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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Blog Tour: Review & Excerpt of Pen Pals by CK Timber

 


Author
: CK Timber
Narrator: Ginger MacGregor
Length: 1 hour 4 minutes
Producer: Audiobook Empire
Publisher: CK Timber2022
Genre: Romance; Erotica
Release date: June 2, 2022

Synopsis: Jase is an average joe who lives in England, and Elizabeth, five-thousand miles away, lives in California. They met online and began writing to each other. It was an innocent exchanged. After a while, their pen pal relationship blossomed into a series of erotic rendezvous, both in pen and in each other's arms. Fulfilling their fantasies, they explore love from a distance and from the perspective of a thirty-year age gap.

Find on Goodreads

Pen Pals is a very short audiobook comprised of love letter between two strangers who become closer through letters.  This is a very quick audiobook coming is a little over an hour.  The letters are very short and give you a slice of their friendship that grows into a steamy and erotic romance. I did like the romance, but I wasn't a fan of the format of the story being told through letters.  I wanted more from the story.  I was also not a fan of the ending.  I do think that this is worth giving a try.  It's an easy and short listen.  I enjoyed both narrators and thought they did a great job.




About the Author: CK Timber


CK Timber is an author of paranormal romance, cozy mystery, time travel, and epic fantasy adventure short stories, novellas, and novels. Along with her other works she pens the occasional collaborative novel with author Jesse Bond. 
A horse trainer and massage therapist by trade,  CK Timber jumped ship at sixty-five years of age to follow her lifelong dream to write engaging stories for the young and old alike. Three years later her bodies of work include clean, fun and adventurous stories for middle-grade and young adult readers, and cheek blushing content for adults.

About the Narrator: Ginger MacGregor

Ginger MacGregor is a storyteller with over 20 years of experience acting on stage and screen. She received her BA in Theatre Acting & Directing from Colorado Mesa University, trained as a classical actress with the British American Drama Academy and earned an MA in Applied Theatre Arts from University of Southern California. A native midwesterner who grew up in Wisconsin and Colorado, Ginger now lives in Los Angeles teaching voice and acting classes in between theatre, film and narration gigs.
Specializing in romance, Ginger’s strong, grounded voice shines in urban fantasy romance, romantic fantasy and paranormal romance, while her playfulness and warmth shine in historical romance. She is not afraid to bring the spice, and loves telling stories of characters tapping into their inner strength to be something greater than they thought possible. 
When she’s not in the booth, Ginger can be found spending time in nature and with her animal friends, including connecting with her roots in the highlands of Scotland, playing in her garden, riding horses at her sister’s farm in Colorado and hanging out with her two kitties, Luci Fur and Maze.

About the Producer: Audiobook Empire

At Audiobook Empire, audio reigns supreme, narrators are hailed as heroes, and headphones are worn with pride.

Marrying pomp and circumstance with quality you can count on, Audiobook Empire is a full-service production house that produces and promotes audiobooks with gusto.

 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Spotlight: Excerpt of Mr. Perfect on Paper by Jean Meltzer

 


Author: Jean Meltzer
ISBN: 9780778386162
Publication Date: August 9, 2022
Publisher: MIRA Books

From the author of the buzzy THE MATZAH BALL, a pitch-perfect romcom about a matchmaker who finds her own search for love thrust into the spotlight after her bubbe outs her list for “The Perfect Jewish Husband” on live television.
 
Dara Rabinowitz knows a lot about love. As a third-generation schadchan, or matchmaker, she’s funneled her grandmother’s wisdom into the world’s most successful Jewish dating app, J-Mate. Yet, despite being the catalyst for countless Jewish marriages, Dara has never been successful at finding love. Oh, she’s got plenty of excuses—like running a three-hundred person technology company and visiting her beloved bubbe every day. But the real reason Dara hasn’t been on a date in three years is much simpler. Though she desperately wants to meet her bashert, and stand beneath the huppah, she is frozen by social anxiety.
 
All that single dad Chris Steadfast wants to do is give his daughter stability. But with the ratings for the TV news show he anchors in the gutter, and the network threatening cancellation, Chris’s career – like his life with Lacey in Manhattan -- is on the chopping block.
 
When her bubbe outs Dara's list for “The Perfect Jewish Husband” when they're guests on Chris's live show, Chris sees an opportunity to both find Dara her perfect match, and boost the ratings of his show. But finding Mr. Perfect on Paper may mean giving up on the charming—and totally not Jewish—reporter following Dara's nationwide hunt...

