I haven’t really used FictionPals to write book reviews, but for some reason Amazon won’t let me post a review for this book. Can’t figure it out so I’m posting it here.
So here goes…
Every now and then, I thoroughly enjoy a good WWII story and when I picked up Operation Leonardo by Robert Cubitt, I was not disappointed. This is the first of Robert’s Commando books that I have read. He has written a total of five books on them, in particular the (fictional) group, 15Commando led by the charismatic Steve Carter. This team is based on the real Commandos in the British Army, an elite force that took the fight across several different geographical locations of the WWII theatre.
Leonardo is one of many operations under the umbrella of Operation Husky, the Allied Invasion of Sicily in July 1943. Under direct orders from General Montgomery, 15Commando is tasked to take and hold a bridge over the River Gabriel. According to the intelligence brief they were not expecting any enemy resistance and, they were told, that there were no German tanks within miles. General Montgomery was wrong. And Carter and his Commandos end up having to capture the beach and battery at Cassibile and then make for and take the bridge. They also had to ensure that the bridge doesn’t get blown up by either the Italians or, by the unexpected arrival of the Germans. That too none other than the Fallschirmjäger (paratrooper) division that parachuted in to take or blow up the same bridge.
When the going gets really tough, with the arrival of German Tiger Tanks, the Commando division is given an “everyman for himself” order. And from that point it’s a pretty heart-thumping charge to the finish. I’ll not give away any spoilers here but there are enough twists and turns to keep one guessing.
I felt it had a bit of a slow warm up with lots of initial explanatory detail. But overall, it’s an engaging story that captures and holds one’s attention. What added to the sense of authentic danger, is the fact that the series was inspired by Robert Cubitt’s own father, which gives the reader that extra edge of connection. And the incident too is based on real events. I also enjoyed the occasional literary references and quotes. A good read, with much to enjoy and learn.
On the advice of a fellow-author, publisher and friend, I decided to re-jig the contents of Twelve Roses For Love. This meant that the first story, the one about Saint Valentine, became part of my author’s notes. As a result I was one story short. So, the paperback version of Twelve Roses for Love has an extra story, for some reason that extra story hasn’t uploaded to the e-book version. I’m working on fixing that.
In the meantime, I think it only fair to share that extra story as a free read here. I’m hoping that when some of my followers read this one, they’ll realise that the stories contained in Twelve Roses aren’t your typical romances. There are a few that are, and as I have mentioned before, there’s one rather amusing and saucy story at the end of the book. For now, here’s your bonus story…
Theresa still couldn’t believe she had put up with all that for so long. It had been an almost textbook case. How had she, of all people, allowed herself to become that person. She loved Jake. Correction, she told herself as she sat on the bed in the women’s shelter, she had once thought she loved Jake.
He wasn’t your typically handsome guy that she’d met at the gym two years ago. But there was something about him. An almost shy lop-sided grin, dark brown hair that fell over one eye, which he constantly pushed back. They had dated. He’d told her he’d had anger-management issues and the gym was to help work these out.
She understood. That’s kind of what she herself was working on. But hers were more a case of self-esteem. Feel good about your body and yourself, all the support groups had said. And it had worked. When she met Jake, she was trim, the curves were where they should be and she had muscles.
“I’ll arm wrestle you,” she’d said to Jake who had an impressive set of biceps himself. Her smile always lit up her face and danced in her eyes. Who would have predicted that that would be her undoing! The friendly roughhousing in bed began to lead more and more often to Jake actually using his strength against her.
The first time he was all apologies. The classic, “I’m sorry babe, I didn’t mean it, it will never happen again.” Followed by flowers and chocolate.
She’d worn dark lipstick to work and made some empty silly excuse about slipping in the bathroom.
Later he was all sarcasm, laced with jealousy, for what she never knew. “You think you’re kick-ass tough? I’ll show you who’s tough.”
The dark lipstick was always handy, a great cover-up. But her eyes held the hurt she continued to hide.
Then quite by accident he figured the button to push to hurt her the most was to undermine her hard-won self-esteem, “You don’t smile any more. It’s the only time you’re pretty.”
Theresa looked at herself in the mirror then. It was true. Her face only lit up when she smiled. She wasn’t pretty. Her face was too long and her hair hung lank unless she washed it every day. She bit her lip, the tears welling up as she repeated the mantras that were supposed to build her up, “You have to love yourself.” What the hell did that really mean? And what was there to love? A face too long. Arms too thin. And ever since she’d stopped going to the gym her muscles had gone slack sagging under the weight of her low spirits.
With hindsight she saw that it wasn’t a case of anger management for him. He just enjoyed the power it gave him. Last week she learnt what it meant to love herself. Last week he had pushed that button way too far when he came to her in the kitchen and for no reason twisted her arm, his lop-sided grin twisted into a grimace, and his words twisted into an auger of hate, “You’re ugly bitch!” He’d yelled, “And I’m going to make you uglier so no one will ever look at you again!” He raised a broken bottle to strike her.
In that moment Theresa knew what it meant to love herself. It burst with all the warmth of a heart full of deep, fathomless love. A love so pure it gave her the strength to wrench her arm out of his, raise her leg and land a full-bodied kick in his groin. As he doubled over, she grabbed the hot pan from off the stove and struck him in the face. He fell down and passed out. She felt for his pulse, knew he was still alive. Then she packed all the things that were hers and walked out.
“No,” she said, “that’s enough!” She smiled grimly to herself. “Whatever it is long, thin, ugly, it is my face and I love it.”
I think, JRR Tolkein put it better than anyone else, “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone.” Love is a hundred different things and this little collection that I’ve put together explores twelve different ways in which love enters our lives, defines so many little aspects of it and will, I hope, give you insights into your own love.
Many of the stories were previously written, Hearts for Valentine was written when my previous publisher, Robert Agar-Hutton, needed a blog post in time for Valentine’s Day. I thought of all the stories that are written about young love and so few about the love that you and I and many other couples experience. Of course, there was that initial thrill and aching depth that we all feel when we first fall in love. But, how many stories celebrate that everyday love that we know? The one that grows deeper with every passing year that we spend with our spouses. That’s how come and why I wrote that one.
When I put this collection together, although I wanted it to come out in time for Valentine’s Day, I also wanted to write about ‘LOVE’ as something bigger than romantic love. I wanted to explore the love between sisters, and the funny idea that perhaps inanimate objects could inspire love or maybe even love their human partners. Okay I had a bit of fun with that one, where an armchair looks back on the love he had for his mistress. The story was originally based on a prompt given for one of our Bahrain Writers’ Circle challenges. I must confess it’s a bit titillating! The collection also features four new stories that have not appeared anywhere else.
Here’s a little excerpt that’s not on the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature. It’s a bit of a challenge to you as a reader to guess who the love interest is, in this one.
FIRST IMPRESSION, FIRST LOVE
She lay there in all her innocent splendour. Virginal white not a single mark on her visage that suggested any other. Never had a bride been quite so innocent of everything.
There was no suggestion that she had undergone a lifetime of pain. Of being crushed, beaten, and then beaten again. Every ounce of her strength had once been sapped. She had been ripped from limb to limb and then put together again. All those who had been part of her earlier life had been taken from her. And when she was bereft of all support, her captors had thrashed her until there was not a fibre in her being that could hold her upright. That’s when her spirit broke. She wept until she could weep no more. She was drained of all the tears that nature had once given her.
Feedback from a friend: Caught me out! My visualisation went from people trafficking to mannequin to waxwork before you sprung the surprise…