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Anna Schmidt

REVIEW:  Simple Faith by Anna Schmidt

REVIEW: Simple Faith by Anna Schmidt

Simple-Faith

After losing her beloved husband and daughter and surviving Hitler’s Sobibor death camp, Quaker widow Anja Steinberg dedicates her life to helping others and keeping her son safe. As a member of the resistance, she helps displaced Allied airmen get back to their units in England. The journey is rigorous and filled with danger and there is no time for romance. Then American Peter Trent parachutes into her life. She must face facts—her heart did not die with her late husband and true love could be hers again. But will a romance hurt Peter’s chance of escape from the Nazis—and endanger her life as well?

Dear Ms. Schmidt,

I keep an eye out for your books ever since I discovered you through your Harlequin Historical Love Inspired novels. Quite by chance I happened to have watched a documentary a few months ago that detailed the story of a former American fighter pilot who was shot down during WWII and who by chance and luck was kept from capture for several months while he was sent along the Comet line in Belgium – one of the escape routes used to send Allied airmen through Belgium, France and Spain to return to Britain. When I saw the blurb, I knew I had to read this book.

The action gets going immediately as Peter Trent bails out of his crippled plane then watches as it slams into the ground and explodes. He’s concerned about which other crewmen might have got out in time but also with the fact that he’s been shot in the leg and the fireball of the crash will lead the Germans straight to the site. Desperately trying to remember his escape and evasion tactics while waiting to pull the ripcord of his chute, he calculates his odds and they don’t look good.

Luck is with him and the farm family first hides then takes him in. Anja arrives while the Germans are still searching the grounds of her grandparents farm and joins in the deception that must be flawless for them all to avoid imprisonment, interrogation and death as the network tries to help Peter heal, keeps him concealed and then transports him south.

Anja’s instructions to Peter as she teaches him the ways the Germans will try and trip up people they suspect, the pass offs, couriers, safe houses and, at times, brazen methods the people of the Comet line use all tally with what I’ve seen and read about resistance groups. The constant fear under which they all live is palpable. The danger is everywhere and anyone but as they tell Peter when he asks, it is what they can do to try and win the war.

I was surprised but enthusiastic that the book went far beyond what I was expecting. The group starts in Brussels, escapes detection with an elaborate ruse in Paris, splits up to Bordeaux, winds up near Limoges where fate stretches the escape to the breaking point. And then, the mountains! And details of how the route worked beyond the Pyrenees that I didn’t know the specifics about wind up the third section of the book. It was informative, it was immediate and again capture and death lurked at every turn.

The plot unfolded in a way that makes sense that Anja and her son needed to travel along with and at some times parallel with Peter towards Spain. There is time for these two to get to know each other before the “I love you’s” and the marriage proposal was timely and actually necessary to the final escape. I also like the ending which hints at the work needed after the war and fits in with Anja’s Quaker determination to help with that.

The religious aspects of the book are shown to be central to Anja’s life and part and parcel of the work she does. She shows her beliefs to Peter by her actions and the way she lives rather than any preaching at him and by extension, at me. Another nice thing is that even some of the Germans are shown as people too with their own dreams, fears and hopes. No group of people is ever just black or white. American Peter also comes to realize how arrogant he initially appears and learns some lessons about following instead of always trying to lead.

Anja is a strong heroine as well as an intelligent one. Peter gets to see and appreciate the bravery of those who would risk their lives to save total strangers. He and Anja help others escape and find love as they form a new family and a spotlight is shown on the role of the Belgians during the war. It’s a win for me. B

~Jayne

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REVIEW: An Unexpected Suitor by Anna Schmidt

REVIEW: An Unexpected Suitor by Anna Schmidt

Dear Ms. Schmidt,

0373828217.01.LZZZZZZZI am coming to look forward to your many novels set on the Massachusetts coastal islands. Plus you use the turn-of-the-century (turn of the last century I should say) era which is something I’d love to see more of.

Nola Burns initially appears to be an uptight, dried up spinster who’s as rigid as her corset while Harrison Starbuck has been known as a scamp and a carefree rogue since his boyhood. Nola’s hardworking, having taken over the care of her siblings at the death of their parents and since run the teahouse which was her childhood home. Harry is well off due to his instinct for a good business deal. Now they’re about to clash over Harry’s latest venture.

The beachfront teahouse is the perfect location for Harry’s planned luxury hotel to accompany the cabaret he’s building to entertain the locals and summer tourists upon whom they all depend. But it’s all Nola has and she’s not going to sell it or see her business ruined without a fight.

When Nola allows the actors to stay in her house in order to fill in for the summer staff she was unable to hire, the town busybodies’ tongues begin to wag. That wouldn’t bother strong willed Nola but the unsigned, threatening letters which have begun to appear finally start to take their toll on her. Can these two see a way for both to get what they want and how long will it take them to see in each other what the rest of the town already knows?

In many ways, “An Unexpected Suitor” reminds me of “The Music Man.” The time frame, the initially unbending heroine, the charming hero, the disapproving town elders and music thrown in to top it off. For while the town thinks well of Harry, they’re not so sure about the theater people he’s begun to associate with and whom he’s bringing to the island to stage his latest play-turned-operetta.

It reminds me of how restricted were the lives of most women of the time. There is Harry’s unmarried older aunt who’s finally “of an age” not to be bothered by gossip and speculation that she lives alone and the women of the theater, whom most respectable people have already consigned to sin, but poor Nola is still bound by the conventions of the day. I enjoyed watching first Nola’s, then everyone else’s, opinions of the theater people change. Even the minister confesses to his shame that he isn’t immune from preconceived notions. You remind all of us, regardless of creed, to step back and examine ourselves. But you do it without preaching which is something I admire.

The relationship between Nola and Harry takes time to develop. At first they appear not to know each other well at all which is something I found odd. They grew up in the same small town and in their youth, Nola seems to have had a crush on Harry but, when the book starts, it’s almost as if they’re strangers. However, I do like how you conveyed their growing interest in each other without resorting to mental lusting.

The pace of the story is more like the lazy days of summer and there are several subplots. While I enjoyed the story and the characters, I did get impatient at times. I felt a little tightening up would have moved the story along more quickly while not losing the substance of the novel. And while I admire Nola for not casting stones or making accusations before the identity of the letter writer is revealed, her stubborn determination to blow off the threats finally began to seem foolhardy.

Though this book doesn’t match my fondness for “Gift from the Sea,” it’s still one for which I think there is an audience. The setting and time period are ones I hope will be further explored even if I hope the pace is quickened, just slightly. B-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.