Two Crosses (Secrets of the Cross Trilogy)by Elizabeth Musser
In 1961, Gabriella, daughter of missionaries, is on a study abroad program in southern France, She finds herself in grave danger as Algerian terrorists try to eliminate all political opposition.
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By Elizabeth Musser
David C. CookCopyright © 2012 Elizabeth Musser
All rights reserved.
The sun rose softly on the lazy town of Castelnau in the south of France. Gabriella quietly slipped out of bed, stretched, and ran her fingers through her thick mane of red hair. The tile floor felt cool to her bare feet. Peering down from her tiny room, she watched the empty streets begin to fill with people. Mme Leclerc, her landlady, was the first to enter the boulangerie just in view down the street to buy baguettes and gros pain, the bread essential for breakfast for her three boarding students.
She watched a moment longer, until a lanky young man in his midtwenties walked briskly up the street. There was no mistaking the next client who entered the boulangerie. Gabriella had recognized him the first time she saw him buying bread a few days earlier, from the description of the other boarders. This was David Hoffmann, the university's handsome American instructor. Gabriella strained to get a closer look.
Castelnau was a pleasant town, she thought as she moved away from the window. She pulled the duvet up from the end of the bed and lightly fluffed her pillow. It wasn't a bit like Dakar, or any other part of Senegal—except, of course, that the beach and ocean were not far away. Only here it was the Mediterranean Sea.
She tied back her unruly hair with a large ribbon and then washed her face in the small porcelain sink that stood neatly in the corner of the room. Opening a large oak armoire, she removed a freshly pressed blouse and a simple straight-lined navy skirt. As she dressed, she noted that the skirt hung loosely around her waist—in spite of the boulangerie's bread and pastries.
She had come to Castelnau only two weeks earlier, excited and confident, ready to discover a new land and people. But as the days between her and her family lengthened, pangs of homesickness caught her by surprise. In the midst of a walk through town she would notice a woman with hair like her mother's, or two lithe, tanned girls, carefree and laughing, like Jessica and Henrietta.
By afternoon she knew it would be blistering hot outside, but the morning was bright and crisp, with a hint of autumn in the air. At home there would be no fall smells. And at home she would not yet be starting her first day at university. But here, in this small French village separated by a sea from the African world she loved, Gabriella knew she must push away thoughts of the past. At twenty-one, she should know that no good would come from giving in to homesickness.
She reached for the large leather-bound Bible sitting on her wooden nightstand and leafed familiarly through the pages until she found the place she was seeking. Ten minutes later, as she carefully laid the book back on the nightstand, a letter fell from the Bible. She reached down and retrieved it, and as she tucked it back into the book, a line caught her eye: I give you this cross, which has always been for me a symbol of forgiveness and love.
A shadow swept across her. Instinctively she reached to touch the gold chain that hung around her neck. Paying no attention to the cold, hard tile beneath her bare knees, she knelt on the floor and propped her folded hands on the side of the bed. She moved her lips without a sound escaping. It was only later, when she rose to her feet and smoothed her skirt, that she noticed her hands were wet from her warm tears.
Gabriella finished her breakfast of bread, butter, and jelly dipped into a huge bowl of rich hot chocolate. The first morning, she had barely managed to choke down the strong coffee the French drank in their wide bowls, diluting it with plenty of cream and four cubes of sugar. After that disaster, Mme Leclerc had offered her hot chocolate instead. Gabriella smiled now as she remembered her embarrassment, then swept the bread crumbs from her skirt, cleared the table, and let the dishes rattle in the small sink.
"Gabriella, please. You are always the last one, helping an old lady like me. But today you mustn't be late. Allez! Go along now and catch up with the others." Mme Leclerc shooed her out of the house.
Stephanie and Caroline, the two other boarders, had hurried off minutes before, and Gabriella appreciated Mme Leclerc's friendly dismissal. She grabbed her small satchel that lay by the entrance of the apartment. Opening the door, she turned back and said "Au revoir," then placed the expected quick kisses on her landlady's cheeks. "And merci!"
