Historical Fiction / WWII / Action & Drama / International Mystery
Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press
Date of Publication: February 21, 2023
Number of Pages: 372 pages
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Since the early 1940s, THE GOLD ROSE, a secret rescue agency with Asian origins, has used unique systems to ferret out and save victims in every corner of the world. Charlotte Hunt-Basse has faced dangerous and often deadly challenges in her decade as an agent with the agency, not the least of which was the past rescues of two of her assignments, Pinkie and Babe.
Two-year-old Pinkie is discovered abandoned on a dirt road during a violent storm. She is whisked off to Mexico by oil heir Clint Sutton and his girlfriend, Angelina, as they attempt to escape the lies of Clint’s father’s second wife. Three years later, Pinkie is stolen away to Argentina by an aging Romani. Pinkie suffers from the malice of her captor but wins the fatherly love of a Buenos Aires circus owner and his fiance. Shortly after landing in the crosshairs of THE GOLD ROSE, Pinkie’s life takes two more shocking twists. When the agency locates Pinkie again, Agent Charlotte must throw all caution to the wind to rescue her.
Babe, the child of Texas-based missionaries, is hidden by two Chinese families during the Japanese invasion and ensuing Communist takeover of China. She is forced by the second family to live incognito as a “boy” for several years to save her from soldiers invading China from the North. Martial arts are banned, but the grandfather of the family teaches Babe Yǒng Chūn in deepest secrecy. The civil war escalates, and Babe finds herself on a dangerous quest for survival as she journeys alone through enemy territory toward the faintest hope of rescue.
The Gold Rose tells the stories of three women who are part of a clandestine rescue organization. It takes us through the lives of Charlotte, Pinkie, and Babe, and details for us how they got to where they are today.
The book opens with Charlotte, stranded in a bus station overnight after a disastrous encounter. She has plenty of time to think back over two of the assignments that meant the most to her: Pinkie and Babe. Their stories then unfold through Charlotte’s memories.
I can’t decide whose story tugs on my heart more. Babe, the daughter of missionaries to China, is divided from her family during the Communist revolution. She is again separated from the family in whose care she was left, sent to another family and compelled to live as a boy. As conditions under Communist rule become more oppressive and her host family falls more in line with the Party, Babe realizes she can’t stay, and she strikes out on her own to make a long journey in hopes of being reunited with her parents.
Pinkie is alone on a deserted road, a toddler whose parents are both dead nearby. Angelina, the girlfriend of a Texas oilman, takes Pinkie to raise as her own. But in a cruel twist, Pinkie is kidnapped by a grasping, greedy Roma woman hoping to use Pinkie for her own gain and taken far from the only mother she knows. Can anyone restore Pinkie to Angelina, or is she lost forever?
Jodi Lea Stewart takes us on a vivid journey through pre-communist China into the Revolution, Mexico and South America, and the United States. She creates places and people that you can almost see, almost reach out and touch, and she describes parts of history that I hadn’t given much thought to. What was it like to live in China as the Communists came to power? Would I have been able to withstand the pressure to conform, or would I, too, have given in like Babe’s host family? If I were Pinkie, going from bad to worse, could I have ever found it in me to trust again?
The tension in each character’s story is compelling, and you can’t help but love Pinkie and Babe. I could also relate to Charlotte, raised in the South as she was. Her story may not be quite as dramatic and intense as the other two, but she has suffered her own hurts as well. Stewart’s portrayal of people deeply affected by trauma, with that trauma impacting how they continue to live and relate to others, is very realistic.
There is heartache and difficulty here, but the story ends on an upswing. The ROSE Organization offers hope where there was none and help even when providing that assistance is challenging. Makes you think that deep down, there are still decent people left who want to make the world a better place. This was an enjoyable read for me, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction.
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Jodi Lea Stewart is a fiction author who centers her themes around the triumph of overcoming adversity through grit, humor, and hard-rock tenacity. Born in Texas and growing up in Arizona smelling cedar berries and cow pens on a large cattle ranch wedged between the Navajo Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe, most of her friends were Native American and Hispanic, with a few Anglos thrown in for good measure. On the ranch, she climbed petroglyph-etched boulders, sang to chickens, bounced two feet in the air in the backend of pickups wrestling through washed-out terracotta roads, and rode horseback on the winds of her imagination through the arroyos and mountains of the Arizona high country. Later, she left her studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love, and exactly what she didn’t want to do with her life.
Moving back to her native Texas, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised three+ children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles, and served as managing editor of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter. Her lifelong friendship with all shades of folks, cowpunchers, southern belles, intellectuals, and “outlaws” propels Jodi into writing comfortably about the Southwest, the South, and far beyond. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, two wild and crazy Standard poodles, one rescue cat, her fun-loving ninety-plus-year-old mom, a never-be-still-four-year-old tornado, and numerous bossy houseplants.