Book Review: If I Were You by Lynn Austin

Publisher: Tyndale Fiction (June 2020)
416 pages

War changes people. We may be more aware of that today than in the past when many people tried to act as though it didn’t. WWII was one of the times when Americans returned home and vowed to leave it all in the past. However, as Lynn Austin says in her author’s note, that was not so easy for those living in England after WWII where war and devastation had landed on their doorstep. Reminders remained for years due to so many bombed areas.

This story is about the lives of two women who met as girls and became friends. It was a friendship that could not be in those days because they came from very different social classes. Eve Dawson’s mother was a lady’s maid and Audrey Clarkson was that lady’s daughter. But WWII changed British society, not to mention individual lives. Eve and Audrey became friends again during the war through the various ways they served their country and the losses and hardships they endured. No one was spared no matter how wealthy they might have been. In the process they learned just how strong they were. And then after the war events altered their lives once again and threatened to destroy their newfound faith in God.

I really liked how this novel was structured. It opens in 1950 with Audrey discovering Eve had impersonated her and taken over her life with the family of her deceased American husband. The mystery of how that could have happened and what they will do about it now that they are together again drives the story because going back in time we see Eve and Audrey as very tight friends.

I also loved the historical background and events, which is something you can always count on Lynn Austin to provide. If you liked the television series Land Girls, you will love this book. And I will say the book is better because it’s inspirational. We get to follow each girl on her spiritual journey during a time when no doubt everyone involved had his/her faith tested. Eve and Audrey are flawed characters, as we all are. They make mistakes, huge ones that affect not only themselves but many others. We can see how a web of lies can entrap someone, and what’s more compelling, when it seems as though the scenario cannot end well we learn with the character that there is always a new beginning for those who repent.

Historical novels that slip back and forth in time can be tricky to read. I’ve struggled with several. Sometimes the cast of characters is difficult to keep track of. Sometimes the motivations are confusing. Sometimes how the character changes because of the challenges he/she faces in each time period becomes disjointed due to flipping back and forth. Not so in this novel. It flowed so well and kept me turning pages.

I highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical fiction, and that’s everyone who reads Novel PASTimes.

I received an advanced copy free of charge from the publisher with no requirements for a review. All opinions are mine alone.

Known for the inspirational Celtic theme employed in most of her books, Cindy Thomson is the author of six novels and four non-fiction books, including her newest, Finding Your Irish Roots. A genealogy enthusiast, she writes from her home in Ohio where she lives with her husband Tom near their three grown sons and their families. Visit her online at CindysWriting.com, on Facebook: Facebook.com/Cindyswriting, Twitter: @cindyswriting, Pinterest: @cindyswriting and Book Bub: @cindyswriting.


Meet Emily Hodge from David Armstrong’s new novel, The Rising Place.

NPT: Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Emily. We’re so happy you could join us today.

EH: Thank you. It’s a true pleasure to be here.

NPT: Before we get started, I just have to say that you are such a strong, spiritual woman. Where did your deep faith in God come from?

EH: I was always blessed with a strong faith in God—particularly in His love for us. It’s something I’ve never questioned.

NPT: Was this faith instilled in you from your parents, growing up?

EH: No, not really. I was raised Catholic because my father was Catholic. My mother was Methodist, though, so they never went to church together. In later life I became a Methodist.

NPT: Why was that?

EH: That’s something I’d rather not talk about. I don’t think it matters which religion you identify with. All that really matters is our faith in God and our love for and forgiveness of other people.

NPT: Fair enough. Okay, then, let’s change subjects. You just mentioned “love for other people.” You had such an amazing and abiding love for Harry Devening, but he never loved you back. This is such an enigma to me. How could you—

EH: Sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off, but I believe Harry did love me. He just never knew how to show it, or maybe how to even feel it.

NPT: I’m confused here. Harry never answered any of your love letters to him. In the end, he even returned all of them to you, unopened. Don’t you consider that “unrequited love?”

EH: I can certainly understand why you would think that, but don’t you recall that precious letter Harry wrote to our little boy, shortly before his birth? Surely, you could see the love Harry expressed for both our child and me in the words he wrote?

NPT: I don’t mean to offend you by this, “Miss Emily,” if I may call you that, but….

EH: Sure, that’s what I was called in later life.

NPT: Author Stephen Chbosky wrote: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Do you think, perhaps, this applies to Harry?

EH: Possibly. Yes, possibly so. Actually, I’ve thought that before, several times. I never met Harry’s parents or his two older sisters, but from what Harry told me about his childhood, I don’t think there was a great deal of love in their home.

NTP: When was that? When did Harry tell you this?

EH: When I boarded a train from Hamilton, Mississippi to go visit Harry in Gary, Indiana, toward the end of the book. We spent four, wonderful days together.

NPT: And…?

EH: And then I took another train back to Hamilton.

NPT: So, why didn’t you stay up in Indiana with Harry?

