Review: When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, and Susan Meissner

Harper Muse; 1st edition (October 18, 2022)
Publication date ‏ : ‎ October 18, 2022

Set in 1941 in the Philippines, three nurses from different backgrounds (a US Army nurse, a US Navy nurse, and a Filipina nurse) become friends. Each author took a character, but honestly you can’t tell. The story is well blended with one voice.

While the circumstances were dire, each nurse ended up being imprisoned by the Japanese in different places and witnessed horrifying things not to mention starvation, there were signs of hope to hold on to. It all seemed very real. Not surprising since the fictional characters were based on real women, the first female POWs.

Each of the women experienced hurt in their previous lives that needed healing. Caring for others while still being held as prisoner delayed their ability and capacity to heal those wounds. After their releases they saw each other briefly but not the three of them together. Their ultimate reunion would have to wait. While no longer the women they were before the war due to their experiences, they still had to deal with the things they had try to avoid by becoming nurses. The way they manage to face what they’d previously avoided is inspiring, and not easily predictable. Nothing is rushed. No artificial happy conclusions, which is what I like about how these authors write their stories. But like I said, there is hope and a satisfying ending.

Historical fiction buffs will enjoy this one. Highly recommended.

To read more about this story visit Amazon. Affiliate links are used, which help support our blog.

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson, www.cindyswriting.com

I was given an advanced copy by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review, although no review was required.

A Chat with Olive Alexander from Come Down Somewhere by Jennifer L. Wright

Welcome to NovelPASTimes! Today we’re joined by Miss Olive Alexander of Alamogordo, New Mexico—

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Olive: I’m not from Alamogordo.

I’m sorry?

Olive: I’m not from Alamogordo. I’m living there with my grandma—for now—but I’m not from there. I’m from my family’s ranch on the Jornada, near the Chupadera Mesa.

I beg your pardon. Sorry about that.

Olive: It’s alright.

Well, how about we start with you telling us a little about yourself?

Olive: Okay. Well, I’m fifteen years old. Lived in New Mexico all my life on the ranch built by my grandfather after he emigrated from Russia. My dad died a few years ago, so my uncle Hershel—his brother—moved in to help out. Not that I’d call what he does “help.” He mainly drinks and sulks, complaining about how the world is going to pot. My mom and I ignore him for the most part, and so did my brother, Avery. But now . . . I don’t know . . . Avery follows him around like some kind of puppy.

Why do you think that is?

Olive: I don’t know. Maybe it’s got something to do with the war? Avery tried to enlist but couldn’t on account of color blindness. I think that put a chip on his shoulder. Made him feel like less of a man somehow or like he didn’t matter. Maybe joining in on Hershel’s blustering and ranting makes Avery feel important again.

You say “the war” like it puts a bad taste in your mouth. Why is that?

Olive: Now look, I’m not anti-war. I think Hitler’s evil, and there weren’t no excuse for what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. I’m behind our troops 110 percent. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m just . . . well, I guess frustrated is the right word. Everyone keeps telling us that we need to do our part for the war effort but what is my part? Seems like nobody nowhere had need of me. Not even here at home.

What do you mean?

Olive: You said it yourself right there at the beginning of the interview. Sayin’ I was from Alamogordo and all. Why did you believe I was from Alamogordo?

Because that’s what your information sheet said. Your address was listed as a house on Delaware Avenue, Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Olive: Exactly. I’m not from Alamogordo but I’m living there now because my mom shipped me off. Wouldn’t let me live on the ranch anymore, even though Avery’s leaving and they need the help. They don’t need my help anymore. 

What do you mean she wouldn’t let you live on the ranch anymore?

Olive: Well, on accounts of the Army moving in.

The Army?

Olive: Yeah, the Army. They enacted something called “eminent domain,” which gave them the right to take over our ranch for the war effort. There’s some sort of project they’re working on nearby, and they need the space to house construction workers. It’s top secret. Hush-hush. 

The Army is working on a top secret military project here? In the middle of nowhere?

Olive: Why you gotta say it like that? Is there something wrong with southern New Mexico?

Not at all. It’s just so . . . isolated. And desolate.

Olive: I know. I like it that way. But I sure don’t understand why the Army picked this place out of the entire United States to do . . . well, whatever it is they’re doing. Especially since it means I’ve been kicked out of my home. And with it being so top secret, no one can even really tell me why.

