what I am most afraid of is letting people down.
Do you have a cherished possession?
The one possession I cherish above all is my horse, Arling. I found her wondering in the woods when she was no more than a few months old and I took her back to the castle and trained her myself. She has carried me through many battles over the years and is my closest companion next to Olan.
What do you expect the future will hold for you?
I don’t know if that is a question I can answer. I am sure i will still be a warrior. I never expected to become the ruler of Gwynedd. Being a warrior has its elements of danger, but being a ruler has even more. The future of any ruler is unknowable. All I can do is do my best to keep from falling into trouble so I can continue to take care of my people to the best of my abilities.
Thanks for telling us a bit about yourself!
In the year, 1240 Ad, the land of Gwynedd Wales found themselves without a leader when their king, Llywelyn The Great, died at a ripe old age. The natural successor to the king was his son Dafydd, who took on the job of ruler after his death. Soon after taking on the job he was forced to sign a treaty with the king of England and send his brother Gruffudd and his nephew Owain to England to be imprisoned in The Tower of London in exchange for keeping his land and his title. His other nephew, Llywelyn, became the new head warrior after his father’s imprisonment, traveling the country and patrolling the borders to the north and the south.
After four years imprisonment in The Tower of London, Gruffudd died while attempting to escape his tower cell, and his son Owain was released by the king himself. He wanted Owain to help him start a civil war in Gwynedd. Meanwhile after finding out about his brother’s death from a letter sent by his nephew Owain, Dafydd declared war on England. Prompting Owain to escape Winchester Castle where he had been recovering from his time in prison to find his brother Llywelyn and help him in the war between England and Gwynedd.
During the course of the war, Dafydd was killed in battle, leaving the Welsh army without a leader. Being the brave and noble man that he was, Llywelyn called the men to him and with his leadership they managed to send the English packing. With the new weight of responsibility thrust upon his shoulders Llywelyn, rode home at the head of the army to find that his world had changed. Now not only was his father gone, but his mother as well and the land of Gwynedd was once again without a leader. It became clear that the best man for the job was Llywelyn himself and he decided that there was nothing else to do but to become the new ruler. He would do anything to keep his people safe, even if that meant taking on a responsibility that he felt he was to young for. He would never abandon his people for anything and let the English take everything from him.
Sydney has a big imagination and has been writing and performing from a young age. After going blind from Leukemia at the age of three, she found release from the medical part of her life through her music and her writing. In high school she excelled in English and history and after she left school she continued to write and to create her music. She formed her band, The Undercurrents with her best friend and drummer, Alex Nacci at the age of 22 and has been playing music with the band ever since.
Her book, Princes and Kings, is her first professional novel and it is book one of the historical fiction series she is writing titled, A Rose in A Thorn Bush about the last king of Wales. She was introduced to her main character in high school and with the encouragement of her Business Abilities coach she finely decided to write his story. Splitting the story into three books. Sydney has always enjoyed reading historical fiction and has found it an interesting genre to write in. After her series is finished she plans to continue writing about different historical British characters for as long as she can. Being Welsh on her father’s side and Scottish and English on her mother’s Britain is a place that interests her greatly and she has enjoyed writing about one of its characters. Giving her a chance to explore her heritage in a fun and exciting way and she looks forward to sharing her passion for the genre and the history of the British Isles with the world.
Hello, Mr. Parker. Albert Fritz of the Fredericksburg Standard—so good of you to take the time for an interview with me today. I hear you are new to our area, straight from Nottinghamshire, England. Welcome to our isolated corner of Texas!
How do you do? Pray do not let my accent put you off—one might think me a bit standoffish at first. Being a butler in the 1920’s and 30’s for an important figure in our city required a rather formal exterior.
Hmm…did this cause you problems here in the United States?
Since I traveled with my employer’s grandson, the way was paved for us in New York city. Our time there and the long train ride provided a taste of the many dialects and personalities in this large country. But when we arrived in Texas Hill Country, people surely saw us as an oddity.
Still, they welcomed us with great kindness—greenhorns like us needed a lot of help. For one thing, it was nearly winter, and we had no harvest to rely on.
The area’s isolation surprised us somewhat. We knew we were bound for an agricultural locale, but Loyal Valley is…ahem…quite distant from any major city. Our first visit to a church three miles away made all the difference.
From one member, we might purchase a regular supply of milk and cheese. Another had an ample egg supply, and a third just butchered, so we purchased enough hams and beef to last the winter. Having reliable food sources close at hand, we entered our first cold season.
Is that cows mooing—you must have developed your own herd?
Oh yes, as soon as possible. You see, I come from a long line of cheesemakers. Soon, we acquired laying hens, too. Let me show you our barn. See here—even a small horse for Donnie, Everett’s son, plus geese and ducks galore.
