George Clooney’s fascinating new film, “Monuments Men,” explores the Allied Forces mission to retrieve art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis during World War II.
But what if a sacred relic from a saint was also in danger of falling into Nazi hands?
Here’s the backstory of the Cross of Saint Cecilia from my recent post as it appears in my romance novella, A Soldier’s Italian Christmas
“A strange tale about a sacred cross that protects its wearer from harm in battle. A gift to the Church from a noble crusader grateful to have been spared during the siege of Constantinople. On his deathbed, he gave it to his wife to take to the Vatican in Rome, but she never completed her journey. She sought refuge in the monastery during a storm but she later died. According to the legend, she gave the cross to the abbot for safekeeping, but he wanted the artifact for himself and poisoned her. He hid the relic in a secret place on the hill, but he was later exiled for his black deeds. No one has ever been to find the exact spot where he hid the cross.”
In Excerpt No. 5, Sister Angelina is being interrogated by the Nazi major seeking the cross. He’s commandeered the monastery for his headquarters. She prays the handsome American, Captain Mack O’Casey, will find her…
*****Spoiler this scene appears later in the novella
“Where is the Cross of St. Cecilia?”
“I don’t know.” He [the major] pushed his knee between her legs, making her squirm, and then ripped her sleeve, exposing her bare shoulder. She backed away from him, crossing her arms over her breasts. He came up behind her, grabbing her around the waist.
Please, Father in heaven, help me. She flinched when she felt the heavy cross in her pocket hit her thigh.
“I don’t believe you.” The major pulled a Luger from his holster and then pointed the pistol at her temple. She heard an unnerving click when he cocked the hammer. “Tell me where Father Tom hid the cross or you’ll meet your God before you take your next breath.”
* * * * *
By the time Mack saw the tall doors leading into the library, he was in such a heightened state of awareness he was as dangerous as a lethal weapon. Every nerve in his body on alert, every muscle wired, every thought primed for battle. He took long strides, his heavy boots making no sound. He focused solely on his mission, having forfeited the right to any emotional attachment.
Until he heard a woman scream.
Then all hell broke loose. Angelina was in the hands of that madman.
Mack checked his rifle, his ammo, keeping his breathing steady. He took a calming breath and focused on the moment, taking no time to wipe the sweat off his face. He’d only seen the inside of the library through the peephole, which meant he’d have a different perspective of the room once he was inside. Every second counted. He had to sweep the room with his eyes, take down whatever threat awaited him, and find the girl. The situation was fluid, uncontrollable, and he had no backup until Sergeant Duffy got back here to bring up the rear.
Even as he calculated his next move, Mack kept an ear open for the sound of her voice, her scream telling him Angelina was still alive. The idea of that bastard hurting her caused such feverish agitation in his soul he had to rely on his training to get the job done. God knows, his mind was reeling with crazy thoughts that could get them both killed if he made a mistake.
Rifle raised, finger on the trigger, Mack kicked open the library doors.
The sight that greeted him turned his guts inside out.
His beautiful Angelina was a prisoner of the Nazi. She attempted to hold up her torn bodice, her pale, creamy shoulder exposed, her hair hanging to her waist. Death stared her in the face and yet she refused to cower before the German. It scared the hell out of him.
The major pointed his Luger at her head.
Will Mack save his beautiful Sister Angelina? Check back for Excerpt No. 6 in A Soldier’s Italian Christmas
Also, here’s an extended video excerpt from Chapter One of A Soldier’s Italian Christmas.” I used beautiful photos from www.Dreamstime.com to put it together with my voiceover and music by Kevin MacLeod www.incompetech.com
Is it only lust for precious art that fuels the Nazi major’s desire to loot the Monastery at Monte D’Oro Rose? Or is it his curiosity about the beautiful nun guarding the treasure? Find out in today’s post Excerpt 4 from my romance novella, A Soldier’s Italian Christmas
It was such a fascinating time when the Allied Forces sought to recover the precious art stolen by the Nazis as we see in George Clooney’s new film “Monuments Men.”
A search of a more intimate nature takes place in the following excerpt from my romance novella, A Soldier’s Italian Christmas
This scene takes place at a point in the story when Sister Angelina has found the relic and hidden the Cross of Saint Cecilia in the pocket of her nun’s habit.
Excerpt No. 4:
“What have you done with the paintings, Major?” she asked again, keeping her voice steady. “Artwork archived by the monks for hundreds of years. Where is it? Berlin?”
