Thank you for having me, Delilah.
A couple of days ago, I was archiving my 2019 author interviews and guest blogs and it occurred to me that every interview began with the question — “What inspired you to write your book?” The next question asks about our characters — “Are they based on people we know or pure imagination?” “Was the story planned or did it grow as the chapters increased?” And, every author has a different story concerning what inspired him or her to write their story. That’s the beauty of books, each one is new and unique for the reader, taking us on an adventure from the first page.
My first attempts at writing were full of enthusiasm and scenes in my head but lacking in the essential substance – inspiration.
It was by chance while sitting in the doctor’s waiting room that I picked up a three month’s old journal and read an article on how a person’s true character emerges when faced with life-threatening danger or massive upheaval. For example, the tough guy turns to water and runs, the small insignificant person steps up and takes charge. An idea was forming in my head, and again, by chance, I was sorting through old family papers and came across my grandfather’s World War One military record. He served with the Australian Imperial Forces in Belgium and France and was involved in some of the bloodiest battles. He came home but was never the same, and it was years before he could talk about the horrors of that war. I decided to research the events leading up to the German invasion of Belgium in August 1914, and what followed was called The Rape of Belgium. I was reading the atrocities my grandfather spoke about. There was the inspiration and the setting for my first book, Behind the Clouds.
Behind the Clouds
Barely tolerating each other, Adrian and Gabrielle Bryce are trapped in Belgium as the clouds of war loom over Europe.
Plunged into a nightmare of lies and betrayal they flee for their lives as the Germans cross the border. Narrowly avoiding capture, witnessing death and atrocities, they reach safety as two different people – only to face charges of treason and a woman who’ll stop at nothing to see Adrian dead.
He’d barely slept because of this throbbing foot, and he was as thirsty as hell. Hobbling to the canal he drank the murky liquid, then dipped both his feet into the cold water. He let out a slow sigh as the cool water soothed his aching extremities. Gabrielle knelt at the water’s edge beside him to wash her face and push wet fingers through her hair to slick down the untidy curls. Her voice was low and angry.
“What was she like?”
“What are you talking about?” he scowled, dreading what was coming.
“Sigrid, Maryanne, whatever her name was,” she snapped back.
“What are you trying to do Gaby? Force an argument?”
“No, I’m not forcing an argument. I really want to know. You preferred that woman’s company to mine and your children’s and because of her and my uncle and your unbelievable stupidity, two innocent people have died, and we are forced to rely on each other to stay alive. Are you proud of yourself? And was her beauty and obvious bedroom expertise worth all of this?”
Adrian clenched his jaw and turned away, angry and embarrassed.
“I’m waiting,” she persisted. “I presume you also showered her with gifts and expensive baubles while we would be lucky to see you on our birthdays.”
Something snapped inside him. His face was tight with fury as turned back to face her.
“If I could get up and walk away, I would. Just what are you trying to achieve? We’ve avoided capture by the skin of our teeth, we have no idea how to get away, the Germans are pouring into Belgium, thousands will be killed, and you want to know if I showered her with gifts. Why don’t we concentrate on getting out of here and then you will be free of me? Now for Christ’s sake leave it alone.”
“You want to get up and walk away?” her voice dripped scorn. “Did I walk away from that lonely empty life in that big lonely house? Making excuses to your children, visiting neighbours on my own. Did I show such contempt for our marriage vows?”
“You forgot to mention entertaining Charlton in my home,” he snarled and flinched as Gabrielle’s hand slapped his face.
“Yes, your home,” she yelled. “I may have lived there and given birth to your children there, but it was always your home. I pray to God we will return to England and you can enjoy your home and your expensive, treacherous harlots!” Her hands clenched into fists. “Yes, Brian did share my bed. You were never there. You couldn’t care less about me or our children. You were so besotted with that German harlot’s devious charms you had no idea what was going on. She was exceptionally clever, and you were exceptionally stupid.”
