Sarah Sundin is the bestselling author of When Twilight Breaks, Until Leaves Fall in Paris, The Sound of Light, and the popular WWII series Sunrise at Normandy, among others. She is a Christy Award winner and a Carol Award winner, and her novels have received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, and have appeared on Booklist’s 101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.

In this interview, Sarah shares some of her thoughts on her latest novel, Embers in the London Sky.

FF: Can you please provide a brief summary of your novel Embers in the London Sky?
Fleeing from the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, Aleida van der Zee Martens is separated from her three-year-old son, Theo. In London, the widow desperately searches for her little boy while working for an agency responsible for evacuating children to the countryside. BBC radio correspondent Hugh Collingwood does what he can to help her, even as he’s reporting on the London Blitz. When murders begin to flame among London’s ashes—murders that hit close to home for Hugh—Aleida and Hugh become determined to find the murderer before it’s too late.

FF: What events were taking place in London from 1940 to 1941?
By June 1940, the Germans had trampled the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, and Britain was next. The nation prepared for invasion as the Battle of Britain raged overhead and German bombers pummeled London. It was a time of great fear and danger and trepidation, and yet also a time of courage and strength as the nation drew together as never before. Britain’s fortitude and good will in this time of trial continues to inspire us today. It was a privilege for me to write about this critical moment in history.

FF: When Aleida van der Zee Martens fled from the Netherlands, she not only lost her home but her child was taken from her. Can you provide some background on the details leading up to this traumatic situation?
Long before the German army arrived, Aleida had planned to flee to England with her son—to escape her abusive husband. But when the invasion comes, her husband decides to take his wife and son to London. However, he is ashamed of little Theo’s hand deformity, and one night while Aleida is sleeping, he takes Theo from her arms and thrusts him into the car of an English couple. The next morning, Aleida is horrified to find her son gone. And when her husband is killed by a strafing German fighter plane—without telling her the name of the English couple—Aleida faces the daunting prospect of finding her son.

FF: When Aleida arrives in London, she takes a job with the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for evacuating children to the countryside. How did she use her role to help her look for her son?
When Britain went to war with Germany in September 1939, they evacuated over a million children to the countryside. When German bombing failed to materialize, many families brought their children home. But with the invasion threat in 1940, the government mounted a new wave of evacuations.

At first, Aleida hopes the Ministry of Health might have information on her son. In her new position, she contacts billeting officers in the country—and she always asks about Theo. But as she hears the evacuation stories, she senses a new role developing—to advocate for the children.

FF: BBC radio correspondent Hugh Collingwood is caught in the middle of the London Blitz. What part does he hope to play in the war?
Hugh’s golden voice and lively radio reporting have made him a rising star with the BBC. He sees great value in live, on-the-scene reporting. However, with the risk of invasion and the concern about sending information to the enemy over the airwaves, many push for censorship. Hugh and his journalist friends walk a delicate line between telling the truth and revealing sensitive information—all while boosting morale.

FF: How did your two protagonists, Aleida van der Zee Martens and Hugh Collingwood, meet?
While Aleida is training to become an air raid warden, Hugh arrives to broadcast from her Air Raid Precautions post. Afterward, Aleida asks him to broadcast a story about her son—if Theo is in England, someone might recognize him. Although Hugh is unable to tell that story, he is drawn to the young widow and does what he can to help her.

FF: How do both Aleida and Hugh come to help each other through their various difficulties?
Since Hugh has family connections in government, he provides leads to Aleida on where and how to search for her son. More importantly, his good-natured friendship helps when fear and anxiety swamp her. And when murders flame up in Hugh’s circle, Aleida’s levelheaded thinking helps Hugh consider the various suspects.

FF: What are some of the main themes in Embers in the London Sky?
When does telling the truth become reckless endangerment—and when does discretion become censorship? The story also explores humanity’s ongoing struggle to accept those of different nationalities and social classes, those with disabilities, and those we disagree with. Do we cast them aside—or do we go out of our way to care for them?

FF: How did you become interested in writing World War II novels?
Family stories drew me to the World War II era. During the war, my great-uncle was a B-17 bomber pilot, one of my grandfathers served in the US Navy, and my other grandfather taught American soldiers the German language through the US Army Specialized Training Program. Growing up hearing these stories—plus my father’s love for WWII movies!—gave me a love for the era.

Embers in the London Sky
Sarah Sundin
Genres: Historical Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Release Date: February 6, 2024

ISBN-10: ‎0800741854
ISBN-13: ‎978-0800741853

Book Summary:
As the German army invades the Netherlands in 1940, Aleida van der Zee Martens escapes to London to wait out the Occupation. Separated from her three-year-old son, Theo, in the process, the young widow desperately searches for her little boy even as she works for an agency responsible for evacuating children to the countryside.

When German bombs set London ablaze, BBC radio correspondent Hugh Collingwood reports on the Blitz, eager to boost morale while walking the fine line between truth and censorship. But the Germans are not the only ones Londoners have to fear as a series of murders flame up amid the ashes.

The deaths hit close to home for Hugh, and Aleida needs his help to locate her missing son. As they work together, they grow closer and closer, both to each other and the answers they seek. But with bombs falling and continued killings, they may be running out of time.


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About The Author

Sarah Sundin's novels have received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal. Her popular Through Waters Deep was a Carol Award finalist and named to Booklist's "101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years." A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist. Sarah lives in California.