We have Jan Selbourne visiting us today to share what inspired her when writing Behind The Clouds.
The first idea for the story came from family anecdotes. An ancestor of mine served with the Australian Infantry Forces in Belgium and France during 1916 and 1917. He was in the thick of it and what he witnessed affected him deeply. After he came home he rarely spoke of it except when he’d had a few drinks. He saw the aftermath of the German brutality in Belgium and France, convents desecrated and burned, not much left of the nuns. The locals, mostly women and children, forced to march beside German troops to stop the locals firing on them.
Then I read an article on how people change when faced with fear and life threatening situations. Their true selves usually emerge. Eg. A tough guy runs and leaves women to fend for themselves; a small insignificant person will stand up and take charge, that sort of thing. The story began from there. I didn’t want the heroine glamorous and alluring, most women of that era in an unhappy marriage weren’t. I didn’t want the hero to be dashing and gorgeous as most men aren’t. My main male character was an arrogant bastard until shock and betrayal knocked the s… out of him. I wanted them human.
Caught in the grasp of a cold, empty marriage, Adrian and Gabrielle’s life of wealth and privilege in war torn Belgium is thrust into a nightmare of betrayal, lies and deceit. As the dark clouds of World War One loom over Europe, a brutal German battalion pursues the couple to prevent their flee for freedom to England. Surrounded by sympathizers to the German cause and narrowly escaping capture and imminent execution, the desperate couple lean upon one another for survival and discover a rekindling of their love and passion.
As they struggle to survive, the tentacles of treachery and lies reach their safe haven and their love is threatened by a scorned woman who will stop at nothing to see Adrian dead.
“What’s the matter Adrian? The cat got your tongue?” she whispered nastily. “You owe me the truth, because I am the poor fool who is the last to know about anything.”
Her face flared red with anger. “You and Uncle Henri shared the delectable German slut, you knew Belgium would be invaded, Uncle Henri has German guards ready to shoot us. What else has been going on behind my back?”
When he didn’t reply the bubbling volcano erupted. “Stand up and talk to me you devious, lying bastard!” She yelled then looked fearfully at the closed door.
Her jaw dropped when Adrian shrugged dismissively. “What does it matter now? We have no feelings for each other.”
“What does it matter?” her voice was incredulous. “I’ve just been told your German woman, who is also Uncle Henri’s German woman, followed you to meetings with the Secret Service Bureau, whatever that is. Has it escaped your attention that we have two children relying on us? No, they rely on me and I am stuck in this room with you. What secrets does this Bureau dabble in and who the hell is the German woman?”
She stepped back as Adrian scrambled to his feet, his eyes blazing. “Don’t yell at me, Miss Pure as the Driven Snow. I have a question for you, what does Brian Charlton find so interesting in my home?”
Gabrielle felt her stomach lurch unpleasantly, then fury took over. “Unlike you, I have never been obliged to pay for an hour of Brian Charlton’s time and to my knowledge Brian has never reported my activities to your..” She flung up her hands and turned away from him. “Words fail me.”
She felt Adrian’s hand on her arm. “You won’t believe me,” he said quietly. “I have been lashing myself over my utter stupidity. Meyvier sent that woman to Britain to find out what I knew, what I did, where I went. She expertly set out to become my mistress and I fell for it. I did not suspect for one moment she wasn’t who she said she was and I only discovered the truth when I found her letters in Meyvier’s desk, along with the maps and plans for the German army to attack France and Belgium.” He took a deep breath. “I was instructed by my masters in Whitehall to go through his papers.”
Gabrielle turned around, astounded. “You were instructed by your masters in Whitehall? Uncle Henri sent his German lover to get into your bed and spy on you? Am I listening to a script for a new play at the local theatre?” She pushed her hair out of her face. “For God’s sake, just this once, tell me the truth!”