The truth is, World War II changed everything. The moment The Bomb fell away from the Enola Gay, the Modern Age began and there was no turning back. The United States suddenly became a super-power and we began to enjoy a degree of prosperity the world had never known before.
The home front world of 1943’s SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY gave way to STRANGER IN PARADISE and the fascinating year 1953.
I’ll pause a second while you laugh. I don’t blame you. Nobody thinks of the I Like Ike 1950s as fascinating. We think conformist. We think housewives cleaning in heels and pearls. At least that’s what I thought until I began researching the era and discovered just how pivotal a year 1953 really was.
· General Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes president
· Elizabeth II is crowned Queen of England. The ceremony is the first international event televised worldwide
· The first color television goes on sale for (wait for it) $1,175!
· Dr. Jonas Salk develops the first polio vaccine and the world breathes easier
· A gallon of gas cost 20 cents
· The first issue of Playboy is published with Marilyn Monroe on the cover and in the centerfold
· Ian Fleming publishes his first James Bond novel
· GM produces the first Corvette
· Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest
· The Korean War comes to an end as the Cold War begins to ramp up
The top five movies of 1953 tell an interesting tale:
- Peter Pan – the boy who never grew up
- Roman Holiday – the reporter and the runaway princess
- Shane – sometimes you can’t outrun your past
- The Naked Spur – another western
- From Here to Eternity – the darker side of wartime relationships
The top five songs:
- Theme Song from Moulin Rouge – Percy Faith
- Vaya Con Dios – Les Paul and Mary Ford
- Doggie in the Window – Patti Page
- I’m Walking Behind You – Eddie Fisher
- You, You, You – Ames Brothers
We were right on the brink of the birth of rock and roll and not a minute too soon!
Life was changing at the speed of light in 1953. Not all of the changes were good but beneath the homogenized façade of suburbia change was happening and it wouldn’t be denied.
Mac Weaver and Jane Townsend, the hero and heroine of STRANGER IN PARADISE, are part of that change. Mac, a successful war correspondent, is returning to an America he barely recognizes, while Jane, an Englishwoman who survived years of war, longs to fit in with her suburban neighbors. But will their happy ending elude them?
I hope you’ll purchase a copy and find out!
Genre: Post -World War 2 Romance
Publisher: Free Spirit Press
Date of Publication: October 15, 2014
Number of pages: 347
Word Count: approx. 70,000
Cover Artist: Tammy Seidick
Before they became The Greatest Generation, they were young men and women in love . . .
The year is 1953 and London is throwing the party of the century. Even though the ravages of World War II are still visible throughout the kingdom, the world is gathering on the Mall to celebrate the coronation of England's beautiful young queen.
For almost ten years, journalist Mac Weaver has been far from his New York home. America has changed since the war ended and he wonders if there's still a place for him in the land of backyard barbecues and a new Ford in every driveway.
However a chance encounter with beautiful English reporter Jane Townsend is about to change his life forever. As the new monarch waves from the window of her fairy-tale glass coach, a homesick Yank and a lonely Brit fall in love.
One week later, Mr. and Mrs. Mac Weaver board the Queen Mary for New York and a guaranteed happily ever after future in the land where dreams come true.
But there are dark shadows on the horizon that threaten Mac and Jane's happiness and family scandals that just might tear them apart . . .
"This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."
--Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Mac Weaver hadn't seen a crowd like this since V-E Day eight years ago. He'd led off yesterday's story with that statement and he could lead off today's story with it as well. Hundreds of thousands of jubilant British subjects crowded the narrow streets, all vying for a glimpse of their brand new queen. They were a good-natured group, even those who believed the monarchy should go the way of the dinosaur, a group banded together by centuries of tradition, generations of civility, and years of war. A far cry from the chaos he'd experienced in Korea just three short months ago.
"Shove over, yank," said a wiry reporter in a Harris Tweed jacket. "Can't expect me to see over a skyscraper."
"Sure thing." Mac stepped back and let the English reporter move in front of him.
"Grow them tall in the States," the reporter said over his shoulder. "Texas?"
"Same thing, isn't it, yank?"
"Yeah," said Mac with a rueful laugh. "In a way it is."
When you were three thousand miles away from home, it really didn't matter what state you were from. As it was, Mac stood out like a 6'3" sore thumb as he waited in front of Westminster Abbey for the procession to arrive. An All-American sore thumb.
