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The Secret History of Audrey James

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About The Book

The #1 bestselling author of Looking for Jane returns with a poignant, gripping novel about a pianist in Berlin on the cusp of WWII and the choices she makes that echo across generations.

Sometimes the best place to hide is the last place anyone would look.

Northern England, 2010

After a tragic accident upends her life, Kate Mercer leaves London to work at an old guest house near the Scottish border, where she hopes to find a fresh start and heal from her loss. When she arrives, she begins to unravel the truth about her past, but discovers the mysterious elderly proprietor is harbouring her own secrets…

Berlin, 1938

Audrey James is weeks away from graduating from a prestigious music school in Berlin, where she’s been living with her best friend, Ilse Kaplan. As she prepares to finish her piano studies, Audrey dreads the thought of returning to her father in England and leaving Ilse behind. Families like the Kaplans are being targeted, and the stakes grow higher by the day. Restrictions tighten, the borders close to Jews, and rumours swirl about people being apprehended in the street and shipped off to work camps.

When Ilse’s parents and brother suddenly disappear, two high-ranking Nazi party members confiscate the Kaplans’ upscale home, believing it to be empty. In a desperate attempt to keep Ilse safe, Audrey becomes housekeeper for the officers while Ilse is forced into hiding in the attic—a prisoner in her own home. As war in Europe threatens, it isn’t long before a shocking turn of events pushes Audrey to become embroiled in cell of the anti-Hitler movement: clusters of resisters working to bring down the Nazis from within Germany itself. But resistance comes with risk, and before the war is over, Audrey must decide what matters most: saving herself, her friend, or sacrificing everything for the greater good.

Inspired by true stories of courageous women and the German resistance during WWII, this is a captivating novel about the unbreakable bonds of friendship, the sacrifices we make for those we love, and the healing that comes from human connection.

Excerpt

Prologue Prologue
VLAGTWEDDE, NETHERLANDS | APRIL 1945

The soldiers are sitting outside playing cards when they notice the woman staggering down the street.

The small Dutch border town they recently liberated from the Germans is quiet on this spring afternoon, and the soldiers have settled themselves in a circle using cargo boxes as makeshift chairs and tables in the absence of any real furniture. Canteens rest on the dusty ground at their feet whilst the sun shines on the tips of their ears and the backs of their necks, the same sun that warmed their skin back home.

These five soldiers are part of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, a proud contingent of the province’s best and bravest young lads. Or at least, what’s left of the contingent. They’ve lost many men along the way, the boys they grew up with, went to school with. Their mothers belong to the same quilting circles and church bazaar committees. Their fathers go fishing out on the flashing bays of the Atlantic where they smoke cigars and avoid discussions of the last war, burying the appalling realities that they didn’t dare reveal to their own sons. They watched, tight-throated and helpless as their boys shipped out in crisp new uniforms, drunk on the dangerous youthful delusion of invincibility that they themselves once felt.

The young soldiers think of their families now as they run their tongues over their teeth. Each man considers the hand he’s been dealt.

One craves his mother’s fresh-squeezed lemonade. Another longs for the touch of his girl’s warm hand on his arm, and hopes that she’ll be waiting when he returns. And each man wants to win this card game so that he can line his threadbare pockets with cigarettes. They welcome the burning, dry heat in their lungs on cold evenings, a reminder that they are still alive and breathing where other, less fortunate men are rotting in a constellation of unmarked graves in France.

When they hear a scratch in the dirt on the deserted road, the soldiers’ heads snap up. Their eyes squint into the light for the source of the sound. They’re always on high alert, even though they’ve taken Holland from the Nazis. A soldier can never be too careful.

But it’s only a woman on the road. No threat.

As she shuffles closer, they see her dress is torn, her blond hair disheveled. She is missing a shoe.

One of the soldiers drops his cards and jogs toward her, reaching her just as her knees give way. He catches the woman and lowers her to the ground, shouts to his comrades to fetch the medic. Her bare foot is bleeding and badly bruised. Her face is dirty, lips cracked and dry. Her blond hair reminds him of his little sister’s, and in that moment, he just wants to go home.

He calls for water and a canteen is thrust into his hand. “Drink,” he tells the woman. “If you can.”

Her grey-blue eyes grow wide and she grips his hand. “English!” she whispers.

The soldier nods. “Canadian.”

