Homeland’s Hope can also be purchased in e-book format at the following booksellers:
You can purchase an autographed paperback of The Complete Virtues and Valor Series directly from Hallee at this link.
You can also purchase the paperback at the following booksellers:
Olivia Kimbrell Press
EBook ISBN: 9781939603456
The Back Cover:
Stage and screen legend VIRGINIA BENOIT performs for standing room only crowds in her adopted home of France. When the Nazis roll into Paris, she flees to Casablanca, taking the heart of an enemy Colonel with her. While in there, Virginia devises a plan to use her position, talent, and influence with the high ranking Axis officer to aid the Allied cause.
Virginia joins the Virtues team, assigned the code-name HOPE. Her keen mind trains in the craft of espionage. After staging a rift with the US, she returns to Paris, hiding undercover in plain sight, and spies on the enemy. All is well until the Third Reich imprisons the Virtues wireless operator, code named Temperance.
As the Virtues engineer a plan to rescue Temperance from the Gestapo’s clutches, Virginia takes to the stage to play her part in the daring mission. Will the murderous racism of the Nazi High Command prevent her from fulfilling her duties?
HOMELAND’S HOPE is part two of eight serialized novellas entitled the Virtues and Valor series.
Seven valorous women — different nationalities, ethnicities, and social backgrounds — come together as a team called the Virtues.
In 1941 Great Britain a special war department assembles an experimental and exclusively female cohort of combat operatives. Four willing spies, a wireless radio operator, an ingenious code breaker, and a fearless pilot are each hand-picked, recruited, and trained to initiate a daring mission in Occupied France. As plans are laid to engineer the largest prison break of Allied POWs in history, the Nazis capture the Virtues’ radio operator. It will take the cohesive teamwork of the rest of the women to save her life before Berlin breaks her and brings the force of the Third Reich to bear.
Some find love, some find vengeance, and some discover the kind of strength that lives in the human heart when all they can do is rely on each other and their shared belief. Courage, faith, and valor intersect but, in the end, one pays the ultimate price.
Continuing the Virtues and Valor series by Hallee Bridgeman. Eight serialized novellas, each inspired by real people and actual events, reveal the incredible story of amazing heroines facing the ultimate test of bravery.
London, England, 1940
VIRGINIA Benoit sat in a wooden chair set against a concrete wall in a hallway that smelled of freshly applied industrial paint. All down the long hallway, empty wooden benches or lonely ladder-backed chairs sat outside wooden doors with frosted glass windows. The mint green walls bore posters from the Ministry of Health Evacuation urging parents to remove their children from London and other urban centers, posters calling for Victory, posters reminding people not to talk about their work for the Ministry of War. Regularly, people passed her in the hall; some in uniform, some in civilian clothes, always rushing.
Everyone studied her as they rushed by, often with their eyebrows knotting in confusion. Perhaps they thought her extremely overdressed to perform typical maid or janitorial duties. She could always tell when someone recognized her. The curiosity at seeing a woman of color sitting outside the door of the Special Operations Executive changed to joy when the person realized this particular woman was THE Virginia Benoit, stage and motion picture sensation, and the darling of Paris.
Her journey to this wooden chair in this mint green hallway had taken months. She’d fled Paris by rail to Spain and from there taken an ocean liner to northern Africa eventually ending up in Casablanca. There, she’d performed for several weeks before getting very sick and finding herself hospitalized. While recuperating, she spent time praying and strategizing. By the time she left the hospital, she already had made plans to travel to London.
Her name and fame opened doors and within days she had a planned meeting with Charlene Radden, head of a unique Special Operations division. As Virginia sat outside her office, she thought about what she would say and how she would explain her plan. Before she could decide on a good conversation starter, the heavy wooden door across the hall from her opened and a young male clerk in a crisp British military uniform waved in her direction, gesturing her inside.
She stood and ran a casual hand down the skirt of her blue silk suit, then shifted her hand to the hat perched at a daring angle on the side of her head. By touch, her appearance felt right. With a dazzling smile, she stepped forward and followed the clerk into the office.