She made her way down the dark, narrow staircase. On a good day Gabriella could descend the stairs two at a time, race back up, and come down again before the automatic light in the stairwell went off. It was her own childish game, played only when others weren't present. Today, however, she did not press the shining orange button. She needed these few seconds of darkness to collect her thoughts.
At the bottom of the staircase, a massive oak door opened onto the street. She stepped out into the sunlight and blinked. Quickly she trotted down the sidewalk, past the boulangerie with its smells of fresh bread, past the café, where paunchy men were already sipping an early-morning apéritif and women chatted noisily as their dogs strained on leashes. She liked the short walk through the village that led to the small yet imposing Church of St. Joseph. The church was built in the Romanesque style and seemed to Gabriella like a benevolent father surrounding a houseful of children, saying nothing but ever present and knowing.
She stepped through the red-washed wooden side door and down the steps into the hollow nave, where flickering candles testified to the early-morning fidelity of a few parishioners. The church was slowly filling up with young women. Gabriella took a seat on a wooden pew near the front, next to Stephanie.
"You made it!" her housemate said, too loudly. "I thought you'd be late."
Gabriella smiled. "Fortunately it's a short walk."
"I've heard the first day is a little boring," Stephanie said. Her husky voice echoed in the hollow room.
Gabriella nodded and put a finger to her lips.
By now many young women were scattered throughout the twenty rows of pews. A small woman wearing a black nun's habit walked up the aisle and stood before them. Gabriella had heard that she was over seventy, but the nun's green eyes were lively. She spoke in English, with a heavy French accent.
"Good morning, mesdemoiselles, and welcome to the Church of St. Joseph. I am Mother Griolet, the director of the Franco-American exchange program here in Castelnau. As you have already discovered during your week of orientation, this church is where you will meet each morning at eight thirty for announcements, after which you will go to your morning classes.
"This is my fourteenth year of working with the program, and by now I have, shall we say, gotten used to the ways of American women." She lifted her eyebrows, and muffled laughter echoed through the church. "We try not to have too many rules, for we want you to soak up this region of France and learn the language. However, we do expect you to act becoming of your age and remember that you are representing your country.
"As is my custom, I will give a brief history of St. Joseph. The church dates back to the thirteenth century. The parsonage, as you call it, was added in the eighteenth century, as were the classrooms, refectory, and dormitory. At one time St. Joseph was used as a parochial school for French women. I came here in 1917 as a teacher and also opened a small orphanage at that time, which continues to function—I'm sure you have noticed the children about.
"During World War II the school was abandoned, though the church and orphanage remained open. After the war, with the help of some businessmen from America, St. Joseph was transformed into a school that offered classes in both French and English—an exchange program for young women during their university education.
"In 1947 I assumed the position of director and had to brush up on my English a bit." She emphasized her last phrase with an exaggerated accent, and the young women laughed. "As I like to tell your parents, who are paying, as you say, 'through the nose' for you to be here, the school's location on the Mediterranean offers an ideal setting for your cultural advancement. Several excursions are planned each quarter to visit the historical sites of the region. And there is, of course, springtime in Paris. Two weeks to soak up the charm of the city, lose oneself in the museums, and join the students from the Sorbonne in a café on the Left Bank. Doesn't it sound grand?"
Gabriella and Stephanie nodded at Mother Griolet's romantic description.
"This year there are forty-two of you representing seven different universities and three countries. Many of you are taking demi-pension, living with a French family and eating one meal a day with them. Others are housed at the university in Montpellier, only fifteen minutes away by bus. I hope you have already begun to meet one another.
"I would now like to introduce our professors." She addressed the woman and three men seated in the front row. "If you will please stand after I introduce you. First, M. Claude Brunet, who will teach all three levels of French grammar, as well as the conversation class." A thin, tall middle-aged man with an enormous mustache and heavy eyebrows rose and nodded slightly.
"They say he had an affair with a girl from Rhode Island last year. He's a real playboy," Stephanie whispered.
Gabriella gave her a look of disbelief, but Stephanie just shrugged.
"Next, M. Jean-Louis Vidal." A balding man with wire glasses and a generous stomach, who looked at least sixty, stood quickly, a slightly flustered expression on his face. "M. Vidal will teach all of you European history—in French, of course."
