An Amazon Charts bestseller.
In the shadows of World War II, trust becomes the greatest risk of all for two strangers.
December 1943. In the years before the rise of Hitler, the Gerber family’s summer cottage was filled with laughter. Now, as deep drifts of snow blanket the Black Forest, German dissenter Franka Gerber is alone and hopeless. Fervor and brutality have swept through her homeland, taking away both her father and her brother and leaving her with no reason to live.
That is, until she discovers an unconscious airman lying in the snow wearing a Luftwaffe uniform, his parachute flapping in the wind. Unwilling to let him die, Franka takes him to her family’s isolated cabin despite her hatred for the regime he represents. But when it turns out that he is not who he seems, Franka begins a race against time to unravel the mystery of the airman’s true identity. Their tenuous bond becomes as inseparable as it is dangerous. Hunted by the Gestapo, can they trust each other enough to join forces on a mission that could change the face of the war and their own lives forever?
“White Rose, Black Forest is partly a lyrical poem, an uncomfortable history lesson, and a page-turning thriller that will keep the reader engaged from the beginning to the end.” —Flora J. Solomon, author of A Pledge of Silence
“There is much to praise in Eoin Dempsey’s White Rose, Black Forest, but for me it stands out from the glut of war fiction because of its poetic simplicity. The novel does not span a massive cast of characters, various continents, and the entire duration of the conflict. It is the tale of one young man, one young woman, and the courage to change the tide of a war. Emotional, taut, and deftly drawn, White Rose, Black Forest is a stunning tale of bravery, compassion, and love.” —Aimie K. Runyan, bestselling author of Daughters of the Night Sky
“Dempsey’s World War II thriller is a haunting page-turner. The settings are detailed and the characters leap off the page. I couldn’t put this book down. An instant bestseller.” —James D. Shipman, bestselling author of It Is Well and A Bitter Rain
“A gripping story of heroism and redemption, White Rose, Black Forest glows with delicate yet vivid writing. I enjoyed it tremendously.” —Olivia Hawker, author of The Ragged Edge of Night
“Tense, taut, and tightly focused, White Rose, Black Forest is a haunting novel about courage and compassion that will keep you gripped from the very first page.” —Colin Falconer, bestselling author of The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane
Top customer reviews
“White Rose, Black Forest” is billed as a historical fiction, but it has all the makings of a thriller. Author Eoin Dempsey presents Franka Gerber with a dilemma right from the beginning, then continues to turn up the heat as the story progresses. Although Franka understands the danger that could come from her actions, she continues to do what she feels is right.
The story is told through the eyes of several characters, although Franka is the main focus. While we do learn of some of the motivations of the American John Lynch, it is through Franka’s eyes that readers are swept into a country consumed by conflicting emotions. The author allows her to speak the thoughts that must have been hidden by many German citizens in 1944. Even though her life has led her to her current predicament, everything is still not black and white, and Franka wrestles at times with what she should do.
Mr. Dempsey offers descriptive passages at the same time, presenting interesting pictures with his use of words. For instance, we are told a used parachute blowing in the wind is “…licking at the snow like a thirsty animal.” The life-threatening description of the bombing of a German city thrusts readers into the action, and it is hard not to be fearful of what may happen to the people exposed to the possibility of instantaneous death. While I wasn’t always happy with the dialogue (at times, it felt a bit stilted), the characters stayed true to their basic motivations.
As stated above, this historical fiction book turns into a thriller. Her choices place Franka in danger as the Gestapo quickly become a larger threat, which pushes the book to a breakneck pace as it heads toward the conclusion. Four stars.
WHAT DO WE HAVE? A psychological thriller? A true war story based on facts with fictitious characters? A suspense? Some of all of these. What we have is a mix of storyteller and history teacher with many long expository intrusions, flashbacks and author-voiced settings.
PLOT gripped me immediately. We go deep into Franka’s emotions as she slogs into the Black Forest woods, deep in snow, to end her life. After all, she’s lost all her loved ones to war and the Gestapo. So she trudges to her “farewell location,” carrying her dead father’s revolver. She stumbles upon “a body, crumpled like a bunch of rags in the pristine white.” From his Luftwaffe captain’s jacket and the ruffled parachute, Franka’s knows “he’s one of the monsters who had destroyed this country and taken away everyone she had ever loved.”
DILEMMA. The airman is still alive. Franka is a nurse. Her sense of saving lives causes deep psychological turmoil — let him die, go ahead with her suicide plans — risk her life to save this stranger whom she hates? And then she hears him speak a few words in English!
I’M INTRIGUED. Also, the author’s descriptions make me “see.” They’re sharp without being long and add to the depth of the action.
PACE — the first half of the novel is the airman recovering from his limiting injuries and preparation to avoid the intruding Gestapo. It’s a bit slow. Then as the Gestapo closes in, the tension becomes more severe. All the previous historical flashbacks deepen this tension. This book becomes a true action novel with a satisfying ending. .
OVERALL — this story and characters gripped my sympathy, and at times my deeper emotions. This was a wrenching time during World War II, heavy on moral dilemmas, grief, excruciating conflicts within and without, and love for both your friends and your enemies. TAKE-AWAY: “Don’t let anyone dictate to you who you are, or what’s in your soul” (Franka’s father.)
RECOMMEND. Even though there were problems arising from the difficulty of the book’s concept, I think it still deserves five stars.