You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
HARVEST HOUSE PUBLISHERS (FEBRUARY 4, 2014)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Murray Pura earned his Master of Divinity degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and his ThM degree in theology and interdisciplinary studies from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. For more than 25 years, in addition to his writing, he has pastored churches in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Alberta. Murray’s writings have been shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award, the John Spencer Hill Literary Award, the Paraclete Fiction Award, and Toronto's Kobzar Literary Award. His novels for Harvest House include Face of Heaven, The Wings of Morning, and Ashton Park. Murray pastors and writes in southern Alberta near the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife, Linda, have a son and a daughter.
In this conclusion to The Danforths of Lancashire, we find Lord Preston and his family gathered in London in the late 1930s for what turns out to be a homecoming. But looming ahead is the summer and fall of 1940 when the Battle of Britain and the Blitz will occur.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“There you go! There you go!”
Lord Preston threw the ball as far as he could. The three Belgian shepherds raced after it, yipping with excitement, and vanished among the tall ash trees. The leaves were fully open after two days of rain followed by two days of sunshine.
“Top of the morning, m’lord.” Harrison lifted the fedora off his head. “Those three are hard at it.”
“Good day, Harrison. They need a strong run. I’ve been absent for weeks and I’m not sure old Todd Turpin ever gets the fire out of them. Too many parliamentary sessions tie me down in London. Well, if they catch scent of a hare I shall not see them again in a fortnight.” He put his hands behind his back. “I have renamed them, you know.”
Harrison shifted his staff from one hand to the other. “I’d heard that.”
“Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. From the American poem.”
“Very good. How are they responding?”
“Badly. If at all. But I shall keep it up. Something had to be done to address the baron’s treachery.”
“The dogs and I needed a fresh start.”
“I expect you did.”
“I saw him, you know, Harrison. On a newsreel from Berlin. Hopping and stomping in a black SS uniform with Herr Hitler and his stooges. Ghastly. I thought I knew the man.”
“A chance at power changes many a good soul.”
“Is that what he considers power? I suppose it is power after a fashion. The way a freak windstorm knocks off chimney pots and tears brick walls to pieces and hurls trash bins down an alley—raw force, out of control, of no benefit to man or beast.”
“Have you heard from Lady Catherine or her husband, the theologian? Are they well?”
Lord Preston listened a moment to the distant barking of the dogs. “I believe they have caught the scent of something. No ball ever rolled that far.” He began to stride into the ash forest. “No, Harrison. Not a word. You might pray about that, please.”
Across the English Channel in Germany, Catherine was well aware she was behind in her letter writing. She had finally finished one to her sister Victoria, who was living in Africa with her husband Ben and their two sons. Now she felt guilty she hadn’t sent so much as a note to her mother and father in more than a month. She pulled a fresh sheet of paper toward her and lifted her fountain pen.
Dear Mama and Papa,
You will wonder at my long silence, and you have, I suppose, fretted a good deal over it. I apologize. Life has been a mad rush here in Tubingen. But let me set your minds at rest about your grandchildren—Sean is doing very well indeed at school, and baby Angelika has never been better.
A soft knocking sounded at the front door.
Catherine was seated at the dining room table on the ground floor. Albrecht was upstairs chatting with Sean and Angelika while he worked on his university lectures for the next day. She knew she should be the one answering the door, but she hesitated. It was past nine o’clock and dark, and she was not expecting anyone. Clutching her pen, she waited.
The knocking sounded a second time.
“Are you going to get that?” Her husband’s voice came down the staircase. “Please?”
“Ja, ja, Albrecht,” she replied. “I was just working on a letter to my parents.”
She got up and went to the door, continuing to hope the knocking would stop and whoever it was would walk away. Risking Albrecht’s annoyance, she stood facing the door but did not open it. The knocking came a third time—soft but rapid. Certain her husband would call from his office again, she took hold of the door handle.
“I have it, Albrecht. You needn’t worry.”