The major raised a brow. “I assure you the works will be well cared for in a secure warehouse facility in the Austrian Alps.”
Angelina let out a deep sigh. “So far from home.” Her skin crawled at the thought of her country’s finest art gone forever. She squeezed her eyes shut and saw the gilded framed paintings in her mind’s eye. The richness of reds and oranges so vibrant like the sun warmed them with its glow. Blues deeper than midnight. Greens as shiny as new grass. My God, how could she have not dared to speak up before? “These priceless paintings and statues belong to the Church and the people of Monte d’Oro Rose, not your Reich. Have you no heart, Major?”
“Your opinion of me is rather disturbing, Sister,” he said, his voice so cold she felt the chill return. She’d touched a nerve. “Not all Nazis are brutes.”
“Aren’t you?” She glared at him and saw the fury in his eyes. Gray soulless eyes picking at her flesh.
Without saying a word, the German officer put down the illuminated manuscript and walked over to a large globe standing in the corner. Nearby stood a black lacquer screen with a bird motif. The sphere was weathered by time and countless fingers spinning the ball. He added his own and the world turned round and round.
“I am a Prussian by birth,” said the major, watching the globe blur before his eyes. “My father was an industrialist known for his shrewd business maneuvers, which left no time for his son. My mother cared more for her garden than raising her child. She handed me over to the peculiar upbringing of my governess, an impoverished noblewoman with a taste for sour pickles. Every morning she’d take me outside the gate to see the vegetable man with his horse and cart. Then she made me recite Goethe and grab a fresh pickle for her from the tin bucket on the side of the cart.” He spit on the bare floor, the Oriental rug that once covered the smooth stone gone. “I have a distaste for both pickles and Goethe.”
Her fingers tightened on the hidden cross. “But not for art.”
He nodded. “I studied art history in Vienna, including the works of Michelangelo and Bernini. I also became familiar with the treasures of the Vatican and aspired to teach. But my father insisted I join the Nazi Party. With my facility for languages, I came to the attention of our Fuehrer.” The high ranking officer couldn’t help but gloat. “After I proved myself in the Gestapo, he assigned me to take charge of the art appropriation for his new museum in Linz.”
“That doesn’t give you the right to shoot innocent people and take away their souls by depriving their children of their heritage.” Her cheeks turned pink, her heart pounded, her passion to plead her case so strong she forgot she was speaking to a man who could take her life on a whim. “What more is left for us to give?”
The major picked up the manuscript and opened it to a bookmarked page. He read silently, his eyes moving over the page in a precise manner. Avid curiosity in every eye movement.
Finally, he said, “The treasure of Monte d’Oro Rose.”
The cross. Why didn’t I give it to the captain? He’s a good man. I trust him with my life.
“It’s just a legend,” Angelina insisted, barely maintaining her composure. “It doesn’t exist.” She resisted the impulse to ask him what he knew about the cross. That would be far more dangerous.
“Doesn’t it?” He read from the illuminated page, its border shimmering with gold scrolling, “ ‘He who prays to Saint Cecilia shall find the cross delivered to her by the Lord buried deep among the golden blooms.’ ”
The yellow roses.
Father Tom must have found the cross hidden under the trinity of bushes, but how?
Check back for the final excerpt from A Soldier’s Italian Christmas
I was so enchanted when I saw George Clooney on the news at the premiere of “Monuments Men” escorting a lovely lady and her daughter to the film. I believe it was a date for charity and he was as charming and gracious as ever. And handsome, too.
His good looks remind me of Captain Mack O’Casey, the hero in my romance novella, “A Soldier’s Italian Christmas.” My story is also about art stolen by the Nazis from the Monastery at Monte D’Oro Rose and forbidden love…a beautiful nun and an American soldier fall in love during the cold Italian winter of 1943.
Excerpt No. 2: Under the cover of night, Sister Angelina leads Mack to the monastery to spy on the Nazis in “A Soldier’s Italian Christmas.” She tells him about a priceless relic the Nazis would love to get their hands on…
Whoever thought Italy would be colder than hell?
Mack smacked his hands together to keep warm. Weeks of rain had turned the harsh terrain into deep muddy trails. That didn’t stop Sister Angelina. She fought her way up the sharp rocks as easily as a kid on a Sunday hike. Like she knew these hills as well as the Lord’s Prayer.