EH: Harry begged me to stay with him, to start all over, try to make it work between us. He claimed he always loved me; he was just afraid to show it, even admit it. He also said it was the greatest mistake of his life—not returning my love. By then, though, my love for Harry was gone—only a memory—sort of like a distant dream I had had, once when I was young. Plus, my friend Wilma Watson was engaged in a great struggle for justice and civil rights, down in Hamilton. Wilma was my best friend. I had to go home to help her.

NPT: Miss Emily Hodge, you are such an intriguing and enigmatic character. I wish I had more time to visit with you. I’m just glad your lawyer found your letters and shared them with the world. Otherwise, we would have never known your beautiful story.

EH: Thanks. I’m glad David did, too.

NPT: Before we close, I do have one more question, though: Who was that “gray-haired stranger” in the Prologue who attended your service and placed a yellow rose on the top of your child’s grave? Was it Harry Devening or Streete Wilder?

EH: How do you know it wasn’t Will Bacon? After all, he loved me, too.

NPT: Point well made. I guess readers will just have to decide for themselves who that was. Speaking of readers, is there any thought or message you’d like to leave with them?

EH: Yes. Always live in the rhapsody of your own music. I did, and that’s what I’m most proud of.

NPT: Thank you so much for visiting with us, today, Emily Hodge.

EH: You’re welcome. And thank you.

About the Book:

The Rising Place is based on an interesting premise: What if you found a box of love letters, written during World War II by an old maid who had just died—would you read them? And what if you did and discovered an incredible story about unrequited love, betrayal, and murder that happened in a small, Southern town over seventy years ago? After a young attorney moves to Hamilton, Mississippi to practice law, one of his first cases is to draft a will for Emily Hodge. “Miss Emily” is a 75-year-old recluse who is shunned by Hamilton society, but the lawyer is intrigued by her and doesn’t understand why this charming lady lives such a solitary and seemingly forgotten life. When Emily later dies, the lawyer goes to her hospital room to retrieve her few possessions and bequeath them as she directed, and he finds an old sewing box full of letters in the back of one of her nightstand drawers. He takes the letters back to his law office and reads them, and he soon discovers why Emily Hodge lived and died alone, though definitely not forgotten by those whose lives she touched.

About the Author:

David Armstrong was born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi. He is an attorney, former mayor, and former candidate for the U.S. Congress. The Rising Place is David’s second novel. His third novel, The Third Gift, will be released this summer. David has also written four screenplays. He is the father of two grown sons and lives in Columbus, Mississippi, where he is the COO for the city of Columbus. His website iswww.therisingplace.com, and his novel is available on Amazon, as is the DVD of the film that was based on his book.

Meet Annalise Brandt from The White Rose Resists by Amanda Barratt

So glad you could join us on Novel PASTimes, Annalise. Thank you for giving us a few moments of your time. I know you’re busy with your studies at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University.

Annalise:  Yes. I have a lecture on art history in half an hour. 

Q: That sounds fascinating. Are you enjoying your first semester at the university?

Annalise:  I’m glad to be away from Berlin. As for my classes…the only art my professors discuss is that which is approved by the Führer. The artists whose work I love—Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky—the professors deem degenerate. But I think they paint boldly and with freedom of expression.

Q: You mentioned you were glad to be away from Berlin. Why is that?

Annalise: Why would you ask me that? Did my vater send you to spy on me?

Q: Your vater? SS-Standartenführer Brandt? The Standartenführer Brandt who, before the war, was known to spend weekends at the Führer’s home in Bavaria, the Berghof, and frequently dined with the Goebbels family?

Annalise: (nods)

Q: Are you and your vater close?

Annalise: Nein. Before Hitler’s rise to power, when I was a young girl, he was a different man. Though rarely affectionate, the hardness in him now was absent. Since he began rising in the ranks of the SS, he became cold. Driven. Demanding perfection of my three brothers and schooling them to become future soldiers. As for me, I’m still surprised he allowed me to attend university at all. It was only after our…bargain that he agreed.

Q: What bargain?

Annalise: I’m permitted to study for a year. But after that, I must return to Berlin and marry the man he chooses. Likely some rising SS colleague. I must give up all dreams of education and turn my attention to the duties of a good Aryan woman—being a wife and mother of a large family for the Reich. 

Q: You sound unhappy with this future course. Are you loyal to National Socialism?

Annalise: I…I don’t know. I don’t believe anyone should hold the kind of power Hitler does, nor be able to wield it over every aspect of our lives as he has. I sense an underlying evil beneath all the speeches and marching and shouts of Sieg Heil. I always have. My vater’s single-minded loyalty will never be mine. But being opposed to National Socialism has never seemed an option for me. Until now. Until I arrived at university, I never really thought about these things.

Q: What changed?

Annalise: Shortly after I came to Munich, I met a young woman. Her name is Sophie Scholl, and she’s a student at the university. When she caught me reading a book by Heinrich Heine—whose work is banned in Germany—during class, she didn’t turn me in. We’ve met several times since. Sophie is…different. When I told her about my vater’s plans to arrange a marriage for me, she was horrified. She asked me what price I was willing to pay for freedom. She made me want to be bold, to step into a different future than the one my vater plans for me. 

Q: What will you do?