1


“Now,” Dara said, glancing down at her watch. “If you don’t mind, we’re on a tight schedule here. I need to get out of here before the coming of Moshiach.”

With that, the entire room jumped into action. Dara took a seat at her vanity. Bobbi laid out the makeup palettes, flipping on two nearby lights to mimic the high-intensity light-ing of a studio. Simi took the clip out of her hair, allowing Dara’s thick black corkscrews to fall free around her shoulders.

Naveah moved to the center of the room, by the built-in island that housed an impressive array of shoes, and began unzipping the plastic packaging. Hanging the outfits up on a mobile rack, she worked hard to carefully display each item.

“Okay, we have three looks for you to choose from this morning.”

Dara analyzed her choices. There was an elegant pleated skirt and tight cashmere sweater. It was Jewy, which went with her brand, but possibly too Jewish for a nationally syndicated televised event that needed to appeal to a broad audience. She glanced over to her next choice, a pair of smart silk pants and a floral blouse. Finally, there was the casual tech look. A pair of tight blue jeans, Converse sneakers and a Patagonia vest.

“Number two,” Dara said.

“Fabulous,” Naveah swooned, hanging it up on the room divider screen.

Dara stepped behind the screen, tossed off her robe and changed into the outfit. After a few moments, she returned to the center of the room, taking her usual place in front of the full-length mirror to analyze the final look.

The black silk pants, cinched at the ankles, gave her more curves than usual. The dramatic blouse, made from the most luxurious of fabrics, was imprinted with stunning large white orchids. It achieved the right type of look for her interview. Professional yet feminine. Assertive without feeling aggressive. It was all the things she needed to accomplish as a powerful female executive—often held to a different standard than her male counterparts.

“What do you think?” Naveah asked, looking over her shoulder.

“It’s perfect.”

Everyone applauded. Dara sat back down at the vanity. Simi ran her fingers through her curls, while the rest of her staff gathered round, peering down at her with tablets and makeup brushes in hand.

“And what’s the look we’re going for today?” Cameron asked.

“Professional,” Dara instructed.

“Got it,” Cameron said, moving to pick out a pair of maroon heels. “A pop of color to go with all that black and white!”

“And the hair?” Simi asked.

“Just put it up.” She smiled. “A stylish bun, nothing too sexy.”

Bobbi and Simi began working on her hair and makeup. 

Meanwhile, Naveah pulled up a chair and turned on her tablet. “Now, I know you’re taking this afternoon off to be with your grandmother, so what do you need me to work on in your absence?”

“I sent you a list this morning.”

Naveah tapped on her screen. Moments later, she had the to-do list that Dara had sent her at four o’clock in the morning. “‘Grocery,’” Naveah said, reading the items aloud, “‘laundry, check with caterers for Yom Kippur breakfast, confirm travel for all executives attending October J-Mate sales conference, confirm all of Miriam’s oncology and radiation therapy appointments for September…’”

Dara was always making lists. Always trying to figure out how to turn her chaotic and extremely busy life into some-thing manageable and organized. In truth, her to-do lists, like her obsessive planning, helped her control her anxiety.

She was certain that her nonstop list-making drove every-one she worked with—including Naveah—straight-up meshugana. Janet had even once jokingly referred to Dara as the Good List Dybukk, a dislocated soul who appeared without warning and sprinkled to-dos on every person who crossed her path. Fortunately, as Dara paid her staff extremely well for their efforts, they kept the majority of their criticisms to themselves.

Dara heard the familiar refrain of an incoming Skype call. “Got it!” Naveah said, snapping at Cameron to grab Dara’s phone. “It’s Janet.”

Dara waved Simi away from her face. She asked everyone to give her a minute, and her entourage left the room. Dara waited for the door to shut firmly behind them before continuing.

“Good morning!” Janet beamed from her home office in Colorado.

“What time is it there?” Dara asked.

“Early.” Janet laughed. “You got the whole crew with you today, huh?”

“You know it,” Dara said, glancing at her half-done makeup in the mirror.

Just as Dara’s generalized anxiety disorder was well-known among those she worked with, so, too, was the fact that she genuinely despised all types of public appearances. Alas, that didn’t stop her from doing them. She had learned early on that selling herself on television, in interviews and on Instagram was a necessary evil. Everybody wanted a face, a real person to support, behind the brand. Over the years, Dara had de-vised all sorts of systems for handling her anxiety regarding these appearances.

