Quote of the Week

“Those that much covet are with gain so fond,
For what they have not, that which they possess
They scatter and unloose it from their bond,
And so, by hoping more, they have but less.”

William Shakespeare [1564-1616]

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company in 1955. Page 131.

[Book Blast] We Shall Not Shatter by Elaine Stock

Publisher and Publication Date: Amsterdam Publishers. May 15, 2022.
Genre: Jewish Historical Fiction.
Pages: 398.
Format: Available in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover.
Audience: Historical fiction readers.

Goodreads link.

Link @ Amazon. Available for preorder.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

Elaine Stock writes Historical Fiction, exploring home, family and friendships throughout time. She enjoys creating stories showing how all faiths, races, and belief systems are interconnected and need each other.

Elaine’s grandparents, on both sides of her family, narrowly escaped World War II by immigrating from Poland and Austria to the US. Fascinated by the strong will of people to overcome the horrors from this era, she wrote We Shall Not Shatter, Book 1 of the Resilient Women of WWII Trilogy inspired by her deaf great aunt who was left behind as a teenager in Poland and perished in the Holocaust, while her other deaf siblings were permitted to enter the US when their young ages helped them to circumvent medically-revealing exams. Other extended family members also remained in Poland to lose their lives in the Holocaust.

Although multi-published in award-winning Inspirational Fiction, and a past blogger and online magazine contributor, Elaine now pens novels for the General reading audience. She is a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association and The Historical Novel Society. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she has now been living in upstate, rural New York with her husband for more years than her stint as a city gal. She enjoys long walks down country roads, visiting New England towns, and of course, a good book.

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Praises:

“For anyone who loved All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, this is another beautiful journey of not just one woman’s story through the turbulent times of Nazi Germany, but two. A story which will touch your heart, and perhaps bring a few tears to wipe away, showing how love does indeed break barriers and sees beyond human labels and disabilities. You will absolutely fall in love with Zofia and Aanya, and how strong friendships were forged in the heat of oppression from Hitler’s Germany despite their different faiths.”
— Historical Fiction Company

“Drawing from her own family’s history, author Elaine Stock has created a compelling story of enduring friendship, heart wrenching sacrifice, and resilient strength. While set during one of the darkest moments on history’s stage, We Shall Not Shatter’s themes—conveyed through characters who will inhabit your heart—have much to say to readers in today’s world, too.”
— Carrie Schmidt, ReadingIsMySuperPower.org

“Elaine Stock’s novel, We Shall Not Shatter, the first of a promised trilogy, Resilient Women of WWII, is a poignant and heartfelt tale of perseverance, of friendship across boundaries, of making families in different ways, of horror and of healing. In the characters of Zofia and Aanya, and the families they make and lose in their native Poland, the barbarities of war, the added peril of Aanya’s deafness, and their harrowing escape, the story is offset by the plot strands of Christians helping Jews, Germans helping Poles, hearing people cherishing the strength of the deaf, and the deaf healing others. This is a story not only of resilience, but of the victory of love and friendship over pain and suffering.”
— Barbara Stark-Nemon, author of the award-winning novels, Even in Darkness and Hard Cider, Speech-language therapist and Teacher Consultant for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

We Shall Not Shatter is a compelling novel, inspired by real-life events in Brzeziny, Poland that so dramatically changed the fortunes of both a close-knit Jewish family and a Catholic family during the Hitler years. Elaine Stock’s poignant narrative charts the despair, confusion and sheer will to survive during this terrible period in modern European history. This is a story that oozes tragedy, hope, love and courage in the face of adversity.”
— Ron Vincent, author of The House on Thrömerstrasse: A Story of Rebirth and Renewal in the Wake of the Holocaust

“The story and its characters will linger in the reader’s heart for days… perhaps forever.”
— Patricia Bradley, Author of the Logan Point Series, Memphis Cold Case Novels, Natchez Trace Park Ranger Series

We Shall Not Shatter takes readers on a rare journey of life-tested relationships and uncompromising courage. Stock brilliantly creates a time and place that is terrible and heartbreaking only to reveal the beauty that awaits on the other side of devastation. This story will stay with you long after the last page is turned.”
— London Clarke, #1 Amazon bestselling author of Wildfell and The Meadows

Summary:

An unforgettable story of friendship, family and hope as two courageous young women face one of history’s most horrific tragedies.