Annalise: I’m not certain yet. But I’m growing more and more determined to not be trapped in a life I don’t want, even if it means alienating myself from my family. I hate the thought of hurting my mutter though. I’m her only daughter and she relies upon me. My vater’s overbearing personality has crushed her. I’m glad he’s on the eastern front, so she rarely sees him these days.

Q: Though you don’t want to marry the man your vater chooses for you, have you met anyone you might wish to form a relationship with?

Annalise: Nein. Before coming to university, the only young men I ever came in contact with were ones Vater brought to the house for dinner. They were attentive, obviously eager to court the daughter of a man like Vater. But they always seemed to look through me. Not a one of them looked at me as if they truly wished to know me as a person in my own right. Since arriving in Munich, I’ve found it difficult to reach out and make friends. But one afternoon I was on my way to class when I caught a glimpse of a young man walking across the grounds. Our gazes caught. He had a smile unlike any I’ve ever seen. Startling in its warmth and kindness. I would have liked to sketch his face…would have liked to get to know him. But enough of that. Those are foolish thoughts. And I’m afraid if I don’t head to my class now, I will be late.

Thank you for answering our questions, Annalise!

Inspired by the incredible true story of a group of ordinary men and women who dared to stand against evil 

The ideal of a new Germany swept up Sophie Scholl in a maelstrom of patriotic fervor–that is, until she realized the truth behind Hitler’s machinations for the fatherland. Now she and other students in Munich, the cradle of the Nazi government, have banded together to form a group to fight for the truth: the White Rose. Risking everything to print and distribute leaflets calling for Germans to rise up against the evil permeating their country, the White Rose treads a knife’s edge of discovery by the Gestapo.

Annalise Brandt came to the University of Munich to study art, not get involved with conspiracy. The daughter of an SS officer, she’s been brought up to believe in the Führer’s divinely appointed leadership. But the more she comes to know Sophie and her friends, the more she questions the Nazi propaganda.

Soon Annalise joins their double life–students by day, resisters by night. And as the stakes increase, they’re all forced to confront the deadly consequences meted out to any who dare to oppose the Reich.

A gripping testament to courage, The White Rose Resists illuminates the sacrifice and conviction of an unlikely group of revolutionaries who refused to remain silent-no matter the cost.

Author Bio

Amanda Barratt is the ECPA best-selling author of over a dozen novels and novellas, including The White Rose Resists: A Novel of the German Students Who Defied Hitlerand My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a two-time FHL Reader’s Choice Award finalist. She and her family live in northern Michigan. Connect with her at www.facebook.com/amandabarrattauthorand visit her at www.amandabarratt.net.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amandabarrattauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmandaMBarratt

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/White-Rose-Resists-German-Students/dp/0825446481/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+white+rose+resists&qid=1585758487&sr=8-1

Christian Book Distributors link: https://www.christianbook.com/resists-novel-german-students-defied-hitler/amanda-barratt/9780825446481/pd/5446481?event=ESRCN

Baker Book House link: https://bakerbookhouse.com/products/the-white-rose-resists-a-novel-of-the-german-students-who-defied-hitler-9780825446481

Barnes and Noble link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-white-rose-resists-amanda-barratt/1134878782?ean=9780825446481

Meet Leah from Sarah Sundin’s The Land Beneath Us

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Tell us something about where you live.

I recently moved in to a boardinghouse in Tullahoma, Tennessee, where I live with other women who work at the Army’s Camp Forrest. After having lived in an orphanage since I was four, it feels decadent to share a room with only one girl and to have a bed all my own!

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

My name is Leah Jones, but it isn’t really my own. My parents named me Thalia, and I believe I was named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry. When they died and I was sent to the orphanage, my name was shortened to Leah. Jones comes from the couple who adopted me, only to abandon me to another orphanage shortly thereafter. My parents’ last name was long and Greek and sounded something like “Ka-wa-los.” More than anything, I’d like to know what my name was. Maybe then I could find my baby sisters.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?

I work as a librarian at the Army base library at Camp Forrest. Becoming a librarian has been my dream, and I’m thrilled that it’s coming true. I love everything about my work—the books, the soldiers who are discovering the love of reading, and the chance to earn my own way. If only the books were housed in the grand glory they deserve, rather than a bland white frame building.

Who are the special people in your life?

My roommate, Darlene Franklin, is fun—although she doesn’t understand me. But the person who intrigues me most is Private Clay Paxton, who’s training with the Army Rangers. He has a kind heart and a bright mind, and he understands tragedy and loss and fractured families.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

To find my twin baby sisters, Callie and Polly. After our parents died, I was separated from them. But I remember them dearly, and I know our parents would want me to find them. I spend my spare time at the library perusing books. Perhaps one day I’ll find a Greek name and know it’s mine. Perhaps I’ll see a photograph of a city and recognize where I came from. Then perhaps I could find my sisters.

What are you most afraid of?

Never belonging. Never having a family.

Do you have a cherished possession?

I have few possessions, so I cherish each one. With my new job, I was able to buy darling new dresses and suits and shoes to replace the charity barrel outfits from the orphanage. Someday I plan to even buy books of my own!

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

I dream of earning the money to attend library school so I can become a graduate librarian instead of only a circulation librarian. I also dream of being reunited with my sisters and recreating our family. As for love and marriage, I’m too odd to attract a man—although part of me hopes I could someday turn the head of a man like Clay Paxton. But some dreams belong in the realm of imagination alone.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?

My dear friend Rita Sue Bellamy told me, “Sugar, if you want to belong, you have to join.” I may or may not ever find my sisters, but I can choose to belong with the people the Lord has placed in my life. I can also help those—like the children at the orphanage at town—who don’t belong.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

Perhaps it’s my poetic birth name, but I love to write poetry. As I told Clay, “Words make delightful playthings. They cost nothing, they never wear out, and no one can ever take them away from you.”

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Blurb:

In 1943, Private Clay Paxton trains hard with the US Army Rangers at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, determined to do his best in the upcoming Allied invasion of France. With his future stolen by his brothers’ betrayal, Clay has little to live for. Leah Jones works as a librarian at Camp Forrest, longing to rise above her orphanage upbringing and to find the baby sisters she was separated from so long ago. A marriage of convenience binds Clay and Leah together, but will D-day—and a foreboding dream—tear them apart?

About the Author:

Sarah Sundin is a bestselling author of historical novels, including The Land Beneath UsThe Sky Above Usand The Sea Before Us. Her novel The Sea Before Uswon the 2019 Reader’s Choice Award from Faith, Hope, and Love, When Tides Turnand Through Waters Deepwere named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and Through Waters Deepwas a finalist for the 2016 Carol Awardand won the INSPY Award.A mother of three, Sarah lives in California and teaches Sunday school. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups.http://www.sarahsundin.com.

Interview with Jozefien van Rees from Melanie Dobson’s Memories of Glass

Welcome to Novel Pastimes, Jozefien.

Please call me Josie. The other name brings back some hard memories.

Thank you for sharing with us today, Josie. It must be very difficult for you to talk about the past.

I’m glad to be here, especially after all that’s happened. I’m—

We don’t want to give away too much of your story right now. Just a glimpse.

Life is just a glimpse, isn’t it? A few lines to remember the beginning, middle, and end.

We’re glad to learn more than just a few lines about your journey. Could you tell us where you grew up?

In a beautiful village called Giethoorn. Idyllic, really. Do you know where that is?

I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the Netherlands.

We called it Holland back then, but yes, it’s on the east side of the country. Near Kamp Westerbork and the German border. Klaas and my brother, Samuel, and I would play for hours along the canals. The houses in our village were built on little islands, separated by the waterways. We’d have to cross over on bridges or with our canoes or, my personal favorite, swimming. And the flowers—I forget some things, but I could never forget the gardens of Giethoorn.

Now you had a relationship with Klaas . . .

We were friends, nothing more.

But he seemed to think there was more.

I suppose, in hindsight. If only he hadn’t chosen to . . .

That’s part of the ending, isn’t it?

I only want readers to forgive him. They didn’t know him like I did.

Did he know you were helping the Dutch resistance during the war?

I’m not certain when he found out, but I don’t think he knew when I was delivering money. Only when Samuel and I started to help the children.

You lost a lot as a result of your choice to help those kids.

I only wish I could have rescued more. We had no idea at the beginning of the war where the Jewish children were taken when they left Amsterdam. When we found out, we had no choice except to help.

You were a hero.

I was terrified! We all were. None of us thought of ourselves as heroes, but God’s call was quite clear on our lives.

Do you have any regrets?

I don’t think about regrets anymore. Once Samuel and I and all the others stepped into the horror, we had to press right through it. I don’t want to forget what happened, but I want to embrace all that is good now, not focus on what I should have done so long ago.

I can understand that. How do you recommend that our readers remember the Holocaust?

The Dutch lost more than a hundred thousand of their Jewish citizens during World War II. It’s impossible to remember all the names, but I pray we can honor their collective legacy by remembering their stories.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of nineteen historical romance, suspense, and time-slip novels, including Hidden Among the StarsCatching the WindChateau of Secrets, and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Four of her novels have won Carol Awards, Catching the Wind won the Audie Award for inspirational fiction, 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. After moving numerous times with work, the Dobson family has settled near Portland, Oregon, and they love to hike and camp in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and along the Pacific Coast. Melanie also enjoys exploring ghost towns and abandoned homes, helping care for kids in her community, and reading stories with her girls.

Visit Melanie online at www.melaniedobson.com.

Interview with Victoria from Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

Victoria, thank you for sitting down to this interview.  Since you are in constant danger, I promise I will not publish this until after the war. I hope we can meet up again if you survive the war. It is very brave of you and your four counterparts to be willing to be sent by the OSS into Nazi occupied Paris. Dragonfly is an interesting code name for the group since they are almost impossible to snare and have no blind spots with the ability to escape.Collectively each of you are smart, capable, innovative, honest, resourceful, and of course you are all loyal patriots.

