Just as The Storm Breaks Forth (reviewed last time) offers a unique view of World War I through a German American’s perspective in Milwaukee, Terri Wangard’s World War II novels each provide a unique setting from which to experience other aspects of the war.
Her Promise for Tomorrow series consists of:
- Friends & Enemies, set primarily in England and rural Germany, relayed by an American navigator of a bomber and a native German young woman
- No Neutral Ground, set primarily in Stockholm, Sweden, featuring a native German with some Jewish ancestry fighting for America, and an American artist working for the U.S.’s Office of Strategic Services gathering intel
- Soar Like Eagles, set in England, told from the perspectives of an American navigator and an American Red Cross volunteer
I haven’t yet read the last one, but the first two were fascinating. Another bonus—books two and three reveal more about characters introduced in book one.
Back Cover Blurb—Friends & Enemies
In 1943, widowed seamstress Heidi Wetzel finds new meaning in life by caring for evacuated children on a rural farm in war-torn western Germany. Never a supporter of National Socialism, she takes pleasure in passive resistance, but must exercise caution around neighbors who delight in reporting to the Gestapo.
Flying cadet Paul Braedel’s wife dies while he trains for the U.S. Army Air Corps. Following bereavement leave, he returns to B-17 “Flying Fortress” Bomber navigator training but he’s lost his zest for life and heads to England, not caring if he lives or dies. When he and his crew are shot down over Germany, he evades capture and, for the first time since Rachel’s death, hears the voice of God whisper guidance: “Find Heidi.”
When Heidi stumbles into a man she recognizes, she is shocked to realize he is a friend from her high school days in the United States, and the husband of her best friend Rachel. Aiding an enemy downed airman is punishable by execution, but she agrees to help.
Then they’re betrayed.
A war-time adventure with romantic second chances.
My Thoughts — Friends & Enemies
This is an intriguing look into the life of an American Air Force fighter pilot and the young German woman who discovers him in her backyard after his plane is shot down. Paul Braedel and Heidi Wetzel knew each other from years earlier, when she lived in the United States. By now, they have both lost spouses.
She knows the dangers of helping the enemy, but she’s already tending to evacuated children on a farm and passively supporting the resistance. Paul is still reeling from his wife’s recent death and the attack that landed him here.
This novel served as my first introduction to flying on a B-17 bomber, right alongside Paul, the navigator. It seemed so authentic, I was certain the author herself must have been part of the crew at one time. After over a dozen bomb runs, the plane is shot down and he has to parachute to safety. He purposely looks for Heidi.
Prior to their reunion, the story line follows their experiences separately. But now that they’re working together—as both friends and, technically, enemies—the stakes raise.
As difficult as it is to read about wartime atrocities, Terri’s natural writing style drew me in through authentic dialog, imagery, and period details. I felt the plane shaking. I experienced the daily fears of ordinary German citizens, as well as the romantic pull between Paul and Heidi.
Back cover copy of No Neutral Ground
How can Rafe and Jennie succeed in their dangerous roles when they are so conflicted?After his father divorced his mother because of her Jewish ancestry, Rafe and the rest of the family fled Germany. Years later, he returns to Europe…as a B-17 navigator in the U.S. Army Air Force. Flying missions against his former home arouses emotions that surprise Rafe. Despite being rejected by his country, he is troubled by the destruction of Germany and his heart still cries for his father’s love.Sweden may be neutral, but it’s full of intrigue. Jennie, an artist, assists the OSS at the American legation in Stockholm. She thought she’d be doing passive, behind-the-scenes work. Instead, she’s pushed into a frightening, active role to gain intelligence and frustrate the Germans.
My Thoughts — No Neutral Ground
Sweden and Switzerland were generally considered neutral during World War II, yet spies for both Germany and the Allies abounded in both countries. I enjoyed learning through fiction what living in Sweden was like at that time—from the spies’ perspective.
Artist Jennie Linquist was never groomed to be spy. She is headed to Sweden to be with her parents. But in her desire to help the war effort, she finds herself eavesdropping and delivering documents.
Rafe Martell, a flight navigator with the U.S. Army Air Force, grew up in Germany as part of the Hitler Youth—until he was dismissed due to his mother’s Jewish heritage. His family fled to America. But his father divorced his mother and remained in the homeland, loyal to Hitler.
Thus, Rafe fights against his native country—which includes members of his own family, and heavy emotional baggage with his father.
Rafe and Jennie meet onboard the Queen Mary headed for Europe. Their lives unexpectedly entwine later in Sweden, through various risky scenarios. Vivid scenes, well researched, bring World War II to life in this unusual setting, weaving in some clean, light romance.
Carol becomes a Red Cross doughnut girl, serving GIs and boosting their morale. Convinced wartime romances are doomed to disappointment, she attempts to avoid entanglements. She didn’t plan on Chet, the navigator who tempts her to throw caution to the wind. Chet’s father and brothers always belittled him. Now a squadron lead navigator, he longs to prove them wrong. He’s already been offered a terrific job with PanAm after the war. First he must survive his combat tour. Will he even have a future?
