Monday, June 3, 2024

Editorial Book Review: The Witch of the Breton Woods by Jennifer Ivy Walker #HistoricalRomance #WWII #EditorialReview #TheCoffeePotBookClub

*Editorial Book Review*

The Witch of the Breton Woods

by Jennifer Ivy Walker

Publication Date:  July 10th, 2024
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Pages: 400

Genre: Historical Romance / Romantic Suspense 

Traumatized by horrors witnessed during the Nazi invasion of France, a young woman retreats to the dense Breton woods where she becomes a member of the clandestine French Resistance. When she finds a critically injured American paratrooper whose plane was shot down, she shelters the wounded soldier in her secluded cottage, determined to heal him despite the enormous risk.

Ostracized by villagers who have labeled her a witch, she is betrayed by an informant who reports to the Butcher—the monstrous leader of the local paramilitary organization that collaborates with the Germans. As the enemy closes in, she must elude the Gestapo while helping the Resistance reunite the American with his regiment and join the Allied Forces in the Battle of Brittany.

Can true love triumph against all odds under the oppressive Third Reich?

She knew that fate had brought Beau here. To her. That their destinies had been entwined for a reason which had not yet been revealed.

Yvette knew that they belonged together. And that she’d lost her heart.

Yvette Fleury was not expecting to find love in the woods where she lived, nor was she expecting to find an American paratrooper hanging by his leg in a tree - but stranger things have been known to happen during war.

With great personal risk, and with a little help from the local Resistance, she brings the soldier back to her cottage where she uses her extensive knowledge of herbs to heal his wounds. But every day he stays in the cottage, the greater the chance someone will discover him and report them both to the Gestapo. However, the soldier has no memory of his former life, and if she were to send him on his way, then the Gestapo would soon capture him. So, for now, he must stay with her. But the longer he stays, the greater the risk to her heart. She can’t afford to develop feelings for him, but how can she resist those captivating blue eyes?

In The Witch of the Breton Woods, Jennifer Ivy Walker showcases the epitome of Historical Romance, skilfully crafting a story that transports readers to a Brittany under occupation while keeping them hooked with a compelling romantic plot that builds to an intense climax.

Yvette’s background is undeniably tragic. Yvette’s father and brothers, bar one, are brutally killed in front of her by Obersturmführer Heinrich Balsch, a high-ranking officer in the Waffen-SS. Yvette can never go home, so she finds sanctuary in the woods, living with Yanna, her grandmother’s friend, who guides her in the practice of healing. Four years on and Yvette is living alone in Yanna’s cottage in the woods, and because of her healing abilities and preference for solitude, some people have started calling her a witch, although she isn’t overly concerned about it. Her main worry revolves around staying alive and aiding her brother, who is involved in the Resistance movement. Discovering an American soldier entangled in a tree by his leg, Yvette realizes the importance of keeping him hidden from the enemy. With the aid of the Resistance, she achieves this objective by taking him home and sets about mending his injuries. The stakes are high; if she is discovered, her fate will be death, but that does not sway her from her goal of healing the man in front of her and getting him back to his regiment. But when he regains consciousness and opens his eyes, Yvette knows that her heart is lost to him forever. Yvette isn’t a character that does things by halves, she is either all in or not at all. Therefore, it is no shock to the reader when she becomes infatuated with Beau. Yvette throws caution to the wind and gives both her body and soul to the handsome American. Their love burns with a ferocity that is matched only by their passion, as evident in the steamy and intimate moments they share. The intensity of their love mirrors the intensity of the world’s dire circumstances. Yvette is a character that is very easy to engage with. She is a brave heroine and her story is very compelling.

The handsome American soldier has amnesia. He had no idea who he was and he had no recollection of hanging by his leg from a tree, although his broken leg he most definitely knows about. The only truth in his world is the breathtakingly beautiful woman who has tenderly nursed him back to health. Right from the beginning, he experiences a powerful attraction towards Yvette, and upon realizing her reciprocation, he falls deeply in love. With his honourable and kind nature, Beau is a truly endearing character. He is the type of character that makes readers’ hearts flutter. He embodies all the characteristics of a romantic hero, and his portrayal was superbly executed.