Well, can’t you just view this as your part of the war effort? Everyone is sacrificing, right? This is just your particular brand of sacrificing.

Olive: I don’t mind sacrificing for the war effort. We’ve been rationing and going without plenty of things, just like everyone else. What’s hard about sacrificing my home is that, out of my entire family, I’m the only one doing it. Avery’s leaving—finally got accepted into the Army after all—but both Ma and Uncle Hershel get to stay on the ranch. I’m the only one who has to leave. Why is that?

I . . . I don’t know.

Olive: Exactly.

Well, even if it’s not your preferred location, surely there must be something good about living in Alamogordo. Something that perhaps eases your burden a little bit?

Olive: Well, my grandma’s here. Out on the ranch, I don’t get to see her much, so it’s nice to be able to get to know her a little better, even with all her silly notions about God and church and all. And I like the soda fountains downtown. Can’t get that out in the country. But the best thing?

Go on.

Olive: *smiles sheepishly* I don’t want to talk about it.

You’re smiling though. It must be something really good if you’re smiling. It’s the first one I’ve seen all day.

Olive: Oh, it is good. A tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed kind of good. But I still don’t want to talk about it.

*Grins* Fair enough. Well, thank you for talking to me, Olive. I wish you the best of luck in Alamogordo and pray this war ends quickly so you can get back home as soon as possible.

Olive: You sound like my grandma. You can keep your prayers, but I thank you all the same.


Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home.

She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, one grumpy old dachshund, and her newest obsession—a guinea pig named Peanut Butter Cup.

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A Candid Talk with Gisela Wolff and Peggy Serrano from Lynn Austin’s Novel Long Way Home

About the book:

Peggy Serrano couldn’t wait for her best friend to come home from the war. But the Jimmy Barnett who returns is much different from the Jimmy who left, changed so drastically by his experience as a medic in Europe that he can barely function. When he attempts the unthinkable, his parents check him into the VA hospital. Peggy determines to help the Barnetts unravel what might have happened to send their son over the edge. She starts by contacting Jimmy’s war buddies, trying to identify the mysterious woman in the photo they find in Jimmy’s belongings.

Seven years earlier, sensing the rising tide against their people, Gisela Wolff and her family flee Germany aboard the passenger ship St. Louis, bound for Havana, Cuba. Gisela meets Sam Shapiro on board and the two fall quickly in love. But the ship is denied safe harbor and sent back to Europe. Thus begins Gisela’s perilous journey of exile and survival, made possible only by the kindness and courage of a series of strangers she meets along the way, including one man who will change the course of her life.


Gisela, tell us a little about your life before the events of the story begin.

Gisela: I lived in Berlin with Mutti and Vati (my parents) and my younger sister, Ruthie. We’re Jewish, and we had a happy life in our Jewish neighborhood with our large extended family. Then Hitler came to power and Vati was forbidden to practice law. Ruthie and I were no longer allowed to attend our school. As the persecution grew worse and worse, we knew we had to get out of Germany. Vati began the difficult task of applying for visas and landing permits, searching for a country that would allow us in as refugees.

Your story begins in November 1938 on Kristallnacht. Tell us how that night changed your life.

Gisela: Kristallnacht was a night of widespread Nazi persecution, violence, and terror. Synagogues were set on fire; Jewish businesses and even hospitals were ransacked and demolished. When Vati rushed over to our synagogue to save the Torah scrolls, the Nazis arrested him and sent him to Buchenwald prison camp. Mutti was so overwhelmed with fear and grief that it was up to me to finish Vati’s work and try to get us all out of Germany.

Did you manage to escape?

Gisela: Yes! Miraculously, we were able to get landing permits for Havana, Cuba, where my uncle was waiting for us. We booked passage on a ship called the SS St. Louis and set sail from Hamburg, Germany.

It must have been a huge relief for you. Were you able to relax and enjoy the voyage?

Gisela: Not at first. Nearly all of the passengers were Jewish, like us, but the ship flew the Nazi flag and most of the sailors were Nazis. The portrait of Hitler that hung in the dining hall reminded us that we weren’t free yet. But I met Sam Shapiro on board and we soon became inseparable.

