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Ah, the magic of Christmases past… even those we want to forget…
Like spending an hour hanging up Christmas tree lights that don’t work when you plug them in.
Or imbibing in two much spicy eggnog at the office party while wearing a tipsy Santa hat… and then seeing your grinning face splashed all over social media.
Or digging through your closet for your favorite red Christmas dress to impress the new man in your life and you find out it doesn’t fit anymore.
Not our best holiday memories and ones we’d rather forget. But what about the holiday moments that make our eyes misty no matter how many years go by?
Memories of Christmases past race through our heads like sugar plum fairies on a triathlon this time of year… for me, I’ve turned three of them into Christmas stories that turn back the clock.
When I was stationed in Livorno, Italy, I worked in the US Army Service Club and every Christmas we hosted an event for the soldiers with the nuns and little boys from the local orphanage. I never forgot how the soldiers and little Italian boys had such a great time even though they didn’t speak the same language… except they did.
The spirit of Christmas.
I wanted to capture that lovely day in a story about a US Army captain in Italy during World War 2 who gets lost on the road to Rome right before Christmas Eve. He ends up helping out a beautiful nun and her charge of little boys and saves them from the Nazis.
If you like WW 2 romance, check out my holiday novella that takes place on Christmas Eve during the cold winter of 1943: A Soldier’s Italian Christmas.
December 1943 Italy
He is a US Army captain, a battle-weary soldier who has lost his faith.
She is a nun, her life dedicated to God.
Together they are going to commit an act the civilized world will not tolerate.
They are about to fall in love.
I was only six years old when I attended a strict parochial school behind a big iron gate in Philadelphia… at Christmastime, the nuns took us to see Santa Claus at Wanamaker’s department store, but we had to pass by the ‘poor house’ – an old limestone building with broken windows and no trees. Lost souls squatting. We gave them packages of food and the sisters told us kids we’d end up there if we didn’t learn our Catechism lessons.
It scared the heck out of me.
Years later when I saw ‘A Christmas Carol’ on TV and got a glimpse of Scrooge threatening to send the hungry and poor to a workhouse, I remember the nun’s warning.
I wanted to write my own version of Scrooge, but I fantasized him more like a tortured, romantic hero, so I created Nick Radnor… handsome, brilliant… and with a smartphone.
And one so close to my heart…
I grew up hearing my dad’s stories about how he met my mom during the war… the red coat she wore when she saw him off at the train station… the letters they wrote to each other. The strong feelings of hope and love that kept everybody’s spirits up till the soldiers came home.
When I wrote Christmas Once Again about a woman who goes back in time to save the man she loves, I drew upon those memories, especially for my heroine’s mother. Kate’s strong bond with Ma, her need to see her again (she lost her mother before the book opens), also reflects my desire to see my mom.
My mother passed away a few days before Christmas many years ago…
So, when I talk about Christmas Once Again, you’ll understand the joy and poignant feelings racing through me when I wrote those scenes when my heroine reconnects with her mother once again… if only for a little while.
What are your most emotional Christmas memories?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!
The day before publication day for The Resistance Girl, I jolted awoke at 7:30 a.m. to the acute smell of smoke.
Burning in my eyes, throat. My chest heavy.
Tree branches scrapping against my windowpane and strong winds blowing and howling like a wild banshee had escaped from the netherworld. I swear the creature was hell-bent on dragging the hot flames closer and closer on the hem of her petticoats.
A cold fear rattled my bones. A sense of ‘This can’t be happening‘ turned my blood to ice.
I had gone to bed two hours earlier since I was up all night tweeting and posting on social media about my Paris WW 2 historical, The Resistance Girl, set during the Occupation and scheduled to pub the next day. I was exhausted but…
The acrid smell was so powerful, it dragged me out of a deep sleep.
I ran to my window on the second floor overlooking the front lawn, my heart in my throat. What I saw shook me to the bone.
A bright, rusty-orange sky…
Fire… but where?
I soon discovered the fire was less than six miles away… zero percent contained with capricious winds powered by a powerful Santa Ana with flames popping up in random places. Who knew where the burning embers would land… then ignite?
A nightmare in the making.
I turned on the air purifier, closed all the windows, and flipped on the local TV news.
And drank a ton of hot mocha coffee.
Then boom! Just when I was starting to get a grip on the situation, the powerful winds blew down my backyard fence in a big huff and puff worthy of Mr Wolf himself. What next?
I kept telling myself my heroine Sylvie Martone, French cinema star, had survived horrific events during the war… grilling by the Gestapo, dangerous treks across France to save downed pilots, attacked by SS. Whatever happened, I could handle it.