A smell of rain on pavement rushed in as she swung the door back, surprising her. She hadn’t noticed any drops against the windowpanes.
“Ja?” she asked the figure on the sidewalk.
The man slipped into the house and shut the door behind him.
“Was?” exclaimed Catherine. “What are you doing? Get out of here!”
The man took off his hat.
“Baron!” She didn’t know what to say next. “Of all people I did not expect to see you!”
“Where is Albrecht?”
“They’re with him. He’s working at his morning lectures.”
“There will be no morning lectures. The Gestapo will arrive here at two in the morning. You must be well gone by then.”
Cold air seemed to fill the room, pouring off his trench coat.
“The Gestapo! Gone where? Where can we go?”
“My plan is to get you to France or Switzerland. But first we must get you into a hiding place outside of Tubingen. If they don’t find you here they will go to all of your friends’ homes. They will go to the university professors. Comb the city from one end to another. I have a car around back. You have half an hour, and then you must be in it and we must be gone.”
“We can’t be ready in half an hour. Angelika is only four. There is so much we must prepare.”
“Half an hour. We cannot take the risk they may come earlier.”
“This is mad. You can’t come raging in here and demand we load our children into a car with you. Why should we trust you? You betrayed us once.”
“I saved Albrecht’s life. He would have died in that house with the others.”
“It’s just as well I am. Otherwise I would have no idea of the movements of the police. If you don’t trust me, you will die here just as Albrecht would have died in that house with the Brotherhood of the Oak. Last time I used a gun on Albrecht to work my will. If you force my hand I will do so again.” He patted the pocket of his trench coat. “Get your husband. Get your children. Get what you need and get in the car.”
Catherine started up the staircase, her face whitening. She turned her head. “You can say what you want about the Gestapo. It’s you I don’t trust.”
“I’m fine with that so long as we drive away from here at ten o’clock.”
“You could have been followed.”
“I wasn’t followed.”
“They could be watching you.”
“Then we’ll all die together. Will you trust me if that happens?”
Albrecht stood at the head of the staircase. “What are you doing here?”
“He says the Gestapo are going to arrest us,” said Catherine.
“Arrest us? Because of my lectures?”
The baron looked up at him. “Your lectures. Your protests against the firing of Jewish professors. Your refusal to join the Nazi Party. Most of all, your books. Oh, yes—they know you are the author of those anonymous books and pamphlets popping up all over Germany.”
“How do they know that?”
“The SS found the men who do your printing last night. Smashed the presses. Shot them in the street.”
Albrecht started to say something and stopped.
“Get what you need, Albrecht.” The baron’s voice was quiet and flat. “Leave what is superfluous. We have twenty-five minutes left.”
Two days later
Tavy received a telegram at the door and took it to Lord and Lady Preston, who were having tea in the library.
“Where is it from, William?” Lady Preston asked her husband. “Africa?”
“No, it’s not from Africa. It’s from Germany.”
“What is it? Is it Catherine? Is everything all right?”
“The telegram is not from Catherine. It’s from the baron.”
“The baron! Why on earth would he write us? He knows how we feel about him!”
YOUR DAUGHTER CATHERINE IS SAFE. SO ARE HER CHILDREN. SO IS HER HUSBAND ALBRECHT. YOU WILL NOT HEAR FROM THEM IN A VERY LONG TIME. BUT THEY ARE NOT PRISONERS AND THEY HAVE NOT BEEN HARMED.
As Lord Preston was reading the telegram to his wife in England, small pieces of chocolate were being handed to Sean and Angelika in a cold, dark cellar in Germany.
“Happy birthday, my son,” whispered Albrecht. “I had this in my briefcase. You are eleven today. Blessings.”
Sean took the chocolate but didn’t eat it. “Thank you, Father.”
Mimicking the mood and actions of her big brother, Angelika clutched her square of chocolate but didn’t smile or put it in her mouth.
“Go ahead,” urged Albrecht. “It’s Swiss.”
“You said we were going there.” Sean spoke without emotion. “How long will it take?”