“Stay close behind me, Captain,” she whispered, her breath warm on his face. “The Nazis will see us if we use the road leading to the moon gate. For us, it could be deadly.”
“Moon gate?” he asked, curious.
“The monks used a rare white stone found only in the caves in the hills to make the cross mounted above the gate.” She carried a lantern, its golden glow turning her skin a warm honey. “Even in the blackest night, the cross shines with a silver-white glow like the moon to lead weary travelers to the monastery where they can rest for the night.”
“I’d like to thank the monks for leading me here.” Mack’s lips curved. “Otherwise I never would have met you.”
He swore she blushed, but she didn’t miss a beat. “That would be difficult, Captain,” she teased him. “The monastery was built in 1197.” When they reached the top of the hill, she turned down the wick on the lantern. They stood near a stone wall with a high tower with dark slits instead of windows. “According to the legend, in the thirteenth century, a pious noblewoman on her way to Rome to see the Pope stopped here for the night and then mysteriously disappeared. It was rumored she carried a priceless religious relic, a cross containing the piece of a robe belonging to a saint.” She smiled. “The Cross of St. Cecilia.”
“Was she as beautiful as you?” he asked. There was something different about this nun that puzzled him. If he thought she’d take the bait, he was mistaken.
“Are all Americans so handsome?” she quipped.
“No, they’re better looking,” Mack joked. “And they smell better, too.” His stubble beard was dark and bristly and he had no doubt the strong stench from sleeping in a trench with a platoon of soldiers clung to his clothes.
“God does not judge us by what we wear,” she said in a clear voice as if it were a prayer of contrition. Was she speaking about herself? “But by our deeds.”
Mack edged closer to her, drinking in her scent. She smelled like roses with a hint of holy water. “How will we get inside the monastery?”
“I have my ways, Captain,” she said, giggling. She wasn’t even shivering as she motioned for him to follow her. Darkness made them as invisible as ghosts. “Mind you, you’ll have to crawl on your belly like a caterpillar.”
“I’m no stranger to getting into tight places, Sister. Lead on.”
She smiled at him and he felt his heart tighten. She was everything a nun had no right to be. Wisps of wavy brown hair peeking out of her snug beret, her laughter a welcome relief from the agony he’d suffered these past months. She couldn’t have been more than nineteen. In his mind, he imagined her before she took her vows. Her silky tresses falling down to her waist, making him have sinful thoughts. He wanted to bury his face in her hair, smell her, touch her.
He pulled up his collar and kept moving. Damn, what was he thinking? He must be losing his mind for having such thoughts. The months of shelling, violence, and dead comrades had taken a gut-wrenching toll on his mind as well as his body. He was on a mission and only an angel as pure as the sister could have drawn him away from it. From now on, he would avert his eyes when she spoke, forget he was lonely and sick of this damn war. The pain and suffering. Still, he was always there for his men. Like he was for his brothers.
Funny, how life kicked him in the pants when he didn’t expect it. Finding himself in this holy place was the last thing he expected when he signed up for this war. He and his brothers were as American as apple pie, but they had strong ties to their mother’s homeland. A kind soul and elegant lady, Pia O’Casey named each of her boys after a favorite saint. Mack had been christened with the name from St. Maximus, his brother Lex from St. Alexander. Trace’s namesake was St. Trason, and his little brother Cort owed his name to St. Constantius.
His mom was so proud of her boys’ service. Mack prayed every night his brothers lived to see another sky filled with stars. Like the three white stars embroidered on the flag she hung in the window. When Cort left for basic training, there would be four.
Mack clenched his teeth when he felt a familiar ache ping his heart. If only his father were here to reach around his mother’s waist and hold her tight when she put up that fourth star.
He pushed aside thoughts of home with his mom’s hand-rolled ravioli and his father’s fiddle. It sat idle on the mantel. The old man had died rescuing two kids in a burning house. He was a firefighter and a hero and the O’Casey brothers vowed to follow in his footsteps. Pearl Harbor changed all that on a Sunday morning. A lot of lives changed that day and Mack found it hard to adjust. He’d always been the lone card sticking out of the deck. Watching over the family, working two jobs, trying to get his education and finally getting a probationary post with the New York Fire Department.
He put that on hold until the war was over.
Come back tomorrow for the next excerpt and find out more about the Cross of St. Cecilia and why the Nazis want it…A Soldier’s Italian Christmas