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Death Steppe

DeathSteppeFinalI’ve worked on a novel called Death Steppe for several years. It originated as a screenplay, but I found that format to be unsatisfying. It felt like drawing the outline of a picture that other people would color in, probably without my input. So I wrote it as a novel, then changed it, then revised it, then added to it, then added some more, then revised it again, and again, then tweaked it till I decided to rewrite the story in first person. Then I went back to revising, tweaking, twisting, and adding. Finally, I found a publisher.

Death Steppe: A World War II Novel is now available at online retailers from Merriam Press. Yay!

Here’s my recent write-up from KIRKUS REVIEWS:

A stirring historical novel that plumbs the depths of war for the possibilities of love.

Bruce (Voices in the Wind, 2015) sets her latest novel in the Soviet Union during World War II. Elena Nevskaya is a complex protagonist: a committed Communist, a devout Christian, and, despite her love of Russia, a political dissident who’s contemptuous of Bolshevism. Snatched from university life to serve as a medic in a war that’s already killed her husband and brother, she’s quickly forced to confront the bleakness of her circumstances. She witnesses unspeakable carnage and struggles with her simmering hatred for German invaders: “Yes, I did want my country to destroy the Germans. Yes, I did want the injured to live. But at what cost to me?” Transferred to a hospital on the front, and crushed by disillusionment, she rescues a wounded Nazi clinging to life. Although moved by sympathy to help him, she’s initially overwhelmed by disgust, seeing him as a personification of Nazi ideology. But Friedrich Halder turns out to be a university man, as well as a deserter who was conscripted into service in order to avoid being sent to a concentration camp. What improbably ensues is a mutual recognition of each other’s humanity, a kind of truce, and then the kindling of a romance. For fans of historical fiction or romance, this is a deft combination of the two genres, written in a wise, often poetical prose. The overall tale is dark and catalogs the murky depths of human depravity, but despite the realistic grittiness of its portrayal of war, it’s thankfully leavened by considerable doses of humor and hope. At its core, it’s a story about an attempt to maintain one’s humanity while witnessing, and even participating in, stark inhumanity. Elena and Friedrich fall in love, and in doing so, each concedes the other’s value.

An epic portrayal of a romance born out of the rubble of World War II.–Kirkus Reviews.

 

Here’s my Five Star rating from READERS’ FAVORITE Book Reviews:

Death Steppe: A World War II Novel by Judy Bruce is set in the western Soviet Union during Germany’s retreat. Elena Nevskaya is a Russian widow and a black marketeer serving as a medic on the front lines. She keeps her dissident side hidden. Then there’s the disillusioned 35-year-old Lieutenant Friedrich Halder, a former German professor who’s confident that he’ll die in the war. The two accidentally meet in a dangerous encounter when Elena’s ‘Night Witches’ plane crashes. These two injured enemies have to rely on each other when they take shelter in a farmhouse.

Visually, Death Steppe would be a great film to watch. The historical setting is vibrantly described and Judy Bruce’s well-developed characters are the best I’ve read so far. They are well-fleshed out and their emotions vividly resonate from start to finish. Elena and Halder’s relationship progresses to friendship and eventually they become lovers. Unfortunately, their journey to make a new life for themselves is harrowing. Bruce nailed the pace and the plot of the story. The page turning quality of Death Steppe had me simply wanting to read on, even when I had other matters to attend to. On the whole, Bruce’s novel is just perfect for a relaxing read. I’ll keep my eye on her future works.–Readers’ Favorite

 

Oooh, this one’s really good from Online Book Club:

The human debris of war is not solely comprised of the slain. Fractured psyches, lacerated consciences, and ethical and moral paradoxes that fester and eat away at the made-in-His-image core like unseen gangrene are the invisible wreckage wrought upon the still-remaining, living human scraps of war’s great meat grinder.

In Death Steppe: A World War II Novel, author Judy Bruce explores this motif in a sometimes raw, sometimes touching, but always unvarnished account of two unlikely people whose lives carom into one another as they ricochet off the random chaos of World War II. Published in 2015, the book is available in e-format, hardcover, and paperback. It can be classified as historical fiction.