“And how are you feeling this morning?” Janet asked, get-ting right to the point.

“Oh, you know me,” Dara said. “I’m only nervous for the three days before and the six days after…so in terms of the actual interview, I imagine it will go just fine.”

Janet laughed. “You’re going to do great, Dara.”

In truth, she always did great. She was a perfectionist, after all. She always had a plan and always said all the right things. She smiled in all the right places. She was never caught off guard, and therefore, never floundered. Though the glam squad and to-do lists may have seemed overkill to some, her obsessive-compulsive tendencies worked. Her business was thriving. Her reputation in tech, and the Jewish world, was flourishing, too.

“Like we already discussed,” Janet continued, “there shouldn’t be any surprises, okay? Everything has been worked out between our publicity people and their producers. You want to run through the script one more time?”

“No,” Dara said, firmly. “I got this.”

Janet nodded. “Then I hope you have a blast with your bubbe today.”

The camera shut off. Dara put her phone away, catching sight of her reflection in the mirror. Her hair had been ar-ranged into a sophisticated bun. Her angular features had been softened with light contouring. On the surface, she was the picture of poise and finesse. And yet, her hands were shaking.

She cracked her knuckles, took a sip of tea. She knew it was ridiculous, being this nervous about going on Good News New York, a show that nobody even watched…but she couldn’t help herself.

Dara watched it.

Religiously.

It was a habit of hers to keep the television running in the background while she worked. She liked the noise, the hum of familiar voices. It helped her anxiety. She especially liked the deliciously handsome head anchor of Good News, Christopher Steadfast, and the easygoing way he ended every episode with the words, “I’ll be waiting for you.”

Unfortunately, it had a weird time slot. Midafternoon, during the week, squeezed between the morning talk shows and the soap operas. Plus, it was an oddity in the world of live broadcasting in that it only focused on positive stories. Good news and human interest tales, like the two kids who donated proceeds of a lemonade stand to a homeless shelter, and Bucky, the vegan golden retriever.

Dara adored the segments on Bucky. She watched all of them, often on repeat, staying up late into the night, scrolling through all his reposted videos on the Good News New York Facebook fan page. In fact, the only reason she had even suggested going on Good News New York to begin with was for a chance at meeting the King of Aww himself. Though she was far too mired in her own busy schedule (and anxiety) to ever own a pet herself, she had adopted the quirky golden retriever in her heart.

As for Christopher Steadfast, it could never happen. And the reason it could never happen was right there in his name. Christopher Steadfast was not Jewish. As such, and thanks to a very clear rabbinic prohibition against interfaith marriage, she regarded the man the same way she would some beautiful non-Jewish Fabergé egg you passed by in a museum. Some-thing to gaze upon and admire…but never, ever touch.

She couldn’t believe she would be meeting him today. The dog, obviously.

Not the man.

She had no interest at all in some sexy Southern heartthrob with a voice that could melt schmaltz and the pectoral muscles of a Norse god.

Dara shook the thought away. Then, as her own ema, or mother, had taught her, she focused all her energy on dealing with practicalities.

She had Simi and Bobbi come back to the room, finish her hair and makeup. She did one final run-through of her sched-ule with Naveah. She had Cameron and Alexa double-check her bags at the front door, packing up her phone and tablet. Eventually, with well wishes and air kisses, Naveah and the entourage departed for the day. Normally, she would have someone from her staff accompany her to her events. But today, she wanted to focus on spending time with her grandmother.

Dara found herself alone in her apartment once more. She glanced down at her watch. She still had fifteen minutes left before she needed to head out to her bubbe’s. Fifteen minutes. It was a long time to sit around staring at the concrete walls of her apartment. Quiet was dangerous for Dara. It left her open to obsessing.

She moved to fill the space. She brushed her teeth again. Double-checked the bedroom, making sure the bed was made and everything was neat and tidy. She turned off her computer monitors and all the lights. She unplugged her coffee maker and double-checked the third bedroom for any hair straighteners or curling irons left plugged in. She made sure all the knobs on the oven were turned off, and that the patchouli candle was blown out. She pulled out her phone and snapped a photograph of both. Just in case her brain started obsessively worrying that she had left something on by mistake, and she was single-handedly responsible for burning down all of Hoboken.

