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. 

Meet Violet Lindstrom from Sarah Sundin’s The Sky Above Us

The Sky Above UsName: Violet Lindstrom

Siblings: Alma, Karl, and Nels

Places lived: I was born and raised in Salina, Kansas, but now I’m living on a US air base in Leiston, England. Quite a change for this homebody.

Jobs: I’m the director of the Red Cross Aeroclub at Leiston Army Airfield, home of the US 357th Fighter Group. I organize refreshments and activities for the men, and make sure the club is a homey refuge from the war.

Friends: My best friend is Kitty Kelly, my fellow Red Cross worker. I love her perkiness and high spirits. I’m trying to make friends with pilot Adler Paxton—I find him so intriguing, and I think he needs a friend.

Enemies: I can’t think of any, but Rufus Tate, my Red Cross field director, is making my life rather miserable.

Dating, marriage: I haven’t dated much since Dennis Reeves broke his promise to me and I broke our engagement. I’d love to marry someday. Adler Paxton certainly appeals to me—he’s so chivalrous and mysterious—but he keeps himself at a distance.

Children: Someday! I adore children. My favorite part of my job is arranging activities for our American airmen and the local British children—parties and crafts and baseball.

What person do you most admire? Without a doubt, my great-aunt Violet, my namesake. She’s a missionary in Kenya, and I long to follow in her footsteps.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? With World War II raging, I can’t become a missionary overseas as I’ve always planned. In the meantime, I’m doing the best I can and serving overseas with the Red Cross.

How are you viewed by others? I hope others see me as compassionate and hardworking. Some see me as a goody-goody, but I don’t mind.

Physical appearance: The first thing people notice about me is my height—I’m six feet tall.

Eyes: Blue

Hair: Blonde

Voice: Awful—we Lindstroms all sing off-key.

Right- or left-handed? Right

Strongest/weakest character traits: My greatest strengths are compassion, diligence, and loyalty. My weakest traits—I’m beginning to see I can be self-righteous and judgmental. I’m praying the Lord will help me with that.

How much self-control do you have? Very good.

Fears: My greatest fear is that I’ll fail the Lord. Deep down, I also fear I won’t like being a missionary. Being away from my family here in England has made me so homesick. How will I adjust to living overseas for life?

Collections, talents: I’m very athletic—I run fast and I’m good at baseball, but I’ve never pursued sports.

What people like best about you: They like my enthusiasm and dedication.

Food, drink: I’ve never been a fussy eater, but I do miss my mother’s cooking.

Books: I don’t tell many people, but I love Western novels, especially Zane Grey. One of my favorite parts of this job is running the library in the Aeroclub.

Best way to spend a weekend: Working on an air base in the middle of a war means no weekends. The flyboys work almost every day, and so do I. But I don’t mind. I’ve come to enjoy my work.

What would a great gift for you be? Adler Paxton gave me the best gift ever—he introduced me to a movie star from my favorite Westerns.

When are you happy? When I’m with my family and friends. When I’m doing good work that benefits people and serves the Lord.

What makes you angry? When people show disdain for what is good and right, and when they hurt others.

What makes you sad? When children are lonely or suffering.

What makes you laugh? Children, my family, my friends. The airmen can be very funny, and I’m learning to enjoy their company.

Hopes and dreams: I dream of becoming a missionary overseas, although I’m beginning to wonder if that’s the best choice for me—and even if it’s what the Lord actually wants. I do know I want to serve him somehow.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I’m afraid it happens in this story. I hurt the man I love and see a horrible sin festering in my soul.

Greatest success: I’m so pleased with how the Aeroclub turned out. Kitty and I were in over our heads when we arrived, but we’ve managed to create a club that’s welcoming and fun.

Biggest trauma: When Dennis Reeves broke his promise to me and I had to end our engagement. The mission board refused to send me overseas as a single woman. It’s painful to find your lifelong dream destroyed.

What do you care about most in the world? Children. I loved my time teaching third grade, even though I was reeling from my lost dream. I love how children are so open-hearted, and I love helping them understand a new concept.

Do you have a secret? I’m so homesick in England, away from my family. For someone who’s always wanted to live overseas, this is quite unsettling.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? Adler Paxton intrigues me. He’s so chivalrous and energetic and bright, and we share a love of Westerns. His Texas accent certainly helps! He’s also so mysterious—I sense deep hurt in him that draws me. If only I could help him.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? Adler’s mysteriousness also means he pushes me away, as if he’s protecting that wound.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: I was horrified when that awful Willard Riggs grabbed me and kissed me on the pier in New York when we were boarding the Queen Elizabethto sail to England. Thank goodness Adler, my cowboy hero, saved the day!

