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Historical Novel Discussions > Lovers in Arms by Osiris Brackhaus

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message 1: by Ulysses (new)

Ulysses Dietz | 1589 comments This lingered on my Kindle backlog for quite a while because the premise worried me. How was Brackhaus going to pull off the story of an American army officer trying to defend his Nazi lover at the Nuremberg war trials?

Frank Hawthorne, war hero and hired assassin, never expected to fall in love with an aristocratic German Wehrmacht officer who was on a first name basis with Reichsmarshall Goering. But Johann von Biehn was not what Frank expected. War, even a clear-cut war against an enemy like Hitler, is not always black and white.

This would, in a different world, make a beautiful movie. Brackhaus unveils his story in a carefully structured series of flashbacks between Nuremberg during the notorious war-crime trials in 1946 and the summer of 1943 in the German Spreewald region at von Biehn’s ancestral manor house.

This, being a romance, never lets us get too deep into the psyche of either Frank Hawthorne or Johann von Biehn. Brackhaus gives us just enough to understand who these men are and what motivates them for the purposes of the story. There is not very much beyond that—only faint fragments of their past and their sense of what being a homosexual in the 1940s means to them. But we get just enough to believe in them, and that’s really all we need. Similarly, several key background characters, the Nuremberg prosecutor Jackson and his assistant Benedict, play crucial roles in the book and thus we get fairly vivid sketches of them to make them real enough to matter.

But this book is not about personality, it’s about unexpected love. It is not, in the end, meant to be realistic. And that’s fine.

Brackhaus uses all of the clichés of the genre, but he uses them well and writes nicely. As I said, I kept envisioning this in black and white as a film starring Rock Hudson and Helmut Berger (who are the wrong ages to have ever acted together, but hey, it’s my imagination!), so clearly the author pushed the right buttons in my brain.

Again I note, as I am wont to do, that the narrative is compelling enough and the emotional pitch strong enough that I really didn’t need the explicit on-page sexual interaction between the main characters. There were aspects of Frank and Johann’s physical relationship that provide emotional and psychological benchmarks for the reader, and Brackhaus handled the sex nicely. But, for me, the overall romantic story outweighed everything. I am not one to romanticize the Nazis, ever, but I do like the idea that, all through Hitler’s psychotic rule over Germany, there were good Germans who resisted and tried to save their country from the clutches of the madmen who ruled her. In this Brackhaus has found the key to the success of his novel.

As a final note, I must say that I’m intrigued to find a straight, married man writing gay romance novels. This seems to be his only book so far, but I’m hoping he’ll continue.

message 2: by PaperMoon (new)

PaperMoon | 665 comments A thoroughly enjoyable read this was. Your instructions re: Hudson and Berger really worked for me too.

message 3: by Mercedes (new)

Mercedes | 373 comments I liked this a lot too. It's been a few months since I read it but I remember it made a good impression.

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