Brynhild had once been close to Erik – until he’d betrayed her, and she’d hoped never to see him again. Now the fiercely independent shieldmaiden needs Erik’s skills to rescue her sister. Striking a truce with the tough, isolated loner they reach a mutually beneficial deal: in return, she’ll help him in his quest to find a wife – by teaching him how to please a woman in bed…!
Lucy Morris has always been obsessed with myths and legends. Her books blend sweeping romance with vivid worldbuilding to whisk you away to another time and place filled with adventure. Expect passion, drama and vibrant characters.
Lucy lives in Essex, UK, with her husband, two children, and two cats. She has a massively sweet tooth and loves Terry’s Chocolate Oranges and Irn-Bru. In her spare time she likes to explore castles with her family, or drink bubbly with her friends.
Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from Paul’s new book, A Turbulent Peace, set in 1919.
We arrived at the junction that led to Avenue Beaucour and paused. Two children were playing with hoops and sticks by a doorway twenty paces from us, but the remainder of the street was deserted. We strolled past staring children to the arched entrance in a plastered and whitewashed wall of about twenty feet in height. The door was old, formed of thick, dark wood panels ribbed with iron straps and a large keyhole that looked as though it had survived several centuries. Adam turned the iron handle. It was locked and we headed off to locate a parallel street to discover what was on the other side of the wall.
The only way to exit Avenue Beaucour was to retrace our steps. It was a short walk to Rue Daru, which ran in the same direction. We stopped at the location, approximating a direct line through to the ancient doorway.
‘Not any old church,’ I replied. ‘It’s Russian Orthodox.’ A faded and paint-blistered wooden board displayed its name – Cathédrale Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky. Even without a sign, it was unmistakably Russian with its colourful domes, golden cross and the icon of a Christ figure above the central arch. ‘Ahhhh.’ An involuntary rush of air escaped my mouth. ‘The name. That’s it.’
‘What do you mean? Whose name?’
‘The name scrawled by Arthur on a piece of paper next to the Rue Gustave Courbet address. It was an abbreviation for church followed by Nevsky – not a misspelling of Chersky, as I thought. This church must be connected in some way to their murder.’
INSERT IMAGE EX08 Cath A Nevsky Paris.jpg
Adam pushed at a small iron gate, and we started down a stone path towards the church entrance. The main door was closed. Adam inclined his head, and I followed him around the side. There was little ageing to the stone, and the church was clearly a relatively recent construction. Its clean vertical lines lent a dominant air with spires reaching above the tops of the buildings on either side. Did the land it occupied stretch back to Avenue Beaucour? We rounded a corner and viewed the wall, about twenty feet high, marking the rear boundary. Surely, the same wall, but I couldn’t see the doorway. The middle part of the bottom half of the wall was blocked by a squat, dilapidated construction of darker stone detached from the body of the church, and sunk into the ground with only small, shuttered windows. Much older than the church itself, I guessed it was probably used for storage.
‘The doorway will be behind this old storehouse,’ I said, pulling Adam’s sleeve to follow me.
There it was. With only a ten-yard gap between the high wall and the building, it could only be seen close up. We retraced our steps to an open space and surveyed the scene. The old, sunken structure was the only one in the grounds with a roof apart from the church itself. Whatever was taken from the cart was likely to have been stored in there. We edged around the wall until we found the door, down a flight of stone steps. I was about to descend and check the lock on the door when Adam caught hold of my arm.
‘Someone is coming.’
Two men were making for us in a manner that suggested they were not pleased. One, wearing long black robes and a white headscarf, was short, slight and bespectacled. The other, at least twice his size and with wild, staring eyes, was brandishing a large cudgel as though impatient for its use. Adam flexed his shoulders and edged forward to meet them. The two men were shouting, threatening. It looked bad. How could we avoid a bloody encounter? Quickly, I pushed past Adam and performed an elaborate curtsey.
I said, ‘Bonjour messieurs, veuillez excuser nos mauvaises manières,’ offering my sweetest, most innocent smile. They stopped, unsure how to react to this unexpected show of contrition. I continued, ‘My boss here is an architect from America. He is most interested in the beauty of your Cathedral and wishes to incorporate some of its features into a commission he has in Texas. I realise we should have sought your permission before entering these grounds, but – he is American, doesn’t speak French and has rather rough manners. Our humble apologies for any offence we may have caused.’