Dara landed at the front door. Her eyes wandered down to her red high heels. She hated wearing heels in the city. Not for any practical reason, or because they gave her blisters. But because in case of emergency, the zombie apocalypse or an-other mass casualty event, she was worried about having to traverse sixty city blocks—or, God forbid, a bridge—to get back home.

She debated her options. She could pack her heels and wear sneakers for the commute, but that would require yet another bag for the simple day trip into Manhattan.

She hated that it had to be that way. That she couldn’t just be judged on who she was and what she created. Sadly, Dara was a realist. A huge part of her success in life had been understanding how the world works, and the way people inter-act with each other. Whether she agreed with it or not, first impressions were important. Like a shidduch sheet, or a profile on J-Mate, everybody went to the photo first.

Otherwise, she looked perfect. The house looked perfect, too. Perfection was the layer of armor she wore to protect her-self from the swings and swipes of an uncertain world.

She reminded herself of the positive. She was going to be spending the day with her beloved bubbe. They would be making important memories together. Necessary memories. Any anxiety she felt—any sense that something terrible was about to happen—was simply the neurons in her brain misfiring. Her feelings could not be trusted.

Forcing her shoulders back, and her chest upward, she projected confidence. And then, slinging her messenger bag over one arm, she grabbed that box of black-and-white cookies from the kitchen counter and headed out.



Excerpted from Mr. Perfect on Paper by Jean Meltzer, Copyright © 2022 by Jean Meltzer. Published by MIRA Books





Author Bio: 
 
Photo Credit:
Lisa Damico


Author Jean Meltzer studied dramatic writing at NYU Tisch, and served as creative director at Tapestry International, garnering numerous awards for her work in television, including a daytime Emmy. Like her protagonist, Jean is also a chronically-ill and disabled Jewish woman. She is an outspoken advocate for ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), has attended visibility actions in Washington DC, meeting with members of Senate and Congress to raise funds for ME/CFS. She inspires 9,000 followers on WW Connect to live their best life, come out of the chronic illness closet, and embrace the hashtag #chronicallyfabulous. Also, while she was raised in what would be considered a secular home, she grew up kosher and attended Hebrew School. She spent five years in Rabbinical School. She is the author of The Matzah Ball and Mr. Perfect on Paper.

Social Links:
Author Website
Facebook: @JeanMeltzerAuthor
Instagram: @JeanMeltzer
Goodreads

Friday, August 12, 2022

Cover Reveal: Ship Happens by Kate Stacy

 


Join us for the cover reveal of Ship Happens by Kate Stacy, the first book in the Love at Sea Series. Keep reading for more details about this sexy, friends with benefits romance.
 
Title: Ship Happens
Author: Kate Stacy
Release Date: 9/5/2022
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Friends with Benefits, Friends to Lovers, Forced Proximity
 
Tate
Macy Carmichael has been my friend with mind-blowing benefits for a long time now. But, I’ve been craving more from her. More than she’s ready to give.

When my siblings book me on an all-inclusive cruise, I jump at the idea of a free vacation and a chance to get away for a while. Unfortunately, my meddling older sister left out a few important details—like the name of the cruise. Love at Sea. Is she for real?

If that’s not bad enough, she signed me up for a variety of activities and makes me promise that I’ll take part in every single one. She also failed to mention that she convinced Macy to book the same cruise.
Imagine my surprise when she sits down across the table from me during the speed dating event I didn’t even want to attend. All bets are off. I’ll be damned if some other man is getting close to what’s mine.

Macy
Desperate for a vacation and break from everyday life, I take the suggestion of one aclose friends and book myself a week-long cruise. I even go along with her recommendation.
The Love at Sea cruise aboard the Heart of the Deep. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea, even if the whole cruise is based around the finding and celebrating love.

But when my best friend with toe-curling benefits, Tate Thorne, shows up during the speed dating event, I know I’m in trouble. No matter what I do, it always comes back to him.

Maybe away from the hustle and bustle of our small town, we can finally explore something more. That is, if I can finally let go of all the “rules” of our previous arrangement.

Ship Happens is a friends to lovers romance, part of the Love at Sea multi-author series. Get ready to set sail through the Caribbean on Festival Cruises’ most alluring voyage with eight of your favorite authors - happily ever after guaranteed!