Empty bookshelves sat behind a scarred desk. Nothing personal adorned any surface at all. Two posters with the ‘V’ for victory hung haphazardly on two of the walls. At a table by a window sat an older woman in a crisp white cotton shirt and black skirt. Her blonde hair, cut in a bob to her chin, had gray streaks running through it. When she spotted Virginia, she stood and came toward her.
“Miss Benoit,” the older woman greeted warmly while very precisely and correctly pronouncing her name, “it is a very real pleasure to meet you. I am Charlene Radden.”
She extended both of her hands, and Virginia placed her fingertips in them, returning the squeeze. “I am so thankful you agreed to see me,” Virginia said in English, her voice betraying a Louisiana accent developed during her childhood on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.
“How could one refuse to consider such an intriguing offer?” She gestured toward the table. “Come and sit down and let’s talk.”
Virginia perched on the end of a wooden chair across from Charlene but did not settle back and relax. Years of stage training showed through as she sat bolt upright on the edge of the seat with her body turned at a very slight angle to the room’s best light. Her knees bent and her ankles crossed and she folded her hands neatly on the scratched wooden tabletop before she spoke. “There is a Nazi General named Schmid who has confessed that he is madly in love with me.”
Charlene lowered herself into her chair and looked at Virginia with wide eyes. Then she blinked and her face cleared. “Well,” she said in her cultured British voice, “I must say I don’t hear claims like that every day.”
Virginia smiled. “I imagine not. Especially when you consider that I am not of the Arian race. Far from it, in fact.” She gestured at her trim and athletic dancer’s body. “In 1932, Schmid saw me perform in Morocco. He has been enamored of my stage presence ever since and arranged private meetings with me on more than one occasion.”
Charlene raised an eyebrow. “I can think of a dozen ways that can help us. What I can’t think of is how. After all, you’re French with an American heritage. Strictly speaking, neither country is a friend of Berlin at the moment. The news is full of all the American Nazi sympathizers: Rockefeller, Hearst, Mellon, Lindburgh …”
“Well,” Virginia said on a drawn out breath, “I think I have an idea.”
“America has been begging me to come back. I think I can use the racial tension there to generate some really bad press that will make everyone think I’d rather be in Europe.”
Charlene sat back a bit. “I’m not sure what you mean. There are no worse racists on this planet than the Nazis. I’m sure you’ve seen the newsreels of the Olympics a few years back.”
The memory of Jesse Owens taking the gold right before the very eyes of the infuriated Führer in the very heart of his capital city brought an involuntary smile to Virgina’s lips. “It was a very proud moment for me, actually.”
Charlene allowed herself a mean little grin. “For me as well. Now do tell me, in your mind, how does your plan play out?”
Virginia unfolded her hands and placed them into her lap. She didn’t want even a slight tremor to affect this woman’s judgment about her competence or ability to pull off a dangerous mission. “There is a very well known broadcaster in America who is vocally against the Nazi movement there in the United States and abroad. He insults Hitler throughout his show and it is the most listened to and widely heard Radio show in the history of the world.”
Charlene nodded. “I’m familiar … and a bit of a fan. Do you know him personally?”
Virginia nodded. “I do. I think I can convince him to play along. He and I can stage a very public disagreement which would make me look sympathetic to Hitler’s Berlin.”
Charlene pursed her lips and sat back in her chair. “That may destroy any hope you have of a career in America. Or in England after the war, for that matter. Certainly wouldn’t make you popular in France, either.”
Virginia leaned forward and placed her palm on the table. “Mrs. Radden …”
“It’s Major, actually,” Charlene corrected with a long-suffering smile. “I just don’t wear the uniform when I’m in London. Loose lips and what not.”
“My apologies. Major Radden, everything I hold dear has been destroyed by the Fascist war machine. I’ve lost my home. I’ve lost my work. I’ve lost many, many friends. I’m afraid the world will never be the same.”