The clergyman held out his arm to halt the progress of his burly companion. He adjusted his spectacles, then examined Adam and me in turn before replying.
‘You must leave this sacred precinct directly. Your intentions may be blameless, but this place is a target for thieves and delinquents.’ His partner grunted and pointed his weapon at Adam. ‘If you wish to study or sketch our church, you should put your request in writing. It will be considered in due course.’
I bowed my head and murmured thanks for his understanding. Reaching behind, I took Adam’s hand and led him away, hoping he was also adopting a submissive and meek attitude. When we had gone far enough to be out of earshot, I hissed ‘Don’t look behind,’ in English. He squeezed my hand and laughed.
‘I understand enough French to appreciate your genius as an actress. That was well done, Mary.’
Here’s the blurb:
Following the armistice, Mary Kiten, a volunteer nurse in northern France, is ready to return home to England when she receives a surprise telegram requesting that she report to Paris. The call comes from her Uncle Arthur, a security chief at the Peace Conference.
Within minutes of arriving at the Majestic Hotel in Paris, Mary hears a commotion in the street outside. A man has been shot and killed. She is horrified to earn that the victim is her uncle. The police report the attack as a chance robbery by a known thief, who is tracked down and killed resisting arrest.
Mary is not convinced. Circumstances and the gunshot wound do not indicate theft as a motive. A scribbled address on Arthur’s notepad leads to her discovery of another body, a Russian Bolshevik. She suspects her uncle, and the Russian, were murdered by the same hand.
To investigate further, Mary takes a position working for the British Treasury, headed by J M Keynes.
But Mary soon finds herself in the backstreets of Paris and the criminal underworld.
What she discovers will threaten the foundations of the congress.
This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited
Paul lives in a village 30 miles north of London where he is a full-time writer of fiction and part-time director of an education trust. His writing in a posh garden shed is regularly disrupted by children, a growing number of grandchildren and several dogs.
Paul writes historical fiction. The William Constable series of historical thrillers is based around real characters and events in the late sixteenth century. The first two books in the series – “State of Treason” and “A Necessary Killing”, were published in 2019. The third book, titled “The Queen’s Devil”, was published in the summer of 2020.
Travel forward a few hundred years from Tudor England to January 1919 in Paris and the setting for Paul’s latest book, “A Turbulent Peace”. The focus of the World is on the Peace Conference after WW1 armistice. Add a dash of Spanish Flu, the fallout from the Russian Revolution, and you have a background primed for intrigue as nations strive for territory, power and money.
He’s a rejected immortal. But can this magical blacksmith fight against fate and overcome the darkness of his past?
Hephaestus fears he’ll never be accepted. Cast down from Olympus and raised by a powerful sea witch, he sets out on a quest to discover his unknown father’s true identity. But he struggles to be taken seriously by the other gods who only want him for his ingenious inventions.
Convinced that solving his paternity will help him earn the love he seeks, the god of fire traps his mother and refuses to free her until she reveals a name. But when he uncovers a terrifying truth, he finds himself with more enemies than allies amongst the wrathful Olympians.
Can Hephaestus unlock buried secrets and prove himself worthy?
God of Fire is an imaginative standalone historical fantasy. If you like forgotten legends, fantastic beasts, and dark tales punctuated with humour, then you’ll adore Helen Steadman’s fascinating expedition into mythology.
Buy God of Fire to unravel the mysteries of ancient Greece today!
Recommended for fans of Mythos, Song of Achilles, Circe and Pandora’s Jar.
Dr Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the seventeenth-century Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf was inspired by the Shotley Bridge swordmakers, who defected from Solingen, Germany in 1687. Helen’s fourth novel will be published on 13 September 2022. This is God of Fire, a Greek myth retelling about Hephaestus, possibly the least well-known of the Olympians. Helen is now working on her fifth novel.
Despite the Newcastle witch trials being one of the largest mass executions of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries.
The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who defected from Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword. During her archive research, Helen uncovered a lot of new material, and she published her findings in the Northern History journal.
