Today’s Wednesday Writers guest is Pat Jeanne Davis who will be talking about interesting research she found while planning her WWII inspirational romance When Valleys Bloom Again. Welcome, Pat!
I enjoyed doing research for my WWII inspirational romance, When Valleys Bloom Again, more than I actually did writing the story. I had the opportunity to ask questions of veterans in the U.S. and U.K., now in their mid-90’s, who were willing to share their experiences and their photographs. My father-in-law was in the British Eighth Army and was at Dunkirk and on Normandy Beach. I also listened to stories from others who lived during this time. I got to go to distant and unfamiliar places with my British-born husband. I attended events where re-enactors dressed in clothes that would’ve been worn during the 1940’s.
Other times I went to aerodromes and living museums where guides went about their tasks as people would’ve done then. They were always helpful and eager to share what they had learned and to answer questions for the research on my novel.
1940’s British policeman (L) & British fireman (R)
I was especially pleased when I uncover an extra special tidbit of information that would enhance my story. On one research trip, I went into the largest purpose-built civilian air raid shelter in England that was extended to accommodate 6,500 people during the Second World War. The Stockport Air Raid Shelter is a network of underground tunnels, a mile long, carved out of the sandstone hills on which the city stands that provided not only protection but a way of life for families. This underground world still intact today as it was during the war years gave me an opportunity to learn about the raw realities of life during the Blitz. I came away with a deep appreciation for those who struggled to survive with only the basic amenities in such depressing and stressful surroundings and further admiration for my husband’s family who lived through those long years of war.
When Valleys Bloom Again
Pat Jean Davis
As war approaches in 1939 Abby Stapleton’s safety is under threat. Her father, a British diplomat, insists she go back to America until the danger passes. Abby vows to return to her home in London—but where is home? With her family facing mortal danger so far away and feeling herself isolated, she finds it hard to pray or read the Bible. Did she leave God behind in war-torn London too? Then Abby becomes friendly with Jim, a gardener on her uncle’s estate.
Jim can’t get Abby out of his mind. Did she have a sweetheart in England? Was it foolish to think she’d consider him? He curses his poverty and the disgrace of his father’s desertion and drunkenness haunts him. Can he learn to believe in love for a lifetime and to hope for a happy marriage?
Abby couldn’t know the war would last a long time, nor that she would fall in love with Jim—soon to be drafted by the U.S. Army—or that she’d have to confront Henri, a rejected suitor, determined by his lies to ruin her reputation and destroy her faith in God’s providence. Will she discover the true meaning of home?
Excerpt from Chapter 7 – When Valleys Bloom Again
Abby’s first year at Weston Teachers College over and classes out for the summer, she again offered to help out in the greenhouse. She’d overlook Jim’s response to her question on America joining the war and would work alongside him. She found him in the potting area, a large red, white, and blue handkerchief around his neck.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Jim said, grinning. He gestured toward empty ceramic pots on the ground. “I think we’ll tackle those, if that’s all right with you?”
Abby flashed a quick smile. Did he remember his curt reply in April and her hasty departure afterwards? She squatted next to a jumble of ornamental containers.
Jim rummaged through them, then thrust his trowel into a bucket of thumb-sized stones. “About two inches of these should do.” He tipped the stones into one of the pots. “They provide slow drainage so the plant won’t dry out.” He crouched beside her. “Then fill up the container with compost—your ‘muck’—and a little top soil.”
Abby scooted to one side. Still he was good at his job. “How much of each?”
“I’m sorry, I forgot this is still new to you.” Jim moved in closer. “Half-and-half, see? Put tall daisies in the back, red impatiens in the center, and lastly along the outer edges of each container, the trailing begonias, petunias, and nasturtium so they cascade down the sides.” Suiting action to words, Jim completed one arrangement and set it beside her. “Use this as your guide, leaving two to three inches between each plant.” He smiled. “If you have a question, I’ll be nearby.”
As she toiled, Abby sensed Jim’s eyes on her and tried to catch him at it. But whenever she’d glance over, he’d look down at his hands and whistle, making a game out of it and beating her every time. Then Jim set down his trowel and strolled over, giving her one of those captivating smiles. “Off for the summer, are you?”
Abby nodded, focusing on the flowers in her hands. Please don’t come any nearer.
He removed his hat and twirled it in his hands like the first day she saw him. “Is college all you expected it to be?”
Abby’s wall of indifference collapsed, and she gazed up into those intense blue eyes below his dark eyebrows. “I’m looking forward to going back.” Her throat tightened. “Still, sometimes I feel se-se-selfish. There’s so much I could be doing at home for the war effort.”
Jim rocked back. “Selfish?” His brow furrowed. “When you complete your training, you’ll be teaching kids who’ll be future citizens.”
Abby—without breaking the lock of his eyes—flinched, taken aback by his response.
“My squirt sister with the big mouth says she wants to quit high school.” Jim hunched beside her, lowering his voice. “And the older one who had great dreams didn’t finish school.” He looked into the distance. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t go on like that.”
Surprised by his revelation, her cheeks grew warm.
“I’ll probably be one of the first call-ups if we enter this war.” He stood and swatted his hat against his thigh. “But until and if that happens my duty lies at home.”
In a flash of self-reproach, she understood. She’d misjudged him. His mother and sisters needed him, and he doesn’t want to leave them. And what had he said about his job, and how grateful he was to have it?
Jim slapped his palms together to dislodge the dirt. “It’s none of my business, but you might think about teaching on the estate during summer.” He plunged his hands into a watering can. “I know some of your uncle’s staff have youngsters who could use help with their schooling.”
How clever he is. “That would never have occurred to me.”
Jim bent to pick up a toppled container. “I must go. It’s trout season,” he said, as if to explain the urgency of his mission.
Abby’s stomach dropped as he strode off between the long rows of tables. She wished he’d stay longer. When he headed back in her direction, her pulse quickened.
“You’re doing fine here.” He grinned. “If you like, when I get back I’ll take you to see the new bonsai collection.”
She let out a breath. “Let me know when you return.” What was it about the young gardener that stirred her senses?
Abby craned her neck to keep him in view as he strode off. He opened the door to his truck and glanced back. Their eyes met.
Did you like what you read? If so, you can find When Valleys Bloom Again at these locations:
About the Author:
PAT JEANNE DAVIS has a keen interest in 20th Century United States and British history, particularly the period of World War II. Her longtime interest in that era goes back to the real-life stories she heard about family members who served during the war. When Valleys Bloom Again is a debut inspirational romance set in WWII. She enjoys flower gardening, genealogy research and traveling with her British-born husband. She writes from her home n Philadelphia, Pa. Pat has published essays, short stories and articles online and in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.
READ this Q&A with Pat in the March 2020 Issue of Family Fiction Magazine
SOCIAL MEDIA; Website: https://www.patjeannedavis.com