Please join me in welcoming the fabulous Melanie Dobson to the blog to talk about the history behind her new novel, The Winter Rose! Happy Release Day, Melanie!
THE WINTER ROSE by Melanie Dobson
GENRE: Inspirational Dual Timeline Fiction
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: January 11, 2022
In this gripping WWII time-slip novel from the author whose books have been called “propulsive” and a “must-read” (Publishers Weekly), Grace Tonquin is an American Quaker who works tirelessly in Vichy France to rescue Jewish children from the Nazis. After crossing the treacherous Pyrénées, Grace returns home to Oregon with a brother and sister whose parents were lost during the war. Though Grace and her husband love Élias and Marguerite as their own, echoes of Grace’s past and trauma from the Holocaust tear the Tonquin family apart.
More than fifty years after they disappear, Addie Hoult arrives at Tonquin Lake, hoping to find the Tonquin family. For Addie, the mystery is a matter of life and death for her beloved mentor Charlie, who is battling a genetic disease. Though Charlie refuses to discuss his ties to the elusive Tonquins, finding them is the only way to save his life and mend the wounds from his broken past.
creating fiction from Quaker history
by Melanie Dobson, author of The Winter Rose
While I never enjoyed history classes in school (I was terrible at remembering all the dates . . .), nothing makes me happier than discovering new-to-me stories from the past. If it’s a mystery, I want to know how it was resolved, and if I can’t find the answer, I make up a new ending in my head. These glimpses into the past are the fuel that drive my writing, creating the foundation for all my historical novels.
While I was researching The Curator’s Daughter, I stumbled over a few paragraphs about American Quaker women who’d traveled to France before World War II. They crossed the Atlantic via ship to care for thousands of Spanish children who’d fled over the treacherous Pyrénées during the Spanish Civil War. After the Spanish war ended, Jewish refugees began flooding into France to escape the Nazi regime. Some of the Quaker men and women—members of what was called the American Friends Service Committee—stayed in France to care for these families, feeding more than seven thousand adults and eight hundred children in French hospitals and camps.
As World War II progressed, southern France was no longer a refuge for the Jewish community, and by 1942, there wasn’t enough food to sustain life in the camps. Women like Marjorie McClelland, a Quaker psychologist from Manhattan, and other members of the AFSC began selecting children to transport to the United States. Americans were ordered to leave Vichy France in November of that year, but a number of AFSC workers opted to stay, including an Irish nurse named Mary Elmes and Alice Resch from Norway. These women partnered together to smuggle children out of the camps and sometimes back over the mountains into Spain.
What inspired these men and women to continue working in Nazi-occupied France? Who were the women who remained nameless in my research but risked everything to rescue the children? I was so intrigued by what I’d read; I wanted to tell their story.
The Winter Rose, that’s what I decided to call the novel—to reflect the beauty and strength, the resilience and grace, of the winter roses growing in the snowy Pyrénées and the many who climbed those mountains to escape the enemy. Because of the COVID pandemic, I wasn’t able to research overseas, but I had the incredible honor of spending an afternoon via Zoom with Ronald Friend, an eighty-year-old gentleman who’d been rescued from Camp de Rivesaltes when he was three. He didn’t discover the name of his rescuer until a decade ago when he was researching his own story, but Mary Elmes had saved him from the camp. Ronald remained hidden in a French village until the war ended. Sadly, his father died during the Holocaust, but his mother and brother survived.
Nine American AFSC workers were interned in Baden-Baden near the end of the war and eventually exchanged for German prisoners. Mary Elmes was also imprisoned by the Nazis for six months. I don’t know the end of all their stories, but it was an honor to sculpt the sum of their experiences into a fictional account of one woman’s journey to transport children across the treacherous Pyrénées. And then step into the stories of several children to imagine what might have happened to them after their escape.
I hope readers will be inspired by the strength and courage of these seemingly ordinary heroes in The Winter Rose and encouraged as they climb difficult mountains in their own path.
Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of more than twenty historical romance, suspense, and time-slip novels, including her latest, The Winter Rose (January 2022). Five of Melanie’s novels have won Carol Awards; Catching the Wind and Memories of Glass were nominated for a Christy Award in the historical fiction category; Catching the Wind won an Audie Award in the inspirational fiction category; 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. Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters and live near Portland, Oregon.
Tyndale is offering a print copy of The Winter Rose by Melanie Dobson to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read The Winter Rose by Melanie Dobson?