Publication date: 28th February 2019
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Kathleen Harryman and Lucy Marshall
How far would you go to keep a promise? In the heat of battle, one man's promise to another will be tested.
As Britain is gripped by the fear and uncertainty of war, Tom Armitage stands to gain the one thing that he never thought possible - his freedom. Rosie Elliot sees her future crumbling to dust as Will Aarons leaves Whitby with Jimmy Chappell to fight in the war. As she begins work at The Turnstone Convalescent Home, Rosie finds something she thought she had lost. Friendship. But friendship soon turns to love. Can this new love replace Will? This is not an ordinary love story.
It's a story of love, loss, courage, and honour.
Of promises that must be kept or risk losing everything you've ever held dear.
Available from Amazon
3rd September 1939 Whitby, England
Together we stared at the radio.
“This is London. You will hear a statement by the Prime Min- ster.”
The radio crackled and hissed briefly, filling the quiet silence as we waited to find out what the Prime Minister was about to say. Each crackle sent my pulse beating harder. The skin around my face tightened in fear.
“I am speaking to you from 10 Downing Street. This morn- ing, the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock, they were prepared to withdraw their troops from Poland at once, and a state of war would exist between us.
I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently, this country is at war with Germany.
You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet, I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different I could have done that would have been more successful.
Up to the very last, it would have been quite possible to arrange a peaceful and honourable settlement between Ger- many and Poland, but Hitler would not have it. He had evidently made up his mind to attack Poland whatever happened, and although he now says he had put forward reasonable proposals which were rejected by the Poles, that is not a true statement. The proposals were never shown to the Poles, nor to us. Although they were announced in a German broadcast on Thursday night, Hitler did not wait to hear comments on them, and ordered his troops to cross the Polish frontier. His action clearly shows that we cannot expect this man to give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force.
In fulfilment of our obligations, today, we and France will go to the aid of Poland, who is so bravely resisting this wicked and unprovoked attack on her people. We have a clear conscience. We have done all that any country could do to establish peace. The situation in which no word given by Germany’s ruler could be trusted and no people or country could feel themselves safe has become intolerable. And now that we have resolved to finish it, I know that you will all play your part with calmness and courage.
At such a moment as this, the assurances of support we have received from the Empire are a source of profound encouragement to us.
The Government have made plans under which it will be possible to carry on the work of the nation in the days of stress and strain that lie ahead. But these plans need your help. You may be taking your part in the fighting services or as a volunteer in one of the branches of Civil Defence. If so, you will report for duty in accordance with the instructions you have received. You may be engaged in work essential to the prosecution of war, for the maintenance of the life of the people - in factories, in transport, in public utility concerns, or in the supply of other necessaries of life. If so, it is of vital importance that you should carry on with your jobs.
Now, may God bless you all. May he defend the right. It is the evil things that we shall be fighting against - brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution - and against them, I am certain that the right will prevail.”
I stared at the radio in stunned horror. Dad got up, leant forward, and turned it off. I felt as though I was drown- ing as the silence in the room became oppressive, settling over us like a thick black smog, cloaked and undetectable by the naked eye. It sucked the air out of the room, until my lungs burned from lack of oxygen. Too scared to move. To breathe. Too shocked to react to the fear that burned inside me.
“Well, that’s that then.” I winced at mum’s words.
The air returned and I took a mouthful of oxygen. I knew she was thinking about Granny and Grandad Eliot. I hadn’t been born when the Great War had ended, but still, it had left its mark on me, as well as those around me. I watched mum, conscious that my perfect world was about to unfold before me. I couldn’t think of anything to say that would make what was happening right. I simply watched in stunned silence as a tear rolled down mum’s cheek, unable to comfort her, frozen in place as my fear held me captive. I could offer no comfort that would erase the memories of loss and hardship playing in mum’s head. Inside my chest, my heart beat out a solemn song. I hated each beat. My hands shook. I didn’t know what to say or do. I felt lost on a tidal wave of emotions I couldn’t control. All my fears were falling around me. Like hot volcanic lava, my fear burnt away at my hopes and dreams until there was nothing left of them but brittle little promises.
