Saturday, October 11, 2014

Winter Duet (Echoes #2) by Anne Barwell ~ Review, Guest Post and Giveaway

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A world at war, living life on a razor’s edge, is it possible to find love in a time when your fighting for your life? Well, in Winter Duet we find out that against all odds the basic human need to love and be loved prevails and possibly is even more intense than ever. Want to know more then check out Mark’s review below……

We also have Anne with us here today talking about serials and why…….


Guest Post

Thanks for hosting me today. Hi, I’m Anne and I have a series... addiction.

Or to put it another way, I can’t write a one shot to save my life. Every time I write a story it turns into a series. Or, if it doesn’t, it spins off into a series.

At least with my WW2 series, Echoes, I knew I was writing a series from the very beginning. The story I wanted to tell was too long for just one book, if I wanted to do it justice.

Winter Duet is book two of that series, the middle book of the three. That puts it in a unique position. Shadowboxing, which is book one, sets everything up and introduces the characters, and Comes a Horseman, book three, will conclude the story, and resolve any dangling plot threads.

Although Winter Duet is part of a series, it needed to stand alone so that readers could read it before Shadowboxing and still follow what was going on. But in doing so they’d also be aware there was more of the story and then hopefully go find Shadowboxing and read that one too.

However, despite needing some recap, I didn’t want to give too much away or what would be the point in reading the first book? I also didn’t want to do a big info dump at the beginning of the book either. The solution was to have a character reminiscing about what happened, but as she’s not one of the main players, she only knew so much, so it’s not too much, but enough, like tuning into your favourite TV show and hearing the voiceover: previously on...

I also needed to advance the storyline, and have the characters grow a bit more—or there’s no point to the book—but still have enough unresolved plot to tie up in the next book. It’s a juggling act, especially with a fairly large cast, but that’s half the fun. The characters, of course, had their own ideas about where the plot should go and introduced a 10K detour which I hadn’t expected. I should know better than to think they’re going to follow an outline by now. My characters never do. They still get from A to B, but they like to take the scenic route.

Winter Duet also introduces a couple of new characters, one of which one of my beta readers got very attached to. The story also has a very small easter egg for readers of my other books. Blink and you’ll miss it, but it’s there.

The story ties up some loose ends from Shadowboxing but also sets up foreshadowing for the next book. In particular, there’s one scene between two characters which is a lot more than it seems, but that’s the only clue I’m giving. All will be revealed in the final book in the series.

To celebrate the release of Winter Duet, I’m giving away an eBook copy of either book 1 or 2 in the Echoes series. To be in the draw to choose which book you’d like, please leave a comment on this post.


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Title: Winter Duet

Author: Anne Barwell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Released: 6th October 2014

Genre: M/M (historical / military)


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Sequel to Shadowboxing
Echoes: Book Two

Germany 1944.

With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house and continue their 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 that they 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.

Mark’s Review

Michel and Kristopher are on the run from the Gestapo and this makes for one nail-biting chase as they escape once again but only by the skin of their teeth. Matt and Ken are also doing everything they can to avoid being caught and they should all meet in a safe house, but as usual in a war nothing really goes according to plan and the situation changes by the minute. Constantly living life on a razor’s edge.

From the word go I was totally invested in this book. Not only because of the hope I have that these guys will be able to find a way to make things work, but also the basic instinct of survival. Michel and Kristopher are so committed to each other it’s truly beautiful, but again it’s a time where they can only sneak a few private moments together, when the do it is all the more heartfelt. I really go all gushy at the thought when these guys get their chance for a few private moments. When I first started reading this series I thought that maybe their declarations of love might have been a little too early and too much. However, when you add in the backdrop and time period then as I said in my previous review I guess you could only really live for the present and waiting to see whether someone was compatible or not for you would be a luxury you couldn’t afford. On the other hand though the situation itself forges a strong bond as your life would clearly depend on those you trust and love as theirs would have done too. Also Matt and Ken now see what is staring them in the face and give in to the feelings of affection they have for each other.

“It had taken nearly losing each other for them to finally admit that what they felt was far deeper than friendship and Matt intended to make the most of whatever time they had.”

I know I’m digressing a little from my review but please just indulge me for a little bit, as I feel these few things needed mentioning. So in this sort of situation and in this period would gay relationships ever have been forged? Is it realistic to expect this and to write an M/M romance set in WWII? Well, as things today have become more open, understanding and acceptable, so the stories of the past start to creep out of the historical closest and get the airing they rightly deserve. Yes, many men and women formed loving gay relationships during this time, but obviously due to the circumstances of the time for many had to remain totally secret for the rest of their lives. All extremely hush, hush and swept under the carpet You can read a lovely letter HERE written by a G.I. from WWII or here is a very rare photo  featured at the Kinsey Institute’s Gallery  exhibit “Love and War” So yes, gay men and women did find love and served their country bravely and with honour. There was just no way to talk about it until now.


