Steve N Lee ~ To Dream of Shadows ~ Release Blitz / Excerpt







To Dream of Shadows

by Steve N Lee









She’ll save hundreds of lives. But can she save her own?

Inspired by a previously untold true story.

1943, Eastern Europe. 18-year-old Czech, Eva Zaleska is torn from her family and imprisoned in some godforsaken hellhole. Half-starved, she battles through month after month of torturous labor while praying for liberation by the Allies. But rescue never comes. And her dream of surviving the war dies.

SS Sergeant Rudi Kruse has been force-fed the Third Reich’s poisonous philosophy since childhood. As a boy, he had no choice but to believe it, however, nowadays, he uses his position to covertly save prisoners.

So when a random act of kindness thrusts Eva and Rudi together, they can’t resist being drawn to one another. And it turns their world upside-down. Unable to deny their feelings, they dare to dream of a future, a life… together.

But their relationship does not go unnoticed. For Eva and Rudi, falling in love becomes a death sentence. And not just for them, but for all those they care about.


Eva can make an unthinkable sacrifice.

Inspired by a previously untold true story of a forbidden love, To Dream Of Shadows is an epic tale of compassion, sacrifice, and the strength of the human spirit.

For fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, The Nightingale, and Schindler’s List, To Dream Of Shadows is one of the most heartwarming, heartbreaking, and heroic tales of the Holocaust.

Discover the greatest love story of World War II. Buy links below.



Praise for Steve N Lee’s books:
★★★★★ “Emotional, heart-wrenching and heartwarming. I was lost in this story from the very beginning. It’s beautifully written and will stay with me for a long, long time.” Curled Up With A Good Book (book blog)
★★★★★ “A good fast-paced read with a fabulous female lead.” Julie Elizabeth Powell, Amazon
★★★★★ “A beautiful, touching, and heartwarming story. The author is masterful at crafting a page-turning novel. He creates such real characters and scenes.” Paula, Amazon
★★★★★ “I loved the strong female character. She kept me turning the pages fast.” DarcyYa, Amazon
★★★★★ “A story that is equal parts intense beauty and heart wrenching agony… I know I’ll still think of this story years down the road.” Insatiable Readers (book blog)
★★★★★ “A great intro to a great character. There’s action a plenty as well as beautifully described scenes that really ‘take you’ to the places described.” Mr. Christopher A. Wells, Amazon
★★★★★ “Simply wow! The author writes so descriptively you can hear, feel, smell and almost taste what is happening in the story.” Sheryl Painter, Amazon






Inge Zaleska wiped the sweat off her face on the short sleeve of her pink-and-white striped dress. She panted, even though she was doing nothing but sitting on her suitcase with her back against the side of the cattle car. Cursing under her breath, she glared at the tiny window crisscrossed with barbed wire high in the far left corner. The thing was worse than useless with eighty-six people crammed in the car under the baking sun.

She raked her fingers through her long, greasy black hair, pulling the straggly mess away from her face. Would it ever be silky soft again?

Grimacing, she struggled to flex her left shoulder, Mrs. Karkowski having slumped against it asleep again. The unbearable stuffiness saw many of the older travelers constantly dozing. Inge circled her shoulder, fighting to relieve the ache without disturbing her friend’s slumber. The pain didn’t go.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Karkowski, but I have to move.” Inge eased Mrs. Karkowski’s head up, but instead of the old lady waking and greeting Inge with a wrinkled smile, clouded eyes stared like frozen millponds. Inge gasped and lurched away, bumping Mama on her other side.

Mrs. Karkowski crumpled over her knees.

Mama pulled Inge closer and shielded Inge’s younger sister. “Don’t look, Agata.”

Agata buried her face in Mama’s shoulder.

Robert, Inge’s stocky older brother, and a man in a blue shirt picked up the body.

Robert shouted, “Dead coming through.”

The sea of people parted, squashing themselves together just enough to create a narrow aisle to the far right corner. The two men shuffled along it.

Dead coming through. What a horrible and degrading send-off for a dignified woman. The only thing worse was how such a horrendous statement had become so commonplace that it was now more likely to irritate people at the inconvenience of having to move than to bring tears to their eyes.

In the corner, the men dumped the old lady on top of the other six bodies piled there.

Glassy-eyed, Agata said, “Why are they doing this, Mama?”

Mama stroked Agata’s short brown hair. “Don’t wonder about the bad things that are happening, sweetheart. Wonder about all the good things we’ll have when we’re resettled.”

“But I don’t want to be resettled. I want our old home, and my old school, and my old friends.”

Inge clasped Agata’s hand. “It’ll be fun, Aga. That nasty bully Vera Bosakova won’t be in your class anymore, you won’t have math with that horrible Mr. Sliz, and ice cream is half the price in the new place, isn’t it, Mama?”

“That’s what I heard.” Mama stroked Agata’s hair again and smiled at Inge. But her eyes didn’t smile. Inge could tell she was fighting to make it look genuine — fighting with all her might because of her love for her family — but such sadness lay in her eyes. Sadness Inge had never seen before. As if someone had said the sun was never going to shine again, so they’d spend the rest of their lives in darkness.

Someone shouted from the far side of the car, “Toilet bucket!”