Set in western Russia in 1944, German troops are retreating from their ill-advised invasion of the Soviet Union. The Red Army has them on the run. Russian private Elena Nevskaya, a widow, Christian, and silent dissident of the great Soviet ideal, serves as a medic on and near the front lines. Before long she is conscripted into the Night Witches, an all-female division of pilots and navigators who carry out nighttime bombing raids on the enemy. Lieutenant Friedrich Halder, former professor and concentration camp officer, is part of the retreating German army that she is helping to bomb. If war is hell, at least it does not discriminate; both Elena and Halder suffer losses and injury and end up together in an abandoned house in the Russian countryside. Their injuries – she to her arm, he to his head – along with the unyielding Russian winter, prevent them from leaving this shelter until they have reasonably recovered and spring is near. And so these two unacquainted enemies, while not wholly subscribing to the causes of their own respective countries, are vehemently opposed to those of the other side; they begin a cautious dance of coexistence. Eventually they leave the house and, partly out of necessity and partly out what can only be termed desperate affection, unite in a complex partnership fraught with danger. They just want to survive.

These damaged, forever broken, forever altered people, who have committed atrocities and bloodied their hands in the name of duty and loyalty to country, simply pawns in the maelstrom of the most lethal conflict in history, can never travel back the road from whence they came. The war has, in manifold ways, closed the door on the past. Their only option is to limp forward, try to reconcile their sins committed in the name of patriotism to some cause or justification, search their skewed, out-of-kilter consciences and try to muster something resembling penitence, and wonder where exactly God (of the Christian canon) intends for them to spend all eternity. War has crippled them to the core. These themes recur and add depth to this book, extending it beyond a simple adventure tale or romance. And the very real setting of World War II prevents this from being “escapist” reading; I couldn’t read this without thinking about the horror of that conflict and the countless millions of victims whose lives were so unceremoniously and wretchedly extinguished or destroyed. There is no flag waving, myopic patriotism or singing of anthems here.

Although the story develops into something akin to a romance, it is a tentative one with multiple, conflicting layers. Wisely, the author avoids lurid descriptions of cascading tresses, heaving bosoms, or bulging manhoods. That’s not the focus; these two shattered people have been indoctrinated to be enemies of one another, but they only partially believe in the causes for which they are fighting. The relationship does not descend into one of unrestrained passion, but rather provides a canvas on which to explore the juxtaposition of moral, ethical, nationalistic, and religious elements, and the human need to love and take care of someone. None of these leitmotifs are too heavy-handed, however. The book is in no way preachy, nor is it a hero’s tale. And Ms. Bruce skillfully maintains the focus on the two principals and their desperate story, but for those who care to look, these deeper subtexts are hiding around every corner.

The perspective alternates between Elena’s story – told in first person – and Halder’s, which is related in the third person POV. The narrative oscillates between these two, first by chapters, then by parts of chapters, then by paragraphs, until their paths cross, or rather blindly collide, in the purposeless bedlam of war. This narrative structure is executed quite well by Ms. Bruce; instead of clunkily getting in the way, it rather facilitates the forward momentum of the story and feels natural and unobtrusive. As the two principals meet and their separate stories meld into one, the narrative settles comfortably into Elena’s story; however, the author never fully abandons the third-person view and returns to it sparingly when needed.

I won’t say too much, but the dynamic between Elena and Halder is both well conceived and well written; they both elicit the reader’s sympathy. Their relationship is both harsh and sweet and develops, but unconventionally; since it’s not anywhere near a “normal” relationship, and certainly takes place in a most abnormal setting, it pops and sputters and is subservient to the personal demons with which each of them wrestles.

Ms. Bruce’s writing is good at the very least and striking at its best. The narrative moves the story along at a good pace; I was never bored, and often didn’t want to put the book down. More than that, I was invested in these two pitiful people, battered and cracked by things they had seen and participated in, and I cared about what happened to them. The descriptions of battle are raw without being gratuitous, tender moments are sensitive without being maudlin, and the reader is never allowed to forget the claustrophobic horror of war and the unspeakable suffering it brings. The tone is one of cautious, desperate hope under a dark, ominous sky.

I am happy to give Death Steppe: A World War II Novel 4 out of 4 stars. It deserves no less. It is a touching, raw story that will pull you in from the very start and keep you reading until the last page. Suspense, good writing and storytelling, unforgettable imagery, and rich, complex characters combine to make this one of the better books I’ve read in a long time. This multi-faceted story could be enjoyed by readers who like historical fiction, romance, and action stories. My congratulations to Judy Bruce for pouring her obvious talents and insights into this book and creating a stirring, poignant, thought-provoking story.

 

 

More reviews below.