Brittany, under occupation, is the backdrop of this novel. Witnessing the occupiers’ barbarism first-hand has left many living in fear, especially Yvette. Nevertheless, certain people discovered means to collaborate with the enemy for personal gain and well-being. Informants and spies are everywhere and no one can be fully trusted.

Through Yvette’s actions, the reader is given an insight into the abject poverty the citizens are forced to endure and to survive one has to get a little creative. Bartering behind the Nazis’ backs is a theme that runs throughout this novel. To survive and to help the French Resistance, Yvette risks her life by harvesting shellfish from the ocean. Although she keeps some of her catch, she uses the rest to barter with her neighbours - in return, she receives milk, bread, grain wool and other goods not available due to rationing. But this comes with tremendous risk as bartering is strictly forbidden. Yvette is courageous and a risk-taker because she has no other choice.

The Resistance is an essential component of the narrative. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, Jules, Yvette’s brother, emerged as the sole survivor of a merciless execution that claimed the lives of their father and brothers. Seeking sanctuary, he took shelter in the nearby woods and was later rescued by the local Resistance Group called les Loups—The Wolves, whom he then joined and eventually became leader. Les Loups serve as a perpetual thorn in the side of the Nazis and their collaborators in this small corner of the world. Living like outlaws, and despite his Resistance duties, Jules keeps a close eye on his sister. Jules is an extremely appealing character who takes the lives of his loved ones very seriously, and he is almost always there for Yvette when danger approaches. Jules provides readers with an insight into the lives of those who belonged to the Resistance in Brittany during this era.

Walker’s portrayal of the immense suffering in this period reflects both the skill of an accomplished author and a compassionate understanding of human nature. In this novel, the Nazis and their collaborators are clearly depicted as the antagonists, while the author’s sympathy towards the Resistance influences the reader’s perception of their actions. While this novel is mainly a love story, it also emphasizes the nameless and faceless casualties of war, on both sides, leaving a haunting impact on the reader.

The meticulous historical detail deserves recognition. Every skilfully constructed sentence in this novel reflects the hours of research that went into it. Walker’s thorough research has paid off, as her characters are placed in a vivid and historically accurate world.

Jennifer Ivy Walker’s The Witch of the Breton Woods is an immensely pleasurable read with a truly satisfying ending. It is an example of historical romance at its best.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde
The Coffee Pot Book Club

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Jennifer Ivy Walker

Enthralled with legends of medieval knights and ladies, dark fairy tales and fantasies about Druids, wizards and magic, Jennifer Ivy Walker always dreamed of becoming a writer. She fell in love with French in junior high school, continuing her study of the language throughout college, spending summers in France as a foreign exchange student, exploring medieval castles and troglodyte caves in the Loire Valley, sites of pilgrimage such as le Mont-Saint-Michel, eventually becoming a high school teacher and college professor of French.

As a high school teacher, she took her students every year to the annual French competition, where they performed a play she had written, "Yseult la Belle et Tristan la Bête"--an imaginative blend of the medieval French legend of "Tristan et Yseult" and the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast", enhanced with fantasy elements of a Celtic fairy and a wicked witch.

Her debut novel, "The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven"--the first of a trilogy-- is a blend of her love for medieval legends, the romantic French language, and paranormal fantasy. It is a retelling of the medieval French romance of "Tristan et Yseult", interwoven with Arthurian myth, dark fairy tales from the enchanted Forest of Brocéliande, and otherworldly elements such as Avalonian Elves, Druids, forest fairies and magic.

Explore her realm of Medieval French Fantasy. She hopes her novels will enchant you.

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  1. Your book sounds amazing, Jennifer. I have added it to my to-read list.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. :-) I agree. It does sound intriguing. It's on my list too. C xx