I’m sharing an excerpt from Jenny Knipfer’s new historical fiction novel, On Bur Oak Ridge. I hope you enjoy.
I remember the day Jacob asked me to dance, staring at me across the room in the hotel ballroom in Land O’ Lakes—the day we met.
“You should go talk to him. He’s handsome,” my friend Kitty French—a young woman as silly and feminine as her name suggests—whispered in my ear, her arm tucked around my elbow in a conspiratorial fashion.
The man with a dark complexion, trim beard, and mustache of umber-brown, met my gaze, our eyes strung together by an unseen cord. Dressed in a charcoal-toned suit, he stood opposite me, across the dancefloor, with a cup of punch cradled in his hand. His full, even lips curled upward in a slow progression, as if he just realized that he’d won a prize. I gulped and had a feeling the prize might be me. I dropped my gaze, smoothed down the deep-red, silk fabric of my skirt, and tucked my lips in, trying to avoid a blush, but the heat on my cheeks told me that I failed.
“Well,” Kitty prodded. “His smile is an open invitation, if you ask me.”
I fished for an excuse, so I didn’t have to be brave. “I can’t approach him. That would be improper.”
I disliked doing brazen things and being noticed.
“What is this, the 1860s?” Kitty leaned back and gulped down the rest of the contents of the cup she held in her right hand. “If you don’t, I will.”
She raised one eyebrow in a challenge.
But as it happened, Jacob made his way to me. The band had struck up a slow waltz.
With his dark eyes sparkling, he asked me, “May I have this dance?”
I hesitated. I didn’t even know his name. He must have read my thoughts, for he introduced himself, and I stuttered out a reply, giving him my name.
Then, as if on cue, he held out his hands to me, passing his cup off to waitstaff. I nodded and gulped, forcing my drink on Kitty, who pouted.
Jacob’s arm pressed around me, and his thick hand held mine firmly. As we twirled around the dancefloor, he asked me all manner of questions, which I answered in a near breathless blur.
To have the attention of a richly dressed, handsome man sent my head spinning. With each step, turn, and twirl, I lost a bit of my heart to him. Little did I know that, years later, he would hand it back to me, broken beyond repair.
My heart aches thinking about our past. “Oh, Jacob…”
Here’s the blurb:
“The plot has its twists and turns to keep readers intrigued…to the very end. A great comfort read that will soothe the spirit with renewed hope and faith.” Readers’ Favorite five-star review
A HISTORICAL NOVEL OF FINDING HEALING AND A SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE
In the early 1900s, quiet and reserved Molly Lund finds refuge from her past at the Nelsons’ farm in Minnesota. In an attempt to turn a new page in her life, Molly works at making peace with her losses and coming to terms with the disfiguring burns on her face.
Samuel Woodson, the Nelsons’ hired hand, carries his own cares. Split from his family and bearing a burden of misplaced guilt for an act that haunts him, Samuel–seeing past Molly’s scars–draws her out of her self-protective shell.
Molly and Samuel form a friendship, but just as their hearts lead them deeper, an unexpected guest comes calling, demanding what’s his.
Will Molly and Samuel find a way to be together or will they be separated, due to impediments beyond their control? Can they trust in God’s plan and travel a path that heals the hurts of the past?
Readers of historical fiction, Christian historical fiction, and Christian historical romance will delight in this beautifully wrought story of the healing power of love.
“A heartwarming story of healing from external and internal scars. Through some of life’s harder lessons the characters learn to trust, forgive, and find second chances out of the ashes of pain and loss.”
Anne Perreault, author of eighteen inspirational novels, including the Yellowstone series
Grief, trauma from burns, accidental death, time in an insane asylum
Jenny lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Ken, and their pet Yorkie, Ruby. She is also a mom and loves being a grandma. She enjoys many creative pursuits but finds writing the most fulfilling.
Spending many years as a librarian in a local public library, Jenny recently switched to using her skills as a floral designer in a retail flower shop. She is now retired from work due to disability. Her education background stems from psychology, music, and cultural missions.
All of Jenny’s books have earned five-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite, a book review and award contest company. She holds membership in the: Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, Wisconsin Writers Association, Christian Indie Publishing Association, and Independent Book Publishers Association.