This makes Anne’s book, although a work of fiction, for me all the more poignant.

So back to the book and my review. In this instalment, Michel and Kristopher get separated and there is no chance of sitting around and moping. They both have to remain practical and concentrated and hope that the other is still alive. That must have been so sad, not knowing whether the one you love is still OK or not. I guess many went through this in the war and probably many do today who are serving. It really is one of the hardest tests any relationship I reckon can through. Anne gets the balance really well between the basic instinct to survive whilst trying to hold on to a love and belief in a possible future together. This in itself was heart-breaking, the whole hopelessness of their situation, but determined not to give up on love. For me this is one of the most beautiful things about romances set in this time, although the situation is dangerous, possibly hopeless and forlorn, the need to love and be loved seems to be all the more stronger.

The Gestapo are hard on the heels of the guys in The Resistance and don’t let up for one minute. I just love the characters in this book as they all have their respective histories but share a common goal. They are real and come alive on the pages as you read. You fear for them, hate some of them, cry for some of them, it really is a book that has produced very mixed emotions in me.

As the whole team are all split up and trying to survive their own battles, it leads to a story that has many different scenarios all playing out at the same time. This was managed really well by Anne and not for one minute did I get the feeling that I was confused or didn’t know what was happening even if all these things are happening parallel to each other in different places.

With so many separate threads running at the same time I was wondering how Anne was going to tie these all up. Well, I found the plot device she used to do this absolutely wonderful and I’m not giving anything away here as to how she does it. But eventually the whole team meet up, remembering from the first book that is really only Michel who knows what Kristopher looks like as does only Matt know what Michel looks like. Ken and Liang have never seen Kristopher or Michel and vice versa. When they start to drift together and find who’s who bit by bit I just loved the way Anne depicted this. As was the nature of the Resistance no one really ever knew exactly who was who due to the security, so when Matt and Kristopher meet the first time it is without the others. It was wonderful character development to see how they start to find out bit by bit through learning to trust each other who their real identities are. The same with Ken and Michel. It all made for an extremely realistic undercover, resistance style story.

This is not an erotic romance where Matt and Ken or Kristopher and Michel are at it like rabbits with pages of hot steamy sex and to be honest I wouldn’t want it in a book that is set in this period of history. They are on the run and the chances they get to be alone are only fleeting which would be totally in keeping historically and plot wise. This doesn’t detract though from the love these men share and that made me feel so hopeful but sad at the same time. Thinking about these brave men and women I can only quote Winston Churchill Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” and that holds as true today as it ever did.

Anne lets the reader know though that once again there is no one side that is totally bad or good. Just people trying to fight an evil that has taken control of their respective countries. I loved the whole concept of this book and will wait with baited breath whether in the final book Kit and Michel, Matt and Ken find at least a happy end that can be sustained in that period. They seriously can’t have gone through all this not to find their own little bit of heaven.



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



The Echoes Series Reading Order

1) Shadowboxing ~ Mark’s Review


2) Winter Duet

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Purchase Links





Anne is giving away either a eBook copy of Shadowboxing (book 1) or Winter Duet (book 2). The winner may choose which one. Just enter the Rafflecopter draw below. GOOD LUCK!

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  1. I don't I've ever read a book set in the WWII era. I certainly think it could be interesting to read.

  2. i have never read one like this i think it would be cool to do so cause it sound really great thanks for the chance

  3. I love historical romance, though the ones set at war times, specially both WW, are always a bit too gloomy for me. The war atmosphere is always reflected in the characters, and sometimes that's depressing... But a HEA can bring hope and happiness, even at wartime. ;)

  4. It's a very distinctive era, so I'm intrigued by the idea (though I'm always worried it will end sadly)...


  5. Sounds fantastic. Such an interesting era. Both on my wish list

  6. WWII was my favourite period in history as a teenager
    this sounds awesome

  7. Such a fascinating era! I love the idea of a m/m story set in it! Thanks for the chance.

  8. i enjoy a good historical romance of any kind

  9. love 'em :) Thanks for sharing!

  10. Oh, I am intrigued already--WW2 is a favorite era for me. What a great review--and I confess, Anne, I have your same problem with series and continuations of stories! I suspect it is because you become so invested in your characters you just want to spend more time with them--and if you get that invested, it makes me even more interested!

  11. I love Historical Romances. You can learn while reading. Definitely a Xtra for me.

  12. I love historical romance, WWII's time ot other... I'm not so fond of serials, I like my books to stand by themselves... but I do love to revisit favorite characters in a sequel if the author really has something new to tell ;-) I'd love a chance to start Shadowboxing. Thanks for the giveaway.