“We will stay at this house today. Tonight we will move again. And the night after that. Never longer than a day in each house. But each house brings us closer to the Swiss border.”
“So we are going to the chalet in Pura?”
“And both of you are staying with us?”
Albrecht put his arm around Catherine. “Your mother and I will be with you. Wherever we go, we go as a family.”
“Are you sure?”
“What if the police find us?”
“The baron has very good friends. They will not betray us.”
“It’s because of your writing, isn’t it, Papa?” Again, no tone of accusation, just a question that was a statement of fact.
“Sean, it is because the Nazis are what they are.”
Sean put the chocolate in a pocket in his shirt. “I will eat it once we’ve crossed the border.”
“Me too.” Angelika placed hers in a small red leather purse she carried with her everywhere.
“Make sure it doesn’t melt,” said Catherine. “You wouldn’t want it to melt in a shirt pocket or purse, would you? Such a waste. And such a mess.”
Sean finally smiled a very small smile. “I’ll be careful.”
“We’ll all be careful.” Albrecht put a hand on Sean’s shoulder. “Now each of us must take a nap. We didn’t get a great deal of sleep last night, and tonight will be no different.”
“How many nights will it be, Father?” asked Sean. “Ten or twelve?”
“I don’t know. That sounds right, but we’re still a good ways from the border.”
“But Switzerland is not that far.”
Albrecht nodded. “No, not so far from Tubingen. But we must move slowly and carefully because the SS and Gestapo will be hunting us. They’re aware we have a home in Switzerland. The border crossings will be closely watched.”
“What if we can’t get into Switzerland?”
“We’re just as near to France as we are to Switzerland. If we cannot get to the chalet safely we will cross over into Alsace-Lorraine and make our way to the English Channel.”
Catherine smiled. “Then you will see all your cousins, Sean. And Grandmother and Grandfather Danforth too.”
“I would like that.” Sean’s eyes were large in the darkness of the cellar. “But I will miss Grandfather Hartmann. And Grandmother Hartmann as well.”
“Of course you will.” Catherine smoothed back her son’s hair from his forehead. “But the Nazis will not be in power forever. The German people will come to their senses and reject them. That will be the time to see Grandmother and Grandfather Hartmann again.”
“How soon?” asked Angelika.
“A year. Or two. No more.”
“I’ll be a big girl then.”
“Ja. But not so big Grandfather and Grandmother Hartmann can’t fuss over you and give you dolls and baskets of sweets.”
A smile, bright in the gloom, darted onto Angelika’s face.
“Now we need to nap.” Albrecht handed each of them a woolen blanket. “Night is not far off.”
“I’m hungry,” Angelika said.
“There will be food when you wake up,” promised Catherine, wrapping the blanket around the little girl’s shoulders. “Or you can eat your chocolate now.”
“I’m saving it for a special day.”
“All right, you save it for a special day. Meanwhile, after you have had your nap, there will be a bowl of noodle soup for you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Very sure. The lady of the house told me so herself.”
June 5, 1934
The Parliament buildings, Westminster, London
The Parliament buildings, Westminster, London
“What’s bothering you? We must do our part to get things ready for the rally.”
“I’m well aware of that, Buchanan.” Edward glanced at the traffic moving up and down in front of the Parliament buildings. “I’ll be ready.”
“The rally at Olympia is in two days, Danforth. We intend to set London on its ear. Fill the Grand Hall. The British Union of Fascists is at its peak.”
“I said I’d be ready.”
Buchanan tapped the silver head of his cane against his leg. “It’s the matter of your sister, isn’t it? Lady Catherine? I thought the embassy was sorting that out.”
“The embassy has no idea where Catherine and her family are. They simply vanished without a trace.”
“Mightn’t they have fled? Sir Oswald asked you to write that Hartmann fellow and get him to stop penning those anti-Nazi books and pamphlets. They were infuriating fascists in Spain and Italy and England as well as Germany and Austria.”