Now for a bit more info on my book…

No, steppe doesn’t refer to a Victorian-era horror story; it’s a World War II tale about war on the western Russia prairie, an area akin to the grasslands of the Great Plains in America and Canada, or the veldt in southern or eastern Africa.

Anyway, my World War II novel takes place in 1944, during Germany’s retreat from western Soviet Union. My story follows the lives of a Russian war widow, Elena, a dissident, Christian, and black marketeer, as she serves as a medic on the front lines, and a disillusioned German lieutenant, Halder, a former professor and concentration camp officer, as he fights in a losing effort. In time, Elena and others, are forced into service as temporary navigators in an all-female regiment to the Red Army air force. After Elena’s plane crashes, she finds the injured Halder from the squadron she helped bomb. As enemies, the injured Elena and Halder alternate between helping and nearly killing each other. Eventually, the desperate soldiers discover an unexpected bond. Together they embark on a turbulent journey as lovers and disheartened deserters.

I present an unusual perspective–the reluctant female soldier. She plays several roles as she saves, kills, loves, hates, and flees. I was fascinated by my research on the “Night Witches,” Soviet women who flew canvas and plywood training planes (without parachutes) on night scouting and bombing missions. I take Halder through the moral torture of an officer-in-training at Dachau, before he fails as a Nazi and is sent to the horror of the front lines, presumably to die. Both struggle with the notion of a loving God in a time of monstrous cruelty and loss.

At its core, it’s a story about two people forced from their jobs and their families by governments they hate and fear into the sacrifices, the traumas, and the moral battles they face amid a war that kills 30 million people in western U.S.S.R. Within the war story is a tale of two unlikely lovers forced to create their own rules, their own solutions, their own versions of love, redemption, and escape.

Sounds like a real knee-slapper, doesn’t it? Well, I ‘ve never claimed to be a comedian, though my daughter and son think I’m goofy.

I liked the idea of putting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Though my two main characters are professors, brains won’t stop a bullet or a bomb. And it’s bravery more than any trait that helps them to survive.

An important theme in the story refers to the struggle with reconciling war with one’s religious beliefs. I found it natural for Elena and Halder to question, plead, and pray to God as they walked the tightrope between life and death. So often, any misstep meant falling in to the chasm of death. Although they came from different backgrounds—Elena from clandestine Christianity, Halder from established Protestantism, they faced the similar perils and moments of faith and doubt.

As they witnessed and fought through the horrors of war they asked: where is God? And they wondered how can you be a Christian in war? The old saying states there are no atheists in foxholes. I think my characters face the same questions that would torment people of any faith or moral code. Pacifism is a belief for people to ascribe to in the safety of their homes—it doesn’t apply to those forced to fend for their lives. This story boils down to the search for humanity in the midst of brutality.

My novel is available in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook formats from online booksellers. Follow me on Goodreads.com.

www.barnesandnoble.com

www.amazon.com

 

Additional reviews:

5.0 out of 5 starsHumanity amongst horror

ByAmazon Customeron May 26, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Death Steppe takes us on a journey into the lives of two very different individuals who are thrust in to two different sides of World War II. Despite their differences they are similar in their distaste for the cause for which they are forced to serve. Although there are many scenes of horror this is also a story of love and the human spirit.

Judy Bruce does an excellent job in placing the reader in the scene with her descriptions. Oftentimes, I felt myself actually shivering with cold while reading scenes in frozen Russia. I loved the main female character, Elena, for her resolution and determination to grasp on to who she is despite being forced into a situation outside of herself. Although I’m not a big war buff I felt myself drawn into the story because of the thoughtful character development. This story was difficult to read at times for the terror it described but was made less horrific by the inclusion of human elements. Much of what I’ve read on World War II is so impersonal but this book provides the reader a bit of history with a human touch. I was left feeling grateful that I have never been through a war and terrified at the possibility of ever being put in that position. I do not recommend this for either history buffs or the faint of heart but it is an engrossing story with beautiful syntax and creatively drawn characters.

