The Secret Pianist – Andie Newton | Blog tour Extract | #TheSecretPianist | @AndieNewton @0neMoreChapter_ @rararesources #HistoricalWW2Fiction

Sisters. Traitors. Spies.

When a British RAF Whitley plane comes under fire over the French coast and is forced to drop their cargo, a spy messenger pigeon finds its way into unlikely hands…

The occupation has taken much from the Cotillard sisters, and as the Germans increase their forces in the seaside town of Boulogne-sur-Mer, Gabriella, Martine and Simone can’t escape the feeling that the walls are closing in.

Yet, just as they should be trying to stay under the radar, Martine’s discovery of a British messenger pigeon leads them down a new and dangerous path. Gaby would do anything to protect her sisters but when the pianist is forced to teach the step-daughter of a German Commandant, and the town accuses the Cotillards of becoming ‘Bad French’ and in allegiance with the enemy, she realizes they have to take the opportunity to fight back that has been handed to them.

Now, as the sisters’ secrets wing their way to an unknown contact in London, Gaby, Martine and Simone have to wonder – have they opened a lifeline, or sealed their fate?

My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invitation. The Secret Pianist is published by One More Chapter/Harper Collins in ebook, audio and paperback (12 January 2024). I’m delighted to share an extract today – sadly I couldn’t fit in a review for the tour but I have purchased my own copy to read. If you are tempted likewise, the ebook is currently available to download from Amazon UK for 99p.

EXTRACT

This is the beginning of chapter 1. Here we meet Gabriella Cotillard and her sister Martine.

Every step I took down the rickety old stairs sounded like knuckles cracking in the silence of the night. I winced, wondering if my neighbors could hear across the road, but it was freezing and the warmest shawl I had was downstairs. I tried to walk a little softer, squeezing behind my piano and pulling the shawl by the collar from the back of the chair.

I often wished for an electric heater on these cold coastal nights, but we couldn’t afford electricity for heat every night, especially in April.

I slipped the shawl over my shoulders, trying to remember when I’d bought it new—that corner shop in Paris on Boul’Mich. I felt a small thread of comfort remembering the life that once was, running my hands up and down my arms for warmth and feeling the cottony yarn when the front door snapped open and closed.

My eyes sprung open. Outside air breezed over the black lumps of furniture, prickling my cheeks. My heart sped up, hearing the soft pad of footsteps move across the shadowy parquet floor and down the old cellar stairs.

My sister Simone was asleep upstairs, and Martine would never be so delicate—she didn’t know how to tiptoe—and that’s what scared me. We’d had intruders before; bad French who knew there wasn’t a man in the house must have come back to steal whatever jewels the Germans had yet to take.

That’s what everyone called the collaborators—bad French. The good French kept to themselves and would never do business with a German.

I lit a candle, walking the few steps through the main salon to the cellar.

A crash under the floor shook me with a gasp—glass and falling crates. I followed the noise with my eyes, knowing whoever it was had walked the length of the house to the coal chute before stomping back over to the stairs, making their way up. Thump, thump, thump…

I set the candle down, reaching for Martine’s beloved porcelain vase, the only thing big enough to crack a skull. She’d be angry when she found out that’s what I used, and as I lifted the vase, I regretted not having enough time to search for something else.

Six steps left—five, four, three, two…

I grunted, flinging my arms over my head to get enough momentum as Martine threw open the cellar door, screaming at the sight of me. “Ack!” She covered her head with her arms. “What are you doing?”

I collapsed against the wall, nearly dropping the vase. “Me?” I asked. “What are you doing? I thought you were an intruder.”

“I asked you first.” Martine watched me struggle against the wall, trying to breathe after the scare, before noticing what was in my hands. “And my vase?” She took it gingerly from my fingers to carefully set it back on the side table. “Gaby, how could you?”

“I’m sorry. It was the only thing—” I stood straight, noticing her dirty fingernails in a flick of light, and a smear of dirt on her cheek. “What are you up to?” I glanced once at the cellar door, then back to Martine. “What’s down there?”

“No, don’t!” she said when I reached for the doorknob, and if there was one thing I knew about my little sister, it was that when she asked me not to do something, it usually meant she was hiding something.

“What are you up to?”

She crossed her arms. “Nothing.”

“Something,” I said, reaching for the doorknob again, but she threw her back up against the door. “You’ve been at the cliffs again, haven’t you?”

She chewed her thumbnail.

“Are you hiding a boy?” My eyes narrowed, and she shook her head, but I didn’t believe her, not with how vigorously she was chewing on that thumbnail. “You know what the penalty is for keeping a boy from the factories?”

“It’s not that.” She pulled her thumb from her teeth. “And nobody saw me,” she added, making my stomach swirl like a pot of cold soup. She had done something, and I was immediately reminded of when we’d fled from Paris and why. I covered my mouth. “Don’t do that, Gaby. Don’t make that face.”

A lorry rumbled down our road, and we both turned toward the front door. In the dark, in the night, in occupied France, we’d been trained to know the difference between a lost lorry and a German one on a mission. The engine glugged instead of hummed, and the speed was recklessly fast followed by a lurching stop. Doors opened and closed and mounting footsteps walked the pavement in heavy boots.

“Two,” she breathed, and I shushed her. “Three…”

“Four,” I said, before pulling back the curtains. “They’re speaking with Antoinette.” I saw shadows and our neighbor holding a candle as she stepped out into the night, lighting up her face and her fast-moving lips. After a brief conversation with her shaking her head, she pointed an accusing finger at our home. I gasped, turning around, the curtains fluttering closed behind me. “She’s sending them here.”

Martine squinted. “That woman. I swear she—”

“Martine!” I said, my heart racing with the sound of their jackboots headed to my front door. “What did you do? Tell me.” But she refused to answer, and instead chewed her thumbnail again and watched the door.

Knock! Knock!

“You’re the best at talking to them, Gaby,” she said, and I glared. “Just don’t let them go into the cellar.”

“I might never forgive you for this.”

“You will,” she said. “One day.” She dusted the traces of dirt away from her face with hurried swipes. “Go on. Answer it.”

I closed my eyes briefly, gripping the doorknob. “Coming,” I said a moment before answering the door.




Andie Newton is the USA Today bestselling author of A Child for the Reich, The Girls from the Beach, The Girl from Vichy, and The Girl I Left Behind. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her family. When she’s not writing gritty war stories about women, you can usually find her trail-running in the desert and stopping to pet every Yellow Lab or Golden Retriever that crosses her path. Andie is actively involved with the reading and writing community on social media. You can follow her on X (Twitter) @andienewton and Instagram, or check out her author page on Facebook.

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