“I wrote him. He never responded.” Edward looked up at the sky as drops of rain fell on the sidewalk. “They could have been abducted and shot.”
“Yes, well, there’s that.” Buchanan opened a black umbrella. “You’re not getting cold feet about the rally, are you? Sir Oswald counts on you creating quite a stir with your appearance. And your announcement.”
“I don’t have cold feet, Buchanan. But it will be a shock to my father and mother when their son stands on a platform with the leader of the British fascists. Not to mention I’ll be drummed out of the Conservative Party. I’d like to spare them all that with Catherine missing.”
“They’ll bear up. Especially once you’re a success. You have everything to gain by going public with your fascist beliefs. Yes, you’ll have to sit as an independent. But in the next election we’ll take a majority of the seats. The Daily Mirror and Daily Mail are on our side, and we have well over 50,000 supporters now. Remember how easily Herr Hitler got in and took over.”
“He was appointed chancellor. He never got in by popular vote. I wish we could appoint Sir Oswald like that, but that’s not the way a British democracy runs.”
“Well, we’ll change all that, won’t we? You always chafed at the slow and awkward movements of democracy, didn’t you? Look at Hitler. See what a strong man in power can get done and done swiftly? Why, Berlin has the Olympics in thirty-six, doesn’t it? All sorts of buildings are being erected at an absolutely feverish pace. You really must pop over to Berlin with the lot of us next time and see for yourself. That’s what we want for the British Empire.”
Edward nodded. “I believe a strong man at the top would be for the best.” He continued to look out over the traffic, avoiding eye contact with Buchanan. “But look here, what about the danger of a riot? What are we prepared to do about those hecklers who follow Sir Oswald about from speech to speech? All the Jews and Communists? It’s enough I have to drive penny nails into my mother and father’s coffins while they’re grieving over Catherine and the grandchildren. Can’t we put on a class affair? At least give my parents something to take comfort in?”
“You’re worrying far too much for your own good, Danforth. Get home to your wife and have a glass of port. Have two. This will be a major rally, comparable to the finest rally in Berlin. Music, flags, marching, chants—it will be a spectacle. A lot of Jews and Reds are not going to spoil that for us, believe me. We’ve recruited hundreds more Blackshirts. They’ll be stationed strategically throughout the Grand Hall and outside on the grounds as well. One look at them and our enemies will shrink away. Your parents will open up the morning paper and read about a well-run show. A nationalist show with a good deal of pride in Britain and Britain’s future.”
Buchanan lifted his umbrella sharply, and a black cab pulled over in front of them. “There you are, Danforth. Enough chitchat. We don’t want too many to take notice of us. Home to your beautiful wife and that glass of port. We’ll see you at Olympia on Thursday.”
“Right.” Edward entered the back of the cab after the driver came out and opened the door. “Thank you for dropping by Parliament to have a word with me, Buchanan. I hope everything will come off according to plan.”
“It will. Remain calm.”
“I stand to lose a great deal,” said Edward.
Buchanan didn’t respond until after the cab had sped away. “Indeed you do, Danforth.”
“Good evening, my dear.” Edward came up behind his wife as she was brushing her long black hair and kissed her on the cheek. “Where are Owen and Colm?”
She smiled and turned around, slipping her arms about his neck. “At Jeremy and Emma’s with their cousins. The rectory has quite the biggest yard this part of London.”
Edward kissed her again, this time on the mouth. “Better than the postage stamp of a yard we have here, in other words.”
“Don’t be upset. Kipp and Caroline’s townhouse has a smaller yard than ours, and your father’s new townhouse is certainly not Ashton Park, is it?”
Edward tossed his top hat on a sofa and lit a cigarette. “I’m not upset. Just sorry they don’t have the property to run around in I had when I was a child.”
“Summer is just around the corner. Then they can play at Dover Sky all they like.”
Edward sank down on the sofa next to his hat. “Dad’s planning on renovations this summer, Char. I don’t think the house can be occupied.”