"Boring," was Stephanie's comment.
Mother Griolet continued. "We are privileged to have a professor from the Faculté des Lettres in Montpellier teaching eighteenth-century French literature and twentieth-century French novel. Madame Josephine Resch." A woman of about thirty-five with black blunt-cut hair stood, looking poised and cool in her lightweight suit.
"She's supposed to be tough but good," came the running commentary from Stephanie.
"And finally, M. David Hoffmann, who will be teaching a course he first presented at St. Joseph last year: 'Visions of Man, Past and Present.' M. Hoffmann will teach in both French and English, since his course deals with art, history, and literature from both France and England."
When David Hoffmann rose to his feet, every eye in the church followed him. His frame was lean and athletic, and his hair and eyes were jet black. He appeared calm and sophisticated for such a young professor.
Stephanie jabbed Gabriella in the ribs. "He is one charming man, I heard. But very distant."
Mother Griolet thanked the professors, then turned her attention once again to the young women. "We are delighted to have you with us for the school year. I believe you have all received your course schedules and know where the classrooms are. I will end by saying that I am an old woman and have seen many things. Young ladies can get into all kinds of trouble. I cannot prevent it, but my office is open for a friendly chat if you should happen to need it. You are dismissed."
She left the podium, her face a picture of joviality dusted with friendly concern. The girls offered a smattering of polite applause before they stood up and filed out of the church and into the adjoining building.
Gabriella liked the firm yet humorous style of the director. I can see why Mother grew so fond of her, she thought. Then she hurried after Stephanie to find a place in the classroom of M. Hoffmann.
* * *
Mother Griolet closed the door to her small office and sat down behind the mahogany desk. She picked up the list in front of her, cursorily reading the forty-two girls' names. Over the next few months they would become as familiar to her as her own. But one she already knew. Gabriella Madison. She closed her eyes and saw this now-grown young woman with the fiery hair as a child of six, trembling and sobbing, her face dirty as she clung to Mother Griolet's black skirts.
Mother Griolet did not cry often, but the memory of that scene brought an unexpected sting to her green eyes and sent a sudden chill through her small frame.
"Dear child. Why did you come back here?" She was sure it was a mistake. She was equally sure that she would pray night and day that Gabriella Madison would never discover the story that an old nun had kept to herself for so long.CHAPTER 2
David Hoffmann stood before his class, a hint of a smile on his lips. The young women scurried excitedly into the room, clearly nervous in spite of their efforts to look mature and appealing. The rumors doubtless were the same as last year: M. Hoffmann would be a perfect match for one of these up-and-coming debutantes.
"Mesdemoiselles," he said sternly, "please be seated. You may discuss the shortcomings of your professeurs later."
Nervous laughter, and a few raised eyebrows.
"I have the distinct pleasure of presiding over this most fascinating course, 'Visions of Man: Past and Present.' It is a composite of several subject areas and will test your minds in the areas of French and English literature, poetry, the history of art, and the psychology of learning. You will soon see how marvelously these subjects flow together. Is that not right, Mlle Loudermilk?"
An impeccably dressed blonde in the third row looked up, surprised, and then beamed back. "Of course, M. Hoffmann. It sounds enchanting."
Good, he thought. They aren't quite sure what to think of me. But his eyes kept straying to the young woman sitting like a statue to his right. He had noticed her at once: mounds of red hair curling wildly about her head and bright, clear blue eyes with an innocence and luminosity that shone like an angel from one of Raphael's paintings. In contrast to the other girls, she seemed childlike and fragile. An angel, he thought. A Raphaelite angel.
He realized then who she must be, so out of place among these sophisticated socialites-in-training. Yes, this must be the daughter of missionaries from the west coast of Africa. A wealthy relative was paying for her junior year abroad before she continued her education at a college in the States. That was the story, anyway. The poor girl was probably scared stiff.
Clearing his throat, David came around to the front of his desk and sat lightly on it. His dark eyes flashed as he began to recite:
"Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man ...
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl'd:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!"
When he finished, he returned to the other side of his desk and stared at the mesmerized girls, who seemed not to have understood a word of his soliloquy but nonetheless appreciated his charm and talent. "Mesdemoiselles, please! Who can tell me the poet's name and the title of the work?"
