Historical Romance Wins Gold Medal

Tuesday May 07, 2024

Love in War

REGIONAL — The historical fiction novel, Love in War, by The Town Common reporter Stewart Lytle won the gold medal last week at the Ben Franklin Awards, awarded by the Independent Book Publishers Assn.
Love in War, a sweeping historical romance set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, competed in the historical romance category, one of 57 categories that attracted 1,800 entries.
Inspired by a true story, the novel portrays lead characters, Marti and Montserrat (Montse), who were born on the opposite sides of the tracks in a small Catalonian town. They fell in love, bucking all the odds and the evil intentions of Felix, an arrogant son of the mayor and local vineyard owner.
Martí, a fatherless, farm boy, is trained as a baker and opens a small bakery next to Montse’s family shoe store in hopes of winning Montse’s heart. Her father, a delightful tinkerer, who shares with his daughter a love of driving expensive cars, disapproves of his daughter’s relationship. To Montse’s horror her father suggests that Montse consider dating Felix.
A determined Martí drills a hole in the wall separating their shops so they can pass secret notes, which become love notes.
As their relationship moves through secret dates at the movie theater and their first kiss over an ice cream cone, their romance also faces the challenge of separation as Marti is drafted into the Army and the civil war brings violence and chaos to their lives.
A precursor of World War II, the Spanish Civil War was one of the deadliest in European history, pitting the government against the church and brother against brother. The Republican government in Madrid opposed General Francisco Franco, who led the Nationalist forces. His troops, backed by Germany and Italy, defeated the Republic and ruled as a dictator until he died in 1975.
Felix’s desire for Montse boiled over when as a corrupt Republican Army officer, he killed Martí’s best friends after the baptism of their daughter. He also beat Martí’s mother to death and tried to kill Marti, forcing him to leave his wife and daughter in Spain to face the war alone.
Returning to rescue his family, Marti leads Marti and their daughter through danger and out of Spain. They escaped to Mexico where they founded a bakery that is now the largest bakery in the world.
Lytle got to know the story of Marti and Montse through two of their children, who shared their collection of photographs and journals. Lytle also interviewed experts on the Spanish Civil War to understand the war timeline and background.
While Lytle has found that many stories about parents can be dull, their mother’s cleverness and their father’s courage intrigued and inspired Lytle to write their story.
In addition to the IBPA’s Gold Medal, Love in War has earned 20 five-star reviews from Amazon readers.
One reader wrote: I fell in love with this book from the first scenario. Montse is one of my all-time heroes. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. And nothing beats a true story about real people. While reading Love In War, I started making myself slow down because I didn’t want it to end. I savored it like fine chocolate. The only thing I was left wanting was more. More Marti and Montse and their life together in Mexico and beyond. My first copy was a beautiful gift for which I am most appreciative. Now I am getting several copies for my friends who are readers. They are going to love me!
Another wrote: Love in War is a well-woven tale, intertwining an undying love story with the profound hatred of a rejected would-be suitor. Having the Spanish Civil War as the backdrop and protagonists based on two people who lived this story, it is historical fiction at its best.
Copies may be found at Amazon and Ingram or by emailing stewart_lytle@yahoo.com. He is available to meet with local book clubs and groups.

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