Regency spy novels are chock full of French emigrés fleeing the Revolution, but more recent stories of migration, including refugees, can be a little harder to find. Here are some post-World War II stories of heroes and heroines either living in areas of crisis, fleeing them, or encountering other characters who have done both. We have border patrol agents, war orphans and adoptees, humanitarian workers, and ordinary people trying to survive.
A Daughter’s Journey by Linda Cardillo in the anthology A Mother’s Heart. Journalist Melanie Ames escapes Saigon just before the city is retaken by North Vietnamese forces, cutting short her love affair with a doctor in the city. Decades later, she returns with her adopted Vietnamese daughter Tien, who is seeking to learn more about her roots, and finds her lover still in country, doing his best to help the casualties of war. This tiny (96 page!) novella amazed me with the depth it packed into such a short page count.
The Sheikh’s Destiny by Melissa James. The protagonists of this book are aid workers in the war-torn Sahel desert of north Africa – Alim is the Racing Sheikh, who delivers medical supplies, and Hana a nurse doing her best for a village under quasi-dystopian conditions. Especially satisfying for its two Arab Muslim leads, this book depicts the world that many refugees are trying to escape.
Joyride by Anna Banks. In this YA romance, Carly Vega, hardworking American-born daughter of deported Mexican parents, falls in love with Arden, the affluent white son of local law enforcement. Carly is a terrific heroine and, along with her brother, shows the role of minimum wage workers, documented or otherwise, in the US economy. People-smuggling and legal corruption are also in play here.
I also found For The One by Brenna Aubrey while researching this post. I haven’t had time to read it yet, but here’s the plot summary: Jenna Kovac is a survivor. When war ripped her world apart, she lost her family, her homeland, and her one true love. She’s made a new life for herself in the US, but she’s learned that nothing is permanent, and some nights it’s not even safe to dream. This New Adult contemporary also features a hero with Asperger’s, which I always find interesting. It’s very well reviewed on Amazon so I’m excited to give it a try.
Jill Sorenson’s Border Patrol series: Caught in the Act (Book 1) When Karina Strauss helps Maria Santos enter the U.S. illegally she feels she has done a good deed. The hard working, kind Maria is a loyal friend and all around good person. Adam Cortez,a U.S. border protection officer, isn’t in agreement. Cases like Maria’s make it harder for legal immigrants like his parents. When Kari’s actions start to attract the attention of a drug lord she finds herself in desperate need for Adam’s help. This book gives a very balanced look at the difference between legal and illegal immigration and why people make the choices they do regarding the issue.
Off the Rails continues Maria’s story. She finds herself back in Mexico at the start of this novel, involved in some big problems that aren’t really hers. Fortunately, love interest Ian Foster has no intention of leaving her to face those troubles alone. Forced to ride La Bestia (a dangerous train illegals take to cross the border) Ian and Maria work out the difficulties of their relationship while living the perils of the dangerous journey involved in chasing the American dream when you are from the wrong part of America.
Body Heat by Brenda Novak This love story involves the difficulties faced by a border town in Arizona regarding the immigration issue. While neither hero Roderick Guerrero nor heroine Sophia St. Claire are refugees, the work they are doing is to protect people crossing the border into America. A story which looks at the dark side of illegal immigration, this is a murder mystery which as enlightening as it is disturbing. A complex romance and excellent prose make it worth the read.
WWII Refugees (Not all of these books are romances)
The Montmaray Journals (A Brief History of Montmaray, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, The FitzOsbornes at War) by Michelle Cooper Young Sophie FitzOsborne loves the crumbling castle that is her home on the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray, just a hop, skip and a jump from England. But 1936 proves to be a very bad year. For when rumors of war turn into German’s on their shores, Sophie and her family must decide whether to flee or acquiesce. The first 100 pages of the story were actually quite agonizingly boring but once this book took off, it took off. It’s a completely mesmerizing tale of flight, misfortune and war and love danger.
The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman I gave this book a B in my review primarily because of the prose and the lovely story revolving around secondary character Solange Beaugiron. When her Jewish mother married a Frenchman, she left behind her heritage and became one of hundreds of young, ordinary Parisian housewives. In 1938, the young Solange meets the people who made up her mother’s early life and soon falls in love with a handsome Jewish bookstore owner. But the looming shadow of Nazi occupation grows ever closer and it is clear that Solange, her young lover and his family will need to leave Paris if they wish to survive. It’s a great story of running to freedom with danger on your tail.
The Orphan’s Tale Pam Jenoff. Astrid was a happily married woman before being a German Jew became a liability. When her Nazi officer husband asks for a divorce, she is forced to leave Berlin and return to her life as a circus performer. But even within the circus Astrid is not safe. This is a terrific story, very heartfelt and beautiful.
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers – Maria von Trapp Before it was the blockbuster film The Sound of Music, the story of how an aristocratic Austrian family fled the Nazi occupation was a book. In her own words, the Baroness tells us of meeting the family, falling in love and making the decision to leave Austria as the Nazi’s became the ruling power there. Very different from the movie, this story emphasizes the real dangers of fleeing a fascist government as well as the trials and tribulations of becoming an American citizen. It has the added benefit of being real.
Have you come across any stories/books featuring characters in similar settings? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.