I don’t want to spoil the story for readers, but the voyage of the St. Louis was only the beginning of your long, wartime journey, wasn’t it?

Gisela: That’s true. I’m glad I didn’t know at the time how very far I would end up traveling and what my family and I were about endure as we tried to survive.

Thank you, Gisela. It will be interesting to read about those journeys. Peggy, it’s your turn now. Tell us a little about your life before the events of the story.

Peggy: My mother died when I was eleven years old, so I was raised by my father in our apartment above his auto repair shop. I was different from all of the other kids at school, and they bullied me mercilessly. My only friends were my dog, Buster, and Jimmy Barnett, who lived across the street from me. Jimmy is four years older than I am and he watched out for me like a big brother.

Your story begins after World War II ends and Jimmy Barnett and the other soldiers have just returned home. Tell us about that.

Peggy: The Jimmy who came home isn’t the same man who went away to war. He is sad all the time and barely speaks to anyone, even to me and his parents. Then the unthinkable happened, and he tried to kill himself. He’s in a veterans’ hospital now, and the doctors say he’s suffering from battle fatigue. Their treatments aren’t helping, so I came up with the idea of writing letters to all of his buddies from the war so we can try to figure out what happened that made him want to die. I’m desperate to find a way to help my best friend.

Are there any other changes for you now that the war is over?

Peggy: Oh, there are plenty! I worked in a factory during the war, building aircraft cannons, but that job came to an end when the war did. Then my father’s girlfriend, Donna, decided to take over the office work that I’ve always done for my father’s garage. She says I need to find another job and another place for my dog and me to live. And all of this while I’m trying to help Jimmy!

It sounds like a difficult time for you.

Peggy: It is. The only bright spot for me is working with Jimmy’s father in his veterinary clinic. I love animals and I’ve worked for Mr. Barnett part-time after school since I was eleven years old. But now I’ll need to find a full-time job and someplace else to live.

Thank you, Peggy. I’m sure readers will want to read the rest of your story to see how things turn out for you and Jimmy.


Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full-time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Lynn and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan. Visit her online at lynnaustin.org.

Interview with Grace Tonquin from Melanie Dobson’s The Winter Rose

Novel PASTimes: Thank you for joining us, Grace. You’ve had quite a journey in your life.

Grace: I’m grateful for both the ups and downs.

Novel PASTimes: You’re grateful for the downs?

Grace: Those are the times, I think, when I’ve felt God’s presence the most. In the dark seasons while I served in France and then during the even darker years that followed.

Novel PASTimes: You’ve quoted Psalm 27 quite often along the way.

Grace: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” That reminder gave me courage to continue on.

Novel PASTimes: How many children did you and Roland care for in France?

Grace: I’m not certain. The American Friends Service Committee kept the numbers. I was focused on the daily needs of the refugee kids until we realized that we had to get those who remained with us out of France.

Novel PASTimes: How many children did you escort across the mountains?

Grace: Twelve . . . at least we started with twelve. One had to turn back.

Novel PASTimes: I don’t suppose you could tell us who . . .

Grace: That’s not my story to tell.

Novel PASTimes: You are a hero to every one of those kids.

Grace: A servant, my friend. Answering when our Lord calls.

Novel PASTimes: Can you tell us what happened to Charlie?

Grace: His life was a miracle, but I don’t want to spoil the ending of the book.

Novel PASTimes: Fair enough. Could you tell us instead the significance of the winter rose?

Grace: A winter rose can grow wild in the mountains, in the most rugged terrain. It looks fragile but it’s very strong, defying the winds and cold weather with its strength. A winter rose shows beauty and strength, I think, in the hardest of circumstances.

Novel PASTimes: Thank you for not giving up on the children in France.

Grace: My husband and I have been blessed beyond what we could have ever imagined in our years together. It’s an honor to share our story.

* * *

ABOUT THE BOOK:

The Winter Rose

In this gripping WWII time-slip novel from the author whose books have been called “propulsive” and a “must-read” (Publishers Weekly), Grace Tonquin is an American Quaker who works tirelessly in Vichy France to rescue Jewish children from the Nazis. After crossing the treacherous Pyrénées, Grace returns home to Oregon with a brother and sister whose parents were lost during the war. Though Grace and her husband love Élias and Marguerite as their own, echoes of Grace’s past and trauma from the Holocaust tear the Tonquin family apart.