Elise Cooper: How would you describe yourself?

Victoria Grayson: “Put-offing” because of my natural reserve and the assumption that outwardly beautiful people of wealth and education are unapproachable.  To my great regret, I do not possess the nature by which to convince them otherwise. 

EC: Why the code name Liverwort?

VG: It’s a plant that people do not give just due because of its ugliness. It is similar to how beautiful people are often denied appreciation for their inner qualities because of being blinded by outward appearances.

EC: Do you consider yourself a non-conformist?

VG: No. I would consider myself a traditionalist.

EC: Why did you take up the hobby of fencing?

VG: Because of a natural skill and my attraction to the grace, discipline, and civility of the sport.

EC: Did you ever think your beauty can be used to your advantage?

VG: Of course! 

EC: Did you ever truly love someone?

VG: Ralph DuPont, my fiancé who was MIA, with all my heart.

EC: Besides wanting to find your fiancé was there another reason you joined the OSS?

VG: I wouldn’t have gone to France had it not been for my fiancé, so I doubt that I would have joined the OSS.  I would have sought another way to serve my country to do my part as my fiancé and brother were doing theirs. 

EC: Do you think good people can be caught up doing bad things?

VG: Yes.  I’d like to think that the Nazi SS Colonel Albrecht was essentially a good man misled beyond escape by a corrupt leader he believed in.  Lots of people make bad choices for what they believe to be the right reasons, but eventually, we pay for those mistakes.  

EC: Do you think Colonel Derrick Albrecht was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

VG: Oh no, because Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had dual personalities resulting from some erratic brain disorder.  Colonel Albrecht was a rational man in control of his thoughts and actions.  His deeds were deliberate and calculated, not generated by dysfunctional urges.

EC: What happened in your youth?-Has it influenced you?

VG: I had a perfect childhood, not only because it was one of great privilege but because I was loved by my family.  There was, however, the “Grayson code” that my brother and I were expected to live up to, a set of principles.  We were to live with the honor and courage set forth by our ancestors.  Sometimes that type of set rules results in a rigid exterior which perhaps explains mine.

EC: What did you learn about the French culture?

VG: That is a difficult question to answer since I was only in Paris, at a time when the pleasures, gaiety, and delight thought of as part of French culture had been snuffed by the German occupation.  The French could not “be themselves.”  Their city has become dark. 

EC: Of your other four co-patriots who did you feel closest to?

VG: Well, of course, being a woman, I was closest to Bridgette who became the sister I never had. I adored her.  But the boys . . . such fine men.  Who could not love them, treasure their goodness and kindness, enjoy their humor and fun-loving natures.  As we came to know one another, I was protective of them as if they were my siblings. 

EC: If you could make a wish what would it be?

VG: That the world would learn to live in peace, that the money to wage war and outfit armies would be converted to feed the hungry, care for the sick and elderly and poor, provide shelter for the homeless, and educate people to love thy neighbor.  Think what a wonderful world that would be.

EC: Do you still have hopes and dreams or do you consider yourself a cynic?

VG: I certainly do not consider myself a cynic.  Cynics are people who are ungrateful for the blessings they have, especially the blessing of living in the United States.  Living in Paris and seeing what I have seen, has made me grateful that I am an American.

THANK YOU!!

Photo: Marie Langmore_Langmore Photography.

Leila Meacham is a writer and former teacher who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She is the author of the bestselling novels Roses, Tumbleweeds, Somerset, and Titans.  She started her writing career in her 60s, publishing her bestseller “Roses” at 70.

Meet Madeleine from Wolves at Our Door by Soren Paul Petrek

We’re thrilled to be talking to Madeleine Toche from Soren Paul Petrek’s Wolves at Our Door.  It is a pleasure to have her with us today!

Thank you for your interview, Madeleine.   How old are you and what do you do for a living?

I’m 22 years old and I am an agent for the British Special Operations Executive.  I am French and therefore work under cover in my home country. I target high ranking Nazi Gestapo and SS officers and I kill them.  I may be called an assassin, but like my deceased brother, I am a soldier.  If captured, I would be shot like so many of my brothers and sisters in the French military and Resistance.

Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features?

Like my mother, I’m considered attractive with dark features and dark brown eyes.  My heritage is a mixture of Algerian and French Provencal. I love to wear my hair long.  It’s so curly that I can’t do much with it anyway.

What would I love the most about you?

If you’re my friend, I will do anything for you.  I am a loving and loyal person.

What would I hate the most about you?

I can come across as cold. It takes me a while to warm up to new people.  I am also stubborn.

Where do you go when you are angry?

To a dark place inside me. I first experienced it when I was raped by a Nazi SS officer.  I waited for the right time and killed him.

What makes you laugh out loud?

Simple things.  My family runs a restaurant, nothing fancy but good food and local wine.  When my brother and I were young we begged our parents to let us keep a stray dog. To our surprise they agreed, but the dog jumped on the counter in the kitchen and stole scraps.  Eventually, he got so fat he couldn’t jump up to steal food anymore.  I think my father expected that to happen.  I can still see his face watching our dog try.  That silly grin makes me laugh out loud.

