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:

Website

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Anne’s Writing Updates

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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

Tyndale.com

Meet Abby from Allison Wells’s War-Torn Heart

Tell us a little about your family, Abby.

  • Well, my name is Abby, I’m the second child of Nathan and Grace Walker. I have an older brother, Peter, and then younger than me is Reba, Jake, Eliza, and Gabriel. I’m also close to my Aunt Dottie who doesn’t live too far away. My father is a banker in our little town, and my momma is the best momma there is.

You are close to your brother, Peter, aren’t you?

  • You know, if someone had told me when we were little that he’d be one of my best friends, I would have laughed. But Peter and I became very close as he grew up. I guess that’s what happens when you go through the same thing and have the same morals. Peter has always stood up for me and protected me and I adore him for it. 

You tell people that you want to become a career woman. What do you think you want to do?

  • When I said that I was thinking about maybe being a secretary or something in an office. But after making a wedding cake for someone special, I knew I wanted to learn more about baking. It’s just something I have a knack for, and who doesn’t love a pretty cake?

Tell us about Harvey Nicholas.

  • Oh my. Harvey, well, he’s just the kindest, most amazing man you could ever hope to know outside of my daddy. He loves God, loves his family, he’s very smart, and I’ll tell you, he looks good in a uniform.

What was it like growing up so close to Clemson College?

  • I didn’t think too much of it. It was just always there, down the road. I had a few girlfriends who would go to dances the cadets put on and a few even met husbands that way, but it was never much my scene. I never imagined a Clemson cadet would find me! God definitely had his hand in that.

Tell us about the war.

  • Oh, can I not? That dreadful war. It tore apart the most beautiful family I ever have seen. I’m sure it tore apart many families. And because of that war, I almost lost my Harvey. Both as a casualty of war and as a casualty of Clarice Renard! But you’ll have to trust me on that until you read the story. That’s enough war talk for me.

Okay then, how about PJ?

  • Who wouldn’t love to talk about PJ? Peter Junior, my brother’s sweet baby boy. I was there when that child was born and I will love him his whole life long. Never have you seen a child so loved by his parents and extended family. I know he might grow up a little spoiled given his circumstances, but I pray that God will use this child’s life to glorify Him!

You and your sister-in-law Emmeline go on a road trip, where do you go?

  • We drove across South Carolina to go to Charleston – with PJ in tow! Neither of us had been there or even seen the ocean before, so that was a treat! I’m so glad Emme got to see it, you know? But we weren’t there for a vacation. We were there for some truth digging and confrontation. That Clarice had a scheme up her sleeve, but after talking with Harvey’s Aunt Doris, I knew I had to discover just what was going on.

There is a happily ever after, though, right?

  • Well, you’ll have to read my story to find out the details, but I can say that yes – my own story ends happily. It was not how I ever expected God to write my life, but I put my trust Him and He has never failed me once.

Allison Wells is a Southern wife, mother, and writer. She became a Christian at the age of sixteen. She’s a graduate of Clemson University and she still lives close enough to hear football games on Saturdays. She love to read, hates the snow, prefers the mountains to the beach, loves the color turquoise and she will belt out any 80s song from the top of her lungs. Allison’s motto is “Life is short, eat the Oreos.” She thanks the Lord for her husband and four children daily.

Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War

By Susan Meissner

Berkley, 3/19/19

The story begins in 2010 as Elise, a woman who is aware that Alzheimer’s is stealing her away, flies alone to find her childhood friend whom she just located thanks to a new iPad with internet. Elise and Mariko became friends during WWII at an internment camp, but this story is unlike any WWII novel I’ve read. As I was taken back to 1943, I learned a lot about these camps I never knew, including the fact that they housed German Americans along with Japanese (and even some Italians.) While the camps accommodated families and allowed the residents to continue observing their cultural heritage through foods, activities, and language classes, they were still terribly unfair, especially to the children like Elise and Mariko who were born Americans and knew very little about Japan and Germany.

The way Susan Meissner presented the older Elise and her determination despite the terrible disease she struggled with was expertly done. The mystery of why Mariko and Elise were separated and unable to connect before kept me turning pages. Elise is a character you root for as she had to endure so many relocations to unfamiliar places—and unsafe places her family returns to Germany in the last year of the war—and the questions she inevitably had about who she was and where she belonged. And you will still root for the older Elise as well who married in order to find that sense of belonging and ultimately discovered she had to establish it for herself.