Brzeziny, Poland, 1939 Zofia’s comfortable-lifestyle overturns when her husband, Jabez, who monitors Nazi activity, has gone missing. Rather than fleeing the country with her young son, as she had promised Jabez who is fearing retaliation, she decides to stay. She cannot possibly leave her friend, Aanya. Since their childhood they have amazed fellow Brzeziners that it does not matter that Aanya is Jewish and deaf, and that Zofia is Catholic and hearing. Now, more than ever with war looming, Zofia will do whatever is necessary to protect her family and Aanya.

As both love and war approach their Polish town, Zofia and Aanya must make choices that will change the meaning of family, home, and their precious friendship. The journey, decisions and the no-going-back consequences the women face will either help them to survive—or not—as Hitler’s Third Reich revs up its control of the world.

Inspired by the author’s paternal heritage from Brzeziny, this is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of two women who are determined to remain united in friendship and to live freely despite the odds.

Quote of the Week

“No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm troubled sphere:
I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.”

Emily Bronte [1818-1848]

“Last Lines” Stanza 1. 1846.

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company. 1955.
Page 592.

[Review and Excerpt] Iron and Fire by Kerrin Willis

Publisher and Publication Date: Kerrin Willis. April 5, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 316.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Kerrin Willis. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction. Readers of early American history.
Rating: Very good.

Tour page for the Iron & Fire book tour.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

Kerrin Willis lives in Southeastern Massachusetts with her two daughters and her dog, Austen. She is a high school English teacher who prides herself on being a feminist and a strong protagonist in her own story, and she would probably have been burned as a witch in colonial New England. Kerrin can usually be found pausing The Little Mermaid and subjecting her daughters to a lecture on the dangers of giving up their voices.

Kerrin has a BA in English from Stonehill College, and MA in English from Simmons College, and is currently working on her MFA in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | 
GOODREADS

Giveaway:

Enter to win a copy of Iron & Fire by Kerrin Willis!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on April 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The direct link: Iron & Fire.

Praises:

“Whether you’re a fan of passionate romance, a detective in search of a mystery, or a history buff looking to learn more about what happened after Plymouth Rock, Iron & Fire has something for everyone. While Verity and Kit are the main attractions, the family relationships were my favorite parts- especially the bonds between the cheeky eldest Parker sisters. I learned quite a bit about things from my own backyard I knew nothing about- and most appreciated that for a novel that took place nearly 350 years ago, the characters and their issues felt modern and relatable. A fast read that will stick with you after you turn the final page!” Meredith Bickford, MA MEd

“Iron and Fire masterfully depicts Puritan New England in a story that seamlessly blends themes of love, war, and family. Verity Parker, the headstrong protagonist, challenges nearly every “norm” of Puritan society. Throughout the course of the novel, Verity seeks to define her purpose; oftentimes she is trapped deciding between meeting the expectations of her family or embracing her divergent worldview. In particular, Verity’s conception of humanity will make her an endearing and relatable character for Willis’ audience; unlike her peers, Verity’s notion of justice and community extends far beyond societal limitations, making her worldview far more relevant for modern readers.
Beyond Verity, Willis incorporates a series of complex characters whose subtle growth help shape the novel into a well-rounded story. Each character faces a conflict that calls their identities and beliefs into question. It is unlikely that readers will not be able to find one character with whom they can relate to. Willis’ ability to interweave these intricate story lines is captivating!” ~ Megan Johnson, MEd

“In her debut novel, Kerrin Willis captures the heart of American colonial historical fiction with her words and characters. Iron & Fire, set during the King Phillip War in southeastern Massachusetts, explores the themes of family dynamics, love, and the voice of independent women living in a time when silence was the standard…. The writing style is fluent and peppered with wit and descriptive prose balanced throughout the dialogue. The novel reads quickly, while the characters stay with you. Iron & Fire is an engaging, character-driven novel that is strongly recommended” ~Kimberly Rocha, MA MEd

Summary:

1675 — Plymouth Colony — Verity Parker promised to look after her family.