What is in your refrigerator right now?

I like to work with fresh meats and produce.  The best dishes are simple ones.  I always have onions and garlic, tomatoes and stock.  We eat what we serve at our restaurant and grow our own herbs.  I grew up by the sea, fish is essential.

What is your most treasured possession?

The crucifix that hung around my brother, Yves neck when he was killed during the Nazi invasion of France.

What is your greatest fear?

The death and torture of people that I love.

What is the trait you most not like about yourself?

That killing has become so easy for me.  I’m not the same person that I was.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Yes, he provides a balance between my light and dark sides.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

A picnic in our back garden, with family friends and a bit of shade from the fierce Provencal sun.

What are three must haves when shopping at the grocery store?

Wine, cheese and fresh baguettes.

I’m opening up your cabinet.  What foods do I see?

I like to pickle things from our garden.  I love dill pickles and beets.  I could eat them all day.

If you could change one physical thing about yourself, what would that be?

I’m petite.  I think that I’d like to be an inch or two taller.

Are you a loner or do you prefer to surround yourself with friends?

I’ve spent so much time alone that I treasure being among the people I love.

Who is your best friend?

She was Gabrielle. She and her toddler, Antoinette were burned alive by the Nazi SS during the mass murder of civilians at the village of Oradour-sur-Glane.

Do you have children?

Not now, but I love children. Before I became an assassin, I helped Jewish children escape from the Nazis as part of a local Resistance group.

What is your favorite weather?

Blue skies at the beach with a cooling breeze.

What’s your idea of a perfect meal?

Daube, a simple French beef stew, a hearty burgundy, and a crisp salad to finish.  I’d sneak in a big piece of chocolate torte too.

Someone is secretly in love with you.  Who is it and how do you feel about that?

Men look at me all of the time as a sex object.  The real me might terrify them.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to stay and grow old at Chex Toche, our family restaurant.  It’s been open for more than two-hundred years.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wedding ring. It is very expensive and a gift from my husband’s father, a feared gangster who runs the London docks.  He refused to allow his son to follow in his footsteps.

Do you like to cook? If so, what is your favorite thing to cook?

I am a professional cook. Anything lamb is a treat and so easy to prepare.

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

My mission is so dangerous that I expect to die every day.  In preparation I would destroy the largest Nazi headquarters that I could locate.  Nazis are evil.  Never forget that.

Soren Petrek is a practicing criminal trial attorney, admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1991.  Married with two adult children, Soren continues to live and work in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

Educated in the U.S., England and France Soren sat his O-level examinations at the Heathland School in Hounslow, London in 1981.  His undergraduate degree in Forestry is from the University of Minnesota, 1986.  His law degree is from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota 1991.

Soren’s novel, Cold Lonely Couragewon Fade In Magazine’s2009 Award for Fiction.  Fade Inwas voted the nation’s favorite movie magazine by the Washington Postand the L.A. Timesin 2011 and 2012.

The French edition of Cold Lonely CourageCourage was published January 2019, by Encre Rouge Editions, distributed by Hachette Livre in 60 countries.  Soren’s contemporary novel,Tim will be released along with the rest of the books in the Madeleine Toche series of historical thrillers.

His latest book is the historical action adventure novel, Wolves at Our Door. Website: https://www.sorenpetrek.com/

Interview with Nessie MacDonald from Recipe for a Husband by Anne Greene

Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Nessie. What is something important about yourself you would like to share?

 I have New England grit, and do what must be done. I decide against needing love in marriage. I must be pragmatic. Since my father’s recent death, I need a man to do the heavy work maintaining the lighthouse, especially since this is 1940, and the government tasked lighthouse keepers to patrol our Bar Harbor, Maine shores for German spies secretly landing.

 I hear you’re in quite a predicament and I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. What are you going to do to find extra help at the lighthouse this year?

With the eligible men my age signing up to join the war effort, and myself overwhelmed with work, I felt I had only one option. I advertised for a husband in the local Bar Harbor paper. I plan to prepare a special meal for each man who answers my ad. I realize most men my age have either been drafted or have enlisted to serve in the war effort. Of those men left, I shall choose the strongest one with the least drawbacks.

Tell us about the strange heirloom cookbook you found. What is the most interesting thing about it?

I’ve lived in the house attached to the lighthouse all my life. But one day, while cleaning the lighthouse windows—there are one hundred stairs to the light at the top and each bend in the circular staircase has a window—I discovered a leather-bound cookbook. I’ve cleaned those windows many times and never seen this lovely heirloom, Lady Jane’s New England Cookbook. Besides being filled with delightful, authentic New England recipes, this cookbook contains a sage saying and a Bible verse that relates to each recipe. I discover how amazing that each saying and Bible verse relates to each man for whom I make the recipe. For instance, one talks about a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The ulterior motive for each man wanting to marry me.

That sounds like some cookbook! I heard you have a “guest,” an injured and stranded sailor. Who is he and what is he like?

 What can I say about Kyle? I, at the risk of my own life, dragged the ship-wrecked Australian from the sea with a broken leg. He became the torment of my life.

