Annette Oppenlander offers a tragic love story in the midst of WWII in her novel, The Scent of a Storm. The story leaves the reader heartbroken and full of disbelief as we watch the characters’ lives ripped apart before our very eyes. That this novel derives from a true story should leave you shaking your head at the atrocities included.
- Title: The Scent of a Storm
- Author: Annette Oppenlander
- Publisher: Independently Published on September 24, 2021
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Pages: 338
- Formats Available: Paperback & Digital
- Rating: 4/5
Trigger Warnings: War, Rape, Murder
Many thanks to Annette Oppenlander for providing me with a digital copy of The Scent of a Storm with a request for an honest review. Thanks also to Goddess Fish Promotions for inviting me on this tour and providing the materials to build this post.
About The Scent of the Storm
A heart-wrenching love story for the ages – inspired by true events
Eastern Prussia, 1944: Young lovers Annie and Werner are separated from each other when he is drafted into Hitler’s Volkssturm. While the SS orders Werner to remove the dead bodies of frozen refugees from Königsberg’s streets, Annie discovers she is pregnant. As she urgently awaits Werner’s return, rumors of the advancing Red Army mount and with it, alarming reports of what they do to women. Running for their lives, Annie and her mother embark on a life-threatening journey west. Even before they can escape by boat, Annie makes a horrifying mistake, one that will haunt her forever. Werner, arrested and imprisoned in a Russian gulag, manages to escape after four months of cruelty and returns home. But his and Annie’s farms lie abandoned—the love of his life and his own family have vanished…
East Berlin, 1989: On the evening of November 9, when the borders between East and West Berlin open for the first time in nearly thirty years—a day which ultimately heralds Germany’s reunification—Annie watches a correspondent on West TV who reminds her of her childhood sweetheart Werner, the man she has thought dead for 45 years. Together with her daughter Emma, Annie sets out on a search…Blurb Provided by Goddess Fish Promotions for Tour Use
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Annie and Werner are neighbors who have developed a great love over the years. The love is so great that it frightens them both. On the night that they confess their love, tragedy strikes and pulls Werner from Annie’s life in the blink of an eye. Annie, her mother, and her Oma try to stay in their home until the time comes that they can’t wait anymore, and they evacuate, making it impossible for Werner and Annie to reunite. However, Annie will always have a small piece of Werner in her heart. Unfortunately, as the evacuation journey unfolds, tragedy strikes again and again until Annie shuts herself down completely. The war has seemingly beat her down. Will Annie survive her fate, or will she succumb to the rigors of life with no hope?
Annie and Werner are wonderful characters. I felt their innocent love as strongly as if I were Annie herself. When they end up in the swimming pond, that is when I fall in love with this couple. Oma is another favorite of mine. I knew she had to have suffered greatly, and I was right. When the truth of Oma’s muteness came about, I longed to hold her and let her know how strong and wonderful she was.
The setting of this novel chilled me to the bone. These poor people were just trying to save themselves from the opposing troops and the inclement weather. The frigid temperatures and crossing icy slush while also hiding from Russian airstrikes left me feeling almost dead in my own home. Annette’s descriptions of the land, the weather, and everything else hit you right in the heart.
The only thing I had a hard time with was that the story seemed to slog through in some parts. The slow pace of some chapters felt hard to rea. The action was brilliant, but it didn’t help move the book along much. This story would benefit from being a little shorter. But, all-in-all, the novel is great.
I would be remiss in my duties as a human if I didn’t let you know just how completely ignorant of world history I had growing up. I believe this to be a fault of the United States educational system. Americans tend to be very egocentric. Had I not grown to love history and reading, I would likely never know how the majority of the German people felt about WWII. Through my lack of education, I always thought that the entirety of the German population was full of horrible, terrible people who killed for sport, much like Hitler himself. But, this story and so many others like it give me insight into the German human condition during this devastating time of war.
I award The Scent of a Storm 4 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed the book immensely, and I look forward to reading more of Annette’s writing. Her vision of WWII is quite educational and interesting. If you love history and like looking at it through a different lens, you should pick this book up for yourself.
The Scent of a Storm Excerpt
Somewhere beyond the forest, thunder rolls. The sun has disappeared behind hazy clouds and a gust of wind travels between the trunks, rippling the pond’s surface.
Werner’s gaze travels upward, a frown on his forehead. “We better go, before this thing hits.”
As an answer I pull on my clothes in silence and climb on my bike. We take off at breakneck speed across the uneven forest floor that turns dark instantly with pelting raindrops. Every so often Werner slows down to let me catch up. His bike is much larger than mine and he can fly like a swallow hunting bugs.
When we pull away from the stand of trees, the wind hits us like a wall. The sky has turned charcoal and the clouds are so low, they seem to press down on me. My ears are filled with the roar of thunder, the wind, and the smacking sounds of tires on wet ground. Water fills my eyes, nose, and mouth. It runs down my bare arms, soaking into my clothes and shoes.
The path is no more than a blur. A flash of lightening cuts the sky into ragged brightness. My thoughts wander to the story I heard years ago about a boy being killed by lightning. Out here on the open fields, wet and tall on our bikes, we’re lightning rods. Anxiety creeps up my spine. If it weren’t for me, Werner would be home already. Instead, he goes slowly to keep an eye—
The ground rushes up to me, cold muddy water hitting my face and neck. Pain shoots up my wrist into the elbow and then further up into my shoulder. The world lies on its side, the bike still between my legs. Blood colors the mud, gaudy and bright against the leaden sky.
“Annie?” Werner appears by my side and carefully lifts away the bicycle.
I try to sit, but my wrist screams.Excerpt Provided by Goddess Fish Promotions for Tour Use
About the Author – Annette Oppenlander
Annette Oppenlander is an award-winning writer, literary coach, and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in well-researched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts of the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past.
Oppenlander’s bestselling true WWII story, Surviving the Fatherland, received multiple nominations/awards. The recently translated German version received the silver Skoutz Award 2020. Uniquely, Oppenlander weaves actual historical figures and events into her plots, giving readers a flavor of true history while enjoying a good story.
Oppenlander shares her knowledge through writing workshops at colleges, libraries, festivals, and schools. She also offers vivid presentations and author visits. The mother of fraternal twins and a son, she recently returned to her home, Solingen, Germany where she lives with her husband.
- 2017 National Indie Excellence Award
- 2017 Winner Chill with a Book Readers’ Award
- 2017 Kindle Book Awards Finalist
- 2017 Discovered Diamond Historical Novel
- 2018 Indie B.R.A.G. Award
- 2018 Readers’ Favorite Book Award—Bronze
- 2019 Global eBook Award—Gold
- 2020 Skoutz Award—Silver (Germany)
- IWIC Hall of Fame Novel
Annette Oppenlander will be awarding a $15 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway