Ever read the popular comic strip Beetle Bailey about the antics of a soldier stationed at Camp Swampy? Mort Walker didn’t just dream up a mythical Army post – he based it on his time stationed at the “real” Camp Swampy, a World War II training camp in the wilds of southern Missouri called Camp Crowder. These days, not much remains of the original Camp Crowder or the short-lived Fort Crowder years but there’s still a National Guard base on site, still called Camp Crowder. A few of the original barracks buildings are still there too. Since I happen to live in Neosho, where Camp Crowder is located, I’ve long been intrigued with the history. As one older resident, now deceased, once told me, life changed forever in this small sleepy town when the Army arrived. “It was night and day,” Mr. Harold Welcher told me, “night and day.”
My next Rebel Ink Press release, In The Shadow of War, is set during World War II. I think the blurb explains what the story is about so here it is:
Her great-granddaughter wants to know if Bette remembers World War II for a school project and her questions revive old memories….
Small town school teacher Bette Sullivan's life was interrupted when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 but her world changed forever when she met Private Benny Levy, a soldier from the Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York stationed at Camp Crowder, the local Army base.
Their attraction is immediate and mutual but as their relationship grows their love and lives are shadowed by World War II. As the future looms uncertain the couple comes together with almost desperate need and a powerful love they hope can weather anything, including the war.
It’s my first full length historical romance but so far, a lot of important (well, to me, anyway) people tell me they think I’ve hit on something, a genre which works for me. Since I earned a dual BA degree in History and English, it may be so. I hope it is – because my second full length historical romance, Guy’s Angel debuts on June 3 from Rebel Ink Press.
Here’s a little excerpt from In The Shadow of War:
This soldier sported a neat snub nose and a strong chin. When he turned as if he sensed her gaze, Bette noted his slender gold-rimmed eyeglasses. Behind the specs, his beautiful grey eyes were framed with black lashes. His slender lips curved in a half-smile and a blush heated her cheeks as she glanced away. If she read his expression right, he liked her admiration. When she fumbled the next response, Aunt Virgie glared at her so she tried to pay more attention, but after Mass she tried to get outside to see if the soldier lingered. She saw him as soon as they exited the church, but he stood in the center of a group of other Army men, smoking.
Bette watched him while her aunt chattered. The more she saw, the more she liked. He stood with a Lucky clinging to his lip, his stance more cocky than military. He laughed at something one of the other soldiers said and started to move away from the group headed in her general direction. Bette took two steps forward, jerked one of the dime store hoop earrings from her ear, and dropped it.
“Whoops,” she said, raising her voice as she touched her fingers to her ear lobe. “I just lost an earring.”
The earbob dropped into a thick clump of clover but before she could attempt to retrieve it, a shadow fell across the green patch and the soldier she’d admired scooped up the earring with one hand. He stretched out his hand, his square fingers wrapped around the little gold hoop.
“Is this yours?” he asked, his voice coming out with an accent she’d never heard outside the pictures. To Bette’s ears, it sounded like he’d said. Is dis yers?, with the last word stretched out into multiple syllables.
“It is, thanks,” she said and held out her hand. He dropped the hoop into her palm as his fingers tickled over her skin. The slight touch made her shiver. “I guess you’re stationed at Camp Crowder?”
“Yeah,” he said in a voice similar to Jimmy Cagney’s. “I’ve been here a coupla weeks now. It’s a long way from home.”
“Where are you from?” she asked, unable to stop staring at his gorgeous eyes.
“Brooklyn,” he said without hesitation. “Flatbush, Brooklyn. I’m Private Levy, Benjamin Levy although my ma calls me Benny.”
Bette couldn’t stop smiling at him. “Well, Benny Levy, I’m Bette Sullivan and I’m a farm girl from just outside Neosho.”
“I’m pleased to meet you,” Ben Levy said. “Hey you wanta go have coffee with me downtown or something? I’ll buy you breakfast if you like. I’m starving.”
She admired his dark looks, enhanced by the starched summer khakis he wore and nodded. “I’d love to. Let me go tell my aunt so she won’t expect me home.”
Bette turned around to find Aunt Virgie watching, mouth drooped open and eyes broad with surprise. Her cadre of lady friends wore the same stunned expression.
“Aunt Virgie,” Bette said, in her best polite tone. “I’m going downtown with Private Levy, but I’ll be home for dinner, okay?”
“Child, you don’t even know him!” Her aunt’s shocked outrage wasn’t faked. “You weren’t raised like this.”
“We’re at war,” Bette replied, voice mild. “I’m going to breakfast, not a bar room.”
“Good morning, ladies,” Ben Levy said, appearing at Bette’s side. “I’m Private Benjamin Levy from Brooklyn, New York. My home parish is Our Lady of Refuge. I’ve been an altar boy and until I joined the Army, I worked as an auto mechanic. If you need a reference, Father Connolly can give you one if you write him a letter or you can call my ma. We ain’t got a phone but the neighbor downstairs will fetch her if you want the number.”
Although his voice remained even and polite, nice as anyone at any social gathering, his cheek amused Bette. With just a few words, he charmed and disarmed her aunt.
“Well, I don’t think I need to,” Aunt Virgie said with a sigh. “Honey, go ahead and have breakfast. Private Levy, would you like to join us for Sunday dinner?”
He grinned wide and Bette’s heart heated up a few more degrees. Lord but his good looks and sweet words warmed her.
Thanks for stopping by Lee Ann! Head on over to Lee Ann's blog to find out more about her and her other releases. Don't forget to look for In the Shadow War available May 17th.