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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Different Kind of Happy Ending

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.

cover here

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.

Shadowboxing is the first of a series of three novels (Shadowboxing, Winter Duet, and Comes a Horseman) set in Europe during WW2. The Echoes series which begins in 1943 in Berlin, takes the characters―and the readers― across Germany, and into France, and ends on D-Day in June 1944. The main characters are Kristopher (a German physicist), Michel (a Frenchman and member of the Resistance), and three men (Matt, Ken and Liang) who are part of Allied Team sent into Germany to retrieve the plans for a new weapon that has the potential to win the war.
Why set a novel with gay characters in the middle of the war? My answer to that is, why not? These men all have interesting stories to tell, and it is at this point in their lives where those stories intercept. Of the five, four of the characters are gay in a time when it was very dangerous to be so. The fifth, Liang, being of Chinese descent, isn't exactly in the safest position either. He knows all too well what it is like to lose family, and those he cares about, and despite his original intentions not to, he is building friendships with the other members of his team.
All of these men come into this story with different life experiences and have dealt with their awareness of their sexuality in their own way. Kristopher realised he was attracted to other men during university when his feelings toward a friend scared him, especially with having been raised with the idea that loving another man is wrong. But, as he falls for Michel, and the love between them grows alongside their friendship, he cannot mesh his childhood teachings with how he feels now. He's already shoved too much of who he is to one side, devoting himself to science and burying himself in it to hide from himself and the man he has become.
Michel, on the other hand, is more confident about his sexuality and has acted on his desire for men before this. He has the experience and confidence that Kristopher lacks, but that is balanced with being terrified of losing another person he loves.

Matt tried, as many men of that time, to live as a straight man, but when his girlfriend wanted to take their relationship one step further and get married, he couldn't go through with it. He loved her, but wasn't in love with her, and couldn't live a lie. His concern was not so much for himself, but for her. It wouldn't be fair to her; she deserved more.
All Ken knows is that he is in love with Matt. He's never felt that way about anyone, and he'll do anything to ensure that Matt is safe, even putting his life on the line to do so. That's what love is, after all, isn't it? He's never consciously thought that he might be interested in other men; it was just that he never met anyone before now that he was sexually attracted to.
Add into this mix five very different personalities, working together in circumstances well out of their comfort zones and for very high stakes, and their world will be turned upside down in more ways than one.
Before the series is finished, all will learn that there is no such thing as black and white during times of war, but rather shades of grey. The so called good guys make mistakes, and are flawed, and their enemies are desperately working toward their own goals for the very best of intentions.
I like to write about people, rather than stereotypes and that was one of the reasons why writing the Echoes series appealed to me. It was an opportunity to explore motivations, throw a lot of things at very different characters, and see what happened. Being shoved into a situation way out of your comfort zone, coupled with the real threat of losing someone you love, can empower people to act in ways they never thought they would.
Not just losing someone you love, but also losing the person you are, or have the potential to be. By the end of this war, Kristopher, especially, will discover just how far he'll go to protect the man he loves and the people he cares about. The question is, however, will the cost be too high?
War rips everything to shreds, and afterwards nothing is ever the same again. I can't write a series set during this particular war and have the characters just ride off into the sunset together, however much I'd like to. It wouldn't be realistic, and after all the soul-searching, angst and horror these men have been through it would undermine what they've done, and what they achieve. This was a very real period of history and as much as I'd love to pretend it didn't happen, it did.
There's a downside to researching for an historical novel; much of what I've learnt so far, I really wish I hadn't. Too many good people lost their lives fighting for what they believed in, not just through the actions of their enemies but also because of mistakes made by their Allies and friends.
Sometimes happy endings are not about walking off into the sunset together, but just being able to live your life with the person you love. And considering that so many never got the opportunity to do so, the very least I can do for my characters, is to give them that.
Thanks again to Carson and the team at Guys Like Romance Too for hosting me. :)
Anne Barwell
Links to me and the book:
Blog WebsiteCoffee Unicorns:  My author page at Dreamspinner Press:

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