More than fifty years after they disappear, Addie Hoult arrives at Tonquin Lake, hoping to find the Tonquin family. For Addie, the mystery is a matter of life and death for her beloved mentor Charlie, who is battling a genetic disease. Though Charlie refuses to discuss his ties to the elusive Tonquins, finding them is the only way to save his life and mend the wounds from his broken past.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of more than twenty historical romance, suspense, and time-slip novels, including her latest, The Winter Rose. Five of her novels have won Carol Awards; Catching the Wind and Memories of Glass were nominated for a Christy Award in the historical fiction category; Catching the Wind won an Audie Award in the inspirational fiction category; and The Black Cloister won the Foreword magazine Religious Fiction Book of the Year. Melanie is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media Group. When she isn’t writing, Melanie enjoys teaching both writing and public relations classes. Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters and live near Portland, Oregon. Visit Melanie online at melaniedobson.com.

Book Review: The Winter Rose by Melanie Dobson

Affiliate link used. I receive a small compensation if you purchase through this link.

Release: January 11, 2022

Hardcover | 978-1-4964-4421-9 | $25.99

Softcover | 978-1-4964-4422-6 | $15.99

400 pages | Tyndale.com

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.


Reviewed by Cindy Thomson

www.cindyswriting.com

Meet William Parker from Gail Kittleson’s Land That I Love I Love

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.

http://www.gailkittleson.com/
www.facebook.com/GailKittlesonAuthorhttp://amazon.com/author/gailkittlesonwww.twitter.com/GailGkittleson @GailGkittleson@gailkittlesonauthor (Instagram)
Purchase link: 
https://www.amazon.com/Land-That-Love-Gail-Kittleson/dp/1952474841

Interview with Perla Divko from The Devil’s Breath by Tom Hogan

Perla Divko, along with her husband Shimon, is an Auschwitz prisoner forced by Kommandant Rudolf Höss to solve a murder (of Höss’s accountant) and the theft of millions in gold extracted from the teeth of gas chamber victims. The Divkos are a formidable team: Shimon was Chief Detective in Warsaw, while Perla was an investigative reporter. In The Devil’s Breath, the pair approaches their assignment with two goals:  to solve the murder and theft, and thus stay alive; and to get word and evidence about Auschwitz and its industrial murder to the outside world.

Q:  You and your husband are forced to help your captors and torturers. How difficult was that for you?

A:  The Kommandant tortured my husband, but he didn’t break. Then they told us that they would execute 100 of each of our barracks-mate if we wouldn’t help. I believe we were still willing to die for our beliefs, but then Divko suggested that we had a unique opportunity to get inside the workings of Auschwitz and document the mass murder happening there. That was what made working with the Nazis palatable.

Q:  You and your husband are a team of equals, a rare commodity in Europe, especially Poland.

A:  We were fortunate in that we both had established ourselves in our professions before we met. And when we first met, I had more sources and inside information than Shimon. So we met as equals, became partners, and only then got married.

Q:  Your alliance with your Nazi overseer, Graf, is again something unique in the stories we hear about the Holocaust, especially the camps. How did that come about?

A:  It began as an adversarial relationship, with Herr Graf charged with overseeing every phase of the investigation and reporting it back to his Nazi overlords. But Graf was also a human being, and once he saw the workings of Auschwitz up close, his human side trumped his Nazi loyalties. And that opened the doors to each of us being to talk to the other as equals, rather than prisoner/captor.

Q:  You had a fiery relationship with Gisela Brandt, the female SS officer in charge of camp labor. Were you ever worried that she might send you to the gas chambers for what she called your ‘insubordination’?

A:  Not really, but only because I was far more useful to her alive than dead. And while she pretended that we were allies, she was a Nazi through and through, and I knew that the moment my value to her and the Kommandant lessened, I’d be in the next transport to the gas chambers.