Raised among the bookshops and turmoil of Reformation London, Verity now finds herself in Puritan New England, where she must learn to keep her head down and her mouth shut, or risk dire consequences. The only person who values her tenacity is Kit, the heretical ironworker she has been forbidden to see. When King Philip’s War breaks out, Verity must stay silent as the Puritan elders spread hateful rhetoric about the “savages” in the forest. When she witnesses a young girl die in childbirth, Verity must stand by as neighbors blame God’s vengeance. But when tragedy strikes her own home, Verity must choose between her duty to her family and her love for Kit. Will she choose to keep the peace, or will she defy the leaders of the colony for a chance at happiness?

Set against the backdrop of King Philip’s War, the bloodiest war per capita in American history, Iron & Fire explores the experience of a clever, educated woman at a time when being so often resulted in death. Perfect for fans of Amy Belding Brown’s Flight of the Sparrow, or Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Iron & Fire was written for those who read the original American Girl series as children and are now all grown up.

Excerpt:

Talk around the dinner table that afternoon revolved mainly around the three Indians who had been arrested for the murder of the praying Indian, John Sassamon. Verity’s eldest stepbrothers, Jon and Diah, questioned their father about the incident, and Obadiah Elston was more than pleased to share the gritty details. Verity sat in silence between Hannah and Mercy, swirling her stew around with her spoon, as Obadiah recounted the story. Sassamon, a Massachusett Indian who had converted to Christianity and been educated at Harvard College, had been found beneath the ice of Assawompset pond a few months past, his neck badly broken. It was said that he had angered the Wampanoag chief, King Philip, and that Philip had ordered his murder.

Obadiah was clearly enjoying his personal pulpit at the head of the table, and Verity’s face and
hands grew hot in annoyance as he said, “Soon, the savage’s executioners will feel the wrath of
God around their own necks, as is fitting.”

“How can you call it fitting to hang men for the crime of murder? Does that not make the men who pass the sentence murderers as well?” Verity barely realized she had spoken aloud until she felt eight pairs of eyes staring at her in astonishment. Joseph, who sat directly across the table from his stepsister, looked at her with eyes wide enough to fall clean out of his head, and next to him, little Grace’s lips formed a perfect “O” at the impertinence of Verity’s question. Obadiah cleared his throat, and said pointedly to Verity, “An eye for an eye, Mistress Parker. Good Christian men,” he emphasized the word, “must show King Philip that those who attack the English, or those who give us succor, will face the vengeance of the Lord.” He punctuated this point with his spoon, before digging into his meal. Obadiah was finished with the discussion, and as such, there would be no more talk until after the meal was completed.

Was such an aggressive warning necessary? The few Indians Verity had seen appeared to be peaceful, but they didn’t represent the whole of their people any more than she and her family represented the entire colony of Plymouth. Verity had been taught in the Quaker meetings of her childhood about the inward light of God, inherent in each person on earth, regardless of country or creed. Surely that light existed within the Indians, as well as the English?

And yet, she recalled her father reading from the works of George Fox, founder of the Quaker Society of Friends, that Light would not grow if not tended to. If the Indians were just as likely as the English to house a connection to the Almighty, then they were also just as likely to ignore it in favor of their more immediate needs.

Verity turned these questions over in her head as she finished her meal, working to make sense of them. The shadows from the hearth fire danced on the walls of the keeping room, giving an air of foreboding to what had previously seemed to be a simple Sunday dinner. Perhaps it was the shadows, undulating on the walls like primal spirits of a time long past, but an icy chill ran down the base of Verity’s spine as she had a terrifying thought.

