Maureen Lang is a multi-published author and recipient of RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest and the Golden Heart Award, and American Christian Fiction Writer’s Noble Theme Award. Her work has also been a finalist for the Christy, ACFW’s Carol Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellent, the Holt Medallion and others. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, two sons and their lovable Lab.
Book Review by Narelle Atkins
Whisper on the Wind (Tyndale 2010) is the second book in Maureen Lang’s The Great War series. A powerful and gripping love story set in Belgium during the First World War.
Isa Lassone, daughter of a Belgium father and American mother, is a wealthy socialite who escapes with her family to America before the German occupation of Belgium in 1914. She leaves behind Edward Kirkland, the boy she has always loved, and his mother, who looked after Isa when her parents were too busy with their own lives to worry about their daughter. In 1916 Isa makes the perilous trek back across the border with the financial means to rescue Edward and his family.
Edward survives a German work camp, is assumed dead, and uses different aliases in his pursuit to liberate Belgium. He is involved in an extensive secret network that prints and distributes the underground newspaper La Libre Belgique.
Edward refuses to leave Belgium and Isa reclaims her stately family home in Brussels which is now occupied by an injured German Major. Isa and Edward’s mother move into a separate part of the house and are forced to co-exist with the Major. Isa insists on helping Edward, despite the massive personal risks if her involvement is discovered by the Germans.
An exciting tale unfolds as danger lurks in unexpected places and no one can be trusted. The German Imperial Army is determined to close down the paper and punish those involved. Edward’s weak faith is challenged and his growing relationship with Isa seems impossible since they are from different worlds and living under dire circumstances.
Whisper on the Wind is a heart wrenching and beautiful story of love and hope. The courageous characters undertake enormous personal risks in their pursuit of freedom. Loyalties are tested, and the faith of characters on both sides of the war are challenged as they deal with injustice and are torn apart by loyalty to their country and loved ones. The brutality of war isn’t glossed over in this realistic portrayal of characters dealing with the poverty, desperation and hardship of war. I would recommend Whisper on the Wind for those looking for an exciting and thought provoking historical romance.
Narelle: Whisper on the Wind is set in Belgium during the First World War. Please share with us a few of your research tips. Have you visited Belgium?
Maureen: I was incredibly blessed to take a trip to Belgium while I was finishing the editing process on this story. I cannot tell you how exciting it was to actually walk the same streets my characters would have walked! Measuring (in my mind at least) the distances between places, getting a flavor of the history (and how much Belgians themselves recall of all that took place on their soil) was very invigorating. It allowed me to add little details about the city of Brussels, where much of Whisper on the Wind takes place, that I never would have known to include had I not visited there.
That said, I think the first ingredient in effective research is to bring with it a passion for the subject. Of course that can be a double-edged sword, because if you bring enough interest and energy to find unique, interesting or little known facts about your subject, it can also lead to collecting an abundance of material—much of which will probably not fit into your story. I think it’s important to extend the feeling to the reader that an author has command of the setting and background, but that usually means collecting more data than we can possibly use. That’s okay if you love what you’re researching, but if that part of writing is a chore, perhaps another genre would be a better fit.
For me, the First World War era is fascinating. My grandfather fought in that war, and my grandmother used to talk about her childhood days when she would be transported by carriage from one place to another. (This seems like an impossibly long time ago, but in fact I’m one of the “younger” ones in my immediate family; my grandfather fought in WWI, my father in WWII. I grew up with a fascination for war stories!) Because of this early grooming, I cultivated an interest in this era over a long period of time. I gathered a lot of information about it via reading history books, documentaries as well as books and movies from that era.
Narelle: La Libre Belgique is a Belgium newspaper that circulated during the war. How has this newspaper provided inspiration for your characters and story?
Maureen: When I was reading about the First World War, I kept coming across references to this “bold, brave little newssheet called La Libre Belgique.” I was so intrigued I knew I had to investigate it, and the more I learned about this uncensored newspaper, the more I realized there was an entire book’s plot just waiting to be fleshed out—with characters of my own making.
During the First World War, after the Germans invaded Belgium on their way to conquer France, they occupied nearly all of Belgium. One of the first things they did was to take control of the news media, which at the time consisted basically of newspapers. Instead of submitting to German censorship, every newspaper in Belgium shut their doors rather than printing German propaganda.
Not long after the occupation began, La Libre Belgique first started circulating. A brave group of ordinary citizens did whatever they needed to gather real information about Allied successes, wrote inspirational articles to keep up the people’s hope, and basically snubbed its nose at the Germans. My characters are fictional members of that group.
Narelle: What do you find most fascinating about early twentieth century Belgium?
Maureen: Mainly that it seems to have one foot in really long-ago history, and yet the other in rather modern times. Those who lived in that era thought telephones and telegraphs were huge advancements in communication (and they were), as motorcars and trains and airplanes were in transportation (and they were, too). But all of that was in its infancy compared to communication and transportation of today.
That era also saw the first real progress of a lot of modern ideas about women’s role in society, too. Women were unable to vote before and during the First World War, which seems incredible to me. Few women worked outside the home, relatively few went to college, or had the freedom to choose a vocation outside of marriage and motherhood. All that began to change when the war broke out and women took the jobs men left vacant when they became soldiers. I suppose that’s why it fascinates me, because it’s history with a touch of modern.
Narelle: How did the church influence the life and faith of your characters in Whisper on the Wind?
Maureen: Because of the European setting, there is an interesting mix of church involvement in Whisper on the Wind. My characters have English and American heritages, but there was a very real Catholic presence in Belgium at this time. There were also a number of priests involved in the production of La Libre Belgique. So my characters have this wonderful sense of unity against a common enemy. Whisper on the Wind isn’t a story so much of salvation as it is of characters whose love, faith and courage are challenged, tested and ultimately triumphant, regardless of denomination.
Narelle: Please tell us about your upcoming releases.
Maureen: In March of 2011, Springtime of the Spirit will release, also from Tyndale. Each of my Great War stories is an independent read, with an entirely new cast of characters. This one is set as the war comes to a close, but this time—finally—it’s from a German point of view. Germany is in chaos; the government has basically been cast out, particularly in Munich where my story takes place. The people are ripe for revolution. My heroine, whose father profited from war goods, suffers from all the guilt she thinks he ought to feel. She leaves home for the city, where she’s quickly caught up in a socialist agenda, coming under the spell of a seductive revolutionary. When her parents send an old friend of hers after her—a soldier dealing with his own internal war wounds—she must decide if she wants to take up the faith (and love) she thought she left behind, or continue with the faithless revolutionaries even when things turn radically dangerous.
Also next summer, Look to the East will be re-released with a whole new look. It actually came out last fall but we decided to take the cover design in a whole new direction. So, despite that it won in the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest and is currently a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Award, the book is temporarily unavailable until summer of 2011 when it re-releases with a whole new look. That one is set as the war begins, in a small feuding town in northern France where a man is forced to take refuge—only to bring danger to the woman helping to hide him from German soldiers.
Thanks very much for having me, Narelle!
Maureen, thanks for joining us today. It's been a pleasure to interview you and learn more about Belgium during the First World War.
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To learn more about Maureen Lang, please visit her website.
Narelle Atkins writes contemporary inspirational romance. She resides in Canberra, Australia with her husband and children. To learn more about Narelle, please visit her website.
Tyndale House Publishers provided an Advanced Reader Copy of Whisper on the Wind for reviewing purposes.