Another great historical romance and this time Anne Barwell takes Mark back to WWII for a thrilling but dangerous ride with the resistance. Can two men realistically expect a romance at such a time when on the run and on opposite sides of the fence? Read Mark’s review to find out.
Anne is with us today and gives her reasons for setting her M/M romance in WWII and the research needed to write such a story with this backdrop.
Thank you for hosting me. I’m excited to be here.
Although Shadowboxing wasn’t my first book published, the first draft of it was already partially written when Cat’s Quill—book 1 of my Hidden Places fantasy series—came out. I’d wanted to write a story that was not only an action drama but also had at its heart a relationship between two men during a time where, if their relationship were discovered, they risked severe repercussions, even death. I also wanted to explore characters who needed to do some serious soul searching in order to break free of expectations of not only themselves but their society.
I’d always loved stories about WWII, and so the idea for the Echoes series was born. People meet during wars who wouldn’t usually, as is the case of Kristopher and Michel, the main characters in the series. Kristopher is a German physicist, and Michel a French farmer. The Allied team sent to retrieve the plans for the project Kristopher is working are not only a mix of nationalities but have very different backgrounds. While Matt is American, he’s also spent time in Germany before the war. Ken is American but he’s also hiding part of his heritage, and Liang is British Chinese.
This mix is very deliberate as I wanted different perspectives to the story. War is not just about the battles fought, but the people who are affected by them. They are not really won, as each country involved loses loved ones, and is damaged to the extent that the consequences are felt for generations to come.
I also knew in writing a historical I had a lot of research ahead of me. This wasn’t a one book project but a series of three books. I need to plot out all three books as, although each book is written so it stands alone, they’re really one story split into three. I figured it was better to write three smaller books than one enormous tome, as those can be rather off-putting for readers as well as writers. Each part of the story splits nicely with location too so it works out well. Shadowboxing is set in Berlin, Winter Duet is a road trip across wartime Germany, and Comes a Horseman will take place in France.
I used a range of resources for my research. I work in a library—shelving in the 940.5 section is not a great idea as I get distracted by shiny things. The library, and its databases, has been a fantastic resource for writing this series. Half the fun was finding the resources as they weren’t just in the history section, as I also needed travel books—for locations—and information about clothing and weapons. Early on in the writing process for the story I found a book called The Bomb by Gerard DeGroot which was about the ‘life story of the Bomb’ and subtitled A History of Hell on Earth. I bought my own copy of it.
The Forgotten Voices series is also another invaluable resource as it relays personal accounts by both servicemen and women and civilians about what it was like to live through that time. The internet also provided a lot of interesting information although some things were next to impossible to find. The specifics of German telephones was one of these. Everything out there is about the US system at the time! Luckily one of my beta readers is German and she has proved an invaluable source of information. She’s also checked facts on websites written in German and provided/suggested the German used in the story.
However, there is a flip side to the research. While I try to ensure I’m as accurate as possible—within the constraints of telling a good story—history can also work for a story rather than against it. After all, there’s no need to find a way to blow something up when it’s already documented that the Allied forces dropped bombs in the area at that time.
To celebrate the release of Winter Duet, which is the sequel to Shadowboxing, and book 2 of the Echoes series, I’m giving away an ebook copy of Shadowboxing. All you have to do to be in the draw is to comment on this post.
Author: Anne Barwell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Released: 20th January 2012
Genre: M/M (historical)
Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.
When Michel contacts the Allies, hoping they can work together, it isn’t long before the so-called “simple” mission becomes anything but. With both men realizing they can no longer ignore their growing feelings for each other, Kristopher and Michel must fight—not just for a chance of a future together, but for their very survival.
WWII is understandably not everyone’s favourite period of history for all the obvious reasons, let alone when someone tries to write a romance in this period as there was nothing romantic about it for sure. However, in a time when emotions and the stakes were high Anne Barwell manages to write a convincing M/M romance full of nail-biting action at a time when you could only really ever live for the present as trying to build and plan a future was next to impossible. That for me was one of the main messages that runs through this book, live for and enjoy every moment of the present as tomorrow is too uncertain to worry or even think about.
