Hiya guys! We have Anne Barwell popping in today with her upcoming release Winter Duet, we have a wonderful guest post from Anne and she also lets us have a quick peek at an excerpt. So guys check out the post and enjoy! ❤ ~Pixie~
Hunted for treason and the information Kristopher carries, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house to journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.
While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot. After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.
Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.
Thanks for hosting me today.
Winter Duet, which is book 2 of my WWII Echoes Rising series, is set in 1944 in Germany. One of the things very much on my mind while writing the story was the dangers of living in that time.
My main characters are being pursued by the SS—Kristopher is a scientist with the final formulae needed to complete the German atomic bomb project, Michel is a member of the Resistance who helped him to escape and Matt and his team are Allied agents in enemy territory. In order to complete their mission and reach safety they take on assumed identities, and need to be very careful not to draw attention to themselves. Of course that doesn’t work out very well, because otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story. Given they are in the middle of a war zone, it doesn’t take long before they’re at ground zero of the Allied bombing of German cities. Unable to ignore people in trouble, they’re soon working with those trying to aid those who need it. However, it’s not just civilians who need help, but a downed RAF pilot whose fate quickly becomes intertwined with their own.
But, adding to the dangers they’re already in, four of these men are homosexuals. If they’re caught and their sexuality is discovered, SS Standartenführer Holm won’t need allegations of murder and treason to arrest them. The penalty for homosexuality at the time is harsh, and at best they will end up in an internment camp.
I’ve been asked why I included two homosexual couples in a book set during this time. Each man dealt with his sexuality in a different way. There was no option to come out, and doing so could cost a man his freedom, life, or both. Kristopher focuses on work and pushes his attraction to other men to one side while Michel is aware and accepting of that part of himself, having already been in a relationship. Matt was in a relationship with a close female friend for a long time, but realised he couldn’t keep lying to himself or to her, so broke it off when the subject of marriage was broached. He loved her, but he wasn’t in love with her. On the flip side, Ken was never interested in anyone—male or female—until he met Matt. As Winter Duet begins, all of them have embraced their relationship with the man they love although they are very aware of the dangerous in doing so.
The other decision I made early on while writing this book—and the series—was about the amount of onscreen sex. Given how dangerous it would be if their relationships were discovered, it didn’t seem right to include long drawn out sex scenes. It also doesn’t fit the tone of the story, or the era in which it is set. That’s not to say these men aren’t having sex—they are in a relationship and their time together could be very short—but what is the book is either off screen or what is shown onscreen is brief and/or fade to black.
Unfortunately, in times of war there are also casualties, and it is unrealistic to expect everyone to survive. In the first book—Shadowboxing—the team lose one of their own, and others are caught and arrested. Members of the Resistance during this time period also trod a very thin line in regard to their own safety, and did not have a long life expectancy. Sadly that risk is reflected in this series too. One of beta readers still hasn’t forgiven me for what happens to one of the characters, but unfortunately it would do the brave men and women of that time a disservice to ignore the harsh realities of the war they fought.
“Oh.” Kristopher paused, his spoon halfway to his mouth. “I’m sorry. I never thought. I didn’t mean to….” The words trailed off. Telling them he hadn’t meant to embarrass them would only serve to do just that.
“I’d never heard the poems before either,” Michel said. He glanced toward the door, as though suddenly nervous.
“That’s the thing with wars,” Karolina said. “They draw all sorts of different people together, don’t they? It doesn’t matter who you are. Out there on the battlefield, everyone’s the same, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they are.” Kristopher swallowed a mouthful of beans while he collected his thoughts. “I was a musician,” he said at last. “It was a long time ago. Sometimes it feels as though it was in another lifetime. I’ve been trying to work out why the code phrase sounded so familiar. I’m sorry. I guess I should have kept it to myself.”
“Nonsense,” Georg said briskly. “Don’t apologize for having a good education, and if it gives you some distraction to get through this terrible time, you should use it.” Karolina placed a hand on his shoulder. He reached up and placed his hand over hers. A sad look crossed her face, and she suddenly appeared a lot older.
Kristopher bit his lip. He lowered his gaze and concentrated on eating. He hadn’t meant to upset either of them. Michel had warned him to keep any conversation brief and focus on very general topics.
Damn it. He wasn’t very good at this at all. For a short time, he’d forgotten their situation and been caught up in the moment, remembering his passion for his music and wanting to share it.
“Paul….” Michel spoke Kristopher’s assumed name, and he looked up. “Karolina’s right. This war has drawn people together who normally wouldn’t have even met. Perhaps we should take it as an opportunity to learn new things, hmm? We all have something to offer.”
“Well said, Gabriel.” Karolina squeezed her husband’s hand. “It’s been too long since Georg and I had the company of young people. You said you were a musician, Paul. What instrument did you play?”
“I play the violin, although I haven’t picked it up in years.” Kristopher watched the couple, noticing the way they took comfort from each other’s touch. He wanted so badly to be able to just lean over and take Michel’s hand in his and be open in front of others as to how they felt about each other. During the months spent in the attic at St. Gertrud’s, they’d still had to be careful, but they’d been left alone for much of the time. He hadn’t realized just how difficult having to hide their relationship was going to be.
“We’re not that young,” Michel said when Kristopher lapsed into silence again. He’d told Kristopher he’d turned thirty on his last birthday. Kristopher was almost a year younger and had wondered at the time where both of them would be by his next birthday, which was only a few months away.
Georg chuckled. “You’re about the same age as our boy, so to us, that makes you young.” He got out of his chair. “I’m going to make some tea. Do you want some? Here, Karolina, have my chair. You’re not getting any younger.”
“My husband, he thinks he’s funny,” Karolina said. She gave him a light peck on the cheek and went to clip his ear again, but he ducked out of the way and headed toward the kitchen. “He’s only offering me his chair to keep me away from my knitting. He knows full well I’ll poke him with one of my needles if he gives me too much cheek.”
“How long have you been married?” Michel asked. He seemed amused by their banter. Kristopher wondered if it reminded him of his parents.
“Since just before the last war.” Karolina picked up the cloth bag Kristopher had noticed earlier and settled into the other armchair. She opened the bag and took out yarn and what appeared to be a large knitted square on needles. “We’d met the year before, and I waited for him to come home to me and our newborn son. I didn’t allow myself to think he might not. Tell me, do you have someone waiting for you?”
Kristopher glanced at Michel. Karolina wasn’t exactly following what he’d been told about keeping to safe subjects either.
“I have someone, yes,” Michel said finally. “I want nothing more than this war to finish so we can have a life together, but sometimes I doubt that will ever happen.”
“It will,” Kristopher said firmly. He placed his bowl on his knee, feeling the warmth of it through his trousers. “When you love someone, you wait for however long it takes.”
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.
Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.