14 October 2010

Excerpt Thursday: Renee Ryan

This week on Excerpt Thursday we're welcoming Steeple Hill Love Inspired author Renee Ryan as she celebrates the release of DANGEROUS ALLIES, set in 1939 Berlin. Join us Sunday when Renee will be here to answer questions and give away a signed copy!

In Nazi Germany, British agent Jack Anderson risks his life working undercover as an SS officer. And his latest mission--to uncover intelligence about a Nazi secret weapon--is his most perilous yet. Especially since he'll have to work with Katarina Kerensky. The famous actress is too dangerous to trust--and too beautiful to ignore.

Desperate to save her mother from the Gestapo, Katia reluctantly agrees to work with the coolly handsome Jack. But can she trust a man whose sense of honor is tangled in a web of lies? In a race against time, Jack and Katia forge an alliance to take down the enemy...and learn whether love can survive in a world gone wrong.

20 November 1939
Schnebel Theater, Hamburg, Germany, 2200 Hours

They came to watch her die.

Every night, they came. To gawk. To gasp. To shake their heads in awe. And Katarina Kerensky made sure they never left disappointed.

Tonight, she performed one of her favorites, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In typical Nazi arrogance, Germanizing the arts hadn't stopped at simply eliminating "dangerous" persons from cultural life. The Chamber of Culture had continued its purification function by also ruling that Shakespeare--in German translation, of course--was to be viewed as a German classic, and thus acceptable for performance throughout the Fatherland.

Leave it to the Nazis to claim the English playwright as their own.

In spite of her personal reasons for hating the Third Reich, Katia loved the challenge of taking a role already performed by the best and making Juliet her own.

For a few hours on stage her world made sense.

Now, poised in her moment of mock death, her hair spilled past her shoulders and down along the sides of the raised platform on which she lay. She held perfectly still as her Romeo drank the pretend poison and collapsed beside her.

She could smell the brandy and sweat on Hans as the foul scents mingled with the mold growing on the costume he hadn't washed in weeks, but Katia thought nothing of it. She was a professional and approached the role of Juliet as she would any role, on or off the stage. With daring conviction.

Hitting his cue, George, the bald actor playing Friar Laurence, made his entrance. As the scene continued to unfold around her Katia remained frozen, her thoughts turned to the actors who should also be sharing the stage. She was one of the lucky ones. Instead of playing a star-crossed lover doomed for eternity, she could have been among many of her peers thrown out of the theater due to whispers--often untrue--of their Jewish heritage or socially deviant behavior.

For now, at least, she was safe. As she was the daughter of a Russian prince, Vladimir Kerensky, fame had been her companion long before she'd stepped onto a stage.

Would notoriety be enough to keep her safe?

The Nazi Germany racial policy grew increasingly violent and aggressive with each new law. If anyone checked Katia's heritage too closely they might discover her well-kept secret.

To the Germans, she was merely a real-life princess playing at make-believe. A natural, as her mentor Madame Levine had always said. Good skin. Innate talent. Beautiful face and hair. All added to the final package. But the brains? Katia kept those hidden behind the facade of ambition and a seemingly ruthless pursuit of fame.

If the Germans only knew how she really used her talents. And why.

Opening her eyes to tiny slits, she tilted her face just enough to cast a covert glance over the audience. Her latest British contact was out there waiting. Watching. Bringing with him another chance for her to fight the monster regime and protect her mother with means she'd been unable to use to defend her father.

She drew in a short breath and focused on becoming Juliet once more. The scent of stage dust and greasepaint was nearly overpowering. Dizzying. The spotlight blinding, even with her eyelids half-closed. Nevertheless, Katia remained motionless until her cue.

"The lady stirs...."