Jenny’s favorite place to relax is by the western shore of Lake Superior, where her novel series, By The Light of the Moon, is set.
She deems a cup of tea and a good book an essential part of every day. When not writing, Jenny can be found reading, tending to her many houseplants, or piecing quilt blocks at her sewing machine.
Her new historical fiction, four-part series entitled, Sheltering Trees, is set in the area Jenny grew up in, where she currently lives, and places along Minnesota’s Northern Shore, where she loves to visit. She is currently writing a four-part novella series entitled: Botanical Seasons and a three-part fantasy series entitled: Retold Fairy Tales.
A generation after Arthur Pendragon ruled, Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities.
Eighteen-year-old Alden du Lac ruled the tiny kingdom of Cerniw. Now he half-hangs from a wooden pole, his back lashed into a mass of bloody welts exposed to the cold of a cruel winter night. He’s to be executed come daybreak—should he survive that long.
When Alden notices the shadowy figure approaching, he assumes death has come to end his pain. Instead, the daughter of his enemy, Cerdic of Wessex, frees and hides him, her motives unclear.
Annis has loved Alden since his ill-fated marriage to her Saxon cousin—a marriage that ended in blood and guilt—and she would give anything to protect him. Annis’s rescue of Alden traps them between a brutal Saxon king and Alden’s remaining allies. Meanwhile, unknown forces are carefully manipulating the ruins of Arthur’s legacy.
Mary Anne Yarde is a multi-award winning and bestselling author of Historical Fiction, as well as an award-winning blogger. She studied History at Cardiff University and went on to study Equine Science at Warwickshire College.
Mary Anne is a passionate advocate for quality Historical Fiction and founded The Coffee Pot Book Club in 2015 and became a professional Editorial Reviewer in 2016.
Mary Anne’s award-winning series, The Du Lac Chronicles, is set a generation after the fall of King Arthur. The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Britain and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, The Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed
Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.
I’m delighted to welcome fellow historical fiction author (and avid reader and reviewer) Paul Bennett to the blog, to spotlight his series about The American Revolution.
Here’s the blurb for the series:
Follow the Mallory family as they attempt to live a peaceful life on the PA frontier in 1756. They face tragedy and loss as they become embroiled in The French and Indian War – Clash of Empires. In Paths to Freedom, the colonies are heading to open revolt against King George III, and the Mallory’s are once again facing the spectre of war. Crucible of Rebellion continues the Mallory story through the early years of The Revolutionary War. Book 4, A Nation is Born completes the Revolution and The Mallory’s have played their part in the victory. In book 5, A Turbulent Beginning, the nascent nation finds it hard going to establish a peaceful existence. The Natives of this land resist the westward expansion of white settlers.
Violence and battle scenes, mild sexual content, and profanity.
Here’s the blurb for Book 5 – A Turbulent Beginning
The Revolution is over, and a new nation has emerged from the ashes of war. The new government, leery of a powerful central government, learns quite quickly the folly of state legislatures controlling military operations, abandoning The Articles of Confederation to write The Constitution.
More lessons are learned by this second attempt when they discover that the indigenous tribes along the Ohio were more than a match for militia troops. It is time for President Washington and his War Secretary Henry Knox to come up with a better plan to pacify the warring tribes.
The Mallory clan is spread out from the Congaree River in South Carolina to the Wabash River in the Northwest Territory. The desire to be together again is stronger than the fear of traveling through a war zone. They are once again in the middle of the storm…Can they survive?…Can they make a difference?
This series is available to read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription.
Paul was born in Detroit when the Big Three ruled the automobile industry, and The Korean Conflict was in full swing. A lifelong interest in history and a love of reading eventually led him to Wayne State University where he majored in Ancient History, with a minor in Physical Anthropology. However, to make ends meet, those studies were left to the realm of dreams, and Paul found himself accidentally embarking on a 50 year career in computers. A career that he has recently retired from in order to spend more time with those dreams….7 grandchildren will help fill the time as well.
He now resides in the quaint New England town of Salem, Massachusetts with his wife Daryl, just a few minutes’ walk from the North River, and the site where the Revolution almost began.
