Echoes Rising - Book 1
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.
For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr. Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr. Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined.
Michel froze when several gunshots pierced the quiet Berlin night. “Kristopher…,” he whispered. No. Please no.
Beside him, Matt’s head jerked up. He swore loudly. A few moments later, another lone shot followed the first couple.
Walker and Palmer skidded to a halt, doubling back from where they’d gone on ahead.
“Elise’s Kaffeehaus.” Walker panted, trying to speak and catch his breath simultaneously. He and Palmer appeared to be much younger than their companions; Michel wouldn’t be surprised if this was their first assignment in the field. “Gestapo….”
“Matt….” Ken’s previous harsh timbre was replaced by something much gentler, but Matt ignored him and shook his head.
“No.” His voice shook, his words partly echoing Michel’s thoughts. “Not Elise. Please, not her, not now.” Matt leaned heavily against a nearby lamppost, his eyes glazed over.READ MORE
“We don’t know who fired the shots, sir.” Palmer took over the explanation. At least he could pass for German if he stayed quiet and kept his head down. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that, but there were no guarantees as to which way a particular mission might go. Michel had had that fact reinforced on more occasions than he cared to remember, but too many lives depended on them with this one. It had to succeed. “The Kaffeehaus is swarming with Gestapo, but there is no sign of anyone else.”
“We need to ascertain precisely what has happened before we move in. In order to do that, we will have to get closer.” Ken took charge—although Matt was the ranking officer, he appeared to be in no state to give orders. Whatever his relationship to Elise, this was not the time for him to be dwelling on what might be happening in the Kaffeehaus. Getting Kristopher and the plans to safety was still their priority.
“It’s damn obvious that someone’s been shot.” Matt visibly pulled himself together, although his voice hitched slightly before the word “shot.” “We need to get in there quickly in order to minimize damage. Gabriel, take Walker and Palmer and secure the back entrance. Lowe, Zhou, you’re with me. We’ll secure the front.”
“What if there’s another exit?” asked Liang, disengaging the safety on his handgun.
Matt shook his head, his matter-of-fact tone verifying prior knowledge of both the Kaffeehaus and its owner. “There isn’t. Not unless Elise has done some major renovations, which I doubt.”
“We’re probably more than outnumbered by Holm and his men.” Michel pointed out the inadequacies of the plan. “It would be more sensible to size up the situation first, as Lowe suggested, before we move in. The shot might be merely a warning. We don’t know for certain that someone is injured. If Dr. Lehrer and Elise have been captured, it would pay to wait until….” His voice trailed off, a grotesque image entering his mind—Kristopher lying on the floor of the Kaffeehaus, his fair hair stained red with the blood dripping from a single bullet hole to the temple. Michel quickly pushed it away. Holm needed Kristopher. He wouldn’t risk killing him. Elise could be used to ensure Kristopher’s cooperation. It made more sense that they were both still alive.
“I don’t care.” Matt’s previous calm was replaced by an edge of desperation that made him both unpredictable and dangerous. “I’m not just sitting here and waiting. To hell with procedure.”
WWII is understandably not everyone’s favourite period of history for all the obvious reasons, let alone when someone tries to write a romance in this period as there was nothing romantic about it for sure. However, in a time when emotions and the stakes were high Anne Barwell manages to write a convincing M/M romance full of nail-biting action at a time when you could only really ever live for the present as trying to build and plan a future was next to impossible. That for me was one of the main messages that runs through this book, live for and enjoy every moment of the present as tomorrow is too uncertain to worry or even think about.
Kristopher (Kit) is a scientist and working on a project that as far as he is concerned will help solve many problems on a humanitarian basis. He is key to the project as only he has the ability and all the information with the secret equations and formulas that can complete the project. However, when he finds out the hidden agenda of the project that the NAZIS plan for the use of his work then it puts him into a personal conflict of conscience. His own personal anguish here was heart-breaking. Unknown to him he has been under observation from the resistance for sometime and when he can no longer keep his conscience from doing the right thing decides to tell his boss what he knows. This brings him in direct conflict with the system and due to an unfortunate accident raises the attention of the NAZIS. They only have one agenda at that is to finish the project for other advantages and now need to convince Kristopher to bring the project to a close. The NAZIS have a funny idea of convincing and is subsequently hunted and persecuted. Kristphoer only has one option left but to run for it, this is where the resistance then exposes themselves to him and help him flee.
This leads to the traditional cat and mouse style chase between Kristopher with the resistance and the Gestapo. This may sound somewhat clichéd but I assure you that due to Anne’s excellent writing and story telling she takes us through the hell that was the WWII. OMG, it must have been horrific to have lived under a regime that anyone who disagreed with their agenda and politics would have been persecuted and disappear overnight. What I liked very much was that Anne didn’t go entirely good guy / bad guy, she also showed a balanced view that despite the cruel regime that Germany was under at that time there were also others, also Germans, who were risking their own lives on a daily basis to fight against an evil that swept the country. This for me was important as all too often it would have been too easy to have gone down the “Hollywood style” road where there is no in-between, only good and bad end of story. Anne brings us a story about people putting their lives at risk everyday and some unfortunately even losing their lives for believing in a better future.
Kristopher knows he is different and has tried to ignore his feelings for a long time until he feels attracted to the resistance fighter, Michel, that is helping him to flee Germany. They have to get him to Switzerland or in the hands of the allies for his own safety. Michel is also drawn to Kristopher and a love builds up that is as forbidden as it can be. I mean shit, two guys, one French and one German, already on opposite sides of the fence anyway, but then to have these feelings at a time when homosexuality would never have been understood either for me makes the anguish of the hopelessness of their situation and love absolutely heart-breaking. They love each other and all they can do is live for the few fleeting moments they have together alone when they are not on the run. These few moments I personally found gut-wrenching. It really is a lesson in living for the moment as tomorrow you might not even be alive and only dreaming about what is effectively an impossible future. It is a slow burn romance, but then when writing an historical novel then I believe you also have to stay within the realms of credibility too and Anne does this very well. You could feel the intense love these guys had for each other, but never really being able consummate it due to time and circumstances.
Not only do we get the main romance between Kristopher and Michel, but also a second one develops between two of the other resistance fighters Matthew and Ken. These guys too have their story to tell and eventually the emotional guard breaks down and they finally admit to each other how they feel for each other. I had wondered first about the necessity of having a second M/M romance running through the story, is it too much? But Anne manages this very well and writes a believable scenario, that doesn’t interfere or take away the spotlight from Kristopher and Michel, but actually adds to the story.
I just loved the whole concept of this book from beginning to end. Realistic scenarios, resistance fighters and nail-biting situations where you feared for their lives. The book ends with a kind of closure, so could be read and left there, but this is the first part of a trilogy and I for one need to know whether Michel and Kristopher reach safety and if they’re chances of a future together can be realised.