I love historical novels that teach you history, and this one certainly does that. But in my opinion, this is one of the best Meissner novels yet. Highly recommended.

I received an advanced reader copy from the author and publisher for the purpose of review. I have given my honest opinions.

Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; Secrets of  Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Visit Susan at her website: http://susanlmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at www.facebook.com/susan.meissner

Meet Daisy from Valerie Fraser Luesse’s Almost Home

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Today a character from Valerie Fraser Luesse’s newest novel stopped by to introduce herself!

Name: My name’s Daisy Dupree.

Parents: We’re not real close. Mama tried to marry me off again before any grass could grow on my husband’s grave. Can you believe that? And with the war on, all the young men around home are overseas. You shoulda seen some o’ those geezers she brought to my door.

Siblings: I’ve got four brothers. Most of ’em’s a lot older’n me, but I’m close to my brother Mack. He’s in the Navy. Don’t let me forget to drop this letter off at the post office soon as we’re done with this interview.

Places lived: Spent my whole life in the Mississippi Delta till my husband enlisted. Thought I’d lose my mind sittin’ in that farmhouse, wonderin’ what was happenin’ to Charlie over there. So I heard about jobs at an Army plant here in Alabama. That’s what got me to Blackberry Springs.

Jobs: I helped Charlie on our farm till he shipped out. Then I worked in the factory over in Childersburg till . . . well . . . till I got that telegram tellin’ me Charlie was gone.

Friends: If you’d told me a year ago that I’d find the best friends I ever had in Alabama of all places, I woulda said your biscuits ain’t done in the middle. But we’ve got us a regular little sisterhood goin’ here. Anna moved down from Illinois with her husband, Jesse—he works at the plant. Me and Anna’s about the same age, and we hit it off right away. You ever had a friend like that—one that’s completely different from you, but you can finish each other’s sentences? That’s me and Anna. And then there’s Dolly—she owns the boardin’ house where Anna and Jesse live—Dolly and her husband, Si. Dolly Chandler is one of a kind. She looks after all of us, not just her boarders. I don’t even live there, but she mothers me more than my mama did. Don’t tell her I told you, but Dolly lost her boy when he was just a little thing. Breaks her heart to this day. Breaks mine, too. I need to hush about that or I’ll cry, and I HATE to cry in front of anybody. Our other friend is the oddest one of all—Evelyn—an out o’ work college professor from up in Chicago. Can you believe that? An Illinois farm girl, a Chicago professor, an Alabama inn keeper, and this ol’ Delta girl—all the best o’ friends. War’s a funny thing, you know?

Enemies: Ghosts. At least I thought they were my enemies till I found out what they were tryin’ to tell me.

Dating, marriage: This is a touchy subject right now, but I’ll try. See, me and Charlie grew up together—knew each other our whole lives. It was just a natural thing to get married after we played together as kids, went to school together . . . I always loved Charlie, so it was easy to marry him. But now along comes Reed. We’re strangers, really, but Anna says there’s something between us. I just can’t let myself believe that. He’s a war hero, for heaven’s sake. And he looks every bit of it. Got the strangest eyes I’ve ever seen—strange in a beautiful way. And I said that to him the day I met him—you ever heard of anything so stupid? I just blurted it out: “You’ve got the strangest eyes I’ve ever seen.” But he says he likes the way I say what’s on my mind. I’m tryin’ to help him get well. He got hurt real bad over there—and I don’t just mean the leg that got shot up. He got hurt real bad on the inside. Know what I mean?

Children: Me and Charlie didn’t have any.

What person do you most admire? Well, Dolly of course! I’ve never seen anybody with so much love in her heart—and such a longin’ to give it to other people.

Overall outlook on life: I don’t know any more. I was plannin’ to hide myself away here—spend my days sketchin’ on the creek bank. I like to draw—did I tell you that? It’s like I’m waitin’ on a storm to pass—sorta takin’ shelter. But then Reed came along . . . I don’t know. Let’s talk about something else.

Do you like yourself? I haven’t for a long time now because of something I did. But Reed and Anna say that what I did wasn’t wrong. Sure feels wrong.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I wish me and Charlie had seen what was precious and what wasn’t before it was too late.

How are you viewed by others? You’d have to ask them. I just know the people here make me feel like I’m okay the way I am. There’s a real comfort in that.