About the Book:

The Devil’s Breath is a fascinating new suspense novel set in Auschwitz. This murder/theft mystery takes a unique approach to Holocaust literature. Instead of the events of camp and ghetto life being the primary narrative, The Devil’s Breath uses the Holocaust as the setting for a gripping murder and heist mystery, educating the reader as it entertains.
Auschwitz prisoners Perla and Shimon Divko—she an investigative reporter, he a former lead detective in the Warsaw ghetto—are forced by Kommandant Rudolf Höss to solve the murder of his chief accountant and find millions in missing gold taken from the bodies of Jewish corpses. With Reichsführer Himmler due for his annual audit, they have a week to solve the crime or watch hundreds of their peers executed as the penalty for their failure. The investigators dive deep inside Auschwitz—the Kanada harvesting operation, the killing process and the perils of daily life, hindered at every step by multiple red herrings, the murder of prime suspects and witnesses, and the complicated relationship between Höss and his mistress, Gisela Brandt, an SS officer.
The Divkos have two agendas in accepting the case: 1) to solve the crime and keep themselves and the hostage prisoners alive; and 2) find a way to alert the world about the scope and purpose of Auschwitz. In a thrilling conclusion, they solve the crime but are sentenced to death in the gas chamber for their efforts, where in a triumphant but heartbreaking finale, they pull off one act of resistance.

Title: The Devil’s Breath ISBN: 978-1-7369436-1-8 274 pgs., Format: Paperback Price: $17.95, Kindle: $2.99 ISBN: 978-1-7369436-0-1 Pub. date: Aug. 30, 2021


About the Author
Tom Hogan grew up in post-war Germany, living in a German village with his US military family. When Tom was 8, the family visited Dachau, the original Nazi concentration camp, which prompted Tom to wonder how many of his neighbors had known about or participated in the campaign against the Jews and the resulting Holocaust. It was a question that would stay with Tom his entire life.
After graduating from Harvard with an MA in Biblical Archaeology, Tom was recruited by a human rights agency to bring Holocaust Studies into high school and college curricula. For four years he taught at Santa Clara University and traveled with Holocaust survivors to school districts and universities, bringing the lessons of the Holocaust home to new audiences.
In the late 80s, Tom left teaching to join a growing company, Oracle, as its first creative director. Leveraging his success at Oracle, he joined the VC (Venture Capital) world, where his agency, Crowded Ocean, positioned and launched over 50 startups, many of them market leaders today. He is the co-author of The Ultimate Startup Guide, which is used in graduate and MBA programs. 
He recently left the tech world to return to teaching. For five years he taught Holocaust and Genocide Studies at UC Santa Cruz. He then retired to Austin, where he now writes full-time. His first novel, Left for Alive, was described by Kirkus as “gritty and observant, particularly his descriptions of the various outlaws who populate his pages… an impressive tale about criminals that will hold readers hostage.” The Devil’s Breath is his second novel. In addition to his fiction, Hogan is a screenwriter and has written for Newsweek as well as numerous political and travel publications.

MEET JANE LINDER FROM SUSAN ANNE MASON’S “TO FIND HER PLACE”

Tell us a little about yourself, Jane.

I’m Canadian, born and bred in Toronto, Ontario. Right now, I’m living with my widowed mother while my brother is away fighting in the war. I work at the Toronto Children’s Aid Society, where I’ve been a social worker for several years. Currently I’m the acting directress, filling in for my boss and mentor who is planning to retire after suffering a heart attack.

That’s quite an important job for a woman. Do you feel pressured to perform as well as a man?

Absolutely. Especially since I hope to impress the board of management and be awarded the position permanently. I’ve devoted my life to helping orphaned children find loving parents, and in this position, I hope to make policy changes that will allow more children, especially those who are deemed ‘unadoptable’, to find permanent homes.

That’s an admirable goal. What obstacles do you foresee in achieving this?

Other than proving my skills to the board, I have to contend with Garrett Wilder, an outsider they’ve brought in to study the agency’s procedures and overhaul the system. Apparently, there is a discrepancy with the finances, and I’m worried the board thinks I might have something to do with it. Also, I’m fairly certain Garrett is hoping to be awarded the director’s position himself.

Have you always wanted to be a career woman? What made you so focused on social work?

I’ve always loved children and longed for a family of my own. But after two miscarriages and the breakdown of my marriage, it seemed that particular path was not meant for me. Instead, I threw myself into my career in the hopes that ministering to less fortunate children might bring me the fulfilment denied me through motherhood. There’s one little boy in particular who has captured my heart, and if I could adopt him myself, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I won’t rest until Martin has found his forever family.

Has the war had an effect on the Children’s Aid Society?

