The Artist and the Soldier

Title: The Artist and the Soldier
Author: Angelle Petta
Publisher: Warren Publishing
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Genre(s): M/M Historical, Romance
Page Count: 336
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 2.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

It’s 1938. Bastian Fisher and Max Amsel meet at Camp Siegfried, an American Nazi facility. Neither have any idea what to do with their blooming, confusing feelings for one another. Before they can begin to understand, the pair are yanked apart and forced in opposite directions.

Five years later, during the heart of World War II, Bastian’s army platoon lands in Salerno, Italy. Max is in Nazi-occupied Rome where he has negotiated a plan to hire Jews on as ‘extras’ in a movie—an elaborate ruse to escape the Nazis. Brought together by fate and war, Bastian and Max find one another again in Rome.

Exploring the true stories of Camp Siegfried and the making of the film, La Puerta del Cielo, The Artist and the Soldier is intense and fast moving, and sheds light on largely untouched stories in American and Italian history.

Being a history nut, this story is right in my wheelhouse and I am intrigued by the two relatively unknown events Petta brings to light. As youth, Bastian and Max meet at Camp Siegfried where, yes, like-minded Germans sent their boys to summer camp to be indoctrinated with Hitler’s plans for Germany in a pseudo-military setting. The two boys form an unlikely friendship and begin exploring their feelings for one another only to separate on the cusp of WWII – Bastian enlisting in the army and Max returning to his family’s ancestral roots in Rome and studying film.

They meet up again during the war in German-occupied Rome where Bastian is intelligence gathering and Max is involved in filming La Puerta del Cielo, a movie from Italian filmmaker Vittorio De Sica that employed hundreds of Jews to save them from the Germans.

I would give the plot of this book very high marks because of its originality, and the various actions scenes are well-done and very interesting to read. Where the story worked less successfully for me was in the love story. There’s a lot of “tell” versus “show” and while I feel we learn a lot about the characters’ backgrounds and actions, there is less in-depth emotional development of the characters and the dialogue is a bit stilted. In addition, a few plot points seemed … odd

After Bastian and Max first have sex, upon their return to New York, Bastian then has sex with Max’s mother the same day. Also, Bastian’s sister Ilsa is a nurse, who just happens to find Bastian in Italy against all odds.

My rating is 3.5 stars and I think any reader who enjoys historical romance will want to take a look at this story. I will definitely look forward to Petta’s next book.

Max supposed Bastian was right. They didn’t know, or need to know, what happened next. The life they chose to lead, or not lead, was not pre-scripted. They could do with it what they wanted. The thought comforted Max as he drifted off to sleep, next to Bastian, their hands intertwined into a bouquet of fingers. And once the war was over; a war that had attempted to take away people’s humanity, their spirit, their faith; once grave stones were carved and the dead remembered, once the ever gnawing hunger dampened and bellies were almost full again, once children were born who had not lived through it, Max and Bastian would have this night, this moment, precious and maybe ill-conceived, it could not be taken away.

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Advanced Review Copy

Galley copy of The Artist and the Soldier provided by the author in exchange of an honest review.


Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.  Frederick Douglas I distinctly remember that day in school when, all of a sudden, those squiggles on the page made sense and I could read. It has changed my life in ways I still cannot comprehend. My favorite M/M tropes are friends-to-lovers, murder/mysteries, amnesia, hurt/healing and historicals. Shifters, vampires, paranormal? Meh ... not in my wheelhouse, but I'm a sucker for a well-written well-plotted book, no matter the genre. Favorite authors includes Brandon Witt, Rick R. Reed, Abigail Roux, Jay Northcote, JL Merrow, KJ Charles, Lane Hayes, Marshall Thornton and so many more. A few "badges" from NetGalley: 100 Book Reviews Reviews Published Professional Reader