Without actually moving in the chair, she appeared to settle back into her seat, then casually brushed at the upswept hair at her crown. As if weighing her words carefully, she added, “I am entirely unfamiliar with your religious beliefs, Major Raddan, but speaking for myself, I feel very strongly that God has called me to do this. In light of that, I feel my reputation is a small price to pay. I am determined. If I can arrive in occupied France at the invitation of and as a trusted – friend – of General Schmid, and if I can perform for him, then I can observe all kinds of things and report to you what I see. I feel I will be ideally placed for exactly the kind of ‘on the ground’ reconnaissance you require. Additionally, I may have access to sensitive information the General may inadvertently disclose because he ignorantly believes the illiterate Negro girl on his arm doesn’t know any better.”
“It may very well cost you more than your reputation,” Charlene said. She leaned back in her chair and braced her elbows on the arms, steepling her fingers. “Racial tension speaks nothing to what’s brewing in the Nazi controlled territories. Our intelligence has uncovered reliable reports of the utter destruction of lives, of arrests for nothing more than the color of one’s skin, and of the slow deaths of thousands by means of starvation and deprivation in the forced labor camps Hitler is building as quickly as he can fill them.”
Despite the flutter of nerves, Virginia pulled strength from her core and spoke without hesitation. “General Schmid is a man of very high power and influence within the party.”
Charlene nodded. “Miss Benoit, I know exactly who Schmid is and the scope of his responsibilities. Rest assured, I understand the value of the proposed target.” She brought her steepled fingers to her lips and pursed them, clearly considering every angle. After several long moments, she finally spoke again. “Schmid will only be permitted to consort with you for so long before it becomes a political problem for him. No matter how much power he may wield, it will be no match to the combined hatred of the High Command. The very second the tide begins to turn, your life will be in grave danger.”
Virginia lifted her chin. “Major, I’m aware of that. I’m willing to risk my life, or even sacrifice my life. I would not be here otherwise. I am willing to put my life on the line exactly as so many others are doing right now while you and I sit here safe and sound carrying on this hypothetical conversation.”
“I see.” After a few more breaths and a decisive nod, without leaving her chair Charlene reached back slightly behind her and pulled open a file cabinet drawer. From within it, she withdrew a thick file and set it on the tabletop.
“I’m recruiting members for a special team. I still need a few more members with particular specialties, but I’m looking for exceptional women who can all work with or for each other. Traditionally, this hasn’t worked well because of what the higher ups refer to as petty jealousies, infighting, and generally catty behavior. Therefore, this team is under a great deal of scrutiny. It will require a special type of woman. I believe you to be such a woman.
“You mentioned your faith. I think women working together in a team who have a shared sense of purpose and shared faith will be incredibly useful.” She opened the file and Virginia caught a glimpse of a photograph of a very serene and proper looking blonde woman. “You can imagine there are countless missions needing to come off very quickly and immeasurable intelligence needing to be gathered if we’re to actually win this war.”
“Be honest. Do you feel Schmid might warn you if he were ordered to arrest you?”
Virginia considered the man, examined his actions and words in her mind. “I do believe he would warn me, but I don’t believe he would risk completely ruining his career for me. He certainly wouldn’t aid or abet my fleeing the country, for example.”
“If we had sufficient warning, we would have no need of any German aid or assistance.” Charlene stood. “Very well. Let’s make contact with our counterparts in America and see what we must do to set this rather gigantic ball rolling. In the meantime, we’ll send you to our exclusive training ground outside of Milton Keynes where you may begin your training in how we do things, and meet your counterparts of course.”
Virginia stood. “Thank you, Major. I hope you won’t regret this.”
As Charlene walked with her toward the door, she smiled very warmly. “Somehow, I am beyond certain that I will not regret this, Miss Benoit. I’ve learned in my career to listen to those God sends, and I believe you are such a person. Speaking of hope, you have certainly inspired a sense of hope in me, today; hope for the war and hope for my homeland. For that, I thank you most sincerely.”