Sophia Wells is fighting her own war. She became interested in the American lieutenant while struggling over the end of a childhood infatuation with James, a young British officer who has finally come to realize he does indeed reciprocate her feelings, and wants her back in his arms.
Will the bond between the American Lieutenant and his newfound love survive the tragedies of war and a former love, or become a casualty of both?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.78(d)|
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The American Lieutenant
By Peyton Garver
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 Peyton Garver
All rights reserved.
Wiltshire, England September 1943–June 1944
Lieutenant Garrett Harkins had been in Hungerford, England, for three weeks, and had settled into some semblance of a routine. On his way back from the showers, Garrett spotted the jeep in front of the Nissen hut that served as barracks for him and six other lieutenants in their Paratrooper Infantry Unit. He wondered what order was being handed out on a Sunday morning as he entered the hut just behind Sergeant Blevins.
"Looking for Lieutenant Harkins, he here?" the sergeant asked the men inside.
"Harkins here," Garrett announced from behind him.
"Sir, you have orders to report to Colonel Blakely at regimental headquarters, main house. You'll be staying for dinner. Dress appropriately, formal."
"A heads up?" Garrett inquired.
"No idea, sir. I'll be back to pick you up at 1600 hours."
Garrett sighed, hoping they would finally get some information about the details of their impending mission. With the overwhelming number of troops being brought into Britain from the States and Canada, there was no doubt something big was in the works. He checked his watch; several hours remained before the sergeant would be back for him.
"Stew," he said to the second lieutenant who bunked next to him, "looks like you guys'll be playing a man down this afternoon. Maybe Mitch can stand in for me. Damn!" He tidied his bunk and then pulled out his dress uniform from his footlocker. He hadn't worn it since he'd earned his wings a year ago. He brushed his hand swiftly over the dark-olive wool jacket; it would have to do.
"Mitch and Creswell are in London for weekend leave," Stewart said. "Don't worry about it, we'll find someone. Hey, keep me posted, will ya?"
* * *
Sergeant Blevins showed up at exactly 1600 hours. "Lieutenant Harkins, change of plans. You're to bring your footlocker and all other personal items. You're being relocated to HQ."
"Sergeant, is my assignment changing?" Garrett felt a stab of anxiety for Henry, the young sergeant in his platoon who reminded him of his younger brother Pete. Although he knew it was safe here at camp, he always kept a watchful eye over the boy. He had vowed to himself to get Henry back to the States safely, even though he knew it might be a pledge he couldn't keep.
"Sorry, sir. They don't tell me nothin'."
"Never mind. I guess I'll find out soon enough. Give me a hand here?"
Blevins took the opposite handle of the footlocker and helped Garrett load it into the jeep.
When they arrived at the main house, which was partially requisitioned for the headquarters of the Airborne Paratrooper Infantry Regiment, Blevins dropped Garrett off at the front door.
"Sir, your gear will be delivered to your room. You are to report directly to Colonel Blakely in his office. The staff will show you the way once you've entered."
Garrett stepped out of the jeep, took in the stately Italianate mansion, and then entered. Once inside, he noticed that the interior was typical of the Neo-Renaissance leaning toward opulent baroque; it reminded him a bit of home. The lavish grand foyer, with marble floors and mahogany-paneled walls, had a broad flight of steps coming down from the second floor. He stood in the center of the foyer waiting for the staff as directed. Instead, a portly British officer greeted him in a manner that surprised Garrett enough that he didn't immediately respond.
"Wie gehts, Garrett? Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" [How's it going, Garrett? Do you speak German?]
Garrett looked curiously at the British major.
The major said, "Ich habe Sie gefragt." [I asked you a question.]
"Es tut mir leid aber Sie überrascht mich. Ja, Ich Kann sprechen ein bisschen Deutsch. Warum fragen Sie?" [I'm sorry, but you surprised me. Yes, I can speak a bit of German. Why do you ask?]
"Et en francais? Parlez vou français?" [And French? Do you speak French?]
"Oui. Je parle français. Je parle couramment," Garrett responded, thinking, Much better than German.
Since the major hadn't yet responded to Garrett's question, he thought it best not to speak until spoken to, so stood quietly, sizing up the man who was apparently quizzing him.