The Mallory Saga is the culmination of Paul’s love of history, and his creative drive to write stories. With Nightwish and Bruce Cockburn coming through his headphones, and many cups of excellent coffee, Paul hopes to carry the Saga into the late 19th century, bringing American History to life through the eyes and actions of the Mallory family.
A Renaissance-era woman artist and an American scholar. Linked by a 500-year-old mystery…
The secrets of the past are irresistible—and treacherous.
1500: Born during a time wracked by war and plague, Renaissance-era artist Mira grows up in a Pyrenees convent believing she is an orphan. When tragedy strikes, Mira learns the devastating truth about her own origins. But does she have the strength to face those who would destroy her?
2015: Centuries later, art scholar Zari unearths traces of a mysterious young woman named Mira in two 16th-century portraits. Obsessed, Zari tracks Mira through the great cities of Europe to the pilgrim’s route of Camino de Santiago—and is stunned by what she finds. Will her discovery be enough to bring Mira’s story to life?
A powerful story and an intriguing mystery, The Girl from Oto is an unforgettable novel of obsession, passion, and human resilience.
Amy Maroney lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, and spent many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction before turning her hand to historical fiction. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of the Miramonde Series, a trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. Amy’s new series, Sea and Stone Chronicles, features ordinary people seeking their fortunes under the rule of the medieval Knights Hospitaller in Rhodes, Greece. To receive a free prequel novella to the Miramonde Series, join Amy Maroney’s readers’ group at www.amymaroney.com.
I’ve tasked Siobhan Saiko with a post about the inspiration for writing her new book, The Girl from Bologna. Welcome to the blog.
Thank you for inviting me to write a guest post for your blog about what gave me the inspiration to write “The Girl from Bologna”. It’s a standalone story and part of my “Girls from the Italian Resistance” series. The liberation of Bologna is mentioned, but not fully explored in the two other books, “The Girl from Venice” and “The Girl from Portofino”. It seemed opportune to conclude the series there.
When I visited the city recently with my husband and viewed the monument to the partisans in Piazza del Nettuno, I found the photos of the young men and women who had given their lives for the freedom of the city to be deeply moving. The memorial truly is the inspiration behind the novel. I could only photograph a small section of the ceramic images placed behind glass (there are over two thousand) but seeing the faces of those who’d died brought home to me the tragic loss of life.
I began to research events and discovered that the German occupation of Bologna began the day after the Italian prime minister announced that Italy had switched sides in the war. Enemy tanks rolled into the city. Nazi officials hung a swastika flag from the façade of the Hotel Baglioni—the best in Bologna—and commandeered part of the first floor and a large lounge to the right of the lobby, which they converted into their administrative headquarters. Not one Italian authority turned up for a formal handover. With total political chaos there weren’t any Italian authorities at hand.
Over the next several days, the Wehrmacht put their military occupation into action. Repression and intimidation began immediately with the confiscation of vehicles, limits to bicycle transport, a curfew from 11 pm to 4 am, and restrictions on gatherings of more than three people. Worst of all, the Nazis set up transit camps for deportations and slave labour, interning deserters from the Italian army—those they hadn’t already loaded onto cattle trucks and transported to Germany for their nefarious needs.
For the first week or so of the Nazi occupation, Bolognese fascists kept themselves out of political life. But when Hitler made Mussolini the puppet ruler of La Repubblica Sociale Italiana, i fascisti bolognesi became ardent members of the Duce’s reformed anti-monarchist Republican Fascist Party. The repubblichini, as antifascists scathingly called them, started working hand in glove with the Germans.
Consequently, the city became a hotbed of urban guerrilla warfare. The more I researched, the more immersed I became in the events. What happened to the partisans, fighting both against the Nazi occupation and against the fascists in Bologna, was truly harrowing. They grouped in the city when it appeared that the Allies were on the cusp of breaking through German lines in the autumn of 1944 and were caught like sitting ducks when the Anglo-Americans halted their advance. Making my characters go through the terrible repercussions brought tears to my eyes. The actions perpetrated by the fascists against the partisans were so violent, they even sickened the German command. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, war returned to Europe while I was writing the story, rendering my writing particularly poignant.