Burdened by his past, Lt. Adler Paxton ships to England with the US 357th Fighter Group. Determined to become an ace pilot, Adler battles the German Luftwaffe as the Allies struggle for control of the air before D-day. Violet Lindstrom wants to be a missionary, but for now she serves in the American Red Cross, where she arranges entertainment and refreshments for the men of the 357thin the Aeroclub. Drawn to the mysterious Adler, she enlists his help with her programs for local children. Adler finds his defenses crumbling. But D-day draws near. And secrets can’t stay buried forever.

Sarah Sundin is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical novels, including The Sky Above Usand The Sea Before Us. Her novels When Tides Turnand Through Waters Deepwere named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. Please visit her at www.sarahsundin.com.

Review: Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

978-1-4964-1732-9In most dual-time period novels I prefer the historical line more than the contemporary one. In Melanie Dobson’s new novel, Hidden Among the Stars, I was deeply immersed in both. In the contemporary line we meet Callie, a bookstore owner who reads stories to children and is comfortable living in the secluded nest of Mount Vernon, Ohio. This appealed to me because I live nearby. The author has definitely been here as everything she described was completely accurate from the hiking trail to the Ohio State campus. That was a bonus, however, because the world of children’s stories and the compelling backstory of Callie and her sister and their mysterious but loving mentor Charlotte kept me turning pages.

Likewise the stories of Annika and the boy she admires Max and the girl he longs to marry Luzia set in Austria at the onset of WWII was so vividly drawn and compelling that I could not say which storyline I preferred.

The stories are tied together at the beginning. We know what the mystery is about: A bookstore owner discovers a cryptic list in an old book and finds herself linked to the story of a mysterious Austrian castle, where priceless treasures were hidden in the early days of WWII. We, along with Callie, suspect that Charlotte, who spent time in an orphanage in France during the war, has some connection to this old book that no one yet understands, not even Charlotte. All the characters, even Josh the man that Callie finds herself drawn to, have pasts that make it hard for them to trust and love again, and that makes a reader root for them all.

The faith element is clear in this novel and the characters cling to the hope that Jesus brings into their lives. If I have any complaint, it’s very slight. I thought the first time Josh tells Callie about his faith it seemed more like a sermon than a conversation. However, when it comes up later it flows naturally within the story. And when you are dealing with personal loss (contemporary) and persecution of the Jews (historical) clinging to one’s faith is expected. The novel did not come off preachy in my opinion.

In the Author’s Note, Melanie explains that she indeed has been to the places she writes about. From a bookstore in a small Ohio town to a castle beside a lake in Austria, these places spoke to her and they certainly spoke to me as I read the story, not just as interesting locations, but as places where common people lived, loved, and did the best they could to overcome obstacles and evil. I loved this book. I think you will too!

pic_FULL_Dobson_MelanieMelanie Dobson is the award-winning author of more than fifteen historical romance, suspense, and time-slip novels, including Catching the Wind and Chateau of Secrets. Three of her novels have won Carol Awards, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie loves to explore old cemeteries and ghost towns, hike in the mountains, and play board games with her family. She lives near Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Jon, and two daughters.

An advance copy of Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of review without any requirements. I have given my honest opinion.

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Cindy Thomson is the author of eight books, including her newest novel, Enya’s Son, third in the Daughters of Ireland series based on ancient legends. Being a genealogy enthusiast, she has also written articles for Internet Genealogyand Your Genealogy Today magazines, and children’s short stories for Clubhouse Magazine. She has also co-authored a baseball biography. Most everything she writes reflects her belief that history has stories to teach. Cindy and her husband live in central Ohio near their three grown sons and their families, and can be found online at www.cindyswriting.com, on Facebook www.facebook.com/cindyswritingand on Twitter: @cindyswriting.

 

 

Meet Second Officer Dorothy Fairfax from Sarah Sundin’s The Sea Before Us

Today on PASTimes we welcome a character from the latest book by Sarah Sundin!

The Sea Before Us-Book CoverName: Second Officer Dorothy Fairfax

Parents: Reginald and Margaret Fairfax, but my mother was killed in the London Blitz in 1940.