Colonel Blakely entered the room. "What do you think, Major Bell?"
Garrett stood immediately rigid at attention, saluting his superior. "At ease, Lieutenant," the colonel said after returning his salute. Garrett assumed the position.
The British officer, Major Bell, continued. "I've only just greeted him. I'll be better able to judge his aptitude as we progress. His French accent is right on the mark. He claims to be fluent, and he sounds like a native speaker. While his German is lacking in pronunciation, he seems to know the basics. I expect he'll be understood. Did you study languages?" he asked, turning back to Garrett.
"I only took the mandatory foreign language requirements at West Point, sir. I really only have a basic foundation in German. My French is much better. My mother was French."
"We're going to need native speakers in the field." The major turned to Colonel Blakely. "We can give him a trial as an interpreter tomorrow and test his fluency in French. I have two exiled French officers arriving here from London in the morning. They've been residing in Britain since the German occupation. They have a connection to the French Underground Resistance." He turned back to Garrett. "Lieutenant Harkins, you will need to be accessible tomorrow. I'll pass on the time to Colonel Blakely. You are to follow up and be here prior to the appointment."
"Thank you, Major. Tomorrow, then," Blakely said, giving the British major a nod before turning to Garrett. "Come with me to my office, Lieutenant." As Garrett followed, Blakely said, "When you report to my office, you may enter if the doors are open. However, if the doors are closed, always knock and wait for an invitation to enter. Is that clear?"
Taking a seat behind his desk, Blakely motioned to a chair. "Have a seat Lieutenant. Your new quarters will be here in Ramsford Park House. Two others from your company will be sharing your room. We're not removing you from your company. You will continue to oversee your platoon in PT, practice maneuvers, combat exercises, night ops, and reconnaissance activities, unless you are serving in your new role. You are being moved here so that you will be accessible, as needed, for translation and strategic planning." Blakely cleared his throat. "So, you graduated from West Point?"
The fact that they shared the alma mater was not lost on Garrett. "Yes, sir."
The colonel regarded the young officer appreciatively before continuing. "What you hear within these walls will only be discussed with the officers present, and only at that time. You are not to divulge anything you hear in discussions, no matter how trivial it seems to you: not to your roommates or anyone else. Second Lieutenant Stewart Henderson and Sergeant Henry Mercer will be rooming with you here. It's not typical that two lieutenants head a platoon, but because of your unique position, Second Lieutenant Henderson will back you up and assume leadership with your platoon while you are otherwise engaged here. It's also highly unusual for us to arrange for looeys to bunk with NCOs, but I want you to have a feed into what's going on behind the scenes with your men. I don't want your work here to displace the progress you've made with your platoon. Most of the rest of the regimental staff is housed in the hall over the portrait gallery.
"You are dismissed. Oh, Lieutenant! Your gear is in your room. We will be having dinner with the Wells family. You and Second Lieutenant Henderson will be expected to dine with members of headquarters command, and the residents who are present, every Sunday at 1830 hours, unless you are on leave. This is at their request. This house is only partially requisitioned, they have retained the use of one hall. Do not enter that hall. We will respect their privacy as much as possible. The family also retains a home in Scotland. It is my understanding that the three younger children, twin girls and another son, are in Scotland and will be remaining there indefinitely as it is safer. You will be bunking in the daughters' room with Henderson and Mercer. Upstairs, second room on the left. Get cleaned up. Dismissed."
Garrett looked up toward the second floor from the grand foyer. Upstairs, he thought. Okay. He ascended the stairs, and at the top there were two directions from which to choose. Second room on the left, from which hall? He proceeded to the left and tentatively turned the doorknob to the second door on the left. Caught by surprise as he peered in, he was suddenly glad he didn't barge into the room. Not daring to pause long enough to look at the mirror, he quickly pulled the door shut until the latch clicked. He then moved hastily to the adjacent hallway. That must be the hall he was not to enter.
