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Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.

All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.

Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!

2.10.14

WINTER DUET by Anne Barwell

Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Walking down the street, hand in hand with the person you love.  Sharing a kiss in a crowded café...

These are things we take for granted today. We read romance novels and expect a happily ever after.

For gay men living in the not so distant past, all of this was a dream that—for them—would never be reality. Not only was homosexuality frowned upon, it was illegal and any men caught in what could be presumed a sexual relationship with another man would be sentenced to hard labour, or worse.  I say ‘presumed’ because even holding hands in public was dangerous. Some got a choice—avoid prison and choose to be chemically castrated. Not much of a choice, is it?

Kristopher, one of the main characters in my WW2 Echoes series, also had another dilemma he needed to work through. He, like many others of his generation, had been taught that having romantic and sexual feelings for another man was wrong.  That thinking had already caused him to walk away from one friendship because he was scared when he figured out what his true feelings were.  In Shadowboxing, the first book in the series, Kristopher’s father discusses the ‘Jewish problem’.  The Jews are viewed as ‘other’ and Kristopher soon realises that, because he is homosexual, so is he.

There’s a well known poem by Martin Niemöller that has stuck in my mind. It is about how first they came for others and I did not speak out, and then came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

I’ve been asked why I wrote two homosexual couples in this series.  Each man approaches their sexuality differently, and they each reflect the differing ways men dealt with the fact it was dangerous to admit to someone else who they truly were.  While Kristopher needs to admit to himself who he is, and accept it, Michel already knows he prefers men, and has had a past relationship.  Matt’s self-awareness came with the realisation that he couldn’t continue his relationship with his friend, Elise. He loved her, but not romantically and didn’t want to live a lie any longer.  Many homosexual men pretended to be straight and were in relationships with women. Ken’s situation is different again. He’d never met a man or a woman he was interested in. Then he meets Matt, and even then neither takes the risk to admit their true feelings to each other until....

In Winter Duet, Kristopher and Michel take refuge in a safe house with a German couple.
Later, Kristopher tells Michel:
“You know what I really want? I want what Karolina and Georg have. I want to be able to be with and get married to the person I love and not to have to hide how I feel.” Tears formed in his eyes, and he blinked them away. “I want to be able to offer you comfort when you need it and not just when we’re alone.” He stood up abruptly, walked over to the edge of the loft, and kicked at the straw at his feet. “Damn it, Michel. How can what we have be wrong? It’s not. It feels so right. I feel complete when I’m with you, like I was missing something before but never knew it.”

Even if he and Michel survive the war, they are going to have to hide their relationship in public.  Given that, any HEA is going to be bittersweet. Ditto for Matt and Ken.  It’s the reality of the time in which they’re living, and portraying it unrealistically would be doing them, and everything they’ve been through a disservice.

Buy Link:

Echoes book 2 - Sequel to Shadowboxing

Germany 1944

With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house and continue their journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.

While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot.  After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.

Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope that they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.

Excerpt:
“Oh.” Kristopher paused, his spoon halfway to his mouth. “I’m sorry. I never thought. I didn’t mean to….” The words trailed off. Telling them he hadn’t meant to embarrass them would only serve to do just that.

“I’d never heard the poems before either,” Michel said. He glanced toward the door, as though suddenly nervous.

“That’s the thing with wars,” Karolina said. “They draw all sorts of different people together, don’t they? It doesn’t matter who you are. Out there on the battlefield everyone’s the same, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they are.” Kristopher swallowed a mouthful of beans while he collected his thoughts. “I was a musician,” he said at last. “It was a long time ago. Sometimes it feels as though it was in another lifetime. I’ve been trying to work out why the code phrase sounded so familiar. I’m sorry. I guess I should have kept it to myself.”

“Nonsense,” Georg said briskly. “Don’t apologize for having a good education, and if it gives you some distraction to get through this terrible time, you should use it.” Karolina placed a hand on his shoulder. He reached up and placed his hand over hers. A sad look crossed her face, and she suddenly appeared a lot older.

Kristopher bit his lip. He lowered his gaze and concentrated on eating. He hadn’t meant to upset either of them. Michel had warned him to keep any conversation brief and focus on very general topics.

Damn it. He wasn’t very good at this at all. For a short time he’d forgotten their situation and been caught up in the moment, remembering his passion for his music and wanting to share it.

“Paul….” Michel spoke Kristopher’s assumed name, and he looked up. “Karolina’s right. This war has drawn people together who normally wouldn’t have even met. Perhaps we should take it as an opportunity to learn new things, hmm? We all have something to offer.”

“Well said, Gabriel.” Karolina squeezed her husband’s hand. “It’s been too long since Georg and I had the company of young people. You said you were a musician, Paul. What instrument did you play?”

“I play the violin, although I haven’t picked it up in years.” Kristopher watched the couple, noticing the way in which they took comfort from each other’s touch. He wanted so badly to be able to just lean over and take Michel’s hand in his and be open in front of others as to how they felt about each other. During the months spent in the attic at St. Gertrud’s, they’d still had to be careful, but they’d been left alone for much of the time. He hadn’t realized just how difficult having to hide their relationship was going to be.

“We’re not that young,” Michel said when Kristopher lapsed into silence again. He’d told Kristopher he’d turned thirty on his last birthday. Kristopher was almost a year younger and had wondered at the time where both of them would be by his next birthday, which was only a few months away.

Georg chuckled. “You’re about the same age as our boy, so to us, that makes you young.” He got out of his chair. “I’m going to make some tea. Do you want some? Here, Karolina, have my chair. You’re not getting any younger.”

“My husband, he thinks he’s funny,” Karolina said. She gave him a light peck on the cheek and went to clip his ear again, but he ducked out of the way and headed toward the kitchen.
“He’s only offering me his chair to keep me away from my knitting. He knows full well I’ll poke him with one of my needles if he gives me too much cheek.”

“How long have you been married?” Michel asked. He seemed amused by their banter. Kristopher wondered if it reminded him of his parents.

“Since just before the last war.” Karolina picked up the cloth bag Kristopher had noticed earlier and settled into the other armchair. She opened the bag and took out yarn and what appeared to be a large knitted square on needles. “We’d met the year before, and I waited for him to come home to me and our newborn son. I didn’t allow myself to think he might not. Tell me, do you have someone waiting for you?”

Kristopher glanced at Michel. Karolina wasn’t exactly following what he’d been told about keeping to safe subjects either.

“I have someone, yes,” Michel said finally. “I want nothing more than this war to finish so we can have a life together, but sometimes I doubt that will ever happen.”

“It will,” Kristopher said firmly. He placed his bowl on his knee, feeling the warmth of it through his trousers. “When you love someone, you wait for however long it takes.”

Bio:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks again for hosting me :)

    ReplyDelete


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