Very much so. There are more children in need of our services than ever before. With the pressure on women raising children alone while their husbands are overseas, more cases of neglect and abuse have been reported. At the same time, we have fewer and fewer foster families willing to take in children since they are struggling to manage their own families. And fewer families thinking about adoption in this time of uncertainty.

That does sound difficult. What will happen if Garrett Wilder is awarded the director’s position?

I don’t know. I’m not sure I could continue working there, now that I’ve started to develop feelings for Garrett. But he seems determined to keep me at arm’s length for some reason. Perhaps it’s due to the war injuries he’s hinted at. And then there’s my former husband, Donald, who has returned from the war with a tempting proposition of his own. I will have to pray very hard to determine where my true place lies. 

Well, thank you Jane for talking with us and giving us a glimpse into the Toronto Children’s Aid Society during WWII.

Thank you for having me. I’m certain that God will direct my steps toward my ultimate happiness, no matter which path I choose.


Susan Anne Mason’s debut historical novel, Irish Meadows,won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. She is the author of the Courage to Dream Series and the Canadian Crossings series. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Susan lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two adult children. She loves wine and chocolate and isn’t partial to snow even though she’s Canadian.Learn more about Susan and her books at www.susanannemason.net.

Book Review: Chasing Shadows by Lynn Austin

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 8, 2021)

You can always count on Lynn Austin to provide interesting and intriguing historical details in her stories. Chasing Shadows is about the Dutch people’s resistance when occupied by the Nazis in WWII. Three basic storylines are presented: Lena, a farm mother who learns to trust God with the lives of her family; Ans, her young adult daughter who leaves home to find her way and ends up entering the dangerous world of the resistance fighters; and Miriam, a young Jewish girl escaping the worst and getting separated from her baby and husband. These are hard things to read about but Austin paints her stories with hope and bravery in the face of very real terror and despair.

While most of us cannot begin to understand how these people survived and rebuilt their lives and their country, novel like this one help take us there and make us appreciate their actions. We may never face what they did but we can learn about strength and faith and how those things can carry us through what we deal with in our lives.

And that cover? Gorgeous!

There is quite a lot of Christianity in this book: characters including “sharing faith” and remembering Bible verses. Knowing that some readers look for that and others avoid it, it should be mentioned. It’s written by a strong Christian believer and published by a Christian evangelical publisher, so that should come as no surprise. Even so, in real life these people did depend on their faith to see them through. As my late father used to say, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I for one cannot imagine emerging from such oppression, brutality, and starvation without depending on God.

I enjoyed this book. It took me a little longer to read, perhaps because of its intensity, which is not a bad thing. But because I put it down so much I had a little trouble remembering which character was which. A chapter title would have helped. But that’s a small complaint. Historical novel lovers will like this one!

Read the character interview here.

A Candid Talk with Lena de Vries, Ans de Vries, and Miriam Jacobs from Lynn Austin’s Chasing Shadows

Welcome, ladies. Tell us a little about yourself and your life before the war. 

Lena: I was forty years old when the war began, a wife and mother of three children. I worked with my husband, Pieter, on our farm in the Dutch countryside. I loved my life and my work—it was all I ever wanted or dreamed of doing.

Ans: I’m Ans de Vries, Lena’s older daughter, and unlike my mother, I was restless with the country life. I found it boring. When I turned nineteen, I moved to the city of Leiden and took a job as a companion and assistant to Eloise Huizenga, who suffers from depression. City life suited me, and I was very happy living there.

Miriam: I’m Jewish, and I lived in Cologne, Germany, with my parents before the war. I’m a violinist, and I had hoped to study at the music conservatory like my mother, but Jews were forbidden to attend. As the persecution became increasingly worse in my homeland, my father and I escaped to the Netherlands, where we lived in a refugee camp at first. 

How about romance? Is there someone special in your life?

Lena: My husband, Pieter, is the love of my life. We married young, and I love him more and more each year, if that’s possible. All that we’ve gone through has drawn us closer. I would be lost without him.

Ans: I never had a real date before moving to Leiden because the rural boys seemed boring to me. I wasn’t interested in marrying one of them and becoming a farmer’s wife. I met Erik Brouwer shortly after moving to the city and we hit it off right away. He’s a policeman—a very handsome one! The more time we spent together, the easier it was to fall in love.

