Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Blog tour: The Austrian Bride by Helen Parusel


As much as I love WWII fiction, I do need a bit of a hook to pick up a book from a new to me author. Yes, I have the authors I already know and love so I will pick their books up without too much thought, but there has to be a reason to pick up a new author.  So what was it that persuaded me to give this book a chance. Firstly, I have read books set in Germany, France, Italy and the UK, but I don't think I have read much set in Austria. And technically, this probably isn't truly a WWII story given that it starts with the events of the annexation of Austria in 1938.

This was such an interesting read, touching on many aspects of pre-war life. Ella Mayer is a young woman who lives in Linz in Austria, a town that the Fuhrer has a connection to. Austria has struggled economically for years, so the arrival of German rule brings with it promises of jobs and prosperity. We follow Ella and her family as they begin to realise that the reality is very different from the promises.

Everything was the same as every summer, and yet nothing was the same. It was the perfect June day that was anything but perfect.

It doesn't take long for fear and violence to become part of life in Linz and Ella and her mother Marlene find themselves caught up, each outwardly trying to be fine upstanding citizens, but secretly involved in activities that would mean certain punishment if they are caught. One of the interesting things is that the two women are not aware of what the other is involved in.

Ella's boyfriend Max is handsome and dashing, and is pursuing Ella with great purpose, and she falls head over heels. However, the longer their relationship goes on the less that Ella likes who he is. As Max has some great contacts within the Reich, he is able to facilitate Ella's enrolment in the Reich Bride School, where she is taught how to be the perfect Reich wife. This was one of the most interesting aspects of the story for me.

Ella is able to use the contacts that she has made in order to protect those that she loves. The author is able to share quite a few interesting stories, including about the brother of one of the most infamous Nazis who is involved in resisting them. There is also mention of some famous sites of Linz that apparently can still be seen today.

In the meantime, Marlene is pondering an event from years before which could have meant that the world would have ended up in a very different place.

I did have one issue and that was with a name of one of the characters. The first time I read the name it really threw me out of the story for a good few hours. I am sure that the author found real people with this name but to me it felt like a name that didn't come into popularity until the 1990s. I ended up spending some time googling the name and it's history. It's funny how just one little thing can affect you in that way.

As an aside, it is very difficult for me to type the word Austria without automatically changing it to Australia.

I am sharing this review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources, the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy. Check out other reviews on the tour too.

Rating 3.5/5

About the book

The Austrian Bride

Austria, 1938

After years of hardship, Ella is full of hope for a better future for Austrians, and when Hitler marches into Linz, she can’t help but become swept up in the euphoria of her boyfriend, Max.

But she soon realises her mistake. When she witnesses a woman being shot in the street and a childhood friend’s Jewish department store is closed down, she knows she must do something.

It’s a dangerous time to be a resistor, especially when her fascist boyfriend proposes to her. Knowing the secrets she can uncover, Ella enlists in a Reich Bride School, finding herself propelled into the social elite of the Nazi circle.

Ella knows she has a duty – to her family, her friends, and her country – so while Europe teeters on the brink of WW2, a desperate race begins to save the people she loves. But betraying the Nazis could be her death sentence…

A powerful and unforgettable story of the strength of women and the unwavering courage of those who seek a better world. Fans of Suzanne Goldring, Mandy Robotham and Debbie Rix will devour this heartbreaking tale.

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About the author

Helen Parusel is a debut historical novelist, having been a teacher and a clothes buyer for M&S. She lives in Hamburg, and her first book is based on the Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940; while her second is inspired by war stories from her mother’s homeland of Austria, where she spent her early holidays.

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