Fueled by her courage, I kept working on promoting my book while tossing important stuff into a go-to bag just in case I had to leave (note to self: keep that bag up-to-date). The next two days were a mad blur of Emergency Alerts on my phone, texts, phone calls, stand-by evacuation orders… and checking on family and friends.
Dear friends of mine did have to evacuate, but their home was undamaged, thank God. And my beautiful and vivacious daughter-in-law Kelly got caught on the toll road with smoke rolling across the highway as the fire advanced — I insisted she come and stay with me rather than go back to her place. My son agreed and rushed over to help us.
Kelly ended up spending a few days with me and I was so grateful for her support… and happy I could help her. It was then I realized how Sylvie felt when she was working for the Resistance and had no one to confide in…. except a young woman who becomes very important in her life when Sylvie saves her from the hands of the Gestapo.
Which brings me to my Boldwood red roses…
My lovely editor, Nia Beynon, and Team Boldwood sent me a dozen red roses on pub day. The gorgeous scent of roses lifted my mood and filled my soul.
The moment was made more special because I waited to open the box of flowers until Kelly arrived after work so she could share it with me. We gushed over them like teenagers getting corsages for the prom. Even my usually quiet, surfer-dude son was impressed with the lovely roses — and grateful we were both okay.
Which brings me to an important theme in The Resistance Girl.
My story is a dual timeline with Sylvie’s granddaughter Juliana intent on solving the mystery of her grandmother’s mysterious and notorious past in present day.
While Sylvie risks her life to save those she loves in Paris during World War II — her family. France. And her home.
Over the next few days, the fires were slowly contained and evacuation orders lifted, but I’ll never forget the fear and trepidation they brought, the mad dash to pack, and the instinct to keep my loved ones close and safe. Like my heroine, Sylvie Martone, I believe there’s nothing more important than family.
Because in the end…
There’s no place like home.
Two women. One heartbreaking secret.
Sylvie Martone is the star of French cinema, and adored by fans. But as Nazi officers swarm the streets of Paris, she is spotted arm in arm with an SS Officer and her fellow Parisians begin to turn against her.
However Sylvie has a secret – one she must protect with her life.
Juliana Chastain doesn’t know anything about her family history. While her mother was alive she remained very secretive about her past.
So when Juliana discovers a photograph of a glamorous French actress from World War Two amongst her mother’s possessions, she is in shock to find herself looking at her grandmother – especially as she is arm in arm with a Nazi Officer…
Desperate for answers, Juliana is determined to trace the journey of her grandmother. Surely there is more to the photograph than meets the eye?
But as she delves into Sylvie’s past, nothing can prepare Juliana for the tales of secrets, betrayal and sacrifice which she will uncover.
Amazon Buy Links:
And read the story behind the story about how my love affair with Paris shaped The Resistance Girl. https://www.boldwoodbooks.com/the-resistance-girl-jina-bacarr/
Listen to ‘chapters’ read by my favorite narrator, Laurel Lefkow, and relive the story of cinema star Sylvie Martone out to defeat the Occupiers
Sometimes, you get it right….
When I saw this review of my Titanic love story THE RUNAWAY GIRL, it tugged at my heart.
Yes, it’s a wonderful 5 star review, but more importantly, my story has captured the interest of a young girl who wasn’t much of a reader beforehand.
Reviewed in the United States on September 23, 2020
Two women hold the keys to his heart. Only one will survive that fateful night…
When Ava O’Reilly is wrongly accused of stealing from her employer, she has no option but to flee Ireland. The law is after her, and she has only one chance at escape – the Titanic.
Aboard the ship of dreams, she runs straight into the arms of Captain ‘Buck’ Blackthorn, a dashing gentleman gambler who promises to be her protector. He is intrigued by her Irish beauty and manages to disguise her as the maid of his good friend, the lovely Countess of Marbury. Little does he realise, that the Countess is also in love with him.
As the fateful night approaches, tragedy strikes further when Ava is separated from Buck, and must make a daring choice that will change her life forever…
A sweeping historical romance set aboard the Titanic, from the author of Her Lost Love (Christmas Once Again).
Praise for Jina Bacarr:
‘A delightful holiday romance that has all the charm of a classic Christmas movie. Christmas Once Again is perfect for anyone who loves a holiday romance brimming with mistletoe, hope, and what ifs.’ Andie Newton, author of The Girl I Left Behind ‘A breathtaking holiday romance that is sure to stay with you long after reading’
‘A mesmerizing holiday romance that is sure to sweep you off your feet and take you away to another place, another time.’
‘A fabulous book you won’t want to miss’ https://youtu.be/S-33oEM4DlI
THE RUNAWAY GIRL e-book, print and audio book:
This book is incredible a truly remarkable story, Sylvie diary, notes photo's and recordings are inspiring. the real story of glamourous Sylvie Martone has to be solved and told. She will never be forgotten. I loved it
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