 

 

 

 

5.0 out of 5 starsCaught in the middle

ByD. RobertsVINE VOICEon May 15, 2016

Format: Paperback

***Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an objective review. Friedrich is a German officer who has spoken out against the 3rd Reich in the past. As an architect, he is conscripted by the Nazis to be an officer in the German army. Stationed at Dachau, he is appalled by the atrocities committed by his Nazi brethren. He distances himself from his former outspoken nature as he physically sees what happens to Nazis who speak out against the high command: they are sent to concentration camps, tortured & left to rot. He is so alarmed by what he sees that he requests to be transferred to the front lines of WWII. Elena is an academic who is pulled from teaching at a university to become a medic for the Soviet Red Army. While she has a seething hatred for the Nazi invaders, suffice to say that she’s not a member of uncle Joe Stalin’s fan club. After working in a hospital, she is transferred to the air corps to be an aviator who drops bombs on the Nazis. After Elena’s small plane is shot down, she stumbles across Friedrich, whose platoon was wiped out by an air strike. Both are injured and they need each other to survive. They try to heal & recuperate from battle at a remote, abandoned Russian farmhouse. In doing so, they find themselves comitting the #1 no-no for members of the military: aiding and abetting the enemy. In short, they find themselves stuck in the middle. Neither has a whole lot of faith in the governments of their respective countries. Neither of them wanted a “piece of the action” in WWII. Both have witnessed 1st hand the horrors, atrocities and brutality of the biggest war the world has ever seen. In each other they discover trait that they never thought they’d find in the enemy: humanity. Such is the backdrop of the current story. It is a fascinating study of what happens to innately good people when they are thrust into desperate & horrific situations. The story resides in the gray area of warfare / combat ~ a subject that is supposed to be entirely black & white. This is a must-read book for people who are fans of historical fiction, especially in regards to the 2nd World War. In particular, the present novel gives the reader a glimpse into a part of the war which normally does not frequently occupy the thoughts of Americans: the German retreat from the Soviet Union. Optimists may find the present story as challenging to their overall viewpoint of life.

 

 

 

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Author did her research

By Jane on April 15, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

Bruce’s novel, set during WWII in Soviet Russia, is a realistic depiction of what it must be like to be a soldier in the midst of a war. So much so at times, that the story feels like it may actually be a detailed, exaggerated autobiography, instead of the work of fiction that it is. Elena (the main character) is a woman past thirty, who has had whispers of rebellion in her ears all her life and is suddenly thrust in the middle of Russia’s war against the Nazis. Starting as an orderly, becoming a medic, and finally being assigned to a plane so she can be a ‘Night Witch’ – female pilots who drop bombs on the Germans – she endures a remarkable change of character (and situation) throughout the book. Elena is one of the most interesting characters I’ve read of in a while. She is tough and resilient, but does her best not to give up on her personal moral code, which isn’t something most people could say while fighting a war. Freidrich (a German soldier she meets, hates, and gradually grows to love) was a different character altogether. He does things he knows is wrong to help himself – he seems to straddle the line between being a coward and just doing what has to be done to survive. But I like the way Bruce wrote him – he’s not perfect, but not ‘tragically flawed’ either, like so many ‘dark’ heroes tend to be. Overall, the book avoided the major clichés of war fiction and the ones it did have felt fresh and new. But don’t come to this book if you absolutely must have a happy ending. No spoilers, but the book is realistic in how a war is – the effects on the people involved, and what it means to be a traitor to your country. I cried a lot (especially over the ending), but it was well worth the read.

 

Midwest Book Review/Small Press Bookwatch: May 2016

Synopsis: A story of World War II and set in western Soviet Union during Germany’s retreat, “Death Steppe” by Judy Bruce follows the lives of a Russian war widow, a dissident, Christian, and black marketeer, as she serves as a medic on the front lines, and a disillusioned German lieutenant, a former professor and concentration camp officer, as he fights in a losing effort. After our heroine is forced into service as a navigator in a women’s air force regiment, flying plywood and canvas biplanes on harrowing night missions, she encounters the injured yet violent German when her plane crashes. Together they embark on a turbulent journey, first as enemies, later as lovers and disheartened deserters.

Critique: An exceptionally well crafted and consistently entertaining read from beginning to end, “Death Steppe” is especially recommended for community library General Fiction collections.