Kristopher (Kit) is a scientist and working on a project that as far as he is concerned will help solve many problems on a humanitarian basis. He is key to the project as only he has the ability and all the information with the secret equations and formulas that can complete the project. However, when he finds out the hidden agenda of the project that the NAZIS plan for the use of his work then it puts him into a personal conflict of conscience. His own personal anguish here was heart-breaking. Unknown to him he has been under observation from the resistance for sometime and when he can no longer keep his conscience from doing the right thing decides to tell his boss what he knows. This brings him in direct conflict with the system and due to an unfortunate accident raises the attention of the NAZIS. They only have one agenda at that is to finish the project for other advantages and now need to convince Kristopher to bring the project to a close. The NAZIS have a funny idea of convincing and is subsequently hunted and persecuted. Kristphoer only has one option left but to run for it, this is where the resistance then exposes themselves to him and help him flee.
This leads to the traditional cat and mouse style chase between Kristopher with the resistance and the Gestapo. This may sound somewhat clichéd but I assure you that due to Anne’s excellent writing and story telling she takes us through the hell that was the WWII. OMG, it must have been horrific to have lived under a regime that anyone who disagreed with their agenda and politics would have been persecuted and disappear overnight. What I liked very much was that Anne didn’t go entirely good guy / bad guy, she also showed a balanced view that despite the cruel regime that Germany was under at that time there were also others, also Germans, who were risking their own lives on a daily basis to fight against an evil that swept the country. This for me was important as all too often it would have been too easy to have gone down the “Hollywood style” road where there is no in-between, only good and bad end of story. Anne brings us a story about people putting their lives at risk everyday and some unfortunately even losing their lives for believing in a better future.
Kristopher knows he is different and has tried to ignore his feelings for a long time until he feels attracted to the resistance fighter, Michel, that is helping him to flee Germany. They have to get him to Switzerland or in the hands of the allies for his own safety. Michel is also drawn to Kristopher and a love builds up that is as forbidden as it can be. I mean shit, two guys, one French and one German, already on opposite sides of the fence anyway, but then to have these feelings at a time when homosexuality would never have been understood either for me makes the anguish of the hopelessness of their situation and love absolutely heart-breaking. They love each other and all they can do is live for the few fleeting moments they have together alone when they are not on the run. These few moments I personally found gut-wrenching. It really is a lesson in living for the moment as tomorrow you might not even be alive and only dreaming about what is effectively an impossible future. It is a slow burn romance, but then when writing an historical novel then I believe you also have to stay within the realms of credibility too and Anne does this very well. You could feel the intense love these guys had for each other, but never really being able consummate it due to time and circumstances.
Not only do we get the main romance between Kristopher and Michel, but also a second one develops between two of the other resistance fighters Matthew and Ken. These guys too have their story to tell and eventually the emotional guard breaks down and they finally admit to each other how they feel for each other. I had wondered first about the necessity of having a second M/M romance running through the story, is it too much? But Anne manages this very well and writes a believable scenario, that doesn’t interfere or take away the spotlight from Kristopher and Michel, but actually adds to the story.
I just loved the whole concept of this book from beginning to end. Realistic scenarios, resistance fighters and nail-biting situations where you feared for their lives. The book ends with a kind of closure, so could be read and left there, but this is the first part of a trilogy and I for one need to know whether Michel and Kristopher reach safety and if they’re chances of a future together can be realised.
About The Author
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.
Connect with the Author
Anne will be giving away one eBook copy of Shadowboxing to one lucky winner. Enter the draw below. Good Luck!
As I’m sure you are all very aware, Facebook is now restricting Page Views. To ensure that you still get all of Sinfully Sexy’s notifications, new releases, new reviews, giveaways, please follow these simple steps
- Go to our Facebook Page
- Hover your mouse over the LIKED button beneath the cover picture.
- You will see a "Get Notifications" option.
- Click it and make sure it is checked.
- Add it to your interests too.