American socialite Lily Durham is known for enjoying one moment to the next, with little regard for the consequences of her actions. But just as she is banished overseas to England as a “cure” for her frivolous ways, the Great War breaks out and wreaks havoc. She joins her cousin in nursing the wounded at a convalescent home deep in the wilds of Scotland at a crumbling castle where its laird is less than welcoming.
Alec MacGregor has given his entire life to preserving his home of Kinclavoch Castle, but mounting debts force him to sell off his family history bit by bit. Labeled a coward for not joining his countrymen in the trenches due to an old injury, he opens his home to the Tommies to make recompense while he keeps to the shadows. But his preference for the shadows is shattered when a new American nurse comes streaming into the castle on a burst of light.
Lily and Alec are thrown together when a series of mysterious events threatens to ruin the future of Kinclavoch. Can they put aside their differences to find the culprit before it’s too late, or will their greatest distraction be falling in love?
How romantic and mystical to live in an old Scottish castle, unless it is during WWI, used as a convalescent home for soldiers, with the walls and ceiling crumbling down. Add in an unwanted American girl serving as a nurse and a grumbling laird. The air of privilege and prosperity meet, leaving a vague potential for romance.
Another aspect of war is the healing and housing of the wounded, safely away from the mayhem of the war zone. Some of the heroes yearn to return to war, others dread the prospect, and still others want to die. I’m always impressed with the women in any war who exit their homes and leave family to tend to the tasks out in the world in the years of war.
In Beauty Among Ruins, a wealthy American heiress in Scotland in 1916 before America enters the war is not accepted with open arms. Proof is needed to secure that respect. The heroine faces the mysterious threats to the castle, herself, and the laird with bravery. But is it enough?
I wonder what my role would have been close to a country at war. This novel reveals many difficult sides of war. The author takes the reader on a journey through the trials of owning and managing a dilapidated castle during wartime as a home for the wounded of body and heart. I was not disappointed in participating in this aspect of war.
About the Author
With a passion for heart-stopping adventure and sweeping love stories, J’nell Ciesielski weaves fresh takes into romances of times gone by. When not creating dashing heroes and daring heroines, she can be found dreaming of Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Winner of the INSPY and the Maggie Award, she is a Florida native who now lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and lazy beagle. Learn more at www.jnellciesielski.com.
More from J’Nell
Inspiration for Beauty Among Ruins
Once again, blame it on Downton Abbey. This time on Lady Rose. She was impulsive, spoiled, a free spirit, yet with a good heart. I knew I wanted to take on the challenge of writing a heroine like her. A character who starts off one way and by the end of the book has completely charmed you over. So I started writing and everything was going great until … it wasn’t. The plot just stopped on me. No matter how hard I tried the story refused to reveal itself to me which is incredibly frustrating for someone who doesn’t like to give up once they’ve started something. But I had to. In the end, I had to put the story, affectionately titled Love on the Limp, away for several months while I wrote The Socialite. Then one day the story clicked. It was meant to be a WWI telling on the classic Beauty and the Beast story. Everything fell into place and the story and characters burst onto the page in glorious technicolor.
Lily and Alec took me by surprised with how much I fell in love with them. Bubbly Lily and brooding Alec. Never had two more opposites been so perfect for one another (at least in my writing experience). They had so many obstacles to overcome, many of them self-imposed, that I often found myself in tears over their heartaches, but golly gumdrops when they came together, boy o boy were there fireworks!
You may have also noticed that the story is set in Scotland because I happen to believe that every good story is set there. I had the privilege of staring at pictures of this breathtaking landscape for months so I could imagine the characters strolling among the heather and watching the river twist through the green moors. To me, nothing rivals the awe inspiring beauty of a certain place, and hopefully readers will feel that through these pages.
As shells explode over Nazi-occupied France, American music student Claire Baudin is trapped behind enemy lines, struggling to protect her identity. Singing as a barmaid while she plans her escape, a handsome Third Reich captain threatens everything she knows to be true about the enemy.
Nazi Captain Michael Reiner isn’t who he claims to be. A British language expert turned spy, he discovers the truth about Claire, but he knows the importance of a secret. Struggling to resist his attraction to the songbird, he’s determined to complete his assignment, no matter the cost. His cover is threatened when a ruthless female Gestapo officer arrives hunting Resistance fighters. The raid forces Michael’s hand: complete the mission or save Claire.
As the war threatens to tear them apart, they must rely on each other for survival. Is there hope—and a future—for an American songbird and a British spy?
Believing she was born in the wrong era, J’nell Ciesielski spends her days creating heart-stopping heroes, brave heroines, and adventurous exploits in times gone by. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages contest and Maggie Award, J’nell can often be found dreaming of a second home in Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Born a Florida girl, she now calls Virginia home, along with her very understanding husband, young daughter, and one lazy beagle. Find out more at www.jnellciesielski.com.
More from J’nell
The most popular question an author is asked is where did the inspiration come from. Most of the time, if not always, my inspiration comes from a trifecta of resources: movies, music, or books. A single song lyric, or secondary character, or novel setting can trigger a whole world of possibilities that has to be explored. In the case of Songbird and the Spy, it was a movie. A Quentin Tarantino movie to be exact set during WWII where one of the characters is a British officer posing as a Nazi meets up with other spies in a French bar. Another character was a Jewish woman posing as a theater owning Frenchwoman. My brain immediately tingled with ideas. What if identities were all in question? What if you fell in love with the wrong person? Not just the wrong person, but the enemy? The drama and tension in such a situation would be unbelievable!
And that is how Songbird was born.
Here are a few bits of trivia for you:
Songbird was originally titled Iron Shepherd for Michael’s call sign.
There have been three or four different endings written.
Michael Reiner was based off of Michael (see what I did there?!) Fassbender’s character in Inglorious Basterds. The actor was born in Germany to German and Irish parents, and later grew up in Ireland J Art imitating life.
Music always makes its way into my stories and here it takes center stage.
I’ve always wanted to write a USO story so the ending was my perfect chance to squeeze it in.
Ilsa von Ziegler was based off of Elsa Schneider from Indiana Jones.
There was a scene showing Michael at SOE training in Scotland, but it was later cut.
Nazi headquarters in Paris really was located on Foch Ave. The building is still there.
The molten lead that Michael’s new assistant talks about is a German New Year’s tradition to divine fortune in the coming year. A small bit of lead or tin is melted, and then dropped in water. The form created by the metal predicts the future.
Chanteuse is a female singer. Edith Piaf, the most famous French singer of all, was known as The Little Sparrow. Songbird and chanteuse are both used to reference Claire and pay homage to Piaf.
World War II, occupied France, Nazi, undercover operators. I’ve never understood how anyone escaped occupied France. Just like in the French Revolution, so many died with little provocation. So many innocent lives lost and dreams smothered.
Claire Baudin thinks she is about to spend an exciting time with her extended family in France. Little did she know her days will turn to turmoil, fear, and abandonment. She has no idea how she will return to America. Her life hangs on how she handles every day in the Nazi infested region.
Michael Reiner has extreme talent with languages and customs that Britain wants him on the Special Operations team. He poses as a Nazi Captain with the mission to expose and intercept Nazi messages and maneuvers. Espionage.
I loved the history, intrigue, and constant drama. How does anyone escape the clutches of those in control in occupied France? Thank you, J’nell Ciesielski for another great read.