 

 

 

 

5.0 out of 5 starsDeath Steppe by Judy Bruce is the World War II …

ByPam Truaxon April 18, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition

Death Steppe by Judy Bruce is the World War II story of Elena and Friedrich. The book opens with a train ride with Elena – not sure exactly where she is headed, but with no choice but to be there. Death Steppe’s setting is the Soviet Union during the time that the Germans are retreating. Elena is a widow (Russian) and a medic in the war. She is thrown into front line action and then at one point is forced to join the Night Witches. This group of women become enthralled in the war and are involved in bombing and killing of soldiers. As you will see all of this is a far cry from Elena’s life prewar. Friedrich is a German officer who is also fighting on the front lines. Friedrich had been a professor prior to the war and is less than enamored with his role and the leadership of his men. At times he struggles with the moral and ethic aspect of this was. He truly believes there is no way he will survive to leave the Soviet Union. With orders to attack Friedrich and men storm the front lines only to be bombed by the Night Witches. From there Bruce does a masterful job of leading you on Elena and Friedrich’s journey. Desperation, deserters, lovers – you will be drawn to Elena and Friedrich and the plight that follows them. Bruce has taken wartime and turned it into a story of two people that you are eager to read about and follow through their perils and pearls. Death Steppe is a must read.

 

Top Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 starsGreat read!

By schw0855 on April 18, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

Death Steppe is an interesting and well-paced novel about two participants of World War II, one German, one Russian. Both are hesitant participants in a war that they do not agree with or support, yet they are trapped by political circumstances into military servitude and effectively, a life of lies, death, and fear. The book is written from different perspectives, most notably in the first-person of the main character Elena, a Russian woman forced to participation in the Red Army as a medic, despite her obvious lack of medical training and more clandestine hatred for Communism and all that it entails. The other main character, Halder, is a Lieutenant in the Nazi Army who is just as much of an unwilling participant as Elena. The story progresses as each of the main characters contends with life in wartime, when options are compliance or execution. A complicated and intense romance ensues after the two characters meet, drawing the reader into the powerful internal turmoil that each must feel: Neither wants to be a killer, but is thrust into a life of murder, fear, and survival. Admittedly I was dubious that this budding relationship would make sense, but the author puts together the internal struggles of each character with incredible precision and attention to the complexity of the situation. Overall, this is a very interesting read with a great pace, a good story, and characters that are very relatable in their struggles. A fantastic mixture of suspense, historical fiction, romance, and realistic characters that grip the reader until the end. I highly recommend it!

 

 

5out of 5 starsBelievable characters and good story

ByHelpful AdviceTOP 500 REVIEWERon February 28, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition

“Death Steppe” written by Judy Bruce is novel set in time of Second World War, more precisely in Soviet Union near the end of war during retreat of Germany soldiers. The first main character called Elena Nevskaya is a Russian widow who works as a medic on the front lines. The other is German Lieutenant Friedrich Halder, who is a former professor certain he will not survive the war. These two are going to meet because of unusual fate and have to rely on each other while hiding together… Judy Bruce with her novel manages to create a real convincing experience of final days of war in Russia during World War II. The strongest parts of her novel are believable characters and story in general, without clichés usually found in books of such genre. Therefore if you consider yourself a fan of good war fiction with few drops of romance, look no further because “Death Steppe” is kind of novel that will keep you interested the very last page.
ByFrank J. Konopka VINE VOICE on February 26, 2016     5 of 5 stars

Format: Kindle Edition

I found this very well written book quite interesting. It concerns a Russian female conscripted teacher who must work as a medic and then as a navigator on an extremely fragile biplane. The other thread of the plot involves a German officer quite upset with the war and the brutality of the Nazis in control. Naturally, they find themselves tossed together in a struggle for survival. The prose is taut, and the plot moves along at a good pace. The reader becomes quite invested in the potential survival of the ill matched couple, and where their unusual relationship is heading. That’s enough of the plot to tell; readers will just have to read the book to discover what occurs. I enjoyed this work very much and I do believe most of those who read it will agree with me.

 

REVIEWER: NN Light   nnlight@outlook.com princessofthelight.wordpress.com

My Review:

Can two people, on opposite sides of a brutal war, find comfort in each other’s arms?

I love historical fiction because it gives me a glimpse into how it might have been if I lived in a different time, with different circumstances. I was drawn to this story based on the premise but was unprepared for the sheer emotional torment I would face. My husband, the World War Two expert in our household, told me the key to writing an excellent book on World War Two is grabbing the reader by the shirt collar and showing war through the eyes of a lowly soldier, not a general. Judy Bruce does that brilliantly.

Elena is a Russian medic near the front lines and she’s seen her fair share of the war. Death is everywhere and the more she is around the soldiers, the harder her heart becomes. She had a wonderful life: married, teaching and surrounded by family. But all that changed when the German dogs invaded her country. Now she’s alone, a medic near the Western front and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Without warning, she’s forced into a ruthless arm of the Russian army: The Night Witches. This group of all-female pilots and navigators flew at night, dropping bombs over the German army. Elena’s world is forever changed. Instead of easing pain and healing soldiers, she’s killing and murdering them. The upside, though, is Elena gets a few extra rations of vodka.