“The Girl from Bologna” is set during two historical time periods, however. Alongside the monument to the partisans in Piazza del Nettuno there is another monument, listing the names and ages of those killed by a terrorist bomb planted in the railway station on 2nd August 1980. The fact that Bologna had chosen, some years later, to honour the victims in the same location where so many partisans had given their lives, led me to construct the 1981 narrative around that heinous event.
Thank you so much for sharing such fascinating insight into your inspiration. What an amazing decision, to commemorate two such atrocities.
Good luck with the new book.
Here’s the blurb:
Bologna, Italy, 1944, and the streets are crawling with German soldiers. Nineteen-year-old Leila Venturi is shocked into joining the Resistance after her beloved best friend Rebecca, the daughter of a prominent Jewish businessman, is ruthlessly deported to a concentration camp.
In February 1981, exchange student Rhiannon Hughes arrives in Bologna to study at the university. There, she rents a room from Leila, who is now middle-aged and infirm. Leila’s nephew, Gianluca, offers to show Rhiannon around but Leila warns her off him.
Soon Rhiannon finds herself being drawn into a web of intrigue. What is Gianluca’s interest in a far-right group? And how is the nefarious head of this group connected to Leila? As dark secrets emerge from the past, Rhiannon is faced with a terrible choice. Will she take her courage into both hands and risk everything?
An evocative, compelling read, “The Girl from Bologna” is a story of love lost, daring exploits, and heart wrenching redemption.
Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and a rescued cat. After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, Siobhan now spends her time indulging her love of writing and enjoying her life near Venice.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Rachel R. Heil to the blog.
Your book, Leningrad, sounds fascinating. Can you share with me the first idea that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?
The idea for Leningrad: The People’s War came about several years ago after I read another novel that partially takes place during the Siege of Leningrad. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons is one of my favorite books, and the first half of the story takes place during the Siege of Leningrad. While I loved the book, I recall being disappointed that the story switched locations halfway through because I wanted to see what happened to Leningrad and her people following the first winter under siege.
The Siege of Leningrad lasted 872 days, but as I read a few more books set during the blockade I found that most stories ended during the winter of 1941-42, despite the siege lasting to January 1944. While this was mainly because many citizens were evacuated during that winter due to authorities using the frozen Lake Lagoda to help create a passage out of Leningrad, there were still plenty of people left in Leningrad after the winter had ended. Another reason a lot of books only covered the siege through 1942 was that after the war, the Soviet authorities stopped anyone from speaking about the siege with threats of prison sentences. Despite the limited resources and information available I wanted to write a story that followed the whole ordeal from start to finish, and that’s where the first ideas for Leningrad came about.
One thing that struck me about Leningrad and the survivors was how strong they were. Reading several interviews of survivors, I found almost all of them did not pity what they went through but saw it mainly as a challenge they had to get through to go on with their lives. The only regrets they had were that they had lost so many friends and family members and regretted not getting out of the city with those loved ones when they had the chance. To me, that was extraordinary, and I wanted to craft a story that would honor those who went through such an ordeal.
My initial idea for the story was to focus primarily on the Russian side of the war, told from the perspective of an ordinary Russian family attempting to survive. As I began my research this outline began to change a little bit. In the beginning, I didn’t want any of my characters to become involved in the armed forces or political sphere that governed Leningrad. But as I did more digging, I decided it would significantly add to the story for a character to see how the Soviet government handled the siege. I found that it helped explain a lot of the actions Leningraders did and why the city suffered like it did, mainly due to the poor decisions Soviet leaders made. As a result, I made my main protagonist join a volunteer unit where she finds herself being pulled into the inner circle of the people in charge of defending Leningrad.
The other big change I made was the perspective of the story. Even though one could argue that the story of Leningrad is a purely Russian story, I found the German side to be equally interesting. While there are few accounts from German soldiers who fought on the Leningrad Front, the few that did give their testimonies reveal a group of people who entered the war with the idea that they were liberating the Soviet people but quickly became disillusioned when they realized the human cost of waging such a battle and the persistence of the Soviet people not to give up their city. For many of them, the siege broke their belief in German superiority and that their leaders had made the right decision of waging war with the Soviet Union. With that knowledge I decided to split the narrative equally between the Russians and Germans.