He thought like an American, he moved like an American, he talked and joked and worked like an American. Hard to believe he hadn't been back home in over seven and a half years. He patted the ticket in the inside pocket of his battered trench coat. Well, that was about to change. Last night he'd managed to pull some strings and book passage on the Queen Mary. In less than a week he'd be back in New York where he belonged.
That was, if he belonged anywhere at all.
One of the drawbacks to being a foreign correspondent was the fact that you spent a lot of time in hotels with room service dinners and tattered guidebooks for company. Not that he didn't enjoy the life of a rolling stone. He'd never given a hell of a lot of thought to things like families and permanence. His folks had enough permanence for the entire Weaver clan. Les and Edna had been in the house in Forest Hills for almost forty years and, God willing, he knew they'd be there another forty more. And if his kid brother had lived, Mac had no doubt Doug would have followed suit.
Someone in the Weaver family had to blaze new trails and see the world and that someone was Mac. His first job had been as a cub reporter for the New York Daily News and his coverage of a major garment district fire had attracted notice. One thing led to another and before he was twenty-five, he was working in the Paris office of the New York Times. Then the war came and duty called. His reputation as a journalist had cushioned Mac from the worst of it. He'd been in danger--but not too much danger. He'd smelled the gunfire--but not up close. He'd covered the war but he'd never really been part of it.
When his brother died, Mac wondered why in hell the Almighty had chosen to take Doug's life and spare his own. But, of course, there were no answers to that question--at least none he could come up with. So Mac drank a lot and swore a lot and wrote some of the best war stories of his career while he was drinking and swearing.
Those stories had made his name and now, eight years after the Allies' victory, he was still riding high on them. He could probably parlay his credits into another few years on the foreign beat but he knew when it was time to hang up his passport and move on. Of course, that wasn't the entire truth. His bureau chief had made it patently clear that Mac's presence was getting to be a bit of a problem.
"It's not that we don't respect your work, Weaver," the old boy had said during their last meeting. "It's just that the higher-ups think it's time for a change, what with the problem in Korea almost over and all that."
The problem in Korea. That said it in a nutshell, didn't it? You couldn't go around telling everybody that the Emperor had no clothes before they finally asked you to look the other way.
Besides, the strangest thing had happened: he was homesick. He was tired of fighting, tired of running, tired of seeing young men die. All the lessons we should have learned during the last war seemed to have been put aside like yesterday's news. The players may have changed, but the script was still the same: the perennial struggle to see who is king of the mountain.
America's isolationist days had disappeared with the first bomb dropped on Pearl Harbor. There was no turning back to the days of smug security, sure in the knowledge that we were inviolate. With power came responsibility. With prosperity came ambition.
We overstepped our bounds. We made mistakes. Mac wrote about them. The McCarthyites read about them and made a note of his name. And that was why it was time to move on.
This time moving on meant moving back to where it had all begun: New York City. His hometown. For weeks now he'd had the feeling he was on the verge of something big. Something exciting. Something different from anything he'd ever done before. An adventure. He didn't know what it was exactly, but he knew it was right around the corner, if he only knew where to look.
He'd seen everything and done everything there was to do. Two wars. A broken engagement to a lovely Frenchwoman who wanted more out of life than a well-used passport. He knew the inside of every bar from London to Beirut and back again. There was nothing left to explore--nothing, that was, except the country he'd left behind. London, however, was a demanding mistress. If you looked closely enough, you could still see the scars of war on the magnificent old city but those scars only added to her lustre and brilliance. He'd done his best work there in London, written his best stories, seen the best that mankind had to offer. His admiration for the British people was boundless. Their bravery was the stuff of which legends were made. Not that Mac had committed any acts of bravery himself. Bravery required a certain involvement and Mac had danced through most of his life avoiding exactly that.
It hadn't taken Amy Sterling, his home town girlfriend, long after V-E Day to figure that out for herself. I need someone who's there for me, Mac, Amy's letter had said. Someone who'll be there when I need him, not running all over the globe...
Well, Amy had gotten her wish. She had a husband and a house and three kids. Rumor had it she went to PTA meetings and drove a Ford station wagon and made the best apple pie in Richmond Hill. And if she ever thought about Mac it was probably with a touch of pity that he was all alone.
You'd think he'd have learned, wouldn't you, by the time he found Suzette. But, no. Same mistakes. Different continent. Suzette and her husband Bernard lived with their children in a chateau in the Loire Valley.