Experience everything the Love at Sea series has to offer. From speed dating to masquerades, guests are sure to enjoy the hot days and steamy nights. Explore hidden waterfalls, swim with dolphins, and watch as eight couples find their forever on the open ocean.
'
Pre-Order on Amazon
Amazon https://amzn.to/3SrOJbo
 
Add to Goodreads Here!
Goodreads https://bit.ly/39ES1qd
 
About Kate Stacy
 
Author of emotionally-gripping, contemporary romance, Kate Stacy’s novels feature sassy heroines, swoony heroes, life, love, friendship, and all the angst. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family and friends in small-town North Carolina, Kate can most likely be found nose deep in her Kindle. She stays up too late, swears too much, and loves too hard.
 
Follow: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads | BookBub | Website | Newsletter | Amazon
 

Cover Reveal: The Hometown Dilemma by Julie Archer

 


We are so excited to share the cover reveal for The Hometown Dilemma by Julie Archer, the next book in the Meet Cute Book Club Series. Keep reading for more details about this sexy, return to hometown romance.

Title: The Hometown Dilemma
Author: Julie Archer
Release Date: 9/8/2022
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Trope: Return to Hometown Romance
 
Jaime
 
Who says you can’t go home?
 
Coming back to Abbott Ridge and starting over was my plan. But, just like everything in life, plans change. Especially when the interior design reality tv show I dreamed of being a part of gets canceled before filming even begins. Now I’m stuck without a job and forced to rethink how I’ll start my own company.
 
Insert, Wade Dempsey.
 
Owner of Dempsey’s bar, and one of my closest friends from college. He immediately offers me a temporary job working with him, like old times.
 
It's an offer I can't refuse. Oh, and did I mention that my new boss is even sexier than I remember?
 
Things between us are going great...until a call from New York presents me with a new offer that has me second guessing my stay in Abbott Ridge.
 
Wade
 
Home is where the heart is.
 
I’ve spent my whole life in Abbott Ridge, running in and out of my family's bar until I was finally old enough to take over. Now I’m in charge, but it’s a struggle to keep the place from going under. I need fresh ideas to compete with all the fancy bars and clubs popping up downtown.
 
Insert, Jaime Harlow.
 
Having Jaime back behind my bar seems like a good place to start. She’s an inspiration and a breath of fresh air, in more ways than one.
 
Old times, new feelings - and one stormy night - are all we need to ignite the desires I never realized existed.
 
When New York calls for Jaime and the only future I’ve known goes up in flames, we find ourselves faced with a huge dilemma that threatens our new found relationship. Can we really make this work when right now it feels like we can't even see eye to eye? There’s only one way to find out.
 
The Hometown Dilemma is a standalone, return to hometown romance that is part of the multi-author series, Meet Cute Book Club. Escape with this swoon-worthy collection of romances where meet-cutes don't only happen between the pages of romance novels and members find their own happily ever afters.


Pre-Order on Amazon
Amazon https://amzn.to/3oS0RF3
 
 
Goodreads https://bit.ly/3v07wzj
 
About Julie Archer

Author of contemporary romance featuring rock stars, small towns, a healthy dose of angst, some steamy times and always a happy ever after!

When not writing, I can usually be found binge watching teen drama series on Netflix, or supporting Spurs from my armchair, and running around after my two feline children, Corey and Elsa.

Follow me on Facebook or Instagram, see my latest releases on Amazon or drop me an email, juliearcherwrites@gmail.com.

Real Angst. Real Romance.
  
Follow: Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | BookBub | Website | Newsletter | Amazon
 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Spotlight: Excerpt fromThe Last of Seven by Steven Hartov

 


Steven Hartov
On Sale Date: August 9, 2022
9781335050106, 1335050108
Hardcover
$26.99 USD, $33.50 CAD
Fiction / Historical / WWII
368 pages

A spellbinding novel of World War II based on the little-known history of the “X Troop” – a team of European Jews who escaped the Continent only to join the British Army and return home to exact their revenge on Hitler's military.

A lone soldier wearing a German uniform stumbles into a British military camp in the North African desert with an incredible story to tell. He is the only survivor of an undercover operation meant to infiltrate a Nazi base, trading on the soldiers’ perfect fluency in German. For this man is not British born but instead a German Jew seeking revenge for the deaths of his family back home in Berlin.
As the Allies advance into Europe, the young lieutenant is brought to Sicily to recover, where he’s recruited by a British major to join to newly formed “X Troop,” a commando unit composed of German and Austrian Jews, training for a top-secret mission at a nearby camp in the Sicilian hills. They are all “lost boys,” driven not by patriotism but by vengeance.