Meanwhile, we meet German Lieutenant, Halder, a former professor and concentration camp officer. Just like Elena, he’s a soldier fighting for his life, sanity and moral compass. His men trust him to lead them into battle and that just makes it worse for Halder. He gets orders to attack a portion of the front and while out on patrol, his unit is bombed by none other that those drat Night Witches. He orders his men to shoot down the airplane, not knowing that Elena is in the airplane. He has a head injury and passes out.

When both of them wake up, they are in a farmer’s field. Reluctantly, Elena helps the bastard German, though she threatens to kill him at every possible moment. They hold up in the farmhouse and in a strange twist of fate, help each other’s injuries heal. But can their hearts heal from the ravages of war or is love impossible at Death’s door?

Death Steppe is one of those rare books that sticks with you long after you finish reading it. The author does a brilliant job of thrusting the realities of war on the reader and I was forced to face the truth: war is hell, no matter which side you’re on. Told in both Elena and Halder’s points of view, I witnessed for myself a glimmer of humanity and if possible, kindness and love. The character development, plot progression and historical accuracy makes this a must read.

The only downside I had when reading it was the initial romance being introduced. Elena and Halder hating each other one minute and kissing/having sex the next minute. It was a bit of a shock but I understood the motivation as I continued reading.

If you love historical fiction and looking for a gripping novel in the same vein as the movie, A Bridge Too Far, you have to read Death Steppe. Even if war novels are not your thing, you will get an eye-opening experience with this book!

 

Favorite Character: Elena. I continually found myself drawn into her torment, her anguish and her ability to survive. She’s had everything she loves taken away from her and yet, in the middle of a war that never seems to end, she finds the will to keep going. I don’t know if I could’ve survived given what she’s been through. She’s a true hero, in every sense of the word.

Favorite Quote:

“You bastard Nazis. I could have continued teaching like I wanted. Why did you Nazi animals invade my country? You killed my brother. My husband is dead. And I will die.” ~Elena

My Rating:  4.5 stars

 

Mar 09, 2016 Danielle Urban rated it it was amazing 5 Stars

Death Steppe (A WWII Novel) by Judy Bruce is brilliant. Her novel takes readers straight into the plot. WWII in 1944 was indeed a scary time…what’s scarier is actually meeting the person whom one has tried to kill…meeting the person considered as your enemy can take a toll on a person. However, Judy Bruce takes an unexpected encounter of two enemies during this war time and force them to meet. Both are surprised but also weary of the other. Thinking of killing the other one or to work togeth Death Steppe (A WWII Novel) by Judy Bruce is brilliant. Her novel takes readers straight into the plot. WWII in 1944 was indeed a scary time…what’s scarier is actually meeting the person whom one has tried to kill…meeting the person considered as your enemy can take a toll on a person. However, Judy Bruce takes an unexpected encounter of two enemies during this war time and force them to meet. Both are surprised but also weary of the other. Thinking of killing the other one or to work together to survive their outcome is a big decision that neither can take too lightly. Judy Bruce has captured the realistic historical time period down to every specific detail as well as creating characters who will never be forgotten. I love anything featuring history and showing readers how difficult it was like back then and how every decision has a huge impact on one’s life. Just one decision can change your future forever…can Elena and Halder make the right choice? This tale like many others that capture historical moments will make readers cringe at what really happened and how cold people can be during this time periods. Haunting, dark, but with some truth and accuracy…readers will be taken back to the front lines of WWII. Readers will feel like they are actually witnessing the events in this novel through their own eyes instead of the characters. Judy Bruce has created a masterpiece when she wrote Death Steppe. I loved reading this book, and I highly recommend it to readers worldwide.