Forty-two heads looked around nervously.
Then a hand went up. He almost didn't see it, so little did he expect an answer. "Yes, Miss ..." His voice trailed off as he searched the roll for the missionary girl's name.
"Madison. Gabriella Madison." Her voice was soft but calm.
Gabriella! Even the name of an angel.
"Why, it's from Alexander Pope's 'Essay on Man'!" she exclaimed excitedly, as if she were delighted to find someone else who shared her enthusiasm for the poet.
David felt himself blush, then regained his composure and began his lecture. But after class, his thoughts returned to the angel on his right. Worth investigating, this Gabriella Madison.
* * *
Everything in France seemed to close between noon and two. Gabriella had observed the daily routine: shop owners covered their windows with corrugated aluminum and locked their doors, and workers passed one another on the cobblestones in the center of town as they headed toward their homes.
The main meal of the day lasted two full hours and was eaten in leisurely fashion with plenty of bread and wine accompanying each of the four courses. Gabriella blushed slightly as she remembered her first taste of wine at Mme Leclerc's dinner table.
"Mais, bien sûr, you must try a little red wine, ma chérie," the proprietor had insisted. "What is a meal without wine?"
To be polite, Gabriella had lifted the glass to her lips and sipped the rich red liquid. It had burned her mouth and caused her eyes to fill with tears, and she coughed uncontrollably. Mme Leclerc, Stephanie, and Caroline had laughed loudly.
"The first sip is always surprising. But do not worry, ma chérie. You will come to appreciate it, I assure you."
Excerpted from Two Crosses by Elizabeth Musser. Copyright © 2012 Elizabeth Musser. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Elizabeth Musser, a Georgia native, lives in Lyon, France, where she and her husband serve as missionaries. She has authored acclaimed novels including The Dwelling Place and The Swan House ,which was named one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year and one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the Past 100 Years.
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Elizabeth Musser in TWO CROSSES AND TWO TESTAMENTS takes a historical event - the Algerian war for independence - of which many Americans have very little knowledge - and weaves around that conflict a very interesting story featuring many intriguing characters. The reader is gripped by tragic events as well as by an interesting romance which develops between two of the main characters. The complexity of personal relationships as well as the rapidly changing political events make these novels difficult to lay down. I can't wait for the third book.
I anxiously pressed forward through the book, wanted to know what happened to each of the many characters. However, toward the end it became somewhat lengthy. It was worth reading, and I'll read more by this author.
I've now read this book twice. The first time was several years ago. I was ashamed to admit that reading this was one of my first exposures to the Algerian wars. One reason I love Elizabeth musser is for her historical fiction told so delightfully through lovable and detestable characters. I loved it even more the second time I read it knowing I would be able to complete the series now that the third will finally be printed in English in September. I would definitely recommend it!! It is a mix of a love story and the many harsh realities of war.
Left hanging in the end. Didn't like all the jumping around of times, people, and places without explaining how we got there. Loved the main female lead, but disliked the guy.
Great story. Well written. Would highlt recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys reading!
Elizabeth Musser in her new book, “Two Crosses book coverTwo Crosses” Book One in the Secrets of the Cross Trilogy published by David C Cook brings us into the life of Gabriella Madison. From the back cover: The glimmering Huguenot cross she so innocently wears leads her deep into the shadows. When Gabriella Madison arrives in the French village of Castelnau in 1961 to continue her university studies, she doesn’t anticipate being drawn into the secretive world behind the Algerian war for independence from France. And the further she delves into the war efforts, the more her faith is challenged. The people who surround her bring a whirlwind of transforming forces—a wise nun who knows more about the war and Gabriela’s past than she’s saying, a lost little girl carrying secret information, and a debonair man with unknown loyalties who pursues Gabriella. When she discovers a long-hidden family, it leads to questions about trust, faith in action, and the power of forgiveness to move beyond the pain of the past. I like history and since I was six at the time of the events in this book I had no idea of what was going on back then. Thanks to Elizabeth Musser now I do. The Algerian war of independence began in November 1954 and ended officially on July 3 1962, when France’s President Charles de Gaulle formally renounced his nation’s sovereignty over Algeria and proclaimed its independence. When Gabriella arrives in Castelnau it is September, 1961 so there is still quite a bit of revolution to go. Gabriella is drawn into what is going on and in doing so learns secrets about her own family history. ”Two Crosses” is filled with danger, suspense, thrills and romance. Ms. Musser knows a thing or two about France as she and her husband are missionaries there. If you want to read a rousing yarn that contains a good dose of action and memorable characters that you really care about then “Two Crosses” is the story for you. If you are looking for history you will find it here. If you are looking for a really good romance you will find it here. I liked this book and am really looking forward to the second book in this series. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Wynn-Wynn Media for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Amazing! BY FAR one of the best books I have ever read! I can't wait to read the rest of this series! Definitely one of my top favorite books! Highly recommend!
