Saturday 19 January 2019

#Book Review — The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance #HistoricalFiction #WW2 @swiftstory @KathrynGauci @JohnMcKay68 @AUSXIPMaryD @MarionKummerow @RobertaKagan

The Darkest Hour:
WWII Tales of Resistance

By Roberta Kagan • Jean Grainger • Marion Kummerow • Ellie Midwood • Alexa Kang • Mary D. Brooks • Deborah Swift • Kathryn Gauci • John R. Mckay • Ryan Armstrong

WW2. When the world falls to terror and tyranny reigns… far would you go to resist?

Would you risk your own life or the lives of the ones you love?

From a young Jewish woman in love fighting her way out of the Warsaw ghetto, to a Czech assassin rising above his fears for an attempt on a Nazi Hangman’s life, to a daughter who vows to avenge her family by taking down a Japanese commander, and a French boy's touching act of defiance no matter how small.

Come and get a glimpse of the invisible side of WWII - the Resistance, those who refuse to bow down to brutality.

Hold your breath and hope for the best in the darkest of times, when our heroes and heroines risk all to defy evil so the light of freedom will shine over their countries again.

This collection includes ten never before published novellas by ten of today’s bestselling WWII historical fiction authors.

Foreword by Terry Lynn Thomas, author of The Silent Woman, the USA Today Bestseller.

Featured Stories:

Bubbe’s Nightingale by Roberta Kagan
Catriona’s War by Jean Grainger
Reluctant Informer by Marion Kummerow
Killing the Hangman by Ellie Midwood
The Moon Chaser by Alexa Kang
Enemy at the Gate by Mary D. Brooks
The Occupation by Deborah Swift
Code Name Camille by Kathryn Gauci
V for Victory by John R McKay
Sound of Resistance by Ryan Armstrong

“…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”
Sir Winston Churchill
House of Commons 4 June 1940

There were those who refused to bow down to tyranny, but not all of them wore uniforms. Some of them were ordinary people from different walks of life. These brave few risked everything, including their lives and the lives of those they loved. Some acts of defiance were small — chalking the letter “V” onto walls. Others, hid those who were persecuted. A few took up arms, and they died fighting for their country, for their compatriots, and for themselves. These men, woman and sometimes children are known by a collective name. They were called The Resistance.

The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance has brought together some of the finest World War II Historical Fiction authors. These authors have donated their time and their skills to bring about this remarkable collection of short stories about The Resistance. All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

From the fall of Czechoslovak to the occupation of China, The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance is a compelling account of those who chose not to surrender, but to fight on, no matter what the consequences.

I am going to approach this review the same way I approached the book — one story at a time.

Bubbe’s Nightingale by Roberta Kagan

Bubbe Ruchel never talked about the past. However, Bubbe is suffering from dementia, and she does not want her story to be forgotten. 

Kagan approached this story with great sensitivity and grace. The brutality of the Warsaw Ghetto was vivid in the telling, but so was the determination of The Jewish Resistance.

Bubbe is a superb heroine. She lost everything, her world was turned upside down, but she approached the future with resilience and courage. Running alongside the hardship and terror of the Ghetto is a sweet but tragic love story, which made this tale even more heartbreakingly beautiful.

Kegan has given a sense of what the Warsaw Ghetto was like, and with the limited word count, she has made a very informed choice of what to include and what not to. Reading about the atrocious treatment of the Jews during World War II can sometimes overwhelm, but in Bubbe’s Nightingale, there is a good balance between the terrible barbarities and the quieter, gentler moments of everyday life. There is also a sweet love story, which gives some light relief. This was a great novel to start the anthology with.

Catriona’s War by Jean Grainger

Catriona McCarthy’s father, Kieran, told her to wait for his return. Only he didn’t come back. No one knows what has happened to him, just that the enemy has captured him and in all likelihood he is dead. If that were not enough for Catriona to get her head around, she is now being asked by the British if she will continue what her father started.

What a wonderfully compelling tale Catriona’s War is. I adored Catriona. She is such a strong woman who seemed to relish being thrown into the deep end. Her relationship with Schroeder, a German officer, was incredibly enthralling. I thought her portrayal was magnificent.

The story was fast-paced and the narrative was clear and concise. The ending was more than satisfying. An enjoyable read.

Reluctant Informer by Marion Kummerow


Sabine Mahler believes that if she minds her own business, then the feared Gestapo will leave her and her family alone. However, that all changed the day Frau Klausen became her new co-worker.

Reluctant Informer is a compelling but also a harrowing account of one woman’s fight to save her husband. This story demonstrates not only the brutality of the Gestapo but also the risks that The Resistance took to thwart them.