Miriam: I met Avi Leopold in the refugee camp. He heard me practicing my violin and asked if he could sit nearby and listen. He said my music consoled him, and in return, he read verses to me from the Psalms. Avi is sweet and gentle and kind. It felt so natural and right to imagine we would spend the rest of our lives together. 

Tell us about your experiences on May 10, 1940, when the Nazis staged their surprise attack on the Netherlands.

Lena: My husband, Pieter, and I learned the news when the telephone awakened us in the night. Pieter was in the army reserves, and he had to leave immediately to help our Dutch army fight off the invaders—a seemingly impossible task. I was left home alone with our two youngest children, Wim and Maaike, and I had to keep the farm going by myself. Naturally, I was worried sick for Pieter’s safety, but I had to remain calm and in control for my children’s sake, in spite of all the unknowns in our future.

Ans: I was living in Leiden with Eloise Huizenga when the invasion began. The horrifying sound of droning airplanes and exploding bombs woke both of us up. We were alone because Professor Huizenga was away traveling at the time. We went up to the rooftop in the dead of night and could hear and see the distant warfare, along with Nazi paratroopers dropping from airplanes. I was never so scared in my life! I was terrified for my own safety and for my boyfriend, Erik, who was serving in the Dutch army. But most of all, I feared for Eloise, because I was responsible for her. She is very fragile, and her emotional state that night was very precarious. 

Miriam: When the Nazi bombs began to fall on the Netherlands that night, it felt like the end of the world to me. We had experienced Nazi persecution in Germany and knew what they would do to us if they occupied the Netherlands. We had narrowly escaped from them once before, finding refuge in Leiden, where Abba taught at the university. We were finally making a new life for ourselves after enduring so many losses, and the invasion meant we were about to lose everything for a second time. 

How did the Nazi occupation change your daily life?

Lena: I found it hard to escape the daily anxiety and fear for my family. My daughter Ans lived in the city, and my two younger children had to travel to school every day with soldiers everywhere. Then the Nazis came out to our farm and took an inventory of everything we had. The food we worked so hard to produce would no longer go to support our family, but to feed the enemy. That was a very bitter truth to accept.

Ans: I hated the sight of Nazi soldiers and swastikas in the city I had come to love. And my concern for Eloise multiplied as she experienced the effects of war and enemy occupation for a second time in her life. She had been a young woman in Belgium during the Great War and had lost her entire family. I was on edge every day as Eloise slipped into depression and I searched for ways to help her.

Miriam: I felt trapped all over again and desperate for a way to escape. My father and I knew it was only a matter of time before the persecution we’d experienced in Germany would begin all over again. The Nazis had surrounded the Netherlands on all sides, making escape impossible.

What kept you going through such difficult times?

Lena: I relied a lot on prayer. And on taking each day one at a time. Just doing the task I was given for that day with God’s help.

Ans: I had turned away from my parents’ faith before leaving home, but God suddenly became very real to me during this crisis. I found the courage to resist the Nazi occupation in big and small ways, and fighting back kept Eloise—and me—from despair.

Miriam: I found hope in our faith and in our friends. We knew we didn’t have to suffer alone this time because our friends were standing beside us, helping and protecting us.


About Chasing Shadows

For fans of bestselling WWII fiction comes a powerful novel from Lynn Austin about three women whose lives are instantly changed when the Nazis invade the neutral Netherlands, forcing each into a complicated dance of choice and consequence.


Lena is a wife and mother who farms alongside her husband in the tranquil countryside. Her faith has always been her compass, but can she remain steadfast when the questions grow increasingly complex and the answers could mean the difference between life and death?

Lena’s daughter Ans has recently moved to the bustling city of Leiden, filled with romantic notions of a new job and a young Dutch police officer. But when she is drawn into Resistance work, her idealism collides with the dangerous reality that comes with fighting the enemy.

Miriam is a young Jewish violinist who immigrated for the safety she thought Holland would offer. She finds love in her new country, but as her family settles in Leiden, the events that follow will test them in ways she could never have imagined.

The Nazi invasion propels these women onto paths that cross in unexpected, sometimes-heartbreaking ways. Yet the story that unfolds illuminates the surprising endurance of the human spirit and the power of faith and love to carry us through.


Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full-time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Lynn and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan. Visit her online at lynnaustin.org.