Even his rowdiest friends had all settled down into marriage and their own personal baby booms while Mac covered everything from murders to movie stars to coronations. "You've got the life, pal," they'd said when he'd gone home for a visit in 1946, all hail-the-conquering-hero. "No mortgages for you. No dirty diapers and two a.m. feedings for our Mac." Mac Weaver shoveling snow in the driveway? Not on your life. Punching a time clock in some dreary office? You've got to be kidding.
Mac Weaver with someone who cared about him?
Sorry. Can't help you there, Mac.
Maybe it was the thought of going home that was getting to him. For thirty-five years being alone hadn't bothered him. Lately, however, he'd begun to feel the pinch of time as he watched colleagues go home to wife and kids while he spent his nights in pub after pub, bemoaning the state of the world.
Or maybe he'd seen one war too many. Sure as hell nobody had been ready to go to battle again so soon after the end of World War II. It had been hard to tackle the issue of Korea. First of all there was the question of nomenclature. Washington balked at the word "war." "Police action" had a certain arrogant cachet while "conflict" implied a battle of words not weapons. The carnage he'd seen had been anything but a war of semantics.
Once again a generation of young men were laying down their lives and this time it was difficult to figure out what they were fighting for. Europe was still struggling to recover from the ravages of World War II--and starting to wonder if they should watch their eastern borders as the USSR gathered strength and purpose.
Panmunjom. The Yalu River. Inchon. Places that had been unknown three years ago were on every tongue today. The fledgling United Nations was stretching its wings with this conflict and Mac didn't have a hell of a lot of confidence that the outcome would be what everyone hoped for.
He liked his battles clearly defined, with good guys and bad guys, and an ending like one in a Hollywood B-movie. When you can't even call a war, a war, you're in big trouble. He'd made reference to those feelings in a column three months ago and, before he knew what hit him, he found himself transferred back to the European beat.
At least with a coronation, there was no doubt about who the good guy was, not when she wore a frilly white dress and a crown of diamonds and emeralds and rubies. Leave it to the Brits: they bitched and moaned about the obsolescence of royalty in the nuclear age, but give them an occasion to break out the glass coach and the high-stepping horses, and they came out in number to cheer their monarch on.
All you had to do was look around at the faces in the crowd and you'd see he was absolutely right. The wiry reporter in front of him was probably from a working class family in Birmingham. That gent over by the bobby had Oxford written all over his aristocratic face and a blood line bluer than the Danube. Charwomen mingled with society grande dames--at least the grande dames who hadn't received an invitation from the Queen. Rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief. They were all represented in the throng. School kids, young mothers, beautiful women with glossy black hair tumbling over their shoulders--
Wait a minute. His gaze returned to the vision jockeying for a front row position in the dense knot of people near the bobby. . . . she'd smell like rose petals in the spring . . . her voice would be gentler than a summer rain . . . Small, delicate features in a fine-boned cameo of a face framed by a silken cascade of lustrous waves. If she topped five feet two, she was lucky. . . . candlelight and soft music . . . she'd step into his arms, her head resting against his chest as they danced . . . It was a wonder she hadn't been trampled by the mob. In New York, she would have been flattened in a minute.
But this wasn't New York. This was London. Girls with porcelain skin like that didn't live in Queens or Brooklyn. Her eyes are blue, he thought, ignoring the roar of the crowd and the clip-clop of horses' hooves approaching. Cornflower blue . . .
"Hey, yank! Where you off to? The queen's about to arrive." Mac no longer cared. He pushed his way into the crowd to meet the woman of his dreams.
Continue Reading This Sneak Peek at http://www.barbarabretton.com/sip.shtml
About the Author:
A full-fledged Baby Boomer, Barbara Bretton grew up in New York City during the Post-World War II 1950s with the music of the Big Bands as the soundtrack to her childhood. Her father and grandfather served in the navy during the war. Her uncles served in the army. None of them shared their stories.
But her mother, who had enjoyed a brief stint as Rosie the Riveter, brought the era to life with tales of the Home Front that were better than any fairy tale. It wasn’t until much later that Barbara learned the rest of the story about the fiancé who had been lost in the war, sending her mother down a different path that ultimately led to a second chance at love . . . and to the daughter who would one day tell a little part of that story.
There is always one book that’s very special to an author, one book or series that lives deep inside her heart. SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY and STRANGER IN PARADISE, books 1 and 2 of the Home Front series, are Barbara’s. She hopes they’ll find a place in your heart too.