And out there, behold the orchard Everett cares for. The trees produce plenty of fruit and nuts. He makes jams and butters to sell and has developed a good business. To the South, you will note . . .
You have a garden—why, it’s enormous!
Yes, with its produce and good pastureland for the herd, we have everything we need. If only our people back in Nottingham could say the same.
Ah yes . . . what a terrible time in England right now, with the Luftwaffe bombing many cities. So much danger and destruction. I imagine you listen to the war report on the radio nightly?
Indeed. That plus newspapers and letters from friends back home keep us informed. Who would ever have thought this war would last so long?
Certainly not your American neighbors. Why, it’s been three years since the Pearl Harbor attack, and our boys still face such obstacles.
Indeed they do. I daresay, did you hear that? I believe t’was my new prize bull, so I had best go and check on him. A right testy old fellow. He bears watching.
Thank you for your time. So glad to see how well you’re adjusting to your new homeland.
Perhaps some did, but most accepted us immediately. We provided an interesting diversion, I suppose, but this area is so isolated, they soon came around. Since we arrived just before winter and had no vehicle, everyone realized our need.
After missionary work in North Africa, Gail taught English as a Second Language and college expository writing. She and her retired Army Chaplain husband of forty-four years live in North Iowa where they enjoy grandchildren, gardening, and historical research.
Dare To Bloom, Gail’s website, comes by its name honestly—it took time to acquire the courage to put her writing “out there.” Eventually, her memoir developed, which led to writing World War II fiction.
Her Women of the Heartland brand honors the era’s make-do women and men, and includes eight novels, two novellas, and three non-fiction books. Despite daunting trials, her heroines and heroes embrace their strengths, contribute to the war effort and reveal the determination, loyalty, faith and tenacity so needful in our society today.
Gail hosts other authors on her Author Visits page and enjoys encouraging writers through facilitating workshops and retreats.
MANNY: Hello. My name is Manuel Blair, but folks call me Manny.
ABBY: Hi, I’m Abby. This handsome example of manhood is my husband.
I overheard you both talking about babies a moment ago. May I assume you have children of your own now?
ABBY: Yes. Thank God we made it through that period. Being “in the family way” was horrible for me. I think I was sick every single day for six solid months. It was a rough time, but Manny was my rock.
MANNY: I tried to help as much as I could. I felt so helpless watching her suffer so. Didn’t seem like there was much I could do for her except make her tea to soothe her stomach.
ABBY: Blech. If I never drink another mug of ginger tea again in my life, it’ll be too soon.
I can understand how scared you must have both been. Bearing children is not an easy task in the year of 1868.
MANNY: Besides Abby’s sickness, I was dealing with some old feelings of insecurity that showed back up once fatherhood loomed. I lost my dad when I was five, so I didn’t have an example to follow. No mentor to show me the ropes. I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. Lucky for us, Gabe showed up one day when I was chopping wood and offered to help. He stuck around and helped me complete the construction of the extra room on the house. I don’t know if I could’ve done it all on my own.
ABBY: You didn’t need to build that room. We would’ve managed without it.
MANNY: I wanted the best for you. And being able to bathe in a tub instead of a small bucket certainly made things easier for you. Plus, you didn’t have to tramp outside in the freezing sleet of February to use an outhouse. Admit it, Abby. The extra room was a good idea.
ABBY: You’re right. It was a good idea. And I’m glad Gabe was there to help us both. He turned out to have some hidden skills.
Sounds like Gabe has a story of his own. I can’t wait to hear more. So, Christmas ended up being a good time for your new family?
ABBY: Very good. We are so blessed. Christmas this year turned out to have more surprise gifts than ever in my life. And all of them were perfect. God showed us once again that he always has his eye on us and will never leave us.
MANNY: Right. A gift doesn’t necessarily come in a box. Sometimes, the best gifts of all are relationships.
What an awesome concept. I think we would all be happier if we focused more on the intangible gifts in our lives.
A fifth-generation Texan, Paula Peckham graduated from the University of Texas in Arlington and taught math at Burleson High School for 19 years. She and her husband, John, divide their time between their home in Burleson and their casita in Rio Bravo, Mexico. Her debut novel, Protected, was an ACFW Genesis semi-finalist in 2020. She also writes short stories, novellas, and poems.
She has contributions in the 2021 release Christmas Love Through the Ages, and Texas Heirloom Ornament.
She will take on the job of president of ACFW DFW in January, 2022, leaving the job of treasurer, and is a member of Unleashing the Next Chapter.
She has spoken at ACFW, Unleashing the Next Chapter, and the Carrollton League of Writers. For more about Paula and her books, follow her at paulapeckham.com.