The next room Garrett entered had his footlocker next to the first bed. He collapsed onto the edge of the bed, his thoughts returning to the forbidden hallway. He grinned in spite of himself. Colonel Blakely would have his ass, bust his rank, and put him right back in that Nissen hut if he knew. She was gorgeous. Her wavy dark brown hair cascaded to just below her bare shoulders. He recalled her perfect, svelte form from the back slipping her arm into her blouse as she looked down in the dim light—her small waist, the gentle curve of her hips, her shapely legs. What a faux pas; no one could know this happened. Garrett hoped he had pulled back fast enough. Had she seen him in the mirror of her armoire? He knew, dressed as she was, she would hardly follow him into the hall. Folding his hands behind his head, he fell back onto the bed as he looked up at the ceiling. "This is not going to be easy," he whispered.
* * *
At exactly 1828 hours, Garrett entered the dining room known as the great hall. "Right on time," Colonel Blakely stated. "Dr. and Mrs. Wells, I would like to present Lieutenant Harkins, who will now be residing here with headquarters command. Lieutenant, this is Dr. and Mrs. Wells and their eldest son and daughter, Wing Commander Wells and Miss Sophia Wells."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Duncan," the young British officer stated as he extended his hand. "My father is also an officer, a surgeon for the Armed Forces of the Crown."
Garrett heartily shook hands with both men. Mrs. Wells then offered her hand to Garrett, who leaned forward to take it in both of his.
"Nice to meet you," he said as he shook her hand while giving her an appreciative smile. To Sophia, he gave a nod and subtle smile as he looked into her deep blue eyes before abruptly turning away.
Taken by his athletic build and perfectly well-defined handsome features, Sophia was caught off guard. Lieutenant Harkins took her breath away. She met his limpid blue eyes with her own, briefly, before he turned. She watched as the lieutenant raked his fingers through his sandy-brown hair, pushing it back. His uncooperative hair immediately flopped back down, just over his forehead. She held back a smile as she watched, most certainly in awe of this new American officer. Yet, she was disappointed in his manner toward her.
After clearing his throat, Duncan nudged his sister, interrupting her reverie. When Sophia scowled back at him, she noticed her parents had caught her studying the new lieutenant, causing her to blush once more.
Garrett wondered if anyone else noticed the awkward pause. She noticed his slight blush, and instantly suspected it was he who had opened her door earlier. That would explain his peculiar disposition. Biting her lower lip, she smiled thinking she hoped he liked what he had seen. Sophia turned and confidently walked to her seat. He glanced nervously at her from the corner of his eyes as she sashayed off.
Garrett sat next to Duncan at the thick-oak banquet table and was quick to engage in conversation with him about the difficulties of maintaining the airfields on Britain's East Coast. The Luftwaffe's annoying strikes had been becoming more frequent and the runways were now pockmarked with huge craters.
Seated directly across from her brother and the new American lieutenant, Sophia wondered how she could break into their conversation. Deciding she had no chance, she merely observed. He was aware, making it difficult for him not to take notice. However, the lieutenant just didn't think it would be a good idea to become familiar with her.
Why did Mother insist Sophia attend these dinners? At least now there was something, or rather someone, for her to look forward to. Hoping to engage him in conversation, she chanced a direct glance. Garrett, avoiding eye contact, turned to the young officer on his left.
Sophia addressed her brother instead. "Duncan, have you named the new colt you brought in yesterday?"
"I have. Blaze. Sophie, I want you to stay away from him for now. He's not yet broken. Murphy's going to start working him in the morning. He's giving him a chance to settle down a bit today."
With her fingertips, she absently traced the scar on her collarbone. "You needn't worry about that, Duncan. I'm happy to be occupied with Molly."
Duncan gave his sister a knowing look; he understood her apprehension. "I'm meeting Murphy after dinner. Why don't you come with me and have a look-see?"
Listening intently to their conversation, Garrett chuckled. "No one knows horses like the Irish."
Brother and sister both turned and looked at him keenly. Duncan gave him a crooked, curious grin, while Sophia looked satisfied that she had his interest, even if only for a moment.
"Well, that's what my father always said." Garrett cleared his throat, gave a sheepish grin for having intruded, and then turned back to the officer.
"You know horses?" Duncan asked, drawing him back. He seemed different from the other Americans.
"Sure," Garrett responded. "I have some experience."
"Why don't you join us then?"
"I'd like that."
"We'll meet you there. The stable is in the far back corner of the grounds."