As a character, I thought Sabine was wonderfully portrayed. She really is caught between a rock and a hard place. I found myself thinking, what I would do if I had been her? Each page turn had me holding my breath, wondering what new horrors would await her.  The writing was absolutely absorbing. 

Kummerow certainly has a remarkable eye for historical detail. This was such a great story. I cannot praise Reluctant Informer enough.

Killing the Hangman by Ellie Midwood 

The Man With The Iron Heart — that is what Hitler called him. The Czech’s called him by a different name — The Hangman. When Jozef and Jan received their orders, they know what they have to do. They have to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich. 

I am a big fan of Ellie Midwood’s writing, and I am glad to say that she did not disappoint. Her portrayal of Heydrich was chilling. Here was a man who radiated power and terrorised everyone, including those who worked with him. He answered only to Hitler, Göring and Himmler, and was one of the principal architects of the Holocaust. Midwood has painted one of the darkest figures within the Nazi elite very well.

Midwood has based her story around Operation Anthropoid, and the two soldiers who carried out the assignation attempt of Heydrich have been immortalised in this book. I thought Midwood’s depiction of Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš was outstanding. What these men were asked to do was incredibly dangerous, one could say suicidal. I thought the contrast between the antagonist, Heydrich, and the protagonists, Jozef and Jan, was brilliantly executed.

There is no doubt that Midwood has a novelist eye for human detail and fragility, and she always writes such crystalline prose, making her work a real pleasure to read. Killing the Hangman is an excellent addition to this fabulous anthology.

The Moon Chaser by Alexa Kang 

When the Japanese raped Nanking, Yuan Wen-Ying was determined to avenge her countryman. However, it will be no easy task, and it will come at a great personal cost.

Kang has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading. The Moon Chaser was a compelling read from start to finish. To fit such a fabulous story in such a limited word count is indeed worthy of mention. The Moon Chaser is a gripping account of the Resistance in China.

Yuan Wen-Ying is a fabulous heroine. She is a very intelligent young woman who has suffered an immense personal loss. Yuan Wen-Ying is the type of protagonist that inspires sympathy. This was a spectacular portrayal of a character that I really came to care about.

The writing is elegant. The narrative is engaging. What a wonderfully brilliant story. 

Enemy at the Gate by Mary D. Brooks

At thirteen years old, Zoe had no notion that one day she would be a part of The Resistance. However, fate plays a cruel hand, and now Zoe is determined to free as many Jews as she can.

Zoe is a headstrong protagonist that sometimes does things before she fully thinks about the consequences, which made her very endearing. How she survives, I have no idea. She certainly has her share of near-misses! Zoe considers herself a Spartan, and she models herself on that idea of fearlessness — and boy, does she hate those Athenians — almost as much as the Italians! She is a very refreshing character. Zoe’s anger at the injustice she witnesses and her desire to free her country makes her a very convincing patriot. 

Brooks has delivered a very plausible account about the occupation of Greece. The narrative was brilliant, and this short-story is an example of historical fiction at its very best. Enemy at the Gate is undoubtedly an enthralling tale.

The Occupation by Deborah Swift.

It was a sad day for the Islanders when the German Army invaded. Many of the Islanders had left before the occupation, but there had only been limited space on the boats. Céline Huber and her best friend Rachel were two of the unlucky ones. The German invasion of Jersey brought about many changes and sacrifices, but the one thing Céline would not sacrifice was her friend, despite what that may mean for her. 

How I loved this book! The Channel Island’s hold a special place in my heart and this book captures the spirit and the endurance of these remarkable Islanders. Céline’s story is utterly compelling. Her bravery sums up many of those in occupied countries during this time. There was no way she was going to give up her Jewish friend to the Nazis. She would rather die than do that. The antagonist of this tale, the cruel and sadistic Horst, was in direct contrast to Céline’s gentle nature. The fact that Horst is Céline’s brother-in-law makes the contrast even more evident, especially when compared to his brother. The young German doctor, Leutnant Müller is also worthy of mention. He is an unlikely protagonist. His compassion is certainly noteworthy, and his disgust at the way Horst treats the prisoners of war is a reminder that not all German soldiers bought into Nazi ideology. 

Swift writes with an elegance as well as with authority. I thought it was a fabulous portrayal of what Jersey was like under the long five years of occupation. Kudos, Ms Swift.

 Code Name Camille by Kathryn Gauci

Nathalie Fontaine is determined to join La Résistance in Paris. Paris is a city under occupation. No one is to be out past curfew, and German soldiers can stop and search anyone, any time they choose. Nathalie immerses herself in Parisian culture while working for La Résistance. However, something soon becomes very clear. There is a double agent in their midst. The question is… Who?