Drawing on meticulous research into this unique group of soldiers, The Seventh Commando is a lyrical, propulsive historical novel perfect for readers of Mark Sullivan, Robert Harris, and Alan Furst.

Enjoy this sneak peek:

CHAPTER ONE

North Africa, Spring 1943

In the Sahara, the sun could make a man bleed.

It was hard to believe at first, especially if you’d ever trekked a frigid winter landscape somewhere, boots slogging through alpine snow, limbs shivering and aching bone deep. It was a challenge to imagine it, such a murderous sun, when December memory recalled teeth chattering like a Morse code key, toes and fingers numbed and raw, eyebrows stiff with frost, till all at once that blessed star emerged from charcoal clouds to save the day.

The sun was a holy thing then. The breath of God on your frozen face.

Ah, but in the vastness of that empty desert, when spring fell prey to cruel summer, when the cloudless sky was nothing but a silver mirror, the sand an iron griddle, and there was not a tree or cave or cactus to throw a shadow’s sliver. Nowhere to run from the sun. It was then that heaven’s jewel became a hunting thing, its furnace eye unblinking, merciless, and pounding.

You could shade your skull with a cap, drape your blistered neck with burlap, but still you had to see your path as your squinting eyes filled with flies who’d found the only liquid in the land. The lancing light bounced off the dunes to slowly broil your face, lips turned plaster white and split, and the oils of your nose and cheeks fried patches there like poultry on a spit. And then, the crow’s-feet wrinkles at the corners of your bleary vision turned to brittle parchment, until at last they cracked, and the most unnatural happened…

The man across the dunes was weeping tears of brine and blood. But they were not of sorrow or self-pity, for all of his emotions had hollowed out so many weeks ago. They were simply the last vestiges of all the fluid he had left, squeezed from the ducts by that relentless sun.

He was small there in the distance, and nearly weightless now, though from the way he moved it seemed he wore a yoke of iron. He was no more than an upthrust child’s thumb against the umber sands, shimmering in the steaming light of the fata morgana, an illusion where horizon met the sky.

He wore a Bedouin burnoose, tight about his oily blond curls and rough against his bristled jaw. His German staff sergeant’s tunic was girded with white salt lines of evaporated sweat, a single bandolier of ammunition, and the lanyard of a camel skin water bladder, now shriveled like an ancient’s scrotum, nothing left. One Feldwebel rank was on his collar, his Afrika Korps palm-tree shoulder patch was bleached into a ghost, and in one pocket were two lizard tails he’d chewed from time to time, though all the meat was spent. The right waist of his tunic was punched through with a bullet hole, its fringes black with dried blood, and in the left thigh of his trousers was another one just like it, the reason for his crooked limp.

In his dangling right hand, below a ragged sleeve, he clutched a German MP40 Schmeisser machine pistol, barrel down, its leather strap dragging through the sand. His left hand held nothing, the nut-brown fingers capped with broken nails with which he’d tried and failed to dig some water from the heart of a dying oasis. His breaths rattled like an asthmatic’s, yet he came on, another half an hour, another mile.

A pair of British soldiers from Montgomery’s Eighth Army watched him. They knelt behind a berm of sandbags, Tommy helmets buckled tight, sleeves rolled up and neat, shorts revealing sun-browned thighs above knee socks and tanker’s boots. They were alone, the western guards of a garrison south of Medenine, Tunisia, and they raised their bayoneted Enfield rifles to bear down on the stranger, like twins who often read each other’s minds.

At twenty feet the German sergeant stopped, unmoving, only breathing. The Cockney Tommy on the left aimed the rifle at his chest.

“Drop the bloody Schmeisser.”

The German jolted, as if surprised to hear a voice aside from his own mutterings to himself, unsure if these two Brits were real or cruel mirage. Yet he obeyed, as after all he knew it didn’t matter. The machine pistol was choked with grit and only the first shell would have fired. He opened his fingers and let the gun slip, like the hand of a dying lover, and it fell to the sand and was still.

The Tommy on the right said, “Hände hoch.” Hands up. He was a Scot and it came out as “Handerr hook.”