A moment later, a bespectacled man passed a metal bucket to Mama, who passed it to Inge. The contents sloshed around and the stench clogged her nostrils. Holding the bucket at arm’s length, Inge screwed up her face and quickly passed it to the chubby man who’d spread into Mrs. Karkowski’s space.

The bucket reached a middle-aged woman who wept as she squatted over it, screened by a bald man and a boy encircling her with their jackets.

Three days ago, Inge had cried too when she’d had to relieve herself surrounded by so many strangers. Now, despite the revulsion and embarrassment, she was almost thankful for the bucket — its stink helped mask the one coming from the corner of the dead.

Robert crouched and nodded over his shoulder. “Someone saw a road sign through one of the cracks and thinks they recognized the name — a town in Latvia.”

“Latvia?” asked Mama. “Where the devil are they resettling us?”

“I don’t want to go to Latvia.” Agata clutched Mama.

Inge twisted and peered through the gouge between two planks in the side of the car, but only trees whipped past.

When they’d boarded, they’d thought they were unlucky to be stuck against the side. However, no one in the middle could even sit with their legs outstretched let alone lie down, so having the wall to lean against meant their spot was actually prime real estate.

Inge patted her suitcase. “Do you want to swap to have the backrest for a while?”

Robert shook his head. “Maybe later, thanks.”

He gestured to his right. Mr. Klein, the rotund banker, squeezed by the Kovar family, water bucket in one hand, metal cup in the other. Having looked after many of the townsfolk’s money, he’d been judged most trustworthy to ensure everybody got their share of the water.

“Thank heaven,” said Inge.

Klein smiled at Inge and her family. “And how are the Zaleskas doing this fine afternoon?”

Mama wiped her brow. “All the better for seeing you and your bucket, Mr. Klein.”

He dipped the cup in the water. “Who’s first?”

Mama nudged Agata, so the girl reached for the cup.

Klein tipped water back into the bucket until the cup was one-quarter full — the ration per head — then handed it over.

Agata downed the liquid in one go.

Mama stroked the girl’s head. “Better?”

Agata nodded.

“And what do you say to Mr. Klein?”

Agata handed the cup back. “Thank you, Mr. Klein.”

“It’s my pleasure, Agata.” He measured more water and held the cup out.

“Inge,” said Mama.

Inge drank. In their baking car, the water was warm, yet sucking on an icicle couldn’t have been more refreshing. She tipped the cup over for the last few drops to drip onto her tongue.

Robert drank next. Finally, Klein offered Mama her ration. She shook her head and nudged Agata, who reached for it.

Inge grabbed Agata’s hand. “Mama, you need to drink.”

“I’m fine, Inge,” said Mama. “Your sister needs it more than I do.”

“That’s what you said last time.”

“And it’s as true now as it was then.”

Inge pushed the cup toward Mama. “Mama, you weren’t well before we got on this horrible train. You have to drink.”

Mama glared at her. Usually, a glare was enough to see Inge abide by Mama’s decision, but this wasn’t about doing the dishes or cleaning their bedroom. This was about life and death.

Inge gulped and looked at her brother. “Robert, tell her.”

Robert rubbed his mouth, his gaze flashing from Inge to Mama.

Inge glowered. “Robert!”

He winced. “Inge’s right, Mama.”

Mama reached for the cup. “I’m sorry for all this fuss, Mr. Klein.”

“No apology necessary, Mrs. Zaleska. It’s a tough time for us all.”

Mama sipped the water, then scowled at Inge. “Once we’re off this accursed train, we’re going to talk about this, young lady.”

Inge would normally have quaked at the thought, but this time, she was right. And being right was more important than avoiding Mama’s wrath — better to have an angry mother than a dead one.

Mama took another sip, then handed the cup to Agata. “Finish it, Agata.”

Mama stared at Inge, as if daring her to say something. Agata drank and handed the cup back, and Klein moved onto the next people.

Inge let her head fall against the side of the car and closed her eyes. It was the first time she’d openly disobeyed her mother in public and won. An uneasy feeling roiling in her gut told her it wasn’t going to be the last battle she’d have to fight because of this “resettlement.”

She sighed. Okay, so the journey was horrendous, but hadn’t she always dreamed of traveling? Wasn’t that why she’d studied languages so diligently? And now, here she was traveling. Of course, she’d pictured a luxury passenger carriage, not a cattle car, but travel was travel. Maybe this “resettlement” would be a good thing. A golden opportunity to start fresh.

Yes, that was it. She smirked. This wasn’t the end of her life — the way Agata imagined — but the start of it. A life filled with wonder and adventure.

So where was this adventure going to take her?








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Apart from animals and writing, Steve’s passion is travel. He’s visited 60 countries and enjoyed some amazing experiences, including cage-diving with great white sharks, sparring with a monk at a Shaolin temple, and watching a turtle lay eggs on a moonlit beach. He’s explored Machu Picchu, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China, yet for all that, he’s a man of simple tastes — give him an egg sandwich and the TV remote control, and he’ll be happy for hours!

He lives in the North of England with his partner, Ania, and two black cats who arrived in the garden one day and liked it so much, they stayed. Graciously, the cats allow Steve and Ania to stay in ‘their’ house.


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