She sat on the sofa with him, moving his hat onto a small table. “Well, Ashton Park is splendid enough, don’t you think? They’ll have even more room to run about.”
“So long as they stay away from the sea cliff.”
“Oh, heavens, Edward, what’s gotten into you today? You’re fretting like a mother hen. That’s my job, isn’t it?” She moved so that she was able to get in behind him and began to rub his shoulders and neck. “You’re tight as a drum.”
He blew out a lungful of smoke and said nothing.
“Is there a big speech coming up? Some piece of legislation you need to introduce? A bill to vote on? Is that what has you wound up like a grandfather clock?”
“When is this coming to pass?”
“Well, then, Friday evening we should take the boys for a boat ride on the Thames. You know how Owen loves anything to do with ships. Gets it from you, I imagine, his naval officer father.”
“The war was a long time ago.”
“It doesn’t matter how long ago it was. You served king and country, and he’s very proud of you. So is Colm. We all are.”
“King and country, eh?” He drew in on his cigarette. “My patriotism hasn’t done much for me, has it?”
“What do you mean?” She stopped rubbing his neck a moment and rested her chin on his shoulder. “You’re an MP and you’re on the ladder of success in the Conservative Party.”
“Am I? If I were ignored any more than I am by the Party I’d be as much a pariah as Churchill.”
“Oh, my goodness, you’re quite a long ways off from anything like that.” She took his jaw in her fingers. “I thought you liked Winston. You got along famously when your father had him up to Ashton Park at Christmas.”
“I admire his fight. And his national pride. But I don’t wish to be banished to the wilderness anytime soon and join him in solitary confinement.”
“You’re Lord Preston’s son. No one’s going to do that.”
“What do you mean, not yet? Not ever.” She kissed him lightly on the lips. “You really have got yourself tied up in knots. I shall have to unravel them.”
He stubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray. “How will Charlotte Squire do that, I wonder?”
“Oh, I have a tried and true Lancashire method.”
“Me. Just me.”
She kissed him with a strength and passion that pushed him back farther and farther into the sofa. Her blue eyes glittering, she paused and looked down at his face.
“How’s that?” she asked.
“It’ll do for a start.”
She placed both hands on his shoulders and kissed him much longer and with even more vigor. A tear slipped from the corner of his eye, and she drew back.
“Whatever’s the matter? Have I hurt you somehow?”
“I want you to be proud of me. I want you and the boys to be proud of me.”
“My goodness, Edward, we are proud of you, I’ve told you that. You’re a fine husband and a brilliant father. No one could ask for more.”
“I dread the day you’re disappointed with me. I dread it like the grave.”
“Edward. Stop it. That’s never going to happen. I adore you. Owen and Colm adore you.” She put her arms tightly around his back and hugged him to herself. “What’s gone wrong, love? What’s put a knife in your heart? You could never do anything that would turn the boys or me against you. It’s impossible.”
Although I haven't read the previous two books in this series, I didn't find that it interfered with my enjoyment of London Dawn. This was a gripping historical WWII novel, with details and descriptions that brought me right into the action.
The story follows the family of Lord Preston during the time leading up to and including World War II. I have not read a historical novel from this time period (other than juvenile fiction that just lightly references the war) with characters based in England, and found it very interesting to read from this point of view.
As I was reading, I thought that this story could be similar in style to the television series Downton Abbey (although I couldn't say for sure, never having watched it myself), with multiple character stories being followed, not just one main hero and heroine.
When I watched the trailer posted above, that impression was confirmed. ;) So... fans of Downton Abbey, if you are in the mood to read a book, this series might just be your cup of tea! ;) If you think you would enjoy this story as much as I have, I would suggest starting with the *first book* if you have the option. :)
Even if you aren't a Downton Abbey viewer, if you appreciate what appears to be well researched historical fiction, novels about WWII, and some light romance, you might well enjoy the stories of the family members in this novel~ 2 RAF sons, 2 Naval sons, a minister, as well as an elderly MP, who is the patriarch of the family.