 

Denis Vukosav:

Top rated it it was amazing 5 Stars

Shelves: gift, fiction, English, romance

“Death Steppe” written by Judy Bruce is novel set in time of Second World War, more precisely in Soviet Union near the end of war during retreat of Germany soldiers. The first main character called Elena Nevskaya is a Russian widow who works as a medic on the front lines. The other is German Lieutenant Friedrich Halder, who is a former professor certain he will not survive the war. These two are going to meet because of unusual fate and have to rely on each other while hiding together… Judy Bruce “Death Steppe” written by Judy Bruce is novel set in time of Second World War, more precisely in Soviet Union near the end of war during retreat of Germany soldiers. The first main character called Elena Nevskaya is a Russian widow who works as a medic on the front lines. The other is German Lieutenant Friedrich Halder, who is a former professor certain he will not survive the war. These two are going to meet because of unusual fate and have to rely on each other while hiding together… Judy Bruce with her novel manages to create a real convincing experience of final days of war in Russia during World War II. The strongest parts of her novel are believable characters and story in general, without clichés usually found in books of such genre. Therefore if you consider yourself a fan of good war fiction with few drops of romance, look no further because “Death Steppe” is kind of novel that will keep you interested the very last page. I was given a copy of this book by the author for the purpose of unbiased review, while all the presented information is based on my impressions.

 

Caffeinated Book Reviewer:

Death Steppe: A World War II Novel by Judy Bruce transports us to western Soviet Union as Germany tries to invade. It follows a Russian war window and a German lieutenant whose paths will eventual cross as they deal with the challenging landscape. Beautiful, brutal and steeped in faith this tale exposes both the horrors of war and the beauty of love. I have always found novels set during this era to be fascinating even as I try to wrap my head around the atrocities. Bruce brought us two very interesting characters. She delivered a tale that shares the struggles of individuals while giving us a sense of the war itself and its impact. I appreciated her attention to detail and the way in which she brought these characters to life. Elena is a Russian widow, who works at the hospital as an aid, but secretly works with the black market. She reads banned American and British literature and believes in God. She finds herself assigned to a hospital near outskirt of the war, and eventually is assigned to the front-line as medic. It seems the fates are against her when she is assigned to be a Night Witch. These female pilots dropped bombs on the Germans forcing them to retreat. For most it was a death sentence flying about in these tin cans.  Elena is strong, passionate and at times fearless. I found her to be remarkable and Bruce did a wonderful job of allowing me to connect and gain insight into what her life must have been like. Bruce’s descriptions of her transformation and internal struggles felt genuine. Friedrich is a German professor and architect who covers up his disdain for the Third Reich by becoming a German lieutenant. He works at a concentration camp and gives us a harrowing account before he is assigned to fight with troops invading Russia. Friedrich is not as strong of a character as Elena.  He does what he must in order to survive. One cannot help but question how we would handle the situation. Is he a coward or survivor? The two accidentally meet and find themselves holding up on a Russian farm during Russia’s harsh winter. It was fascinating seeing these two enemies relying on each other and discovering how very different the other is from their own preconceived notions and of course, from the propaganda their leaders have fed them. A friendship forms out of necessity and soon they are confessing their sins and darkest fears. The two become lovers and eventually hatch a plan to desert and escape together. Their time on the farm felt very genuine from their distrust to their need to feel safe and loved. Death Steppe: A World War II Novel shares a love story but do not look for happily ever after. Bruce beautifully captures the brutal landscape of war while weaving in the effects upon humanity and individuals. It was sometimes dark, sometimes beautiful, and at times incredibly suspenseful. The words flowed wonderfully allowing me to become completely immersed in their story. While the ending was awash in sadness Bruce also gave us a glimmer of hope befitting such a tale. Copy provided by author. This review was originally posted at Caffeinated Book Reviewer

 

 

Women Connect Online by Yvonne Wu. 5 Stars

This fiction book has 31 chapters full of intrigue that keep you guessing. The ending of this book will indeed shock you when you find out how she sets her lover free. This is definitely a must read book for women and men who love history books and authentic war stories.

This World War 11 novel takes place in 1944, during Germany’s retreat from western Soviet Union. Elena, a Russian war widow and medic is the main character in the story. This book is full of action, adventure and romance when two people Elena and Halder are forced from their jobs and their families by a cruel Nazi government. After Elena’s husband’s death she promised herself she would not love again. Yet even amongst the horror of death that surrounds them and violence Elena and the German Halder find love.

I found this book very detailed with an accurate portrait of life during the war. The author makes you feel like you were with Elena back in 1944 Russia. The books language is clean and easy to read making this an ideal book for teens and adults. At times I felt sad and horrified at what people had to endure during the war. The book is written from a women’s perspective on how life would have been like during Nazi occupation.

 

 

 

Copyright Judy Bruce and Hey Joood, 2017. Duplication of this material is strictly prohibited.

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