The German tried, but he couldn’t raise his arms higher than his waist, and his leather palms fluttered there above the sand like a maestro urging his musicians to play the passage pianissimo. His cracked lips formed a trembling “O,” though no sound emerged, and he mouthed Water, and then again—a goldfish with its face pressed to the glass of an aquarium. The Scot, keeping his Enfield trained, pulled a tin canteen from his battle harness.

“Don’t go near him, Robbie,” warned the Tommy on the left.

The Scot pitched the water bottle, cricket-style, where it pinged against a rock before the German’s boots. But the man could hardly bend his wounded leg and leaned in half a fencer’s lunge, snatching the canteen two-handed. He unscrewed the cap and brought it, shaking, to his mouth, and raised his face to heaven as the water gushed into his swollen gullet and dribbled from his filthy beard. His body trembled, and he looked at the two men and said, in nearly perfect British English, “I am not a German.”

The Tommies glanced at one another, then back at their intruder.

“You don’t say, Klaus?” the Cockney said to him.

“Looks like a bleedin’ Jerry to me, Harry,” the Scot growled to his partner.

“He’s bleedin’ all right, mate,” said Harry sideways. “Got a couple of nicks.”

“Nicks?” Robbie snorted. “Coupla hefty caliber holes. Can hardly see `em for the flies.”

Cockney Harry craned his neck to peer beyond the German’s head.

“You all alone, mate?”

“Six others,” the German managed in a brittle whisper.

“Don’t see ’em.”

“All dead.”

“Right,” said Robbie. “And where’d ye come from then?”

The German dropped the canteen. His fingers wouldn’t hold it.

“Borj el-Khadra, by way of Tobruk.”

“Bollocks,” Harry spat. “That’s three hundred miles.” He thrust his buckled chin above the sea of endless dunes. “Across that.”

For a long moment, the trio regarded one another like drunkards sizing up opponents for a brawl. The Tommies watched the German’s hands, for they hadn’t searched him yet, while for his part he struggled to stay upright. Cockney Harry gestured at Robbie the Scot, but only with his head.

“Fire the Very pistol, Robbie. Green flare, not red. Let’s have the captain up here for a chat.”

Aside from Robbie’s flare, which arced into the silver sky and fell to earth somewhere, the trio stayed immobile until at last a throaty engine loomed. A four-wheeled open command car appeared from the north, its peeling fuselage bristling with petrol jerrycans, pickaxes, and Bren light machine guns snouted at the sky. It spewed a cloud of dust as it hove to and an officer dismounted, his captain’s cap stained with sweat, Webley pistol lanyarded to a holster. His left hand tapped a swagger stick against his muscled calf while his right fingers smoothed a short mustache. His large driver followed close, hefting a Thompson submachine gun.

The captain ambled up and stopped, his bloodshot eyes squinting at the strange tableau. Robbie the Scot turned and dipped his helmet brim, but Harry kept his rifle trained, and there were no salutes.

“What’s all this then, lads?” the captain said.

“Captured us an Afrika Korps infiltrator, sir,” said Harry.

“Sneaky desert serpent,” Robbie sneered.

“Good show then.” The captain nodded and scanned the prisoner head to foot. “Right. Summon a firing party.”

Harry turned and looked at his commander.

“Execution, sir?”

“Affirmative, Corporal.” The captain flicked his stick toward a distant rise. “And let’s stake his corpse on that hill. Perhaps it shall keep the other vultures at bay.”

“Yessir,” said the captain’s driver, and he turned back for the car to muster up a firing squad.

The captain wasn’t barbarous, but more than worn and weary, and his men were not quite sure if he was serious or bluffing. In the past few weeks, despite the routing of the Germans in the westward push for Tunisia, spies of every kind had probed his lines, including one Bedouin woman. They were often followed by marauding Stuka fighter-bombers. He’d lost four men, most painfully his major whom he’d buried and replaced, and had a fifth now dying in a tent, legless and weeping for his mother. So much, he thought, for Erwin Rommel’s “Krieg ohne Hass,” war without hate.

“I am not a German.” The intruder spoke again, and his voice spasmed with the effort.

The captain raised his chin. His driver stopped and turned. The prisoner’s accent was British, yet with a certain Berlin curl.

“That’s quite a claim,” the captain said, “given your costume.”

“He told us that shite too, sir,” said Robbie.

