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HFC Editorial Review of "Of Darkness and Light" by Heidi Eljarbo

Author Bio:

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don't want to go near.

Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.

After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.

Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.

Heidi’s favorites are family, God's beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

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If you would like to know more, please visit:

Twitter: @HeidiEljarbo

Book Blurb:

In this first book of a new historical mystery series, a young art historian faces a tough choice in German-occupied Norway.

“Artful prose and at a pace that makes for a can't-put-down, first-class literary voyage."–Melissa Dalton-Bradford, bestselling author of Global Mom

Oslo, 1944. Soli Hansen’s passion for art history is and always has been a way of life for her. While she spends her days working in an art shop, WWII is taking its toll on everyone. Apprehensive of the consequences, Soli avoids becoming entangled in the war resistance efforts. She closes her eyes in hopes the enemy will retreat and leave her beautiful country for good.

But when a woman is found dead in the alley alongside the art shop and a painting from the last auction goes missing, Soli is thrown into the thickest of the fray involving both Nazi art theft and the Norwegian resistance.

Once Soli finds her courage, there’s no turning back. Her personal life is turned upside-down with danger, lies, spying, and an incredible discovery.

In this dual timeline novel, Heidi Eljarbo paints a vivid picture of what people are willing to do in desperate times. With unforgettable characters and rich historical details, Of Darkness and Light will keep the reader mesmerized until the last satisfying page.

Perfect for fans of Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley, Katherine Neville, and Kate Mosse.

Praise for Of Darkness and Light

“Interspersing love, hope, and courage, the participants are drawn together in mysterious paths.”–Pauline Isaksen, bestselling author of Dying for Justice

“Of Darkness and Light will reel you in and keep you hooked until the end.”–Mette Barfelt, bestselling author of The Solvik Series

Editorial Review

Der Führer, who himself had failed in his art studies, was an art enthusiast. That was the only thing she and Hitler had in common.”

In the midst of World War II, a young shopgirl, Soli Hansen, in Oslo Norway, is passionate for art history and spends her days working in a local art shop for the kind owner, Mr Holm. But her day-to-day life and her romantic notions of the art world take a detour as the Gestapo swarm the town, and one particular Nazi officer takes an interest in Mr Holm’s shop. Yet, Soli is desperate to avoid all entanglements with the enemy, and even veers away from the resistance work her own brother is involved in. She wishes nothing more than to close her eyes and dream away their existence.

But the war and the resistance movement come full force upon her whether she wants it or not. A woman is found dead in the alleyway alongside the art shop, and a valuable painting that Mr Holm acquired during the last art auction goes missing. Soli is pulled into the thick of the action as the Nazi officer is determined to locate the famous painting by Caravaggio, and her love for art links her to the painting and to the underground resistance movement, a group passionate about keeping the famous artwork in Norway out of Nazi hands.

She is forced to find her courage, and is set on a path to hide the painting, all while dodging the Nazis. The cat and mouse game turns her life upside-down as she finds herself in the midst of danger, lies, and espionage. She becomes the light against the dark – the chiaroscuro of Oslo.

I’m not familiar with that term.” Soli smiled. “That means he painted strong contrast of light and dark.” Rolf mumbled, “Kind of like this war. Light and dark – good and bad – interconnecting but widely divergent.”

In so many ways, this novel offers the light and dark of writing a novel. As a dual timeline, set mainly in 1944 with Soli’s story, from time to time we are given a glimpse into the life of Caravaggio as he paints the painting that Soli is trying to protect. He is a passionate artist who falls for the woman he is painting, but their love is not to be... and Caravaggio finds himself on the wrong side of those in power, even as they exploit his talent. The majority of the novel deals with Soli’s story, so the insertion of Caravaggio’s story sometimes felt a little jarring as we are taken away from the flow of the main story... even somewhat unnecessary, at times. However, the history of his life was fascinating and the transition into his story felt like a completely different novel... one which might make a great spin-off from this novel. In truth, I found myself wanting to know more about Caravaggio than I did about Soli as her naivety and dreaminess about the war never engaged me fully into believability.

There are moments of light in the darkness, though... and the descriptive writing entertained me, and educated me in a way that other resistance-themed novels have not. While most others deal with those opposed to the Nazis working underground in a network to help the actual war effort or securing a path of escape for the Jews. This, however, was a resistance group for the protection of art, and reminded me of the Monument’s Men story. For that, it was a refreshing look into the era and into a region usually not addressed in WWII novels.

Another bright spot of the novel is the cover – an exquisitely done portrayal which gives you a preview of the story right as you pick up the book or click on your Kindle. Engaging and beautiful!

As a character, Soli Hansen is a very inquisitive young woman, constantly asking questions in her head throughout the narrative, and her love for artwork and the desire to remain in her dream world are highlighted from the very beginning - “the brush strokes were amateurish, not an expensive rendition. Still, she could almost breathe the air and hear the babbling brook and bluethroats singing in the distance. That’s what a free land looked like.”

The dark shadows of the novel for me presented in minor ways, not so much as to detract from your enjoyment of a well-painted portrayal of life in Nazi-occupied Norway – almost like a flash as you tilt you head to the side to view a painting from a different angle – such as when Soli agrees to go on a dinner date with the Nazi officer interested in the artwork and is trying to find a dress to wear... and then, the discovery of Mr Holm’s will nearing the end of the story (of which, I will not give away any spoilers), but the secrets revealed made this discovery and what it entails almost unbelievable in the storyline.

That being said, all in all the story is a good read, one which can be done in one sitting as you find yourself anxious to know what happens to Soli and the Caravaggio painting... plus, who murdered the woman found in the alleyway near the art shop. You can tell, in a clever way, that Ms Eljarbo is setting up for the next novel in the series, and the continued story of resistance and protection for Soli Hansen.

Like a fine oil painting whose image develops over time, layering and layering, deepening the shadows, highlighting the light, Of Darkness and Light reveals a story of one young woman’s courageous rise to protect a precious artefact from the monstrous and greedy hands of the Third Reich.

Of Darkness and Light by Heidi Eljarbo receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company.


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