Physical appearance:

Eyes: They’re green.

Hair: I say it’s mousy brown. Reed says it reminds him of caramel. I wear it short.

Voice: You tell me! You’re the one doin’ the listenin’.

Right- or left-handed? Right—why?

How would you describe yourself? I try to tell the truth, and I try to do my part. I’m pretty curious, which gets me into trouble sometimes. Dolly and them think I’m funny, but I don’t try to be. It just comes out that way.

Characteristics: Heavens to Betsy, girl! I don’t know. I just try to be honest about who I am.

Strongest/weakest character traits: Anna says I’m pretty and don’t know it. I am not pretty. Beauty queens are pretty. I haven’t put on makeup, well, ever. Not much anyway. And since Charlie died, I’ve worn these overalls every single day o’ my life. All that to say, I’m kinda hidin’ out, so I don’t think I’m very brave.

How much self-control do you have? A good bit till you put me in a situation—like church—that reminds me too much o’ Charlie. And then I have to get out o’ there or I’ll have a come-apart.

Fears: I’m afraid I’ll fall in love with Reed and he’ll fall in love with a beauty queen. And I’m scared to death o’ church.

Collections, talents: I don’t collect anything really. But I do love to draw. And people say I’m good at it. So I guess that’s my talent.

What people like best about you: That I say what I think.

Interests and favorites: Me and my brother Mack used play river pirate when we were kids, so you can’t begin to imagine how excited I was to find a diary that turned out to be . .  . Oh, wait. I need to hush. I’ll give too much away.

Food, drink: This is the South, so pretty much everything is good. I guess my favorites are Dolly’s chocolate cake and homemade lemonade, her sweet tea on a real hot day, fried chicken, catfish and hushpuppies, banana pudding, sweet potato casserole, fried peach pies, real creamy grits with lots o’ butter, hot biscuits with sawmill gravy, Delta tamales, chili dogs, collard greens . . . Is that enough?

Books: Catherine’s story of course!

Best way to spend a weekend: You gotta promise not to tell a livin’ soul. You promise? Okay, here goes: Best way to spend a weekend is with Reed. Doesn’t even matter what we’re doin’. But if you repeat that, I’ll swear you’re lyin’.

What would a great gift for you be? Nobody would ever guess this, what with me roamin’ the countryside in overalls, but I’d love to have a string o’ pearls. Don’t even ask me why.

When are you happy? I’m gonna let you guess the answer to that one.

What makes you angry? Anything that hurts the people I care about.

What makes you sad? Goin’ to church and listenin’ to all those old hymns Charlie loved so much.

What makes you laugh? The women at Dolly’s. We have the best time together.

Hopes and dreams: I hope that one day my black cloud goes away—that I feel like it’s okay for me to be happy again.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? Anna and Reed know. I can’t talk about it with anybody else.

Greatest success: Finding the diary.

Biggest trauma: Losing Charlie.

What does you care about most in the world? People—the people I love. Don’t nothin’ else matter.

Do you have a secret? Everybody does.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book?
We’re all on a journey together, but we’re travelin’ for different reasons. And the people at Dolly’s, they’re the best kind—honest and carin’—and funny. We all stick together, but we’re all different, and that’s what makes it interestin’.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book?
I accept ’em for who they are, so I can’t really answer that.

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be:
That’s another one o’ my secrets. Reed knows the answer, so you’ll have to ask him.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: How much time you got?

Haha! I guess we’ll wait on that one!

***

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently the senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.Luesse_Valerie_MAIN

Introducing Ada from Ronald H. Balson’s The Girl From Berlin

Thank you for doing this.  It seems you have experienced a roller coaster ride of guilt, anger, fear, and redemption while having to deal with a treacherous Nazi regime. Because you and your family are Jewish you were deprived of careers/businesses, then property, basic rights, and ultimately, for many of them, their lives. I am sure many times you got a reprise from your music skills. 

Elise Cooper: Why did you want to become a violinist?

Ada Baumgarten:I think it was always a given.  My father was first chair for the Berlin Philharmonic.  On my fifth birthday, he gave me a bench made violin, crafted by a one of Germany’s finest violin makers.  My father taught me well and from then on, my dream was to play next to him in the orchestra.

EC: Do you harbor any hard feelings toward Wilhelm Furtwangler?

