GENRE: Inspirational Historical/Contemporary Fiction (dual timeline)
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: September 4, 2018
From the award-winning author of Catching the Wind, which Publishers Weekly called “unforgettable” and a “must-read,” comes another gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted evil in their own extraordinary way.
The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan—even their very lives—in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.
Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambi that connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.
“There’s always a cost for standing up against evil…”
Dobson’s Catching the Wind was one of my fave reads of 2017, but I couldn’t properly gush about it here because I reviewed it for RT Book Reviews. So I made sure to jump on the chance to review her latest time-slip novel, Hidden Among the Stars, here on the blog – and I can safely say that it will be one of my top reads of 2018!
First, one of my favorite elements of both the past and the present storylines is the significant role of children’s books in the plot. Two books in particular are key to the characters and the poignant tone of the story, but the whole contemporary thread is really a love letter to the power of children’s stories – and our memories associated with them – to anchor us and remind us about what’s important in life. I have always wanted to do what Callie does – to run a bookstore and be like Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail (#lifegoals) so I instantly latched on to her character and thrilled over all the book references and Story Girl and the old used book she discovers – which connects us to the historical plot thread.
Some books, I think, can be like cats. No matter where they’re sent, they have this uncanny ability to find their way back home.
The historical storyline is intriguing and bittersweet and incredibly moving. There was more than one moment where I had to stop reading to swipe at the flood of tears before I could continue. The Holocaust and the Nazi regime were horrific and cruel and inhumane, and Hidden Among the Stars doesn’t sugar coat the atrocities. Yet at the same time, Dobson tenderly weaves in grace and hope and light, like the first green shoots of spring. The last few chapters undid me with the beauty of her storytelling and the poignancy of how all the various threads tie together in exquisite perfection. The contemporary part of the plot is noticeably less intense – which lets our hearts settle a bit and lets us see ‘the rest of the story’, as it were. As Callie began to uncover answers to her search for the significance of the Bambi book, my excitement also grew with every step closer and closer to the moment when all the pieces fall into place. The two separate story threads are indispensable to each other and to the novel as a whole.
Bottom Line: Make sure that Hidden Among the Stars has a spot on your TBR pile because this is a story that is not to be missed! It is emotional and gripping, and the characters will linger in your heart for a long time to come. Dobson puts faces and hearts to the history we are familiar with, and then takes us even deeper to the stories we may not have known. Along the way, we are reminded of the power of love, of the goodness of God, and of the life-changing embrace of story. It’s a novel about, as the author says, “ordinary people who resisted evil in their own extraordinary way”. A must read from intriguing start to compelling finish!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 5 stars / Fantastic!
Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of nearly twenty historical romance, suspense, and time-slip novels including Catching the Wind and Chateau of Secrets . Three of her novels have won Carol Awards; Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010; and The Black Cloister won the Foreword Magazine Religious Fiction Book of the Year.
Melanie is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media Group. When she isn’t writing, Melanie enjoys teaching both writing and public relations classes at George Fox University.
Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters. After moving numerous times with work, the Dobson family has settled near Portland, Oregon, and they love to hike and camp in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and along the Pacific Coast. Melanie also enjoys exploring ghost towns and abandoned homes, helping care for kids in her community, and reading stories with her girls.
Other Books by Melanie Dobson
Hallstatt’s Hiding Places
Backpacking across Europe—that’s how my husband Jon and I decided to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. We savored the old world culture and charm as we hiked along Italy’s coast, toured medieval castles in Germany, and cruised the canals in Belgium; we both left a bit of our hearts in an ancient lakeside town called Hallstatt.
The moment we stepped off the ferryboat and into this storybook village, we crossed through a portal of sorts, traveling back several centuries in time. The rugged, snow-capped mountains around us and alpine lake, the quaint village with its church steeples and cobblestone lanes and waterfall that spilled into town—all of it captivated us.
Along the shore, hidden partially by trees, we could see spires of an abandoned castle, and I wanted to know its story. No one in Hallstatt could tell us who’d lived in the castle—at least, not in English—so my husband agreed to a new adventure. With a swan as our escort, we glided across the lake in an electric boat so I could study the rusty turrets, boarded windows, and wooden boathouse resting in the water like a felled log.
Instead of quelling my curiosity, the match of inspiration ignited my mind. Who had lived in this castle, and what happened there? I began writing in my journal that night, trying to capture my rogue thoughts on paper, hoping that one day a novel would emerge from the ashes of this castle’s story.
When we returned home, I began researching more of Hallstatt’s history and discovered that this region, in all of its beauty and mystique, had been infiltrated by an enemy in 1938. This town and the surrounding Salzkammergut became a mountain retreat for Nazi officials who built mansions on the shores of its many lakes and used salt mines to hide “ownerless treasure”—the gold bullion and artwork they’d stolen from the Jewish people.
The Nazis intended to build a Fourth Reich in this alpine fortress, but the Allies had other plans. Near the end of the war, these lakes became a dustbin of sorts, collecting whatever the enemy dumped into its waters—weapons, counterfeit banknotes, concentration camp lists—as they fled south from the Allied troops. The Devil’s Dustbin, locals call it.
Lake Hallstatt plunges more than four hundred feet between the fortress of mountains. Because of its depth and the many hiding places in the underwater forests, caves, and shifting sands, divers continue finding World War II artifacts today. Some still believe there’s a treasure trove buried on the bottom, but no one has reported finding any gold.
After our trip, a story about this castle and what happened to the heirlooms of the Austrian Jewish people continued to burn inside me until I finally put it on paper. So I built Schloss Schwansee—Castle of Swan Lake—in my mind, inspired by the castle along Lake Hallstatt, and created a cast of historical and contemporary characters who are searching for lost treasure.
Hidden Among the Stars is a time-slip novel about a castle and treasure and fairytales, but most of all, it’s a story about God using ordinary people across Austria to resist evil in their own extraordinary way.
To celebrate her tour, Melanie is giving away a grand prize package that includes a $25 Amazon gift card, Catching the Wind paperback, and Hidden Among the Stars paperback!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
This giveaway is hosted by Celebrate Lit, not RimSP
Follow along with the tour for more chances to win!
PLUS! I am running a giveaway for a copy of Hidden Among the Stars – click the giveaway graphic below to enter!
What about you? What is your most cherished book from childhood?