Siblings: My older brothers, Arthur and Gilbert, both served in the Royal Navy and they both died serving the crown.

Places lived: I’ve lived in London all my life.

Jobs: I’m proud to serve as an officer in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. As a “Wren,” I work in Allied Naval Headquarters in London, where I use civilian snapshots and reconnaissance photos to help create maps and diagrams for the upcoming Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

Friends: I simply adore my friends! Gwen Hamilton and Muriel Shaw serve in the Wrens with me, and my dear friend Johanna Katin works for my father.

Enemies: She isn’t quite an enemy, but I’m not fond of my commander, First Officer Julia Bliss-Baldwin. And she certainly isn’t fond of me.

Dating, marriage: The man I’ve adored since I was a schoolgirl is serving in my command, Lt. Cdr. Lawrence Eaton. I’m finally turning his head. However, a certain American naval officer, Lt. Wyatt Paxton, is making me reconsider my lifelong dream.

Do you like yourself? Not particularly. I’m too loud and enthusiastic and boisterous, and I’m cursed with freckles.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I dearly long to be suave and sophisticated, the kind of woman Lawrence Eaton could love. But most of all, I wish I could change my father’s life. He is so melancholy that he barely eats or goes to his office. And he never looks at me if he can help it.

Strongest/weakest character traits: My friends say I’m very loyal and caring, and they enjoy my daredevil spirit. However, I’m also too dramatic and boisterous, simply not proper for an English lady.

How much self-control do you have? Practically none. I’m far too impulsive.

Fears: Heights and flying.

Collections, talents: I do enjoy drawing and painting. I’m quite an amateur, but it relaxes me. Also, my artistic skill helps me create maps and diagrams for the Allies.

Food, drink: All my life I’ve had a horrid sweet-tooth. Wartime rationing has allowed me to have a trim figure for the first time.

Best way to spend a weekend: Going out with my friends, dancing, seeing the sights in London, and walking Bonnie Prince Charlie, my Scottish terrier.

What would a great gift for you be? More oil paints! They can’t be found with the war on, and I’ve had to resort to watercolors, which are too wispy and ethereal for my taste now.

When are you happy? When I’m with my friends.

What makes you angry? Very little.

What makes you sad? When others are sad, especially my father. The only person who can lift his spirits now is Wyatt.

What makes you laugh? So much. I laugh far too often for a proper lady.

Hopes and dreams: I’ve always dreamed that Lawrence would fall in love with me. Wyatt is becoming a dear friend, but how could I fall in love with an American and leave my father?

Biggest trauma: The deaths of my mother and brothers, all within one year.

What do you care about most in the world? Doing my part to bring this beastly war to an end.

Do you have a secret? That my father doesn’t love me. He can’t bear the sight of me, because I only remind him that he’s lost all the people he did love. However, I’m all he has left and I love him, so I’ll fight for him.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? Wyatt has become a dear friend. He’s kind and honest, and he does the right thing even when it hurt. He’s humble enough to admit his sins and dedicated enough to make amends. And I enjoy his company immensely.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? Wyatt is always present, and my father prefers him over Lawrence. At first I barely noticed Wyatt, but the more I do notice him, the more attractive he becomes. That simply won’t do. I need to marry an exciting man, and Wyatt is the quiet sort.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: It happens in this story, when my desire to win Lawrence’s heart clashes with my fear of flying. Simply dreadful.

 

About the book:

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, who pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France—including those of her family’s summer home—in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt turns into naval bombardment plans for D-day.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn into something more. But both of them have too much to lose to give in to love . . .

 

Sundin_SarahSarah Sundin is the best-selling author of ten historical novels, including The Sea Before Us. Her novels 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, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups.Please visit her at http://www.sarahsundin.com.

Meet Ruth Brown from Under Fire by Linda Shenton Matchett

Small Under Fire Cover

Journalist Ruth Brown’s sister Jane is pronounced dead after a boating accident in April 1942. Because Jane’s body is missing, Ruth is convinced her sister is still alive and follows clues to war-torn London. By the time she uncovers the truth about Jane’s disappearance, she has stumbled on black marketers, resistance fighters and the IRA – all of whom may want her dead for what she has discovered.

We’re excited to be sitting down today with Ruth Brown. It’s such a pleasure to meet you and hear about you and your book, Under Fire.

Quick Facts:

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Auburn

Right or left-handed: Right

Parents: Mel and Deborah Brown

Siblings: Younger sister Jane

Younger Brother Chip

Favorite Color:  Turquoise

Favorite Actor: William Powell, I love his sassiness

Hobbies: Kayaking, Hiking, Snow shoeing.

Home town: Hazelton Falls, NH

Job: Reporter for The Gazette

Novel PASTimes: Tell us about your best friend, and what would she say about you?

Ruth: My very best friend is Varis Gladstone. We met in the nursery at church when we were just babies! I don’t know what I’d do without her. She’s no bigger than a minute and really sweet, but strong-willed, and she has amazing faith. She’s beautiful, too and a real fashion plate. (Looks off into space). What would Varis say about me? Hmmm. She accepts me as I am, but she would probably say that I’m too curious and impetuous for my own good. She’s had to help me out of more than a few scrapes. (Laughs) But isn’t that what friends are for?

Novel PASTimes: What person do you most admire?

Ruth: That’s an easy one-Nellie Bly. No matter what it took, she got to the bottom of the story. Did you know that she went undercover in an insane asylum as a mental patient to unearth the fact that conditions were appalling? I want to be just like her-reporting the truth and bringing news to the public.

Novel PASTimes: What makes you happy?

Ruth: Being outside. Nothing brings me greater joy than to be in the woods or on the lake under a crystal clear blue sky filled with puffy white clouds.

Novel PASTimes: What makes you angry?

Ruth: Injustice and sneakiness are a tie.

Novel PASTimes: What is your greatest accomplishment? Being taken seriously as a journalist. When I first started working for the newspaper, Mr. Isaacs only let me work on the society pages and fluff pieces, but I exposed some corruption in the school board, and when it came time to follow clues about Jane to London, he signed me up with the AP.

Novel PASTimes: Speaking of London, you experienced some terrible things over there. How has that changed you?

Ruth: It has been awful. Bombing raids and the constant fear of invasion creates unending tension which makes it difficult to sleep, so everyone is exhausted. And there is such deprivation. The Land Army is running the farms, but in the city we eat a lot of tinned food. I can’t tell you the last time I saw an orange or an onion. I no longer take my safety or my food for granted. I thank God every day I am still alive and have something to eat. I also live in the moment, because you never know when it’s going to be your last. Relationships also are more precious. (shakes her head) I’ve seen some awful things I will never forget.

Novel PASTimes: You spoke of rationing, and a great number of items are either rationed or not available. What is the one thing you are finding difficult to do without?

Ruth: Fresh vegetables! It is very rural where I live in New Hampshire, and everyone had a garden of some sort. My mom loved to grow flowers and vegetables, and a huge portion of our back yard was a garden even before Victory gardens were the thing to do. Her butter beans were the biggest, sweetest bean I’ve ever eaten. (rubs her stomach). I’m making myself hungry just thinking about them!

Novel PASTimes: You’ve been in England several months now. What is your favorite place?

Ruth: Any of the parks, but Hyde Park is probably my favorite. There are benches along Serpentine Lake, and I can sit and watch the water for hours. It’s very peaceful and somewhat reminiscent of home.

Novel PASTimes: If there was one thing you could change about yourself, what would it be?

Ruth: I wish I could be sweet like Varis. I am a candid person and sometimes that can seem abrasive. But I’m working on changing!

Novel PASTimes: Where would you like to go next with your career?

Ruth: Even though it has been difficult to live in a country devastated by war, I have loved my time in England. It is a beautiful country, and the people are gracious and stalwart. I’d love to stay as a foreign correspondent, although there are rumors that once the war is over there will be a trial, and it would be very good for my career to cover that.

Novel PASTimes: Totally different subject…what traits do you hope your future husband will have?

Ruth: (laughs) Well considering that I’m not in the market for a husband, that’s a tough question. But if I had to pick a couple I’d say that he had to accept that I want to work for a living. I don’t want to stay home as “the little lady.” I want to continue to pursue a career in journalism or writing. And of course he would have to be a believer in Christ. Everything else is gravy!

Novel PASTimes: Thanks for spending time with us today. If you’d like to help solve the mystery of Ruth’s sister’s disappearance, get her story on www.amazon.com /dp/163213408X/ or http://www.electiopublishing.com/index.php/bookstore#!/Under-Fire-Paperback/p/88329129

linda-eLinda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, speaker, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a Trustee for the Wolfeboro Public Library. Active in her church, Linda serves as treasurer, usher, choir member, and Bible study leader.

 

 

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