He lies in my small kitchen as I cook and serve dinners to the prospective husbands who answer my ads. He refuses to keep his mouth shut about each man who applies. He points out their flaws. He prods me to realize that any man who answers an ad like mine islooking for a sugar-mama and an easy life. He uses Lady Jane’s New England Cookbook to point out why each man is unsuitable to become my husband.

I do trust Lady Jane’s advice. The mysterious cookbook seems to know exactly what each applicant wants.

 Do you think he would be right for the job of husband by Thanksgiving? Why or why not?

With his undeniable great appearance, his sense of humor, and his being the first Christian man I’ve ever met, he is way too attractive for a woman looking for a husband. He’s strong enough to do any job on and around the lighthouse.

If he were not responsible for his parents and the upkeep and production of his Sheep Station in Perth, Australia, he would make the perfect husband. But I had to cross him off my prospective husband list immediately. So, he lies in my kitchen and jokes about each man who applies to be the future lighthouse keeper.

How do the two of you get along?

 If Kyle would stop baiting the men who come to my dinners, we would do well together. But he does torment me with how much more suited he would be as a husband than all the men who answer my ads. I can’t help comparing what I image his kisses might be with the few actual kisses I receive. And the idea of being snuggled in his arms sends me into a heat wave. Yes, we get along. I enjoy his company, his banter, and what help he can give while confined to his cot with his broken leg in my kitchen.

What will you do if your scheme to find a husband doesn’t work out?

My scheme must work. There is no plan B.

Well, then I hope it works out for you, Nessie. Thank you for being my guest.

About the Author: 

Anne Greene loves writing about alpha heroes who aren’t afraid to fall on their knees in prayer, and about gutsy heroines. Her Women of Courage series spotlights heroic women of World War II, first book, ANGEL WITH STEEL WINGSHer Holly Garden private investigating serie sblasts off with RED IS FOR ROOKIE. Enjoy her award-winning Scottish historical romances, MASQUERADE MARRIAGEand MARRIAGE BY ARRANGEMENT. Anne hopes her stories transport you to awesome new worlds and touch your heart.

Her home is in the quaint antiquing town of McKinney, Texas, just a few miles north of Dallas. Her husband is a retired Colonel, Army Special Forces. Her little gold and white Shih Tzu, Lily Valentine, shares her writing space, curled at her feet. She has four beautiful, talented children, and eight grandchildren who keep her on her toes and running.

Connect with her here:

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Book Review: Waltz With Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

51teoT5RTyLAs Hitler and his Nazis march across Europe…

The splendors of Detroit’s ballrooms spin Esther (McConnell) Meir around like a princess in a fairy tale Here she meets junior engineer Eric Erhardt. But will Eric abandon his playboy ways for Esther?

When war comes to America’s shores, Esther questions whether she has the grit to carry on the McConnell legacy. Meanwhile, Eric comes face to face with death when he’s drafted into the Army and shipped to fight in Italy.

Once again, war separates a McConnell woman from the man she loves as the Destiny saga reaches a page-turning conclusion.

Award-winning historical fiction author Catherine Ulrich Brakefield weaves fiction with real-life events to create this inspirational fourth book of the Destiny series.

My Review:

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s Waltz with Destiny is the crown jewel of the Destiny series!
Brakefield brings 1940s Detroit to life, along with the WWII battlefields of Italy.

Esther Meier, daughter of Ruby (McConnell) Meier, has a legacy of faith to live up to and an unsure future with war looming and her annoying attraction to a man who seems to flirt with every girl who glances sideways at him.

Eric Erhardt is studying to be an engineer but also wants to win his father’s approval. Handsome and talented, he can’t see it in himself. When he meets Esther at the Vanity Ballroom, he finds there’s something different about her with her faith and the way she conducts herself. She captures his heart like no other girl. Though love grows between them, both are afraid to admit it and commit themselves to the relationship, especially with the war in full swing.

Brakefield has outdone herself in bringing to life battles of WWII as seen through Eric’s eyes: the angst, fear, deprivation, bravery, death, and injury that surrounded the men of the United States Army. It’s a good read to remind us of the sacrifices of those that have gone before us that have maintained our freedom at sobering cost, along with God’s grace and answered prayer.

Yet Esther is never far from Eric’s thoughts while he is away. And while she is faithful to write encouraging words to him she wonders … should she wait for him? It’s worth reading to find out! You won’t want to put this one down!

Character Interview with Sophia Kumiega from The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

:

Thank you for agreeing to answer our questions, Mrs. Kumiega. As I submit these questions to you it is August 1939, and we in America know that tension is mounting in Poland and across Europe as Adolf Hitler threatens one country after another.  Do you mind if I use your Christian name? Sophia, I understand that you’re British. Are you planning to return to England before things get worse? Do you believe Germany will invade?  