“What will we do if the Indians attack?” The question hung in the air for a beat, as though Verity’s giving voice to their fear had rendered them all momentarily mute.

Her mother finally broke the silence.

“Do, child?” Her spoon paused halfway between the table and her lips. “We will pray that they do not attack.”

“But if they do….”

Jon spoke up, squaring his shoulders with the authority that came from being the eldest son. “The Indians are not to be trusted. There’s been talk — I don’t wish to frighten you — but we’d best be prepared.” He leaned forward in his chair. “The counsel talks of building three additional garrison houses. In the event of an attack by the Indians, the safest plan would be to move straight to the nearest garrison and remain there until the danger has passed.”

“How will the danger pass?” Verity met his eyes squarely, challenging him to give her a satisfactory answer.

“Why, we will fight them, of course,” Jon’s eyes shone. “The women and children will be safe in
the garrison, and the men will show the heathens what happens when they attack our
settlements.”

“All the men who are of an age to fight will do so.” Obadiah’s words tempered his son’s fervor. At 14, Jon considered himself a man. His father, however, did not, and this was a point of contention in the home. “The Bible tells us that there is a time for war, and a time for peace. We will not wage war against the Indians unless provoked, but if they burn our farms and violate our women, we must retaliate.”

A rock settled in Verity’s stomach at the fervor in the men’s eyes. She wanted to confront her stepfather and ask him if he’d ever experienced war, or if he thought the Indian men were as fiercely protective of their women and children as he was of his own, but she knew it would come to naught. Again, she would be seen as impertinent. Again, someone would tell her stepfather that he needed to keep a better control on her tongue. Again, her mother and sister would give her that look of disappointed confusion, silently asking Verity why she can’t just fit in their new world.

Copyright © 2022 by Kerrin Willis

My Thoughts:

I don’t come across too many books that are early American historical fiction. It is not a time period that is common. It is actually rare. This is the first reason why I love this story. It is unique in a sea of historical fiction books which are often World War II in time period. Iron & Fire is refreshing and notable.

A second reason why I love this story is the main character, Verity. She is a brave and feisty young woman living in the male dominated new world of 1600s America. She’s mouthy. Intelligent. Brave. A person of convictions and principle. She is a person of purpose. She is a person of strong convictions. She grieves her father. There are things about her character I admire, understand, and feel a kinship towards.

The first few pages thrust me into the time period of Puritan culture and society. I believe this story is strong in showing what Puritan life was like during this time period. This includes the threat of the Native American people. In the story, they are called Indians.

What I do wish had been included in the story, even though it would’ve made it longer, is the active role of Native Americans. Instead, they are a backdrop. I am told what they’ve done. I am told what kind of housing they live in and where they live, etc. I am told about the death of one who had become a Christian. I know them through the conversations and fears of the Puritan people. I am shown the impact of the killings of the Puritans. The fear of the Native Americans and the wars with them is a strong outer conflict.

Verity goes through a period of time where she questions the things she’s been taught. It is easy for her to rebel against a domineering stepfather. She questions her faith, and the differences of what she’d been taught under her father as opposed to her stepfather’s beliefs. This is common for a person of her age to ponder these things. However, it is not common for a woman of this era to outwardly speak her mind (not a bad thing, just not common.) These things bring inner conflicts to the story.

The story has a good pace.

The story is told in linear or chronological form.

Overall, the ending is satisfactory and solid.

Themes in Iron & Fire: Survival, grief, justice, hope, charity, wisdom, conformity, injustice, rebellion, peace, romance, sacrifice, fear, guilt, and courage.

Quote of the Week

“Of all the thoughts of God that are
Borne inward into souls afar,
Along the Psalmist’s music deep,
Now tell me if that any is,
For gift or grace, surpassing this:
He giveth his beloved-sleep.”

“The Sleep” [1838]. Stanza 1.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning [1806-1861]

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company. 1955.
Page 518.