Adrian rubbed his cheek and pointed his finger at her. “If you hit me again, you will be sorry. You want to know what she was like. I’ll tell you…She had long wavy auburn hair, a figure that made men’s eyes water and yes, she had expertise in the bedroom. She could drink me under the table and she could discuss politics like a man. She was exceptionally clever and yes, you are right, I was exceptionally stupid because I hadn’t a clue she was German or she’d bedded a cabinet minister, or she’d been on other assignments for your uncle. I’ve answered all your questions and I don’t give a damn whether you believe me or not, but I’m bloody ashamed of myself. And I hope to God we’ll get back to England so you can do whatever you want, and I won’t have to listen to your harping sarcastic tongue. Are you happy now?”
“Oh yes, very happy, thank you. Who wouldn’t be, sitting here with you on the damp ground beside a canal without food or clean clothes,” her eyes glittered with contempt. “How does it feel you, a cabinet minister and my uncle shared her? I wonder if she kept an inventory of her jewelry and gifts to remember who gave her what.”
He pulled his feet from the water and stood up. “I’m not listening to your ranting anymore, nor am I waiting here for them to find me.”
“You can’t face the truth, can you?” she shouted at him. “Well, unpleasant as it is, you need me and I need you to survive. When we reach safety, you can go back to the life you enjoyed with your sophisticated women without the inconvenience of an unwanted wife. And, if we get out of here, I don’t want anything to do with you. Not even a Christmas card.” Her lip curled. “A gentleman never breaks a business contract but it’s of no consequence to break your marriage vows.
Adrian reached down and roughly pulled her up to face him. “I can’t face the truth? It’s a pity you didn’t marry that useless fop Charlton eight years ago, because he’d have been the target for your sainted uncle’s lunacy instead of me! Christ, you haven’t shut up about your miserable marriage but look where it’s got me! Stitched up like a bloody weaver’s loom, set up as a traitor, hiding like a fugitive. And why? Because I had the temerity to marry you.” He turned his back and hobbled over to the grazing horse.
“I’m leaving. Are you coming with me or staying here?”
Gabrielle’s face mirrored the shock she felt at Adrian’s words. Her foot lashed out sending a small log into the water and she walked up to Adrian, her fists clenched, then without warning, she burst into tears. “I have no choice,” her voice was raw with emotion. “All I want is to get out of Belgium and go back to my children and never see you again.”
Adrian gripped her arms, his fingers digging into her flesh. “You’ll get your bloody freedom one way or the other. If we get out of this, I’ll gladly give it. If I’m shot, you can play the grieving widow for a day or two. Now shut up and help me get this horse into the shafts.”
He heaved himself up onto the driving seat knowing damn well they were suffering huge reactions to the events they had witnessed. His insides were ripped apart enough without her rubbing his face in it again and again. How could he have been so bloody naïve? It wouldn’t matter how loudly he protested his innocence, the fact remained his mistress had wheedled far too much information from him and a senior government minister named Edmund. Good, God! Sir Edmund Charters! Close to the Prime Minister, related to the Foreign Minister. That old fool must be nearly seventy, and you Bryce, are the biggest fool of them all.
The characters in this book are so real, so honest. This is a true love story as well as a suspenseful, historical novel. I highly recommend it!
I loved reading about your inspiration, Jan. I can’t wait to read your book. I already bought it and it’s on my list for the new year!
This is a really great excerpt Jan. Sounds like a good read. Love historical romances.
I don’t tend to read historical romances, but I thought this one was very well written. The book has more depth than your average story. If you get a chance, you should check it out.
Wonderful blog. It was so interesting. Your grandfather gave up so much for us all. Your novel is wonderful.
Thank you for sharing this, Jan! My grandfather too served in WWI and was a prisoner of war in Bulgaria for years. The book looks great!
Thank you all for such lovely comments. You are so right Callie, and Alice, our servicemen and women gave up so much so we could enjoy our freedom today. We owe them a lot.