Learn more about the “Donut Dollies” American Red Cross Volunteers in Europe
I hope to read this one soon.
Join me for some Q & A with author Terri Wangard.
Questions about Friends & Enemies (WW II)
What inspired you to write a WW II novel? Do you have any personal connections or ancestors who fought in WW II?
Terri: My dad found a bunch of letters in my grandmother’s house when he cleaned it out. They were written by a brother and sister, second cousins twice removed to me, in the immediate postwar years. Family in the US sent care packages to them until West Germany got back on its feet. They were the inspiration for Heidi’s family in Friends & Enemies. I have no personal connections to the war. As in WWI, the men were too old or too young.
How did you decide on your hero and heroine, Paul and Heidi? Did the story grow out of characters or a situation in mind?
Terri: The sister letter writer spent three years in Canada with her husband in the mid-30s, returning to Germany because she was homesick. They had no children, so I gave them her brother’s three children, and Heidi is the oldest. The city they live in (Hagen), the factory they own, their house being bombed, all happened to my kin.
How much of the character development and events went according to your original plan and how much evolved as you wrote?
Terri: Most of Paul’s and Heidi’s escape from Germany was written on the fly. I’d read about evaders eluding capture, but this was a little different. It was like, “Okay, what else can I throw at them?”
Your research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. How did that come about and how was that experience?
Terri: Noisy. None of my books had been published yet, and I had to go back and change the scenes in the B-17s. Standing right in front of someone, I saw his lips move but couldn’t hear a word he said. I flew in Aluminum Overcast, which belongs to the EAA in Oshkosh. A mechanical issue kept it grounded last year, but it usually tours the country and offers rides. It’s expensive, but for me, it was worth it. If you watch movies like Memphis Belle, you see the men talk to each other in normal tones without using the intercom. No way!
Your scenes from Paul’s perspective in the B-17 bomber flow so naturally, as if you’d had the wartime experience yourself. How did you achieve that? (Besides taking the ride!)
Terri: I have a shelf full of memoirs by airmen, most of them by men in the 381st Bomb Group and many by navigators. Their experiences showed up in all three books in my series.
Have you always been interested in airplanes and flight? Or was that a result of writing your war scenes in the air?
Terri: Good questions. My first plane ride was in third grade when we flew to Florida, the first of many trips. My dad and brother both took flying lessons and Dad had a license for a while. I guess you could say I’ve been conditioned to flight.
Did you ever consider learning to fly yourself? Or do you wish you had?
Terri: I did go up with my dad, brother, and an instructor once in a Cessna. Nearly got airsick. Too hot and sunny. Come to think of it, same thing nearly happened on a floatplane in Alaska. Small planes do not agree with me. What I would like to do is go hot air ballooning.
Questions about No Neutral Ground
How did you decide on your hero and heroine, Rafe and Jennie, in No Neutral Ground? Did the story grow out of characters or a situation in mind?
Terri: Rafe, of course, was introduced in Friends & Enemies. His story as a German Jewish refugee was begging to be told. Jennie was molded to fit the story: her father was based in Sweden and she had art skills that attracted the OSS.
How did you decide to set the story primarily in Sweden?
Terri: I wanted something different. Many WWII books are about underground activities or evading the Gestapo. I read one book about airmen interned in Switzerland. They were also interned in Sweden and had a much different experience. And I had been to Sweden.
What kind of research was involved for the Swedish setting and other pertinent details that weren’t in your other WWII novels?
Terri: I found two books that were especially helpful. One by a British diplomat and one about all the American planes that landed in Sweden. I wish I had taken more pictures while I was in Sweden, and spent more time in the Old Town.
Share a little bit about how Soar Like Eagles came to be and any connection to the previous two novels.
Terri: All three books feature navigators in the 381st Bomb Group. Chet had a big role in Friends & Enemies. Paul shows up in both No Neutral Ground and Soar Like Eagles. Somehow, and I don’t remember how, I learned about the Red Cross doughnut girls. A lot of them wrote memoirs. I first wanted to have a heroine who worked at a train depot, serving troops as they crisscrossed the country during training, but she needed to go overseas. The doughnut girls fit the bill. This book has a lot of scenes in France.
Back to Laura . . . On a different note . . .
I’m currently gathering a launch team for my own historical fiction, Fifteen Minutes with Mr. Baum. Set in Holland, Michigan, this split-time novel alternates between 1980 and the early 1900s. It highlights The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum. Read more and watch the book trailer here.
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Terri Wangard bio
Terri Wangard grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during the Lombardi Glory Years. Her first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. These days she writes historical fiction, and won the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Woodland’s Chapter 2013 Writers on the Storm (WOTS) contest and the ACFW 2013 First Impressions, as well as being an ACFW 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her busy as an associate editor. Learn more on her website.
Join me next time for a visit with Stacy T. Simmons and her contemporary romance.
Meanwhile, have you read Friends & Enemies, or the others? What WW I fiction have you read? Answer in the comments below.