As a missionaries daughter Gabriella Madison feels out of place in France of 1961. She is taken into the underground world of the Algerian War, and the further in she is pulled the more she questions her faith. The characters are well developed and they could be real people on the street. I enjoyed the storyline but in certain parts there was alot of descriptions which sometimes make it a little confusing at times. But all in all I would definitely recommend this book. I also intend to read the next ones in the series. Thank you Net Galley and David C. Cook
In 1961, Gabriella Madison moves to the small village of Castelnau in France to attend classes in an exchange program. When one of her professors, David Hoffmann, asks her out, she unknowingly steps into a world of secrets and falls in love. Across the sea, terrorist groups tear Algeria apart with their fight for freedom from France. Gabriella’s professor works secretly to bring children from Algeria to the orphanage and uses the Huguenot cross as a symbol of his group. Things get dicey when the bad guys discover Gabriella and David saves a child during a riot, while Gabriella begins working for the orphanage. This is such an intriguing story. Musser paints beautiful pictures of France, including French phrases to add depth to the story. Musser’s characters are so realistic that they feel like old friends, as they attempt to deal with memories and grow in their relationship with the Lord. The background of the Algerian war for independence added interest since this was not part of familiar history for me. You will not want to put this one down. I would recommend it to anyone enjoying history, romance, and suspense.
Lagniappe! A little bit more thrown in for free - a term I learned while in school in New Orleans and that came to mind as I read these books. Taking time to read books is a luxury anymore - and when I do, I want the time to be well spent. The first two books of the Secrets of the Cross trilogy by Elizabeth Musser that I read over the past few days was definitely time I treasured. The stories unfolded with romance, adventure, intrigue, joys and sorrows, and enough twists and turns in the plot line to keep me grabbing the books for a few more vignettes whenever I had a few minutes to spare. The stories taught me history - enveloped me in a war in my lifetime that I only vaguely know even took place - and included art, poetry, literature, travel, insight into other cultures, philosophy, faith ... and yet these were intertwined in the lives of characters that seem like old friends now and that I hope will walk with me for days to come as I learned much from them. I found the links between World War II and the Algerian War fascinating - It was amazing to me to realize people lived through both of these in France. I've always thought of World War II as almost ancient history even though my dad was in France, Germany and Japan during the war. It all just seems so far removed from my life of ease in the U.S., never worrying about a knock on the door in the middle of the night, and yet as I read of the horrors of the wars, it reminded me of the news reports I hear almost daily from the Middle East and Africa. I'm eagerly awaiting the third book to be released in September as it will deal even more with the Muslim-Christian interaction that is becoming more and more at the center of so many conflicts. So if you want a little more from a book, one that will engage you both intellectually, emotionally and deep in your soul, give The Two Crosses and The Two Testaments a try. P.S. Don't read the back cover of The Two Testaments before you read the first book - it gives away part of the story.
A woman and young girl bonded not only by war but by a Huguenot cross they both share. This novel took me by surprise; I expected it to be rather boring and focused on the Algerian war. I was delighted to see this historical fiction novel also had romantic and suspenseful aspects to it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although it was rather long and left me hanging in the end. I look forward to reading the sequel “Two Testaments”.
this book was pretty fascinating, it kept me in suspense. there is lots of twists in it. If u like underground cover ups this book is for u!.I think the author did a good job .