Code Name Camille was impossible to put down. I was utterly immersed and committed to this story from the opening sentence to the very last word. This is a vastly entertaining tale, with a very compelling plot. When it became evident that there was a double-agent I was trying to guess as to who that was — it turned out I was wrong!

Gauci has written an extremely readable tale. Great Characters. Great narrative. Great Story.

V for Victory by John R McKay

When Charles Mercier sees the victorious German Army march along the Champs-Élysées he decides that when he grows up, he is going to join the German Army, after all, he cannot join the French one, can he? However, after an inspiring speech by his teacher, Charles is reminded that he is a son of France. With some stolen chalk, young Charles is determined to do his bit. He will go out at night and chalk the letter “V” onto buildings and monuments. Vive la France. 

Mckay has penned a lucid account of what life was like in occupied France from a child’s perspective. Charles was a character that matured as the story progressed. He is incredibly naive at the beginning. Charles does not understand the consequences of his actions. He thinks he might have a telling off for scribbling on the wall. He does not even consider that he could receive a bullet instead. Likewise, he doesn’t understand why they can’t listen to the radio anymore.

Mckay has a beautiful eye for detail and a compelling style to his narrative. He writes with imagination and energy which made V for Victory utterly engrossing. I thought it was fabulous.

 Sound of Resistance by Ryan Armstrong

When Charlie’s mother is killed in a car accident, he has no idea just how much his life is going to change. He finds himself in Germany, under the care of his sadistic uncle. Charlie is an American. He does not hold with Nazi ideology. However, he has to tread carefully, for his uncle is a man not to be crossed.

Sound of Resistance is a gripping account of courage under impossible circumstances. Charlie is a wonderful protagonist to pit against his evil uncle. Charlie sees Erich for what he really is — a bully and a coward. However, at the same time, Armstrong explores Erich’s motivation for acting the way he does. Erich seems to have a conscious. He only sleeps three hours a day so one can only surmise that he doesn’t sleep because of what he does. Erich cannot get through a day without taking what he calls “magic pills.” It seems there is a lot more to him, then initially meets the eye, I would like to learn more about him. Nevertheless, he is still deplorable, and a thoroughly disagreeable man.

The narrative of this tale is very engaging and I was utterly engrossed in this story of good vs. evil. 

The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance is a beautiful book that you can start either at the beginning and read through to the end, or read one or two of the stories that take your fancy. Each book has a short synopsis at the beginning which gives you an idea of the flavour of the tale that is to follow. I recommend that you read them all for they are all wonderful. If you are looking for a lovely scope of Resistant stories, then this is the book for you.

I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.

The Coffee Pot Book Club.

*** All proceeds will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum In Washington DC *** 

Roberta Kagan

I’m an American writer of Jewish and Romany decent. I write Historical Fiction and Historical Romance, most of which is set during the holocaust. Although I never discount the horrors of the time period, the main focus of my work is on ordinary people who prove to be strong heroic characters in unfathomable circumstances.

Connect with Roberta: WebsiteTwitterFacebook

Jean Grainger

Jean Grainger was born in Cork, Ireland. She has been a tour guide of her beloved home country, a teacher, a university lecturer and a playwright. She began writing fiction at the suggestion of her clients on tours, many of whom were sure all the stories she told them would make for a great book. Her first book, The Tour, has become a Number 1 bestseller on Amazon. It tells the story of a disparate group of American visitors to Ireland, who, along with their Irish tour guide have a life changing experience in the magical Emerald Isle. 

Her second book, So Much Owed, is a family saga set during the Second World War. The story centres on the Buckley family of West Cork and how their lives are pulled in different directions as they become embroiled in the war. It is a sweeping family saga of intrigue and romance against the background of occupied Europe.

In her third novel, Shadow of a Century, she tells a tale of a battered old flag found in New York in 2016, a century after it was used during the Easter Rising, when Ireland made her final bid for freedom from Great Britain. This tells the story of a journalist who uncovers a story, one with much more to it than a flag. 

Her fourth novel, due out in Spring 2016, Under Heaven’s Shining Stars, is set in the 1970s in Cork, Ireland and is a novel about friendship. Three boys, Liam, Patrick and Hugo, though from very different backgrounds are united in a deep but often times challenging friendship. As their lives progress, only by staying strong, can they prevail. Or fail.
Her novella, Letters of Freedom, tells the story of Carmel, stuck in a pointless marriage, when a figure from her past emerges and changes everything with a ‘like’ on Facebook. This quick read will touch your heart. 

