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A Deadly Provenance
Just how important is art?
Would you die for a piece of art? This was what a very select group of men fighting in the military were asked. Their answer to this question put them into the team, or barred them from it. The willingness to die for art determined the group of seven men commissioned by the Allies in World War II.
This thesis forms the guts of the box office movie hit, “The Monuments Men,” that my husband and I just saw. This movie boasted top actors George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, and Bill Murray. Based on the raw truths of history of one of its greatest treasure hunts, the film is an action drama focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon and an unlikely task offered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their mission was to enter Germany to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their rightful owners.
I don’t know about you, but we are suckers for movies with Nazi themes. I had already done miles of research about stolen Nazi art for my gothic romance novel, A Deadly Provenance. I knew about stolen art. What I hadn’t remembered was how Nazis burnt and destroyed fantastic art in the name of censorship.
Within the time frame of this novel, 1973-1977 in the Cold War span of time, where had all the Nazis gone? Thirty years after WWII ended we might have thought they all died out or received enlightenment. Not only were they not dead, but that they survived and landed in high places of influence in Germany is a major premise of my fiction work, A Deadly Provenance. American Southerner Lexi and ethnic German hero Jon (German/Russian) know this from page one of my gripper-romance. Nazis brought secrets to stay open secrets between the newly married partners, a fact which festered and threatened their marriage and their lives.
Cultured savages, you could call these Nazis. Their idea might be closer to Nietzsche’s Uebermensch, portrayed excellently in the movie, “The Monuments’ Men.” Superior people for whom morals are weaknesses are capable of anything, and Lexi and Jon had something they wanted. Their castle was also a great place to keep current caches hidden. And whatever Jon and Lexi own is also up for grabs, as it could well increase the treasure base of the Nazi movement internationally, but Lexi and Jon will keep them from that at all costs. Or die trying.
This book is about the danger of acquired wealth. It is about belonging in a world of foreigners, trusting yourself when everyone has let you down. It is about maneuvering skillfully in unfamiliar territory. It is a saga of finding hidden treasure that catapults you into a world of intrigue. It is about priceless antiques that could be relics and could activate church and government empires, not to mention every crime syndicate in the world. It is about learning that death is not a far-fetched thought at all.
And it is about love.
It is about a past so debilitating that in its aftermath, relationships do not thrive, and barely survive. From Germany’s hills to snow peaks of Austria, Lexi and Jon ski in and out of love. She concludes that she must save herself.
Schloss Enzian, high above the quaint town of Allmannshausen, forms the fictional home for this contemporary novel in the classic Gothic style. It features an isolated setting and heroine Alexandra (Lexi) stalked by ghosts and enemies. Enemies multiply as evil tries to envelope her. Spiraling forces peak to overcome her. Lexi and Jon together uncover inherited art and literary mysteries of a millennium and more, and this draws international plots and spies into the maelstrom. In the style of Rebecca of Daphne du Maurier fame, wedded bliss turns to estrangement. This happens after the hero escorts his new wife to his castle nest of family intrigue. The marriage flounders and the hero Johann (Jon)’s motives and character turn questionable to Lexi. The relationship winds in and out of trust. Her need should unite them, but turns into a wedge instead.
A blessed object newly found—a cross—turns into a harbinger of death. Handicapped, Lexi’s vision for helping abused women emerges as a passion expressed through her art. Achieving international acclaim as a sculptress, she lends support to an art show that benefits abused women. Together with her friend the Baroness, the pair are car-chasing, Nazi-facing women who channel fear into creative action. She searches out the provenance of an ancient manuscript and the ornate cross from her mother-in-law’s Russian past. Lexi rises from one difficulty slung at her to another. Finally she, with the cross Jon gave her impulsively, maneuvers to a surprising end.
Jon rises to the occasion as well and slays a few demons. Concluding that circumstances are not friends after it is almost too late, they agree that only commitment slays the demons of abandonment and betrayal. Lexi and Jon eventually confess that the real killers are threats to individual choice, faith, and yes, to culture and art. They elevate the expression of art to a necessity for a free and unbought soul. They realize they must divest themselves of treasures that can turn into weighty baggage.
Will they live happily ever after? That is the question, for sure…..
A Deadly Provenance draws on NC author’s international experience for her novel. In her past, she and her husband worked with a group helping indigenous peoples in Soviet Russia and the Iron Curtain countries that were oppressed. From nine years of residency in Germany, traveling back and forth to the USSR and Soviet-bloc countries, she tapped into their knowledge base of life abroad and their experience of danger at every hand to write her novel. She lives with her husband Sandy on the Cape Fear River, and their grown children and grandchildren live not far away.