As Hitler’s armies overrun France, Rudolf von Schoenenburg, a young Austrian baron, is living in exile in England. Though his true love, Hannah, is engaged to another man, Rudi and Hannah risk their lives together to help rescue thousands of British Troops from Dunkirk. Their powerful love story develops against the backdrop of the Battle of Britain and an old world being blown to pieces.
Rudi’s family and friends suffer under the nightly barrage of bombs and rockets of the London Blitz while he pilots a British fighter plane in what looks like an impossible defense of the small island. Each night is a desperate fight for survival, each dawn a miracle.
While Hannah spends her days and nights helping to provide early warning of German air attacks, she realizes that every hour of every day is precious. Each moment carries the threat of sudden death. As the world around her changes, should Hannah allow her passion for Rudi to overcome promises she made to her dying father in what seems like another lifetime?
I learned more about WWII history by reading Defiance by G. G. Vandagriff than I think I did in any World History class in school (lo those many years ago - not as long ago as WWII, but still, pretty long). I had heard of Dunkirk, and the pride Britons take in the spirit displayed there, but I never really knew what had happened. I had heard or read Winston Churchill's stirring speeches, but had not experienced them in historical context.
That's one of the things I LOVE about historical fiction - especially a work that takes real-life events and fleshes them out so readers years down the road can experience them in a way that will stick in their memories. (Because you know what they say about 'those who don't remember history...'. Personally, I come up with enough mistakes each day that I don't need to be repeating anything from the past.)
In addition, the concept of 'governments-in-exile' have become clear to me in a way I have not understood before. Many of the main characters in Defiance were actually not native English.
And Ms. Vandagriff packs in a couple of tidy little romances for the readers as well. Keeping a romance alive is tough work; keeping one alive in wartime? I don't know where folks get the strength.
There is Hannah and Rudi. Hannah is a Jewish girl and Rudi is a Catholic baron from Austria. In Austria at the time, marriages between Jews and Christians were not recognized. Add to that, Hannah was intent on honoring her father's dying wish that she marry a "good Jew". Rudi was also a pilot for the RAF (and quite a good shot), but when he gets shot down during the Battle of Britain, he is found by some country Brits, and as most of us in times of stress, revert back to the most familiar - in Rudi's case, his 'mother tongue' of German. Red lights and sirens going off all around.
Then there is Nika (a Polish refugee) and Anthony (a well-to-do official in the Foreign Office). Nika's family were killed and she survived the Nazi takeover of Poland. Anthony survived losing part of a leg and the betrayal by family and friend alike. Anthony's wife did not want to deal with a 'disabled veteran' and left the marriage. His daughter did what many children do when one of their divorced parents begins showing romantic interest in another person. The friend? Well, you'll just have to read the book. That bit I'm not giving up.
Defiance by G. G. Vandagriff is engaging from beginning to end. History buffs (especially of the WWII Era) will enjoy this novel. Historical romance fans will also enjoy it. But the appeal of the work is not limited to those groups alone.
I do hope there is a continuation to this story, because if I have one reservation about the book, it is that the ending seemed a little abrupt. But that, perhaps, is a matter of my personal taste - others may be fine with it.
I could go on, but I'll stop now, so you can go get the book and read it!
MEET THE AUTHOR
I realize that I am one of those rare people in the world who gets to live a life full of passion, romance, suspense, angst, fulfillment, humor, and mystery. I am a writer. Every day when I sit down at my computer, I enter into a world of my own making. I am in the head of a panoply of characters ranging from a nineteen-year-old Austrian debutante (The Last Waltz) to a raging psychopath (The Arthurian Omen) and four women at once in The Only Way to Paradise. Then there are the feisty heroines of my Regency romances . . .
I am a traditionally published,award-winning, best-selling writer who has recently gone Indie. I enjoy genre-hopping, having published a genealogical mystery series, two women's fiction novels, two historical romances, two suspense novels, seven Regency romances, and a couple of non-fiction offerings.
With a BA from Stanford and an MA from George Washington University in International Relations, I somehow stumbled into finance. But, once my husband was through law school, I never wanted to do anything but write and raise kids. Now the kids are gone, but (even better) there are five grandchildren who provide my rewards for finishing a manuscript.
(Disclosure: I received an ecopy of this book from the author and publishers via EBooksforReview.com in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)