The front door crashed open, and Will came running into the back-living room, followed by Jimmy. They were still wearing their Sunday best – dark grey suit trousers and white shirts with the black braces clipped into place. Their ties, like dad’s, had long been removed, and were probably disregarded and littering up their homes somewhere. My heart beat faster, pounding in my chest at a wild pace. I looked from Will to Jimmy. I could see the excitement shining in their eyes. While I understood that they didn’t have a choice if they went to war or not, I couldn’t help but feel angry at the buzz of excitement that radiated off them like an electric charge. They probably thought that by fighting, they were doing something worthwhile. Like Richard the Lion Heart galloping off on yet another crusade, while his people were burdened down with taxes.
What about those that would be left behind? In their eagerness, Will and Jimmy didn’t see the destruction or death that war would bring. Mum did. I could see it in her eyes as they glistened with tears. She’d lived through it. I felt the shock that oozed off her. The disbelief. The uncertainty that cast its net round the room, threatening to erupt with emotion. I looked from Will’s blue eyes, to Jimmy’s brown ones. Different colours holding the same unforgivable excitement. Stupid fools with their eagerness to die. No thought for those they would leave behind. Of the worry that would cloud each day as they tried to carry on. Picking up the broken pieces that war brought.
“Don’t you dare, don’t you dare!” I screamed at them. “How could you, Will? You know how I feel.”
I stared at them both, their hair flopping into their faces. They were too young to go and fight. Too young to walk away from life. To lie dead in a trench or field somewhere. That’s all I could think about... all I could see. Their lifeless eyes shining back at me. I couldn’t take it.
“Don’t be like that, Rosie. They need us. We’ve got to fight.”
Will tried to grab my hand. I pulled it away as though his touch burned my skin.
“That’s not true. You don’t have to fight, not if you don’t want to. You could be one of those conscientious objectors. See, they can’t make you fight, they can’t.” I’d heard dad talk about conscientious objectors once. Little ears had listened and taken the information in, ready to be stored and recalled when needed, and I needed it now. I couldn’t care less about the stigma that would taint them, living in such a small coastal town as we did, where most of the young men would be leaving to fight. All I could think of was keeping them safe and alive. That a stray bullet wouldn’t break their skin and pierce their hearts.
“I can’t do that, Rosie. I won’t. You can’t expect me to do something that isn’t me, that I don’t believe in.”
I looked into Will’s blue eyes, searching for some- thing to reassure me that everything would be ok. I saw nothing. It made my heart hurt.
I pulled myself together. Straightened my shoulders. “I won’t wait for you, William Aarons.”
I thought back to when we were sitting on the beach, just the two of us. Our arms wrapped around each other. Life had seemed so simple. Now, only days later, as I looked at Will, everything I had believed in crashed to the floor and shattered into a million useless pieces. It would be impossible to put them back together. The pieces would no longer fit.
This time, when Will reached out for me, I let him. Gently, he lifted my chin. “You have the right not to wait for me, Rosie. I wouldn’t deny you that. But whether you like it or not, things are going to change around here. I’ll take up my role in this war. I lost my uncles and grandad to the Great War, and I stand here today proud of them. One day, I’m hoping to leave that legacy to my children. Our children. I’m not giving up on you, or us.”
“Don’t, Will, please.” If I started crying, I knew I’d never stop. All I wanted to do was throw my arms around Will’s neck and kiss him so hard, to make him understand how much I loved him.
“My prickly Rose, don’t you see that sometimes a person doesn’t have a choice?”
I stared into Will’s eyes, aware that no matter how much I wished things could be different, they wouldn’t be.
Before I could say anything, Will’s sister Betty came rushing in, her blonde hair framing her square face in soft waves. Tears were running down her cheeks and a white handkerchief was screwed up in her right hand. The cheerful colour of her lilac dress belying the graveness of the situation. I stepped away from Will.
“Oh Rosie, did you hear? We’re going to war.” I stared at Betty, unable to speak. “What’s going to happen, Rosie?”
I didn’t have any answers for her. All I could do was shake my head. For the first time, I wasn’t taking the lead in our friendship. I had no solution for her.
Kathleen Harryman is a storyteller and poet in the historically rich city of York, North Yorkshire, England, with her husband, children and pet dog and cat.
Kathleen was first published in 2015, a romantic suspense entitled The Other Side of the Looking Glass. Since then, Kathleen has developed a unique writing style which readers have enjoyed, and she became a multi-genre author of suspense, psychological thrillers, poetry and historical romance.
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