Looking back, I’m glad I made the decisions I made and that I went away from what I originally outlined. I’m a planner but veering away from that outline turned out to be for the best. My hope is that I crafted a story that honors both the survivors and the victims.
Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds like you went on a fascinating journey yourself while writing your book. Good luck with it.
Here’s the blurb:
Leningrad, 1941. As Europe crumbles under the German war machine, the people of the Soviet Union watch. There are whispers of war but not loud enough for the civilians of Leningrad to notice. Instead, they keep their heads down and try to avoid the ever-watching eyes of their own oppressive government.
University student Tatiana Ivankova tries to look ahead to the future after a family tragedy that characterizes life under the brutal regime. But, when the rumors that have been circulating the country become a terrifying reality, Tatiana realizes that the greatest fear may not be the enemy but what her fellow citizens are prepared to do to each other to survive.
As his men plow through the Russian countryside, Heinrich Nottebohm is told to follow orders and ask no questions, even if such commands go against his own principles. His superiors hold over him a past event that continues to destroy him with every day that passes. But, when given the opportunity to take an act of defiance, Heinrich will jump at the chance, ignoring what the end results could be.
Leningrad: The People’s War tells the harrowing beginning of a war that forever changed the landscape of a city, told through the eyes of both sides in a tale of courage, love, and sacrifice.
Rachel R. Heil is a historical fiction writer who always dreamed of being an author. After years of dreaming, she finally decided to turn this dream into a reality with her first novel, and series, Behind the Darkened Glass. Rachel is an avid history fan, primarily focused on twentieth century history and particularly World War Two-era events. In addition to her love for history, Rachel loves following the British Royal Family and traveling the world, which only opens the door to learning more about a country’s history. Rachel resides in Wisconsin.
The inspiration for More Precious Than Gold came through several different channels. At first, I planned to write a sequel to my first book in the Hearts of Gold series, The Test of Gold. I wanted to continue the saga of Lindy’s family with her daughter, Kitty.
That put me roughly into the time period of 1918.
I also had several readers comment on the original character of Vera Lindenmayer, Kitty’s grandmother, whom I based on the real-life person of Alva Vanderbilt. The same Alva Vanderbilt who forced her daughter to marry the Duke of Marlborough at age 18. They wanted Vera to get her comeuppance!
When I started researching, I came across so much information about WWI and the Pandemic Flu of 1918 that I started thinking of a way my character could get involved. I spent approximately two years researching the pandemic flu.
Many things have changed in the last 100 years of nursing, but some things never change and it was great fun to write about Kitty’s adventures as a student nurse before things get grim as the pandemic flu hit New York City.
At times the writing was difficult, as I got to the pandemic flu part. Then, as now, we all know someone who had COVID or had it ourselves. But the flu of 1918 disproportionately affected people in the 20 to 40 age range―people in the prime of their lives, as opposed to the elderly and very young whom the flu usually affects. In New York City alone, over 100,000 children were left orphans.
So I had to choose which characters in the story would die of the flu. To be realistic, I couldn’t let them all survive. And I had grown so attached to them that I didn’t want any of them to perish. But it had to be done.
I finished the manuscript for this story in 2017, two years before COVID hit. No one was more surprised than me to find myself in the middle of a modern pandemic.
Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiration. Isn’t it strange how you spent so long researching the book, and then Covid came along? Good luck with your new release.
Here’s the blurb:
A young woman refuses to become a pawn in her grandmother’s revenge scheme and forgoes a life of wealth and royalty to pursue a nursing career as America enters WWI and the Pandemic Flu of 1918 wreaks havoc in New York City.
Renee Yancy is a history and archaeology nut who works as an RN when she isn’t writing historical fiction or traveling the world to see the exotic places her characters have lived.
A voracious reader as a young girl, she now writes the kind of books she loves to read—stories filled with historical and archaeological detail interwoven with strong characters facing big conflicts. Her goal is to take you on a journey into the past so fascinating that you can’t put the story down.
When she isn’t writing, Renee can be found in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband and a rescue mutt named Ellie. She loves flea markets and collecting pottery and glass and most anything mid-century modern.