When your questions first came, I still held out hope for Poland. Surely someone would stop Hitler. Surely Germany would come to its senses. But neither has happened. Last week, the German army plowed across Polish borders. I expected any moment that England and France would declare war on Germany and fly to our aid as promised. But that hasn’t happened, and this week bombs began falling in a blitzkrieg on Warsaw. To keep my sanity and to provide a record of these early days of invasion, I’m writing my responses to your questions from a half-exploded room inside the public library where I work, though I don’t know how or when I’ll be able to mail this to you. I can’t imagine a way out of Poland now or how I’d ever get to England, British by birth or not.

Your husband is in the Polish military, is he not? Is he on alert?

Yes, Janek is a pilot. His squadron was deployed months ago in anticipation of German invasion. I know this sounds unpatriotic and disloyal, but the truth is that Polish planes are antiquated compared to Germany’s modern machines of warfare. Our pilots fight valiantly, but what can proverbial bows and arrows do against tanks? There’s already talk of Poland’s retreat and that our military may regroup in Romania to launch a counterattack. I’ve no idea if Janek is alive, how he’ll be able to get word to me, or what will happen next. Sometimes I feel as if my insides will burst through my skin. Before, being a military wife sounded so fine. Now it’s simply terrifying, and I wonder if our child will ever know their father.

Poland is a world apart from England. What do you think of it?

Poland is beautiful—a bounteous, fertile land that excels in music and poetry and great literature. I’ve often teased Janek that it is the “old-world land of flowers and finger kissing.” Fine manners and courtly behavior are still prized here. But now, with the war and our best and bravest gone to fight, I have no idea what will become of this culture. Hitler’s attitude toward Poles is that they don’t count—that they’re inferior to Germans, who, under Mr. Hitler, consider themselves a superior race. What that will mean for Poland I can’t tell, but I do fear—especially for the many Jewish citizens here, knowing what Jewish people have endured at the hands of the Nazis in Germany. 

Do you and your husband expect to raise a family in Poland?

I shake my head at how much has changed in these few short weeks and how little we know of the future. When Janek left, I was pregnant. We held such hope. I’ve lost two babies in the few years we’ve been married and desperately hope I will carry this child full-term. We had every expectation of living our lives out in Poland. That has long been our deepest desire.

What will you do if you are unable to leave Poland and return to England?

What would youdo? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound rude. Like anyone, I’ll do what I must. If we are fully, truly occupied by the Germans for the duration of the war, there will be resistance and rescue work. I’ve already heard it spoken of in hushed whispers between the library stacks—the need for secret rooms, hiding places, ways to stash food and water and develop escape routes for those at risk, and partisans to fight. There will be—there already are—orphans who need taking in, families in desperate straits now that their homes have been blown to bits. We’ve no running water or electricity. I’ll do whatever I can—for as long as I can. I’ll do everything possible to protect my unborn child, but it’s all so uncertain. How can we tell when we’ll be hit by a bomb or a stray piece of shrapnel, or be strafed in the street by a low-flying plane? I want my life to count for something, for someone, for more than myself.

Do you and your husband have family or friends where you live, people you can turn to during this time of national unrest?

It was through Janek’s godfather, Pan Gadomski, that I obtained my position at the library—a real coup for a woman and a foreigner. I know that I can go to him with every concern. He seems to have unusual connections inside and outside Poland—ones I don’t really understand, but have learned to value and respect. My best and dearest friend is Pan Bukowski, an older Jewish man living in our apartment building. My faith tends to waver, especially since the terrible loss of my babies, but Pan Bukowski constantly reminds me that God can make a way when there seems no way forward—just as He did when parting the Red Sea for the Israelites. The sea ahead and the Egyptians behind—what could they do but look up? In my mind I see him shrug and smile, lifting an eyebrow to make certain I’ve taken his meaning to heart. I remember the words of my friend as I face each day.

If things go badly in Poland, what can we in America do for you?

Pray. Pray that God will make a way where there seems no way. For your own good, my friends, carefully observe the reasons we’ve been overcome so that America can avoid the patterns of Germany’s aggression and/or Poland’s coming capitulation. Know that belief in one’s superiority to others fosters a myth, and that anti-Semitism or any form of hatred is vile and a portent of evil to come. Pray that God gives you the courage to take a stand where one is needed before it’s too late. And, please, don’t forget us. Come to our aid.

Thank you, Sophia Kumiega. We look forward to receiving your answers to our questions and pray that the world will come to its senses in time to avert Hitler’s threatened invasion of Poland.

Note to readers: The crumpled paper of this interview was found in the weeks after V-E Day—Victory in Europe, May 8, 1945—amid the rubble of the Warsaw library where Sophia Kumiega had worked until the war in Poland began. We apologize for its delay in publication.

About the Author

Three-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning and bestselling author Cathy Gohlkewrites novels steeped with inspirational lessons, speaking of world and life events through the lens of history. She champions the battle against oppression, celebrating the freedom found only in Christ. Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children’s and education ministries. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at www.cathygohlke.comand find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks. 

The Medallionby Cathy Gohlke releases in June

ISBN: 978-1-4964-2966-7 | Hardcover: $24.99

ISBN: 978-1-4964-2967-4 | Softcover: $15.99

400 Pages

June 2019

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