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Paul M. Fleming
When Courage Comes

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)


It’s 1943 in Huntsville, Texas. Stephan, a German army conscript, is imprisoned in one of the first POW camps hastily built in America. The hostile community fiercely opposes enemy prisoners on American soil, but Stephan’s greatest threat lurks inside the camp – where Nazis demand his loyalty to a cause he despises. Does he ignore his conscience or risk death?

Stephan arrives in Huntsville after his surrender in North Africa where he saves the life of his American interrogator Captain Ralph Bauer. They part ways, with a shaken Ralph discovering a family heirloom that belongs to Stephan. His obsession with finding the prisoner and returning the keepsake puts both men on a collision course for Huntsville, where Ralph’s sister lives.

Passion for a prisoner is the last thing on Rose Bauer’s mind when Stephan is assigned to a work detail on her family’s cotton farm. They soon risk the unthinkable – in the dark about each other’s connection to Ralph. Rose also carries a shadowy secret that ups the ante in this tense and deeply moving story about a part of World War II few have discovered. When Courage Comes explodes against this rare backdrop, blurs the line between sworn enemies, and delivers hope in the midst of hypocrisy.

Longtime entrepreneur Fleming turns to historical fiction in his debut novel. Stephan Jurgen is a reluctant member of the German army in 1943. A native Austrian, his Christian ideals clash with the fanatical loyalty of the Nazis in his regiment. Serving in North Africa, he is captured by American soldiers and, after a freak accident, saves the life of his American interrogator, Ralph Bauer. When Stephan is shipped off to the hastily constructed POW camp in Huntsville, Tex., he begins work on a farm, striking up a relationship with Rose—who is Ralph’s sister. Neither Rose nor Stephan are aware of the other’s connection to Ralph: will it bring them together or tear family members apart? Meanwhile, intrigue at the camp grows, as a group of Nazi prisoners attempt to take on the well-meaning German chaplain Major Heller for his campaign for peace in the face of the Third Reich.

Fleming’s rich period piece is carefully researched; atmospheric details capture the tensions of the war. At times, however, the prose feels melodramatic, detracting from the novel’s thrust. And even though the story is set in wartime, the stakes are low, without much suspense. Big questions—whether Rose and Stephan will end up together, whether Stephan will recover from an attack—can feel like foregone conclusions.

But the author gives readers a deep sense of divided loyalties. Stephan’s objections to Nazi philosophy give the character depth, painting a picture of a man caught between duty and fear. He must persevere against the attacks in the camp from the fanatical Nazis, eking out a precarious existence in a hostile environment. Likewise, Rose’s struggle to reconcile her feelings for Stephan with being loyal to the American cause is equally complex. Fans of introspective fiction will appreciate Fleming’s sensitive depiction of WWII experienced from the sidelines.

Takeaway: Fleming’s rich period piece is a sensitive depiction of romance and divided loyalties during World War II.

Great for fans of: John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: C