AB: None.  Maestro Furtwangler was badly misunderstood and received unjust criticism after the war because he chose to stay in Germany with his orchestra, which had the collateral effect of lending cultural prestige to Hitler and Nazi Germany.  But he was never a Nazi and he abhorred their policies. He stood up to Hitler and did his best to protect his Jewish players, including my father.  In defiance of Goebbels and Hitler, he continued to conduct music from Jewish composers and he featured Jewish soloists.  When my father was arrested during Kristallnacht, it was Furtwangler that contacted me and attempted to make arrangements for his rescue.

EC: What do you think of Rafael Schachter?

AB: He was a remarkable man.  With an old piano, he found in a damp basement, he brought music to prisoners in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.  He gave them pride and a purpose – a way to temporarily escape the dread of their confinement.  He assembled and taught 160 inmates to perform the technically difficult Verdi Requiem by rote memory.  

EC:  Can you tell us about Hitler’s plot?

AB: In June 1944, Hitler devised a fraudulent plot to fool the International Red Cross.  He boasted that Theresienstadt was a Jewish spa and invited them to inspect. The Nazis quickly beautified the camp and when the Red Cross came to inspect, Rafael’s chorus performed the Verdi Requiem.  The prisoners proudly and loudly sang to the Red Cross and the Nazis.  Their secret joy was that the Nazis didn’t understand the words that were sung in Latin.  The inmates were singing words that condemned the Nazis on Judgment Day: “Day of wrath, day of wrath, when the wicked shall be judged!”  Today we call that performance “The Defiant Requiem.”

EC: Did you ever fathom that the German people as a whole would turn their backs on the Jews who were their neighbors, friends, and business partners?

You were overheard saying “Perhaps the most hurtful and inimical result of the campaign as the pervasive acceptance of Nazi policies by German society…while the law did not require our non-Jewish friends to shun us, it became apparent they would no longer stand up for us.” 

AB:In the years preceding the war, there was a much smaller Jewish presence in Italy.  Forty thousand lived in Italy and five hundred thousand in Germany.  Jews were prominent in prewar Germany in several disciplines: the arts, science, finance, medicine.  Many middle-class Germans who had suffered during the severe depression years were resentful.  Most importantly, Germany had Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, a master at controlling the media and public opinion.  As a result, the German people were manipulated into accepting, or ignoring their government’s policy of Jewish persecution.  The Italian people did not harbor such prejudice and hatred.

EC: Do you wish your family had the foresight to get out sooner?

AB:Of course, but it’s a mistake to think that the failure of Jews to leave Europe was a lack of foresight.  In many cases, they were trapped. Where could they go? Immigration visas were tight or non-existent.  Borders were closed.  And if we could leave, where do we resettle?  How do you pick up and leave everything you know?  No one anticipated extermination camps.  In my family’s case, we could have resettled in another city with a new orchestra, but my father was loyal to his conductor.

EC: What was it like for you to have Hitler and Heydrich approach after your playing?

AB:I was young and conflicted.  They were the two most powerful men in Germany and well-known music lovers.  Heydrich was an accomplished violinist.  To receive praise for my artistry was flattering for a teenageer, but I also realized that the compliments were coming from detestable human beings.

EC: What are your feelings for Kurt, your childhood friend who stayed a friend?

AB:I always loved Kurt.  He was a good person.  He never bought into the Nazi ideology.  Like many boys growing up in Germany, he was forced to join the Hitler youth and ultimately the army.  When the chips were on the table, he proved his goodness.

EC: Are you haunted, bitter, and angry for a life stolen from you as well as loved ones?

AB: As I wrote in my memoir, I have no regrets.  I have led a rich and fortunate life.  I played music on the finest stages beside the most gifted musicians.  My family life was warm and satisfying.  I am sad for what happened to my loved ones, but my life was not stolen.

THANK YOU!!

Ronald H. Balson has also written Once We Were Brothers, Saving Sophie, Karolina’s Twins. As an attorney, the demands of his trial practice have taken him into courts across the United States and into international venues. During the early 2000s Ron spent time in Warsaw and southern Poland in connection with a complex telecommunications lawsuit. While in Poland Ron was profoundly moved by the scars and memorials of World War II, which inspired him to write Once We Were Brothers, his first novel. Inspiration for his other novels were provided by his extensive travels to Israel and the Middle East. He also has been inspired by talking with, and meeting Holocaust survivors.