She lives in Cork with her husband and her two youngest children. The older two come home occasionally with laundry and to raid the fridge. 

Connect with Jean: Website

Marion Kummerow

Marion Kummerow was born and raised in Germany, before she set out to "discover the world" and lived in various countries. In 1999 she returned to Germany and settled down in Munich where she's now living with her family.

After dipping her toes with non-fiction books, she finally tackled the project dear to her heart. UNRELENTING is the story about her grandparents, who belonged to the German resistance and fought against the Nazi regime.

It's a book about resilience, love and the courage to stand up and do the right thing.

Connect with Marion: WebsiteTwitter

Ellie Midwood

Ellie Midwood is a best-selling, award-winning historical fiction writer.
She's a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew and a doggie mama.

Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.

Connect with Ellie:

Website • Amazon • Goodreads  • BookBub • Facebook.

Mary D. Brook

A geek with too many imaginary friends who speak different languages (knew those language classes would come in handy). Historical romance and urban fantasy storyteller and addicted to stories and song about strength and courage. I play well with others (for an introvert) but then retreat to talk and write about my imaginary friends. Passionate about lots of things that inspire the mind (art/design, psychology, science and tech) that sets my muse on fire (she's a busy lady!). You can find me here: 

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Deborah Swift

I am a novelist living in the Lake District in England. I write historical fiction but read widely - contemporary and classic fiction. I choose my books carefully, so I don't read many duds. If I do, they are not reviewed here, as a gesture of respect to other writers.

Connect with Deborah: WebsiteTwitter

Kathryn Gauci

Kathryn Gauci was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After graduating, Kathryn spent a year in Vienna, Austria before moving to Greece where she worked as a carpet designer in Athens for six years. There followed another brief period in New Zealand before eventually settling in Melbourne, Australia.

Before turning to writing full-time, Kathryn ran her own textile design studio in Melbourne for over fifteen years, work which she enjoyed tremendously as it allowed her the luxury of travelling worldwide, often taking her off the beaten track and exploring other cultures. The Embroiderer is her first novel; a culmination of those wonderful years of design and travel, and especially of those glorious years in her youth living and working in Greece – a place that she is proud to call her spiritual home.

Her second novel, Conspiracy of Lies, is set in France during WWII. It is based on the stories of real life agents in the service of the Special Operations Executive and The Resistance under Nazi occupied Europe. To put one’s life on the line for your country in the pursuit of freedom took immense courage and many never survived. Kathryn’s interest in WWII started when she lived in Vienna and has continued ever since. She is a regular visitor to France and has spent time in several of the areas in which this novel is set.

Connect with Kathryn: WebsiteTwitter

John R McKay

John R McKay was born and raised in Wigan, Greater Manchester and after serving in the Royal Air Force for seven years he joined Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service in 1997 until leaving to take up other pursuits, including writing. 

He has two daughters and lives with his wife, Dawn.
John's debut novel, the thriller 'The Journal', tell the story of a young man trying to come to terms with the death of his partner whilst avoiding a killer. It takes the reader from modern day England back to the two world wars, where the mystery of what is happening to him can be revealed.

His second novel, the acclaimed 'The Absolution Of Otto Finkel', is a historical novel covering largely unknown events of World War 2 and how war affects people in different ways. John has carried this premise for many years and is extremely proud now the work has been completed and published by Pegasus.

His third novel 'Mosquitoes' is a break from his normal genre and is a contemporary study of how a man can 'lose the plot' when circumstances in his life change suddenly. A black comedy, Mosquitoes is a uniquely written story, told from the perspective of a man unable to cope with the both the pressures of modern society and those he puts on himself.

John has recently completed his fourth novel, 'The Sun Will Always Shine' which is a return to historical fiction, telling the tale of two brothers during the First World War who are the keepers of a dangerous secret.

All four books are now available to purchase through Amazon in paperback and Kindle at very reasonable prices.

He cites his modern literary favourites as Sebastian Faulkes, Robert Harris and Wilbur Smith.

He is currently working on his fifth novel, which he is hoping to release in 2017.

John would like to thank Kellie Dennis of BOOK COVERS BY DESIGN for the excellent artwork for his books.

Connect with John: TwitterFacebook

Ryan Armstrong

I have always enjoyed reading and writing. I write in the evenings. I have a three year old and a five month old - both boys. I am fortunate to have a supportive wife who lets me have time to write and listens to my rough drafts as I work out plot lines. I majored in history and am a romantic guy. So, I wrote "Love and Hate" a (necessarily dark but meaningful) historical fiction novel with a heavy love story element.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such a terrific review, Mary. You did a really thorough job.


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx