When captured by the Nazis, Sarah finds herself in a concentration camp that not only brings her closer to death…but closer to love.
Sarah Brenner, a young Jewish woman, is terrified when she finds herself in the heat of a railcar bound for a work camp in Nazi Germany. For years she, along with her mother and sister, had hidden from the SS, but no one could hide forever. Her hatred for those who have enslaved them is ever-growing, especially when they arrive and she encounters the shockingly handsome Nazi doctor who can’t seem to keep his eyes–or hands–off her.
Aurel Rothstein is not your everyday concentration camp physician. The endless prisoners and lack of care he’s allowed to give have made him numb to the work he so coveted. It isn’t until he comes face to face with a beautiful prisoner that his heart becomes involved with his job–a forbidden and fatal move to any Nazi.
When a vile soldier takes direct interest in Sarah, she will be forced to make a choice that will change her life forever: ignore the pull toward the handsome doctor or give in to the forbidden passion he awakens with only a look. Either way they both risk everything…
Review: Although my country, Ireland, was neutral during the Second World War, Ireland is close enough to mainland Europe not to be immune to it. I grew up reading stories of WWII and the Holocaust in particular. The tragedy of millions of people liquidated in concentration camps, which happened less than twenty years before I was born filled me with thoughts of sadness as I was growing up. I went through the Anne Frank phase when I was thirteen, reading the diary of a girl of the same age who was Jewish and hiding from the Nazis, in fear of her life. When I was just twenty one, I, along with a couple of friends, went on a bus tour of mainland Europe, visiting Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial in Germany and it would not be wrong to say that it will stick in my mind forever for the palpable atmosphere of despair and horror which I experienced there.
So when I heard that Megan D. Martin had written a novel set in a concentration camp, I was immediately interested to read it. My main query as I began to read was, would it work?
Yes it works. In a way. In other ways, I’m not so sure.
As a romance novel, it sticks to the rules. A man and a woman meet in unlikely circumstances. They are attracted. There are problems to face and somehow they overcome them. They pass each others’ loyalty tests and then comes the black moment, when all seems lost forever. Right up to the end, I wasn’t sure if the HEA (happy ever after) was going to happen and neither would any other reader be sure of it either. I’m not here to spoil the surprise.
When Sarah reaches the (unnamed) concentration camp, it’s at the tail end of the war. She’s been traveling in a train for a week, dirty and starving. Her four year hiding place was discovered and she was taken away immediately. When she appears before the camp staff sans clothes, she’s not the emaciated type as she’s a new prisoner, she catches the approving eye of Dr. Aurel Rothstein and a sadistic Nazi prison guard who likes to help himself to the female prisoners. Dr. Rothstein uses the fact that he plans to do an experiment on her hair to prevent Sarah from having her head shaved. He also lures Sarah into his private apartment on the pretext of helping her, giving her luxuries like extra food (which she hides away to share with her mother and sister). He also offers to give her a bath. I just didn’t get this. Here is Dr. Rothstein feeling concern for the beautiful prisoner, offering her the use of his bathroom for bathing purposes and offering to scrub her back as well? Like, to my mind he obviously wanted to make love to her, have sex, whatever, but his concern for her welfare was transparent to the point of ridiculous. The scene ends with Sarah and the good doctor having a bath together. So on one page it’s the human interest angle and and next thing they’re doing erotic? Somehow, somehow, that just didn’t work for me.
Another thing that didn’t make it work so well for me was that there was nothing in the writing which indicated Jewishness. In any writing about a Jewish person, you’ll have a smattering of Yiddish/Hebrew expressions, references to the Shabbos (Sabbath), the Shul (synagogue) or maybe even just a relevant quote from the Torah (Hebrew scriptures). Sarah and her mother and sister could have been Lutheran Protestants or Roman Catholics for all the cultural indications that come the reader’s way. I also found it strange how Sarah’s mother and kid sister, noticing Dr. Rothstein’s interest in Sarah, were so happy and romanticized this ‘true love’ as they called it. No respectable Jewish mother worth her matzos, to my mind at least, would ever be happy about her daughter receiving attention from a male, never mind a goy (non Jew). But maybe it’s just me. And a Jewish mother envisaging ‘true love’ between her beautiful daughter and a Nazi officer is really pushing it. I know Jewish mothers, like all possessive mothers, are supposed to be crazy to get their daughters married to doctors, but this, in my humble opinion, is pushing things a bit too far.
The sadistic prison guard line is credible enough. And I really do get it that Sarah is supposed to be angelically beautiful with an attractiveness that shines through the dirt and grime of the concentration camp. Some women just have the X factor, that certain something that seems to shine through, even if they happen to be wearing nothing particularly attractive or find themselves less than salubrious circumstances. No doubt, many women in circumstances such as this found themselves subjected to brutal sexual abuse. I found it a little surprising that the author kept on referring to the concentration camp attire as a ‘jump suit’. Unless that’s what they call pyjamas in the USA. The striped pyjamas of the concentration camp are universally recognizable
But no matter what, I have to say hats off to Megan D. Martin for having the gumption to handle writing romance set in a difficult situation like this. It couldn’t have been easy. The one thing that humanity should never do is forget the mistakes of the past and through her writing, Megan’s done her bit to ensure that the Holocaust and the brutalities which happened at that time, will be a little less easy to forget.
That in itself is a wonderfully positive thing. This is certainly a book worth reading. Like all romance fiction, it carries a message of hope.