A young woman on the run finds a second chance in World War II Italy in a thrilling novel of love, intrigue, and redemption by the author of A Girl Divided.
1944, Chicago. From desperate small-town teen to star of the burlesque circuit, Violet Ernte has survived tough choices and more than one reinvention. Now, framed for an underworld murder, she has one way out: agree to keep Marcie, a reckless USO showgirl and mobster’s daughter, on the straight and narrow. Vi’s new act: play innocent ingenue and join the all-American song-and-dance troupe bound for overseas to a war-torn Italy.
When a USO headliner goes missing soon after landing, the disappearance has treacherous implications for the entire troupe. With Marcie’s safety in peril, Vi turns to battle-roughened army sergeant Ansel Danger for help. But getting closer to Ansel means exposing her past and her double life of scandal and deception. And in a heartbeat, she could lose everything.
Defiant and resilient, Vi is used to taking risks. This time it’s for redemption. To love, and to be loved. And for a second chance at a future she thought was lost forever.
Some Q & A with Ellen:
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.
Authors seem to fall into two camps: those who always knew they wanted to write, and those who unexpectedly stumbled into it later in life. I am definitely a member of the latter tribe. That said, I’ve loved reading since the moment I learned how. My favorite tales were ones of adventure, whether it was Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown solving the case, or Alec Ramsey guiding the Black Stallion to victory. Reading gave me – an admittedly active and tomboyish girl – a way to continue the excitement of exploration and learning about the world long after I was called inside for bed. So how did I end up writing, if I wasn’t particular drawn to it growing up?
Fast forward through a BA in Classics from the University of Colorado (and yes, I was trained to be an archaeologist, but fell in love with a pilot), a move to Minnesota, the birth of two children that I adore and quit working to raise … and we arrive at that moment where, one day, I wanted to read a particular kind of story but couldn’t find it anywhere. What I wanted was a romance set in the U.S. during WWII, preferably starring an injured military intelligence officer with a secret. What I found was . . . nothing.
This is where I’m going to quote the wonderful Toni Morrison, so you’ll understand what I did next: “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” Seemed simple enough, so I did, and thus began my later-in-life adventure in becoming an author. It took nearly five years of study and revisions, and then another year or so of polishing to create – but that story went on to be a finalist in the 2014 Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest for unpublished manuscripts. It was also the story which ended up attracting my now-agent, the talented Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.
Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?
Oh, absolutely! In the case of The Long Path Home, I stumbled across a wonderful firsthand account of a joint USO/American Theater Wing production that finds itself touring a war-torn Italy during WWII. It’s by Margalo Gillmore and called The B.O.W.S. (The Barrets of Wimpole Street). Building on that premise, I was then able to weave in the true story of missing Nazi gold last seen in Bunker Soratte just north of Rome. I was even lucky enough to tour the bunker ruins with my husband, and our friend, Riccardo, last year. Finally, being a bit of a method-writer, and wanting to get a better feel for my heroine who was a burlesque star in Chicago, I took a beginning burlesque class from the Rose Academy of Burlesque in Minneapolis, and even agreed to strut the stage with my classmates. I have to say, it was quite the experience! Definitely fun and exciting, but not something I see myself pursuing as a second career.
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
Actually, I do. It’s the climax scene of The Long Path Home, when Vi’s life is on the line and the very thing she has considered a curse up until this point becomes the one thing that will save her, and those she cares about. That moment of realization, of self-acceptance, speaks to me every time I read it. I think we’ve all had the unfortunate experience of being our own worst critics, and to be gifted that moment of self-acceptance, that realization that perhaps we’re not as as awful as we think, is something I would wish for everyone. It brings to mind something my 8th grade art teacher once told me: a weed is just a wildflower in disguise. I’ve always loved that thought. What a better world this would be if we could all just celebrate that ‘wildflower’ within us, don’t you think?
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Persistence, persistence, persistence. Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever stop learning and trying to better your craft. And remember – just like not everyone will like a particular movie, not everyone will like your story, and that is okay. Write the story you want to read, write it well, and take pride in your work. And don’t give up.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has read one of my books, and offer an ever bigger thank you to anyone who has left a review! Reviews are the greatest gift you can give any author, even if it isn’t a raving 5-star one. Don’t worry about being eloquent, either. I love hearing from my readers, even if they are taking me to task over how ‘eggrolls’ are an American invention first prepared in New York during the 30s, and not ethnically Chinese (true story). And if you haven’t read either of my books yet, I hope you will!
To connect with Ellen ~