My guest today is author Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy with her new book, In The Shadow of War. Welcome, Lee Ann. Tell us a little about the time period of your story and how you came to write it.
To understand why I find the 1940’s and the World War II era so romantic, you’d have to hear a little family story. It begins sad, as so many stories do. My grandmother was widowed in 1943 at the age of twenty-eight with four children, two boys, two girls. Her cousin and some of her friends encouraged her to begin dating within a reasonable time frame. Since she already wrote to her many cousins serving in the war, one of her friends suggested she write to one more, the friend’s uncle, a man just a few years older than they were. So my grandmother did and a relationship grew as the letters written on the brittle Air Mail paper of the time flew back and forth between St. Joseph, Missouri and the Philippines.
By the time the war ended, she and her soldier wanted to meet in person but just because the war was over didn’t mean everyone got to come home immediately. They continued to write and when he was discharged, the man I grew up knowing as Grandpa came back to my hometown of St. Joseph. He arrived late at night and when he walked to the address where he’d sent all those letters, everyone was in bed. So he decided to just wait until morning. Despite the autumn chill in the air, he rolled up in his Army overcoat and slept on the front porch. When my grandmother came out to get the milk – delivered by the faithful milkman – she discovered the soldier she’d been writing to in person. They were married a few months later.
Lee Anne, I love this! Not something that would happen today, would it? Really brings back the magic and simpleness of that period in time. How fragile life was, and still is. How miracles can happen when we least expect it. What a good man to father those kids, and be a husband to your grandma. Although I was born after the war, my parents and grandparents told me similar stories. But this has to be one of the most beautiful ones I've heard.
Romantic, isn’t it? I always thought so. Their story isn’t the story told in my new historical romance from Rebel Ink Press, In The Shadow of War, but the love story between Bette Sullivan and Private Ben Levy is just as poignant, as sweet. Here’s the details, the blurb and a little taste:
In The Shadow of War
Rebel Ink Press May 17 2012
ISBN # RIP0004104
ISBN # RIP0004104
Her great-granddaughter wants to know if Bette remembers World War II for a school project and her questions revive old memories….
Small town school teacher Bette Sullivan's life was interrupted when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 but her world changed forever when she met Private Benny Levy, a soldier from the Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York stationed at Camp Crowder, the local Army base.
Their attraction is immediate and mutual but as their relationship grows their love and lives are shadowed by World War II. As the future looms uncertain the couple comes together with almost desperate need and a powerful love they hope can weather anything, including the war.
“I missed you, doll,” he said afterward. “God, I missed you.”
Warmth blossomed within her chest and she smiled at him. “I missed you too, Benny. Saturday seemed so long and I didn’t know if you could come this morning. I worried you might not make it.”
“Me, too,” he said. “I almost missed the bus anyhow because the company sergeant griped us out because the barracks weren’t neat enough to suit him. Yesterday turned out lousy, all day.”
“Why?” she asked. “What happened?”
“What didn’t?” he said. “Jeez, they made us go on a long hike through the back country, for hours in the heat. I picked up every tick and chigger in the world, I think, got mosquito bit, and worn out. Two of the guys fell out with heat exhaustion and ended up at the post hospital. My feet and ankles itched me like crazy. Even the darn Army boots didn’t help me from getting eaten by the insects. I swear the buggers crawled into my boots.”
“Aw, honey, I’m sorry,” Bette said, using the endearment for the first time. “Do the bites still itch?”
“Not so bad,” he said. “Back in barracks, some of the guys said to soak my feet in bleach water so we begged some from the laundry. It helped. Then after dinner they called me over to the motor pool to fix a jeep and I got to bed late just before final lights out. I’m beat and that’s a fact.”
Bette paused and faced him. “Would you rather go rest or something?”
“Naw, sugar, I’m fine. I need some Joe and I’m hungry, too. I just got a couple of hours so let’s go eat and spend a little time together, okay?”
“It’s fine with me,” she said.
They ate at a different café and she introduced him to biscuits and gravy, something he vowed he’d never eaten before but said he liked. Afterward, with time passing too fast, he suggested they walk down to Big Spring Park again but she had another idea.
“You look so tired,” Bette said. He did with dark smudges beneath both eyes. “If you want we can go sit in the porch swing at Aunt Virgie’s or in the front room.”
Benny shook his head. “I’ll catch a nap later this afternoon, if I’m lucky. I’d like a few more kisses and I doubt your parents would like us spooning out on the porch.”
“I forgot they’re there,” she replied. “So, okay, let’s go to the park.”
Another couple beat them to the grotto, so they wandered around the park until they found a vacant bench in the shade. A few kids played on the teeter-totter and swings, their happy babble setting a bright mood. Benny put his arm around her and Bette snuggled against him with a contented sigh. For a few minutes they sat, comfortable with the pose and content with each other. She’d already come to associate his scent with security and she inhaled it, saving it up for when she’d be alone. As they rested in easy silence she savored the harmony and as they lingered Bette noticed their breath came in tandem, in and out with the same rhythm as if they were one, not two.
Just as she opened her mouth to remark on it Benny took her face and turned it toward him. With slow deliberation he kissed her, unhurried with such sweetness she forgot to breathe for a few seconds. His lips caressed her mouth with a fine light touch, as soft as hair blown across her face with a gentle breeze. Such tenderness evoked the same within and yet triggered desire, too. Benny cherished her mouth with his, his lips sending shivers through her body despite the hot day, little spirals of chill strong enough to make goose pimples erupt on her flesh.
Bette responded with her mouth, a hankering for something deeper and more intimate rising in her with the force of a rising wind. She sensed how great it would be to lose her consciousness by drowning in her senses, by molding her body into his. Bette, virgin as the mother of God, ached now for the pleasures of the flesh. Every old wives tale ever heard about sex being dirty or painful or nasty evaporated faster than snow in March and for the first time in her life, she decided sex could be wonderful.
His kisses stirred Bette’s body even as they induced emotion, too sweet to be sinful. Her body responded to his mouth the way a good corn crop ripened beneath the sun’s warmth. As her limbs relaxed she leaned into him, one hand holding tight to his arm so she wouldn’t lose balance to tumble from the park bench onto the grass. The kiss lasted forever, but not quite long enough when Benny paused so they could both breathe again.
“Oh,” she said with wonder. “Benny, that’s nice.”
“Nice, she says,” he responded with mock outrage. “Just nice? I call it splendid, fantastic, superb, supreme…”
Thank you, Lee Anne, for stopping by today. Hope everyone will stop by again.
Life is one fool thing after another.
Love is two fool things after each other.
Accidental SEAL coming soon!