“Says he hoofed it from Borj el-Khadra,” Harry said. “By way of Tobruk, no less.”

The captain raised a palm to hush his men and squinted at the prisoner.

“What are you, then?”

The prisoner tried to swallow. The water hadn’t been enough. It would never be enough. His body quaked in feverish ripples now, his ragged clothing fluttering like gosling feathers. It was the proximity of rescue, now turned to sudden death, coupled with his famish, thirst, and wounds.

“SIG,” he said, tunneling in his delirium for the words. “Combined Operations.”

The captain raised an eyebrow. Harry asked him, “What’s ess-eye-gee, sir?”

“Special Interrogation Group.” The captain stroked his mustache corners. “Top secret commando unit, attached to LRDG and SAS. Mostly German Jews, but they were all killed at Tobruk, and that was many months ago.”

“Not I,” the prisoner croaked. His right hand reached into his tunic. The captain fumbled for his Webley and the Tommies’ Enfields stiffened, as the prisoner fetched a pair of British identification disks, one green, one amber, like autumn leaves on a threadbare lanyard, and they fell against his chest.

The captain glanced at them, and at the hollow bearded face again.

“Tobruk, you say. And where’ve you been since then…allegedly?”

“Captured. Escaped a month ago, or two, perhaps, I think.”

“You think.” The captain closed his fists and put them to his garrison belt. “And why, pray tell, if you were in this uniform, were you not executed as a spy? Those are Hitler’s orders, after all.”

“Because I had tea with Erwin Rommel,” the prisoner said, yet without a hint of irony that the German field marshal would have thusly intervened.

“Had a pint meself with Churchill just last week,” the captain’s driver quipped. The Tommies laughed, but the captain didn’t. There was something in the prisoner’s eyes—a sincerity of madness, or truth.

“What’s your name and rank?” he asked.

“Froelich, Bernard, second lieutenant.” He pronounced his given name as “Bern-udd” and his rank as “left-tenant.” Then he added, “Six seven two, four five seven.”

The captain produced a small pad and pencil from his tunic pocket—ink was useless in the desert. He wrote the details down, tore the page off and flicked it over his shoulder for the driver, his eyes never leaving the desperate gleaming blue ones there before him. They were bleeding from the ducts, but he’d seen that once or twice before.

“Sergeant Stafford,” he ordered, “take this to the wireless tent and have Binks get onto Cairo. Tell them we’ll need our answer double quick.”

The driver sped off amidst a cloud of dust, but his return was far from quick. A grueling fifteen minutes passed, while the prisoner teetered on his feet. He could no longer keep his head erect, and he fought to stay awake and straight. He told himself he’d stood this way before, for hours in formations, and he dredged up images of bucolic pleasures, the Danube and the Rhine, and even Galilee. He longed for rain and felt its kisses on his face, while rivulets of something else crawled down his beard and touched the corners of his mouth. But he tasted only brine, and then the armored car returned.

He raised his chin as the driver handed back the paper to the captain, who perused it, then spoke again.

“Lieutenant Froelich, if that’s you,” he said, “do you remember your last passwords?”

“I shall try,” the prisoner whispered as he stumbled through his memory, unsure if he could find the thing to save him from a bullet.

“If I said Rothmans cigarettes,” the captain posed, “what would you say?”

The prisoner’s sunburned brow creased deeply like a cutlass scar.

“I’d tell you I don’t like them, sir…that I fancy Players Navy Cut instead.”

The captain nodded, and offered his first thin smile of the week.

“That is correct.”

And Froelich slumped to his knees in the sand, a collapsed marionette, strings cut. And then he slipped from consciousness and toppled forward, knuckles in the desert, his palms turned up to the sun he hated.

“Fetch a stretcher, lads,” the captain said. “It’s him. He’s the last of them. He’s the seventh.”


Excerpted from My Last of the Seven @ 2022 by Steven Hartov, used with permission by Hanover Square Press.




 
About the Author:
Photo Credit:
Robert L. Cunningham

Steven Hartov is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller In the Company of Heroes, as well as The Night Stalkers and Afghanistan on the Bounce. For six years he served as Editor-in-Chief of Special Operations Report. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX, and most recently the History Channel's Secret Armies. A former Merchant Marine sailor, Israeli Defense Forces paratrooper and special operator, he is currently a Task Force Commander in the New York Guard. He lives in New Jersey
 
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