After dinner, Sophia pointedly asked her mother what she thought of the new lieutenant and why, before dinner, he shook everyone's hand but hers. Her mother scoffed. "That bothered you?"
"Well, you have to admit it was rather rude," she said, baiting her mother to disagree.
"I'm sure he doesn't think so. It's expected that he shake hands with the men, and I offered my hand to him. It's rude to shake a lady's hand if she doesn't offer it. I thought you knew that. It's considered presumptuous, not becoming of a gentleman. I've a feeling he is of a different caliber than his peers."
Sophia giggled. "Yes, I noticed that. Did you see that he didn't keep trading his fork from his left to his right hand like the other Americans? And, when he was finished he placed them correctly."
"Sophia, I wasn't watching him so closely," Mrs. Wells admonished. "You know, I'm not sure why Americans eat like that, though. It seems so clumsy."
"Would you approve of him?"
"What do you mean?" But she knew exactly what her daughter was thinking. "You know your father and I would disapprove of any American. They are our guests and might be likeable, charming," she smiled at her daughter before adding, "and very handsome, but you need to remember they are only here for a short time. Besides, I'd wager Lieutenant Harkins is engaged, if not married."
"Mother, I saw no ring, and engaged is not married."
"Sophia, don't play games. The consequences could be ugly." Trying to refocus her daughter, she smiled before adding, "You know, Duncan said that James is nearly finished with his pilot training. He'll have some leave time before being assigned to a specific unit, probably sometime in November."
"Ugh!" she coughed. "Don't even think it, Mother! James made it perfectly clear how he feels about me." Still affected, she felt the heat flash through her face recalling her humiliation.
"Whatever do you mean? James was always as fond of you as you were of him."
"Was, Mother, the key word is was. There is nothing, nor will there be anything, between us now." Even as she said it she felt a tightening knot of dread forming in her chest. Changing the subject, she smiled at her mother to cover her distress. "I'm heading up to the stable with Duncan to see his new colt." She didn't mention that she was certainly looking forward to meeting the new lieutenant at the stable.
Excerpted from The American Lieutenant by Peyton Garver. Copyright © 2014 Peyton Garver. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wonderful WW2 romance novel: I loved this novel! Once I got past the exposition (first three chapters), I couldn't put it down. Another reviewer here says it was bittersweet, and it really was. The American Lieutenant was a tender, heartfelt romance. There is just enough conflict between the characters to make you wonder about what will happen between them. And, while I liked the ending, I didn't want it to end. Read it, you won't be disappointed.
A great WW2 romance novel set in the UK! I loved the WW2 history as much as I did the romance. There is plenty of conflict in the novel and right up to the very end you are wondering what is going to happen with the main characters. There is a rivalrous love triangle between a British pilot, and the American Lieutenant for the affection of Sophia, the British girl. There are also plenty of subplots in the book (that are easy to follow and not overwhelming) between the minor chracters. I really, really enjoyed it. Loved the characters, I didn't want the story to end! Read the synopsis on the back of the book, it gives you a good idea of where the plot takes you. The author successfully weaves a lot of factors from the war right into the story, campaigns, successful missions, failed missions, loss of brothers, young widows, survivor's guilt, and PTSD.
The American Lieutenant is a well written novel. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. The author skillfully delivers suspense in a realistic historical setting. The charactors are so well developed, that I found myself caring for them and the dilemmas that faced them throughout the book. You will laugh and cry with them. I never read books twice, but I could read this book again and again. Enjoy
A Bittersweet WW2 Romance Novel: Okay, it was a bit contrived, but what fiction isn’t? There is a lot of heartfelt emotion throughout the story. I admit, I cried and laughed at parts. It was easy to get wrapped up in the characters’ drama. And although there are a lot of characters in this novel, they were easy to follow and connect with. I found myself thinking about them frequently when I didn't have the book in hand (between chapters) and long after I finished the book. There were probably two chapters (out of 43) that took some effort for me to get through, war chapters. I get why those chapters are in the book. It’s a fairly accurate timeline of WW2 events, and there are events that happen in the war chapters that are pertinent to the story. I was more into the romance part, the rivalrous love triangle and the flings of some of the other soldiers in the American platoon. Overall, I recommend it.