She tries to take the canteen, but her fingers tremble violently. The soldier rests it against her lips and tips some water into her parched mouth. She splutters at first, then gulps it down. When she finishes, a drop slips down her chin. The soldier wipes it away, revealing pale skin beneath the layer of grime.

“What’s your name, love?” he asks.

The medic arrives and squats down. He shines a bright light into her eyes, and her chest tightens like a rubber band. She fights against the memory of the searchlights. The fire.

The medic takes her wrist and presses his fingers down to locate her weak pulse. “What’s your name, miss?”

“Audrey,” she says, her raspy voice a little louder this time. “Audrey James.”

About The Author

Photograph by Amanda Kopcic

Heather Marshall is the instant #1 bestselling author of Looking for Jane. She worked in politics and communications before turning her attention to her true passion: storytelling. Heather lives with her family near Toronto. Visit her website at HeatherMarshallAuthor.com or connect with her on Instagram @HeatherMarshallAuthor.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 4, 2024)
  • Length: 432 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982170257

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Raves and Reviews

“Heather Marshall’s range is astonishing! . . . The Secret History of Audrey James is a moving written symphony. Not only a harrowing snapshot of history but a portrait of women driven by talent and ambition striking a stark contrast against the travesties of war. Readers of Kristin Harmel and Pam Jenoff will be dazzled.”
RACHEL McMILLAN, author of The Mozart Code and The Liberty Scarf

“In The Secret History of Audrey James, bestselling author Heather Marshall delves into a multi-layered story stemming from the real-life history of the German Resistance--and specifically, a small cell of people trying to take down Hitler. This story is interwoven with a present-day narrative that gradually begins to have more and more to do with the story unfolding in the past. A fascinating and moving story of courage, sacrifice, and friendship, The Secret History of Audrey James draws from real historical events to remind us of the power of standing up for what we believe in, and of the way love can shape the course of our lives.”
KRISTIN HARMEL, New York Times bestselling author

“Heather Marshall’s The Secret History of Audrey James is a poignant tale of friendship, the unbreakable bonds of family—both blood and chosen—and the irrefutable strength of women. The novel is full of heart, pluck, and hope, and Marshall is a writer who deeply understands what moves readers. This is storytelling at its best.”
KARMA BROWN, #1 bestselling author of Recipe for a Perfect Wife

The Secret History of Audrey James is an artfully composed narrative that draws out a bittersweet melody of courage, endurance, and connection across generations. Audrey and Kate’s bond shows us that, even in the face of profound loss, our loved ones live on through the stories we tell. In another exploration of resilient women confronting systemic oppression, Heather Marshall reaffirms her place as a formidable storyteller and a writer to watch.”
ELLEN KEITH, bestselling author of The Dutch Orphan

“Heather Marshall has returned with another epic tale of unsung female heroes, whose courage and daring echo softly through the pages of history—but here, sing out on the page in all their deserved glory. A historical page-turner written with wisdom and compassion, an expert blending of past with present, and a truly unforgettable novel from one of my favourite authors!”
MARISSA STAPLEY, New York Times bestselling author of Lucky

“In this follow-up to her global smash debut Looking for Jane, Heather Marshall firmly establishes her commitment to sharing women’s untold stories and the intricate power of her craft. Gripping, haunting, and inspiring, The Secret History of Audrey James is an unforgettable account of the profound impact of sacrifice and survival across generations.”
NATALIE JENNER, internationally bestselling author of Every Time We Say Goodbye

“A deeply felt novel about all that matters most in our lives: friendship, love, personal bravery, and the hidden history of home. Marshall masterfully illuminates lost-to-time history, a page-turning mystery, courageous women, and the sacrifice for love. . . . The Secret History of Audrey James is historical fiction at its most immersive.”
PATTI CALLAHAN HENRY, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Book of Flora Lea

“A captivating and gripping tale. . . . Inspired by real women and events, Marshall has masterfully mixed fact with fiction and breathed life into people the history books forgot. Dazzling!”
LOUISE FEIN, bestselling author of Daughter of the Reich

“A deeply affecting novel about love, loss, and guilt across multiple generations.”
CAROLINE BISHOP, author of The Other Daughter

“A beautifully researched story about friendship, bravery, and resistance. . . . Historical fiction fans, don’t miss this one!”
ANDIE NEWTON, USA Today bestselling author of A Child for the Reich

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